Blog Archives

Ubud to Amed

30/11/13
UK

I really did have so much to say about Bali, but racing back to my room each day to write about it wasn’t really top of my priorities! Now back in the UK, suffering from a mix of emotions with a bit of insomnia thrown in, I guess it’s time to catch up!

After a few days in Ubud I was keen to get to the coast and experience another aspect of Bali, so having done a bit of reading and chatting to other travellers I decided to head to Amed and work my way down the East coast to finish in Sanur.

The journey to Amed took much longer than it should have thanks to a ceremony. This didn’t seem to bother anyone at all, and I found this quite surprising as traffic was backed up for kilometres in both directions as a procession was slowly making its way along the road. Sitting in a bus with no air conditioning when the temperature is 30 something and the humidity is high wasn’t ideal. Most people got out of their cars, and I asked our driver how long we’d have to wait. “No idea” was his response. I asked what the ceremony was for ” No idea” was the response again. I understand that it’s perfectly acceptable in Bali for ceremonies to stop everything, and that such ceremonies can occur at any given time, often without much planning or warning…

On our arrival in Amed, as I ranted about earlier, we were dropped off outside a hotel and told we weren’t to be taken any further. You can imagine my horror as I looked at the uneven roads, hoisted my backpack onto my shoulders and wondered how far my suitcase would allow me to walk. To our rescue came Kadek ( very conveniently of course) who drove the French passengers to their hostel and me to his cousin’s homestay. It wasn’t where I had planned to stay, and once I looked around I realised it wasn’t where I wanted to be either, as I had to walk 45 minutes to go snorkelling. However, such is life, and at the mercy of two years of luggage from Australia, I had little choice.

Once I had freshened up and had a ridiculously cheap lunch of omelette and tea cooked at the homestay, I had a look around. I had been invited, and I later realised, possibly caused great offence by saying no, to a ceremony that was taking place on the beach that afternoon.
Kadek told me all of his family would be there and I would be most welcome to join, I could take photos and experience something of true Bali. Yes I was intrigued, but desperate after a week in Bali to immerse my aching body in the sea. I enquired as to what happened in this particular ceremony and was told that thousands of people would go to the beach at 4:30 pm, dressed in white. And what do they do there, was my question. Everyone brings animals which are sacrificed on the beach, to the gods. What?? Yes, goats, sheep and I thought he said dogs, but perhaps he said ducks. Never-the-less – keen though I am to get involved and experience something magical, I just didn’t feel I could support, let alone watch something like that. I hold no religious standpoint in this area, but my “religion”, or at least my way of life, does not agree with things like that. Sorry!

So I walked along the beach, past the angry dogs, and children asking me to take their photo and then asking for money for it, past the nice looking guesthouses on the beach, all the way to Jemeluk to snorkel.
Oh the relief to get into the water, and oh the wonderful things I saw. Ouch, I bashed my knee on the coral and saw blood spilling out as I understood the sign I had read about snorkelling only in high tide. Oops. So I got out, and went further round the bay, refusing a few massages, drinks and beds to reimmerse myself in the refreshing water to watch the underwater spectacular and pass away an afternoon finally doing exactly as I pleased.

Outdoor shower in my homestay
Outdoor shower!

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Local residents…
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Snorkelling happy
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Not as bad as it looked
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Up to Ubud

15/10/13
Ubud

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As I write this I am sipping on very sweet strong coffee, and eating a freshly prepared fruit salad, sitting on the balcony of my $15 room. Instead of rushing off sightseeing, I am taking it easy, trying to work with the Ubud rhythm and also taking a moment to catch this blog up!

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So I arrived in Ubud yesterday afternoon. I had a driver take me from my hotel in Legian all the way to Ubud. Davy was a well informed man with little to say, but questions he could easily answer. Interestingly the journey was shared with another guest from the same hotel who was from Melbourne – so thanks to my Australian experience we found we had plenty to talk about between commenting regularly on the alarming number of motorists with no helmets on, cyclists with no helmets on and that despite the somewhat erratic nature of the roads I noted that about 90 % of vehicles on the road looked brand new, and I didn’t see any with signs of previous accidents. Much as I love driving, you’ll know from previous posts, I have to say Indonesia is not somewhere I would willingly rise to the challenge.

