Things I’m loving on the Fraser Coast – February 2018

I’ve been ridiculously slack on the blogging front here – despite having planned to write about some great experiences I’ve had over the past few months.

What is it they say in the ad on TV? Life’s v.busy? (Or is it v.messy?) Whatever…

Instead I thought I’d try to regularly share a few snippets of the stuff I’ve been getting up to / enjoying, OR… (more importantly cos I’m hermit-like, lazy and sometimes hate being around people), stuff I hear about.

Massage therapy

I walked out of Complete Wellness Holistic Therapy  yesterday and was only capable of sending a group of friends the très eloquent message, O. M. F. G.

I’d had my second massage with Gabby – the first being a gift from a friend for my recent birthday – and I was floating on air. She’s amazing. She achieves that balance between a massage being therapeutic and pampering (ie. I’m not in excruciating pain, but she hits the sore spots and equally makes me feel blissed-out). She also helps me relax with breathing exercises and finishes with a singing bowl thingy that is just magic and leaves me a little tingly… and no, not in THAT way, but in a ‘life is good’ kinda way.

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I never want the bliss massage to finish so plan my next one as I lie there getting my back and shoulders unknotted!

Cruising

I spent almost 5yrs back on the Fraser Coast before heading out on the water. In a boat. (And longer by foot, but that’s another story). A friend held her 40th birthday party on Whalesong Cruises last winter and the champagne and sunset cruise was a magical experience. We received a drink on arrival (and can buy more obviously) and A LOT of delicious food is included in the price. Like LOTS. I’m coeliac and they had an entire array of stuff especially for me.

Fast forward a few months and I went whale watching with my local bestie and godson. Obviously there are a plethora of options here in Hervey Bay, so we based our choice on price and the fact we really only wanted a half-day cruise in case the just-turned-6yr old got bored. We went with Hervey Bay Whale Watch (which offers a ‘locals’ discount) and had a great day. The crew were fabulous with 6yr old birthday boy Pickle and let him hang about in the captain’s cabin. A basic morning tea was served and other snacks and drinks were able to be purchased.

And then…. I hosted friends aboard a champagne and sunset cruise for my 50th birthday just after Christmas. Because I wanted to book the entire boat, have limited friends and budget, and had heard great things about their catamaran I went with Blue Dolphin Tours. Jodie and Peter were fabulous (& flexible) as I was nervous about the weather and so forth. The cruise is basically the same price as Whalesong, though there’s less distance travelled – you cruise for a while and then are moored somewhere between Hervey Bay and Fraser Island. The nibbles are fairly basic but guests are offered ‘unlimited’ alcohol. Which was perfect for the 90minute cruise. It’s certainly one of the best days of my life and one of my favourite experiences. EVER.

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Cafes and restaurants galore

The Dock Bar & Restaurant opened a while ago now and I had THREE events there over the Christmas period. I love the atmosphere and it’s a great plate-sharing / tapas type venue.

Everyone I know who enjoys healthy food has fallen in love with The Front Room. Offering vegan and organic food it’s perfectly located on the Esplanade in Torquay and is an acai-bowl / raw pizza-lovers delight.

Close friends of mine visited the new (Friday and Saturday night) Taco & Tequila Bar at EAT at Dan & Steph’s this past weekend and couldn’t have loved it more. They’re foodies and from all accounts the food and drinks on offer were fabulous.

I’ve not been there yet but am desperate to go to Alowishus Delicious in Maryborough just because it looks so BLOODY amazing. Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 11.20.35

Mary Ryan’s bookstore – more than a bookshop

I interviewed Cate Akaveka – owner of Mary Ryan’s Hervey Bay – a while ago, and she’s a friend of mine. Since that interview, Mary Ryan’s has moved to the esplanade and certainly has taken on a whole different vibe. I suspect they’ve kept a lot of their old customer base but gained more.

As I said in that interview, I love that Mary Ryan’s host a range of events. A friend and I recently attended one of their monthly Philosophy & Coffee sessions (discussing whether ‘romance had ruined love’) and were gobsmacked that there were so many of us (like 30 or so) that we had to break into two groups. It was a fabulously mixed / eclectic bunch and everyone in my group talked about how much they enjoyed ‘deeper’ and more philosophical conversations.

And, as Valentine’s Day was approaching the team at Mary Ryan’s set up a tower of love. Basically it allowed you to go in and buy a book for someone (which they wrapped) and on V.Day, the store messaged the recipient to tell them there was a book there awaiting them. I bought a couple for my godson to leave there and my bestie bought one for me – though it was officially from a ‘secret admirer’. (Of course I have so many I hardly knew WHO it could possibly be!)

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Phew. This has actually been much longer than I intended it to be…. I think I’ll try to make this a monthly thing. Like a newsletter, except in blog post form.

