Tuesday, 4 November 2014

20 minutes of love: is this the best urban coast walk in the world?

I've walked the path from our place to Kings Beach 100s of times. At least once, typically twice and not unusually three times a day when I'm home. Every time it is wonderful. This entry is to record 20 minutes of love ...

1. The esplanade deck.

From our apartment balcony we look over the resort next door’s swimming pool to a wooden deck promenade that is designed for fishing, sitting, picnicking at covered tables, walking and chatting. We love waking up, wandering to the window and surveying the early morning goings on on the deck, and watch the constant stream of walkers and runners.

We pass idle daytime hours time sitting on the seats here and watching people walk past. We take food down to the covered tables and feel comforted by the calm blue water of The Passage.

Across the road is The Edge, our local-est café, where Johanna works and we know everyone by name.

I love that deck.

2, Bullcock Beach

The wooden deck winds past a small park where people sit on the grassy slopes, to the smallest surf life saving on the Coast. Past the weatherboard building, the rightside of the paths opens up to a European style bathing beach. Being on The Passage, there are no waves, only swift tidal currents. I think of it as European because at this beach people bathe rather than swim. Activity is usually limited to getting up from your towel and walking to the water. The soft white sand is welcoming.

It attracts holidayers from the resort across the road, but it is also a homely beach. After their daily morning dip, a familiar group of senior citizens sit in the morning sun and chat the morning away, uniformed in their faded green floppy hats.

This is where we go to sit in the late afternoon. The soft light of the setting sun washes over slow moving beachgoers as they eventually shake their towels and take themselves off the sand, often to one of the cafés or restaurants that overlook the beach.

For us there are two regular spots. Friday nights we often find ourselves at La Dolce Vita, always the same order including a vegan pizza for Johanna. Maria and I also frequent Drift where we perch for lunch on high outdoor tables and talk about life.

I love that beach.

3. Happy Valley

With Bullcock Beach behind us we zig zag to one of my favourite places, the aptly named Happy Valley. Families and groups gather here in happy activity. Playgrounds for happy kids. Larger shelters for happy outside functions. A permanent cricket pitch for happy family games. Loads of grass for picnic blankets. Lots of trees and shade. Seats on which to happily watch the passing parade. Wedding ceremonies, which also tend to be happy.

Happy Valley is also where kite surfers, windsurfers and long boarders gather. The grassy expanses between the single row carpark and beach invite people to lay their equipment down in the sun, to share stories as they prepare and pack up. The rocky drop from the park to the beach is via a couple of sets of wooden stairs. Depending on the time of year the beach might have 50 metres of sand, or none.

I love that park.

4. The boardwalk

At the end of Happy Valley, The Passage becomes the ocean. The set of stairs that punctuates the paved path from the elevated boardwalk ushers board carrying wave-riders who typically focus more on the surf than the steps below them, scanning for the spot most likely to offer a ride.

The boardwalk swings around the rocky outcrop and offers front row viewing to the broad sweep of breaks that attract long boarders and stand up paddlers alongside mobs of kids and others learning the craft.

I pause often along this stretch to watch. I share coaching analysis and commentary (to Maria) which is pretty laughable  given how poor I am at executing my own advice. Maria is gracious enough to listen without comment.

I love that boardwalk.

5. Kings Beach.

At the end of the boardwalk the wooden boards turn back into paving and on the right is a superbly designed area where people sit and watch the reef break beside a rock groin. The swell sits up off this reef to form incredible barrels. Groms live here, it is body boarding heaven.

There is a little viewing station, beside which a set of stairs go down to the southern end of Kings Beach.

Kings Beach is an iconic Australian Beach. The southern half (two thirds really) is designated for boardriders. Vans sit in the few car spots with their back doors open. Their owners and a mob of mates settle in for the day.

Half way along is a cluster of cafes which includes Coffee Cat, our Sunday morning breakfast place of choice. Sometimes we sit in the shade, more often than not on concrete steps designed for people to … sit and watch the goings on on the beach. On Sunday morning the beach is partly cordoned off and hundreds of kids in pink lifesaving tops go through their little nippers paces. Parents drink coffee and lay out picnic baskets.

At the northern end of the beach, the Surf Club sits regally above the sand. Pretty much every time we do the walk, I jump in the water and frolic in the surf for a while.

I love this beach.

Then we get to walk home again and do it all in reverse. And then later that day, we’ll probably do the walk again. Then again tomorrow.

Joy. Sand between our toes, salt air in our lungs, lapping water in our ears. Wellbeing.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

the surprising value of nothingness

Axiom: you need two weeks holiday to unwind properly

The only people likely to challenge this are those who haven’t experienced it. For me the progress toward deep regeneration can be illustrated by the following well-worn sequence (in my life).

  1. Turn phone to silent so I don't hear it.

  2. Stop carrying it.

  3. Checking for messages only a couple of times a day.

  4. Not caring whether there are messages or not.

You’d think understanding this sequence would allow you to move through it more quickly, the reality for me is that it always takes a week and half to properly relax.

Over the last couple of days I feel myself:

  • Walking more slowly.

  • Not filling time with activity (even if that activity is ‘go for walk on beach’), rather basking in timelessness without expectations.

