So here is the challenge – 1 hour to write 1 post, albeit a photo rich, word poor one. Sounds easy – unless your me. Here we go…
After experiencing the bio-dynamic delights of Ruffy, we set off for 3 days on the road, en route to Mullum land (aka Mullumbimby). There we would experience couch surfing for the first time. But for now we had driving, lots of driving, ahead of us.
We had a wonderfully surprising morning just getting out of Ruff and to our first stop – upon a recommendation we went to Longwood to see ‘The Rockery’. It is a gemstone museum, in actual fact it is one man’s house and the physical manifestation of his passion for rocks. The personal collection spreads throughout – his kitchen bench literally his shop counter. Although it may sound odd, it was actually very endearing – as was the owner Maurie Brodie. It was a pleasure listening to him recall his many adventures across the world that his love has prompted. I was particularly amazed to hear him recall, with vivid clarity, the exact moment that he became interested in rocks (many many years ago) -he was 17 and his mum showed him a picture in the middle of a Woman’s Weekly magazine. It was of a whole bunch of tumbled rocks – glossy and shiny like boiled lollies he said. I love that – whenever someone can pinpoint a passion’s trigger – I think it’s fascinating.
Anyway, i’m sure that, and having a look around, would have been enough for me to enjoy my time there. And probably the same for Michael. But what made it sooo worth it was Emma’s reaction – I think we have stumbled across something special for her. She was glued to the place – drinking in all the different shapes, colours and sparkles. The fluorescent rocks in the darkroom just blew her away! It was amusing and heartwarming at the same time to observe her reactions. It’s not often I have seen her that in awe.
This is what she said about it: “This place is so amazing it makes me want to cry”. Just gorgeous 🙂
After we pried Emma away, and thanked Maurie for sharing his passion, we settled in for a drive. Eventually we decided it was time for lunch and stopped at the next place available. It was town called Benalla in what felt like the middle of Victoria – an ordinary kind of town except for the entrance with an art gallery, boardwalk upon the river and the most astounding piece of artwork I have ever encountered. It’s hard to describe, think clay art gallery combined with outdoor seating/ampitheatre and playground. Whatever it was, it really spoke to me. To be fair, the ‘Clay Mural’ was 27 years in the making – and the outlay is so intricate and complicated i’m hardly surprised. This is where the ‘photo rich’ bit comes in – warning: photo bombardment imminent. See the splendour for yourself…
Thanks Benalla – your awesome!
Art absorbed, 1 hour post challenge met.
Ahhh – now for a cuppa……
Here is a little excerpt from the biodynamic manual Adrian gave us to read:
The [demeter bio-dynamic] system is not simply a replacement of synthetic chemicals and artificial fertilisers with ‘organic’ substitutes. Instead the farmer must learn to think and work biologically.
- product quality & taste (evidenced by the religious-like patronage they receive)
- farm recovery times after harsh conditions – (they seem to be the first to spring back to life, probably owing to next on the list:)
- soil quality & life and
- decreased water requirements – (several reasons but one stand out for me was that trees are grown such that they source water and nutrients as needed from healthy soil, rather than the traditional overfeeding of fertiliser which results in a thirsty tree and more water consumption)
Our next stop was Melbourne (or Mel-bin if your aussie, as someone recently depicted our pronunciation). After realising last minute, that we have family there, Michael put a call in to his cousin to see if they might have us for a few days. They very kindly said yes. It was wonderful to get to know them better, sharing dinners and impromptu conversations, as well as the everyday house and family-rearing duties (they have three young girls – a total of four girls in the house made for lots of fun, noise and antics!). Emma even got to spend a morning in school with one of her cousins, which she was most chuffed about.
It’s a real priviledge to be able to step back and see how another family does things. So thank you very much to the Braun clan! It was one of those unplanned experiences that turned out to be really enriching.
Our first Mel-bin destination was The School of Life. As you might have seen, I jumped the gun on this one chronologically and posted it a few days ago. It was a fantastic place, doing fantastic things – if you missed the post you can see it here. I highly recommend taking a squiz at their site. It felt really great to be in the city – pity we didn’t have more time to just explore. We did have time to squeeze in a quick visit to a little shop around the corner though – a place doing Japanese soups and salads, but with organic ingredients. It was really heartening to see what seemed to be a trend (we saw it at this place, an indian restaurant and bakery in the space of a day) – your usual kind of establishments doing a typical menu, but using organic (or in some cases bio-dynamic) as standard. In fact, while I was pfaffing around at home getting ready to go to the city, Michael wandered down the street and found an awesome organic grocer! As it turned out, Chris at Green Onions ended up supplying us with more than just fruit and veg – but i’ll get to that in our next post… Meanwhile, check out Michael’s description of Green Onions organic grocer here.
