Covid 19 and social distancing in Byron Bay

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 to choose to 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.

The water is still so warm and as you can see, hardly another person in sight
And at the moment, the rock platforms are revealed at low tide. Such fun to explore
Loved the colours through the Pass. So much to see and feel! Here, it’s easy to forget Covid for a time.

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 about a 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?

View over the 9th hole at Byron Bay Golf Course
Although there is a lot of water around the course, I love the reflections and the ducks.

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.

This local company has a full range of products which do a great job. And I would never have noticed them if not for Covid 19. I found them in my local Mitre 10 store but the products are readily available online.

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.

How have you been keeping busy during Covid 19?

Tweed River Cruise



Recently, Kenn and I finally redeemed a Red Balloon experience voucher
that our favourite Darwinites: Lyndsay and Reece had gifted us for Christmas. Luckily for me, the experience didn’t involve throwing myself out of a plane at 20,000 feet, bungee jumping off a bridge or hang gliding around the lighthouse at Byron Bay: the stuff of heart attacks or death by misadventure for as you would know if you’re a regular reader, I’m not the most coordinated of people. Instead a beautiful, peaceful river cruise on the beautiful Tweed River which flows into the Pacific Ocean just south of the NSW and Queensland border awaited us.

This was our cruise boat. I liked how accessible it was. I noticed that one of the passengers was in a wheelchair and it didn’t pose a problem.

 


There were a few different cruises available to choose from but Lyndsay and Reece had selected Tweed Eco Cruises for us. Based at the Tweed Marina, 2 River Terrace Tweed Heads, they were only about an hour away from Byron Bay, and easy to find. There was ample off street parking. The Marina itself was very picturesque.

There were yachts bobbing around
Houseboats for hire
And the prawn fishing fleet was in dock.

Right on time, we chugged away through the Terranora Inlet. We chose to sit on the upper deck on comfy deckchairs to enjoy the open air and the breeze. The passengers were mainly tourists, many from overseas and varied in age from a little four year old girl to a couple of very elderly ladies.

I liked how these chairs were moveable so that you could follow the shade.

As we passed through the Inlet on our way to the main branch of the river, the captain provided just the right amount of commentary on the early history of the river and current developments.

He pointed out the repair to the boardwalk at Keith Curran Reserve. This boardwalk is one of those gems that unless you knew it was there, you wouldn’t know it exited. The walking skirts the inlet and finishes at a pergola draped in vines.

This gives way to an open grassy expanse overlooking a sandy beach. The walkway officially re- opened two days ago and Kenn and I can’t wait to explore it .

Passing the reserve, we found ourselves on the main part of the river heading towards the river mouth at Fingal Head and then we turned around and went upstream towards Tumbulgum, a quaint riverside village. The views were lovely. Sugarcane fields and tea tree plantations surrounded us and we passed an amazing floating island.

The water was such a beautiful colour and always in the distance you could see the unmistakable silhouette of Mt Warning, the extinct volcano which dominates the landscape of the Tweed. The walk to the summit is a hard yet rewarding experience. The views on a clear day are amazing. But be warned. The indigenous people of the area call the mountain, Wollumbin meaning ‘cloud catcher’ and many including myself have begun the climb in sunshine only to reach the summit and find themselves surrounded by mist!
Sugarcane fields as far as the eye can see. Certainly an easy way to enjoy a delicious morning tea.
And a tea tree plantation.

We passed Stott’s Island which is classified as a floating island, as the river’s floods and tides have eroded the subsoil away. The island is anchored to the bed of the river by the roots of the large rainforest trees such as the Morton Bay fig in the centre of the photo.

Just before we arrived at Tumbulgum, we witnessed a bird of prey feeding from the back of the boat.

The eagles and the pelicans swooping down was wonderful to watch

Tumbulgum awaited. We had an hour to explore the village and enjoy a welcome drink at the pub while the crew prepared our lunch.

There are a couple of eateries, a gallery , a riverside walk and the pub. In the pub was a fascinating collection of photos from the pioneer days. The size of the cedar trees that were felled have to be seen to be believed.

