Travelling – Raw power and subtle beauty of coastal Outback

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A raptor perches on its monstrous nest protecting its offspring from spray as a backdrop of waves bounce with a thunderous roar, just metres from reach. Its mate returns to relieve her from nest duties, food in claws for their young.

‘Powerful’. That would be the word that dominates. Raw, uncontrollable power of the sea. Mountains of white spray bursting from the ocean, exploding, reaching high into the blueness of the sky for a brief moment of splendor, only to collapse at the feet of the jagged rocky coastline into a churning whirlpool. Repeat. I watched the awesome sight in absolute wonder.

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Coastal Outback north of Carnarvon (Western Australia) was a change from the wildflower-dusted inland we’d been exploring. Harsh, but with a discernible serenity. Hard, but with a subtle softness. Captivating beauty.

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The people who historically attempted to tame and farm this land held a misplaced vision. This is wild land. It belongs to Nature alone.

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No grazing stock in sight, decommissioned windmills taken over by nesting ravens – the station now hosts tourists: game fishing, surfing, diving and camping. I feel privileged to have access to this magnificent stretch of coastal outback.

Looking for shade to sit and make a cuppa, there were no trees, only low acacia woodland, saltbush and samphire, and mounds of dead and broken shrubbery. The Outback. But we found a patch of shade by a wet saltpan, made a cup of tea and enjoyed watching Red-capped Plovers dart in random zig-zagging patterns through the shallow pools. Intense red sand contrasted brilliantly against the shimmering patches of moisture and the blue desert sky.

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Songs of Pied Honey-eaters and Blue-winged Fairy-wrens entertained us. Such delicate creatures make their home in harsh and unforgiving country. And we are reminded of the harshness by bleached bones of a beast lying alone on the silent sand. Today there is water. Yesterday and tomorrow are different stories again.

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Travelling – Talking to the Universe

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I don’t need a special place to talk to the Universe, but sometimes I want a special place. Not a temple, not a mountain sanctuary or ethereal shrine. Just a private little spot surrounded by nature. A sacred hushed nook where I can connect to all around me without man-made dynamics bouncing off the walls, stifling the communication.

Devoting myself physically and emotionally to an infirm and unhinged friend has taken it’s toll. My heart is heavy. My spirit dull. I once thought my vocation lay in volunteering at a hospital or other care facility. NO. I’ll find my place caring for the land instead. But today I’m intent on talking to the Universe. I need inspiration and encouragement.

A break in the rain. A lull in the wind. I strode into the bush with purpose, fizzing with excitement.

Confronted with a massive granite outcrop, towering over me and curling over like a breaker in the surf, I just stood open-mouthed in awe. Stained by running and dripping water for millennia, ochre and black vertical bands shone in the midday sun. Not a famous rock. Nothing advertised as a tourist must-see. An off-shoot from a muddy rural road. Way out in the back blocks from Mukinbudin (yes, Muck-in-budd-in).

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Following a sort-of trail, over fallen logs, under dangling branches, I came by a small, damp, green alcove that had my name on it.  Only metres from the rock-face, a wattle tree blooming, twiggy saplings at the back, and totally devoid of anything remotely human. Solitude, except for the sweet songs of robins and fantails.

I cupped my hands and drank rainwater from a hole in the rock. Earthy. Refreshing. The sun shone from a blue, blue sky. Two magnificent eagles glided overhead.

Flat stones lying at the base of the outcrop begged to form a circle for my meditation. And, meditate, I did. And pray.  Asking for some semblance of sense of stuff clogging up my head. Ask, and you shall receive. A spark has been lit.

Sprinkles of rain. A stiff breeze whipping cold around me. Time to leave. I left my rocky circle as a gift to whoever might be inspired to use it in the future. It’s only a little meander off the walking trail. I wonder, in a year, will my circle still remain in tact?

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Travelling – it’s not just about seeing

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For me, a place doesn’t need to be spectacular to have a breathtaking affect upon me.

Wind howled around the caravan yesterday from dawn til dark, forcing me indoors for the day, so I was out walking on the beach first thing this morning in the stillness of the early light. It was spectacular in a simple, ordinary way.

Time enough had not elapsed to putrefy the weedy mat that yesterday’s storms had dumped on the beach. A day of sunshine would bring out the stench, so then the beauty will be much diminished. Strangely, the sound of the waves was muted by the cushion of weed. Although the waves were breaking right at my feet, they sounded way off in the distance.

I walked to the sandy peninsular, free of marine grass where the waves were given free reign to tumble and roll – translucent green falling onto white sand with a scattering of seashell fragments. The sky was grey, but many delicate shades from violet to blue to grey and back to white. Such elegance.

An old man exercised his dog. A young man stood in the water, fishing. Terns and gulls claimed their patch of sand to rest. Rays of sun occasionally cast golden light on the many jagged limestone rocky outcrops in the ocean. And windswept clumps of dune-grass still holding droplets of rain looked, to me, as splendid as any wildflowers.

My connection to the landscape and every component of this scene was automatic and strong. Nature touched my soul, uplifted me, and left me with a feeling of  wholeness and gratitude.

In contrast, we then visited the Pinnacles Desert – a truly spectacular and astounding ancient natural site. And although I was suitably impressed, little emotion was evoked.

