Walk to One Tree Hill Lookout in Numbers

By Vita Forest

  • 20km drive to Hall from Fleur’s home.
  • 5.4km walk to the lookout each way.
  • Maximum of 9 degrees Celsius, but colder with the wind at the top.
  • 2 walkers –  Fleur and Vita.
  • 2 mountain bikes working their way down the steep undulating section at the beginning of the track, making us stand to the side.
  • 1 rusty-roofed shed seen from the track.

  • 1 stile to climb over.
  • 1 heavy gate to open and lock again so the cows wouldn’t get out.
  • 15 large propellers on the windfarm on the horizon (past Lake George near Bugendore).
  • 3 crimson rosellas swinging on a the lighter twigs of a gum tree.
  • 2 young men walking to the soundtrack of the music blaring from their phone (they were very friendly though).
  • 2 young women who assured us we were “nearly there”.

  • 4 cattle grids to cross.
  • 2 jumpers peeled off along the way (we got hot!)
  • 20 kangaroos high on a hill, silently watching us and leaping away again when they saw they had been spotted.
  • 3 cows on the hill.

  • 1 stop at the bottom of the final climb where the following was observed:
    • sheep
    • cows
    • kangaroos (the world was suddenly full of animals that we hadn’t noticed until we paused).
  • 2 bananas consumed before the final climb, their skins folded up and carefully placed back inside the lunchbox.
  • 1 boy who was being the cheer squad for his mother climbing up the steep steps to the top of the lookout “Come on!  Two minutes to go!  Nearly there!” (Personally, I would have told him to leave me alone…)
  • 100 – the number underneath “Canberra” at the final lookout.  Obviously built as part of Canberra’s centenary.

  • 1 state and
  • 1 territory seen from the lookout.
  • More than 1 tree seen from One Tree Hill Lookout.  Which was the one?

  • Many flocks of fairy wrens scuttling in the undergrowth, alighting momentarily on logs and branches and balancing on the wire that stretched between fence posts marking the boundary between the track and “Private Property”.
  • 1 lone kangaroo crashing through the trees and disappearing into the bush again.
  • 1 instance of rain on the way back – made us walk a little faster.

  • 3 hours return with a couple of stops for food and many for photo opportunities.
  • 4 tired legs.
  • 2 burgers inhaled after the walk at a very late lunch.  Perhaps the best meal ever!

This week

By Vita Forest

The Grounds of Alexandria

This week I have been

WRITING Mobile Tales 8: in which Christabel becomes aware of an unusual weather system


  • SuperFudge by Judy Blume
  • Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay (strange combination of books hey? Both good reads!)

SKETCHING and WANDERING and SIPPING coffee at The Grounds of Alexandria 


  • The dentist!
  • The AGNSW in NAIDOC week and seeing the exhibition Sentient Lands

  • South Curl Curl with Betty
  • Canberra to see Fleur


  • Along the headlands of Curl Curl with Betty.
  • With Saskia and Rowdy for a couple of night-time debriefs.
  • To One Tree Hill Lookout near Canberra with Fleur.

SEEING kangaroos, fairy wrens, crimson rosellas, galahs (amongst the native fauna) and cows and sheep (amongst the non-native).

CHATTING to my kids on the other side of the world.

T is for… Train

By Vita Forest


“This tastes like Snow White’s apple.  It’s been sprayed with poison,” said the girl sitting behind us.  Lucy, Max and I were on the train going to Canberra to visit our friend Fleur.

I like catching trains for holidays.  There is time to look out the window and watch the world go by.  On my first trip to Canberra by train, I looked out the window the whole way – no book, no phone, no music was needed.  (This time I was taking notes and finding food for children and reading, as well as looking out the window).

Trains, although moving along at speed, are also slow. There is time to notice the expansive views of the countryside narrowing down to trees flashing by, to look out from the ridgeline of hills, from bridges crossing rivers, to see how we weave across from town to countryside, from roadside to field to bush, to watch sheep running away from the speeding vehicle that has broken their peace.  There were birds to be seen too – flocks of white cockatoos spiralling over freight trains, pigeons returning to swing on electric wires and darting crimson rosellas that flapped and floated beside us, as if racing the train.

We ate lunch, wraps filled with salad and chicken.  Lucy complained about the pepper.

“Next time don’t put any pepper on it.  Pepper makes it bad.  It looks like nit eggs.  (“Nits are the eggs!” Max interjected, Lucy ignored him).  It’s disgusting!”  she tried to scrape the tiny black sprinklings from her wrap.  I made her eat it.

“No chips if you don’t.”

Finally, she finished, grumbling all the way.  But then she glared at me in horror when she pulled out the chips to share, waving them in my face.  I had forgotten the flavour that Max had chosen – Lime and Black Pepper!  Lucy managed to tolerate the pepper on those however.

Max too, wanted to move on from his wrap.  And when a train employee came walking down the aisle carrying a garbage bag in front of her and asking for “Any rubbish?”, Max grinned at me and tipped the remnants of his wrap into it.  There would still be no chips until he ate six pieces of vegetables.  He counted them out into his palm, 4 pieces of carrots and 2 of cucumber.  I drank tea from a thermos I had prepared earlier, with milk carried in the tiny plastic jar that used to contain vanilla pods.  And read My Brilliant Friend, a book I had been saving for this trip, a book I suspected would be a Reading Event.

