A wild life in the ‘burbs

In February, we moved into a new (old) place – another house near the coast that we’ll be renovating.

After finishing our Pottsville house, it wasn’t a great feeling to arrive in another house requiring way too much TLC. Until we met the neighbours…

At first, it was just spooky rustling in the bushes. Then they revealed themselves.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Now we share our urban space with about ten Eastern Water Dragons – from big daddy and bold mama to offspring in varying stages of development.

They are beautiful, fascinating creatures and not bad compensation for all that pesky moving stuff…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Our fascinating neighbours

 

 


Voting opens… is ‘on the flight path’ the Best Australian Blog? You decide…

A little shameless self promotion – we would love you to vote for On the flight path in the People’s Choice for Best Australian Blog.

Just click on the pic below…

Voting opens today… thanks heaps. Love your work.

Lou & EB

 

 

 

 


If not now…when?

I was jogging on the beach this morning. I say that with a certain air of nonchalance, but there’s nothing casual about it.

Taking up running is a major leap for someone who only ever runs in short bursts – like when there’s a basketball to chase or an opponent to beat.

Or when I’m about to be hit by a bus.

Just two hundred metres into it and the voices in my head are almost hysterical.

What’s the point? You (snigger, snigger), a runner? You’re so slow. EB is already halfway up the beach. You may as well be standing still.

Seriously, isn’t it a bit late in life to start doing this? Just walk. Walking is so much more civilized. And it’s such a lovely morning. Look at those birds… so relaxed. Running. Pfft.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

But I just keep chanting to the beat of my bare feet: If not now, when? If not now…when?

Which got me thinking about a man I met at my daughter’s work last week. I’ll call him Joe.

Joe retired two weeks ago – but it wasn’t planned or voluntary. Almost two decades with the company is a long time to end with a hasty farewell.

He said he woke up the next morning and was shocked to find that someone had finished off two of his bottles of pinot. Then he realized it was him.

Somewhere between the hangover and the day I met him, he’d gone from feeling rudderless to mapping out back-to-back self-guided walks through Italy. He leaves in July.

Joe is like most of us – it usually takes a nudge, or a mighty shove, to get us living the life we’ve imagined. Many of us leave it too late.

Because those relentless naysayers in our heads tell us there’s much to be done and no time for acts of self-indulgence.

There’s the mortgage to pay off, the kids to help out (whatever their age), the job we should stick at for a few more years (even when we’re dying inside)…

If we hold off, we’ll make more money when we downsize. Besides, we don’t have time or a willing partner or a partner at all. But, of course, when we win lotto…

“The pathway is smooth. Why do you throw rocks before you?” says the old Chinese proverb.

The answer is fear. Fear of letting go, fear of taking a chance. What if you don’t like travelling indefinitely? What if you lose everything you’ve built up over the years? What if you end up broke and miserable? What if.

We throw excuses and perfectly valid reasons before us. And those ‘rocks’ become huge roadblocks.

As a writer (and potential, um, multi-lingual runner), I know all about those roadblocks – the fear of failure, the resistance to even begin.

That’s why I have Alain de Botton’s wise words (left) stuck to my computer.

The beauty of getting older is that you finally acknowledge (well, you can’t avoid the fact) life isn’t forever – you won’t always have your health, your fitness or even your mind.

And you realise your biggest fear – way bigger than the fear of failing – is never having given your dreams a fighting chance.

 

Back at the beach, I’ve pounded out my very first kilometre – then another few hundred metres (after some breathless staggering and a nudge from EB who’s ‘caught up’ to me… on his way back).

Small steps, the pesky voices remind me. Must you mention this insignificant moment… on a public forum?

But they’re oddly subdued now. Ah.

What roadblocks have you set up? Are they so high you can’t even see, anymore, where the path goes or if there are other paths you’d like to explore?

Be inspired by Joe and by all the people who look fear in the face and do it anyway.

Because I reckon today is as good a day as any to begin pulling down those roadblocks, even if it’s one pebble at a time, and start chasing down those dreams.

If not now…when?

