There’s something exhilarating about immersing oneself in the Australian bush. And Autumn is a wonderful time for bushwalking : the air is crisp yet not too cold and dangerous reptiles are beginning to if not already hibernating.
So, a week or so ago, in the midst of catching up with family in Sydney and the Central West, we wanted to take the opportunity to complete a walk or two in the beautiful Blue Mountains National Park.
Initially, we wanted to tackle the Prince Henry Cliff Walk between Katoomba and Leura. But, alas we had not done our research well enough. It was a Sunday and parking in and around Katoomba was a nightmare. We couldn’t find anywhere free to park and had to pay nearly $10 an hour so we could hop out of the car! We settled for a short walk around Echo Point and the Three Sisters.
What did we ever do before without our mobile phones? Not to be denied a challenging walk, Kenn goggled Great Blue Mountain Walks and up popped info and more importantly, images about the the Grand Canyon Walk at Blackheath. As we were spending the night in Blackheath and we had never done this walk, it seemed perfect.
Blackheath is only a few kilometres west of Katoomba. After a brief stop at the Hydro Majestic at Medlow Bath for coffee and cake, we found ourselves at the Grand Canyon car park near Evans Lookout just before midday, ready for adventure. The walk is a 6.3 km loop and should take about 3-4 hours. It begins on top of the ridge, descends via many, many steps to the canyon, follows the canyon for a couple of kilometres before ascending to the top of the ridge, again via many, many steps. The path is quite wide and very well maintained and takes you into the heart of a stunning World Heritage listed landscape.
This is not an easy walk. While the distance is relatively short, the number and nature of the steps would pose a challenge to many. But it is an incredibly beautiful walk that immerses the walker in a uniquely Australian place. Also, it is a walk that is best begun at noon at the latest, especially in the colder months. It would be quite dark down in the canyon in the late afternoon.
Blackheath is definitely worth visiting. The Grand Canyon is not the only bush walk on offer. And Blackheath has lots more to offer the visitor including wonderful food. Perhaps it was serendipity. We couldn’t have asked for a more special day in the mountains.
The deadline for using our NSW government Stay vouchers was fast approaching. But where could we go for just a night or two that was only a couple of hours away? Urunga or Yamba sprang to mind but sometimes, when you live near the beach, you long for something different.
‘Why not visit Glenrock Gardens ,’ my friend, Gerda suggested, as we sipped our cappuccinos, one morning back in September.
‘And where precisely are these gardens,’ I queried?
‘Near Tenterfield. They’re quite famous but they’ve been closed for a couple of years due to Covid.’
Tenterfield, I mused would fit the bill perfectly. Situated on the New England Tableland and surrounded by national parks, the town is only around three hours drive from Byron. Of course, we had been there before but not for a couple of years. So, decision made and Gerda and Richard on board, Tenterfield and the gardens awaited.
Accommodation was readily available and for the most part, very reasonably priced. We chose to redeem our vouchers at The Best Western, Sir Henry Parkes, Motel.
Situated on the main street, we were able to leave our cars at the motel and leisurely explore this character filled town on foot. An added bonus was The Bohemian Tearoom, which was across the road from the motel.
After lunch, we sauntered through some lovely antique shops and explored Rotary Park. Tentefield’s streetscape was lovely: well maintained heritage buildings enhanced by council landscaping – on both sides of the main street, beds of red poppies and pansies greeted visitors.
The evening was closing in and the Commercial Hotel was chosen for dinner. Refurbished and making the most of its art deco interior, this pub serves up market pub food. Although we didn’t book, (a mistake) they did make room (at very small table) for us. However, that was a minor inconvenience as we really enjoyed our pre-dinner drinks in front of a comforting fire happily ensconced on comfy leather sofas and the food was tasty.
The following morning was relatively fine. As the Gardens didn’t open til 10am, we had time for a visit to the Tenterfield Saddlery, made famous by the Peter Allen song. The little shop was full of interesting material from Australia’s colonial past including local links to Banjo Paterson and ‘Waltzing Matilda’.
However, the gardens awaited. They are located a few kilometres out of town and I would recommend using Google maps or something similar to make sure that you don’t inadvertently take a wrong turning. The gardens really are a green oasis in the Tablelands terrain.
The 10 acre gardens are designed around a series of small lakes or ponds which obviously provide much of the water for the garden. You can imagine our surprise when we found out that entry into the gardens are free!
From the main house and the newly opened barn, the gardens sweep down to the ponds in a series of terraces. The dry stone walls are quite stunning and each terrace leads to something new.
The garden is designed to feature different plants at different seasons. When we visited , it was blossom time.
