Sunday, 25 November 2012


nos·tal·gi·a  (n -st l j , n -) n.
1. A bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past.
2. The condition of being homesick; homesickness.

If you look up nostalgia in a thesaurus you find words like reminiscence, remembrance, wistfulness, among others.

Tewantin - Cooroy - Yandina - and then the nostalgia kicks in. Reminiscence floats up into consciousness and with it, memories of a distant past. We are heading toward Esk to stay overnight with my children's grandmother and auntie, and I want to stop at the Ginger Factory in Yandina because somewhere in my memory store I possess the knowledge that Ivy, my 90 year old ex-other-in-law absolutely loves ginger; crystalised, chocolate coated, marmalade, you name it, whatever I buy will put a smile on this remarkable woman's face.
Yandina - Woodford - Kilcoy - then we skirt around the Somerset Dam and arrive at Esk mid-afternoon. And there are the smiles, the 'you remembered'. Ivy welcomes us and makes us tea, then we walk around the property and 'Ivy's garden'. Always something we've had in common - as well as Jasmin, Carly, Jack and her son, who I shared a huge chunk of my life with, and much of it up here in Queensland. We talk about family and memories return with every moment : images, feelings, and thoughts of another time, another me - much younger and more willing to be shaped by the will of others.

I catch up on the lives of her other children and their families. We talk of the sorrow of the passing of some and come full circle back to the present day.
At 90, Ivy still takes the bus and train into Brisbane once a week to her art group (she paints) at the City Hall, and another day goes to Tai Chi and yet another day to Garden Club. Still sharp of mind while perhaps a little slower on her pins - she amazes everyone.
From Esk we head to Myocum near Byron Bay, where we will catch up with my brother, Lance, his wife Vatika, and their children, Subhuti and Meira.
I want to avoid Brisbane and the Gold Coast and show Michael the Numinbah Valley, a route that takes us over the border and into Murwillumbah. We travel through Jimboomba, Beaudesert, Canungra and Nerang and onto the Numinbah Road. We drive through beautiful farmland, wending out way down the valley, stopping off at Natural Bridge just before we hit the border.
These places loom large in my experience; from Mt Tamborine through to Byron Bay and hinterland - these were our destinations of choice - for picnics, weekends and holidays, or even just for a drive. The South East landscape, bush and rainforest - the volcanic presence of the hills of Northern New South - the smell, the heat, the humidity - all evoking emotions which segway into hopes and dreams lost, and longings cut short by the cold hard truth of things - bittersweet memories.

I find a large uncomfortable sensation settling in my throat which promises to spill out of the corner of my eyes. I swallow hard, breathe deeply and let it go, again. This happens each time I drive these country roads. And each time I think I let go a little more and learn to live with what remains. Some loss becomes part of us - marking us for life.

Unfortunately we have run out of picassa (photos) data storage on our blog account, and as we have also run out of funds we have decided that we won't be upgrading and posting any more pics until later. So for the rest of the images you guys will have to come around for dinner for some very inspiring (yawn) slide shows.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Wasting away in Noosaville. 22-10-12

I'm having a coffee and reading the papers on Gympie Terrace in Noosaville. Unlike the Jimmy Buffett song "Wasting away in Margaritaville" I'm not "Looking for that log shaker of salt" and there is "No woman to blame". None the less there is a  tap on my shoulder, a slow creeping certainty and the inevitable pull coming from my bank balance that is calling me back to Melbourne. But not just yet, with a flick forward of my shoulder I tell myself I'll have a few more margaritas first.

So Alana and I find ourselves parked and plugged in the backyard of my cousin Brendan and his lovely wife Joy in down town Tewantin. I have had some great holidays up this way. Alana and I always threaten to move up this way but never do.

My sister Cathie and brother in law Mike have a place up this way in Little Cove which they spend parts of the year in. It just happens that they are here at the same time.

                                                Looking at Mt Cooroy from Mt Tinbeerwah

                                        My cousin Brendan (Bern) pondering the unponderable.