Time was up in Tumbulgum and lunch awaited. As we retraced our steps along the river, we enjoyed a tasty seafood buffet. The salads were fresh and plentiful and the seafood generous: three or four oysters, at least half a dozen king prawns and large pieces of crab together with a complementary glass of wine as the crew had had some trouble with the barbecue. Those who had chosen the barbecue option were not disappointed either. Their steak looked wonderful and they had prawns as well.

Our cruise had taken about four and a half hours and we were home in plenty of time for dinner. While this was not as exciting as cruising and snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef or as historically significant as the Gordon River Cruise in Tasmania, this was a very pleasant experience, one that I would share with visitors to our home in the future as it’s so accessible. Do you have a favourite?

Byron Bay’s beautiful and peaceful Three Sisters’ walk.

Looking down at the incoming surf from the Three Sisters’ track, at Broken Head, Byron Bay

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.

Ilyssia loves hiking with her mum.  Perfect for a cat nap

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.

Initially, you enter a shady tunnel of greenery where
the lighthouse can be glimpsed through the trees, standing firm at the northern end of Tallows Beach
Even though it has been very dry, the Cottonwood canapy provides welcome shade as you wind around the headland and …
across little wooden bridges.

And then the rainforest comes to an end and you find yourself high on a grassy headland overlooking the Three Sisters which give their name to the track.
A sad but cautionary tale.
These little coves are easily accessible at low tide but the currents can be quite dangerous. It is a paddle and picnic spot for me.
There is always a lovely breeze here as well as stunning views.

From the lookout you can see Kings Beach in the background.
At low tide you can access the beach from the lookout otherwise access is via a steep rainforest track found along the Broken Head Nature Reserve dirt road. Although this is a clothing optional beach, it is a lovely excursion for cooler days.
And then its back to where we began.

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.

Maybe I’ll see you on the headland sometime soon.

Sunflower Magic at ‘The Farm’, Byron Bay

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A touch of the South of France in Byron Bay

Visiting ‘The Farm’ at Ewingsdale is always a delight. Not only is it a working farm but it features an award winning restaurant where the food is sourced from the local community, much of it being grown in the paddocks that surround the restaurant hub, a bakery, a nursery and organic whole foods market.

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A very relaxed vibe permeates the Farm

Children are really catered for as there is plenty of space to run around and explore, animals to see and a wonderful playground.

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The slippery dip is quite steep, so those with younger children would have to be careful.

But at the moment, there is something really special to see. The people at ‘The Farm’ have created a simple maze through their sunflower field which is in full bloom.

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The bees were in heaven

Huddy was keen for an adventure especially when I  promised him a cupcake from the bakery for morning tea! The holiday season has abated so parking wasn’t a hassle and soon with cupcake safely devoured, we set off to explore the maze.

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The path was particularly muddy, so Huddy decided he would like an elevated view of the sunflowers

It was so beautiful. I was almost in a Van Gogh painting.

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I love the pollen on the leaves, looks like gold dust.

The path winds here and there and then emerges beside the vegetable gardens and the chicken pens.

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had fun trying to identify some of the veggies

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Very fat, happy chooks

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There were some baby chickens which Huddy particularly liked. I thought they were super cute too.

A run on the lawn and a play on the slippery dip and it was home time.

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A lovely view of the Byron Hinterland from the lawn

I hope if you’re able that you’ll be able to tip toe through the sunflowers like we did.

 

 

Riding Byron Bay’s Solar Train

Did you know that Byron Bay now has the world’s first fully solar train? Although the train launched on the 16th December last year, we hadn’t taken a ride until just before Easter, a couple of  weeks ago.

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Solar panels look so cool on the old red ‘rattler’ train that I remember riding when I was young.

As departure times and fares can vary with the season, you can check out current details here  The train runs a shuttle service along a three kilometre stretch from North Beach station in Sunrise Beach to the Byron Beach Platform in Byron Bay. Both stations conveniently offer seating, shelter and bicycle racks. There is also ample parking nearby.

It was a very fun experience which we shared with our Brisbane friend Julie and our grandson, Huddy. Now serendipitously,  Huddy, like so many other little boys  loves Thomas the Tank engine. So you can imagine how fascinated he was!

