Tag Archives: NSW Central Coast

Surfing Through the Lens – MacMasters Beach, Australia.

“People see by the light of their own stars. Some nights the stars waver

in obscuring mists. I steer a straight course by my own compass. and

delight in the mysteries of misguiding stars.”

― Chris Ernest Nelson

Let me start out by saying, that when I set out on my latest, local photography walk,  I had no plans of going to MacMasters Beach. Rather, I was heading for Killcare. However, it just goes to show that a person with no sense of direction, shouldn’t leave home without consulting the map. Moreover, some of us are so spatially-challenged, that turning the map around to face “the right way up”, doesn’t help. It doesn’t get us where we want to go. So, we need to allow an extra hour or so to reach our destination. Or, move to a peninsula or island where we can’t stray too far away, and will eventually find our way home.

MacMasters Beach

MacMasters Beach, NSW, Australia.

Indeed, I’m sure John Lennon had geographically challenged people like me in mind when he said:

“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans”.

Last Friday afternoon, I set out for Killcare to explore the beach and the adjacent rocky headland through the lens and hopefully, at least, raise my heart rate  a little. Although Killcare is only about a 15 minute drive away, I’ve only been there a couple of times and that was about 8 years ago. That was back in the days when I went out for coffee with some of the mums from school, and that’s been awhile too!

MacMasters Swimming ppol

It almost feels like I could walk on water here and I was so amazed people were actually swimming in there during Winter. 

Anyway, I don’t think I mentioned that I’m trying to extend my walks beyond the local beach, and expand my horizons. That goal’s been reinforced by the coronavirus. Although Australia is starting to open up, I’m still semi-locked down and social distancing, and not at the point of returned to enclosed cafes or shops quite yet. Moreover, I’m not wanting to catch trains down to Sydney, which makes my usual escape hatch of Sydney more of a consideration. So, like so many of us the world over, exploring our local area is the way to go. Indeed, “local” has now become the new  “travel” just like “cruise ship” has now become synonymous with “the plague”.

Although I didn’t consult the map before I left, I did check my camera battery and swapped it over. At least, I was somewhat prepared, although I didn’t have time to wait for the battery to charge and didn’t have a spare. I also checked that the memory card was there. I’ve been let down on that front before as well. Nothing like heading out on a photo shoot, only to find an empty void in either compartment.

When it came to finding my way to Killcare, I knew I needed to turn right at the servo. After that, it was going to be case of drive by feel. To be perfectly honest, I fully expected to find a sign, which didn’t seem unreasonable. After all, Killcare is hardly a bush shack  hiding in the gum trees.

Well, if there was a sign, I missed it. It wouldn’t be the first time. Won’t be the last. However, as I kept driving through the bush with no Killcare in sight, I knew I’d missed it and was heading further afield. Indeed, it was starting to look like further, further afield. I had no idea where I was going to wind up. However, I was somewhere on the Australian East Coast and knew they’d at least stop me when I reached the Queensland border. That’s because the border between NSW and Queensland are closed and no doubt heavily guarded on account of the coronavirus. Indeed, you’d be excused for thinking NSW was the new Mexico and hopefully the Queensland Premier won’t be building any physical walls any time soon to keep us out.

Anyway, eventually I spotted an exceptionally rare local sight…a sign. Directions.

I was at MacMasters Beach just under 10 kilometres off course.

spring rolls MacMasters Beach

No worry. I’d never been to MacMasters before, and now it was about to become my oyster. Or, in this instance, my delicious prawn spring roll from the Barefoot Cafe. I haven’t exactly been going into shops and cafes. However, I could make it in and out of this place quite effortlessly and sit out alone out the front and soak up the magnificent view.

Cafe MacMasters Beach

The Barefoot Cafe, MacMasters Beach

Gee, it’s a hard life.

Well, it did become a bit tougher. Instead of going for an easy walk across the sand, I opted for a much more challenging step, hop, stumble  jump across an endless jumble of rocks and stones at the foot of the cliff, which only lead to more rocks, stones and fallen boulders around the corner. I didn’t end up going there and decided to turn back before I tempted fate. This sort of terrain is really good for strengthening your feet and ankles. However, since I’ve had some really nasty falls on supposedly safe footpaths albeit with nasty cracks, I thought I’d better limit the liability a little.

MacMasters Feet Rocks

Walking over bumpy terrain and building up my resilience.

However, before I walked anywhere, I stepped out of the car to photograph a banksia flower, and one shot later the @#$% camera battery went flat and I had to resort to using my phone. I know most people don’t think twice about taking photos with their phone, but I’m a hard core SLR user and a phone is a phone is a phone. That is, unless I’m absolutely desperate like that poor soul who who has to pull up beside the road when that elusive public toilet remains out of reach.

Fortunately, the phone photos weren’t too bad and going back with my real camera, gives me a better excuse for going back than feasting on more of those scrumptious prawn spring rolls. They were particularly good.

As I was stumbling over the rocks, I was the very personification of solitude itself. A lighthouse watching the surfers floating on the waves like bobbing seals, catching the odd wave and then running over these same rocks nimble-footed and leaping off the rocks into treachery itself yet miraculously surviving so effortlessly.

