Along the Away

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Archive for the ‘ Life ’ Category

I used to go camping a lot when I was in my twenties. I belonged to an outdoor club which had a calendar packed with weekend camping trips, multi-day backpacking walks, canyoning and lots more. I was one of the only members under 50 years old, but that was great as the members had heaps of gear and were very generous to share with those without. I couldn’t afford much so I used to be gratefully kitted out by the community. When I moved to Sydney I no longer had such an active group to go on adventures with and I lacked so much gear so my weekend adventures became more city-based.

Then a couple of birthdays ago a good group of friends bought me a tent. I’ve been wanting to go camping with it for ages but planning a weekend trip always seemed ever-elusive. Why does our heart’s desire often end up on the back burner of a busy life?

Well no longer! My friend Oceana and I decided one day to pick a far-away date in the calendar and scheduled a trip. Of course we got busy, so it was only a couple of days ahead that we started a flurry of messages to plan where, when, and survival needs. We decided a 3-hour-drive would be far enough for a one night trip, and somehow, based on that flimsiest of parameters, we settled on Barrington Tops National Park, more specifically, the private campground Ferndale Park nestled beside the Chichester River.

We left early-ish on Saturday morning and arrived in the mid-afternoon after three prolonged stops on-route (1. Three Trees Cafe at North Gosford for much-needed Pablo & Rusty coffee; 2. Anaconda to fill in the gaps of our camping gear; 3. Woolies to purchase enough food for a week’s survival in the outback. Side note – while I think of myself as being very down-to-earth and au naturel, I sometimes read back on things I write and wonder….).

When we arrived at Ferndale we stopped at the entrance where a friendly guy came out to greet us. Oceana had already emailed to let them know we were coming (they only take bookings on public holidays), but he was surprised to see us arrive so late for a one-night-only visit. We explained our mini-adventure and he good-naturedly took our camp fees and then hopped on top of his wood pile to fill a bag for us for $15.

The great first-in-first-served policy meant we were able to choose our own campsite across the 150 hectare property. There are more rustic spots on the other side of the river, but as the park was pretty quiet that weekend we opted to stay in the main campsite area which is situated along the river within sight of the amenities block.

Camping at Ferndale Park Chichester State Forest

There were about 8 or so other groups in the main campsite area too with a mix of tents and caravans, but we had plenty of space to pick our location looking right at the river and with a feeling of privacy.

Camping at Ferndale Park Chichester State ForestCamping at Ferndale Park Chichester State Forest


We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the park, waded in the cold river, sat on the pebbly-bank and read our books. It was so tranquil and relaxed, the sounds of the Aussie bush at sunset was just magic.

Camping at Ferndale Park Chichester State ForestCamping at Ferndale Park Chichester State Forest

There are stone-rimmed fire circles scattered around the sites so even with our newbie abilities, and armed with fire-lighters and newspaper, we were able to get our fire roaring shortly after setting up camp.

Our fire kept us cosy warm as we cooked up a fabulous veggie tofu stirfy on our borrowed gas stove. Then the marshmallows came out, which we toasted on sticks and stuck between digestive biscuits, all gooey and crunchy. We sipped peppermint tea and chatted, falling silent to listen to the cackle of the fire and the cicadas humming in the background.

Camping at Ferndale Park Chichester State ForestCamping at Ferndale Park Chichester State Forest

After a cosy night in our tent, I woke to the sound of the bell birds. I quietly slipped out of the tent and sat by the river to enjoy the morning energy wash over me, the cool crisp air and running water of the river was absolute bliss. I stoked up a fire and had our kettle boiling by the time Oceania joined me.

After our tea we went for a walk from the property up to Chichester Dam which was an impressive sight. We meandered along a path and took some forks in the road to explore the area, we had no map but probably covered about 6 kilometres by the time we walked back to camp.

Camping at Ferndale Park Chichester State ForestCamping at Ferndale Park Chichester State ForestCamping at Ferndale Park Chichester State Forest

We made banana pancakes for brekkie under the watchful eye of some hungry Kookaburras.

