Thursday, July 12, 2018

SUCKERS FOR PUNISHMENT...

Unbelievably, after declaring she would never again go bush walking after recovering from the "Big Bush Adventure", Bottoms found herself once more heading out to the Scenic Rim with Cat. What a smooth talker that Cat is.  This time, however, Bottoms was armed with her own walking stick and a wonderfully sturdy pair of walking boots.  Helpfully, the weather was fair and she had been training by walking up hill and down dale around her home.  Cat had also continued her own training.  They were both feeling secretly smug and fairly certain they would not be last back to the cars.

They had been heartened to read that the Mt Mattheson Circuit is only 8km and listed as "easy with some moderate rough sections". 

Arriving a teensie bit late at the rendezvous, they followed Possum's car to the carpark where they were able to take advantage of the composting toilets before starting out.

Both had a good feeling about this walk.  This time, all participants were women and included Possum's mother whom Bottoms dubbed 'Mother of the Guide'.

They enjoyed the easy walk first up as they made their way up towards the summit of Mt Mattheson.  Possum again was a font of knowledge about the flora and was first to spot a Greenhood orchid aka Pterostylis curta and so we managed not to trample it into the ground. 
This photo demonstrates how difficult it was to see. 



Here it is close up. All were glad it wasn't destroyed (awkward moment avoided). 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

CAT AND BOTTOMS JOIN THE NAVY....

Well, Cat and Bottoms joined the Navy a long time ago.  They've have been on several trips together and the latest was a Wrans Reunion at Nelsons Bay in NSW. They would meet up with quite a few of their old class mates, former colleagues and probably make some new friends too.

Deciding not to fly but to drive (road trip!!!) they set off early one morning, Bottom's small car packed to the roof with their baggage. They spent the first night with Kezza, a friend of Bottoms who lives in Valla Beach, which is a beautiful part of the world. 
From there really, it was an easy trip, the roads in NSW being very good. Bottoms did all the driving; it was her car after all but Cat has previous for falling asleep at the wheel, which was extremely worrying (and not to be repeated). They managed to get lost anyway, naturally, blaming Google Maps which them to turn right off the main highway due to some roadworks.  It didn't feel right as Port Stephens is on the coast and they were travelling south.  Nevertheless, Bottoms did as instructed. After bumping along a rutted, gravel road for 10 mins heading ever westward, an executive decision was made to turn around and get back onto the main highway.  They arrived in beautiful Nelsons Bay without further drama and, incidentally, no sighting of any roadworks.
Staying in a caravan park, they set off after arriving to pick up Duckie (their cabin mate for the weekend) from the Newcastle airport. After getting back to the park they then met up with the girls in the adjoining cabin, also ex-class mates. They headed over to register for the Reunion and picked up their packs of goodies which included some local wine.  Typically, it turned out that Cat and Bottoms had somehow neglected to put their names down for the meet and greet that night so stayed home and sulked. Well not really, they partied on their own consuming their wine and caught up with the others when they got home.
Next day, was a bus trip with Duckie where they visited a couple of wineries, with lots of tastings (and subsequent buyings) of Hunter Valley wines. 
Luckily, they were passengers on a bus so no worries about being over the limit. Tamburlaine Scarlett Bubbles was a standout! And surely was the reason there was so much giggling up the back on the trip home.
Lunch at a local tourist spot where Cat and Duckie made friends with some locals...
 Morning tea  next day at the Lighthouse Cafe which is above the Caravan Park they stayed at...
The advantage of having their own vehicle was the ability to go where they wanted to, so a bit more sightseeing was on the agenda. This is some of the view off Soldiers Point.
They really liked Fingal Bay too...

The big Reunion Dinner was a bit of a disappointment. Their table was second last to be served so they were still waiting on their entrees while others were enjoying their main. Then LOUD band music started up and was not exactly conducive to reunion conversation so that really spoiled the night for them and most of their mates. Could it be they were just getting too old for LOUD music? Round tables would have been good too so they could have easily converse with everyone (should the music get turned down). Notes were made for the next reunion. Mumble, mumble, bitch, moan, complain.
Aren't they gorgeous?? Smiling because the music wasn't as LOUD out there...
(photo by innocent bystander...)

