Whistle stop Melbourne – Victoria

To finish off our ski trip, The Travel Bees had two nights in Melbourne…….and Melbourne means food!!

Here is a selection of what we sampled.

Tempura lobster – Koko Japanese
Chocolate mousse with sesame seed crisp and raspberry coulee – Koko Japanese (To die for)
Blueberry Danish – Queen Victoria markets (Best pastry ever)
Koko chocolates – Queen Victoria markets

We were also lucky to squeeze in a trip to The Lume. This is a digital art gallery that cleverly integrates the art work of Vincent Van Gogh with lights, music and the story of his life. Not your standard art gallery, this captures the attention of young and old (except teenage boys who are just too cool for this kind of thing!). Miss Travel Bee and I were spellbound as we read, listened and absorbed the sad life of such an amazing artist.

Of course, a trip to Melbourne wouldn’t be complete without a spot of shopping and a visit to see street art. This is where Master 15 was in his element; graffiti and Culture Kings, what more could a boy want?

The boys in the hood – Hosier Lane

TTB

Mt Buller – Day 4 and 5

The last two days of our skiing we were blessed with beautiful sunshine. We started day 4 by discovering a faster way onto the mountain, the Northside Express. This chairlift leaves from the carpark and bypasses the crowded shuttle into the village. The downside is……. on the north side of the mountain there is only one green/easy run and to get to the other side you either need to traverse cross country or hit a few more advanced runs and chairlifts.

I was feeling okay having coped with blue runs the day before so I decided we should go for it. First up we conquered the Burnt Hut Spur (beginners) that I had fallen on earlier in the week. That went well. Next we decided to head down Upper Boggy Creek Trail to get to Grimus chairlift and up to the summit. That was our mistake.

Little did I realise (I think the others knew) that this trail hit a black (advanced) run with moguls for the last 100m into the chairlift! I had managed the trail okay but when I hit the moguls I freaked out. In the end, after much deliberation and sweating, I took my skis off and skidded down the slide of the run half on my bum. I was so embarrassed. That was, until a poor woman came flying out of control over the moguls from the black run and lay facedown unmoving in the snow. At that point I ditched my skis and headed over to see if I could help. Turns out I couldn’t. Bambi on ice is pretty useless in an emergency other than to yell for help!

Fortunately she was okay and had just severely winded herself. As there were other more useful helpers on hand (those that could actually stand up in their skis) we headed up the chairlift to the summit. By now, I was absolutely petrified about how I was going to get down.

View from the summit

Being a beautiful sunny day, the view from the summit was stunning but I was still completely focussed on how I was going to get down. Miss 12 led the way and we gently zigzagged down the intermediate Summit run. I survived and to celebrate we hit my favourite family run and then into Koflers cafe for a hot chocolate.

Hot chocolate break

The stress of the morning and the previous three full days of skiing took its toll a short time later and we decided we would all head back to Mansfield for an afternoon off.

Day 5 we met up with our friends again and had a great day. I decided it was going to finish on a confident note and stayed on Burnt Hut Spur for the entire day. It was great to just relax well within my comfort zone and practice, practice, practice. Mr Travel Bee, feeling tired, stayed with me and our friends took the kids off on an adventure which included new runs, jumps, filming and lots of laughs.

Mr and Mrs snowman on Burnt Hut

Meanwhile, Mr travel Bee and I enjoyed a sneaky drink at Spurs cafe/bar while waiting for the adventurers to return.

A well earned beer. The baileys went straight in a hot chocolate! Yum.

TTB

Mt Buller – Day 2 and 3

Day 2 started with me falling over on the first run and getting snow down my pants! I had been attempting a different run (Burnt Hut Spur) and visibility was poor (not that it takes much for me to fall down)! I gathered myself and resolved to carry on. I did however get a tad annoyed when a couple of turns later I hit the deck again. This time there was a boy who looked to be about 9 nearby who very politely asked if I was okay and offered assistance. I of course said I was fine and he expertly skied away….. on one ski (show off!).

The falls, combined with suboptimal conditions led to me completely losing my confidence. I forced the family to trek across the flat so that I could avoid more advanced runs. This caused a few arguments given we could barely see 2m in front of ourselves and had no idea where we were going. By the time we got back to familiar territory we all needed a snack. Good one Mum!

