Sea changing Byron Bay

Copyright: Louise Creely

If you haven’t been to Byron in a while, be prepared to be surprised – and not just by the traffic jam going into the township.

The beach will take your breath away, but not in the usual way.

We’ve been coming here for over 20 years and we’ve never seen it quite like this.

Over the past few months of wild weather, metres of beach have been ripped away, including the fringing coastal heathlands, remnants of which now litter the usually pristine sand.

Copyright: Louise Creely

At the Clarke’s Beach Caravan Park, a place of many memories of crazy camping days with our kids, the stairs to the beach have been trashed.

Copyright: Louise Creely

Stairs to Clarke’s Beach Caravan Park…

It looks like the beach has been totally transformed, ripped away, never to return.

But wait. Long buried fences, uncovered by the waves, are a clue that the dune levels and the beach itself were once at about the same level it is now.

Copyright: Louise Creely

Waves, currents and tides constantly change the shape of our beaches. One day they can be carved away, and days, months, maybe years later, they can be built up again with huge deposits of sand and silt carried in from other beaches along our coastline.

Somehow, Byron’s beaches and surrounds still hold their charm. There’s just something about this place that makes you feel totally zen. And that works for me…

Copyright: Louise Creely

Copyright: Louise Creely


Five for Friday: getting unstuck

Copyright: Louise RalphI’ve been thinking a lot about ‘stuckness’ this week, and what keeps us in that immovable yet frantically busy place where we just don’t have the time to do the things that make our spirits soar.

Perhaps it’s a kind of dysfunctional aspiration, where we’re literally buying into the myth that we have to work our butts off to get money, so we can get more cool stuff – and then struggle to pay off the debts we’re drowning in.

We’re constantly bombarded with messages that tell us if we get this thing or that thing, we’ll be happy.

Except happiness is usually in the other direction – in a life where you live with less, especially less stress. Where you don’t surround yourself with mostly useless stuff, and you don’t live to work so you can consume more useless stuff. And you get time, every day, to paint or write or surf or paddle… or whatever it is that you love to do.

So here’s my five for Friday:

  1. Reflect – instead of being consumed with busyness, take time out to reflect. To think about the things that really make you feel awesomely fulfilled.
  2. Be brutal – when you look at your life and how you live, work out what you really need to survive. Because most of us have a skewed perception of what we need versus what we want.
  3. Take the challenge – if you’re in a ‘stuff’ rut and your place looks like Hoarder Central, start to streamline fast, and then practice living with less. There’s something satisfying about selling or gifting things you don’t need, but someone else might! 
  4. Get real – we often run around frantically because we don’t want to face our fears. Sometimes we’re so smart, we get into more debt or more busyness because then we’ve got the perfect excuse not to make the change… (guilty, we are!)
  5. Make the change – it’s usually fear that holds us back from making those big changes – what if it turns out to be an epic fail? But… what if it turns out to be the best thing you’ve ever done in your life?

Copyright: Louise RalphFor us, it’s about adjusting the aspirations we’ve been sucked into (often willingly yet naively), so we can start living the life we’ve imagined.

With so much less, but ultimately so much more of everything important to us.

Especially time – time to look after our health, to hang out with family and friends, to take on the projects we love, to give something back to our community, and to explore our world… on a shoestring (or a bike).

We’re working on getting unstuck. Starting now. How about you?

Happy Friday!


Discover Burleigh Heads

Most of us are pretty adventurous when we’re travelling but, back home, we do the same old same old – and wonder why we’re feeling stuck and uninspired. We’ve decided to discover some of the places that, while not too far away, often remain a mystery. This week, it’s Burleigh Heads, just 10 minutes up the coast from where we live…

Copyright: Louise Creely

One of our favourite restaurants is in the heart of Burleigh. The Fish House is a place where the view is spectacular, the food is always delicious (the fish soup and Patagonia tooth fish are amazing), and the wine list is a journey of discovery in itself.

But we tend to indulge (slowly) then run, so this time we’re going to hang around and see what’s happening here.

copyright: Louise CreelyOur first stop is the Burleigh Village Markets – and what a surprise.

Forget kitschy stuff, these markets are arty, vintage, classy and fabulous. They’re on the first and third Sunday of every month at the Burleigh Heads State School from 8.30am – 1pm. 

