Phillip Island

So… geocaching is my new hobby

This past weekend I headed down to my parents’ beach house on Phillip Island (with my cat) to get away from it all. My intention was to spend some time writing, as well as read and walk along the beach and generally relax. Most of this I could in theory do at home, but there’s something about escaping one’s everyday environment (and all the things on the to-do list) that makes the near two-hour drive each way worth it. The wood fire is nice too.

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It wasn’t until I got down there that it occurred to me I could also log some geocaches.

Geocaching is something I have been gradually getting into. It started for me a year ago, when I nagged my friend into finally taking me out for the day. It’s a global (secret-ish) activity, whereby people hunt for secret caches hidden… pretty much anywhere, located by GPS coordinates and often a bunch of clues as well.

Normal people (who the geocaching community call muggles) have no idea there’s a disguised mint tin hidden under the seat in their local park… or a plastic box shoved in a hollow log. But finding these caches (without being noticed), signing the tiny log inside, and then logging them digitally using the geocaching app or website, is the ultimate goal. There are no prizes as a general rule, no real competition. It’s all about the thrill of the hunt/discovery and being introduced to places you might not have otherwise visited.

So that’s geocaching 101 (of sorts). For more information visit the official geocaching website, where you can sign-up for free and get in on the fun!

After our first day out a year ago (when we logged 12 along Scotchman’s Creek in Melbourne), I found a few caches on Phillip Island. One took me to the local cemetery, which I hadn’t ever visited in all the years I’ve been spending weekends down there. It turned out to be a real highlight.Cemetery-PhillipIsland_1

Then I didn’t do much geocaching (or in fact any) until my recent trip to Broome in July. Still using the free subscription, I identified three that looked worth finding and, accompanied by a few family members (notably some of my nephews), I hunted them down, including a couple near Cable Beach, where we were staying. It gave me an extra thrill to find some so far from home.

It reminded me how fun it is.

So, when I recently spent a few days in Kyneton with friends, I decided to see what geocaches were to be found in the area… Not many (if any) for the free subscription, it turns out.

Determined, energised, and with a heightened sense of anticipation, I signed up for the premium subscription, which provides access to additional caches. (It’s only about A$50 a year.)

It’s opened up a whole new world. Literally.

The caches in and around Kyneton were fun — they were my first multi-caches, where you have to gather information to decipher a code to find the GPS coordinates of the actual cache (termed ‘ground zero’ or GZ by the caching community). With a few friends, I did three multis all told, plus several others.

My favourite of the weekend was again to be found in a cemetery — the Carlsruhe Cemetery. I loved it purely for the location — historic graves with Hanging Rock in the distance. In the late afternoon sunlight, the place was gorgeous.

I think I will make a point of hunting down caches in cemeteries.

Which brings me back to Phillip Island and this past weekend (when I was supposed to be writing). Turns out there are heaps more geocaches in interesting places on Phillip Island available to premium subscribers. Turns out there are several along the beach west of Cowes, along which we walk every single time we visit.

In truth, I looked at all the new ‘premium’ island caches available to me and nearly hyperventilated with excitement. Check this out:

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The yellow smiley faces are the ones I’ve found so far. There are enough caches here to keep me going for a while — even discounting the ones along the road (which I have little interest in).

I found one along the beach between our house and Cowes, but another eluded me. The next day I headed in the other direction to Ventnor and had a better return of three. It was in fact the first time I’d ever walked all the way around to Ventnor, and by the end of the return hike (in the rain) I was a little weary! But this only highlights what’s good about geocaching — taking you places you haven’t been before.

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On Monday, I drove down to Pyramid Rock (south coast), where there is a cache, and another a half-hour walk away on Red Bluff — one of my favourite places on the island. There were too many people (muggles) around for me to hunt for the Pyramid Rock cache, but I hiked up to Red Bluff and found that one easily.

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That was my last one for the weekend — I found five in total, leaving plenty for next time.

I only just logged my thirtieth cache on the weekend, so I’m still very new at this. But it’s swiftly becoming my latest obsession… I figure it has at least one benefit in getting me out and about into the fresh air, and eventually heading off to places new.

I’ve already been looking at the international options for when I next go travelling. (squee!)

Even though it took me a while to get going after signing up, I have a feeling my geocaching activity is starting to ramp up. I guess the real test will be once I’ve found all the local ones — both near home and on Phillip Island.

