Travel and Beyond http://www.travelandbeyond.org Exploring the world one step at a time... Sat, 17 Jun 2017 01:34:50 +0000 en-AU hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 Hot Air Ballooning in Canberra http://www.travelandbeyond.org/2017/06/17/hot-air-ballooning-canberra/ http://www.travelandbeyond.org/2017/06/17/hot-air-ballooning-canberra/#respond Sat, 17 Jun 2017 01:08:37 +0000 http://www.travelandbeyond.org/?p=8157 By Rosemarie John

Gently floating upwards on a foggy morning, we waited for Air Traffic Control to give us clearance to be wafted into the clouds (literally). We were in a basket, drifting into the sky to admire Canberra’s landscape from up above. Whoosh… the burners went… and the higher we soared. Looking down on State Circle, we felt blessed with the beauty […]

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By Rosemarie John

Gently floating upwards on a foggy morning, we waited for Air Traffic Control to give us clearance to be wafted into the clouds (literally). We were in a basket, drifting into the sky to admire Canberra’s landscape from up above. Whoosh… the burners went… and the higher we soared.

Looking down on State Circle, we felt blessed with the beauty that surrounded us. Those who call Canberra home know of her allure, but recognising it from 3,000 feet was something else. We fell deeper in love with her. We spent time identifying landmarks and roads, we thought about the people who don’t appreciate Canberra, we praised her beauty and discussed how special it was to call her home, there were also moments of silence, time for selfies and time to argue about bus routes!

We were hot air ballooning in Canberra and it was a special experience…

We thank Balloon Aloft for the video and photo of us in the basket.

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Lunching at Natural Nine http://www.travelandbeyond.org/2017/05/09/lunching-at-natural-nine/ http://www.travelandbeyond.org/2017/05/09/lunching-at-natural-nine/#comments Mon, 08 May 2017 23:36:26 +0000 http://www.travelandbeyond.org/?p=8128 By Rosemarie John

I’ve been looking for a Chinese restaurant close to work that would serve a good hearty porridge and I was excited to hear that Natural Nine did just that.

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By Rosemarie John

I’ve been looking for a Chinese restaurant close to work that would serve a good hearty porridge and I was excited to hear that Natural Nine did just that. Last week, a few colleagues and I ventured into the Casino and sat under vibrant red and black lanterns for lunch.

I knew I was going to order the pork meatball congee but then I noticed they did oysters too! I ordered two steamed rock oysters with black garlic and shallots ($4 each) as a starter. I was not disappointed. I did want to order more but was informed that the congee was quite substantial.

You could share the congee if you were ordering more dishes but if it’s just the one dish, one person can easily be satisfied with the serving size. The pork congee ($17) was pretty to look and full of flavour. I would have liked to have had some thinly sliced ginger to accompany the congee, and may ask if they could provide some next time round. I plan to return and try their Sichuan chilli chicken wings and yee mee prawn noodle soup.

Open from noon, Natural Nine is located at Casino Canberra, 21 Binara Street, Canberra.

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Enlighten 2017 – A Canberra art and food festival http://www.travelandbeyond.org/2017/03/11/enlighten-2017/ http://www.travelandbeyond.org/2017/03/11/enlighten-2017/#comments Sat, 11 Mar 2017 07:35:22 +0000 http://www.travelandbeyond.org/?p=8075 By Rosemarie John

It’s that time of year again when Canberra lights up and the night noodle markets offer up a delicious fare! Held from 3-12 March, Enlighten 2017 is one of our favourite festivals. We even try to sneak a quick visit on work nights. This year, our favourite displays were the light projections of Questacon and the National Gallery. Food wise, […]

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By Rosemarie John

It’s that time of year again when Canberra lights up and the night noodle markets offer up a delicious fare! Held from 3-12 March, Enlighten 2017 is one of our favourite festivals. We even try to sneak a quick visit on work nights. This year, our favourite displays were the light projections of Questacon and the National Gallery. Food wise, it was hands down the ube and pandan soft serve form Kusina! Have you visited yet? What was your favourite bit about Enlighten?



View out 2016 photos of Enlighten and Night Noodle Markets too! Check the event program here.

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National Multicultural Festival 2017 – Canberra http://www.travelandbeyond.org/2017/02/19/national-multicultural-festival-2017/ http://www.travelandbeyond.org/2017/02/19/national-multicultural-festival-2017/#respond Sun, 19 Feb 2017 00:14:20 +0000 http://www.travelandbeyond.org/?p=8049 By Rosemarie John

The only thing we look forward to in summer (we’re not a fan of the heat) are the myriad of festivals that take place in Canberra and the National Multicultural Festival 2017 is one of them. Celebrating diversity since 1996, through the showcase of food, music, dance, costumes, culture and friendship, Joseph and I have always made it a point […]

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By Rosemarie John

The only thing we look forward to in summer (we’re not a fan of the heat) are the myriad of festivals that take place in Canberra and the National Multicultural Festival 2017 is one of them. Celebrating diversity since 1996, through the showcase of food, music, dance, costumes, culture and friendship, Joseph and I have always made it a point to make a visit.

