Autumn Breaks

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The mountains seem to roll on forever from the top of  Mount Kosciuszko

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.

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Perfect for day dreaming  while digging one’s toes into soft sand or checking out the rockpools at low tide.

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 Thredbo in 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.

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Fabulous food and coffee in a very picturesque setting. Wished we had more time to spend exploring this delightful little town.

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 chairlift to 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.

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These little streams become the headwaters of the Snowy River

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.

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It was a symphony in blue

Soon we were at the summit, celebrating with others and enjoying our picnic lunch.

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Very happy

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.

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The river cascades over rocks surrounded by beautiful alpine bush
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A gum tree with character.

Following the call of the road, we resumed our trip, stopping for morning tea at Lake Jindabyne.

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There’s a wonderful walking/biking track that follows the lake shore.

Not only was the lake looking wonderful but there were poplars lining the shore.

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Although they are nearly finished, they were still beautiful

Our road trip took us along the Snowy Mountains highway to Yarrangabilly Caves where 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.

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Yarrangabilly creek, enhanced by Google Photos. Always a lovely surprise.
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But I like the original, beautiful Australian bush
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Yarrangabilly also has thermal pools and although the water temperature was apparently 27 degrees, I still thought it was chilly. But we did have this beautiful spot all to ourselves!

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.

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Starting our walk at Bila Park, the sun glowed through the trees
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There were trees of every shade of red and orange, enough to satisfy a pyromaniac
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And then there was the river
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a golden river
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watched over by willows and river gums.
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As we finished our walk, the sun was setting behind the hills.  So pretty.

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.

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Lovely food and ambience

A visit to the Japanese Gardens is particularly beautiful at this time of year.

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Spring too, is a wonderful time to visit: the cherry blossoms are very, very beautiful.

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.

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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.

Lazy lagoon days in Byron Bay

It’s been ages since I last wrote a post. But it’s been such fabulous summer so far in the bay that I felt the urge to write and share . Lovely weather and perfect beach conditions were enhanced by the laughter of family and friends and that special magic that sparkles when five grandchildren: three beautiful girls from Sydney and two gorgeous boys from Byron really connect, as only those aged 5 and under can.

Earlier in the season, it looked as if fun times at the beach wouldn’t happen, given the terrible erosion of the dunes along Main Beach caused by a series of big spring storms. But despite the damage, the storms were wonderful to observe. Observe that is from a distance! Back in November, Kenn and I were walking along a sun drenched Wategoes Beach as dark and menacing clouds massed on the horizon appearing to hold their breath while assessing how quickly to strike.

However the storm threat did not deter surfers from enjoying the swell and chilling out.
And the sky was especially beautiful.
While on the beach all was calm before the storm.

Of course, later that afternoon, the storm did reach us and it was terrible to see the erosion it caused. Trees that had lined the beach were uprooted and the rocks exposed. The beach cafe nearly disappeared into the sea and beach access ramps were destroyed.

But as Summer settled in, Mother Nature began to restore the shoreline and in the process, created a beautiful lagoon at the southern end of the beach. Now this isn’t the first time, a lagoon has appeared here, but this has been the most extensive and beautiful one by far, in my opinion. By Christmas Day, the lagoon was the place to be. Carrying umbrellas, beach chairs, towels, sand toys and morning tea, we made our way from Captain Cook’s lookout down to the beach where we met up with Melissa, Ben and the boys. The beach was not deserted by any means but it was not overcrowded either. It felt great actually to be surrounded by so many families. Covid has made us more appreciative I think, of simple pleasures. Whether it be that first refreshing dive into the water, watching two year old Jude launch himself into the water with squeals of delight or accompanying four year old Huddy on a tour of his rock pools, complete with an informative commentary of life within said pools and the proper method for navigating around them, just being there, sharing, in such a beautiful place, was the best.

The lagoon was refreshed daily by the high tide and was just the right temperature for lazing about in the water. There were also very shallow parts, perfect for babies and toddlers.
Early in the summer, the erosion caused by the storms was still very evident. Slabs of the rock shelf were exposed and parts of the beach cut off at high tide.