Surfers MacMasters beach

Surfers Bobbing Like Seals at MacMasters Beach.

Many, many times through the years, I’ve longed to trade places with one of these surfers and hit the waves myself. I have had a surf lesson once and have at least managed to get a board out there and surfed on my tummy and had a taste of what it might be like if I could actually make it up onto my feet. What it would be like to step out of my body into the wet suited fitness of someone else. Or, even that I could get back there again myself. It wouldn’t matter whether I couldn’t could stand up or not, because I’d be embracing the waves, the ocean and somewhere far beyond my chair at home. Moreover, life is to be lived and not just viewed as a by-stander through the lens or as  a writer through the pen or any other form of standing by and observing instead of jumping in. So many of us, for a myriad of reasons, are guilty of this, which is why I’m often just grateful to get out there doing something and soaking up some other part of the world, even if it is virtually on my own doorstep.

MacMasters Beach Full moon

Meanwhile, it’s Winter here. The sun had set and the light was rapidly fading. Having to traverse back over this rocky terrain, I couldn’t linger and risk an accident. I couldn’t risk stumbling over these rocks in the dark. So, I started walking back. Then, much to my delight and my frustration with my SLR camera out of action, the full moon is rising above the horizon. It’s just a ping pong ball in the sky. There’s no glow. No reflections on the water, but it’s still a full moon rising with all its awe and majesty and I feel so blessed to be here and a part of this.

Yet, it was also time to go home.

Daleys Point2

However, you might recall that I missed a turn and found myself at MacMasters Beach. So, you shouldn’t be surprised that I missed a different turn heading home and found myself at Hardy’s Bay. I haven’t been there before either and again, it’s pretty close to home. Why is it that we keep returning to the same places, revelling in our comfort zones, instead of exploring what’s almost on the palm of our hand? Is it all too easy and prior to the covid craziness, we always thought adventure had to be overseas. It doesn’t have to be and my health challenges have aught me that.

Daleys Point

 

After being immersed in all that awe and wonder, arriving home proved quite an anti-climax. Do you ever get that? Those times you walk in and almost walk straight back out the door?! Life is so much easier behind the lens, especially when your battery is fully charged and ready for action. Reality is over-rated. Over-rated indeed.

Have you been on any walks or photographic adventures lately?

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

 

 

The Stunning Water Tower Walk: Pearl Beach, Australia.

It’s hard to believe this breathtaking bushwalk is simply known locally as “the Water Tower Walk”. That sounds so plain Jane and understated. I’m not even sure there’s a sign, although it’s probably on the map.  That said, you either have to be local and in the know…or lost…to find it!

Rowena Mt Ettalong Walk

Here I am snuggled into the bushes with my Nikon photographing the view.

Yet, this walk is literally awesome, packed with knockout views, especially for the contemplative soul. Moreover, you never know what you’re going to stumble across on  the wildlife front. Much to our surprise,we’ve actually seen an echidna, which we didn’t even know were living in our local area. We’ve also seen a flock of stunning black cockatoos, although I only heard them this time.

Since we’re in varying stages of being cooped up in lock down like a flock of old chooks, I thought I’d invite you on a virtual bush walk. This way, you can ease into my shoes and hopefully get a sense of the magic.

However, before we get started, I’d better give you some directions. As it turns out, a quick Google search for a map actually told me its official name is : The Mt Ettalong Lookout Walk and its official address is 135 Patonga Dr, Pearl Beach NSW 2256. Well, that’s all well and good if you want to write it a letter. However, if  you’re in the car and looking out the window, you just need to look out on your left for the water tower. Take it from me, you can miss it and if you reach the Pearl Beach turn off, you’ve gone too far. The water tower is camouflaged in the scrub.

BTW, to help you get your bearings, I thought I’d better remind you our seasons are upside down for most of you. That means, we’re heading into Winter here in Australia. Now, I’m constantly running out of frigging daylight, because I stay up too late and miss half the day. So, this will tell you that we’re arriving about half an hour before sunset when the light is at its magic best, although there were definitely spots  where the light was gone, and needed the morning sun.

Track Mt Ettalong Lookout

From the road, this half hour walk appears pretty understated. There’s just the water tower and a bit of bush. Definitely no multi-story car park, luxury hotel or other travesties you expect anywhere worth visiting. Just nature. However, walk further down the track, and you’ll soon see stunning water glimpses through the gum trees  on your right.

Mt Ettalong Lookout through trees

Further along, you’ll see a little track across to a series of natural rock lookouts. By the way, there are no safety railings to spoil the view, until you reach the lookout at the end. So, you need to watch your step and be careful. Otherwise, it will be you being rescued and appearing on the 6.00 pm news…or worse!

“There’s nothing wrong with enjoying looking at the surface of the

ocean itself, except that when you finally see what goes on

underwater,you realize that you’ve been missing the whole point of the

ocean. Staying on the surface all the time is like going to the circus and

staring at the outside of the tent.”

― Dave Barry

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The View from the first lookout over Pearl beach and across to Lion Island and Broken Bay.

