Freedom of the summer road trip

The days start early now; the cool dimness of the first light is refreshing and promising, than the sun sparks up, rises higher and higher above the red roof tops and green tree tops. The Australian sun does not waste any time, and gets to its most intense and ferocious as soon as it passes the tops of Eucalyptus trees. The heat is excruciating by the middle of the day, and in truth, rewarded are those who rise to enjoy the early start to the day, and wind down in the balmy darkness of the evening, to the accompaniment of cycadas.

Moonee Beach, near Coffs Harbour

Summer is sun. Summer is hot. Summer is beach, water, the wide open road and freedom. That’s summer Down Under. With the East Cost of Australia offering over 4000kms of beautiful, open coast, much of it empty, untouched, just calling to be seen and explored, it would be insanity not to take advantage, jump in the car and with the sun just rising over the city, just go, hit the road.

It was on one of these fine mornings that we did just that – we hit the highway. With 1300kms in front of us, it was a road trip. Split over two days, so that we can take in what comes up along the way. People ask – “Aren’t you flying?” and “Why aren’t you flying?”. And only those understand who appreciate that it is not the destination, but rather the journey in itself which provides the greatest adventure. On a normal weekday morning, as others are going to work, or are fighting their phone alarms, we were driving out of the city. That is a priceless moment, short, difficult to capture, but so liberating.

Sunset over Hervey Bay, view from Urungan Pier 

Our destination was Hervey Bay, a town of around 54,000 people on the central coast of Queensland. It is one of ‘our’ spots in the world, a place we love to come back to. It is a relaxed seaside locality, stretched along a quiet, flat coast line which is protected from the open ocean by the landmass that is Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island. This means there are almost no waves hitting the mellow beaches of Hervey Bay, and the water is warm all year around. One of the great things about the place is a walking/riding path which runs along the entire stretch of coast here. That is over 14 kilometres of flat path, with rest areas, piers and constant view of the water and beach along the way. A perfect way to explore and relax.

The drive up from Sydney starts with the Newcastle-bound highway, chisled away laboriously in slabs of ochre sandstone, creating ‘corridors’ with upright stone walls; it flows up and down along the valleys and peaks of the surrounding National Park. With 270 kilometres behind us, we stop for breakfast. The sun is high up now blazing down in an all encompassing, pale brightness. As we cross the Manning River, the turn-offs off the highway get more enticing, these are all places with magnificent beaches and relaxed oceanside aura – Port Macquarie, Hat Head, South West Rocks, Nambucca Heads. Exploring all these wonderful spots would make the 1300km trip into a month-long odyssey  – and how enjoyable that would be!

Coffs Harbour. The highway makes it impossible to bypass it, as it goes right through the city. With 68,000 inhabitants, the city is the largest settlement on this stretch of coast. We are 540kms north of Sydney, and it is a beautiful spot, not untouched by any means, with numerous resorts, hotels and expensive display of formidable residences and summer oasis of the wealthy, but nevertheless a fantastic spot, worth a look. Coffs Harbour enjoys great weather conditions with more sunny days per year than Brisbane, and average temeratures in winter at a very cosy 18 degrees celcius. Surrounded by lush green hills, this is a sub-tropical environment, and seeing the banana plantations all around proves it. Right at the end of the city, around the last bend (coming from the South), on you left-hand side, is the city’s famous landmark – The Big Banana. It’s not so big, but its a nice place for a photo, and perhaps a start to your adventure exploring Australia’s trail of ‘big things’ – keep reading, there is a big one coming up on this trip!

Big Banana, Coffs Harbour

Past Coffs Harbour the highway drifts away from the ocean, but before it does there are places such as Moonee Beach, Safety Beach and Mullaway, all offering easy access to beaches and great picnic spots to enjoy an afternoon break.

Past Grafton, we enter the Northern Rivers country. The landscape changes, it becomes flat again, the highway at times goes back to a single lane, and winds its way through towns, crosses the Clarence River a couple of times, and runs accross Harwood Island. Driving through here I think of blues, landscapes surrounding New Orleans and the Mississippi. It must be the sugar cane, the flatness and the abundance of rivers and water. As the sun sinks behind the gumtrees, and the landscape darkens it is time to consider our sleeping options. Could I keep going, and get through the remaining 480kms? Maybe, but why rush it, and miss out on all the discoveries we could be making the following day?

Woke up in Ballina, a town on Cape Byron, which is Australia’a most easterly point. Ballina is set on the shores of the Richmond River, and while it is close to some excellent beaches, the sprawling town seems more a commercial centre with a riverfront as its attraction. If you are in the area for a little longer, near by is the famous town of Byron Bay, a kind of ‘Mecca’ for hippies, surfers, music lovers and those keen on an alternative lifestyle.

