Category Archives: Travel

Outback & Overwhelmed

my-feet-in-the-desert_2Many years ago, when I was a musician, I travelled through the world’s biggest living dot painting to the Northern Territory, a bag in one hand and my guitar in the other. 

I paid my way by singing for my supper, songs I’d written about the sea. Being a coastal girl I’d never been to a place where there were no seagulls. 

I arrived at Yulara, the tourist town that leaches dollars from the grandeur of Uluru. The rock is a magnet for cars, tour buses and four wheel drives. It was hard to find a peaceful place in the middle of the desert.

During the day I would wander away from the resort and sit on a small dune, my pale bare feet digging into the red sand.  I felt as though I was in a postcard, with the rock to my left and Kata Tjuta directly in front. I loved the Olgas, they welcomed me with embracing arms. But I found Uluru overwhelming and kept a respectful distance.

On the last day of my desert adventure, a friend took me out to the gorges. We went for a walk. A gentle gradient to the top of a cliff where a ghost gum grew. There we perched like rock wallabies, watching the light shift and change on the range. Down below, birds were coming home to their water hole.

Time slipped by unnoticed.

I gazed at the rock face, the ancient hills and cliffs, always seeing something new. Gum trees clung in seemingly impossible places. Why did they grow there? How? They had no choice, they had to stay where they sprouted and make the most of it. I felt shiftless and reckless in comparison.

We were running late when I took the wheel of Nelly, ship of the desert. She was a big boat of a Kingswood, column shift, dimmer switch on the floor near the pedals.

I sped across the plain chased by a blood red sunset; the fingers of night creeping up and the darkness scurrying behind us, descending gloom and the threat of looming cattle on the road.

The evening star guided us, first through grey/pink clouds and then through the twilight suspended dusk.

The sun disappeared with a thud and leached all the heat out of the air as it went.

I knew the next day Sydney would slap me in the face but that was many hours away.

The night was restless, windy and warm.

Stories From The Journey

StoriesFromTheJourney2016

There’s been a lot of interest in this event. Noosa Library has had to move it to the Noosa Leisure Centre next door to the library to fit everyone in! If you can make it I’d love to see you there.  And my book How To Stay Married fits right in, it’s a travel memoir after all 🙂

How I Discovered One of Australia’s Best Selling Authors

flinders rangesA while ago I was staying with a friend at her house in the Flinders Ranges. I found it hard to understand why anyone would live there, in the driest place within the driest state on the driest continent. Unsurprisingly almost every name on the map was a ghost town. Years ago she and I shared a flat near the beach in Sydney, lots of water, lots of green. Since then I’d spent most of my time living in Queensland, lots more water, much greener. My friend’s choice of surroundings didn’t make a lot of sense to me, literally. My senses didn’t understand it. But she and her husband love the outback and within a few days the colours, the starkness and the flocks of emus began to win me over with their specific kind of beauty.

The bedroom I was staying in was upstairs in their converted church. It had a verandah that overlooked the rocks and saltbush. One of the windows was propped open by a book. I said to my friend, ‘If I find you another book to prop open the window, can I read this one?’ She laughed and said I could have it and she’d find something else to keep the window open in the hope of a breeze.

And that’s how I discovered one of Australia’s top selling authors. (That’s right I didn’t discover discover her, although I wish I had, imagine having a percentage of those royalties!)

The book was Three Wishes. The author? Liane Moriarty. Since then I’ve read just about every book she’s written. I’m saving a couple. It’s always nice to have something to look forward to.

Despite going straight to number 1 on the New York Times best-seller list, a TV series based on one of her books being made in the US by famous people, movie options and more, she’s still referred to as ‘the most successful Australian author you’ve never heard of’ in this recent article. (Worth a look for the photographs alone.)

But in case you have heard of her and, like me, love her work, Liane has released a new book and is touring to chat with people like me in a town near you. Here’s her schedule and if you’re on the Sunshine Coast, or looking for an excuse to come to the Sunshine Coast, she and I will be having a chat at the Surfair in Marcoola on Wednesday 3rd August, thanks to Sunshine Coast Libraries. You’ll need to book and all the details are here. It would be great to see you there.

So, how about you? How did you discover your favourite authors? Were their books propping open a window in the desert?

What’s that you said? Natural quiet?

I stood on the beach, dripping from my swim, and watched sea birds hurtle into the water like dive bombers. Perfect arrows hunting for their targets. Foolish fish skipping across the water ended up in hungry bellies. Waves crashed on the beach and the springtime sun tickled the ripples on the water. I marvelled at how lucky I am to live in paradise. I was feeling smug until a rude and raucous interjection from a motor boat ruined the whole effect. The scene was still as beautiful, the birds just as fascinating, but any enjoyment or sense of wonder was shattered by the sound of an outboard kicking itself across the bay.

