Weekly Photo Challenge: Dinnertime

This week’s challenge asks us to share an image of a meal or one taken during dinner hour.

Perth’s climate and outdoor lifestyle makes it ideal for picnics and we especially enjoy doing it at the beach at dinnertime. There are always people out doing the same and playing cricket, footy (Australian football) or soccer. On a warm summer’s evening we often end up going for a swim at that time as well.


Picnic at Sorrento beach on a warm summer’s evening


Picnic food

The other night we went to the Night Noodle Markets at Perth’s newly completed Elizabeth Quay. It was a lovely evening, and packed with people (on a Tuesday night) out to enjoy the variety of foods for dinner.


Perth during the Night Noodle Markets


B is for Busselton in southwest Australia where we go for Ironman triathlon events, Broome in northwest Australia, home of the highly sought after Australian South Sea pearls, Bridgetown, a beautiful little town in southwest Australia, Beauty Point in Tasmania where the Three Peaks race started from, Batman bridge in Tasmania, Billabong, which means a branch of a river that forms a backwater or stagnant pool – a roadhouse in northwest Australia and the popular surf related clothing brand – and Bremer Bay, a popular holiday spot on the south coast of Western Australia.

B is also for Bali in Indonesia where we went on holiday once, Burj al Arab in Dubai, Buller Gorge in New Zealand where we went and my husband ran the marathon, Bougainvillea, Bay trees, bicycle and bike racks, bees, my beloved horse Belle who I unfortunately only get to see and ride every few years, barbecues or as they’re called in South Africa: a braai and of course one of the most important things in the Aussie lifestyle: the beach.

Part of the April A to Z Challenge.

Lazy Days in Coral Bay

Child No 2 and I went for a little holiday last week to celebrate her having finished school a few weeks ago. It had been a long time in the planning. Coral Bay is one of our absolute favourite holiday destinations. It’s an isolated and remote little paradise in northwest Australia.

It’s an extremely popular spot to visit and explore the World Heritage listed Ningaloo Reef. Travellers come from far and wide to enjoy it. It draws families, retirees, tourists and backpackers alike. Situated just north of the Tropic of Capricorn Coral Bay gets hit by cyclones sometimes. It boasts the closest coral reef to any landmass. Snorkelling off the beach to see beautiful coral is unrivalled. About half of the coral species found in the world occur on the Ningaloo Reef and a large number are endemic to the reef. There are turtles, manta rays, whale sharks (in season) and an abundance of fish.

The closest towns are Carnarvon (about 200 kilometres) to the south and Exmouth (about 150 kilometres) to the north. It’s a long way from anywhere and after many hours travelling roads in hot, dry countryside the sparkling turquoise ocean is always a sight for sore eyes. Nestled in a bay on the edge of a desert on Cardabia Station (farms up there are called stations for the size of them). For first-time visitors the tropical ocean comes as such a surprise after having travelled hundreds or thousands of kilometres through arid and parched countryside.


View of the bay, taken from the lookout

We certainly don’t mind driving the 1200 kilometres from Perth to get there. It’s well worth it. And an added bonus for me is the fact that the surrounding countryside reminds me of parts of Southern Namibia. Flat and dry country with not much vegetation. Red sand and dunes laying back to back. Just north of Coral Bay on the way to Exmouth there are tall anthills as far as the eye can see. It’s so similar to Southern Africa. Driving that far is almost like a rite of passage to deserve to experience something as spectacular as the marine wonderland of Coral Bay. And I like the open road. It feels like you’re really getting away if you’ve travelled a long way. Out in this spacious countryside I can take deep breaths of unlimited clean air. It feels like I can breathe deeper than in the city.

It’s a small beachside resort. There’s not much there. A hotel, two caravan parks, some restaurants and shops, backpackers’ accommodation and some holiday houses for rent. It’s the kind of place where you spend most of your time barefoot and in your bathers. It’s far from everything but once you arrive you feel like you don’t need anything else. We would spend our days having some breakfast, going for a swim and snorkel, having some lunch and going for another swim and snorkel. The biggest question we would ask ourselves every day is where we’re going to snorkel the next day. You can do as little or as much as you like. It’s relaxed, easy going and laid back. About fifty years ago it was completely undeveloped. This is part of the charm of Coral Bay. The fact that it’s so far away from everything, it’s basic but it still has everything you need. It brings you nearer to nature. Which just shows that you don’t need much more than the basics to be happy.


