It’s 11am and I’m sitting here with a glass of wine, a packet of Cheezels and a TimTam. From olive-green trees shot through with burnt umber birds call to each other across the silent lake, adding counterpoints to the smooth Jazz playing on the radio. Above, fluffy white clouds tinged with grey cover the sun, sparing me the sticky task of plying my Manx-white skin with factor 50. It might rain later, which in these parts is a triumph, and all nature will bask in her glory. Australia, it’s good to be back.
My flight from Dublin to Sydney was mind-numbingly boring and physically uncomfortable; on the upside, we didn’t full out of the sky and all arrived safe and sound. It was amazing to see my beautiful Lauren after seven years and we both shed a tear upon our reunion. I also met her children for her first time and was relieved to find that they are adorable and well behaved.
My first night in Sydney was spent drinking wine, chatting to Lauren, then lying in bed, wide awake until dawn. I managed to have a mid-morning nap and felt reasonably lucid on waking. After a wee visit to the shops and collection of the kids from their respective educational facilities, we packed the car, hitch up the boat and headed down the South Coast, where I now sit admiring the scenery.
As with many travellers, the route we took down the South Coast was the Princes Highway, so named after The Prince of Wales, who later became King Edward VIII, the only British King to ever abdicate. He relinquished his crown to marry his fancy woman, Wallis Simpson – a twice divorcee from American. Such a match was a no-no in the eyes of church and was deemed a constitutional crisis; so he ditched his job and ‘married the woman he loved.’ By all accounts Wallis was a bossy mare, which happened to be Edward’s cup of tea; their love was true and he remained ardently devoted to her until his death in 1972. The Highway was named after the Prince upon his Royal visit to Australia in 1920. He was due to drive along the Highway, from Melbourne to Sydney, but time limitations and the cost of refurbishing the road to a standard befitting a royal derriere scuppered the plan. Still, the highway got his name and remains one of the prettiest coastal drives in Australia.
The Princes highway begins in Sydney’s inner west and travels the length of the south-eastern coast of New South Wales, through Victoria, all the way to Port Augusta in South Australia. The route is dotted with historic townships, bushland, rolling pastures and stunning coastal views. I tried to find some interesting facts about the Highway, but, it turns out, as with most roads, it’s pretty boring. Indeed, the most interesting thing I know about the highway is I used to live on it in a disused Ugg Boot factory, with housemates that included a theatre director, two big dogs that pooped inside and a dying cat that stunk to high heaven.
After staying the night in Jervis Bay we continued south the next morning, stopping for breakfast in the uber hip township of Milton. Supposedly named after the 17th century English poet, John Milton, of Paradise Lost fame, the town has lots to amuse and refresh the weary traveller (especially the well-off hippy variety), including a theatre, art gallery, antique, craft and knickknack shops and trendy cafes. Further, its coastline boasts the world’s most beautiful white sand beaches.
The area around Milton, known today as Shoalhaven has been inhabited for over 20,000 years and was the traditional homelands of the Tharawal people. When British settlers moved in towards the end of the 18th century – their eyes fixed firmly on the abundant cedar and rich farmland – they displaced or killed the original inhabitants, thus destroying their way of life and oral history forever. The death knell was sounded at 7am on the 22nd April 1770, when Captain James Cook recorded his sighting of what became known as Pigeon Hill (near Milton), from his ship the Endeavour, when he was on his way to Botany Bay.
After Milton, we journeyed on to Kalaru, nestled in the Bega Valley, where Lauren and Kris have rented a holiday home for us to spend the next 9 days. The house is amazing and the view and surrounds, spectacular. While here, various friends and relatives will be popping in to say hello and to stay a couple of nights.
Our first houseguests were Kris’ bother, Paul and his wife, Fani (pronounced funny). Paul is a sweetheart and is very easy to be around; I’ve known him for as long as I have known Kris, which is about 12 years. Fani, whose name couldn’t be more fitting, is gorgeous. We first met 10 years ago, when she popped her head over Lauren and Kris’ fence and introduced herself. She is friendly and soulful and you can’t but laugh when she’s around.
By beautiful coincidence, Fani and I just discovered that not only were we born in the same hospital in the small town in New Zealand (Tokoroa), but we also went to the same minding centre, with the same beloved teacher, Mrs Smith; and, if that’s not amazing enough, it is very likely we were there at the same time. It is an awesome connection to have and I feel very fortunate to have found my minding centre twin.
Our first couple of days in Kalaru have been amazing, I haven’t felt this relaxed in years. It is impossible to describe how beautiful it is here, and photos just don’t do in justice; not because my camera is stink, but because Kalaru is not just a visual experience. Rather, its beauty ignites all the senses and seeps into the soul, transforming it layer by layer as it dances like sunshine on water on a hot summer’s day.