skulking ground

Follow our family of Cunning(ham) Foxes on our turbulent travels around Oz


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A place called POOWONG and other stories.

We said goodbye to Dave. Again. He came and visited for another week. Always great laughs. This time we toured through wine country in South Australia, through undulating hills with handfuls of cattle grazing on brittle saltbush. We swam in Rapid Bays surrounded by cliffs once used as a quarry. So close to Adelaide but feels like days away. The city itself was much like any other, not nearly as interesting as the diverse landscapes that nestle it from all sides. We visited a big bosomed German village stuffing it’s face with pretzels and strudel, nothing had changed since layderhausens were in fashion. We sipped Riesling in the Barossa, Shiraz in Mclaren Vale. A baby wombat the size of my hand just born was found at the bottom of a grapevine and sat next to me in a cotton filled shoebox, my eyes were starting to close as his were first opening. Bodhi and Dave rolled around in parks, parks and more parks. Great to have someone else to carry the weight. Driving down a steep windy road I had to slam on the breaks, cars behind to let a big chunky grandpa Echidna cross the road, his fat spiky body slowly waddling not a worry in the world.

our mate Dave

our mate Dave

Such a short distance to go. We’re already starting to make plans, which is a clear sign that the trip is over. I’m definitely excited to see my family and friends, pretty sure things have moved on without us. Trees have grown over, seats have been filled. You can’t recreate the past, stay in memories like heated rooms in winter. Nostalgia forgets. Savours only the sweet taste but not the aching belly. Winter is on it’s way. The van gets pretty cold at night. Covered in foggy dew in the mornings we stay tucked in blankets till daybreak. Steaming cinnamon porridge and sweet honey tea.

It’s greener on the other side of the border. Cows are better fed. As I write on paper, skeleton trucks traverse the highways hauling the carcasses of dead pine. We park in the scrub off the highway so we can hear the Corellas and Corollas compete for twilight tunes. I’m nervous, excited, ready to have a shower without wearing my thongs, grow a garden with basil and chilli. Bodhi’s ready too, he keeps picking up bags, plastic, beach, whatever puts it over his shoulder and says “HOME.” I’m not sure where that is for him, some say it’s the heart but it’s a bit hard to receive mail there. But no rush, the day we’re stuck in the mud we’ll be screaming for help to get out! Ah the struggles for happiness seekers, never. truly. happy. It’s raining. I’ve brushed my teeth. I’m wearing last nights minestrone soup and ugg boots. It’s a pan-fried cheese sandwich kind of day.

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We wound ourselves round the Great Ocean Road. In and out of rainy seaside towns and isolated beaches. Cove after cove we swam and played in Viridian and Aquamarine. The City’s thrown itself upon us, slapped us in the face, angry reds, and black storm clouds. Trying to stay somewhere in Melbourne is like arm wrestling Russian Mafia (you don’t want to do it) They’ll charge you an arm and a leg, then break em for fun. The only place we could find in our budget was way out of town, at a place called Honey Hush, a cheap brothel of a backyard where missing teeth were served for breakfast. Actually there wasn’t any breakfast. Just a caretaker swearing at a 10 year old girl in the rain, a muddy patch of grass filled with sunken in tents and a few stained mattresses hanging out of a death stink skip, which we were meant to park next to for the night. Um, I don’t think so. I went back to reception politely asked the limping cross eyed man for my money back and sped out of there. So far the Big smoke seems like a smouldering ash heap, a junkyard dog sniffing for scraps. I used to love the city, but now it seems dirty, angry, afraid or maybe that’s just me in it? Maybe the rain will stop and I won’t see so much grey? Farmers markets and old friends helped to bring me back. The colourful exchange of aubergines and mandarins. Reminiscing on hay bales in the sun. We all now hold babies, instead of schooners in our hands.

great! ocean rd.

great! ocean rd.

