Tag Archives: road trip

Weekend Coffee Share 20th August, 2018.

Welcome to Another Coffee Share!

How are you? How was your week? My manners have improved this week, as I often launch into an animated diatribe about my week, without even thinking of you. While you could interpret that as “rude”, I’ll excuse myself by saying that I’m excited to catch up with you and I thought you might be interested in a few snapshots of Australian life. That’s one of the things I really love about our Weekend Coffee Share is gaining a more personal insight into what it’s life to live in an other country.

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Bushfire Viewed from Ettalong Beach, NSW.

After seeing some spectacular photos of the fires ravaging California and hearing horror stories of mass destruction and heartbreak, we had our own local  bush fire this week over at Killcare, North of Sydney and about a 15 minutes drive from here. I woke up one morning and feel a thick cloak of smoke immediately wrap around me, and there was a definite tightness and constriction in my lungs. I have about 55% lung capacity. So, the panic buttons went off and I was wondering whether I’d need to get out. However, the wind must’ve changed because the smoke dissipated and by afternoon, I actually ventured to our local beach where I could photograph the towering plume of smoke without suffocating.

Saturday, saw a different kind of fire. Our kids were attending District Scout Camp at this very remote camp site at Sugree Bag Creek. Different scout troops were attending and each had its own camp fire blazing by the time we’d turned up late afternoon after our daughter’s dancing. These fires don’t just happen and there’s quite a lot of science involved. I saw our scout leader clearing away the grass with a shovel, and I’m not sure what else was involved but when my husband picked the kids up the next day, I was told that the fires didn’t go out overnight and the local bush wasn’t set alight. People are so quick to criticise and blame teenagers. Yet, here we had at least 50 or so kids with fires, bush and no problems.

My husband and I decided to turn the drive into more of an experience, which is why I’d come along. Of course, only one parent was required to do the actual driving. It was about a 90 minutes drive to the camp site and while you think of the outback in terms of remote in an  Australian sense, once you leave the road less travelled and continue onto the roads rarely travelled, it doesn’t take long for you to either experience that sense of getting away from it all or feeling isolated and I little bit vulnerable. There’s “nothing there”. However, ideally you don’t go camping in the supermarket car park and you actually do experience all that’s entailed with getting away from it all and you find out what you’re made of. You find interest in nature and the simple life instead of being glued to electronic, TV or having your nose in a book. This is living.

This lecture is as much for myself, I should point out. I could easily have read a book for much of the drive instead of engaging in conversation or looking out the window. As we drove off the main road and kept driving and driving onto what was by now more like a driveway or a cattle path, I noticed a rising sense of impatience…”Are we there yet?” I felt like we’d almost driving off the edge of the earth and I should’ve been embracing it. Enjoying the get away. Appreciating the benefits of switching off instead of being constantly switched on and lit up like a Christmas tree. By the time we reached Spencer, it was like “there’s nothing here”. I was really hanging out for some coffee and cake by then too. It was 5.00pm and everything was shut. Well, that was except the “Dunkirk Hotel”…an open air pub with a wooden sign suspended over a picnic table.

This coming Thursday, my parents will be celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary and all sorts are coming out of the woodwork and turning up for the festivities. My Dad is the only one making a speech, and I’ve supplied him with photos so there’s been no role for myself in all of this, which perhaps could be a good thing. However, that hasn’t stopped me from thinking about their big day and what it was all about. I just don’t have much to go on, because I wasn’t there which isn’t always a given but that’s how it was for us. Obviously, many of the people who were there on the day are no longer with us or have drifted beyond their orbit. One of the interesting snippets from my parents’ wedding was that my grandfather was a pastor and so he had another minister there at the start so he could walk my mother down the aisle and conduct the service. My Dad’s family was Catholic and Mum and her family were Lutheran and they got married in a Lutheran Church. That meant Dad’s family needed to get dispensation from the priest to attend. I don’t even know what that is, but it sounds serious. Mum’s wedding car also broke down on the way to the Church. The reception was held at my grandparents’ home in Lindfield.

