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.
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.
Would you love to walk down a rain forest path shaded by tree ferns and ancient antarctic beech trees? Follow a cascading mountain steam to uncover a myriad of unique waterfalls? Reach a lookout where you can see the forest meet the sea? If so, then the Tooloona Creek Circuit at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat in the Lamington National Park, is the walk for you!
Although our family has visited the Lamington National Parkregularly over the past 20 years, we had never undertaken this particular walk. I had huffed and puffed my way around the 11km Box Tree Circuit, dragged myself achingly, slowly, one step at a time up the mountain from Stairway Falls and nearly had a snake induced heart attack at Python Rock, but I had baulked at the 18 kms Toolona Creek Circuit! It’s not that I’m against exercise per se, but the thought of climbing 1000 metres from Elabana Falls to the ridge line, with a further 9 kms to walk home seemed, well, a trifle excessive.
But Kenn and I are off to the south island of New Zealand in December to walk the Queen Charlotte Track and I knew that some serious training was needed.
So armed with my shiny, new walking boots, I tackled this walk accompanied by Kenn, my daughter, Lyndsay and her fiance Reece. I’m great at walking down hills so the first six kms were easy, We cruised down to Elabana Falls passing beautiful stands of tree ferns and listening to birdsong. We stopped for morning tea at the aptly named Picnic rock and refreshed, were ready to tackle the Toolona Creek section of the walk.
Initially, we followed the creek and were delighted by fern encrusted cascades of water rippling over mossy rocks. Then, a couple of creek crossings later, we started to climb. To my surprise, this was much easier than I thought it would be. The track was quite rocky and damp, so we had to be careful and go slow. This suited me perfectly. I certainly haven’t inherited any mountain goat genes!
Around every second bend we encountered a new part of the creek cascading down a unique waterfall. Each one was different, each one was lovely! We counted 17 different waterfalls in total along this section ranging from cascades to the spectacular Toolona Falls.
Not only were the waterfalls wonderful but the rain forest itself was spectacular. Along this section there were ferny tree gardens growing in the canopy. But all good things come to an end and before we knew it we were on the Border Track.
Near to the intersection of the Tooloona Creek and Border tracks, there is a wonderful lookout with a spectacular view, where we stopped for a well earned lunch.
Although we still had to walk 9 kms to O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, this was quite easy as it was mainly downhill. About halfway home, we encountered the Antarctic Beeches. These are amazing trees, remnants of when Australia was part of Gondwana! This is a wonderful part of the rain forest, so dark and so deep. All too soon, we were back. Ready to enjoy Happy Hour and watch the sun set over the ranges.
The Toolona Creek circuit is located in the Lamington National Park in the Gold Coast Hinterland, about two and a half hours drive from Byron Bay. We stayed at O’Reilly’s Guest Housein a Rainforest Villa which was a wonderful experience in itself. We didn’t have time luxuriate in the Lost World Spa, one of the many amenities at the resort, but next time it’s definitely on our list of things to do. Maybe you would like to join us some time?
What does Bali conjure up for you? I visualised tropical forests full of exotic flowers and monkeys, rice paddies richly green in the sunlight, temples full of strange images andwooden pavilions adorned with comfortable day beds overlooking inviting swimming pools where I would be waited on by my own personal Ketut. Could I make my vision a reality? Kenn and I had only five days at our disposal. I contacted my niece, Amanda Sullivan who runs a wonderful travel agency in Cowra. Within an hour of my call, Amanda and her team at Dynamic Travel www.dynamictravel.com.au had us sorted. Flights, transfers, an exceptional hotel and very helpful notes on how to stay out of trouble were ours!
We flew with Garuda. To my surprise, it was an extremely comfortable flight. The in-flight entertainment, food and beverage were excellent. The portent of things to come, I wondered? Arrival was easy. My baggage wasn’t searched, no-one looked at me twice and I didn’t get lost in customs. Before I knew it, Kenn and I found ourselves ensconced in a very comfortable car with a friendly driver winding our way through the hills to Ubud.
Our hotel, the Maya Resort and Spawas simply lovely. Our room was very spacious and the bathroom was to die for. There was a lovely outlook from the balcony over the acres and acres of gardens.
Then there were the facilities! Both of us fell in love with the amazing lower pool which overlooked the jungle and the river. We swam leisurely up and down ( I didn’t want to splash other patrons with my attempts at butterfly or backstroke) and relaxed on our sun lounges while the helpful staff brought us drinks and little healthy treats to eat. There was also a lovely yoga studio. It’s always good to have a beautiful view to look at whilst attempting mountain pose.
I enjoyed Happy Hour and diligently worked my way through a slab of the cocktail menu. The restaurant was exactly what you imagine a Balinese restaurant should be. Every table overlooked a courtyard with its own pool and frangipani tree. The staff were unfailingly helpful and kind. It goes without saying that the food was fantastic. It was hard to leave the resort for the delights of Ubud. Especially memorable was breakfast. There were special treats like fresh papaya juice, interesting traditional vegetable and fruit porridges and an omelette man. You know it’s good when you can feel the kilos piling on but you can’t restrain.
Then there was the Spa!
This was an afternoon of total indulgence. I was ushered to my private pavilion and greeted by my therapist. My treatment began with a relaxing foot treatment and was followed by a Balinese massage. Every part of me seemed to be floating away. Next came body exfoliation. Stuff ( I’m not sure what – I was too far gone to remember) was rubbed onto me, allowed to dry then brushed off. Then a yogurty cream was slathered on and allowed to sink in. Just as I was almost asleep, my therapist ushered me to my private courtyard shower. There among the flowers, under the sky, I rinsed off before luxuriating in a huge copper flower bath which overlooked the river. Three hours later, I returned to Kenn and the real world. An experience not to be missed!
We did leave the resort to explore this part of Bali. We hired a guide who put an itinerary together for us. He took us to a Balinese Dance performance, Batik making, silversmithing, a traditional Balinese home and a temple celebration where we had to don sarongs and make offerings. It was busy, fascinating and humbling.
We also went to the Kintamani volcano which is amazingly beautiful, visited a plantation and saw Luwak coffee being made. I felt sorry for the civets and couldn’t bring myself to taste the coffee. As far as I’m concerned, poo is poo. We wandered on foot around Ubud, but really only touched the surface. We found the Balinese people gentle, unassuming and unfailingly kind. They take pleasure in the simple things in life symbolised by the offerings they make every day to the gods. Thank you Amanda for making this such a wonderful trip.