I recently read a book called Essentialism by Greg Mckeown, which invites you to edit the choices you make every day towards a better life. To work out what counts. First thing: 8 hours of sleep a night or thereabout is essential to well being. Then it urges to pare back, unpack the unimportant items on your daily to do list and get straight to the hardest tasks of the day.
It calls for clear strategy. Disciplined focus on eliminating the time-stealers, the non-essential. Creating an essential buffer zone of extra time to get to places, a graceful “no” to the requests you can’t fulfil, a maxim of fewer things done better. Yesterday, before I went to work I inscribed a bunch of chores on our family chalkboard, wickedly dropped from my list just like that. Wondrous. I returned to a vacuumed house, washing folded and wetsuits from our recent holiday hung up. My boys responded beautifully. It’s a work in progress this whittling down process but I’m excited.
Staying essential, I’ve begun to identify more of the good stuff. My podcast guy encouraged to never finish a book that you become disinterested in. Skim and drop. Then I came across this super simple post from blog.dilbert.com on how to be a better writer (from 2007), which is circulating on social media. Yep, just a few great points.
I also found James Altucher’s blog, which peels back layers to get to the simple truth. A trader, investor, writer, entrepreneur and greatly honest commentator, he says: “I don’t hit publish unless I’m scared.” He’s not wasting his time with the non-essential or boredom.
I follow an enticing Vlog by renegade New York City filmmaker Casey Neistat who tells essential stories in his daily Youtube clips. This four-minute one is a goodie (to start with), on making life count. “Nike asked me to make a movie about what it means to #makeitcount. Instead of making their movie I spent the entire budget traveling around the world with my friend Max. We’d keep going until the money ran out. It took 10 days.” Casey has turned down bigger movie-making opportunities to focus on what rings true.
Back to my own life adventure. It led me to the exquisite Whitsunday Islands on the Great Barrier Reef where my family self-chartered a catamaran.
There it was. The simple pleasure of spending time with family, island-hopping, arriving on white sun-kissed beaches for the first time.
Then off to plunge into azure waters, finning amongst nature’s bounty.
We swam alongside shoals of shimmering fish in every imaginable colour stretched along an ever-surprising sea garden of curly corals. Holding my breath, I dived down deeper, immersing myself in that world for as long as possible, then swiftly broke the surface to drink the wild air.
I’ve never been a great morning person, but waking before dawn to pursue my Noosa Camino this week has been quite refreshing. I recently heard psychologist and spiritual teacher, Wayne Dyer (another Rumi-lover) extolling the wonder of early mornings which is when he writes. He’s up at 3am to be precise, a time of day when the words flow and he finds himself “in the flow of Source energy.” Dyer: “How can I put words on it? It’s magical. It’s blissful. It’s awe. Rumi said sell your cleverness and purchase bewilderment.”
After a rain shower overnight, Kevin and I set our bicycles on a damp road just before 5.30am on Wednesday and took off into the dark with a mere promise of dawn. A few hills tested the quadriceps before we passed the waking village of Peregian Beach and just beyond, 10km later, turned off to Mount Emu. We jogged to the 72-metre high summit for our reward.
The dawn was breaking across a cloudy sea and the night lights of Coolum still twinkled in the South. Suddenly we noticed the mosquitoes settling on our sweaty limbs and scuttled back down the hill and home for breakfast.
Thursday broke with such beauty and the fact that we had a day off work added to the sweet, relaxed calm. After breakfast out with a son looking over the sparkling Noosa River it was obvious – the river was calling us for our next adventure.
We hired a canoe from Adventure Sports in Noosaville and paddled to the mouth, accompanied by our dog, Millie. It made me think of all the dogs, even donkeys, that have walked the Camino de Santiago with their owners.
Millie shivered all the way but enjoyed a swim, run and chasing light-blue soldier crabs which dig in a corkscrew pattern, leaving many small round pellets of sand behind them.
We landed our canoe on the North Shore and viewed our beautiful home town from a different angle.
Today I caught a lift with Kevin and Simon to the country town of Kenilworth.
The boys set off on motorbikes up into the State Forest.
I ran into the fresh morning green, startling a few wallabies and kangaroos.