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Anyway, while I was pottering around with my research, I found a photo of my mum taken at a school reunion back in the 80s and found her year had set up its own web site, which included pdfs of the school newsletter. I was particularly interested in the Principal’s reports. One was headed “the casual cult” and spoke out about the horrors of casual dress, manners and the “bodgie pack”. More time research required. Also, there were quite a few references to the girls outperforming the boys academically, which I hadn’t anticipated from that era. I have sensed that the needs of boys are being swept under the radar, which is all well and good if you only have daughters and don’t believe in some form of equity.

I’ve also been making considerable progress researching not only my grandmother’s career as a concert pianist, which I’ve mentioned before. She worked as a music critic in the 1950s for the Daily Telegraph and despite so many of the old newspapers being uploaded onto Trove, the Daily Telegraph has only just been uploaded and I’m finally able to read her reviews without trudging into the State Library viewing them on the reel to reel and paying a fortune to print them out. I’m now in the process of converting them to text and pasting them chronologically into a word document. Sounds all well and good but why did she have to attend so many concerts and be so prolific? I know. I’d be complaining if there was only a handful of words but it’s going to take some time to get this under my belt. 1950 alone is currently standing at 30,000 words and I’m not done yet. I should also point out that she had four children under ten at the time, although her mother lived with her and she also had home help. Nevertheless, she was an extraordinary woman.

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By the way, I am still making my way through Raphaelle Giordano’s: Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One. This supposed novel features a whole lot of steps towards finding greater satisfaction and fulfillment in your life. This week, I focused on: “Throw out ten things”. That was all well and good. However, it didn’t bargain on us stopping at a roadside sign advertising “FREE” in huge red painted letters. We had no idea what was free when we pulled over. However, being out in the country, we expected something along the lines of oranges or horse manure. However, much to our delight, there were bags and bags of good books, which somehow found their way into the boot of our car. Although common sense tells you not to bring bags of books into your house when you’ve just downloaded your ten items, the book didn’t say you couldn’t. So, now I’m clearing more space and my husband will no longer be sleeping on the train. He has a lot of reading to do.

Meanwhile, you might enjoy reading my review on the book so far and my progress Here.

Books

So much more creating more space…there’s an avalanche of books.

Lastly, I have come across a blog share, which you might like to take part in. This was my first week over at Thursday Doors hosted by  Norm 2.0. . Here’s my contribution.

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Thursday Doors…St John’s Cathedral, Parramatta, Sydney.

Well, that’s me done for another week. It’s been great catching up and I look forward to catching up on your news.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

An Australian Road Trip…All roads Don’t Lead to Wollombi.

Yesterday, I had to drive my daughter to GATS Camp at Point Wollstonecroft about an hour’s drive North of Sydney on Lake Macquarie. This was Mummy’s cue for adventure. So, I ensured our son had his key and my only specification was, that I didn’t get home before sunset.

At the same time, I also had a few ideas. I was going to start off by exploring some of the coastal beaches around Lake Macquarie, but I really had it in mind to get to Wollombi where my Great Great Grandfather, William Henry Gardiner, married his second wife, Jane Lynch. Thanks to Google, I’d already been to Wollombi online and found out it was one of those preserved country villages which had gone into a 100 year slumber thanks to a bypass. Being a lover of historic anything, I’ve been trying to get there for awhile and thanks to the mushy geographical soup in my head, had the strange idea that just because I was heading North, Wollombi would somehow be “on the way home”.

It wasn’t.

That’s how my road trip of a life time began. Well, it was actually more of a once in a lifetime road trip. That’s because when it came to travelling from Lake Macquarie to Wollombi, I bypassed the A to B route and detoured via just about every letter of the alphabet. Not that I was lost. Indeed, I knew exactly where I was and where I was going and blame whoever it was who designed the NSW road network, for my convoluted route. So, before I leave on my next great road trip, you can be sure I’ll be reciting this traditional Gaelic blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Anyway, before we leave on this road trip of a lifetime, I’d better provide some  coordinates. After all, my stats tell me that most of my readers aren’t Australian and to be quite honest with you, most Australians won’t be able to pinpoint Wollombi on the map either.That is, unless they cheat and use GPS. I’m a firm believer in using actual paper maps and when you’re travelling,those huge foldout monstrosities, which almost take up the windscreen (goodness knows how many fatal accidents they’ve caused!). Nothing else will do. No matter how lost I get, I refuse to sell out, or I’ll never find my way out of bed. My sense of direction is not allowed to get any worse!!

