WANDERING: NSW SOUTH COAST

I can't resist adding another chapter to my rambling documentation of visits to the NSW South Coast (past instalments are here and here). 

In my mind, the South Coast is a distillation of a lot of the things that make the NSW coast so lovely. It's all these disparate wonders clustered together around a little bay. The beaches are uncorrupted and perfect; with white sand and water running from the brightest turquoise to deep clean blue.

A short drive inland, and you're in the kind of bushland that is just so uniquely Australian that it makes your heart sing for the likes of May Gibbs and Banjo Paterson. Big granite canyons rushing with water, wildflowers winding around every rock and trunk, and the specifically snakey feeling of bush undergrowth in this country. And there's nothing quite like seeing a towering waratah bloom in the wild... Seeing something so spectacular existing so quietly gives it an increased poignancy, a spark struck among the dusty grey-green march of the eucalypts. 

Even the farmland is beautiful, soft green rolls of hills leading out to the sea, the kind that make you want to quit the city and take up dairy farming. At least, for a minute. 

Actually, now that I think about it, every time I visit the South Coast I try to concoct a plan that involves me not heading back to the city. But dairy farming might be a bit out of my expertise sphere, I think...

WANDERING: CAPE SCHANCK

We left home in the dark, driving south down the peninsula with only a rough idea of where we might go. The world turned dusky and grey around us while we drove, the day starting to seep in along tree tops and horizon edges. We stopped in an empty car park, then set off down a track, down some stairs. More colours steadily leeched in with the daylight.

And just as we headed around into a little cove, the sun broke over the distant headlands, throwing all it's flashy, fluorescent colours up onto the low clouds. Celebratory colours because it wasn't raining, because we weren't it the city, weren't at work, stuck in traffic or on commuter trains full of sad suits. Celebratory colours because we were somewhere alone, quiet, empty. Not sharing space with strangers. Or with concrete and plastic and mechanical sounds.

Just us and the big ocean. 

Just us and a little window on the quiet wild world. 

WANDERING: HANGING ROCK

Vintage dress and hat; Wandering Coyote boots.

Hanging Rock, Victoria - Wurundjeri country.

“Although we are necessarily concerned, in a chronicle of events, with physical action by the light of day, history suggests that the human spirit wanders farthest in the silent hours between midnight and dawn. Those dark fruitful hours, seldom recorded, whose secret flowerings breed peace and war, loves and hates, the crowning or uncrowning of heads.” 
― Joan Lindsay, Picnic at Hanging Rock

WANDERING: HOME

Joe Cocker and John Steinbeck, Jenny Lewis and Charles Manson biographies. Ciders and sketchbooks on a picnic rug in the dappled shade. Coffee at 5am watching the sun rise, walking with bare feet across the dewy lawn to get a better photograph. Watching the neighbour brush her graceful black horses in the soft light of a crisp evening. Tiny nieces and nephews. Mandarin and lime-scents, fresh off the tree. Pandanus palms and pale pink barnacles, collected among the rocks on a lagoon-like beach. Pitch-dark nights and soft beds, and more than anything, peace. 

WANDERING: PETERBOROUGH

The real upside of Victoria having kinda petulantly unpleasant weather throughout nine months of the year is that sometimes you get a weekend of perfect sunshine blue, and no one has planned for it. 
That means when you show up at a well-situated dog-friendly camping ground somewhere along the Great Ocean Road, there's no one else there except for a German couple in a campervan who probably would have been there even if it was snowing. 

Another upside of the Great Ocean Road is that the Twelve Apostles is an incredibly famous Australian landmark, and just a far enough trek out of Melbourne to make it the end point of the journey for most people, before they need to turn around and head back because everyone is now tired, hungry and over it. But on the other side of the Apostles, the Peterborough side, there's still so many more beautiful coastal landmarks to visit, from Loch Ard Gorge to the Bay of Martyrs, which are a bit less crowded.

All along that coastline, the intensity of the orange earth against turquoise water was incredible. Maybe everything just seemed more vibrant because it was our first bright, outdoorsy day after a long stint of dreary, drizzly, overcast days. Whatever the cause, I was completely taken with winding walks through coastal scrub, looking down into canyons of ochre-hued cliff-faces filled with restless, rich blue, wandering along deserted beaches strewn with cuttlebones, and finally sprawling out on springy green grass to have an afternoon rest with the Beany dog while Scotty hunted around for fishing spots. 