The train passed through towns beginning with “B”, bringing me memories of trips past.  Bowral, Bungendore, Bundanoon.  Bowral – where I had met Fleur for the day, Bungendore with the great woodworks, and Bundanoon, where I had holidayed as a teenager with school friends and where we kept losing members of our gang, one by one – two to sprained ankles going down to Glow Worm Glen at night and one to a bike accident in the middle of a pine forest (she needed surgery on her knee and has never ridden a bike again.  We cancelled the planned horse riding after that and contented ourselves with a picnic… nice and safe.)

There were autumn leaves to be seen in the Southern Highlands, a lone yellow popular leading a row of dark green pines in a field, a line of bulrushes growing in a thread of creek winding through bare stubby hills, ruined houses without roofs with only the stone walls remaining, land-coloured lambs, their wool coloured a dusty-tan from the dirt, a lone cow resting under a lone tree, black cows solemnly grazing like blocky quadrilaterals, kangaroos, a stag stumbling across a creek and a windfarm on a hill.

And through it all the throaty gurgle and shriek of the train, rattling from side to side, as it sped forward on the tracks.  We sat inside our metal capsule and looked out at the world and relaxed.  We did not have to concentrate on driving, or what we would do when we got there, or when we would come back.  We could simply unwind and take in the changing view as we headed Canberra-ward.



S is for…Skyspace

By Vita Forest


While visiting our friend Fleur in Canberra, we made a pilgrimage to the National Gallery to experience once again James Turrell’s Skyspace. 

It is an art work but also an experience.  Although it is open during the day, it is best visited at dawn or dusk, as that is when you get the extra dimension of colour.

In the fading light of sunset, Fleur, Max, Lucy and I passed through the gate behind the gallery and across a paved bridge over some water.  The paved path continues across grass and descends down, becoming a ramp, down below the level of the tiny lake that encircles a grassy pyramid (nicely reflected on the surface of the water).  If you walk slowly, you can look out across the water at eye level – a vantage point I don’t normally see, so of course I stop and look and admire.

You descend below the water level, below ground level and pass across another boundary and enter the pyramid.  It is grassy on the outside, but inside, surprisingly coloured in a chalky, pink render, it’s sloping walls opening to the sky.  At this point, the feeling of passing into another zone is encouraged by the increasing sound of flowing water, which completely blocks the noise of outside, as the walls of the pyramid completely block the sight of it.  Inside the pyramid, the path splits and you walk either left or right around a turquoise-coloured infinity pool, over whose edges water pours continually.  And in the very centre of the pool, (again not visible until you have crossed the threshold and entered the pyramid) rises a domed building, completely enclosed within the pyramid.  It is build from shards of stone, slotted together cunningly without any obvious joining materials, like a dry stone wall or a ancient cairn.  You marvel at its walls, rising and curving upwards as you walk around the pool, before coming to another “bridge”, this one crossing the pool and leading you into the dome.

Another surprise.  You enter a large but cosy room, walls white with a generous ledge running the entire length of the walls from one side of the doorway to the other.  This is for sitting or even lying on.  You sit down on the bench and lean your back into the comforting curve of the dome and look up.

There appears to be a hole in the smoothly arching roof (or wall – where does one end and one begin?) or is it a disc?  But then a plane streaks a white line across the blue, and you realise that you are, in fact, looking up at the sky.

It’s very lovely at any time, but if you go at dawn or dusk you will also be treated to a subtle light show projected onto the roof of the dome, that changes as the sky outside lightens or darkens.  You have to slow down and watch and be right there to see the colours change from pink to blue to green to purple.

Max leaned his phone of the side of the bench and took a time-lapse film of it, but when you are there, you hardly see the change until it has happened.  One colour slowly and imperceptibly fades into another.

The changing colours of Skyspace

The changing colours of Skyspace

James Turrell’s art is all about colour and light.  He strips away all other distractions so you can focus on these elements.  Depending on who else is in the dome, it can be serene and spiritual or voluble and excited.  (Saskia was frustrated on a previous visit when she wanted the former and got the latter…)  Our experience this time was fairly silent – I took “silent” photos on my phone, raising my hand in salute every few minutes.  Fleur was amused and sent me a text –  It’s almost religious, even though we sat only a couple of metres apart.  Lucy wandered in and out of the dome, comparing the colour of the sky with and without its ring of colour.  Max slouched back against the wall and checked the progress of his filming.

Some of the colours of Skyspace

Some of the colours of Skyspace

All the mechanics are hidden.  The light source enclosed in a tiny lip that ran above our heads, the water draining away into a hidden cavity beneath the walls of the pool, and our way out lit by strip lights shining from deep in the recesses beneath the walls.  Best of all, in winter you are not distracted by the bitter temperatures because the bench inside the dome appears to be heated or insulated…  You feel warm and cosy despite sitting inside a stone building whose roof opens to the elements…