Travel Journal: The Southern Highlands


After picking up our car at the airport – which started right away, easing both our worries – we headed south. It was raining, as it had been in the area for over a week, which put a dampen on our plans to take the Grand Pacific Drive down to the Wollongong area. I had visions of taking photos and stopping at the National Park, but the rain just held on. So, we continued on and found our way to our next Airbnb.

It was surprisingly in the middle of a suburb. I wasn’t expecting that.

Sometimes when the Airbnb host shares photos, you have certain expectations – it’s my downfall choosing places I’ve determined. I do so much research, look at so many places, that I have this vision in my head of what our ultimate place looks like. Then we show up and I’m stopped in my tracks: “This isn’t what we chose”.  It’s only because after looking at so many places I think it’s one place I looked at when it’s another I’ve chosen.

The place in Wollongong wasn’t exactly like that but I did question myself. It was lovely, don’t get me wrong. I just didn’t expect it to be in the middle of suburbia.

It was actually close to the beach and bikes were on offer for a lovely trail that took you to the beach, but the rain prevented us from doing that. And, after spending 10 days at the beach, in heat and humidity, I was happy to bunker down for the afternoon. Happy to take advantage of the offered WIFI and chill out while the rain tapped away on the roof.

Truth was, I was wiped. What I didn’t realize was I had the start of a very nasty flu.

The following morning we packed up and headed south west to the Southern Highlands, taking the Macquarie Pass route. It was stunning. It was also scary as hell with Rich’s ‘tourist mode’ driving. He likes to look around and on a two lane, windy road through the mountains, it’s not the time to be sightseeing when you’re the driver.

Granted, I was still feeling under the weather and I was anxious to get to our housesit early, as promised and it was irking the crap out of me that he was playing tourist. Then the low petrol indicator chimed on, halfway up the mountain.


In my pre-housesit conversations with the home owner, I was never really advised about her house. All I knew was she was off to Japan for two weeks and she wanted someone to mind her plants while she was away.

What we arrived to blew me away. It was house nestled into the landscape.  Not the other way around. The gardens were stunning and now I knew why it was so important to her to have someone mind her plants. It was obvious that thought had gone into every single planting. As we got out of the car, we were greeted by a petite woman with a beaming smile, welcoming us into her home.

This was our first official housesit with an official service. We’d done housesitting before but we’d always known the owners. This was completely new to us. I’d done my research about what to ask, what to be sure we knew, and knew to take notes.

We spent the next hour or so walking around the house, understanding what our homeowner wanted us to be clear on, taking copious notes. She was definitely passionate about her plants – and I loved that.

Within hours, our homeowner headed off and we were left to mind her treasure. About the same time, my flu bug kicked in, as if it had been waiting for us to be settled for a while.

To call it a flu bug is really an understatemnt. I honestly had not felt this sick in some time. It wiped me out completely. Everything ached. I could not even walk from one end of the house to the other without wanting to lie down and rest. The sneezing took over my entire body and the coughing sounded like my lungs were wanting to be expelled from their casings. The fever I had came and went for four days.

It took hold and didn’t let go. We were housebound for days.  When I get sick, I really get sick. I don’t do it by half measures. It was fortuitous for us to be in one place so that I could rest up.

But it was frustrating too.

One of the things we planned for, when we were in one place for a while, was to get some work done. I couldn’t even think enough to make a cup of tea or get a glass of water, let alone write a blog post or do some website work.

Truth be known, Rich and I had a hard time leaving the property. Okay, our health may have prevented us on some of those days as Rich ended up with the flu too.  But when we were well enough, I just couldn’t find myself motivated enough to leave. I was happy enough where I was, doing offline work.

I was eager to explore the area in more detail but  I think travel is more about seeing new places. It’s about experiencing them.

For years, every time I drove through the area,  I imagined what life would be like to live here, not so far from Sydney and so picturesque.

Seeing people who live here, they seemed calm, well put together. Classic. Elegant. Those are the words I think of when I think of the residents here. And why wouldn’t they? Life in the Southern Highlands is calm and well put together. Everything the residents want is nearby. Shopping. Local Services. Country or beach within an hour. It’s a charming, charming place.

