2018 Mudgee Readers Festival Program Announced

The program for this year’s Mudgee Readers Festival has just dropped, and it’s a doozy.

I would definitely recommend a trip out to Mudgee for the weekend of 10-12 August.  It’s only a three hour drive from Sydney and Mudgee is just one of the most beautiful Australian towns I have ever visited.  There is such a buzz on the main street the weekend of the festival, and a really convivial air in the town.  Plus, there are vineyards everywhere.

It’s pretty much the perfect weekend!

Highlights I am really looking forward to are a panel hosted by the wonderful Jane Rawson with three authors deeply connected to landscape, a blind wine tasting that matches wine with books, and an australian music trivia night featuring the marvelous Andrew P. Street.  It’s a diverse program this year, and there is something for everyone.

I will be offering bibliotherapy sessions at Mudgee Art House (don’t forget to book in, as these one-on-one consultations are limited!), and am interviewing Mandy Sayer at a breakfast event at Pipeclay Pumphouse on Saturday morning.

I am also very excited to be hosting a panel with Inga Simpson, Andrew P. Street,  Laura Elizabeth Woollett and Chris Womersley, asking them about their favourite Comfort Reading.  I can’t wait to talk about the reading that provides us with comfort and solace.  What is your favourite Comfort Read?

Melbourne Day Trip: Macedon Ranges, VIC

Granite Hills Winery, Macedon Ranges

Just an hour from Melbourne, The Macedon Ranges offer a perfect out of town day trip.  Even in rainy September, this hilly rural area was on fine display with daffodils blooming everywhere as the towns and vineyards en route celebrated the coming of spring.

If you are planning on wine tasting, aim for a Friday or Saturday when more vineyards are open. On the Thursday we set out, there were 7 easily identifiable vineyards open for tastings, but they were spread out over a wide area and we had to plan our route.  Granite Hills in Baynton was our pick of the bunch with a smart cellar door, a welcoming host and an impressive range of fragrant and complex cool climate wines.

After hitting a few vineyards we stopped in trendy Kyneton for a late lunch.  The main drag Piper Street is full of edgy and interesting artisan clothing, antique, homeware and culinary stores housed in historic shopfronts (vintage homewares store Kabinett was particularly awesome). Right in the middle  of Piper Street is historic pub The Royal George Hotel, revisioned five years ago as a low key hipster mecca, complete with taxidermy, peeling wallpaper, a large range of craft beers.  The chilled out modern folk on the stereo on the day we were dining included Blitzen Trapper, Bright Eyes and Dana Falconberry.

It would be easy enough to head on from Kyneton to Daylesford and make a proper weekend of it, but as we had to return our rental car by 6pm, we headed off from Kyneton at about 4pm for an easy 60 minute drive back to the Melbourne CBD.  I’ve already started looking for Airbnb properties to rent for a weekend in the future, though.

Ate: Red Duck Curry and Mornington IPA at The Royal George Hotel
Explored: Macedon Vineyards, including Hanging Rock and Granite Hills
Region Highlights: Kyneton, Daylesford

Karloo Walk, Royal National Park, NSW

Karloo Pool

Karloo track is one of Sydney’s Royal National Park’s best day walks.  It’s close proximity to the suburban train from Sydney and it’s stunning swimming hole make it a very popular destination for Sydney visitors.  If you are planning a visit on the weekend, I would recommend starting out early, so you can enjoy the swimming hole before it gets too busy.

Directions: From Heathcoate Train Station, cross to the east side of the train tracks and walk about 20 metres south down Wilson Parade until you reach a sign marking the start of Karloo Track.  Walk 1 hour on this track through the bush until you reach Karloo Pool. After a swim and a rest, you have the option of continuing on to Uloola Falls and then onward to Waterfall Train Station, or turning and walking an hour back up the track to Heathcote Train Station.

Hawksbury Lagoon Walk, Coastal Otago, NZ

Hawksbury Lagoon

From the main highway running through the small Otago town of Waikouaiti, you would never imagine that a few streets away there is a beautiful rural walk that takes you through some of Otago’s most striking coastal landscape.

There is something eerie and and other wordly about Hawskbury Lagoon, a wildlife refuge on the drive North out of Dunedin.  Lots of native plants and birds will greet you, but few if any people.  It is so quiet, and just made for a movie – it would make such a good film location.

Directions:
From the main highway, walk or drive down Beach Street to Scotia Street, which will lead you to a causeway over the lagoon. Cross the Causeway and then turn left up the path towards Inverary Street.  From here you can either head back to do, or walk down Inverary to Edinburgh Street which will take you to the beach and Matanaka.

Puketapu Walk, Coastal Otago, NZ

Puketapu

If you have a few hours to spare when driving to Dunedin, and don’t mind a steep hill and lots of sheep, stop in Palmeston for a quick walk up Puketapu and fantastic 360 degree views of this part of Otago.

Directions: From the main road in Palmeston, drive up Goodwood Road until a parking lot on the right hand side, looking back down over town.  About 10 metres back down the road from the parking lot, there is a stile over the fence on the other side of the road, leading into paddocks and up the hill to the monument you can see at the top.

