Here and there and everywhere: the way back

It’s easy to get complacent about the return journey. Once you’ve reached your destination, it’s hard to get too excited about the way back. It’s retracing your steps. You no longer feel like you’re blazing a new trail. It often seems shorter, less auspicious. Either that or interminably long. It’s rarely infused with the same sense of adventure as when you’re on the way to a new place.

Thankfully, we took all of that into account for this trip, and left plenty to do on Waterfall Way en route back to the coast. Not that we had much of a choice. For all that I’d like to paint it as foresight, the truth of the matter was that there was simply too much to see on our way in, so we had to leave some for the trip back!

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First stop was Wollomombi Gorge, in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park. The gorge’s waterfall was not particularly impressive – not enough rain around the time of our visit – but the lovely setting hardly needed the added boost. We had a nice little hike and then piled back into the car.

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Next stop was the gorgeous Point Lookout in New England National Park. By this point we were running out of time, so we didn’t get to do any hiking in the park, but I suppose you have to save something for next time. And there will be a next time.

We picked our way through the unsealed roads and back onto the freeway… only to get stopped again for around 20 minutes because of roadworks. Thankfully, the workers were nice enough to come and give us an estimated wait time, so I was able to turn off the engine and scoff some chips. This was after they told us they wouldn’t let us through unless I paid them $20 (because this is Australia and we have a grand history of trolling), and after I responded by laughing in their faces, because while I’m a bad Australian in some ways, I understand and appreciate the fine tradition of the piss take.

At least the roadside scenery was pleasant, if not quite as dramatic as the other things that we’d seen on our travels.Could almost pass for idyllic if not for that pesky soft-drink can.

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Our final stop for gorgeous scenery was Ebor Falls, in Guy Fawkes River National Park. We barely had to even turn off the freeway for this one. And by ‘this one’ I mean these two, because Ebor Falls is a two-for-the-price-of-one dealio.

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Just to check: everyone is now pretty clear on why it’s called ‘Waterfall Way’, right?

After Ebor Falls it was a straightforward drive back to the coast, along a now familiar route. Or that was the plan. It would have been straightforward had the brakes on our (long-suffering) car not overheated on the way down from Dorrigo plateau (a bad combination of a steep descent and near constant hairpin turns). I discovered what had happened the nerve-wracking way: i.e. trying to slow down from 100kmph, only to discover that the car had other ideas. Thankfully the brakes weren’t completely out and thanks to presence of mind and a comparatively empty road, we were able to pull over for a while to let everything cool down for a bit. We limped sadly into Bellingen 20 minutes later and consoled ourselves with a delicious late lunch. Luckily, by the time we were done the car had decided to behave itself again, and we made it home without further incident.

Next post: the trip back and a bit of a round-up!

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Here and there and everywhere: Waterfall Way

Our trips to the mid-north coast tend to get a little samey. In the best possible way, of course, because you don’t really need to stray further afield when you have two amazing beaches a figurative stone’s throw away. Though perhaps it’s inaccurate to say ‘samey’ because one of the things I love about the coast is that even when you visit the same beach, it’s always a slightly different experience. The tide is higher or lower, the sandbar has subtly shifted since the last time, the cloud cover has altered the colour of sea, and so on. So samey is, rather delightfully, never something about which you need to worry.

So perhaps it’s better to say that we’re stuck in our ways. Or that we need to get out more. ‘Out’ in this instance being defined as more than a half hour drive away (when you need to drive 20km for groceries, 65km to the nearest cinema, etc, the definitions of ‘out’ get hazy). And ‘need’ being defined as ‘probably should since you’re in a beautiful part of the world and you’re only experiencing a tiny, admittedly gorgeous, piece of it’.

However you want to describe it, what all of these nebulous emotions boiled down to is: we went for a jaunt. An excursion was had. Snacks were acquired, notes were taken, maps were collected, about a half kilogram of loose sand was vacuumed out of the car, and we were on our way, heading up along the coast for a ways before turning sharply inland to tackle Waterfall Way.

