Tag Archives: wildflowers

Mum’s Taxi Revisits Mt Penang Gardens, North of Sydney.

It’s been quite awhile since you’ve heard a peep let alone a loud beep from Mum’s Taxi (AKA the Tutu Taxi). Being in lockdown for the last almost three months and throughout the last 18 months, I’ve literally been able to hang up my keys, stay in my pyjamas and write to my heart’s content. As blissful as that might sound for any writer, writing in lockdown is quite different to being a poet ensconced in your ivory tower. So, it was hardly no prison cell and I was allowed outside for exercise and could go walking along the beach, bushwalking or visit my friend in his social bubble. However, it’s not the same when park benches are covered in red tape because you’re not allowed to sit down, everyone’s wearing masks unless they’re exercising, and you have to QR code to enterjust about anywhere. So, it was with a mixture of jubilation, trepidation and continued isolation, that the people of Greater Sydney welcomed Freedom Day a few weeks ago.

Anyway, on Tuesday our daughter told me I was driving her up to get eyelash extensions. She paid for them. I wasn’t going to spend out money on that. I’ve never been a fan of fake eyelashes. However, she wears them for ballet concerts, competitions etc and so I guess once you’ve crossed that bridge, it makes more sense.

However, what she didn’t tell me was how long it was going to take. Now, I should’ve been prepared to hang round for eternity. After all, isn’t that what parents do for their kids? Wait?!! I’m not into all this cosmetic beauty stuff and how it all works. However, I did take a book, my journal and regretted not taking my SLR and just having the camera on my phone.

I started walking around looking for a park bench in the shade to read my book. By the way, I was reading Julia Baird’s: Phosphorescence: On awe, wonder and things that sustain you when the world goes dark. It’s an absolutely brilliant book, and what I’d describe as a “slow read”. I wanted to savour and enjoy almost each and every word. So, it’s taken me a very long time to finish it. Indeed, I started reading it in September last year. Honestly I thought it had been a year or even three. Here’s one great quote from the book:

Life is tempestuous and life is precious, and recognising that those two things are twinned is part of the secret of the truly phosphorescent.”

Julia Baird

There wasn’t much left to read, and I seemed to finish it off in about an hour. Of course, there was that great sense of regret you have when you finish a book you love and wave goodbye to your new best friend. Although I immediately decided I was going to start back at the beginning again. I really want to etch this book into my psyche and remember it all. It’s filled with stories and quotes from numerous thinkers and poets and it’s so very me. It’s like exploring a fascinating and exhilarating world, and I have also made a note to self to head out on a night kayak run with my husband and experience the Phosphorescence first hand for myself.

After finishing my book, I walked around the gardens regretting I hadn’t bought my digital SLR. However, the camera on my phone didn’t do too bad a job. Yet at the same time, I wondering whether photographing wildflowers in a man-made garden really counted, especially after going on some magnificent bushwalks and photographing the wildflowers actually in situ and in the wild. Isn’t it just like photographing lions in the zoo rather than heading off to Africa? The photos still look good. Indeed, they probably look a lot better, but they’re simply not the same.

Anyway, while I was there reading my book, I glanced up and noticed what appeared to be a class or two of young kids running down a steep, small grassy hill. They were having an absolute ball, and there is something so liberating about running fast down a grassy hill as a young child which almost feels like flying and you’re about to take off. Apparently, when I told friend about this my face was so animated that he asked me what childhood memories it brought back. There wasn’t anything specific and I can’t remember a lot of hills, but the exhilaration is still with me and perhaps I should sneak in there after dark and let myself go.

Reading my book and watching all those kids running must’ve done my head in, because yours truly who has been to this park a couple of times before, got lost and couldn’t find the exit. Indeed, I found myself stuck inside a maze. This is what happens when you’re exploring man-made garden instead of the bush. The bush is simple. You go in. You come out. Well, it is where I’ve been going bushwalking but these are hardly complicated hikes. Of course, I blame lockdown for this. So many everyday kills have been neglected and have rusted away. Indeed, I’m sure four months of solid repetitive research and writing at home has literally rewired my brain and done all sorts to my neuropathways. Indeed, while being so focused on a lockdown project so I’d have something to show for all that time might actually prove a mixed blessing.

Anyway, two hours later, my phone rang and I was summonsed to pick her up. We were going to go for a bushwalk together, however, it was now raining and so we raided a local bakery and had lunch in the car looking out onto the beach.

My daughter’s glasses on the dashboard looking out across our local beach.

