Off to Orange

Not a fan of driving? Not a problem. As I’ve found out, catching the train to the country is easey peasy, and actually aesthetically-pleasing, thanks to TrainLink. So when the parents went up again and I found a couple of days to spare (literally), I hoped onboard and headed out west.

There is nothing more alluring to a city slicker than the promise of rolling brown hills, stunning sunsets, and a paddock of alpacas just metres from your bedroom window. And that’s exactly what I got. Oh, plus an overflowing garden with more vegetables than your local Harris Farm, the most adorable pup called Fergus, heritage-listed barns, and a neigh-bourly horse. Sorry, I had to.

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If you’ve ever dreamed of dropping everything and moving to the country, but haven’t quite been able to muster up the courage, I’ve discovered the perfect solution. It’s a website called TrustedHousesitters. But it’s not just your average house-sitting gig, it’s better. It comes with pets. With worldwide stays available, it can open the door to some amazing opportunities. Like looking after three alpacas and a pup on a small property in Orange.

As a bonus, once you find yourself there, Orange has heaps to enjoy, even if most of it is closed over the long-weekend. And with the Taste Orange food festival headed their way in the coming weeks, Orange has never tasted so good.

From homewares to housebrew, find a few of my favourites from the last trip below.

To eat //

Arriving in late on the first night, I was spoilt and treated to dinner at Lolli Redini, Orange’s very own hatted restaurant. The portions are small but the flavours are strong, and if you’re a girl after my own heart, just read the dessert menu and you’ll know. Creamy fig, rhubarb and honeycomb frozen parfait, with squashed caramalised puff pastry, whipped mascarpone, honey jelly and fresh figs. Yeah.

I know I’ve mentioned Byng Street Local Cafe before but this time I ate there. Simple but delicious, hearty food, plus I hear they’ve started a Supper Club every Thursday with a four course menu for $40 per person. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

Finally you can’t go to Orange without visiting Racine Bakery. The hole in the wall in the corner of a carpark that serves up croissants and tarts and bread and quiches and all manner of good baked goods. I’d recommend the portuguese tart, or three.

To shop //

For lovers of pretty petals, you can’t go past Botanica Florist. Located in a heritage-listed turned crisp, modern warehouse, the space is part art gallery, part woodland fairy dream. With rich herringbone floors, and crisp white walls, colour bursts from the canvases hung on the walls, and the flowers stuffed in vases along the bench. If you’re into the weird and wonderful like me though, you’d probably be drawn to the seed pods and cotton tree branches. A flower that doesn’t die? Yes please. And just in case you’re not already salivating at the thought, it has a boutique clothing store and cafe attached. Ahhhhrmmm yes yes yes.

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I’ve written about it before but I love it too much not to mention it again. Jumbled is where I’m floating off to when I die. I’d have to spend hours in there just to try and find a piece I don’t like, but I’ll spend hours in there anyway. After visiting again, my new goal in life is to be able to have a house big enough to have walls to fit all the art on, beds to cover in their sheets, and shelves to fill with all their bits and bobs. If you’re ever in the market for a present for me, visit here: https://www.jumbledonline.com/

Finally, for all the things you need but never knew you did, there is Eclectic. Giant wooden dice, old salvaged leather suitcases, and refillable soy candles, it’s got that cool ‘oh this old thing?’ vibe that my dreams are made of. And apparently a lot of other peoples dreams too, as they’ve recently opened a second store.

On the bucket list //

Someone wise once told me that you shouldn’t worry about not doing everything a city has to offer the first time, because it just means you have a reason to go back.

I spotted a new restaurant being fitted out while I was there, called Frida’s Mexican. A little research led me to learn it’s being done by the guys behind the Union Bank and the Lord Anson. Needless to say, I’ve got my eye (and stomach) set on this one once it opens.

On one of the ten minute drives it takes to get anywhere in Orange, we flew by the Village Bakehouse. From the outside it looked like everything I like – polished concrete floors, subway tiles, large open spaces and exposed beams. Plus freshly baked breads and pastries. Those I really like. Definitely adding this one to the to-do list.

Down the main strip, in between the chemists and shops with big yellow ‘sale’ signs, I noticed a cool-looking bar called Washington & Co. Apparently a whisky saloon, a quick scroll on Facebook sent it straight to the top of my list.

Until next time, Orange.

