The Australian Desert

“The Sunburnt Country”

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

This post is not promoting anything, its not teaching you how to cook something, its not even really a story… it purely is just a reflection on my time exploring the Australian red desert.

It’s known as the place where you explore in your “later years”. The place that gathers grey nomads form afar, with their camper vans, decked head to toe in Kathmandu gear, traveling roughly 20km under the recommended speed limit and dodging the indigenous population at all cost…. This was my previous ignorant opinion of Central Australia. Like many others my age the concept of travel and “discovering the world” has previously had absolutely nothing to do with Australia. The furthest corners of the earth has been where I have had my eyes set on.. Saving every penny to purchase the dearest ticket, to shoot myself into the sky and sit cramped up for stupidly long periods of time… all for the excitement of exploration. New experiences, new insights to spirituality, new beautiful things to photography and more importantly new and interesting things to eat. I am talking any country that reflects nothing of my own culture.. France, Spain, Greece, Vietnam,… for gosh sake I even wanted to go to India this year! Anything to submerge myself somewhere as far from my reality as possible.

I, like so many other Australians have always said “I would like to see Uluru.. some day.. it’s on the to do list”. Well we all know that “some day” is not a day of the week, so I was very happy and extremely blessed to be given the opportunity to travel with my family on a discovery to the unknown Australian desert.

To be perfectly honest, before leaving I was looking forward to spending time with family, and mildly excited to see this giant rock that school so frequently banged on about, but to say I was extremely excited would very much be a lie. Maybe this was partly the reason I was so over come and impacted by what I discovered in the centre of Australia.

So what did I discover you ask?…. where do I start. I guess I feel that I found the true essence of Australia, the heart of this beautiful country that I call home. Growing up on the east coast of Australia I have a wonderful appreciation for Australia’s magnificent beaches and city life. I have snorkelled The Great Barrier Reef and been fortunate enough to travel a little to realise that Australia really has the most beautiful beaches in the world, (minus the sharks and lots of deadly stingy things!!).. but like many other countries to discover there are beaches and cities alike nearly everywhere you go. My father has a fantastic habit when he travels to compare wherever we are to a familiar place, suburb or location from home.. and often he is bang on.. “this is like the Darling Harbour of Vancouver” or “this is like the Newtown of New York”. Central Australia however is NOT somewhere you can compare to anywhere.. it truly is like a different world, almost like you have arrived on another planet.

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National ParkThe first thing that you very quickly notice when arriving in the Australian Desert is the magnificent colour. I have grown up reciting the famous line from Dorothea Mackellar’s poem “My Country”…. I love a sunburnt country, A land of sweeping plains. never has this had any relevance to me until I took a drive from Alice Springs to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. The brilliant “sunburnt” red ( it really is the only way to describe it) of the sand contrasting with he vibrant blue sky is simply breathtaking. I was prepared with my beloved digital SLR camera to take a few great family shots on the trip, however became so mesmerised with how my camera was capturing the unbelievable colour of the landscape that I ended up taking over 600 shots within 5 days.. One very happy photographer.

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

Now the landscape is going to impress anyone alike, however the culture and spirituality in central Australia is what really knocked me for a six! From the moment I saw Uluru I got goose bumps. It is larger, more detailed, redder and certainly more impressive than anything I ever imagined. There sitting in the barren flat desert landscape is this 348 m tall sandstone formation (that is my very logical description of it). My first encounter of Uluru was at afternoon sunset drinks with the family, where the whole time I kept saying it looked like the back drop from a movie set that would be rolled away when our scene was finished.  I drove around Uluru, I rode a bike around Uluru, I walk up to it, viewed it at sunrise and viewed it at sunset.. the whole time all I could think was… HOW! How on earth has this beautiful rock formation come to be here, smack bang in the centre of Australia, 1000’s of years old. Taking the Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park spiritual walk gave me a very open and different answer to my “how”. It wasn’t the scientific explanation, or the explanation from the time of white settlement but rather a snap shot into our indigenous ancestors incredible dream time stories, love and knowledge of this remarkable landmark. The respect and history for this powerfully beautiful rock from the Aboriginal culture is something that really resonated with me.

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

Now the issue that nearly everyone talks about when visiting Uluru and the most asked question for me when I returned was “Yeah but did you climb it!!”. Firstly when I initially saw the rope that you cling to for dear life to scale the side of Uluru, I thought you would bloody need rocks in your head to even think about it.. but after taking in spiritually everything Uluru had to offer and speaking with the local aboriginal cultural guide it quickly became very clear to me.. for the life of me I could not find one reason to or ever understand why anyone would be so disrespectful to walk, climb or even touch such a beautiful sacred and precious formation. There are so many stories to learn that I will not share with you in the hope that you will go and listen and learn and take it all in for yourself one day.. 

Central Australia is now high on my priorities to return to for some more new experiences, new insights to spirituality, new beautiful things to photography and more importantly new and interesting things to eat. It is funny how I thought these things were only possible to discover far away from home.. but now know they are in my very own back yard.

