Who says life’s problems can’t be solved by running away?!

So today we’re leaving on a road trip. Fully loaded we’ve got snacks and supplies, and I’m hoping that spending a few days in the car drinking epic quantities of postmix diet coke will be a sufficient distraction from being sad. It’s also our wedding anniversary on Monday (awesome timing, ain’t that just the way) and we do like to try and travel on our anniversary if we can.

Our stops on this 3 day New South Wales trip will be, for one night each:

Orange ¦¦ Wine country. Whilst I’m not a massive wine lover myself, one thing I do know to be true is that where there is good wine, there is good food. We’re staying in an AirBnB set in actual land so I’m hoping for a kanga sighting or two. As it turns out, the host is coeliac as well and is leaving me not only gluten free cereal and bread but a gluten free toaster, too! How amazing is that?!

[Photo from our last Australian road trip, which was around WA in 2009 and we had just got engaged. High time for another one I think]

Dubbo ¦¦ The goal of our trip is to spend our anniversary at Taronga Western Plains Zoo. I am a big fan of Taronga; they do great conservation work and I know that animal welfare is paramount. I’m hoping for a good experience after my disastrous day at Featherdale, but I have high hopes. We’re staying in zoo cabins which apparently have a somewhat distant view of the African wildlife enclosure, so we’re planning a DIY BBQ dinner with views of giraffes. Not your average anniversary dinner and I can’t wait.

Mudgee ¦¦ Back in wine country, this is Country with a capital C. I’ve heard it’s beautiful and I’ve got some top tips to follow from a former resident. So we’ve got our dinner venue already picked out, and apparently the hotel we’re going to be staying in is beautiful too.

[Red earth for literal daysssss. Excuse the ‘noise’ on the lens, we’re calling it vintage]

I’ll also be using the journey to continue my research into Australian podcasts. I’ve decided I need to listen to more content based in my country of residence (I like to educate myself but I hear too much about trump and not enough about Australian things). So I’ll let you know the outcome of that, too. Let me know if you have any recommendations, please.

Catch you on the other side! I’ll try and post some instastories as I go so hop on over for a taste of Australian Country Life.

Let’s go get lost, let’s go get lost.

-Rachel

This post is about death, in particular of close family members. If this subject is triggering to you, please don’t read today. Come back next week where I’ll be talking about travel or expat life or something altogether more cheerful.

My Dad died a two years ago this weekend (in a cruel twist the anniversary of his death falls on Fathers Day here). But what I want to write about today is that when I am talking about this fact, I struggle to know what terminology to use.

I often say he passed away, because in the moment that’s really what it felt most like. However, I’m usually a proponent of saying what you mean, and using the right words for things. So this feels a bit too much of a delicate euphemism to me. 

I am also not a fan of when people say “we lost him”. No, we did not accidentally mislay my Dad in a crowded supermarket and he has yet to find his way home again. It was not a careless oversight. We, and the doctors, did everything we could to keep him with us. No, we did not lose my Dad.

My Daddy and I. Just popping down the shops.

I also don’t want people to think he is an absent father who is ‘no longer around’. That’s a disservice to the great man he was and the brilliant Daddy I was lucky enough to have for 29 years of my life – plenty of people don’t have that privilege. I don’t want anyone to have the wrong idea of him, even people I’ll never meet again, even people who couldn’t care less what kind of a person my father was.

So, I should probably just refer to my Dad’s death. Saying, when my Dad died, or my Dad is dead. The problem I have with that is that it often feels very jarring and I really can’t bring myself to say those words. They actually won’t come out of my mouth. It’s too painful. 

So what words can I say? I don’t like passed away as it’s too euphemistic. Using the d-word is too jarring. And I refuse to talk about losing someone. Does anyone else struggle with this? If so, what do you say? And can I borrow it?

-Rachel

This story starts with me booking a whale watching cruise for a completely different day than the one I meant to. It continues with me then making a silk purse out of it by realising that my sister and cousin would both be in town at that time, and that perhaps we could all go together.

So we did.

Here follows the story [in pictures] of the sisters, the cousins, and the whales.

{Photo taken on Emma’s camera by stranger, so not sure who to credit here}

We prepared for boating by making sure we had layers, more layers, and sensible shoes

Further preparations involved stocking up on anti sickness medications, although as it turned out all the actual medications contained gluten (sidenote: whaaaat) so I was stuck with just the natural ginger tablets

We queued, we wobbled aboard. As requested by the crew we shared a table with people we didn’t know. No bother, we thought

We listened to the loud lady behind us insist she would not share her table, as it ‘invaded’ her ‘personal space’

We queued for the buffet and marvelled at the skyscrapers of Barangaroo slipping past, and then suddenly the whole city skyline was there

What a view!

Surprisingly, we enjoyed our lunch a lot. Most of the buffet was gluten free (everything except the bread rolls) which made me very happy

We counted suburbs, mansions, and waterfront views

We spotted secret beaches, famous beaches, and nude beaches

We avoided the small boats zipping about in the stiff breeze

I cracked into my emergency chocolate supply

We hit the choppy waters as we exited the heads and put our sea legs (and anti-sickness medication) to the test

We squinted out to sea, concentrating on looking for whale breath

We saw sail boats, oil tankers, yachts, other whaling boats… and no whales

A whale!