The stretch of highway between Ballina/Byron Bay and Hervey Bay is fairly diverse in terms of scenery and attractions. First up, just past the Queensland border is Gold Coast. Australia’s city of sin. Starting at its southernmost suburb of Coolangatta, just past the border, Gold Coast is a 40 kilometre stretch of beaches, resorts and skyscrapers. The highway is set far from all the action, so if you want to engage in all the fun, shopping, surfing, partying, gambling or whatever else you maybe into, you will need to venture off your path. We keep going, past the amusement parks and into the sprawl of Brisbane’s suburbia. Brisbane is the capital of Queensland, and the third largest city in Australia. It is situated on the banks of the Brisbane River, with a large proportion of the city sitting on floodplains with numerous creeks and estuaries exposing the residents to potential rising waters and flooding. Indeed the city had been hit with crippling floods in 1974, and again in 2011.

North of Brisbane the landscape again becomes lush green, tropical, with the Glasshouse Mountains shooting up above the greenery in a random sort of way. This area is an absolute treasure trove in terms of places to see and explore – from beautiful beaches, to lush green bushland, to numerous old settlements steeped in history.  First stop should be Caloundra, with its grand Kings Beach, than the beaches of the Sunshine Coast. Plenty of sand for everyone here, with this popular stretch of coast running for almost 60 kilometres, all the way to Noosa Heads.

While enjoying the beaches and ocean views is all great, you should not miss the turnoff for Nambour, especially if the big banana ignited your taste for the big things in life. Just off the highway awaits a giant suprise in the form of … “The Big Pineapple”. Far better than its banana cousin, the pineapple and the surrounding pineapple plantation and mini-zoo is definitely worth a visit.

Big Pineapple, Nambour, Queensland

Having sped past Gold Coast and Brisbane, we were starved of attractions, so following a long visit to the big Pineapple, the next stop was only a few kilometres away in a town called Yandina. The town has a fairly long history with European settlement dating back to 1850s. To step back in time, head to the railway station in the centre of town, its wooden structure was erected in 1917. Once the railway station was built, there was a need for a hotel and a fine dining and drinking establishment, so the Yandina Hotel was moved to its current location in the same year. Having felt the nostalgia of standing on the platform waiting for a train to 1917, head over the road and mingle with the locals over a cold glass of the local XXXX beer.

Yandina Hotel, Yandina

Yandina was a great find, and it seems there are a few more gems of this kind in the area with the town of Imbil first on the list for my next trip up here. Yes, that is typical, I have not yet reached my destination and already am planning the next trip. Imbil, Rainbow Beach, Tin Can Bay – these are the top three places to vist next time the road call me up north. For now we were in Maryborough, with Hervey Bay only 30 kms away.

Urangan Beach, Hervey Bay

There was so much more to see along the way, so many stories, so much history and so many beautiful sights. Too quick, too little time. And so many reasons to hit the road again!

The riddle of the Persian rug


There is within me, a burning desire to create something, to make something happen and to achieve a result. The many days spent anchored to a desk, to the phone and to problems and issues which seemed superficial to me as a person, led to a conclusion that there has to be another path, another life, one where you get to realise your ideas and reach your own goals.

Leaving all that seemed superficial behind, leaving the comfortable path and routine of an eight o’clock start and daily longing for the weekend, I am in the wilderness hoping for a great adventure, I am a small splotch in a middle of a blank canvas hoping to be the start of a meanigful masterpiece. It sounds promising, and in moments of elation, rising above the daily concerns, one sees the blank canvas and realises that it is all up to you. It is not just a case of the ups and down of life, being out on your own means you have moments where you have nothing to grasp onto, no direction, you are lost.

There is that burning desire to create, to achieve, to reach for … ??? That’s it, for what? A void. There is nothing pulling you forward, nothing pushing you and that blank page is empty; the hope that your masterpiece will somehown eventuate is a hope lost.

Confronting this void, and channeling this burning desire within you is something which we need to very elegently and gracefully do. I find that looking above these tedious daily details and emotions, looking at the ‘big picture’ is the way forward. What often helps in this lifting and rising is reading, and perhaps writing if you get get past the gloom.

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania the cafe graham bell
The Cafe by Graham Bell, 1938 / Courtesy of

As I write about the ‘splotch’ in the middle of a blank canvas, I realise that perhaps this idea is fuelled by my recent reading of W. Somerset Maugham’s fantastic work “Of Human Bondage”. I do not want to reveal too much of the plot, so I will just touch on one small idea which is explored in the story. Philip, the main character, along his life’s journey meets a man called Cronshaw, a bohemian, a drunk, a talker and a poet. Cronshaw gives Philip a piece of Persian rug as a parting gift.Why? Well, apparently this item represented the meaning of life. Many years later Philip, in a moment of dispair suddenly relised what his friend was trying to tell him.