E x

 

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Oh heck, let’s trek

I could feel my heart beating in my neck, each breath sending cold air down my dry throat. Looking up into the darkness, all I could make out was a twinkling trail of lights that led up into the clouds above. Around me, locals climbed in nothing other than thongs, children sleeping in their arms.

“You can do it,” he gently encouraged.

My legs ached with every step, my cheeks stinging from the cold wind. Fifty steps and then a break. Fifty steps and then a break. Oh another tea stall, let’s take another break.

Adam’s Peak rests at 2224m above sea level, and with almost twenty thousand steps done before 8am, we climbed it for sunrise. Setting out shortly after two in the morning, I must admit, it was a challenge for me. I blame all the curry. But then again, he managed much better than me and he’s had just as much curry.

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Deciding to put the camera down and just enjoy the sunrise, it was a pretty special moment. And then we had to go down. With the sun up though, the view of the rolling hills below us was enough to distract me from my shaking knees. If you are thinking of hiking Adam’s Peak, bring a pole. Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

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We were welcomed back into town like war heroes. It was eggs or eggs for breakfast, as my body was in need of some radical refueling. Packed and pumped for some time sitting in the car, we set off for Ella, with a few detours of course.

Lunch in Nuwara Eliya, affectionately known as Little England, due to the English-style architecture that is spotted among the tea plantations. We opted against rice and curry for lunch, in order to follow suit of course. Not a whole lot to do there, or at least we didn’t do it, but some very pretty buildings, particularly the Post Office. If you can’t decide on whether to visit Sri Lanka or England, go there.

Next stop was at Pedro Estate Tea Plantation, just out of Nuwara Eliya. For a staggering R200 (less than two bucks), we were taken around the tea processing factory, which has been in operation since the nineteenth century. Each day, eight tonnes of fresh tea is picked and processed in the factory, producing two tonnes of the dried leaves we love.ย  We know which leaves to pick for black tea, green tea and white tea, and all about fermentation. And finally, we saw how the tea is packed up and sent off to auctions, where the brands we know and love battle over the best brew to put their name and special twist on. Next time you sit down with a cup of the good ol’ green stuff, raise it to those who pull off back-breaking work day in, day out, to get it to you. Absolutely amazing. Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

After some long and winding roads, we ended up in Ella. A buzzing little town, packed with pubs and restaurants, fairy lights and tourist-friendly signs, things were looking good. Exhausted from the climb that felt like an eternity ago, our driver, probably after seeing me fall out of the car too many times, unable to walk, booked us a treatment at a local ayurvedic spa. After checking into our beautiful room at Hotel Mountain Heavens, with sweeping views across the valley to Little Adam’s Peak (bleh, easy!), we headed to Suwamadura Spa. For an hour and a half we, side by side, were lathered from top to toe in ayurvedic oils. I almost felt sorry for making the lovely masseuse touch my feet, but after the herbal sauna and a steam bath, all worries had simply dripped out of me. Literally.

Unfortunately, not getting to spend much time in Ella, we woke early the next morning and headed for the station. Two hours on a train, this time in second-class meaning I could get a “totally candid” photo hanging out the door of the train, and we ended up in Ohiya, the start of our six hour hike to Bambarakanda Falls, the tallest in Sri Lanka. Yep, the day after we hiked up Adam’s Peak, we walked for another six hours through paddy fields, up tea plantations, in and out of thick fog, via local villages, and down to a waterfall. We’re mad, but it was pretty mad too. Mad in a good way. Plus, he only needed to tell me to stop whining about my legs six or seven times. Not bad for me.

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That night, still unable to walk quite right, we stayed at Sri Lanka’s Eco Team Campsite in Beilhuloya. And when I say campsite, I mean glampsite. There were proper beds, pillows, doonas, and some delightful chairs out the front. The bathrooms were all modern concrete and timber, and we were served a four course meal under the light of the flame torches that surrounded us. It was like a scene from Survivor, but with more food. And much much more comfort.

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Earlier in the afternoon, we’d figured it would be a good opportunity to fly the drone he gifted me for Christmas, and after asking permission, we stood in a clearing metres from our tent, with most of the staff looking eagerly over our shoulders, and sent it up. Filming over the tents, trees and down to the glistening lake surrounded by folding mountains, it was breathtaking. The best part, without a doubt though, was that one young staff member was so taken aback by the footage we showed him later, that he asked us to send it to him. He explained, in broken English, that he had lived in the area since he was a small boy. He had hiked all over it, and seen it from every angle. But never from on top.