Following our break, I decided I needed to take it easy and went off alone. The rest of the family headed to explore Wombat run. Miss 12 was gaining in confidence by the second and Master 15 (having changed his board for a shorter one) was starting to hit his groove.

Wombat lift – spot Mr and Master Bee

Not long after, I decided it just wasn’t my day and headed into the village. Passing the beginners slope on Bourke Street I saw multiple splashes of blood on the snow and a number of people tumbling over one another. I knew then, I was done for the day and it was time for something to warm my belly. As if by magic, this sign appeared in front of me.

Unfortunately, as has been the theme this week, they were sold out of toasties but thank goodness they had mulled wine! I got mine takeaway and headed out into the village square (that is round!) to people watch.

Mulled wine disguised as coffee!

There were definitely some interesting sights in the village square. The families having snow ball fights, multiple dads jumping up and down on top of snow mounds before falling flat on their backsides (don’t ask me why?!), one guy coming off the lifts wearing jeans and a jumper looking suitably drenched and frozen, people nursing injuries, school group animatedly discussing their morning and of course lots and lots of people taking photos of snow.

Mt Buller Village Square

Day 3 and my friends encouraged me to get back out there and try some new runs. First up they took me to Little Buller Spur. I was super unconfident but my friend lead the way and we made it down unscathed. I was getting tired very quickly and having to stop regularly though. I think this was for a combination of reasons; poor fitness, recent Covid and just being so bloody tense!!!

Next up I got to try Wombat run. I had been looking forward to this one because Miss 12 and Master 15 had really enjoyed it the day before. We were warned at the top to take it easy because of ‘snow making obstacles’………… what??!!

Turns out that means big fat lumps of snow! This immediately lead to more tension for me and some spectacular falls for the others. Miss 12 face planted it just in front of me falling into a pillow of powder. It actually looked quite fun but I was completely incapable if helping her due to my complete focus on self preservation! I didn’t need to worry, she was up and grinning as she passed me within a minute.

My friends certainly got me to push my boundaries and although I felt terrified the whole morning I know it was the right thing to do. After lunch I felt much more confident and for the first time actually enjoyed family run because it seemed easier!

Two successful days and if I thought day one was scary going up the mountain …… the last two were much much worse!

The clouds descend!

TTB

Mt Buller – Day 1

Tonight the Travel Bees are exhausted. Driving down off the mountain we had two sleepy Bees in the backseat. I think we had all forgotten quite how tired you get skiing/boarding and how tough the late afternoon can get!

Our day started with a flurry of activity as everyone got their ski gear on and we gathered the required puffers, masks, hats and neck warmers. We piled into the car and started our half hour journey from Mansfield to Mt Buller.

After passing the toll gate, we started the road up the mountain complete with zig zags, hairpin bends and narrow corners. I had completely forgotten about this part of skiing! I am a nervous passenger at any time but this was next level and took me back to the days of Mt Hutt and The Remarkables travelling by bus (NZ). Those were truly terrifying trips.

The weirdest part about the journey up today was the gum tree lined road with signs to look out for wombats and koalas. It just felt a bit wrong to me! There was one other glaring fact…… there was no snow! Master 15 was getting rather distressed in the backseat comparing it to our trip to Japan where there was snow piled beside the road miles and miles from the ski field. It wasn’t until a few turns before the carpark that we saw our first glimpses of snow.

We needn’t of worried. Once we were up on the mountain and at the lifts, it was clear there was plenty of snow………and plenty of people! This season is in fact one of the best for snow in recent years. This combined with Covid has lead to the busiest season ever according to staff at our ski hire.

Bourke Street – Mt Buller

We are travelling with another family who are very experienced with Mt Buller. They kindly took it upon themselves this morning to show us around. The teenagers went off in one direction (not seen until several hours later) and the rest of us headed for the main Bourke Street run.

Okay…… I may have gone to the magic carpet…… but only for one run before realising I actually don’t need to do that anymore….. Hooray!

Miss and Mrs Travel Bee

And so, it was a full day complete with friends, thrills and spills. Not surprisingly, the scheduled dinner at the pub had to be postponed (due to lack of energy) in favour of pizza at home in the AirBnB.

There are a few aches and pains tonight as our bodies remember the muscles needed on the mountain. There is also a pretty sore bottom for one of our snowboarders!

