A Big (Birth)Day on the Island

September 3, 2008 at 1:52 am (Lil G. Rain's World, Travel Musings) (, )

Ginger in her b-day kubaya

Ginger in her b-day kubaya

Saturday, August 30 was Ginger Rain’s 2nd birthday. We awoke on the day to an island in full celebration. Everyone was wearing their best ceremonial garb, such as kubayas–  Balinese “jackets” with sashes over special sarongs, headdressses, rice on foreheads, etc. The streets were lined with arching bamboo poles with oragami palm leaves hanging down, and everywhere we went people were abuzz. They zipped from here to there on motorbikes with mini versions of the palm leaf oragmai swinging from the handlebars. The bikes were loaded five family-members full and stacked with colorful basket upon basket of food for the feasts. Streets were clogged with parades of barong dragons the length of the 5 or 6 people it took to hold up these costumes and gongs and gamelan instruments rang out as the processions passed.

Of course, we told Ginger that all of Bali was celebrating her big day! The “alternate” explanation is that it was actually the Hindu holiday of Kuningan, clearly a very big deal around here. This is why, when we asked if a priest could come do a blessing at Ginger’s b-day party, they first checked the Hindu calendar and then told us, yes- it was a very auspicious day to have such a ceremony. “Bagus!” the Balinese exclaimed when they heard of her lucky date, “Good!”

The proud fam.

The proud fam.

The party was held at a place called Desa Seni, which means “Art Village”. Check it out if you have a chance, it is amazing: http://www.desaseni.com/. You can visit Desa Seni for a day and enjoy the pool, yoga and food from their organic gardens, or spend the night (or 2 or 3!) in their traditional Indonesian structures moved here from other parts of the country and fully equipped with internet and DVD players. Even better, the whole place is a green operation and they do an enormous amount to help out the local village in which they’re situated. It’s probably these last traits which enticed Oprah to do a story on Desa Seni, although it was surely the stunning design of the place that attracted her resident interior design guru to come along.

Ready to begin

Ready to begin

We had the little gathering in the late afternoon, according to the priest’s busy Kuningan schedule and after the ceremony, had drinks and food by, and in, the pool. Just after sunset, we sang Happy Birthday in English and Bahasa over a gorgeous carrot cake to close the day. For some reason, G had it in her head that a birthday party meant balloons and kids, so we made sure we had both on hand and we were thrilled that some of our new friends on the island could come. Taylor and Sybil Steele and their little girls were one group. They are a lovely family with whom we’ve become better acquainted since coming over here (local Cardiff family and friends of our neighbors, the Machados). Anne-Marie and Paul and their little ones were there too. They were our neighbors when we stayed in the Seminyak area and since they are formerly Aussie but now locals, their kids enjoyed showing Ginger how to run wild island style while we got to know them all and surely made lifelong friends. While we really missed the presence of friends and family back home, we felt truly blessed to have such caring, fun people with which to share this special day.

G and new pal, The Wild Kobe

G and new pal, The Wild Kobe

Actually, it was after hearing about the Steele’s experience with a birthday blessing for their daughter’s 1st birthday at Desa Seni, that we decided to do the same thing for Ginger. The ceremony is like a naming, or a general blessing that is done for children early on in their lives on an important birthday. Apparently similar blessings are also done for people’s animals and even cars! We do not understand all that was involved, but from the moment the Hindu priest and his assistants showed up at Desa Seni, the calm feeling that we were involved in a happy and significant event crept over our entire party. We watched as they set out various baskets and bowls with offerings of fruit, rice, cake and even a whole chicken, head and all. There was also a dish of holy water and some dried herbs with pieces of cotton string in another basket for the rituals to come.   The blessing began with much chanting and bell ringing by the priest which kept all of us pretty captivated, even our little toddler. This chanting threaded throughout the ceremony, lacing together rituals for Ian, Ginger and I involving holy water, binding our wrists with strings, placing dried herbs in our hands, fixing rice to our foreheads and my favorite, rubbing a plumeria flower between our palms and then holding it up to our third eye. This was done three times, once for Ginger, once for ourselves, and once for our parents. I especially loved involving G’s grandparents in this way since they could not be there themselves and they are, through us, the stuff that makes up our daughter.

