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  • Writer's picturecatherine@allaboutwriters

Off the Beaten Track

Our road trip along the ruggedly beautiful south coast of Australia – along the aptly named Great Ocean Road – has taken us through dusty country towns to the Southern Ocean. Here, we have stood in silent awe of the limestone rock formations sitting out from the shore, glinting in the setting sun. This coast of cliffs along which countless ships once ran aground, and the pristine beaches the lucky few survivors were able to scramble up. We’ve walked in magnificent forests, dipped in streams and caught waves at tiny inlet beaches along the way. Each day moving on, seeking the sights and filling our souls with the wonders of the water, the coast and the hinterland. Until last night, when we landed in what is to be our home for the next few nights, with no agenda to keep and nothing to attend to but the books in our backpacks.

This moment. A mug of tea on the gnarled redwood table, perched on the edge of the wraparound porch. With the cottage sitting on the edge of a slope, there are no barriers to interrupt the view down to the meadow, where the gracefully awkward alpacas bring a smile to my face. On the slope beyond, a dirt driveway to a hidden farmhouse lined with purple agapanthus. The flowers and patches of mown lawn bring a touch of civilisation to an otherwise wild environment with only the sound of the breeze through the towering gums and the chirps of the birds accompanying the tapping of my fingers as I write.

The breeze is welcome, offering some respite from the heat and bringing the scent of the eucalyptus leaves that is so prevalent. Among the twitters, peeps, melodies and cackles of the birds, there is the not so welcome intermittent buzz of horse flies, stealing my attention just for a moment. It is enough to send my youngest inside, complaining of the injustice of these creatures in this space at this time. I vaguely wave my hand about my face and carry on, knowing it will be back. In the meantime, the twitting carries on, the cool-tinged breeze laps about me, and the corrugated tin roof expands and pops in the sun.

The teeny butterflies are so white they seem tinged with blue, fluttering and flitting between the stalks of tall grass and foxglove. Splashes of yellow across the field – common wildflowers at home but calling for new respect here, leave stripes of colour across the gold and green of the grass. I breathe deeply, wanting to fill my lungs with the clear, crisp air. I can feel the rejuvenation such a place and moment offers my being, away from work and daily tasks, away from cars and streets and crowds. Another slow, deep breath now seems to fill my torso, and all the way to the ends of my limbs. Refreshed, recharged, renewed.

My moment became our moment as my children (10, 9 and 7) joined me. Here are some of our thoughts (in no particular order).

  • The breeze has a welcome hint of cold in its tail as it pushes past me to places beyond.

  • The long grass swiftly brushes to one side as the wind pushes it to where the alpacas are grazing.

  • A twittering catches my attention, so consistent and melodic, and I catch a glance at the yellow breast and brown flittering tail of the robin in the tree beside me.

  • The beautiful white butterfly darts up and down over the yellow flowers.

  • The trees whistle when the wind comes through the eucalyptus leaves, it smells wonderful, like gum.

  • A beautiful purple and black feather swiftly moves through the wind and lands right next to me. I pick it up and it feels so soft, every strand so beautiful.

  • My eyes follow the line of the battered fence from the crooked gate to the alpacas.

  • The sky is so light, so blue. Wispy clouds drift along. It’s almost like you can touch it.

  • The gaps in the trees show the white of a farmhouse on a hillside across. It reminds me of a flock of cockatoos nesting and eating.

  • The trees swiftly rock back and forth. The distant sound of a kookaburra echoes along the valley to my ears.

  • A cluster of butterflies chasing each other, dipping in and out, around and around.

  • Small flowers and a big tree. It has lots of leaves, they look like gum, but it’s a favourite of parakeets for the red flowers they peck at looking for seeds.

  • The alpacas, lazily moving, passing by in the yard and stopping by the lake. The dock holds a boat, bobbing lazily on the water and calling for those who want a calm ride.

  • The green lush vines wrapping around the thick wooden post, reaching up to the roof adding a touch of colour. It has leaves attached to it, and the vines are reaching up alongside a log with a shoot growing out of it.

  • The horse flies fly around in swift circles around my head. They cruise along then suddenly, my hands come shooting out, striking the annoying pests away.

  • The familiar black and white feathers and the gurgling call. Magpies even here.

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