While the lagoon was beautiful, I have to admit that we did spend time at beaches like Flat Rock near Ballina as well. There are times when only a long beach wander will do.

Such a beautiful beach. Towards the south there is a large rock platform, hence the name ‘Flat Rock’ which is great to explore at low tide.
And dogs are welcome on a leash. Ninja had a blast.

But when Christian and Kelly and the girls arrived from Sydney, the lagoon was the must do daily activity. The girls from Sydney and the boys from Byron hadn’t had much opportunity to get together before this and definitely made the most of the opportunity.

There were Mermaid tails to be made. GG and Frankie’s were great, but Huddy wasn’t too sure about this mermaid stuff while Aunty Melissa’s sculptors knocked off work early.
Free at last! Now for the water!
Jumps with Dad
Swims with Mum
On watch as works of sand art are created
‘No Harriet, It’s done like this’
And what a great walk it is to the Pass and over to the ocean where the waves are just asking to be jumped over!

Over January, we have watched as the lagoon has begun to shrink. Some of the sand which the spring storms dumped into the bay is being pushed north towards Main Beach. However, at the moment, it still beckons us to spend a lazy hour or so floating around. Change is all part of the ebb and flow of beach life. Looking forward to sharing more of the highlights of our Byron Summer.

Knitting the Moody Blues during Covid Iso.

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.

I particularly like the slubby texture of the linen/cotton blend and the cable and lace detail on the yoke. I purchased this yarn online and the service was great. Drops is a Norwegian wool company. Their yarns are very well priced and mostly spun in the EU.

I was on a roll. Now it was time to knit something for the grand children. Such a joyful thing to do don’t you think?
I decided to try and knit a jumper for Ilyssia who lives in Darwin.

I found the pattern on Lovecrafts. It is called Lil Rascal and is by West Yorkshire Spinners. I particularly like the neckline. There are no buttons etc and so it is very easy for little ones to put on themselves. I also like the easy cable panel of 0’s and X’s or as I like to call it hugs and kisses.

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.

The birthday girl!

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.

I began with Huddy, pictured here enjoying a day out with Poppy

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.

What have you’ve been crafting in lockdown?

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?

A Weekend Golf Trip: A very fun thing to do with friends!

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The Tenterfield Golf Course turned it on for us

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     When I picked up a golf club for the very first time a couple of years ago and swung it enthusiastically this way and that, I had no idea that Golf would offer so much more than mere exercise. Indeed, despite the very high level of frustration that can be engendered by a disobedient little white ball, I’ve discovered that there’s a lot of fun to be had both on and off the course!

This was especially true of my first ever golfing weekend away from home which took place in a month or so ago. A girl’s weekend always has much to recommend it but when that weekend includes shopping, lunching, yarning over nibbles and drinks, dinner, dancing and a game of golf here and there, you know you’re on a winner. And even more so when your companions are the Mullumbimby Saturday Lady Golfers, affectionately known as “The Chooks.”

As the name suggests, this is a group of ladies who don’t take themselves too seriously, who  know how to party and who are always willing to help a friend. Now the Chooks hold by the saying, “What happens on tour, stays on tour,”  so no  stories that might have inspired the director of ‘The Hangover’ will darken this post!

The girls have been collecting all manner of Chooks for good luck . Some are more appealing than others apparently.

 

Betty, our club captain had generously offered Kerrie and I a lift and so on a sunny Friday morning, I found myself heading for Tenterfield, which is about three hours away from home.  Now you wouldn’t want the journey to be too boring, so the Chooks had agreed to meet up for morning tea in Casino.  Travel requires frequent refueling after all!  A  quick  coffee and cake, a bit of a natter and a  wander around the shopping district and we were back in the car ready to climb the Great Dividing Range. Betty and Kerrie were very familiar with the road but I hadn’t traveled on it for over 20 years.  Unlike most of NSW, there had been plenty of rain and and little villages like Tabulum were picture postcard perfect. 