The MAN

The MAN

The ceremonial spread

The ceremonial spread

After the ceremony was over, we all partook of some of the offerings on the table and thanked the priest and his assistants for blessing us all with such a reverent and rich tradition. We urged them to join us for the swimming and consumption that followed, but after a polite soft drink, they seemed ready to get on their way. All we could do was continue to say “terima kasih,” or “thank you,” over and over. No matter what your faith, it is hard not to be affected when someone of such intense personal power focuses an age-old ritual on you, allowing all involved to spend time thinking and feeling in the same, positive direction. We are so grateful to be in a position to have had this powerful experience, it is something Ian and I know we will never forget. As for Ginger Rain, as we said from the start, even if her mind does not remember, we know that her soul will.

Meditating on the grandparents

Meditating on the grandparents

I don't know what Mom's doing, but I'm keeping my eyes on this guy here!

I don't know what mom's doing, but I'm keeping my eyes on this guy here!

A little sprinkle of holy water for the girl

A little sprinkle of holy water for the girl

Pack it in pack it out

Pack it in pack it out

Ian the Pied Piper plays on!

Ian the Pied Piper plays on!

Singin' the song(s)

Singin' the song(s)

Cutting the cake and ending the perfect day

Cutting the cake and ending the perfect day

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Our Little (big) White Monkey

August 29, 2008 at 6:23 am (Lil G. Rain's World, Travel Musings)

Hanuman the white monkey

Hanuman the white monkey

Woke up this morning and Ginger simply looked different. It wasn’t just me, I checked with Ian too. She looks older somehow and, of course to us, prettier. Suddenly, she isn’t almost two (on the 30th), she IS two. We have conversations with her, she makes jokes about her tummy hopping like a kangaroo when she has the hiccups and she looks, well–  older— more like a kid and less like a baby. For both of us, our reaction to this development is a mixture of pleasure and pain, pride and nostalgia. Is it ever any other way with parenting?

Overall, this trip seems to have been an incredible influence on G. The Good Ol’ SD Zoo will never seem the same, now that she’s run with the monkeys and she watches Balinese dances with the same rapt face with which some kids watch TV. These dances have become a real favorite for her and when it gets dark and we are still out and about, she naturally assumes we’re headed for one. Balinese dance performances are hard to describe to someone who hasn’t seen them for themselves because one would naturally assume that a traditional dance performed for tourists in a foreign country would come off as  artificial or recreated. But these dances are nothing of the sort. True, they are ancient rituals, telling age-old stories, most often from the Hindu Ramayana myth– a love story. But the people who dance are usually the local villagers taking part in the everyday happenings of their own neighborhood temple. Being a part of the dancing is something that most children learn to do as they are raised under their temple’s wing (as most all are) and it just so happens that Bali has a lot of tourists who are also interested being there to see them do it. There are also specialized dance troupes who perform in places of honor like the ARMA museum or the Ubud Palace. But more often than not, the local temple’s Kecak dance is outstandingly performed by the guys who helped you get your luggage to your room and the precious little girls who played with your daughter on the beach that day.

Ginger’s favorite dance to see is the Kecak (ke-chack), or fire dance. This dance re-enacts a scene from Ramayana in which the Princess Sita is stolen from Prince Rama by a Barong (demon) and is rescued with the help of the Garuda bird and the white monkey, Hanoman (this, incidentally, is what we’ve been calling G lately cause she’s so white and such a little monkey). Instead of music, there is a giant chorus of men chanting “chek chek chek chek” in complicated rhythms interspersed with occasional grunting. These men are in sarongs with no shirt and Ginger calls them the Naked Babies. The Naked Babies all sit around a floor chandelier of fire and at the end of the dance, Hanoman comes out and lights coconut husks on fire as well. Then he dances across the lit embers with bare feet, kicking them up into the front rows where European women generally shriek with fear but never seem to get burned and a good time is had by all. As I said, Ginger can sit or stand still for nearly the entire hour this dance takes  with a riveted, television-zombie-like face. Amazing. She also really likes the Legong Dance because it has a lot of little girl dancers and she now has a book  about a little girl who is learning to dance as she grows up in her Balinese village. These brightly painted women and girls are robed in pinks and greens with gold patterns and elaborate gold headdresses. It is enchanting to watch them dance with their whole bodies including their ultra-flexible fingers and shockingly expressive eyes. These dances are accompanied by a gamelan orchestra whose alternating rhythmic pinging sounds like the most soothingly coordinated set of chimes on the planet.

