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Great Ocean Road in a Jucy camper: Day 2 – Lorne to Princetown

An orange sunrise peeked through the curtains of the camper so temptingly the next morning I was in agony waiting for Sven to wake up so I could get out and see it properly (there is no way to creep out of a camper). Luckily I didn’t have to wait too long and we were soon up, dressed and ready to explore. Our camper was parked within walking distance of the beach across a footbridge at the end of a riverside boardwalk frequented by herons, swifts and swallows.

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A short hop across the dunes from there and the sights, sounds and smells of Lorne beach greeted us, beautiful in the early morning light. We joined the runners, walkers and people with their dogs already out and about despite the early hour. What a joy to live by the sea like this, I’d be there every day. Though maybe not quite swimming like one lady we saw, as the water was freezing and there were more stunning blue jellyfish littered here too.

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An hour or so here was enough to work up an appetite, but with a camper on your team you can take your meals on wheels anywhere you choose! An Aussie breakfast of smashed avo and tomatoes on bread (no one had the patience to fry toast!) with watermelon juice and coffee on the picnic tables in front of the bay followed. It seemed there’s endless places to picnic, or public BBQ sites along this road, all well signposted and used by tourists and locals alike.

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Time was ticking along, so after a quick stop to buy hats (when in Rome) we hit the road again. Having enjoyed the beach this morning we’d used up our waterfall time so decided instead to continue along the coast to Apollo Bay. What a coast! I was so jealous of Sven being able to lean out of the window and enjoy it without concentrating on the road. However with the current ongoing GOR restoration project creating roadworks every few kilometres I had plenty of opportunity to enjoy the view during traffic. Many of the signs were in Chinese as well as English as tourism increases. We later discovered this was also the reason for all the ‘Drive on the left in Australia’ signs we kept seeing around the place.

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Stopping frequently to get out and stretch our legs at places like Sunshine Drive and Petticoat Creek it took most of the morning before we were parked up in the Paradise By the Sea that is Apollo Bay. At each stop we tested the water in the hope that it would be miraculously warmer than the last one and we could swim, but it was icy on the skin even in 30degree weather! Even the water from the creek was more than refreshing as Sven and I added to the piles of stones already standing there. Ours is the tallest, but also the most unstable…hmm.

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We’d been advised by many friends and forums to stop at Apollo Bay, a seaside town with surfing and paddle board lessons and a number of beachy shops. But with so many tourists around it lacked the charm of Lorne so we only stopped long enough to enjoy an award winning ice cream and a stroll along the super soft sandy beach before rolling on into koala country! Dan had prewarned us that if you spy someone parked on the side of the road looking up, there’s probably a koala. So when not long after Apollo Bay we pulled up alongside a beautiful viewpoint on the right, and a couple under a tree on the left, it was worth pulling over. Sure enough there was a chubby fella stuffing his face with eucalyptus leaves. They’re quite spritely compared to the sleepy guys I met in the blue mountains, leaping from branch to branch at speed, but still taking the time to pose for a photo.

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The drive to Otway lighthouse was one of the most fragrant I have ever enjoyed, as the air was filled with the scent of pine and eucalyptus. Sven craned his head left and right as we wound our way through miles of forest looking for more koalas, but as Julie had warned us of the need to be at camp sites prior to 6pm we didn’t have time for further stops.

Otway lighthouse is probably the one part of this tour I wish I’d researched. I’d expected a lighthouse, a stop which would take 30 minutes at most, but instead we found an extensive park with dinosaur fossils, aboriginal walks and historical tours and talks. I could have easily spent half a day speaking to the lighthouse keeper alone, and was more than disappointed to tear myself away from his stories. Sven on the other hand was fascinated by the wind speed, as it was more than blustery at the top. The keeper kindly demonstrated how to measure the wind using a little gauge, 48km…glad we left our hats inside!! However I can tick something else off my bucket list…climb a lighthouse, check!!