This will be the last time I will be able to drive over the historic Tabulum Bridge, ( it is the longest wooden bridge in the Southern Hemisphere) before it’s demolished for a modern one.

 

It seemed to me that even the bends in the road had been smoothed out and before too long we were approaching our home away from home for the next two nights: Tenterfield.

A beautiful avenue of trees greeted us as we entered the town. 
We stayed at the Bowling Club Motor Inn which is located within easy walking distance of the main street.
Kerrie and I had a lovely view of the bowling greens from our private patio. Our room was a generous size and they also supplied a continental breakfast .

 

There was time on that first afternoon for a leisurely walk through town,  before returning for afternoon drinks and nibbles at the motel.

Despite the threatening storm clouds, the weather did not hinder us in any way. So lucky!

 

A night of dinner and dancing followed. Many of the girls were able to show some very  fancy moves on the dance floor. They are definitely ‘girls who know how to have fun.’  Next morning our championship game awaited at the picture perfect Tenterfield golf course.

A perfect late spring day. Views to the mountains very lovely

 

After our group photo, I was in for a surprise. As this was my first trip, I was presented at the start of play with a tiara  as I was the “virgin” of the group.  I was to wear the tiara throughout the day’s play and abide by some ‘special rules of play’ which would be revealed as the day progressed!

 
I was very lucky to score Michelle, our club president, as my partner for the day.
An unlucky bounce and I was in the car park – special rule for virgins: play every ball where you find it!
Despite one or two little hiccups, it was fun zooming here, zooming there on this lovely course.  And no one lost a ball to the water!

But there can only be one winner and this year it was Nancy who came out on top.

Debbie congratulating Nancy on her success.
And here are the members of the winning team!

 

But the fun didn’t stop there. The following morning after checkout, we all headed to Casino where we would be playing our second round of golf.  Again, another lovely day awaited us. Casino is a more challenging course than Tenterfield and I must confess, my beginner skills were tested! 

Alas all good things come to an end and after lunch and presentations, we headed home. I am already looking forward to next year’s jaunt.

 

 

A Hole in One: Not an impossible dream!

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Sister Act : Jenny and I on our respective Par 3’s at Cowra and Mullumbimby Golf Courses.

Until a couple of weeks ago, I thought  that landing a hole in one was an impossible dream. Something only achieved by golf whisperers,  players who can actually play the game with some finesse and seem able to coax, caress and cajole their clubs and balls  into behaving beautifully, fulfilling  golfing desires. Players like my sister, Jenny who after many years of playing A grade and representative golf,  landed her first hole in one last year at Cowra Golf Club. Teeing off on the 5th, a Par 3 with her trusty nine iron, Jenny saw her ball sail toward the pin. However, it was only when she and her group walked down to the hole, that she could celebrate.  Her ball was lying there, nestled in the cup! Although she has won many events over the years,  she told me that this hole in one was the most special.

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Cowra Golf Course is a beautiful country course in the Central West of NSW.  With lush fairways and  challenging bunkers, there are one or two hills that will give you a cardio workout.  I had a wonderful time playing there with Jenny while  hooning around in her golf buggy. You might like to check out our adventures here.

 

But I thought wrong! Even a relative newcomer to golf such as myself, who  has enjoyed many mishaps on her golfing journey and who steps up to the ball, swings and hopes for the best, can land a hole in one. 

My special moment happened a couple of weeks ago at Mullumbimby Golf Club.

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Beautiful Mullumbimby, a country paradise.

There I was competing in our monthly medal round, hoping against hope that my score wouldn’t blow out too embarrassingly, when the unbelievable happened. It was the 12th hole.  A par 3. The hole is bordered by water on both sides and as I stepped up with my driver,  I remember having a few, stern,  silent words to my pretty blue flowered ball. “Don’t even think about going for a dip in the pond! I know you like to swim but  this isn’t the time for fraternising with the geese. You don’t want to get dirty, I only bought you yesterday … Just fly up in the air and you’ll see how soft and lovely the grass is on the green.”