Philip came to the liberating realisation that “There was no meaning in life, and man by living served no end”. This sudden epiphany took all the pressure off, there was no meaning, one’s life did not serve any particular purpose.

So whats with the Persian rug? Well it provides an uplifting explanation of purpose and direction – “As the weaver elaborated his pattern for no end but the pleasure of his aesthetic sense, so might a man live his life, or if one was forced to believe that his actions were outside his choosing, so might a man look at his life, that it made a pattern”.

Philip was very happy with this revelation. It meant that whatever happened to him from now on, or what ever he choose to do would add to his own masterpiece, it would simply be the continuation of the interwoven pattern of his life. W. Somerset Maugham really lets his character weave a magnificent, intricate and inspired pattern. As a reader we are lucky to enjoy it. And for us, readers? How do we take that next step, when you don’t quiet know what comes next? I guess just think that you are weaving that rug of yours, or you are a splotch in the middle of the canvas. What you do next is of your own choosing, there are no wrong moves, no bad decisions, but do keep going, take the next step, otherwise who will weave your masterpiece? And what are you going to look back on someday?

Exploring for yourself: A trip to the Snowy Mountains

Setting out to explore the unknown, an area you are not familiar with, discover it for your self and on your own terms, one needs to keep in mind the possibility of being dissapointed. A very different concept to a long weekend in Rome or Paris, or a trip to a beach-pinned town on the east coast of Australia. These are obviously enjoyable outings, there is plenty to explore, to eat, to wonder or simply relax in a piazza or at the beach. The exploring I am thinking about is setting out to see an area which is totally unknown or less travelled by, or perhaps outside the usual ‘season’. I for one have plenty such trips in my mind, and in longing for the open road and the excitement of getting out of the city, we set out on such a trip to Australia’s Snowy Mountains.

In Mid-October the skiing season here is finished, and as we later found out the summer hiking and mountain biking season has not yet begun. I was not interested so much in the mountains, as in the area surrounding the mountains. This is Australian country, not the outback, not the beachy coast and not the steamy tropics – but something in between, something which I had to see for myself.

As someone who enjoys the travelling itself, no matter the destination, setting out on the road is probably the greatest pleasure around. The idea is to take your mind off the everydayness, and wonder, reminisce of past travels and adventures, listen to that road trip mix, stare at the open road and count those kilometers clocking up. Australia is the perfect place to indulge in your love of the road. And one should be prepared to take advantage of the open spaces, the emptiness and the nothingness. One must be prepared that perhaps apart from that open road feeling, and the emptiness, there may really be .. nothing else. I mean if you just want to keep going, chase the horizon, follow the sun; you might just have to do that, as there may be very little to stop for. And if you plan to stop, if you give your self a day to ‘explore’ a certain town, or an area you may be just a touch dissapointed. At the same time if you come back home with at least a few highlights, and perhaps a few reasons to go back, then you are bound to reminisce about the trip on your future adventures. So, did I note any highlights, and will I be going back to the Snowies? Of course!


What high hopes I had for this little town! In my mind I saw a country town, at the foot of the mountains, accustomed to the tourists and thrill seekers, but at the same time full of local charm and character. Like Beechworth, or Yackandandah; towns we visited at the beginning of the year. Jindabyne in reality is just a nice view, perhaps a good place for a stroll along the shores of Lake Jindabyne, and a chance to replanish food supplies at a proper supermarket. The town is geared for the snow season, with shops selling ski gear and some clothing, a few overpriced restaurants and various forms of accomodation. Very little in terms of local character it seems. In October it felt deserted and sad.

Lake Jindabyne

Thredbo and the Snowies

Thredbo is an alpine village and a ski resort at the foot of  Australia’s highest peaks. It is here that you can hop onto the Kosciuszko Express chairlift, and travel it’s 1860 metre distance, putting your foot down at 1925 metres above sea level at the end of the ride. Here you can start your walk to Australia’s highest point – Mt Kosciuszko.


The Alpine Way 

Strong winds made any hiking in the mountains very difficult and unpleasant, and if you are not going to walk through the mountains, you may as well drive. The Alpine Way is road which starts in Jindabyne, takes motorists to Thredbo, then winds its way down south, almost touching the Victorian state border, and continues in the north westernly direction onto a town of Khancoban, eventually joining up witht the Murray Valley Highway. The road was originally built in the 1950s, but its surfacing was only finished in the 1990s, and looking at its twists and turns in this rough wilderness it is obvious that building it was a gruelling endeavour. The 78 kilometre stretch to Khancoban takes around an hour and forty minutes. While the does go through the mountains, and possibly pleases the adrenaline seekers with its serpentine path, there is little attractions along the way with dense vegetation covering up any views of the peaks and valleys. The Snowy Mountains HydroElectric Scheme is one point of interest, and just outside Khancoban there is a great view of one of the power stations. Recognised as one of the seven civil engineering wonders of the modern world, the Scheme is a complex system of tunnels, dams and aqueducts which connects to use water in the Snowy Mountains to produce 70% of the renewable energy available on Australia’s east coast. The Scheme took 25 years to build with a huge number of workers invloved, two thirds of whom were migrants originating from 30 different countries. Standing at the side of the road, looking at the huge white pipes barreling down the mountains one can really appreciate the back-breaking, almost tortorous  work that went into the building of this engineering wonder.