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Despite thinking we’d planned a quite leisurely tour there have certainly been parts we’ve had to rush. Otway lighthouse and the Gibson Steps are two examples, and for the latter I also wish I’d thought to check tide times as the sea was rushing in when we arrived leaving little room for exploration. Being that we were pushed for time this was probably blessing in disguise, but I would have loved to have spent a few hours nestled under the towering cliffs, enjoying the first of the Apostles whilst protected from the wind. As sunset at the 12 Apostles is definitely one for the bucket list we found a cute little camp site in Princetown rather than press on to Port Campbell and checked in by 5pm (if only Julie could see our progress!) Visiting the GOR out of season has been fantastic for winging it, as camp sites and tourist spots are next to empty and we’ve had no troubles with crowds. This was particularly fortuitous at the Apostles, where we spent most of the evening meandering back and forth between viewpoints which would no doubt be packed to the rafters in high season. The view was stunning in all directions, I could have done with 3 tripods and eyes in the back of my head!

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As the skies darkened we returned to camp and quickly realised leg of Sven is a mosquito delicacy. They just can’t get enough! Despite not using any lights, and cooking in the kitchenette rather than out the back of the camper we ended up with a van full! Pesky buggers kept us up all night buzzing around our heads and poor Sven was covered in red welts by the morning. First on the list for today is bug spray, yeulch!!

In transit…

There’s something rather noteworthy about time in transit. This period of semi-existence where you are neither here nor there, but rather somewhere in between. The strangest example of this for me will always be crossing the international date line. When you board a 14 hour flight on a Friday morning and arrive on Sunday afternoon. Discombobulating indeed! That magic didn’t happen on this trip however, as we flew first to Abu Dhabi and then 14 more hours to sunny Melbourne and our initial destination.

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The journey is worthy of a blog in itself. The first plane was so gigantic I failed to realise it had taken off as I sat in my centre of it, learning a valuable lesson about the pitfalls of selecting a seat next to the toilets. Sometimes guilt free reclining is not worth it folks! It was a double decker A380; the lower floor like that of any other plane, and the upper reserved for business and first class. Upstairs was also home to The Residence, where for the cost of average annual salary you can enjoy your own private butler, living room and bathroom, before taking breakfast in a luxury double bed. If you haven’t seen it I recommend this YouTube video. How the other half live!

The window seat on the second leg however was worth every seat reservation penny. Firstly to witness the miles of middle eastern dessert, with its miles of rolling sand dunes interrupted by groups of buildings in uniform grids. Symmetrical sand coloured settlements dotted around in the otherwise seemingly desolate landscape; some joined by perfectly straight highways which stretched from horizon to horizon without any hint of a curve, but others with no discernible entrance or exit at all, which makes you wonder how on Earth people ended up living there with no obvious access to water, or other civilisation.

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Majestic mountains followed, ragged and comprehensible at first, with tracks climbing to yet more towns and villages perched high in the summits; but then escalating so dramatically the peaks seemed in danger of clipping the aircraft wings. Despite my drooping eyes I was glued to the window, as the sun occasionally glinted off roofs and windows suggest that even in this isolated and apparently barren landscape was home to somebody.

The next treat came in the form azure blues and white sandy beaches of Male; which again appeared so suddenly in an otherwise endless sea that I spend a long while wondering how islands like that form out of the abyss. I understand when they’re nestled next to a continent, but Male is in the middle of the ocean! There were more tropical islands than I could count, some with obvious signs of inhabitants even from 39,000ft, others no more than a stretch of white surrounded by turquoise before dropping off again into deep blue sea. Straight white lines forming in between them gave the suggestion of tours and fishing boats. I’d love to see it for myself one day.

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As darkness fell you’d think the show was over, but no, the final treat was a thunderstorm raging over Perth. Huge clouds illuminated by great bolts of lightning as they sat under an inky sky pinpricked by stars above and lights from the city below. Incredible.

All this and the holiday hadn’t even really started. What an adventure!

Recognising happiness

I’ve been trying to articulate a thought for the past week or so; a thought which seems quite reluctant to form, let alone allow me to put it into words. It seems a situation has arisen which is usually only viewed with hindsight, so viewing it in the present and recognising it for what is it feels foreign and bizarre.

The thought? I’m really happy!

It’s not that I have been unhappy of late, I think perhaps there is a space between unhappy and happy in which a person can just be content. You may call it ‘existing’, ‘plodding along’ or just ‘life’, but whatever it is I have been there for some time, living for the moment, enjoying the good times when they’re around, feeling neither exultant nor despondent (though with the occasional spurt of both). But something clicked recently and, for the first time in a long time, I can’t seem to stop smiling.