A different view of the bay, taken from the sand dunes with the reef in the background. Patches of coral can be seen dotted around.

It’s a short walk from the caravan park to the beach or the bakery or little supermarket that stocks all necessities for camping holidays (from fishing gear to long life lactose free milk). The aisles are wide and the shelves aren’t overloaded. It reminds me of a store in a quiet and dusty country town that doesn’t see many patrons. Except during school holidays it’s buzzing in Coral Bay. The tinned food even had a little layer of dust on it this time round, confirming how little traffic there is through the store at the moment. It’s quiet there at this time, just before school holidays. Our favourite restaurant is al fresco and has only outside seating under a veranda. It overlooks a dusty carpark where there used to be some fuel pumps before, and then the ocean beyond. It almost feels like you’ve stepped back in time to an era where things were simple. When food and spending time with your loved ones were the main priorities.

We always see backpackers in hired vans with no aircon and the windows wound down on the roads up there. They pull in and camp at one of the caravan parks for a few days or park and sleep by the side of the road. Some retirees spend the winter months up there in their caravans when it’s cold and wet in the south. Families flock there over school holidays. Other tourists visit all year round.

It’s also popular for backpackers (Australian as well as overseas) to come and do seasonal work, albeit in the bakery, convenience store or as tour guides on the many glass bottom boat or other eco tours. It’s not unusual to speak to an Italian and a French person on the same tour and then hear Dutch and German around you as well.

We usually camp there during school holidays in October but this time round the two of us flew up from Perth to Learmonth (airport and air force base).  The airport is in the middle of nowhere. You’d drive for a few hours and suddenly see a small airport. Once you’ve passed it there’s nothing again for miles and miles. There’s one commercial flight to Learmonth from Perth per day and as a result, not much traffic through the airport. We arrived, picked up our luggage and made our way outside to wait for our transfer bus to Coral Bay. By this point most of the other passengers had left and the two of us sat outside the small airport building overlooking the hot and dry countryside. We had about an hour and a half to kill and I think we saw three other people during that time.

Once we arrived in Coral Bay we were struck by how quiet it is at this time of year. We expected it to be quieter than during school holidays but were still surprised by how few people were around. Never before had I seen kangaroos on the board walk to the cabins inside the caravan park, and I saw them daily this time. I got chatting to the local jeweller and Billabong stockist who confirmed it. During school holidays the kangaroos come in at 6am, he feeds them and then they disappear until 6am the following day. I even saw kangaroo footprints on the beach one morning. He’s lived and worked here for years, the “Billabong man”, as we refer to him. He drives his beach buggy and parks in front of his little shop between the convenience store and café on the veranda every day. What a lifestyle.


Kangaroo who was eyeing me suspiciously on my morning walk out to the boat ramp.


A little joey (baby kangaroo) next to the board walk in the caravan park

For a week we led a simple life. I went for a walk early in the mornings. We snorkelled. We swam and sat on the beach and after three days I’d read the two books I took along. We went on a glass bottom boat tour to a sea turtle sanctuary area. What an experience it was to watch their heads pop up out of the water to look at us and catch a breath. Twice we snorkelled off the boat, one of those times to a grey reef shark feeding area. We had to snorkel in single file through a gap in the coral where the current was quite strong. Once we were through the gap it was suddenly very deep and it was like a valley of coral had opened up before us. Just ahead were between eight and ten young grey reef sharks (under a metre long) hovering near the ocean floor having their mouths cleaned by the other fish. Not fased by the gawking humans at all. Unforgettable. I went for a kayak out to the outer reef (just over 2 kilometres). It’s amazing to sit in the kayak and look at the coral all around you. We watched the sunset from our balcony some nights and sat down by the beach until sunset on others.


View towards the reef off the glass bottom boat.


Green sea turtle popping up for a look and then to take a breath. Taken on the glass bottom bout tour.


Cauliflower, staghorn, lavender and other coral taken on the glass bottom boat tour. The quality isn’t great due to the reflection of the glass.

I usually make lists when we go away, especially camping. Several lists. This time around I didn’t – this was very out of character – and only a few necessities made it onto a list. If you stay in a cabin most things are already there anyway. Consequently I forgot my beach towel and had to buy another one. I should have made a list – I’m always on at my husband for forgetting stuff when we go away because he doesn’t make lists.

