Sunday, June 13, 2010

South Coast Saturday

My day started early on Saturday. The last time I had an early start was last month when I followed Xin Wen to work. If not for trackworks on the Northern Line, I could have had another 15 minutes worth of sleep (or bed lazing). Instead of taking the complimentary bus service to Strathfield Station, I decided to take a walk. I am glad I did, as I found out it takes only 40 minutes to get there on foot.

My 9:06am train to Central was unusually empty. Perhaps it was a long weekend? I arrived at Central with plenty of time to make the connecting train on Platform 14 to the South Coast. Just look at how deserted the station was when I was there that morning... big contrast to its weekday bustling form, eh?

Recalling what Alex said about the coastal scenery, I decided to read my book during the first half of the train ride. Coincidentally, when I finished the first section of the book that consisted 7 chapters, the view changed from suburban rooftops to unending blue. The snapshots from my window seat reminded me of my Taiwan coastal bus ride last year...

A happy face greeted me when I alighted the train at Fairy Meadow. Also, I was welcome with warm sunshine and friendly breezes. My new coat remains unworn due to the lovely weather - it was in the backseat throughout the trip.

I was taken for a car ride through the main campus of the University of Wollongong (UOW). I came away impressed with the greenery of the campus. Like my uni, they have a new medical centre for research purposes, too.

The clear weather prompted Alex to make Mount Keira Lookout our first stop.

As his uni is located at the foot of the mountain, they bring students up to the top as one of the activities during orientation. With Keira meaning large lagoon or high mountain in Indigenous Australian, it lies 4 kilometres northwest of Wollongong city and forms part of the Illawarra escarpment. Here, let the pictures show you what I saw from up there:

Yes, that is a lighthouse in the last picture. Alex pointed out the Innovation Campus and was trying to look for the temple but due to the trees that obviously grow taller every year, he was not able to locate the temple. We were, however, able to trace out the Princes Highway or Highway 1, the main highway linking all the major cities of Australia.

We then proceeded to Nan Tien Temple for lunch. As it was the first day of the fifth lunar month, I wanted to observe my practice of having a vegetarian meal. I was glad that the Dining Hall was open for business, as the last time I came, it was shut. Similar to the Chatswood branch, they too served a set lunch meal for $9.

For that day, the meal consisted of your choice of either white rice or fried noodles with vegetarian chicken with potato and Chinese cabbage curry and green vegetables.

There were side servings of two pieces of fruit and tempura vegetables.

We were also allowed to take our own serving of salad.

It was funny how I had a piece of orange and pineapple each while Alex had 2 slices of orange.

It was funnier when he bit into the second piece of orange and said, "It's not the same orange!"

Chinese tea was free-flow but we did not take any. And, the below picture shows the common practice at most vegetarian eateries:

Exploring the temple grounds ensued after the meal. The pagoda was a must and I let Alex show me the way.

Halfway, Alex thought it would be a better idea for me to exercise more and so we did a detoured hike up the hill...

... to see the Nan Tien Gratitude Bell...

After deciding not to sound the bell (haha, I have no gratitude), we continued down the path towards the pagoda.

The pagoda functions as a resting place for the cremated ashes of devotees and their relatives. Inside, I paid my respects to the Buddha, lighted an incense and then headed towards the car.

Our drive to Hyams Beach was an earful - my nano was plugged in and so you can imagine all the singing and head bobbing (mostly on my part) that entailed. The journey was broken by a short toilet stop in the historic township of Huskisson in the Jervis Bay Territory. This is where you would want to come to if you are interested in dolphin or whale-watching - they have resident dolphins!

The GPS took us through the long way to Hyams Beach. Walking on the beach made me tell myself never to wear my pair of Croc flats to a beach ever again. Have a look at what happened after I spent time admiring the whiteness of the sand:

Reported to be the whitest sand on the world by Guinness World Records, it was a case of seeing is believing when I shook the sand out of my shoes:

While we still had sunlight, we drove to Green Patch:

While walking from the carpark to the beach, we came across this:

I thought it looked strange - it is a waterfall but the road does not stop there.... so....

... it took a vehicle to drive through it to demonstrate to me that it forms part of the road. How clever! The national parks in Malaysia could learn a thing or two from this!

Munching on some food at the side of the boardwalk was this little guy:

Honestly, if you asked me, I thought the sand here was better than the sand over at Hyams - finer and whiter. It was sunset when we were there:

Chasing the orange sun in far yonder, we headed back to Alex's for dinner. Meeting his brother and sister for the first time in person, it felt slightly weird. Even more so when it was just introductory and for a few minutes (do not think it was even for half an hour). All in all, I returned to Sydney a tired but happy person.

Recalling the glistening linings of the clouds of sunset, I wondered during the train ride home if a new leaf is being turned over. Like how the calm of night turns the crispness of day, how winter seaps into the autumn air, how exciting beginnings unknowingly kidnap bitter endings...

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