Maybe my ball listened,  maybe I followed through properly or Lady Luck intervened … I don’t know.  All I know is,  I watched as my ball sailed to the left, curved around and landed softly just before the hole and rolled in.  Picking up my ball from the cup, I actually felt a bit guilty. I know how many really good players are out there who haven’t been rewarded with a hole in one and here was I with one. It didn’t seem fair somehow.

That guilty feeling didn’t stop me from being absolutely thrilled when I was presented with my first sporting trophy since I was the 16 years girls swimming champion at school, something I achieved through participation not skill.

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I think the flowers did it!

What has been particularly heartwarming has been my fellow lady golfers’ reactions. They were genuinely thrilled for me. But that’s golf isn’t it? It’s the comraderie as well as the personal challenge that keep us coming back.  And persevering.   And truly, if I was able to sink a hole in one, there’s hope for all golfers out there.

 

 

Japanese Snow Monkeys

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Hot stone massage anyone?

One of the highlights of our recent trip to Nosawa Onsen was the tour we took with ixsmtravel.com to Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park which was about an hour away from Nosawa by bus. Some say travel is more about the journey than the destination and at first I would have had to agree: the view from our windows was breathtaking.

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Thick drifts of snow covered the fields

 

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and rivers quietly flowed watched over by the mountains which surrounded us on all sides

Arriving at the Snow Monkey Park, our bus driver had to park a fair distance from the entrance but not deterred we plodded up the hill to the starting point. We all  thought that the two kilometre walk to the Snow Monkeys would be a walk in the park. But  no-one had warned us about just how slippery the narrow path could be. Although we were all wearing proper hiking boots, we all found ourselves slip sliding away as if we were on an ice rink. And I can’t skate!  So we had to go slowly, very slowly for I could far too easily imagine myself turning into a human toboggan, hurtling down the mountainside.

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 Ben showed his exceptional balance and stamina as he carried Huddy on his shoulders the whole way.

Still inching one’s way along has an up side. There was plenty of time to admire the scenery.

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Snowy forest surrounded us on all sides

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And the light breaking through the treetops was lovely

The narrow path eventually led to the  valley of the Yokoyu-River where steam and boiling water bubble out of small crevices in the frozen ground earning the name ‘Jigokudani’ meaning “Hell’s Valley.” But it didn’t seem too hellish to us!

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You climb up from this point to where the snow monkeys make their home. They are very used to humans. Some blithely padded past us on the way up.

It was worth the effort. We saw monkeys frolicking with their babies, monkeys enjoying a dip in the steamy waters and  monkeys scampering up the mountainside.

And one was keeping watch, checking out the tourists. Examining us as we were examining him.

All too soon, our English speaking guide, who was a delightful girl from Northern Italy, asked us to start making our way back.

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From this vantage point, the path seems to go on forever.

After visiting the Snow Monkeys, the tour took us to the historic village of Shibu Onsen. This was once a village that was frequented by samurai, wandering poets and travellers  who, while bathing in the healing waters of the village’s onsens,  took the opportunity to rest and recuperate. Indeed legend says that good fortune will come to those who bathe in all the town’s onsens.

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If you decide to undertake this quest, you are issued with a special card which you then stamp as you visit each onsen.  

In this village, we were able to get a feel for the ‘old’ Japan. The narrow streets were lined by wooden buildings which were hundreds of years old.

There were  interesting shops to explore. Huddy discovered that he loved Japanese biscuits!

There was even a fountain which reputedly bestows good health and long life on those who drink from it. I couldn’t resist. I had to sip. It was  a little metallic tasting but not unpleasant and you never know …

And of course there was a temple to visit as well. By now it was mid afternoon and the temperature was dropping. The arrival of our bus to carry us home was very welcome.

This was a great day out. Try to make room for it on your next snow holiday to Nosawa Onsen. And remember wear shoes suitable for snow and ice!

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!

 

 

 

Could this happen to you?

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Mullumbimby Golf Course and the fairways are running!

Are you one of those people that weird stuff happens to? The sort of stuff that has everyone else around you in stitches while you are left stunned,  attempting to extricate yourself from an embarrassing situation with a semblance of grace but not necessarily succeeding?  Welcome to the club.