Camping at Ferndale Park Chichester State ForestCamping at Ferndale Park Chichester State ForestCamping at Ferndale Park Chichester State Forest

We leisurely packed up, ate our lunch sitting on the river bed and then got back in the car for the drive back to Sydney.

Yes it was short and sweet for a weekend escape, but we had a great time and enjoyed our planning and preparation just as much as our time spent in the forest – though next time I will stay longer for sure!

In general, work/life balance for me is not an evenly dispersed kind of thing but more like all-consuming-projects punctuated with an annual travel adventure when I disappear overseas for four weeks. I used to want to balance it all out, but now I accept that I actually like life being ‘all on’ when I’m hooked on a project and then changing track and escaping somewhere else when it’s done. Something I could do better is managing my wellbeing across these times. I tend to burn out, thinking I’ll sleep/breathe/recharge later. Well… I really don’t really want to sleep/breathe/recharge once or twice a year. I’d rather that be an all of the year thing.

So I started looking after myself better. I cut down on chocolate (I haven’t eaten any since the 28th June 2015 actually). I didn’t let my morning bush walk slide off my schedule when I was busy, it has become a non-negotiable. I started a regular weekly yoga practice after years of patchy attendance, and I sat down to daily meditation. I’ve kept to it all pretty faithfully and the result was that at the end of a pretty big work project last year I needed some time out for sure, but I wasn’t an exhausted shell left barely standing. I had energy, so after my work trip to Singapore I hopped on a plane to Koh Samui and straight to Vikasa Yoga Retreat. I stayed for 15 days.

I found Vikasa through a Google search, it sounded promising with great Trip Advisor reviews and plenty of travel blog trip reports.

Yoga paradise at Vikasa Yoga Retreat

It is set into the cliffside on the west coast of Koh Samui, with the cafe/reception area sitting up the top and everything else – accommodation, yoga shalas and swimming pools – cascading down the cliff. That means steps – and lots of them! I didn’t find this a problem at all, though I’ve seen some complaints on tripadvisor about them. I think if you’re there to do yoga then a five minute walk up the stairs should be within your ability to manage. And where there’s a climb there’s a view – and this one is worth the effort!

They have multiple accommodation options which is a great way to make the retreat possible for yogis of all budgets. I contemplated the options but after my hard work I decided to treat myself to a balcony facing the ocean with the Ocean Room. My first impression of the room was that it’s a lot smaller than it seems on their website, and also nestled quite close to the other rooms/bungalows either side; the balconies line up next to each other with no privacy from your neighbors, you feel like you need to keep your window curtains closed for that purpose as well. It would just be perfect if they were more private, but having said, they were clean, had aircon, an outdoor shower, and as time went on and I became friendlier with my neighbors privacy was not such a concern.

One curtain I always kept open was on the window facing the ocean so I had a front row seat in the morning when the sun rose over it right in front of my bed! I’m an early riser anyway so when my eyes flicked open in the mornings and caught sight of the horizon changing color I always jumped out, made a cup of peppermint tea and sat out on my balcony for an hour as it rose.

Vikasa Sun Rise

Vikasa calls itself a yoga retreat, I would describe it as a yoga resort, a subtle difference, but resort more accurately infers the freedom you have regarding how much yoga you do. There are three outdoor yoga shalas; the weekly timetable of scheduled yoga and meditation classes for guests are all held in the White Shala which is large and breezy. It’s entirely up to you what classes you attend – if any, no one keeps track of you, there are no expectations.

White Yoga Shala Vikasa Yoga Retreat

I tried to do at least one meditation and one yoga class a day, though sometimes I managed all classes (which was up to 6 some days). I found this freedom great as the first couple of days I took it easier as I adjusted to the heat, but by the end I craved going to as many as possible, though sometimes skipped some due to exploring the island or just physically needing a break.

Practising during the afternoon and evening tropical storms was a real treat. The rain thundered down and skittered under the roll-down shutters on the wind to land on my skin as I sweated away. The thunder boomed and the lightening sparked, it was magic. It rained probably half of the days I was there (September) but getting to practice yoga during the storms made up for the lack of beach time on those days. That and being curled up on a beanbag with a smoothie and a book in the cafe.

