Friday, November 25, 2011

It's another world

Picture: Jon Hewson

If you've ever heard me say that life in this part of the world is always interesting and wondered what I mean by that, well an article that appeared in a local newspaper this week about sums it up.  The article titled "Cashed up bogan from Mandurah sparks debate in Wall Street Journal" was written by Vanessa Schmitt of the the Mandurah Coastal Times and you can read it here.  In case you were wondering, this isn't a hoax.

You may have thought that the "two-speed economy" and the "cashed up bogan" were just media constructs, but let me assure you they are not.  Mandurah is a prime example of Australia's so-called two-speed economy as in this small city we have people with enormous wealth living right alongside people living in serious poverty. And cashed-up bogans are not only real but they make up a large part of this community along with doing-it-tough bogans, FIFO (fly in fly out) workers and their families, grey nomads, living-the-dream-lifestylers, and recent migrants (mostly from the UK and South Africa but lots of New Zealanders too).

So read the article and see if you can work out why I with my handmade, slow-living, permaculture, make-do-and-mend, let's-not-bust-our-one-planet, there-are-dozens-of-things-I-value-more-than-money, buy-once-buy-well style found Mandurah extremely challenging when I first moved here.  It really is another world here and some bits of it sure as heck aren't pretty.  Is this what those deluded NZ politicians mean when they bang on about NZ needing to "catch up with Australia"? 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A big fat rollercoaster week. (Then two more.)

A few weeks back we had a big fat rollercoaster of a week.  We had lots of positives, a few too many negatives and simply no time for Mr-Inbetween.  I got a bit stuck on one of those negatives so my partner cheerily advised me to "Move on!".  I was very tempted to treat him to my best evil eyes and give him an earful of "ra ra ra!", but then somehow I realised he was right. So today I'm going to channel Pollyanna and just talk about and show pictures of the great things that happened that week.

There was a public holiday on a Friday and therefore a long weekend.  We hadn't had a weekend away for ages for various reasons so there was no way we were missing this one.  This latest long weekend also fell just after my partner's birthday so this little jaunt counted as part of his birthday haul;  I arranged for us to spend three nights at a place we'd never been to but that I thought he'd enjoy.  The only accommodation there is a holiday park but it has a wide range of options from campsites to cabins to fully self-contained cottages with ocean views.  Camping with me is nobody's idea of a birthday treat - as a notebook a friend once gave me says, "I love not camping" - so I booked us three nights in their swankiest accommodation option.

I'll just gloss over the actual process of getting there and of arriving late at night which was somewhat later than we'd planned.....and skip to the part where we wake up in the morning in possibly the most beautiful place I have ever been to in my life.

The place we went to is Hamelin Bay and it is on the coast not far south of Margaret River township and not far north of Augusta.  This wide shallow bay has a long history of shipping and shipwrecks, timber milling and exports, and more recently of tourists and holidaymaking.  But the thing that Hamelin Bay is most famous for is stingrays; smooth stingrays, black stingrays and eagle rays live in the bay and they gracefully venture right into the shallow waters alongside swimmers and snorkelers.  (Now for many people that situation brings to mind a very famous negative suffered by a dear departed khaki-clad wildlife-botherer, but thankfully I have no need to gloss over any similar misadventures.)

Despite signs saying "Please don't feed the stingrays", people not only feed the stingrays but they pat them then drunkenly marvel at their big tails.  We didn't do any of that because I am prissy and tend to do what signs tell me to do, but we did get an incredibly close view.  The biggest specimen we saw was nearly two metres across.  Since we moved to Australia I have unintentionally swum with stingrays several times, but seeing these amazing creatures as we did in Hamelin Bay is for me a far superior (and less terrifying) experience.

We wandered over to the deserted neighbouring bay and rested there.  We looked out from lookouts, marveled at the sheer beauty of the coastline, walked in the bush and sat on the beach and read; I pushed from my mind all thoughts of my car still holidaying at a town up the coast, or of baddies possibly entering our house through its broken window (dealt to by my accidentally locked-out rescuer). 

I sat on the beach and supervised as the rest of my family went snorkeling.

I vacantly daydreamed and tried to name all the blues in the sky, the shallows and the depths: cyan and violet; lapis lazuli and sapphire; slate, smalt and steel; teal and turquoise; periwinkle, cornflower, hyacinth and hydrangea; cobalt and cerulean; azure and ultramarine; indigo, logwood and woad; wedgewood and duck egg; dear old navy.

The passing clouds dimmed the lights; my mind drifted to greys and greens.  A pair of jetskiers shattered the serenity and my mind started cataloguing all the things you see when you haven't got your gun. While my daughter stalked fish with her camera underwater, I snapped hundreds of pictures above land, none of which came close to capturing the gorgeousness of the place. 

Hamelin Bay is down the end of a no exit road and nestled in the middle of a National Park and doesn't have the built-up, millionaires-club feel of other spots along this coastline.  The only people passing through Hamelin Bay are the walkers completing the Cape to Cape Track which runs from Cape Naturaliste in the north to Cape Leeuwin in the south.  It is a wonderful place for a family holiday and I highly recommend it and the place we stayed (Hamelin Bay Holiday Park) to anyone.

Back home again and I'll just gloss over the remainder of the week when I got cauliflower ear from the many hours I had to spend on the phone fixing and sorting out various things (and waiting for the floorer...).  I'll also happily gloss over how my car moved on to its new life as a training aid for a wannabe mechanic.  Instead I'll skip forward over two more big fat rollercoaster weeks to now, where I am about to start a challenging but extremely interesting job that I just couldn't resist putting my hand up for.  I do indeed plan to move on - possibly on a bus.