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.
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.
Like many others, exploring the Kimberley region of Western Australia, a vast pristine wilderness full of beautiful gorges cut through ancient orange and red Kimberley rock and possessing a dramatic and largely untouched coastline has been on our bucket list for a long time.
While there are many ways to experience this wonderful part of Australia including luxury cruises and tours, we allocated ourselves six weeks and leaving on the first of June, drove from Byron Bay to Cape Leveque and back in our trusty Toyota Prado towing nothing.
Choosing this option gave us the freedom to customize our trip. We were able to visit parts of Queensland we had never seen, detour to Darwin to visit family and veer a little from the usual tourist path when opportunity presented itself. And our decision not to tow a caravan or camper trailer enabled us to sample a variety of accommodation which included motels, airbnb, roadhouses, outback pubs, glamping at spectacular resorts and camping in our very own, quite comfortable, two room tent. We loved the variety and the occasional touch of luxury and choosing to travel like this saved us a lot of time over all as we were able to travel faster and didn’t have to set up and pack up camp all the time.
Byron Bay to Katherine
The first stage of our adventure involved driving from Byron Bay to Katherine in the Northern Territory, a journey of around 3000 kms. We wanted the journey as well as our Kimberley destination to be memorable, so only drove for approximately 600 kms each day. This gave us an enjoyable taste of what there is to see and do in this part of the world. We stopped at Mitchell, Longreach, Mt Isa and the Three Ways roadhouse on our way to Katherine. Each destination and sometimes the little towns in between, many of which I had never heard of before, had something special to remember them by.
Our first stop was the little town of Mitchell in the Maranoa Region of South West Queensland.
We stayed in a delightful Airbnb,Serenity Housewhich was a delightful little cottage on acreage on the outskirts of town.
Although we could have easily dined in, we chose the friendly restaurant attached to the local motel for a delicious dinner. But really, the most memorable thing about Mitchell was the Great Artesian Spa.
We especially enjoyed the drive from this point on as we had an excellent straight road mainly to ourselves.
We were traveling along the Matilda Way, an iconic outback highway. We stopped at Tambo but as it was a Sunday, couldn’t stop at the famous Tambo Teddies but contented ourselves with an early lunch at the Tambo Lake and rest area.
All too soon, we were back in the car and on our way to Longreach, still a few hours away. We arrived with plenty of time to find our motel and visit the Stockman’s Hall of Fame before dinner at the Services Club.
There is a lot to see and do in Longreach but we couldn’t see it all on this trip. After all, the Kimberley was our priority. Our next stop was Mount Isa but on the way, we stopped at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum at Winton. This spur of the moment decision, (we just happened to see a billboard on the side of the road) became one of the highlights of our trip. The museum is located on the top of a ‘jump up’ a kind of flat topped hill, about 20 kms from Winton. The views over the plains from the top are wonderful.
The entry fee is not inexpensive but so worth it. And it is possible to customise your visit to suit your family or personal interests.
Firstly we viewed a short documentary about the dinosaur discoveries around Winton, their lifestyle back in the day and the manner of their death. A paleontologist then showed us the actual fossils of the two most famous dinosaurs found at Winton, who have been named Banjo and Matilda, explaining what can be deduced from them. To be so up close and personal with the remains of creatures who roamed Australia so long ago was a thrill. While this was a great orientation what really appealed to us about this museum was the visit to the Dinosaur Canyon. This is situated a kilometer or two from the main building and is accessed by a cute motorised train. The Dinosaur Canyon attraction consists of a spectacular building perched on a cliff overlooking a 300 metre elevated concrete pathway through a gorge, along which five outdoor dinosaur galleries have been positioned.
While it was fascinating to look at these wonderful bronze exhibits in the wild as it were and listen to the informative commentary, children and adults alike were encouraged to make brass rubbings at each exhibit and take away a personal reminder of their visit.
One gallery remains very much a work in progress. This is the valley of the Cycads. This is because drought and white ants have damaged the original plantings but the curators are determined to succeed.
I will admit that our visit was enhanced by the weather. It was a glorious early June day and all around us, the bush was flowering and the birds were in full song.
Back at the reception area, we lunched at the cafe, which also has a lovely outlook. I appreciated my cappucchino, something not always readily available in the Outback. Back in the Prado, we still had a quite a way to go to reach Mount Isa by nightfall but managed it easily.
Our overnight stay at the Copper Gate Motel was very pleasant and after refueling we headed north and west over the Barkly Tableland. It was sad to see how the drought has really put its mark on this area. Even so, it had an eerie beauty of its own.
Our next stop was the Three Ways Roadhouse where luckily we didn’t have to fill up with fuel as it was well into the $1.90’s for diesel. Our accommodation in one of the ‘Glendale’ rooms was very basic but clean and relatively quiet.