My favorite teachers were Simon, a South African born but now Koh Samui local who has a brilliant sense of humor and a very relaxed approach to practice, and Christian, a visiting London based yoga teacher who was more dynamic. The other teachers were all good as well, but as in life you click with some people more than others, which was the case here too.

Yoga Class at Vikasa Yoga Retreat

I came to Vikasa alone with no worries as I travel solo a lot, however I will admit that on the second day I had a moment of doubt. I hadn’t yet clicked specifically with any one, most of those I met were there on the teacher training group and were already in close groups. On the second night I started chatting to an Aussie girl after class though and we had dinner together. Then I met a Danish guy, then a Singaporean girl and an Aussie guy, an American girl and a Dutchman… I was set! The group of friends I made and hung out with each day at mealtimes and inbetween classes really made my holiday. I had such a fun time then, yoga was rewarding in itself but bonding with like minded yogis was the best.

Together we took taxis to beaches on the other side of the island- to Chaweng Beach for drinks and junk food, to Bophut for delicious Thai food at the Happy Elephant. We walked to Crystal Bay to get massages, and went on a jeep jungle safari in the rain and mud (so much fun clinging onto the side of the jeep and being flung about) which also stopped at some jungle water slides plus a few other key Koh Samui attractions. We did the Just Jungle tour which avoided all animal attractions, something I feel pretty strongly about not supporting.

I spent some time exploring on my own too. I got a taxi to the far side of Chaweng and walked the length of the beach, which was a feat in the heat but I was really missing walking by then. The roads in Thailand do not make for a pleasant stroll as the motorcycles travel along the kerb as well. It’s tempting to walk with an eye constantly over your shoulder to make sure they see you. Chaweng is a long flat beach so I was able to get into my walking headspace and chill out, stopping to swim or lay down and read along the way.

Chaweng Beach

I remembered when reading about Vikasa, that there was a gym across the road – Sky Gym – where Vikasa guests can go for free with tokens given out at reception. So I checked that out as a walking option. An energetic music playlist was always pumping when I went, and there’s pretty much everything you need there, for me that was just the treadmill so I could walk! The cardio equipment is all lined up next to windows that give the gym its name – there is a fabulous view on the blue sky days, but even on the cloudy days like when I took this photo it’s pretty nice to workout in front of!

Sky Gym

On my last night, a group of us who were all on the verge of leaving Vikasa went to Bophut for drinks on the beach at the gorgeous CoCo Tams, which has swing seats at the bar and big beautiful cushions around low wooden tables on the sand by the water. After a few drinks we wandered around the markets buying random finger foods (I ate a deep fried cricket…!!!) and taking in the atmosphere with new friends who felt like old ones.

I returned back to Sydney feeling happy, healthy, stretched out and sun-kissed.

Selfie in Chaweng

It was a feeling that stayed with me a long time, in fact I have maintained a yoga practice much more intense than I ever have before, averaging 3-5 classes a week even 5 months later. If I ever get the chance to return I will. I just hope that when I do, I meet just as lovely people as I was lucky to meet this time.

Heart Buddha Vikasa Yoga Retreat

If you are wondering why my post is a lot lighter on photos than usual, it would be because about 24 hours after getting home to Sydney, I was walking along the beach and drowned my phone in a failed but spectacular leap of enthusiasm over the lagoon channel… I sadly lost all my holiday photos, all except for the four I had allowed myself to post on Instagram while I was there and the few I sent on Messenger to my Mum. It just goes to show, it doesn’t pay to have a complete social media break while away… Hope you enjoyed this reflection on my blissful yoga holiday.

Chaweng Elephant

It was the beginning of 2014 that I set myself the challenge to walk all 37 coastal walks from the Coastal Walks Sydney book… I did 6! But luckily they’re not going anywhere, so I’m still ticking them off in 2015.

I just came off a BIG work project and after weeks without a day off I had five days stretching out in front of me. It’s the end of winter at the moment but Sydney was boasting that gorgeous feels-like-summer weather that often dazzles us at the end of the cold season. I was craving some outdoor time after too many long weeks in the office so the book came off the bookshelf and I did three coastal walks over the next five days.