For three years in a row we have written about it, sharing some tips and information. You can read about them here (2015) and here (2016), but what keeps us going back year after year? For starters, it is not easy to stay at home when the whole of Canberra is out indulging in festivities that bring cheer and merriment! Not to mention, the delicious food from every single part of the world being on offer. Rain or shine, we make it point to attend and while we have our favourite stalls to visit, we do try to savour something new each year.

While we were on a hunt for our best-loved Iranian stall that services delicious meat and rice, we stumbled upon this very colourful Indian percussion performance that had everyone’s attention. What caught our eye was the female drummer and her expressive movements both in body and face. Have a look in the video below.

While February is known for it’s intense heat, the day we chose to visit the festival saw us walk in a bit of a drizzle which made for gorgeous weather. We carried bottles of water with us to keep hydrated and came with a budget in mind. You don’t want to visit without a plan of action (experience has taught us this). We also downloaded the festival app, which helped us navigate through the crowds. We didn’t spend too much time searching and we suggest you download it too if you’re heading in today.

Festival tips:

  • Make use of the additional Action blue and red rapid services if you prefer taking the bus or park for $2 dollars flat at the Canberra Centre on Sunday.
  • Carry bottles of water to avoid dehydration. There is a water fountain near Garema place as well.
  • Always make a point to visit early in the day if you’d like first dibs on the food.
  • Visit the ASEAN Showcase for a taste of South East Asia.
  • Download the festival app which includes the map and stall listings as well.
  • Allocate time to enjoy some of the performances.
  • Visit the embassy booths for some travel planning inspiration.
  • Try the kebab from the Macedonian Orthodox Community of Queanbeyan and Districts Inc, vadai from the Maharaja’s, grilled platters that include baby octopuses from the Greek stall (bright blue banner, you can’t miss it) and meat and rice from our favourite Iranian stall next to the Banana leaf Restaurant who by the way had a stall of their own serving up kottu roti.
  • Cool down with a pineapple gelato sundae.

The National Multicultural Festival 2017 program can be found here.

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No. 10 Restaurant + Bar – A great spot for $15 lunches http://www.travelandbeyond.org/2017/02/14/no10restaurantandbar/ http://www.travelandbeyond.org/2017/02/14/no10restaurantandbar/#comments Mon, 13 Feb 2017 22:01:49 +0000 http://www.travelandbeyond.org/?p=8042 By Rosemarie John

It was a hot sweltering afternoon and we decided to lunch. We ran from the office into the air-conditioning of the car and sped away to No. 10 Restaurant + Bar. It was recommended to us and I roped my colleagues into the idea of checking it out. “They do $15 lunches,” I said. Finding parking wasn’t that difficult since […]

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By Rosemarie John

It was a hot sweltering afternoon and we decided to lunch. We ran from the office into the air-conditioning of the car and sped away to No. 10 Restaurant + Bar. It was recommended to us and I roped my colleagues into the idea of checking it out. “They do $15 lunches,” I said.

Finding parking wasn’t that difficult since No.10 is located just in front of a huge parking lot in Woden. We muttered under our breaths having to expose ourselves to 40 degrees heat but immediately sighed a sigh of relief when we took our seats inside the cool comforts of the restaurant.

I ordered the skirt steak with cafe de Paris butter, salad and fries (yes, they use the American term). I really enjoyed it. My steak was medium, juicy and the radish and watercress salad was a fantastic pair. It provided just the right crunch and freshness the dish required. This was part of their $15 lunch menu.

My colleagues on the other hand ordered the regular dishes and the one I remembered to take a photo of was their chicken and waffle dish ($23). Buttermilk and Bourbon fried chicken served with two waffles and maples aioli, topped off with fresh greens. It was a dish thoroughly enjoyed.

The other things that made the luncheon enjoyable was my hot chocolate with soy milk and the fact that they do split bills. It ticks everything on my list… good food, great price and split bills! Win! I noticed that they had pork jowl and creme brulee on the menu so that means I will be returning soon.

No 10 Restaurant and Bar is located at 10 Bowes Street, Woden 2606.

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ACT Multicultural Awards – Travel and Beyond wins the Media Award in Canberra http://www.travelandbeyond.org/2016/12/22/act-multicultural-awards/ http://www.travelandbeyond.org/2016/12/22/act-multicultural-awards/#comments Thu, 22 Dec 2016 00:58:36 +0000 http://www.travelandbeyond.org/?p=7991 By Joseph Ellis

I was stunned to hear the announcement. “The Media Award goes to Rosemarie John and Joseph Ellis.” As we walked up to receive our awards from the Minister of Multicultural Affairs, Rachel Stephen-Smith, my mind was blank and Rosemarie’s eyes were a mixture of joy and disbelief. I think we were both simply awestruck. The winners in the other categories […]

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By Joseph Ellis

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I was stunned to hear the announcement. “The Media Award goes to Rosemarie John and Joseph Ellis.” As we walked up to receive our awards from the Minister of Multicultural Affairs, Rachel Stephen-Smith, my mind was blank and Rosemarie’s eyes were a mixture of joy and disbelief. I think we were both simply awestruck. The winners in the other categories were all outstanding persons and to be counted among them was humbling…

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We have won several awards in the past but this one was truly special. Winning this award never entered our minds because we never thought we would even make the nominations. An Australian Government Award is not something that we dared to dream of winning. And so, when our names were announced, we were dumbstruck.