Stopping for wildflowers
And to cross river beds
After a hilly 8km run, breakfast and steamy cappuccino in the little town was nothing short of divine!
I’ve been struggling with delayed gratification. That is, having to wait for the perfect stage of life to take extended holidays, walk the Camino de Santiago, be done with routine. I just want to break pattern. Travel, roam, hit the road and caress the breeze. I am jealous of wild, earthy backpackers that buy sunscreen from me at work and leave their trail of insouciance. Oh to go to places that speak of engrossment in this charming world. Which lead you back to yourself.
So off we went to sojourn amongst the trees at Lamington National Park, Kevin and I. We climbed to high branches where a few lovelocks winked cheekiness in a treetop outlook in the mellow Autumn rays. Waterfalls sighed and people came and went like they did on Le Petit Prince’s planet, always leaving a nugget. On a high path we closed in on a strident couple celebrating 34 years of marriage and he told Kevin he learned who the boss was on their first honeymoon morning, Apollo Bay, when he woke her early to see the sunrise. “Don’t ever do that again,” instructed his bride.
At a junction we find a mother, father and student son requesting advice on direction. The father informs he is taking his son on the same walks he was taken by his own father. The son shrugs, indulging his Dad, and laments at the assignments he is falling behind on back home.
At night we join a tight group to bus it deep into the dark and behold the wonderland of glow worm lights strung across dank shrubs. Here we sit contemplating the miracle of science, composing glow worm poetry. Our bush bathing ends each night in a pub beside a fizzing fireplace toasting a scarlet sunset that makes trifle of the worries of the world.
And so my ennui was stalled for a spell till I realised it was that time of the year – the pilgrimage of the Camino de Santiago. A friend who walked it over 6 weeks last year, gushed over coffee. My wanderlusting urge was in free flow yet again, and my kids talked of my midlife crisis. Then I came up with a brilliant solution. Why couldn’t I orchestrate my own local Camino, designed around my daily life, bringing adventure, exploration and shift smack, bang to me, right here, right now? Every year 100 000 people leave from their front doorsteps or from popular starting points across Europe, to make their way to Santiago de Compostela (walk, cycle and even run) as a form of adventure, spiritual path or retreat for their spiritual growth. Here I am two days into my six-week Noosa Camino.
Yesterday I ran 8km along a sepia beach processing day, and greeted the dawn 200 steps high at the edge of the National Park with this view. An old friend recognised me on the way home and suddenly fell in step to chat for a while. He nodded gratefully at the hard sand which made running less laboured as we faced the oncoming wind. Then he darted off on his own tangent.
Today I was joined by Kevin, who says he will be a regular on my Camino escapades. Yay! We hit the road on bicycles before first light just like devoted travellers do daily on the St James Way. Twenty five minutes later we worshipped the dawn at Laguna Bay with some brisk exercises, finally joined by the first seagulls, the odd jogger, and then the sight and sound of coffee shops setting up for whatever travellers might come their way, brimming with thoughts to live another day.
I’m listening to the soft patter of warm Easter rain, tired and damp but content. It’s been a week of treks up and down to the beach to check on turtle nests. Dinner on deck chairs and cups of milo in the dark on dunes. We made excess trips down the beach path to check on a 60-day-old turtle nest which was ready to run – that is, explode with a hundred little turtles making their way down to the sea.
Kevin and I were hopeful we would get to witness the event. We drank milo on the beach at 9pm on Tuesday night, on watch. Can you believe it, back at 6am the next morning with local resident and volunteer, Kim, we discovered that the turtles had done their run overnight! A fox had also dug into the nest, but was averted by the protective mesh covering laid by volunteers.
Two days later I was privileged to join a group of volunteers who dug up the nest and counted the hatched eggs, logging a success -104 out of 114 turtles had made it to full term and made the magical hike home down to the sea.
Even more remarkable was the fact that the entire nest had been relocated from a nearby creek which was set to burst its banks with cyclonic weather on the way. As suspected, this happened. None of the hatchlings would have come to fruition if not for the volunteers’ swift and skilful work.