Spit to Manly walk

First up was the Spit Bridge to Manly walk which is a very well known coastal walk in Sydney. Obviously it can be done in both directions, but I prefer doing it from south to north so that I end up at the beach – and judging from the people I passed it seems to be the most popular direction!

It is a truly beautiful walk, the water is alongside the track almost the whole time, except for a section that heads upwards. It’s fairly steep but nothing a reasonable level of fitness can’t handle. Where there’s a climb, there’s a view – and this one is amazing.

Spit to Manly walk

I was so happy to be back in my natural habitat under the sunshine, amongst the trees and beside the ocean. Nature is a great healer.

Spit to Manly walk

The walk is about 10km and according to the Coastal Walks Sydney book should take about 3.5 hours. Once again, similar to other walks I’ve done in the book, I took much less time to finish – about 2 hours and 40 minutes. I did that with plenty of stops along the way, probably about 20 minutes worth. I’m a pretty brisk walker once I get going!

There are a number of toilet blocks along the way and water bubblers/taps to refill your water bottle. I recommend filling up at every tap you see as they are not as frequent to chance that you’ll see one when you need it. When I did the walk in summer I struggled in the last 30 minutes with an empty water bottle, so this time I topped up at every chance.

Spit to Manly walk

Once I walked into Manly I wandered around looking for a brunch spot to refuel. I discovered a new cafe called Bare Naked Bowls on Market Lane. I was heading to the Swedish Fika Kitchen which is a fave, but Bare Naked Bowls caught my eye. I wandered in to look at the board and on recommendation from the waitress decided to try the Chia Bowl – it was delicious, as was the coffee.

Once nourished, it was time to relax! The glorious thing about coastal walks is that once the hard work is done there is a beach to relax on, which I did… for about three hours! I may have even fallen asleep on the sand. Considering how stunning the weather was I was surprised how quiet it was, I’ve never seen Manly beach this deserted – I guess that’s the perk of being there on a weekday when most people are at work.

Spit to Manly walk

In regards to transport, the walk is fairly easy to get to, coming from the lower north shore I drove to the Spit Bridge and parked in a side street just north of the bridge. There is a timed carpark there but it can be costly, I have always been lucky to get an untimed spot on the road. Once I was in Manly I got the bus back to the Spit. It was a bit tricky as I didn’t realise the footpath stops before the bridge on the north side where I got off the bus. I had to chance my luck across the road and then walk up the steps and around the suburban roads – all without a phone thanks to my battery dying. Next time I will get off south of the bridge where the foothpath extends… or else get the bus the whole way.

I’m interrupting the New Zealand travel post transmission (because let’s face it, that was so three months ago and I guess it’ll take me as long to catch up as it takes me to get through culling my photos) to share about a great camera class I went to this morning in Hyde Park (Sydney).

Just before I went to New Zealand I splurged a little more than intended on a new camera for myself. What started as a bold $500 budget to buy myself a high quality digital compact camera, became a research-heavy, peer-encouraged investment in the Sony Alpha 6000, a compact system aka mirrorless camera. It’s a hybrid type, with the convenience of a smaller size and intuitive viewfinder as per digital compacts and manual functions and lenses as per an SLR. I spent about AU$1000 on the camera, plus a couple of hundred more on a bargain for a fixed 50mm f1.8 lens. It doubled my budget, but I was happy based on the weeks of research and opinion-gathering I did. I love to travel and taking photos while away is a big part of that, it just felt like the right time for me to invest in a camera that I can continue to make lens investments into.

My camera arrived the week before my holiday. Yikes. So I read the instruction manual back-to-front, purchased a month’s subscription to Gary Fong’s Sony A6000 video tutorials and experimented with the various settings in my free time.

My trip photos were the result of a mix of auto setting, program setting and experimental forays into manual setting with lots of dial twiddling which resulted in 20 versions of each photo intended ‘to look at and compare later’ (which became mass deletion efforts). I was really happy with my purchase but I knew that to make it worth the investment I had to spend some decent energy learning how to use it properly.