Breakfast at the beach was a fizzer due to being unable to park within two kilometres of the designed meeting spot for participants. Sunny (and hot) Sunday mornings are apparently the most popular time for people to go to Shoal Bay Beach. Instead Cat, Bottoms and Duckie enjoyed breakkie in a nearby (air conditioned) cafe. After dropping Duckie at the airport (having already had a teary farewell at the Van Park with their other chums), the two girls did a bit more sightseeing and shopping. What a quiet evening it was after the wonderful camaraderie they'd enjoyed all weekend.  Monday they set off for Valla Beach carrying delicious fresh seafood for Kezza to enjoy with them that night. Farewell, Nelsons Bay you were fabulous...
***
Back to Valla Beach!
Yummo!
 Some of the Valla Beach locals enjoying Deep Creek...
 Beautiful Valla Beach...
 Spotted this elephant croc at the creeeeeeeek! Then of course realised it was just a log... but you can see why they thought that (some artistic licence taken).
Kezza took them for a little more sightseeing too, specifically to see this osprey in its nest atop the tallest pole around. Amazed to be able to see it...

Next day after a restful evening gorging and drinking, they farewelled Kezza and set off for home.  They can't wait for the next trip...

No animals were harmed in the production of this article, some names were changed to protect the innocent and poetic licence was liberally used. Due to the consumption of alcohol, some occurrences may be out of order or misremembered. Unless stated, all photographs were taken by sandyiamg and owned by snapshotsofbeauty.blogspot.com 


Friday, April 7, 2017

WHEN ROMANCE DIES...

Prior to retiring earlier this year, I had no idea what I wanted to do really when I became an Old Age Pensioner (OAP). Then one day as I headed to Brisbane to visit family, I passed a small motor-home which gave me the romantic notion that I could travel like that, cat in tow. 
In my head I could see us hitting the road in style, stopping wherever/whenever we wanted to along the way. I even worked out how to take along a cat enclosure so he wouldn't be cooped up inside all the time. We would be self sufficient when we stopped to visit friends and not straining a friendship. When I returned home that day the first thing I did was look up motor-homes for sale on line and there was a small Winnebago for a single person with a motor scooter included! OMG, haven't I always said that a photographer needs to travel by motor cycle so they can stop along the side of the road to capture that wonder scene? Was that a sign? Yes, that was the life and all I had to do was buy into it; once I had the small superannuation payment I was expecting after I retired. 

My wise daughter who had hired a campervan a few years ago and (happily) travelled alone around NSW suggested that before I commit my money to something like that, I should hire one to see if I liked it.  Such a wise girl.  Then I was told about a scheme where hire companies would give you a car/motor-home/camper van to relocate for them. You only had to pay for fuel and sometimes they even gave you a small fuel voucher and allowed you time and extra mileage to get their van to the required destination. So I picked Brisbane to Melbourne, gave them some dates that would suit and waited to see if anything came up.

Bingo! Soon I had 8 days to get a camper van (stocked with kitchen utensils and bedding package) from Brisbane to Melbourne and extra mileage in the time period I'd chosen. I booked a flight home from Melbourne a few days after their return date so I could visit friends. Surely a camper van would be not much different to a motor home? How wrong I was. I discovered that camper vans are for young, agile backpackers, not aging romantics who need to visit the loo a couple of times during the night.
The van had a small section at the back to use as a kitchen when the door was up but otherwise the rest of the rear space had a double mattress (5 sections of soft foam). Later, I would find I could set up a folding table inside (or outside) at night with some difficulty. 

I left Brisbane on a rainy Tuesday planning to stop in Ballina to have a look around the following morning before continuing to visit a friend south of Coffs Harbour. First I decided to "set up camp" and arrived at a seaside caravan park and asked for a powered en-suite site. Apparently no such thing exists in Ballina, according to the lass who served me.  Powered sites aplenty but no en-suites. I was staggered by that. After Cyclone Tracy devastated Darwin, we had temporary accommodation in a caravan park up there which had an en-suite sites. That was in 1974/5.  I'd assumed that sort of site would be common-place in this day and age. New plan. Ring friend and see if I could arrive a night early. No problem, so off to Valla Beach. 
Some of the Valla Beach birdlife...
Cloudy day at nearby Urunga...

I ended up staying 3 nights with lots of photographic ops but before leaving, cleverly rang ahead to my next planned stop of Nelson Bay, north of Newcastle and asked for an en-suite site. It took 2 calls to get one but I was relieved eventually to find civilisation had reached that far.  The bonus turned out to be that I could leave my luggage in the roomy en-suite area and lock it. I had been concerned about driving into town and leaving the van which I went shopping or sightseeing. Vehicles aren't particularly hard to break into, I know.

