Tag Archives: sausage sizzle

Whale Dreamers Festival

It’s whale migration season here on the eastern seaboard of Australia, with thousands of these wonderful creatures making their way to the warmer waters up north to breed.

A few years ago when I was still a Sydneysider (or almost!) I went on a whale watching cruise with a friend. We were fortunate enough to see a number of humpback whales up close, and witness a variety of behaviours such as tail slapping and breaching. But I did feel that there was something intrusive about being so close to them on the water.20140706_113812


















The Whale Dreamers Festival at Norah Head* offers a completely different approach. Organised every year since 2006 on the initiative of a dedicated trio of women, it is an eco event and great emphasis is placed on whale conservation and protecting the environment. And the watching takes place from a distance. In fact, Norah Head provides the ideal location for this with its panoramic ocean views from the cliffs by the lighthouse.20140706_114137


















Icklegen and I decided to join in the action at this year’s festival. We turned up early, which was a good thing as there was no parking at the lighthouse and limited slots in our usual spot by the Rockpool Café. We didn’t have to walk forever, as I had feared (now that would have been a challenge with a little one!) Free shuttle buses trundled up and down the access road to the lighthouse throughout the event making life so much easier.P1020276

On arrival, there was a big crowd on the cliff-top, with people peering excitedly through binoculars and very long telephoto lenses. There had been a sighting of a southern right whale a few kilometres offshore. A number of the more common humpback whales were also observed during the course of our visit, as well as pods of dolphins. Alas, we didn’t get to see any whales or dolphins ourselves, but it was enough this time to know they were ‘in attendance’.20140706_102947

We toured around the various environmental stalls, where Ickle befriended a somewhat battered wooden pelican. Then we got creative in the Art Space, a great initiative where, for a gold coin donation, Ickle got to paint and colour in her very own mask. The highlight of the day, though, had to be face painting. My little girl sat very still as a local artist decorated her forehead with a rainbow, flowers and a ziggy-biggy (aka a ladybird), the latter being at Ickle’s specific request.20140706_11083420140706_111521

We checked out the excellent food stalls on-site later on when we got a bit peckish. I opted for a black bean burrito (delicious and very spicy) and Ickle took a fancy to the sausage sizzle. (Well, she is a little Aussie, after all). And we sat in the sunshine overlooking the lighthouse and the ocean, while live music played in the background. And I thought: this isn’t bad for a Sunday afternoon in the middle of winter.20140706_111558


















*The Darkinjung Aboriginal people refer to the Central Coast of NSW as ‘Whale Dreaming Country’, and the whale is their totem.

Carols by the Lake

‘Tis the season for carols. Not a weekend in December goes by without the possibility of attending an open-air carol concert. It’s a great Aussie tradition generally comprising performances of Christmas songs old and new, a sausage sizzle, soft-serve cones, Santa’s arrival on a fire truck to distribute lollies (sweets) to the littlies and – if you’re lucky – some fireworks to round off the evening. But all events pale in comparison with the BIG ONE, Carols by Candlelight*, which has been held in Melbourne every year since 1938, and is now televised live on Christmas Eve. In this glitzy festive extravaganza, international stars, home-grown celebs, and kiddies’ favourites take to the stage to entertain the masses.1-P1010295

Icklegen and I are not quite ready for activity on this scale, so we opted to stay local and popped along to Gwandalan to see what Carols by the Lake had to offer. This was definitely not a mass-marketed media event: there were a couple of banners on display and a small entry in the free monthly courier we get delivered, and that was about it. And why not keep it that way? A happy, friendly gathering of people you recognise from the next street, playgroup, the local shops…let me tell you, it was lovely. And what a backdrop too, with the waters of Lake Macquarie glistening in the late afternoon sunshine.3-P1010288

The weather was a balmy 25 degrees as we arrived, lured by the enticing smell of sausages and bacon sizzling on the barbie. All a far cry from carol singing when I was a lass, where we would rug up in our winter woollies and walk around in the inky dark, gloved hands stuffed in our pockets, singing our hearts out in the chill night air, and hoping we’d be invited into a warm house for a mince pie and glass of mulled wine.4-P10102916-P1010294

There was a variety of performances, including a local choir from Tuggerah, a small band, and a couple of soloists. But it’s about so much more than the music; these outdoor events provide a wonderful occasion for family and friends to sit down, relax and chat, and perhaps indulge in a sausage sandwich or soft-serve dipped in sprinkles (or Milo – now that’s a new one for me!)1-P1010285

Icklegen had other ideas though; she quickly tired of the picnic rug and set off to explore her new and exciting surroundings. Quite a crowd had gathered by this point, and some of her little friends had arrived too, which made it all the more fun. She charged around, looking at everything and even tried to burst onto the stage (perhaps she’s an artiste in the making unlike her stage-shy mummy!) My favourite part of the evening, though, was of her and another friend dancing with two older girls right at the front, spinning around and around, and loving every minute.

We didn’t manage to stay until Santa’s grand entrance, alas, although Icklegen is none the wiser. It’ll make it doubly special for her next year when our little part of Lake Macquarie rocks again.

*To be fair, Sydney’s ‘Carols in the Domain’ has the larger attendance. At 31 years young, it is a mere whipper snapper alongside its Melbourne rival, but definitely an institution in its own right.