There is so much to explore at the gardens. The owners have added a secret garden, a nursery and the Barn.
Amongst all the shades of green, pockets of colour gleam. More often in shades of blue and white.
Alas all good things come to an end and it was time to make our way down the mountain to Byron. On our way, we drove through Lismore which is still very much in recovery mode after the devastating floods earlier this year. Let’s hope that the current La Niña leaves us on the Northern Rivers well alone.
Killen Falls used to be a local’s hideaway until Instagrammer’s revealed its charms to the world at large. What used to be a rough bush track down to the falls has been given a facelift by Ballina council. Away from the hustle and bustle of the coast, Killen Falls is still a lovely place for a short rainforest walk and a rockpool swim despite it’s popularity,.
Killen Falls is located between Byron Bay and Ballina and is very easy to find. This website has a very clear link to Google Maps and besides, the way is now very well signposted once you’re on Friday Hut Road.
But what makes this place so special?
Like many of the waterfalls in the Northern Rivers, the track to the falls leads you along a well marked and maintained track which is home to one of the last remaining remnants of the big scrub rainforest. But unlike some tracks, like Minyon Falls, for example, the Killen Falls track is short, relatively flat and can be easily accessed by all ages.
This first part of the track brings you to a viewing platform where you can look at the falls from above.
The track gets a little rougher after the viewing platform but is still very accessible.
The only difficult part of the track is the descent to the base of the falls and this has an excellent handrail.
The descent is so worth it. At the bottom, Emigrant creek is bubbling on its way.
And following the creek upstream, you come to the base of the waterfall complete with a rainforest pool you are allowed to swim in.
This is something you cannot do at many of the other waterfall sites such as Protestor’s Falls near the Channon. Even though I understand the necessity of preserving rare frogs and other creatures, there is always a sense of disappointment when you trek through the forest on a hot summer’s day and reach an idyllic waterfall complete with its own pristine swimming hole only to find you can’t take a refreshing dip in the crystal clear water. For that reason, Kenn and I tend to walk these tracks in winter.
And perhaps most importantly for many, a trip to the falls needn’t take too much time out of precious holiday hours. Killen Falls is located very close to the coast. It took us approximately 15 mins to drive from Byron to the falls along a very pretty road. The one kilometre return walk from the base of the falls is approximately 30 mins at ambling pace. Even factoring a picnic, a couple of hours would see most people done and dusted.
There is one downside to taking a trip to the Falls. The carpark at the Falls has only got a few spaces and in peak holiday season, you could find yourself parking a long way away from the falls. At this time, during Covid, we had no trouble at all but can well imagine the crowds at Christmas time.
Bright and its surrounding area is a wonderful place to visit at any time of year but Autumn is my favourite time. Not only is there is breathtaking alpine scenery, quaint towns and villages steeped in history, wonderful river walks and easy access to Victoria’s amazing rail trails, at this time of the year, the area is awash with colour.
But would Covid allow us to visit? Well, back in early May, Kenn and I finally made it. And Bright and Mount Buffalo did not disappoint. There were still plenty of beautiful, mature autumn trees decorating the streets and countryside in hues of gold, red and burgundy, even though the trees would have been at their best, a couple of weeks earlier as many of the yellows had fully dropped.
Bright is a long way from Byron Bay, roughly 1800 kms. So we timed our trip to coincide with our grand daughter, Genevieve”s birthday celebrations in Sydney. The trip along the Pacific highway was very enjoyable as the last section of the highway between Ballina and Coffs Harbour has been completed. We stopped for brunch at Cafe Aqua in Coffs. This cafe has won many awards for its coffee and its food is excellent: tasty and reasonably priced. It is opposite the foreshore park, so a great spot to stretch your legs if you so wish. A few hours later, we found ourselves at Hornsby on the outskirts of Sydney. This time, we did not get into the wrong lane and find ourselves heading for the Blue Mountains along the North Connex tunnel! This time, we stayed on the M1 and made our way to the Northern Beaches stress-free.
Genevieve, who started school this year, was turning 6! It seems like yesterday that I was holding her for the first time in Perth! She was so excited about her party and so to were her two little sisters. 20 little friends had been invited and there was going to be a very special guest, a princess who would paint their faces and organise party games .
The party was a huge success. We also made time for a coastal walk to Manly and popped into the Art gallery there.