Waterfall Way is a very appropriately named road that links Coffs Harbour and Armidale. The drive is only 185km (I know, I know, “only”, but as Australian road-trips go, 185km is a pretty meagre distance, really) but manages to pack in an amazing variety of landscapes, national parks, and some lovely towns that are well worth visiting. And also waterfalls. Duh.

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We kicked off the trip with brunch in Bellingen, a lovely little riverside town only a short drive inland. The first time I visited Bellingen I was a little confused as to how a small town that wasn’t really that close to anything could maintain a) such an overall impression of being so hip and artsy, and b) its ratio of cafes to residents*. I still don’t really understand but now I just shrug and enjoy it; the food is great, the vibe is chilled out, and it’s just generally a pleasure to be there, however they manage it.

After brunch and a brief post-ice-cream chill out session down in the long grass by the river, we hopped back in the car and pressed on to Dorrigo National Park.

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Dorrigo National Park is a delicious little chunk of World Heritage Gondwana rainforest that’s a (comparatively) short and extremely scenic drive from Bellingen. One of my fellow road-trippers was full of scepticism (and car-sickness) as we drove the last stint to the Rainforest Centre, as by this point there were paddocks on both sides of the road and precious little evidence of rainforest. Thankfully, his doubt was completely abandoned once we got him out of the car and coaxed him out onto one of the walks. There are both long and short loop walks that leave from the Rainforest Centre; we picked the longer 6.6km walk that took us past both of the nearby waterfalls, Crystal Shower Falls and Tristania Falls.

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You can even walk behind Crystal Shower falls. Although I think I must have played too many computer games and/or read too many fantasy novels in my time, because I can never quite shake the expectation that the space behind a waterfall will hold either a secret hideout or a chest with a magical weapon.

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After our walk, the weather started to take a turn for the ominous, so we scurried back into the car and continued west along Waterfall Way. For a whole ten minutes, before we stopped again, because a little bit of rain wasn’t going to stop us from ogling Dangar Falls.

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After clambering – slightly rain splattered – back into the car we drove on to Armidale. After a brief wander and an extremely fancy kebab dinner, we returned to the hotel and passed out in front of a David Attenborough documentary. It’s amazing I didn’t dream of prehistoric fish. I’m kind of disappointed I didn’t, frankly.

The next day we made a brief stop at the visitor information centre, because I am a shameless tourist. I wasn’t sorry; one of the lovely staff members furnished me with a pamphlet about bird-watching in the area (thanks John!).

Our next stop was Oxley Wild Rivers National Park and the Threlfall walking track. This trail follows an historic hydro-electric scheme from the nineteenth century (really!) and then spits you out alongside Gara Gorge.

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It was only a 5.5km loop, so the walk wasn’t too challenging, or wouldn’t have been if not for the fact that we were (foolishly) doing it in the middle of the day in high summer. Doable, yes, but not exactly recommended!

One of the things that is amazing about this part of the country is the diversity of the terrain. Walking this trail, you wouldn’t believe that you are only a couple of hours’ drive from lush rainforest; we were slogging through tinder-dry bushland. Thankfully, the view was more than worth it, and I suspect that evening beers at The Welder’s Dog tasted all the better for having been earned by all of our traipsing through the dust and flies.

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Here and there and everywhere: Japan, Part 2

Travelling with friends and family is fun – provided you choose the right people, of course – but I’ve always had a soft spot for travelling alone. This is probably unsurprising; while I generally dislike labels, most people wouldn’t hesitate to call me an introvert, and I’ve always been good with my own company. However, my appreciation for solo travel goes beyond my need for plenty of quiet time. Travel is a completely different beast when you’re on your own. Things slow down, you have more time to notice the things around you, locals and other travellers are more likely to approach you, and you can set your own pace and prioritise the things that you want to do (i.e. you can throw off the shackles of compromise and be completely selfish!).