This win has rekindled an old memory. The year was 2008. On an insipid afternoon in the monstrous metropolis of Jakarta, Rosemarie made a decision that changed the course of our destiny. She decided to stop looking for a paid job and pursue her dream instead – which was to write. And she decided to write for free. And she followed that decision with dogged determination. She poured her sweat, blood and money and toiled hard to hone her craft.

I will spare you the intricate details of this story for another time. But today I must look back and ponder on what made us start our blog. What were our strengths and shortcomings? She was an Aerospace and Defence Journalist who wrote articles on warplanes and missiles, and I was just a an inspired follower who believed in her passion and my only achievement up to that point, besides being an editor for my college magazine, was being a story teller whose only audience were five-year olds from my neighbourhood. That afternoon, this was our conversation…

Rosemarie: I want to write and I will do it for free.

Me: Great, I will edit. Let’s do it

That was it and from the next day she stared looking for opportunities and it came sooner than expected. We took up a stint of writing free articles for an embassy event. We received a pat on the back of appreciation from the good man who commissioned us to write. So, the seed was sown for the blog to be born a year later.

While I went to work, Rosemarie sat assiduously for eight hours or more everyday learning how to create a blog by watching YouTube videos, reading articles and experimenting on various free platforms. We wrote on our travels, restaurants, weekend outings and even recipes. We had two readers, my mother-in-law and my mom. A couple of months later, we noticed that we had reached fifty readers. We were so elated that we celebrated,  felt humbled and continued to put in more hours. We still remember that feeling.

Today, we felt that way again. As our names were announced and after the euphoria of receiving such a prestigious award settled down, the journey that we started eight years ago has come full circle and our labour has borne fruit. This award is not only our reward but it’s an incentive to carry on with a greater sense of responsibility. We will continue to write well-researched articles and showcase the positivity in all things we write about because we truly believe the world is a much better place than what people project it to be.

What are the ACT Multicultural Awards?

The Awards acknowledge the efforts of an exceptional group of individuals and organisations from across Canberra who serve the multicultural community each and every day.

In the news:

Thank you note: We would like to thank our readers and our family for their support and a special thank you to our nominator and Rosemarie’s colleague and boss for being present at the awards. Thank you for capturing these moments for us, Heather.

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A BentSpoke Beer Review http://www.travelandbeyond.org/2016/12/04/bentspoke-beer/ http://www.travelandbeyond.org/2016/12/04/bentspoke-beer/#comments Sun, 04 Dec 2016 06:27:52 +0000 http://www.travelandbeyond.org/?p=7968 By Meagan

As someone who always enjoys a cold beer on a hot day, I was thrilled when Rosemarie asked me if I’d like to review the new tinnies (that is, beer in a can) from BentSpoke Brewing Co. At this time of the year, when the weather is warming up and things begin to wind down, a lazy Sunday afternoon is […]

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By Meagan

As someone who always enjoys a cold beer on a hot day, I was thrilled when Rosemarie asked me if I’d like to review the new tinnies (that is, beer in a can) from BentSpoke Brewing Co.

At this time of the year, when the weather is warming up and things begin to wind down, a lazy Sunday afternoon is the perfect time to relax with a drink and soak up the sunshine. I stocked up on crispy and crunchy snacks, pulled up some chairs on the balcony, and – with some enthusiastic help from my partner – began the task of reviewing the Crankshaft and Barley Griffin beers.

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The BentSpoke Brewing Co beers come in the standard size 375ml cans, but the cans themselves are unlike anything I’ve encountered before. Instead of having a small hole to drink from when you open the ring-pull, the entire top of the can comes off. Another nice feature of the BentSpoke cans is that along with the standard alcohol by volume labelling that’s required, they have diagrams that show the amount of hops, malt and yeast contained within each beer. I’m sure this comes in handy when trying to decide which beer to choose!

The first beer we tasted was the Crankshaft, an India Pale Ale. It comes in an orange and silver can, and the beer itself was a deep amber colour and had a nice citrus aroma. While I’m not usually a fan of IPAs (I find them too strong and too heavy for my liking), the Crankshaft was surprisingly tasty. It was zesty and tangy, and full of flavour, and I found myself enjoying it much more than I had anticipated. It was actually our favourite out of the two, and I think it would pair nicely with a spicy curry or some fish and chips, or even with BentSpoke’s famous Grain Crusted Hot Wings. I would definitely recommend drinking it accompanied with a meal though, as at 5.8% alc/vol and 1.8 standard drinks per can, the Crankshaft is a fair bit stronger than your average full-strength beer.

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The Barley Griffin was the second beer that we tried. It’s a Pale Ale that comes in a blue and silver can. At 4.2% alc/vol it is a mid-to high strength beer, containing 1.2 standard drinks per can, and its pale golden colour and low amount of froth made for easy drinking. The Barley Griffin had a slightly fruity taste and aroma, and it was a nice beer for snacking, and went well with our snack selection of lime and black pepper chips and pork crackling.