And yes, the eyelashes certainly looked spectacular. Not completely ridiculous either, but not the sort of thing a hibernating bear requires. I’m actually looking forward to going to the hairdresser next week, and guess who is coming with me…

Looking out at the beach through the rainy windscreen while eating our lunch.

Have you been on any good walks recently or read any book books? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Wildflower Walk to Warrah Lookout – Greater Sydney.

It’s Spring over here, and it’s amazing how our ongoing lockdown has done wonders to cause of wildflowers to go ballistic. There’s such a diversity and abundance of wildflowers this year, although it certainly helps to go bushwalking. We usually have so much on, and this almost forgotten phenomenon known as a “social gathering” that we don’t get out there as much. So, lockdown isn’t all bad, and it’s certainly led many to discover a new-found love of nature and the outdoors.

The Hawkesbury River Looking East from Warrah Lookout

Today, Geoff and I drove past the Waratahs you’ve seen in previous posts, to find the turn off to Warrah Trigg which has a breathtaking lookout over the Hawkesbury River and across to Patonga on your right and Palm Beach on the left.

There were a few walkers out today, and a few boats out on the water, but not many. We largely has this magnificent place to ourselves.

I was blown away by all those beautiful golden flowers.

The walk to the Warrah Lookout is about 500metres one way, and trust me one way was very tempting. While it’s not a long walk, it carves down through the side of a very steep hill. That’s all very well when you’re heading down, but blue murder heading back up, especially considering I only have 50% lung capacity. As we’re heading down, Geoff did ask me a few times whether I wanted to call it quits and head back. “Remember, you’ll need to climb back up!” I did make a joke about being air-lifted out. I wasn’t entirely sure it was a joke.

However, years ago, I had very good advice about breaking tasks down and taking lots of breaks to overcome a challenge. So, I had this real confidence that if I kept stopping and pacing myself that I could make it back up. It was just a bit unfortunate that on this walk the toughest uphill sections and some stairs, would be right at the end. What a relief it was to see our little red car down in the carpark below.

Egg & Bacon

Meanwhile, as I said there was such an abundance of stunning wildflowers, a magnificent floral scent and the sound of buzzing bees. There were absolutely masses of golden flowers Eutaxia obovata but known as “egg and bacon”

Grevillea speciosa

There was also this stunning red grevillea, Grevillea speciosa, where its red tendrils dangle like spider’s by what appeared to be a solitary stem. They’re quite captivating.

The Banksia later in life.

This character, the Banksia, is not as glamorous as the more colourful flowers, but has plenty of personality.

Me on the left at the lookout.

Well, I hope you enjoyed our walk to Warrah Lookout as much as we did. It certainly helped me detox from lockdown, and also beavering away on my entry for a short story competition.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Going on A Waratah Hunt!

My apologies if you were wanting to go on a bear hunt- especially for koala bears. Instead, we’re off on a Waratah Hunt. The Waratah is the stunning red floral emblem of NSW, and they’re rare as hen’s teeth in the wild. However, they used to be endemic to our local area on the NSW Central Coast in Greater Sydney, and there’s a patch of them beside the road on the way to nearby Patonga. So, off we go. I’ve even given you a map, although it’s probably not much good to you, and you’ll need to consult the oracle.

Map from Umina, Umina Beach NSW 2257 to Patonga, New South Wales 2256

By the way, if you’re one of those task-focused A to B types, you’d better leave now because we’re not just checking out the Waratahs. I’m a firm believer in what John Lennon said “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”. Moreover, too many of us live our lives through blinkers, losing sight of the rich diversity of life around us. So, while we’re here, you’ll also enjoy a luscious smorgasbord of Spring wildflowers, and even a few carbonised gum trees.

Flannel Flowers

By the way, let me remind you we’re still in dreaded lock down here. In fact, all of New South Wales is currently in lock down, and we need to wear masks when leaving the house, excluding exercise. It’s been about 2.5 months for us now, and this weird way of living is becoming the norm. Hugging a friend is a capital crime, when it used to be such an integral part of me, and so many of us. However, as usual, there are always winners and losers. No doubt, this tightening of social boundaries has been a relief to many introverts, who are glad to see the back of us beastly random huggers.

While hugging beyond your household is out, as long as you’re not in the red zone, you’re as free as a bird as long as you’re exercising alone or with members of your own household or your significant other. So, in a literal sense, I’m not really locked down at all. I just have to stay away from people. This was okay for a while, but it’s wearing thin. I’m really getting to the point where I’ve had enough of the view. I want my people back within arm’s reach – and not just one at a time either!

Me,myself and I out for a walk.