At the bird hide, Lake McDonald

                     On the road to Bedrock Fred looked out the window and yelled "Jaba Jaba Roo"

                                                     The backwater of Lake McDonald

                                       Mt Cooroy in the background, wetlands in the foreground.

                                     The amphitheatre at Noosa Botanical Gardens in Cooroy.

Taking a pretend specky at the amphitheatre.

Some times you just gotta kiss your girl.


The Apollonian Hotel at Booreen Point.

                                                         "Haven't I seen you here before?!"

                               On a boat cruise up the Noosa river with Alana, Joy and Brendan.

                                              Our hosts from "Agrippa Crescent Van Park".

                                                 The car ferry across to the north shore.

A Butcher bird getting some wind in his feathers

Sea Eagles coming in for a feed of chicken skins.

Sunset on the river cruise.

                                                                  Mike and Cathie.

                                                              Coffee on Hastings St.

Sis and Me.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Back on the rim. 15/10/2012

"It is a continent of dreams we inhabit, a waiting continent. All who have set foot in its bush, its lonely places, know that silence. The continent is dreaming. We have felt it and been afraid...and retired to the outer rim."

So wrote David Ireland in his 1979 novel A Woman of the Future. I came across this quote in an article by Geordie Williamson in the Review section of the Weekend Australian last weekend, and while it was quoted in the context of an article about the death of Australian literature, it resonated quite strongly with me, having just returned to the east coast.

And if any of you has been watching the series on ABC called Great Southern Land,and in particular the episode Living on the Edge, you will immediately get the connection to the quote.

Population density at last census.

Most of our huge continent's people choose to live on the edge and in particular the east coast and south east. Having spent the last big chunk of our trip coming across the Top End, we had become used to the miles and miles of vast open space, dotted with civilization sporadically. And much of our trip has afforded us the pleasure of empty landscape, with echoes of the ancient and recent past. Just the opposite of what we know and how we live on the east. There is a different dreaming out there. We of the east have reinvented ourselves over and over again as we populate and creep out over old farmland and bushland to create new neighbourhoods and extend the boundaries of our sprawling cities. Ours is a newer dreaming. A different pace and mindset. (This is also happening in the west, we get the same feeling around Perth and much of the new, mining centred, communities that are changing the identity of many towns and regions.)

The photos above were retrieved from google images.

I've been trying to nut through just what it is I'm feeling about being back on the east coast. Conflicting feelings. At once the feeling of familiarity and the comfort that that brings, and then the feeling that we have left something behind; something ancient and connected to another time in our history. Being in those lonely places, that silence and that vastness brings a joyous freedom, a liberation from our suburban existence back home. Those sparsely populated square kilometres you cross fill you with something different. An elusive element. Something less weighty. You let go.


All of a sudden I'm struggling with proximity to so many bodies. More traffic, more speed (Bruce Highway I hate you!), more roads, more shops, more buildings, more telephone towers connecting more telephones. And more choices. More distractions that seem to me to lead us all into a more complacent way of thinking.

I guess it will take some time to adjust to it all. But I hope that this vast and dreaming continent has opened up a place inside me and sown some germ that can continue to grow in my imagination and effect my way of looking at the world.

Coming to Tin Can Bay to stay with Mum for a month was the perfect transition for Mike and I. Mum and Dad (Danny) bought this place many, many years ago as a winter retreat. Dad's love of fishing and the Bay's quiet no fuss community were what drew them to the area.

We unpacked the van and stored our gear in the boat-shed before sprawling ourselves in the luxurious and large space of Mum's place. We quickly adjusted to doing nothing. We gave the van a huge clean inside and out and then attacked doing nothing with a vengeance.

Tin Can Bay is a sleepy fishing town with long shallow sand flats that stretch way out into the bay at low tide. A terrific bike and walking track snakes along the foreshore making in a heaven for dog walkers and keep-fitters. Mike and I had been on a keep fit program walking up and down gorges, national parks and beaches for the past months so we felt no guilt in simply watching Tin Can Bay residents walking and cycling past our balcony each day. Mum's home is on the Esplanade with sweeping views of the bay - just magic. Our exercise consisted of walking from the bedroom to the bathroom to the kitchen to the balcony where we worked our eye muscles watching either the sun or the moon rising over the bay. Queensland mornings begin early and bright so we found ourselves awake early, but always followed by breakfast in bed, reading until a more respectable hour of rising around nine or ten. We managed a couple of short walks to the post office and IGA, and spent a lovely few hours wandering around the stalls at the Seafood Festival one Saturday morning. We even drove the five ks to Woolies a couple of times for supplies.

