Menangle

The traffic was busy on the freeway heading south of Sydney. Once this area had been all farms and scrub but it is now one of the fastest growing satellite urban areas in Australia.

When I was a baby my family lived for a short while in the village of Menangle. My earliest memories come from here – the hallway in our house by the railway line; walking with my mother as we took my sisters to the small school near the hill where the church looked over the village; trains rumbling by through the night and the light throwing shadows on my bedroom walls.

This area was one of the first settled by Europeans in Australia. Its rich soils provided verdant pastures that made the area a food bowl for the young colony. John Macarthur was granted land here in 1805 and even today there is still a strong colonial presence in the names of the villages, roads and farms in this region.

At first I missed the turn toward Menangle after leaving Camden but I soon found my way back to the correct road. The spring sunshine was warm and I took my time to enjoy the scenery. Before long I was at Menangle and after parking the car near the old corner shop I found myself walking toward my old home.

Menangle is an Anglicised version of an Aboriginal word for place of swamps. Not far from here there had been bitter skirmishes between the settlers and the Dharawal people on the banks of the Nepean River. Governor Macquarie ordered troops to the area and they soon opened fire on a group of Aborigines, killing men, women and children.

I bought a pie from the corner shop and sat outside to enjoy my lunch. It felt strange to think that I had once been in this very place as a baby. By my family had left here a long time ago and new people call Menangle home. As I climbed back into the car I realised I hadn’t found what I was looking for here. The essence of who I have become must be somewhere else.

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Central Coast

The Central Coast of New South Wales is an area of contrasts that lies between Sydney and Newcastle. Golden beaches, sparkling lakes and endless hinterland feature in this region of rich history. The Hawkesbury River borders the southern part of the coast, spreading out into the vast Brisbane Waters estuary that fills the ancient sandstone valley. I spent many childhood holidays in this region and because my sister Jasmine now lives here I get an excuse to visit every so often.

Avoca Beach, Bateau Bay, Budgewoi, Copacabana, Ettalong, Kincumber, Macmasters Beach, Pearl Beach, Terrigal, The Entrance, Toukley, Umina, Woy Woy. There are so many beaches along this stretch of coastline that buzz throughout the year because of the temperate climate.

One moment you can be on a beach, the next wondering through the bush. The wild national parks of Yengo, Dharug, Brisbane Waters and Bouddi preserve so much of this region’s natural history and Aboriginal heritage.

Short walks, relaxation, swimming, picnics, cafes, surfing and peacefulness amongst one of the busiest parts of Australia.

Happy travels

Molly xx

Road trip to the Gold Coast – day 3

It was time to head home from the Gold Coast and I wanted to get as far as I could in one day. Stephanie and I set off on our next adventure after having a quick breakfast and we were soon on the highway heading south. It was a Saturday morning and the traffic was pretty light as we soon found ourselves back in New South Wales. With the new freeway you hardly notice the difference from one state to the next – there isn’t even a sign to say you’re leaving Queensland.

After crossing the Tweed River we flew past fields of sugar cane and coastal scrub. This was a trip I had done so many times as a child in the backseat of mum and dad’s car that I could nearly recite the order of towns and rivers that we passed. Of course, most of those towns are bypassed by the new freeway so it is a much quicker trip than the one I remember. ‘Just hang on until the next town,’ dad would say every time someone mentioned a toilet stop. Or my favourite, trying to catch glimpses of the sea as the road wound around the hills.

Off to the right was Brunswick Heads, then Byron Bay, Ballina, then Woodburn. After nearly three hours down the road we stopped for morning tea at Ulmarra. A cute little park by the Clarence River, complete with bats hanging from the trees and water dragons sunning themselves.

No time for sunning myself today, it was back on the highway and whizzing past Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Nambucca Heads, Macksville and Kempsey. Then another quick stop for lunch and catch up on phone messages. What would we do without technology?

After nearly eight hours on the road we were both getting tired so we decided to pull into the next town. This happened to be a little place called Karuah on the banks of the river of the same name.

