Weekend wandering: Teewah Beach with Salty

A few weeks ago we upgraded from our “tarp mahal” tent camping set up to an off-road camper trailer. “Salty,” as she (the camper trailer) has been christened, was welcomed into the family with grand plans to take her to the beach as soon as possible. However, life got in the way and Salty sat forlornly in our backyard, providing a bed for my dad to sleep in during his recent visit, and a cubby house to play in on the weekends, but no off-road adventures or ocean breezes. That is, until this past weekend. Salty, packed and ready to go for the past six weeks, finally made it to the beach.


We cruised up to Teewah Beach in the Great Sandy National Park. Salty was in fine form, happy to be out of the yard and finally feel the sand between her All terrain tyres. As we arrived at our camp site, I left my hubby and Salty alone for some quality bonding time. There was some cursing, and the odd pole thrown at the ground in frustration, but they eventually found a way to get along. As the sun disappeared behind the coloured sand dunes rising up behind our camp site, Salty was set up and ready to relax.


Salty had hoped to see a whale or two swim by, but sadly the whales had stopped for a break further north for the weekend. There was still plenty of entertainment, including a few championship games of totem tennis, giant jelly fish spotting, and hammock swings.

And after a big day of sunshine and sea breezes, Salty warmed up by the campfire, before we all turned in for the night.


All too quickly Salty’s adventure to the beach was over. We packed her back up with gear and hooked her up to the Landy. Salty, a very happy camper – covered in sand and salt – daydreamed about her next adventure to the beach the whole drive home.

Pango, Vanuatu

We’re in the middle of winter now at home. Not that you’d know it most days, but that chill in the morning air makes us long for the warmth of Vanuatu again. And after a month filled with long work days/nights, study, surgery, and a few other health issues, we find ourselves reminiscing about the lazy days of reading by the ocean, surfing the Pango reef break and Breaka’s left, and chilling on the beach, surrounded by the local pups, watching the sun set.

Pango surf 1

We spent the last few nights of our honeymoon at Breaka’s Beach Resort. The resort was stunning: bungalows, hammocks, cocktails and a pool. But, we are simple creatures, and after spending the previous few days on Pele Island, we felt slightly awkward around so many people dressed in nice resort wear. Breaka’s, though, is a perfect place to stay if you enjoy a surf.

After carting a surfboard around for the whole of our honeymoon, hubby finally got to indulge, testing out both breaks. The swell was fairly small during our stay, but that didn’t stop him – and a bunch of others – from enjoying the fun little waves rolling in as the tide rose. And when the waves were too small, I’d catch him in the shallows pushing the local groms on to the waves, cheering them on as they stood up and high-fives when they paddled back out ready for the next wave.

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It was at Pango that we met John (local pro-surfer, surf coach/guide at Surf Vanuatu, and involved with the Vanuatu Surf Association – VSA). John shared a few tips of local breaks around Pango, Eratap, and Pele and how the local community is encouraging kids to get into surfing. There are no board shapers in Vanuatu and the kids cannot afford to buy new boards. All of the surfboards used are donated by visitors. The VSA, John or other surfers help repair the boards and then give the boards to kids as prizes in the local surf contests, as well as to those who show enthusiasm and positive sportsmanship on the water.

Every afternoon, kids of all ages would ditch their school uniforms and head into the ocean. Many shared surfboards, most of them had no wax or leg ropes, but they would take turns paddling into waves until the sunset. I’d spend most of the afternoon chilling on the beach, kept company by the local dogs, alternating between sleeping in the shade and watching hubby and the other surfers hanging out waiting for the next set to come in, cheering each other on with each wave caught, and finally emerging from the ocean – smiles plastered across faces – salt wrinkled skin as the sun disappeared behind Breaka’s.

