I awoke to another gloriously warm winters day with flawless blue skies – a perfect day for a trip down memory lane. I punched ‘Laurieton’ into the GPS as though I was setting the coordinates on a time machine and with that, was on my way.
The drive took longer than I had originally anticipated but still far faster than back in the day when the entire trip from home to Laurieton took over eight hours with all eight of us in the bus. No matter how many motion sickness tablets were dispensed, mum could count on at least one of us spray painting her. The roads have been improved beyond recognition since then, almost halving the drive time.
As I took the turn off the freeway, I wondered if I’d recognise anything after all these years but as I got closer I had the strangest sensation of a child’s memories surfacing in an adult consciousness. I felt oddly dissociated from the child that I was who was excitedly pointing out place names and landmarks she remembered as I drew nearer. I was the driver now, more in the role of my father which gave me pause to reflect on how different our lives are and to consider with gratitude what it meant for he and Mum to bring us on this trip each year.
I couldn’t resist playing all our childhood trip games – the race to be the first to see and declare ‘water, water, water, water!’, being either the first or last officially into Laurieton (I had the back seat of the bus so I was pretty consistently last but today I was first… and last) and of course being the first to see the ‘Laurieton House’. As I passed St Peter the Fisherman church where we used to go to mass and play Housie (aka bingo), I intuitively took a sudden left against the GPS’s advice and I declared loud and proud “I can see the Laurieton House” because I could and I hadn’t expected to find it so easily!
The ‘Laurieton House’ was the holiday home of my Dad’s boss who would lend it to us every year for two weeks. It was an old green A-frame with a roof that went all the way to the ground (I used to think it was so cool being able to touch a roof without any effort). It had an old wringer washing machine in the laundry/bathroom, two tiny bedrooms that somehow accommodated eight of us plus guests and a book collection that contained the odd nudie book that we would secretly seek out annually with fascination. The original house is still standing but modified almost beyond recognition. None the less, I parked and got out to take a look and allow the torrent of memories to come flooding back.
Not wanting to freak out the current owners, I got back in the car and drove down the end of the block, passed the house that used to have a pet eagle, down to the playground at the end where not even Sarah and Gabrielle combined could tip the see-saw in my favour, around the oval and down to ‘Doyle’s Point’ – so named by us because it was the one fishing spot we could get to without the car and without Mum or Dad (though Dad would often lead the charge). The point itself is no longer accessible but I stood on the pier and looked across at the place where I once enjoyed hunting for pippies.
Next I went for a drive about town, I turned at the old, yet still operational cinema and headed down to the waters edge where my eye was caught by a flock of pelicans or ‘peclins’ as we used to call them. It hadn’t occurred to me that I would see so many of them so I was as excited as I ever. Such cool, big birds with their weird beaks! They were flocking around a family who were gutting and discarding the scraps of their fishing haul and the pelicans were going nuts!
Already there’s been a bit of talk about fish. Many of you may already know something of my fish phobia. What you may not know is that this is where it all began! Laurieton, being a fishing village and Dad a keen amateur fisherman, there were always fish in the holiday house. My older sisters took this opportunity to torment me by throwing them at me while I was in the shower or by chasing me up the street with them – very traumatic for a 5 or 6 year old and hence a life long phobia was born. And I mean proper phobia – if I went to your house and wasn’t forewarned about a pet goldfish, you’d have one hysterical guest on your hands!
But a funny thing has happened in recent times. Much of my phobia was dislodged when an even greater fear was realised – I guess it just didn’t seem relevant anymore or it was too much for my subconscious to hold onto while dealing with everything else. Whatever it was, my phobia was downgraded to mild irrational fear. I used the remainder of it in an exercise in my recent Neuro Linguisitc Programming certification course on getting rid of phobias. Unsure whether the exercise had worked, I decided it was too poetic not to try to bury my phobia here in the place that it was born. Truly curious and uncertain, I headed to the fish co-op – the scene of my childhood nightmares. I used to freak out whenever we went near there and I most certainly never went in though had a very vivid image of it being a warehouse full of different kind of fish piled high to the ceiling. Strangely, it was only today on approach that I even questioned the reality of that assumption.
I pulled up, took a deep breath (which reeked of fish!) and headed toward to the co-op ready to face what remained of my fear. I pushed through the door to discover it was little more than a counter with a cabinet with not very much in it at all. None the less, I looked and I’m glad to report, I was fine with what I saw! Outside, I even stood and looked at bucket of fish heads just to make sure. I’m not saying I liked what I saw, it was grotesque and there’s no way I would have touched them but i’m pretty sure that’s within the realms of normality right?! I tell you, I am mighty and strong and soon will be certified to practice NLP if anyone has any phobias that need sorting out!
Triumphant, I headed into town, parked and walked a lap of the shops – some new, some old like the Piggly Wiggly Butcher. As a vegetarian, I find it strange that this was always one of my favourite shops but mostly for the cartoon pictures of the pigs and colouring books they used to give us. I also felt compelled to stop at the old bakery and get a cream bun – my dads favourite!
Next I took a drive over to Dunbogan in search of ‘Dad’s First Bloody Fish Tree’, so christened for being the spot my fathers many futile fishing attempts bore fruit. I called dad to get some clarification on which one the actual tree was and I can’t say to a certainty that I identified the exact one but I was careful to look at them all to make sure I’d at least laid eyes on it.
I drove on further to Pilot Beach. Of all the beaches we used to visit in the area, Pilot was always my favourite for its calm, clear water and ‘floaty’ waves as opposed to ‘crashy boomers’ that my sisters preferred. Today it was as beautiful and serene as ever under a warm winter sun in a perfectly blue sky. I sat and wrote postcards to my family wishing that they could all be there with me in that moment.
From there I took the turn off to a lookout that I have no memory of visiting before but which my Dad recommended. It was staggeringly beautiful looking out over the coast line and surrounding greenery. Best of all, I had it all to myself and took my time to drink it in.
Time to turn tale, I punched the return address into the GPS to go back to the future. I guess some roadworks have been done since it was last updated because it led me first to one closed road and then to another. I’d like to say third time lucky but that depends how you define luck! It diverted me through picturesque Kendall and Comboyne, through pastural landscape and then into the National Park down a very rocky and narrow ‘road’. I assumed it would cut through back to the highway but instead it just went deeper and deeper and darker and darker. The GPS was still giving directions so I kept going – I had little choice being on a one way trail so narrow that I couldn’t have turned around even if I’d wanted to. The sign at the beginning said 60kms but I was barely able to break 30km such was the condition of the road and not wanting to damage Sandy’s car. I had been hoping to get back to Boomerang Beach for sunset, now I was just hoping to make it out of there before nightfall and in one piece! The trail went on for about 20 nail-biting kilometres before I eventually saw the highway. I could have pulled over and kissed it!
After all that, I did manage to catch the sunsetting over Lake Wallis and over an extraordinary day.