Sunday, March 31

Sublime Point

Garry and I have spent the last two nights staying with friends in Jamberoo, a small village south of Wollongong. The area is a fertile, green valley nestled between the coast and the 800 metre high Illawarra Escarpment. On way home we briefly stopped at the Bulli Lookout to enjoy the view.

Scientists estimate that the sandstone escarpment was created about 280 million years ago. It forms the eastern edge of the Southern Highlands plateau that stretches south toward Canberra and the Snowy Mountains. Sublime Point, where the lookout is located, sits about 415 metres above the coast.

Click on the image below for a taste of the panorama that greets visitors who venture off the Prince's Highway.

 

Friday, March 29

Across the Bay

The city of Melbourne sits on the northern shore of Port Phillip Bay, an enormous expanse of water, encircled by more than 264km of coastline. At its widest point the bay is almost 100km wide. However, despite this expansive surface area, the bay feels more like a lake than a harbour. Its deepest point is only 24 metres (79 ft) and its only passage to open sea is barely 3.5 kms wide.

The bay is encircled by two scenic peninsulas, both popular playgrounds for Melbourne’s frazzled urban population. Mornington Peninsular sweeps down from the northeast, while the stumpy, craggy, Bellarine Peninsula stretches out from the west. The Mornington Peninsular offers quaint coastal villages, stunning beaches and world-class golf courses, while Bellarine is home to a number of quiet, windswept nature reserves.

As a Sydney-based lad I’d never experienced the Bay’s charm until this month. A consulting engagement resulted in me spending a night at Moonah Links, a golf resort on the Mornington Peninsula’s southern flank. The resort includes two championship certified courses, including the only course designed specifically for the Australian Open tournament. From Melbourne, it takes about 90 minutes to reach the resort.

However, the morning before my consulting engagement, I’d made arrangements to spend time in Geelong. This regional city sits on the southwestern flank of Port Phillip Bay, almost an hour away from Melbourne. I was up for a 2.5 hour drive around the bay until I discovered a regular ferry service linking communities across the bay’s narrow entrance.

Every day, two large catamarans depart from opposite shores, carrying passengers and vehicles between Queenscliff and Sorrento. I caught the ferry at Queenscliff, a sleepy town on the tip of the Bellarine Peninsula. From here it’s a scenic 20 minute journey to Sorrento, a popular coastal town on the Mornington Peninsula. Not far from Sorrento is Cheviot Beach. It was here that Australian Prime Minister, Harold Holt, drowned on the morning of Sunday 17 December 1967.

The Queenscliff terminal has undergone modest redevelopment in recent years. A small, picturesque marina now offers the usual selection of shiny-new, sun-baked eating establishments on one side while open, wind-swept dunes and curving sand beaches remain untouched on the opposite side. It’s an impressive balance of modern convenience and preservation of the local environment. The entire scene can be enjoyed from a funky spiral observation tower by the marina’s entrance. On the afternoon I visited, I was fortunate to have its stunning vista all to myself.

My ferry arrived on schedule. It took less than ten minutes to load the dozen or so vehicles waiting to board. I spent the entire journey on the roof deck soaking up the view. The sun began dropping behind light cloud as our crossing began. As we sailed, its light was split into spectacular shards that danced across the headlands. A fully laden container ship completed the scene. It crossed our path and headed into the dramatic setting sun.

After such a stunning introduction, I’ll definitely be back to enjoy more of Port Phillip Bay.

Thursday, March 21

Cameo blimp

Early yesterday morning a bright blue blimp appeared over the Sydney Cricket Stadium.  It hovered over the area for 10-15 minutes then disappeared without warning.  Garry says he's spotted it several times earlier in the week. Howver, it's never reappeared leaving us unsure of its ultimate purpose.  A logo of Bayer, the multinational phamacutical company, is printed on along one side so we can only assume it was part of an advertising shoot.

Tuesday, March 19

Rest in peace

I flew back to New Zealand on March 16 to join the family as we laid my father's ashes to rest.  The family held a simple, low-key ceremony the following afternoon at Pyes Pa Memorial Park. It's a peaceful location on the outskirts of Tauranga.  The park waschosen as Dad's final resting place because his parents' ashes are also buried here.

The local council established the park in 1967.  As the years have passed, its vision of a tranquil, landscaped park has quietly unfolded.  Today the grounds are filled with maturing trees and gardens, offering a peaceful park to remember those who have passed.

New Zealand is currently in the grip of its driest Summer in more than fifty years.  However, on the day we chose to gather, the heavens opened up and more than 8.4mm of rain fell.  It was somehow fitting that Dad's final act should result in another life-long memory. 

The family stopped first for lunch in Tauranga, hoping for a break in the weather.  This wasn't to be.  We ultimately gathered around Dad's plot under a raft of umbrellas.  Mum had chosen the perfect spot for his plot under the limbs of a young Magnolia tree.  In the years ahead, the tree will provide an increasingly spectacular backdrop and a handy landmark for first-time visitors.

My brother Matt read the poem "One at Rest" that my Auntie Pan had shared at Dad's funeral.  Then, one by one, family members took turns to cover the pale blue biodegradable urn containing Dad's ashes with a spadeful of soil. Our ceremony finished with each of us inscribing a colouful helium balloon with a farewell message and releasing them into the sodden sky.  As each balloon rose into the sky we shared a champange toast.  Farewell Dad.  May you live in our hearts forever.