By the way, we have decided to list the cool places we visit in a kind of quasi-directory/review list – under “Good Stuff” on our menu. So have a look 🙂
The following day we got off to a cracking start – out of the house by 7am! Our mission was to visit a little organic bakery mic had found for breakfast, followed by the Ceres Environment Park.
The bakery, called Loafer Bread, was pretty darn cute – they even had their own delivery bike!
More impressive though, was their menu and the ingredients they used. Not only did they use organic where possible, they also only sourced meat from farms they had some kind of direct contact and trust with – Andrea (the owner) ordering from the farmers themselves, who delight in updating her on how the season is going and what she might expect from their product. Now that’s knowing where your food is coming from! And Bio-dynamic milk was used as standard in every coffee – great to see products farming with ‘beyond organic’ methods becoming more common (the whole organic VS bio-dynamics VS every other method out there debate is something we’ll likely look at down the track. In the meantime, I encourage you to do your own learning – find out how your food is grown!). While Andrea described it as more difficult to balance the extra cost of doing things that way, the customers and relationships built with them made it possible. Indeed it’s that ‘people’ aspect which seems to drive the businesses/projects/people we have spoken to so far, to forge ahead through challenge and make things work. So, in addition to our native Home Grain Bakery, we have added this to our mental list of great bakeries to patron. You can see more about loafer on our ‘good stuff’ page here (once written!).
After filling up on Loafer’s delightful breakfast menu (including house-made granola, bircher muesli and stewed rhubarb), and taking some more traditional bakery items with us for later, we headed to Ceres.
The title Ceres Environment Park is another all-encompassing label to try and bundle in many sorts of awesome initiatives happening out of the one place. In this case, Ceres is an educational hub set on 4 acres of rehabilitated land – a former rubbish dump which has been resurrected to host community and market gardens, children’s playspace, a village green, organic market, cafe, nursery and numerous educational spaces (a global village and teaching centre, an alternative energy demonstration park and areas for local classes & workshops). There’s a lot going on! Read about it on their site here.
They are also kicking off a ‘fair food’ movement, encouraging people to get to know the source of their food and their farmers, cemented by their supply of organic fruit and veg in a ‘seasonal food box’ type of offering – details here.
It seemed the history and creation of Ceres reflected a down time in the area and community, which highlighted a common equation I’m seeing:
community need exists + some imperative or crisis = grassroots action activated
then, if a dedicated group of local volunteers exists you get continued action + word of mouth = organic growth
add partnering with other groups, grants or networks = more growth and impact in the community
What happens after this, isn’t so clear to me thus far – but extremely important. I’m keen to see how the momentum and health of an initiative is maintained. Hopefully that too, will reveal itself.
Well, this may or may not be another short post as I consume a cafe’s internet for the price of a hot chocolate – and Michael and Emma play at the playground down the road in Coonabarabran. By the by, that’s something you certainly notice on the road – our place names. No wonder the tourists are confused – i’m Australian and have no idea how to pronounce half of them! Sad really…
Nevertheless it didn’t hold us back – the first week was a beautiful blur of camping and ocean views, with the obligatory specky coastline the Great Ocean Road is known for of course.
We had not done the Great Ocean Road before. I’m so glad we decided to make it part of our trip – it really is beautiful. And there were so many postcard nooks, lookouts and towns around every corner – not just the stuff they put on the tourist maps. In fact some of the other sites we stopped at were nicer in our opinion (and less populated). For example this picturesque beach below was completely deserted! Hello lunch spot.
But before we even got to the ‘Road’ itself, we already had a bagful of fun. In fact when I asked Emma and Michael what their highlights were, they came from the places beforehand. Michael enjoyed cooking on the fire at our ‘rest stop’ camp just outside Beachport in SA.
And also swimming in the Great Southern Ocean at our next camp spot, in a little vacant block abutting the bush and on the esplanade of a quiet beach.
Emma’s favourite was Portland and watching all the goings on between ships, trucks and mountains of grain.
As for The Great Ocean Road itself, it was smaller than I anticipated, not that it mattered. What I found interesting was how it seemed to be a shapeshifter – moving from dairy country and sleepy little towns to drier scrub, then mountainous forest – dotted with mega tourist hot spots, surfer havens or family friendly & funky locations. What a kaleidoscope!