Of course, solo travel is perhaps not appropriate for every trip. There are some holidays I wouldn’t consider taking alone for a number of reasons; security, budget concerns, logistics, or the fact that some experiences are best shared. But when the opportunity arises, I do tend to leap upon it, and that was exactly what I did in Japan. My companions needed to be back in Australia because of work and study obligations, but this was not the case for me, so I decided to stay on for an extra 10 days. There were plenty of things I still wanted to see, and Japan is a very easy country in which to travel on your own, so when my fellow travellers booked their tickets back to Tokyo, I dug out my Kansai Wide Area Pass (highly recommended if you’re travelling down to the Kii peninsula) and hopped on a northbound train.

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First off, I spent a couple of days in Osaka. While there aren’t as many big/historical attractions in Osaka as there are in Kyoto – and I had already visited several of the more popular tourist destinations on a previous trip – it’s still a big and boisterous city with plenty to do. I spent plenty of time just wandering, though my favourite sight from this trip was easily Minō Kōen.

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I’d never heard of it before and it wasn’t in my guidebook; rather, I read about it while researching nice nature walks around Osaka, and thought that I would give it a go. I’m so glad I did. After having visited, I’m amazed that it’s not more popular with tourists. It’s nothing revolutionary; just a really lovely park, where you can take a walk through the forest to a sweet little waterfall, but it’s perfect for when you get tired of high rise buildings and want some quality time with the trees. It’s also very accessible, with a well paved main path, and it’s only about 20 minutes on the train from Umeda/Osaka station, though it certainly doesn’t feel like you’re that close to the middle of the city.

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I also spent plenty of time wandering around Osaka Castle Park. The thing I like best about this area is that it always feels like there’s something going on whenever you visit. Sometimes bands are playing, another time there was a craft beer festival, and during my final visit I saw a crowd of people standing around with various birds of prey perched upon their arms. Still not sure of exactly what that was – some sort of hawk and owl fanciers meet-up? – but as I said, there’s apparently never a dull moment in Osaka Castle Park.

After my time in Osaka was up, I hopped on a train bound for Kobe.

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Kobe was a very pleasant city that I sadly neglected; I came down with a virus shortly after arriving and spent a lot of my (brief) time there attempting to rest up and recuperate. I did however manage a wander around the port area, and a short hike partway up Mount Rokko to Nunobiki waterfall. I was greatly amused by the fact that the trail to the latter departed from the basement car-park of the shinkansen station. At least it was easy to find!

Once my time in Kobe was up, it was time for another train trip west, this time to Okayama. I’d never visited Okayama before but had always been curious, as I’d taken the shinkansen through a few times and had always wondered what I’d been missing. The city itself was smaller than my last few stops, but quite nice; I loved the little tree-lined canal that ran through it!

My first stop was Korakuen Garden and Okayama Castle. I had high expectations for the garden, as it’s said to be one of the top three in Japan, though upon visiting I have to admit that it perhaps wasn’t as much to my taste as Kenrokuen in Kanazawa. I think I just have a distinct preference for tall trees and moss over manicured lawns and neatly pruned hedges! Nevertheless, it was a very lovely garden, and it was far less crowded than Kenrokuen, so I was able to take my time and wander slowly, enjoying the peace and quiet.

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Okayama Castle was also lovely, and came with the standard excursion-full of adorable Japanese children who inevitably wanted to wave at the enormous white tourist. I was, as always, more than happy to play along.

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I also managed a day-trip out to Kurashiki, where I spent a lovely few hours getting lost, wandering around the canals, buying fabric, and cooing over the cat sprawled outside of the toy shop.

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After departing Okayama, I spent a lovely few days in Hiroshima. I’d visited Hiroshima before, but only as a day-trip from Kyoto, so I had been really looking forward to getting to know the city a little better.