TTB

Melbourne – Yea – Mansfield: Victoria

Today we have enjoyed a stunning road trip from Melbourne through to Mansfield where we will be staying for the next six nights. The scenery is quite a contrast to flat Western Australia with beautiful green rolling hills and windy roads.

Strath Creek – Goulburn Valley
Lunch stop – Provender Country Bakehouse – Yea
Yea to Mansfield
First glimpse of Mt Buller
Our AirBnB for six nights – so cute

So, the mountain is looming. The skis and boards are hired. The snow is good. The forecast is good. The Travel Bees are excited! (Mrs Travel Bee is perhaps a tad scared!)

TTB

Jetstar – Busselton Margaret River to Melbourne

Anyone would think we haven’t been on a plane for two and a half years! This morning, the Travel Bees were literally the first through security and into the ‘lounge’ at Busselton Margaret River airport.

It was hard to contain our excitement. Not only were we getting on a plane, but for the first time it was from our home town. No drive to Perth, no fluffing around with car parking, no fighting the crowds to check in. This flight is a game changer for anyone who loves Melbourne or loves to travel! 🙋‍♀️

We did however get a tad wet! Busselton Margaret River airport is pretty basic. There is a check in desk, security, a lounge and a cafe (more like a kiosk). That is it. You walk across the tarmac to the plane and when it is raining….. you get wet.

For me, all that just adds to the charm. Simplicity is sometimes very welcome and when you haven’t been interstate or done any international travel for two and a half years, it is the perfect reintroduction to flying.

We are super excited to finally be getting another travel adventure. We feel lucky to have landed in Melbourne with all of our luggage. A small delay of one hour is nothing to complain about. Given the situation in airports throughout Australia this week, we know we are one of the lucky ones.

Tonight, we have fully bellies (a couple of wines in for Mr and Mrs Travel Bee) and are contently settling down for the night at the airport Park Royal in Melbourne. Tomorrow we pick up the hire care and head for the mountains.

So excited travel is back!

TTB

Colombia…… in Busselton

Last weekend, we went to Colombia.…. kind of….

It has been 8 months since I have written a blog. It has been 8 months since I have had anything to say about travel! It has been 2.2 years since we left Western Australia. We have however, recently discovered a new way to bring travel to us.

There are a surprising number of people traveling in Australia that have been here since before the pandemic. These people are bolstering our workforce, holding many a town together but with housing shortages all through regional Australia, they (along with many locals) have found it difficult to find places to live. We have the space, so we decided to welcome some travellers into our home.

What an amazing experience this has been and continues to be.

The Travel Bees and Miss Spain

First up we hosted Miss Spain. This super smiley girl breezed into our lives. We met her once over coffee and wanted to keep her! She stayed for four months working three jobs and checking out the area when she had a spare minute. We enjoyed meals together (Spanish and Australian), met her friends, introduced her to water skiing and showed her some of the sights of Busselton. Inevitably all good things must come to an end and she headed home to Spain, but not before introducing us to our next guests.

Miss Spain enjoying Geographe Bay

Miss Colombia and Mr Italy have been with us nearly a month. There has been more water skiing lessons and shared dinners as we welcome them into our family and home.

As you can imagine, these people are a long way from home and over the last few months we have noticed how they pine for their home traditions and culture. Australia offers them so much but there is always a calling towards one’s home. Responding to a Facebook call out, Miss Columbia has been fortunate enough to met some of ‘her people’ living right here in Busselton.

Last weekend we were invited to a Colombian gathering…. in our own backyard! There was cocktails, beer, food, and Latino music. It was the most unexpected and enriching experience. We all loved listening to their excited Spanish chatter as they got to know one another. Master 14 and Miss 12 floated in and out, observing and enjoying their food.

But, the most memorable moment came when the four Colombians stood up excitedly and began salsa dancing across our deck. We couldn’t believe our eyes, Miss 12 was spellbound! It felt like we were suddenly transported out of our backyard and into the streets of South America and wow, could these people dance!

The way their hips moved, the confidence with which they moved in front of strangers and the sense of pure freedom was exhilarating. It was like they had their own language (to think they had only met a few hours prior!). It was just beautiful to watch.

Moments later, Miss 12 was up having her first salsa lesson, as they explained to us their traditions of learning to dance at family gatherings from a very young age. In minutes, South America leapt up on Miss 12’s list of travel destinations.