It's pretty idyllic stuff. 

 

 

WANDERING: MYOLA/JERVIS BAY

I've written about Myola before, but on our most recent stay we saw another face of this perfectly sleepy beachside town... long, lazy, rainy afternoons full of naps and holiday reading, one stunningly bright day of stand-up paddle-boarding and kayaking along the river to the sea, chasing hordes of soldier crabs across the estuary flats, long hikes across headlands and rocks to find fishing spots, impromptu pub dinners across the river at Huskisson, crystal waters at Green Patch, geography lessons about exactly what state you're in around Jervis Bay (part of it's ACT, as it turns out...), tame wallabies, killer mosquitos, dead stingrays, early morning beach treks in light rain chasing black cockatoos, and watching through the kitchen window as huge roos hop down the middle of the empty street.

Just writing about it now has me ready to pack the car, shirk responsibility, and speed off up the Hume to a better horizon...

Anti-bad Vibes Shield towel by Volcom, glasses by Sportsgirl, tassel tank from Zara, jewellery by Rejoice the Hands and The 2 Bandits. 

WANDERING: ICELAND

It's taken me almost a year to work through these photos and polaroids … This might be because Iceland was so incredible I couldn't narrow it down to a few snaps, or maybe because I'm a terrible procrastinator.

Either way, here they are -- a week wasn't nearly enough to explore this amazing, out-of-this-world country. I definitely hope to make it back for a better look.

WANDERING: AUCKLAND WITH VOLCOM





A few months back, I took off for a few quick days in Auckland with the other Volcom ambassadors and some lovely friends, including Seb Zanella from Desillusion mag, and his incredible wife Marie from Le Monde Est A Nous. We were managed to fit in a whole lot over the few days -- from a 'School of Cool' evening meeting lots of lovely people, to volcano cocktails and a bit of denim jacket painting.

My Auckland travel diaries are up on the Volcom blog here...

WANDERING: BELGIUM TO SWEDEN

We landed in Brussels half-delirious and totally over it … the 30-hour long-haul flight from Australia was replete with all the usual horrors: loudly airsick person across the aisle, hysterically crying child a few rows back, water doled out in tiny drink bottles begetting perpetual thirst, weak sleeping pills, weird food options, bad rom-coms …
But looking out the window on the way down and seeing all the funny neat houses with their austere-middle-management-type architecture, all the green fields and white wind turbines, all the crisp early light, was a new kind of radical. That’s fucking Belgium down there! We’re going to be in this place, the opposite side of the world, where we don’t know anything, and hardly anyone.
It was probably seven or eight in the morning by this time, and we were met by two friends in a turquoise-green van, papered with DIY skate company stickers and harbouring a case of warm Jupiler tins. This van – along with another of the same make and model, only red, and with a better built-in fridge – would be our home for the next week, as our gang of eight drove from Antwerp to Malmo, questing for skate parks, sunny days and strong beer.
All of which is a fun idea until you’ve built up five days’ worth of hangovers, food poisoning and skating sweat without any showers.
But whatever, the highlights were things like …

ANTWERP

Antwerp was one of my favourite cities on our whole trip – the first place we went into was a shop with skulls and urchins, but I didn’t buy any because I still had to pass customs in five or six more countries. And the last place we went into was essentially a beer café. I have never drunk so much beer in my life. I also didn’t drink beer again for the rest of the trip, and probably not for another three months once we were back in Australia.  

DOEL
Doel is an abandoned town/doomed city in East Flanders. It’s supposed to be demolished en masse to expand Antwerp’s harbour. But it’s got this beautiful thing happening where colourful street art is climbing the walls of all the empty houses and shops like rough Ironlak ivy. There was also Roa artwork and a windmill, all of which I was impressed by. And no venomous snakes or spiders in any of the overgrown houses (natural Australian instincts were in overdrive).