I’m sure that many people think of one thing and one thing only when they hear of Hiroshima, but there’s a lot more to the city than that one event in its history. Hiroshima is a gorgeous city, with beautiful parks and tree-lined avenues, and while obviously there are museums and monuments dedicated to the A-bomb and its aftermath, it’s unfair to write off the city as a dark tourism destination and nothing more. The parts of the city that memorialise its tragic past also serve as centres for anti-nuclear campaigns. When you leave the (admittedly harrowing) Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, you are immediately provided with the opportunity to sign petitions to abolish the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons, and locals were handing out fliers in the area around the A-bomb dome. So while there is an emphasis on the city’s past, there’s also an optimism and a focus on the future that is very endearing.

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Aside from the above sights, I also visited Hiroshima Castle and Shukkeien, one of the city’s lovely gardens. If Okayama’s Korakuen had been not so much to my taste, then Shukkeien at least was a very pleasant surprise. It was small but very beautiful, and I spent an entire afternoon just wandering about, pausing often to sit and peek at the sunbathing turtles.

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Near the end of my time in Hiroshima, I also took a day to visit the island of Itsukushima (also known as Miyajima), famous for its iconic enormous floating torii.

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I’d visited before for a general wander around (and had my map partially eaten by one of the island’s ubiquitous deer) but this time I had a goal: to climb Mount Misen. I took the Daisho-in path, which is apparently the least steep of the three hiking trails, though I had definitely had my fill of stairs by the time I reached the top (for the less energetic/masochistic, there is also a ropeway). Thankfully, there was plenty of gorgeous scenery along the way to keep me distracted from my tired legs, and the view of the inland sea from the top of the mountain was more than worth the hike.

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Despite the length of the trip, I was still sad when my time in Japan came to an end. When I was younger I tended more towards homesickness, preferring shorter trips, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve found myself reaching the tail end of holidays thinking “but I’m not quite finished yet”, and the feeling tends to arise completely independent of the state of my to-visit list. Perhaps it’s because you never know what’s going to happen on a day when you’re on holiday, or because as I get older I have more appreciation for the simplicity of my days when I’m travelling (residing in a small room, living out of a single bag, rather than feeling overwhelmed by choice like I often do at home). It’s probably high time that I take note of these feelings, not so much for future trips, but for changes I can make to my day-to-day life. Though it’s not like I’ll ever say no to future trips either!

Pretentious sounding introspection aside, I was sorry to leave Japan, but I had a pretty sweet consolation prize: a ferry ride! There is no good reason for me to love boats as much as I do, given my role as that token character that suffers from seasickness, but love them I do. There’s something about taking a ship that makes you feel intrepid, even when this feeling is completely and utterly unfounded. It’s not just a trip, it’s a voyage. You can all stop laughing at me now.

Anyway. I needed to find my way back from to Tokyo, and it turned out that taking a boat from Hiroshima across the inland sea to Matsuyama in Shikoku, from where I had snagged a dirt-cheap domestic flight back to Tokyo, was way cheaper than taking the train. Plus, you know, this way a boat was involved!

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After this point it was all endless airports, a night in a hotel that I barely remember because I literally did nothing but shower and sleep, hasty bowls of udon, and the purchase of a fine selection of plane snacks that left me feeling all smug and organised (it’s easy when the airport has a well stocked and reasonably priced convenience store… and people wonder why I love Japan so much). I was sad to go but frankly, I know myself far too well to believe for a second that I won’t be back again. Let’s face it; where Japan is concerned, I’m completely incorrigible.

Here and there and everywhere: Japan, Part 1

There are a lot of reasons why I have a history of being… somewhat lacklustre at regular blogging. Some of these reasons are more interesting than others. One of the less boring excuses is that I travel a lot, and when I am travelling, I prefer to dedicate my energy to the trip itself, rather than tinkering with a blog (often over fairly underwhelming wifi connections).

True to form, I ranged far and wide over the tail end of 2015 and the start of 2016. In September of last year we went on a lovely trip to Japan. It was my third time visiting, because I just can’t seem to stop returning. Japan just hits all of the travel sweet spots for me: it’s endlessly interesting, stunningly beautiful, easy to get around, safe, convenient, and you can buy dorayaki (red bean pancakes) in every convenience store. It’s also comparatively close (when you’re Australian, you do actually start considering nine hour flights as “comparatively close”) so you don’t lose any time to jetlag.