It’s taken me years to realise this is all going on under my nose and that special people patrol beaches for months to assist little creatures take their first steps into the big yonder. And when foxes threaten, they may even spend a night keeping protective watch.
I just love nature’s theatre and that I live in a protected biosphere where nature is high on the agenda. Further to this note, Noosa was recently voted a dedicated National Surfing Reserve, recognising it an iconic place of intrinsic environmental, heritage, sporting and cultural value to the nation.
Last month’s Noosa Festival of Surfing exhibited our surfing status and Tourism Noosa collaborated to bring five of Australia’s most influential Instagrammers to showcase Noosa to the rest of the world.
We also recently celebrated our two-year anniversary of the yes vote, a demonstration of people power which led to de-amalgamation from the Sunshine Coast Council and the ability to preserve the natural beauty of this area for future generations.
So I’m back to Easter trading at the pharmacy with the usual influx of visitors who come to share our paradise. No wonder we have a bunch of celebs living the good life here such as Lorna Jane, Daniel MacPherson, Pat Rafter, John Jarratt and David Williamson, to name a few. Welcome to new residents, Wally and Debbie Fry, owners of Fry’s Family Foods, from South Africa, who export their vegetarian brand to more than 20 countries and now call Noosa home along with their children and grandchildren.
Happy Easter everyone. As soon as my work is done I’ll be out splashing in the big blue…or you’ll find me sipping cappuccino at the newly-renovated Bistro C.
I feel the ennui of routine slip off my shoulders as I lift a big backpack and board a ferry with my husband. Just us, one motorbike, strong legs (we hope) and a few days ahead of immersion on the world’s biggest sand island. But it’s not just famous for sand, sand masses, dunes, sand blows, parabolic dunes, coloured sands, white silica sand and pinnacles…Fraser Island holds more than 100 freshwater lakes and they are some of the cleanest lakes in the world. It is the only place on Earth where tall rainforest grows on sand. And it is home to some of the last remaining pure dingoes.
The earliest known name of the island is ‘K’gari’ in the Butchulla people’s language (pronounced ‘Gurri’). It means paradise.
According to Aboriginal legend, when humans were created and needed a place to live, the mighty god Beiral sent his messenger Yendingie with the goddess K’gari down from heaven to create the land and mountains, rivers and sea. K’gari fell in love with the earth’s beauty and did not want to leave it. So Yendingie changed her into a heavenly island – Fraser Island.
We scan for a kind soul to transport our backpacks as far up the beach as possible so we can ride unfettered.
Her name is Marina and she is driving solo up to Dundubara to join her husband and son on a fishing holiday. She happens to be a South African and points out a stylish tell-tale Springbok on her rear back window.
I lean in and hold my man tight. On Fraser, we whizz up the shoreline past fishermen, campers dotted. Vehicles pass by and offer lots of friendly waves.
An hour later we stop at Happy Valley for lunch. It’s a remote township with 6 permanent residents, holiday homes and a café where we wolf down hamburgers and chips.
We ride another 20 minutes stacked with backpacks to Orchid Beach, passing Indian Head and Champagne pools.
The Northern end of Fraser is teeming with men on fishing trips. The café owner agrees to hold the motorbike in a shed. We ditch the comfort of our camping mattress and its extra weight at the eleventh hour and off we trail into the bush hoping to cross over to the other side of the island by nightfall.
Thirteen kilometres later at 6.45pm, we set foot on the most beautiful beach glistening with the last diamonds of daylight and the beginnings of a full moon. We erect our snug tent for the night. A twilight swim is a must in this paradise for two with not a soul in sight.
Dinner is vacuum sealed ready-to-go chicken curry heated on our mini gas cooker, which we savour with wraps. We chat and buzz with the joys of life over a ridiculously delicious and steaming hot chocolate. I fear I have been bitten by midges (sand flies) on our bush crossing, but c’est la vie. They will be really itchy in a day or two. At dawn we are greeted by a whale and her calf rippling a milky sea. The pleasure of this sighting is exquisite theatre and to our delight, the rest of the day is filled with whales breaching.
This will be our biggest day of walking. We plan to round Rooney Point and get close to Sandy Cape Lighthouse. When rain falls we stop for breakfast in a small cave and relish fresh apples, dehydrated bacon and eggs and an espresso shake.