 

“We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a

drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be

missing something.”

― Mother Teresa

String of Pearls 2

Pearl Beach viewed from the Mt Ettalong Walk. During these times of social distancing, I’feeling particularly struck by images of the lone individual., as captured in this photograph, which would improve in the morning light. 

Alongside the view, you’ll also spot a few wildflowers. If I came here more regularly, I’d have a better idea of what to expect. However, since I only come here randomly once a year or so, it’s always a bit of a lucky dip. This time I spotted a star-shaped purple flower which I couldn’t identify, as well as the stunning Fushia Heath (Epacris longiflora). There was also a touch of wattle, and some Banksia seed pods still clinging tenaciously to the branches with others being trodden under foot.

Tree beside the path

“Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.”

― Khalil Gibran, Sand and Foam

You could come here just for the ocean views, and be in heaven. However, the trees were almost equally magnificent. Please don’t mistake me for a tree hugger. I’m more of a tree gazer, photographer and philosopher. I’m currently reading Julie Baird’s sensational book: Phosphoressence. She’s introduced me to the Japanese concept of “forest bathing”, or shinrin yoku. Unconsciously, that’s what I was doing on this walk, although I’ll take the liberty of translating it into the Aussie vernacular and call it “Bush Bathing”. Mind you, that’s something you need to approach with extreme caution in a more literal sense in the Australian bush. There are not only the legendary snakes and spiders you’ve no doubt heard about. The leaves on many of these plants have adapted to rough conditions and are tough, scratchy and even vicious. So, they’re clearly not something to embrace in a literal, physical sense and most definitely not naked. Indeed, this could well explain Australians’ bizarre toilet paper hoarding fetish during the coronacrisis. There was no way we were turning to our native flora as an alternative.

tree

 

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”

― William Shakespeare

Anyway, back to the trees. They were absolutely breathtaking, and I often struggle to understand how a simple tree could be so majestic and awe-inspiring. Meanwhile, I almost felt the size of an ant, dwarfed by this kaleidoscope of twisting, turning branches back-lit by the setting sun.  Their arms are reaching up into the omnipresent sky like a classroom full of kindergarten kids, where each of them has the answer to the question and desperately want to be picked. Moreover, being on top of a headland, these trees have wrestled with the wind and their branches have warped and twisted into an array of chaotic, misshapen forms, and I can almost hear the music playing, enchanting the branches to dance.  Of course, the effects of the late afternoon sun known as “the magic hour” by we photographers,  further illuminates their magnificent splendour. Gazing through my lens, I zoom in and absorb it all. It’s food for my soul.

DSC_9723

A jumble of branches.

Or, perhaps I’ve just been in lock down for far too long, and I’ve almost forgotten that the sky is blue. Or, that the sky exists outside at all, and hasn’t become a ceiling. That carpet hasn’t suddenly replaced the grass, and the world isn’t a square box after all.

I wish I could actually take you on this mesmerising journey in person with me. However, I’ve done my best to try to record it for you and, as I said, to ease you into my shoes. So, when I wasn’t standing stationary sticking my camera up a gum tree or gazing like stout Cortez across the sea, you would hear my footsteps rhythmically crunching over a carpet of crushed rocks and decaying detritus left, right, left, right. The track was uncharacteristically damp, because we’ve actually been getting some rain lately, and there’s a slighty musty smell of decaying leaves infused with eucalyptus, that scent we know as “Australia”.After all, this is our scent, our fragrance, even our deodorant. (Actually, we don’t go that far with the eucalyptus. Or, at least I don’t. Cough lollies are my limit.)

DSC_9685

As you can see, this spot is almost pure nature. Nothing’s been planted in neat little rows like peas in a pod. Rather, there’s raw, chaotic diversity and a freedom of spirit without pretence. I felt a million miles away from home, and any thought of covid 19 which has been stalking all of humanity around the entire globe. After all, there was no need for social distance. It was just me, myself and I, the birds, the trees, the awesome profound views across this vast stretch of water, the enormity of huge timeless boulders all  around me as well as the dramatic drop over the edge. This doesn’t quite count as a cliff, but if you fell down there, you might never get up, especially if no one knows you’re there.

DSC_9755

However, regardless of how deeply I was “bathing” in these scenes and senses, reality was always going to stick it’s ugly head in.  With the setting sun, came responsibilities. Dinner wasn’t about to cook itself and fly magically onto the table. Moreover, I also had a zoom meeting to attend. Indeed, it was going to be rush, rush, hustle bustle when I got home.

DSC_9793

However, at least I’d got out. Spread my wings. Broadened my horizons. Finally, done some exercise. Moreover, once the Palm Beach Lighthouse was lit and the street lights were coming on, it was time for me to go home. After all, even a child knows they need to be home before sunset.

Matchsticks

 

Well, I hope you enjoyed our virtual walk. Have you been out on any special walks recently? Or, do you have a favourite walk which you would like to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Meanwhile, I hope that you are well, and keeping safe both from the virus but also all of its associated stress and the effects of isolation, job loss and just sense of things being turned upside down and inside out.

Best wishes,

Rowena