Early Monday morning found us navigating our way out of Sydney and along the Hume highway to Bright. My sister, Jenny recommended that we stop at Trapper’s Bakery in Goulburn for morning tea. It was a great choice and just opposite the Big Merino so it was easy to find. The rest of the drive passed without incident except for the last 100 or so kms. We didn’t have a road map of Victoria with us and although we did know where Bright was, as we crossed the Murray River at Albury, we decided to ask Google Maps to direct us the rest of the way. It was definitely the scenic route as we navigated various back roads to Bright. Still, we arrived with plenty of time to check into our accommodation, a cabin in a nearby caravan park just a few kilometres from Bright on the Ovens River. This was our first time in this type of accommodation and the cabin exceeded our expectations. It was spacious, quiet, well equipped, very comfortable and even had a wood fire. That evening, snuggled up on the leather sofa watching the flames dancing about in the fire and with a good red wine from Rutherglen in my hand, I felt that our little Victorian tripette had really begun!
Early next morning, we enjoyed an early morning walk to the river before breakfast.
As well as enjoying some of what this region has to offer, we were also reconnecting with a long lost branch of Kenn’s family. The two branches hadn’t met for well over a hundred years following Kenn’s great grandfather’s departure for the green fields of the central west of NSW.
While socialising with others is always wonderful, we were looking forward to exploring more of the haunts of Kenn’s ancestors. His great grandfather James had been raised near Wandiligong, which is just a few kilometres from Bright. As we drove towards the village in the early morning mist, we were treated to a quintessential, Australian bush scene.
Wandiligong has a rich mining history and there is an interesting walk on the outskirts of the village that takes you along the creek to the old Chinese diggings.
This was going to be a busy day. The Bright Visitor Centre was our next stop. We found out that we didn’t have enough time this trip to really explore the rail trails so decided to visit Mt Buffalo instead. This is a bush walker’s paradise. Due to time constraints, we chose three of the short walks to tackle: the Eurobin falls Track, the Gorge Catani Track and the Horn Track.
Next, we wanted to visit the chalet and the Gorge Day Visitor Centre. We were disappointed to see the chalet still in disrepair. Hopefully, it will be restored to its former beauty sometime soon. It was time for an early lunch. While the picnic facilities were very good all over the mountain, we hoped to support local businesses so hadn’t packed any lunch, only water. However, on on the day we went, no cafes were open, a fact the visitor centre in Bright and the information sheet from National Parks had failed to mention. Since we couldn’t while an hour away over an amazing lunch and linger over a hot latte, we set off for Lake Catani.
On the return to the Gorge Day Visitor Area, we noticed signs for walks to the Underground river and the Monolith. We were so tempted to do both but knew that we also wanted to go to the horn, the highest point on Mount Buffolo. The Horn is about a 30 minutes drive from the Gorge and the last couple of kms is on an unsealed road. While the walk is only a km long return, it is very steep.
It was time to channel our inner hunter gatherer and go in search of food. There were not eateries open at 4pm in Bright so we settled on a ‘gourmet’ pie and a coffee. In this part of the world, a pie is not just a pie! It is gourmet, artisan, vegan or lovingly pummeled into shape by somebody’s nanna and baked to perfection in an ancient wood stove! Accordingly, they are not cheap but starving walkers can’t be choosy! And really, what a wonderful day we had had.
Back at our cabin, there was another treat: a beautiful sunset.
Another action packed day awaited us the following morning. We wanted to fit in the famous “Canyon Walk” at Bright, hightail it to Yakandandah for lunch with Carmel, one of Kenn’s cousins, make it back to Bright for afternoon tea with the Victorian ‘Sealeys’ at their farm and treat ourselves to Dinner at an historic pub. Could we do it?
Lunch at Yackandandah and afternoon tea did not disappoint. either. It was so good to reconnect and natter away. But after such a busy day, we certainly didn’t want to cook for ourselves. The Happy Valley Pub came highly recommended by the relatives and was on the way home. We had no idea that the place would be so busy on a Thursday night but serendipity, they had a table for two! The pub is well over 100 years old and instead of one large dining area, we found ourselves in one of several smaller dining rooms, which were tastefully decorated in a colonial manner and warmed by open fires. Needless to say, we really enjoyed our meal but would heed the advice we had been given to book ahead next time.
It was overcast and very cold as we packed up next morning. Apparently, it was snowing just up the road and we certainly could believe it. It made leaving a little easier and as well, we were concerned about a covid case that had been found in Melbourne and didn’t want to be caught on the wrong side of the border.
There is just one little highlight I would like to share with you. On our way back to Sydney, my sister Jenny suggested that we meet at the Sir George Pub at Jugiong for lunch. This was a great suggestion. We got to eat a delicious meal, stretch our legs and explore the Long Track Pantry which was right next door. The pantry’s newsletter shared two of their iconic recipes, one of which I have tried and loved.