For example, you might think that nothing untoward could happen to you on the Golf course. After all, golf is a civilised game where players amble from hole to hole, hoping to hit their balls nicely down the fairway. Even if their ball runs away and buries itself  in the rough, or seeks shelter behind a tree or takes a dive into the duck pond or falls in love with a hazard, this might be an unfortunate but not necessarily, an embarrassing situation.

A week or so ago, I took unfortunate and embarrassing to a whole new level.  I was having one of those rounds where too many balls ran out of steam right on the lip of the hole.

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One or two you might forgive, but five or six? I spoke sternly to my putter and threatened my ball with early retirement but to no avail! 

I know what happened next was probably my fault. I was on a tricky par 3. The green on this hole lies on a fairly steep mound,  protected by two deep bunkers to the right and a band of trees to the left. But undaunted, I was determined to make up for the near misses on the previous holes. Teeing off,  my ball sailed into the heavens but tracked a little to the left. Mmm, this could be unfortunate, I thought. But down the fairway, I saw that all was not lost. My ball was nestled between two trees with a clear line to the pin. Great, a little chip shot and all will be well. Maybe I’ll be in for par! I lined up. My chip cleared the rough and raced across the green where it kissed the pin and promptly leapt into the second bunker.

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Unfortunately, I’m allergic to sand and it doesn’t like me either!

Reluctantly, I retrieved my sand wedge and … hit out of the bunker first time. But alas, I hit too hard. My ball raced across the green and disappeared from view down the other side. Definitely unfortunate! Rhonda broke the bad news: it’s gone into ‘out of bounds’ and I had to take a drop. But first, I had to retrieve my ball. I had never hit a ball into this out of bounds area before but soon discovered that the ground fell away steeply to a little creek where I spied my favourite ball lying a pool of water. I scrambled down to retrieve it and was just reaching over to pick it up when I heard an ominous crashing sound. It was my buggy, doing somersaults while nose-diving into the creek! In my haste to retrieve my ball, I had forgotten to put the brake on. Luckily the buggy didn’t land on top of me and didn’t appear to be damaged. But how to get it and me back up? The bank was too steep to push it up, so I had to pull it.  With Rhonda holding one hand, the other hand dragging the buggy and digging my spikes in, I inched my way up the bank, bottom slide by bottom slide like a geriatric slug. Eventually, I was up and so was my buggy. Needless to say, Rhonda found it very difficult to keep a straight face. And I still had to play a shot! Taking a deep breath, I nudged the ball forward and finally putted it in. Taking stock of my appearance, I realised that I now, from top to toe resembled a SAS soldier ready for jungle warfare. I wasn’t going to be able to live down this escapade for a while.

To add insult to injury, three days later disaster struck again. It was a perfect spring day and I was hitting cleanly down a long par 5 which has lovely water views on both sides of the fairway. Even though it was warm, I was very comfortable under my new sun-safe umbrella which I’d purchased from the Pro shop the day before.

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I was secretly chuffed at how well I was doing and foolishly began to day-dream about my approach shots. Bad, bad move! I didn’t notice that the wind was picking up. While I was navigating a ditch, a gust toppled my buggy over, tearing my umbrella away. My good friend Annie gave chase while I rescued my buggy. Two falls in one week! Maybe I should get a new job – as a golf buggy road tester!  But alas, Annie couldn’t channel her inner Usain Bolt and the umbrella raced away. The wind dropped and for about ten seconds, I thought there was hope for a successful retrieval.  Then,  it changed direction, sweeping my new umbrella towards the pond.  I tried to catch up to it but running has never been my forte and  I watched in horror as my umbrella pirouetted around the edge and then set sail for the middle. There it stopped before slowly sinking, like the Titanic on its maiden voyage.  Very ‘unfortunate’ and now that I look back on it, very funny! It could only happen to me.

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 Maybe Froggie was trying to tell me something!

For the time being, I’m making do with an old yellow umbrella which has seen better days. On the plus side, It shows no desire to find another home and some shade is better than none! Could this happen to you?

 

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.