We reach a distance of 19.68km, and as we are rounding Rooney Point, my phone battery dies and my Runkeeper app statistics come to an abrupt end. We have a battery pack but unfortunately I have broken the cord by squeezing it into my Camelbak. From now on we will have to estimate distance.
Kevin is now regretting his choice of shoes as his feet are developing nasty blisters. He has also been carrying our 5 extra litres of water besides the 2 litres we each have in Camelbaks.
We push on to cross this exquisite top of the island, our packs now feeling heavy on our hips and shoulders. I have walked barefoot for most of it and my feet have developed burning hotspots of pain. We laugh when we discover that changing pace only changes the hurt zones. I think of my friend who has walked the 800km route of the famous Camino de Santiago where sore feet and blisters are a common distress. I think of my feet with gratitude, kissing the earth with each step.
We finally make it to Sandy Cape Lighthouse by 4.30pm and set up tent on the most magical beach, flanked by high dunes. We have walked about 30km today and are so proud of ourselves!
After a refreshing swim and a pod of dolphins passing by, dinner is dehydrated spaghetti bolognaise followed by a hot chocolate and mixed nuts. As usual we tie our food high up in a tree, away from us, due to the risk of dingoes looking for food. (These wild animals, which number about 200 on Fraser Island, have attacked a few tourists in the last few years.) We spotted about 7 in total on our motorbike ride. The rising tide on a full moon adds some entertainment to our night. We fear it may flood the beach so we pitch our tent on the highest point and build a moat around it then wait out the high tide which peaks at 10pm. We feel like a bunch of kids protecting our fort! We gaze at the stars and wait. The sea spills in and around but leaves our dwelling unscathed. The next morning the sunrise is spectacular and we notice dingo prints around our tent. We marvel that we slept so soundly, unaware.
Dolphins gently break the surface as we savour our last shared orange. We pack and walk before breakfast feeling remarkably rested, but Kevin’s blisters have not magically disappeared. I try to divert the hurt by revisiting all the great conversations we have had on our long walk.
At Sandy Cape we meet some early morning fishermen who offer us a beer. Instead we leave with a huge block of ice to add to our water supply which is slowly diminishing. We ask the fishermen to look out for us later in the day as we might need a lift to relieve Kevin’s blisters. We are mindful that he has to be on his feet to work again soon!
We manage to complete another 15km down the East side of Fraser, stopping for lunch, a swim and mini “blister breaks”. We wave down a vehicle. Bob and Ann stop for us and we jump in the back of their ute, rain pouring down.
We stop to help a vehicle which has got bogged in the sand and meet up with our fishermen from Sandy Cape again. They pile us in their 4-wheel drive and offer us beer again. They chortle that their main mission on Fraser is to feed their families. Back at Orchid Beach we thank our cafe owner, collect the motorbike and find lifts back down the beach again for our backpacks. Several folk help us out, one lot being a bunch of German tourists who leave them on the ferry for us.
We catch the last ferry at 5pm, looking back into a setting sun, a dingo slinking along the beach, and the end of a fantastic, wild adventure.
Tomorrow we’re off. Adventure awaits on the world’s largest sand island, the World Heritage listed, Fraser Island. It stretches over 123 kilometres in length and is 22 kilometres at its widest point. I can’t wait to be immersed in the beauty of it. I’m also a little nervous about our planned hike as we don’t know anyone who has done it before.
Kevin and I are going to walk its long stretches of white beaches, coloured sand cliffs and ancient rain forests over 4 days, carrying a two-man tent, clothes, food and water. We have been itching for an adventure and we’ve cleared the decks and heading off in the morning come rain or shine.
Our plan? We are driving to Rainbow Beach with our motorbike on a trailer. We will catch the ferry across to the island at Inskip Point and then motorbike up to Orchid Beach with two backpacks. We then plan to cross the neck of the island by foot through rainforest and then walk up the West side to Sandy Cape Lighthouse and then return back down the East side.
I hope to keep you updated but an internet connection will be hard to find. We are quite intent about sticking to our plan but will keep an open mind, if we need to divert for some reason.