On our way to Ubud, as predicted we stopped at a number of places. Yes of course these were all very interesting, and even a few things to be learnt by watching people creating works of art or traditional crafts, but I couldn’t help feel that I was a bit of disappointment to my driver and owners of the places we visited, as I didn’t once put my hand in my pocket to make a purchase.

I didn’t take any photos ( and quite probably wouldn’t have been allowed ) of the ladies working on silk batiks, or the jewellery makers working on filigree earrings and the artists in different stages of their 3 week paintings. I really do appreciate seeing things like this, but can’t help but feel a sense of desperation as we are steered into these places and looked upon hopefully as tourists with money who might make their day.

Once arriving in Ubud a communication problem, a traffic jam and a very hot day meant that finding a place to stay was a little more stressful than needed. We drove past the first two places I wanted to try and by the time I realised we were looking for somewhere to drop me off, all I could do was jump out of the car in traffic and run to a few of the many guesthouses that Ubud is abundant with. I was going to go for a little luxury – hoping for a pool in a lush green garden, but what I ended up with – where I am sitting now couldn’t be better.

JL Monkey forest
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Right down the end of a gang ( small lane way ) I found Rice Paddy Bungalows. Having tried a place recommended by the Lonely Planet which was revolting, and another place in the same gang as this which looked mosquito ridden I was happy to land upon this. There’s only 6 rooms here – in three buildings and set in a lovely green garden. Cadek, who later told me his name was lying on the ground when I poked my head into the garden. “Yes?” He said smiling, as he jumped up and put his t-shirt on. He showed me the available room – up a steep set of stairs, but wonderfully spacious, spotless and incredibly good value. It’s a large room with a beautiful 4-poster bed ( I have always wanted to sleep in a 4 poster bed!!) and a bathroom which is kind of a wet room. I have a large balcony with table and chairs, breakfast included and wifi in my room. Not to mention the very friendly staff who asked me politely where I was from etc but thankfully did not ask me where my boyfriend was or enquire as to why I was travelling alone – two questions I am already tired of answering – so much so I have taken to wearing a fake engagement ring!! Kedak also came all the way with me back to the car to collect my suitcase. When I asked if he’d mind helping me I hadn’t realised he’d be willing to take it all the way there and then – to my shock – pick it up and carry it on his head up the steps to my room!

Everytime I have met Cedak he as greated me warmly, remembering my name. This morning, I woke up nice and late for once and once he saw me on my balcony he rushed up to offer me the breakfast menu. What arrived was delicious indeed – A banana pancake drizzled with honey, a black coffee and fruit salad of banana, papaya, pineapple and melon. Incredible value for just $15 – compared to the revolting room I stayed in the previous night which I paid $4o for!

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https://www.facebook.com/ricepaddy.bungalows?fref=ts

East coast family and friends

08/10/13
The Three Monkeys
West End, Brisbane

I am sitting in a cafe I am very fond of in Brisbane with just two days left in Australia.

My back hurts, my shoulders are sore, I am tired, I have just cried a little bit into my iced coffee and I wondering if I just tried to achieve too much in the last 3 weeks here.

Since leaving Perth I have raced up and down the East Coast trying to fit everyone in and keep everyone smiling.I’ve travelled on trains, planes, buses, cars and even a taxi. I have pulled 23kg + my laptop + my backpack around (and listened to EVERYONE tell me it’s too heavy, ask me why I have so much, and tell me I will hurt myself. Very helpful comments and questions kind people – please note this – NO tired traveller who has painstakingly given and thrown away many many things wants to ever hear this!) and I have not slept more than 4 nights in one bed, which used to be fun, and now at 29 it’s just exhausting!

As I sit here in Brisbane with watery eyes waiting for painkillers to take away the pain that is wriggling across my upper back, I worry that I have tried to do too much and have potentially made my two week Bali adventure an uncomfortable experience.