I’ll admit I’m a little skeptical about markets, but these are up there with the best I’ve been to – and EB is soon carrying some extra baggage (not something he’s accustomed to…multiple market purchases are a rarity with me!).

copyright: Louise Creely

copyright: Louise Creely

copyright: Louise Creely

copyright: Louise Creely

Copyright: Louise Ralph

copyright: Louise Creely

The markets are a great place to hang out on a lazy Sunday… but there’s only so much ‘lazy’ EB can handle, so we soon join the gaggle of joggers, power walkers, cyclists and fellow wanderers who manage to share the pathway with that ‘coasty’ minimum of fuss.

To our surprise, the pathway leads to the Burleigh National Park. Now there’s something that, in a built-up, high traffic area we’ve driven through often enough, we just do not expect. And it is brilliant.

Copyright: Louise Creely

The path winds up and around the headland, through coastal rainforest where vines hitch a ride up towering fig trees to the sun-bathed canopy, and the sound of thundering surf echoes in the pandanus groves.

Finally we reach Tallebudgera Creek, where we come across gorgeous secluded coves and beaches where the water looks inviting, even on this cloudy, chilly day.

Copyright: Louise Creely

The pathways are wheelchair-friendly and there’s even an assisted wheelchair fishing pontoon…Copyright: Louise Creely

To say we are impressed with Burleigh Heads is an understatement. And we know we have barely scratched the surface…

You can’t always get away for a weekend, but what if you don’t have to go too far for a great experience? What will you discover near your place?


Winter is here

Copyright: Louise Creely

It may be snowing way south of here, but it was another crisp yet balmy start to winter here in northern New South Wales.

Walking along Kingscliff beach at dusk, we saw birds diving like missiles into the ocean… and something else breaking the glass-like surface.

At first we thought it must be a dolphin or a big fish. Then a gorgeous manta ray leapt into the air, executing an elegant full spin before disappearing into the deep blue… only to rise again, spinning like a ballerina, over and over again.

It’s been two years since we saw our first leaping manta ray – right here – and knew we’d come home. There’s just something about this place that steals your heart.

It’s a perfect start to winter. Now, for those wonderful whales passing by…


Walk on the wild side – at Binna Burra

Copyright: Louise Creely

Crisp air, sweeping views, birdsong and a nice red… you can just feel the serenity. We’ve arrived at Binna Burra Sky Lodges, in the heart of the Lamington National Park, for some post-wedding R&R.

Copyright: Louise Creely

But it’s not long before EB is scanning the Binna Burra map to find a long, challenging walk for us to do. Clearly ‘relaxation’ is all in the interpretation.

The Sky Lodges are the newest edition to the Binna Burra Mountain Lodge, a nature-based resort founded in 1933, which still has that retro feel.

The beautiful, self-contained lodges are designed to capture the spectacular views across Queensland’s Scenic Rim, stretching all the way to the Gold Coast and the ocean.

EB may have his walking agenda, but I also have mine. So late in the afternoon we emerge, feeling very Zen, from the aptly-named Bliss Massage, to a mountain shrouded in mist – which soon unwraps a stunning sunset. Copyright: Louise Creely

The next morning, we tackle the Ship’s Stern. To say I’m a little anxious is a major understatement. I haven’t done any serious bush walking since we climbed Mt Gower on Lord Howe Island in 2011 and, unlike EB who’s always exercising and has an active job, I spend most days firmly planted at an office desk.

Copyright: Louise Creely

The Ship’s Stern walk descends into the Kurraragin Valley, past towering red cedar, eucalypts and piccabeen palms, and natural viewing spots where looking down makes your legs tingle.

Along the way, dense rainforest gives way to open forest, with sudden transitions to open heathland. In places, the narrow track clings to the mountain edge and the drop-offs are breathtaking.

Copyright: Louise Creely

Pops of bushland colour…

Copyright: Louise Creely

Go fig-ure

When I’m certain we’re nearing the end of the 19km walk, we come across a sign that proves EB right (again). We’ve just passed the halfway point. Ugh.

But surprisingly, my bushwalking legs are back and I’m ready to take on the 9.4km uphill stretch.

Negotiating massive fallen trees and debris on the edge of the precipice along this section of the track soon makes me forget uphill battles and fatigued legs. There’s nothing like the occasional adrenalin rush to keep your energy levels up.