Berridale Boulders and Adaminaby

On the road between Cooma and Jindabyne is a town of Berridale. The town itself is unremarkable, and passing through it on a Sunday we were dissapointed to find that even the local bakery was shut and our plan to get a morning coffee went unfulfilled. Coffee or no coffee, the Berridale Boulders were in their righful place, studding the paddocks and hills of the surrounding area. These granite formations are especially visible when driving along the road from Cooma to Berridale.

Berridale Boulders

The boulders offer the only respite from the empty spaces of the Australian country. There is nothing here apart from open spaces, and arriving in Adaminaby early in the afternoon, we are hopefull that this will be a high point of our trip. Adaminaby is a town of 230 inhabitants, it’s claim to fame is the ‘world’s largest trout’, a ‘monument’ adorning the town square. The trout is obviously a celebration of the favourite pastime of the local area – trout fishing, and it has stood tall in this spot since Hungarian-born artist Andy Lomnici completed this 10-metre structure in 1973. Adaminaby is a nice little town, a good place to stop for a coffee and a wander around the few streets, or perhaps if you are here at lunch or dinner time, stop at the Snowy Goose Hotel and order the trout at it’s bistro. Having trout for dinner in Adaminaby was definitely a highlight of the trip for me!

The Big Trout, Adaminaby, NSW

Adaminaby to Tumut

If you want to take a drive through the Snowy Mountains, the drive between Adaminaby and Tumut is the more interesting option. The road is perhaps less winding, no jaw-dropping serpentines along this stretch, but it seemed like there is more to look at, with less vegetation blocking the view from the road, and more points of interest along the way. One of the highlights along the way is the abandond goldmining town of Kiandra. It is just a couple of old buildings, but it’s one of those places that evokes images of a different time; place of discovery, high-hopes and drama. In November 1859 gold was discovered here by local cattlemen, and by early 1860, a settlement of some 10,000 souls grew here on the windy ridges of the Snowies. Kiandra is also said to be the birthplace of Australian skiing. The last resident left Kiandra in 1974, and much of the towns remaining bulidings were demolished, with the last four building being later renovated and preserved for historic value.

Kiandra is the first place worth coming back for, but there is more along this route. The BIG attraction are the Yarrangobilly Caves. This limestone cave system is one of the best in Australia, and definitely worth a look. There are also numerous walking tracks, and the scenery, even seen from the road, promises a very rewarding experience.

Approaching the end of the drive through the ridges and valleys of the Snowies, we descend steeply into the town of Thalbingo. Attractively located on the banks of the Tumut River and the Thalbingo Lake, the town is inhabited by around 240 residents, and it is the birthplace of Australian writer and feminist Miles Franklin.

Our trip ends in Tumut. We are instantly convinced that this town could be the base for a our next venture into the Snowy Mountains. It is beautifully located on rolling, lush green hills of the Tumut valley. The area is a rich agricultural hub and a triving commercial community. Leaving Tumut after a Australian road trip pie lunch at the local bakery, I already have the route for the next trip in mind. And that is the wonderful thing about such trips, you discover your own spots to which, if you are lucky, you come back over and over again.

Spring in Sydney


Sydney Harbour 

Spring is here! This no doubt means more of that wonderful blue Sydney sky, more sun and a warmer breeze. There will be fewer early-mornings chills. The day is getting longer. These are all reasons to leave home right in the morning, as the city comes to life, and come home late in the afternoon as the sun takes its deserved break in its happy red gaze beyond the horizon.

It’s the time to get a spring in your step and start anew. And the first day of spring did not dissapoint! Starting the day with a morning coffee, I was than very excited to pursue a potential new opportunity in the world of fine food. Perhaps a good sign that this opportunity came to coincide with the beggining of spring? Not sure, however it will be a chance to talk to people who pursued their passion and are now in business of selling artisan, finest quality products like bold butter, succulent salami, cheeky cheeses, healing honey and saucy spices, and many, many more. No doubt there’ll be a few occassions to taste those products of love and devotion. It’s really amazing to see so many products out there made with such love and care, and so many brave and talented people making a business out of their passion for quality food. For me this will be an exciting new opportunity with infinite, unexplored possibilities! I will no doubt write more about it in the next few weeks.

