A Pirate’s Life For Me (Occasionally)

Despite my parents meeting in the Navy and having an affinity with the open water, my sea legs have let me down on two ocean-bound occasions. The first was when said parents encouraged my brother and me to join them as they sailed their yacht from Rose Bay to Kogarah Bay. We both spent all the time beyond the heads unceremoniously sick over the side while I’m sure our kin questioned their paternity. The second was when my best friend and I finally made it to the Great Barrier Reef but the water was so choppy that the majority of us lost our breakfasts before we even arrived.

That’s all very well and good, but what does that have to do with cruising? Please understand my full dilemma when one of my best friends proposed the idea of a short cruise for her 40th Birthday. There’s no way I would have turned her down (partly due to friendship, partly due to the explorer within, partly due to FOMO) but the idea of being trapped on a ship at sea for three nights with my track record was not an ideal scenario.

I am happy to report that I made it! I was not ill (or even really queasy) and it was a wonderful weekend away. All the assurance I had been given in regards to the size of the ship making it a mostly smooth ride were on point. In fact, I’d highly recommend it for something different and am glad to have crossed “cruise” off my experience list. Would I do it again? Probably not, unless it was another short one (at a bargain price) or the destination called for it (eg. Antarctica). I think more than four nights would get pretty repetitive (mostly in terms of activities and food) and I’d rather save time at sea by taking a flight.

That said, I had a great time. Sailing out of Sydney Harbour on a beautiful sunny Friday afternoon was a wonderful way to kick off the getaway. And it’s pretty great to spend a weekend watching ocean sunrises and sunsets; being mesmerised by the ocean without land in sight; trying lots of different types of food (in casual or more formal settings); and I am always up for a round of bingo or trivia.

Glamping, Gazing, and Glugging

In recent months, I’ve become increasingly interested in astro-photography. My latest lens acquisition (Tokina 11-16mm, f/2.8) has made it easy to get swept away with framing different views of the night sky. The hardest part of living in a city is finding areas free enough of light pollution to capture decent skyscapes. This is where weekend road trips come into play.

I was after a destination with low light pollution but enough charm to encourage friends along. Enter Turon Gates, a huge property about 2-3 hours west of Sydney. To make the most of our time away, we left on Friday evening and stayed in Katoomba before continuing on to Capertee on Saturday, via Leura and Lithgow.

While there are riverside and mountainside cabins, we opted for the property’s only “glam tent” which is exactly what it sounds like. A structure made with sturdy canvas, split into a main area and bathroom, replete with luxuries like heated floors, rainfall shower, sunbeds, wicker furniture, a kitchenette and wooden deck looking over the Turon River, just metres below.

The tent means you get to experience camping (gathering wood, building a fire, being petrified by animal shrieks and noises in the night) with the relief of washing away the smoke and dirt in the glorious hot shower, sip on some freshly prepared mulled wine or hot chocolate, and retire into a toasty, semi-comfortable bed.

Even before 7pm, the night sky was positively bursting with thousands of pinpricks of light, even by the flame of our roaring campfire. As city-dwellers, it was amazing enough to be surrounded by complete darkness, much less look up and see an artwork come to life in the night sky. We came for the stars, we stayed for the serenity. Fantastic weekend away.

#FlashbackFriday: Lounging and Lazing in Las Vegas (2016)

It surprised even me to learn that my most-visited city in the United States is Las Vegas. I am far from the typical party-goer I associate with those who love and embrace the ‘What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas’ mantra. In fact, I pretty much go there almost exclusively to relax.

Huh?! Relax?! In Sin City?!

Yes.

That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed a lot of the things on offer in and around the area (Grand Canyon, shows, Hoover Dam, walking The Strip). But it was while I did these things that I realised I really wasn’t interested in the yard glasses, poker games, gun ranges, pool parties, nightclubs, and bottomless shots.

I’d much rather be in the Venetian’s Canyon Ranch Spa Club. I’d rather be enjoying an uninterrupted view of The Strip from the top floor of Treasure Island. I’d rather be soaking in the tub of a marble bathroom at MGM. I’d rather be wrapping myself in a fluffy bathrobe in a suite at The Cosmopolitan. I’d rather be enjoying the opulent bed and luxurious bedding at ARIA. I’d rather be indulging in the extensive room service menu at the Wynn.

Which is the reason it’s usually my last stop on a US trip or a round-the-world ticket that passes through the States. It gives me a couple of days to rest up, recharge, and reflect on the trip, as well as unwinding and preparing for the journey home. No horrible hangover from this Las Vegas layover:

 

Gliding Down the Great Ocean Road

Two years ago, I finally visited the Great Ocean Road with some friends. While I was most interested in the destinations I had pinned out (Cape Otway, 12 Apostles, Lorne, Apollo Bay), I didn’t expect that one of the greatest pleasures would be in the drive itself. Lush green meadows, tree-lined roads, sheer cliffs on one side and ocean (in the most spectacular shades of blue) on the other.

As an avid explorer, I very rarely return to places I’ve already been but, this past weekend, I did just that and found myself back on one of the most scenic drives I have ever taken. Just an hour south of Avalon airport, the rural country roads give way to breathtaking scenery and the views from the car are almost as wonderful as those from the stops along the way.

Last time, we focused on the road between Lorne and Port Campbell. This time, it was Geelong to Lorne. We stayed at Aireys Inlet, did some paddle-boating in Anglesea, stopped off at Queenscliff, Barwon Heads, and Bells Beach, and trekked along the coastline in between.

Given my affinity with lighthouses, I was most excited to be staying right beside Split Point Lighthouse, which Australians of a certain age may recognise as the one made famous by Round the Twist. Our holiday rental featured sweeping coastal views from each bedroom, as well as the kitchen/dining/lounge area and outdoor deck, which made for plenty of photo opportunities.

In our two nights, we saw stunning sunrises, sunsets, tidal changes, and had one beautifully clear night, on which I captured my first ever starlit sky. And, following on from such a fantastic stay, we’ve decided this will be our annual retreat. It’s serene, stunning, and simply spectacular… After all, what’s the point of discovering amazing places if you can’t go back to enjoy them?