They say you only live once.
Actually you only die once…
You live every day.
There are times when you really need to knuckle down and get all those urgent things done. But hey, it’s perfect early-Spring weather and a road trip just feels… well, urgent.
After exploring Toowoomba’s street art (more on that later) and free-camping at Gil Weir near Miles, we’ve arrived at Carnarvon Gorge in outback Queensland.
And if we ever needed convincing we have to explore more of our beautiful country, today was it.
After setting up camp at Takarakka Bush Resort, we went for a wander along the creek that wraps around the camping area.
The Takarakka logo is a platypus, so I’m pretty excited. I’ve never seen a platypus in the wild.
We soon come across the ‘platypus conservation area’ signs with viewing benches set up so you can watch for platypus without disturbing them.
But let’s be honest, EB would never make a wildlife photographer. It would require being still for more than two minutes.
So after a brief scan of the water for ripples, I catch up to him striding up the creek!
Further along, we meet a lady who clearly has the gift of stillness (and a comfortable camping chair).
She breathlessly tells us a platypus has just swum right past her, so we wait and watch… and wait.
Finally, undeterred by EB hopping from one foot to the other (doing his best impression of a predator), the platypus surfaces … but promptly disappears again.
We’ve almost given up hope of another glimpse, when there is a rustling in the reeds on the opposite bank. The platypus is actually leaping up the bank to pull down reeds and twigs.
When she’s collected some bedding material for her nest, she tucks it under her paddle-like tail and drags it back to her camouflaged burrow in the creek bank. What an amazing way to start our stay at Carnarvon Gorge. And tomorrow we walk.
The duck-billed platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is an egg laying mammal called a monotreme.
Found only in freshwater streams in eastern Australia and all of Tasmania, the platypus has sleek fur like an otter, a bill and webbed feet like a duck, and a tail like a beaver.
But while they look cute and cuddly, the male platypus has a secret weapon – a venomous spur on each of his back feet. The venom won’t kill you but the pain is (apparently) excruciating. A good enough reason to keep your distance!
Meanwhile, soon after mating, the female platypus begins to gather dried reeds and sticks for her burrow in the creek bank…
As travellers, it’s easy to focus on the epic adventures and forget that short breaks can be exceptional too. That’s why we went back to Bundjalung country this weekend – to hit the mental reset button…
The Black Rocks campground in Bundjalung National Park, New South Wales, is tucked in behind the dunes of Ten Mile Beach.
It’s a truly remarkable camp spot, with each secluded site set up with its own fire pit, picnic table and even a clothesline.
It really feels like you’re the only people on earth – especially when all you can hear is the crackling fire and the soothing sounds of the heathland’s nightlife.
As we soak up the sun in the chilly morning, we’re mesmerised by the vibrant tiny birds flitting among the banksia trees and getting drunk on nectar. Some of the little tweeters even stop long enough for a photo opp! Pure joy right there.
Sometimes, there are only glimpses of colour and movement. If you blinked, you’d miss the Blue Wren preening his feathers in the safety of a spiny bush, the echidna scurrying across the road, and the honey bee collecting liquid gold…
The last time we walked the Jerusalem Creek trail, we were up to our calves in puddles and mud most of the way – but that just added to the fun. This time, the track is just as stunning – and we don’t need to ditch our shoes. Bonus.
Along the way, we pass a bunker built back in the 1930s.
In this and others around here, soldiers trained to protect Australia when the country was under threat during World War II.
By the 1960s, vast areas of heathland were being cleared – not for farming or logging, but for mining. Rutile and zircon black sands were mined here until 1982. But the heathlands are slowly reclaiming the land.
The walking trail meanders between the creek and the ocean until they finally meet. This is a truly beautiful place where shorebirds come to rest and raise their young. But there’s a dark side too.
As we walk along the shoreline, I pick up one sea-worn plastic bottle cap – then another, and another. After just 10m, both of us are holding piles of rubbish… mostly plastic.
And that’s just the beginning. Soon we’ve collected enough to fill our small backpack, and a plastic bag a passing fisherman gives us.
It’s not necessarily wilful tossing – but it does make you realise just how much plastic is circulating our oceans. And it’s heartbreaking.
Finally, we walk the 4km back to camp, carrying our load of plastic waste. Yet, as we walk, we can’t help but be captivated by these wild places – places touched by humans yet somehow triumphant.
Being here is about perspective, after all.
Read more dragonfly posts about Black Rocks:
Are you ready for a short break?
… because if you’re anything like me, you’re doing this right now!