ON THE ROAD
Things like driving on the Autobahn, spotting deer and buzzards, keeping an eye out for wolves, collecting wild poppies and acorns in a vacant lot, photographing nature collections, finding the odd jellyfish, the best spiced whiskey I've ever had (can someone in Europe send me a box of William Lawson Super Spiced Whiskey?) …

GERMANY
The DIY camp in Hannover, Germany gave me a taste for year-round Christmas decorations in outdoor trees, as well as fortresses made of pallets, fake plants, and plastic jewels.
Hamburg was colourful, dirty, scary and cool – we parked the vans in the parking lot, got drunk and barbecued bratwurst … I probably laughed the hardest I’ve ever laughed in that city. I was also the second-most scared I’ve ever been when I was trying to sleep in the van while a homeless man circled outside, muttering and yelling into the night. And in German, no less.   

COPENHAGEN/CHRISTIANIA
In Copenhagen we slept in the vans on the outskirts of Christiania, a ‘free town’ that to my Australian mind was just completely incomprehensible. And before we slept, we trekked out to a little beach on the shore of Christiania’s lake – past beautiful handmade houses and strange rambling constructions – built a fire and drank beers and laughed until the early hours.

SWEDEN
There was a festival in Malmo, Sweden, when we got there – we caught the end of a Graveyard set, ate burritos and drank Coronas, somewhat culturally inexplicably. We walked for miles through the rain to some scary-loose pub to find two ex-pat Australians, who would lead us through the city and the bars and eventually get us so dead-lost we ended up on the grounds of what was possibly a mental hospital, carrying a cardboard cut-out clown, all arguing about how to get back to the hostel. I also remember laughing a lot playing a weird board game in a pub in Malmo – I think it was called Caromse or something, going by the drunken scrawling in my notebook.


And after all that, we waved to the guys in the vans at Copenhagen airport and turned our sights to Iceland … with the hope of a big of rehab and rest, and whatever the strangest place in the world had in store for us. 

WANDERING: FARM HUES


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On the last two times I've visited my parents' farm, I've found something that I didn't even believe existed there. First, it was the turtles in the river; which, in my 18 years haunting those riverbanks, I never saw. 

More recently, it was a tree-dweller I'd never even looked for. 

So, yesterday we were driving up the side of a mountain in my dad's 4WD. We headed through state forest and into National Parks' land, ricocheting along a washed-out fire trail, past grass trees and native orchids and towering eucalypts that made me feel vertiginous and insignificant and tied to the spiritus mundi all at once. 

I was staring out the opposite backseat window -- looking through the canopy onto the mountains below -- and thinking about how heights make me nervous and acknowledging that I'm an unequivocal valley/coastline dweller, when I spotted someone staring right back at me. 

A koala -- probably 200 metres away -- was sitting up on a branch of a giant, exposed gum, watching our white truck labouring up the mountainside track. And at first, I genuinely thought it was staring at me, personally. 

I yelled for dad to stop the truck, jumped out and ran to the edge of the track to watch the koala more closely. In all our time living with a back fence of bushland, we'd never seen a koala in our area or any neighbouring farms, so were considerably stoked and impressed as he clambered into a more leafy part of the tree and disappeared from view again. 

And while it might seem like just another weird and unexpected animal sighting, for me it underlined the thing I love most about the natural world: that every secret revealed, and every gift received is all blind luck. To me, seeing wild animals in their environment, or finding feathers or skulls or snakeskins, has always felt like finding something so rare and precious and privileged ... and I'm infinitely grateful that I was taught to feel that way about it. 




WANDERING: MONTJUIC CEMETERY


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I'm usually most awestruck by natural wonders -- I can see how cathedrals and big bridges are impressive, and I'm yet to see the pyramids or the Taj Mahal, so maybe I'll change my tune then, but usually I'll take a waterfall over a church, the ocean over an historic building. 

Montjuïc Cemetery in Barcelona might just be the exception to that -- we passed it on the drive in from the airport, on our first day in the city, and I couldn't stop thinking about it. It's almost incomprehensible how many families and individuals are emotionally tied to that steep mountainside overlooking the port. 