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While we thoroughly enjoyed both beers (who doesn’t love an excuse to sit in the sun with a cold one?), the clear standout for us was the Crankshaft IPA. There is not a lot of choice when it comes to canned beer, so the new Crankshaft and Barley Griffin beers are a great addition to the list and I’m sure we’ll be seeing them at a many a picnic and pool party soon.

Writer’s Bio: Meagan is a born and bred Canberran who loves a cold beer, a sweet wine or a mojito cocktail on a hot summer’s day. She is graphic designer by day (and sometimes by night!), and in her spare time she’s usually doing something creative. She also enjoys balcony gardening and spending time cooking for her family and partner.

**Travel and Beyond thanks BentSpoke for the lovely cans of beer. All opinions our own.

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The Hungry Buddha – Nepalese Cuisine in Canberra http://www.travelandbeyond.org/2016/10/21/the-hungry-buddha/ http://www.travelandbeyond.org/2016/10/21/the-hungry-buddha/#comments Fri, 21 Oct 2016 05:35:58 +0000 http://www.travelandbeyond.org/?p=7931 By Rosemarie John

The Hungry Buddha – Nepalese Cuisine in Canberra Nepal conjures up the images of snow clad Himalayas, of trekking and mountain climbing, but very few know about its eclectic cuisine. Nepalese food is a gastronomic experience with not only a culture of its own, but also an amalgamation of Tibetan, Chinese and Indian flavours. So we were absolutely delighted to […]

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By Rosemarie John

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The Hungry Buddha – Nepalese Cuisine in Canberra

Nepal conjures up the images of snow clad Himalayas, of trekking and mountain climbing, but very few know about its eclectic cuisine. Nepalese food is a gastronomic experience with not only a culture of its own, but also an amalgamation of Tibetan, Chinese and Indian flavours. So we were absolutely delighted to learn that The Hungry Buddha was opening in our own backyard in Canberra – Belconnen.

Owner and former public servant, Lacchu Thapa, says that opening a restaurant had always been on his mind. “Launching a second restaurant in Belconnen after establishing ourselves in Curtin has been surreal. I wanted to bring a piece of Nepal through its food to Australia.” he added.

Opening its doors to the public on 21 October 2016 and dressed in earthy green, rust and brown tones, The Hungry Buddha features a mix of local Nepalese dishes and both South Asian and South East Asian delicacies too. “When we first bought our restaurant space in Curtin, if was originally an Indian restaurant, hence the decision to keep a few Indian dishes on the menu,” said Thapa.

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While Nepal may share borders with India and at a cursory glance its cuisine may seem that it is inspired from Indian cuisine, there are some vital differences. Nepalese dishes feature tomato based curries which are spiced with piquant herbs like garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, fenugreek, jimmu or jimbu (a dried herb that taste similar to onions and chives) and timur (commonly known as Sichuan pepper) that provides heat and a lemony overtone. You would notice the difference in taste straight away when you dine at The Hungry Buddha.

“Jimmu is usually fried in ghee or oil to develop their flavour,” said Thapa. From our travels in Nepal, we found that this aromatic grass that resembles chives is sometimes used as a garnish as well, while finely ground timur is often combined with garam masala and other aromatics. “You will notice that our dishes are not made with cream,” he adds.

With a sensitive palate you’d be able to distinguish the subtle flavour of timur used in Golbheda Ko Aachar, a homemade tomato pickle/chutney that is served with Momos or can be ordered separately as a dish accompaniment.

Momos. They were soft and light, it was a perfect way to start our meal and it went well with the tomato chutney. It isn’t a heavy dish so there’s room to savour your mains. Momo’s are said to have originated from Tibet and were originally a dish where buffalo meat was used as filling instead of chicken or goat.

Our next appetiser was Makkai Fry, corn kernels sautéed with onions, ginger, garlic and timur. I usually don’t fancy eating corn, but I found myself surprisingly taken to this dish. I was intrigued by its flavours; there was a lovely savoury after-taste that lingered.

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A standard Nepalese meal is a dish called Dal Bhat (steamed rice and lentil gravy/soup) found everywhere across the county and at The Hungry Buddha as well. It is served with a choice of meat together with a vegetable dish (Tarkari), pickle and papad. If you’ve never been to Nepal, or never had Nepalese food, this may be your best option to savour a traditional Nepalese meal.

We skipped this and went straight to tasting dishes separately.

First up, Bheda Ko Masu which was boneless lamb cooked with tomatoes, coriander, bay leaves and Nepalese aromatics. Bheda in Nepalese means lamb and this is where cultural amalgamation shines through as lamb isn’t common in Nepal, at least not when I travelled there. Goat is more prevalent, and it was lovely to have lamb as an option as well. The gravy was thick and coated each spoonful of rice deliciously. I’ve always preferred thicker gravies to lighter ones and this dish was a perfect brown, almost russet in colour showcasing the use of coriander and tomatoes.

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Jhaneko Daal was a lovely dish to savour. Flambéed with cumin, coriander and chilli, the dish is also cooked with Himalayan aromatics and tempered with jimmu. This is where I found a vast difference between Indian and Nepalese cooking, perhaps it’s the taste of jimmu that’s changes it up. I was hooked. I definitely need to get my hands on some jimmu of my own.

