Monday, 16 January 2012

The Other Side

When we blog, we are usually writing about the ‘good stuff’ – people, places, events, natural beauty, memorable moments….

But there is another side, often we allude to it – maddeningly itchy insect bites, wet and/or windy weather, dampness seeping through everything, tarps flapping in the wind, feeling cold, feeling hot, needing to go to the toilet when you’re snug in bed or urgently first thing in the morning, using public bathrooms and toilets, sunscreen bodies, windswept and salty hair, living on top of one another, all together all of the time, noisy/annoying neighbours and the list goes on…..

Most of the time yurting is filled with ‘good stuff’, but the other side is always there, a dose of reality that reminds us we are ordinary people living in the real world.

But there is another other side. We have chosen to spend as much time yurting as we can and there are consequences, for all of us, of this choice.

When we get home, Colin will leave 3 days later for PNG and then for the next 5 weeks there is not an unaccounted for day in his diary – no margin, no space. He will work long and hard, the flip side of the freedoms we have just experienced. We are not complaining, just acknowledging we have made choices and there are consequences.

Last year I turned down a job that is more in keeping with my passions and abilities than my current admin and office management for Ergo. One of the contributing factors was my desire to maintain freedom for yurting. I can’t have it all; there are choices and consequences.

Johanna began high school last year and is spreading her wings, trying to make new friends. This is not helped by being away every holidays, for all of the holidays and missing some school. There are choices and consequences.

When we are away our other three children have to fend for themselves (and the pets). Sometimes things go wrong, sometimes they would just like to have Mum or Dad around, sometimes they just want someone else to cook, clean and shop. There are choices and consequences.

So while the blogs tell the story of one part of our lives there is always the reality of the other side. We choose to pursue yurting and we live with both the wonderful and the not so wonderful consequences. Sometimes I ask myself why we choose to do this, but having experienced a yurting lifestyle it has left us wanting more. It has given us an experience of another way to live, it is the antithesis of a busy urban life, it helps us live out our questions about the meaning and purpose of life, it challenges us, deeply touches us, meets inner longings and desires and fills our lives with joy, beauty and peace.

P.S We are all feeling ready to return to Melbourne life, the rain and Zac’s departure today have precipitated the decision to pack up and continue on once we drop Zac at the airport. Today there is time for one final surf at Rainbow Beach then Sydney tonight and Melbourne tomorrow, another yurting adventure in its final days. We have all begun making the mental and emotional shift from one way of life to another, the long drive back providing an opportunity to transition from one to the other.

emotional cocktail

Got so much going on … not sure I’ve got the mixture right but here are the ingredients:

Heidi just arrived in Bangkok, won’t see her for nearly 6 weeks - anxious and happy.

Rachel, in our house in Brunswick on her own until Zac arrives home tomorrow night – being home alone for people like me and Rache is not a happy thing – sympathy.

A week with Zac here around Port Macquarie living the search (thanks RipCurl). Lots of energy spent, plenty of cursing onshore winds, hardly any good rides all week, frustrated at knowing I’ll always be a learner.

I’ve booked the busiest 6 weeks of consulting I’ve ever delivered. 5 clients, 5 trips including 3 international, no margin before early March – nervous and determined.

The end of 4 weeks in the yurt. I love this home away from home – lots of bruises, cuts, meals, roads, villages and towns, a stack of blog posts and some amazing photos from Maria to remember it by – way thankful.

The prospect of packing up in the rain and setting off for the long slow trek home, and then the routine of cleaning, returning the van to storage, and preparing for first of the workshops – joy of joys.

Huge messy waves today, no chance of riding them, gave way to frolicking in the white water in our wet suits in a hail storm with Johanna and Zac while Maria walked along the coastal track back home … all soaking wet – tired, very tired, but nothing some Latina pasta and a fresh pan of amatriciana sauce couldn’t put a dent in.

FInding Some Space

As the lack of personal space and lack of connection to my friends and social life back at home started to get to me I decided to take a walk in the rain, equip with an umbrella of course, as I wandered the miserable streets of the caravan park, listening to the booming thunder and watching the raindrops fall steadily, one after another, I was amazed at the beauty of something so miserable and unhappy.