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Look Poppy, I have my ticket. Can’t we get on the train NOW?

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Poppy, that red wheel is asking me to turn it.

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Yep, one hand is all you need!

We virtually had the train to ourselves and Huddy was lucky enough to be invited by the train driver into his inner sanctum.

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Be careful, there are birds out there!

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Keep the train on the tracks, please. Maybe we should slow down for the curves?

And then  there were the carriages to explore…

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Do I really have to sit still?

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I can see much better standing up!

Needless to say, Julie, Kenn and I didn’t feel the need to explore the upholstery like Huddy but we did enjoy the scenic journey. While in Sunrise, I took the opportunity to show Julie around Elements of Byron, our latest 5 star resort and one of my favourite places for coffee and lunch. But Huddy was getting a little restless, so we settled for a late lunch at the Sun Bistro instead. The Bistro, which is just a few steps away from the North Byron station, offers tasty, economical food and plenty of space for little ones to run around.

The Solar train might only travel a few kilometres but it gives us a glimpse of what the future might hold while preserving some of our railway heritage. Maybe you’ll have time to take a ride next time you’re in the Bay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Byron Bay Japanese Festival

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Kizuna Taiko Team : a fantastic Japanese drumming group from the Gold Coast

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.

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Such a perfect day: even though the seat beckoned, I resisted for I could see the flags of the festival up ahead.

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.

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So many lovely shapes and the glazes – just beautiful

 

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I love clothes made of Japanese cotton: the material just gets silkier with every wash and last and last..

All around were members of the Japanese community and their families having fun. The children in particular, looked adorable.

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We arrived just as this activity was finishing.

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 Bowl tent.  It seemed a little similar to the Acutonics therapy that my sister Maryanne has trained in and which is gaining a devoted following.

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Multiple Singing rings or bowls are placed around and on the body. As the Harmonic Sound Resonance  from the bowls vibrate around and through the body,   a deep  sense of relaxation and well being is engendered. The lucky recipient of this massage/therapy seems very content and there was quite a line up of those wanting to experience this for the first time. More information can be found at https://www.singingring.com.au 

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’.

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I sometimes think that Japan is the Scandinavia of the East: uncluttered  interiors, natural colour schemes and every thing within, a thing of beauty.

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.

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These cards would make any occasion,  very special.

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.

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The water was really lovely. Following our time at the festival, Kenn and I grabbed the beach umbrella, our swimming costumes and enjoyed a couple of hours of quality beach time. Bliss.

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.

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It was delightful how the older children looked after the little ones. A lovely performance.

A musical duet featuring Japanese instruments followed.

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There is a haunting quality to the sound that these instruments produce. It reminded me of one of my favourite records; James Galway’s “Songs of the Seashore, a collection of Japanese melodies”.

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!

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The drummers really loved drumming and it showed! Their rhythms rocked the beach.

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The sound of the barrel bass drum down the back was amazing.

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The amount of force used and the variations in dynamics was impressive. No tuck shop arms here!

The festival was a great success. I’m already looking forward to next year’s. Maybe I’ll see you there.

 

 

 

 

 

The Coastal Recreational Path: a walk to remember.

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Sharpe’s Beach at Lennox Head – Our starting point .

Feel like a gentle stroll or bike ride along a path offering lovely vistas of a particularly beautiful stretch of coastline? Then the Coastal Recreational Path might be just the thing for you. The path, which is being constructed by Ballina Shire Council, aims to connect the coastal village of Lennox Head from the Pat Morton Lookout to Angels Beach in Ballina. The southern section from Sharpe’s Beach to Angel’s Beach has been finished and as Kenn and I discovered, is well worth exploring.

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This section of the path is quite short, only about 5 kms return.

We accessed the path from the Sharpe’s Beach car park as this was the closest access point to Byron Bay.  The first section of the path to Flat Rock winds through picturesque heath land

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We’ve had a bit of rain lately and everything is so, so green!

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The actual coast road is behind those pine trees in the distance.

while offering lovely views of the ocean.

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We noticed lots of little paths winding down to the beach, perfect for those seeking refuge from the crowds

When we reached Flat Rock, we found a viewing platform and of course access to a fantastic beach. For those who enjoy camping, there is also a tent park here.

