Did you know that Byron Bay now has the world’s first fully solar train? Although the train launched on the 16th December last year, we hadn’t taken a ride until just before Easter, a couple of weeks ago.
As departure times and fares can vary with the season, you can check out current details here The train runs a shuttle service along a three kilometre stretch from North Beach station in Sunrise Beach to the Byron Beach Platform in Byron Bay. Both stations conveniently offer seating, shelter and bicycle racks. There is also ample parking nearby.
North Beach Station
Byron Beach platform
It was a very fun experience which we shared with our Brisbane friend Julie and our grandson, Huddy. Now serendipitously, Huddy, like so many other little boys loves Thomas the Tank engine. So you can imagine how fascinated he was!
We virtually had the train to ourselves and Huddy was lucky enough to be invited by the train driver into his inner sanctum.
And then there were the carriages to explore…
Needless to say, Julie, Kenn and I didn’t feel the need to explore the upholstery like Huddy but we did enjoy the scenic journey. While in Sunrise, I took the opportunity to show Julie around Elements of Byron, our latest 5 star resort and one of my favourite places for coffee and lunch. But Huddy was getting a little restless, so we settled for a late lunch at the Sun Bistroinstead. The Bistro, which is just a few steps away from the North Byron station, offers tasty, economical food and plenty of space for little ones to run around.
The Solar train might only travel a few kilometres but it gives us a glimpse of what the future might hold while preserving some of our railway heritage. Maybe you’ll have time to take a ride next time you’re in the Bay.
This Easter, Kenn and I spent a couple of days at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreatin the Lamington National Park. You’ll find this wonderful national park and resort in the Gold Coast Hinterland. Just a couple of hours away from Byron Bay, O’Reilly’s is one of our favourite places to visit and chill out. As we have been making the trek up the mountain since our children were very young, this piece of World Heritage listed rainforest holds many special memories. Who could ever forget Christian’s look of amazement at his first bird feeding session? He carefully measured out the bird seed he had purchased from the cafe onto his hands and before he could catch his breath, he was covered in rosellas. They were perched up and down his arms, on his palms, on his shoulders and even on his head. They tickled and they nibbled as they made themselves comfortable. This was all so cool until he realised that the bird on his head had left a deposit on his brand new hat! Ah what fun!
This time, we were meeting up with our daughter Lyndsay, who was down from Darwin and her Finnish exchange student Lila. We booked directly with O’Reilly’s. They had a great autumn special which included accommodation in a mountain view room, daily buffet breakfast, morning and afternoon tea, a 4WD tour through the rainforest and welcome drinks. A bargain! You can check out their webpage here We arrived around Midday and luckily our room was ready and a lovely afternoon walk beckoned.
Lyndsay and Lila had arrived a day before us and decided to walk the Tooloona Creek circuit. We had walked this track awhile back. If you’re interested in seeing more of this track, See previous post here
We definitely didn’t have time to walk 20kms this time, so decided to walk along the Border Track until we caught up with them on their way home. This involved a gentle uphill climb to the Antarctic Beech Forest.
As the track winds between mossy and ferny boulders, I always feel as if I’m in a Tolkien novel and Gandalf is going to come round the bend.
About five kms along the track, we met up with Lyndsay and Lila and returned to the resort in time for afternoon tea and a dip in the sauna and hot tub.
The next day dawned cloudy and showery. Grabbing our rain jackets, we met Lila who was joining us on 4WD tour. A little bit of misty weather can enhance your outdoor experience if you let it. The tour took us on roads we had never traversed.
And our guide was very informative.
Highlights included the short walk to Moran’s Falls and the visit to Luke’s farm.
Tawny frogmouth on Luke’s farm
The creek which feeds the falls.
The misty lookout
After lunch, Kenn and I walked down to Elabana Falls. This time we didn’t make it past Picnic Rockas there was so much water and every time I put my hand down to balance myself on the slippery rocks to cross over, the leeches attacked! And I hate leeches. Despite the leeches, it felt great to stretch our legs and we didn’t get very wet as the canopy of the rainforest acted as a natural umbrella.
