Here’s part 2 of Ian’s Bali catch-up guestpost:
Behind the scenes Drifting, with Rob Machado and Taylor Steele
When I caught up with these guys for the Hurley shoot a few weeks back they were in the final throws of production for a couple of different projects. To be honest the Hurley thing probably couldn’t have come at a worse time as far as their productions went. Nonetheless everyone pulled together to make both shoots happen in a very effiicient and effective way. Taylor’s house is production central with a full edit suite and one of each of the top 30 guys’ boards on the wall . Story boards and story archs on erase a boards everywhere, plane tickets and helicopter bookings, timing swells and timing pro surfers schedules, it was like watching a surf version of Peter Jackson filming multiple Lord of the Rings movies all at once.
The day before was spent shooting a much needed scene in the Denpasar airport. The scene was somewhat involved as it called for a long dolly shot and some shots of Rob cruising through airport security. This was all done without permits of course and in classic surfer style they said they were filming a PSA on airport security to show American tourists how safe Bali is now. The whole thing went off without a hitch and with the blessings of the Indonesian TSA. Much of the film was shot this way.
The filming at the warungs of Uluwatu were the final shots needed before Rob hopped on a plane and went straight to the California contests and the ASR circus. The contrast between the two places and vibes couldn’t be more opposite.
I look forward to seeing how they piece this together. It’ll be great to see that airport scene.
Back in Oz now, awaiting our fate in the form of a flight back to the States on the 10th. But our hearts and minds are still firmly implanted in Bali, even if our rain-soaked goosefleshed skin tells us otherwise. Both Ian and I have some more (and more) to say about that magic leg of the trip so we’ve decided to do a big giant catch-up post that goes back through some more highlights of our island life of bliss.
For my part, there is just one last memory I wanted to relay, the rest would be too tough to capture, hopefully you’ve gotten enough of an idea to hop on a plane when you can and see the magic for yourself:
•Something I never got to a chance to describe is the endless game of ATM roulette we played the whole time we were in Bali. See, the Indonesian rupiah is so inflated by now that 5 dollars US is something like 50,000 of their currency. Thus, if you spend any time in a Balinese bank, you will see people carrying in backpacks containing brick upon brick of rupiah. They look like some sort of criminal, but are more than likely just a vendor trying to exchange their day’s earnings from the store. Because of this inflation and because it was high season when we were there, the ATMs on the island regularly ran out of money, only they don’t say this, they give you an error message that makes you think there is something wrong with your card so you’ll spend loads of time and money trying to reach your bank back home.
But pretty soon, we got in the swing of things and learned to play the game.It goes like this: get in line, watch the people in front of you for the nod or the shake when they come out of the booth, think you can do better anyway and try it, futiley, for yourself, drive on until you find one that works which could take days.During that time you ration your supplies and hope for places that take credit cards, which most do not. Things could get so bad that it was not uncommon to hear a young Chinese couple exclaiming with such glee at getting the equivalent of $50.00 out that you’d think they were playing a slot machine. In fact, one day a group of us got very angry as we qued behind a Frenchman who just kept sticking his card back in to get more until we were all sure he’d cleaned the machine out. At the dirty looks he received upon exiting, he grinned and said, “I kipt on weenning zo I kipt on playing.”
Now for Ian’s part, see the guestpost below plus the next one (“Loose Ends 2”)
Phantom the Menace
So I get the call in Austrailia a week before we split for Bali that there may be a possibility of doing a commercial for Hurley’s new Nike-lab inspired high tech fabric “Phantom” boardshort. Ironically enough, the local surf shop that’s a few minutes from where we stayed in the ritzy area of Whale Beach (Northern beaches , Sydney) happened to be the #1 seller in the world of the previous model. I had just heard that info a day before, now I’m being contracted to do a commercial for them…weird.
1st question from my agent/co-producer is “Ian, can you pull this off over there?” This was a very slick ad campaign combining 3d effects , CG environments and live action greenscreen. This is my specialty…in America, but in Bali? Going through the normal channels of filming in another country proved fruitless and would have crippled our limited timeframe and budget with bureaucracy and bribes.
