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Great Aussie camping trip: escaping the rat race WITH the rat race


Finding solitude with the masses. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Finding solitude with the masses. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

By Ellen Hill, Deep Hill Media

Burnt-out, cranky and desperate for solace to rediscover what it is to be a family, we packed the hatchback to the ceiling with just enough breathing room for Son & Heir and aimed for the coast.

We were so eager to leave behind the constant bbbbrrring of the phone, ping of the tablet and cha-ching of the hard-earned cash leaving the house that we set off in the dark at 3.30am.

Our pre-dawn escape turned out to be a fantastic inadvertent decision: with gloriously traffic-free freeways, we had covered a chunk of distance by sunrise.

When we pulled into Port Macquarie on the mid-North Coast of NSW for breakfast. a few bleary-eyed tradies and annoyingly beautiful bodies smugly jogging along the waterfront were the only human encounters while we chowed into our bi-annual takeaway food brekky.

Don't be put off by crowds of campers. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Don’t be put off by crowds of campers. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Just as we were beginning to flag, the hatchback was bouncing along a worn dirt track like an overburdened black beetle into Illaroo Beach on the far north coast of NSW between Coffs Harbour and Grafton.

We drove through the gates, reveling in familiar sights, feeling the oppression of worldly cares lifting from our hearts – until our gaze lifted, the rose tints slipped away and we were rudely confronted with reality.

Rows of overlapping tent lines, 4WDs littering the trackside, naked children trudging towards the beach and their undies flapping from makeshift clothes lines lay before us and the whiff of 50 barbecues sizzling in the summer sun hung in the salt-laden air.

No campsite is complete without a makeshift clothesline. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

No campsite is complete without a makeshift clothesline. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

After 10 hours on the road it was too late to turn back. At that stage we would be hard pressed to find an alternative campsite either.

We ended up pitching camp in a perfect spot on a little rise at the back of the campground next to the bush with plenty of room for a large tent and a fire. By the time the hammock and clothes line were strung in front it had become our private den, where we stayed for two weeks of blissful unwashed solitude.

Our contentment to live alongside the masses in dishevelled harmony got us thinking: Why do millions of Aussies abandon their comfortable air-conditioned suburban palaces in search of a seaside Nirvana they know in reality is a tortuous day-long journey in the stinking heat with a 4WD crammed with squabbling offspring, blow-up beach toys and bikes precariously tied with odd bits of rope to the back obscuring the rear view?

 

 

Save on accommodation so you can splurge on treats. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Save on accommodation so you can splurge on treats. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Cheap

Renting a small patch of ground under the stars for $350 a fortnight means you can afford to take a cruise up the mighty Clarence River on the M.V. Mirigini from the boat ramp at Iluka because you haven’t had to shell out $350 a night for a hotel room.

It means you can buy the kids an ice cream after a day at the beach because you’ve bought healthy food from the supermarket and cooked it yourself on the barbie rather than splurged on takeaway food or expensive restaurant fare.

Camping at venues such as Jenolan Caravan Park in NSW encourages a sense of community. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Camping at venues such as Jenolan Caravan Park in NSW encourages a sense of community. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

 

Community

While the face of the Aussie beachside camping trip has changed, the spirit certainly hasn’t:. Thousands of Aussies join the mass migration up the east coast of the continent in search of surf, sand and sun, a simpler life, a breath of fresh air and re-connection with human beings they are supposed to share a life with.

From the swimming sessions, meal times, ducking into town and strolls at dusk, the campsite moves as one.

When one kid hears “Ja-ack! Tea’s ready! Tell Chloe to tell `Arry to tell Teagan tea’s ready!”, every kid knows it refers to them and, with a grumble and towels dragging on the ground, they trudge barefoot through squeaky sand still baking hot from the 40 degree sun and head for the family trough.

 

 

There is space for all in the great outdoors. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

There is space for all in the great outdoors. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Space

With vast skies above and heaving water gobbling up the heavenly bodies in front, there is space enough for all at a beachfront campsite.

