Tag Archives: kayak

Palm Beach Perspectives, Sydney, Australia.

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.

-Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor (161-180 CE)

Known as Summer Bay to lovers of the TV Drama series Home & Away and “Palmy” to those in the know, generation after generation have made the long drive up to Palm Beach often returning with sand-encrusted butts, sunburn and shocking tempers in a stinking hot car full of flies. Of course, that’s turning the clock back to the inimitable 70s when going to Palm Beach for us, meant piling into the family’s beloved HG Holden which had painfully hot upholstery and no air-conditioning. Ouch!

Palm Beach is located 41 kilometres North of Sydney’s CBD. However, I can assure you that if you’re catching the legendary L90 bus, welcome to eternity. Indeed, the journey takes around 2 hours. If you were traveling in Europe, you could well have traversed a few countries in that time. Moreover, bus is the only form of public transport. At least historically speaking, trains have been resisted.

On the other hand, if you are coming from the Central Coast, Palm Beach is only a stone’s throw away. You can catch the Palm Beach Ferry from either Ettalong or Wagstaff, which is an absolutely stunning 30 minute trip. When that gorgeous Australian sun is illuminating the ocean like a magical diamond carpet and the wind isn’t too strong, you’re in absolute paradise. On the other hand, when there’s heavy rain, strong winds, the ferry is heaving up and down through what feels like treacherous surf and you’re about to throw up; you feel like you deserve a bravery award once you reach the other side. Yes, at times like that, you even wonder if you’re about to become a modern version of the Swiss Family Robinson or remake Gilligan’s Island. Melodrama aside, the crew are very adept and the ferry is cancelled during particularly rough weather.

Palm Beach is an absolute kaleidoscope of perspectives, like any place, once you scratch beneath the surface. Obviously, creating that sort of mosaic, isn’t possible here so I’ll stick to the bigger picture, providing more of a broad-sweeping overview which a few “local” insights.

Geographically-speaking, Palm Beach has two quite opposite perspectives: the surf beach and Pittwater. The beach equals waves and swimming while Pittwater is “flat” and better suited for sailing, kayaking and other water sports.

Palm Beach- surf side

Palm Beach- surf side

Starting off with the surf beach, the first thing you’ll probably notice is that the sand is deep gold in colour. The next thing, is the surf. At the Southern end, the waves are relatively gentle and you have “kiddies’ corner”  where families with young kids hang out. There’s also an ocean pool where you can swim laps. The beach then stretches around towards the Northern end with it’s famous surfing breaks and culminates with the Palm Beach Lighthouse, which lies perched on top of the headland like a crown. If you are fit and energetic, you can walk up to the Lighthouse. I haven’t been up there for years and I’ve heard the path has improved but it used to be more of a climb than a walk.

The majority of swimmers are clustered “in between the flags”. The red and yellow flags mark where it’s safest to swim and is patrolled by the Surf Lifesavers. So, if you find yourself getting into difficulty, you can easily be spotted and rescued. I can assure you that as a teenager, my friends and I did consider needing a bit of CPR but never actually implemented these plans. We were all “talk”. That is, except when it came to talking to the lifesavers. These Adonises were in a league all of their own.

In a scene reminiscent of hundreds and thousands sprinkled on top of bread and butter (fairy bread),the crowds pour into Palmy from Christmas through to the Australia Day weekend at the end of January, which signals the return to school and the end of the precious Summer holidays. Then, the masses jostle for a precious rectangle of sand to park their towel on the hot,hot sand under the scorchingly hot Australian sun.

Although people living overseas have asked me about the hole in the ozone over Australia, it doesn’t look like all the sunbakers roasting themselves into early-onset melanoma have heard anything about it. When we were young, we used to to cover ourselves in baby oil or get sprayed on the beach by coconut oil, which was the height of sophistication back in the 70s and 80s. There was no such thing as a “fake tan” back then. Just sunburn, peeling skin, freckles and the odd genetic mutant who could actually pull off a tan.

Many years ago now, I used to hang out on the beach where designer sunnies were de rigeur and it certainly wasn’t the sort of place you’d turn up with hairy legs and arm pits which could fuel a forest fire. You didn’t just practice “the strut” at Palmy either. You had to have that down pat beforehand so Palm Beach could be your catwalk. Even better, if you also had the fingernails to eliminate your competition!

Geoff arriving home from a sail.

Geoff arriving home from a sail.

While the beachfront is renowned for flashing incredible wealth in a subtle, understated way and very much being “a scene”, the Pittwater side of Palm Beach is like it’s alter ego and incredibly down to earth  Understandably, there generally isn’t that fashion element you get over at the surf beach. Getting covered in sand and mud, we save our good clothes for back home or dining out and only wear our glad rags out there. It’s water shoes, wet suits, swimmers, grungy t-shirts and thick smears of sunscreen and broad-brimmed hats.

