I felt a wave of unexpected sadness when I glimpsed Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest for the first time since scattering my grandparents’ ashes in the Myall River.
I’d been so excited to go back and revisit all my favourite spots last week but, as I crested the hil into town, the reality was more confronting than I anticipated. It reminded me how much I still miss my Nan.
I’d organised a few days in Hawks Nest with my parents and sister and nephew to do some family bonding. My dad is a little incapacitated as he waits for an operation, so it gave him some low-impact quality time with the grandkids.
We met for lunch on the Tuesday at the Tea Gardens pub, which has a rather swanky menu these days that includes grilled fish with Winda Woppa seaweed and some odd burger combos – I wasn’t quite ready for grilled haloumi and roasted beetroot on my fish burger so I went for the old favourite cone of fish and chips instead.
After lunch, as we headed to our beachside hotel, I made an impromptu decision to drive past my grandparents’ old place on the river front. My mouth dropped when I realised it was gone, replaced by a grey, three-storey modern something or other. My sister cried buckets when she saw it.
Our hotel could have done with being replaced by a grey, three-storey modern something or other, but it was serviceable … and my sister’s room featured a jacuzzi on the balcony! (Actially, that was my sole reason for choosing the place – a jacuzzi! On the balcony!)
We changed into our cossies and darted over for a dip in the surf. Wow Bennett’s Beach is a stunning place, and virtually deserted, even in school holidays. The grown ups followed their swim with a bottle of Prosecco Spritz in the jacuzzi – daggy but kinda cool at the same time.
As for the rest of the trip, well, I squeezed waaaay too much in. I had rocks in my head thinking working half days and holidaying the other half was a good idea. Admittedly it was the only way I was getting a holiday, as I haven’t quite trained anyone to replace me at work, but geez it was a pain.
It didn’t help that the battery in my laptop carked it on the first day, so I had to use my sister’s laptop without all my stuff and passwords. Blah. And the Optus reception in Hawks Nest was so atrocious that the dongle didn’t work sometimes. I spent vast swathes of the day sitting in the pool area using the hotel’s wi-fi while my sister entertained the youngest and the eldest skulked moodily through the sandy streets desperately wishing she was in Newtown.
Early on the first morning, we climbed Mount Yacaaba, which I dissed all the way along the beach about not being a “real” mountain. Oh did I regret that during the treacherous last 1/2km climb to the top. Almost killed me, it did.
I was pretty knackered after that … And then I remembered my dear friend Katherine Bowyer was being inducted as Dean of Christ Church Cathedral that night. And of course I had to be there. So I convinced the eldest to come with me – it wasn’t too hard, she’d have agreed to do just about anything to get out of Hawks Nest.
I was so, so proud of Katherine. She’s the very first female Dean of Christ Church. My heart was bursting as the historic moment unfolded. The eldest was a little wide-eyed about her first-ever High Anglican church service, with all the robes and chanting and incense.
There was supper afterwards, but we couldn’t stay as we had to get back to the youngest so she could head off to bed in our room.
We had the freakiest experience on the road back into town. As I was driving – at 80km per hour – the car windows suddenly and completed fogged over and I couldn’t see a THING. I panicked and pulled over on the side of the road, or at least what I hoped was the side of the road, and we tried to clear it unsuccessfully before realising it was sea mist all over the outside of the glass. So weird to have sea mist fill the air like that. The eldest’s hand were totally wet when she stuck it out of the car window into it.
After about six hours of frantic work on the Thursday morning, I spent the afternoon going on the most glorious walk along Jimmy’s Beach with the reluctant eldest (who refused to change out of head -to-toe black clothes and Doc Marten boots), youngest, my sister and nephew. It was stunningly beautiful. I felt very sad to be leaving so soon, but I had to get the eldest back in Sydney at the crack of dawn the next morning so she could go to her beloved Newtown with friends.
And that was my “holiday” week, which I crazily followed up with a “holiday” weekend with DD. But I’ll tell you about that madness tomorrow.
In the meantime, here are some photos from the Hawks Nest jaunt.
Song of the day: Tears for Fears “Mad world”