There were some characters in POOWONG! How could there not be, with a name like that. Gorgeous country. Dairy farms in the Gippsland, rolling lush green hills with Victorian farmhouses scattered like black and white cows. We stopped by a small creek, a young guy with long heavy metal hair pulls up in an old red Pulsar, comes over and introduces himself. Says he’s travelling alone. His name was Colin, but he changed it to Bodhi a couple of months before. He spoke of his favourite philosophers and Taoism, how he had a two week affair with a girl named “Tasty”. He suffered from Anxiety and spent most of his life playing ‘World of Warcraft’, except for when he went to work as a chauffeur for an escort service.

Next thing we know this old guy pulls up, Terry I think his name was, in a white 1970’s Valiant with a trailer on the back, said he had a problem with tailgaters and was taking the old girl for a test drive. He told us twice. He had a slight stutter and a turrets twitch, said what came to his mind, no matter if we were listening or not. He talked about the weather, about collecting wood, and tailgaters. He had a sweet tooth, and a sweet ride and was taking the old girl for a test drive.

Don was a butcher turned farmer who had leased his 500 acre property to a man who ran it to the ground. Don liked to kill things, didn’t think too much of penguins and was always waiting for his woman. The old boys we’ve met so far always seem to be waiting for/on their women. As age starts to eat away at the bones replacing them with steel it seems the women rule with an iron fist. The old boys just nod their heads and roll their eyes and bitch about them any chance they get. The women don’t seem to mind they’ve got the heated house, soft leather lounges while the men are confined to the cold concrete shed.  “Happy wife, happy life.”

getting cold

fish sales

 

The weatherman was wrong

Two black cockatoos fly over head. Means two days of rain. I watched the storm cover the peaks of Wilson’s Promintory and head straight for us at which place I can’t remember the name. A rocky beach with a fire pit and Estonian neighbours who gave us year old marshmallows, leftover from last years trip. We made cauliflower and split pea soup on the fire, fresh damper on the coals. One of our last bush tuckers before we returned “home”. We were surrounded by wombat burrows, we tip toed past them in the daytime and left a trail of rolled up bits of dough at night, but a fox came and ate it all before the moon was fully out. That Cunning Fox.

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Those three Cunning Foxes now burrowing on the Sunshine Coast. Fixing up a little light filled den for themselves scratching for food and finding things to keep busy. Drinking cups of tea in a growing garden they listen to their favourite radio station on the CB. Truckers looking for love and directions. 

Alpha Bravo Foxtrot Charlie do you Copy? 

I repeat Over. 

Over.

see ya later sunrise

see ya later sunrise

 

 

 

 

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Blue gums

A new day, a new state. We’re pushing the pedal, it’s not only the rivers running dry, but our money too. We’ve no choice but to shower at truck stops for $1, sleep on roadsides and eat what’s on special, withered greens and bruised pears. SA is already different, again each border crossing brings something new, at least we got to keep our honey. The landscape quickly changes fields and fields of wheat and wildflowers fade into rocky crags, to bush, the blue gum type I’m used to. Getting closer to home. So many different kinds of trees, I saw one stringy bark bleed purple at its core and another split in two by lightning.

It’s taken us a little while to get back into the swagman’s way and now, I want to stay. Stay in these seagull squawking scenes, the stench of rotting seaweed on white sand. Stay in between the warming sun and the cool afternoon breeze. But we’ve gotta go, a day here and there is all that’s left. Jake went spearfishing yesterday for the first time. He surfaced out of the weeds, a shriveled sea cucumber, shaking, barely holding four crabs in his purple hands. We cooked them up for dinner, 7 minutes in boiling water. Bodhi loved them, licked them up with a side of capers and anchovies as if the ocean wasn’t salty enough.

 


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“Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits.”

Null Abor

Null Abor

When the 380 has parked up and his wheels are no longer going round and round and you’re onto your last packet of bribing bickies, the last balloon has deflated, the strings of the uke snapped, our only deck of cards have been squished and I can no longer tell which is the joker or the jack and there’s a wild boar squealing in the back for I don’t know what. What then do you do with an almost two year old across the Nullabor? No Trees. We’re on the longest stretch of straight road in Australia, 145 km’s not a bend or bump in sight. He’ll got o sleep soon, hopefully before we do. It’s like driving in a landscape painting, oily puffs of violet clouds hovering over strokes of green and grey. There’s silence. For now. He’s found some boogies in his nose that can be rolled into balls and flicked at flies that try and land on him.