It's terrace upon terrace of the dead, but more importantly -- and less morbidly -- it's a huge monument to remembering the lives of loved ones, to enshrining the sacredness of life and everything that happens within it, and to pushing back the curtain for a few more years while people still visit the past, the lost love, while they still bring flowers and icons and wipe away the dust and soot. 

Mostly, it's the kind of place that makes you realise how awesome some man-made monuments can be, but it also illuminates the futile and naive frustrations that drive humans to make beautiful things.

 Even if we can't properly comprehend mortality and loss, at least we can make a damn good shrine to it. 

// TOWNES //


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Volcom button-up; Midnight Rider Townes Van Zandt shirt via Bona Drag; rings from Spell and the Gypsy Collective, Southset, Rejoice the Hands and vintage/markets; hat from Camberwell markets.

I’m growing a couple of cacti in my front yard – where my dog can’t rip them out and chew them up, because that’s what she’s into – and I’m obsessed with them. I check them every day. One’s a Euphorbia Mammillaris Variegata that blushes pink and orange in the sun; and the other is a tiny Opuntia Santa Rita that is rapidly growing new pads and will eventually be like a purple prickly pear with yellow flowers.

So this obsession – teamed with recent thistle-harvesting and flower-pillaging activities – has me wondering: is my newfound fascination with plantlife a symptom of ageing? As you get older, do parts of your child mind return? Maybe being more aware of mortality restores your sense of wonder and fascination with the world.

I was really into plants and animals and mushrooms (in a non-druggy way) when I was a kid; and I would collect fungi and burrs and seedpods and flowers and leaves, but there was a whole bit there during adolescence where I wasn’t really interested. I was just into Dead Kennedys and drinking and angst and resistance and posters of Trent Reznor.

Also, I distinctly remember being a teenager who was really preoccupied with trying to make things happen a certain way. Eventually, in my early 20s, I read that DFW line about trying to engineer your fate, and now I kind of drift along and just try to make good decisions and work hard without trying to force anything. But I was also, at 19, right into drinking and smoking and putting on all those artistic-literary affectations. I later realised that drinking and smoking actually made me a worse artist, so I scaled that rightback too. Maybe getting rid of those compulsions and preoccupations freed up some time for me to start looking at and appreciating the natural world again.

Anyway, I’m thinking about this because I sometimes see qualities of my parents surfacing in me – which is in no way a bad thing – and I am just so looking forward to heading home to the farm at the end of this week. I’m looking forward to walking through the garden with my mum while she tells me about her different plants, whether they’re happy and what lives in them; and to seeing my dad walk into the big wooden kitchen at midday, with some delicate, beautiful insect or bird cupped in his broad oil-stained palms. I’m even looking forward to hearing those goddamn cicadas for a second.


Over the past few years, I think I’ve softened my resistance against life’s inertia, which is making things a little easier. There’s a difference between working hard and struggling against reality, although both are hard fights. But anyway, being psyched on a colour-changing cactus comes with way less complications and contingencies than some of the things I fretted over when I was younger. 

WANDERING: MELBOURNE TO BYRON



So I made another video... this one probably isn't as interesting as the last, and is a bit longer and even more self indulgent(!)... But if you were wondering what I was doing while I was away (road tripping from Melbourne to Byron Bay and then back to the farm), here it is. 
Yep, it's mostly a video of my dog (at 0:40 she realises she can't swim properly -- twice -- which is pretty funny). 

Sketchbook: unfinished business


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It's been a weird week -- a bit of whirlwind work trip to Tasmania, and then all of a sudden I'm back at work again tomorrow. 
So I haven't started any work on actual projects this week, just a cranked out a couple of quick plane/hotel/bar sketches and revisited/rehashed a whole bunch of unfinished sketches from last year... 
There's just never enough time to get them all down. 

Sketchbook: Stolen flowers


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By the time I arrive home from work in the evenings, dusk is already well on it's way and so Humble and I often end up going for a walk in the dark. The upside of the slightly scary experience of walking around in the dark is that I can steal flowers out of my neighbours' gardens and not feel quite so weird about it. 
So, yep, that's what I do.
Also, I do this partly because Humble has chewed/eaten/ripped up/strewn-around-the-yard everything that grows in the ground and is smaller than a full-fledged tree. Including cacti.