sydney lockdown

It’s no one’s fault that today, when lockdown was due to end, the rains have come. The washed out sky is full to the brim, promising Greater Sydney a wet weekend, if the news from health officials wasn’t dreary enough. Hearing another quivering press update at 11.00am, you might be forgiven for thinking that Henny Penny was onto something when she famously declared the sky is falling.

It’s not called homework for nothing

After sweeping restrictions were re-announced today, we’re now faced with school closures next week. I’m reminded of my first stint of home learning, when by 9.40am on day 1, my primary schooler asked if he could take the next day off. After picking myself (and the laundry) up off the floor, he declared this home school routine way too imposing and deserved a break. Quite so. The logistical upheaval now facing educators and parents alike seems vastly out of step with the real impact of Covid in our community. Fear is indeed a powerful motivator.

“May we live in interesting times”

As uncertain as we are about the origin of the virus, no one knows either if this phrase took its translation from a Chinese curse, but it’s fitting enough. One thing we can all agree on is that when times get a bit too interesting, we’re not sure we want them anymore. If you don’t think I’m onto something, consider where we were just 2 years ago. Even hinting at the suggestion that entire cities could be fortressed would have read as a ridiculous sci-fi storyline.

Wake me up before you go go

Clearly, shutting the door on the problem is not fixing it any more than closing our eyes and hoping the boogie man will go away. There’s more at stake for people, cities, states, and a country if we don’t find reasonable, respectful, and inclusive ways of living with this virus.

With change as relentless as it is, it’s hard, really hard to get our bearings. Subsequent lockdowns have left towns, businesses, and people on the brink. Border restrictions have left families cut down the middle. All in all, the media’s panicked approach has left many downright scared. And as frightening and dangerous as Covid is, watching the media sensationalise the problem is equally so. It’s enough that within our own country we’re not free to travel, to mix, to go about our days.

Too much reality TV

Thank goodness the numbers aren’t swelling; how lucky we are. But when we use words like “super spreader” we’re engendering fear and anxiety and it’s without substantiation. Bad news stories championed every day can push people to the periphery. When the proponents of the lockdown message are so loudly spread, it can feel jarring and isolating, especially for those who hope for a different outcome. 

It’s a strange and vulnerable time, where none of us really have the answer, even our elected leaders are spruiking an agenda that’s new to them too. In the barrage of information and talking, we, the people are not being included in the conversation. With every day we’re thrown new challenges, new ways of working and new expectations to keep up with. As Abbie Chatfield once said (though more likely about a slew of buffed up bachelors throwing themselves at her) “it’s a lot.”

You might like to read Schools Out and I’m In.

With two international travel awards tucked into our backpacks, we kick started our next travel venture bouncing off the walls with enthusiasm. Would our Airbnb host know our names, recognise our beaming smiles, or would travel writing and photographing simply be as effortless as we make it look? Rather, as we stepped out into Killcare with a checklist of a dozen places to see, having left the carefully marked map on the coffee table, we wondered how we ever got a foot off the ground. 

There’s enough to do and see on the NSW Central Coast, that you could almost drop a pin on the map and start there. The little township of Killcare  located on the Bouddi Peninsula, with its namesake beach facing south, overlooks the northern beaches of Sydney. Driving the 90 minutes to the Central Coast might actually be a quicker way to see Barrenjoey Lighthouse than winding through Palm Beach and trekking the climb to the peninsula. Less than 500 people call Killcare home, and a good thing too, because in any season, this pristine slice of coastline is a meditative escape.

Walking on the moon

Given that Killcare is flanked by the Bouddi National Park, the opportunities for coastal and bushland walks are plentiful. Had we have taken the time to read the oversized tourist board that clearly outlined the walking paths from Putty Beach, we might have been able to enjoy one or two. Instead, when we saw the sandstone escarpments edging the sea and the banks of palomino stone walls, we started clicking photos. For the more prepared however, the paved pathways and boardwalks will reveal a beautiful corner of the bay and bushland easily explored on foot.

Did we discover that rock?

Exploring is what it’s all about. When we looked skyward from the Killcare Surf Lifesaving Club, we saw a beautiful rocky outcrop accented on the mountain top. Surely as avid travel seekers we could find our way and with fortune on our side, maybe even a well decked lookout. So, we followed our noses up the hill, assured by the street sign “Hawk Head Drive.” Yes! That rock did have a sort-of hawk look about it and started the drive along the dirt road. 

