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At The Gong, the beach we finally reach

Dernière mise à jour : 22 janv. 2022

From Canberra, we head out North East to catch up with Melissa's long time friend Al and his family in Wollongong. "The Gong", as it is commonly referred to, lies some 70 km South of Sydney, home to 300k inhabitants, making it the 10th city in Australia. To be fair, we felt like it was an amazing small coastal resort.

Hit the waves

This is where we first hit the beach. And what a welcome! The recent cyclone Seth, which generated surf hazard higher up North (closed beaches in Queensland and NSW), left a present for our arrival.

It all starts with that deep distant repetitive sound, coming and going. Like the premices of a storm, or the start of a long clubbing party. As we walk towards the sea, the noise becomes more intense, and rises like Europe's Final Countdown playing on the kids' Spotify. The lapping of the waves become clearer as we turn the corner and face the beach. The agitated waters mean restricted safe zone at the beach on the first day and closed beach on the second. Not something to stop our 2 little explorers. Donning their rashies (or rash vests, basically a t-shirt to swim in, crazy hey?), splashing sun protection over (random parts of...) their skin, in they run. Outside of the safety beach flags, mind you!

Aah.....the waves! That feeling of sobriety gently slipping away as the water shuffles the sand under your feet, massaging your toes on its the way out to sea. Well, scrap that metaphor... It would have been like that for a hippopotamus, not for 30 to 40 kg boys (nor for us slightly musclier adults, as a matter of fact). They were quickly swept off their feet and tumbled into the heavy roll. Unscathed and unphased, up they rose again, facing the surf, ready to conquer whatever was coming they way. Fools. Or maybe simply fearless kids full of joy in the water.

They were not alone. We all joined in, regressing rapidly to match the carelessness of our children and letting the water play with our bodies like a bowling ball toppling pins. Time stops when you are having fun in the water. The pleasure of observing the kids laughing and jumping adds to the physical experience, and we too started to let go. Was the water warm or cold? Who cares. Get yourself in and let it sink in.

Don't get me wrong, the beach in Australia can be a dangerous place, and I am not talking about sharks. There are lifeguards and safety rules, which we will make sure to always respect. Another post will go over these in the future. As the beach closed and lifeguards left, we packed our stuff and headed home.

The blessing of friendship

Our trip is a family adventure, away from the usual day-to-day. A chance to connect more together, netting our cocoon as we travel. Our trip comes also with the luxury of being free to go where the road can take us (although the covid pandemic comes with ever-changing movement restrictions). Connecting with friends is part of the adventure.

Melissa met Al in Quito (Ecuador) in 2001, whilst backpacking in South America. Although Al was traveling with a bunch of fellow male Brits, he seemed quite civilized and Mel, the Aussie, accepted to talk to him. As things go, all backpackers take the same road, and on November 7th, 2011, they all witnessed a historic moment: Bolivia faced Brazil in a World Cup qualifier match in La Paz. The Brazilian arrived late, could not acclimatize, and Bolivia won 3-1. The Aussies and the Brits met again in Cuzco, and the groups hiked together to Machu Picchu. Al was already considering moving to Australia to work as a medical doctor, but wasn't sure whether it would be possible. Eventually that happened, and we caught up with him and Merilyn in Sydney in 2011, with our first baby, 8 month-old Stanley.

It was fabulous to catch up with Al, Merylin and their 2 kids (our families grew!) at The Gong. Beyond their wonderful generosity and hospitality, Al also thoughtfully "reserved" 2 car spots in the street... for our 15m rig. No neighbour complained and the handbrakes did the job (the street was probably at a 15% grade!). I did have a little anxiety during the night, happy to see the van still there in the morning. Not sure I would have parked my car behind (as a neighbour did)!

We had a fabulous evening and dinner, whilst the 4 kids played (almost) without disruption. Kids will be kids, or maybe we should say, our kids will always find a way to wreak havoc. Sorry guys, we do try to educate them ;-).

Thanks Al and Merilyn for having us, making the time, and sharing your place with us. We look forward to future gatherings and adventures, hopefully on the ski slopes of Switzerland sometime soon. Friendships make so many things possible.

Fortunately, the street was not a dead end... as I would not have wanted to venture into a U-turn there ;-). Off we go on our next Australian discovery.

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