Now that I’ve descirbed this central part of Balinese life and of our life as well, while we are here, you are probably wondering why we haven’t shown pictures of this before. Well, the dance is a sacred thing and, like most acts here, is done as a tribute to the gods. However, there is something going on for us and the gods of photography because every single time we’ve gone to one of these dances something goes wrong and we are unable to shoot. Well, Ian took some 16mm film once, but no stills whatsoever. Either the battery has died, the memory is full or the camera was left behind through a comedy of errors. It used to be frustrating and embarassing that as professionally trained photographers we were failing so miserably at this basic task. I mean, the whole thing is set up for you right down to the lighting. But now, we just find it funny and decided to share it with you all as well. No more photo-shame for us, we are coming clean! And in that vein, we are now shamelessly presenting you with images of Balinese dances stolen from the internet with pride. We just can’t keep it  from you any longer and we can only hope we haven’t angered the gods further with our brazeness…Enjoy!

The reason they call Kecak the fire dance

The reason they call Kecak the fire dance

Legong at Ubud Palace
Kecak dance at Uluwatu Temple

Kecak dance at Uluwatu Temple

Young Legong dancer

Young Legong dancer

Dance class in Ubud

Dance class in Ubud

Barong demon
Barong demon

Legong at Ubud Palace

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Coast to Coast

August 17, 2008 at 6:50 am (Lil G. Rain's World, Travel Musings) (, , , )

Enjoying her Balinese freedom

Enjoying her Balinese freedom

We have traveled away from the ocean and back again since last we spoke. When we left Uluwatu, we were pretty insistent on finding transport with seat belts so G could be in a car seat for the long ride. Felt kind of silly, though, as we tucked into traffic behind motorbike after motorbike with entire families on them, including all ages of babies. How the Balinese can convince a 1 year old not to squirm as they navigate Kuta’s crowded streets I would like to know! Ian’s favorite was one sarong-clad woman nursing an infant, driving her motorbike and texting on her phone all at once.

Feeding the Koi at a temple near Ubud

Feeding the koi at a temple near Ubud

So we made our incredibly safe way up to the mountain town of Ubud for a few days of rice paddies, art and temples. Ubud, for those of you “Eat, Pray, Love” fans needs no introduction. It is considered the cultural hub of Bali and much of the wood, silver and paintings comes from Ubud and the areas around it. Therefore the art market is sensational, as are the little boutiques with a far more sophisticated edge than most other stores on the island. Also not to be missed are the extensive galleries and museums, At one, the ARMA, you can catch the young girls practicing their Legong dance in the afternoons for free. Another big draw is the Monkey Forest, aptly named for it’s forest of roaming monkeys and gorgeous temple inside. Of course, G loved this place, even though the monkeys stole our nuts and then our water bottle and climbed all over her Dada in the process. Afraid the zoo will seem a bit boring after this. We also went to outlying sites of 11th century elephant caves, temples of holy springs and tiny warung’s (like a small restaurant joint) nestled into endless hills of terraced rice paddies. Legong dance at the Ubud Palace outdoors (of course) was also sensational with fascinating women of pink and gold lace and impressive warriors with acrobatic feet. Ian and I are constantly struck at how there is no place on earth like Bali. No place has the tropic climate with it’s requisite blooms and fragrances, such a richness of cultural sites and art and of course, these warm, gentle people with gigantic smiles that are always real.

Yes, it's the monkey off his back

Yes folks, it's the monkey off his back.