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Even the signposts are visually stunning.

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If you look closely, you can see the flat rock in the water which gives it name to this headland.

Then the path meanders through coastal wetlands and  instead of smooth bitumen we found ourselves on a slightly elevated metal walkway,

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this section was quite shady, a good thing in the heat of the afternoon

wandering past gnarly coastal banksias.

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Native lilies will grow in the most unusual places.

One of the things I loved about the path were the information boards providing interesting information about how the aboriginal people had interacted with the land as well as some of their dreaming stories.

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I love how the boards blend in with the environment.

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The sculptures enhance your walking experience

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My photo doesn’t do this justice. This board utilises archival photographs from the 1920s to represent how aboriginal people might have interacted with the wetlands.

All too soon, we found ourselves at Angel’s Beach.

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I really don’t think you could get lost on this path!

 

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Just another perfect beach. We didn’t think of it on the day, but we could have walked back to Sharpe’s Beach along the beach instead of retracing our steps.  Love dabbling my feet in the sea. Next time?

It was also lovely to see lots of little ones on the path, cruising along in their strollers or peddling their tricycles with Mum and Dad ambling along behind.  The path is very flat, perfect for beginners as well as the more advanced to ride along. We even spotted a toy poodle standing up in a bike basket, paws on the handlebars having the best time.

All too soon we were back in Lennox heading home. Next time we plan to bring our bikes and a picnic. Maybe we’ll see you there!

 

 

 

The Perils of Winter Golf

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Spring is almost here and in the Northern Rivers, the weather of late has been perfect for golf: cool mornings and warm days brushed with gentle breezes.  Out on the course, everyone seems happy, even the ducks.  Indeed, we had so much sunny weather in August that I have developed ‘golf foot’.  This condition is not to be confused with ‘trench foot’  which is caused by prolonged exposure of the feet to damp, unsanitary, and cold conditions  and which afflicted our WW1 diggers. Rather it is a condition in which your lower extremities come to resemble your driver in reverse. Legs are tanned by prolonged exposure to the sun while from the ankles down, your feet are silvery white. It’s not a look that you’ll see on the catwalks of Paris anytime soon!

And while it is lovely right now, we’ve had our fair share of wintry conditions. It hasn’t been super cold. Unlike the lady golfers from the Central West of NSW who ventured out to play their weekly comp despite fog and frost and being buffeted  by icy winds fresh from the Alps, we haven’t had to contend with freezing conditions. However we have faced storms, hail and very, very wet conditions.

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The fairway at Cowra! How hard would it be to find a white ball? I wonder  if one is allowed to play golf in Ugg boots? Local rule change? 

In June, we experienced a series of big storms. We could see them approaching but luckily made it through a game without a drenching.

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It was a bit grey and not a lot of run but a little bit of golf was better than no golf at all.

But the storms brought water, a lot of water!  The Mullumbimby golf course went under and was closed for a time. It reopened to walkers only. What we didn’t appreciate until we got to the course was that we weren’t really walking: we were wading and sloshing our way down the fairways.

Did you know that a golf ball can land on a puddle and skip along, skimming the water like a low flying ballistic missile? And just like a ballistic missile, have a homing device attached? I discovered that mine did! Without fail, my balls would come to rest in the deepest, most inaccessible drainage ditch. I’m a slow learner. It took a few lost balls before I dug out my most decrepit balls. But these balls wouldn’t get lost. Isn’t that always the way?

Even with preferred lie, conditions were tough. Balls would soar beautifully through the air only to come back to earth with a plop, nestling comfortably in the oozy mud. They needed and received a good talking to from our irons! Even the greens, where I have felt most comfortable posed real problems. On one green I watched in horror as my ball parted the waters, slowing down as it did so. What should have been a gimme putt became a three or four or five putt but who was counting? On the next, I of course over-compensated.  My ball sailed past the hole onto the other side of the green and into the welcoming arms of a bunker. So considerate of it. Wiping: holes, balls, sticks, shoes, legs, shirts and buggies became the order of the day.