Hitting mid-morning, the weather was … almost spectacular, with just a couple clouds, and there was simply no time to waste! Let’s hit the pavement ASAP was the war cry! And with destinations abundant, it was a luxury of simply walking right ahead towards the train and seeing where the track takes us.

Opera House roof gleaming in the sun 

The track was one previously travelled-by, a somewhat obvious choice in this city, not a trip of great discovery but one of spectacular views. As soon as you arrive at Circular Quay and look out the window, you are in for a treat. The Circular Quay ferry terminal, with the blue of the harbour behind it and the Harbour Bridge as the background make up a spectacular view to admire while you get off the train. Downstairs, facing the terminal you have three choices. First one is to find a good ferry destination, hop on a Sydney ferry and admire the city shores form the water. Second is to head to the left, towards the Harbour Bridge, wonder around underneath its gigantic construction and head for a history-infused wander around The Rocks. Finally, the third option is to head right, towards the Opera House, the Botanic Garden, the spectacular location that is Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, and perhaps further towards The art Gallery of NSW and Woolloomooloo. All three options are fantastic! We headed for the Opera House and a walk along the edge of the harbour. It was a great walk – here are a few photos. With spring on our doorstep, and summer taking giant leaps, there are many Sydney adventures to be had.

Sydney Ferry
Walk between the Opera House, Botanic Gardens and Art Gallery of NSW



Lessons from the Stoics

“Freedom is the only worthy goal in life. It is won by disregarding things that lie beyond our control”. Epictetus



Inspiration can come to us from various sources. With this in mind I immersed myself in the Sydney University library to seek to understand the lessons of the Stoic philospohers. Below are just a few lessons we can consider.

“Freedom is the only worthy goal in life. It is won by disregarding things that lie beyond our control”. Epictetus

Epictetus tells us, as do other Stoic philosophers, that we should only consider that which we can control. It is the key to happiness in fact. In order to be happy we should be constantly analysing what is “up to us” and what is “not up to us”. This is can be a difficult task, perhaps the answer will be different for each one of us? However, we should all strive to have this awareness. Having this awareness, we should than only concentrate on the things which are “up to us”.

“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.” Epictetus

Marcus Aurelius in his Meditations, tells us to “confine thyself to the present”, to understand what happens in a given moment, to “direct attention to what is said”, so listen. Do not worry so much about the future, but concentrate on the now, really learn all you can from this particular moment, and from history, as events of the future will in some way replicate those of the past.

“If you are careless and lazy now and keep putting things off and always deferring the day after which you will attend to yourself, you will not notice that you are making no progress, but you will live and die as someone quite ordinary.” Epictetus

The Stoics say to ignore all that you can not control, but at the same time these wise men are adamant that you should look within yourself, find all the good, and devote all your energy and be disciplined in being the best you can be. There is no room for emotions with the Stoics, it is all about reason.

“First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” Epictetus

“Adorn thyself with simplicity and modesty, and with indifference towards the things which lie between virtue and vice…” Marcus Aurelius

Educate yourself, reflect on your education and surround yourself with those who inspire you. Do not let others discourage you, nor let their worries become your own.

“The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence call forth your best.” Epictetus



It’s obvious: Murder

via Daily Prompt: Obvious


“It’s obvious!” She shouted as she walked away, swinging her arm up in the air in a gesture of angry dismissal.

He was left standing in the middle of the room dumbfounded. He did not expect such a reaction. She had always been impulsive, and he had witnessed, and experienced her anger, or fury, in the past. But this?! He had to go. It was obvious to him, but he had asked her to come with him. She somehow came to the conclusion that he wanted to go alone. That he wanted to leave her.

With his hands on his hips, his eyes fixed on the floor, he shook his head and swung around on his heels. He slowly walked towards the small fridge under the kitchen bench. It was almost 3 months since they moved in here. A small granny flat; one bedroom, a living area just big enough for a couch, a TV and a small table. The kitchen bench was just big enough to house the fridge undeneath. A stove and a sink made up the inventory. It got rediculously hot most of the time. The fan was on all the time, windows open right through, and still hot. He opened the fridge and reached for a beer.

“Ooohhhh, what now?” He exhaled and contemplated his future. He was presented with a great opportunity. It would be an awesome adventure and possibly a life changing experience. He had made up his mind, but what about Jo? Is that it?

He walked out onto the little porch. It was still hot outside. After a forty-degree day, the sun was coming down, but slowly. It would be hot for some time yet. The grass was a yellow-brown in colour; no evidence of green grass anywhere to be seen. In fact there was no green anywhere, yellow-brown dominated in the delirious hue of the heat. It was a quiet afternoon, those who were not at work were at the beach or at the pub.

The hours went by slowly. The unbearable lightness now subsided, as did the heat. There were finally some signs of life – children riding bikes amidst the cheering and yelling of a cricket game being played a few houses down the street, someone watering the dead grass and the scent of sausages being cooked on a BBQ.