Although my tour of Palm Beach is rapidly drawing to a close, there are still two places I’d like you to visit.

Here I am enjoying a deep-fried prawn from the Fisherman's Basket.

Here I am enjoying a deep-fried prawn from the Fisherman’s Basket.

Firstly, there’s the infamous Palm Beach fish and chips shop, which has gone by various names over the years. It’s located on the Pittwater side, just across from the ferry wharf. People come from all around Sydney and the Central Coast to feast on these fish and chips, which surely must be among Sydney’s best?!! You can either eat-in or take them across the road and eat them in the park while checking out the sailing.

Secondly, there’s Alf’s Bait Shop in “Summer Bay”. Personally, there’s such an incredible cringe factor and like Neighbours, Home & Away is best exported but the show has been a fabulous ambassador and no doubt sold Australia to thousands of tourists. Palm Beach really does look incredible. That said, they usually present a glamorized, postcard perspective. After all, it does rain in Palm Beach and it isn’t always sun and blue skies!

However, while so far I’ve given you what pretty much reads as the glamour tour of Palm Beach, I can’t help feeling that Palm Beach is a little over-rated, especially given the cost of real estate. Even though it is part of Sydney, Palm Beach is actually very isolated and lacks most of what I would class “essential services”. There are no proper supermarkets and you have a ten minute drive into Avalon, which can extend to 20 in traffic. It is impossible to find a parking spot, which has meant that we’ve gone down for fish and chips and have driven off. I don’t want to knock down paradise and put up a parking lot. However, you do need to eat and get out of the house. That is also made difficult by the very narrow, twisting roads which lack adequate footpaths/ Indeed, in spots being a pedestrian is almost asking to get run over. As I was walking back from the bus stop the other day, I really felt like I needed to breathe in to distance myself from passing traffic.

Consequently, you can feel a little trapped and claustrophobic on the “insular peninsula”…especially when we have stunning beaches back home which are close to the shops, train and bus at such a fraction of the cost of real estate here.

Actually, thinking about Palm Beach’s location, it’s almost like someone was playing pin-the-tail on the donkey and stuck the pin almost off the side of the map. Even though it’s located in Sydney and not in the outback, it does feel strangely isolated both from services and people. So many of the houses are empty.

I am a bit down on Palm Beach at the moment because my Dad has sold the house here and we’re moving on, which is a serious wrench.

So rather than writing home about all the things I love about the place, I am also trying to remind myself of all the other equally beautiful places elsewhere and think about the flip side of the travel experience. For the last few years, we’ve immersed ourselves here but perhaps now it’s time to explore further afield and explore with a broader brush. When it comes to the Pittwater side of Palm Beach,it feels like we’ve explored each and every single hair on its head…especially when I’ve photographed it in such incredibly, minute detail and it feels like I know each single hair on its head, even though we’re still finding new critters.

So, soon I will be seeing our time in Palm Beach from another perspective…the past. I don’t need to leave it behind completely. After all, it’s only a short 30 minute ferry ride away but we planted roots here even if they’re uprooted and not severed completely, it still hurts and I feel a bit lost and disorientated. That said, once school goes back next week and we’re back to the grind at home, it will be a different story.

We’ll be home.

This has been P for Palm Beach Perspectives for the Blogging from A-Z April Challenge. How are you going with the challenge? Thank goodness, it is Sunday tomorrow and we have a break!

xx Rowena

Kayaking with Two Dogs

There’s a good reason why I’ve never seen anybody else kayaking with two dogs on board. It’s absolute madness.

Welcome to another sunny day in Sydney’s gorgeous Palm Beach. Just to fill you in a bit, it’s now autumn and the air is starting to chill. The ocean water temperature isn’t too bad and you can still wade through the water in comfort. That said, we’ve turned up the solar heating on the pool and are praying for summer’s artificial return.

After both kids had declined to join me, Geoff helped both of the dogs onboard and we were off: Lady in the front and heavy Bilbo in the middle facing me with his claws all but wedged into the kayak. If you haven’t followed Bilbo’s adventures before, let me just say that he’s NOT into adventure and his bucket list only includes walks on dry land where he doesn’t get his paws wet. Lady is considerably more adventurous and will swim and has also taken “liberties” as the hunt for local rabbits continues. In case you’re thinking rabbit hunting is a local “sport” Lady was originally from a farm and chanced across a dead rabbit while we were staying at Palm Beach, which is much better known for it’s fish and chips and fasionistas. She still hasn’t forgotten and her desperate quest for more rabbits continues.

