Tag Archives: short breaks

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


Born to be wild…

Copyright: Louise RalphI first thought of the title for this post when we were riding on our Vespa into Yamba, in northern NSW, from our camp spot on the Clarence River.

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. Copyright: Louise Ralph 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. Copyright: Louise Ralph Copyright: Louise RalphAs 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


Heaven’s here on Earth… at Black Rocks

Copyright: Louise Ralph

We went back to Black Rocks in Bundjalung National Park this weekend…I meant it when I said we love this place.

This time we took our kayak and paddled up Jerusalem Creek. It was a gorgeous, although not exactly leisurely, paddle.

While I practice my zen paddling technique upfront, EB makes like an outboard motor in the back.

Somehow it works… well, having a rudder stops us turning circles at least.

Copyright: Louise RalphAnd I get to take photos along the way (with my trusty iPhone in its LifeProof case – and no, this isn’t some dodgy promo!).

The isolation, where the creek meets the sea, is simply sensational.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise RalphAnd then there are those endless walks along Ten Mile Beach… where paw prints reveal the nightly wanderings of wild dogs in search of shorebird eggs, and huge bluebottles – some with four-metre stingers – are strewn along the tideline.

We weigh up the odds of getting stung, figure they’re all stranded on the beach, and plunge into the icy water.

Luckily we escape unharmed, in time to spot a mother and baby whale making their way down the coastline along the whale ‘super highway’.

Closer in, three dolphins glide in and out of the waves.

Later, along the walking tracks, wildflowers are bloomin’ fabulous, grass trees raise their flower spikes to the sky and a bee homes in on a solitary flower.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Back in our campground, tiny birds feast on grass seeds and a goanna wanders through our camp, tasting the air with a flick of its tongue.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

It reminds me of the words of a Tracy Chapman song…

“I’ve touched creations beautiful and wondrous
I’ve been places where I question all I think I know
But I believe, I believe, I believe this could be heaven…
The world is our temple
The world is our church
Heaven’s here on earth…”

Copyright: Louise Ralph

 


Blissed out at Black Rocks…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

After a busy week or even a slow one, it’s too easy to head off to the usual short-break destinations. So a few weekends ago, we went somewhere we hadn’t been before. Funny how a simple change can reveal yet another favourite place in the world. In a National Park of course…

Black Rocks campground in Bundjalung National Park is a hidden gem, with a stunning coastline, fabulous creek and coastline walks, a pontoon on the creek for paddlers, amazing birdlife, and super-private campsites.

The campground gets its name from the black rocks (also called ‘coffee rocks’) along a rugged coastline. The rocks are soft, crumble exactly like coffee grinds,  and have been eroded by wind and sea into spectacular formations…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Espresso anyone?

Copyright: Louise RalphWe’re hooked and ready to explore. After downpours in the area the day before we arrived, we discover  the Emu Loop trail is a chain of ponds. Well, puddles really.

But we get to be carefree kids again, splashing along the trail.

There is something primal about it. You feel more connected to the earth… especially when you occasionally find yourself ankle deep in mud.

The next day, we ditch our shoes again for the six-hour Jerusalem Creek walk, alternating between thongs and bare-foot wading.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Along the trail, the vegetation is amazing – from rainforest to paperbark swamp to coastal lowlands to open grasslands.

We walk to a chorus of frog calls, with gorgeous birds adding in the high notes – and sometimes diving into the puddles in front of us to snatch a bug-snack…

A family of kingfishers are a flash of spectacular teal and russet, lorikeets sip nectar from flowering bottlebrush, a whistling kite soars overhead, and tiny birds are startling streaks of colour in constant motion among the branches…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Along the trail, there are signs of life. The slithering snake tracks are there too, on sandy parts of the trail, reminding us to watch where we put our feet.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

…who goes there?

At the end of the track, the creek meets the sea. Here, migratory and resident shorebirds rest, feed and breed in peace.

There are pied oystercatchers, little terns, beach-stone curlews, sandpipers and two tiny mysterious birds whose little black legs are a blur as they run back and forth along the water’s edge.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

… some tiny mystery waders

Copyright: Louise Ralph

…and a pied oyster catcher

Copyright: Louise Ralph

‘Peppa’ the Ozpig… nice

Later that night, we are two blissed-out campers. You can have your posh hotels and even your cozy B&Bs.

There is nothing like sitting in front of a fire (our fabulous Ozpig), under the stars and the swish of the Milky Way, with mysterious rustlings in the bushes, miles from civilisation.

Okay, okay, we are sipping on a rather smooth pinot noir.

There are some civilised things you should never give up…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

 

 


Pétanque anyone? Hanging out in Nouvelle Calédonie

Did someone mention winter? Nouvelle Calédonie has turned on the chill and brought in the clouds especially for us. But who’s complaining, when work is a few thousand kilometres away…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Nouvelle-Calédonie. Perfect one day…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

…cloudy and chilly the next (but you just have to walk faster!)

On weekdays at this time of the year, it looks abandoned and a little tired here – a bit like a nightclub strip in the harsh light of day.