There really is so much to see and do at O’Reilly’s. Usually, we spend our time on completing one of the big day treks but this time we got to explore two of the short walks for the first time. They were to Mick’s towerand the Wishing Tree.
But all good things must come to an end and all too soon we were winding our way down the mountain again. Instead of taking the highway home, we decided to show Lila Natural Bridge which is part of the Springbrook National Park. The road from Nerang to Murwillumbah is beautiful. Much to our surprise, much has changed at Natural Bridge since we last visited several years ago. While the rock pool and cavern are as lovely as ever, you can no longer swim there. To compensate, a new circuit has been built that follows the creek and explores more of the surroundings.
By late afternoon, we were home and taking Lila for her first lighthouse walk. We are so lucky to be able to journey from the forest to the sea in a matter of hours. I hope if you haven’t already experienced the deep serenity of the Australian rainforest, that you get the opportunity very, very soon.
Back in February, I saw the flyer on the clubhouse wall for an Open Day at Murwillumbah to benefit Breast Cancer. My curiosity was piqued. Ages ago, it seems, Annie and I had been told how beautiful this course was and consequently had it on our list of courses we’d like to play. So this seemed a perfect opportunity.
Although we had never been to an Open Day, we figured it couldn’t be too damaging to our self esteem, as it was a Single Stableford event. When one’s handicap is still languishing in the 40s and it’s the rainy season, single stableford provides a measure of comfort when you just know there are going to be a few (and possibly more than a few) mishaps out on the course. And it was for such a good cause! And dressed in a fabulous pink rosy skirt and pink shirt courtesy of my lovely sister, Jenny, I could even fulfill the dress code in style.
So early Thursday morning, Annie and I set off for Murwillumbah. It was showery but we reassured each other that we could see glimpses of blue sky to the north. But as we climbed the Burringbar Range, the blue sky disappeared and showers reappeared. Thank goodness we had decided to use a buggy and just for extra protection we stashed our brollies in the cart for extra protection from the elements.
There were over 100 ladies participating despite the weather, We found we were to play with two lovely ladies from Murwillumbah, who showed us the ropes and soon we were hitting off the tenth. It was a Par 3. Terrific, I thought.
But all was not lost. The course was lovely to play and there was some run.
Soon, we were tackling the front nine. This was more hilly and had some tricky but interesting holes. And it’s also where an alien stole my ball!
How did an alien steal your ball, you might ask? Well I hit a great drive and second shot ( for me that is) on a long Par 4. I had 7 shots for par, so full of anticipation, I closely watched my third shot fall just short, on the edge of the green. Dash it, I muttered to the ball, you could have gone just a little bit further! Confidently, I walked over to the ball, only to discover it belonged to one of the Murwillumbah ladies! My ball had vanished! We looked in the bunkers, we looked over the back of the green, we looked behind and we looked in the hole! No ball! Obviously, taken by aliens! What to do? The Murwillumbah ladies were seasoned golfers of over 40 years experience. Sadly they informed me, it was a wipe.
But the game must go on and the course held more lovely surprises. At one point we drove from one hole to the next through a lovely patch of rainforest.
And all too soon, we were shaking hands on the 9th. It was time to scan our scorecards and while we didn’t win, we didn’t disgrace ourselves either. Lunch beckoned in the clubhouse where our new friends invited us to join them. Lots of stories, lots of laughter, the most amazing raffle and presentations. And it was home time.
As we drove away, the rain started again. We couldn’t believe that we had been lucky enough to enjoy such a wonderful day of golf. Murwillumbah, we will be back!
One of the highlights of our recent trip to Nosawa Onsen was the tour we took with ixsmtravel.com to Jigokudani Snow Monkey Parkwhich was about an hour away from Nosawa by bus. Some say travel is more about the journey than the destination and at first I would have had to agree: the view from our windows was breathtaking.