Even when the cowboys of the sand in their new 4WDs tear down the beach just out of reach of the waves, even when generations of campers have bagged the ultimate spot since 1952 and even when the grey nomads park a lumping great SUV with its whopping great aerial and pull-out veranda in the middle of the ground, there is space for all.

 

Evening campfires are essential to memorable camping trips. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Evening campfires are essential to memorable camping trips. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

 

 

Togetherness

Like a flock of cantankerous cockatoos in a tree, the family groups squawk and squabble over the food. They hustle and huddle at the showers and grizzle and groan over chores. But they do it together.

When myriad electronic brain drainers and conversation killers every family is infected with eventually expire, there is no alternative but to talk to each other, play games, physically exercise, explore the surrounds and, wait for it …do absolutely nothing but sit around the campfire.

 

 

 

Everyone is equal in a swimming costume. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Everyone is equal in a swimming costume. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Equality

Camping is a fantastic leveller. Yeah, the neighbours might have a new Range Rover to your ancient hatchback, they might have a you-beaut camp dunny and a portable oven but you all look the same in the water. Everyone smells putrid after a few days. Everybody blisters like an overcooked fried egg white in the sun.

 

 

Romance

Nothing beats the romance of a sunset beach walk. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Nothing beats the romance of a sunset beach walk. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill MediaRomance

It’s cliche for sure, but nothing beats a dreamy sunset walk along the beach with your love while the kids you made together skip and squeal in the shallows in the distance.

Nothing matters when kids slave away all day in the blistering sun on a sandcastle and moat or digging a hole to the centre of the earth, only for the sea to wash away their progress in one spiteful wave on the next inbound tide. The ritual is repeated on the morrow over and over again and committed to the memory bank to be savoured when the complications of adulthood cloud a difficult day.

 

The barbie is part of tradition. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

The barbie is part of tradition. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Tradition

Stone the crows! It’s the Aussie way `init? You’re just not `Strayan if you haven’t taken the family camping, had a line of undies and cozzies strung between the guy ropes and eaten a sandy sanga in the salty haze of surf.

So grab a beer, douse yourself in mozzie spray and join Gazza, Bazza and Dazza at the barbie while Shaz, Maz and Kaz giggle and natter over glasses of bubbly and barefoot kids beg the dog to give up the cricket ball in the last rays of a tourism brochure kind of day and embrace the great outdoors.

 

You CAN escape the rat race with the rate race. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

You CAN escape the rat race with the rate race. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Here’s some tips on how to escape the rat race with the rat race:

– Change your travel time or route to avoid becoming entangled in the mass migration

– However, be prepared for traffic and factor travel times accordingly, scheduling meal and rest breaks to coincide with major bottlenecks such as Macksville on the north coast of NSW to avoid frustration and stress

– Pare back the luggage, especially clothes

– Buy your own healthy food and engage the whole family in preparing meals

– Embrace the crowds as an opportunity to meet new friends

– Focus on picturesque, quirky and unique sights rather than hysterical billboards counting down the kilometres to the next fast food restaurant

Soak up the solitude with everyone else. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Soak up the solitude with everyone else. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

* Deep Hill Media stayed at Illaroo Campground in Yuraygir National Park at their own expense.

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Bringing the Blue Mountains to Sydney CBD


Experience the Scenic Skyway and the Blue Mountains in the Sydney CBD

Experience the Scenic Skyway and the Blue Mountains in the Sydney CBD

Words by Ellen Hill for Scenic World

Perch on a clifftop at Scenic World overlooking the world-famous Blue Mountains escarpment and feel small again – in the heart of the city. Capture the moment in a photo and share it with the world next Friday (March 20) and Saturday (March 21) – all from Circular Quay.

Urban residents can experience a small slice of Australia’s most visited privately-owned tourist attraction and the nation’s most accessible wilderness when multi award-winning 3D chalk artist Anton Pulvirenti transforms Customs House forecourt into a World Heritage-listed landscape.