Even when it  started to dry out,  and we could see most of the fairways again, there was still a lot of water and mud about. All the water hazards were full and a mistimed shot spelled disaster. We beginner golfers very quickly came to appreciate the benefits of ‘laying up’ even if we couldn’t execute perfectly.

It was not all doom and gloom. We played with preferred lie and other benefits for over a month. I loved being able to place my ball on top of the rough grass with which I have had a long standing love affair. And it was good to get in all that iron practice. But I was glad when all was dry again. As a beginner golfer, I need all the run I can get.

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Our Tuesday golf group also had a fun golf morning at Byron Bay, followed by morning tea at the Byron at Byron! So civilised!

And so Spring beckons. Determined to make the most of the great weather before the summer heat and humidity set in, we have found ourselves playing up to three times a week:  some social, some comp. While like many, I have preferred playing Stableford, on Saturday I’ve agreed to play my first stroke round.  Wish me luck, I’ll need it.

Oh, I almost forgot. As I was having a golf lesson on Tuesday, my coach Nicky told me that in Japan, Amateurs and Professionals stop for lunch at the end of 9 holes.  Having consumed a delightful lunch and possibly some sake, they cheerfully resume their match. Beats our ten minute comfort break hands down! What do you think?

Happy golfing everyone.

 

 

 

Birthday Firsts

It’s been ‘Birthday Season’ of late for the young and not so young in our family.  I love how whether you’re one or ninety one, it’s all about the moment: watching glittery balloons float around above us as our fingertips rustle and rifle through layers of wrapping paper, carefully or not so carefully unveiling our presents. Inhaling the scent of flowers so prettily tied up with string and of melting candle wax, the aroma of wishes. Listening to the good vibrations of “Happy Birthday!” and savouring the last, chocolatey, gooey morsel of a special cake.  What’s not to love? But this year, there’s been so much more.  The little ones’ wonder and joy allowed us to see the world through their eyes as they  experienced  many of these  treats for the first time.

As Pooh bear noted, ‘It’s hard to be uncheered with a balloon.’ Hudson who turned 1 last week was captivated. They were so big and so shiny and there was a Thomas the Tank Engine! He couldn’t wait to pull them down to cuddle them.

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Mum, you can trust me!   I’ve  caught it …nearly! Sealpop …  just … hold me up a little closer … please.

And the delight that two year old Genevieve felt in the early morning light as she took her first bounces  in her new trampoline! A dedicated balloon lover, as the balloons took flight, so did she.

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Which one will I choose to dance with next! The blue or the pale pink? I know, I’ll have the pink with the white dots and then we’ll twirl and whirl  and curl together.

I love the way little ones unwrap their presents, sometimes with a little help from Mum.

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You want me to type? Now?

But then take off to test out the working capabilities of particular gifts.

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Why did this truck decide to tip my teddy out? Mmm … maybe it’s not a taxi afterall.

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I’ve got it! It’s all about the turning circle! Do you think I’m ready for the ‘Tour de France’?

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Hey Dad, the door works great! Thank you for making me such a great cubby for my birthday. And yes, I can play peek a boo with you through the windows.

And what would a birthday be without flowers Genevieve loved hers as much as I loved mine. Must be a girl thing.

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And of course, there’s the birthday cake.  When my children were little, this was a very important part of the celebrations. As they got older, they would  pore over the Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake book and put in their requests. After some negotiation,  I would bake the cake and Kenn would decorate it. So keeping with family tradition, Melissa was determined to make Huddy’s first birthday cake memorable and she certainly succeeded.

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So super cute! And he managed to blow out the candle.

Not only did the cake look good, it tasted great. Huddy was amazed. This was the first time he had been allowed to eat a smartie, chocolate icing and mud cake! It was a revelation! Huddy’s taste buds will never be the same again.

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Please Mum, can I have just one more smartie? On second thoughts make that two or three!

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Thanks Mum, High five?

I even love singing Happy Birthday. Really no matter how musical or unmusical it sounds, it is the sound of love. Christian, Kelly and girls couldn’t be in Byron for my birthday this year, but for the very first time, when they face timed that morning, Genevieve sang Happy Birthday to me and included four very enthusiastic hip hip hoorays. An unforgettable serenade.

