Explorers paradise

Recently I’ve been playing with some new ideas about regional retreats. Personally I can’t think of any better place to retreat, relax, rebuild.

I love regional Australia and all it has to offer from the vast and varied landscapes to the people in the little towns, quirky museum collections and fresh, local food.

There is something I’d forgotten I love about living ‘in the bush’. Something I knew as a young person growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, before (allegedly) terrible things could happen if you took yourself out on your bike to look about in the morning and didn’t return home until you were hungry or the sun set.

That thing is exploring.

Exploring the creeks, the rivers, the beaches, the landscapes. Perhaps it was the freedom I had as a young person to explore that has nurtured my love of the regions.

I know, without a doubt that being outside in nature nurtures me. Yet, in busy times it’s often the first thing I stop doing. Why? I’m not so sure.

The Covid19 lock down is proving to be a nurturing time for my family and I. I’ve got to tell you I feel incredibly fortunate to be so close to nature where I live and in the past weeks I’ve been out in it more than usual. Every part of me is enjoying it.

Yesterday my son informed my daughters and I that he was undertaking an adventure (he’s too old, and not old enough to call it that by the way). This particular adventure something that we’ve all mused about for many years, yet, for whatever reason had never actually done.

It was a spectacular autumn day. Not too hot, yet warm enough for a swim.

I yelled at the kids to apply their various mozzie spray and sunscreen, to get a drink, a towel, a shirt and shoes. My son rolled his eyes and reminded me he’s an adult now. The girls half followed, half not, unsure which adult was in charge of this adventure.

We set out in two cars, somehow mindful of social distancing albeit not required as we’ve been in the same house for five weeks now. I travelled with my learner driver middle girl and we joked about the relaxing Australian Sunday adventure we’d chosen crossing a certain shark infested river to arrive in a snake populated scrub and if we were lucky enough to avoid shark, snake or spider bite at this time we’d most certainly take on a rip at the beach or a bluebottle would wrap its prickly body around a limb.

(In case you’re not aware such conversations are how we Aussie’s deal with fear).

We stood on the bank of the river seeking the best place to cross. My heart thumped with excitement, or was it fear? Was I going to be ‘that’ stupid mother on the news who led her children into a certain misadventure she should have been worldly enough to avoid?

I was surprised when I immersed my feet into the water. It was warm. I shoved my thongs down the front of my swimmers uncertain if they would make it to the other side but delighted to discover they became a handy makeshift buoyancy vest.

To our surprise the water was waist deep until the final 15m where the tide flowed more quickly through the channel. As I gently waded to that section my heart thumped a little harder as I thought of the sharks that may be lurking in the tea-tree stained water. All the while hanging back just a little as the youngest child found her spirit to cross. I knew she was strong enough for the journey but at the same time was conscious of the panic the experience could invoke.

We all made it, finally traipsing through the weeds at the edge of the river. If I was perfectly honest all I could think about by this point were bullrouts and how we’d get out of there quickly if the urgent need arose.

As I assessed the bush track I was delighted to see it was nowhere near as overgrown as expected. We started down the surprisingly wide leafy corridor me providing my bush version of air hostess in-flight warnings – snake hole there, goanna habitat there, death adders live under leaves.

I spoke up so the snakes would hear me and run away. My son reminded me that wasn’t necessary and if I saw a snake to make sure I said “SNAKE” not other things. We developed our emergency plan and the kids made it logical.

I reached a part of the track that the eldest kids and I had walked before and we became excited. The track took us over the sand dunes and to the beach. While thoughts of snakes baking in the warm sun on the track still loomed the sound of the waves crashing on the beach called us forward.

As we came up over the final sand dune and reached the beach the sand glittered with shells. It was pristine. The water was perfectly inviting, rip free and gentle. I even got in (a rarity for me).

We looked to the right and saw one of our shire’s small coastal communities, and to the left another. In the middle we stood by ourselves, completely isolated in our newly discovered paradise.

The three kids swam out just a little further (still waist deep) and I stood with water to my knees watching them. In a line they stood my son in the middle with a sister on either side.

This, I thought is perfect.

A tear slid down my cheek as I realised what a blessed life I have. I watched the three catch waves together all of us in awe of the discovery.

Eventually we retraced our steps arriving at the river still just a little unsure of the weeds at the rivers edge. The kids stood on a log jutting out into the river just about to jump in to swim back to our side of the river when  I squealed (following warning protocol) “STING RAY”.

A sting ray gently glided by the log, minding it’s own business unsure of the intruders to its habitat. When the musing about how Steve Irwin did actually die and eventually ceased we jumped back in and swam to the other side.

Exhilarated, together, all carrying a story that we will remember forever.

Later that day the girls and I drove to a town at one of the ends of the beach where we’d had our earlier adventure. I pointed out the spot we’d swum earlier and we all agreed it had been a spectacular day.

As I wrote about this experience I also thought of the strong and beautiful women who showed me this track and taught me about the Gumbaynggirr stories associated with this special and powerful place and also about the powerful nurturing abilities of the cultural landscape. Thank you (young aunties) Michele Donovan and Lisa Wilson xx And to you too Belinda and Michael Donovan.

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