The 10m x 15m canvass 3D drawing will offer a glimpse of the Scenic Skyway as it glides 270m above ancient rainforest between clifftops, against the backdrop of the iconic Three Sisters and spectacular Katoomba Falls.

Scenic World brother and sister Joint Managing Directors Anthea and David Hammon said: “We have grown up with the Three Sisters as our view, breathed the fresh Blue Mountains air and enjoyed the rides at Scenic World as our playground our whole lives yet we never take the size of this vast one million square hectare landscape for granted.’’

Anton Pulvirenti will create the 3D chalk drawing using forced perspective to create an illusion of scale, meaning the scene will be so realistic that passers-by could be forgiven for believing they have truly been transported to the Blue Mountains.

So “stand’’ on the Scenic World clifftop and ask a friend to take a photo and share it with the world on Instagram with #feelsmallagain and receive an instant keepsake photo from the Scenic World team.

The top 10 most creative photos will receive a family pass to Scenic World so they can experience the thrilling attraction for themselves – for real.

The Scenic World Feel Small Again 3D chalk art will be staged in front of Customs House, Alfred St, Circular Quay, from 8am to 6pm Friday (March 20) and 10am to 5pm Saturday (March 21).

The family-owned Scenic World overlooking the world-famous Three Sisters landmark at Katoomba is home to the world’s steepest passenger train, the highest and largest cablecars in Australia and the longest boardwalk in Australia.


Hydro Majestic Hotel Blue Mountains: elegant festival venue


The iconic Hydro Majestic Hotel will be a magnificent host to the Blue Mountains Charleston Challenge on February 7, 2015. Photo: Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

The iconic Hydro Majestic Hotel will be a magnificent host to the Blue Mountains Charleston Challenge on February 7, 2015.

Words by Ellen Hill                                                    Photos by David Hill

The refurbished Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath will be the ultimate period party palace at which to launch the annual Roaring 20s Festival and all that Jazz on Saturday, February 7.

Hydro Majestic co-owner Huong Nguyen said: “The Hydro in its heyday was the place to be for people who wanted to have fun.

Cats Alley at the Hydro Majestic will come alive with colourful characters. Photo: Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Cats Alley at the Hydro Majestic will come alive with colourful characters.

“The Escarpment Group has refurbished the buildings back to their original elegance but what really makes a building come alive is people.

“So we invite everyone to dress up in their most sophisticated 1920s-style costumes to celebrate the return of colourful characters into the venues and hallways of the Hydro Majestic Hotel.’’

The day will begin with the Blue Mountains Charleston Challenge on the lawns at 11am. Practice onsite from 10.30am and register on the day or pre-register at www.roaring20s.com.au.

Participants are encouraged to arrive by train and alight at Medlow Bath railway station conveniently located opposite the hotel.

The challenge aims to break its own Guinness World Record for the greatest number of costumed people to dance the Charleston. It set the record with 276 in 2013, 319 in 2014 – let’s make it 350 in 2015.

After the dancers have high-kicked their way into history once more, indulge in decadent local fare at the Majestic Long Lunch in the Majestic Ballroom.

Immerse yourself in the era during a long afternoon of informal grazing, promenading on the lawns and dancing to the 1920s-style band.

The Majestic Long Lunch will be held in the Grand Ballroom at the Hydro Majestic Hotel. Photo: Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

The Majestic Long Lunch will be held in the Grand Ballroom at the Hydro Majestic Hotel.

Hydro Majestic head chef Maté Herceg and other Blue Mountains food heroes will prepare a feast from regional food.

An antipasto platter from award-winning Princess Pantry will feature meats and locally grown vegetables.  Maté will showcase his culinary skills with a memorable main course, followed by delicious cheeses from the Carrington Cellars & Deli. The finale of the feast will be a wicked, indulgent dessert from Josophan’s Fine Chocolates.