PS. Apologies for the crap pictures. They’re all from Instagram / Facebook and attributed appropriately (as far as possible). I’ve also included website / Facebook links to the places I’ve talked about.

I’d welcome any comments…. massage therapists you’d recommend, places to eat and so forth. 

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Karen Andersen: Fraser Coast fine artist

I’ve become a big fan of Instagram. Sadly I remain exceedingly unartistic myself when it comes to photography and visual art, but I’m discovering some fabulous business and personal accounts on Instagram and – more importantly – some very talented people!

I don’t even know how I stumbled across Maryborough’s Karen M Andersen but I was immediately taken with her art and started planning my eventual purchase of one of her pieces.

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Karen’s gorgeous Instagram feed

Karen’s refreshingly honest online (you can follow her on Facebook, Instagram or check out her website) about her experiences with depression and anxiety. And she openly talks about the benefits of using art as an outlet for her emotions and creative energy.

I had the opportunity recently to meet her and talk about her work.

As Karen notes on her website, she’s always loved art but grew up in the era when it wasn’t really seen as a ‘vocation’. It was a hobby, not something to pursue career-wise. Fortunately Karen was also passionate about biology and science and left her hometown of Maryborough to study at Rockhampton’s Central Queensland University in 1993.

It didn’t entirely work out for Karen and ended up being the first time she was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Karen says there was still a lot of stigma around mental illness in the 1990s and anyone over 30 or so will certainly agree that it’s taken a loooong time to recognise its debilitating effects, and the importance of appropriate treatment.

In the meantime Karen started a family (her two children are in their mid teens) and although she continued to pursue her creative interests (drawing and art journalling) during this time, it still wasn’t something she saw as anything other than a hobby.

In 2016 Karen travelled to Rockhampton to a Ken Done exhibition. Inspired she signed up for a Masterclass run by Done – which was the first the popular artist had conducted.

Karen came away from that with a renewed passion for her art and a confidence which surprised her.

“I don’t know where that determination came from,” she said.

Since then Karen’s more vigorously pursued her art (she works with acrylics on canvas and, as a non-artist, I was surprised at the complexities of surfaces, primers, textures and hues).

Karen now sells her magnificent abstract work via her website.

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I admired a piece of Karen’s work recently (via Instagram) but she responded that it was not yet ‘finished’. I was intrigued and wondered how one knows it’s finished? (Did I mention my ignorance when it comes to ‘all things art’?) Is there a temptation to edit and edit and edit – which is something many of us who write struggle with, I asked.

Karen agrees that’s certainly the case. She says she still experiences doubt sometimes, but she heeds Ken Done’s advice that there’s nothing that a bit of white paint can’t fix.

Karen said her confidence in terms of her art has grown in recent times and she’s far less likely to ‘overwork’ her pieces. She also keeps a sketch book to document her ideas and things that inspire her – and it doesn’t allow her to erase any of her work. (Kinda like journalling I realise!)

Though she hasn’t been putting herself or her work ‘out there’ for long, her talent is already starting to be recognised. She recently won second place at the Hervey Bay Regional Gallery’s Hidden Wonders Art Exhibition and her work has been selected for future exhibitions.

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I love that she continues to be inspired by her surrounds – our beaches, rainforests and reefs. And she finds painting therapeutic and a way to express and explore her emotions.

I again confessed my artistic ignorance to Karen in admitting that I just love the colours of her work. I’m not a particularly visual person but even I can tell that Karen adding a patch of white to a vibrant piece somehow improved on what I thought was already finished.

I’d suggest following Karen on social media or checking out her website if you appreciate beautiful things, love colour and take inspiration from other’s creativity and talent.

I look forward to seeing more of Karen’s work on display around the Fraser Coast and beyond.

For more information on Karen or to buy her work, check out her site: Karen M Andersen.

** Big thanks to Karen for her time and letting me pick her brain. **

Pictures all from Karen's Instagram account.

The Fraser Coast Instagrammers meet-up

I’ve only just realised I didn’t write anything about the social media / Instagram meet-up we held a few weeks ago.

In short, I think a pretty good time was had by all. We had people coming and going and those of us there made sure we were following everyone else we met. Not in a stalkerish way in real life obviously, but on Instagram etc…

Now I’m seeing amazing acai bowls put together by a seriously impressive 16yr old who’s more together than this 40-something year old; and who’s gotten me addicted to #VanLife pictures on social media. I’m also seeing a lot of amazing food on offer around the Fraser Coast, particularly via the fabulous Fraser Coast Foodies  and Fraser Coast Eats accounts.

And I had the opportunity to meet some fit Fraser Coasters who make me feel guilty each day that I scoff my Caramello Koalas and they’re out running or lifting heavy weights and cross-fitting.

And then there are those who share their lovely shots of the beach, shopping trips, meals or whatever they’re up to.

