Friday, August 31, 2012

From Gerringong to Narooma

Our last week in Gerringong saw our friends from home come and stay for the weekend. Inda and Noa were particularly thrilled to spend three days with their little friend Zeek and Chris and I were grateful for some familiar faces. The weekend with the Lawlers saw us venture out in strong winds to the monthly Gerringong markets, wander through Berry and take a daytrip out to Fitzroy Falls and the town of Robertson; which turns out to be the home of the ‘Big Potato.’ We parted with the Lawlers after Salt Church on the Sunday and spent the last two days of our time in Gerringong visiting our favourite spots and buying our favourite treats, trying to sketch every detail into our memory so that we wouldn’t forget.

Our last destination before hitting the road, was a daytrip out to the whitest sand in the world, namely, Hyams Beach. Once again, we were mesmerised by the beaches around here. And the sand was indeed white and soft. So soft that I had no problem lying down in it to have a moment of serenity before a lively 4 year old broke into the silence by launching onto my back. We followed our visit to Hyams with lunch in nearby Huskisson where I hit up the local op shop and the girls played in the park whilst watching the tourists loading into the Whale watching boats.

The next day we arrived at Mogo Zoo with two very excited girls in the backseat. We had talked up the White Lion experience for Indie. And Noa... well, Noa and animals need no encouraging. The excitement simply explodes out of that enormous smile all on its own. We were very impressed with this little zoo and were grateful to have been wandering through when it was feeding time for many of the animals. We saw tigers and lions roar (frightening) and cheetahs trying to take down Chalkie, the South African zookeeper, to get to their food. I am always amazed at brave people like Chalkie. After watching him with the white lions, hearing him talk about hand raising them and entering into their ‘pride’ and seeing him calmly knock back a couple of ferocious cheetahs trying to get to their food, I came away in awe and secretly desiring that kind of confidence and courage.

Inda’s favourite were the giraffes and interestingly enough, the reptile house. Noa squealed over every animal but was most stoked when the dingo keepers walked them through the zoo allowing her to have a pat of the ‘woof woof’.

After wandering through the souvenir shop and resisting the urge to buy the girls a white lion stuffed toy, we instead opted for the Mogo icecreamery before heading on to Narooma.

As we drove over the hill and down into Narooma, our eyes were given a feast of different coloured blues. Narooma is Aboriginal for, ‘clear blue waters,’ and that is a perfect description of the place. Once again, a small friendly town where the local pharmacist knows everyone by name and is thrown off when a Sarah Harris rocks up from Springfield?

Our accommodation was affectionately named the ‘tissue box.’ It was a tiny little space in a beautiful location looking out over Surf Beach. The small space caused a few heated moments between parents and two highly excitable little girls but was also priceless memory making, with all four of us ending up in the same bed. It was really very special. We spent the days exploring the beaches and the local scenery, taking photo opportunities at Australia Rock. We also visited the nearby historic towns of Central Tilba and Bodalla. Central Tilba held their weekly market whilst we were there and Chris noted that it was the most authentic and organic markets we had been to so far on this trip. Small, intimate and held in the town hall, we purchased some fruit, hand knitted gloves and some gifts to take home.

My time at Narooma was hindered a bit by an incredibly painful wisdom tooth which had been getting worse for the past week. In desperation I had decided to visit a dentist and was helpfully informed by a lady at the Visitor’s centre, of a small clinic with a dentist that I was assured was ‘lovely’ (my only prerequisite for a dentist). After a diagnosis of infection, I was doped up with antibiotics and orders for regular salt baths. Gratefully, I saw the pain ease and the ability to lift my mood that much easier.

Tomorrow we move on to our next stop and our first stop in Victoria... Mallacoota.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A local... well almost

It has been a different kind of holiday for us. Staying put in the one place for a few weeks and really exploring all the area has to offer, has been quite lovely. It means that you can get in the car and duck down to the local shops, do a daily surf check, drive to playgroup and church and settle into some semblance of a routine. I have liked it and yet other days I have yearned for the familiar feel of home.
It is also different to do holidays when everyone else is not. It means you get the local school kids rocking up on your doorstep with an old doorbell asking if you are interested in purchasing some of their goods? It means less crowds, more space and only the locals around giving you a nod and a wave as you pass by. It is a different kind of holiday and I like it.

Our days have been spent exploring, mixed with some normal routine. As I mentioned before, I have been joining in with my friend Ren's playgroup at Keiraville, having dinners with friends and attending church in Wollongong each week.
Our exploring has immersed us in the amazing natural beauty the South Coast has to offer. I am never bored of looking out my window, inhaling the fresh country air and seeing cows (and MORE cows), with the occasional horse and sheep thrown in. There is open space everywhere, with old stone walls lining the road and spectacular views aplenty.

Our favourite of the local towns is Berry. A quaint picturesque town with exquisite bakeries, set amongst the hills of the Kangaroo Valley. It is here you will find the famous Donut Van, Sourdough Bakery and Berry Bakery. Every time we drive home I think, "I could live here."