It’s a feeling which has arrived along with a sense of dormant familiarity akin to randomly bumping to an old friend from years gone by. You know that tip of the tongue moment that sees you trying to remember their name and so awakens sluggish synapses from years of peaceful slumber…’It’s that girl…you know!!! The one from primary school! She was in the year below, hung out with Kelly…Does her name start with S maybe? Saaaa…Sarah! That’s the one!’ That kind of moment. I remember this feeling, I’ve felt it before, when I was younger and (apologies for the cliché) life was simpler. Part of growing up is realising that life is not always a bed of roses, or maybe that it is exactly that, and that something which looks great and sounds perfect actually contains hidden thorns which will leave you a worse for wear. But despite all that, happiness has shown its smiley face and waited patiently to see if I would recognise it or pass it by only to realise later what was in front of me.

The latter is the more common route; looking at things with retrospect and adding a rose (again with the roses!) coloured tint to situations means that down the line we look back on how good we had it and lament for when we took being happy for granted. I did it myself last year, when I was so fixated on fulfilling a lifelong dream that I didn’t realise what I was giving up. That old phrase ‘you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone’ certainly rung true. However; experiences like that, and many since, have taught me things about myself I didn’t know before. In the last year and a half I have learned so much about who I am, what I want and what I can do, all of which has brought me here and therefore obviously done me good.

There’s a phrase “If the bad times weren’t so bad, the good times wouldn’t be so good” which I think sums all this up. Perhaps the trials and tribulations of the past few years have prepared me for this moment where I look at my extraordinary housemates, brilliant friends, full weekends, fun evenings, great job and everything else that goes with it and realise how good life is right now. Whatever catalyst of events caused this moment of self-actualisation I’m not complaining. How blooming fantastic to be happy and to know it; I may just clap my hands! 

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High high high!

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Ok, let’s get the worst bit out of the way…wearing office clothes in 32° heat is evil, ridiculous and should just never have to happen! Luckily that part of the day was done with pretty quickly and the brilliance began!

Smile 1: BEACH! I LOVE living in a country with so many beautiful beaches a stones throw away, seriously. Today it was the turn of Traeth Mawr (aka ‘Big Beach’) just outside Llantwit Major with my cousins who are camping there. Lovely afternoon poking about in rockpools, jumping over waves, throwing balls for their lovely dogs and generally catching some rays, all topped off with a visit to my favourite pub. Bliss!

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Smile 2: Always good to catch up with people when in the area, last week it was the Queen of CK , this week I tried to get the R Crew on board but with R2 on first and Rachel off to the cinema it was up to Robbie and I to fly the flag. So we headed to Macross to catch the last of the sun and for once actually have a serious, semi professional conversation as I needed some advice. It helped a lot too so, smiles all round.

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Smile 3: A pressie for mum arrived today and she loved it. Always good when a plan comes together, especially when it’s the icing on the cake of a jolly good day!

Friday smiles! (14)

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Today’s smile is 150,000% dedicated to my family. They were off work and school enjoying the sun in the garden so when I got home last night I had a proper catch up with my mum, big sister and two youngest nephews. It’s been months since I’ve seen most of them and they’re just so silly! From N3 popping his head up and down like he was on a spring to hearing about N2’s homemade fishing rod and plans for my sisters wedding, it was a really good to just spend some time with them, allbeit from 8000 miles away.

‘Why aren’t youuuuu at school Teacher Katy??’ ‘Umm because it’s 10pm??’ ‘Ah…ok then!’

I have the best family ever, left me with a huge grin on my face!

100 smiles – day 12

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So today I took charge a little more with some of the lessons. The kids are always really asleep in the morning so I got them up out of their seats doing stretches and playing silly games. It certainly woke them up! In fact it was such a success that we did it for most of the classes during the day, just to get them to use a little energy so they were ready to sit and concentrate for a while! Then Loriel took them through about 40 minutes of reviewing the previous years work before I got to play more games, this time testing their understanding of what we’d done in class. It’s really easy to lose the attention of the class when they’re this young, activities and work needs to be kept short and fun or else they’ll be off chatting and you’ll never get them back. Being silly and playing games is the kind of teacher I want to be, it was fun to try a little of that today!

Then this evening there was skype time, always guaranteed to put a smile on my face!

Smile 8 – Try something new!

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So today was a day for new things; exploring new places, meeting new people, seeing new movies and new modes of transport! I took my first motorbike taxi! It was a little alarming when my driver donned his helmet and left me without one, but I really enjoyed zipping through the traffic. I really like travelling by motorbike/scooter, just wish I was brave enough to drive one myself! Though maybe not in Bangkok!