After some Googling, I found Andy Piggott’s photography class website and signed up with my housemate to do his three hour beginner class in Hyde Park. It was such an informative class and really worth doing. Obviously there is a lot to learn, but I definitely walked away with a better understanding of what the core components of manual photography are and how to start considering light, movement and framing using aperture, shutter speed and lens choice.

For example, with the twiddle of a button I saw how manipulating the exposure affects the image:

Hyde Park Water Fountain

Hyde Park Water Fountain

Hyde Park Water Fountain

Included in the course fee was a coffee stop at the Hyde Park Barracks Cafe; we had lattes and delicious chocolate brownies while Andy covered a lot of theoretical components.

Andy Piggott Photography Class

We were there for about 45 minutes which was a nice way to break up the time and be able to sit and learn without all the distractions in the park.

Andy Piggott Photography Class

After our break we went back to the fountain to experiment with Shutter Speed. What a nifty thing that is; the projectile vomiting turtle in the fountain went from spewing frothy light beams…

Andy Piggott Photography Class

…to water droplets just by changing my shutter speed.

Andy Piggott Photography Class

We stopped in the shade to look at samples of the niftier things you can do with shutter speeds.

Andy Piggott Photography Class

Next up was looking at depth of field which is manipulated through the aperture. Here my fence is in focus and the background is blurry:

Andy Piggott Photography Class

Then the I brought the background into focus. Simple basic lessons I know, but important foundations.

Andy Piggott Photography Class

Once the class wrapped up I decided to make the most of the glorious Sydney day and walk back to the north shore over the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I was so happy to have my camera ansd whipped it out to take advantage. After all I learnt I was excited to put it into practice…. and took the photo on Program mode. Hahaha! But that’s OK because now I know when Program mode is suitable and when it’s not.

Sydney Harbour Blue

I absolutely recommend doing Andy’s class if you have a camera that you’re not sure what to do with. The class was fun and I learnt heaps. Andy also gave us a laminated cheat sheet and emailed us class notes and lots of links.

Hopefully you will see an improvement in the photos on this site in the near future ;-)


PS. My housemate and I couldn’t wait to try out the shutter speed light effects that Andy told us about. It works! Though I my poor spatial awareness rears its head – that’s supposed to say ‘Donna’ if you can’t tell.

Donna Light Trick

Along the Away NZ Trip Map Tongariro

New Zealand is home to an epic series of ‘Great Walks’ which I have read about and hope to tick some off of my bucket list sometime in my lifetime. I was really excited to go to the World Heritage Listed Tongariro National Park where the only Great Walk you can do in one day, the Tongariro Crossing, is located. The Crossing is 19.4km long and is incredibly steep in parts (there is a part called The Devils Staircase. Enough said.)

There are three mountains in the national park – Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu, which are important landmarks to the Maori people for spiritual and cultural reasons.

We stayed two nights in an alpine lodge in Whakapapa Village, which was cosy but rustic – it reminded me a bit a school camp to be honest, lots of pine furniture, bunk beds, shared common rooms with board games and fireplaces. There is a kitchen and bar there, the food was good and the staff were friendly and helpful – especially in regards to giving me a cup of uncooked rice – more on that later.

I love bushwalking and hiking outdoors, I try to walk everyday but even still I wouldn’t say my fitness is at a high level because I don’t train or intentionally challenge myself to tackle steeper terrain or anything – I mostly stick to coastal tracks. So I was a bit nervous about doing the Tongariro Crossing but I knew enough of its beauty to sign up immediately anyway. When our bus arrived in the national park the night before it was raining pretty heavily but the forecast was looking good for the next day. We were getting picked up by a guided hiking company called Adventure Outdoors at a very early hour, so I prepped all my hiking gear at the end of my bunk bed ready for a quick and quiet rise in the morning (lesson number one in being a considerate room-mate). When the morning came I woke to the sound of rain pattering down but I jumped up, got ready and assembled optimistically with the rest of the group ready for the pick-up. Alas, Mother Nature had other plans for us. Sarah and Perrin, from Adventure Outdoors arrived with the sad news that the wind higher up on the crossing was too fierce to make the trek – the Tongariro Crossing was closed. For those that haven’t heard of it before, here is what I missed out on:

Emerald Lakes

So sad, I felt really disappointed as I had psyched myself up to take on the challenge. Hiking through snow and navigating ice on the track was going to be a new experience for me, I was really mentally preparing myself for the challenge of using crampons and ice picks to earn that incredible view. But as travel always (always) teaches us, when something doesn’t work out, just roll with it onto the next amazing experience. Sarah and Perrin were revved up with enthusiasm and wouldn’t let our spirits stay down for long – they proposed we head out and do some hiking along the base of the mountains, some of which was part of the Tongariro Crossing anyway. So we did!