One of the highlights this week has been our adventure to Jervis Bay, namely Green Patch, set inside the Booderee National Park. Whilst walking down the path to a picnic table to eat our lunch, we were greeted with two very friendly kangaroos. Inda and I were both unsure and hesitated, turning quickly back to Noa and Chris who were a way behind us. Inda, probably taking her 'brave' mother's lead declared she "hated this day and wanted to go home" and was quite frightened of the Australian icon. However, after we sat down (the girls atop the table), the younger kangaroo came creeping forward and stretched it's long neck up to our table to see what goodies we might be willing to donate. Meanwhile, the mother kangaroo kept her distance and a watchful eye on her young one. We had become friends and so, keeping in line with the rules written on our table, the kangaroos went away empty handed.

We were already so impressed with our lunch expereience; kangaroos, magpies and king parrots, that it became an unbelievable day when we walked down to the beach. Greeted by the the pure white sand and clear blue sea, we were sure we had arrived in a different land. Our own deserted island to explore... fabulous. The girls frolicked in the water, running back and forth, chasing and laughing whilst Chris and I just sat. What a great day.

The last two days have been spent taking in the scenery via the Kiama Coast Walk and the Minnamurra Rainforest. Both spectacular and both very different views. Inda has been a fabulous walker and a real trooper. Noa, having been unwell for the past few days has been a bit less tolerant of our adventures but a trooper nontheless.

We have a week left in Gerringong before embarking further south and plan to enjoy and take in this beautiful part of our country and indeed, the world.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The small town vibe

Upon arrival to our gusty little town of Gerringong, our breath was taken away by the stark beauty of the land around these traps. In the past week we have explored from the bustling city of Wollongong to the time warped small towns of the Kangaroo Valley and it is the scenery that we are most taken by. The intensity of colour and the contrasting green of the valley hills to the vast blue skies has been well... breathtaking. It is hard to look around these parts and not see the handiwork of a good God behind it all.


Our days have been busy and jam packed this last week. We arrived on Wednesday to a warm welcome from our dear friends, lunch with Dan and Ren and dinner with Ames and Grant. It felt good and we were settled instantly. Inda however has been having a hard time adjusting to the holiday. Her days are spent processing, reflected in the seemingly random questions of, 'when are we going to our real home?' There have been tears but she has also had a ball, spending her days exploring the beaches and pastry treats of the local towns.

Unkie Bec, Sherman and cousin Atticus came to stay for the weekend, which the girls were thrilled by. I was able to have three days of surfing along Werri Beach with Unkie Bec and Sherm. The highlight was sitting in the insanely blue water looking back at the green rolling hills and sheer cliff faces with cows scattered throughout and enjoying the playful antics of a pod of dolphins less than an arms reach away. As they rode the wave in, I paddled straight for them, expecting a collision, forgetting how agile these magnificent creatures were. They avoided me and my clunky board and continued surfing the wave without a hitch, taking a celebratory leap out of the water at the end of the ride.

I have said three times thus far, "can we move here?" I am sure the tally will rise as we continue our travels. The houses are just gorgeous and I love the vibe of the small towns. Everybody knows each other and the community spirit is admired. I even took home the Kangaroo Valley real estate brochure to show just how serious I was. Chris just laughed. Good man keeps me practical.

The Berry markets were a highlight this week, namely the petting farm they had. Noa and Atticus were keen to enter the arena but Indie was a little worried so she stayed on the outskirts with her dad and then slowly meandered in once she saw that we were not all eaten alive. Smart girl. Noa was particularly taken with a soft lop eared rabbit whom she refused to give up without a fight. Needless to say, we left the farm with one very sad little girl and no extra rabbit family member. We purchased some local honey and cheese and made our way home.

Last night we were excited to link up with the guys from Salt Church for our first service. We were encouraged to see a church of 65 gathered together around Jesus. It was an encouraging time and well needed. The girls settled in the kids program so Chris and I were both able to sit through the service. We met lots of new faces and were excited to see what God is doing through Salt Church. Afterwards, we grabbed some dinner with our friends in Wollongong and set off home with two exhausted little girls in the backseat.

Today, there was zero surf and so we set off to the Pioneering Museum in Kangaroo Valley. We were the only ones there and so the lady was particularly interested in Inda and Noa, giving them some special souvenirs to remember their trip. We visited an old bush school and Chris was humoured by the rules for teachers pinned to the wall. Number Four may have been the highlight, "Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they attend church regularly." There was a large suspension bridge over which Chris thought it would be fun to jump up and down on. The strained tension in the voices of Inda and myself may have been the reason for the cessation of jumping? Lunch was eaten and it was time to go. We passed over the historic New Hampden Bridge that looks like a castle on each side with a very narrow bridge across and made our way to Cambewarra Lookout before heading home. Both girls crashed in the car within minutes. The beauty of action packed days.