Yes, there are signs of life as the cleanup begins for the start of the tourist season in September. But no-one is in a hurry.

It will get done when it’s done. There’s no real drive to lose yourself in busy-ness and you’ve gotta love that!

…and those two-hour lunch breaks, ahhhh. The perfect time to do a few laps of the bay, or keep it low key with a game of pétanque, the French version of boules.

The aim is to throw hollow metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball called a cochonnet (‘pig’). Did I say low key? This is intense stuff and these guys have all the style…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

It’s a little confronting to see so many of the Pacific Islanders hanging out in the street, in parks, under trees. We asked a local if unemployment was a problem here, but she just smiled.

“People think they’re sitting around with no work or money, getting depressed,” she said. “But it’s not like that here. They don’t have ‘nothing to do’, it’s just their culture to be relaxed and happy.

“They don’t want a lot – they have what they need. They’d rather hang out with friends and family. It’s who they are.”

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Our first (and possibly last) selfie – just to prove we did stay still (long enough to take it anyway…)

Some argue that there’s a ‘welfare culture’ side to it, but I like that they don’t feel the need to accumulate wealth or ‘stuff’.

That they prioritise family and the group. That having a laugh and a chat is way more important than having the right house or car…

So we did a bit of hanging-out these holidays – something new for us. By the end of the week, we got the point.

It’s okay not to be always on the go. In fact, it’s pretty fabulous really.

Could this be a new way of life? I’ll let you know when we’re back home…

Meanwhile, I must get us a pétanque set. Just sayin’.

 

 


Winter beach escapes…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

The tourists have gone, the cafes and shops are quiet, and the camping areas are almost empty except for intrepid grey nomads on their way north to escape the southern chill.

A crisp wind sweeps the beach, where only the locals brave the elements to fish, walk or give their dogs a run.

Surf and sun are definitely big drawcards, but winter is my favourite time at the beach.

When our kids were little, we’d wrap them up  all cozy and warm and we’d go to the beach to play – to search for shells and other treasures, make icy sand castles, brave a paddle, throw a ball, look for dolphins.

Here in northern New South Wales, from June to November, humpback whales are coming and going along their migratory highway. Seeing them breaching and playing just off the beach makes you want to wait forever for each magical glimpse.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

But there is plenty to do around here that doesn’t involve the beach – or practicing your whale whispering techniques.

Try an early morning climb – with that last chain-assisted scramble – up Wollumbin (Mt Warning), the remnant central vent of an ancient volcano and an icon of the region.

Or slightly easier (with goosebumps of a different kind), paddle up the river towards the mountain. Along the way, you’ll see raptors riding the thermals above you. Last weekend, we counted twelve raptors, possibly square-tailed kites, in one breathtaking group…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

If you’re not into chilly water sports or ‘hill’ climbs, there are so many forest walks around here – and so many stories. Like the walk to Protestors Falls on Terania Creek near Nimbin, the birthplace of Australia’s environmental movement in the late 1970s.

Or head down the trail in Springbrook National Park to the Natural Bridge, created over millions of years by water tumbling through the roof of a basalt cave.

For something a little more civilised, the Taste of Kingscliff is a delicious foodie fest in July 2014. We’ve booked in with a bunch of friends for the Long Table feast under the stars, so more on that in July…

Then there are weekend markets, the Mt Tambourine wine trail, theme parks, the Currumbin Sanctuary, places for golfing and cycling, cozy bars and cafes, music, and more.

This is the kind of place where, once you dig your feet in the (now chilly) sand, you never want to leave. For too long, anyway…

 


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

 

 

 

 


Fresh eggs, curious cows and free range kids

My writerly co-conspirator Sandra recently took a short break with her husband and two kids aged nine and 12. For something a bit different, they headed to the country instead of the coast…

Taking a break is often harder work than staying home. You want to see this, do that, go there. For our recent four day break we wanted just that – a break. But how do you do that with children? I decided to try a country cottage nestled alongside the Mapleton Falls National Park.

Normally we’d do a beachside unit, but that can be exhausting when you’re the one lugging boogie boards and cleaning sand out of everything. Mapleton Falls Farm Stay sounded like far less work.

The farmhouse had the basics including a fully stocked pod coffee machine, which was a pleasant surprise. For entertainment there wasn’t much more than a television, a stereo and some aging board games.

eggsThere was also the promise of bushwalking, cows, egg laying chickens and a shaded swing in an old tree to keep the kids amused for hours.

As promised the cows were friendly and delighted the kids with their eagerness to be handfed.

The three chickens produced half a dozen warm, white eggs. And the swing was great for pushing the boundaries of daring as well as for contemplative rocking.

The bushwalk on offer was only a very short track, the Wompoo Circuit – enough to keep everyone interested for an easy half hour walk.

When they’d had enough of that there was always a comfy couch and iPods to listen to – or the massage chair, which was another unexpected luxury and a great place to read!

For a family wanting to get away and really relax, Mapleton Falls Farm Stay was a great option. At less than two hours drive from Brisbane, it’s easy to access – and somewhere our city kids can go ‘free range’ for a while.