Yet, having said that, I am till making the most of our beautiful outdoors and wanted to share my wildflower walk with you. Of course, the Waratahs were the jewel in the crown, but they had some stiff competition, and almost lost out to masses of golden pea flowers which lit up like lightbulbs in the sun. They were absolutely amazing and there were so many of them. I felt so happy…even joyful.

It’s that weird contradiction, isn’t it?!! The darker the shadow, the brighter the light. I was staring at these flowers with my eyes out on stalks fully drugged – especially with all that luscious golden sunshine all around me. Hello! It had been a week since I’d last ventured beyond my letterbox. I hadn’t been feeling well in a physical sense and a bit achy. Nothing serious, but enough to keep me home enjoying my research and pinned to my chair by the dog (I’ve taken to calling Zac the Demotivation Manager as he’s seemingly hard of hearing, and makes it quite difficult to stand up and get out of my chair).

Burned out gum tree, which still had a thriving crown of leaves growing at the top.

As beautiful as it all is, it still feels weird to be able to kiss a waratah and hug a burnt out gum tree, but not a friend. I can’t drive an hour down the road to visit my Mum and Dad and see them face-to-face, let alone give them one of those filthy germ-transmitting things formerly known as a hug. I celebrated my birthday with friends and family via zoom, and this week we’ll be celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary the same way. I was wanting to have a party to celebrate something, anything. I have been sick for so many birthdays and this year when I’m well, we’re in lock down. I’m not happy, Jan!

However, I also have to acknowledge that the reason why I’m so well, is because I’m isolated, wearing masks, and hand sanitizing with obsessive compulsion. We get our shopping delivered. The measures to protect me from covid, have also kept colds and those dreaded chest infections away.

I hope you enjoyed these flowers as much as I did.

How are things going in your neck of the woods? I hope you’re going okay.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share 28th September, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Well, after all these years of blogging, I’m lucky not to be battered and bruised!! When I pulled up to my desk this morning with my cup of tea, I noticed the counter had not only clicked over 200,000 hits, it now reads 201,823. Wow! I can’t believe I missed it so spectacularly, because I was keeping an eye out, even though I no longer take much notice of my stats. 200,000 hits is something to celebrate. Ring the brass bell and break out the champagne, or a personal treat, get stuck into the Tim Tams. The Vegemite can wait.

Meanwhile, it’s Spring over here and I’ve been trying to get out and enjoy the local wildflowers as much as I can. Unfortunately, my mobility has been hampered by that spot of rock surfing I mentioned last week, and my knee is still sore and going down stairs is quite tricky and I’m trying to rest my leg. However, a friend whose been living in Northern NSW, came down for a visit and so I took her out to see the Waratahs (scene of my rock surfing accident). While we were out there, I spotted a beautiful yellow wildflower I’ve never seen in the wild before. This striking flower is Isopogon anemonifolius, and its common name is “Drumsticks”. It was such a blast to come across this new flower, and I feel like an intrepid explorer when I’m out there. It doesn’t bother me that car after car is also pulling over and that all these admiring pilgrims have even forged a trail through the bush. After all, I don’t view these discoveries through the eyes of many, but my own and I’m just spellbound. You don’t need to go past nature to be inspired and feel your heart soar, even just a little. Of course, another aspect of that is that it’s free and I barely need to travel.

Of course, for most of us 2020 is the year of local. Anywhere but local or at least outside the state is banned. In many ways I don’t mind staying local. We were lucky that we managed to get up to Byron Bay for a week or so in January after the bush fires up North had settled down a bit. That’s a 10-12 hour drive with stops and even though I don’t do much of the driving, looking at the grey bitumen and the white line for all those hours, even if I am reading, talking or looking out the window, grates on you. You just want to wave a magic wand and turn up.

Our kids (now teens) are on school holidays for the next two weeks. Next weekend, our daughter has the Dance Production, which will be incredible as this is put on by the dance team at the dance school. Also, rehearsals take up much of this week. Notice that I’m not too disappointed about that. While they naturally need some time to chill out, smell the roses and socialize, too much time on their hands can be problematic.