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

To finish this post I thought I would leave you with some more words from Dorothea Mackellar’s poem “My Country” that really resonated and reflected my new found love from the Australian Desert.

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land –
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand –
Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.

Lots of love

xxx Holly

p.s here are a couple of beautiful new friends I made along the way!

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Mudgee….. an old town with a buzzing with a great new vibe!

Someone please hit play on The Dixie Chicks because A Pretty Little Life is back on the road and in search of some more “Wide Open Spaces”…… this time …..destination Mudgee!Mudgee1Sit back, relax and breath in the goodness as I take you on my weekend away to the old town of Mudgee that is buzzing with a new vibe!

Mudgee_9161Mudgee is a quite country town located roughly 3½ hours drive north/west of Sydney. It was placed on the map as a booming town in the 1800’s as it was situated in the centre of the Australian Goldrush. Today it has a real rural vibe, but is filled with some great gastronomic experiences, trendy accommodation and has an array of excellent wineries to discover.

Where to Stay

Mudgee_8061I have stayed in some pretty beautiful places in my time… however Trelawney Farm would have to be one of the most uniquely beautiful place I have ever been fortunate enough to visit.Mudgee2-2

This 150 year old farm house is located only a few kilometres out of the centre of town, situated on 24 acres, Tralaeney Farm is the perfect house to relax, recuperate, celebrate, or if you are like my friends and I…. gather and catch up with some great food! With two well equipped kitchens, 5 bedrooms and enough quiet little spaces tucked away to relax in, you are sure to be swept into he eclectic energy this house has to offer…. my favourite quiet space was the outdoor bath (with hot water!!) aaahhhh sheer luxury.

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I am absolutely kicking myself that I left my camera at home in the mad rush of trying to escape Sydney, but check out Trelawney Farms website for more photos of this beautiful homestead.Mudgee2

Where to Eat

How does a seven course degustation of delicately prepared meals from locally sourced produce sound?…. good right!

How does a seven course degustation of delicately prepared meals from locally sourced produce paired with matching wines sound?…. Too good to be true right!

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Pipeclay Pumphouse I must say nearly is too good to be true.  Nestled into the landscape of Robert Steins Winery this restaurant is a jewel in the Mudgee area. The atmosphere is the perfect mix of rustic and sophistication which instantly makes you want to sit down and relax into the vibe. Each of the seven courses is an intricate, well thought out master piece of local ingredients displayed beautifully and paired perfectly with a glass of Robert Stein wine. I am always an advocate for dessert so I must make a special mention of the dark chocolate delice with caramelised banana, honeycomb, mascarpone and salted caramel served with a Robert Stein Rum Cask Tawny… ummm HEAVEN!! It was the perfect end to a very special meal.

Pipeclay Pumphouse is an absolute credit to the owner and chef Andy Crestani. He is an inspiring and talented man whose passion for good food is very evident. We were fortunate enough to chat to Andy when we returned for breakfast (seeking some more of that great quality food for the second time in a weekend!). Check out Pipeclay Pumphouse’s website for more details:

http://pipeclaypumphouse.com.au.

My favourite Wineries

I am by no means going to sit here and pretend that I am some big hot shot wine critic!… however I do appreciate a good glass of vino and a wine tasting is all about the atmosphere! These are my pick of the wineries to visit in Mudgee

#1 LOGANS WINES

An absolutely spectacular location with the most stunning architecturally designed space for wine tasting. I felt like I was on Grand Design a little! I bought a couple of bottle of the shiraz… it helped that they have very pretty bottle labels!  http://www.loganwines.com.au

#2 PETER VAN GENT WINERY

I loved the whole experience at Peter Van Gent. The dark cellars makes you feel as you are instantly swept away to a french vineyard. The girls looked after us exceptionally well and were very accommodating to our large group.   http://www.pvgwinery.com

#3 PETERSONS

If you make a stop here be sure to try the sparkling red!!! AMAZING!! http://www.petersonswines.com.au

#4 ROBERT STEIN

Robert Stein has a fantastic range of both young and mature wines. Whilst there you can also pick up some great cured pork products! http://www.robertstein.com.au

Places to Shop

JULIE THORSLEY

If you are a fan of jute, wicker baskets or country chic fashion like myself.. Julie Thorsley is the place for you! I really could have done some serious damage in this beautiful store. http://juliethorsley.com

HIGH VALLEY WINE & CHEESE CO

Trust me to find a cheese shop on my travels. High Valley have a small selection of great cheeses. Be sure to try the High Valley Mudgee Rouge!! (The closest I have found to my beloved French Epoisses!) http://www.highvalley.com.au/index.php

 

Our time in Mudgee was a weekend spent with great people, drinking brilliant wine, and eating even better food! Mudgee certainly is a little town in New South Whales that I will be returning to explore!IMG_8311

Dreaming of an outdoor bath today…..