Travelling on your own can be lonely of course and I discovered I'm poor company. What to do after dark when there's no TV or book to read? Not one to hit the clubs and play pokies, I bought a magazine to read. Then I discovered I couldn't open the back door. I'd had trouble before leaving Valla Beach but had finally opened it there. All the things I'd tried then didn't work this time. Another park resident saw my distress and tried to help but had to agree, it was not working.  Dusk was looming and I needed to get the bedding package and the electric cord to power the van.  Thinking there must be some trick to it, I rang the company and asked. "No trick Ma'am, just ring roadside assist."  Finally, the mechanic arrived, was also unable to open the door but using some brute strength managed to get it open and eventually found an old spoon jamming up the lock. Not from my utensils package but presumably had been kicking around for a while.  Thank you, NMRA.

I briefly thought about moving all the foam sections into the large en-suite room but decided I really needed to try this camping thing. In the end I decided to look on it as "an experience". The mattresses were a little too thin for my comfort so I put 2 on top of 2 others and tucked the one sheet in tightly around the lot. As it had been hot and I wasn't going to be leaving any windows open, I declined to use the only other bedding which was a sleeping bag. It had a funky smell and I tried not to think about what previous renters had gotten up to in there. However, during the night when temps dropped and I was shivering, I used it; after all it would have been cleaned after the last backpacker used it, right? In the end, after a very uncomfortable night because I gradually falling between the 2 mattress pieces, I didn't have to get up for the loo once! Mind over matter I'm thinking.
I had been getting up early every morning on the trip to see the sunrise and was defeated each day by thick, morning cloud-cover but finally was treated a beautiful sunrise at Shoal Bay before packing up and heading south. Next stop Gundagai!

I managed to spill 2 cups of coffee over myself and the van during the trip because there was no cup holder. That started me thinking that I could invent some sort of pack for solo travellers who have no one to pass them the tissues or hold their coffee instead of scrabbling in a handbag that went MIA the minute you brake or turn a corner. I daresay there is already such a thing and if I'd prepared properly I may have found something useful. Note to self: next time (in a motor-home) do some prep about the vehicle you'll be driving. The van travelled very well I have to say. No dramas or difficulties on the road and I kept up with main traffic although I suspect the speedometer was showing at least 5km faster than I was actually doing thanks to those roadwork speed signs that chastise you for speeding. That may have saved me from a speeding ticket in NSW when I was possibly over the limit when I passed a mobile speed camera.  We'll see eventually anyway.
I saw the sign to exit for the Dog on the Tuckerbox just in time.  I stretched my legs, took a photo of the dog and enjoyed an ice-cream while I checked Google maps. Where to stop? I hadn't booked ahead deciding I wouldn't be camping that night but getting a room or cabin somewhere.  

Gundagai was the original place I was headed for that day but now I was there it was so early I could continue to Albury and would arrive before 5pm.  Just for fun I checked to see have much further from there to my destination of Romsey which is to the north of Melbourne. Less than 3 hours.  Jeez, if I kept going I'd be there before 7.30pm! So I could spend money on a room in a strange town where I knew no one OR I could push on and be in the lap of luxury with my friends by nightfall. My training as a graduate of my ex-husband's School of Holiday Driving, whose motto was "Why stop when you can keep driving?", kicked in and after checking to make sure my friends were home, I set off happily on the next phase of my trip. Sometimes I felt like I was the only car on the road with nothing ahead of me and nothing behind. 
I even managed to stop a couple of times for photos. Loved this handsome tree on a country road Google Maps sent me down.
 The rock formations in the Mitchell Shire are called The Boulders by locals (although I couldn't find anything on Google about them) and at sunset were absolutely striking. 
We went back to the area on my last day to have a look around and although there were other different formations which were also amazing, I didn't think they had quite the gravitas the setting sun gave them.
I was as relieved to see Mr Darcy as he was to see me...

It was a great relief to hear "you have reached your destination" from my phone as I turned into my friends' street, 11 hours or so after leaving Nelson Bay.  I returned the van a few days later. Although I had "an experience", it's not one I'll repeat unless I'm in a motor-home with its own shower and loo and I'll have done some solid preparation and planning, working out what I need and where I'll stop each night. If that doesn't live up to my expectations then I'll know the Romantic Me has left the building.