But in the name of optimism and good blog stuff let’s look at what I HAVE managed to get done over here recently.
First of all, three and a half lovely days with my new-never-met-before-Maltese-Italian-Aussie family that was filled with food, laughter, stories, love and more. I met so many wonderful people that I even rearranged my last few days in Australia to see them again.

Then a train ride from Brisbane through the NSW hinterland back to a much loved home from home on my lovely cousin’s organic farm. Four blissful days were spent cuddling cows, playing with dogs and horses and laughing till I cried, in some favourite locations too.

Spartacus

Poppy and Venus

Poppy

May I say that these four days might have been four of the most memorable in Australia? And let’s not forget the food feasts! I was staying with an incredible cook and also a chef, yet I won our rendition of Come Dine With Me, with my Spanish themed evening – and even got a certificate! One of my proudest moments!

Images from Bundjalung National Park

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Then there was another early departure and a terribly emotional bus trip north as I realised, as one does unexpectedly sometimes, that such a lovely experience as that would never be repeated again and the many fond memories I have started to build up will soon be nothing but memories. Of course I have known ever since arriving that the end would come, but it is sad to leave a place you have been back to a number of times, knowing it’s your last.

I arrived in Brisbane transit centre and sat there for over an hour as my connecting bus was delayed. All I really wanted to do was put my head on someone’s shoulder and go to sleep, but maybe not wise to do that to a stranger!

A little later than planned I arrived at Nambour and was met by a great uncle, who confessed he couldn’t remember meeting me! When people make such a fuss about you spending time with them, it’s a little disconcerting when they say they can’t remember what you look like.

Three days were spent on the Sunshine Coast, filled with plenty of stories, spectacular views and glorious food. Highlights include my 77 year great uncle beating me to the surf at Mooloolaba, a lunch at the magical Secrets on the Lake and some very cheap, yet delicious fish and chips!
Kondalilla Falls
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Lake Baroon
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After my time in Bli Bli I was taken up the coast to Noosa and handed over to a friend for the weekend. My cattle station friend ( we’d met when I was “doing my time” on the station) and I had plenty to catch up on and did this eating copious amounts of cheese, drinking too much beer and chilling on the beach in between.

I sadly never made it to Noosa Heads, as thanks to a public holiday parking was almost impossible.

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A drive down to Caloundra for lunch at another great uncle’s and thanks to a lift in the land cruiser life was made easier. Thankfully I didn’t attempt public transport twice that day as because of a “new” public holiday the Translink website was mistakenly telling me and every other commuter in Queensland the WRONG information. So after a relaxing few hours in Golden Beach, catching up with another relative, I had a rather sticky and stressful commute back to Brisbane.

Since arriving back here I have had another Maltese-Italian banquet and met more family members! I have had a wonderful lunch with another cousin, and yet to come morning tea with my bush family mum and dinner out with another cousin, then lunch with more relatives.

I will be unable to do anything other than sit on the beach once I arrive in Bali!

Serpentine National Park

Transperth – or public transport in WA to be more general is NOT brilliant. In Slovakia – a country you wouldn’t expect to have a well organised or easy to use transport far trumps what Perth has to offer. In Slovakia I went on a number of adventures – weekends and day trips, and although sometimes complicated ( there are a number of posts offering examples of this in Slovakia Stories ) they were never impossible. My point being that I have found it incredibly hard – in fact impossible to have adventures that don’t require a set of wheels. Places of interest are simply not served by public transport – or at least they are but require a number of changes, lengthy transits or not enough time to meet connections or return trips. In Slovakia I travelled far and wide on a network of trains, trams and buses and never found anywhere I couldn’t get to.

So on Friday night, after pulling my hair out trying to find somewhere I could get to and spend a reasonable amount of time in – I texted a friend on the off chance they wanted to accompany me on a day out… and drive their car there and back. Fortunately the response was positive, making me very happy to set my alarm early for Saturday morning.
I needn’t have bothered as I was awoken at some antisocial hour by an incredibly loud thunderstorm, that seemed to be directly above my head, shaking my little cabin.

Two hours later, when the thunder, lightning and torrential rain had ceased chariot arrived and we set off for Serpentine Falls.