It had been hours. She had not come back.


He settled himself in the seat. Streched his legs forward as far as he could. It was dark outside, humid and warm. The bus was mostly full, the driver had just shut the door and began pulling out of the bus station. He was on his way.

The events of those few days started coming back to him as the bus drove through the night. The long wait. She had been away for days. No word. No one knew where she was. He had fallen asleep on the couch. Woke up just as the day was breaking and saw that she had not come back. He made a few calls about eight. Her friends had not heard from her. No one in town had seen her. By the afternoon he was worried. That night he went to the Police station, he told them she had not come back and she had nowhere else to go.

“What happened between you and your girlfriend that afternoon? they asked. The neighbours heard yelling. They did not see anyone come out of the house. The cops thought that she may still be in the house. They searched the granny flat the next morning. They looked dissapointed having found nothing inside the flat. Yet he still remained the number one suspect. Somehow everyone in town qickly saw him as a killer. It became obvious to all onlookers that she was dead, and he was the one who killed her.


He was finally falling asleep. It had been days since he slept, and despite the memories flashing before his eyes, his body had enough.

Possibly in a dream, he saw her. She was wearing the same dress as the day when she stormed out, furious and convinced that he wanted to go without her. His dream somehow took him to happier times; times separated by just days from the terrible events that followed their fight.

As if to remind him that only sleep will bring him comfort, but sleep is at a premium his memory will not afford him, he woke up again. Back to reality. Back to the darkness of the bus. Now he saw her again, dressed in dirty jeans and an old shirt. A man’s shirt. That is what she was wearing when she finally came back. Unaware of the shit storm she had caused, she just turned up in an old, beaten up Ford, to get her things. Her new flame sat in the car, watching and making sure no harm came her way.

They had exchanged a few angry words, but he was crushed, he felt nothing. The last few days had been a nightmare. Accused of his girlfriend’s murder, tortured for days by the gossip, the stares and guilt. Yes, he felt guilty – maybe he was too selfish, maybe the news of his great new job and the impending move hit her too hard? It was all a blur, a delirium; he simply did not know what was happening. The final blow crushed him – it took just a few hours for her to forget all about him and their fight; while he was going through a nightmare she was oblivious to the world around her, shacked up with some bloke she met at the pub.

He packed up the next day, and waited for his flight out. But it would be sometime before he was himself again.


Past Travels and Life’s Tales


Big cup of steamnig, strong black coffee on the table, blinds still drawn, a cold and wet day outside. It’s still early in the morning. Quiet.I always look forward to these quiet early starts on my days off. This is the moment I sometimes try to write. Lately I have been trying my hand at some fiction. The idea was to try writing some dialogue, and also, importantly, get out of my head a little. Mulling over and milling around ideas and concepts, over and over in your head can be tiresome. Fiction gets me writing, just putting words on the page and running with the story. This is important in developing a habit of writing. I have done this with running and fitness in the past, so I know this is a good approach. Find time and space, and force your self to write, even when you doubt yourself, your skills and … well, generally everything. Just write. After a while it becomes a habit. You no longer have to force yourself, as it is something you need, crave and can not live without – like coffee. So thats habit and routine.

As I have written on this blog a few posts back, routine is good but it does not necessarily help creativity and it can sometimes be a little of a ‘kill joy’. There is little point writing if it does not bring out your creative side, and if it is not enjoyable. So every so often we need to ‘refresh’. Just stop and look at the big picture – what are we trying to do? Where are we going with this? This is vital to stay focused and enjoy what we are doing.

So … Stop. What is the big picture? What is the idea of OnTheBarge? A little while ago I wrote this passage on the About page:

Imagine yourself living on a weathered, worn and humbled barge posing as a hotel, in the backstreets of a restless, hot and dusty city, with an eclectic and colourful group of guests from all walks. Where conversations center around life’s tales, those of glory and defeat, where politics and revolutions are discussed in real and lively words and where the world seems truly a small place and it’s people a large tribe.

Writing the blog would be so much easier if I was constantly travelling. Or if I did actually live on an old barge somewhere with an exotic address, somewhere where it is hot and humid. Well, I have been living in Sydney for the past 9 months, of which the last 3 have been coldish, little wet and dark, if we consider the short days. With the start of spring waiting in the wings, it is time to plan some travels and get exploring. This is something to look forward to, but Onthebarge is also about imagination and reliving something – life’s tales. With that said let’s use the imagination and tell those tales of endless adventure and ‘on the road’ experiences. From the tavernas of Crete and hotels of Istambul, to the road-side motels of Australia.