But I like to think geocaching will inspire me to take off with intention to new places on a semi-regular basis. I’ve already found (both in Broome and Kyneton) that it adds a new dimension of fun and exploration and adventure.

And those things are what I’m all about.

In the meantime, there are a couple of local caches that currently have me stumped…

A walk along Surf Beach – with shell

I’ve been enjoying another relaxing few days at Phillip Island, where beauty and inspiration abound.

This morning I took a walk at low tide along the south coast section of the island known as “Surf Beach” to Forrest Caves. With this week’s WordPress photo challenge theme of SCALE in mind, I picked up a shell and experimented a little with the different beach backdrops. These are taken on an iPhone 4S, so the depth of focus isn’t so good unfortunately.

Then I came across the following rocky formation, which reminded me of a miniature version of those ancient villages that exist in some parts of the world. I rather wished I had one of my D&D miniatures to place into the scene…

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The caves themselves were beautiful too. Maybe a bit damp at high tide, though, so I don’t suppose they’d be any good for camping.

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Forrest Caves – Phillip Island

It was fun to explore a new part of the island — after 8 years, I still had not made it down to Surf Beach and Forrest Caves. There’s always something new to discover.

Twinkle twinkle at the beach

‘Tis the season for twinkling. In Australia that often means sun and the sea. We love our Christmases at the beach. I know we’re not quite there yet (can it only be 12 days until Christmas?), but here’s my take on TWINKLE for this week’s photo challenge.

This is the photo I immediately thought of when I saw the theme. I took it last year with my iPhone 4S. It shows the boat ramp for Cowes yacht club (Phillip Island) in the late afternoon.

I particularly love the texture of the rough weathered wood and the glint of light on the rusted nails and bolts. One of the better photos this amateur has ever taken!

Journal ~ Lying on the couch doing nothing (and why it’s important)

I am lying on the couch doing nothing.

At least, I was before the urge to tell everyone about my state of nothingness rose to the fore and I grabbed my computer out of the bag that’s never too far from my side.

Nothing. Mulling. Daydreaming. Writing in my head.

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Phillip Island – south coast

This is one of the things I love about retreating to Phillip Island on my own. Much of my urgency to achieve things drains away and I descend into a kind of dream state. Time no longer matters and I drift from one moment to the next, very content to let it happen as it will.

Best of all — and somewhat ironically — it’s often extremely productive.

Take today for example.

Admittedly today was helped by the disappearance of a work thing I usually have to do on Friday mornings. But that meant I could sleep in a little, before taking my usual trek along the gorgeous beach into Cowes (green bag and computer in tow) to one of my cafes of choice, where coffee and breakfast were waiting.

Even though this is what I usually do (more or less) on a Friday, the change of location — the beach, the birds, the breeze — made it so much more of a cathartic experience.

And even though the coffee was a bit dodgy today, it wasn’t enough to throw me off stride. Three hours and a goodly sum of words later, I trekked back along the beach to my parents’ empty island house and flopped down on the couch to do… nothing.

And now I have a blog post.

Do you ever find yourself attempting to cram so much into your day that you take half an hour (maybe an hour, even) simply to map out on paper how you’re going to achieve it… refusing to acknowledge it’s impossible, even though deep inside you know there’s no way you’ll get it all done? It can make you a wee bit crazy.

This is where I was at before driving down to the island yesterday. In fact, I was debating not coming at all, because (I told myself) what’s the point driving for two hours just to do all the things I’d have to do at home anyway?

In particular, there was a bunch of work things I should be doing, client tasks both small and large nagging at me. Not to mention stories to critique for my workshopping group, blog posts I want to write (other than this one!) and fretting because it’s been over a week since I posted, my own novel to work on…

So, yes, when I looked at all this stuff I had to do, I thought I might as well stay home.
But I’d earmarked these few days for a retreat a while back, and my brain just kept juggling all the stuff, including the fact I’d be relocating to do them.

So I went with it.

And yesterday was frustrating, because I left home much later than I wanted to (than I’d planned to), but the moment I got here, all the pressure to tick tick tick the boxes seemed to fade into the ether…

No more crazy.