First stop was Serpentine Dam. A vast expanse of water on the Serpentine river whose catchment is one of the major supplies of drinking water for Perth. Do not quote or correct me on this please – I don’t make notes when I go exploring – I remember and recount information and openly admit to getting it wrong sometimes!

This dam was not on my do list – didn’t even know it was there. We stumbled upon it first of all, missing a turning and completely bypassing the falls. A wrong turn worth taking I believe…

Serpentine Dam

Serpentine Dam

Serpentine Dam

Next came the falls. Entering the national park from the opposite side we pulled up into the central picnic area – a smell of sausages on the barbecues greeting us as we assessed the trail maps. There was a damp, yet pleasant smell in the air – of fresh, green plants – ready to spring into bloom. It reminded me so much of Železná studničk – Bratislava Forest Park – and a wonderful day I had spent hiking there at the beginning of Spring some time ago.

We took an alternative path to get a higher view of the Falls, only to realise that the easier, simpler route led you to a far better viewing platform – purposely built with steps into the upper pool for warmer days when the water invites you for a swim. It wasn’t particularly cold – so with a little more planning ( bikini and a towel ) I could have been persuaded to have a dip. I have had a waterfall swim already which was up near Cairns (QLD) last year, so that box had already been ticked. Thankfully.

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After an ample amount of time taking in the scene and sitting on a rock that plenty of other people wanted to sit on, we headed off on another trail. A 6km, grade 4 hike up to Baldwin’s Bluff. This very much reminded me of my hiking weekend, again in Slovakia – in Terchova where the weather, climate and hiking grades were similar. Yes – it has been 2 years since I have enjoyed a good hike!
Our trail was a steep, stony path up the side of a gorge to a lookout over the waterfalls and Kitty’s Gorge. It was flanked either side with nature’s display of Spring bursting into bloom. The smell was worthy of being bottled – a fragrant reminder that Spring has sprung and Summer will be arriving fairly soon. The humidity and threat of rain enhanced the aroma and as the climb evened out, the flowers grew brighter and smelt fresher.

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I could have joined the masses who stopped to photograph every flower, but I would have bored my companion to tears and I wouldn’t have enjoyed the exhilarating high I got as I sprang onwards – pain in my back or legs totally eradicated as my heightened senses absorbed everything available. I don’t get what they call Runner’s High – but what I feel when I walk or hike in a place of natural beauty is something I imagine can be equated to that feeling.

view from Baldwin's Bluff

Serpentine Falls

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Perth in the distance - 50 km away

Long distance Perth

The walk down had a few slips and slides, but no injuries were obtained other than a large bite I, of course, (wouldn’t be anyone else) received right on the kneecap of my still sore ice skating knee!

I snapped away at a few views and flowers, as an excuse to catch my unfit breath but was disinterested in hiking behind my camera lens so hope the atmosphere has been sufficiently captured from my relatively spontaneous, yet wonderfully rewarding day in the park!

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Cervantes to Perth

One of the wonderful things about not planning things is the adventure you can have with unexpected new friends.

I was sharing a room in Kalbarri with a girl from Belgium, and having mentioned that I hadn’t planned my trip back to Perth, she suggested I join her, driving back as she was going back the same time. Perfect.

Myself, the Belgium girl and another guy from the hostel, loaded into her little hire car on Friday morning. Me with a sore head from a spontaneous drinking game the night before and also with a heavy heart – not quite ready to return to Perth and say goodbye to the residents of Kalbarri Backpackers.

We ambled our way down the highway towards Perth, stopping in various places of interest along the way, to maximise the opportunity of having the freedom of a car.

The first stop was Cervantes. A town with a Spanish name, and Spanish named streets. There is not much going on in Cervantes to be honest and for that reason we had the hostel to ourselves, bar the two resident cleaners from Taiwan. The hostel was spotless with plenty of homely touches – books, magazines, herbs and spices, toilettries.
http://cervanteslodge.com.au/pinnacles-cervantes-lodging-backpackers-hotels-rooms-rental-bed-breakfast-overnight-stays/

What Cervantes is known for is its proximity to the Pinnacles Desert. This is an eerie place, which we visited at sunset, and if I were a more talented photographer, perhaps I could have captured better its science fiction-like atmosphere. Strange stones rise out of the desert making you feel as if you have walked onto a Star Wars set and you should be carrying a light saber!