On the river
Live-on barge, Mekong, Laos


Old Town Square, Wroclaw, Poland
Road house and Motel, Pimba, South Australia 

Cafe scene continued …


There is so much more to the day than going to work, Rich thought. It is really worth experiencing a day like this. The morning stretches so much further when you have no where to go, when you are not the one in a hurry but you watch the world unreval. A consistent flow of people headed past the cafe windows, some stopping for Jack’s coffee, some in a hurry. The cafe was busy now, there was a constant clinging of plates and glasses, the hiss of the coffee machine, Jack’s chatter with the regulars. And the smell – fresh brewed coffee and toast, that is the smell of morning.

His cup was now empty. He moved it to the side of the table and got his sketch book and pencils out of his bag. “Chatter” he wrote across the top of an empty page. He watched Jack talk to his customers, he knew their names, he new their stories. People were happy to talk to the barista. Rich sketched a few coffee cups and a couple of figures. He loved to draw, but he didn’t do it very often. It always seemed like something irrelevant, unnecessary and unproductive. Nothing to do with work, nothing to do with his goals. Just sometimes the need to get his notebook out came through.

“Can I get you anything else?” the waitress asked, standing next to his table and takin the empty cup.

“Another coffee? A flat white, please.” He answered looking up and smiling. She was pretty, with a nice, sincere smile. She looked happy.

“Sure. You draw?” She looked at my sketch book, and with a big smile she pointed to the page “Is that me?”

“Yeah, a little bit. I was just playing around. Just watching you guys mingle with the customers.” I answered somewhat embarrassed. She smiled and walked away towards the counter.

He watched the waitress and touched up his sketch. There. That’s more like her, he thought, happy with the result.

“What do you think now?” He showed her the page as she came over to his table. She put down his coffee and took his sketch book. Her smile became even broader. Her eyes laughed.

“That’s really cool. You are good!” She answered, “An artist”.

“I am glad you like it. Thanks. I just draw sometimes, when I feel the need.” He was happy that she liked it, “You are new here, right? I have not seen you here before.”

“Oh, you are a regulat. Cool. Yeah, I have been here for a week. Yeah, about that. Sorry, I better get back to it.” She hurried over to the counter where there were a few more people waiting to pay for their coffees.

Rich sipped his coffee. There morning rush was coming to an end. There was less people running to the train now.

“Rich, how was your coffee? Awake now?” Jack looked over from behind the coffee machine, his morning coffee making-run was coming to an end.

“Great, thanks mate. Awake. It’s quiet a rush you guys have here in the morning, I guess it gets you alert very quickly” He replied. Jack again turned his attention to a client at the counter.

Where is this going? Need to expand the three characters. And what is Rich’s plan for the day? 

A refreshing start

The cool air was refreshing. Like a mighty strong coffee – it went straight to your senses and you were awake. The vast blue sky lit up with the promise of a sunny day. For many the day had already started. In the car or with a brisk step, people where heading towards their morning destinations.

I take life too seriously. Why do I always analyze everything over and over? That is why it is so hard for me to write. I stay inside my head and come up with the same stuff. Thoughts, doubts, some deliberations. I need to lead my imagination to a different place, a different time. A time and a place that has nothing to do with me. 

The sun was shining through the fogged up window announcing the start of a new day. It was quiet, just a few birds, the humming of the fridge and the moving of the floor boards upstairs. He listened in to the silence for a moment. Sat down on the couch, just taking it all in. Then got up, grabbed his bag, put on his hat and walked out the door.

The cool air was refreshing. Like a mighty strong coffee – it went straight to your senses and you were awake. The vast blue sky lit up with the promise of a sunny day. For many the day had already started. In the car or with a brisk step, people where heading towards their morning destinations. Most in a hurry. Many with a sombre look on their face. For Rich, watching these people in their morning routine was enjoyable, he himself was not in a hurry, he did not have a destination. His was simply enjoying the start of a new day – because he wanted to, not because he had to. Big difference, one that made him smile.

The drycleaners, the barber shop, the bottleshop and the pizza place were all shut lifeless. It would be hours still until the oven would be fired up and someone’s taste buds called for a margarita. For the Vietnamese drycleaners these were probably the 4 hours in which they allowed themsleves a rest. The barber shop would be buzzing a little earlier with all the Lebanese boys coming in for a shave and a chat. Right at the end of the short strip of shops were the red window frames of the Rosebud. Few tables outside, visible from a distance told you that it was a cafe. Coming closer one had no doubts – coffee.

“Good morning Rich” Came the greeting as soon as he walked through the door.

“Morning Jack” He answered, looking to his left, at a tall man wiping one of the small tables.

“You not going into work this morning? And you are out and about already?” The man finished wiping the table, stood up and with the wet cloth in his right hand moved closer to the counter, “What’s going on mate?”

“Got the day off, no work apparently. Yeah, I thought I would see what the world looked like in the morning when you don’t have to rush to work.” He explained. “Busy morning?”