Overhead, two birds darted across our paths. As a magpie gained speed and swooped at a crow, it twisted upwards, suspended mid air on open wings. Thinking this to be a photographers perfect moment, I urged her to grab the camera. Amid my enthusiastic squeals, all I heard was “What the? I’m out of here” as I watched both the birds and her duck for cover.

We stopped, did a 360 and ventured towards the coastline. With nothing above us, and equipped with our refined sense of direction, we expected to land ourselves at the back of this newly named Hawk Rock and overlook the waterways of ocean and Hawkesbury river. See, it was all coming together so well. What we did eventually see from a distance was not the rock, or a clear view of the sea, but the car park we should have driven to with a direct pathway to the coastal lookout; later revealed to be Hawkes Head Rock.

Frankly my dear, I don’t give a…

The origin of its name “killing one’s cares” probably sums it up quite nicely. We didn’t have a care in the world, so were unperturbed to learn that one or two wrong turns had landed us in Hardy’s Bay. With a little line of cafes and stores facing the open bay, this is the spot to grab a coffee, quick bite or take a walk along the open grassy walkway or long jetty. 

Despite stumbling our way, somewhat cluelessly, we still managed to find the most wonderful things to do in Killcare. In part, staying at Bells at Killcare had something to do with the experience. The generous hospitality, hidden bush cabins and sprawling winter gardens are a wonderful retreat. Especially for two over enthused travel bloggers, always in search of an adventure but finding mostly something to laugh about.

Photos of berry

It’s easy to appreciate the Go Big catch cry of Australian tourism when you’re thinking of holiday escapes. Under that big open sky of ours, everything is equally sizeable. That includes the pub meal on the corner and the distance you covered to get there.  In country NSW, the nearest town can be a  good 120km away. Let’s not forget the big lobster, the big pineapple, and the big banana. 

Much to my relief there’s no big berry and a good thing too, because Berry on the south coast is a little bunch of perfect just the way it is. It’s also a rare spot that offers a peek into the diversity of our landscape all bundled in one. With the rugged coastline of Gerringong to its east, the undulating slopes of nearby Kangaroo Valley and a stretch of hinterland hiding age old rainforests, there’s abundance in the natural surrounds of Berry.  

Gerringong Rock pool

Breathe out stress, breathe in countryside

With the wind in your hair and the patchwork of green passing by, the outskirts of Berry empty your mind and fill your senses.  Nearby bush and beach walks like Seven Mile Beach Sandtrack Walk or the Drawing Room Rocks, (so named for the natural tables and chairs weathered in the sandstone) are scenic half day walks. Impressive seascapes and wilderness hug the coastline along the Werri to Kiama Coast walk. It’s 11km one way but for the keen outdoor trekkers, a stunning way to take in the bounty of the south coast. Or for something closer to home, follow the interactive historical walk around the commercial centre of Berry taking in the milestones and the building blocks of the village.

Cathedral rocks

Resident nature lovers of Berry made the natural jump to bring the green closer to home. In the early 70’s, they filled the village streets with trees, having different species of trees, shrubs and plants line each street. It’s an interesting characteristic of the town, but more than that, dapples splinters of seasonal colour from corner to corner. 

Easy like Sunday morning

For those more enthused about a good coffee and fresh produce, Berry is full to the brim with corner cafes, leafy courtyard eateries and seriously good foodie restaurant options. Try Nourish Kitchen for grazing platters that are as generous as they tasty; stacked with a choice of treats not normally sampled on a platter, or the atrium style bakery with fresh sourdough baked daily. Or stop by the Donut Van for a taste of Berry’s famed Donut selection.

The township itself wraps along a broad main street with welcome mix of  artisan cafes, knick-knack stores, homewares and the local country pie shop and bakery.  The tell-tale Aussie pub on the corner, electric furniture, backstreets crammed with sweet stores and nursery’s – the choice of treasures is everything you’d hope for from a charming country town with offbeat swanky taste.

Berry with a Y

The name has nothing to being the sweet spot of the region, rather, it was renamed from Broughton Creek to Berry after the wealthy landowner Alexander Berry settled the nearby Coolangatta Estate in the 1820’s. As an aside, the Estate and fine wine are one and the same and has both their cellar and restaurant door open every day. Set in landscaped grounds and surrounding an original convict-built village, it is in itself a tourist drawcard. As an earlier sidenote of history, Broughton was also the name of a local Aboriginal man who introduced Berry to the region, well Toodwick actually, but also known as Broughton. In any case, a moment of introduction that would stand the test of time.

