All posts by Natalie

Idea factory

I just got a new idea for a story, and I love the idea. I got the idea while reading someone else’s novel, one that I’m not enjoying. The funny thing is that my new idea bears no resemblance to the story I’m reading. I mis-read a sentence, which sparked the totally off-topic idea. This makes me wonder if the idea was always there?

I truly believe story ideas are out in the ether, and occasionally a write makes a connection to one of those ideas. I hope that if the writer ignores it, then the idea goes back and waits for another author, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the idea doesn’t get recycled. Humans are a bit wasteful, so why not with ideas as well?

For the past three months I’ve only had minimal creative output. I confess I did write a flash fiction story earlier this week, but the idea felt forced and concocted. You can do that with flash (though not always well). This new idea feels fresh, and alive and like it will take me to amazing places I haven’t even begun to think about if I follow it. It’s a story out of the ether.

Maybe the flash fiction was a sign that the muse was coming back. Today I know it is. I want to explore this idea. I want to see what happens. I want to stop watching TV and working in the garden and all the other diversions I have been choosing lately and I want to sit down and write.

It feels good to be back.

Watching the novel

When I read a novel, it is like watching a movie. Sometimes it’s a really long movie that runs sporadically over a few weeks, and occasionally some of the characters look a bit different when they come back on screen, but I ‘see’ it all happening in my mind’s eye. Which is why it really bugs me when an author purposely blinds me.

I was reading a novel by an author I really like, but they refused to show me the main protagonist. There was clearly something up with his appearance, and I watched him walk around dark streets and avoid people, but I didn’t get to ‘see’ him. This went on for three chapters. How am I expected to craft the movie of this novel if I can’t even see the main character?

I think I’ve bemoaned the unreliable narrator before, but this is different. This is wilful omission that both author and reader are aware of. It’s like someone pixilated the lead in the film and expected everyone to just go with it.

I have to confess I put the book down. Who knows, maybe in the next chapter the author did the big reveal, or maybe I was going to be forced to go through the whole novel so I could have an a-ha moment at the end when suddenly it all made sense. Regardless I’ll never know. For me, the appeal of the novel is being able to get into the skin of the main protagonist and learn with them along the way. If they have some kind of physical issue that impacts every facet of how they live their life, then I think I should know about it on page one.

Clearly that is just my opinion, and there will be loads of people out there who love that kind of book (oh wow, all this time he was actually the pet dog!) – which makes me wonder, do some people actually read books and not make their own movie?

Adventure Tours – Broome to Darwin

(If you can’t see the pictures on this post, please click on the heading to go to the page).

Tunnel Creek, a 750m underground tunnel complete with a crocodile filled creek that you wade through.
Tunnel Creek, a 750m underground tunnel complete with a crocodile filled creek that you wade through.

It seems totally crazy to cover so many kilometres and experiences in one post, but I’ve been home for a month now, and I think it is time I moved on from the holiday and I need to finish this. So here goes…

The falls at Bell Gorge. You can hide down to the bottom and go swimming.
The falls at Bell Gorge. You can hide down to the bottom and go swimming.

We left Broome for the Gibb River Road through the Kimberley. The 4WD bus did a good job of managing the bumpy road, but I have to admit I was amazed to hear the whole thing had just been graded two weeks earlier. I imagine it would be quite a tooth-rattler at other times of the year.

Zebedee Hot Springs at El Questro. The water comes out of the ground at about 29'C
Zebedee Hot Springs at El Questro. The water comes out of the ground at about 29’C

We stopped at several gorges along the way, all of which were stunning and all of which involved a hot and sweaty hike, a cold swim in freshwater-crocodile-infested water, then a sweaty hike out. It was brilliant.

The view from the campsite over Pentecost River at El Questro.
The view from the campsite over Pentecost River at El Questro.

I have to dip my hat to El Questro Station as the best campground in the Kimberley. I came to that decision not just because of the beautiful river than ran alongside us, or for the bar with wine that was listed by grape variety instead of colour (yes, one hostel had Red and White as their wine list), not even the washing facilities that allowed us to remember what clean clothes felt like. No, El Questro camp ground has fantastic showers. Right temperature, right amount of spray and (crazy concept here) somewhere to put your stuff so it will stay dry as you shower.

The domes of the Bungle Bungles in Purnululu National Park.
The domes of the Bungle Bungles in Purnululu National Park.