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The dish of the night was Khasi Ko Masu. This was village style curry made with tender goat enriched with the flavours of fenugreek, cinnamon, tomatoes, coriander, bay leaves, ginger and garlic. Goat and Nepal for me, is a synonym, and it was a delightful dish. The flavour of spices came through with each bite and unlike Indian goat dishes; this was made with less than seven ingredients. I enjoyed that this dish was made with meat on the bone, making the gravy much more flavourful. Khasi Ko Masu is a famous specialty of Nepal and having it last night, took me back to the hills and valleys of Kathmandu and her eclectic cuisine.

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Open daily for dinner, The Hungry Buddha is located at 8/9 Luxton Street, Belconnen.

Travel and Beyond were guests at The Hungry Buddha. All opinions are our own.

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The Crooning Whales of Bermagui http://www.travelandbeyond.org/2016/10/12/whales-of-bermagui/ http://www.travelandbeyond.org/2016/10/12/whales-of-bermagui/#comments Wed, 12 Oct 2016 11:07:19 +0000 http://www.travelandbeyond.org/?p=7914 By Rosemarie John and Joseph Ellis

Whales! There were scores of them, all around Pelican 1, as far as our eyes could see. They seemed to be simply hanging out and generally having a whale of a time. Boisterously trumpeting their presence, they hung around in groups of threes and fours’ racing across the shimmering waters of Bermagui. While the young males blew their bugles one […]

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By Rosemarie John and Joseph Ellis

Whales! There were scores of them, all around Pelican 1, as far as our eyes could see. They seemed to be simply hanging out and generally having a whale of a time. Boisterously trumpeting their presence, they hung around in groups of threes and fours’ racing across the shimmering waters of Bermagui. While the young males blew their bugles one after another, the females were coy, spyhopping every now and then. A calf swam with her mother while she instructed her on worldly ways.

Not too long afterwards, a pod of four started singing the famous humpback song (a mystifying incantation). They churned one hot whale song after another. But there were others who were neither nurturing nor singing. They simply sauntered around and hung out as how good mates should on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

It was an overcast morning and the sun had snuggled in its grey cloud blanket. But surprisingly the wind too, decided to play truant, which is not what you want when you are on a great sailing vessel like the Pelican 1.

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We were aboard S.V Pelican 1, an amazing 62-foot sailing catamaran, whose design is inspired by Polynesian migratory canoes. The catamaran took six years to build from timber and epoxy resin and is used not just for conducting scientific research but also for people and communities to gather on-board either to share knowledge or simply experience the seas. Captained by Garry McKechnie, Pelican 1 is a ship of many tales. Their voyages are not just sensual flirtations across the oceans, but are journeys through cultural, traditional and scientific seascapes of immense beauty and importance.

As the wind picked up, the catamaran cut through the silver blue waters like a hot knife through butter. The icy gust slicked our hair back as we sipped hot coffee provided by the crew. It’s a strange sense of freedom that engulfs you as you let the wind sweep you through sapphire waters filled with Earth’s grandest life forms – the enigmatic humpback whales.

Suddenly, the wind died and the boat slowed down to a halt. It just bobbed up and down on the waves. The whales were around us but not near us. They were busy. We could see them frolic around at a distance. The rest of us on the boat settled down. Some were taking pictures, others were simply chatting away. Thinking about our drive yesterday, I fell into a reverie.

Late last evening we drove into Bermagui, a virginally beauteous town along the Sapphire Coast. It’s a town that lies untainted by the excesses of tourist activity and the proud townspeople ensure it stays so. We were told that they have a lot of tourist activity during summer but the residents clean up once they leave. Well, they do a great job, because the little town is unblemished and has a shy innocent charm about it.

We were staying at the stunning Bellbird Cottage Bed and Breakfast.

As we parked and got out of our car, the songs of a thousand bellbirds greeted us. They were hidden somewhere in the coppice among the leaves, singing to their hearts content. Their silvery voices, herald the metamorphosis of spring to summer and you feel that something has stirred in your weary slumbering soul. The air was scented with the smell of spring. We passed a small pond by the entrance to the property and past singing cicadas to the door of a lovely cottage.

Bellbird Cottage is a luxurious bed and breakfast in Bermagui.  Its owners, Gretel Bodiam and Tony Oldfield, are a lovely couple with hearts of gold. They are always excited to see you and greet you with lots of love and warmth. And what can you say about their gorgeous cottage that has all the nicest little things to make your stay memorable and comfortable.

It may take us an entire article just to describe the luxurious Bellbird Cottage. Gretel and Tony have thought of every tiny detail to delight guests. Whether it’s the tasteful décor, L’Occitane toiletries, the generous spread of coffee, ranging from instant to freshly ground or the super large bathroom with a shower space for two!

What’s special about Bellbird is that the cottage caters to individuals or couples. So if you are looking for a quiet romantic getaway with your significant other, then this is the perfect place for it.

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We spent an hour with Gretel and Tony exchanging excited banter about our whaling adventure on the Sapphire Coast. They fed us with cheese, cookies and tea. Remember this, they L-O-V-E to FEED you with the most amazing delicacies that they conjure up in their beautiful kitchen. “It’s been an overcast day,” mumbled Gretel as she poured out some tea. “Hope the skies are clearer tomorrow… the whales breach more on a clearer day,” she added.