Nature's hieroglyphics

Nature’s hieroglyphics

By the time we reach the end of the walk, I’m skipping – in an exhilarated, kind-of exhausted and lumbering way. I made it – and with far more ease than I expected.

Yes, EB would definitely have arrived at the finish line sooner, but he was very relaxed and accommodating of my slower pace (what a great husband!).

He wasn’t even phased by my constant oo-ah moments, when I stopped to take photos with my iPhone camera (because I wasn’t about to lug my real one on a walk like this!). Copyright: Louise Creely

This was yet another reminder in my life (how many do I need?!) that when you think you can’t do something, you’re often underestimating your abilities because, most times, you can.

Somewhere along the Ship’s Stern, I decided there are so many things in life I can’t not do…

Which leads me to the ‘real’ honeymoon we’ll be taking sometime soonish.

It may involve some serious cycling training… but that’s another story.

Bridal waltzing, lou and EB style

Bridal waltzing, lou and EB style

A wedding postscript: The rain gods cast their blessing on our beach wedding. But, as some wise person once said, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade, then (our addition) splash in the gin and hand it around.

So we took the ceremony indoors, and nothing could dampen our spirits as the night turned into one huge party. It really was one of the best days of our life, shared with our fabulous family and friends.

After 19 years together, raising our blended family, we didn’t expect to feel any different. But we do. We’re primed and ready for getting on with this next phase of our lives… on the flight path.

Copyright: Louise Creely

And he walks in fields of gold…


It begins with yes

en route

Where’s EB? On the bike while I take the easy path of course.

How did it get to March already? I guess that’s what happens when work is frantic, there is loads of family stuff going on (including a gorgeous new granddaughter to add to the mix) and we have a wedding to plan.

Yes, ours. After nearly two decades (a rather long engagement), we are finally doing it. Before we’re eligible for a senior’s card – and no, we haven’t lost our minds. Yet.

But I’m not here to bang on about weddings, although that does begin with ‘yes’.

For us, this is about saying ‘let’s just do it’, because there is never really a right time, you’re always busy, you never have the money, and the list goes on. Including the list of new additions to our family.

This is just one more step towards our (golden) gap year – because it somehow has us fixing a razor sharp view (in spite of the reading glasses) on reality.

Life is short. If you don’t live how you want to live, you’re not really living at all.

And one day, if you don’t act now, you’ll wake up and two decades (or more) will have gone by in a snap. And you will be no closer to yes then than you are right now…

So here’s to putting plans into action – and hitting the road sooner rather than later.


To be or not to be…

Copyright: Louise Ralph This morning, I read a blog about how to make money out of blogging.

It all sounds fabulous. Just think… you can travel the world and make a killing along the way.

But wait. Is that all there is to this conversation?

I don’t know about you, but I like to read people’s stories and their perspective on life.

And I like to blogger on about stuff you might find interesting.

And yes, it would be nice to make a few $$ along the way. But seriously? I quite like not having to put a dollar value on my words (for once!).

Maybe because I write for a living – but this whole blog thing is about writing from the heart. And maybe inspiring someone else to get out there and do the thing it is that they love. Just because.

So no, I don’t have any tips on making a living out of this… creating the perfect headline or the biggest email list. It is what it is. And it will be throughout 2015 as it has been in  years gone by.

Because I’ve realised lately that there are a lot of things I’ve always loved to do – like drawing and writing and mountain biking and trekking and – um – people watching.

And they might never make me a single buckaroo. But I’m gonna keep on doing them.

So there.

Here’s to making this new year something really fabulous. Because you can.

xLou & EB (still working on that ‘golden gap year’)

Hanging out at the Taste of Tasmania. Perfect.

Hanging out at the Taste of Tasmania. Perfect.

 

 

 


Christmas in Ho Ho Hobart

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Ho ho ho on his Harley

The silly season caught us on the hop this year, with so much to organise and work to wrap up before we took off to Hobart, to ‘squat’ in our house in Sandy Bay and fix some pesky maintenance issues.

Who knew those seconds shops had enough stuff to get you through three weeks without a stick of furniture in the house, and without breaking the budget?

Christmas morning wanderings, discovering the hidden beauty in the valley behind our Tassie house.