As I walked I was also thinking about all the wonderful things I have in life, a loving family, and roof to sleep under, I get to go on lots of holidays, I have a good education etc.

And when I count my blessings, I count the caravan twice.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Each Second As It Comes

The last few days have been mostly chasing the waves, setting up on the chosen beach and taking the day as it comes. Each second is its own second, like right now, it’s six o’clock in the evening, nobodies hungry yet, so we haven’t decided what we’re having for dinner, let alone going to buy what we need and thinking about making it.

This morning Zac and Dad planned to get up early and find some waves before we headed out to the local market. They set off to their intended beach, no good; so they checked out their next preference of beach, still no good, so they came back dry, wetsuits and boards unused.

Zac decided he wasn’t to keen on the market so Mum, Dad and I headed off. I love markets; they just have this feel of community, even when you don’t belong to the town.

All these people come to set up stalls displaying their talents and skills in purchasable items.

We bought a few things, some honey (a usual market purchase), lollies, chopping boards, an anklet for me and a painting to go in our lounge room at home painted by a local artist.

I love these days, lounging around, relaxing, going for a dip, eating when we’re hungry, going for a walk when we feel like going for a walk.

We don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow because it’s not tomorrow yet, and as we take each second as it comes, who knows.

Up and Down

We have traveled to beaches up and down the coast – Up North to Crescent Head, locally at Town Beach, Flynn’s Beach, Ligjthouse Beach and down South to Rainbow Beach.

Rainbow Beach

Colin, Zac and Johanna have gotten up on their boards and fallen down from their boards.

Feeling Up – the swell is good, tide coming in, the wind off shore = great waves

Feeling Down – no swell, low tide, Northerly winds = crap waves

Friday, 13 January 2012

Pat goes Adventuring

Today we loaded up Pat and took the road north to Crescent Head. We wanted Zac to see the iconic beach (listed as one of the best surfing spots in Oz). Although the swell was small in the morning the forecast was for a big change around noon, though there was some debate about whether the huge southerly swells would glide by the coast and miss our string of beaches. (if the huge swell eventuated there would be some impressive surfing to watch at Crescent Head)

Colin and Zac had some fun on the small waves but the huge swell never came our way. We decided to take the coastal road back south (unsealed) and check out the coast along the way. We stopped at Big Hill (recommended by a surfer Colin got talking to at Nambucca Heads) and Point Plomer.

Big Hill

Pat bumped his way along the corrugated tracks. At Point Plomer we decided to take the four wheel drive track back south rather than retrace our steps and come back via the highway. The track soon deteriorated, corrugation giving way to huge pot holes, rocks and a roller coaster ride.  The gravel and rock then gave way to sand, Pat coming to a stop in the middle of the track. Colin had to get out and let some air out of Pat’s tyres while the rest of us gathered some wood and sticks to put under the wheels to provide some traction. Adjustments made, Pat powered through. Our only regret was that Rachel was not with us to enjoy the adventure. She would have loved it.

Adjusting the tyre pressure

And away he goes

After all his hard work Pat was rewarded with a ferry ride at the end. The track ends on the North Shore Beach here at Port Macquarie, where a quick ferry ride is required to get across the river. Finally Pat looked like a real 4WD, dusty and dirty. I wonder if he enjoyed it as much as we did.

Ferry ride

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Koala's and Beach balls

Just as we were getting ready for bed last night we heard a fierce growling and grunting; a wild animal? As we guessed, it was a koala. Colin was lucky enough to spot it with a torch as it ambled (fast for a koala) up a tree. This morning we discovered it had migrated to a tree right behind our van. This afternoon we managed to get a photo as it momentarily and sleepily moved position ever so slightly. At least its faced moved from behind a branch more to one side at the same time as it stretched a limb. Most likely that’s it for today!

Zac had a lizard basking on the sun warmed floor of the tent awning this afternoon. He wisely checked to make sure the tent was zipped tight. You wouldn’t want that in your sleeping bag.