This time around, we started out in Tokyo.

I’m not going to bother trying to describe Tokyo because that’s more or less impossible, but suffice to say it’s probably got what you’re looking for, whatever that might be. Example: in the same day we visited the lovely leafy and tranquil Institute for Nature Study and then wandered around Harajuku and Shinjuku. They’re not even that far apart. Japan is ridiculous and amazing that way.

Along with the usual tourist destinations of Shinjuku, Shibuya, Harajuku, Akihabara, and Asakusa, through complete dumb luck and good timing we also made it to Tokyo Game Show (non-gamer readers: afraid you guys will just have to take my word for it), which was tremendous fun.

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Once we wrapped things up in Tokyo, we hopped aboard a train and took a gorgeous ride to Takayama. We spent a lot of time wandering the old town, and clambering around the hills trying unsuccessfully to find the trails we’d read about, but enjoying the view nevertheless. Oh, and trying not to buy everything. Takayama is a special hell for people who love souvenirs. A lot of what’s on offer is both gorgeous and very reasonably priced, so if you’re anything like me, you’ll spend a lot of time agonising about how much room you have left in your suitcase.

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Our next destination was Kanazawa, along the northern coastline. We only had one full day in the city, so we made sure to check out the famous Kenrokuen Garden, which was far too beautiful to be done justice by my mediocre photography!

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After Kanazawa, we took the Thunderbird Express (best train name ever) down to Kyoto, where we stayed for a little under a week. It wasn’t my first visit, but I’m pretty sure that it’s impossible to get bored of Kyoto. It’s an incredibly beautiful city on the face of things, but more than that, I find that I actually love it more the longer I spend there. It’s one of those places where  you can very profitably just wander and gawk for a very, very long time without getting bored or running out of things to see.

There are far too many beautiful things in Kyoto for me to list them all, but one of my favourite new-to-me discoveries from this trip was the nineteenth century aqueduct hidden away in the Nanzen-ji temple complex (though the temples themselves are, of course, astonishingly beautiful as well).

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I will also never stop being partial to Arashiyama, for very obvious reasons.

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While, as mentioned above, I’m firmly convinced that I will never get sick of Kyoto, it was our next destination that had me the most excited: the Kumano region, on the Kii Peninsula. I had wanted to hike some of the Kumano Kodō ever since I had read about it several years earlier, but hadn’t managed to get there during my previous trip to Japan, so this time around I was about as full of enthusiasm as was possible, given the head cold I was sporting by this point of the trip!

We took the train down through Wakayama prefecture and stayed in Shirahama overnight, heading down to the gorgeous beach for a wander, a quick dip (the water was surprisingly warm for October), and also to wave a patriotic hello to the sand, which is apparently imported from Australia! The next day we took several hundred bus trips (well, it felt that way) and arrived in the lovely little town of Hongu. We had decided earlier to stay several days in Hongu and hike outwards, rather than trying to hike from town to town. This definitely turned out to be for the best, as one of our party was bedridden from a nasty virus, and the rest of us were still recovering; staying in one place left us with plenty of hikes to tackle, but had the added benefit of recuperation and hot-spring time!

The town of Hongu was small but lovely, with some impressive temples and the largest torii shrine in the world (it was colossal). There were also a large number of hawks circling over the town for the entirety of our visit. I’m still unsure why – perhaps it was mating season, or some such thing – but it definitely gave the place quite the atmosphere!

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The Kumano Kodō paths themselves were absolutely gorgeous. We hiked sections of the Nakahechi route, which took us through an amazing range of settings, from lush ferny forests to farming villages and mountain ranges.

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You get the idea!

When we weren’t hiking until our legs were screaming (and scream they did; in case the elevation in the last photo doesn’t give it away, there were plenty of steep climbs) we were lolling around in the nearby Kawayu Onsen. Kawayu Onsen is one of those places that makes people sceptical when you speak of your trip, because it sounds far too nice to actually exist. The onsen is set along the banks of the river; the hot-spring water wells up from underneath the river stones. You can dig your own bath, or laze around in one of the pre-dug holes. If you get bored or overheated, a quick dip in the (brisk!) mountain river does the trick. It’s as nice as it sounds, and the setting is gorgeous.