This brings me to the subject of the end of school muck-up days which were held last week. Oh dear! It seems the end of this school year, has drawn out the most putrid pus out of our young people and made it public. I am hoping this students are the exception and not the norm and I really believe they are because there are beautiful young people who are an inspiration and are doing the right thing. There are also vulnerable, disadvantaged and simply uncool kids and members of our society at large who have been targeted through these well-planned, detailed scavenger hunts and these people are make of flesh and blood. They hurt. They break and they can’t always be put back together again. Unfortunately, a prestigious Sydney boys’ school seems to have taken this despicable form of scavenger hunt to another level, producing a pdf document which looks all the world like a business annual report. It’s seems that at least one of the boys receiving the document blew the whistle and I commend them 100%. I also feel for the boys in that year who have done and have always done the right thing and I feel for the parents of all. However, then I found out that my old school had their own not dissimilar treasure hunt circulating and today I heard about a school in Newcastle which outed a young woman who is a child sexual abuse survivor and sent her spiraling back down into the most intolerable depths of despair. To make matters worse, those details were made public by a trusted friend. I don’t know who this young woman is but I send her my love and hopes of a miracle. That she will find healing and reassurance of the good in humanity. Indeed, I’m struggling with that myself after these documents have come to light. Here’s a link to details of the list: https://www.news.com.au/national/nsw-act/news/private-school-students-tasked-with-vile-muckup-day-challenges/news-story/10a74efdfcedc9a0df6291ebde25383a

Meanwhile, we’re pottering along with our own kids, which has made me more compassionate to parents whose kids don’t believe like automated robots even after expensive schooling and possibly even intensive parent input (or absence which might be the case). You can’t make assumptions, because then someone will always rub your nose in your mistakes saying “Didn’t you know that “assume” means making an ass of you and me??!!” Anyway, I’ve been pleased that our son has been volunteering with sound at Church so far these holidays and will be helping out at a funeral tomorrow, even if I do need to drive him up. I might detour up to Maitland for a bit. Meanwhile with our daughter, she’s now going to parties and wanting to push the envelope. Stay out late. Walk around at night with her friends. Weekends are starting me mean “on duty” for us and I’m mighty grateful to have everyone tucked into bed at night, and a sense of relief.

I’ll leave you with an entertaining pic I took of a dog I saw at the shops on Friday. Max is some kind of Mastiff and looked straight out of a movie when he pulled up in a bright yellow ute. However, watching his owner try walk him down the street was hilarious. When he’s not on guard dog duties, Max is a big softie and just wants to play with other dogs. We were sitting at a cafe where there was a tiny toy poodle parked under an adjacent table with their ball. Well, Max spotted the tiny dog which was about the size of half his head and wanted to pass with the dog and ball. However, this massive, bony colossus was clearly to big for the footpath itself, let alone the tiny dog and his owner who seemed to be inversely proportioned to the dog, was also struggling to contain him. It was funny, although it might not have been. An inch either way, and there would’ve bee tables and people flying and a toy poodle crushed into a floor rug. Despite, or perhaps because of the pandemonium, you couldn’t but love Max and wrap your arms around him in a hug, even though he could well take your head off if he’s on duty.

Meanwhile, our Rosie’s just appeared with the rope toy. She has no doubt about her purpose in life. It’s to chase. This also means that it’s my job to throw…my only job.

How has your week been? What have you been up to?

I look forward to hearing from you.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Alli here: https://eclecticali.wordpress.com/2020/09/25/weekendcoffeeshare-a-lot-im-getting-good-at-descriptive-headlines/

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I also got a haircut for the first time in over six months. Indeed, it could well have been 12 months thanks to the bush fire smoke and covid. No point restating the obvious. 2020 has been a difficult and very weird year.

Majesty in Yellow – An Australian Wildflower.

Yesterday, I drove a friend out to see the magnificent Waratahs currently flowering right beside the road on the way to nearby Patonga. We were just about to leave, when I spotted this striking yellow flower. I almost didn’t see it. I’m so glad I did! It was such a magnificent find. Wow! I love how nature is like that…an absolute treasure trove.

Waratahs in the wild.

However, what really surprised me was that I haven’t seen this flower before. At least, not at a conscious level. It’s apparently an Isopogon anemonifolius, which gets its name from Isopogon – two Greek words meaning ‘equal’ and ‘beard’ (alluding to the hairy fruits of some species); and anemonifolius – with leaves like those of some Anemones. Meanwhile, it’s common name is “drumsticks”, which refers to the rounded fruits which can be found on the bushes throughout the year. It’s a small to medium shrub from about 0.5 to 2 metres in height by a similar width, and it flowers in late Spring and early Summer. By the way, it’s other claim to fame is that it was apparently one of the first Australian plants to be cultivated in Europe in the late 1700s.