Which whale to follow?

We found a larger whale making its way up the coast with purpose. Our captain decided to follow it as it looked like it might be a breacher (some whales are more likely to do this than others, apparently)

The whale did not breach

The whale did surface very close to the boat on numerous occasions, at least once giving the captain a fright at how close it surfaced

We saw whale tail

{Photo taken by Emma}

We saw Manly beach, with an ominous bushfire cloud spreading across the horizon. We hoped for controlled backburning and not an actual bushfire

We followed the whale for a few surface spells, then left her on her merry way before heading back towards the heads

We bounced and jounced around the boat as it picked up speed, getting rather closer to people we did not know than we may have otherwise done

We enjoyed the warm sunshine and the fresh sea air

As the heads came back into view we saw the views, views, and some more views

I took all. the. photos

Because how could you not? I still can’t believe this city is my home now

My camera definitely got a workout

{In action – photo taken by Emma sneakily while I wasn’t looking}

The harbour really is beautiful from the water

I highly recommend whale watching as a great way to experience the city of Sydney from a different angle. We went through Oz Whale Watching and I was impressed with the boat, the food, and most importantly the quality of guide and captain. I would recommend to a friend (especially if they’re gluten free). We went for the lunchtime BBQ cruise and got our vouchers off Groupon. Not sponsored by anyone; least of all sisters and cousins.

[When a whale surfaced behind S as he was taking a photo of us]

Have you ever gone whale watching? Can you tell who is my cousin and who is my sister!?

-Rachel

Postscript: The loud lady behind who valued her personal space so highly got seasick. Very seasick. I did not mention the word karma (but I certainly did think it)

Pin me for your next trip to Sydney:

Seeing as things are mildly frantic with me, I’m swinging by for a good ol’ fashioned currently post. I love writing these, I know they get maligned as a cop out but I always enjoy reading them. And I love how they capture a moment in time. Anyway, I’m rambling.

Watching ¦¦ The Block. I hear it’s an Aussie institution and I’m taking this as part of my Aussie TV Familiarisation Exercise. Moving on.

Exploring ¦¦ Melbourne! I’m here for work and looking forward to getting to know the place a little better. Things are pretty busy on this project so I think my ability to do that will be somewhat limited, but never mind. I’m making the most of what I can.

Wishing ¦¦ For more time to explore Sydney. I realise how silly that sounds and that you can’t be everywhere at once. But still.

Enjoying ¦¦ Sister visit time! Three out of the four of us are together and whenever that happens much joy abounds.

Wearing ¦¦ Fleece lined tights – exciting enough, but here the sizing comes in size TALL! Rather than me going for XXL and hoping for the best (usually they fit very strangely and still are too short) I actually stand a chance of going for a day without having my toes get strangled. So far I’ve found them super comfy and they are *just* long enough. Mine are from Myer; I think they’re these ones (non affiliated, etc).

Planning ¦¦ A mini break/road trip for our anniversary. We’re heading inland and spending time with some animals (and hopefully some well behaved members of gen pub). Any guesses where we’re going?

Discovering ¦¦ Deliveroo! Yes I am wayyy behind the curve on this one. It’s just so handy for business trip dinners where you all you want to do is eat decent food and can’t be bothered to walk all the way to a restaurant only to sit by yourself for ages. It’s really a poor use of time more than anything else!

Visiting ¦¦ Miss Fisher’s House! The series is based here in Melbourne so of course I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit her house. It’s as much a character in the show as she is. Even if you don’t know what on earth I’m talking about, I’m sure you can agree this is a very pretty house?

Bonus points for the cute cat, too.

Hating ¦¦ The chairs in the office I’m working in at the moment. Constant backache. It’s not just me, the whole team are creaking and groaning along with me. Bad chairs!

Earning ¦¦ Qantas points! Yay!

Spending ¦¦ Avios! And I’m very happy to see the back of them. BA have gone seriously downhill in my opinion. S has had a nightmare with BA continually cancelling him off flights then not telling him, so the sooner we spend them all on flights to fun places the better.

Hoping ¦¦ For warmer weather soon. It’s really not that cold here, but I’m so excited to see the start of spring!

Fighting ¦¦ The flab. Say no more.

Inventing ¦¦ Interesting salads. Or trying to, at least.

Sampling ¦¦ Spendy wines. Wine not?

A post shared by Rachel (@anestingnomad) on

Eating ¦¦ Guilt free donuts. Allegedly. But 133 calories for a donut isn’t bad, right?! Dark chocolate and raspberry is my go-to, seeing as you didn’t ask. I found mine in a Woolies Metro but that link will show you to other stockists nearby.

Listening ¦¦ My Favorite Murder podcast. I’m a bit addicted even though it’s fairly trashy and also a tiny bit spooky whilst walking alone at night in a strange city. It does make you try very hard to SSDGM.

And that’s about it.

What’s going on in your neck of the woods?

-Rachel

Working title: that time a temple broke my camera.

