This is the ninth of my Highlights and includes some of the most outstanding experiences of my Australian trip.
First, Kiama, which is down the coast south of Sydney. This was a base from which we planned to visit the Illawarra Film Festival in the Phoenix Theatre, Coniston. We were there because my daughter Abigail Robinson’s 10 minute documentary ‘Ghosts of the Outback’ was one of the films chosen for the Festival. We were looking forward to seeing it for the 1st time on the big screen!
There is a very good reason however, to visit Kiama for its own sake alone: for it presents a spectacular natural phenomenon which enchants and amazes all those who gather to watch – the blowholes! Waves surge into a chamber below the surface of the sea pressure builds up, and the blowholes enable this dramatic uprush of water, rocketing high into the air.
Kiama itself is a lovely town which, as it first appeared to us reminded me of Polzeath in Cornwall, UK. White houses arranged across the slope down to the sea made a very picturesque scene. Kiama the town has much to offer but there’s no doubt about the main attraction for visitors, which gives all the watching tourists such fun and excitement. But of course – it’s not a good idea to venture onto the rocks and find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time!
The following day we drove to Coniston which is in Wollongong. There we found the Phoenix Theatre where the Illawarra Film Festival was to take place.
I loved the decor in the bar.
The Festival consisted of 19 Australian films of which Abigail’s was the first. Her short documentary came over extremely well on the big screen and was hugely atmospheric. Several indigenous people describe their experience of the Min Min lights in the Queensland Outback. You can see a trailer for the film if you follow the Facebook Page ‘Ghosts of the Outback.’
After the interval during which hot savouries were served, there followed 4 international and 6 Illawarra films. I loved the diversity of the films: we all voted for our favourite and then handed in our ballot slips for later assessment. Of course I voted Abigail’s film as number 1!
The next day we travelled on to Leura in the Blue Mountains. Our journey took us past sublime distant views of Lake Illawarra, climbing up between massive subtropical rainforest trees, close beside a mighty rock face to our right, past giant tree ferns, creepers, vines, tangled roots. We passed a forest of white ghost gums, their branches reaching out in different directions, as if will-o-the-wisps were dancing between them.
We drove on up the highway and crossed a steep gorge, later passing through Camden near the Australian Botanic Gardens, and green velvet hills. I noticed signs saying ‘Arcadian Hills’ pointing us to ‘Kenilworth Falls’ and ‘Three Sisters’. We arrived at the Norman Lindsay Gallery at 12.50pm.
What an amazing place this is. Owned and managed by the National Trust of New South Wales it celebrates the life and astonishing creativity of the man who lived there. Norman Lindsay lived from 1879 to 1969. He was a poet, children’s writer, illustrator, cartoonist, painter, sculptor: he even created wartime propaganda posters. To me he is the creator of ‘The Magic Pudding’ one of my most-loved books as a child. I bought the 100th birthday edition at the gallery and read it again on the flight back to Heathrow!
His home and garden and studio is a place of enchantment. All the sculptures are his, and so too is the colonnade on the verandah and the garden design.
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