Anyway, now the big question is whether to try growing Isopogon anemonifolius at home. This is a big question, because I seem to have great waves of enthusiasm for buying plants, which almost burns out as soon as I get the plant home. Too often, they die of neglect before they even make it into the ground. However, I used to love gardening and the garden used to look quite pretty. It’s this former glory, which keeps renewing my hopes. Takes me back to the nursery , and send more unfortunate victims to early graves.

Oh no! This reminds me that I haven’t planted the two gardenia’s we bought a few weeks ago on our wedding anniversary. So, I’d better give them a good water before I go to sleep tonight.

Meanwhile, I’ve spotted a magnificent yellow flowering native around the corner, and I’m wondering whether it’s one of these. From a distance, it looked a bit like a yellow waratah. So, I’ll have to get a photo and check it out. I’ll keep you posted.

Have you photographed any wildflowers lately? I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Reference

https://www.anbg.gov.au/gnp/gnp1/isopogon-anemonifolius.html

Walking Through the Waltzing Waratahs- Australia.

The magnificent Waratah, floral emblem of NSW and Australian cultural icon, is rather elusive in the wild and difficult to grow at home, even if it does claim to “thrive on neglect”. Indeed, up until this week, neither Geoff nor myself had seen a Waratah growing in the wild, and we’ve covered quite a lot of territory in our time.  Moreover, although we tried to grow a couple of Waratahs when we first moved in, they didn’t last long.  Instead of thriving on neglect, ours must’ve been of a more pampered variety demanding something better than our crappy sandy soil and drought conditions.

PATONGA ROAD.

TO THE EDTTOR OF THE HERALD.

Sir,-“Ranger” (“Herald,” 3rd instant), referring to a proposed road from Ocean Beach to Patonga Beach, Broken Bay, ventilates a matter of the greatest import to nature lovers. The original plan contemplated a road via the cliff edge between Pearl Beach and Patonga Beach, affording views of surpassing beauty over a couple of miles and already partly constructed. The shire engineer now proposes to substitute a road from Ocean Beach a route scenically much inferior to that first proposed because, forsooth, a gravel pit will be passed en route. On this ridge is an area of, perhaps 15 acres, the flora of which is predominantly waratahs, native pears and native roses. This area was fairly secluded till about two years ago when the shire authorities cleared through it a line a chain wide to run electric light poles to Patonga, arid now vandals in motor vehicles and afoot invade the patch with impunity, till hardly a waratah is left by Eight Hour Day each year. The irony of the matter lies in the fact that branching off the road, as originally planned, is a by-road already used for the haulage of electric light poles, by which the gravel could be carted to the original road. The N.R.M.A. is, I believe, interested in the proposed scenic road, and I would suggest that they, and the naturalists societies, should view the two routes, after which they would, I feel sure, exert their influence in favour of the original plan.

I am etc.,

ANOTHER’ RANGER. . Patonga Beach, July 7. 1936. Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Thursday 9 July 1936, page 4

Map of Warrah Trig Rd, Patonga NSW 2256

So, on Wednesday, the intrepid explorer headed out driving through the Brisbane Waters National Park from Umina Beach through to Patonga. I had no real idea of where to find them, only that they were just off the road and I headed for Warrah Trig, which looks out over the magnificent Hawkesbury River, North of Sydney. However, before I reached the turn off, I spotted a bunch of Waratahs growing right beside the road. Indeed, you couldn’t miss them. They were truly spectacular and miraculously, most had managed to survive the secateurs of the thoughtlessly selfish and greedy.

 

As it turns out,  while 2020 has wrought devastating bush fires across the Australian landscape and Covid has forced us into lock down, isolation and cancelled travel plans beyond state borders, especially overseas, it hasn’t all been doom and gloom. Our local wildflowers are actually experiencing a very good year and the Waratahs are the best they’ve been, at least since we moved up here almost 20 years ago. Indeed, you could even say that 2020 is the Year of the Waratah. 

Reaching For the Sky

Meanwhile, as a good Australian, I thought I knew all about the Waratah,. Indeed, as I and later we, walked along the bush track to get a closer look, I admired it’s solitary brilliance. That while there were brillant splashes of golden yellow and pink throughout the bush, the brilliant crimson Waratah with it’s stately solitary presence was majestic. Royal. Grand. Roll out the red carpet and take a bow. 

However, even the Waratah is much more complex than I’d imagined. What appears as a solitary flower, is actually an inflorescence composed of many small flowers densely packed into a compact head or spike. Moreover, what appeared to be elongated crimson petals at the base of the flower, are actually “bracts”.