In my opinion, rarely is getting up at 3am worth anything you care to offer me. When I organise travel, I will never get an early flight. For me, it’s just not worth it. I might get a few extra hours at my destination, but if I end up napping through them what’s the point?

So when the travel agent in our hotel advised us of the horribly early start to see the sunrise at Borobudur, I was sceptical. I am not my best in the morning as it is, and visions of the sunrise at Angkor Wat swum before my eyes (I got covered in mozzie bites, the crowds ruined the atmosphere, and the sun rose behind clouds anyway), swiftly followed by memories of the sunset on Santorini (see my extended and somewhat controversial thoughts on the whole thing here). I was ready to cancel the whole idea.

However, temples were why we had come, after all. And we were assured the trip would be worth it. We compromised by choosing a shorter tour, meaning we’d be back at the hotel in time to catch the end of breakfast.

Of course, getting up at 3 was miserable. What we hadn’t anticipated were the dreadful road conditions – the road was twisty, traffic was unpredictable at best, and potholes abounded. We arrived a little bleary eyed but still keen. Our helpful guide shepherded us where we needed to go, grabbing us torches and entry stickers. The entrance is via a grand hotel forecourt with nicely paved or gravelled paths the whole way. It turns out Borobudur, significantly restored in the 1970s, is a pretty professional outfit.

We puffed our way up the steep steps to the top of the monument in darkness, still fairly unsure of what we were climbing. All I knew was, it was big.

As we reached the top and scoped vantage points, our guide knew the best places to stand. The sky was beginning to turn from inky black to midnight blue, and we stood in anticipation.

And then the heavens opened.

Once again our guide came to the rescue, taking us to an archway that provided some relief from the rain. We still ended up fairly soaked, although I was more concerned about my poor camera than I was about myself (it was so hot I quite appreciated a cooling shower). A few others arrived to share our dry space, and we smiled across language barriers.

The last photo my camera ever took 🙁

Soon enough it passed, and we cautiously edged back to our previous vantage point. On the way, our guide pointed out an excellent vantage point for photos just as the sky was becoming a shade of sapphire and the beautiful architecture of the monument could be appreciated. He was so excited about the photo, and the fact that the rain had stopped, and I was trying to take it and get out of someone’s way, that when I slung my camera over my arm to reach into my bag to change lenses, I missed my arm.

Yes. I basically just threw my camera on the solid stone floor of a temple.

No, it did not survive. The thing was completely, irreversibly stuffed. Therefore, all pictures after this point are taken by my husband, on his nice camera, while I felt very annoyed with myself.

Me, in perplexed early morning disbelief

Our guide, slightly mystified by my apparent callous disregard for my expensive possessions, waited with us until the sun rose. The earlier rains had left the sky carpeted in clouds, which you’d think would be a bummer. However, it made the most beautiful atmospheric shots.

Each of the stupas houses a statue of Buddha. There are 72 of them!

The clouds soon dispersed, as did the small crowd who had gathered to watch the sunrise, leaving an incredibly peaceful atmosphere behind. Our guide took us around the rest of the site, pointing out the best statues, telling us the stories behind the reliefs.

It’s an absolutely massive site, and we felt like we had the place to ourselves. The temple tells the whole story of the life of Buddha, so it’s quite extensive. You might see some scenes from stories you’ll recognise, or you might just see some beautiful carvings.

So do I think sunrise at Borobudur is worth the 3am start? Actually, I do. The temple is breathtaking in size and beauty, and sunrise was a serene and appropriate way to start the tour.

There weren’t loud or pushy crowds, no hawkers, no mozzies. There were a few folk about, including one man in a high-vis who I daresay ruined a fair few photos that morning, but hey. Safety first.

 

Things to note

> The edges of the temple on the upper levels are unfenced, and there’s a fair drop to the next level. I found out first hand how hard the floors are. If you are mobility impaired, accident prone or a child, I would not recommend climbing to the top levels.

> There aren’t any hawkers in the grounds of the temple, but you’ll go past a few just outside the gate. They seemed pretty un-pushy compared to the usual – maybe because we were with a guide?

> The crowds honestly weren’t so bad. You’ll want to arrive in plenty of time if you absolutely must get your tripod set up in the perfect position. But if you just want to enjoy the sunrise, it’s not so important. Importantly, people were chilled, friendly and happy.

> You will be given a breakfast at the fancy hotel by the entrance. It was a rice cake thingy with maybe palm sugar in the middle that was gluten free… but I didn’t like it ☹ It was too sweet at that time of the morning.

> If you can afford the fancy hotel, I reckon that would be a great way to see Borobudur. You won’t have to get up half as early! The hotel did look very nice.

> There are lots of steps. Goes without saying. They were in fairly good shape, but still. Stairs.

> Your guide will ask you to pose for cheesy photos. Go with it.

> You don’t need a guide to enter, of course. However, ours was so reasonably priced and added so much value with the helpful relief explanations, history of the site, insider knowledge, hawker avoidance and of course pro photoshoot skills, I say it’s well worth it.

Are you generally a fan of sunrise tours? Or not so much?

-Rachel