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A weekend ESCAPE!

*Firstly I would like to apologise for my mishap yesterday! I accidentally hit “publish” rather than save on my post (whoops!), which meant you all got a little sneak peek of my unfinished business!! I hope you enjoy it now that it is in all its full glory with the story slightly more polished and accompanied with some pretty photos!

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Don’t mind me as I get a little deep here…. well not so much deep but more reflective..

I feel that lately I  have become so accustomed to spending so much of my life rushing, mildly panicking and frantically ticking off my never-ending to do lists. On a daily basis there is always something urgent that needs my attentions that I solely focus on.. so much so that I forget to stop and A)Relax!! and B) Just breath…

Now I am not for one second pretending that I am the only one out there with this predicament, and it is something that I am sure everyone can relate to… it is called life right? I work very hard to keep my mind, body and soul happy every single day.. but sometimes the city living hustle and bustle really gets me down!

I frequently turn to my partner and ask him to run away with me.. it is my way of saying I don’t want to face this to do list anymore!! More often than not he just holds my hand and calmly helps me get my jobs done.. but every now and then we do run! Escape if you will.. and for Easter we did just that. We headed to a little corner of the earth as far away from Sydney as we could drive in one day and where we knew we could relax and breath in the peaceful beauty… The Snowy Mountains

I absolutely love the drive down to the The Snowy Mountains. There is such peace in driving past all of the farms and mountains.. I look at all of the livestock and the little houses perched up on the side of the hills with their chimneys bellowing with smoke from their wood fires.. I can’t help but start belting out “Wide Open Spaces” by the Dixie Chicks at the top of my lungs!!

We arrived in Jindabyne late on Good Friday ready and raring for a weekend full of family fun and relaxation. As soon as I hopped out of the car and felt the cool mountain air hit my cheeks I could not help but stop like a little kid and smile.. and then the grown up in me sighed and was grateful for the restful weekend ahead!

Soooo what did I do to recharge the batteries I hear you ask?… let me show you..

Day 1: A trip up the mountain to check out Perisher, Charlottes Pass and Guthega.

This beautiful snow gum is from the top of Charlottes Pass, I absolutely love the little look out at the top of Charlottes. It has the most breath-taking view!

Snow gums would have to be the most stunning tree to look at don’t you think?.. I love how they are not afraid to show off and embrace their glorious curves and wrinkles…. a message allot more women could use right?!

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This is me up the top of Charlottes, my man laughed at my choice of outfit for such an adventurous day… what can I say.. the whole reserved “hiking” look is not really my thing!

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We encounter a little rain on one of the back roads to Guthega.. needless to say the car was stopped and my leopard print shoes did some off roading so that I could capture the snow gums vibrant colours in the rain.. ohhh nature is good!!!

I look forward to having a go at painting these photos.

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Day 2: Thredbo.. (I like it!)

Thredbo is fantastic at Easter! There are so many activities going on and there is a real buzz in the air. Unfortunately I didn’t win the $10,000 easter egg hunt they put on.. but mark my words next year it is mine!!

These shots were taken on the chairlift up to the top of Thredbo.. I could have taken thousands of photos of that view (who am I kidding I did!) There really is just something so interesting and unique about that view contrasting with those mysteriously bleak trees.

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It was very cool up the top and a little wet underfoot.. lucky for me I had my beloved gum boots on!!

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Yet another photo of me admiring nature!.. some pretty moss I found on a rock up the top.

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A quick selfie to document those happy faces and then it was back down the mountain en-route to the famous Wildbrumby distillery to warm up our tummies with a few shots of schnapps! Oh happy days!

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Day 3: Exploring Jindabyne

It was home time today but not before riding our bikes around Jindabyne to really take in and admire Lake Jindabyne. I cant help but look at it and liken it to an oil painting, it is almost like my eyes just don’t believe that the beauty is real..

IMG_8270 There is a fantastic track that runs along the lake that we explored for hours….

I love my bike!!


The track was surrounded by these GIANT dandelions..  As soon as I spotted them I skidded my bike to holt to make a wish… Surely my wish will come true with this one right?!


So as our time in the Snowy Mountain region came to an end, I couldn’t help but feel sad. The whole drive home I tried desperately to convince my man not to take me back to Sydney. I didn’t want to go back to the rat race! I wanted to stay in the peaceful wide open spaces and continue to explore nature…  but instead of dragging my heels and being the brat I so wanted to be, I began to realise how grateful I was. Grateful for the blessed weekend, and grateful for living in such a magnificent country.

Today I face the day with a little extra spring in my step thanks to my weekend away and I am reassured knowing that whenever my batteries begin to run low again and it all becomes too much that it is time… time to hit the play button on the Dixie Chicks and escape… in search of some more “wide open spaces”.

So tell me beautiful people.. where do you escape to?

I can not wait to share with you my next adventures…

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