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I know, right?

After we finally pried ourselves out of the river, it was off to Kumano Nachi Taisha, one of the main destinations of the pilgrimage route. We cheated and, ahem, took the bus most of the way, but made sure to hike the Daimon-zaka, one final 600 metre stretch of stone steps and ancient trees.

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And then there was the temple itself, as well as nearby Nachi Falls. I came perilously close to running out of awe that day!

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After a night in sleepy Kii-Katsuura, part of which was spent soaking our tired feet in the hot-springs by the town docks while weeping with joy over having regained access to well-stocked convenience stores, I parted ways with my travelling companions. They got on a train back to Tokyo, and I boarded the northbound service for Osaka. There may have been a dance off at the station, but you didn’t hear it from me…

In the next episode: Anna’s solo adventures through Kansai!

 

New South Wales Adventures, Part 2: Round and About

In case the last post was not enough to convince everyone, I am pretty keen on Crescent Head. But the thing is, I am pretty bloody keen on most all of the mid-north coast of New South Wales. It is just such a beautiful part of the world. The beaches are gorgeous but are rarely crowded. The water is warm enough to swim but cool enough to be refreshing. The weather is mild for most of the year but lacks the fierce humidity of Queensland or the bone dry heat of Victorian summers. There are beaches, rainforests, sand dunes, rivers, lakes, mountains, caves, estuaries, farms, breweries, dairies, wineries; pretty much everything you could want in a summer holiday, right? Right.

As I mentioned, I originally went north to do my practical legal training in a community legal centre in Port Macquarie, a lovely town a few hours north of Sydney. It’s not large by my city slicker standards, but it’s large enough that there are plenty of things to do there. For a start, there’s a gorgeous little slice of national park right in the middle of the town. Sea Acres National Park is small but highly recommended; when you’re traipsing through the rainforest boardwalks eyeing the strangler figs, you definitely don’t feel like you’re a scant walk from houses and milk bars.

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Other honourable mentions go to Kooloobung Creek Nature Park (so many flying foxes!!), as well as some of the amazing Port Macquarie breweries. We checked out The Little Brewing Company and Black Duck Brewery; both produce some incredibly good beers, and both are small enough that a visit also gives you a chance to have a good old chat with the people doing the brewing. I’m still thinking about Black Duck’s Migration Stout and suspect I will be doing so for quite some time now.

And speaking of the finer pleasures in life (i.e. booze), there are also some fantastic wineries in the area. I know I should be talking about the wine, but I’m bad at that (I enjoy drinking it, but am godawful at winespeak), so I’ll just say that in addition to delicious wine, Innes Lake sports the most magnificent beast of a bougainvillea that you will ever see, and Bago Winery has a hedge maze. Delicious wine, local cheese AND a hedge maze to run around in afterwards? What could go wrong? Nothing, that’s what!

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(isn’t it amazing? I should have included a person for scale but in lieu of that, let me point out a) the cars on the bottom right, and also the fact that a full-grown adult can traverse that boardwalk without having to duck to avoid all that glorious magenta)

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Further up the coast is Delicate Nobby, South West Rocks, Trial Bay and Arakoon. Further south is Lake Cathie, Laurieton, Dooragan National Park… the list goes on. I visit this part of the coast as often as I’m able and I am still yet to run out of new things to do. No better place for a summer, as far as I’m concerned, and it’s no coincidence that I’m staring longingly at these photos now that we’re well into a dreary Melbourne winter.

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*swoon*

Back to reality next post, I promise!

 

Scotland

After dawdling around Keflavik International Airport for enough time to enjoy the EVE Online advertisements and the scary bird photographs in the toilets, I boarded a plane and then another plane and finally found myself in gorgeous Edinburgh.