Like many other weekend destinations, Berry is just shy of 3 hours drive from Sydney and Canberra. What makes it special? Why do people keep returning to soak up the character of this historic village? I think it’s something to do with the diversity and choice that the region offers.

As it turns out, Berry is the quintessential spot for all things restorative – for body, mind, and shopping. It’s also the hinterland hub to call home for a few days while you stretch your legs in the nearby townships of Gerringong, Robertson, Jamberoo, or Kiama. And though no one has landmarked the town with a squishy mulberry shaded monument, Berry is big on surprise for newcomers and a warm welcome for those visiting again.

You also might like to read Favourite Moss Vale Moments.

For anyone who’s walked the streets of Bangkok you’ll know it to be a heady mix of provocative temptations and rambling village corners that haven’t changed much in centuries. The little taste of authentic Thailand with its torn tarpaulins, sizzling wok’s and toddlers running around way past bedtime is what makes Asia so fascinating. In a city like Bangkok, we flock not just because of the cosmopolitan easiness but for these bourgeoning slices of culture that still live and thrive today. If you’re a photographer, the snapshots are everywhere, but with a few short days in this eccentric city we’ve narrowed down your search. Here’s our pick of best street photography spots in Bangkok.

Monks waiting at a station in Bangkok

Train spotting

If you’re a self-confessed people watcher, Hua Lamphong Railway Station is a great place to start. You’ll see a myriad of people coming and going, people with loved ones saying hello and goodbye. It’s a central station for people catching the daily train to other Thai cities and a collective for the diversity of Thai culture. Monks sitting in both quiet contemplation and happy chatter, kids coming and going, trolleys loaded with fresh local fruits and grandmother’s watching the world go by. It has a huge waiting area and is easily accessible by the MRT or one of the many tuk tuks crossing the city to take you anywhere.

China down town 

Just edging the station is Chinatown, and a familiar and reliable spot for Street Photographers all over the world. Bangkok’s Chinatown won’t disappoint. At the Chinese Temple you’ll easily lose yourself in watching the devoted of Tao, Buddhist and Hindu faiths bow in prayer. 

The back streets brim over with market stores, touristy gimmicks and a frenetic energy that fills every frame. You might see a portrait photoshoot happening or find your own people pictures with street side facials or waxing done in the back lanes. The street side carts spill with sugar cane, melons and nashi pears but the real treat is the locally brewed Thai coffee; its cold, sweet, strong and delicious.  

Catch the light and shade of the curious alley ways or keep meandering and you’ll find wholesale markets, open cafes, fishmongers, dried fruit hanging from umbrella stands and butcher shops. Often you’ll see a huddle of elderly ladies catching up and giggling over steaming jasmine tea. Again, take the MRT or a tuk tuk. It’s the best way to navigate around the back streets and by making friends with the tuk tuk driver, he organised a ride for me the next day to the see floating markets

Floating markets

The first time I floated through a river market, I was caught between a sense of awe and wanting to buy everything believing it would help the local village somehow. In Bangkok, the main floating market is about an hour and half from central Bangkok and for a while, appears like any gentle river run. Reach the centre’s hub, and it’s a chaotic and noisy assemble of wobbly stores selling clothes, handicrafts, toys and even artwork. You’ll get everything there, including snapshots that belong to a different time. 

In the middle of the markets, a traffic jam of boats collided with everyone trying to push through. As a tourist you can hire your own boat and while floating along, select freshly cooked grilled meats, shop for hats or fresh coconut water to quench your thirst. It’s the ultimate in drive through service with an atmosphere that’s utterly absorbing. 

On the muddy river banks village homes stand precariously on stilts hand cut from the backwater jungles. People are doing all the ordinary things that take place everywhere in the world but as you watch life unfold in the shallows, it’s truly captivating. It’s hot from daybreak to well after dark and finding a chilled beer is not a problem on the boat. Keep in mind it’s best to wear a mask as the fumes of the motors can be quite strong.

Quick tips

It’s the gritty backstreets that always show a city’s character. These are the places where you’ll find the unexpected and surprising, the humility of ordinary people and the boisterous colours and sound of trade. It’s where there’s always something to see, where every frame tells a story. Sometimes you’ll to find the best street photography spots in Bangkok by taking a guided photo walk. 

