In my mind there’s not so much different between the mountains and the sea. To speak of the valleys in the troughs of waves or of mountainous seas, there is a common thread that ties them both together. For me, there is a feeling I get when in the ocean, if I had to describe it; I guess stillness would be the word. The only other place I have experienced this sensation is in the mountains. They are both monuments of nature, symbols that draw us in and inspire us. Even the people that are drawn to these elements seem to have a common bond running through them, maybe all seeking their own version of that stillness.
I had been invited by my mate, Kris, to come over to his place and experience both of these special environments in one trip, a few days on the coast surfing and then packing our bags and heading up to the mountains to go trekking and snowboarding. He is lucky enough to live in a place where you can do both, even in the same day with a bit of planning. As usual it was a bit of a juggling act with work and when exactly the next job would go ahead, but if you wait on that, well you’d spend your time doing just that, waiting. So with no idea how long I’d have, I booked a ticket and flew on over. I had never been over to southern NSW and on the drive from Canberra to Batemans Bay I marveled at the amazing country we passed through and how it changed as we neared the coast. Open fields, crisp air, rolling hills and the increasing greenery as we neared the coast. Of all the states I have been to in Australia, New South Wales has impressed me the most, the amazing country and coast littered with world-class waves, it’s simply an amazing place. A few short hours later and we were at Kris’s place, amazing forest out the back, birds singing and fluttering between the trees, and looking forward to being woken up in the mornings ahead by my old mate the kookaburra, laughing hysterically at some unknown, hilarious joke.
We spent the next few days driving up and down the coast checking amazing little bays and headlands and seeing so much potential for surf. Though unfortunately the potential was all that was on offer as the swell had dropped right off. We still however managed to sneak a few fun little sessions in between the coffees, sipped in amazing little towns along the way. Luckily Kris shares my attitude to a coffee, which can be summed up in two words, why not. We certainly didn’t have to look far to find the remarkable, within five minutes of leaving the house we would be heading down little dirt tracks into national park forest, trudging along small paths, sending kangaroos and swamp wallabies bounding away through the bush. Suddenly the path would end and we’d find ourselves standing on the edge of a cliff, looking down into a little bay with a fun little wave peeling away across the rocks. Sometimes I wish I was two feet tall and be able to surf these small swells. Imagine it, never a day flat and some days 10 times over head.
We hung around the bay and kept ourselves entertained surfing, exploring and checking out some of the hundred and one projects Kris had on the go, everything from house improvements to making his own skateboards. It’s amazing how much he’s got going on. I got some inspiration from his van set up as well; he’s done an awesome job of it. May have to admit to a small case of van envy. Once Trish, Kris’ wife, got back from overseas, and could take over looking after the dogs, we packed up the camping, trekking and snow gear, loaded the van and headed off towards the mountains. Its about a three hour drive to the little town of Jinabine, and found ourselves a nice little campsite on the shore of the large lake just out of town. Being able to unzip the front door of your house and witness the birth of a new day, perfectly mirrored in the lake, would be one of my greatest joys over the coming days. Apparently some of the ruins of the old town still sit below the surface of the lake, victim to the damning of the river and subsequent rising water level. Would be a pretty cool dive to check that out sometime actually.
It was still fairly early when we arrived, and neither of us is into wasting daylight, so off we headed to do some snowshoeing and exploring. Now I admit I've not done much in the snow, and am pretty inexperienced, but was a little disappointed with the modern snowshoes, I had visions of the old oversize tennis rackets that I’d seen in old shows and cartoons in mind, but I guess everything progresses and improves, including snow shoes. We headed off to the sound of crunching snow underfoot, a brilliant bright blue day, the sun high and bright overhead, sharing that immense sky with only a few wispy clouds strung along like last years left up Christmas decorations. As we made our way up through the snow gums and other trees brave enough to stand and wait out the winter, there it was, the stillness. That feeling, not intrusive, but underlying it all as though the trees, snow and rocks were all humming with this barely audible tone. If you’ve never experienced this, my one biggest bit of advice would be to go seek out one of these places, find yourself there and sit and listen. Who knows what you will hear, maybe nothing, but what a good excuse for a holiday anyways.
Early the next morning, just as the sun was beginning to paint the lake, I stepped out into the cold, and began to get ready. We had all ready rented the things I needed, boots and board, the rest Kris was kind enough to lend me. Today we would go tick off another thing from my bucket list, snowboarding. A quick brekky, a short drive and a brief train ride and there we were. It was all pretty intense for me, so many people, all dressed in a thousand different colors, skis, ski poles, snowboards and ski lifts, all set against what to me seemed like a pretty significant hill. The same hill I would apparently be heading down soon enough, hopefully on my feet and not my face. Kris headed off to do some skiing, while I found my group and started out for my first lesson. This would be the routine for the next few mornings, the only glaring difference being that the daunting hill of the first day, due possibly to some bizarre and strange tectonic movement, seemed smaller every day. By the end of the first day I was doing runs down this easily, and by the third even making it down without my signature move of the high speed sit down.
The feeling of sliding your way down the hill is very similar to surfing, except that this wave goes on for much longer, the wind in your face and the sensation of moving through space is the same but the sounds are different, not the crashing of water or change in volume and tone as you duck in and out of the water but the crunching of snow and the muffled drawl of the board as it slides its way along. The light had a different quality too, reflecting off the white snow, I'm more accustomed to the blues and green of the ocean. Being able to do the same run over and over again and get the felling for the board and the terrain gives you the understanding of how the little things you do affect your riding and turns was something that was so beneficial as well. The lessons definitely helped and I went from secretly shitting myself to having immense fun in a mater of days.
After my lessons in the morning, we’d pull up for a coffee and take in the scene before us, it’s a busy little place and there’s always something entertaining to catch your gaze, from the crew launching themselves off the half pipe and jumps to the little kids in their oversized gear, little life sized bobble heads, trudging by in a line, like funny little train. It really was a bit of an eye opener for me, just a different scene to what I've experienced before, and I must say I liked it. The ability to come and explore places like this and have the access and ease of lifts, through to the other methods of trekking up to the top of mountains for hours, only to spend minutes hurtling down, all in the name of fun and finding that feeling of being totally focused on what your doing, a type of moving meditation. Yeah, that sounds good to me. May have to make a bit more of a habit of this.
We headed back down to the coast after the days up there, tired and happy and took a different route back to the bay. Again the terrain and country tries to constantly one up itself around every bend, and we were treated to misty mountain passes and wide, green open fields and then just when you thought the land had won, the sun pulled out its trump card and painted everything to the west in a display of splashed, deep, amazing color that had me leaning out the window snapping quick shots at every break in the trees we sped past. The light was simply incredible. Not a bad way to end a trip and strike off another thing on the list.
Still the swell decided to stay playing somewhere else and left us to looking at more of the same potential and sneaking a few cheeky waves where we could, but that’s ok, just means I have to come back. I’ve given up trying to control the weather and swell long ago, never got very good at it. Soon it was time for the return flight and I was saying good-bye to Kris, Trish and the dogs and was sitting in the waiting lounge writing. I think if you looked back through my journals you would find that I have done a lot of writing while sitting around waiting for planes. It’s a good time for it, so many people all traveling, all on their own journeys, what better place to sit and pen some of mine. So with a smile on my face I found my seat and listened to the same pre-flight briefing I've heard so many times before, looking forward to getting back home and to the next adventure, and replaying all the memories of the last couple weeks.