The name ‘Karuah’ was based on an Aboriginal word for ‘plum tree’ and it’s another place I remember from my childhood. Back then it was a busy highway crossing over the river. We often stopped here for lunch while the traffic roared across the bridge. It was the sort of place you caught glimpses of other families lunching in the park before everyone piled back into their cars and disappeared down the highway.

Stephanie and I booked into a nice, cosy little motel for the night. It was nothing fancy but the lady in the office was friendly and that makes all the difference to me. Then we discovered the most gorgeous fish and chips I have ever had! We sat by the edge of the water and ate our crumbed flathead while I reminisced to Steph about the times we had stopped here when I was young. It is peaceful now, beautiful in a way I had never noticed before. I could have sat there by the river all night if Stephanie had let me. But we had another long drive tomorrow and I let Steph lead me back to the motel.

Until next time, safe travels

Molly xx

Road trip to the Gold Coast – day 3

Just before all the excitement of the Commonwealth Games I arrived on the Gold Coast in the bright sunshine. Of course, I was here for the swimming mainly but there is such a contrasting atmosphere in this place that I could already feel the excitement building. My motel was across the road from the Aquatic Centre so it was a short walk to the pool each day where I saw some amazing swimming.

Even though I was here to support my friends in their attempts to qualify for the Commonwealth Games (they didn’t but they tried their best!) there was still some time to enjoy myself wandering the streets of Southport and Main Beach. I find this place such a contrast because it has an air of holiday relaxing coupled with the hustle and bustle of a large population rushing about their daily business. A lot of the activity involved construction in preparation for the Commonwealth Games but it also made me wonder what it must be like to live and work in a holiday area. How strange that must be!

Tall buildings, Wet n Wild, beaches, marinas, bikini girls, surfers in board shorts, sunshine, sand, shops, shops, shops! There is so much of the Gold Coast it is almost overwhelming. One of the things that intrigued me was the mix of old and new. So much of this place is shiny and new and just waaay over the top, and then there is a little shop or an older building tucked away and refusing to change. These older things made me happy to know the Gold Coast wasn’t just about urban development, but I could see it disappearing.

Until tomorrow, happy travels,

Molly xx

Road trip to the Gold Coast: day 1

My goal was to drive to the Gold Coast as quickly as I could. No time for sightseeing along the way. No time to stop and enjoy the varied colours of life in country Australia. I was on a mission and so was my travelling companion. Stephanie had been training hard and was about to swim in the Australian trials for the Commonwealth Games team. I was there for moral support and to share the driving. And I could never turn down an offer of a trip anywhere!

We left my parent’s house in Orange after breakfast and drove north. A quick hop across to Molong, Wellington and Gulgong before we stopped for a morning tea break. It was windy – really windy! and there were signs of rain ahead. Stephanie and I hopped back in the car to eat our snacks because it was too cold. Some cars and trucks roared past on the highway. In the distance was the Liverpool Ranges and threatening clouds. Closer to us a farm sat silently in between harvest and sowing season.

The rain started as we approached Tamworth and by the time we drove into town it was torrential. No point stopping for lunch and getting wet so we kept moving in the hope that the rain would stop. My tummy was grumbling more and more but the rain got heavier and heavier. Eventually hunger won out and we pulled over to the side of the road somewhere around Moonbi. The Moonbi Range is a steep ascent to the New England Plateau and it was good to have a break from driving, even if we had to sit in the car because it was too wet and getting freezing cold.

Armidale approach in early afternoon and we decided it was too early to stop. So we pushed on, hoping to make Grafton before nightfall. Did I mention the rain? I could hardly see the road by now as we snaked through national park toward Ebor. Grafton was still over an hour away and we were both getting tired so we decided to detour to Dorrigo and stop for the night.