Apart from the wildlife at this caravan park, Johanna also discovered that once upon a time you flushed a toilet by pulling a chain. The first time in the bathroom she wasn’t sure what to do. Her other great discovery this week was a van at the beach giving out large freebie beach balls (advertising). BB, as she has affectionately called it, has provided hours of enjoyment (without the necessity of a parent – even better)

Colin and Zac booked themselves in for a surfing lesson this morning, to get a bit of advice and some pointers. Hopefully they will have some time over the coming days to practice. Speaking of practice, Zac is currently taking Pat for a drive (and Colin). He learnt to drive in an automatic and wants some practice in a manual. They have to gone to check out Rainbow Beach which is where the surf instructor said would be the most likely place to have the kind of waves they need to practice on.

Last night after dinner, as we drove back to the caravan park, we called by Town Beach and arrived in time to see a full moon break through the clouds spilling a cool pale light over the ocean and from our vantage point at a lookout, a beautiful old pine tree. In light of our fixation this time away with Ben Howard’s ‘Old Pine’ a photo attempt was a must. We also called Rachel to say a final Happy Birthday and it seemed fitting to do so from that place – considering her love for the song.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Port Macquarie

A drizzly night and the prospect of a grey day saw us packing up a day early and heading south to Port Macquarie. The consensus was that we had seen and done the things we wanted to at South West Rocks and it felt like a good travelling day. So began the whole pack up, drive and unpack routine. This time the unpacking was done amidst alternating showers and sunshine, accompanied by a sticky humidity that left the air feeling damp.

Unpacking done we made a beeline for the local beach (Lighthouse Beach). Colin and Johanna could hardly contain themselves as hand in hand they hurried onto the beach and into the water – a very chilly water. A quick dunk and they were out! Wetsuits will be a must.

Map in hand we followed the coast road stopping at all the beaches on the way for a bit of a reconnaissance – which beaches have the best surf conditions. There are quite a few. We ended up at Town Beach, not surprisingly in the middle of town, scouted out a Chinese take away and ate our dinner watching some beautiful waves roll in and some local surfers nailing them.

Tomorrow Zac joins us again, something we are all looking forward to. Tomorrow Rachel turns 18, she is currently with my family in Tassie. Tomorrow Heidi will be working all day (as she will be all week) earning some final dollars before heading to Asia on the weekend. As our family gathers and scatters, the memories made, like this Christmas, are all the more precious.

Monday, 9 January 2012

The Ocean

As sure as the sun rises in the morning and sets at night I’ll enjoy a swim in the ocean.

The power and vastness, the crashing waves and strong currents makes me feel insignificant and small, it brings me back to earth, shows me I’m not powerful, shows me I’m just a small, dark haired girl, being thrashed around by the waves. The feeling of breaking through the waters surface as you dive under a wave and the feeling bursting back up to the air and wind invigorates me like nothing else.

A few days ago the water at Horseshoe Bay was clear as a shimmering crystal sprawled out before us. As I dived under a wave I would open my eyes and watch the rays of light dance through the water and caress the sand. I would come back up, wait until the next wave came rolling towards me and then I’d duck under the water, open my eyes and watch the wave rolling through the water above me.

The ocean is like a mysterious jewel that is so common, yet so precious.

A jewel that I will treasure forever and ever.

Some Trivia

There is a never ending line at the icecream shop. $2.50 for two scoops is a bargain in anyone’s language. Colin and I share one each day – whoever stands in the line gets to choose the flavours.

Sand flies are a mongrel and they particularly like Colin and Johanna. Colin has more than twenty bites, and that’s just on the bottom of his legs. They are infuriatingly itchy. We are stocking up on stingose.

The South West Rocks County Club Sunday lunch special wasn’t particularly special. What can you expect for $13.80 buffet. It was not the limited and conservative range of food that disappointed (we were expecting that) it was the poor quality. Johanna had her first taste of Baked Custard/Bread and Butter Pudding (some debate over which it was) and was not impressed.

Wind direction and currents are important at beaches (not just for surfing, I’ve already been told that) but because certain directions bring sea lice which sting.

Speaking of currents, they also affect sea temperature. The water can be a beautiful 23 degrees here and 45 minutes South at Crescent Head it can be a chilly 18 degrees. Johanna and I donned full wetsuits and rode our bogey boards down the swift flowing creek to the sea. Colin had a very disappointing attempt at surfing at the iconic beach. Never mind he’ll be back with his surf buddy (Zac) next week to conquer a wave.