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Driving through yet another national park as we made our way down the coast, we stopped at Hangover Bay – wonderfully named place with a beautiful beach. I would LOVE to cure a hangover there!

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Next stop was Lancelin – because my big brother told me to go there, so we dropped in for a photo op and a toilet stop.

random sand dune

on the road

Lancelin

Lancelin

Nearer to Perth, and the departure of our other passenger was Yanchep National Park – where koalas were sitting in trees, wallabies were nibbling the grass and Kookaburras were singing up above.

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things to do in Kalbarri

I arrived in Kalbarri without my usual precision planning – aiming to just see what was going on, enjoy the sunshine and some time away from Perth.

The only hostel in town was run by a very friendly couple – Joe, originally from the UK, and his Australia wife Carol. http://www.kalbarribackpackers.com

On checking in, I asked out of concern, if they had any idea what the weather was likely to do, and what ways I might enjoy my time in Kalbarri. The response regarding the weather was not what I wanted to hear – that it had been lovely last week, beautiful today, but was set to change tomorrow. Being from a country of bad weather, I try not to let a bad forecast put me off, but as it was a much needed and looked forward to holiday, I found myself feeling I’d got a bad deal.

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Kalbarri National Park is where most visitors go: for walks, amazing views and of course their iconic photograph sitting in Nature’s Window. What a lovely idea – how can I get there? Well, as is my luck, the park was closed to the public due to the re-laying of the road. The only way to enjoy it during the week was to go on a tour. How convenient. So, I paid for 2 tours – one to go kayaking in the gorge and one to see the sights.

Tour one was fabulous. I was picked up in a very old, large 4 wheel drive bus, and driven out to the park. Due to the roadworks, we were escorted through the park, and then drove off road down a private track, where we then scrambled down into the gorge, walked along the river bed to the boats. I got paired up with a Singaporean guy, who behind me in the boat chatted to me about life in Singapore, living in Perth as a student, food, cooking and travelling in Asia. As soon as we got into our boat, it started to rain, of course, but once it cleared up: the sunshine, the tranquility and nature’s great landscape was awe inspiring. After about an hour’s paddling, we arrived on the shore for homemade cake and then climbed back out of the gorge, stopping to admire breathtaking views as the sun graced kissed the cliff tops.

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The tour I did later, was met with rain. Lots of it. Not having even a jacket, let alone a rain coat made it a very uncomfortable afternoon indeed, but was assured that I was having a very unique experience as nobody gets to see Nature’s Window in the rain! The Z bend was also on our itinerary, and despite feeling very cold, I was very happy to experience the national park in unusual conditions…

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here comes the rain!

Nature's Window

Nature's Window

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Other things I did, as I often do, was long walks. One was along the cliffs to Nature’s bridge with my hostel roommate, in the hope of seeing migrating whales, but none wanted to show themselves.

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I also took a very long walk along the beach, without intending to – sometimes I just start walking, and like Forrest Gump: I forget to stop! So I ended up walking about 5 kms out of town to Red Bluff, stopping to paddle, stopping to think, stopping to pick up seashells, stopping to photograph huge crabs and stopping to breathe and absorb the wonderful Indian Ocean views.

Blue Wave rocks

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Giant crab!

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Red Bluff

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4 days in Kalbarri was enough to clear my mind, refresh my photographs, restore my faith in hostels ( thanks to an awesome bunch of people staying there) and as if I needed to – remind me of what a wonderful land Australia is.

Margies madness

I should have blogged this ages ago! I am so far behind!

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaay back in June I was getting itchy feet, so a friend and I decided to hire a car and take it to Margaret River. It’s a small town about 3.5 hours south of Perth synonymous with good food, wonderful wine and great surf breaks. Travelling on a budget doesn’t always get you those things – but I never travel anywhere without making great memories, laughing hard, breathing deeply and taking it all in. So this is how I did it:

I hired a car from Europcar which was a bus ride, a train ride and another bus ride away from us. I managed to get the only manual car in the depot, as for some reason Australians tend to favour autos. Driving without using a gear stick is not driving in my opinion.