And for now, we were living here. If only for a little while. I got to soak in the ambience. I could feel life slowing down. I would think to myself “I need to do…” and realize quickly that I didn’t need to at this very minute. It could wait. And I eventually would get around to it.

When I was writing this post, I sat in the backyard courtyard.  I could feel the breeze, warm on my face. I could hear the wind chimes softly tinkle each one beside it. The wind, blowing through the trees, high above me, while the birds had pleasant conversations amongst themselves as they sat amidst the branches. Oh yes, life was charming in the Souther Highlands.


What I haven’t written about is our homeowners love of clocks. She has what I would consider, an obsession with clocks. In the main living spaces, we counted at least 9 clocks in each of the rooms. Working, clicking, chiming clocks. And they are set to go off just a little off from each other. Meaning, at the top of the hour, you don’t have 9 clocks going off at the same time. You may have three chime, but all just a minute off from each other. As one ended, another began.

Having Misophonia (which I’ll be writing about soon), this was a test for me. A major one. It’s not like I couldn’t be there, so I had to employ some major coping strategies. With Misophonia, certain noises are triggers for me. Clocks are one of them. Ticking clocks specifically. I enjoy the sound of chiming clocks, once in a while, at a distance and in a short burst. Church bells are one sound I actually enjoy. But not when it’s in an enclosed space. And not when it’s multiple clocks with extended chimes, or ones that go off every 15 minutes. It’s like life reminding you that it’s ticking over. Seriously how can you ever relax!?!

One of the ways I coped wassby moving one clock out of the bedroom. It was a loud ticker. There was no way I was ever going to sleep with the tick-tick-ticking. With it removed and the door closed I could block out the rest of the distant chiming.

Now I’m not saying that this is an unhealthy obsession. It’s quirky. It’s one thing about travelling that I find really interesting. How different people are. I couldn’t live in a house that is so filled with clocks. It would drive me insane.

But the house, I could live in. I loved the windows and how the outside was brought in so masterfully. It truly was an amazing house.

I have to admit though, after being in Bowral for awhile, I started to feel old.

As beautiful as was, it was mostly the gentrified retired that lived there. Every convenience was available and the landscape was picturesque, everywhere you went, it was almost Pleasantville. But once I was over pneumonia, I felt… old.

It’s like I fast-forward my life to retirement age. It may have been because we were staying in a house that was very established. It may have been because the average age in town was of retirement age.

But I didn’t like it.

Despite the fact that we needed to slow down to recouperate from the flu/pneumonia, I felt like if I stayed I would be watching the soaps every afternoon if I wasn’t taking a nap. Maybe it’s all the clocks ticking around me, reminding me that it’s time to go because time is ticking my life away.

It made my feet very itchy.

We were heading to the coast after our housesit. I realized that I needed the vibrancy of the coast. Maybe I just need to camp again to remind myself that I’m still young and limber enough to pitch a tent and sleep in it?

But water beaconed.  I had once thought that the Southern Highlands may be a nice place to settle.  I mean, Nicole and Keith have a place there, how bad could it be?  But now that I’d ‘lived there’ for two weeks, I just couldn’t see it.

I have a vision in my head of what my ‘forever’ place looks like.

It’s near the ocean. We live in a cottage which has a huge patio that over looks the ocean. The patio has a vine-covered trellis covering a large picnic table, large enough to enjoy evening meals and the morning’s coffee. Just off to the side, nestled near the forest of trees is my writing studio. It’s my place. The place I write or draw or read. It’s a little room with running water and a toilet. It’s my space. On the property are some guest cabins. Maybe 2 or 3 that we rent out as self-contained cabins. We supply breakfast to our guests and they have complete privacy from us and the other cabins.  From our property, you can walk to the beach. Beach towels are provided, as are bogie boards. But best of all, within each cabin are individual libraries. The lounge are has large overstuffed chairs. Board games are provided as well, with a table large enough to play on. Of course, all the conveniences are provided, but the point is to get away and reconnect.

I can see it all very clearly. But it’s still years away yet. I have some travelling to do first.

Sturt Gallery - Southern Highlands

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