It’s nice to have put faces to names, and names to handles. It was nice to meet people I might not otherwise have met. And it was nice to get pushed outside of my / our comfort zone a little.

Following new people has also introduced me to a range of others and I’m agog at some of the creative and artistic peeps around, and love the positivity and zest for life that I see coming at me through beach pics, sunsets, sunrises, families, dogs and cats. And everything in between.

We’ve talked about attempting to have a similar catch up irregularly… so stay tuned.

Thanks to those who came along and don’t forget to use a #frasercoast (hashtag) or #HerveyBay or #maryborough or similar if you want to find other locals. Thanks also to The Front Room, which is a fabulous venue and cafe and I know you’ve gotten some new customers as a result!

For more information about upcoming meetups follow our new: Fraser Coast Instagram Meet-up account.

***Oops, I just found that I hadn’t posted this when I wrote it on 26th April, so I’m belatedly sharing it. Sorry ’bout that. ***

Dancing in the dark

*** UPDATED – SADLY THIS CLASS HAS NOW BEEN CANCELLED DUE TO LOW ATTENDANCE NUMBERS ***

A few weeks ago I was thumbing through my phone’s Facebook feed as I am wont to do when wasting time and came across something called… ‘Dancing in the dark’. 

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I shared it to my own feed, wondering what it was and friends from other places in Australia immediately responded – explaining it’s essentially an ‘exercise’ class which involves freestyle dancing around a darkened room.

So… kinda like clubbing back in the 1990s. Or maybe even now, for all I know?!

Before moving to Hervey Bay I was addicted to a class at my gym I called faux Zumba. I adored this class and my instructor Nikki. So much so I’d head into the city to go if I had a day off work. Les Mills gym-goers might recognise it as something akin to Body Jam or Sh’bam.

On moving to the Fraser Coast I checked for similar classes but could only find the usual Zumba options.

So… the notion of ‘dancing in the dark’ was kinda alluring. Not to mention scary.

I kept harping on at my learned friends. (Control-freak that I am!)

“So we just dance however we want?” 

“For an entire hour?” 

Yes. And yes. In case you were wondering. Apparently it’s also sometimes called ‘no-lights no-lycra’.

Friends I went dancing with in the 1990s attested to its fun-ness…. so I figured I might as well give it a go. I’ve been trying to work on my fitness and while I’m now going to Ocean Tree Yoga Studio twice most weeks, I’m struggling with cardiovascular exercise.

The classes kicked off on Thursday 9 February at The Studio in Maryborough – which also plays host to yoga, pilates and now barre classes.

I have to admit I changed my mind 20 times the day I was due to go. I felt unwell. I wasn’t in the mood. I couldn’t be arsed driving from Hervey Bay to Maryborough. And (in all honesty) I had no bloody idea what to expect and was a tad nervous.

However… I compromised and decided to go to my mother’s (in Maryborough) for the night. And, of course once there guilt kicked in, so about 30mins before the class was due to start I threw on some gym gear and headed off.

Chelsie – one of the yoga instructors greeted me and explained the person who had organised the classes was no longer involved, but they decided go ahead nonetheless.

I was thankful to see some other nervous faces arrive… all excited but unsure what to expect.

There were 6 of us in total in the end and IT WAS INCREDIBLE!

I thought I’d feel self-conscious and I might have for a minute or so, but it’s a bit like being at a club. Unless you go bounding into someone’s space you mostly ignore each other and do your own thing.

It’s dark so while you can kinda ‘see’ each other amidst the darkness and disco lights you don’t feel as if you’re on show.

And you really CAN dance however you bloody want. I thought I’d just do some do side-to-side naff shoo-bop-type movements…. given I’ve been ‘out’ dancing once in the last decade and it’s over 4 years since my faux Zumba classes but before I knew it I was bouncing about to the Black Eyed Peas… (And yes, even without alcohol to lubricate my funky moves!)

A bit of Madonna and I would have had some flashbacks to Maryborough’s Royal Hotel (aka Muck-hole) circa 1980s and 1990s.

Chelsie said she’s still working on the music and asked what those of us there liked. I said I was partial to some 80s and 90s stuff and top 40. I should have mentioned some of my old faves from faux Zumba, like Nicki Minaj and Lady Gaga and so forth. But last night we had a bit of everything from 1D to Oasis to hip-hop etc…

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As we’re in the middle of a heatwave in Queensland and the room’s not airconditioned it was pretty bloody hot. But that was okay. We were all ready for it and felt like we’d had a good workout after.

Shoes are optional, but as there are tiles we decided it was probably better for our joints if we kept them on as the floor would get hard if you were leaping about energetically for an hour.

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Some of us doing an end-of-class footsie. An ‘after’ shot of our sweaty faces wasn’t an option. 🙂

The time passes surprisingly quickly. We just grabbed a drink of water whenever we needed it and kept going. I was surprised as I’m pretty unfit and thought I’d need to take a break or two but I just reined in my jaunty and much-admired moves (!!) when I needed to.

