Not even the beginning

By Vita Forest

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“You mean this isn’t even part of the walk?” face sweaty, voice grim.

“That’s right.”

I walked on.  We would not turn back, not now, no way.

But now it was THE walk, not a walk from the station, not the walk down the hill but THE walk.  See – the dreaming poles marked it.  It was not the end of the beginning, or the beginning of the end but it was the beginning.  There was mutinous muttering from Max and Lucy, Fleur whispered she could take them back.  But no!  We were going to do this walk and we were going to enjoy it…

The kids took off their shoes to wade through the water at Werri Lagoon and did not put them on again on the other side.  They stalked on grimly in barefeet.  And I thought why not? And pulled my shoes off again too.  The grass was soft and buoyant and the wind from the sea felt good on my bare skin.  We stepped along up the hill, away from the beach, away from the shrieks of the swimmers and the drone of the cars and into the silence.

The complaints stopped as we climbed the bare grassy slopes that hid the town and the road.  The kids fell silent and felt the breeze, saw the blue water sinking back from the black rocks, saw the green hills rising away into the distance along the coast and the wildflowers buzzing with butterflies and crickets.  All you could hear was the booming breath of the sea, rising and falling and the hundreds of birds hidden in the undergrowth.

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“Is this The Shire?” they asked, but we didn’t come across any hobbits.


Further on, pelicans flapped by lazily in formation, so close you could hear the air against their wings.  I stopped and stared up at the hill rising to the west and even though it was “just grass” every blade was alive in the wind, not a solid monolithic mound but a writhing, dancing collection of stems, each one clutching a fist full of rattling, plump seeds.

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Later we went off the track into a stand of remnant rainforest – the rainforest that used to run all the way down to the sea.  We sat enclosed in the shady room fretted with tree trunks and ate fruit.  I climbed down deeper and found a circular cairn built around the sinuous roots of a tree that was totally enclosed by the scrubby foliage around it.  Cradled inside it like a snow dome.  Someone else had visited too.

I had promised them cows and we saw some, staring and edgy at Max’s frenzied hooting.  We were disturbed to see an anxious calf on the wrong side of the fence.  We wondered how it had got out and how it would get back?  Barbed wire was strung tight across the top of the fence and the gate we eventually passed was locked.  There was also wild fennel, identified by rubbing its lacy leaves between finger and thumb and inhaling deeply.  Aniseed.


We peeled eggs under a tree at lunchtime and looked back across the path heading south.  And after lunch we came to the stile, THE stile and I told them the story of how, years ago, I had looked at this stile, every day, every time we came down to the beach, the stile in the distance on the headland, near the dry stone walls.  How I’d watch walkers climb over it and hike along the headland, coming from who knew where?  How I stood rooted on the sand, small children at my feet.  Them.  And I had wondered – what had those people seen?  Where had they come from?  With their backpacks on their backs, while I watched, anchored to the beach.  Now I knew.  They were us.  Ten years later but there we were, walking out of the wild.  Walking north along the track.  It was us all that time.

We stopped again at Easts Beach, Lucy tumbling and dancing on the sand and falling into the splits.  Max watching critically and remarking, “When she laughs, her bum shakes.”

And it did.

Max and Lucy swam in the surf (Neptune’s son). I made do with a paddle and Fleur with a siesta under the tight shade of a juvenile pine.

Walking on, I watched a bare-chested man saunter past the “No dogs on the beach” sign carrying two black Chihuahuas, one tucked under each armpit.  He carried them into the water where they bobbed serenely, safe in his arms.

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Can you see the Chihuahuas?

I guess they were never on the beach.

At the end we found we were all sunburnt despite hats, sunglasses and slathered sunscreen.  There were red stripes where we had been absentminded with the lotion.  And my toes… well they appreciated the cool dip at sundown in the rock pool at Blow Hole Point.

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And Fleur said that she doesn’t know if she would do it again.

But she’s glad she did it once.

At Bombo

By Vita Forest


On Wadi-Wadi land, where Charmian swam, we walk out to Bombo.  We fill up our water bottles from the last tap, pull our hats down low and sling our thumbs through the loops of our backpacks.  The sun grinds down, shadows crouch and hide from its glare, pulling their knees up to their ears.  It’s nearly noon.