Arriving at the Snow Monkey Park, our bus driver had to park a fair distance from the entrance but not deterred we plodded up the hill to the starting point. We all thought that the two kilometre walkto the Snow Monkeys would be a walk in the park. But no-one had warned us about just how slippery the narrow path could be. Although we were all wearing proper hiking boots, we all found ourselves slip sliding away as if we were on an ice rink. And I can’t skate! So we had to go slowly, very slowly for I could far too easily imagine myself turning into a human toboggan, hurtling down the mountainside.
Still inching one’s way along has an up side. There was plenty of time to admire the scenery.
The narrow path eventually led to the valley of the Yokoyu-River where steam and boiling water bubble out of small crevices in the frozen ground earning the name ‘Jigokudani’ meaning “Hell’s Valley.” But it didn’t seem too hellish to us!
It was worth the effort. We saw monkeys frolicking with their babies, monkeys enjoying a dip in the steamy waters and monkeys scampering up the mountainside.
And one was keeping watch, checking out the tourists. Examining us as we were examining him.
All too soon, our English speaking guide, who was a delightful girl from Northern Italy, asked us to start making our way back.
After visiting the Snow Monkeys, the tour took us to the historic village of Shibu Onsen. This was once a village that was frequented by samurai, wandering poets and travellers who, while bathing in the healing waters of the village’s onsens, took the opportunity to rest and recuperate. Indeed legend says that good fortune will come to those who bathe in all the town’s onsens.
In this village, we were able to get a feel for the ‘old’ Japan. The narrow streets were lined by wooden buildings which were hundreds of years old.
There were interesting shops to explore. Huddy discovered that he loved Japanese biscuits!
There was even a fountain which reputedly bestows good health and long life on those who drink from it. I couldn’t resist. I had to sip. It was a little metallic tasting but not unpleasant and you never know …
And of course there was a temple to visit as well. By now it was mid afternoon and the temperature was dropping. The arrival of our bus to carry us home was very welcome.
This was a great day out. Try to make room for it on your next snow holiday to Nosawa Onsen. And remember wear shoes suitable for snow and ice!
Sometimes the best holidays are those that happen unexpectedly. Kenn and I had no plans to visit Japan until Melissa and Ben asked us to join them on a family skiing holiday to Nosawa Onsen, a delightful mountain village a couple of hundred kilometres north of Tokyo.
While I love being in the snow, I wouldn’t say that I have a natural affinity for snow sports. I am the only person I know who when they first attempted to ski, fell off a poma. Like a beached whale, I couldn’t move out of the way. I watched as fellow beginners bumped over my legs, some actually managing air time! I was on my way to becoming a human ski jump when Kenn took pity on me, leapt off the poma and dragged me out of the way! Despite this inauspicious start and muscles I never knew I had protesting loudly, I eventually managed to gain some basic skills but that was a very, very long time ago. Would I even be able to don ski boots again? I could see a few lumps and bumps on my feet that mightn’t like being squished and squashed. And would I be able to slide down a mountain without killing anyone? Should I even try?
But even if I didn’t ski, toboggan or snowshoe, a holiday in the snow appealed. Kenn and I have never experienced a White Christmas so this was our big chance. And I knew that Chris, Steve Kenn and I would have a lot of fun in the snow with Hudson, our adorable 18 month old grandson. His idea of a comfortable pace on a sled built for two was likely to coincide with mine. We like keeping pace with snails. And I was sure a wonderful, cultural experience awaited us in the land of the rising sun. So I knitted some beanies, bought some thermals and threw them together with some snow gear and my trusty Scarpa hiking boots and before you could say ‘konnichiwa’ I was on my way.
It is only an eight hour flight from the Gold Coast to Narita airport but we all wondered how 18 month old Huddy would cope. With Hudson on board, the time passed swiftly. He introduced himself to his fellow passengers as he stretched his legs every now and then and without any fuss settled down for long naps on Mummy’s lap.
At Narita, we met up with Ben’s parents, Steve and Chris and after a good night’s sleep made our way to Tokyo station where we caught the bullet train north to Ilyama.
Relaxing in our seats, we watched as slowly the urban landscape gave way to countryside … snowy countryside. We were a little concerned when messages flashed across the screen at the front of the train carriage warning of cancelled services due to recent heavy snow but luckily for us, we didn’t have to build an igloo for the night for the trusty Nosawa Onsen bus was waiting for us in Ilyama.
