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Published: January 12th 2013
Returning home for a summer holiday... aahhh a huge sigh of relief. Warrnambool & surrounds:this is the wild South West Coast of Victoria, the end of the Great Ocean Road... surrounded by lush dairy farms, this is a magnificent stretch of coast with extensive, long, beautiful beaches, rugged coast and cliffs, with continuous swell and waves rolling in from the Southern Ocean... this is my home, the landscape I grew up in.
It is the landscape where I draw inspiration for all my artwork, it is the land and sea that rejuvenates me, fills my soul & spirit, where I belong and where I long for when I am away. It is the familiar, the comforting; where I have a history, know the stories of family, friends and neighbors, of past relatives and family stories from the surrounding farming district. History, stories, ingrained knowledge, local knowledge, my upbringing, my parents upbringing and generations before after they had migrated from Ireland.
To live in an area where the whole district is your home... what we call home probably extends from Colac to Portland, from the ocean to Hamilton, an area of approx 150km radius, the Western District. A place where
you know all the back roads, you recognize turns in the roads by the upcoming rows of trees. You notice hay sheds falling down and windmills collapsing over the years. New farm gates and changes to farm buildings are all noticed. The change in grasses from lush green winter growth and water laying in the paddocks to the sweet smell of dry summer grass and freshly cut hay.
Driving the back way from Geelong to Warrnambool, known just as 'the back way', past Cressy and between the two lakes at Camperdown, knowing the winding roads, where the potholes are worse, the areas where the road narrows to one lane and dust flies up from the dirt sides, to dirt back roads, rattling the suspension. The friendly one finger salute to fellow local drivers, just a friendly raise of the forefinger from your hand on the steering wheel or a nod to the passing farm utes... it is all so familiar and 'known' to me.
Driving through the landscape, hearing the stories of where neighboring families have ended up,who has passed away, who married who, had babies, which ones moved away, traveled or got jobs in the city and
those who have stayed. There is such a sense of belonging even after I have lived away for so many years, 'in the city' and now 'overseas'. This is still my home , my land, my area, my history, where I come from and where I long to spend more time.
The surrounding vast landscape of farms, huge skies and distant views, give way to the refreshing sea air and beautiful beaches of Warrnambool and surrounds: from Port fairy , Yambuk and Portland to Peterborough, Port Campbell, Childers Cove, Bay of Islands, The Twelve Apostles and the Otways. The South West Coast is also my home and my big love!
The beaches and coast always rejuvenate me, inspire me and energize me. In all seasons, from pristine summer days and crystal clear blue seas, to rolling, stormy, heavy seas and windblown rain and cold. The power of nature is felt so readily here.
Having lived in the urban desert for the past few years in the Middle East, this visit home was overwhelming. Living away has sharpened my senses and magnified my appreciation of this stunning coast.
This was a huge sigh of relief and feeling
of deep relaxation through to the very core of my being, to reconnect with my home and especially the energy of the coast.
Living away in a vastly different environment and culture in Dubai does tend to lead to a fair amount of homesickness and longing, reminiscing and nostalgia.
However it is also the small things that have a lot of impact. The fact that I can walk around outside at all: the streets, beaches, farms etc, as for most of the year it is too hot to even go outside in Dubai, so the simple pleasure of being able to walk around outdoors is huge! Add to the fact that you can breathe very fresh air, something that is sadly missing in Dubai most of the year due to either sand storms, sand & dust from constant constructions sites or extreme heat. So walking
... what a relief!Then add on the familiar surroundings, the style of buildings, shops, supermarkets, churches, the style of housing both old and new, the street scapes, front gardens, back yards... to again be walking amongst the familiar, what I know.
The people: everyone is so friendly and smile hello and
they all look familiar, some are! I recognize faces from childhood, from school or nearby towns, but it is the overall 'fellow Aussies' that I am recognizing... Dubai has an 80% expat population after the local Emiratis... so the people scape ( is there such a word?) is also very different...
So here I was , for several weeks of blissful summer beach holiday...
I walked the beaches everyday, from Logans Beach, ( where the Southern Right Whales visit each year), to Thunder Point, Pickering Point and Shelley beach. The Lady Bay and Flume beach to the mouth of the Hopkins. To my great pleasure there is a brilliant cafe now right on the beach near the breakwater, The Pavilion Cafe serving great coffee & food for many of my meals, then up the other end of the beach Simon s Waterfront in the old surf club building.
Walking the long sandy beaches, watching the sand colour change from pearly grey white to rich burnt orange, from firm and easy to walk on, to soft, sinking, deep sands. The smells of the ocean, air so fresh and sea breeze on the hot summer days, I wish I
could bottle this! Pertobe road flanked by the Norfolk Pines, standing guardian throughout Warrnambool. Lake Pertobe: a sanctuary for bird life, kids, families, young and old.. an extensive area of parkland, picnic grounds, playgrounds, lakes with boat rides and paddle boats, flying foxes and a maze and many walking paths.
The end of Lady Bay is halted by The Breakwater, the long wall built to protect the beach from the oncoming relentless Southern Ocean, a place to moor boats and the location of the old underground aquarium, now a memory with its remaining roof domes sitting on the edge of the cliffs, a mystery to tourists, and fond memory for locals.
Penguin Island and Middle Island stand majestically across from Stingray Bay, creating a dramatic seascape of punctuated cliffs leading to Pickering Point and the stunning Thunder Point. For years and years I have walked these cliffs, long before the days of the current coastal paths and boardwalks. Exploring and discovering, taking it all in... a time for reflection and to think, to sort out problems, to get life in perspective. Many a deep thought, breakthrough idea, resolution, new ideas, & inspiration has been found along these cliffs
for me. It is a very special place for me, and the dramatic cliffs and rough seas add to the powerful feeling of this area.
I was also getting a fix of 'my local country town'. The old familiar shops, those that were still there and the local institutions like the famous Kermonds Hamburgers, Bojangles, the T&G clock, the Liebig st fish n chip shop with the same elderly family still there cooking the flake. Cannon Hill for fish n chips, doing laps of 'the dirty angel' ( local knowledge),good ol' Target, the Warrnambool Art Gallery,Botanic Gardens, the pubs and milk bars.. and the list goes on.... Beautiful old sandstone walls and homes with old extensive gardens, the Norfolk Pines and wide spacious streets.
But mostly the fresh air...I was breathing deeply and energized by it, and trying to figure out how I could bottle this whole experience to take back to Dubai! You don't realize how much you miss fresh air until you have to live without it... also the ability to walk around outside, that the weather allows for this. We have about 4 months of the year where it is not too hot to walk
outside, but for a city built on freeways & flyovers there are not many footpaths .. most of the year is too hot to be outdoors for more than 5 minutes, and the huge shopping malls is where everyone heads to cool off. Shopping malls have never been high on my priority.. I will take a nature fix of green bush and rolling oceans any day!
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