The standard of service at the camp was absolutely without fault, and so there was no hesitation from us that we would get him the footage. And we did. Watching him stop in his tracks as he walked back to the kitchen, fingers clutching his phone, eyes glued to the screen, was a small but pretty touching moment.

E x

Kyoto also spells Tokyo

It has hit that point, as it does in every trip, where you suddenly realise how fast the time has gone, and how little you have left. As the cold seems endless, the race through train stations never ending, and the new faces familiar, the days begin to blur into one and you lose track of how long you’ve been traveling for. But if you ask me, these are the greatest days. The days you don’t have internet connection, but don’t even realise. They days you forget about time-wasters like makeup and planned outfits. The days you just want to lose yourself in a city in order to truly find its treasures. The days that challenge you, change you, but stay with you forever.

This week started with an end. On our final morning in Kyoto, we vowed to find the large Buddha we had spotted on the edge of town while we were up the Kyoto Tower. A true test of how well we knew the streets, we managed to find it after going in a few circles (however that was most likely due to us getting lost in conversation). The monument, we learnt on arrival, was called Ryozen Kannon and is a tribute to all the unknown soldiers who bravely fought and died in World War II. The 24 metre high compassionate Buddha is a symbol of peace, both for the state of Japan, and for those who died fighting for it. Not mentioned anywhere in our guidebook, I was particularly pleased with our discovery. It was an interesting and un-touristed little complex with plenty of temples, memorials and shrines – some for luck, marriage, peace and even blessings for miscarried foetus.

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After our walk back to the hostel, the falling snow made it all the easier to jump on the toasty-warm Shinkansen train for three hours, headed to Tokyo! As we laid back in our spacious seats, we watched the world literally fly by – the dense city centres to the sparse rural villages, all looking as though someone had lightly dusted them with a fine icing sugar. All going too perfectly to plan, we were two stops out of Tokyo when the cabin crew realised we were on the wrong train (our JR pass did not cover super express Shinkansen, only the express) and asked us ever so politely to get off at the next stop and get on the next train. While ordinarily this sort of mistake could have been disastrous to a tight schedule, the next train came in a measly 5 minutes. Nice one, Japan!

Once arriving in Tokyo City, we found Hiroko, after a kind gentleman helped us decode a confusing pay phone, much to both ours and his amusement. Hiroko is a friend of my grandmother’s who hosted me when I first visited Japan, some 19 years ago. She had kindly offered to have us stay at her house for the first night we were in Tokyo so we could see her perform in a traditional drum concert to be held the next day. She was more than hospitable while we stayed with her, more than we could ever have asked for or expected. She treated us to the most amazing sushi train experience I have ever had (they filleted the fish before your eyes), the chance to cook our own okonomiyaki, a real crazy Japanese experience at a Ninja restaurant, cakes, cats, and most of all an insight into a side of Japanese culture we could not have got through guidebooks. She even introduced us to her friend Emi who, with her husband, kindly took us up the Tokyo SkyTree to 350metres above Tokyo and treated us to a lovely lunch while Hiroko practiced her drumming.

One of my favourite things I discovered while staying with Hiroko was the technology. Her toilet can be put through a range of strange motions such as spray, heat, dry, mist, etc (you can work out what for), her bath heats and fills itself up and tells you when it is ready, and her washing machine will weigh your load of washing and tell you how much soap to put in and how long it will take. What are we doing in Australia!?

All in all, we could not have thanked Hiroko enough for her immense generosity, and although all she would accept was a bunch of flowers and some chocolates, we are eternally grateful for all that she did for us and can’t wait for her to visit Australia to repay her for her hospitality.

On our second night in Tokyo, after a delicious dinner, Hiroko was kind enough to drop us to our hostel (quite literally to the door, any closer and her car would have been through the front window) where the second half of our Tokyo journey began. But more on that later…

Good night for now. I hope you are all smiling just as much as me.

IMG_0203 Our sushi plate stack – we tried Tuna, Sea Urchin, Salmon, Bloody Clam, Scallop, Red Fish and many more…

IMG_0207 Hiroko and I

IMG_0202 View from the Tokyo SkyTree

IMG_0204 Lunch with Emi and Hero

<a href=”https://emmabreislin.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/img_0205.jpg”>IMG_0205 Hiroko’s traditional drum performance

IMG_0206 Making our own okonomiyaki