Dorrigo started as a timber town; surrounded by mountains and forests. All I could see of it was the cloud that we were driving through. The road was windy and steep but eventually we arrived in town. That’s when we realised our mistake because there  was only one motel in town and we didn’t look the likes of it very much. As we sat in the car I was close to tears because we had come so far (8 hours of driving) and I didn’t know if I could go any further today. Stephanie was searching her phone when she thought there was a cabin park ahead. We drove on and missed the turn on a sharp hillside bend, had to find somewhere to turn around, drove back… and found the office was closed.

Luckily, though, a man came out of one of the buildings and was able to help us into one of the cabins for the night. The rain was still teeming down hard and had been joined by a gale force wind. After such a long day, can you imagine a log cabin, open fire and dinner cooked on the stove as the wind roared outside. Such luxury! I had a long hot shower and then promptly fell asleep!

I woke next morning to birds twittering and poke my head out the cabin door to be greeted by this spectacular scenery. The rain and wind had stopped and the sun was starting to appear through the clouds. I felt refreshed and ready for another day on the road.  I woke Stephanie (she is such a sleeper!) and soon we were on our way.

Until tomorrow, safe travels.

Molly xx

Historic Parramatta

When I checked into the motel I felt like it was kind of familiar. Like I’d been here before. The buildings were shaped like barns and laid out around a paved courtyard. I guessed this was a nod to the Rose Hill racecourse that was just on the other side of the busy highway.

It was a Thursday night and the air was humid, thick with the smell of the city, petrol fumes, burning rubber, hot concrete. The sounds of traffic were blocked out when I shut down the door of the motel room and breathed in the airconditioned coolness. My dress was stuck to my back and the first thing I wanted to do was have a cool shower before dinner.

After dinner I went for a stroll around Parramatta. The evening was still humid but not as stifling as the afternoon heat.

Most of the suburb is an unappealing mix of apartment buildings, old houses and light industrial development. Then I stumbled across some real gems that had somehow survived the transformation of the landscape from a beautiful valley, to an early colonial town to what I found today. Despite the changes, Parramatta River still flows through the middle of the valley and there are glimpses of the original bushland along the banks.

The suburb of Rose Hill was the first European township inland from Sydney Cove. The name of Parramatta was later taken for the district, a corruption of the original name for the area Burramattagal by the traditional custodians of the land. Small farms were carved out of the bush.

The buildings in the photos were on land granted to Captain John Macarthur, later famous for starting the Australian wool industry with his wife, Elizabeth. They were built in the early 1800s and gradually over the next 200 years turned into suburbia.

From the rise in front of the cottage it is still possible to look down toward the Parramatta River despite these changes but I can see change is still going on. The older houses are gradually disappearing in favour of more and more apartment buildings. Most of the people in the area are from India or Middle Eastern countries. Change continues – I wonder what it will look like in another 100 years.

Cruisin’ the South Pacific

A few weeks ago I was in Sydney to see my sister off on a cruise of the South Pacific, from Sydney to Vanuatu. While it wasn’t my holiday I wanted to share the photos I took at Circular Quay before she left to board her ship. It was a hot day, there were hugs, a few tears, and promises to let me know everything she did on board. We were able to chat most nights online and while I was worried about seasickness my sister went dancing, rock climbing, surfing, more dancing and some shopping. Oh, and it was her 18th birthday while she was away!

A walk around Yass

Yass is a small country town on the edge of the southern tablelands in New South Wales. It is one of the oldest inland towns in Australia, being originally settled in 1832. Most of the buildings in the main street date from around the 1870s although there is still a few that are older than that. All of this gives Yass a historic feel and it is an amazing place to spend a quiet afternoon strolling around. The Yass River runs slowly through the middle of town, dividing it cleanly into north and south Yass, with a lovely walk along the grassy banks of the river. Further upstream is more rocky and bushy but not less lovely in its own way. I like the peacefulness of Yass. It is a reminder of years gone by and I find it easy to imagine the streets full of carts and sulkys, horses tied to verandah posts. I love it here and if you are ever in Australia take the time to stop in Yass for an afternoon and enjoy the quiet serenity.

Safe travels

Molly x

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