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Wollombi is a small village in the Hunter Region of New South Wales, Australia. It is within the Cessnock City Council LGA, situated 29 kilometres (18 mi) southwest of Cessnock and 128 km (80 mi) north of Sydney. To the south is the village of Laguna, to the east, the village of Millfield and to the north, the village of Broke. To be quite honest, Wollombi is very isolated, but that’s part of its charm and how it’s become a time capsule of sorts.

However, back in the day, Wollombi was at least somewhat central. In 1836 the Great Northern Road was finished. Built by convict labour, it joined Windsor to Wollombi, and at Wollembi forked off to either Singleton or Maitland. It spanned the 200 kms from Sydney to Newcastle and took on average 9 days for a traveler to get to Newcastle. Consequently, it was mainly used as a stock route.

Anyway, we haven’t got to Wollombi yet. We’re still at Lake Macquarie.

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Looking North towards Swansea from Caves Beach.

It was an absolutely beautiful day, with deep blue skies and water was a dazzling diamond carpet of blue. I headed North and followed a sign to Caves Beach and pulled over. I could almost inhale the ocean and feel life’s burdens blow out to sea. The fisherman and a couple of walkers, looked like stick figures below and the windswept coastline stretched for eternity and I could truly spread my wings and soar and keep soaring. There was no ground beneath my feet.

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Illawarra Flame Tree at Pelican near Swansea, NSW.

I did wonder whether I should just stick to the coast, and head inland to Wollombi another time. However, the day was my own and I made no set plans.Indeed, lured down a side street by the enigmatic Illawarra Flame Trees in full bloom, I chucked a left into Pelican, which seemed to be little bigger than its sign beside the road.

I kept heading North, looking for a road to reconnect me with the Motorway. Wollombi was still on the cards and I was also looking for signs to Cessnock and the Hunter Valley. I know exactly where they are driving North. However, missed the lot heading South and found myself exiting at Morriset, turning right and going on the windiest road through Mandalong and Dooralong expecting to connect up with the inland road, which runs like a peripheral artery somewhere through here connecting up with Wollombi somehow. I knew it was there because I have been on it before. AND, I actually did consult the map before I left, not that I did a very good job of it.

 

Yet, just because you know there’s a great road system out there somewhere, doesn’t mean you’re find it.

By this stage, things were becoming DESPERATE!! Even finding a person to give me directions was hard enough, let alone find somewhere to buy food and dare I mention the unmentionable…a toilet or even a camouflaging clump of trees. There was nothing until I finally stumbled across a bonsai nursery. That seemed quite appropriate for someone going on an epic adventure. Having downloaded my troubles, I perked up as I cast myself as Gulliver on his journeys through Lilliput.

Thankfully, the guys at the nursery directed me out of my geographical quagmire over Bumble Bee Hill and then right, then right, then right. OMG!!! Although I didn’t believe in GPS, I was relieved to have my mobile phone. By this stage, I was already starting to picture the search party looking for my last known whereabouts. Indeed, I probably should’ve left my card.

Above: I stumbled across a gourmet oasis and stopped for lunch at Jerry’s Gourmet Kitchen & Cafe, Kulnurra.

At this point, I should tell you that I’m not the most confident driver and that I don’t usually go on such long road trips.Indeed, I live on a Peninsula and have what I call “Peninsularitis”. Some days, even the ten minute drive into Woy Woy is too much, and that complicated gourmet dinner, becomes chicken schnitzel out of the freezer.

Moreover, while part of me loves this whole serendipity thing of just driving with the wind without any particular destination in mind, I also get a bit edgy on unfamiliar roads, especially after doing a loop the loop through the wilderness. After all, this is Australia and the outback’s only a stone throw away. (Ssh, Australians! Don’t ruin a good story!)