Sound, or the lack of it, is such an important element of our enjoyment of the environment. We all have the right to enjoy the natural sounds of our beaches and rivers, and no one with a noisy machine should be able to take that away. Since the 1970’s the US Government has recognised that natural quiet is a resource at the Grand Canyon, just like the animals and the vegetation, and must be protected. They’ve had all kinds of trouble with scenic flights ruining the ambience. So much so they established laws requiring that natural quiet be substantially restored to the park. Oops….I took one of those scenic helicopter flights with The Hubby last year, after we got married in Vegas by Elvis. I loved it, but we had to wear headphones to cut out the noise of the rotors.

Today, natural quiet is an exceedingly rare and increasingly threatened commodity not only in the Grand Canyon but anywhere. I love the idea of it being a natural resource that needs to be protected. We can protect habitats, vegetation, wild life and parks but if there are planes and helicopters flying overhead, the rumble of traffic in the distance or annoying motor boats churning through the water, we’re not going to experience them with any great joy.

A beach without the sound of the waves? The bush without the wind in the trees, the singing of the birds? A river without the tinkling of the water over the rocks? If these sounds are being continually drowned out by modern machinery an essential element of nature is destroyed. I love music but even so I’ve never heard a song more evocative than the sound of the sea or a symphony more exciting than a storm. And if helicopter flights over the Grand Canyon are ever banned, I’d love to say that I would hike it instead with only the sound of my breath for company, but I’d be lying. I’d stay in town and hang with Elvis.

 

 

 

Paradise

Paradise is a place where the sun always shines and the rocks are red. I know this to be true because I’ve been there. It was my five-year old nephew who led the way.  Elliot had been to paradise before and was keen to show me the beauty he’d discovered. He described a magical, secret place where the grass was green, there was a waterfall and sparkling waves lapped gently on the shore.

I was spending the day on Bruny Island, a smallish isle just off the coast of southeast Tasmania. One of my brothers had a weekender there and it was the perfect place to get away from the hurly burly of mainland Tasmania.  We’d been to the southern most part of the island where the lighthouse stands proudly looking south. The only thing between it and the Antarctic are a couple of small islands that look as though they’re covered in snow but no, it’s guano.

On the way back we headed off the main road, where we’d seen a total of three cars all morning, and veered down a rutted road towards Jetty Beach. It is here that paradise lies. Elliot led the way down to the end of the beach where the ruin of the old jetty leans lazily against the rocks. We had to clamber over difficult terrain and avoid the foul stench of rotting seaweed. Sometimes we came perilously close to slipping and plunging ankle-deep into slimy weed and algae. The road to paradise is never easy. But the result was worth it.

Almost at the end of the point, Elliot stopped and said, “Here it is, this is paradise where the sun always shines and the rocks are red.”

I looked at the muddle of rocks stained red by algae and half covered with slimy
sea grass. I examined the wreck of weathered wood and hand-made nails that was the jetty. I saw the trickle of tannin brown water seeping through the matted undergrowth. And I watched his young face full of joy, taking in the wonder of this little patch of heaven that he’d discovered all on his own.

He was right, it was paradise.

Shoe Vixens

What are they thinking, those people who design shoes? Setting aside glass-heeled 7 inch stilettos, Lady Gaga art shoes and ankle-breaking platforms, what goes through the minds of those who decide how ordinary woman-in-the-street shoes will be made? I’m imagining a conspiracy of shoe designers sitting around at morning tea time, laughing so hard that bits of Iced Vo Vo come flying out of their mouths. How else do you explain the humiliation of the airport security shuffle?

I’m quite fond of my high-heeled black boots. They’re simple and stylish and much
better suited to flying than walking. After all, there is a lot sitting involved in flying; at the cafe, in the departure lounge, and when finally on the plane, obediently belted-up like eggs in a carton. I like wearing my boots when I’m being a jet setter. I enjoy being just that much taller, sophisticated and invincible. But that’s when the Iced Vo Vo spitting vixens of the shoe-designing world come in to play.

Vigilance is my watchword when it comes to airport security checks. I take my Chinese penknife with the bean slicer and tiny fork out of my handbag and leave it at home, even though I know I’m going to miss it when I’m presented with a bowl of fresh beans to slice. My innocent-looking, but incredibly dangerous, hair clips are packed in my suitcase. I could take an eye out with one of those, most likely one of my own. My watch and any loose change goes into a plastic trays and through the X-ray machine. Confidently I stride through the machine that goes beep knowing that it won’t. I’m wrong. It does. Very loudly. Security wave a squeally wand around me and ask all the usual questions. Watch? Jewellery? Belt buckle? Coins? No, no, no, no. Then the words I dread. “Please take off your shoes.”

I can see them, those fiendish shoe designers, cackling over their tea cups. This is their moment of triumph. All their careful plans and devious designs have come to fruition. Somewhere in my simple black high-heeled boots they have implanted a device that makes the machine go beep. It may be a metallic strip, a secret sliver of foil, a tiny wad of beeb-creating substance. Whatever it is, I am forced to take my boots off and instantly become short, dumpy and decidedly dorky. Not only that, I then have to shuffle back to the end of the queue with the bottom of my trousers flapping around my feet. The boots go through the x-ray machine and I silently waddle through the machine that, finally, doesn’t go beep.

Shoe Vixens 1, Short Dork 0.