Just a week before we left for this trip I went to the premier of Taylor Steele’s new kick ass and take no prisoners surf flick: “Stranger than Fiction”. Aside from all the bleeding edge surfing, high energy music, and rapid fire editing, was a lot of greenscreen work. “Aha!”I thought, Steele’s been living in Bali with his family for several years, and hes got a greenscreen. I made one phone call to Rob and it was magic. The next day I took a ride from the mountains of Ubud where we were staying and made my way to the villas amongst the rice paddys of Caangu. My last time here there was one bombed out looking cinderblock of a restaurant and that was it, now…quite a bit more development, but no addresses, no street names and no villa names makes finding someone really challenging. After taking every single dirt-track, and sideroad, I finally made it. It was like a scene out of Scarface
when my driver pulled me up to the massive villa amongst the paddies. On the second floor deck looking down at me and my driver stood Rob, bronzed, backlit, rocking some gold rimmed Dragon glasses and looking comfortably feral after having been embedded in Bali from our shire of Cardiff for the past year filming with Taylor. His entourage of editor Sebastian, shooter Yvonne Tangung (Rizals brother), Sipping Jetstream’s DP legend; Todd Heater and of course Mr. Steele. So after two weeks of coming up “bupkas”, in a day I had the whole deal sorted out…sort of.
Aside from having a killer co-dp/producer and Steele’s Red Camera we didn’t really have much. Even up to the morning of the day of production we got a call saying we had to move to a different facility. No problem right? Oh, by the way , the place were moving you to is a professional badmitten warehouse on the outskirts of the rice fields, and guess what? the annual Bali Island badmitten championships are happening at the same time our talent ; Mr Machado shows up for his greenscreen work. So we go with the flow like bamboo and flex and say yeah. And it works out. Producer Mavis flies in from the OC with his driver Ben and …Bada boom, bada bing! We get our shots.
Although the week leading up to the production was a little hairy, the day’s events unfolded like many chaotic motorcycle filled intersections of this island; at once it seems like despair and that there is no way out, but miraculously, every time, all the elements come together , everyone works together to create art and in the end, survive…That’s what everything’s about, right?!?
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Ian and 2 American friends who are visiting from home went to see a medicine man near Canggu. Apparently the guy could see through people’s bodies and had already helped cure a friend’s friend of cancer. The 3 guys met with him as a group and he sat behind a Hindu alter. Later, Ian said it felt like they had gone to see the wizard. When it was each of their turn, the medicine man, named Petut, meditated over them and asked them to look into his third eye. Every one of them, even the non-believer, reported feeling high during this part.
Ian was told he was in pretty good health but had a few circulation and kidney issues to be cautious of. No big deal (thank God!) The Non-Believer was told to be careful of his heart and not to eat the yellow part of the egg ( I could have told him that, the guy drinks like a fish, smoked for 20 years and went crazy in India due to lack of red meat!) The last guy, we’ll call him The Tall One, gave Petut some pause. He asked The Tall One if he had kids and was shocked when he responded that he did. Petut struggled to explain his ailment and asked their driver if he could help translate.
Now the driver was a guy who calls himself Ricky Bobby and goes around the corners way too fast, calling “Shake and bake, Baby!” Yes, he has seen the movie “Talledega Nights” one too many times. Ricky Bobby heard what the medicine man had to say and started laughing uncontrollably. When he stopped, he said, “Man says you have trouble with make babies, like— short sex.”
“Short sex?” The Tall One asked and the other two looked away uncomfortably.
“Yes, short sex, are you sure you have baby for sure?”
“Yeah, I’m sure. Definitely sure” The Tall One responded.
Not to worry, the medicine man said. If he drank a tea his wife would prepare, all would be cured in 3 days (at which point, you will find The Tall One at the disco in Kuta). Coincidentally, tea and 3 days time was the cure for all of them.
And so the wizard had spoken. Ian needed a new kidney, The Non-Believer a new heart and The Tall One, well, a new sex. This is not something we will let The Tall One live down soon. I mean, this Petut really did know what he was doing. Laughter truly is the best medicine.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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…
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.