Driving into Nosawa, we realised that when they said a lot of snow had fallen, a lot of snow had fallen.
Melissa had booked us into ‘Address Nosawa’, delightful one bedroom studios. These were very well appointed and centrally located. As well as having its own onsen, the complex had a well equipped children’s playroom and helpful, English speaking staff.
We couldn’t wait to get up close and personal with all that snow! Lissa and Ben grabbed their snowboards and disappeared up the mountain while Kenn and I took Huddy out to explore the village. The powder was so powdery! Huddy nearly disappeared into a drift when his hand disappeared and he stuck his head in to see where it had gone. He soon had snow flying everywhere, creating his own Huddy snow storm. And Poppy didn’t help him at all!
And the village was so pretty.
Even the actual cobbled streets were attractive, shiny black speckles edged with snow.
And there was a dumpling man on the corner of our street!
But there was more. Nosawa has a great children’s snow park at the base of the mountain. All of us couldn’t wait to see Huddy have fun. Granddad Steve introduced him to a travelator which took them to the top of a small slope. Perched on Granddad’s lap, Huddy took to sledding like a pro. We took it in turns to slide with Huddy, rediscovering that inner child that lives within. Then we branched out and tried the tubes which skidded down the slope with more speed and less control than the sleds! Luckily, there was a safety fence!
Huddy also enjoyed being pulled around the park on a crocodile
and didn’t say no to a ride on a blue horse.
He posed dutifully when asked.
With Mummy’s help, he climbed into the castle and onto the big slippery dip.
And so much more. Needless to say Hudson really enjoyed his first visit to the snow. But for us, there was also so much more.
We delighted in the food, trying different restaurants and little eateries for lunch and dinner each day. We found an quirky cafe tucked away towards the top of the village which served delicious soup and made a great cappuccino and orange chocolate cake.
A Byron friend had recommended going to Daimon Soba for a nabeyaki udon. After a couple of tries, we managed to get a table at this very popular eatery and indeed, the udon was very filling. The tempura prawns also looked and smelt amazing!
And never to be forgotten was our wonderful teppanyaki experience on New Year’s Eve where every mouthful was exquisite and memorable. While dumplings are the street food of choice in Nosawa, we found some other offerings to sample.
Sharing wonderful meals with family … a highlight. There were also lots of quirky and interesting shops to peruse in search of that perfect souvenir.
But the mountain beckoned. Steve and I decided to take the plunge and give skiing a go. I was still worried about losing control on the mountain, so after I hired some boots and skis and on the recommendation of the Address Nosawa staff, I booked a private lesson with Remy, a french ski instructor. He was confident that our unused skills would magically reappear under his guidance! So filled with visions of ourselves gliding blissfully down the slopes, We caught the gondola up to the top and a new world opened up.
It looked so pretty. Soon Steve and I were snowplowing here and there and Remy announced that we were ready for a run. While I knew what my feet were supposed to be doing in order to turn correctly, I found that they were very disobedient. Suddenly, to my dismay, I found myself hurtling down the slope about to take Remy out! Just in time, I snowplowed to a halt, caught my breath and under Remy’s watchful eye, pushed off again! More snow plowing! My thighs were on fire! It was a tortuous, slow descent. I felt really bad, having dashed Remy’s hopes but fortified with green tea, I completed another run with Melissa. It felt so exhilarating to be there on the powder, in the silence surrounded by silent, snowy trees.
I loved being up on the mountain, and persuaded Kenn to catch the gondola with me the following morning.
The village disappeared as we soared towards the summit. We had a lovely time with our cameras
In the snowy landscape, I could spot Kenn easily.
After so much exercise, a soak in the onsen was a luxury I’ll never forget. Nosawa is blessed with mineral rich hot springs and the village is dotted with free public onsens or hot baths which are maintained by local families.
Now bathing, Japanese style is not for the prudish. While there are separate male and female baths, the baths are communal and you are expected to soak in them in your birthday suit.