Then it was back on the road and down to the Bungle Bungles. I say that as if they are half an hour away, but the trip was more like 7 hours. Totally worth it. Hiking through the domes was amazing, Echidna Gorge was amazing, Cathedral Gorge was amazing. And just in case I hadn’t had enough amazing, I did a helicopter ride over it all in a helicopter with no doors. A-ma-zing!

Bungle Bungles domes from the helicopter.
Bungle Bungles domes from the helicopter.

Then we made the dash to Darwin stopping at Lake Argyle for a sunset cruise (beautiful, I had no idea), then Katherine to see Nitmiluk Goroge and finally Edith Falls for our last sweaty hike into a beautiful waterfall-ed swimming hole.

Sunset over Lake Argyle. I have not fiddled with the colour in this picture at all. This is what it looked like!
Sunset over Lake Argyle. I have not fiddled with the colour in this picture at all. This is what it looked like!

Then like that the trip was over. We were in Darwin and I had my flight booked home the next day. I didn’t want to go back. And even after being back for a month… I still don’t want to be back.

Cathedral Gorge in the Bungle Bungles. Look down the bottom and you'll see a person to give you an idea of the size.
Cathedral Gorge in the Bungle Bungles. Look down the bottom and you’ll see a person to give you an idea of the size.

Western Australia was stunning, and confronting, and challenging, and beautiful, and awe-inspiring, and cold, and hot, and unforgettable. You need to go there. Put it on your bucket list.

No, Western Australia, thank YOU!
No, Western Australia, thank YOU!

Adventure Tours – Broome

(If you can’t see photos below, please click on the post heading to view in the post page).

I discovered that my tour was not actually a 22-day tour as I thought, but rather two 10-day tours tacked together with 2 days in Broome between them. I didn’t know much about Broome, besides the fact that they had more dinosaur footprints there than anywhere else in Australia, and that for some reason people felt obliged to ride camels on Cable beach to watch the sunset.

Sunset over Cable Beach in Broome, WA
Sunset over Cable Beach in Broome, WA

I hate to say this, but I didn’t love Broome. The history was great, but as a holiday destination, I didn’t find it very relaxing. It probably wasn’t helped by the location of the hostel I stayed in, which wasn’t near anything. To go to Cable beach was either a $20+ taxi ride, or a bus that stopped running soon after sunset. If you went out to dinner in the main town of Broome (where the hostel was located) you had to come back down dark streets with no lighting.

Tiny-tiny hermit crab on cable beach. I was getting changed behind a rock and suddenly all the shells got up and walked away!
Tiny-tiny hermit crab on cable beach. I was getting changed behind a rock and suddenly all the shells got up and walked away!

I’m also not really into pearls, which is the other thing Broome is famous for. Something I was looking forward to was the cuisine. Broom is such a melting pot of cultures that I had heard there were really novel and delicious combinations of food. I’m sure there was, but I couldn’t find it. I don’t think my hostel was really into food, because when I asked about where to eat they directed me to a pizza shop.

The tides in Broome are massive, up to 12 metres. They were only 10 when I was there, but there is only about an hour between these two photos.
The tides in Broome are massive, up to 12 metres. They were only 10 when I was there, but there is only about an hour between these two photos.

Anyway, through amazing good fortune I stumbled onto one of the better mini-tours I have done. I wanted to see dinosaur footprints, but the tides (which are HUGE in Broome) weren’t right for me to be able to walk out and see them myself. The only way I could see some was on a sunset hovercraft tour. One of only three hovercraft tours in the WORLD it was great to glide over mudflats and ocean with ease in such a unique craft. The commentary was excellent and the guide clearly both knew and loved the place. The footprints were spectacular and plentiful, and the sunset was gorgeous. I think it was a much better way to do sunset than on the back of a camel!

You can see the compression of the 'soil' layers under this dinosaur footprint.
You can see the compression of the ‘soil’ layers under this dinosaur footprint.

I think I need to come back to Broome again and do it properly, not staying in a hostel next to the airport. If I do, I will certainly be booking myself onto the hovercraft sunset tour again.

The dinosaur discovery hovercraft tour ends with champagne and a sunset!
The dinosaur discovery hovercraft tour ends with champagne and a sunset!

Next week I’ll finish off with the last 10 days of the tour; Broome to Darwin. That’s going to cover a LOT!