Smile 5 – Silliness

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I feel like a few of my future smiles are going to come from my students, but maybe today is the first.

Every week I see each of my eight classes three times. This week the first time is for introductions and making name tags, the second is for collecting their books and the third for discussing the rules of the class and splitting the girls between my co-teacher and myself. Yesterday I had one lot of monkeys for the second time and they had SO much energy! We had to march them upstairs (Left, left, left right left), line them up in the heat to sign for their books, (the school is very open, so no air con in the corridors) which is tough going for the best of people let alone kids who can’t keep still! Then head back down. We played Simon Says and some other games and then walked back to class with our books on our heads. It was funny! Thankfully they thought so too! Silliness!

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Twitter Blogathon Day 2 – Welcome to my smiley place.

Maybe it’s because Katy’s (not me, I know I tend to talk about myself in the 3rd person, but for the twitter blog challenge you should all assume Katy is @Katysense 😀  it’s confusing I know!) having a bad day today and has been dreaming of escaping, but today’s theme has been named ‘Favourite Place’. Everyone has one, a place which makes us smile and instantly feel better. In fact I wrote about my fave places and spaces back in May when I was writing my ‘5 Things’ posts. You might think that that could act as a shortlist for me in making this post easier, but no (well, the place does feature in that other post, but more specifically). At the moment there’s only one place which would fit the bill as my ‘favourite’. Maybe it’s an example of how people change, altered situations make you appreciate things. I would say “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” but I believe I DID know what I had, I just didn’t realise how much I loved it till I left.

Anyone who knows me has probably guessed by now that I’m talking about Bristol.

Like an old friend even the name makes me smile. There’s something about that city that just fits me, even visiting feels theraputic. As soon as those signs for J19 come in to view I start to smile and feel better. The skyline, the people, my friends, the familiarity of a place I loved living, it’s like a hug (I know, pass the bucket right?).

I’ve been racking my brain recently to work out what it is about Bristol that makes me love it so much but it’s so hard to put my finger on. I think it’s to do with places which feel like home. Despite my dad being in the army I didn’t really move around much past the age of 7. I lived and studied in Carmarthenshire; so if ‘home’ is measured by the place you grew up then Carmarthen would be it. But, to be honest I hated it. Always felt like I stuck out there, was constantly being judged. To this day I hate going into Carmarthen on my own for fear of who I might see or what might be said to/about me.

From the day I arrived in Bristol I felt comfortable and at home. I loved the city and the freedom I found there. I met likeminded people who became much loved friends, friends I didn’t have to be someone I’m not just to fit in with. I discovered things I was good at within the University of the West of England and more specifically the Students’ Union. I was able to work in interesting places doing jobs I really cared about, and had lots to explore on days off! Obviously there were crap days, days when I hated my degree, had fallen out with my flatmates (DO YOUR OWN WASHING UP!), missed my boyfriend or whatever else makes people feel down in the dumps. But for the most part the only thing that made me sad was when I realised this was it, these were the days I would always remember, and eventually I’d have to grow up and do something different. (Morbid I know, not the kind of thoughts I usually have, they tended to be coupled with movie marathons where some geeky girl tells the head cheerleader that her life is downhill from here on in, haha!)

When the time came there were many good reasons to leave Bristol, reasons I won’t bore you with. For the longest time, while I missed it, I didn’t regret moving away. However more recently I have found myself spending lots of time in my uni city. Everytime I go back a little more of me realises how much better I feel when I’m there, with great friends having fun. Who knows what the future holds, I’ve always said I’ll never settle in the UK, but if I do I think I’ll know where I’ll be. If home is where the heart is then it’s Bristol all the way.

I honestly had a moment the other day where I looked a photo of myself from my first week of uni and thought ‘You lucky sod, you have no idea what amazing years lie ahead of you!’. The thought making me smile at the moment is that in 6 years time I could be doing exactly the same thing with a photo of me from today.

That’s the way to live 🙂

Todays other blogs:

Miss Peg Daily – http://misspegdaily.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/raindrops-on-roses-and-whiskers-on-kittens-2/

The Blog of Sense – http://theblogofsense.blogspot.com/2011/10/blogathon-my-favourite-place-its-same.html

Trepatukas –  http://trepatukas.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/take-another-little-piece-of-my-heart-now-babe/