Port Fairy was a quaint, quiet and pretty place – would be lovely for a recharging hideaway I think.
Apollo Bay was my personal favourite – we hauled up at the local Recreation Park, right on the river overlooking the range and endless farmland. Then a short stroll down the street reveals a vibrant High Street with rolling grass, playground and views to die for of the coast, ocean and range – just gorgeous.
And the surprise of the trip – Cape Otway Lightstation. We thought it might be nice to visit a light house so we drove down the (rather longer than expected) road to see the touristy looking car park and frontage – ok, here we go. We needed water so we went inside anyway. Without seeing the entry fees (that should have been our first lesson) we said we would go in and Michael coughed up what turned out to be $50 for all three of us – he did a great job of not choking on his drink. But it turned out to be a whole complex of lovely sprawling grounds with lots of interesting things to do in addition to the lighthouse (which by the way is staffed by a guide up the top so you can ask him anything you want – (I thought that was cool). There was also an aboriginal culture centre (which is actually a super cool hut) – also staffed. Dale offered to let Em throw a spear he’d made with an aid called a ‘woomera’. She loved it. Michael and I had a go too – of course Michael picked it up straight away as he usually does! And they had a beautiful map and activity book for the kids – Emma took great delight in following the map and ticking off our adventures. Talk about value for money – it was a great spot to see the ocean, take a walk and learn about history, physics, electricity, maritime navigation, aboriginal culture and a myriad of other things – including how there used to be dolphins and flamingoes living in the centre of Australia (ahem…millions of years ago in the permanent inland lakes) – that blew my mind!
And speaking of surprises, we found out the hard way that Emma gets car sick on long, windy drives…… oh dear. Poor poppet!
So those were some of the places. There were also ‘lessons’.
What became painfully obvious to me, almost immediately after setting off, were the lessons we were being forced to learn – and quickly. You would think that after 15 years together Michael and I would probably have the whole communication thing down, right? Apparently not!
What seemed like a new phenomena for us was more likely just my amplified reactions to our situation. It was hard to believe just how immediately these things cropped up, and the ferocity of it. Up until now I have been able to avoid dealing with some of my shortcomings by escaping to another part of the house or busying myself with some other task. I no longer have that option here. My issues have been dragged out into the stark light of day by the challenge and change we put ourselves in. I don’t like seeing that side of myself – it is ugly and bitter. But, at this point in time, it is part of me – and part of why I put myself here. I knew those issues needed to be faced – so I keep choosing to do things which make me decidedly uncomfortable.
But the upside is growth, hard won strengthening growth. And awesome, mind-opening experiences. To my amazement, Michael and I are already so much better at making plans on the run now – that’s been great!
Of course just when you think you’ve got it, something else comes along. In fact it seems to go in waves. We will do really well, then hit a hole again. I realised why – there were two lessons. We had both gotten better at communicating more effectively by being open, honest and forthcoming about what we want and what we think. The problem was the second lesson (and me) – doing it diplomatically. I hadn’t (and seemingly haven’t) figured out how to do that when i’m struggling. There’s nothing like being lost, late or constrained to make me really uncomfortable – and therefore less than pleasant to be around. What can I say – I’m a work in progress!
I love what this trip has given us already – not even two weeks in:
I love the experiences we have had, the things we have seen and the people we have met.
I love how astonished I am at the intensity of work my character is being put through, and equally by how fast we are all learning.
Boy, oh boy – what a crash course in how to be better – I love travel!
Lastly, I wanted to include this passage was that I thought was apt. It comes from a book a friend gave me to read – My Year Without Matches by Claire Dunn. In it she includes a little Rumi poem her friend sent to her:
Very little grows on jagged rock.
Be ground. Be crumbled.
So wild flowers will come up
Where you are.
You have been stony for too many years.
Try something different. Surrender.
“There’s poo in my shoe”
Walking across a paddock to reach the neighbour/farmer’s son’s house for dinner. A sheep paddock. In sandals. Just asking for it really….
“For those who feel simply trapped under their responsibilities and can’t summon the initiative to quit, exposing yourself to how other people live loosens the mind. You can comprehend how many ways there are to get by. Choosing a new way seems possible”
Po Bronson – ‘What Should I Do With My Life?’
Port Fairy – Victoria
“I like these toilets because you don’t have to get out”
says the child experienced in the automatic loos that like to announce you have only 10 minutes to do your business….