Adventure Tours – Coral Bay to Broome

Just a quick note to let you know that if you are not seeing the photos in this post, please click on the post heading and go to the post page. For some browsers the pictures don’t automatically resolve on the home screen. I’m looking into it…

Coral Bay - the darkness in the water is the reef.
Coral Bay – the darkness in the water is the reef.

Coral Bay was where I got my first glimpse of Ningaloo Reef. It actually comes right to the shore! You can walk into the water and snorkel over the reef. I elected to take a boat out a bit further so I could get some deep-water snorkelling practice in before my big whale shark adventure the next day. I was glad I did, because it takes a little while to get used to breathing underwater. The reef was stunning, but lacked a bit of the colour that I’d seen in the Great Barrier Reef over two decades ago, sadly I don’t think it is still like that now.

Coral Reef Western Australia
Snorkelling over Ningaloo Reef at Coral Bay, WA

The next day was the big one. Whale sharks! I will never forget the moment when we were all bobbing about in the water wondering what was going on and the guide told us to look down. I put my face in the water and was almost eye to eye with a 7-metre long whale shark! I struggled to believe I was really there. The photo below is courtesy of Kings Ningaloo Reef Tours and if you ever find yourself up in Exmouth I would HIGHLY recommend you go out with them. The staff were amazing, and everyone had a fantastic time.

Kings Ningaloo Reef Tour - Swimming with whale sharks
Kings Ningaloo Reef Tour – Swimming with whale sharks

I had never heard of Karijini National Park, and if I’m honest I stopped reading the tour itinerary once I established I would see stromatolites and swim with whale sharks. As a result, I was not prepared for the amazing beauty that is Karijini National Park. I can only put up a couple of photos, but for the more adventure-minded this is the park to come to. The ‘paths’ test you out physically and mentally. You have to climb over stuff holding your weight with your hands, you swim through water crossings, and you clamber through slippery waterways. It is amazing.

Karijini National Park - The Sheep Dip. Yes, that is the path. You had to swim.
Karijini National Park – The Sheep Dip. Yes, that is the path. You had to swim.

The other bonus is that it is so far out in the middle of nowhere that the night sky is unlike any you have ever seen. It was almost hard to make out the main constellations because there were so many other stars around them. It also made for very chilli nights, and this was where I discovered that my sleeping bag might have been exaggerating a little when it said it went down to -5°C. I literally woke up shivering.

Karijini National Park - Kermit's Pool. Yes, also the path. And that water was cold!
Karijini National Park – Kermit’s Pool. Yes, also the path. And that water was cold!

From there we went to Broome, where I spent a few days, so I think I will give it a post all of its own.

Adventure Tours – Perth to the Peron Peninsula (Monkey Mia)

It seems crazy to try and cover Peth to Monkey Mia in one post, it’s hundreds of kilometres of travelling, but I can’t do a post for each day of the tour, or it would see us out to the end of the year. In an effort to cut out some I’ll skip Perth cover just some of what we did in along the way.

We hit the ground running, sandboarding down brilliant white sand dunes in Lancelin. This was the first test for my Tough camera as we got sand-blasted at every turn. It performed beautifully. After this tour, more than ever, I love my Olympus Tough tg-5. It puts up with a lot!

Lancelin Sand Dunes, WA
Lancelin Sand Dunes, WA

Back on the road we then found ourselves at the Pinnacles. I’m sure most Australians have seen the Pinnacles, but what you might not realise is that no-one actually knows how they formed. Some say they are the remains of a petrified forest. To me they look more marine in origin, but right now we are all just guessing. Despite the many people (and cars) moving through them, they managed to hold a magical aura that was quite haunting.

The Pinnacles, WA
The Pinnacles, WA

But this was a tour, so we were back on the road to burn away as many kilometres as possible. We stopped for the night in Kalbarri and then took off early for a quick romp through the national park. It seems a crime to speed through this, but we went to Murchison Gorge, Nature’s Window and Z-Bend Gorge. All stunning. Then on the road again to get to Monkey Mia just in time for sunset.

View through Nature's Window, WA
View through Nature’s Window, WA

The next morning we ambled down to the beach and watched the dolphins come up to the shore. I was lucky enough to be picked out of the crowd to feed one. She didn’t take my fish -they thought she might be pregnant, so I shouldn’t take offense. Then we were back on the bus to visit shell beach; a massive expanse of pure white beach made up entirely of shells. Apparently they are up to 10 metres deep!

