Bound for South Australia…….

The South Australian border seemed a stone’s throw from Broken Hill.  As we travelled, there was still that overwhelming magnitude of land and sky and as the sunlight flooded down, we crossed the state border and the outback slowly made itself distant……

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We passed through small towns, passed rail lines and flocks of glossy black crows, saw pale sun bleached signage and watched the hot sun slowly move across the sky.  We saw hundreds of sheep in the driest of paddocks with nary a twig for shade and only hours later, saw hillsides of lush green vines.  I saw so many small things on this road trip which widen my heart that at some point I may well have wished I could drive on forever.

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The first night back in SA was odd.  The evening so hot and the sky so clear yet it somehow felt a little strange to be back.  I finally fell in to bed, warm and full of lost sleep and woke to this early morning view of ‘my backyard’.  The stunning Barossa and all it has to offer is right on my door step.

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So yes, we are in SA and back living in a lovely town full of community heart, walking tracks, heritage and history, and old sandstone buildings.  Established just over 180 years ago, the town smelt so acutely of summer heat and dust when we arrived.

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I had forgotten how small our home is.  A little place of crumbling plaster that is neither grand nor obtrusive but certainly a home of charm and squeaky floor boards.  The house and yard have suffered terribly under five years of rental neglect but as I drove up the dirt road which leads to the back of our property there was a feeling of coming home.

But nothing makes it home more than having our sweet little cat with us again.  Zoe stayed with her wonderful vet in Newcastle before boarding a flight to SA just as we arrived.  We are so grateful she is happy and settled and we could not ask for more.

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Jetlag recovery mode……..x

Home isn’t where I am from but it is where I live at that moment.  Each place I have lived has always served some sort of purpose yet I cannot help but wonder if when we leave a place, we leave a little of ourselves behind and if fortunate enough to return, we find a little something in the going back.

Often times, there is much negativity spread about South Australia but that could not be further from the truth.   It is one of the driest states and it has a reputation for serial killers but The Adelaide Markets, the wine regions, the craft beers and gin, the rad festivals, the food scene, the coast line, beautiful Adelaide, the state where a man was shot by his own camel! (I know right), Kangaroo Island, Wilpena Pound, Haigh’s Chocolate and 1,000 and one other things far outweigh the pessimism peddled by some.

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This is an amazing state so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise and if you can’t find something nice to say or love about South Australia then there really is no hope for you…….x

You can’t do that with a ping pong ball??!!…….

I need not pretend of our exhaustion after travelling in the heat.  Days where it was almost too hot to think let alone drive yet I loved the outback.

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Though the heat was demanding and equally suffocating and the flies drove me mad, the outback is a place unrivalled in its dramatic energy and remote magnificence.  Dusk would see the big sky fill with colour. Pink’s and gold’s, shades not imaginable, would fade away to a huge rising moon followed by a night sky filled with a million tiny stars. Morning would come again with a sun which seemed to explode with heat and light.

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Droughts in Australia are merciless.  Even the feral animals, those introduced who normally thrived in harsh conditions, were dying off in these dust bowls.  I lost count of the number of sun bleached bones and skeletal remains I saw…….

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Broken Hill was a welcome oasis.  A remote desert frontier somehow rougher and smudgier than most large tourist-friendly towns, caked with dust and baking away in the heat.  And then there’s that soil. That rich burnt ochre which surrounds the town.  A colour so vivid you could not dream up a better backdrop if you tried.

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We stayed at the aptly named Oasis Motor Inn.  A passé little place – neat, quiet, well located and scrupulously clean. I highly recommend it. Once settled, we grabbed a couple of beers and headed for the pool which was absolute bliss!

Good pool soak done and dust washed from our throats, we headed on a short walk to the town centre in search of number one on my list of top five fabo things to see in Broken Hill’ – The Palace Hotel.

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There are a number of remarkable and beautiful buildings in Broken Hill yet this is the most famous with its cast iron balustrades and gloriously kitschy and stunning interior of colourful murals.  It also featured in the wonderfully iconic Australian movie, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

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Famished, we headed to the dining room for a meal largely held in silence.  We had argued during our walk.  Some vague, tepid argument which had been quietly simmering away of something I had held to weeks before leaving Newcastle.

The character of the hotel and the murals are fabulous yet the food was disappointing.  Nothing was ‘house-made’ and all in all, the dining experience was somewhat lack-lustre.  Thing is, I could have eaten there every night if only to sit amongst the painted murals, old furniture and the clatter of other peoples conversations.

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We healed our spat over processed desserts then headed to the Sidebar.  Sunday nights are good in Broken Hill as most tourists have disappeared for the night or simply moved on.  There were only two other people in the bar so the cocktails, a Japanese Slipper so green and quaint it made me smile, and the Martinis were all well made.

Navigating the quiet streets, we wandered back to the motel.  There was little left of the days fatigue and my spirits were lighter and somewhat lifted due to that remarkable hotels interior.  The next day we headed out to Silverton.

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Set amongst hot, wind-rippled sand and dust, Silverton, with its one pub and population of less than 40 people – it once boasted a population of 3,000 people – is a quirky little dot on the map.   This is also another location of more iconic Australian movies.

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The Silverton Hotel is one of Australia’s most filmed and photographed pubs.  A great place to find a cold beer, good food and to browse the film history of the area.

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On the outskirts of Silverton is an historic cemetery, a raw and harsh reminder of how life was lived in the early days of settlement.  Under a brutish sun we padded about in respectful silence.  Hot glittering sand filled my sandals and my feet were pricked by bone dry spines and thorns yet it mattered little just to be in this most remarkable of places.