It’s Friday – here in Spain anyway. So here’s our Five for Friday great things to do in the beautiful city of Cordoba (and on your travels, wherever you are in the world).
Don’t walk past La Furgo on Calle Ronda de Isasa! We found it by accident (or divine intervention) and knew we had stumbled upon foodie heaven.
Chef Manuel Morilla is passionate about creating innovative food and it shows – so be ready for divine flavours, great wine and service with attitude (in a good way).
We just had to go back for lunch the next day and Manuel invited us to taste-test a new dish. I’m a pescatarian but this could convert even me. Stunning.
And yes, there are delicious choices for vegetarians (I think I tried them all!).
Immerse yourself in history and tranquility at the Hammam Al Andalus Arab Baths.
Once a vital part of Islamic hygiene and public health, the hammam was also a meeting place where people could relax and socialise.
When we were in Ronda, it was the weekend so the hammam was fully booked. But we booked in early at the Cordoba bathhouse – and we weren’t disappointed.
There were a few tourists unfamiliar with the routine in the bathhouse and a little anxious about what they should do.
So be prepared to go with the flow – from that first icy plunge, to the tingling lukewarm soak, on to the hot bath, then the steam room.
Along the way there is time to relax with a massage, mint tea and cool water. Perfection right there.
Okay, these aren’t exactly playmates – but they are fun to watch. This was another unplanned visit (because we like to discover stuff along the way), but Zoo de Cordoba is so worth it!
I’ll let the pictures do the talking with these content, cute and sometimes crazy creatures…
Be sure to get out on the streets at dusk and into the night. It’s safe, beautiful – and you never know who you’ll meet out there!
It’s too easy to just tick off all the tourist attractions – and to get caught up in the dreaded FOMO (fear of missing out).
I’m sure we’ve missed so much along the way – but we’ve also discovered amazing places, met great local people, and had exceptional experiences.
So wherever you are in the world, be there.
It’s the difference between being a traveller on this planet – or a tourist.
I’ve worked out what it is. I’m a natural woman. Not the Woodstock, flower power flavour of natural (although there have been moments…), but natural in a bushland, beaches, rocky coastlines and wildlife kind of way.
I know there are those for whom ‘natural wonders’ equal five stars and a sea horse swizzle stick in their cocktail, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But for me, I feel the most at home in a national park somewhere.
We’ve just arrived at Kylie’s Beach camping area in the stunning Crowdy Bay National Park.
It’s a favourite place of ours, even though the beach is particularly windswept today and the water is so icy it makes your feet ache.
Instead of braving the icy waves and strong rip for too long, we head off along the coastal track.
Along the way, we pass the restored hut that was once the writer’s retreat of Australian author and poet Kylie Tennant.
At the peak of the hill, we leave the trail to wind our way down to a rocky, windswept headland.
Here, the waves disappear into sea caves and burst through an arch into an amphitheatre carved by time and tides.
As we enter the impressive amphitheatre, the ground moves with a thousand crabs that swiftly disappear into secret places among the rocks and seaweed.
The joey looks at us curiously, then nuzzles into mama’s pouch for a milky snack. Eventually, she bats him away and hops off, leaving him to feed on the grass alone.
Above us, a kookaburra perches on a branch, watching us sipping our crispy chardonnay.
It soon leaves to check out other campers who may have meaty treats to share.
A red aphid-like bug lands on my arm… and there’s a black fly in my chardonnay.
There’s a song in that, EB says.
All around us, bush creatures wake to hunt, mate and play under cover of darkness. The roll of distant thunder is oddly soothing and the waning moon is rising.
Ah, this is perfection – and, for me, this takes five stars to a whole new level. Just sayin’…
Some of the most surprising places we’ve discovered lately are actually places one of us has been to in another life, another time.
I haven’t visited Trial Bay on the NSW coast for at least 30 years. And I don’t remember it being quite this stunning.
When you’re a kid, you’re into surf, scenery and wildlife. Just not the same kind of scenery and wildlife as now…
This was once my parents’ stomping ground. Their place in the world.
For the first time, I understand why they loved it – with its rugged coastline, wild-flowering coastal heathlands and secluded coves, it is one of the true gems in the North Coast region of NSW.
We are in awe as we take the coastal walk from Trial Bay Gaol to Little Bay.
It’s been the first non-travelling day of our holiday and EB has me up at the crack of dawn, breakfast eaten, and cycling into South West Rocks for espresso.
A short respite and we’re cycling back for a swim, before walking to Little Bay.
Yep, my usually desk-bound butt is feeling it! Perhaps calling this a ‘holiday’ was stretching the point…?