Tongariro National Park Hike

It rained. The entire 6 hours.

But look, I’m smiling! With rain drops on my nose.

Tongariro National Park Hike

Coz it was fun! Seriously, we’ve developed into such precious souls when it comes to getting a bit uncomfortable. I would never normally go hiking in the rain. Even if it’s forecast to rain later during the day I’ll cancel an intended hike. I’d get wet! And cold! And uncomfortable!

Well, so what. I did get a bit of all of those things, but I didn’t stop smiling! Neither did anyone in our small group of 8 or so. We laughed at ourselves and each other. We stumbled and bounced back up. We stopped for photos, to listen to stories from the girls, to try and picture the scenes in Lord of the Rings which were filmed here.

Tongariro National Park Hike

We started at Mangatepopo Car Park and walked as far as Soda Springs, stopping before ascending the Devil’s Staircase.

Tongariro National Park Hike

The track was beautiful in the rain. The fog hung low and heavy, the silence of the land except the rain hitting the ground and our feet crunching on the rocks.

Sarah and Perrin were wonderful guides, they acted as if it was a perfect blue sky, sunny day and we were out for a leisurely stroll. Sarah was actually 7 months pregnant at the time! Which none of us even realised til about two hours in – we were all so bundled up in fleeces and rain jackets that her bump was hidden and her unbelievable energy would never have given it away. Once realised that, it put us all in our place – if she can keep going then we can!

I learnt from the walk that Lake Taupo was once a volcano that blew up in about 1180. It threw lava and rock over a third of the north island. All the trees were flattened creating the lava fields we walked through on our walk. Lake Taupo is hours away – so that gives you an idea of the how powerful the volcano eruption was.

Tongariro National Park Hike

Tongariro National Park Hike

I might have missed out on hiking with crampons on the ice, but I got to step over some. It was this cold. 

Tongariro National Park Hike

Tongariro National Park Hike

I can only wonder at how the walk looks and feels on a gloriously sunny day. Our experience was oh so different, but appreciated.

Tongariro National Park Hike

Tongariro National Park Hike

Soda Springs popped up in view, our walk’s target.

Tongariro National Park Hike

On we trooped, letting the rain soak in and roll off.

Tongariro National Park Hike

Tongariro National Park Hike

Finally we reached Soda Springs. A quick photo op and we turned around and trudged back to the Mangatepopo carpark.

Tongariro National Park Hike

Once we got back in the van and had the heaters pumping we all laughed and kidded around, trying a hopeless battle to keep seats dry when everything about us was soaked. We had the giddy high you get after doing something you probably wouldn’t have thought you would do, relief mixed with achievement. Then Sarah turned from the front seat and proposed we head to a lake walk – only about 2 hours and mostly under a rainforest canopy so we wouldn’t get much wetter (can you get wetter than 100% soaked?) The van got quiet. We all made non-committal noises sliding side-long glances at each other. Was anyone going to object? Was the seven months pregnant woman going to be shut down? Non-committal noises turned into non-committal head bobs as we all waited for someone to say the words that would send us all home to a shower and dry towel, food and a heater. The words never came and Sarah and Perrin clapped their hands and took off toward the walk. We all rallied as we realised ‘OK, we’re doing this!’ Later we all laughed when we realised not one of us thought we had it in us to do another rain walk, surely 4 hours had been enough. But we were all so glad that we’d followed the crowd – we had another fabulous walk!

Rotopounamu Lake is located at the foot of Mt Pihanga in the Pihanga Scenic Reserve, believed to have formed about 10,000 years ago by a landslide. The walk is 6km around, and took us about 90 minutes.