So, all in all, I had a great time and am looking forward to more next week.

Dancing in the Dark is held at The Studio, at 4/71 Wharf Street in Maryborough on Thursday from 7-8pm and costs $7/person. Find The Studio on Facebook or call 0429 967 628 for information about the classes or others on offer.

I should mention it took all of my willpower not to make a Bruce Springsteen / Courtney Cox reference during this post. Mainly cos I thought readers might be too young to get it.

Would you try ‘dancing in the dark’? 

The Hervey Bay Guide to Whale Watching

picToday I’m thrilled to welcome Jacinta Padgett, an environmental scientist with a passion for environmental education.

Jacinta’s recently started blogging at  Diary of an Eco Traveller and is here to talk all-things-whale-watching!

If you ever get the chance to go whale watching, the one place you definitely need to be is Hervey Bay. Located approximately 300 km north of the Queensland capital, Brisbane, Hervey Bay hasn’t earned the reputation for being the whale watch capital of the world for nothing.

Every year, between July and November, thousands of humpback whales make their way into the calm, protected waters on the western side of Fraser Island known as Platypus Bay. This is where the whales stay and play on their way back to Antarctica, after spending the winter months up north to mate and give birth to their calves. This is also where the most amazing wildlife encounter you may ever possibly have in your life will happen. I know that’s a big call, but it’s true.

Imagine a fully grown humpback whale sidling up to your boat, rolling over and looking you straight in the eye! Or being so close that you feel as though you can virtually reach out and touch them (you’re not allowed to do that, by the way).

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I’ve been whale watching plenty of times before – in fact I still can’t believe that I used to get paid to do it – and I still get a rush of adrenaline each and every time I see them. It’s a fantastic experience, and one that keeps me (and plenty of others) going back again and again.

Whale watching in Hervey Bay is unlike anywhere else, and it is certainly something you will undoubtedly remember for a very long time. Before you head off on your adventure though, there are a few things you need to know. With that in mind, here is Hervey Bay’s comprehensive guide to whale watching:

1. You need to leave your inhibitions on the mainland
Humpback whales are curious creatures. To draw their attention you need to make yourself interesting to them. What does that mean, I hear you ask. Well, basically you need to wave your arms around like your life depends on it and make lots of noise. They love that.

If you are a bit shy and reserved, just remember that you will more than likely never see the people you are on the boat with again. If you make a fool of yourself in front of them will it really matter? No, it won’t and you’ll have a much better time for it. And they’ll all be doing exactly the same thing anyway.

2. You should wear a good pair of walking / running shoes
You will do A LOT of moving around the boat, and will more than likely engage in a game of what I like to call humpback hide-and-seek! If you are not familiar with the rules of this game, they go something like this: the whale swims under the boat, everyone on board hurries across the deck to the other side waiting for it to appear. The whale briefly comes up for air, then dives down again and swims back under the boat, popping up on the other side.

Everyone dashes across to see it. The whale then dives down and swims underneath the boat … and so on and so forth. I’m sure you get the picture.

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3. You may get mugged
The whales will often approach vessels and stay close, interacting with the people on board for significant periods of time (see previous point re: humpback hide-and-seek). This thrilling behaviour is known as ‘mugging’.

Who would have thought you could be mugged by a whale! And enjoy it!

4. The whales will be watching you, as much as you are watching them
Anecdotal evidence suggests that over the past few decades whale behaviour around boats within Hervey Bay has changed. During the early days of whale watching, whales would shy away from vessels. Females in particular would put themselves between the vessel and her calf. Now the story is completely different.

Indeed, it is often a case of ‘who is watching who’.

Females will now push their calves toward excited whale watchers. Having a 40 tonne whale showing you her calf is certainly awe-inspiring, and something you will remember for a long time to come.

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5. You may get covered in whale snot!
It is not pleasant, but it makes for a great story to tell your friends and family.

The ‘blow’ is usually the first thing whale watchers see. It is the exhalation of air, mucous and carbon dioxide from the whale’s lungs. As it is released, water vapour condenses and forms a misty spray.

While the whales are swimming alongside your boat they will be constantly coming to the surface to breathe. If you are unfortunate enough to be leaning over the side of the boat when they do just that, you will end up with a face full of whale snot! I speak from experience when I say it is disgusting and smelly if it happens to you. But is absolutely hilarious if it happens to someone else!

Regardless of whether or not you follow the suggestions I’ve outlined you will no doubt have a fantastic time with the whales, and will walk away with wonderful memories of some absolutely amazing animals.

I highly recommend spending time with them. It is something you will not regret. I promise.

Ed. For details of whale watching tours check out… Visit Fraser Coast.