This trip was not long enough! Next time, hopefully next year, we would like to revisit Omeo, Mount Beauty, Yackandandah and Harrietville. We’re both keen to tackle some of the rail trails that criss cross the area and I know Kenn would like to kayak some of lakes and rivers. And there might be time for a little detour to Rutherglen, one of my favourite wine areas or perhaps to the Grampions? Nothing is very far away in Victoria.
Autumn is a delightful time of year. Here in Byron Bay, it brings warm sunny days and cool evenings that invite you to snuggle down under a doona. While it is still warm enough to swim in the bay without a wetsuit, it’s the season for beach walking.
Lovely as Byron is at this time of the year, there is something missing. I can’t walk through drifts of red, yellow or orange leaves and breathe in the scent of wood smoke. I can’t see avenues of claret and golden ash trees or bright yellow poplars blazing against bright blue skies or taste the tang of early morning frosty air.
Time for a Road Trip!
And so, a couple of years ago, Kenn and I took to the Pacific highway in search of ‘that season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.’ After a brief stopover in Sydney to catch up with family and friends, we headed south. Our first destination was Thredboin the Snowy Mountains, where we hoped to climb to the summit of Australia’s highest mountain, Mt Kosciuszko. Autumn was all around us as we stopped for brunch at the Magpie cafe in historic Berrima.
After a short stop in Jindabyne to gather supplies, we were soon settling into our delightful studio at Snowgoose Apartments in Thredbo. From our balcony we watched as the sun began to set behind the mountain and the mist started to rise. Yep, we were in “Man from Snowy River” country, ready for some high country adventures.
The following morning dawned as perfectly as one hopes a morning will dawn in the mountains. However, we had been warned that the weather can be very changeable on Mt. Kosciuszko, so we dressed accordingly: walking boots, merino thermals, waterproof jackets, gloves and beanies. And yes we did indeed resemble Yetis out for an afternoon stroll!
Unfortunately the main chairlift, the Kosciuszko express was out for maintenance and we had to take the Snowgum chairliftto the top of the mountain. This meant that our trek to the summit begun with a very, and I mean very, steep 500 metre climb to the beginning of the Kosciuszko walking trail. Bleating like an injured mountain goat, I scrambled over rocks and protruding snow gum roots until I eventually found myself looking up at the Eagle Nest Restaurant, ready to begin the real trek!
To protect the delicate, alpine environment, National Parks have constructed an elevated walkway for the 7 or so kms to the summit. This was a very pleasant, easy climb. We noticed that many of the small streams that meander across the plateau, had frozen over during the night and that there were still tiny delicate flowers and mosses snuggling between the rocks.
Soon we had to take off beanies, scarves and coats, it was so warm. And there was hardly another person in sight. We were alone, just us and the mountains and the sky. Coming to a fork in the track, we saw the sign for Charlotte’s Pass. A trek for another day?
Approaching the summit, the views in every direction were fantastic. Although there was no snow where we were, we could see the snow capped peaks of the Victorian Alps to the south.
Soon we were at the summit, celebrating with others and enjoying our picnic lunch.
An easy downhill stroll saw us easily meet our rendezvous with the chairlift and we enjoyed our half hour descent. The beautiful weather continued as next morning, we enjoyed the river walk which follows the Thredbo River and Golf Course.
Following the call of the road, we resumed our trip, stopping for morning tea at Lake Jindabyne.
Not only was the lake looking wonderful but there were poplars lining the shore.
Our road trip took us along the Snowy Mountains highway to Yarrangabilly Caveswhere we stopped for lunch and a swim in the thermal pool. Again, we would have liked to stay longer. Caves House, which has very competitive rates, looked very inviting. Although we have explored the caves before, we would have liked to do so again.
The beautiful town of Tumut awaited us. I knew that the town had just celebrated ‘The festival of the Falling Leaf’ so was hoping that the autumn colour I had been hankering for would still be on display. It was! As we strolled along the Tumut River Walk in the late afternoon, I couldn’t have asked for more.
But our road trip was not finished. From Tumut, we traveled to Cowra via Gundagai and Young. Here we were catching up with family and friends. We enjoyed a memorable lunch at the Cowra Breakout, a lovely coffee shop located in Macquarie St and perused the lovely shops nearby. Cowra, too is full of autumn colour.
A visit to the Japanese Gardens is particularly beautiful at this time of year.
That night, we enjoyed a special country dinner. My sister Jenny cooked the best roast lamb dinner I have tasted for ages. It was so tender and so full of flavour that I wanted to be like Oliver in ‘Oliver Twist’ and ask for more! It was of course, Cowra Lamb, a brand that is finding a lot of fans around Australia and overseas.