We’ve now made our way back to the beach to a place called Canggu (cha-ngu) due to an interesting turn of events. While here, Ian was recently contracted to do a commercial for Hurley’s new revolutionary boardshorts (they actually repel water and stretch like rubber). That Ian was already here when the job came up was coincidental enough. Even more serendipitous is the fact that the shoot’s star is none other than our neighbor back in Cardiff, Rob Machado, who also has a house in Canguu. I’ll let Ian fill you in on the Fellini-like details of trying to accomplish a first world shoot on a 3rd world island, but all in all I’d say it was incredibly successful and lots of fun to do. In Canggu, we’ve been put up by the D.P. from the shoot and his wife and 10 year old daughter. Of course, once again, Ginger is thrilled to have a big girl to prattle behind. These people have been incredibly welcoming to us and the villa in which they are living is incredible. Karma Island continues to be good to us.

Partaking of the holy waters at Goa Gajah elephant caves

Partaking of the holy waters at Goa Gajah elephant caves

The other little monkey on his back

The other little monkey on his back

In the "field"

In the"field"

Our gracious hosts picking rice in Canggu

Our gracious hosts picking rice in Canggu

Ginger's fans are come from far and wide, even China!

Ginger's fans come from far and wide, even China!

As a post script for Ginger fans, you should know that she is now speaking pretty fluently telling us things like, “Ian not Da-da. Ian Papa!” (she’s heard the Balinese call him that) and “Got stroller now, no sling, no need it.” She also busted out with some Indonesian this morning as we passed a woman on the road through the rice paddies and she called out “Pagi!” which means “Morning!” In memoriam of her quickly dying off Ginger lingo, I wanted to list some words that are all her own, before they get absorbed into boring old proper English. As with all the others, we will miss this stage so! – mitney = blanket – Ninny = Ginger – Burr = vitamin – ee-eee = open it – Uh-sigh = other side

A meeting of the tongues

A meeting of the tongues

Canggu villa life

Canggu villa life

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Bali: Beauty is Queen

August 9, 2008 at 2:11 pm (Lil G. Rain's World, Travel Musings) (, , , )

Cruising thorugh dreamland through self-timer

Cruising through dreamland via self-timer

We’ve only just arrived in Bali and already feel we are in Nirvana. The most bedrock tenant for all life in Bali is the ideal of Beauty. The minute you get here you are bathed in it. The mountains, ocean, trees, rice paddies, the flowers and their smells, the birds and their songs, the people and all of their intricate and devoted art, music and dance, all pay heed to Beauty’s call. You cannot help but become gentler, more aesthetic, upon arrival.

Right now, the weather is perfect. Warm and humid but just right with the ever-present off-shore breeze. It is a much-needed break from cold, cold, Oz in wintertime. I am lying on my back looking up at puffy white clouds speeding across a candy blue sky. A large plumeria tree in bloom branches across of my view and in the corner, a  canvas umbrella completes the look. Ginger naps blissfully on a carved wooden lounger beside me so that I am free to read or write or make my way across a vanishing pool that merges with the Indian Ocean where Ian surfs below. I got G to sleep in the stroller on cobbled paths at our hotel, then a kind man with beautiful cheek bones helped me carry her here, to our resting point. Bliss.

Here I am merely, proudly, an entourage

Here I am merely, proudly, an entourage

It was sweet of this man to help, or perhaps he was just doing his job. But I doubt it. The Balinese are a lovely, lovely people. I could happily sit and watch the wide shouldered, slender fingered, almond eyed women sweep a floor for hours, their glossy black hair mimicking the movement of the broom. Doubtless Ian feels the same way. And  they all LOVE children. Worship them in fact. Now, we have heard this about many places we’ve traveled: Mexico, Hawaii– all true. But none as much as the Balinese. Perhaps you have heard of their tradition of not letting a baby touch the ground until 6 months of age, at which point an elaborate ritual (there is no other kind here) celebrates their full transition into this life from the spirit world. This reverence does not end at 6 months though. It is as if, when you cross the path of a Balinese with your child, they are being blessed with a deity. They get giddy and approach the babe, beaming and tinkling with joy. Actually, I can’t figure out if it’s more like a devotee meeting a holy figure, or a child meeting a character at Disneyland. Either way, the effect is adorable and incredibly helpful, actually. This morning at breakfast at the hotel, I watched a woman come in with a baby, hand him off to a thrilled waitress and then eat her entire meal in peace while the wait staff enjoyed her child. What a blessing for all!
The flight here was murder and it is a credit to this place that I’ve already almost forgotten. Suffice to say that Jetstar has incredibly strict restrictions on the weight of your bags and for every single kilo you go over, you pay 20 dollars. Our bill came to $525!!! Desperate,  and in a mad rush because boarding was starting soon (the lines had been crazy), we hurried over to something called “unaccompanied baggage”. There we mercilessly chose items, including G’s porta-crib, that we could do without for a few days and handed them over to be sent when there was space on a future flight. This cost too, but about a fifth of the first price. I joked with the man who worked there about how many parents he got rushing over from Jetstar. Stone faced, he told me not that many, it’s on the return, once you’ve been shopping in Bali, that you really need the service. Yes, I thought with a sinking feeling, he’s quite right. Then Ginger proceeded to pull a near all-nighter and was still awake at midnight when we got off the 6 and a half hour flight. Those around us without kids thought, judging by her mania, that she must not be tired. Those who had kids smiled knowingly saying, “No, that’s just how tired she is.” It was about that time, with meals on our trays and G climbing the poor people’s chairs in front of us that we regretted not buying the Little Bear her own seat.
Anyhow, so happy to be here now.