 

 


Five for Friday… travel tips

Copyright: Louise Ralph

EB hanging around in Halong Bay, Vietnam

Who doesn’t love Fridays? As the work day winds down, everything seems possible and that delicious sound of your computer trilling its way to ‘off’ – well, it’s the call of the wild, isn’t it?

Speaking of wild, here are our ‘five for Friday’ travel tips – the things we love to do and definitely want to do more of when we get away…

  1. Be flexible – it seems easier to have everything booked, but what you pick up in security and certainty, you can lose in fresh perspectives – like being taken for a ride (literally) and picking up some brilliant and slightly weird travel memories in Ho Chi Minh city or getting lost and eating at a back-street trattoria owned by two elderly (and fiesty) sisters. And, of course, certainty isn’t always guaranteed even when you pre-book – like a friend who booked a hotel online only to discover, on arrival, that it was closed for renovation (aka indefinitely)
  2. Be flâneurs  - and hit the streets when you arrive (so make sure you’re fit enough to do it before you go). It’s definitely the best way to see places, meet people, get lost and find yourself…

    Copyright: Louise Ralph

    There’s nothing shy about these kids on the streets of Sapa… priceless

  3. Immerse yourself – there’s nothing wrong with getting a taste test of countries, but it’s so much better to base yourself somewhere for a week or more and really immerse yourself in the culture. After ten days in Sarlat-la-Canéda in France, we were on nodding (and sometimes hugging) terms with the locals, which just goes to show that a smile and a laugh is the universal language
  4. Book into apartments – when you’re travelling for longer than a couple of weeks, you really get tired of eating out (no matter how fabulous the food is!). Being able to make your own breakfast or buy local produce to whip up a fabulous dinner is just bliss. It makes you feel at home in the world…
  5. Say YES – because travelling isn’t all happy snaps. It’s a human drive to seek safety (and avoid feeling anxious, uncertain, uncomfortable, scared). It’s easier to stick to the tourist spots when you could go slightly off-piste and discover amazing places and people. Easier to drive when you could cycle or paddle or walk. Easier to take a cruise than experiment with indi-travel. But, now that you’ve said yes to travel, why not embrace the strange encounters and breathtaking experiences along the way…

Happy travels…

Copyright: Louise Ralph


It’s a wild life in the Scenic Rim

Fruit bats and termites aren’t your usual cute and furry tourist magnets, but they’re still pretty amazing creatures.

Last night, we stopped at the local info centre in Boonah to fill up our water tanks – and we weren’t short of company. Thousands of squawking, squeaking fruit bats were roosting in the trees nearby. Here’s a few just hanging around…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Going batty in Boonah

But the thing that fascinated me were the hundreds of termite mounds dotted across the paddocks along the road from Beaudesert to Boonah.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Termite mounds near Boonah

Termites may be a No.1 pest on the urban hit list, but they play a vital role in balancing Australian ecosystems.

What do they do? Apart from building architectural mud masterpieces, these busy little creatures help to decompose dead plant matter and quickly turn it into nutritious soil (clearly not something you want in your woodwork at home).

They are also on the menu for wildlife like lizards, birds, spiders, ants, echidnas and other small marsupials. Some don’t just eat the termites, they nest in ‘the pantry’ or shelter from fire in the mounds.

From weird and wonderful to some dam fine scenery…

On the way home, we swung by Wyaralong Dam and the Mt Joyce Recreation Park, a fantastic place for kayaking, camping, fishing, waterbird watching and more.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

In Queensland’s January 2011 floods, the new Wyaralong Dam filled overnight. Pretty spectacular since, when it’s full, it covers 1,230 hectares!

We also encountered wild life here, of the dusty, sweaty cyclist kind. These creatures are a clue to the fun to be had on kilometres of mountain bike trails in the surrounding hills. They assured us the trails were better than our favourites at Daisy Hill in Brisbane – and not as busy.

Of course, EB immediately decided it was time to dust off our trusty mountain bikes so we can come back here to test the trails ourselves…

Back to bird watching. Gotta hang onto the serenity while you can, hey?

