Queen Charlotte Track, Day 2

IMG_0148
Even in the misty rain, it’s beautiful.

Walking around Endeavour Inlet.

New Zealand isn’t known as the Land of the Long White Cloud for nothing. We woke on Day 2, to a misty, cloudy day, for our walk around Endeavour Inlet to Mahana Lodge, our destination for the night. This was a relatively easy walk of around 15 kms as our chosen accommodation for Day 1, Cnoc na Lear, was situated on the northern side of the inlet.

Cnoc na Lear to Furneaux Lodge

The mist subtly coloured the landscape, giving it an otherworldly dimension as we walked the 2 or 3 kms to Furneaux Lodge which is located in a wonderful setting at the head of the inlet.

IMG_0151
View from Cnoc na Lear across the Inlet to Furneaux Lodge jetty

 The weather also gave us the opportunity to test some of the gear we had purchased for just such an occasion. I have to say that my Kathmandu merino t-shirt and rain jacket passed the test.  I was super comfortable and dry all day. I will admit though, it’s not a look you will see on a Paris catwalk.

IMG_0154
Dressed for the rain in my Kathmandu gear at Furneaux Lodge

Furneaux Lodge to Miners Camp

This part of the walk passes through ferny forest and traverses the head of the Inlet.

IMG_0155
If you have time to spare, there’s also a waterfall or two to visit near Furneaux Lodge

And across a suspension bridge over a tumbling creek and on through some open grassland to Miner’s camp.

IMG_20151201_063716
Feels like a real adventure when you cross a suspension bridge or two!

It was in this open grassland that I made my first mistake. As this part of the walk was relatively flat, I hadn’t carried my walking poles, a decision I was to regret. The grass was thick, high and very, very wet. Within minutes, my tights and socks were soaked and my toes were wallowing around in my boots. Not a peaceful, easy feeling! If only I could have parted the grass with my poles, like Moses parting the Red Sea.  But Punga Cove was still hours away, so undeterred, we squished and squelched our way on to Miners Camp.

Miners Camp to Punga Cove and Mahana Lodge

IMG_20151201_075832
We leave the grassland and climb up and down along the southern arm of Endeavour Inlet.

We were now on the southern side of the Inlet and this was the most strenuous part of the Day 2 walk.  We seemed to be trudging uphill through forest … a lot. There were tree ferns everywhere sprouting forth.

IMG_20151201_084820

And little coves with  private jetties.

IMG_0210

It wasn’t only a sea of green. There were flowering shrubs. One which caught my eye was this one. Have no idea what it was but it had a lovely scent.

IMG_20151201_080017
Reminds me of an Australian tea tree

We were rewarded with lovely vistas over secluded coves, perfect for a lunchtime break as we made our way towards Punga Cove and our destination for the night, Mahana Lodge.

IMG_20151201_055922
Adrift on a sea of aquamarine

It was mid afternoon by the time we reached Punga Cove. We passed the DOC campsite at Camp Bay and then passed the Punga Cove Resort. We were tired and for a moment, I wished I had booked our second night here. But about another kilometer further on, Mahana Lodge awaited us.

Here, hosts John and Ann Martin made us feel at home. As we were getting acquainted and selecting our dinner menu for the evening, we discovered that John and Ann had lived for a number of years in Kenn’s home town of Condobolin in central NSW. John had worked at the Agricultural Research Station undertaking research into rabbit control in the early 1970s. They remembered the town and its people very fondly. It’s truly a small world.

Our ensuite room in the lodge was spacious and luxurious. After a long, hot shower and wrapped in a super soft complimentary dressing gown, I enjoyed a leisurely afternoon tea.  Ann’s wonderful home baking did not last very long I can assure you.

IMG_20151202_041222
The  sitting room in the Lodge. That sofa was very comfortable, a great place for a cuppa and a good book.
IMG_0207
Storm clouds gather over the homestead, as seen from the sitting room in the Lodge

Dinner in the candlelit conservatory at the homestead was very special and memorable. We enjoyed artisan bread baked by Ann and mussels in white wine as our entree. We chose salmon from the sound, smoked by John to his recipe, over wild rice as our main course which was accompanied by  the freshest salad.  All ingredients had been picked that day by John from his extensive garden. Food when it’s local and super fresh always tastes amazing. We finished with profiteroles smothered in chocolate and a home made raspberry sauce. Not my usual camping fare I can tell you!

We would have liked to spend longer at Mahana Lodge:  explore the cove on the free kayaks, complete some shorter walks around the inlet or  watch the glow worms  flicker in the creek behind the Lodge.

But the Queen Charlotte beckoned. Day 3, according to Ann, would be challenging yet deeply rewarding!

IMG_20151202_041154-EFFECTS
Sunset over the cove

While many like us were on a mission to walk the whole track, we met others who only had the time to explore one section of the track before resuming their travels. The walk around Endeavour Inlet was definitely the easiest part of the Queen Charlotte. Walkers would definitely have time to explore as well as walk. So if the thought of  day hikes of 20 plus kms is a little daunting, you can still immerse yourself in the New Zealand wilderness with this part of the walk.

The Worung Bagus

When Annie  Milic asked me whether I wanted to go to lunch at a new cafe on the beachfront,  of course I said “yes!” I love going to a new eatery. So many unknowns! What sort of eatery is it? How is the space decorated? Does it have a welcoming ambiance? Are the hosts approachable and obliging?  And most importantly how good is the food and the coffee?