88k's to see a wombat

88k’s to see a wombat

Jake’s been anticipating the Nullabor before we even left the Sunshine Coast, triple checking the oil, researching water to fuel station ratios, mapping the entire journey, plus and minusing wind speed velocity. Traveling on the Nullabor is like living in a series of really long moments, it’s a silence that slowly builds up with thoughts of yesterday, tomorrow and today. Watching memories like old movies flicker and fade. The clouds are patchy in the sky, pockets of fluffy grey in between spaces of clarity, my mind opening up in front of me, a little too much fluffiness on the right side. He’s asleep.

I suppose we could do the Nullabor links, the world’s longest golf course, spanning 1365 kilometres, one hole every hundred or so km’s.  But we forgot to pack the clubs, and those shoes with the spikes and some checkered pants so we’ll have to stick to singing out of tune, staring at the sky and waving at cars that go by. Neil Young it’s been great travelling with you but please for all our sake’s play another bloody song! That cowgirl is well and truly buried in the sand, maybe sing us something more upbeat about the moon and the stars and a comfortable dream, what’s that one called again? oh that’s right ‘Helpless’. Alright Young your no use, OUT!

Get your motor runnin'

Get your motor runnin’


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Alpha Bravo Foxtrot Charlie!

The guy camped next to us is on his CB radio listening to Japanese truck drivers send out co-ordinates to deliver furniture. He’s not Japanese. He’s an old guy from Charters Towers who wears stubbies with the little pocket on the front for change whose name must be Bob or Dusty. He looks like a Bob. Definitely not Japanese. But he’s tuning in to something bigger than I can understand. Maybe his wife doesn’t want to play scrabble. I know mine doesn’t. Finding things to do while Bodhi sleeps. I’ve overdosed on relax and need a little hit of Stimulon! There’s only so many times you can have silent sex in a ½ metre squared diameter.

Things to do..

Things to do..

Bodhi’s getting too big for the van, his car seat and his boots! Traveling is not as easy now he’s older. We’ve gone through Albany and the Salmon Holes and the Natural Bridge and the old Brigadiere, drove the heritage trail and past the wind farm all the way to the littlest beach, on our way to Esperance, the last major town in WA before we hit the Nullabor. We’re stopping mostly at free camp spots. I worked enough in Perth for petrol but not accommodation. I met a life coach who didn’t listen, she just talked about her lack of luxuries from the carpeted step of her 40 ft bus. She wrote a book to inspire people to be more like her. We drove away. Past a broken down windmill in a whole lot of nothin’. A few blackened trees lined the way. A flattened wheat-belt turned into hay. Headed for a few days to Lucky Bay.

seriously Lucky Bay, no edits.

seriously Lucky Bay, no edits.


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The Forest for the trees

Slit Tingle

Split Tingle

Back to Perth, back in the van, back on the beans tooting our way through the Southern Karri Forests of WA. Coming to the last few months of our trip and it seems like we’re in fast-forward. Flying through the Margaret River, the blurred coloured cellar doors and lakeside vineyards. Flying through the coastal towns watching pro surfers emerge from 6ft waves with broken boards and camera crews. We’re in warp speed charging through timber towns with giant Jarrah trees that shade the dirt roads in zebra print. Houses so quaint I could eat them with jam and cream.

or, ice-cream

or, ice-cream

The Gloucester Tree got the better of me. I got half way up and felt sick when I looked down. So I stayed on the ground swatting march flies and waited for Jacob to scale the 53m, lookout tree. It had metal spikes prodded into the trunk like a giant pomander ladder spiraling around the body of the tree. Noone was on lookout, at the bottom as belay, no ropes, no harness, just nervous hands and feet sweating their way to the top. Jake said he could see the ocean from the top but not the forest floor through the trees.

 

The Gloucester Tree

The Gloucester Tree

At the Valley of the Giants, families posed in photos from the sixties in combie vans from inside the Tingle trees. Their trunks wide enough to fit an EH Holden and six kids. Grandma Tingle, 400 years old, furrowed and burled overlooked the valley of the giant ents. She watched over in burnt and hollowed silence as the treetops swayed. Red-winged Fairy Wren forage in the undergrowth and the funghi bloom in the rot of the diseased and the deceased. Towering life overshadows my own. Blanketed white noise. The forest for the trees.