We crouch on the cliff and watch the surfers below as they bob lazily, straddling surfboards and squinting out at the horizon.  Watch as one paddles, then stands and streaks along just in front of the curl of a wave.  An admirer claps and a friendly dog rubs her snout into our open palms.  Watch as another surfer scuttles down a goat track beside us, board beneath his arm, runs, runs down the spit of rock, runs at a retreating wave, then hurls himself onto the fizzing foam.  The sea is wild today.


We walk on and pause to see A View.  A long-haired boy heaves rocks, chucks them with all his might so they land, just past his feet.

Heavy.

“I can do this,” he explains, “coz now I’m six.”

The water boils and roars and surges high through the red columns.


His mother shouts, “Stop throwing rocks!  There are people about!”

And high above on the rocky hill, built with boulder and facing the sea, a shriek, a whoop as the sea slaps down those reckless climbers who sauntered past us moments before.  We make sure they emerge again.  No need to call for help.  Just yet.


We follow the path deeper, between the tossing grass and humming insects which scatter yellow as we approach.  Into the bowl of the headland, into the hollow, the hole, the crater between the land and the sea.  See how the water rises?  Angry, foaming at the bit.  Seething.  We dare not climb the columns as I’ve done before on another calmer day.  We stand back and feel the spray as the sea finds a crack, smashes hard on solid rock.  It will hold, I imagine, I trust, I hope.  Fishermen peer out to sea behind the barricade of boulders, slinging a line out to sea like a grenade.  The water exploding with a Boom! against the cliffs.


We pick our way across a desert of red rocks.  Sun scorching down, burning the backs of our necks.  Lizards scurry at our shadows and I stamp hard, warning off the serpents.  I had seen one at this very spot.  Not rainbow but a killer, red and black.  Red for danger!  It lay on the path, soaking up the sun before sinking back into the waving grasses off the track.  Sinking back like the sighing sea as we tiptoed past as far away as we could manage.  We pick our way across the desert of red rocks, calves flex as we balance on those boulders.  Like those surfers on the sea.


 

This week

By Vita Forest

 

This week I have been

VISITING Kiama for a holiday with a rotating cast of characters – Max, Lucy, Fleur, Betty and Briony.

WALKING

  • from Gerringong to Kiama with Fleur, Lucy and Max (Lucy, Max and I did most of it barefoot too…)

  • into the strange world of Bombo Headland with Briony – massive waves smashing against the rock columns, very dramatic!

    SWIMMING in the beautiful waters of Kiama’s beaches and rock pools


    SEEING the Kiama blowhole “goin’ off!”


    SKETCHING at the same time as my sketch pals – they in Sydney, I sitting in the seabreeze looking back at the pines around the Kiama showground.

    WRITING Southerly Buster

    GETTING lots of inspiration for future posts

    READING

    • Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (How wonderful to visit the world of J.K. Rowling again and this is one of my favourites!!  I was not the only one enjoying J.K. Rowling – there was also Fleur reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Lucy reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban too – a very Hogwarts kind of time)
    • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

    GENERALLY relaxing

    Day tripping

    By Vita Forest

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    On a glorious spring day, Saskia and I set off to revisit a favourite walk – Gerringong to Kiama.  We did it in January, in the middle of summer, stopping for a swim on the way and racing a storm back to the holiday flat.  This time it was a day trip from Sydney, travelling by train for a full day out.

    The train ride itself, down through the Royal National Park, and then along the Illawarra Escarpment is very spectacular.  The train cuts through thick swathes of bush, climbs across high, curving bridges straddling steep valleys, and clings to the side of the cliffs with the Pacific Ocean gleaming away into the horizon.  Sometimes you see hang gliders drifting off from Stanwell Tops, sometimes you see whales breaching off shore.  Sometimes you just have to settle for the clear, endless blue of the ocean.

    Below Wollongong, the train turns inland a little through lush dairy country which continues down around Kiama and Gerringong.  The hills are rolling and green, the cows are black and white, the fields are dotted with cabbage tree palms and giant majestic fig trees, remnants of the rainforest that once extended from the mountain ridge right down to the coast.

    We changed trains at Kiama and went one stop to Gerringong, we would be returning by foot.  It is perhaps three kilometres from the station to the start of the Kiama Coast walk, but half of this is along the pristine Gerringong Beach, a long stretch of sand with a dramatic grassy bluff at its southern end.  There were surfers enjoying the water, and we enjoyed a paddle, but the water was still a little too bracing for swimming.  For me anyway.