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Three nights in Broken Hill was enough for me to explore, wander and to understand why we cling, with such sentimentality, to some things and not others.  I guess in the long run, most things will be okay and for me, it was all going to be okay.

There was no pressure to move on but South Australia awaited………x

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Footnote:  Quote in title from The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Felicia –          “Oh, you can’t do that with a ping pong ball?!”

Bernadette –   “Do you wanna bet”

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‘Ping pong ball reaction’ – image courtesy RockyMusic.org

New beginnings…….

We are deep in the good vibes of summer.  Summer is never coy in Australia and this summer has been no exception with a band of unrelenting heat-waves which set temperatures soaring to record numbers.  Now I have no hunger for coquettish summers but I can tell you, the blistering furnace of heat during the last couple of weeks really did knock many, including myself, for six.

For me, summer is usually filled with consistent swells and the clean lines of traditional boards, sunshine, mangos and cherries (my favorite spoils of the season), frangipani flower and skies which are bleached a paler shade of blue.  This year however, Australia really did have its day in the sun as everything seemed to melt  beneath our feet.

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See!  I told you it was hot!!

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Once again my jumpers, jeans and wetsuits were all traded for a lightness of season and as I packed up my wetsuits I realised, the next time these steamers see the light of day it will be in a very different ocean, in a very different state…….

2018 was a mix of the confounding and the brilliance in its yield of absolute unknowability.  People entered my life, returning in the various forms they have now morphed in to, I was challenged and equally inspired and I lived a living which teaches you a little of everything and anything.  And now in 2019, what is it I predict. Well, absolutely nothing as I do not etch my year to stone but mindfully intend to keep doing my best with what I have when I have it.

2019 has also bought with it a major move and it seems through choice or circumstance, any steadfast fixture in your life will change.  It’s a difficult process as sometimes you go back to a place you have once been, even if ever so briefly, to find the place you are returning to has changed……. but not as much as you have.

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Zoe, lovely and ever helpful on packing days…….

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Two shipping containers!  Really!!

Throughout my life, I have often come and gone with ease by not making any great attachment.  Leaving can be difficult for different reasons but there is a part of me that likes to go just the same.  Moving on drives my curiosity and my sense of wonderment.  It always spurs me forward even though I have no surety of what awaits.  Perhaps though, I am content with the idea of everything passing for a later return just as the waning of this summer.  It’s end also being the promise of its return.

When I initially knew of this move, my immediate thoughts went to my ocean.  I believed I would die, just a little, but of course I knew I would not.  To think like that is deeply impractical and it does no one any good.  Do I wish I could have stayed in Newcastle forever?  Perhaps!  But that was not to be so I will hold my time of Newy up to the light like a beautiful piece of sea glass and stay a little longer with all of the good of which there has been plenty.

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I am not one easily seduced but for me, there is always the seduction of an ocean and I can find that anywhere I live but leaving this time also meant leaving a job which I have loved.  A place of work and volunteering that offered a strange and unique gift.

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I read somewhere years ago to ‘find your tribe’ and in circumstances most fortunate for me, I had that wonderful gift for just on three years.  I never really understood the analogy of a tribe until my days meshed with some generous and epically wonderful folk and days became joyful beyond any expectation this girl had.  And work, which is never work when you are doing something you absolutely love, wormed its way into becoming a passion.

In a Newcastle suburb, an open and profound offering of friendship, kindness, a sense of belonging and respect took hold and my time there, so deeply appreciated has left an indelible mark upon my heart.  Humanity, in its blessed munificence, is a strange thing but perhaps these are the journeys we are meant to take when we dare to find the courage to do so.

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This was a difficult goodbye (oh heart, what is this feeling) but there is only so much time you can spend grieving that which is gone.  You can however, hold to a city or to a place or to a time and even to some folk who live there.  Nothing is impossible.

As I drove out of Newcastle for the last time, headed on a road that would lead me through the outback before reaching my final destination, I rested my head against the driver’s window when stopped at the lights.  I tried to take in a little more of the place before the traffic lights changed and the city and my time there rushed away.

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I thought of all the things I loved about living in Newcastle and New South Wales, some people, about the incredible experiences and opportunities afforded me but most of all I thought of how truly fortunate I had been and how truly fortunate I still was……..

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I gave fair warning to all pedestrians of Newcastle…..x

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Over the coming weeks it will no doubt be a chaotic time with little more than a moment to spare, the unpacking of literally hundreds of boxes – for all my perfectionism I still prefer my life lived with a little imperfection of organised clutter and lopsidedness, antiquated books and beautiful vintage china – trying to make the house a home as 5 years of rental neglect has not been kind to it nor the garden, finding my feet (and my place) and allowing those curious textures of everyday life to appear.

I will also share the road trip, countless moments I do not want to lose because the soil was so breathtakingly red and indescribable and the outback so remotely beautiful it almost broke my heart.   There are other snippets too such as the beast of a lizard which damaged my car, the roo’s bigger than I have ever seen and the hundreds of feral goats on the side of the road from Cobar to Broken Hill which never once startled as the occasional road-train hurtled by.  All moments dichromatic but no less wonderful……

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I never set out to have a blog and since those early days of 2014 I have shared much in the warmth and generosity of the countless places I have visited and the unselfish respite this beautifully wondrous world of ours offers.  So my blog will continue on as I do.  Ever evolving, ever moving, ever resilient and always ever grateful.

Here’s cheers to new beginnings and what they bring……..xx

Footnote:  Incredible ‘melting ice-cream truck’ sculpture created by Glue Society and installed in Sydney 🙂