It doesn’t take much once you leave an Australia city and the main roads to feel like you’re off the beaten track. I was so close to so-called civilization. Yet, I was driving through farms, and was definitely “out in the country”. Indeed, even the road signs had changed. There were now multiple wombat warning signs. Yes, I had made it into Wombat Country.

By this stage, I’ve almost made it to Wollombi and I can start to relax. Unwind. Yes! I am actually going to get there and this journey of 1000 goat-trailing miles, is finally going to end and I couldn’t understand why they didn’t have a big sign set up in my honour: “Welcome to Wollombi, Rowena”. I sure deserved it.

Stay tuned. In my next post, I’ll take you on a walking tour of town.

Have you been on any road trips recently? Please share.

xx Rowena

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share 29th May, 2016.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

As much as I love my morning coffee, this week I’m recommending you join me for High Tea Queensland style at the Teahouse Gallery in Mudgeeraba on the Gold Coast Hinterland. You’ll be offered over 20 teas presented in little glass jars and you’re encouraged to take the lids off, smell and take your time making your choice. While you’re waiting for your pot of hot tea to arrive, you can admire each others’ vintage tea cups with their pretty patterns and gold trim. I collect antique tea cups, the way with Shelley and Royal Albert being my favourites. They remind me of cups of tea with my grandmothers who’ve since passed on.

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If things had worked out a bit differently, I could have offered you a slice of Nigella’s Nutella Cake. However, you know how it is when Lady Luck is working against you and every twist and turn doesn’t entirely work out and then all those mishaps seemingly fuse together into a veritable “catastrophe!”

Nigella Nutella Cake

An Earthquake Hit Our Interpretation of Nigella’s Nutella Cake. The lactose-free Cream was to “skinny” for the ganache, leading to “liquification”.

Well, that’s what happened with the cake. The minor mishaps along the way would not have been a major problem. However, we had great difficulty judging cooking times and whether the cake was ready. I needed to pick up my daughter and left my husband in charge. He kept getting mixture on the skewer (a sign that the cake isn’t cooked) but as it was starting to “caramelise”, he thought he’d better take it out. This meant the cake was somewhat burnt, dried out and the hazlenuts tasted bitter. However, a layer of cream, fresh raspberries, icing and freshly roasted hazlenuts almost resurrected the thing and we did enjoy a few slices. That was until our naughty little Lady dog was caught with paws up on the kitchen table, nose through the plastic bag and tail wagging until Geoff sent her packing.

I have been on the lookout for a good chocolate cake recipe to make for birthdays etc and thought this might have been the one. I’m going to give it another chance but suspect the kids would prefer one without the hazlenuts. All recommendations would be grateful received.

Anyway, we arrived home from our road trip to Queensland on Monday night. It was a huge relief to be home after our 2000 km round trip, even though it was hard to leave family and the North behind. However, once you’re in the car, you just want to get there.

If you’re interested in virtual trip to Australia’s tropical Queensland, here’s a series of links to my posts:

Driving To Queensland Via The Long White Line.

Sunset Behind Surfers Paradise

Surfers Paradise By Night

Bangalow Markets – Near Byron Bay

A Queensland High Tea

I hope you’ve all had a great week. What is the weather doing in your neck of the woods? We have two days left until the official start of Winter. That could mean anything. Yesterday, we had rain and a sudden cold snap. It was absolutely freezing, especially as our homes aren’t built for Winter and our Winter woollies are still in the roof. Indeed, the dogs are lucky to still have their fur coats. I was very tempted to take them but a dog on my lap is almost as good!

By the way, we go into denial around this time each year, thinking we live in a perpetual Summer. Then, we wonder why it’s cold and whinge bitterly.

Anyway, the sun is back out again today and although my toes are frozen numb, things are looking up.

I hope you’ve had a great week. It’s now Sunday afternoon here so we’re starting to get ready for another week.

This has been part of the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana at  Part-Time Monster . You can click here for the linky to read the other posts.

xx Rowena

 

 

Driving to Queensland Via The Long White Line.

This weekend, I finally found out what it’s like to be an Olympic swimmer. Not that I was swimming faster than a turbo-charged Marlin. Rather, I experienced what it would be like swimming up and down the pool hour after hour, fixating on that never-ending black line.