    Gerringong Beach

    Gerringong Beach

    At the northern end of the beach, we cleaned the sand from our feet and put on our walking shoes ready to start the walk.  A pair of wooden poles, decorated with local Indigenous symbols, mark the start of this section of the walk.  You pass through them, and head up the hill, and away from civilisation.  This area seems like a wild place, despite the fact that it edges around farmland.  Though there may be cows munching the grass to your left, on your right are steep cliffs, clambering wildflowers and dramatic black boulders plunging into the sea.

    Saskia preparing for the walk

    Saskia preparing for the walk

    We saw many birds – a number of hawks (cruising over the cliffs or perched imperious and solitary on a fence post), flocks of seagulls (following fishing boats or fishing themselves in flickering white formation), an elegant heron, some crows, and jaunty squabbling fairy wrens, who love the thick dense shrubs that border the pathway.

    We stopped for snacks and lunch on the grassy path, looking out to sea and back down the coastline.  As the day progressed, the sea changed from smooth and glassy to a heaving, swelling living thing, causing white breakers to smash against the rocks at the shoreline.  (This was also convenient when we reached The Little Blowhole – the rising swell of the water shooting a dramatic white spray vertically into the air, much to the delight of the onlookers).

    We climbed over the stile at the southern end of East’s Beach, a landmark I used to look at from the sand when my children were very young and wonder about.  What was past it?  Where did it go?  Now I know.

    Our shoes came on and off as we walked along sand, then back on grass.  There were steep steps, thick grass and even at times, concrete paths.  We inspected gardens as we walked along headlands, sat on generously placed seats, and chatted to people and dogs.

    We arrived back at the Surf Beach and dusted off our feet for the last time.  There was a train heading back to Sydney in a few minutes so we hurried up the hill and sank satisfied into north-facing seats on the train.

    Another marvellous journey on the Kiama Coast walk.

     

    This week

    By Vita Forest

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    This is week I have been

    • READING The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (not even half way, it’s a hefty tome).
    • WRITING Lil’ green bug
    • HONING ideas for costumes and choreography for the senior dance group at school.
    • WATCHING reruns of The Adventures of Merlin with my daughter Lucy. We love it!
    • VISITING Kiama with Lucy for a mother/daughter weekend away with lots of
    • SWIMMING at two rock pools and two beaches and
    • WALKING around the Kiama Coast Walk to the Little Blowhole (it performed well for us, unlike its bigger relation).

    This week

    It's finished!

    It’s finished!  The good ship Possession.

    By Vita Forest

     

    This week (it’s a bit late – still having issues with my internet access) I have been

    • READING
      • Eyrie by Tim Winton
    • WRITING
    • MAKING and FINISHING my Ann Wood ship!  See photo above.
    • VISITING The Greats at the Art Gallery of NSW.
    • WATCHING Notorious with my kids.
    • STARTING Term 1 back at school, it’s busy, busy.
    • MEETING my new class.

     

    Swimming Meditation

    By Vita Forest

    Another hand-written post from the holidays…

    Kiama rock pool

    Rock pool at Kiama’s Blowhole Point

    This morning I did a swimming meditation at Kiama’s Blowhole Point. The water was clear and clean, magnifying the dappled base of the pool – rocks, moss and seaweed. At the end of each lap, my fingers sank into soft moss and my toes kicked against limpets. I counted my laps back and forth and watched the pelicans spiralling up in the sky and the rogue waves surprising the figures lounging on the rocky headland, momentarily flooding the pool with white water.

    Two old men greeted each other while they rested between laps, commenting on the quality of the water (better than yesterday). A woman floated on a surf-mat, fingers trailing in the water while the skin on her back sizzled. Toddlers paddled in the shallows while their parents sat up to their waists in the warmer water. A curious helicopter flew north, red against the sky. Children flung themselves shrieking into the deep water, and a girl stood Amazonian and strong, toes gripping the pool’s edge, as a wave smashed around her ankles.

    Back and forth I went, watching surfers in flippers leap off seaweed-shrouded rocks just at the right time, paddling furiously away from the jagged black basalt headland before the waves crashed again. I swam on my back north to south, and on my front south to north, keeping the worst of the sun’s glare out of my eyes.

    I looked up toward the lighthouse and reflected how so many of the views in Kiama are from the low-angle, turning humans into monumental figures against the horizon – a boy on a scooter, a couple standing on a hill, and a girl riding a horse near the showground. I looked up from my low angle in the water, up over the grass toward the end of the headland, and wondered if I’d ever, in my whole life, see the blowhole spouting water so far up into the sky you could see it from the mountains.