What better way to celebrate 50+ years of friendship than a retro reunion. Moving into the 8th decade is not always possible for some! People start dropping off! So it was with great celebration that four of us who had been at university together decided to arrange a 4 day retreat. We had attempted this at the beginning of the 6th and the 7th decade but family circumstances always seemed to impede. Nothing was stopping us this time.
As 20 somethings, we had graduated from our Science degrees, three to become dietitians and one a high school Maths teacher. Three had got married and one narrowly escaped overseas. And we had kept in touch as life rolled on. We now had 12 children between us and just as many grandchildren. Our meeting place was Loholo Beach House in Kingscliff. Arrival from various destinations at the Gold Coast airport included some confusion over the time difference but finally the four of us reunited. Two of us had last sighted each other 48 years ago as bridesmaids at the wedding of one of the others.
Loholo Beach House, Kingscliff is named after a beach in Bouganville Papua New Guinea, where our AirBnB host had lived in the 1970’s and is decorated in mid-century retro style. It seemed appropriate. We arrived in the small laneway to a very ordinary little house overlooking Kingscliff Beach and wondered if it was big enough to accommodate four separate sleepers. The house was reminiscent of childhood beach holidays. There was the bed in the sleep out sunroom, the double in the main bedroom and the two singles opposite, the beds all sporting pink and mauve chenille bedspreads. A tiny bit of negotiation ensued to decided who would sleep where and who had the loudest snore! And thus the non-stop talking began over the first cup of tea.
The first evening passed catching up on the present over fish and chips washed down with white wine at the Cudgen Heads Surf Club while the sun set behind the distant Gold Coast towers. The conversation turned to children, grandchildren, partners and intergenerational families sharing living space.
The next morning after a swim in Cudgen Creek just as the surging tide was turning we headed off into the hinterland to Tropical Fruit World.
Tropical Fruit World, previously known as Avocado Land sits on the ridge behind Kingscliff and Casuarina at Duranbah. In 1972, entrepreneur Bob Brinsmead planted the first avocado tree, which is still standing today. Today the plantation features over 500 varieties of tropical fruits. These range from the 12 different varieties of avocado to bananas, jackfruit, citrus, sapote, dragon fruit, custard apple, mangoes, papaya, the native macadamia and many more.
The farm uses the red volcanic soil from the Wollumbin caldera and only local rainfall and spring water to nourish the trees. We were taken on a tractor tour of the plantation by Andrew, who knew all the trees, their nutritional value and requirements and even threw in some Gondwanaland history in his native Maori language. There is no pest control. The plantation uses companion planting and provides large areas for native bees, fruit bats and other native animals to share in the harvest. Our tour in and out of gusty rain showers ended in a fruit tasting of various fruits currently in season and a wonderful fresh fruit ice cream. We three nutritionists were slightly bemused by the information on the nutritional value of our feast provided by the young woman hostess, however we kept our mouths firmly shut.
The weather turned stormy. We considered the odd board or card game but opted for reminiscing. Memories of our uni days together came flooding back; the time one pipetted cyanide in biochem prac and was violently ill from the antidote on the peak hour train home; the time two of us hitch hiked around the youth hostels of Tasmania; and of daggy uni friends who have ended up as heads of auspicious organisations. The celebrations continued over a glass of bubbly at Fins Restaurant in Salt Village Kingscliff and a meal of local fish and a fruit dessert from the estimable Tropical Fruit World.
Given that lolling on the beach wasn’t an option and we had two artists in the group, we headed into the hinterland this time to the Tweed Regional Art Gallery and Margaret Olley Art Centre in Murwillumbah. Here the weather was much clearer and we feasted on the recreated studio of artist Margaret Olley and the profusion of colour and chaos it displayed.
After lunch in the Gallery cafe, we wended our way through the back roads, past the Madura Tea Plantation to Cabarita and back up the coast road to Kingscliff. Loholo House had a cocktail bar set up in the old garage and we considered sitting out there on the deck, however the rain squalls shunted us back inside to finish the last of the wine and snacks. The talk became much deeper, about books read, films reviewed, ethical dilemmas and political stand points. These were the values and interests which drew us together in the first place – it was wonderful to see how little had changed in 50 years.
Those rich connections continue and as we bade each other goodbye, we committed to another reunion in 5 years. We couldn’t risk leaving it another 10!