A grey morning in Tin Can Bay.

Sunrise over the Bay.

Low tide.
We really did unwind there and let ourselves come into the cave for a while. It felt good. We didn't realise how tired we were. That road is a relentless grind in many ways. A fantastic relentless grind.

While we were there Mum took a tour out west to Winton and Longreach with a bunch of travelling country musicians. She was away for eight days leaving the house to us. We spread out even more during those days and I read a huge science fiction novel called the Dreaming Void, book one of the Void Trilogy by Peter Harrison. I got lost in other galaxies until I surfaced to eat, shower or sleep and have the odd conversation with Mike. A timely book for me and fun to re-visit my first love ie the science fiction novel. I'm not sure what Mike was doing during those few days. I did notice him across the dinner table and oh! there he was beside me each night as I sat up with my head in my book. So I guess he was busy with his own wind-down process. Being in a 'house' was great as we didn't have to speak or be close to each other - it was nice to have a bit of space.

Three major highlights for us during the month were a visit to Noosa to have lunch and catch up with Cath and Mike, Mike's sister and brother-in-law, and a trip to Brisbane by Mum, Mike and I to see Bangarra perform the final leg of their national tour season. We stayed with Jas in her apartment and spent the day with my brother Lance, his wife Vatika and their daughter Meira (up for the day and the show from Byron Bay - an entry from our Byron sojourn to follow in due course). It has been a real treat to see our siblings and their families and so great to spend some time with Jasmin in her busy dancing schedule. The final highlight was a visit from my dear friend Christine and her husband Terry, who came up to spend the day with us from Brisbane. It happened to be the rugby grand final day, so, as Chris and Terry were barracking for the Melbourne Storm in the absence of their team playing (Broncos of course!) we settled into a full on grand final day with nibbles banquet, beer and good craic.

Mum and I with the Byron crew.

Mum, Jas and I.

Me with my dear friend Chris.

Chris and Terry,

There's my girl.
I will conclude this entry by mentioning how amazing my Mum, Merle, is. She won't let me tell anyone how old she is, so I'll just say that she stopped counting her birthdays when she hit 75, and that was about five years ago. Mum arrived home from the tour totally exhausted but full of a great time had by all. My Mum is a constant inspiration to me. She is full of energy, vitality, laughter and generosity. She is also a great cook, looks amazing and runs rings around me in many ways. We had a great time with her and I'm glad that she and Mike are such good mates too. We left three days before she packed up her winter house and headed south once more.

Thanks Mum for a restful much needed break from the road. (Hope you're ready for another month of us when we get back to Melbourne - until our house is ready for us to go back to.)

Now it's off to Tewantin (near Noosa) to stay with Mike's cousin, Brendan, and his lovely wife, Joy. We love Noosa and the hinterland, so we are looking forward to trucking around some old familiar haunts and enjoying the area.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Innisfail or deep in 'Katter Country' 2 to the 5- 9-12

As we dipped down the Palmerston hwy towards Innisfail, we were met by Roz and her son in law Andy. They were waiting by the side of the road for us. Alana and I had been invited all the way back in Whalebone Bay on the other side of the country to spend a few days with Roz and Dale at their home a few kms out of Innisfail. So it was with much delight that we finally were catching up.

Just as a little precursor to the jam-packed next four days, Roz directed me over to the barrier railing to see way down below. Framed by trees and bushes was a spectacular view of the Johnson River. It looked like something out of Middle Earth from Lord of the Rings, seen through a vaselined lens of a movie camera.