An iconic moment at an iconic beach (Crescent Head)

Grassy banks sloping onto beaches are the best, you can get off the sand, find some shade and wile away many a lazy afternoon (punctuated by an icecream of course) We would know, Horseshoe Bay has become our second home this week. The only drawback for Colin (and a big one at that) is that it doesn’t have rideable waves.

Summer, yurting and fish go together beautifully. Unfortunately not the kind that we have managed to catch, only the kind purchased from a shop. We are eating lots of fish and loving it. (Pink Ling with Thai style dressing tonight)

Canoes can be skilfully guided in the mangroves and paddles can be used to push away from trees. We found that out this morning when we hired a canoe and took it out on the local creek.

$1 coins are valuable; you need four of them to do a load of washing. Patience is also a valuable commodity when you are waiting for a machine to become free. We figured out it is better to do a load of washing in the evening and then your clothes are almost dry by the morning and you can avoid the long queue, machines at a premium and limited space on the clothes line necessitating some creative hanging.

Almost three weeks into our month away and we are all feeling pretty ‘chilled’. We move at a slow pace, take the day as it comes, decide as we go, make the most of each moment….

Sunday, 8 January 2012

200 posts ago

This post is not about today, although today was a gem.

About ten years ago I quit the job I thought I'd do for the rest of my life to set up a business that would, among other things (see Ergo) offer Maria and I new freedoms. Around that same time Johanna started school so Maria's life changed dramatically too. We set out to create a life that asked 'why not?' We chose to believe we were not stuck. We set out to live with a 'no regrets' policy. About three years ago we bought a caravan with the intension to create a lifestyle that included doing some things we might typically have relegated to retirement years. That was tens of thousands of kilometres ago.

Our first real (place) goal was to explore the NSW coast between Port Macquarie and the QLD border. Although some of them relate to yurting in Victoria, the story of that exploration is now captured in 200 posts, many with photos, on this site. Next week, this phase of our yurting aspiration ends with a week in Port Macquarie.

We've not seen every bit of the coast by a long stretch, but we've given it a fair go and we've spent some time over the last couple of days reminiscing. Part of that has been sharing our favourite spots. Naturally we like different places for different reasons, but funnily enough, we agree enthusiastically that our favourite town, one we've returned to a number of times, was the first one we stayed at: Brunswick Heads. I've re-posted a photo from that first day, taken from our site looking over the river and the footbridge to the beach that lifts our spirits whenever we see walk down onto it.

This is wonderful country. The winding country roads alongside majestic river systems with postcard farmhouses and riverside hamlets are beautiful. The countless coastal villages that provide the backdrop for the national pastimes of board-riding, fishing and seaside holidays are living examples of iconic Australia. We have grown to love so much of this part of our amazing land.

Not surprisingly, we have started to wonder about which parts to explore next. We've got a longer trip through remote central and Western Australia slated for a few years down the track, but we are wondering about QLD next.

These days, there are countless lists around claiming to offer the 'must see' places before you die. I saw one just tonight on Facebook. It is true that there are some standout places, and I confess that Maria and I would love to visit each of Grif Rhys Jones' 7 greatest cities before we get too old. But the premise of many of these lists is a crock. The idea that bigger, more exotic and adventurous experiences somehow make one's life better is rubbish.

What is not rubbish is the capacity to open our eyes and see beauty and goodness wherever we are. If life offers us the opportunity to travel and see different and interesting places then our appreciation of them, I think, is directly related to our appreciation of our own neighbourhoods, homes and families.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

‘He can’t help it’ and Eeyore

We’ve been together for almost three weeks now, 24/7, and sometimes it starts to show. Our individual idiosyncrasies become magnified, at home in the city there are distractions and time apart, at home in the caravan there are not. Humour is the best antidote to annoyance and anger.

Hence, ‘He can’t help it’ and Eeyore.

‘He can’t help it’ is what Johanna and I say about Colin when he eats in public and always ends up with food around his mouth, or on his chin or the side of his face, when he drinks coffee and has a milky moustache at the end, when his clothes don’t match…… It is what Johanna said today when he picked his teeth with his fingers at a café after finishing his burger (after she castigated him on his appalling manners) and when he put the end of the icecream cone on the tip of his nose and pretended to be a pecking bird (the icecream was finished, we are thankful for small mercies).