The walk will take you up a few steep paddocks, past some very gentle rams feasting on thistles, and a flock of sheep sheltering under some macrocarpa pines, and across another two stiles until you start to see yellow markers which point the way to the top of the hill.  You will see one steep trail leading straight up the hill, which you can scramble up if you are very fit, but if you would like a more leisurely walk that spirals around the hill and gives you views in all directions, follow the markers in a clockwise direction.

You approach the summit from the back of the hill, and it is a bit of a scramble, but you will get up there faster than you think, and there is a table and bench at the top to have a rest while you enjoy the views.  You then take the exact same route back down again.  It will take about an hour and a half to walk up and down.

Campuhan Ridge Walk, Ubud

Campuhan Ridge

They call it ‘trekking’ in Bali, and it’s one of the best ways to explore.  There are plenty of walking tracks around Ubud, and all tracks lead to rice fields.  If you would like to spend a lot of time exploring the Ubud area by foot, I would highly recommend the Bali Pathfinder Map (which you can buy from book stores in Ubud for about $5).  I also found a lot of useful information in blog posts by other travellers.

Campuhan Ridge was the walk I most enjoyed on both our trips to Ubud.  I loved it for its beautiful scenery, and the tasty places to stop and eat on the way.  I was also very taken by the idea that this is where lovers in Ubud go for some romantic alone time, and we were actually lucky enough on our last trip to see a local couple meeting here in their beautiful wedding clothes, before their ceremony.

Directions: Walk from Jalan Raya Ubud towards Penestanan.  Just before the Temple, at the sign to Hotel Ibah on the right side of the road, turn right up the driveway to the hotel and then right again up a narrow walled pathway.  Careful, there could be motorcycles coming down from the ridge in the opposite direction quite quickly.

Vernal and Nevada Falls Walk, Yosemite

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This hike up the Mist Trail is a gorgeous forested and mossy zigzag to a height of 300 meres above sea level, where you will find one of Yosemite’s biggest and most famous waterfalls.  At the top of the trail, after some rather precarious but thrilling steps, the Merced River spills over the booming 100 metre tall Vernal Falls.  Be careful on the rock steps, which are slippery, and whatever you do, don’t think it’s a good idea to take a dip as it is very dangerous to swim there.   While the Mist Trail is a busy track, it’s not too crowded and there is a good sense of camaraderie as people walk up together.  From Vernal Falls, you can go higher to the much less crowded Nevada Falls.  It’s a 10 kilometre hike all up, but at least the return is downhill.

Katiki Point Walk, Coastal Otago, NZ

Moeraki Lighthouse

Many people visiting New Zealand skip driving down State Highway 1 for the grand mountainous splendour of Mackenzie Country and Central Otago, but Coastal Otago from the Waitaki down to the Catlins is one of my favourite parts of the South Island.  It’s only a five hour drive from Christchurch to Dunedin, and there are plenty of places to stop on the way.

One of the best places to visit is Moeraki, but don’t just go see the Moeraki Boulders and eat a delicious lunch at Fleurs Place.  One of Moeraki’s best kept secrets is Katiki Point – a short cliff top walk with beautiful ocean views and lots of wildlife.

Directions: From Moeraki town center, drive down Lighthouse Road.  There is a public carpark at the lighthouse.  Walk from here through the long grass and fields towards the point.  Yellow Eyed Penguins and Blue Penguins do nest here, so try and keep your voices low and watch out for holes in the path (Little Blues often build their nest in abandoned rabbit holes).  You can often see Yellow Eyed Penguins on the beach, or standing on the hills around the beach moulting.  There is also a reasonable sized seal colony here and huge numbers of NZ Shags (Cormorants).

Katiki point is also the site of an old Maori Pa.  If you go at low tide you can walk over the rocks to the old pa site.

MacRitchie Reservoir Walk, Singapore

MacRitchie Reservoir

You might think that Singapore is all skyscrapers and shopping malls, but if you are looking for an escape from the city one afternoon, there is a quiet little oasis in the middle of the island called MacRitchie Reservoir.  You can catch public transport to the start of this jungle walk that takes you on swing bridges across bush canopy, past cheeky monkeys and other wildlife, to a large network of boardwalk around the edge of Singapore’s main water supply and then through a public park.  You will meet lots of joggers and other walkers, but for the most part this 10+ kilometre walk is very peaceful, and teeming with wildlife (we saw monkeys, birds, terrapins and giant water lizards).

Lots of people who aren’t used to tropical heat balk at the idea of being out in the open for any length of time during the day, but if you load up on water and nice cold calamansi lime drinks from the supermarket before you go, you should be fine.  Just take it slow and pack snacks and lunch to stop and eat on the way.  Be warned, though, the monkeys will definitely try to steal your sushi!

Directions: Catch the MRT to Marymount MRT Station, and then catch bus services 52, 74, 165, 166, 852, or 855 to various points in the park.  A map of the area on your phone (and directions from the excellent Singapore Public Transport App) will help you know when to get off the bus.  It will be super easy to find another bus to take you back to an MRT station when you emerge from the park.

We caught the 166 bus from Marymount Station up Upper Thompson Road and then walked a few minutes to the Venus Loop park entrance near the Tree Top Walk.