Erawan Temple in the heart of Bangkok attracts huge numbers of locals and tourists, lining up to offer flowers and burn joss sticks to honour Lord Vishnu. Traditional dances are performed outside the temple in the evening which can be seen by walking the nearby skywalk. As the light dips and the evening fires glow, you can capture some beautiful perspectives of the rhythmic spectacle below.

Even though Thai people are very friendly and don’t mind you taking photos, it’s always respectful to ask them first – especially older people and people of faith. A little thank you afterwards goes a long way. If you’re shooting images of children show parents the photo you took, they’re always grateful.

You might also like to read our guide to exploring Southeast Asia or a light-hearted look at the things we didn’t do in Thailand.

Olives hanging from an Olive tree

If Mudgee was a novel, its early pages would tell the story of a pretty bushland valley, accidentally discovered. Curious Bathurst pioneers heard from the local Aboriginals of a “fine country” which lay to the north. They were intrigued enough to send out a settler’s party and 500 cows. Flip back the pages even further and the Aboriginal people of the region already knew there was something special about their aptly named “nest in the hills”. Deriving also from the Wiradjuri term “mou-gee” meaning “contented”, nothing was lost in translation here. While this charming Aussie town is already firmly planted on the tourist map, there’s a lot of reasons to rediscover Mudgee and countryside contentment. 

grapes hanging from the vines

Peace, love and an olive branch

Almost hidden in the green rural fabric of Mullamuddy, there’s an olive grove just 10 minutes from the approach to Mudgee. Home to an elderly Greek couple who have lovingly planted 2,000 olive trees and 5,000 pomegranates, you know right away this is the real deal. 

As Maria opened jars of fresh olives and dolloped pomegranate syrup on spoons for us to try, she talked of her families’ escape from their homeland in Cyprus in the Turkish War of 1974. What a road they have traversed, leaving everything behind in search of peace and opportunity in the most foreign of lands. I suspect in their olive grove they have found a little piece of the home they left behind. Aril Estate is open to the public 7 days, offering fresh seasonal produce and is renowned for its rich olive oils.

Under the harvest moon

Wineries and Cellar doors and have been opening in rural spots everywhere. Across the Blue Mountains in the Central Tablelands, the vineyards of Mudgee make for tasty competition to the famed Hunter Valley. While some were panning for gold, others were bottling it and by the close of the 19thcentury, Mudgee was home to 55 wineries. What’s interesting about winemaking in the region today, and a perfect way to rediscover Mudgee, is the shift to biodynamic, lunar and organic harvesting. It’s a bold move from the traditions of viticultural heritage of winemaking but then, so is their Merlot and Shiraz. Known for predominantly red varietals, family winemaking has characterised the mid-western wine region since the 1850’s .

Spend an easy afternoon wine-tasting while sampling rustic platters of locally grown produce overlooking the bush chapel at Lowes or follow the country road up the gentle slopes of Moothi. Or simply rediscover Mudgee at your own pace. The winding country roads will carry you across a patchwork of farmlands, past picture book amber haystacks and through abundant vineyards.

Gin-Gin

Any good old country town worth its salt will have a pub on every corner. The really inviting ones will have a Gin Bar too. Tucked away in the downstairs corner of the Oriental Hotel, the setting is quaint and the gin exceptional. Without doubt it was high competition between the elderflower and olive leaf extract for best gin of the evening. Further ahead in Mudgee is the Baker Williams Distillery, a micro distillery with macro flavour that savours a passion for handcrafted spirits capturing the zesty regional tastes. And yes, there’s also a pub on every Mudgee corner.

Gulgong gold

You could almost hear that singular guitar twang hang in the air; see the scuffed boots shuffling the red dust in the town of Wyatt Earp. That’s how western, Gulgong in Mid-Western NSW feels. The authors of Gulgong’s history are a mix of local Aboriginal people, early settlers and the rush of Chinese immigrants who came in search of gold. A quick thumb through the tales of Australia’s recent history and you’ll see what’s left behind is a township with over 130 heritage listed buildings and a gold rush legacy which yielded over 32 tons of gold in the 1870s. Today, the heritage skylines arch into a street trimmed with bakeries, coffee shops and eclectic bric-a-brac stores where local honey is sold alongside violins and vinyl records.

Rediscover more of Mudgee here including accommodation options. You might like to also read about the wineries in the Hunter Valley here.

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