And Eeyore (of Winnie the Pooh notoriety) is what we call Johanna when her pessimistic comments  come forth – it is too windy, there won’t be any waves, there’s too many people in the water, it will rain, it’s too hot...... It is what I called her today as we stood all by ourselves on a deserted beach and watched the wind make patterns with dry sand blowing across the damp; beautiful pale yellow shapes gliding across the beach and becoming lost in the breaking waves. The beauty of the moment was lost on our little Eeyore, for the discomfort of the sand pinging against her bare legs was far greater than the wondrous sight before her, that was, until Eeyore was so named and she could laugh about it and really ‘see’ what was before her.

And my own idiosyncrasies, well someone else will have to write about that!

Friday, 6 January 2012


We arrived here with a sigh, we had been ready to move for a few days, it didn’t feel right still being at Nambucca Heads after the kids left.

South West Rocks is a pretty place of chirping insects, tall trees, sunny bay beaches, colourful ice creams, people in bathers, hidden rivers and creeks and happy voices. On our first full day here we visited a historic site at Trial Bay, it was the ruins of a gaol built in the late 1800’s. The prisoners were used to build a break wall, which was never completed; the gaol was then used again in world war one, for German interns. I loved the fact that I could just take in all the information without having to take notes like I would have had to for a school excursion. I love to visit and learn about historical places like that because I love to know how people lived back then and what conditions were like for them. My favourite part was looking inside the cells that the prisoners and interns were kept in. The gaol was tall and towering (even though it now doesn’t have any roofs) with black iron gates and tall stonewalls.

We then visited the Smokey Cape lighthouse, which had magnificent views of turquoise ocean and blue sky.

After our visit to the lighthouse we had lunch at a pretty little café that doubled as a bed a breakfast. It was one of those cafes that had un-matching tables sitting outside under shade umbrellas and sitting on a pebbly ground, inside there was lots of artwork and some shelves that you could buy coffee and preserves (stuff like that).

We then decided it was time for a bit of beach and headed to Trial Bay beach, which was calm, and pleasant, after a swim there we decided to also check out a more local beach, Horseshoe Bay, there was a little more swell there, but it was messy, rough and crowded, we had a nice swim anyway. We also found that there was a kiosk at Horseshoe bay that sold two-scoop cones of ice cream for $2.50, Bargain!!  While we were eating our ice cream Mum decided that her New Years resolution was to try every flavour of ice cream at the Gello Bar (back in Brunswick). I told her that New Years resolutions should be about ways to improve your lifestyle or something that you’ve always wanted to do and never thought you could achieve, or something that you really need to do and so its your new years resolution to do it. But then we agreed that it actually was helping people, the owners and workers at the Gello Bar who will earn more money.

Today we went for a bit of an excursion to Hat Head, where we decided the surf was no good (too small) and continued on the Cresent Head, it was a nice little town and the beach was good, but the water had turned cold due to the wind direction sweeping in the cold currents. Dad still went out hoping to catch a few waves, I think he caught one or two.

This afternoon it was back to Horseshoe Bay for another swim and another $2.50 two scoop ice cream.

I’m looking forward to when Zac comes back up next week, but also enjoying now. I’ve learnt that now is the best thing to think about when you’re on holidays, and now is the best time to enjoy things. And now is great.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

South West Rocks

South West Rocks is a pretty coastal town, situated at one end of Trial Bay. There are a number of beaches with grassy banks/headland. It has that small holiday town feel with enough shops that you don’t feel isolated and will fill in a mornings meandering if the weather turns bad. There is an old gaol, a lighthouse and some National Park walks – plenty to do. The swell is almost non existent for the next few days so other than a dip to cool off, the beach does not hold the same attraction. At least that means there is a good chance that we will be able to do some of the other things! Colin will also be working a bit each day, so it feels like we have switched from holiday mode to ‘yurting’ mode.