We plugged in at Roz and Dales, a great spot in a little cul de sac with land sloping down to a creek and a little water fall called "Little Roz" at the bottom of the property. There were banana and paw paw trees with a lush expanse of green grass flowing its way down to the rain forest within and on the border of the property. Just over the high side of the property were cane fields and the neighbouring houses were spaced well apart.

Roz's family has been around these parts for a long long time and Dale moved up here when she was a girl. I found their sense of connection to this land very warming which gave me some insight into the history of Innisfail and surrounds. I loved Roz's Dad's stories about the tough days in the cane fields, working, drinking and fighting hard. Both the girls have done their time in the fields. Dale lived and worked on a cane farm in previous years.

Roz, as it turns out, is a bush poet and I especially loved her historical pieces and the one about having a wee on the side of the road. I've had writers bloc and performance anxiety for years and it seems she does too. So it was good that she brought out some of her old stuff to read and perform, breathing new life into them. Hopefully she feels encouraged enough  to climb back up into the saddle of that performance stage.

During the next three days, we went to Milla Milla Falls, drove up to Misty Mountain on a twisty rocky road with Roz driving the trusty Toyota, Alana riding shot gun in the front passenger seat hanging on for dear life to what is affectionately known as "The Ah! Fuck Bar" (a steel rail that sticks out in front of the glove box) while Dale and myself were bouncing around in the back on the enclosed tray bed. Saw the magical Paronella Park, a fascinating place full of history, decay, trees and fish. A good drive down to Etty Bay (the locals beach of choice) for fish and chips at sunset. Garners Beach, named after one of Roz's ancestors where Alana was up to her usual trick of "Shell Pilfering". Checked out all the good fishing spots and Croc spots!. Was lucky enough to see cassowaries casually strolling along in peoples front yards. Enjoyed the art deco buildings in Innisfail including the fabulous town hall. Bought myself an Innisfail Brothers rugby league supporters shirt while we had lunch at the Club. Had a humongous feed of seafood one night with the whole family around, Dale finally got the guitar out, there was music, song and laughter.

Our last day with the Innisfail Sisters was a quiet one. Every one was at work except Roz as she still had some time off. Alana and I needed to draw our breath before we saddled up for the drive down to Tin Can Bay.

There are a lot of things in this world that can discourage you, that make you insular and closed down. While I truly have a lot to be thankful for, in the last few years I have felt the disappointment of endings or things that just don't work anymore. I have felt them very keenly and just wanted to withdraw right up my own arse. As we have hit the Pacific my thoughts as well as the Fiat are heading south. I head back full of uncertainty after a wonderful nine months so far on the road. The world for me seems a larger place once again after this year aside.

I saw a movie the other day called "The Way" it's roughly about a guy who takes six weeks to walk this pilgrimage called "The El Camino" somewhere in the north of Spain. He meets three people on the way who have a profound affect on him. Now I don't know if this story is true but I was thinking that would only happen in the movies. Still it's a nice thought to think that before hitherto complete strangers could become good friends and have such a positive effect on each other.

With in one hour of meeting Dale and Roz some seed of connection had been placed. I thank Highway Number 1 for that. Enough goodwill had been laid out and established for them to open up their lives and their home to Alana and myself for a jam packed enriching four days. We are looking forward to doing the same for them in the future.

                                                                  The Johnson River 

Plugged in at Roz and Dale's.

                                                            Can you feel the serenity

Milla Milla Falls.
The water was bloody freezing!, but we wern't going to tell the girls that.

                                                    Good a place as any to stop for a chat

                                                 One of my favourite shots. Chillin n Chatten.

Misty Mountain.

                                                         The fabulous Paronella Park.

Roz telling us the story.

                                                               Where's my rods!

                                                                One of the buildings

Brushing up on our rugby scrum technique.

Garners Beach.

                                                                  Lani, at it again!

                                               Traveling incognito deep in "Katter Country".

                                                                               I wish.

Standing in front of the cane dude! (can't remember the statues name)

                                                              Looking back on the town.

                                                        The leaning water tower of Innisfail.      
Who let the cassorwaries out?!

At 12 oclock Mike (Roz's dad), Alana, Andy, Nikita, Dale, Roz, and the sensational Savanah.