Then I got a friend to jump on board.

Then I found two backpackers who also wanted to go to Margies (how the locals call it) on Gumtree. Pick up the car, pick up the backpackers and all pile into the TINY car whose suspension and tiny engine are now being tested.

We hit the road and as we get closer to Margaret River the clouds get heavier and heavier and it starts to rain. Not before I spot Gracetown – which just HAS to be visited and photographed.

Then we try and check into your hostel but reception is closed for a few hours… Check in done, rain sets in and we race to the coast in hope of catching a sunset in a rain break. We get totally drenched, but we’re on holiday so it doesn’t matter right?

Going out involves THE only pub in town where I spend more than I want to on beer and the following day’s hangover inhibits me greatly.

Sunday afternoon arrives and it’s time to make my way back to Perth even though it feels like I have been here 5 minutes. So I take one of the backpackers who wants to go back, and we amble our way back up the coast stopping here and there to admire the view, do a cartwheel on the beach, shelter from the rain and drink a crap coffee to keep me awake on the drive back top Perth.

On arrival back in Perth I drop my backpacker off at his new hostel, then my friend and arrive home waking the dog as I park “my” car outside the house and go inside. Exhausted, happy and nostalgic from another weekend well spent in Australia.

Then nearly two months later I get round to blogging about it, having forgotten the details that make people laugh but hoping my photos make up for it!

Gracetown

driving

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in comes the weather

Margaret River mouth

Surfer at the river mouth

and now I can't remember which ones!

and now I can’t remember which ones!

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rain rain rain

Yallingup

Yallingup

Yallingup

Yallingup

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Cape Naturaliste

Live loving and love living… continued

Here are a couple of drafts that never made it onto my blog, so I’ve put them together here…

Happy New Year everyone!

As I sit in bed on January 1st, looking at the glorious sunshine out of my bedroom window, it’s hard to imagine the torrential rain yesterday that caused rivers to swell, roads to becomes rivers and puddles to become ponds. Just driving out of my village was like driving upstream yesterday which is something I don’t remember ever having to do before…
It’s nice to have a moment to contemplate where you have been and what you have achieved over the past year, and to feel inspired about how you will continue this year.

* * *

I write this as I sit on the train making my way from Taunton to Bristol, where I will meet my sister-in-law who will have a late lunch with me, drive me to Reading, where I will take the Airbus to Heathrow and later on tonight, be on my merry way to Singapore for the next phase of my journey.

2012 was a wonderful year. I decided to Live Loving and Love Living and that I did.
It was a full calendar year in Australia where my friends became my family, my adventures became my stories and my challenges became my strengths.

I fell back in love with my career: teaching English thanks to the ever-changing 18 or so students who I spent 4 hours a day with. Apart from a few personality clashes in the classroom I honestly never felt like I was going to work. Getting up every morning and knowing I was going to spend time with a group of wonderful adults never felt like work at all. In turn for improving their English, they shared their cultures, their music, their dreams and their trust in me and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I experiences Colombia, Korea, Thailand, Japan, China and Brazil all from inside my windowless classroom in Melbourne.

I had a number of opportunities to see Victoria and more from behind the wheel, from hire cars, to mini buses to motor-homes. I have driven along the Great Ocean Road, through the Grampians, down to Lakes Entrance, over to Philip Island, raced into Adelaide, got lost in Canberra, traversed a steep mountain road and driven around Queensland chasing waterfalls.

I’ve also lived the city life, lived the bush life, Lived the country life. I have taught and been taught and learnt so many lifelong lessons as I have continued to Live Loving and Love Living throughout the year.
I had the opportunity to meet family I didn’t know I had, to reconnect with friends from the past simply have a few moments to just enjoy being.

This year, I have decided will be the year to Make it Happen. I no longer have any time for useless aspirations to lose a few pounds, get a bit fitter or eat less chocolate and feel that the one goal we should all strive to achieve is to be happy. That’s all it needs to ever be.