“The catamaran that you will be boarding is a great sailing boat,” said Tony. “We have been on it and loved the experience,” he added. Tony and Gretel are experts in the area and have many a suggestion on what to see and do when in Bermagui.

As we chatted, Ky-mani the tuxedo tomcat made a regal appearance. He had come to inspect the source of the commotion. He strolled around majestically and made his august presence felt.  You need to acknowledge his presence, as he is a jealous lord. It was he that growled at his own reflection in the skylight because he thought of it as competition. He came, he saw, he conquered and he left shortly afterwards.

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Bermagui has many breath-taking spots and we plan to return to write more about Bermagui as this place has a lot of hidden treasures that can be explored.  It’s just 2.5 hours away from Canberra and is a lovely coastal town to visit. “The restaurant that you are visiting tonight is amazing too, with some great food. Enjoy yourselves,” they said.

They were speaking about Il Passagio, a modern Italian restaurant located on the Fisherman’s Warf whose food is made from locally sourced produce, available from nearby markets.

It was a splendid breezy evening and while the moon was busy painting the waters with silver hues, we settled in a comfortable table by the window overlooking the harbour. The menu at Il Passagio is simple yet elegant.

The Sapphire Coast isn’t just famous for whale watching but it is also a gastronome’s delight. There is a gourmet adventure lying await for the connoisseur of good food – a veritable food trail. In the last couple of days we have witnessed this to be true. We certainly had a small gastronomic adventure of our own so far.

That afternoon, after feasting on Bellbird’s scrumptious bites, sharing an appetiser seemed like good idea and we started with marinated Termeil mushrooms with prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella and thin slices of bread from Honorbread, a local Bermagui bakery making handmade artisan sourdough. The earthy taste of mushrooms and the slightly tangy flavour of mozzarella went well with the saltiness of the prosciutto and tartness of the bread. The portion size was perfect and every bite was an explosion of flavours.

Il Passagio’s pasta is made fresh on-site and while that was tempting, we ordered pizza instead. We had our pizza topped with Termeil mushrooms, Taleggio cheese and rosemary. The fruity twang of the Taleggio cheese was divine. (The Taleggio cheese has been made since the 9th century in the Lombardi region of northern Italy.) Our other main was crumbed flathead with lemon and thyme risotto. The crunchiness of the fish and the creamy texture of the risotto were simply rapturous. Happy and contented we spent the rest of the evening strolling by shimmering waters and listening to the sound of the ocean breeze.

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We drove back to Bellbird. A lone kangaroo stood by the roadside and waved us a good night. When we entered our cottage, we saw that Tony had turned down the lights and the room was filled with a soft golden hue. There were chocolates on the bed and port wine on the table (did we not say they feed you). The bed in our cottage was so comfortable that we won’t try describing how good it is (English has its limitations). Zzzzzzzzz….

The sun crept in through the cutwork of the milky white lace curtains heralding breakfast time. Unlike most bed and breakfasts where you have to head to a communal living room for a meal, at Bellbird, breakfast is brought to you. To dine in the privacy of your own cottage in your jammies!

Drumroll please… That morning we had three-cheese soufflé omelette with grilled asparagus and baked tomatoes stuffed with homemade ricotta; fresh fruit and cranberry yoghurt; baked pear with cinnamon; coconut porridge with toasted desiccated coconut on top; strawberry muffins; bread with butter, homemade marmalade and homemade plum and ginger jam, last but not least freshly squeezed orange juice.

We had to split this spread into two breakfasts like hobbits! If we didn’t have to go whale watching, we could have had elevenses too, just like in Middle Earth.

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It was time to board Pelican 1. We walked up the gangway and met with Captain Garry. There was food and drink and Garry had us in splits with his tongue-in-the cheek remarks. He is funny, entertaining and very experienced and so is his rugged crew. They know the seas very well and can tell you more than a thing or two about her mysteries.

A cold spray the wind carried from atop a wave was deposited directly onto my face, rudely breaking my reverie!

The wind had picked up suddenly and Pelican1 sprang to life. It started riding the waves like an experienced jockey atop a young stallion. We soon caught up with the whales again with the  help of song.

A whale song when #whalewatching @sapphirecoast 🐳 #travel with @pelican1

A video posted by Rosemarie and Joseph (@travelnbeyond) on

The swift catamaran sped alongside them keeping a safe distance so as to not harm the great creatures. The sea wind whistled with a tune of its own. A tune filled with the sound of the waves and the mysterious song of the male humpback whales. You could see them, male singers, swimming off as bachelor buddies singing their tune to woo a female. A mother whale swam with her chubby baby. They breached and dove in unison.

There were other males swimming in three’s, moving like fast ships. They were diving, breaching and blowing whistles of air every now and then. We know for a fact that they are curious of humans but today they were doing their own thing. And out at sea on Pelican 1, we saw first hand the greatness of the seas and its role in the creation of life. We felt puny and were humbled to have met the whales of Bermagui.

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Back at Bellbird Cottage, we had one last drink before we hit the road. It was Gretel’s hot chocolate made from real Tilba milk and rich chocolate! Not your average cuppa and it is accompanied by homemade Kahlua biscuits and marshmallows! Sigh… this is bringing back memories.