Okay, so I was lying on the couch just now, trying to rev myself up into doing one of the work things, now that I’ve at least got some words down (and it’s been an abortive week for writing for various reasons), and maybe I still will (with a glass of red to help), or maybe I won’t (I’ll still have the red); but just lounging and mulling for half an hour or so seemed to be hitting the mark.

I recently heard these periods of downtime labelled white space (via a great article on Writer Unboxed advocating daily naps!). Nor is this the first time I’ve expounded the virtues of taking time out at Phillip Island for a few days to refill the creative well.

But I do think I underestimated how beneficial to my overall mental health these retreats are for me — with or without company. I haven’t had a holiday this year, other than a few days here and there. It’s been a year of juggling priorities — work that pays the bills with writing with the whole business-owner learning curve — and I’ve been very focused on productivity.

My work days tend to be very structured (albeit flexibly), designed to ensure I’m achieving as much as possible. I suppose it’s the only way, as a freelancer, that I would indeed achieve anything.

But it does make it hard to relax, even at those times I’m meeting friends or family for coffee. In the back of my mind, the clock is ticking and I’m not being productive. If I can’t put it in my timesheet, it’s “wasted” time.

Not when I retreat to Phillip Island though. There’s a sign in the main street in Cowes that says, “Relax, you’re on island time”. That’s exactly how I feel! I can have a completely unstructured day and that’s okay.

Better than okay.

Because it doesn’t actually matter if I don’t get all that stuff done. The world will not end. (Gee, I really need to chill out!)


Now that I’ve got that off my chest, I feel it’s past time for a progress update on the novel revision I’ve been working on. My last check-in occurred when I decided to strip back events in the middle section, rather than expand upon them. I think this is going pretty well.

It did involve some post-it note planning and rather a lot of scene juggling, but I’ve finally figured out an order of events that works (I think). So for the past two months, I’ve been making good progress — in quality if not quantity. The new middle section bears some resemblance to the original, but there is also a lot that is new — essentially a deeper treatment of those elements I’m retaining. And I’ve introduced a new sexy character who is a claithwielder. Yum.

What do you to take time out? How often do you stop to smell the roses?

Sunday journal ~ time out at Phillip Island

Winter sun. Wind. Waves.

Words.

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Beach near Watt Point, Phillip Island

Phillip Island in winter is quiet, serene, beautiful. With the blessing of a clear weekend, I hightailed down to the island this past weekend for some much-needed R&R and time alone with my WIP. It turned out to be one of the most relaxing and joyous weekends I’ve ever spent down there.

One of the lovely things about my current self-employment status is the flexibility. So I headed down on Thursday night and spent Friday morning working from the island, tethered to my phone. (Gotta love modern technology.) Somehow even working down at the island seemed relaxing.

After that, the rest of Friday and the weekend was mine to do with as I wished. I hung out in the cafe for brunch with the WIP (Rumbles Cafe and Bar), kept the fire roaring, and maintained a steady intake of coffee, wine and chocolate. And some healthy food as well.

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Wreck of SS Speke (1906), Watt Point, Phillip Island

On Saturday morning I revisited the wreck of the SS Speke (1906). As I mentioned in a recent photo challenge post (Relic), I first visited the Speke years ago and I hadn’t been back — but WHY? I’m now asking myself. The rusting fragments of hull are washed up on the rocks in a fairly secluded cove… at this time of year, I did not see one soul as I trekked over the headland, down onto the beach and clambered all over the wreck.

Then I wandered along the deserted beach to the next cove, all pristine sand and crystal blue water, and saw nary a soul there either.

Writing-wise, I got a fair bit done — although I also managed some downtime as well. I think I tend to get a bit obsessed with being ‘productive’ all the time, needing to feel as though I’m making every hour count for something.

Yet it’s good sometimes to do nothing at all. On Saturday afternoon I let two hours slide by, and I have no idea at all what I was doing. Just sitting on the couch. Mulling. Dreaming. Relaxing.

It really was such a lovely weekend.

***

In other events of the past couple of weeks, I took my niece and nephew to see he movie How to train your dragon 2, which was a lot of fun. I really like some of the incidental dialogue in those movies — in this one, there’s a lovely scene between Hiccup and Astrid near the beginning, which illustrates their relationship brilliantly.

Another small thing that stood out for me was the way they deal with Hiccup’s — the hero — prosthetic foot. It’s not over-dramatised; it simply is. A great acknowledgement of disability and diversity.