So this is the year to Make it Happen. I achieved so much my myself last year, that I shall continue to do so and to go for the things I want. So If I want to go and lie on a white sandy beach, I will make it happen. If I want to visit a far away friend – I will make it happen. If I want to learn something new, I will make it happen. I am starting to believe that the power we have to do what we want is just endless.

January sky

January sky


So… 2013 will be the year to continue to Live Loving and Love Living, as that proved to be one of the best years I’ve and also to be the year that I Make it Happen – whatever it is!
So, who’s in? What are you going to Make happen this year? And did you have a go at Living Loving so you could Love Living? I would love to hear feedback from my readers!

Lessons from the bush – a reflection

Lessons from the Bush – a reflection.
Some time after leaving the bush, having had another stint in the city, I am sitting on a rainy afternoon in Northern New South Wales, taking a moment to reflect on what was gained and learnt out there.
It seems obvious to say that I learned a lot from that experience, but when you take yourself away from an existence you understand and place yourself in that of another family, another way of life, another way of seeing things: it stands to reason that you’ll start to think and feel differently about a number of things.
My attitude to that number of things has, of course, changed since being on a cattle station. My aversion to animals I don’t know, particularly dogs has changed drastically. I have never really liked dogs, perhaps because I never had one, nor really knew anyone that did when I was growing up. We were a cat family through and through. Dogs have a horrible smell, need their poo picked up and often dribble. Then there are bush dogs, who roll around in dead things, shit everywhere, live outside and eat anything. Yuk. Yet today, when I was cuddling the cattle dog where I am staying, who was sitting on my lap, frightened of the impending storm, smelling like a dog, I realised how far I had come. I never used to like touching a dog unless I knew I could wash my hands immediately afterwards. I never wanted my clothes to smell of a dog, nor to have a single hair on me that wasn’t mine. But as I was sitting in the paddock, with my arms around this dog as if she were a small child I laughed at the girl who used to hate them.
Living out in the bush, miles away from anything and anyone but the people you work for, you soon learnt to adapt your way of doing things to make life easier. I quickly had to get over the fact that I couldn’t always wash my hands when I wanted. I had to get past my food anxieties regarding use-by dates. I had to rapidly defeat my fear of what might be outside my room at nightfall.
I also stopped wearing make up, sometimes didn’t brush my hair and never did any ironing. I had to swallow my thoughts regarding safety and logic on a number of issues and try letting go of my need for logic and planning on a number of activities.
I swam in a damn that had cow shit around the edge and a number of interesting insects in or around it. I walked and jogged through the bush knowing there were snakes ready to visit. I played with dogs who smelt of dead things, or hunted pigs.
I had to learn to feel ok about a ten year old driving a car, and then that ten year old driving me in that car, and better still, that ten year old driving the 5 of us from a party in the early hours of the morning. I had to learn to let go of the idea that shoes should be warn, helmets on heads and rules should be followed.
Above all I had to learn who I was, so I could effectively live in a place that challenged some of my ideas and compromised some of my beliefs. I had to reassess what was important to me, what was necessary for me and what was acceptable for me. I adapted my eating habits, sleeping patterns and exercise routine to fit in with my surroundings. I learnt to laugh when things annoyed me. I learnt to make things simpler if they were too complicated. I learnt to trust people younger than me, and learnt what it was to be trusted too. I learnt to teach everything I know and make it a learning process. I learnt to take myself away from certain situations and give myself time out. I learnt to look at the sky and see it differently every day.
I learnt that I can make a situation that is wildly unfamiliar for me familiar and that I can make anywhere my home if I need to. I also left that cattle station for the second time, knowing that I had done my best with what I had and can absolutely definitely say that despite moments of sheer frustration at times, or confusion, or just bewilderment, I absolutely definitely wouldn’t change a moment of it.DSCN1130DSCN1952DSCN1963DSCN1146DSCN1154DSCN1984DSCN1987DSCN1994