The best thing about road trips, apart from discovering new and amazing places in Australia, is that I always sleep well at night.
But the day is only half done, the tide is rising in the bay and… it’s time for another swim perhaps?
Go wild, in a civilised way:
Camping at Arakoon Conservation Area is a great choice if you love nature, coastal walks, pristine beaches and bays, and history – and you like to be a bit civilised too, with showers, toilets and cooking facilities.
Some of the most beautiful places in the world are the ones not too far from home. Especially if you live in Australia.
We recently took off on a quick road trip from Kingscliff to the Central Coast. We may have been on a mission, to get to a family gathering there, but we weren’t out to break any distance records.
For us, there’s nothing better than meandering along the east coast of Australia. And no matter how often we do it, we always find something to surprise us.
About six hours after leaving the Queensland border, we arrived at Port Macquarie… and we were ravenous.
So our first stop had to be the Zebu bar + grill at the Rydges Resort, for a warming ‘some like it hot’ cocktail (think delicious bev in a chilli-rimmed margarita glass), a zucca pizza and some local talent at the open mic.
Then it was back to reality. No resorts for us. Time to give our ‘new’ escape vehicle a test run (because we’re on a quest to simplify our lives, but more on that some other 60 seconds).
For our first sleepout in the troopy*, we stayed at the Flynn’s Beach Caravan Park, surrounded by enough nature and wildlife to make us feel at home.
It was a crisp night with a little (well, a lot) fewer creature comforts than we were used to – like a diesel heater and a mattress that didn’t feel like a couple of planks nailed together! And it was only going to get colder as we went south (you can stop smiling now).
We usually stop at Cassegrain Winery while we’re here, but even we have our limits. Well, it was 7.30 in the morning when we left Port…
Just over three hours south, we arrived at Norah Head, a little coastal village near Wyong that hasn’t been yuppified – yet.
It was the first time we’d been here, so of course EB dragged me straight out to ‘stretch our legs’ along the stunning coastline and up to the beautifully preserved lighthouse – with a few strategic ‘getting lost’ moments added in for good measure.
We were ready to crash that night, in the Norah Head Holiday Park, but the bed was proving a challenge. At least we weren’t reluctant to get out of it in the morning, at the crack of dawn. Again.
Lake Macquarie – Mannering Park
After a side trip to Sydney, we arrived back up at Mannering Park Caravan Park. It sits on the edge of Lake Macquarie, an hour north of Sydney.
Twice the size of Sydney Harbour, the lake is the biggest permanent salt water lagoon in the southern hemisphere.
The caravan park seemed like a comfortable place to hang out for a few days, but we were in for a surprise. And it started like this… (cue music)
And there before us was the most majestic sight – a huge burnt orange full moon in a charcoal sky, slashed across by inky clouds, casting a truly spectacular fiery pathway across the lake towards us.
We’d never seen anything like it – even EB was speechless.
Meanwhile, I was muttering about phone camera inadequacies, punctuated by ‘wow’ and ‘dammit’.
Note to self: Pack your ‘real’ camera and tripod next time. No, every time.
We usually stop in at Coffs for breakfast, but this time we decided to stay overnight in the Park Beach Caravan Park. We soon discovered it was a walking distance (in sensible shoes!) to the restaurant strip along the jetty and marina.
It may have been a quick trip without our usual stops in National Parks, but it made me realise, not for the first time, that some of the most beautiful places in the world are the ones not too far from home. Especially if you live in Australia.
*Toyota Landcruiser Troop Carrier
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…
There we were in our very Italian helmets, leather jackets …and shorts. Born to be wild and all that.
But then we went for a relaxed Sunday paddle – in gale force winds, against an outgoing tide, on an expanse of choppy water that was more like a harbour than a river! It all seemed a little too hard really, until…
As we paddled along in the welcome shelter of an island, two fins emerged near our kayak. Then another baby-sized fin popped up. Then a big, darker fin. We edged in closer to watch the four dolphins cruising and playing in the pristine water…so close, we could hear them communicating with their distinctive whistles, chirps and clicks. As we approached a fishing boat, the dolphins sank below the surface and disappeared.
Later we passed dozens of darters roosting in the trees and, even though we tried to be silent, they weren’t about to stick around as a highly-suspect yellow beast passed nearby.
On the island’s beach, a pair of stone curlews – one snuggled in a hollow on its eggs and one standing guard – watched warily as we passed in the distance.
A challenging, but brilliant day on the water, watching creatures born to be wild. No leather jacket required.
Find out more about the pristine coastline, magic Clarence River, and village charm of Yamba here.