At the Uluwatu Temple on our way to see the Kecack dance

At the Uluwatu Temple on our way to see the Kecak dance

We are staying at a place overlooking a surf spot called Uluwatu. This has always been a sacred place for me. For some reason, when I lived in Jackson Hole many years ago, as I hiked through the snowy backcountry to snowboard, the name of this spot would get stuck in my head. It would hammer me all the way up and then fly through my brain as I cascaded down. Then when I finally came here in 2000, the time I spent at Ulu was some of the most peaceful and meditative of the trip. At one point, I went days without having a conversation with anyone, walking miles a day to the beaches and sacred temple here, healing a soul that had been battered by a rough tumble with capitalism back home. As for Ian, the place is like magic for a barrel-loving goofy foot and he can’t believe our luck at landing here right from the start.  We are both thrilled to show it to G.

monkeys at Ulu temple will take your hats & glasses given the chance (G loved that they were just like the ones in her book "Caps For Sale"

Beware: monkeys at Ulu temple will take your hats & glasses given the chance (G loved that they were just like the ones in her book "Caps For Sale")

Learning how to wax it up

Learning how to wax it up with Dad

In the beach cave to get to Ulu

In the beach cave to get to Ulu

That net is for swinging on, right?

That net is for swinging on, right?

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Geelightful Travels

August 2, 2008 at 4:46 am (Lil G. Rain's World, Travel Musings)

Well, we have been woefully out of airport range for a while now and it’s hard to upload pix while renting time at an internet cafe and the like. Therefore, we have a few pix from the trip to Melbourne as well as Ian’s latest surf adventures that will have to wait for later. For now, I just thought I’d catch you all up, lest you think we forgot you (far from it, as homesickness comes in waves now:).

First my mom, or the Mirster, or Wa-wa(as Ginger calls her) was here for a week of whirlwind travel. We spent a few days in Sydney that were nice, but somewhat marred by  broken-down cars, broken- down weather, and broken-down bodies: my flu, G’s cold, Mirster’s hip( although she did remarkably well coming all that way, we all agree), etc. Then we flew down to Melbounre and rather than head into another big city, drove down to lovely little Philip Island where we gazed upon finally sunny pastures of lime green and more sweeping ocean vistas the likes of which we never tire. Highlights included a trip to a great Koala Conservation Center as well as the very touristy and very worth it homing of the penguins. Picture you and 300 of your closest non-English-speaking friends all huddled up on half a little league’s worth of bleachers set up on the beach at night, flood lights on the water and you hoping no one you know will see you. Then, these adorable little Fairy Penguins come waddling up the beach, taking time to play in the surf beforehand (I call it getting their land-legs under them) and making their way to burrows in the bush under and behind you. As you walk back up to the main center, you encounter these little guys all along the trail making their beds and squawking away and they are really enough to make you forget your embarassment at having sunk so low among the masses. Too funny!