Now that I know more about the actual structure of the plant, part of me, would like to dissect a flower to inspect all its elements from more of a botanical perspective, even if it means destroying the beauty of the whole in my quest for understanding (of course, I’d have to buy my specimen and would never ever consider picking one from the bush). Moreover, while we’re being scientific, Waratah (Telopea) is an Australian-endemic genus of five species of large shrubs or small trees, native to the southeastern parts of Australia (New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania). The most well-known species in this genus is Telopea speciosissima, which has bright red flowers and is the NSW state emblem. The Waratah is a member of the plant family Proteaceae, a family of flowering plants distributed in the Southern Hemisphere. The name waratah comes from the Eora Aboriginal people, the original inhabitants of the Sydney area, and means beautiful. Meanwhile, its botanical name, Telopea, is derived from the Greek ‘telopos’ meaning ‘seen from a distance,’ a reference to the fact that the flowers stand out like a beacon in the bush.

Above: Stained-glass window Sydney Town Hall.

Naturally, such a beautiful and outstanding flower has attracted artists and creatives alike. It’s long been incorporated as a decorative feature in Australian architecture and throughout art, literature and even on clothing. While its inherent beauty speaks for itself, the Waratah also shouts “Australia”. Distinguishes us as a nation, a landscape and a people. Moreover, going back in time, the Waratah naturally appeared in the Dreamtime Stories of the indigenous Aboriginal people.    This one talks about how the Waratah, which was originally white, turned red: https://dreamtime.net.au/waratah/

Margaret Preston: “Wildflowers etc” Woodcut.

Lastly, we come to actually trying to grow the Waratah yourself. As I said, we actually tried this back when we were idealistic newly weds and were actually connected to our garden and had hopes for its future along with our own. Although the conventional wisdom is that Waratahs thrive on neglect, our usual modus operandi didn’t work in this instance and they didn’t survive long. So, when it comes to advising you on growing Waratahs yourself, I had to turn to the experts from Gardening Australia. Indeed, they’ve very kindly put a video together and the sheer number of flowers on these cultivated plants is very impressive and such a sight to behold. Indeed, I didn’t think it was possible to have so many blooms on one tree. They’re stunning and this brief clip is well worth checking out: https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/waratahs/9429106

Meanwhile, no foray out into the bush is complete without some form of incident. After going for an exhilarating fossick on Wednesday, I managed to lure Geoff out there yesterday during his lunch break. “Oh! You don’t even have to go off the road to see them,” I say. Well, this was very true. However, of course, we wanted to check out the surrounding wildflowers, which are also particularly good this year. The brightly coloured wildflowers were backdropped by blackened, charcoaled tree trunks survivors of a bush fire or back burning. It was hard to believe how many of these seemingly dead gum trees were actually still alive and had a healthy crown of gum leaves crowning out the top. many of which has somehow survived against the odds and are sporting an abundant crown of hardy leaves at the top.

Anyway, we kept walking along photographing the flowers and admiring glimpses of the ocean and distant Palm Beach through the trees. I spotted a large bulbous rock up ahead and suggested we scale it and check out the view. That was nothing special, but I thought the rock would make for a good photo and in my usual photographic zeal where I swing from the chandeliers before checking the prevailing conditions, instead of sitting down on what I thought looked like a set of rock stairs, it turned out to be a slope and as Geoff put it, I went “rock surfing”. I’m quite accustomed to falls. Indeed, I’d tripped earlier in the week and have a nasty bruise on my left arm. However, as my leg seems to twist in different directions, I sensed a whole different kind of horror and was half waiting for the snap…a broken leg. OMG! Such a simple manoeuvre as walking down a bit of rock in the bush, and there I am yet again calling out to Geoff. Once again, he’s watching his crazy wife fall, break and snap right in front of him and he’s powerless to intervene until its over.

Fortunately, I didn’t break my leg (or my neck for that matter). I managed to hobble back to the car after a brief wait and it is weight bearing. However, it does hurt and its not happy. It’s had some ice, voltaren and neurofen and is bandaged up. Hopefully a bit of rest will do the trick and it will be right as rain again. I especially don’t want to have a significant injury over something so simple when I could’ve been skiing, mountain climbing…being an adventurer.

After focusing on the Waratahs in this post, I’ll be back to share the myriad of other wildflowers from our walks and hopefully I’ll be back out there soon!

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

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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

G- Geraldton, Western Australia.

Welcome to the latest stopover in my series of Places I’ve Been for the Blogging A to Z April Challenge. Today, we’re be leapfrogging once again across the globe leaving Florence behind and heading off to Geraldton, Western Australia which might just need a bit of an introduction. Geraldton’s on the coast about 429 kilometres North of Perth. By the way, we’ll also be visiting Greenough, a little to the South.

