Escape to the Country

10526637_10207214960507751_1788594088_nI’m a huge believer in exploring your own backyard. As someone who loves to travel, and craves it more and more all the time, but doesn’t have the money and time to take out of work to go flitting about the globe, I love to take the time out to wanderlust around my own beautiful country.

I’ve loved the countries I’ve traveled to, and don’t get me wrong, I’m hardly a seasoned traveler, but Peter Allen said it best when he said, “I Still Call Australia Home”. I love my country, a land of sweeping plains. Luckily, I get many opportunities to trek around the New South Wales countryside and I love visiting new places, even if they are just a few mere hours away from my front door.

This week I traveled down to Southern New South Wales to the Snowy Mountains. My mum had some people to visit in Cooma, so after she’d seen them, we drove through the Kosciuszko National Park towards Tumut. Mount Kosciuszko is the highest mountain in Australia and is actually not really that high when compared to other mountains of the world, but it’s all we’ve got. Being that it’s mid-October, the “Snowies” were or course, not snowy. In the winter seasons, the National Park is covered in lush powdery snow, but in the Spring/Summer months, it becomes a much eerier place.

12180059_10207214955067615_1185235079_nA place of rare, unusual beauty, with an almost macabre quality. The region was hit with bushfires a few summers back, and a lot of the trees within the park, stand as nothing but white, dead husks, that look almost like bones that could topple down under a light breeze. The desolate and barren appearance of the trees is contrasted against the green shrubbery by the roads and the rolling green hills, home to kangaroos, emus and wild horses. The famous Snowy River glitters under the harsh Australian sun.

Driving through the park during these months is peaceful and quiet, and you very rarely encounter other cars. Driving through the mountains at dawn, which we did on our way out of the town of Tumut on our way to Bega, one can encounter all sorts of Australian wildlife. In the stillness of the morning, kangaroos roam the park, bounding across the road from time to time, narrowly avoiding the small amounts of traffic. We had one bounce across in front of us. You must take extra care, because hitting a kangaroo is not only sad for the kangaroo, but it will not do anything good for your car either.

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View from the lookout

The morning we drove back through, we stopped at a lookout, which was a window into a completely undisturbed vista of lush bush land as far as the eye could see. The only sound at dawn, were the calls of the birds and the occasional rustle in the leaves from whatever other creatures ventured below. It was incredibly serene and no photo does the experience completely justice.

The drive through the park, whilst beautiful, can also feel quite odd, as the harsh landscape can tend to give one an irrational sense of foreboding and the change of scenery once we exited the park and started the drive to the coast was much welcomed.

Bega is a small town on the far South Coast of New South Wales and also where the cheese comes from. We didn’t spend all that much time in Bega, as mum had a few more people to visit and I just waited in the car, but after she was finished, we decided to take our drive home slowly and visit the tiny town of Tilba.

My treats from The Bath Patisserie, Central Tilba

My treats from The Bath Patisserie, Central Tilba

Central Tilba is quite possibly the cutest town in the universe. It is so quiet and peaceful and set not too far from the coast. The main road is lined with shops, cafes, bakeries and a gorgeous B&B. We wandered town admiring the beautiful antique shop, the jewellery shop, the sweet shop, until we stumbled across my new favourite shop! The first thing I saw when I lay eyes upon the small store, located in a gorgeous little old house was the word “Patisserie”. Patisseries are great and all, but what I saw next, completely sold me. Bath Patisserie. A patisserie where you don’t get fat from indulging too much and you come out smelling amazing. That’s my kind of patisserie! Or course I was completely overwhelmed. Besides smelling amazing, the soaps were all handcrafted in Tilba and looked like slices of cake! The bath bombs they stocked all looked like cupcakes, pavlovas, whoopee pies! Delicious! And I don’t think I quite expressed just how amazing it smelt! The owner was a lovely man who was an ex-police officer who moved to the country with his family and how his wife and mother-in-law make amazing soaps! Of course I had to spend money there.

Lunch in Tilba

Lunch in Tilba

After our time in the beautifully smelling heaven of the Bath Patisserie, we topped off for a vegan lunch and coffee at the My Heaven on Earth Cafe, which was yummy. The service was so lovely too. I kind of fell in love with Tilba, and would love to visit again. It makes me want to pack my things and live in a tiny town and just write and enjoy the peaceful life.

The drive back  up the coast towards home was slow and relaxing. We stopped for dinner in South Nowra and enjoyed the ocean views coming up over Gerringong.

It was a lovely two days away, something simple, but a good way to recharge the batteries and get away from the hustle and bustle of day to day life, and a good way to see some beautiful sights that I haven’t seen before that are within reach and don’t send me broke.