Christmas morning wanderings, discovering a hidden valley behind our house.

But all work and no play has never been our strong point so, between the weeding and fixing, we’re indulging in all the things Hobart has to offer. And there are many…

At this time of year, on those perfect summer days, the Taste of Tasmania is on the menu, as well as the always-fabulous Salamanca Markets, endless bush walks, the wrap of the 70th Sydney to Hobart yacht race, and more…

On Sunday, we joined the crowds lining the Derwent River in Hobart to watch Wild Oats XI take line honours.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Wild Oats XI – a spectacular site!

Even the two-hour wait for the yacht to arrive didn’t dull the excitement as it tacked across the harbour to finally cross the line, a finish hailed with a giant boom of the old canon.

A cheer went up and most of us took off towards Constitution Dock where the boats will moor as a week long celebration kicks off.

The Taste of Tasmania is in full swing, with fabulous wine, food, entertainment. And more wine. And food. And way too many people.

I’ve never been one for crowds, but somehow we’re caught up in the joy of life here. The friendly jostling and people spread out on lawns or squashing up at tables is all part of the fun.

What’s not to like?


Work and fun in the West

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Street art in Freo…

The first two things I noticed when I arrived in Perth, Western Australia, was how this city has come of age since I was here almost a decade ago – and the delicious dry heat (bliss for my asthma that chucks tantrums in the tropics).

I’m here for work so, after long days immersed in health and safety systems, I’m ready for a drink and looking forward to EB arriving for the weekend.

Meanwhile, I amuse myself people-watching in the Pan Pacific hotel restaurant. Dotted around the room, commuters like me sit alone or with co-workers, smart phones and iPads ever at the ready.

I take a sip (a long sip) of my pinot noir, but refuse to even take mine out of my bag – smart technology is easy to hide behind, but you miss life in the process.

Like the Japanese family who come in, do a polite ‘who sits where’ dance, before settling in their seats… then immediately get up to explore the buffet.

Or the business lady on her own who manages to simultaneously devour juicy prawns and incessantly check her iPad and phone, all without making a complete mess of herself. I manage to drop stuff on myself even when I’m concentrating :-/

And over there, two businessmen talk about risk assessments at a mine, crunching the numbers, and getting another beer. Mining is big business in Western Australia and the reason this city has taken off.

Freo markets

Freo markets

It’s a long week and I’m pretty excited when EB arrives on the midnight flight.

The next day, we hire bikes and cycle around the Swan River circuit. In all that dry heat, with not a hill in sight, and a bit of wildlife to see, it’s a great ride – even if my handle bars did drop down suddenly when I braked hard!

Then we jump on a train to meet EB’s family at our favourite place here – the eclectic port city of Fremantle, 30-minutes from Perth.

This is the place to head for if you love boutiques and galleries, buskers and bands, markets, great places to eat, and micro-breweries to hang out at, like the Monk Brewery and Kitchen.

Oh and put Margaret River wine region, Esperance, and Broome on your list. We have – for next time.

There are moments when we think we could (almost) live here. But I could never bitch about cycling up hills again, and where’s the fun in that?

Copyright: Louise Ralph

More street art in Freo

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Streets of Fremantle


A dragonfly’s fear of flying…

Copyright: Louise Ralph‘On the flight path’ isn’t exactly the best blog handle for someone who absolutely hates flying.

When those engines are cranking up, I just know something bad is going to happen.

When the safety procedure starts and nobody is paying attention, my body is going cold and my hands are getting clammy.

And if we hit a bit of turbulence, well there’s no point telling me to pretend I’m on a roller coaster. That never works (especially NOT on a roller coaster).

EB reckons I’m the safest person to fly with – because I mentally hold the plane up the whole way. Yes, even on the long-haul flights.

For a ‘dragonfly’, I’m not a natural flier…

But there are things I do love about flying…when the neurosis settles to a manageable level and evacuation isn’t an option.

I love the hours of disconnected freedom – where I can’t go anywhere or do anything except be right there.

I can watch movies, read, write or doze off without guilt. I get fed and watered without lifting a finger.

And when I finally land, I’m excited to be wherever it is I am (and only partly because I’m on terre ferme).

I even feel refreshed. Which is kind of weird. Then again, I am a dragonfly with a fear of flying.

The only way is up…


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