Although it seems hard to believe now, I ended up living in Geraldton in my mid-20s after packing up the car and heading over there with a friend on an impulsive whim. Not that I was actually heading for Geraldton. I was actually heading for Perth, and somehow took a right hand turn and kept going. However, isn’t that always the way? That it’s just like John Lennon said:

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Well, it isn’t that way for everyone. After all, there are those people who stay in the same seat all their working lives and never deviate from the plan.

However, I wasn’t being quite as carefree and fly with the wind as I thought. As it turned out what I’d put down to my stressful job in Sydney, turned out to be fluid on the brain, or hydrocephalus. So, I wasn’t just trying to escape from the rat race, but from myself. Or, to be precise, this alien invader which essentially all but killed me off, and sent me and the Mitsubishi Colt back to Sydney to start over and my Geraldton chapter came to an abrupt end. Indeed, it was ripped straight out of the book.

Naturally, even going back to Geraldton on this virtual tour is unleashing a kaleidoscope of memories, the way it does when a soldier returns to the battlefield. There were so many hopes and dreams which weren’t just tied up in that move, but were contained inside that beautiful, watery head of mine where I could actually do laps back and forth if I wanted to. Or, if the wind built up, I could even surf inside my head. How’s that for a unique talent? Isn’t that what everyone is striving for??? To be the very best at something and utterly inimitable? Humph! Perhaps, I should’ve picked a different box. Tried tap dancing instead. Having harbour views inside my head proved rather problematic.

Yet, there is always beauty. A bright side.

Geraldton has the most magnificent sunsets over the ocean, and a few white clouds just totally pulls it off. Moreover, in Spring Geraldton comes to life when a kaleidoscope of wildflowers explodes like fireworks across the landscape during wildflower season. There were also very special friends and nights out at restaurants and simply just being. There is always light and never complete darkness, no matter how we might feel at the time.

Anyway, you didn’t come to Geraldton to muse about my head. However, travel is as much about stories and those people you meet along the road, as it is about checking off your checklist.

I don’t know whether we should arrive in Geraldton by plane so you can have a sense of the local fly-in fly-out culture. Or, whether we should fly into Perth and drive up in what was my Mitsubishi Colt. While it’s probably been recycled into steel cans by now, I haven’t forgotten what it was like to overtake a massive road train in that little car better suited to inner city driving. I held my breath and muttered a few prayers as I pressed the accelerator almost to the floor to gain momentum. The steering wheel shook in my sweaty palms, and it felt like I was almost flying in a dodgy rocket. Yet, somehow we made it and drove on.

Geoff Greenough tree

The Leaning Trees are scattered throughout the Greenough area just South of Geraldton. The leaning trees are a bizarre natural phenomenon caused by the airborne salt content blown in with the winds off the Indian Ocean. The tree trunks lie horizontal to the ground and have become somewhat of an icon.

Before I moved to Geraldton,  the real estate agent warned us about a few things. There was this story about the wind being so strong, that you hang your washing out in the morning and pick it up from next door in the afternoon . My aunt also told me about these mysterious trees, which are bent right over and grow along the ground because the wind is so strong.  No one mentioned the balls of tumble weed which swept along the beach like soccer balls. They were visual proof that I was now in the wild West, and my days of swanning around Sydney’s Whale Beach were long gone.

However, what the real estate agent didn’t mention, was the heat. Being from Sydney, I thought I knew heat. However, the heat in Geraldton was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. In Summer, it was like living in a kiln, and it wasn’t uncommon for the temperature to hit 46°C in the shade.

To give you some idea of what it was like living in that kind of heat, there was an open air-car park in town where I parked every day for work. In that car park, there was only one covered car space, which in the manner of country towns, might’ve amounted to a couple of strategically placed sheets of corrugated iron. This shelter was certainly nothing approaching  a shed let alone a garage. Yet, in that intense heat, this shelter was hot property and a bit of a battle broke out for that parking spot between me and the guy who worked next door. I don’t remember actually meeting the man, but I knew his car, and as the temperature soared, we were getting to work earlier and earlier battling it out for that space. Humph…I wonder if he’s had it to himself all these years since I left? I doubt it.There’s always someone ready to take your place, especially in a car park.

Another really lovely aspect to life living in Geraldton, is the crayfish or lobster. For many it’s a way of life to put out a craypot and catch their own crayfish. Yum!