But all good things have to come to an end. It was time to return home. Usually the thought of the 1000 km plus drive would be a trifle daunting. But the countryside, as we drove from Cowra across the Central West and the Liverpool plains of NSW heading north, was just stunning. Full to the brim with mellow fruitfulness; shining with the colours of the fall.
Do you love Autumn too? We are planning to treat ourselves to another autumn break this year. We are hoping to visit the Southern Highlands or Northern Victoria. Northern Victoria is our preference. As well as having beautiful Autumn scenery in and around historic little towns like Bright and Mt Beauty, this part of the world hosts iconic bush destinations like the high mountain huts and numerous bike trails. But of course, all will depend on Covid restrictions or lack thereof of course. Maybe we’ll see you there.
It’s been ages since I last wrote a post. But it’s been such fabulous summer so far in the bay that I felt the urge to write and share . Lovely weather and perfect beach conditions were enhanced by the laughter of family and friends and that special magic that sparkles when five grandchildren: three beautiful girls from Sydney and two gorgeous boys from Byron really connect, as only those aged 5 and under can.
Earlier in the season, it looked as if fun times at the beach wouldn’t happen, given the terrible erosion of the dunes along Main Beach caused by a series of big spring storms. But despite the damage, the storms were wonderful to observe. Observe that is from a distance! Back in November, Kenn and I were walking along a sun drenched Wategoes Beach as dark and menacing clouds massed on the horizon appearing to hold their breath while assessing how quickly to strike.
Of course, later that afternoon, the storm did reach us and it was terrible to see the erosion it caused. Trees that had lined the beach were uprooted and the rocks exposed. The beach cafe nearly disappeared into the sea and beach access ramps were destroyed.
But as Summer settled in, Mother Nature began to restore the shoreline and in the process, created a beautiful lagoon at the southern end of the beach. Now this isn’t the first time, a lagoon has appeared here, but this has been the most extensive and beautiful one by far, in my opinion. By Christmas Day, the lagoon was the place to be. Carrying umbrellas, beach chairs, towels, sand toys and morning tea, we made our way from Captain Cook’s lookout down to the beach where we met up with Melissa, Ben and the boys. The beach was not deserted by any means but it was not overcrowded either. It felt great actually to be surrounded by so many families. Covid has made us more appreciative I think, of simple pleasures. Whether it be that first refreshing dive into the water, watching two year old Jude launch himself into the water with squeals of delight or accompanying four year old Huddy on a tour of his rock pools, complete with an informative commentary of life within said pools and the proper method for navigating around them, just being there, sharing, in such a beautiful place, was the best.
While the lagoon was beautiful, I have to admit that we did spend time at beaches like Flat Rock near Ballina as well. There are times when only a long beach wander will do.
But when Christian and Kelly and the girls arrived from Sydney, the lagoon was the must do daily activity. The girls from Sydney and the boys from Byron hadn’t had much opportunity to get together before this and definitely made the most of the opportunity.
Over January, we have watched as the lagoon has begun to shrink. Some of the sand which the spring storms dumped into the bay is being pushed north towards Main Beach. However, at the moment, it still beckons us to spend a lazy hour or so floating around. Change is all part of the ebb and flow of beach life. Looking forward to sharing more of the highlights of our Byron Summer.
Stuck in Covid isolation, Kenn and I have found ourselves bingeing on Netflix or Foxtel. Now this is not necessarily a bad way to while away an afternoon or two or three but I’ve found there’s been some unintended consequences.
I think I’m in danger of turning into a social media meme because I couldn’t just sit or lie on the lounge and watch TV for an extended period of time. I obviously needed to build up my stamina for this new endeavour for I found myself taking lots of breaks to peruse the depths of the pantry or the fridge for a little something; preferably something I had just baked that morning, stashed in the darkest recesses of the freezer or opened the night before. All too soon, my jeans seemed a little tight. This had to stop. I had no desire to turn into a puffer fish. I still harboured dreams of being a svelte sardine!
So to stop my hands wandering on their merry way to my mouth and depositing inches on my hips, I opened the door to my craft cupboard where my yarn stash awaited. As I watched the first season of Prodigal Son, Locke and Key, and Ozark, caught up with some old favourites like Anne with an E and movies such as Ride like a Girl and Downton Abbey just to name a few, I’ve knitted and I’ve knitted. And without meaning to, everything I’ve knitted is a different shade of blue.
Happy with earlier efforts knitting with cotton and cotton blend yarns, I firstly finished a summer top for myself in Drops Paris, a cotton linen yarn which I had begun before Christmas and neglected. And I persuaded my daughter Melissa to model the finished project for me.