As the world begins to return to normal and travel is slowly coming back onto our agenda, we have realised there can be so many ways to experience the world and it’s different cultures. For us, hosting is one of them. From exchange students to backpackers to more experienced and mature travellers, we seem to be able to find common ground and understanding….. it’s that hunger to experience something new.

We have just booked our first flight in a long while. Whilst I don’t think anything is certain, I do feel there is a renewed sense of confidence as we dare to dream of a return to travel.

Covid may have given us many obstacles but it has also taught us to look outside the box. If our next trip doesn’t eventuate ……. well who knows what we might experience in our own backyard.

TTB

Nambung and Lesueur National Parks – Jurien Bay – Western Australia

National park visits are a must when staying in and around Jurien Bay (between rain showers as is the case for us). The Nambung National Park situated 40km south of town is home to the Pinnacles. These strange and mysterious limestone rock formations look like something from another world. While modern science still hasn’t definitively uncovered what the pinnacles are, you can read all about the theories as well as the animals that inhabit the area in the modern interpretive centre.

The Pinnacles – Nambung National Park

After taking a short walk through the pinnacles nearest to the car park, we realised the best way to see the desert is to hop back in the car and drive the circular dirt track. This way you can stop at various parts of the desert to admire pinnacles of all shapes and sizes. I even found one that had a face!!

My Pinnacle friend

For national park number two, we visited the tourist information centre here in Jurien, where an enthusiastic and helpful guide showed us a route through the Lesueur National Park. Lesueur is located 27km north east of Jurien and is home to some 900 species of flora and a couple of ‘mountains’. With black clouds surrounding us we decided to risk it and set off with a plan to drive the scenic loop, walk the 2.5km Gardner trail and head to Green Head for lunch.

After making our way down a muddy red dirt track (Cockleshell Gully Way) and with our white vehicles now no longer white, we arrived at the Drummond rest area. Hoping for a dry half hour we set out on our walk. Although there was a fair amount of puddle hopping, we managed to complete the circuit without getting wet. It was well worth the effort with stunning views and an array of flora to capture our attention.

View across Lesueur National Park
Muddy puddles

Famous for wildflowers in late winter and spring, we assumed it would be another case of ‘wrong time of the year’. However we were pleasantly surprised…… although only early July, the bush is already beginning to erupt and if you kept your eyes peeled, there were beautiful little flowers all over the place in an assortment of colours. I imagine in a few more weeks the whole place will be a sea of colour.

The flowers of Lesueur National Park

From here, as planned, we drove back towards the coast and enjoyed lunch at Dynamite Bay Takeaway – Green Head. The food was great and likely one of the biggest burgers Mr Travel Bee and our travel companion Master J have ever encountered! Dynamite Bay itself was a stunning surprise and offered yet another blast of wind in the hair.

Dynamite Bay – Green Head

So much beauty…….. even in the middle of winter.

TTB

Jurien Bay – Turquoise Coast – Western Australia

With the Covid pandemic still rampant and travel restrictions frequent, July has called for another holiday at home here in beautiful Western Australia. Whilst we would have liked to find a hot and sunny location to brighten the winter blues, in reality it has been a battle to find a destination at all. With everywhere in WA booking up earlier than usual and only a week to play with, our choices were limited.

In the end, a cabin at Jurien Bay tourist park, four and a half hours from home, seemed as good a place as any…… and it would have been……. until the forecast showed a massive storm front rolling in affecting the whole south west corner of WA. We were worried.

We arrived late on Saturday evening and knew Sunday may be our only sunny day in which to explore what Jurien has to offer. After a good sleep, we headed down to the beach (some 200m) from our cabin door and discovered the monthly markets. We strolled through an array of soap, bag, toy, art and craft stalls before filling up on a yummy stuffed potato then grabbed a coffee and headed out to explore Jurien Bay jetty.

Jurien Bay jetty

When you come from Busselton, jetties can often be quite anticlimactic (after all we have the longest in the Southern Hemisphere at home) but this one offered something different….. a curve. Why, I am still not sure but I am assuming it must be something to do with prevailing winds… and wind there has been. On subsequent walks along this jetty we have been soaked by freakish waves and had trouble staying upright while being hammered by gusts. This has made for a rather exciting time walking along the 162m jetty and is likely a highlight the kids will remember.