The Greenough River flows just South of Geraldton. I stayed stayed out there in a cottage on the river for a couple of weeks. I remember waking up before sunrise and photographing the black swans gracefully gliding upon its glassy, ink facade. It was incredibly serene and my friend was blown away by the photos. Geraldton with it’s railway line along the waterfront wasn’t always recognized for it’s breathtaking beauty. Unfortunately, I can’t quite put my hands on the photos atm,  but I’m on the lookout.

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Speaking of the Greenough River, I highly recommend visiting the historic Greenough village. It was my understanding that the village flooded and moved to higher ground, leaving the original village behind as a form of time capsule. When I was over there, the village was rather understated and almost blending in with the paddock like an old farm ute slowly rusting into the soil. Indeed, that’s what I particularly loved about it. I could discover and explore it for myself and feel like I’d found something, even if it wasn’t lost.

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Of course, we’re wandering all over the place in my usual style travelling from memory, rather than using a map and proceding in a logical sequence. However, I suspect reigning in this wandering spirit and subjecting it to a list, would strip away its soul and isn’t worth it, even if you would get from A to B faster and save a bit on petrol.

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St Francis Xavier Church, Geraldton

Culturally speaking, Geraldton was an interesting and a surprisingly diverse place. Part of that was thanks to the wind, which attracted windsurfers to the area from right around the world. That’s what took one of my close friends there and she still hasn’t left. The local farming and cray fishing industries also brought wealth to the area, and it was well known not to judge a book by their cover around town. That a farmer might come into town straight off the farm in their dungarees, yet have the ready cash to buy a brand new ute or tractor.

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A front view

 

This takes us back into town, now we’re off to St Francis Xavier Cathedral, which is absolutely magnificent. It was designed by architect and priest John Hawes, who built a series of Churches throughout the region, although this is clearly the jewel in the crown. really looks quite out of place in an Australian regional city.

Rowena Geraldton Gaol

Next, I thought we might go and visit Old Geraldton Gaol and Craft Centre. As you can see I got myself into a spot of trouble. These days, the cells are usually occupied by craft artisans, although the place is like a ghost town atm. Closed down thanks to preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

While I was checking out the Old Gaol online, I came across this fantastic video of the Pink Lake from Midwest Adventure Tours. To be perfectly honest, I can’t remember going there, and I’m kicking myself. So, I hope you enjoy this video as much as I did!

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed Geraldton. It’s been quite a journey for me, even cathartic.

I hope you and yours are keeping well and virus free.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Sources

Greenough’s Leaning Trees

Photo of St Francis Xavier Cathedral – Nachoman-au CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=391469

Nature’s Candlesticks.

Such beauty growing in my own backyard, even if I cheated, planting this  Callistemon as tube stock 15 years ago.

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Red Bottlebrush Tree in our backyard.

So beautiful with their red brushes back lit by the sun, the tree itself can be quite scraggly but still a rugged Australian beauty.

It’s also popular with the locals.

Rainbow Lorrikeet

Rainbow Lorrikeet in a native Callistemon or red Bottlebrush Tree.

Goes to show that you don’t need to travel far to experience nature’s beauty or to find something to photograph, write about or find some inspiration.

What has inspired you lately?

xx Rowena

 

Happy Birthday To Me…Enjoying the Australian Outdoors.

Happy Birthday to me!

We cruised by the sea.

Bushwalked to the lookout.

Then went home for tea.

Welcome to my virtual birthday party. Once upon a time, one of my friends would’ve turned up with vodka jellies and chocolate mouse, but I can offer you a Tim Tam. You could also join us to watch a great Australian movie: Oddball. It’s based on a true story of a Mareema Sheepdog, Oddball,  who saved a endangered colony of fairy penguins from foxes. We loved it.

Today, I reached the magical age of 21…again!

After opening presents this morning with the family, we set off bright and early for a history cruise along our local waterways with the kids’ Scout group. Although I’d originally planned to head into Sydney to the Koi Dessert Bar for my birthday, this cropped up and it felt like a ready-made party. We just had to turn up…perfect!

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Fisherman’s Wharf, Woy Woy.

The cruise set out from Woy Woy, which is is roughly 2 hours drive North from the Sydney CBD. You might recall that Spike Milligan placed Woy Woy on the world stage, although you could say the publicity was hardly positive. He described Woy Woy as “the world’s only above-ground cemetery”.

Indeed, this is what he had to say about Woy Woy back in 1959, when he wrote a portrait of his parents’ home “Goon Fishing”:

“There is, somewhere in the steaming bush of Australia, a waterside town called Woy Woy (Woy it is called Woy Woy Oi will never know).