Next came a cardigan for Genevieve. I finished it in time for her birthday a couple of weeks ago. She turned 5! It seems just yesterday that Kenn and I were holding her for the first time in Perth! And she is still as lovely as she was then, a wonderful big sister to Frankie and Harriet. We were a little sad that we couldn’t be there to help blow out her candles but that’s Covid for you.
Once again I found the pattern and yarn on Lovecrafts. I knitted it in Willow and Lark’s Nest which is a beautiful blend of merino wool, cashmere and tencel. It is really lovely to knit with.
Well with two knits for two of the girls, it was time for the boys. As many of you know I have two beautiful grandsons who serendipitously live here in Byron Bay. I thought it would be super cute to knit them matching jumpers but in different colourways. But instead of wool, I would knit them in cotton which suits our winter better.
After much deliberation and a long chat with my sister Jenny, I settled on a pattern by Oge Knitwear Designs. Again I purchased this pattern on Lovecrafts and downloaded it.
And then it was time for Jude’s. What colours do you pick for a Botticelli cherub?
Why white of course! The main section and second contrast is knitted in King Cole’s Bamboo Cotton while the first contrast is knitted in Drops Cotton Light. I think both jumpers look great but I personally prefer the feel of Jude’s jumper. Bamboo Cotton is a great yarn!
Restrictions are now beginning to ease and maybe it’s coincidental or maybe it’s my subconscious at work but my current project intended for Francesca, Genevieve’s sister, is ruby red! The Moody Blues have left the needles.
It’s been an awful few weeks for all of us. There is such a sense of loss pervading the world. It’s hard to grasp the loss of life first in China, then Italy, Iran, Spain and more recently the UK and the United States. While here in Australia, we seem to be doing well in comparison to the rest of the world, Covid 19, with its plethora of social distancing regulations is still affecting all of us in many different ways : some good, some not so good.
For example, I thought that social distancing and social isolation would be a breeze for me. After all, hadn’t I whiled away many an afternoon lost between the pages of a good book? All by myself? And I had made a serious New Year’s resolution; namely to don my Marie Kondo persona and declutter every room in the house – a herculean task that would keep me gainfully employed at home and Vinnies restocked for the foreseeable future! And there was the cupboard full of crafty stuff longing to see the light of day. All I had to do was open it.
But I discovered that it’s one thing tochooseto be isolated and busy in your own home and quite another to be forced to isolate and social distance and be busy in your own home. Initially, for me, it changed how I viewed these ‘at home’ activities. They lost some of their appeal because, with the exception of going out for some exercise, they were the only things I could do. I spent too much time dwelling on what I couldn’t do. Whether it was spending precious time with the grandkids, going out for coffee or a meal with friends, enjoying a visit to the cinema or local library, being able to exercise with more than one person or leisurely browse the shops for that perfect but non-essential gift or new pair of shoes, I was resentful that for a time, my connections to the wider world had changed.
However, when I began focusing on what I could do, I found that although much had changed, I had so much for which I was grateful.
Back in early February nearly 24 inches or 600 mls of rain decided to fall on Byron Bay over a couple of days. It was a deluge. So much rain that we were almost flooded!
Despite spending far too many hours sweeping water away dressed for the occasion in my pyjamas and gumboots, or on hold with the SES or bemoaning the lack of sandbags, I am very grateful that the house survived intact and was not awash with mud and slush.
So of course, now that we are confined for the most part, to the house, Kenn and I have been busy repairing the damage. Generally, I’ve watched, admired, made coffee and planted while Kenn did all the hard stuff.
And while the garden continues to be a work in progress, we have taken advantage of the beautiful autumn weather to leave the house and get some exercise. Mindful of social distancing we have generally avoided the walk up to the lighthouse for even in this time of social distancing amid the Corona virus pandemic, there are still lots of dedicated walkers ahead of you and behind you. Instead we have enjoyed the Three Sisters’ Walk at Broken Head and its easy to see why.
The track is only 1.6 kms return and follows the clifftop to a lookout over Kings Beach.
We have also enjoyed daily beach walks. We are lucky that people have obeyed the rules and so our beaches have not been closed.
Kenn has thoughtfully pumped up the tyres on our pushbikes and we have ridden around our local bike track. It hasn’t changed very much since I wrote abouta year or so ago. And of course, I’ve been able to go to golf. I really was upset when for two whole days golf was on the taboo list. Byron Bay Golf Course is just beautiful at the moment and I’m enjoying the stroll around the course while I try to curb my wayward driver, over enthusiastic pitching wedge and disobedient putter. It’s great to chat, from a distance with your partner as you complete the course but of course I miss the the fun of the 19th hole. But how good is it that I’m able to play?