I highly recommend getting out of your bubble and if you want to travel, but don’t have the money or time, while you are waiting a toiling away to earn the money to do that big “around the world”, Instagram-worthy trip, hop in your car and start at home. Find some hidden gems in your own backyard.

View from Tilba

View from Tilba

Driving down Brown Mountain

Driving down Brown Mountain

Bega

Bega

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Ally Rambles: Writing is Hard

Every day I come home and say I’m going to write. Whether it be this blog, my novel, or anything else, I put myself in a comfortable spot, make a cup of tea, put some inspirational music on, open my documents and…

Stare at the page for about half an hour. Then I think, “I wonder what’s going on on Facebook”.

Then catch myself and think “No! Go and write.”

Five minutes later I think, “You know what will inspire me to write? Looking on Pinterest.” So I scroll through relevant things until I’m looking at not so relevant things and I stop myself and think “Stop it and write!”

Ten minutes later I get a notification. My favourite YouTuber has uploaded a new video! Of course I need to watch it. Then I notice I haven’t watched their last video so I watch that too. Then I realise that there are heaps of videos that they shared in 2011 that I hadn’t watched so I decide it’s only right if I watch them all. An hour later, after clicking on all the related and suggested videos, I’m watching a video about a woman addicted to eating her dead husbands ashes and wondering where it all went wrong. But I mean, at least I’m not eating my dead husbands ashes I guess.

Even this post, I’m writing this post right now because I’m currently stuck in a point on my story and have no idea what to write next.

Writing is hard. It’s especially hard when you’re not getting paid to do it and thus, have no deadlines or quotas or what have you and you have to actually go to work at a proper job to pay the bills. All day when I’m at work I’ll have inspiration and ideas swimming around my head, of course when I’m not at a computer, but the second I have time to actually sit and write… nothing. I’ll be lying in bed trying to fall asleep and new ideas will pop in my head as I’m drifting off, but when I’m wide awake and ready to type… nope.

I tend to obsess over whatever I’m writing. When I have a story going on, I get absolutely hooked on it. I get obsessed with my characters, even to the point where I’ll be going about my daily business and trying to figure out how the characters would go about making a latte, or doing the dishes or having a shower. I get obsessed with trying to figure out how they would think and speak, and what their little idiosyncrasies would be like. So right now I’m completely obsessed with the characters in my current project and they drive me insane some times. If you write fiction, you’ll know what I mean. The characters become real to you and sometimes, the story writes itself.

Other times, the characters decide not to speak to you and you’re left staring at a blank document.

Some times I’ll sit down to my computer and smash out three new chapters. The next day I’ll be lucky if I get a sentence I’m pleased with.

But I keep going back to the document, hoping that something will inspire me to continue the story. I have a story to tell, I know it’s in me, but it’s getting it out of my head and onto the page that is half the battle.

Then I wonder why I’m even writing. Will anyone ever read my story? Or even want to? When people ask what I do I say I work, skate and act. I never say that I write. Basically because I’m so insecure about anything fictitious I write. I don’t mind blogging and sharing my thoughts, but writing fiction is a whole other story.

Writing is hard.

Being vulnerable and sharing your writing is even harder.

Ally Does Cali – Part Four – A Taste of Freedom

The day after the Championships closed, most of the team were set to check out and begin their journeys home. Only Amy, Evie, Nicole, myself and the South Australians were staying on an extra day, so after getting a long awaited waffle from the breakfast buffet and saying farewell to our other teammates, the nine of us organised to finally see a bit of Cali. Up until this day, all we’d really seen of the city was what we had seen from moving vehicles, so we were keen to get out of the bubble that the the State of Hotel Spiwak and actually explore.

Photo cred: Evie Karp

Photo cred: Evie Karp

We had the hotel staff call us some taxis and we all paid 30,000COP each (around $15AU) to get three taxis to accompany us on the entirety of our adventure. For all the stigma attached to Colombia and all the concerns of catching taxis, all the cab drivers we encountered were more than lovely. They helped us out all day, taking pictures for us and just being generally helpful.

The first place we headed, was up the mountain to visit Jesus. We’d seen him all week from a distance, but we figured it was about time we went to have an up close and personal visit with him. We drove to the gates of Cristo Rey, and then had to walk the rest of the way up the mountain. The sun was scorching and the hill was steeper than it appeared, but getting up there was worth it to see the great view of Cali.

Cali from Jesus' perspective

Cali from Jesus’ perspective

Seeing Cristo Rey up close was very cool as well. Fun fact, Cristo Rey is only four metres smaller than Cristo Redentor in Rio de Janeiro, so he’s still pretty big, and luckily for us, he casts a nice cool shadow so we could get some respite from the burning sun. There’s got to be some kind of metaphor there.