As I was packing in at home I checked all my camera equipment – I’m not likely to forget that! I’m paranoid about my camera and look after it very carefully. It’s one of the top priority items for me to take along on a trip. Suddenly I couldn’t find the spare battery. I looked everywhere but just couldn’t find it anywhere. Then, purely by fluke, after about a day in Coral Bay I happened to notice it at the bottom of the camera bag. I was incredulous – I thought I’d looked there – and also relieved because I didn’t think I was careless enough with my camera equipment to simply lose it. I sent my husband a message to let him know that I’d found it because I was so happy. His reply promptly came back: check the bottom of your handbag for your beach towel. I had no reply to that.

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View towards the reef shark sanctuary and arid coastline about 1 km north of Coral Bay. Taken on my morning walk along the beach.


View towards the south of Coral Bay (and Paradise Beach).

I’m Tired, But It’s Because It’s Almost Holiday


Child No 3 wrote me this note when she was about six or seven years old. I came across it the other day. I’d put it away with my special collection of notes, drawings and pictures the kids had made when they were little. It described exactly how I felt that day. Out of the mouths of babes. I could even have completed the picture and sat down on the floor like a small child. Refusing to budge like only a toddler can and saying: “I’m tired”. “Tomorrow I’ll be an adult again but just for today I’d like to be a kid. Sleep when I’m tired. Wake up when I’m rested. Eat when I’m hungry. Play some in between and not really care about much else.” This thing called adulthood is overrated some days.

It’s so apt for this time of the year because we’re all a bit tired, kids and adults alike. This is the time when we start looking forward to winding down after a long and busy year.

These upcoming holidays coincide with summer break in the southern hemisphere. It usually means that it’s been nearly twelve months since the last proper break for most. We start to feel a little tired and run down. The ups we celebrated and the downs we faced over the year start to take their toll. Sometimes it’s purely the fact that a year is a long time. Although some days when I look back it feels like the year went by in the blink of an eye. Try as I might I just can’t seem to slow down the pace a little. There are always lots of things to be done, places to go, appointments to attend and commitments to fulfil.

For some reason, ironically, this also happens to be the time of year when the pace seems to pick up just a little more than usual. Our diaries fill up with end-of-year parties and other commitments. Christmas decorations and advertising fill the shops. We are pressed to buy and do it today! We zoom around trying to do everything we set out to do. Shops become busier, traffic more hectic, people more rushed and tolerance levels go down as we all become even more tired and ready for that long-awaited holiday. I, for one, walk around with lists of things to do in my head. Lists over and above the written down ones. It’s mostly tasks I’ve set for myself. I still don’t know why I do it to myself though. No wonder I have days where I feel like sitting down on the floor and saying: “I’m tired”.

The good thing though is that it’s almost holiday time and we’ll have a good break. A break from work and school and our daily routine. We’ll make time for sunset picnics at the beach. Have cheese and crackers for dinner some nights. Two fruits and five veg per day – tomorrow. We’ll go and see an outdoor movie and go out after dinner simply for an ice cream. Spend lots of time in the pool. Go to the beach as much as possible. Laze in the sun and enjoy balmy summer’s evenings outside. Immerse ourselves in the freedom of summer holidays. Slow down, catch our breath, recuperate and soon we won’t be tired any more.

Summer Christmas, ’tis the season

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Christmas-time has always been synonymous with summer holidays for us. The time of warm, sunny weather, of rising early with the sun to water the garden and go out for a walk savouring the fresh morning air and the peace and quiet of the best part of the day.

There is something very carefree about this time of glorious summer days spent playing games or relaxing in the pool, chilling out at the beach or frolicking in the surf, having barbeques with friends and making the most of long and balmy summer nights under southern skies. For a little while time seems to slow down just a touch as we break with our normal routine and take some time out to enjoy some of the good things in life. Just a little less rushing around and a little more time spent with our loved ones. A time to be thankful for good health and all the other things we have the privilege of enjoying every day and a time for reflection on the year gone by and new hope for the year to come.

Christmas has always been a summer’s day for us, celebrated with family and friends or camping some place where we’re near the ocean or a pool to cool down in. An informal, leisurely day enjoying good food, good company and the great outdoor lifestyle we have in this southern land. Also, celebrating a number of family birthdays in the days leading up to Christmas always adds to the festive feeling and so once more it is the season again, of holidays, a summer, sunny Christmas and of hope, giving, love, peace and joy.

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