 


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“Love, Light and Lots of Waves”

The Arrival

Nth Straddie

Nth Straddie

It’ s been a long flight, baby legs kicking me into shape, softening me like a pillow, the man behind doing the same. My bum is in recovery, five hours balancing on one cheek. But we made it, blood shot eyes and delirium, 5am, no sleep. I got dropped off at the ferry in Cleveland, a little rainy and grey. Said not so teary goodbyes to my two guys. A little flutter in the belly. Waiting for the ferry. Flutter. On the ferry. Ready to hold the vomit for 20 minutes or so, not that long. I’ve suffered worse. I mistook Sarsaparilla for Ginger Beer once on a rocky two hour boat ride to Green Island and the greenest island was me. Flutter. Flutter.

Five days without the boys, the longest so far. Not sentimental yet. Breathing in the freshness of freedom and battered fish. Never as good as it seems, the fish not the freedom. Five days on an island with five women I’ve never met, waking early for morning yoga and surf lessons, super foods and relaxation. Of course, I’m nervous! A little cautious of the unknown, the sharks in the water, circling the depths of my mind, comparing myself to other writers, other women who can stand up, touch their toes. It always happens in a room with new people, the Grey Nurse bares her teeth to the Tiger, lowers her eyes to the Bull. The ferry is full of locals who know where they’re going, eating nuts and carving stars into bits of wood. Kids and prams take up the aisles. I’d miss Bodhi if it wasn’t for this bumpy ride. Eyes to the horizon, I can’t see anything.

North Stradbroke is an island dream. I took a taxi, plane, car, ferry and bus to get here, to get to the Luv Shack, a blue beach house near Point Lookout, with fresh baby coconuts and frangipani scented towels on arrival. A warm welcome dinner and sharing circle with Raine our surf guru and the four other friendly ladies slowly lets down my guard.

Day One

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Our first morning lesson. Overcast, cold and grey. Another 5am start. My covers are comforting, but this feels like living. I stood up! Well only slightly, teetering on the tops of toes before smashing into the sea bottom. The board hit me in the head, hip and jaw. The waves smashed, crashed and thrashed me about. My arms are buggered and I could probably sleep for 13 hours but I had so much fun! Exhilarating. Though I don’t like the word, more the feeling, tummy tickles and childish giggles, peaceful still calm.

Sweet pig-tailed girls sell passionfruit, limes and baby pears by the side of the road. The winds picked up, the sea is gunmetal grey. The afternoon brought double rainbows and dolphins two metres away. There was a bushfire on the island recently, 70 per cent of the bush in flames, but from where I’m sitting there’s nothing but sea. Time’s stretched out and all is quiet.

Day Two

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I rode my first wave, it fizzled before I fell, it was a slow and clumsy stand up but I’m taking it as a win. So much butting heads it’s time I won a battle. I realise one wave doesn’t make me a surfer, not nearly close, the next nose dive reassured me of that. But it’s all learning. And this old dog’s still got some in her. It’s addictive! The peace and freedom out in the ocean, the early mornings, fills you up with huge amounts of saltwater and light. Why didn’t I try this before?

By the end of our session this morning my arms were moving but I was going nowhere in the water, it’s even hard to write this. My muscles haven’t worked that hard since… forever. I kept going trying to catch “just one more”.

We have long breaks in the day between our morning and afternoon sessions. I’ve been taking long languid sleeps, reading, eating wholesome food and exploring. I’ve been retreating into myself and enjoying the sound of kookaburras and curlews. We eat communal dinners, vegetarian fare that fills the belly and fuels warm conversation.

Breakfast of Champions

Surf Chix Chia seed Porridge

100ml of Coconut milk
1 tablespoon of Chia Seed
Mixed Berries
Nuts, seeds, coconut (optional)

Soak the chia in coconut milk for an hour or so, add fresh or thawed mixed berries add additional extras and ENJOY!!