The man Himself

The man Himself

We headed back down from Cristo Rey and our next top was San Antonio, a church in town. In front of the church is a square that just so happened to be host to artisan markets that day and a band that was playing Colombian music. We bought souvenirs from the markets and salsa danced the best we could to the music. The band even translated a lovely message to us, telling us that when we go home to let Australia know they are always welcome in Cali. It was so lovely and beautiful and the people were so wonderful and kind that it made me want to go to every person who made ignorant comments about Colombia and who profiled and joked about the people and give them a good slap. Never once did I feel unsafe, I mean, it was close the time we broke down, but even when we were broken down, we were never approached or felt threatened and our driver only did the best he could to make sure we were back on our way. We were so well looked after.

After our stint at San Antonio, we decided to go commercial again and find another shopping center where we could grab some lunch and spend some more of our money. After getting way to overwhelmed in an Adidas outlet store with massive discounts, the four New South Welshmen said farewell to the South Australians and headed back to our hotel.

All week we’d been hanging out for a swim, and we knew that the pool closed at 6pm and was going to be closed the next day which would be our last day at the hotel, so we rushed home to go for a dip. Once we finally made it to the pool at 4:45pm, we were informed that today the pool would be closing at 5pm. Annoyed, but still keen for a dip, we hopped in for 15 glorious minutes of fun in the sun.

Just a friendly reminder of how awesome Crepes and Waffles was

Just a friendly reminder of how awesome Crepes and Waffles was

Once we were kicked out of the pool area, we decided we didn’t want to party to end there, so we went up to our room, filled up the bathtub, and the four of us squeezed in. After filming a very weird vlog, Amy decided to pretend that my soap dish was a conch shell and she was a mermaid servant, bathing the mermaid princesses (I told you it was weird).

After we’d had enough of that, it was time for one last meal at Crepes and Waffles. We went all out and pigged out on delicious savory crepes and then devoured ice cream treats fit for mermaid princesses. We just so happened to bump into the South Australian’s one last time, so we gave them all big hugs and said our farewells.

After our dinner, we headed back to our room to begin the task of packing all our junk away. Well three of us did. Evie fell asleep and we mocked her profusely for snoring. Our plans to organise our room never really happened that whole week, so all our things were strewn about the place. Of course, it felt like we had accumulated so much stuff, despite us barely having shopped, and we were still planning one last shopping trip the next morning! It didn’t take long before we all decided to follow in Evie’s footsteps and get to bed, so we would be well rested for the epic journey home we still had before us.

Ally Does Cali – Part 3 – Game Day

The day we found out our order of skating we were out to lunch with the South Australian girls. The Show Group time slot for official practice was from about 7am to 10am and each team had 15 minutes and would train in the same order as we compete. So we didn’t really want to draw too early because that would make our Saturday a very long one as we would have training in the morning, competition in the afternoon, followed by the Grand Gala and the Closing Ceremony in the night. However the skating order draw gods gave us a firm middle finger as we drew third. Not as rough as drawing first, but meh, it meant we had to be at training pretty darn early.

When my alarm went off at 4:30 am I wanted to cry, but today was the day, the whole reason we had traveled for 48 hours. Game day. We had an early breakfast and got our taxis down to the venue.

We’d spent nearly a week sitting up in the stands, looking down at the venue from up high, peering down on the competitors rolling around in the warm up area and now here we were, looking up. It was quite bizarre being on the other side, seeing the whole place from a new perspective.

Looking fly as hell

Looking fly as hell

We suited up in our gorgeous Australian Leotards, everyone looking fab, and pushed our way through Argentinians and Italians to get our time in the sun (literally, dude the glare from the sun that morning was brutal).

We had fifteen minutes and we knew exactly what we needed to do to milk every second. We skated our positions, then skated our key section of the routine before doing a complete run through. After a week of skating on the awful plastic floor of the training venue, to finally get on the glorious, smooth concrete surface of the official venue was something divine. We skated our routine strongly and cleanly and we were really happy with how we did. Over the course of the week, things had begun to fall into place at the last minute. Parts were tightened up, arms were matching better, facial expressions were improving. This would be the second last time we would hear Fatboy Slim’s “Right Here, Right Now” and know we had an exhausting five minutes of skating ahead of us.

We felt great after our official practice; we were hot and sweaty, but everyone was in good spirits and ready for the real thing. We popped back home and started the clock, we had about four hours to get everyone’s hair and makeup perfect.