  • Asking myself unhurried questions about life and what it means to live more fully.

The crystal clear waters off Cape Byron and in the bay have not pulsed with swell this last week, but that has invited alternative water play … snorkelling on top of reefs at high tide and being blown away by the wild sealife, and paddling my kayak through the glassy water, the sand ripples and rocks many metres below as visible as if they were just below the surface.

And yesterday, while out with some friends less than a kilometre from shore, we were visited by a pod of playful humpback whales. We overuse the word, but the 10-15 minutes we sat there were jaw dropping awesome.

Sometimes we make our own luck.

Most time we travel or take holidays it is ‘good’. But a two week break where we have time to ‘be’ without activity repays us many times over. There is surprising value in nothingness.

Friday, 4 July 2014

same but different

So far, two things have made our winter sojourn in Byron Bay different from at least the last two years.

  1. My habit has been to rise early and work for a few hours most days. And for pretty much every year I can remember I’ve travelled to Melbourne at least once while we’ve been here. This year I decided to fence it off and have a holiday, only responding to a handful of emails each day. Switched off.

  2. The last two years have been wet. I mean, digging-trenches-around-tents-in-the-middle-of-the-night wet. This year, the only clouds we have seen, literally, have been in the distance over the sea horizon. Clear blue skies. Everyday. All day. Brilliant starry skies and colder than typical evening and mornings. This year most of us have left the water-proofing tarps folded up. Happy.

And there are many good things that stay the same. Friends with whom to share cups of tea and waves. Happy hour drinks on the wooden deck overlooking The (iconic) Pass. Weary bodies and stiff shoulders from lots of “just one more wave” decisions. Treks to the light house, a kind of pilgrimage, or at least a ritual. Evenings in the caravan, where we retreat and cook comfort food (dhal tonight), reading, watching and writing stuff.

Today we got in the car, first time since we arrived on Monday, and went across to Brunswick Heads for lunch and, as it turned out, a slow and lazy afternoon. There is something about that place. It keeps drawing us back. We’ve been on some incredible beaches over the years, but I reckon the one at Brunswick Heads is my all time favourite. Its wide open white sand and powerful turquoise surf invite you to forget whatever else is happening in the world and take it all in. We’ve not been there in the height of summer when I’m sure there are more people, but the sand is so expansive that people tend to spread out, rather than cluster … I like that.

We loved our lunch at the Green Monkey (Vegie café) and we sat on the grass by the river and watched people canoe and SUP while we ate ice cream (chocolate and ginger.)

There is nothing meaningful to say. I just love living in our yurt (caravan) in this part of the world.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

seasons inevitably end ...

The doors of our Caloundra apartment are wide open to the humidity of the evening. Outside revellers are celebrating the last evening of 2013, music and voices mingle in happy tones. I have just read, cover to cover, the latest Kinfolk Magazine - the theme of this issue is ageing, so lots of stuff about things that get better over time. I turned 50 in 2013, and for me, so much more than the famed 40, I am finding myself pondering life in the decades beyond physical prime. Maria is in Launceston with her mum, Gaylene who is in a bit of health dip at the moment. Phone conversations with her dad, Nick typically involve health updates, and my parents, Brian and Esme are also navigating the realities of living in their 8th decade, and I'm on the wait list for elective surgery.

This evening's read was good for my soul. While our bodies inevitably begin to slow down and function differently, so much about ageing is to be embraced with quiet vigour. So many things get better over time.

... which is all a prelude to what I sat down to write about. It feels like our years of yurting, at least as we have known them, have ended. But it is a happy ending! We set out to integrate the simple habits and rhythms of coastal caravan living into our lifestyle rather than making them a holiday routine. After 5 years of about 3 months a year in the yurt (caravan) we can confidently proclaim that buying our van and using it like we did was one of the best things we've done.

The taste (or was it a feast) of simple, seaside living  was undeniably formative in our decision to base ourselves here on the Sunshine Coast, where daily ocean swims and simple living rhythms are our privileged lot. But when you live somewhere like this, the incentive to hitch up and drive dissipates. The caravan sits 5 minutes away in storage. Last year, apart from a weekend down in Kingscliff, it only got lived in for two weeks in Byron Bay midyear.

Over the last few years, our circumstances have allowed us to do some international travel and we have used this site to chronicle some of that. But in 2014 we anticipate no international travel for pleasure and no yurting apart from our regular winter sojourn 'east of everything'. So, is this the end? And, dare I allow myself to even think it, is it time to sell the caravan!!!???

If the answer is 'yes', then I am sober but not sad. Like a sports person who has 'left nothing' on the field, we lived out our 'no regrets' approach and have stories and memories that are precious, precious, precious. The nearly 400 posts on this site are a glimpse of that. And we are doing the same while living here, sucking the marrow out of it, with no way to anticipate the circumstances of life we will be called on to navigate, the opportunities and challenges that will define the coming years. In the ups and downs, we hope for love, for peace, and for some joy.

The (kids) fireworks have just finished around at Kings Beach. Lots of thunderous noise, but they're done now. And so, for now, are the travel blogs from this site. And the new year is just about here for the living ...