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Me and my mate just chilling on the beach

The surf may not have been huge, but the experience was different to surfing at home. There was no aggression, no sense of ownership, just joy for being in the ocean, and a whole lot of fun as everyone was stoked for each other and for every wave caught. It ignited a flame in my hubby, one that had been snuffed out under the pressures of work and the lack of surf time back home. The thrill of seeing someone stand up for the first time on a board. The fun of surfing together and having a whole lot of laughs. A reminder to not take life so seriously, but simply enjoy being in the water and in the moment.

Pango beach

We are planning a return trip to Vanuatu. One filled with surfing and time spent in the ocean having fun. Next time though, we’ll return prepared… with a bunch of extra boards, wax and leg ropes, so that a few more kids can join in the fun too.

 

Pele Island, Vanuatu

Nestled between the islands of Nguna and Emao  lies Pele Island, the smallest of the three, just a short boat ride off the north-east coast of Efate. Between 200 – 300 Ni-Vanuatu people live in the four villages on the island and each village has at least one guest bungalow, an income generating project that also encourages visitors to Vanuatu to stay with and learn more about the local people and culture.

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We were greeted at the jetty by Enoch Takaue, the chief of Werearu village, and our host for the next few nights at the Sunset Frangipani Bungalow. The island has a small primary school (students board on the mainland to attend secondary school) and we made a quick stop to pick up Enoch’s two boys and their cousin on our way to Werearu.

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As Pele is quite small, you can easily walk around the island in a day. If you decided to stop on a beach for a swim anywhere along the way, it’s customary (and polite) to ask the village chief for permission. Before arriving we’d been keen to go exploring, but after dropping off our bags in the bungalow we settled into a couple of chairs to take in the view. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, to me, there is something quite magical about sitting in the shade of a palm tree, the sand between your toes and the gentle lapping of the ocean lulling you into an almost comatose state of relaxation within minutes.

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For the next two days we moved between the shade of the palm trees and dips in the ocean. And I wrote. Pages and pages and pages. I wrote about where we were and what we were doing. I wrote down ideas for stories, ramblings, and thoughts. None of it was important, thesis related, or for anyone else. I wrote because there were no distractions. There were no meals to cook (Enoch’s lovely wife, Joanna, made us three delicious – and massive – meals a day), no Facebook to check, emails to answer or tv to watch.

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In between writing, and hubby reading and sleeping in a hammock all day, we waded out into the shallows for a snorkel. The effects of Cyclone Pam are still evident on the reef. But, one year on and the coral is building itself back up. Little reef fish are moving back in and the clams, which are a local delicacy, create a patchwork of colorful fleshy lips woven into the growing coral bombies.

Two days were not long enough. I would’ve happily chilled out in the ocean, written, played with the kids and chatted to Joanna, swapping recipes, by the fire each night. Now we know about this gem of a place, we’ll be back for sure.

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Takaue Sunset Frangipani Bungalow Details

  • Accommodation: 3500 Vatu per person per night
  • Boat ride: 500 Vatu per person each way
  • Includes three meals a day, plus tea and coffee
  • Accommodation sleeps 5 (1 x double bed, 1 x single bed, 1 x bunk bed)
  • BYO snorkel gear
  • Bucket flush toilet and cold wash bathing facilities
  • Solar power LED lights hooked up in the bungalow and to the bathroom block outside

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To Do

  • Island walk
  • Snorkel
  • Surf (there are two breaks on Pele, one a short walk North to the point/reef break and one on the South-Eastern side of the island. The wind and swell were all wrong while we were there with a 1/2 – 1 foot wave breaking on the reef.)
  • Walk through the village and meet the locals/hang out with the kids after school
  • Read
  • Laze around in a hammock

To book contact Enoch on 5348534 or 7118360 or contact Evergreen Tours to help you connect with Enoch and book a stay.

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Mele: Kava, Cascades & a Karaoke Bus Ride

About a 10 minute bus ride north of Port Vila lies the calm crescent bay of Mele. The area of Mele is home to several villages stretching from just behind the volcanic and coral mix sandy beach back to the airport. The largest village (7000 people) on the island of Efate starts from the main road – behind The Beach Bar and a private housing estate – and spreads inland toward the dense green hills that have formed with many years of Volcanic activity.