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And that’s an integral part of me. It doesn’t take some monumental icon or tourist attraction to wow me. For me, it’s all about what moves me emotionally, what touches my heart and soul, a connection, a feeling of being nurtured and of belonging – not me belonging to a particular place or a place being somehow mine simply because I’m a citizen of this country, but a merging: a feeling of oneness. A beauty and serenity that is within and around me. Something subtle yet obvious, to me. Yes, a feeling, a connection, an awareness.

Often, a fantastic attraction that sees hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of tourists or visitors annually, leaves me dulled, presumably by the massive whirlpool of energy that remains – in comparison, a simple natural place that is only visited by those who are delighted by solitude and understated beauty can be spiritually awesome, for me. Today, the two separate places left me mulling over the unmistakable difference that grand and simple can often affect upon me, and why, and I am more aware of me as a result.

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Travelling – Sitting on a mountain

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A mountain only by Australian standards. Elsewhere in the world it would be classed as a rocky hill. East Mount Barren in Fitzgerald National Park on the southern coast of Western Australia.

And it doesn’t matter that I only made it to the foothills. Size and scale don’t equate to success or notoriety in my world, for my soul has been touched by the magic of nature. That’s a beautiful and all powerful experience.

I’m perched on a chunk of granite with a splendid view of ocean, beach, mountains and bushland, all bathed in brilliant early-morning sunshine. A gentle breeze whispers to me. The solitude is precious. Birdsong, waves rolling in to the beach – no human-made sounds. Sunshine is warm on my back. The moment is perfect, and this moment is all there is.

I put my pen down and soak in the tranquility and beauty. It is now a part of me.

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Travelling – Observing the behaviour of shore birds

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Shorebirds can be difficult to identify by a shorebird-novice like me. But for someone who appreciates the nuances of animal behaviour, they can be endlessly entertaining, even without names.

Cudgeon Creek estuary at Hastings Point on the north coast of NSW proved to be a great place to watch the comings and goings of sand dwelling birds – our first stop on our around Australia caravanning trip.

Other sand flats and rock walls gave up surprise encounters with fascinating birds too. Like the Osprey, a raptor that generally preys on water-dwelling creatures, but is not immune to opportunism created by humans. I watched a woman catch a garfish and secure it to a bigger fishing rod in the hope of tempting a table fish to her hook. But the Osprey had its name on that garfish. It swooped to steel the live bait from the line and flew off to feed on it from a high perch. Brilliant!

And bath time always provides plenty of amusing antics. Crested terns scooped water up with their bent wings, splashing like children for longer than necessary. They all bath differently. Ospreys stand alone in the shallowest of water, tentatively dipping headfirst, throwing water onto their back, with its mate on patrol in a nearby tree.

A Mangrove Heron skulks among the rock-pools searching out tiny fish, freezing like a statue, then thrusting its bill into the water at such speed that I always miss the catch. The heron did not miss.

Birds with long straight bills like straws, others curved downwards, poking and prodding the sand for morsels of food – birds that have flown halfway around the world. How is that possible? Incredible.

Yes, the bird world is breathtakingly amazing.

There are times when being alone is ideal

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Can spending time alone amongst nature be healing? Can spending time in nature be a spiritual experience? Yes, on both counts.

I was a bit apprehensive about swimming in the river on my own. But at the same time, I was overjoyed that I was on my own. Nature at its most beautiful: a mountain stream, crystal clear, deep, lined by boulders and trees. No man-made sound, no buildings, not even any rubbish. And no other people. Idyllic.

Carefully, I slid into the water, swam to the other side of the river, and sat in shallows above the rapids. Nature chatted amongst itself, with the babbling of the stream a soothing chorus backed by the swishing of eucalypt and she-oak canopy. Occasionally, a bird would add to the song with a musical call. Harmony.

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I lay back watching clouds float by, letting the water trickle over and around me. The sunshine was pleasant. The water was fresh and cool. Mountains upstream towered over the narrow valley. It was a stunning scene, and I was filled with gratitude for my stunning surroundings and the opportunity to immerse myself in Mother Earth’s beauty. Solitude.

At one with nature.

If I’d had to share the experience with a companion, or if strangers were also using the river at that time, the moment would have been something different, not as special, and I would not have been so profoundly touched by the spirit of nature. Often times, experiences are best had alone, and this was one such venture. Bliss.

A soulful experience

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Travelling – A garden to tell the world about

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Grand. Awesome. Immaculately groomed tropical plant collections from here and other tropical countries, obviously lovingly and expertly maintained.

Flecker Botanic Gardens, Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia. I’ve explored arid-lands botanic gardens, high-country botanic gardens, city and country, native and exotic, and always immersed myself in the beauty and fascination of the plants displayed. But really, this tropical garden tops them all.

Amazing ferns and palms are features. Stunning foliage plants. Mysterious carnivorous plants. Gorgeous blooms and odd seed capsules. Relatives of the grotesquely beautiful Corpse flower. Bromeliads, gingers, bamboos, and creepers. Orchids and strange fruit trees. Lush lawns and waterways. And tucked away in little leafy nooks are seats (themselves works of art) for contemplation and rest.

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What a truly inspiring piece of natural paradise. After wandering in wonderment, and sitting in silence, we enjoyed delicious food at the outdoor cafe. And then it rained, as it does in the tropics.

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