We turned off the highway at the signpost marked Cessnock. Leaving the concrete expanse behind we now ventured into the lush valleys of the Hunter Valley region, only a couple of hours north of Sydney.
We were on our way to stay with our wonderful friends Carps and Kelly for the evening before our hot air balloon trip in the early morning.
Cessnock, or Necknock, as Carps likes to say is the major town of the Hunter Valley region, most noted for the production of its world-class wines. Carps and Kel recently moved here for the quieter living, affordability, and let’s not discount the fact that hundreds of vineyards now lay at their doorstep beckoning to come taste just a drop of chilled chardy during the stifling summer months.
I had never been to Cessnock before, but had heard plenty about it, and in my youth had said plenty about it.
“Cessnock is a hole. Why would you want to go there for?”
I played against Cessnock when I was younger in representative netball. I really didn’t even know where it was. The only thing I knew was that it was miles from the beach and so being born there would be a fate worse than death.
The Beach, the deciding factor between what constituted a town worth spending time in or a hole-a place not even worthy of a look on the map.
Now as I drove through the winding valleys, to see cows and sheeps grazing in the lush paddocks and the Brokenback mountain range looming so majestically in the background, I was surprised by my once very narrow view on life.
What was I thinking? A hole. This area is beautiful. It is serene and comfortable, and a place I could come to for a week long health retreat. Ah, actually maybe with all those wineries that would not be such a great idea.
Before I left for travelling, all I knew was my little beach town. The beach was everything to me. A place of comfort, fun, excitement and a soothing elixir after a troubled moment.
In just a short walk from my house, I could be heading down the access track, past the sand dunes and perking up my breasts in the hope that the cute, bronzed surfer might look my way.
Who wouldn’t want to spend their days sunbaking, trying to surf, swimming and ogling sexy, half naked boys? If you didn’t live near a beach, you were missing out.
My first trip abroad had me keeping my beloved beach close to me. I wasn’t going to venture into the land of holes and wastelands. I knew the beach was where it was at, and so I journeyed through Indonesia, extracting myself a little bit to spend equal time in the jungles.
I started to appreciate the land of thick forests, exotic plants and animals, volcanoes, and adventures that could be had apart from sandy shores. Nevertheless, I did not go many weeks before returning to the ocean.
And then it all began to fall apart. I moved to London; the biggest hole you could ever move to. But, it wasn’t a hole. It was vibrant, and thriving, and every street I turned down there was something new to explore and do.
I started to make friends from all over the world, many who came from “hole” towns miles from the beach. I learned about their lifestyles growing up and how they coped quite easily without an ocean on their doorstep. Stories of lives on farms and big cities suddenly made my sheltered beach cove life seem not so glamourous or ideal anymore.
I began to appreciate rivers bringing life to cities at each meandering turn. Creeks and brooks babbling through forests that lost their leaves in the autumn after they blazed golden and red. Have you ever seen anything more beautiful than a forest alight, lit only by the hand of nature’s change?
Mountains became a place where I could challenge myself, and hopefully conquer to be rewarded with magnificent views of valleys far below. Farmlands and outbacks and waterfalls became places of peace and rejuvenation. Even the desert with their harsh environments became a place to admire for anything that could survive there.
For 12 years I’ve travelled and lived away from the beach. Raleigh soon introduced me to a new beach, the lake. An all-encompassing place of hikes and walking trails and deers and squirrels running at my feet. Watersports, fishing and swimming without ever having to once worry about sharks. I miss my lakes now almost as much as I miss my beaches.
Although the beach will always hold that special place in my heart, I know that I can live anywhere where it is not. I know that there are other parts of nature that I can love and appreciate just as much,if not more. I’ll always miss it when I am away, and when I first feel the cool sand between my toes, and breathe in the salty air, I will always feel like I am home.
“Look at this place Craig. Can you believe we used to call this a hole when we were younger?”
“Well, we didn’t know then what we know now.”
If I didn’t travel into the wider world, I probably would still wrongly believe that any place that is not near the beach is a hole, and I would have missed out on so so much.
How has your view of the beauty of the world changed through travel?