Tongariro National Park Hike

The name translates to ‘greenstone’ which apparently reflects the colour of the water on a clear day – I will have to trust our guides on this one seeing as my view was rather grey…

Tongariro National Park Hike

Dreary, but strangely still beautiful and rather invigorating to be there!

2014 New Zealand (2374)

I mentioned at the start of this post a cup of rice which was given to me without question from the kitchen at our accommodation. Along the walk I couldn’t help but keep getting my iPhone out to snap photos. Of course I hadn’t brought my camera along due to the rain, but with my phone slipping into the inside pocket of my trusty Kathmandu Gortex raincoat I figured I could chance it.

I took lots of photos – amidst lots of rain drops.

Tongariro National Park Hike

I made sure to wipe it dry every time I put it back in my pocket, but by the end of the day the combination of constant downpour and the humidity inside my jacket due to my body heat, my iPhone was NOT happy. As in the front screen was completely streaked with water marks and condensation under the screen. I could barely read a thing. I did a Google and read that I should turn it off and sit it in a cup of rice. I gave it a go as I LOVE my iPhone and would have been devastated to have it die, mid-trip no less. I kept it in the cup of rice overnight to no avail. I moved both rice and the iPhone into a clip-lock bag and kept it in there for another 48 hours with still no luck – it looked just as bad. I felt sad and decided to turn it on and use it as much as I could til I could get home and replace it. Well, gradually, over the next three weeks my iPhone healed itself. I suppose it dried out over time in my pocket next to my body heat. I was stoked! So for anyone looking  for a solution to a water damaged phone – time, heat and a little TLC should see it right :-)


Hello friendly reader! For a long time I felt like I was just writing for, and to, myself. But lately Google Analytics has been telling me a different story. Apparently I am writing to an audience of a couple hundred a month from all corners of the globe!

I’d like to hope people are landing here because there’s a genuine match for something they’re trying to find out more about.

I would LOVE to hear from these visitors – from you.

In the words of the brilliant Glen Hansard:

If you have something to say, say it to me now

Please leave me a comment and let me know where you’re from, what brought you here and where you’re going.

It would really make my day to hear from you :-)

And with my thanks, here is an awesome gift:

Rainbows at home

August 28, 2014 Life Comments

Rainbow Palm tree

When you’re away, every day brings interesting, extraordinary, novel things to be recorded on camera, to be posted on Facebook, to be retold on a blog, to write home and gush about. It all seems so worthy of sharing because it’s new and different, and we don’t want to forget.

Normal, ordinary, routine life just happens. Passes by.

This morning I woke to heavy rain; a deliciously warm, cosy awakening, safely cacooned in my quilt listening to the roar of the downpour, the energy of nature.

Then it calmed down and without leaving my bed I saw a beautiful rainbow arcing over the sky.

Perhaps today will be filled with exciting, extraordinary, novel things.

I recently spent almost three weeks away on a work trip. No I’m sorry I did not jet-set to New York, I wasn’t hopping around Europe, or navigating Asia. I was on a road trip around the same state I live in, New South Wales, visiting 16 bus depots scattered down the coastline from Yamba in the north, down to the Central Coast and then Western Sydney. I should explain that by day I’m the Marketing Manager for a public transport company hence so many bus depot visits! I love my job and any opportunity to escape my desk for awhile is welcome (even if I don’t need my passport).

Australia is not a bad deal, particularly sticking so close to the coastline. It was hard work, but I did take a few pics while away that I wanted to share.

Here’s a symbolic shot of what I spent a lot of time doing (but I’m one of those people that doesn’t mind being in transit watching the world pas by so it was not so bad):

In Grafton there is a bus route that runs through the stomping ground of a family of kangaroos – there are about 40-50 that hang around the farmland and golf course there.

In the town centre there is beautifully painted street art along the seating and road infrastructure. The local indigenous culture is represented in many of the artworks, they really add a beautiful atmosphere to an ordinary main street.

While out taking photos for our company blog we visited a beautiful boardwalk at Urunga. I snapped this lone pelican, sitting out on the rock thinking about life (or dinner).