Next morning, we were on the road early as we wanted to stop at Mataranka and take a dip in the Thermal pools before reaching Katherine. I could easily spend a couple of days here and noticed that the camping facilities were very good. The area was made famous by the novel We of the Never Never – a book written about nearby Elsey Station by Jeannie Gunn and there is a lot of memorabilia about Jeannie at Mataranka Homesteadwhere we stopped for lunch and had a quick swim in the Thermal Pool. This was a lovely experience but we enjoyed our trip to Bitter Springs which lies about two kilometers to the north even more.
But our time in Nature’s hot tubs was not at an end. Arriving in Katherine, we got to spend quality time with our daughter Lyndsay, husband Reece and eleven month old Ilyssia. And where better than the Katherine Hot Springs which are in the middle of a major restoration.
As we had two nights in Katherine, we also visited Katherine Gorge. Although we last visited the gorge a few years ago, I was surprised to see that the cost of kayaking and cruising the gorge had more than doubled. This time, we chose to complete a bush walk which brought us out to a great lookout.
The first part of our big adventure had come to an end. I was surprised by how rewarding this part of the trip was. Even though I experienced some serious twinges of NB (numb bum) syndrome as a result of sitting for too long in a seat that could only recline a couple of inches, the changing landscapes, the experiences and the people made the journey a worthwhile end in itself. And still the Western Kimberley beckoned. Would it live up to all the hype? I’ll let you know next time.
Most visitors to Byron Bay love the walk that takes them up to the Bay’s iconic lighthouse and down to the Australia’s most easterly point. It offers those who are willing to tackle the steps to the top, lovely beach and coastal rainforest vistas. And leaning on the fence at the point, you can gaze out over a seemingly limitless Pacific ocean or peruse the bottom of the cliff where turtles and dolphins like to hang out. And because it is so lovely, there are always lots of people to share the moment with you.
But if you hanker for a little bit of shady solitude or want to imagine yourself castaway on your own private, pristine little cove then meandering along the Three Sisters’ walk at Broken Head just to the south of the centre of Byron Bay might be for you. It certainly suited our daughter Lyndsay who together with baby Ilyssia was visiting us from Darwin.
“Jingi Walla” you are welcomed to the track, which begins to the right of the Broken Head carpark, by the traditional owners and joint custodians of the Broken Head Nature Reserve, the Bundjalung people of Byron Bay. The track is only 1.6 kms return and follows the clifftop to a lookout over Kings Beach.
As well as the Three Sisters Walk, Broken Head has a beautiful beach which is patrolled in school holidays. Across the dunes from the beach is a large grassy play area complete with undercover picnic tables and barbecues. There is also an amenities block and basic supplies such as an essential ice cream or two, can be obtained from the kiosk in the adjoining Holiday Park.
July 2018: a wonderful time of year in Darwin when the days were endlessly sunny and it wasn’t too hot and humid. When there was nothing much nicer than floating around beside the Arafura Sea in one of Australia’s most scenic swimming pools or savouring fresh barramundi and chips on an evening picnic, as you watched the sun sink in a fiery ball into the sea.
July 2018: and we could finally go to the famous or ‘infamous’ Beer Can Regatta which is held each year on Mindil Beach. We discovered that there was a special protocol which needed to be followed for building and propelling your hand made, beer can vessel.
And as well as the main race, the Battle of Mindil, there were lots of other events to keep those camera phones busy: people watching, kayak races, tug of war, an Iron Person competition, Thong Throwing (only in Australia!) and the Henley on Mindil.
As well as the formal programme, there were lots of entertainment for young and old alike and fabulous stalls to explore at the market.
July 2018: when we were able to witness a fabulous star gazing event, a blood red moon caused by the longest, total eclipse this century and accompanied by Mars, which was at it’s brightest and closest for 15 years.
And most importantly at 11 pm on the 26th July, 2018, our Darwin Dream baby arrived.
After a delay of a week or two, Ilyssia Claire Blackfinally made her way into the world following an emergency Caesaraen section and she was just so beautiful!
It has been one of the joys in life for Kenn and I to witness each of our children welcoming their own little miracles into the world. Words and images can’t really capture that extraordinary depth of feeling as you experience so many firsts.
And even though I can see Reece, her father looking out at me, gazing at her asleep takes me back to when Lyndsay was a wee little baby.
Alas, all too soon it was time to share her with other members of the family and we had to fly home to Byron to prepare for our trip to China. But I wasn’t too sad as I had already booked my return ticket to Darwin for a catch up visit.
Early September, and it was feeling a little like deja vu, as I traveled to Brisbane to catch a flight to Darwin. Lys was now 6 weeks old and Lyndsay was finally able to get out and about.