One of the first things my husband wanted to do on our honeymoon was try Kava. He’d heard stories and was itching to get out and find a Nakamal, Kava bar. By the time we’d ordered our second round of drinks on our first day in Vanuatu (having arrived late the night before), he’d asked the staff at the resort about where we could go for good Kava. And this led us to John. John was keen to have some Kava after work. He would meet us and we could go with him.

There are rules to drinking Kava and everyone will remind you of these rules… And I advise that you listen to them.

Kava Drinking Rules:

  1. Do not drink alcohol or eat from about lunch time onwards if you are going to drink Kava at night.
  2. Drink water and eat a small snack after each shell of Kava.
  3. For your first time, maybe drink 1 or 2 shells, but don’t think you can drink Kava like beer.

The excitement got the better of my hubby…

Holidays + no work + the impending Kava drinking = Beer drinking on the beach all day.

Rule #1 broken

Kava

Kava

We arrived at John’s uncles house where they had prepared a really strong batch of Kava (see pic above). Kava is just really muddy water. Made from grinding the fresh kava root, mixing it with water and straining the liquid through some sort of mesh or cloth. It numbs the lips and mouth and then relaxes the body and mind. It’s not typically a drink made for getting drunk. But, that night, my hubby and John gave it a good crack. Rule #2 was kind of abided by – well they consumed a small packet of Twisties between them and their 3 shells of Kava each. That works out to about 2 twisties each after each drink. And Rule #3, yeah, well, that one also went out the window.

As hubby spent most of the night hugging the toilet bowl, I was really glad I spat out the tiny little sip of Kava I’d tried – after all, it really is just muddy water. He was convinced the chicken in his dinner had given him food poisoning… until we ran into John later that morning. John looked at us both and said “I want to die.” Turns out no one gets away from the consequences of breaking the Kava drinking rules.

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After spending a few days at Erakor Island Resort for our honeymoon, we packed up and headed north to stay in Mele Bay. The rain had settled in on Saturday, but by Sunday the clouds cleared and the humidity was back. We walked along the beach early Sunday morning, and after missing the turn off and walking halfway around the bay, we back tracked and found the road leading to the Cascades.

 

Chilling at the cascades

The Cascades are a series of pools connected by small waterfalls and rocky overflows. The walk takes about 30 minutes, starting from the bottom pools and following a path up a set of stairs, through the dense overgrown hillside and then criss-crossing the middle section of stream and pools before reaching the actual cascades.

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Mele Waterfall

The 35m waterfall at the top is a spectacular place to cool off after the humid walk. Go early in the day though. The pool at the base of the waterfall is fairly small. There was a family of 3 there at the same time as us and we all had enough space to swim and chill out. Five people were plenty,  I couldn’t imagine sharing this spot with a bus load of people, but then I’m a bit of a hermit and don’t like being in crowded places anyway.

Settling in to enjoy a beer on the beach as the sunset that night, we met Antuan – the only surfer in Mele. There are no waves in Mele, unless there is a cyclone or tsunami warning. So the boys planned a surf trip for the next day out at Pango.

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Game of pool at one of the Nakamals in Mele village.

As the break at Pango is shallow at high tide, and the reef is out of the water at low tide, a surf wasn’t possible until later in the day. We headed into Mele village for a few hours for a game of pool, an ice cream from the local who sells 3 scoops for the price of 2, and for me to indulge in chasing the pigs that roam freely alongside the dogs and chickens, all to get a photo of a pig (If we had land at home a pig would be the first animal added to the family, well after chickens anyway).

Piggy

We came across the local English primary school (there are French and English schools in Vanuatu). Almost 12 months on from Cyclone Pam and part of the school is still operating out of UNICEF supplied tents. The local community worked together to raise money and then with locals, volunteers and NGO organisations rebuilt one of the buildings in two days. Other organisations have supported the rebuilding of other classrooms, but there is still a way to go.