South West Rocks will be a great place to explore for the week that we are here. Our caravan park sits on the shores of the South West Creek and our site backs onto the creek. The view is beautiful; tranquil water, green grass and tall trees.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

remember it with a bruise, a photo or a song

When I returned from The Do Lectures I shared highlights with the family. One of them was Mickey Smith and his inspiring film The Dark Side of the Lens. One of the many memorable lines from Mickey is "remember it with a photo or a scar". Borrowing from Mickey, this yurting excursion, and others for that matter, are often memorable for incidental reasons.

After I showed Rachel Mickey's talk and film she chased other pieces of work from him. The wonderful song by Ben Howard, Old Pine, made all the more brilliant by Mickey's film making was quickly added to our yurt. surf, cruise playlist. It has become the defining track for this trip. When we took Pat off-road last week onto a sandy track running parallel to a long wild beach, Rachel sitting in the front passenger seat, window open, cranked up Old Pine ... loud. Johanna sings the lyrics often, randomly. (You can find the lyrics here.)

Maria's dislocated toe has defined her time. One of her favourite activities is walking. This time that's been taken away from her. Rachel burned her back with the sun and her arm with a lamp. I've got large purple patches on both legs from a single dramatic wipeout.

I'm writing this in the evening sun, on a seat beside a rockwall on which Maria is perched with her camera taking shots of Johanna sitting further up the wall on a rock with her headphones in. As always, we will remember this trip by Maria's pictures.

Monday, 2 January 2012

not so swell

During the big swell of the last week it was hard to imagine flat water. But the ocean has its way, and Scotts Head, which is the best spot within 45 minutes drive didn't offer much to ride today. In part the problem was our timing, arriving a couple of hours before high tide and the sweeping bay needs to be on the empty side before the banks happen.

As per Maria's last post, I was thinking I could be the first of the throng to catch the emerging waves as the tide receded, but I sat and rose and fell on swell that promised so much but didn't break until the sand bank in the shallows 40 metres from shore .

I didn't mind. At this time of year the line-up can have 30+ people jockeying for position, so being alone oscillating my gaze from the horizon to the sweeping beach full of holiday makers did me just dandy.

I was sporting my new look. As David and Carol, our friends who dropped in last week said to me, when melanoma is part of your life, surfing is not a great past-time. I've always tried to look after myself, especially these last few years as we've spent so much time outdoors, but I figured its now time to ignore the peaking dag-o-metre, and get myself properly donned for the sun. So long sleeve rashy and surf cap it is. When the sun beats down as strongly as it does in this land, and especially when you put yourself in situations where there is no shade (not many trees offshore), its offers some comfort not having my skin acting as solar panels.

Home for our second last dinner at Nambucca Heads. Seafood shop closed for New Year so no Samson as planned, instead we turned to our trusty barbecue and salads book and landed on some lamb kofta which we put in wraps with tzatziki, tomato, cucumber and rocket. Very satisfactory.

Its been a strange few days. it felt like when the kids left we needed to move on. When they are with us it feels like holidays. When its just the three of us we revert to our more conventional yurting lifestyle which is less about holiday and more about living simply, day to day as per the home page of this site. But as Maria and I talked about today, at this time of year when surrounded by holiday makers we naturally get caught up in the rhythms of families on annual leave.

Some of that will change in a couple of days when we move to South West Rocks. I've got lots of project work to plan for so will develop a rhythm that allows me to work for some of the day while Maria and Johanna do other things. Zac comes back to join us the week after in Port Macquarie so my priority will shift again to spending some swell time with my boy. Looking forward to that.


Nothing Day (Saturday)

We learnt that unlike the 'big city' shops and services close down on public holidays and weekends. Drove to Bowraville for lunch - everything closed, looked like a ghost town. Drove to Sawtell, most things closed at 3pm (we arrived at 3.30pm), went up to the surf club to watch the ocean and have a coffee/icecream - closed of course. We did finally have some joy with pizza and icecream at Coff's Harbour Jetty and then went to the movies. We didn't quite make it to midnight, we were all exhausted after our nothing happening day.

Sunny Day (Sunday)

Back to Scotts Head to enjoy the warm and sunny day, unfortunately not much swell and no surfable waves today (didn't stop Colin sitting out on his board watching the horizon and wishing the swell to rise, ever the optimist he is or perhaps the fool! If enthusiasm counts for something he has it in bucketfuls.)