G: While at the Satyananda ashram, our friend Katy told us about a mediation retreat in the Blue Mountains at the Brahma Kumaris Centre entitled “Nurturing Nature”. The cost was donation-based so that everyone could have an opportunity to experience the retreat atmosphere without breaking the bank. Right up our ally! 😉 We arrived Friday night to a serene setting in the woods welcomed by a tiny old lady with a perpetually beaming smile named Sally.
The program consisted of various workshops designed to recognize our connection with nature in everyday life. In one exercise, we went outside to find something in nature that represented how we were feeling at the present moment. Another had us blindfolded while a partner guided us to various sounds, smells, and textures within nature, all without talking. It’s amazing how when you take one of your senses out, the others become more sensitive and amplified. It certainly gives our imaginations a chance to be more creative and our sense of trust to surrender completely. One of my favorites was an exercise looking at the four elements (earth, air, fire, water) and finding which one or two represents you the most. What was particularly interesting here was that Blake and I portray opposite earth/air and fire/water, which allows us to keep each other well-balanced—how convenient. 😉 We also had an intro to the Brahma Kumaris way of meditation, which is practiced with the eyes open, focusing on any object or the center of your forehead. You are to imagine a point of light as a way to calm the mind for a few minutes in any setting.
B: On Sunday afternoon, we left the retreat center well-rested with our new-found inner peace. We spent a couple of days exploring the beautiful surroundings in the Blue Mountains National Park, starting with the Three Sisters Lookout at Echo Point, one of the most famous natural structures in Australia. Then we continued on to Govett’s Leap, a grandiose lookout over a huge canyon extending for miles. We settled in for the night at free camp in Blackheath Glen.
The next day we delved further into the park with the Neates Glen/Grand Canyon circuit walk (5kms). In the afternoon we checked off other quick sights, such as Evan’s Lookout, Perry’s Lookdown, Anvil Rock, the Wind-Eroded Cave, and Pulpit Rock. Typically, there’s something advertised that doesn’t exactly live up to its billing, but everything we visited was well worth the detour.
G: The beautiful setting and natural high from the retreat had us ready to go for another hike the next day, so we tackled the Wentworth Falls National Pass Hike. We actually took a wrong turn and ended up doing the longer version of the walk, but the scenery was beautiful and we didn’t mind the exercise. Plus, who doesn’t like the fresh mountain air and cascading waterfalls?!
After getting our fix of the mountains, we were ready to hit the beaches once more. We camped at the Berry Showgrounds where we met a female solo traveler from NY named Ale. She was hitchhiking down the coast so we thought we’d help out and give her a ride further south. Plus, she had a ukulele! We ended up spending three days together, stopping to soak up the rays at the gorgeous Jervis Bay, Murrays Beach, and Bermagui. This is where Australian beaches have made a name for themselves!
Despite the occasional blue bottle jellyfish, the most poisonous jellyfish that can leave one in pain for days, the scenery was postcard-perfect. Beautiful blue water kissed powdery white-sand beaches with only a few other souls in sight. Sometimes it was hard to leave. Ok…most of the time it was hard to leave. But we were on a schedule to make it back to Melbourne for the holidays, so we pressed onwards.
B: We dropped Ale off at Lakes Entrance so she could catch a bus to Melbourne because Gabriella and I had plans for one last stop at Wilson’s Promontory National Park that didn’t quite fit into her schedule. When we arrived at the Prom, the sky was a threatening grey and winds howled up to 50 km/hr with intermittent rain. Back in Victoria! We watched as people struggled to construct their tent, realized the weather wasn’t changing anytime soon, and then deconstructed their tent to go home and sleep inside next to a fire with a bottle of wine. I couldn’t blame them; we had similar thoughts. We decided to sleep in the car, but the gusts still rattled us all night. The next day was still overcast, but without the harsh wind. It actually made for eerily comfortable conditions for exploring the Park. We started with the Lilly Pilly Gully circuit track through fresh forest scenery. Then we climbed up to the Tidal Overlook for 360˚ views across the bay. The rocky outcrops engulfed in dense coastal forests looked like something out of prehistoric times. Wilson’s Promontory has a unique flavor that we hadn’t seen in Australia so far, further emphasized by the overcast weather.
The weather got even better the next day with clearing skies and a bit of sunshine. We were amazed by the Darby River/Tongue Point hike that gave incredible views of the Park and coastline. It ended with giant boulders that we scampered across to soak in the scenery and rest for a moment in silence, appreciating the present. Needless to say, we were happy to have made the stop at The Prom and recommend it to anyone passing through Victoria.
G: At last, we rolled back into Melbourne two days before Christmas after living in the car for 14 weeks. We wanted to be back for the holidays so we could spend it with our friends. (Plus, campsites go bonkers around the holidays because it’s the beginning of summer!) We spent a lovely summer Christmas Day with some of Blake’s old co-workers at Jules and Kirsty’s place (ironically, our old apartment). We moved into an apartment in Parkville the next day where we would sublet for the next four weeks. We had Jules and Kirsty over for a quiet New Year’s celebration, and then got to work selling our beloved workhorse Maggie. It took about three weeks to clean her up and find a buyer, including jumping through hoops to get the Road Worthy Certificate (mandatory in Victoria), but when we did she sold for more than we bought her for! And who says cars are a bad investment?! 😉
The weeks flew by as we stayed busy taking care of business and planning future travel adventures. We moved out of the Parkville apartment at the end of January and into a lovely house in Yarraville with a woman named Nicole, her adorable dog Calin, and three charismatic chickens. We’d never even been to Yarraville, but it gave us an opportunity to explore a new area of Melbourne. She has a great backyard with a BBQ where we celebrated Australia Day with our friends.
B: I also insisted that we splurge on “the original” Australian music festival Big Day Out, where we saw amazing performances by Portugal.The Man, Tame Impala, The Lumineers, Primus, Arcade Fire, and (the legendary) Pearl Jam! Les Claypool is one of my all-time favorite bassists, and G enjoyed the funky music, too. Eddie Vedder was also quite the showman, sipping a bottle of red wine and conversing intimately with the audience, while Mike McCreedy shredded on guitar all night long. You can’t go wrong with a band that’s been together over 25 years!
Over the last six weeks we fell in love with Melbourne all over again, especially with nicer weather! But we couldn’t get too attached as backpackers. Though we can’t call Melbourne “home” permanently, it will always have a piece of our heart. We will certainly miss this amazing city!