We drove back to Melbounre via the Mornington Peninsula and got to drive onto a ferry boat, which G loved. Then we spent a couple of days finding out that Melbounre is every bit as charming and diverse and cultural as everyone had said it was. I won’t go into the pathetic tactic of describing pix you’d really rather just see, but trust me when I say they also really know how to light that city up at night!

Now that Wa-wa is back Stateside (so sad to say goodbye) the 3 of us have gotten back to Sydney and promptly taken a trip down the coast to the lovely town of Ulladulla. The National Park is incredible here and, of course the beaches are stunning. Ian’s friend from home who lives here now, Pauncho, has come to stay with us for a couple of days, which has been very fun for them because the surf has been awesome ( I know, you want pix- be patient!) I have really enjoyed the hiking trails around our holiday park and have started to think of walking in this country like talking a walk on Earth’s Sister Planet (or chould I say, California’s?) It’s like everything is very familiar and reminds you of somewhere you’ve been before but, just slightly different. Very sublime. The woods have a simliar feel to them to many hikes you’ve taken before(of course, they’re so nice, if they were at home there’d be many more RV’s and oversized families coming through) but if you look closely, the trees are ones you hardly ever see, like gums and banksia. The animals, too, are like cousins-once-removed to the ones you know– very familiar, but somehow not quite right. Like their kookaburras, cockatiels and stunning rainbow lorakeets, they all seem like such novelties to us, but are clearly very run of the mill to people here, perhaps like our jays and hawks back Stateside. Then there’s the ocean which is just a slightly different hueof blue like you’ve never seen before and never the temperature you’d think it would be.

We are all loving the new experiences. I have finally realized that when Ginger asks to go “Back home, Mama” she is really just saying that she’s tired of the car and wants to go back to wherever her toys are. Since Grandma came and we then went straight off to the new holiday park down here, when we check into a new place to stay, she walks in and says, “Nice room!” Lika Australia, Ginger never fails to delight.

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Catch-up

July 29, 2008 at 7:06 am (Lil G. Rain's World) (, , )

A babycino connisseur

A babycino connisseur

Bodhi and friend, Chloe, with serious stances

Bodhi and friend, Chloe, with serious stances

Here’s a catch-up post because I’ve been so down and out with the dreaded “Aussie Flu.” Better now and in Melbourne with the my mom and the fam. More on that in a future post. For now, here’s some pix from Ginger and Ian’s first day of my flu (the day before his solo surf adventure which will be the next post). They had a fun outing to the town of Avalon with Jenna and the girls and friends. Seems the girls learn to skate good and early around here and have fun doing it. Also note a craze I’m sure would spread like wildfire back home among the under 3 set: Babycinos (that’s baby chinos), which are little bitty cups of steamed milk (soy or cow) with a dash of cocoa on top and a little spoon and saucer to boot. G LOVED this and I know your kids will too. Too much!

G, Chloe and Bodhi on Barefoot Blvd. post-skate session

G, Chloe and Bodhi on Barefoot Blvd. post-skate session

Newest recruit

Newest recruit

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A 2 Boat Day

July 20, 2008 at 7:15 am (Lil G. Rain's World, Travel Musings) (, , , )

Wiiiiindy Da-da wiiiindy!

Wiiiiindy Da-da wiiiindy!

Yesterday was a 2 boat day in more ways than one. In the morning, Jenna walked us down to her friends Guy and Pita’s place on the water where they keep their kayak. It was the Cadillac of ocean kayaks, with room enough for their whole family of 5 on it so there was plenty of room for me in the front, Ian in back and G (in life-vest, Grandmas) in the middle. Of course the first thing I did was accidentally splash her with the paddle so she started to cry and say she wanted to “get down.” Well we were in the middle of the bay by then and there was no “getting down”. But we started to sing the “Boy and a Girl in a Little Canoe” song and she cheered right up. Soon, she was leaning back against Ian’s legs and almost asleep from the gentle lolling of the boat by the time we got back. She loved it.

No more fairy puns, Ma-ma, please!

No more fairy puns, Ma-ma, please!