Totally rocking our 60's roller derby looks

Smouldering in our 60’s roller derby looks

Evie was in charge of hair and I was in charge of makeup, and neither of us had gotten a chance during our busy week to trial anything on anyone despite saying several times that we would. Evie settled on a beehive, and I decided to recreate Twiggy’s look, we recruited another skater from outside of our team, Sarah and we were good to go (our routine was a 60’s theme if you couldn’t tell from that description).

We all met in my room and I got started on my own makeup, praying to God that I wouldn’t stuff up and end up with black eyeliner smeared all over my face. Four hours and one Subway run later and we had eight skaters fully hair’d and make-up’d.

After one last review of our official practice footage, it was time to head back to the venue. It was show time.

Before the skate

Before the skate

The roll-around, warm up area was busy at the best of times, but during the team events it was pandemonium. Fourteen teams, all with eight to twelve skaters each, all decked out in crazy outfits, it was like some kind of even more bizarre circus. Before we skated, I didn’t even feel nervous. I was just pumped to get out there. This was going to most likely be our last hurrah as team Platinum. Four years of Platinum, two for me, coming to an end and I was just ready to get out there and put on a show.

Competing at World’s is like having an out of body experience. I’ve only done it twice and after both times, I had little memory of actually doing it. I remember having the best time and I remember being happy with how I skated, but everything in between was a blur. Standing there in position, waiting for the music to start and counting in the first movement and it was like I just left my body and didn’t return to it until I was back in the marshaling area awaiting our scores. I didn’t hear anything other than our music. I didn’t see any individual faces except my team members. I didn’t think about anything except what I was doing.

And after

And after

We were very happy with our skate. We did the best we could on the day, and we told our story. When it was all over, we could finally relax and enjoy watching the other teams compete. After our even was the Large Show Group event and following that was the Grand Gala, where the medal winners of the week had a chance to skate again and entertain the crowd. The Grand Gala was great except for the fact that I hadn’t eaten since 3pm and by this point was absolutely starving.

11057910_10207070426334487_1709667583736786696_nWhen the Grand Gala ended, it was time for the Closing Ceremony which consisted of a bunch of speeches in Spanish and a lot of selfie-taking. It had been a huge week and everything for the last year had built up to that day and when it was over we were all exhausted.

Evie was pretty keen to go out after. The Italians were hosting a little celebration in a conference room at the hotel and I said I might make an appearance, but the second my body hit the bed once we got back to our rooms that night at 11pm, I knew there was no way I was going out. So my roommates and I had a quiet night in and got the sleep we so desperately needed after the crazy week we had just had.

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Ally Does Yoga (Or at least makes a pathetic, ugly attempt)

She must be so fulfilled

She must be so fulfilled

You know what it’s like. You’re scrolling through the “fitspiration” tag on Instagram while mindlessly gnawing on a cheese stick and you see them. The perfectly filtered images of physically flawless women with long, lean limbs and flat stomachs, balanced precariously in the sand, either on their heads or on one leg, against the perfect backdrop of a red, glowing sunset, dipping down over the ocean.

I'm fulfilled, but with cake

I’m fulfilled, but with cake

And you think, “well damn, that could be me”. Then you’re visualising yourself perched on the beach with your cute little sports bra tank top and your flat stomach perfecting the scorpion pose. Then you snap back to reality, brush the cake crumbs off your chest and remember that the last time you tried to touch your toes you nearly gave yourself a hernia and couldn’t walk for a week.

But you think, “No! This time will be different! This time I will stretch every day and practice every day and I will be a completely zen, yoga babe!”. So you blow the dust off the yoga mat you bought three years ago (the last time you decided to become a yogi master and has been festering under your bed ever since the near hernia incident) and grab your sweat towel and water bottle and begin stretching.

It's baby steps, you can do it gurl

It’s baby steps, you can do it gurl

The first few are okay and you think, “Yes! I can already feel the zen!”.

The next few poses and you’re thinking, “I’ve got this! I will be just like those Instagram yoga girls!”.

The next few poses and you’re thinking, “Maybe I should start my own yoga themed Instagram account”.

As every water molecule in your body is replaced with gelatin, you try to convince yourself that you are making progress in the hour you’ve been going… then you look at the clock and realise you’ve been going for ten minutes.

Send help

Send help

And then you realise that you’ve only been doing the very simple two-legged hamstring stretches and you now have to stand on one foot, or twist sideways and you can tangibly feel all the zen leave your body.

Your positive thoughts of yesteryear are replaced with pained grunting and obscenities peppered liberally about the place.

Eventually you fall back onto your yoga mat and think, “That’s enough for today. Tomorrow I will do extra to make up for it” and you return to the refrigerator to see if there is any leftover pizza still there.

Did I finish all the ice cream last night or nah?

Did I finish all the ice cream last night or nah?