As I mentioned earlier, Address Nosawa has its own private onsen. So I thought that I would take the plunge there first. Grabbing my onsen towel ( which is about the size of a small teatowel) I undressed and entered the washing area. Luckily, I had the onsen all to myself! Address Nosawasupplied beautiful Shiseido products for guests to use and so I scrubbed, shampooed and conditioned till I gleamed and then gingerly made my way to the hot bath. While hot, I found it not too hot and soaked all the stresses of the day away. Kenn and I were hooked. An onsen or two a day kept the aches away!
There is so much more that I would like to share: our amazing tour to see the Snow Monkeys and our brief stay in Tokyo, but it will have to wait for another post. If you have managed to read this post to the end, thank you for sharing a little Japanese snow magic with me.
Last Sunday, hoping to celebrate and share some of their cultural traditions, the local Japanese community hosted the inaugural ‘Japan’ festival on the Byron Bay beachfront. We knew that parking would be difficult so parked close to Clarkes Beach, just a short walk away from the festival.
There were lots of stalls to explore, outside on the beachfront and inside the Surf Club. I was drawn to the beautiful clothing, pottery and jewelery.
All around were members of the Japanese community and their families having fun. The children in particular, looked adorable.
And while a variety of alternative therapies are always a feature of markets in our area, it was interesting to see a Japanese perspective. I was particularly intrigued by the Singing Bowltent. It seemed a little similar to the Acutonics therapy that my sister Maryanne has trained in and which is gaining a devoted following.
And inside the surf club, there were lots of cultural activities on show. Part of the club had been turned into a tea house for the afternoon where still and silent, an appreciative audience enjoyed the tranquility and harmony of the ‘tea ceremony’.
There was origami jewellery, a calligraphy workshop, a landscape artist and Japanese board games to enjoy to name just a few of the activities on offer.
And then there were the food stalls! I will confess, it was the thought of a yummy plate of gyoza ( japanese dumplings), piping hot pork buns and yakitori that had initially enticed me to the festival. Food in hand, Kenn and I found a lovely shady spot under a nearby Pandanus palm and enjoyed every morsel and a wonderful beach view.
But for me, the highlight of the festival were the performances. Firstly a small group of Japanese children who live locally and attend a Japanese language and culture class once a week sang and danced for us.
A musical duet featuring Japanese instruments followed.
And the final performance was a Japanese drumming group from the Gold Coast. They treated us to three, terrific compositions utilising the drums in different ways. Their energy and enjoyment was infectious. For the first time in my life, I wanted to be a drummer!
The festival was a great success. I’m already looking forward to next year’s. Maybe I’ll see you there.
Feel like a gentle stroll or bike ride along a path offering lovely vistas of a particularly beautiful stretch of coastline? Then the Coastal Recreational Path might be just the thing for you. The path, which is being constructed by Ballina Shire Council, aims to connect the coastal village of Lennox Head from the Pat Morton Lookout to Angels Beach in Ballina. The southern section from Sharpe’s Beach to Angel’s Beach has been finished and as Kenn and I discovered, is well worth exploring.
We accessed the path from the Sharpe’s Beach car park as this was the closest access point to Byron Bay. The first section of the path to Flat Rock winds through picturesque heath land
while offering lovely views of the ocean.
When we reached Flat Rock, we found a viewing platform and of course access to a fantastic beach. For those who enjoy camping, there is also a tent park here.
Then the path meanders through coastal wetlands and instead of smooth bitumen we found ourselves on a slightly elevated metal walkway,
wandering past gnarly coastal banksias.
One of the things I loved about the path were the information boards providing interesting information about how the aboriginal people had interacted with the land as well as some of their dreaming stories.
All too soon, we found ourselves at Angel’s Beach.
It was also lovely to see lots of little ones on the path, cruising along in their strollers or peddling their tricycles with Mum and Dad ambling along behind. The path is very flat, perfect for beginners as well as the more advanced to ride along. We even spotted a toy poodle standing up in a bike basket, paws on the handlebars having the best time.
All too soon we were back in Lennox heading home. Next time we plan to bring our bikes and a picnic. Maybe we’ll see you there!