Melbourne to Sydney

Campervanning again.
Having enjoyed my jaunt over to South Australia through the Grampians in a house on wheels I very much wanted to repeat the experience going in the opposite direction. Visa granted, I was heading back to the bush for a few weeks to fill the visa-shaped hole in my bank account and because I can: enjoy getting there!
The beauty of Australia for us foreigners is perhaps its size. The sheer vastness of it means you can drive for hours then look on the map and realise you have made no progress. The frustration of this, to me at least, adds to its awe. The European concept of distance and time couldn’t be more different to that of the Australians. London is a “long way” from my house in the UK. A three hour drive! I would never just jump in the car on a whim and go there, but out in the bush you travel that far just to get to a decent supermarket!
So this time, I decided to take a campervan from Melbourne and drive to Sydney, swinging through Canberra on the way, and dropping down to the coast of southern New South Wales. This was achieved… but only just: thanks to a number of hiccups that I am not responsible for.
We arrived at the campervan place in Footscray, Melbourne. A really charming part of the city. Not. Slightly out of breath from the copious amount of luggage needed and excited to start another adventure my heart dropped out of my chest and splashed into my stomach when the manager informed me that I had cancelled my reservation. It seems too long ago now to bother with the details of the what-fors and the whys, but rest assured it was NOT my fault. Several phone calls were made and my Firm-But-Fair-I-Deserve-What-I-Paid-For voice was employed to speak to several people, some more helpful than others to resolve the situation. One of the “excuses” I was presented with was that I had called to cancel my reservation due to marital problems and the cancellation of my trip! Don’t get me started on how I responded to that one!
At 4:45pm, 7 hours after arriving, when we eventually let the handbrake off and steered out of the car park into the rush hour traffic in the 6-Berth Mercedes Sprinter, we were ridiculously happy, yet considerably weary and about at least 500km off target.
I drove until the articulated lorries overtaking me at 110kmph pissed me off more than I could muster and we started to search for a truck stop for night one. Nowhere near where we wanted to be, we pulled off the road in search of a campsite we could not find and settled for a side road just off the highway. There’s a first time for everything, and this was the first time I had “camped” on the side of a highway.
An early start the next morning to head to Canberra. Lucky I asked the nice lady in the petrol station for directions and good idea to get a second opinion in a café, and also to buy a road map. This was a sans technology route, since lack of campsite the night before had meant no electricity to charge all electrical devises we had between us. Fine by me: I grew up reading maps and asking directions and learnt to drive reading signposts.
Canberra’s arrival was much later than hoped, but then Australia is MUCH larger than most of us realise. With a shortage of time we screeched into the tourist information and told the smiling man we were just passing and probably had 30 mins to have a quick look around. The look on his face was priceless. He was visibly pained that someone would spend such little time in the capital of Australia and I felt obliged to give him a run-down of why we our schedule was so off kilter. We whizzed up to Parliament House, parked the van, ran around taking silly photos and then spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to get OUT of Canberra. (They clearly don’t want you to insult them by spending such little time there, so make it impossible to get off that darn roundabout). I embarrassed myself painfully at the petrol station, twice, which I blamed on my “marital problems” – running joke of the trip.
At 8:30pm… only 4.5 hours after leaving Canberra (!) we arrived at a campsite, whose destination was changed at least 4 times en route. Our descent on the Robertson pass into Kiama was coupled with the smell of brakes as I manoeuvred our HUGE automatic, rather unhappy van down its very steep hairpin bends, complete with traffic backed up behind me.
Kiama looked pleasant enough, but exhausted and a bit pissed off, we pulled into our quite-expensive-but-we-no-longer-care campsite and raced over the barbecue area to crack open the box wine and cook a semi decent meal. Easts Beach was beautiful in the morning. The hour or so we had on the beach was well worth it before hitting the highway to Sydney.
We swooped into Wollongong, struggled to find a parking spot, but my newly developed “white-van driving” skills would make my father proud as we edged into a space. Just enough time to jump out, for a picture and some sand between the toes before again hitting Highway 1 north-bound. A few more cars with surfboards strapped on the top this time passing us, we were in full holiday mode.
Sydney greeted us with not too much traffic and a not too difficult to find drop off point with much more time to spare than my last delivery. We rolled out of the van into the Sydney heat to begin the next leg of the journey…