This bad boy is so good you won’t believe it’s healthy!
(No pics, sorry! I couldn’t put the spoon down to pick up the camera, too busy, YUM, YUM, YUM)

Day Three

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Get’s a little hard. I’m missing my boys. The alarm interrupted some crazy dreams, always the case on other peoples pillows, glad to not be in them but not too thrilled to be awake. I trudged down with the group to a Mountain top yoga session. Oh yeah, the sun, you’re beautiful and all but maybe come back later. Raine our leader beaming joy and light, always joy and light, too bright for my eyes at that early hour but after a slow meditation and some stiff stretches the sleep fog cleared from my eyes.

Still missing my boys. It’s the longest I’ve been away from them and I’m already plotting their arrival on the island, seeing their faces in strangers sunbathing on the beach. Daydreaming. But in the water it’s another state of mind, all focus is on the waves, the ebb and flow, white peaks and slow release. We laugh at our failed attempts, rising from the sudsy foam like Himalayan cats thrown in with the washing. But we keep going, and say to ourselves “just one more”. I can feel myself improving, one foot closer to riding them all to shore.

After our morning surf I took a solo trek down to the gorge walk. The day brings sunbursts and patches of rain. I can’t tell if I’m hot or cold, wet or dry. A family of kangaroos remind me of mine and a pod of 20 dolphins at the point remind me to be playful. I’ve never been on a retreat before, such luxurious time on my own to be my own. A wise female truck driver once told me, “Be here, until you’re not.”

Day Four

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By day four we were all standing, hooting and howling at each chick giving it a go. Laughing in the lulls and paddling like maniacs when the sets rolled in. Everyone is so supportive of each other without greed or jealousy of others success. It’s been a soul enriching experience sharing the water and the fire with a group of such different women.

In our break we went to the Brown Lake, a large fresh waterhole, on the other side of the island. The tannins from the bark of surrounding Melaleuca and Tea-trees stain the water leaving you swimming in a giant cup of Nanna’s Ceylon tea.

Day Five

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All the other ladies have gone. One off to Fiji, one to the Quicksilver Pro (as a journo not a surfer, it was an amazing camp but we’re not quite ready to take it pro just yet). One back to study and the other back to driving trucks. We all came to this camp with the intention to write an article, sure we wanted to learn to surf but we didn’t quite realise how much we would be changed by it, how much the water soaks into your skin and effects the way you feel. Perhaps we were there to learn more than just how to surf. Learn how to be open to change, to let go, to not be afraid, to live in the moment. Is this sounding too much like the ending of Breakfast Club? I must be the basket-case! To cut a long outro short. To all you awesome chickies out there who’ve ever wanted to surf and have put it off for whatever reason, don’t delay! Go to Chix Surfin today!

http://www.chixsurfin.com


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Ease up on your brakes!

holiday time

holiday time

Our last night in Perth. I’m sure I haven’t told you nearly enough about it, but we fly out for QLD tonight for a two week R&R. I finished up at the cafe on Monday, two months of clearing plates and I need a holiday! I applied for this “travel journo” job on North Stradbroke Island, it’s unpaid but basically in return for writing an article I get to go on a Women’s surf and yoga retreat for 5 days (www.chixsurfin.com) Awesome!! How could I say no. So all 3 of us take off tonight on the eye bleeder, we’ve rearranged our travels, criss-crossed over the country, but I think it’ll be worth it. I’ve never surfed before but have always wanted to try. First time being away from the fam for so long, but it’s going to be nice to have some space to catch my breath but it will probably be more like me holding it against the onslaught of pummelling waves.

We’ll spend two weeks on the sunny coast before heading back to Perth to finish the bottom half  of our trip. The South West coast is meant to be the best. I’m looking forward to the vineyards and more beaches but really I’m also looking forward to finding our own place, making a home, we’ve been hanging around Perth for too long now, it’s become the waiting place, but once we’re back on the road I’m sure my mind will change again. What if we’re never content to stay put and we have to tidal drift from river to reef for the rest of our days? I guess we’ll grow flippers and swim with our babies on our backs.

Silent Disco

Silent Disco

Nth Straddie

Nth Straddie