Ilyssia has already become a cafe aficionado. She enjoys acai berries and matcha tea lattes! She is such a good baby: just feeds, sleeps and gurgles. Lyndsay looked quite rested for a new mum as well. Lys has obviously decided that she’s not a party animal yet. Sleeping for 5 to 6 hours at a stretch through the night, she is being very considerate of her parents.
Luckily for us, four weeks later, Lyndsay had to attend a conference of the Gold Coast and present a paper as part of her PHD and she asked if Kenn and I would like to babysit Ilyssia between sessions. Of course we jumped at the opportunity to spend more time with our Darwin baby. We were staying at Broadbeach, within 5 mins walk from the Crown Casino where the conference was being held. There we went for long walks with Lys along the beachfront.
A couple of times, Lyndsay was able to join us and we would explore further afield. One such place was the Cascade Gardens.Snuggled close to Mum, Lys took in the sights.
Following the conference, Lyndsay and Lys were able to spend a couple of days in Byronand meet her cousin Hudson. Huddy didn’t really want to share his mummy with Ilyssia but did think Lys was very special, especially when she came on a beach walk with him.
Far too soon, it was time for Lyndsay and Ilyssia to fly home but not before Lys had filled our home with smiles.
As with our other wonderfully unique and special grandchildren: Genevieve, Francesca and Hudson, little Ilyssia fills our lives with love and hope, such precious gifts.
Two years ago, our family and friends were celebrating Lyndsay and Reece’s wedding at Cradle Mountain in Tasmania. Although it didn’t snow, it was cold. So cold that everyone was rugged up in beautiful coats and jackets, hats and beanies and interesting scarves that flowed this way and that, while we enjoyed exhilarating walks that ensured that blood still flowed to our extremities.
Coming from Byron, my cold weather garb was particularly uninspiring: of course I had purchased a lovely outfit for the wedding itself, after all I was the mother of the bride! But everything else I had was comprised of items designed to brave the New Zealand wilderness on walking treks. Practical, yes! Stylish, well only if you’e modelling the yeti look! I cast an admiring eye over the stylish casual attire and accessories everyone else was wearing. Before this, I hadn’t really noticed that infinity scarves or cowls had become a fashion accessory. My sisters, Jenny and Maryanne looked particularly good in theirs so I resolved on my return home to give knitting one a go.
It’s only taken two years to follow through and I can’t even use the excuse that I didn’t have the materials on hand. Nestled in my stash were two skeins of very special, hand dyed, hand spun wool that Lyndsay had brought back from her travels in Montanaa few years ago and I had found a free pattern on Ravelry that would be perfect for the job. Still better late than never as they say.
I knitted the cowl on a circular needle.
What was interesting about this pattern was the edging: it formed a very natural roll on the finished cowl while the lacy middle section made for an interesting textual contrast.
The pattern does suggest you use a stretchy bind off. I had never used one before, so I consulted You tube to find out how to do it. As you can see from the photo above, it gives your cowl an elliptical shape ensuring that it sits better when you wrap it around your head.
I was so pleased with the finished scarf, that I decided to knit one as part of a birthday gift for my sister Jenny. I knew that she already had a couple of chunky cowls in her wardrobe so decided to try something different. I settled on 2ply Silk Mohair. I wanted something unique, so I sourced the yarn from Lara Downs, an independent Australian Merino Wool and Fine Mohair grower in Victoria. Pam has a wonderful Etsy shop and luckily for me, she had just enough left of a beautiful rosy pink silk mohair yarn for me to purchase. Very quickly this beautiful yarn arrived. It was super soft and had a beautiful sheen but was so, so fine. For the first time, I felt just a little daunted. I had never tried to knit cobwebs before!
Luckily, you knit this yarn on quite big needles. I used 5mm straight needles. You have to be careful because it is very apparent as you knit, that if you were to drop a stitch, it would be extremely difficult if not impossible to retrieve it! Even unraveling the knitting would be well nigh impossible.
If I was to knit another in such a fine yarn, I think I would purchase Addispecialist lace needles which have a very sharp point to make the job a little easier.
Of course I am still knitting little bits of this and that for the grandchildren. I finished a little vest for Lyndsay and Reece’s new baby which is due to arrive at any moment.
Most projects are still on ongoing but I have finished a jumper for Huddy in the same yarn. Bamboo Cotton is designed for the European summer but is perfect for winter in the Bay.
The jumper fits Huddy with plenty of room and I think suits his colouring much better than brown and yellow don’t you think?
Having actually knitted something for myself that worked, I’m thinking about knitting a top or cardigan for summer. Loveknitting has a great sale on for July and I’ve started collecting ideas. There are so many fabulous yarn with interesting combinations of natural fibres such as linen, cotton or silk to choose from. And I have found some easy patterns as well. If I actually follow through, I’ll let you know how it turns out.
A friend sent me an affirmation the other day and I thought I’d share it with you. ” Love, creativity and dedication. That’s what goes into handmade!” The human touch means so much don’t you think?