After hitching a ride, our last visit to Mele was for the famous Beach Bar Fire Show. But, it was the drive back to Pango that was the real entertainment of the night. We jumped in a bus (mini van) and the driver’s cousin, Sharon, offered us beers. A couple of minutes into the drive and we stopped for Woodstocks. The driver, Pete, turned off a few streets early in Port Vila and headed to a bar/restaurant. Here he shouted a round of tequila shots and the bar shouted a free round of home-made caramel vodka shots. Not being a big drinker anymore, and having already over indulged in happy hour cocktails earlier in the evening, I’d stopped partaking in the drinking and watched all of this unfold like some strange throw back to our younger days. We climbed back in the bus and Pete reassured me, as he reversed out of the parking lot, not to worry he’d only drunk a carton of Tuskers beer that day. We continued driving along roads leading away from Vila and our destination in Pango, eventually ending up on a hill full of mobile/cellphone towers overlooking the massive harbour of Port Vila. Sharon cranked up the stereo and under the glittering lights of the towers and stars we all danced and sang barefoot beside the bus to Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself”. A few songs, and a few beers later, Sharon was asleep on the front passenger seat and Pete drove us the rest of the way to Pango, singing to songs ranging from popular electronic dance music to country and western, and driving at 20km an hour along the side of the road.

Pete was right… I had nothing to worry about at all.

 

Weekend Wandering: Bribie Island

Dear parents everywhere,

I salute you! You guys are the most amazing people in the universe.

Yours in complete awe,

Emma x

This past weekend our house was home to three little ones all under the age of six years. Two sisters staying for a few days and my friend and her little one visiting overnight. After a big day on Saturday, Sunday started with a 5am wake up call after a dummy was thrown out of the cot. 

I like my sleep. I don’t function well without it, and it appears neither do little people. By 8am the world was ending. Toes were crossing imaginary lines into someone else’s “side of the couch”, doors were shut leaving one out of the shenanigans going on inside the room by the other two, and the toothpaste was the wrong colour. There were tears and cries of “it’s not fair”. And there were screams of “no”, although, in the end I’m not sure what the no’s were about.

It was time to get out of the confines of the house! Time to get some sunshine and chill out. We loaded three children into the car, protesting that they didn’t like the beach or swimming, and headed to Bribie Island. 

Bribie is a great spot to visit with kids. On the eastern side you can 4wd and camp along the beach. On the western side the beaches are protected from big swells and a perfect place to fish or for little ones to swim. There are shops and cafes, and, on weekends, markets to explore. There are playgrounds or shady patches of grass to spread out on and enjoy the view. 

We found a little patch of grass under a eucalyptus tree, in Bongaree, and spread out a picnic blanket. Within sixty seconds all three kids were pulling on swimmers and racing towards the water. So much for hating the beach!

  
We found soldier crabs and chased fish in the shallows. We chased seagulls and buried our feet in the sand. And after they’d splashed around in the gentle waves rolling in off the boats and jet skis going past out in the channel, three smiling children laughed together and enjoyed a picnic overlooking the beach. 

  
My 36 hour experience with three young children gave me a new found appreciation and respect for parents everywhere. You guys are amazing!

Weekend Wandering: Sunshine Coast

My days as a solo traveller are a thing of the past – well, for the time being anyway. The way I travel has adapted to become more inclusive of my new family. Instead of flying off to some distant location with very few ideas of what I’ll do once there, now I negotiate how many stuffed toys are required for a weekend camping trip. Family travels are squeezed in around work and school, so the destination must be close to home to make the most of the limited time. Which has inspired me to start a new little series on the blog… Weekend wanderings: because travel is anywhere outside of home, no matter how long or short the trip. So on Friday afternoon we headed north to Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast for a weekend of family-friendly fun.