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As we left Bermagui that evening, we passed a fish and chip shop in the middle of town by the shoreline. The sun was peeking from behind the clouds; the breeze was busy rustling some leaves. Some townsmen and women were seated at the shop enjoying piping hot fish and fries.

The children were playing. Unions of seagulls were gathered cackling their demands of being fed. It’s a lazy Sunday afternoon in a peaceful town, and life goes on. As we headed back to Canberra, the whales bid us goodbye. “Farewell,” they crooned.

Where to stayBellbird Cottage Bed and Breakfast located at 88 Nutleys Creek Rd, Bermagui NSW 2546.

Where to eat Il Passagio located at Fishermen’s Wharf, 5/73-79 Lamont St, Bermagui NSW 2546.

What to doPelican Expeditions located at Eastern Jetty, Bermagui Harbour.

Where to find more information about BermaguiSapphire Coast official website.

Travel and Beyond were guests of the Sapphire Coast Tourism Board. All opinions are our own.

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Tathra , Merimbula and a Merry Whale http://www.travelandbeyond.org/2016/10/02/merimbula-and-a-merry-whale/ http://www.travelandbeyond.org/2016/10/02/merimbula-and-a-merry-whale/#comments Sun, 02 Oct 2016 02:41:24 +0000 http://www.travelandbeyond.org/?p=7865 By Rosemarie John and Joseph Ellis

Tathra , Merimbula and a Merry Whale In the picturesque little town of Tathra, the azure tides of the south coast wash over a  golden sand beach that is enveloped in dense greenery (of woodland) as far as the eye can see.  As the waves lazily lapped the aureate shores, we drove in from Eden with the sea breeze caressing […]

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By Rosemarie John and Joseph Ellis

tathra-merimbula-a-merry-whale

Tathra , Merimbula and a Merry Whale

In the picturesque little town of Tathra, the azure tides of the south coast wash over a  golden sand beach that is enveloped in dense greenery (of woodland) as far as the eye can see.  As the waves lazily lapped the aureate shores, we drove in from Eden with the sea breeze caressing our faces. The breeze also carried with it the fresh, salty smell of the ocean and the chorus of the seagulls – perfect tonic for a tired soul.

We were headed to our accommodation for the night, Tathra Beach House Apartments, owned and run by Rob and Lesley White. Perfectly located opposite Tathra’s famous surf beach, this award winning  property  with landscaped grounds and native gardens is a splendid place to reside while holidaying in the area.

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The apartments are perfect for a couple or a family and comes with a well equipped kitchen, laundry, complimentary Wi-Fi and other serviced amenities. We got an apartment overlooking the sea and the sunset from our balcony was breath-taking.

It was a lovely two-bedroom apartment perched atop the side of a hill and tonight the ocean was in a mood to sing. The  apartment had provided tea, coffee and fresh milk. The laundry had a washing machine, a dryer and detergent powder. Pretty thoughtful, because we could  wash some of our clothes from the previous day’s trip.

After settling in, we headed to the beach, right in front of the apartment complex. It was such an idyllic beach and it was pity we were visiting it so late in the evening. It would be a great place to spend during the day and time was not our friend. The whales were the priority on this trip. The sun had set and we took one last look at the beach and headed off for dinner.

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Dinner was at Fat Tony’s.

Operating in a heritage building dating back  since 1906,  Fat Tony’s is owned by  the cheerful, athletic and now very famous whale whisperer Antony Little.  Fat Tony’s is a fabulous restaurant serving some exquisite cuisine. “All ingredients are sourced from local farms, and our oysters are usually from Tathra but during winter we source them  from Pambula Lake,” said Anthony Little who moved to Tathra when he was three.

Anthony is a sparkling personality. He has a joyous laugh and is enthusiastic to share his time and knowledge. We choose a nice cosy  corner spot  in the restaurant and listened to his recommendations on the menu. After making our choice and while we sipped at our beverages, Anthony showed us a YouTube video of a whale that appeared right beside him while he went for a short paddle a few days prior. We watched in awe and hoped we too could encounter a friendly whale the next day.

Our appetisers arrived and boy were they presented beautifully. We had local rocks oysters three ways; natural with fresh lemon, fat with bacon, cheese and sweet chilli and with pink grapefruit, mint and mild chilli dressing. They colours popped and we couldn’t wait to savour them. It was hard to pick a favourite but what we can say is that oysters are a must order when at Fat Tony’s. Each lift and tilt of the shell was an explosion of flavours, they uplifted our spirits and they tasted of the sea. Bliss!

We also had a Taste Plate made up of grilled Turkish bread, chef’s dip, grilled zucchini, corn fritters, crispy onion bhaji, marinated olives and feta. The corn fritters and onion bhaji were crunchy and crumbly, it was a lovely contrast from the oysters. It was perfect finger food while we talked about whales and the mystical creatures that they are.

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“Our catch of the day is Dory”, said Little. “I recommend our grilled fish served on our Mediterranean quinoa salad, finished with aged balsamic reduction and fresh lemon,” he adds. It was a wonderful choice, the boneless fish fillets were soft and we loved that the reduction and salad did not over power the taste of the Dory.