Copyright: Louise Ralph

going fishing, egret style

Copyright: Louise Ralph

making ripples…


On the flight path…literally

What do you get someone like EB who has everything (including the spirit for adventure)? A flight in a glider of course.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Boonah Gliding Club. (Photos: Louise Ralph)

So this weekend, we’re an hour west of Brisbane in the Scenic Rim in south east Queensland for EB’s glider flight, a taste test of the boutique wines grown in the region and camping at Lake Moogerah.  First stop, Boonah Gliding Club for an experience that comes close to the flight of a bird…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

This is how it’s done… Peter gives EB the pre-flight lowdown

The members of club are serious glider enthusiasts, spending most weekends flying or volunteering there.

Peter, EB’s pilot, tells us gliding is a great way to start learning to fly because your focus is on what’s going on outside the plane rather than mostly monitoring instruments inside the cockpit.

Glider pilots are switched on to everything around and below them – the shadows of clouds on the ground, the changing colours that indicate different heating intensities, and even the soaring raptors and pelicans. These are all clues guiding them to the best thermals…

Like Peter, many of the members have impressive military and commercial flying backgrounds. That’s their job, this is their passion.

EB is clearly in safe hands…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

But first, a ‘push your own glider’ moment…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

And they’re off, with EB doing an impression of Captain Planet…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

A different perspective (Photo: EB)

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Coming in for a smooth landing…

Flying (and being grounded, camera in hand) is thirsty work, so we make a bee-line for Kooroomba Vineyards and Lavender Farm. The building is amazing and clearly timeless. It won awards twelve years ago but looks as fresh as today. And the wine is equally as fabulous.

We stay for lunch and vino with a view – and tomorrow we’ll be back for their French music and food festival. As if we could resist.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Vino with a view at Kooroomba Vineyards


a beach somewhere…

The beaches near and not too far from us are so full of life, and not just human life (although there’s a lot of that). The ‘beachscape’ is always changing shape, carried away and built up again with the wild winds and shifting tides.

This weekend, on a visit to Byron Bay, the beach was back. Where not so long ago it was a strip of sand, now it stretches far and wide.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

dusk settles on another absolutely perfect day at Byron Bay…

And on another beach wander closer to home, the shoreline at Pottsville beach is littered with pumice stone. Queensland University of Technology’s pumice expert Dr Scott Bryan explained the mystery to Sydney Morning Herald columnist Tim the Yowie Man:

‘ “It’s the result of the July 2012 eruption of the Havre Seamount, which is about 1000 kilometres north of Auckland”… the underwater volcano spewed out a ”raft of pumice estimated to be more than 20,000 square kilometres in size”. That’s a surface area bigger than Belgium.’ (SMH, 10 January 2014)

A closer look at the ‘moving’ volcanic stones littering our beach reveals that marine creatures have hitched a ride on the pumice. Sometimes they are welcome, like coral-building species, and sometimes they are invasive species.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

mysterious creatures hitch rides on the pumice stone to seed or invade the oceans

There is something magical about wandering along a beach somewhere. Something that feeds your soul, connects you to the power and mystery of nature, and keeps drawing you back time and again.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Sand squiggles or aerial views? It depends on your perspective…


Five for Friday… places we’d rather be

Grassy Head near Yarrahapinni NSW

Grassy Head near Yarrahapinni NSW, Australia

It’s that time of year when the holidays are over, work’s in full swing, and you’re grappling with slipping resolutions.

EB and I have just made it through a ‘dry’ February – even celebrating our anniversary and moving house without the assistance of beer or bubbles.

And while our livers are no doubt eternally grateful, we’re feeling restless as that other ‘travel more’ resolution has our thoughts wandering off to places we’d rather be…

Here’s five of them, just for starters.

  1. Cinque Terre, Italy: The gorgeous villages of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore hugging the rugged coastline are top of the list for me, and kicking back to a slower pace (well, especially on those steep trails between villages) is simply irresistible…
  2. Lawn Hill Gorge in Outback Australia: Boodjamulla National Park has been on our must-do list for years. We’d love to be paddling through those ancient gorges right now, but the best time to visit is in the dry season from May to September – wildlife, indigenous art sites, emerald waters and serenity. Ah.
  3. Masai mara, Africa: I read Louise Southerden’s Memories or Mara (SMH, 23 February 2014) on Sunday and it gave me goosebumps – I love her writing style and now I really (really) want to go there.
  4. Croatia’s coastline: A Croatian friend swears it’s the most stunning coastline in the world and from the photos we’ve seen he’s not exaggerating. With 2,000km of coastline and 50 inhabited islands to choose from, The Guardian’s Reader’s tips look useful for picking where to be to lap it up (and not get swamped with tourists)
  5. Bourdeaux, France: A city surrounded by vineyards and delightful villages? Seems like the perfect place to hang out after our vino-free month – and because, of course, nous aimons France.