Learning how to catch waves with Dad

Learning to catch waves with Dad

After our two camping trips earlier this year to the Yuraygir National Park, camping in a designated spot with limited space felt a little claustrophobic, however, having an amenities block with clean flushing toilets and hot showers on demand does make life a little easier. The key to any good camping destination though is the distance to the beach, because its the sound of the ocean you want to fall asleep too and not the sound of traffic on the main road. Tucked in behind the dunes, we could head to the beach before the heat of the day kicked in, or the kids could ride bikes and play around our campsites. And at the end of the day we took chairs and drinks down to the beach to relax in the shade and admire the view.

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During the day we escaped the stifling stillness of the campground and went to Bli Bli Wake Park. A feature in more than a few memories from our not so distant past. Instead of jumping on the cable for a wakeboard, dads and daughters explored the aqua park. Jumping, slipping and sliding along the inflatable playground, splashing in the water and squealing in delight. When 50 minutes was up and they stumbled out of the water with big giddy smiles, we retreated to the shade of the deck and reminisced about summer days spent working and riding at cable parks and living to wakeboard.

Sliding at the Aqua Park

Sliding at the Aqua Park

Whether you are camping for two days, two weeks, or two months, on the last day – as tents begin to collapse and you try to remember how to pack the car so everything fits back in – mumbles and overtired cries of “I don’t want to go home” and “I wish we could stay here forever” escape both adults and kids. And we all plot and plan our next miniature escape… or how to turn the weekend wandering into a permanent lifestyle.

 

 

Wild & Free: Illaroo

“All good things are wild & free.”

I grew up camping. Days were spent running wild across beaches, climbing trees, rocks or exploring over-grown bush tracks, either by myself or with a tangle of dirt-crusted kids. My fellow adventurers were either friends I’d known since before I could remember or whatever kids happened to be at the campground at the time. I was aware of these earlier friendships through the stories our parents told of us as mischievous toddlers or the sepia toned photographs of our cloth nappy clad, or naked, selves sitting in the shade of a tree playing with washed up stalks of coral. Some of these friendships were for a few minutes, a day, week, or, on the rare occasion, a lifetime.

After hubby & I spent the Christmas holidays camping at Illaroo, & exploring the Yuraygir NP, our passion for camping was re-ignited. It was this passion for nature that we wanted to share with my husband’s little one, just as our parents had shared with us. There is something incredibly liberating in switching off from technology/work/society & returning to the freedom of nature. Time slows down, connections are formed, & memories made.  

I watched as dad explained & guided daughter to cast a fishing rod, encouraging & answering her questions on how to cast out further after the hook landed only a metre from shore. Cheeky grins lit up their faces, co-conspirators in adventure, as they paddled across the Sandon River to look for shells together on Plover Island. And together we watched as she peddled off on her bike with her new camping best friends, memories of our own childhood camping adventures resurfacing with each squeal of delight & ringing bell that drifted on salty air across the campground.

The beauty of camping lies in the simple moments. Shoes are optional. Hair tangles & knots in the salty air, the hair brush ignored in the bottom of a bag. Showers, warmed by the sun, hang from a tree branch ready to trickle water over sunscreen clad bodies. After a day of swimming & exploring, as adults all over the campground spread out a newspaper or book, a cool drink in hand, & campfires crackle to life, the campground kids converge on the nearest hammock to see how many of them can fit in at once… And how high they can swing it. There are goannas to stalk & kookaburras to cackle at.  

 

There are games of hide-n-seek to play. And when the colour begins to fade from the day, adults & kids tramp down to the beach together to watch nature’s scheduled show: the moon rising above the crash of waves, the orange glow stepping down wave by wave until it reaches the shore & the light creeps closer to our toes on the incoming tide. For a moment the chatter stops. But the sting & slap of mozzies soon breaks the peace & we all head back to the fire. Then there are marshmallows to burn & sparklers to twirl. 

 
And when it’s time to pack up camp & say goodbye, soft echoes of “I don’t want to go home” or “I wish we could stay camping forever” float among the sounds of folding tarps & tents collapsing. Maybe one day we will pack it all in to live wild & free. But, until then, our consolation lies in the pull of the wild, it’s in our blood now, we’ll be camping again before we know it.
    
   
   

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