You see, we’ve been cast in an excruciatingly long horror movie driving up and down the Pacific Highway and we’ve been fixating on the broken white line for eternity. Indeed, I can barely remember what it was like to set foot on terra firma and roam free.

Indeed, I’ve been looking at this broken white line and the dull grey bitumen for so long, that they’ve now become permanently imprinted on my retinas. My goodness I’ll be seeing the world through road-coloured lenses for the rest of my life.

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Here I am in Queensland.

Well, you might ask why on earth any sane person would be driving two thousand kilometres over an extended weekend. It was my Sister-In-Law’s sixtieth birthday. I know it probably sounds crazy to drive that far for the weekend. However, we didn’t even think twice. It’s what we do. We love her and the smile on her face was more than worth it. Besides, we had a wonderful time gallivanting around between Byron Bay’s lush green hinterland, admiring the Gold Coast’s glitzy bright lights and savouring high tea Queensland style in Mudgereebah. With a name like that, you could only be in Australia.

What with all this driving, it’s only natural to ask why ecstasy is so fleeting, while tedium lasts forever.

I don’t know.

However, before you start accusing me of being a miserable glass-half-empty sod, I’m hoping we could possibly devise some kind of mechanical lever, which could permanently change the tide. Switch over to a perpetual paradise with only very fleeting, intermittent commercial breaks from all those undesirables…boredom, sadness, grief, pain.

It would be such a relief. If only I could access that lever right now and leave all of that far behind.

However, what we’re needing right now, is an oversized variation of Dr Who’s fabulous flying machine, the Tardis. That way, we’d only have to drive in, park and the next thing, we’d  instantly arrive home. I had considered converting the car into a modernised Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. However, after my application to add supersonic power was denied,  I had to change tack. After all, Chitty barely flies faster than Donald Duck and I want to get home NOW!!

However, I can dream on. We still have 3 hours to go and the hours are getting longer and longer, the closer we get to home. My goodness! We’ve all developed an unhealthy interest in road signs, as the agonisingly slow countdown continues. Nowhere near home, we’re either driving through dull green pastures or eucalypt forest and not one of us is asking: “Are we there yet?” We know. The end is nowhere in sight!

Anyway, we can’t complain too much about the drive. The car is decked out like a mobile entertainment centre. The kids have their electronics, books, colouring-in devices and snacks. You could even call it “fun”. I’ve actually managed to read Roald Dahl’s James & The Giant Peach and Danny Champion of the World as we’ve been driving up and back. Obviously, I’d be getting through my book pile a hell of a lot faster, if we did more of these interminable drives…as long as I was a passenger.

Thank goodness I don’t get car sick.

However, then the sun set and the story changed considerably.

Although we’ve had glorious sunny weather, which would be considered Summer in so many other parts of the world, the day length has been cut brutally short and the sun is setting around 5.00PM. This has left us with two hours of travelling in the dark. Even though my daughter and I both tried capturing all available street and moonlight to read, we soon gave up. The kids’ electronics were flat and so we had to do the old fashioned thing and talk to each other. Develop the fine art of conversation.

I took it as an opportunity to get them talking about their holiday, a precursor to writing their grandparents an old-fashioned letter. “What would you tell your grandparents about what you’ve been up to?” I asked.

When they weren’t saying very much, I launched off with my account. Then, my daughter said that I’d said everything and she had nothing more to add. Hence, she was silent.

All these gurus advising you to spend time listening to your children need their heads read. All I can think of is that infamous quote about NOT working with children and animals!

I was tempted to launch a round of I Spy but we’re all a bit over it. All we wanted to spy was our drive way and our puppy dogs.

Aside from catching up with family and having some fabulous conversations with people we met, here’s a brief photographic snap shot from the trip:

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Surfers Paradise, Queensland By Night.                    Photo Rowena Newton.

Kombi Family

Kombi Dreaming at the Bangalow Markets, Near Byron Bay.

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The Kids at High Tea.

Hope you enjoyed our trip without having to endure the drive!

xx Rowena