That aft we took a ferry/fairy ride from Palm Beach to Kuring-gai National Park’s Basin campgrounds. G’s been really into boats lately and she sure did get her fill cause the first boat we got on turned out to be the wrong one. I went and asked the driver and his first mate if we could just stay on and then get on the right one without paying extra, which they agreed to, but not without some good ol’ Aussie ribbing first: “Excuse me, I think we’re on the wrong boat.” “Where are you going?” “The Basin.” “You’re on the wrong boat! How’d you manage that one? Congratulations Darling, you’re on the wrong boat.” etc. When we boarded the next boat is was much of the same: “Umm do we need new tickets, we’re the ones who got on the wrong boat.” “Ooooh, so you’re the ones. CONGRATULATIONS!” “Yes, thank you.”

I'm tryin' to hop here!

I'm tryin' to hop here!

Anyhow, the whole 2 for the price of 1 thing was quite a good scam, as we’d covered the entire bay by the time we were done and it was really lovely. I recommend trying it if you’re ever in the area. The Basin was gorgeous, with emerald waters being fished by lazy campers on it’s sandy banks and a ranging grassy meadow dotted with grazing wallabies (like Kangaroos but smaller and don’t confuse them or else you’ll be teased in the above manner). G needed a nap by then so we once again put the McClaren to the test by walking her up a very steep trail to some Aboriginal carvings. She was still snoozing by the time we got back and so we got a quiet bite to eat together at the fabulous Swelter Cafe by the boat dock. I am pleased to report that the food here is SO much better than up north and actually worth the outrageous prices. Either that, or the sticker shock is just wearing off…

Ian's fairy prow'd (ok, last pun, I swear)

Ian's fairy prow'd (ok, last pun, I swear)

Ian gets some surf at the Swelter Cafe

Ian gets some surf at the Swelter Cafe

Abi's emerald view from the boat
Abi’s emerald view from the boat

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Ballina to Sydney

July 16, 2008 at 5:23 am (Lil G. Rain's World, Travel Musings) (, , , , )

Morning practice for the paddle club on a tea tree infused lake in Lennox

Ginger gives the paddle boards the whitel glove test

Ginger gives the paddle boards the white glove test

Over the last few days we’ve made our way down to Sydney (or rather Palm Beach just outside of Sydney) to visit our friends Matt and Jenna and their 3 lovely girls. It was a good adventure on the way down, if a bit challenging to keep the Little Bear happy in the car for longish spells over 3 days time. She did really well, all things considered actually.

Just before we left, we stopped in Lennox and G got to watch the girl’s paddle club practicing on a   tea tree saturated lake. Those girls could really move across that burnt umbre water. What an inspiration they were to G Rain! Along the way south, we took a side trip to Dorrigo National Park’s skywalk and rainforest trails (yes, the surf got flat and I got my way– hurray!). It was lovely and G Rain did the whole walk by herself while we marveled from behind at what a big girl she’s become. At night, we stayed in one of Australia’s best kept secrets (at least as far as I was concerned), their Holiday Parks. There, we “camped” in  incredible wooded settings on both a mossy creek as well as another gorgeous beach in cabins with kitchens, tvs, etc. The whole place was like a kiddie heaven, with playgrounds, a jumpy mat, merry-go-rounds and a campfire. They even give you marshmallows to roast when you check in! All in that incredible natural setting to boot. Too terrific!

Glad to finally have arrived at Matt and Jenna’s tree house. They are great old friends who we hardly ever get to see anymore and for Ginger, it means the playmate drought has finally come to an end. When we go here, the girls had their pet guinea pig out on the pool deck and I thought G would faint from pleasure. Palm Beach and its environs like Avalon and Mona Vale is one of the loveliest places I can ever imagine settling in. From the tree house, we look out onto a Meditteranean-like harbor with endless surfing beaches surrounded by gorgeous homes nestled into the woodlands. Sydney is just a short ferry ride (yes Ginger, Fairies!) away so we’ll have lots more to report back soon. Until then, we really are missing you all at home and are thrilled to hear you’re reading along.

Treehouse with guinea pig is too good to be true

Tree-house with guinea pig is too good to be true

Morning girls with curls and magic

Morning girls with curls and magic

Father and daughter in the G Rain-forest

Father and daughter in the G Rain-forest

Skywalkalicious

Skywalkalicious

Holiday Park jumpy madness

Holiday Park jumpy madness

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The Good Land of Oz

July 12, 2008 at 5:18 am (Lil G. Rain's World, Travel Musings, Wedded Bliss)

5 Reasons this is the Good Land of Oz
1. People make a living wage without overworking one bit, they have healthcare and pensions and the dole for the dry spells and there is abundance everywhere you look.