The Worung Bagus did not disappoint. Situated across from the Surf Club, the cafe has a  youthful vibe,  relaxed Balinese decor and delightful, enthusiastic hosts. The cafe offers both eat in or take-away.

relaxing
A lovely spot for tourist watching

 In the mood for something hot, Annie and I perused the curry bar.

curry bar
The smell was amazing

We decided on the ‘small’ plate for $11.90.  But there were difficult decisions to make: did we want Nasi Goreng or a wonderfully fragrant brown rice? What curry would we choose – vegetable, seafood, chicken or  beef rendang? Then we had to choose three vegetable sides and  I wanted all of them!  Eventually, I chose the eggplant balado, steamed vegetables  and Cap Cay. And there were additional condiments to adorn our plates as well. Heavily laden, and our coffees ordered, we made ourselves comfortable on the deck and enjoyed every morsel. Then our coffee arrived with a lovely complimentary gluten free home baked cookie. For what more could we ask?

curry and vegetable bar
The Salad and Fruit bar

Next time and there definitely be a next time, I will explore the salad and juice bar.  The ingredient list was just what you would hope to see, when experiencing a  ‘ I need to be super healthy today’ moment. For me, these moments often occur after close encounters with decadent deserts.

shakes
I like the sound of the Kelapa, what would you choose?

So if you are visiting Byron and looking for something a little organically different  or you just happen to be another  hungry local, consider visiting the Worung Bagus. Whether you decide to eat in or picnic in the park overlooking the beach and the bay, you won’t be disappointed.

the bagus

Pass Perfect

Do you have a favourite cafe or eatery? A place to catch up with friends while you sip  a latte or cappuccino  or perhaps a peppermint green tea while basking in the sun? A place which delivers a delicious bite to eat if you wish to indulge? A place, perhaps with a deck or veranda overlooking a beautiful view? There are many such establishments in Byron, but one of my favourites is the Pass Cafe.  (www.thepasscafe.com.au)

pass cafe 5-001
The path leading to the Pass Cafe from the Lighthouse walking circuit. The elevated deck is to the left.

 The cafe is situated in the Arakwal National Park, overlooking the iconic Pass Beach.  You can get there by car: drive along Lighthouse Road, turn left into Brooke Drive and park in the adjacent car park. It is a paid parking area. But my preferred option is to walk to the cafe following the circuit which eventually leads to the lighthouse. A little bit of exercise, lovely views, nice people to encounter, what more could I ask for?

looking out to the lower deck
View from the deck, looking into the rain forest of the Arakwal National Park

There on the deck you can enjoy a leisurely breakfast while you watch the birds or admire the view of the ocean through the trees. I love their brekkie burger but have suffered acute menu envy when others have ordered the Spanish omelette.  As a reward for walking  even part of the lighthouse circuit,  morning coffee  and cake is a must.  I can recommend the gluten free brownies and the Middle Eastern orange muffins in particular but really it is always so hard to choose which delicious calorie laden morsel to have! In the name of research,  I should work my way through the lot!  (it would be a service for my fellow man)  It goes without saying that the coffee is very, very good.

IMG_20150318_094756-001
My skinny cappuccino! Love it.

 The staff are amazingly helpful and always make you feel welcome. The cafe is also open for lunch but not for dinner. Lunch servings are generous, seasonal, varied and very reasonably priced.  They also have a takeaway menu for those who fancy a picnic on the beach, only a few steps away, or a snack to tide them over as they tackle the steps to the Lighthouse.

pass cafe 3-001
Service is quick!

The Pass Cafe is simply Pass Perfect.

Bali Bliss!

Kintamani, Bali
Kintamani, Bali

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 and wooden 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.

Tropical perfection
Tropical perfection

Our hotel, the Maya Resort and Spa was 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.

Our room
Our room

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.

Lying in the Spa
Bubbles ahoy in the pool

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!

My Spa Pavilion
My Spa Pavilion

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.

Batik in the making
Batik in the making

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.

offering bowl

Starry, Starry Night

They say that in the desert, the stars are so big and so bright in the velvety, dark sky that you feel that you could almost reach out and touch them.

Rock at sunset 2
Dusk at Uluru

 

This is certainly true of the night skies that surround Uluru, (Ayers Rock), which is located  in the centre of Australia.  I travelled to Uluru last week with my husband Kenn and friends, Helen and Phil. Luckily for me, I had a window seat for as we approached Uluru, the pilot banked the plane on his approach and I had my first view of the rock. Even from the air,  it’s huge: it dominated the landscape.

Settling into our rooms at the very comfortable Desert Gardens Hotel, we spent a couple of hours exploring the resort township of Yulara,

Desert Gardens Hotel
Desert Gardens Hotel

 

which is just 20  kilometers from the Rock before readying ourselves for our first encounter with the desert, ‘The Sounds of Silence” dinner. This was truly unforgettable. We were picked up by our coach as dusk was approaching and driven out into the desert, There we walked up a sand hill where we were greeted with champagne, a view of the rock and the haunting sounds of  the didgeridoo.

greeting at dinner
Champagne and canapes on the sand hill
Dideridoo
Didgeridoo echoes in the silence of the desert

 

 

 

 

 

 

A couple of champagnes later and  the sun had dipped below the horizon. We were ushered to our dining table under the stars where a wonderful Australian themed dinner awaited us.  What’s not to like about wonderful food and wine in an unforgettable setting?

sounds of silence 3
Fellow diners from Canada

While we dined, we were entertained by a group of young Aboriginal dancers. I  really liked their youthful enthusiasm and the way the boys acknowledged their uncles and elders who had shared their dances with them.  Then there were the stars: millions of them. We listened as a young astronomer pointed out some of the constellations  and planets we could see and invited us to look more closely at them through a telescope. I have waited a long time to see the moons of Jupiter and Saturn’s rings with my own eyes!

When at last the final port had been drunk, the last chocolate consumed and the torches had burned low, we found ourselves walking back through the dark, in the silence, sheltered by the stars, touched by the magic of the desert.