While perhaps I took fewer photographs in Scotland than I did in Iceland, Scotland was more or less the reason that this trip came to be. In September last year two very dear friends of mine moved from Melbourne to Scotland so that one of them could pursue PhD studies at the University of St Andrews. I was sad to see them go but of course, when you are a traveller at heart, you know that that well-worn phrase “I’ll come visit” is not just a cliche that you spew when you are saying goodbye. I, inevitably, meant it. For realsies.* So it was that I found myself in Scotland.

My first night in Edinburgh was my first night all on my own in weeks, so of course I absolutely relished it. Delicious, delicious solitude. I do love travelling in company (so much easier not to miss people that way!) but I am also blissfully content when left to my own devices (read: I need alone time or I turn into a cranky piece of work). I didn’t get up to anything much, to be honest – just traipsed around Leith and ate a dinner foraged from the supermarket, since I arrived quite late. I have a vague recollection of dozing through some truly horrible television (another travel novelty, as I don’t have television at home). But it was nevertheless a restorative night in its own way.

The next day I hopped on a train to Leuchars and spent most of the trip gawping out the window and chatting to a lovely local woman about a campaign to reintroduce wolves to Northern Scotland (who knew?) and how the re-introduced beavers have apparently already naturalised (they have a website!). A bus trip to St Andrews later and I was reunited with my friend, who of course met me at the bus station with a can of Irn Bru (it actually wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting, though my expectations were pretty dire).

It took me under an hour to become insanely jealous at my friends’ new home. I mean, LOOK AT IT.

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We spent a lot of time just walking around the town and its parks and I am pretty sure I wasn’t bored for a moment of it. It was just so green and beautiful. It’s funny really, how despite being born and raised in Australia I still have very northern hemisphere standards of beauty when it comes to landscapes. Don’t get me wrong; Australia is absolutely stunning in its own way, especially if you go for stark and striking rather than mild and green (though we have some of that too). But when I see the lush green parks and flowery meadows of the UK, something in my brain prods me and tells me that this is somehow correct, this is how things are supposed to look. I suspect it’s because back home we are started on a diet of imported books, movies and television shows from a very young age, where it’s all Enid Blyton’s various mystery-solving children camping in lush green fields or Austen’s heroines taking a turn about the garden. Or perhaps it’s from living in Melbourne where so many of our parks and gardens aspire to the lush green look and do quite well at it until, oh, the first 35+ degree day of summer and then things tend to revert to crunchy brown. Or perhaps it’s knowing that odds are nothing deadly is lurking in the grass in the UK – it took me a few tries before I could stride through the shin-high grass in Kensington Gardens without feeling very, very daring. Who can know?

I have to admit I find this bias rather disagreeable; evidently I need to spend more time admiring my own country (ahem, there might be something in the works on that front, but more on that soon)! But still, there’s no denying that Scotland is beautiful. A few days into my visit we walked part of the Fife Coastal Trail and the sheer variety of landscapes through which we passed blew my mind.

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It was a gorgeous walk, definitely worth the sun-burn. Yes, I got sunburnt in Scotland. Badly. Takes talent, I know.

The weather took a turn after this, but we had no shortage of indoors catching up to get done over the next week, and we also managed a day trip out to Dundee (hoping for a sighting of the elusive Dundee Man). And the weather obligingly cleared up in time for a bonfire on the beach on my final night in the town.

We spent my final night in Scotland in Edinburgh, getting soaked to the skin by the torrential rain, pottering around in the National Museum of Scotland, and eating two dinners because we were so hungry. Yes, two dinners! And then the next day it was time for goodbyes, because I was off to a significantly warmer climate. Next post: Malta!

 

*The promise did, however, come with a disclaimer that nothing would induce me to visit in winter. Or early spring. Or late autumn. Or any season where I was in danger of feeling cold. This perhaps turned out to be a slightly inconsistent promise given that I came via Iceland (!) but when your friend travels such vast distances to visit, surely you don’t give a shit that their promises re: their temperature tolerance are all over the place? Here’s hoping!