“Not yet. It’s still early. But it will be soon. Coffee?” the man asked, now behind the coffee machine.

“Yes, please. I will have it here. Always wondered what it would feel like to sit at those windows and not have to go to work. I guess you get that everyday, right?” He smiled, moving towards the small table at the back, near the window. He took his bag off and sat down. Facing the cafe and the street on the other side of the window.

“Yeah mate, I get it everyday. And love it each time the sun comes up.” came a jolly reply, “So, you got anything in particular planned for the day? It’s going to be a nice one. Good morning.” The greeting was directed at a woman who had just come in.

“I am not sure yet. I just though I would wander about a little. I will get the train into the city and see where I end up” Rich replied. A few more people had come in since he arrived. He looked out the window not wanting to expand on his plans for the day. People were going past in more and more of a hurry. Laptop bags, few briefcases, couple of school bags, and of course handbags. Everyone was ready for the day’s tasks. Rushing towards the train.

“Thank you” he said looking up at a girl who put his coffee on the table. A new girl. Long black hair, not too tall, in the standard waitress black. She smiled and walked away towards the counter. He looked at Jack behind the coffee machine, now busy feeling a line of paper cups with the coffee and milk. He looked up at him and smiled.

Jack owned the Rosebud Cafe. He made the coffee and did some cooking. He usually had a waitress to help him out with serving the customers, make toasts and plate muffins and the like. Rosebud did not have too much of a menu, but it was a great place for a coffee and a chat.

Ok, that may not be moving too far away from my time and my place, but it’s a start. Little to do with thoughts, more about simple tasks, a few different characters and a few places – one in a totally different place and time. Let’s come back to this, ok? 

Passion over ambition and expectations


The most important thing in any venture in life is to keep yourself focused on the big picture; work hard, as is often advised – stick to a routine, but stay fresh, creative and open-minded. The daily grind, routine, discipline and getting the details right is important, vital even, however one we must remember what the end goal is. It is very easy to fly off, in enthusiasm or momentary dispair, into unproductive questioning and back-tracking, or even sudden plans to turn it all around.

Reading Chris Nichols’ blog entry titled “Remembered for Something” on his blog The Renegade Press, I think about ambition. In his revealing piece, Chris writes about a moment of weakness in which he sought fame, and wanted to take his writing talent to the world. His ego told him he wants to be great, he wants to sell many books, be famous and make lots of money. He got sidetracked, ended up spending time on tasks other then his writing, with no positive results forthcoming, Chris had to look within him self and find his way back to his original path and goal – to write. This is a place we all finds oursleves, not only in the sphere of writing, but in all paths of life. I think it has a lot to do with ambition, and in a number of ways it is a product of societal expectations. This ‘trap’ can be very powerful in holding us back from pursuing our passions and doing things our way. Instead of simply doing it we ask – What will I become? Will I be good at it, successful?

We all want to be good at something. By being ‘someone’ – a writer, manager, professor, accountant, we are defined and safe.”What do you do?” – is a question we want to answer safely, convincingly, without roundabout explanations. That is a minimum. Then comes ambition and expectations. We want to be good at what we do, but whats important we want others to acknowledge that we are good, and we want to be rewarded for it. With this in mind we may actually loose sight of what we want to do, or what we saw as our big picture. Instead of getting down to write, one will spend time trying to sell their writing to the big publishers, instead of pursuing a business idea or gaining new skills one may focus on looking for a job, believing that the job will provide satisfaction, money and a piece of mind.

Recently in a conversation with a young work collegue of mine, I was saying that it is really, really difficult to actually do what you want in life. It must be said that for most of us even knowing what we WOULD want to do in life is not obvious. I stress the WOULD, because at that instant I consider a hypothetical case – if we suddenly had absolutely no excuses – time, money, physical condition etc. – would we actually know what we wanted to do?

At times of optimistic highs, I manifest the belief that one should try to do what they think is right for them, what they feel they are good at or what they where destined to do. If some searching is necessary, then that is what one should devote themselves to. This may mean years of not fulfilling ‘your potential’ or years of going in circles and endlessly battling self-doubt. Staying vulnerable, but with the belief that – “there maybe something there for me”. After all what is the alternative? Will we get a second chance?

When pessimism hits, I set my sights on all the negative interpretations of “reality”. A bout of desperation often results in a determined dash towards the safehouses of “good job”, various specialist courses, and throwing away all the distractive and destructive nonsense. Trying to answer questions such as – Where will I be in ten years? Do I actually know what I am doing? Then, once the pessimism wears off, I come to the realisation that I prefer to stay myself, struggle but do it my way, with hope that I will find what I am looking for or what I set my mind on will in the end prove to be the right choice.

In the end we only have this one shot at it. So.. don’t be scared of failure, don’t let your ambition blind your passion and do not worry what others think of you.