Now that I can’t go out for dinner or lunch as I used to do, I found myself spending a lot more time in the kitchen. I’ve been cooking some retro recipes such as my sister Jenny’s curried sausages. Haven’t had curried sausages for years but these were delicious. And of course I’ve baked bread! As I kneaded vigorously for the required 10 or so minutes I told myself that I was building muscle that I would be able to utilise for my drive. ( I wonder how many loaves of bread I will have to knead before I notice a change?)
My Marie Kondo persona has also made a tentative reappearance. The great decluttering has begun! Kenn tackled the garage and following quite a few trips to the tip, the floor and walls resurfaced. Inside, the study is once again an inviting space. There’s still so much to do but then Covid 19 isn’t going to go away anytime soon.
Now I’ve never been one to linger over housework but Covid has made me more thorough than normal. I actually wipe most surfaces such as floors, benches and door handles with disinfectant everyday where it would have been once every few days or in the case of door handles, once in a blue moon. To make the task more appealing, I’m using a local product that has a wonderful scent of lemon myrtle. It’s like bringing the rainforest into your home.
Nor have my afternoons been idle. There has been time to read or binge on Netflix or Foxtel while knitting a little cardigan here or a little jumper there for the grand children. The craft cupboard is well and truly open for business.
I’m hanging out for an easing of restrictions. While I was sad to say goodbye to our overseas trip to the UK ( we were due to fly out late May) I’m more concerned that I won’t be able to travel to Darwin at the end of July to meet a new grand child. When this little one comes into the world, Kenn and I will have seven little Australian grandchildren. Who would have thought? We were childless nearly 5 years ago! At the very least, it would be lovely to be able to travel intrastate and catch up with family that we haven’t seen for months. While face-time is great, it can’t replace that special hug a little one bestows.
For the moment we have to keep on keeping and focus on those little things that make each day special: the flowers, the blue butterfly that loves visiting the azalea, the breeze in the trees or just that special cup of coffee made for you with love.
I have a confession to make. I thought I was fairly au fait with my Australian geography until my daughter Lyndsay and her husband Reece traveled across the Kimberley with the express purpose of exploring Cape Leveque,
“Cape Leveque? Is’nt that somewhere in New Zealand,” I asked?
“No Mum, it’s the tip of the Dampier Peninsula which is north of Broome!” Lyndsay replied
“And just what’s so great about the place?” I demanded to know. “I know why people want to explore places like Cape Tribulation in Far North Queensland on the East coast. After all, that’s where you’ll find the Daintree rainforest, Mossman Gorge and the Great Barrier Reef. But what’s so special about Cape Leveque?”
” It’s remote, beautiful, serene and unspoilt. You’ll understand when you’re there,” she answered.
So a visit to Cape Leveque became a must do on our Kimberley adventure. We found ourselves driving from the Ramada Eco Resort south of Broome to Kooljaman on the northern tip of Cape Leveque. We wanted to spend a couple of days there before working our way south along the cape towards Broome and Derby where we would begin the trek home to Byron Bay.
Kooljamanat Cape Leveque is a remote wilderness camp owned and run by the Indigenous Bardi Jawi Communities. We opted to stay in a shady powered campsite from which we had a wonderful view of the lighthouse. I would definitely recommend booking in advance. We witnessed many being turned away and we weren’t in the Peak season.
As soon as we had set up camp, it was time for a swim and an exploratory walk .
Late afternoon, found us back at the resort, enjoying a sundowner before we made our way down to the western beach to watch the sunset splash the Pindan cliffs with colour.
Travel often brings moments of serendipity and Cape Leveque was to prove no exception. The following morning, after a leisurely breakfast, we were meandering along the swimming beach, trying to decide if it was hot enough to plunge in, when a voice from the water called out:
“Kenn Sealey, is that you?”
Lo and behold, it was a group of old friends from Condobolin whom we hadn’t seen for over 20 years! They too were exploring the Kimberley but in reverse order to us. We had a lot of catching up to do so agreed to meet that evening for dinner at Kooljaman’s restaurant. But before that happened, we had a pearl farm to explore.
Cygnet Bay Pearl farm is just a few kilometers away from Kooljaman on the eastern side of the cape overlooking King Sound. There are lots of accommodation options here as well. As well as exploring the pearl galleries, we enjoyed a wonderful lunch on the deck overlooking the horizon pool and a boat tour.
However, the tour was fabulous. We witnessed the huge tidal movements that make this part of the world so interesting and explored many of the islands that speckle the sound. It is definitely worth doing your research though. There are so many different tours to take including one that takes you to a waterfall in the sea!