As the pictures show, in summer Jurien would be a wonderful place to chill out by the beach, fish, cycle, swim and enjoy the good old Aussie bakery pie. There is a snorkel trail with an artificial reef just north of the jetty which boosts underwater signage and many varieties of sea creatures. In fact, I didn’t realise this whole bay from Wedge Island to Green Head in the north, is considered a marine park offering fantastic snorkelling, diving, fishing and swimming as well as being home to large colonies of Australian sea lions. My heaven in summer!

Jurien Bay beach

In winter, however it is a whole other story. When the rain set in on Monday our choice of activities became very slim. At the best of times teenagers can be difficult to please. When there is rain, wind, intermittent wifi, no games consoles, no bookshop and more rain and wind, it can be quite a battle to keep everyone happy. The Travel Bee and friends have had to get a little creative.

Out came the games…. Uno, Trivial Pursuit, Bananagrams, a deck of cards and Beat the Parents. Although reluctant at first, even the teenagers are discovering games can be quite fun. Things are getting quite competitive and rather loud in the evenings.

The kids are learning some old ways to have fun and the parents are just glad to be away from the pressures of home and work. This is a true holiday, full of rest and recuperation….. just what the doctor ordered.

TTB

Travelling the road of life

For quite some time now, I have been feeling uneasy and overwhelmed. It has kind of built up over a few weeks (maybe months) with little niggles and annoyances. Things have been slowly but surely getting on top of me. My mind has felt full and jumbled. I have been unable to think clearly and to remain present in everyday life. I have been racing ahead thinking about what needs to be done, diligently crossing things off and moving forward. All the while, standing completely still in my mind.

Finally I have realised what the problem is…………… or at least part of it.

I have stopped writing.

You see, I felt that the whole essence of my blog was supposed to be about travelling and I wasn’t able to travel. So what would I have to say? My secondary blog entitled ‘Covid Parenting’ seemed equally useless. I mean in reality I have no idea how hard it has been for many parents around the world navigating the challenges of lockdowns, I only had to do it for five weeks!! Again, what did I know, what could I say?

Yet through all this time of writing silence, people have been reading my blogs (The Travel Bee and the old ones from Stressaholics days). I had a hit today on a blog post I wrote almost 3 years ago. I was writing about happiness and satisfaction (Happiness and satisfaction – The Travel Bee). Now three things occurred to me when I saw this:

  1. I have been blogging for more than 3 years!!
  2. Random people actually read my blog (admittedly only a few!).
  3. I actually had a point back then and maybe it would serve me well to go back and reread my own writing! I wrote about finding sparks in everyday life. In reference to my blog I wrote; ‘What matters is that I am doing it, fuelling my spark, and that every time I do, it gives me a little more energy and makes me feel a little more alive.

How have I allowed myself to lose that spark?

I alluded in my blog post at the end of 2020 that changing the name of my blog from ‘Stressaholics Anonymous” to ‘The Travel Bee’ may have been a mistake. I had no idea what the world had install for us back then. I wanted to get away from calling myself a Stressaholic because I firmly believed I had moved past that and I still believe I have. However, ‘The Travel Bee’ name has rather restricted me.

Or perhaps I have been looking at this all wrong. I mean what is life, if it is not a journey? What is a journey if it is not travelling? We are all travelling every day. This realisation means I can actually write about anything!

Travelling the road of life

I listened to a wonderful podcast the other day called Happy Place. Fern Cotton was interviewing Robbie Williams. We all know Robbie and his music. We all know he has been through some troubled times but what I took away from this particular interview, is that we are all human and humans have a fundamental flaw. We are never satisfied.

We keep thinking if I just get past this or I just achieve this, then everything will be alright. Of course this is not true because all that happens is we find something else we want! We are in a permanent state of dissatisfaction. To top it off, we forget things! We must constantly remind ourselves of the things that matter, what makes us tick and that we will make mistakes BECAUSE WE ARE HUMAN!

It also reminded me that whether we are famous, in high power jobs or the average person going about our day, we face many of the same challenges day in and day out. We have to find the things that are unique to us and feed them in order to make us feel alive and with direction. We also have to realise that happiness is not a constant, it is not something we can achieve and expect it to stay that way forever, we have to work constantly just to feel okay.

For me, writing is an important part of that process and not one I should sideline just because it doesn’t fit nicely in a box or blog title. It is a spark I should fuel, not for anyone else but for me. It doesn’t matter what other people think of it or whether anyone reads it. It matters only what it does for me.

TTB