Well, that only made us feel more restless. What’s on your list of places you’d rather be? Happy (day-dreamy) Friday!


The pros and cons of cruising

Copyright: Fiona Craigie 2012

Cruising New Zealand. Photo: Fiona Craigie

Cruising has never been on my bucket list – unless it’s small ship adventure travel in the Arctic with Lindblad Expeditions.

But those big liners? No. Way.

I read the Poseiden Adventure when I was twelve and it scarred me for life.

The Titanic movie didn’t help. Neither did the Costa Concordia running aground and literally falling over off the coast of Isola del Giglio, Tuscany in 2012.

Mais oui, every time I read the travel section of any newspaper, there are super fabulous cruise deals… on almost every page. This weekend there were full- and half-page ads on 12 pages of the 16-page liftout.

With all those amazing deals floating around (and just to prove I’m not totally pigheaded about these things), I asked some very cool cruisers what they liked and didn’t like about their voyages.

Copyright: Fiona Craigie 2012

Cruising New Zealand. Photo: Fiona Craigie

The good stuff

The ‘unpack once’ thing got the biggest tick from everyone.

Jo liked the idea of visiting a lot of different places but still coming back to the same ‘home’ every night.

The next big tick was the food, which Fiona said was “too fabulous (depending on the cruise line you’re with)”.

The best bit, I’m told, is having the food, drink and entertainment included but being able to choose what, where and when you indulge.

Optional organized tours were another positive, especially when you know the ship won’t leave without you.

And of course, there’s that much needed downtime because you have nowhere else to rush off to – except possibly the bar or the blackjack table.

Other ticks go to the fact that everything is planned and looked after – a big one because a lot of us find the planning part so stressful, especially if you’re travelling with kids and need to keep them busy and interested!

Then there’s the safety and security aspects, and an onboard ‘hospital’ (which, as we’ll soon see, is a necessity not a luxury!).

The bad bits

Cyn found having to constantly talk to strangers a tough one. “And there are a LOT of them,” she said.

While it might seem obvious that a fair few people will fit on those floating cities, Jo pointed out that the rooms usually aren’t designed as spaces to hang out in so you are forced to go out and socialise, whether you want to or not.

Lots of people in close proximity create other problems. Like the possibility of being on a ship full of ‘screaming kids’ or people all 20 years older than you. Or the time it takes for the multitudes to disembark and embark in ports. And those dreaded gastric bugs that get around.

As if that’s not daunting enough, Jo says adjusting to the constant movement of the boat is difficult, as is getting your ‘land legs’ back afterwards.

Fiona found travelling between ports at night wasn’t great – especially in the Alaskan Inside Passage, where you miss all the great scenery.

“You also can’t stop in port for a few days, which you might do if you’re travelling independently,” she said.

So while cruising is an awesome (and these days more affordable) holiday choice for many people, I’m still not convinced I could be trapped on a ship for long periods of time – and I know EB definitely couldn’t.

Unless it involves exit strategies like kayaks and zodiacs – with plenty of wildlife (that’s one word, not two) to distract us. Just saying…

Copyright: Fiona Craigie 2012

A small floating city… Photo: Fiona Craigie


Where are you heading this year?

Copyright: Louise Ralph

It’s the cusp of a brand new year and one of those times you stop, between drinks, to wonder where this one will take you. Or will you take it - in two hands and squeeze every experience from it?

Here’s something Mark Twain said that all of us travellers (through the world or through life) can take along with us:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

We’re up for it… maybe we’ll cross paths ‘at sea’. But first, some bubbles. Bonne année!

Copyright: Louise Ralph

At the Hobart docks (there are worse places to be anchored)


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