All good things must end and it was time to return to Kooljaman and prepare for dinner with our intrepid friends, who have serious camping and 4WD skills having reached the Kimberley via the Strzelecki Track.
It was time to leave Kooljaman and head south. We were heading for Whalesong Campground,another Lyndsay suggestion. Whalesong campground is located on Pender Bay just around the corner from Middle Lagoon. This has to be one of the most magical places I have ever camped.
Access to the campsites is via a private track through pristine bushland.
And the open air facilities such as the shower and kitchen were rustic, functional and beautiful.
For a small cost, quality wood was delivered to our campsite.
The campsite had the most amazing views over the bay especially in the early morning as the sun came up.
Whalesong also runs a coffee hub every morning where you can also purchase a range of Gubinge ( Kakadu Plum) products which are created on site by this wonderful indigenous family in a sustainable, ethical and wild harvest way. Do take the time to check out their website. We bought some for us and some as gifts for friends back home. A real taste of the Kimberley!
As we were spending a couple of nights here, we decided to check out Middle Lagoon which had also come highly recommended. We packed a picnic lunch, and drove there in about 20 minutes. But while Middle Lagoon has a lovely position around the point from Pendar Bay, it was also very crowded. It is obviously very popular with the caravan and boating set despite the terrible road in! However the beaches weren’t crowded and the swimming was idyllic.
All too soon, it was time to break camp and head south to Derby. On the way, we stopped at Beagle Bay.
So as Lyndsay had predicted, I discovered that Cape Leveque is indeed remote, beautiful serene and unspoilt. It generates its own, unique wonder that more than justifies the effort it takes to get there. It is an essential part of a Kimberley adventure, and like so many others, we would love to return.
Sometimes serendipity comes into your life and truly memorable experiences occur. This was certainly the case with our stay at Eco Beach Resort or as it’s also known, the Ramada Resort, Eco Beach Broome. Although the resort appealed on so many levels: location, facilities and ethos, a stay seemed out of reach as my initial research placed it well over my accommodation budget. But then, just on a whim, I visited their website and noticed a wonderful deal on their glamping tents for my dates which was well within budget.
Wow, a bit of real luxury in the Kimberley overlooking the Indian Ocean. And it would be my birthday week! What could be better? Although I could have booked online, I rang the resort and booked in and picked up useful tips for getting to the resort which is about 130 kms from Broome.
Although we hadn’t opted for an ocean view tent, we were allocated a glamping tent which was just a few steps away from a wonderfully equipped camp kitchen and overlooked the waterlily lagoon.
I have to admit that aside from boiling some water, we didn’t avail ourselves of the camp kitchen. The resort has a wonderful restaurant, Jack’s Bar and Restaurant which overlooks the Indian Ocean. It was simply the most perfect spot for breakfast, happy hour and dinner. And the service was to die for. I will always remember how Justin went and found binoculars at the mere mention that Kenn was whale watching. Everyone was so helpful and genuinely kind especially Rebecca and Katrina on the front desk.
And as for watching the sunset!
I had only booked two nights, so we tried to fit in as much as we could. We absolutely adored spending time by the pool.
Then there was the beach and the ocean to explore. Just below the resort, on the beach are a number of beach shelters, complete with hammocks, where you can set up camp for a couple of hours and try your hand at paddle boarding or kayaking which are complimentary activities.
So, just for fun, I lugged a kayak to the ocean and took off, keeping to the shallows. I paddled and I paddled and I paddled!. But my kayak was obstinate and wouldn’t go where I told it to go! Eventually, I gave up, returned to shore and watched Kenn show me how its done from the comfort of a hammock. Still I have to say that swimming in the ocean there was beautiful. The water was so clear and a lovely temperature, warmer than the pool and like Cable Beach in Broome, very calm.
However, a highlight for us was the 7km walk to Cape Villaret, the southern most tip of Roebuck Bay. The wonders of the Kimberley coastline surround you as you wander along a pristine beach, spotting wildlife and exploring interesting landforms. The walk is best tackled at low tide if you don’t want to get wet.
Walking home, we noticed that the tide was very low and the sand became a mirror for the cliffs that line the coastline.
We also found time to walk for a couple of hours north along the beach. Even though there were lots of people at the resort, we hardly ever saw anyone else on our walks. I also found time to attend a yoga class. These classes are complimentary. I missed the more active morning class and attended the evening class instead. The resort does have a day spa but I didn’t have enough time to book in, unfortunately. Next time perhaps.
Eco Beach is a very, very special place. Very conscious of its ecological footprint, it is a haven of peace and tranquility and a wonderful place to experience some Kimberley magic. Look up their website, grab yourself a bargain and visit. You won’t be disappointed.