We called into the groovy town of Bellingen and had a really awesome meal at 5 Church Street, a funky cafe with friendly service and live music from a young woman strumming a guitar and singing on a small stage. It was pouring with rain but cosy inside; I had the most delicious strawberry lemonade there.

We rolled into Coffs Harbour pretty late but still walked down to the jetty to get some fresh air and stretch our legs. I tried to take some pictures but the iPhone camera after dusk is not at it’s best. Plus it was raining.

Coffs Harbour Jetty

We stopped in a very cool cafe called Old John’s, reminiscent of the funky, hipster cafes popping up all over Sydney but which I found were fairly absent outside the city. I was still pretty full from eating in Bellingen so it all aligned to be one of those perfect scenarios where one is already satiated on the main meal front and can skip straight to dessert with plenty of room to commit to the cause. I had an awesome iced coffee and a rhubarb panna cotta with persian fairy floss. Yep.

There was a stack of boardgame boxes in the corner, unfortunately they must be meant only for show as so many of their pieces were missing. Luckily Snakes & Ladders doesn’t require many pieces – my colleague and I played a round (I lost) and then a few rounds of customised Trivial Pursuit (I won).

We landed in Port Macquarie over the weekend which was truly excellent timing as I have friends who live here. I was able to check out my friend’s latest project, a community garden called The Lost Plot. It was a hive of activity as it was having it’s big grand opening the following weekend. The area had recently had a bucket load of rain so it was MUD-DY! But that wasn’t getting in the way of all the workers putting in paths and finalising the garden’s layout. It was really cool, both my colleague and I felt the green thumb itch while there; the smell of the fresh soil, the dogs running around getting muddy and happy, and all the volunteers gathered in a whirl of community spirit! It was really inspiring and started to germinate a seed of thought I had for community gardens at my company’s work sites…

After visiting the community garden we went with my friend to Wauchope to check out a hip cafe there called the Living Room. It was a laid back space with a healthy, nourishing menu (including meals and liquids – the ‘I Am Love’ smoothie was divine, as was the carrot pineapple cake :-O)

I loved this sign behind their counter ;-) I do like the sentiment (but I do also like free Wi-Fi…)

My absolute favourite thing was the tiles on the toilet floor (I didn’t take my iPhone in there when I went, I had to come out and get it and go back to snap the pic, that’s how much I loved it.) When I own my own place, I am going to have floors just like this!

Kookaburras turn up everywhere around me; they are my spirit animal, I always pay attention when I see them because I’m sure it’s for a reason.

Port Macquarie is an exceptionally pretty part of the world. On Sunday morning I went to Lighthouse Beach with my friend, it’s a dog beach so we took her lovable energetic dog Zali with us. It was such a beautiful morning, the kind you’re glad you’re not in bed missing out on :-)



In the afternoon I went in search of a quiet coffee and on the recommendation of my friend went to Quay Lime Cafe on the Marina. It was really peaceful sitting on the deck reading a magazine (really loving the Renegade Collective mag), sipping my coffee.


We moved on to the really small town of Laurieton where our local colleagues told us to take a drive up North Brother Mountain, part of Dooragan National Park for a view of Camden Haven Inlet with the Camden Haven River winding between Queens and Watson Taylors Lakes.


It was a beautiful view in the late afternoon. I saw a snake on the ground near the entry of a the Laurieton Track but it darted away before I could photograph it (interesting side note: I don’t mind snakes just keep spiders away from me).

We started driving south to our next stop, Heatherbrae but took a wrong turn for a little way. A happy accident though as we ended up at the bank of the Camden Haven River where we saw river dolphins surfacing! We watched the sun setting behind North Brother Mountain where we had just been.

NSW roadtrip

The last stop of our road trip was on the Central Coast. We pulled over to take a photo of Wallarah Point Bridge at Gorakan and spotted this group of pelicans lounging about!

Central Coast Pelicans

Our next stop was Sydney – back home again! Such a great opportunity to see a bit more of the state and the areas my company operate in.

The best thing about road trips is they kinda sort themselves out – you’re bound to stumble across something awesome :-)