The thing about firsts is that they keep coming. It can be as simple as taking Huddy for a walk along Main Beach in Byron. Even when it’s a perfect day,

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a boy has to do what a boy has to do!

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Wait up, my stroller isn’t as light as a feather you know!

And you never know when you’re going to strike it lucky and for the first time get to use the special toddler swing at Main Beach.

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Now Sealpop, just a little higher. I’m a big boy now, I’m 1!

You just have to be ready to lose yourself for a time in the world of the young.

 

 

Tour de Byron (for beginners): Stage 1

Have you noticed how popular bike riding has become?  And how seriously many take a recreational ride on the ‘treadly’?  Not content to just ‘get back on the bike’,  some are even willing to don padded lycra which enhance their posterior curves!  While such dedication is not for us, Kenn and I have got back into riding in a low key, purely recreational manner. We have uncovered a series of short, easy yet scenic bike rides, in and around Byron that we, very much tongue in check, like to think of as the ‘Tour de Byron.’

We were inspired to buy new bikes and hit the bike trails following a visit to Rottnest Island in Western Australia, where bikes are the transportation of choice. The island is only 11km long and 4.5km wide, making it easy to explore with a number of great trails to follow.

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Soon, we were zooming  up and down car-free, paved tracks exploring beautiful bays, jetties, beaches and a beautiful Lighthouse. Even the pelicans said ‘hello’!

I had forgotten how exhilarating it is to roll along with the wind in your hair, putting in a bit of effort here, gliding along there. We even spotted a couple of quokkas and a great pub. Perfect for a well earned refreshment after such strenuous activity.

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Back on the east coast, we set about getting ourselves some bikes. This was not an easy task as there are ‘bikes’ and then there are ‘real bikes’. Not wishing to remortgage the house, we decided on fairly basic, comfortable models. Mine is a lovely grey and white number with a retro feel,  complete with basket. It also has a lovely padded seat; no need for lycra! I will admit to finding the gears a trifle challenging … a work in progress.

With bikes sorted, Kenn and I explored the bikes paths and rides in and around Byron. We thought that like the famous tours, we would allocate a stage to each ride, beginning with the easiest.

Stage I of the Tour de Byron: the Suffolk Park Bike Track

This is a great track for beginners and one of my favourites. I can roll down the hill from my place to the Soccer Grounds.

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Past a lovely avenue of trees and

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the ever expanding community garden with the children’s playground in the distance.

A little bit of cross country riding and I am at the roundabout in front of the BP service station on Broken Head Rd. Here I have to dismount and walk my bike across the road, but it’s no hardship because I have time to admire the waterlilies beside the path.

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Having crossed the road, I remount and ride around the Pub and past the Suffolk shops. I resist the urge to stop at the Bakery for a coffee and cake. I tell myself, I haven’t burnt enough calories yet.  I weave through Suffolk Park until at the far end of Alcorn Street, I reach the official beginning of the bike path. There are various exit points on this part of the path which lead directly onto the beach as well.

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The path  meanders through the heath, following  the sand dunes and comes out just south of the High School

It is a lovely feeling riding along the path with the scents of the bush and the sounds of the surf and birdsong all around.

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It’s not too hot, as there is quite a lot of dappled shade to keep you cool

Occasionally, I encounter someone walking along the path, usually with their dog. I haven’t run anyone over …  yet. I’ve noticed that people tend to move very quickly when I call out as I ring my bell, ‘ Beginner bike rider coming through!’

My favourite part of the track is crossing Tallow Creek. The light on the water is always changing, always beautiful.

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The storm is building up in the distance

It’s also a test of my riding. A certain amount of speed is necessary to stay steady and not wobble on the wooden bridge.

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Over the bridge, I leave the beach behind, following the track back to Broken Head Road. Here I could turn right and ride into town or turn left and ride home. I choose to ride home. A 6km ride is just perfect for this beginner!

 There are various bike rental shops in Byron if you don’t have your own or you’re visiting offering reasonable rates. It’s a great way to see more of the Bay than the main street.

I hope that you will join me on the next installment of my Tour de Byron,  as I discover more easy rides,  putting  pedals to the test in and around this beautiful town.