Shell Beach, Peron Peninsula, WA
Shell Beach, Peron Peninsula, WA

Next it was time for the main reason I found myself in WA. Hamelin Pool and the Stromatolites. These were the first life on earth, and the reason all the rest of life could follow. For many years they were thought only to exist in the fossil record, until Hamelin Pool was discovered.

Stromatolites, Hamelin Pool, WA
Stromatolites, Hamelin Pool, WA

I must have taken at least 100 photos, and I did nearly cry. The significance of these bacterial communities cannot be stressed enough. No stromatolites, no people. I just hoped my selfie there wasn’t documenting the creatures responsible for the start and end of life on the planet.

 

Next week… Coral Bay to Broome

Confession Time

Okay, I wasn’t just taking a digital holiday. I was having a holiday holiday as well. I have just spent the last month travelling from Perth to Darwin (nearly 10,000 kilometres) and it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done.

The holiday tested me on many levels, pushing me to, and beyond, my limits. I swam with whalesharks, I clawed my way through the ravines of Karijini National park, and I sat up front in a helicopter with no doors and an amazing view of the Bungle Bungles.

I also showered in hostels where I had to wash the ants down the drain before I could get in, I used public toilets where the stench of rotting faeces came over to hug you before you even opened the door, and I ate off dishes washed in cold water. I think my gut flora were tested too.

I met lovely people. I saw beautiful, and terrifying, and wonderful things. I ticked items off my bucket list. I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

But I am back to reality now. Work, cold, housework. All things that I could forget about for a while. So, over the next few weeks I’m going to share some of my trip with you in the hopes that it will inspire you to get away. I think we could all use a break from reality sometimes.

Here are some snaps from Rottnest Island, a 90-minute ferry ride from Perth, Western Australia.

Rottnest Island Quokka
Curious Quokka
Salmon Bay – Rottnest Island
Western Australia
Fish Hook Bay – Rottnest Island
Rottnest island seals
Seal Ballet

Digital holiday

Reading between the lines you might be able to tell from more recent posts that I’m getting a bit fed up with the online world. Recent events have only heightened my frustration with the different apps that I feel obliged to be a part of. Recently I’ve slackened off on my social media, and I haven’t missed it at all.

The whole reason I have so many accounts is because at writing conventions and talks everyone stresses how important it is to have an online presence. But if you stop and think about it, until you have a book to promote, what is the point in working on accruing so many followers when there is nothing much for them to actually read?

To me, social media accounts feel like an insecure and needy friend. When you get caught up in other things (you know, silly stuff like writing new stories) then your followers leave you in droves as if you have done something wrong. It seems that months of nurturing these accounts can come undone by a single busy week.

Well I’m going to test it out. I think I’m a more productive writer when I’m not spending so much time on all the online things. So, I’m giving myself a month off of all my digital obligations, and that includes this blog.

I have a project I want to throw myself into, so I’ll focus all my attention on that and keep my internet turned off. I suspect I’m going to feel happier and more relaxed, so if that is the case, I may look at doing something more permanent.

Either way, I will report back in at the end of May and let you know how I go. Try not to forget me! 😊

Too late?

I studied astronomy at Uni. It was only a single semester subject, and it was more of an overview rather than getting too deep into the physics side of things, but I got a distinction for it.  Something that really strikes you when you learn about other planets, as well as your own, is how incredibly unlikely it is that you’ll get the neat  balance on a planet that lets life not only survive, but thrive.

Yeah, I know, given only advanced life can contemplate such things, statistically those who do so must exist on those lucky few planets, so there is nothing special about me thinking about this. The point I want to focus on is the incredible BALANCE the planet must have.

I am worried that we have irreparably stuffed up that balance. In Australia it is autumn (fall) at the moment. In fact, we are into our second month of autumn. On Wednesday it was 36°C and we had bushfires. Yes, I had our bags packed and the pet pack out ready to grab the cat and go. We are normally all complaining about the cold about now. Until Saturday we had not had any significant rain this year. THIS YEAR!!!! I don’t live in a desert. Not yet anyway.

I hear many people say that this is all part of a natural cycle, but the thing people seem to be missing is that all the historical natural cycles (and we can track them back a very long way) were gradual. What is happening now is happening at a rate we have never seen on the planet before. The best scientists have no real idea what will happen next.

What does this have to do with writing? Not much. I’ve been putting the above fears into my writing for the last ten years, and I don’t think that’s made a scrap of difference. I think I need to change tack. If I’m going down, I’m going down swinging, because I think it is important that none of us ever think it is too late to make a difference.