Even if you haven’t been kayaking, I’m sure you’d still appreciate that staying afloat requires a healthy respect for the laws of physics. The most obvious being staying in your seat while you’re out in the water. Keeping the weight evenly balanced would also be a good idea and you certainly don’t need to be Einstein to work out that leaning to one side with your tail in the water, is an invitation to capsize.

Welcome to kayaking with two dogs. Being a Border Collie, Bilbo is supposedly representing the world’s smartest breed. Although 50% Border Collie and 50% Cavalier King Charles Spaniel which comes in at something like number 42 on the list, Lady does seem a little. Humph…Let’s just say that for what she might lack in the brains trust, she certainly makes up for in looks and I’ve never met a dog before who wags their tail with such incredible enthusiasm. She is one very, very happy dog…even though she hasn’t found a second rabbit.

Given this combination, I could at least hope for two dogs who might think before they do something stupid.However, as it turned out, we were challenged right from the start.

Freaking out due to the instability of the kayak and the prospect of heading out to “sea”, Bilbo all but sat on my lap down the back of the kayak while little Lady was down the front. I’m probably not even capable of adding up Bilbo’s and my combined weight and even if I could, I certainly wouldn’t be advertising it here. Let’s just suffice to say, that Bilbo must be close to twice Lady’s weight and to counterbalance my weight as “the human”, he should have been down the front. He wasn’t and if you’ve ever tried to shift a terrified dog whose absolutely petrified of getting his paws wet, you’ll know that he was going nowhere!!

Compounding trouble, Lady doesn’t like to sit at the best of times and being in the front seat beyond my grasp, she could pretty much do whatever she liked. This included standing instead of sitting and even when she was sitting, sitting right on the edge of the kayak with her tail dangling in the water. As you could imagine, this was just asking the kayak to capsize.

Consequently, with Lady hellbent on destabilizing the kayak and Bilbo being so anxious that any instability sent him all but jumping onto my lap, even I was feeling sea sick. With all this commotion, even I was staring longing at home base hoping Geoff wasn’t faraway. Obviously, I didn’t need a crystal ball to know capsizing was more than a just a possibility and I could well be in need of a net.

All those dramas aside, it was a real hoot kayaking with the dogs. There were waves and shouts of admiration from the neighbours and I was pretty chuffed. After all, how often do you see someone kayaking with a dog onboard, let alone two and I really love my dogs. No doubt, there were a few fans taking selfies with us as this incredible spectacle passed by.

That said, it was tricky just trying to move the paddle with Bilbo hovering right over the top of me. I was almost whacking him in the head. Almost whacking him in the head while Lady was either standing up, sitting on the edge and all but disco dancing in the kayak creating waves and definitely poking her pink little tongue out at physics.

Yes, it was definitely time to start meditating and being mindful…ha!

However, the dogs weren’t my only challenge. There was also the tide. We live in a tidal zone so while you can throw around phrases like: “the tide waits for no man”, we know exactly what that’s all about. You have to have enough water to get out and enough water to get back. Get the timing wrong and you’re beached…just like a whale.

Fortunately, we made it back with plenty of time to spare. However, the next day when I was only out with Lady (Bilbo rejected a repeat invitation), I pushed my luck a bit too far and we got beached about 100 metres away from home. After several failed attempts to budge us with the paddle, Lady was thrown overboard and Mister was recruited to save his Mum. Yes, it was time for him to implement all that Sea Scout training and earn his keep. Mister sat bow which pulled the stern up out of the sand and then I managed to paddle further out and with his help, make it back to the boat ramp. Phew!

Lady walking home.

Lady walking home.

It seems like the dogs aren’t the only the ones who need to take a few lessons in physics. It looks like I could well be the next in line.

By the way, you might enjoy another post about the dogs out on the kayaks: Mutiny on the Yellow Kayak https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/mutiny-on-the-kayak/

K is for kayaking on Day 11 of the Blogging from A-Z April Challenge. How are you going with the challenge? Found it much easier today without the research load. Thanks dogs!! It’s been fun revisiting our fantastic, inimitable adventure.

xx Rowena

Click Go the Shears, Dog!

“Click goes his shears; click, click, click.

Wide are the blows, and his hand is moving quick,

The ringer looks round, for he lost it by a blow,

And he curses that old shearer with the bare belled ewe.”

Click Go the Shears:  The tune is an adaptation of the American Civil War song “Ring the Bell, Watchman” by Henry Clay Work and the first verse follows closely, in parody, Work’s lyrics as well.

Tom Roberts: "Shearing the Rams" 1890.

Tom Roberts: “Shearing the Rams” 1890. Bilbo is almost as woolly as a sheep.