Fattucini was our other main! We loved what it was called and it looked bright and refreshing on the plate. Al-dente pan tossed fettuccini with char grilled zucchini, garden peas, spinach leaves with semi dried tomatoes, parsley and roast garlic cream – yum!

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We returned to the apartment, parked our car in our designated garage, climbed the stairs past the outdoor spa and swimming  pool and prepared for bed. The sea was singing a lullaby and our bed for the night was extremely comfortable. The sound of the ocean lulled us into a deep sleep. Late in the night I dreamt about whales and I swear I heard them sing…

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Early next morning we drove to Merimbula Marina which is a 40-minute drive from Tathra. It was time get back on our whale trail.

The morning was crisp and bright with the sun and the seagulls high in the sky. The boats in the marina bobbed up and down watched by hopeful pelicans expecting a morsel or two tossed at them by people on the boats.

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After a quick breakkie at a local Maccas,  we hurried down the pier towards a vessel named “Sensational”. Run by Jess and Simon Millar, Sensational is a fast and comfortable powerboat that seats 20 passengers plus crew, its built to ensure a more personalised and intimate experience with the whales. Our skipper on board was Glen and after a safety briefing, we set off into the blue.

“Watch the albatrosses!” yelled Glen above the din of the motor. “ The whales are bound to be there,” he added. We saw large birds hovering at a distance and Glen deftly manoeuvred the craft in that direction. Then, we saw them.

Four large whales racing each other to the albatrosses’ fishing grounds. We raced with them and they swam, their great flukes flapping the air. Their sleek oily skin breaching the sea every second. It’s a fascinating sight, one that will be etched in our memory forever.

“Look dolphins!” screamed someone and behold we saw six or seven dolphins swimming at break neck speed, hurtling behind the whales, like mad teenagers racing on motorbikes on a dirt track. They came straight at us and dived under the boat, surfaced from the other end and sped off towards the whales.

We were astonished.

We tried to follow them as far as we could but they were fast. We turned course and headed off towards another direction where the sea birds hovered. The water was calm and serene but suddenly there was a sprout. Huh! We said, who could that be? And then she appeared out of nowhere, the merriest whale we saw on our entire trip!

The children in the boat went absolutely crazy with delight when they first spotted her. She swimming quietly by herself. The noise drew her close to inspect. She swam next to our boat and went under it and appeared from the other side. She dived again and disappeared.

A branch/log was floating in the water on our right and we had seen her dive somewhere near it. A few moments later she spyhopped us from under the branch. Her beady eyes peering at us. And then as if to impress us she lifted the branch off the water, but let it go. Perhaps the branches pricked her. She dived again, swam under us and reappeared on the left side of the boat.

We were in awe.

She was about 17 feet long and about eleven years old as per Glen’s estimate. Weighing 37 tons, she was nearly as long as our boat.  She found some floating sea weed and started playing with the seaweed. It almost looked like she was trying to wear the sea weed on her head like a crown. She kept swimming all around us, playing with sea weed and the log. It was clear that she was seeking attention because we saw her looking at us.

She was quite an exhibitionist.

Her showmanship was so good that we soon forgot the other whales in the area and stayed with her and she just wouldn’t leave us. She swam so close to the boat that we could almost touch her. (By the way, it’s illegal to touch them). We were all in ecstasy and we forgot how long we stayed with her.

When the time came to say goodbye, it was we who left her. She was happy to forget her lunch and stay with us.  We turned and left the affable creature and returned to the shore. The bay was full of whales and dolphins. Some think they don’t feed in these waters, but from what we saw today, they seem to be feeding alright.  In a couple of months they will leave these waters and migrate to Antarctica and its best to enjoy their company while it lasts. One can never tire watching them.

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After bidding goodbye to Glen, we jumped into our car and headed off to investigate Nelson’s beach located inside Mimosa Rocks National Park north of Tathra. Turning off the Tathra Bermagui Road, a smaller dirt road called Nelson Lake Road, led us to the parking bays before a 250m trek to the beach.

Nelson’s beach is named after a mysterious disappearance over 130 years ago. Pistol toting George Nelson was a drover (one who drives cattle or sheep to the market) disappeared in the area and was never seen again.  He was  feared by the locals and the disappearance let to the naming of the area.

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But despite the tragic event, Nelson’s beach is anything but unfortunate. It is a beautiful untouched seaside with turquoise waters and peaceful surroundings. Its serene and calm and except for an occasional lizard in the grass and passing sea gulls the beach is undisturbed. It’s a secluded gem of the Sapphire Coast.

After an hour of sea gazing we were back on the road, heading to Bermagui, a coastal town  nestled under the shadow of Mount Gulaga, once an active volcano 60 million years ago.

Where to stayTathra Beach House Apartments located at 57 Andy Poole Dr, Tathra NSW 2550

Where to eatFat Tony’s located at 1/15 Bega St, Tathra NSW 2550

What to do – Whale Watching with Merimbula Marina located at Public Jetty, Market Street, Merimbula NSW 2548

Where to find more information about Tathra and Merimbula Sapphire Coast website.

Travel and Beyond were guests of the Sapphire Coast Tourism Board. All opinions are our own.

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