Guests will meet Australian food and wine identity and Majestic Long Lunch ambassador Lyndey Milan OAM, who has visited the region often and features the Blue Mountains in her Taste of Australia TV series and accompanying book.

“The glorious Blue Mountains continue to raise the bar with fun events, showcasing the increasing number and standard of local producers,’’ she said.

“The Long Lunch was great fun in its inaugural year in Leura and promises to ramp it up in the newly restored Hydro Majestic.’’

The Majestic Long Lunch and the Charleston Challenge will begin Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism’s Roaring 20s Festival held throughout the Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon region from February 7-22. (Details: http://www.roaring20s.com.au)

Take the opportunity to explore the magnificent hotel on a guided tour and stock up on local produce in the newly opened providores pavilion during your visit.

End the day with another Australian icon, music legend Richard Clapton when he performs some of his hits including Girls On the Avenue, I Am an Island, Capricorn Dancer and Best Years Of Our lives. Cost: $57.50 + booking fee (show only). Doors open at 6pm, support act Chris Rose will perform at 8pm with Richard Clapton onstage at 9pm.

Dinner, show and accommodation packages available. Details and bookings: www.hydromajestic.com.au.

The Hydro Majestic Hotel has long been associated with fun.

The Hydro Majestic Hotel has long been associated with fun.

 


Channel your charge through speechwriting


Speechwriting

For two years, I have blipped between my alter-ego (a gregarious, witty, charming born leader who loves a verbal stoush) and, well, me – verbally awkward, socially uncomfortable, to be honest, a bit of a wallflower.

More recently, I have enjoyed reconnecting with a long-time political acquaintance, coaxing to the surface his warmth, generous community spirit and subtle humour others don’t often see. I can’t deny it’s also been just a little fun helping him stick the proverbial boot into his foes under Parliamentary privilege too.

Most recently, I have begun to explore two new characters, similar in personality. My challenge is to convert their tinder dry sense of humour, almost imperceptible asides and one-liners into the written word. I don’t know either of them deeply and our paths do not cross frequently. The exciting thing is, we are embarking on this journey together.

Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:

1: It’s not about you

If you want the kudos and glory, become the boss yourself.

If not, leave your ego at home and accept that no one will know your name unless they want to complain, you will have to lug the pull-up banners to the conference and you will not be given a goodie bag.

2: Believe in the cause

To write convincingly for and as someone else you must believe in their cause, share their ideals and work towards a shared goal.

3: Get to know them

Whether you both enjoy Sudoko when travelling on the train or smashing a tiny ball against a wall with a racquet on Saturday morning to relieve stress, have kids the same age or collect stamps, guaranteed you will find something in common that will kick start your relationship.

A good relationship with your boss will give depth to your speechwriting.

4: Get to understand them

Learning what makes someone tick, why they think the way they do and their opinion on a wide range of topics will help you hear their “voice’’.

5: Get to like them

You must learn to like them. You must, after all, convince others of their message.

6: Hang off their every word

Rather than fiddling with your phone, gossiping with his PA at the back of the room or gazing at the spider inching closer to Madam Mayor’s stiletto, listen to your boss give his speech. Take note of how he speaks, what words he uses and how he uses them, where he pauses for effect and whether he thumps the lectern or points at the audience.

That will help make your speeches for him more theatrical, more alive and more believable.

7: Sweat the small stuff

It’s the details which can make a good speech a memorable one which resonates with an audience touched by the sincerity of the “voice’’.

A speaker who halts and stumbles over unfamiliar words will not come across as genuine.

So notice that your speaker uses “first’’ and “second’’ rather than “firstly’’ and “secondly’’, “each’’ rather than “every’’, “everyone’’ rather than “everybody’’; that she is a fan of alliteration; that he likes to pause and eyeball a few people in the front row after a particularly passionate line.

Notice that your charge always carefully chooses cufflinks or a tie appropriate to each function or engagement. Mentioning it in a speech might just win over that deciding voter or that crucial sponsorship deal one day.