And the animation of Toothless, Hiccup’s dragon. He is so adorable and totally the star of the show. Really reminds me of my devilcat.

I was intending to write a full post about the movie, it being fantasy and all, but it doesn’t look I’m going to get to it. Suffice to say I enjoyed it a lot. The story is much bigger and more serious than in the first movie, and I think they did a pretty good job.

Relic

Phillip Island is one of my happy places — although I don’t seem to get down there nearly often enough these days. On one of my first solitary writing weekends on the island, I took a walk along the beautiful southern coast to discover the wreck of the SS Speke in the picturesque Kitty Miller Bay.

Rusted out fragments of hull decaying on the rocky shore is all that’s left. But it’s a beautiful relic to feature for the WordPress weekly photo challenge.

The walk was not well marked, and required me to plough through the grass and dunes to reach the beach. The wreck of the Speke can only be reached at low tide too, which added to the adventure.

I then went on to hike along the beach and over the dunes on what is still one of my most memorable walks on Phillip Island. I really should get back there and see what the last few years have done to the poor old Speke.

Time to tackle that WIP again

For the past two months I’ve been on a self-imposed writing hiatus – partly to let my completed first draft rest a bit, partly to reassert control over the other half of my life.

But now, this weekend, in a glorious writing retreat at Phillip Island, I’m allowing myself to look at the WIP again.

I confess I’ve been a little nervous about picking it up again. It got so big in the end, and there’s still so much I want to do with it. How am I going to wrestle all that into control? But I’m excited too. Totally buzzing.

I’m starting with a read-through to refamiliarise myself with the story. And then I’ll write a bunch of notes. And then… We’ll see.

In the meantime I have a gorgeous environment in which to spend a lazy weekend reading. We’re staying in a house right on the beach (hired with friends for the weekend). We can see the Ocean rolling in. Hear it too. Stunning.

Here are some snaps taken out our front door. That’s the house we’re staying in, centre bottom photo.

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Weekly photo challenge: The Sea

Almost every time I go down to Phillip Island I walk along the beach east into Cowes or west to Red Rocks beach… Or sometimes I take one of the walks along the rugged southern coast of the island, where the scenery is striking.

Almost every time I walk, I snap some photos of the beach or the sea. Sometimes I’m inspired by the sun setting over water, or it’s the abundant sea birds paddling in the wash that capture my attention; other times it’s the sight of an old timber boat ramp (or posts) extending out into the water…

So naturally I couldn’t go past this week’s WordPress weekly photo challenge

The Sea

These are all pictures of the sea around Phillip Island in Victoria, Australia. It’s such a lovely place.

The beach has many faces

I’ve just returned from spending the Easter long weekend at our family holiday house down at Phillip Island. At least once every visit I like to walk into town (Cowes) along the beach for breakfast. And every time I make this little half-hour pilgrimage for coffee and eggs, I find myself marvelling at the many different faces of our beach.

The phrase “shifting sands” may be a cliche, but it is also true. Although our leisurely route takes us past familiar markers — concrete boat ramp… rocky outcrop and around the point… storm water drain by the camping ground… rickety timber boat ramp — each takes on a new and fascinating personality with every encounter.

Some days, the storm water drain has carved out a creek, requiring us to clamber up the grassy hill above where the pipes come out to avoid getting our feet wet.

The rocks on the point may be mostly covered, or standing proud in jagged relief. Sometimes, the timber boat ramp stands a metre above the sand, requiring a big step up and a heady jump down… or else the sand might have built right up to the platform so that we barely notice it’s there.

Sometimes the seaweed covers the beach like a fungal disease; other times the golden sand is pristine and clean.

Yet some facets of the beach are constant too. The seagulls usually flock around the water’s edges, while the endangered plovers patrol the beach in pairs to protect their nesting ground. The wild beach grasses thrust up through the sand in clumps. And always the waves roll in, incessant and irregular, relentless and timeless.

There is nothing quite like the continuously shifting beach landscape to remind us of the shear everyday beauty and power of nature. The winds and ocean tides swirl and pound and shape endessly — stamping their authority on the world irrespective of whether we witness it or not.

I love the beach for all these reasons, but often feel humbled by it too. What emotions does the beach inspire in you? Does the wild beauty of a remote beach appeal — or are you more likely to be found on a beach towel soaking up rays?