2. The air is so clean you can almost choke on it (in a good way) and the water is glass-bottom-boat clear all the time, so far as I can tell.

3. The radio is exceptional, with news that actually informs you and many stations playing bands you’d want to go downtown to see every night if you could.

4. They have gobs of National Parks and set aside reserves for surfing with golden green points and rainbow lorakeet filled gums.

5. Did I mention how cute the koalas look on the yield sings?

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Kinda nice to stay and play local today because we’re getting ready to hit the road again tomorrow for Sydney (a few days drive the way we’ll do it). Seems that most days we’ve had our hair on fire in the morning to get out and see and do before G Rain needs her nap. Often, of course, she ends up sleepign on the bumpy road or in the little Getz and for that, we often pay the rest of the day. But, such is life as a gypsy. Naptime is just one of the many things that make this trip different than those we took before becoming parents. We work it out though, and often that means that each of us does our thing while the other stays with G (not that there’s much staying in G – land). I like to hike and write and Ian, well, Ian surfs of course, and since we got here that’s been the thing to do around here, lucky boy!
So this morning we headed down a trail on Lennox Head, he to surf and me and G to walk the 2kms or so to the playground in Lennox Shire. It was a bumpy but lovely ride through the grasses with a sea eagle keeping pace below us on the beach (a big shout-out to Maclaren stroller for handling off-roading in the bush just as well as being pushed down the sidewalk one-handed with a veggie roll and chai latte fresh from the bakery.)
Almost to the beachside park for G to get her play on, we crossed a bridge over some tidepools with some big girls. They had a bucket that they kept exclaiming smelled bad and so of course, G wanted to follow them to the beach. I sat back and let her approach  the girls at the shore and they included her in throwing crab shells to gigantic pelicans whose torsos were bigger than our little bear, never mind their fat necks and menacing beaks. She loved it! The park had a birthday party for a little guy we’ve come to know as Spidey cause he runs around Ballina in a Spiderman costume complete with  fake pecs. There was, of course, a Spiderman cake with sparklers on it, something I’ve never seen before . Having seen the way the little tykes pulled back when the sparks started to fly, I don’t see the trend catching on anytime soon.

…now to pack….

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G – Day (different from G’Day)

July 9, 2008 at 11:16 am (Lil G. Rain's World, Travel Musings) (, , , , )

The Mists of Mac Castle

The Mists of Mac Castle

Old Friends

Old Friends

After watching Ginger literally chase another little girl down in a toy store yesterday, we realized we needed to devote a day to the knee’s eye view. This morning she played on the beach out in front of Jan and Erik’s with another little boy named Kale for hours. The empty expanse of  clear clear  water, windswept sand and bush out front is a playground for all of us with stand-up barrels for Ian and bush trails forever for me too. This afternoon, G-Day continued when we took her to the illustrious MACADAMIA CASTLE  (Jan got us passes!) The castle has a giant knight out front and is right in line with the giant prawn we passed on our way out of town, taking  its place in a country that values giant fruit and other edible edifices as time honored highway spectacles (there’s a lot of open road in this country). The photos for the castle brochure turned out to have been taken with a very wide lens, as the place was much smaller than we’d thought. But Ginger thought the kangaroo petting and baby calves and goats were cool. As Erik had warned us, we took our hand-cleaner along, “Remember, the koalas can give her the clap,” he’d said on our way out the door. I hope the herbal lavender stuff will kill that.

Rode home listening to the soundtrack to the movie “Once” (I highly recommend it especially to the ladies) and marveling at the way so much greenery and bright sunlight makes the whole place seem coated in canary yellow– like our rental car. That is, until the sun sets at the beach and everything is mauve-tinged sky and sage-green grasses and gums  blowin’ in the wind.

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…stay tuned for Castle#2: The Crystal Castle, Macadamia Castle for New Age adults nestled among old British Empire farming country

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