Bilbo, our very woolly, mature-aged Border Collie,  is about to get shorn like a sheep and it’s going to be a real test of endurance not just for the dog groomer but also for Geoff who will be standing in the dog float with him. Bilbo became quite disturbed when I unceremoniously bathed him a few weeks ago with the garden hose out in the back. We’re Australian and both humans and dogs are tough and it’s not often that they receive the royal salon treatment. However, when it comes to the hose and the vacuum cleaner, Bilbo is a pussy cat. Actually, he’s more of a chicken!

Instead of going to the dog salon, the salon is coming to us.

Instead of going to the dog salon, the salon is coming to us.

That’s right. All his glamorous fur is coming off. Not so long ago, Bilbo’s beautiful black & white fluffy coat would have been the envy of many a Hollywood starlet. That was until he stood out in the rain once too often while his winter coat was shedding and it fused into a wadded clump. Brushing, brushing and more brushing and even strategic snips, did little to improve the situation…especially as he was staging a stubbornly  determined campaign of full-scale avoidance, fleeing whenever  we approached his rump with the brush. It reminded me of the classic children’s book: Harry the Dirty Dog written by Gene Zion and illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham. Harry dug a hole and buried his scrubbing brush and ran away. Bilbo has come very close to doing just that.

Bilbo out on the kayak with Geoff.

Bilbo out on the kayak with Geoff.

I know I’ve shared about Bilbo’s intrepid adventures in previous posts. He’s gone sailing, kayaked and looking at the publicity shots, you’d have to say he is quite the intrepid adventurer.

However, contrary to popular belief, the camera lies. Indeed, it can tell the biggest, most seemingly believable, porky pies because, as we’ve been told, the camera never lies!! It sees what it sees. However, it makes the moment seem eternal and can give a fleeting moment a sense of eternity when it was perhaps a moment in time…and an exceptional moment at that!

Despite his bold, audacious and almost ferocious warnings to the postman, Bilbo is bark and all fright. Unlike Lady who greets anybody and everybody at the front door with enthusiastic tail wagging and thump thump thump at accelerating speeds, Bilbo avoids strangers. He generally doesn’t like being patted until he’s really warmed up to people, even those he sees regularly…except for my mother AKA “Ham-Ma”  who has been feeding him ham scraps even since he was a pup.He doesn’t even bark when her car pulls up. Like most dogs, even Bilbo’s love and trust is easily bought.

Perhaps, if I’d offered him food treats every time I tried to brush his rump, his fur might not have ended up in the knotted mess it’s in. Bilbo is the ultimate avoider and doesn’t understand anything about a stitch in time.

Hence, the clip.

I did try to attend to Bilbo’s woes myself and apart from nightly brushing and judicious use of the scissors, I also  gave the mutt a bath. Bilbo has only had a bath once before and to be quite   honest, he hasn’t needed a bath before either. He usually maintains his coat well himself with minimal intervention and never smells.

The beast looks relatively calm here but the hose is off.

The bath. Here the beast looks relatively calm  but the hose is off. He was wild…absolutely wild!!

That’s all changed and he currently stinks…I mean really sticks and his fur is greasy, matting and he seems to have a flea allergy. We’re getting the coat off and then expect to take him to the vet. Get him sorted.

Any moment now, the dog groomer is going to pull up and I am feeling quite nervous. I really don’t know how this is going to pan out. He went ballistic at the hose last week biting the water and lunging at me with his claws out. He gave mister quite a fright and left scratches in my legs. He can get quite skittish in some situations.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
– Nelson Mandela

Yet, Bilbo is not afraid. He’s asleep on the floor, oblivious to his impending ordeal. Instead, it’s me feeling the fear and trying to be brave.

Oh dear…they’ve just pulled up. Wish us luck. We’re going to need it!!

How do you have any tales to tell about your dog and baths and trips to the salon?

Meanwhile, have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Lady is not one to let truth interfere with a good story…especially when it comes to boasting to all her mates about her wild adventures at sea. She might have only kayaked 3 metres off shore with assistance but she’s still an intrepid explorer! All it takes is a good photo. Yes, that’s right. Lady is off to explore the world. Can’t you tell?

Move over Huckleberry Hound. Lady enjoying her kayak adventures.

Move over Huckleberry Hound. Lady enjoying her kayaking adventures.

Hmm…Lady doesn’t exactly look like the intrepid sea captain here. She’s certainly rather drenched and looks a bit scraggly but she’s actually been for a swim.

Okay, so I wasn't quite going solo after all.

Okay, so I wasn’t quite going solo after all.

Lady is thoroughly enjoying the Palm Beach lifestyle and like us, will be struggling to adjust when we return to the real world.

xx Rowena