Friday, April 19, 2013

Off The Beaten Track: Kate Belle

Today we are honoured with a visit from author Kate Belle who lives, writes and loves in Melbourne, Australia. She juggles her strange, secret affairs with her male characters with her much loved partner and daughter, and a menagerie of neurotic pets. She holds a tertiary qualification in chemistry, half a diploma in naturopathy and a diploma in psychological astrology. Kate believes in living a passionate life and has ridden a camel through the Australian desert, fraternised with hippies in Nimbin, had a near birth experience and lived on nothing but porridge and a carrot for 3 days.

Twitter: @ecstasyfiles

 ‘No story really ends, it only links the past and the future.’

At 22 years of age I ran away. I packed a tent, a small pot, a wooden spoon, a bowl, plate and cup, sleeping bag, a guitar I could barely play, and boarded a bus to Byron Bay. In my head I pretended I was free, but all my confusion, aimlessness and a whole swag of unfinished business came with me. I left behind a job, broken hearts, damaged friendships, and the restrictive expectations of my parents to go and ‘find myself’.

These days it’s called a ‘gap year’. And it was probably one of the best years of my life.

I have always been a diary writer and I filled five or six of them in this year (1988) of travelling to nowhere with no one. There was time back then, to experience, learn, relate, and write. Looking back over these self-indulgent tomes I discovered my travels were about more than soul searching. They were about discovery – of diversity, generosity, and divine coincidence.

‘Sometimes it’s nice to have someone else take care of you.’ – waitress, The Beach Cafe, Byron Bay.

I arrived at a Byron Bay vastly different to the busy tourist centre it is today. Byron in 1988 was quiet and beautiful. The famous fondue restaurant was still there and people took the time to wave and say hello as you walked by. 

My diaries offer back memories long forgotten. Everywhere I went, strangers offered me favours. Apparently Barry and Donna, from the Danish ice-cream shop, gave me a lift to the Bangalow markets, and Jack – a man I describe as ‘a surfie, come smoker, come would-be-racing-car-driver who has a heart of gold and head full of sawdust’ – sets up camp next door to me, alleviating the solitary days of my first week there. 

‘I’m not sure I’m here because I want to be, or because I have nowhere else to go.’

I meet Jacob on the beach. It’s the day the tall ships of Australian’s bi-centenary celebrations are due to stop at Byron Bay and the place is overrun by families, tourists and protesters. Jacob is very hairy and a bit older than me. A German hippy, he has no real job or home, just a trail of life experiences and people he communes with. 

Mt. Warning. Photo by Pouts31
At the time I was immersed in books about spirituality and Jacob and I strike up a friendship. We talked a long time on the beach while kids played around us and the hippy community the area was so famous for sat on wide rugs under trees with hand written protest signs. Our conversation turned to spiritual places and Mount Warning, nearby, was one of them. 

Mount Warning is the Australian name for Wollumbin, a mountain with a rocky peak at its crest and a flat space at the top where the local Aboriginal Bundjalung people conducted sacred initiation rites and ceremonies. Because of its height and location, Wollumbin is the first place on the Australian mainland to see the rising sun.

At the time, Jacob and I understood the mountain was a sacred place, but were ignorant of its significance to Aboriginal people. We didn’t realise that climbing it is forbidden to anyone other than the fully initiated. We decided to stay that night on the mountain to witness the morning sunrise. We collected sleeping bags, food, and warm clothes and set off in Jacob’s van.

We began our climb late in the day. The sun was setting and soon we were climbing in moonlight. The last part of the ascent was up a sheer rock face with only a chain for assistance. In the dark it felt close to vertical. The folly of our undertaking never entered my head.

‘Freedom comes from within, not the world around us.’ – Max

We found a sheltered spot under some shrubbery out of the wind and settled down on the hard ground for the night, gnawing on raw carrots, apples and hard pumpernickel bread for dinner. I woke to the sound of Jacob whispering my name ‘Katie! Katie, it’s nearly sunrise.’ We crawled out of our sleeping bags and scrambled up to the flat surface at the top of the mountain.

Others, who had begun their trek in the early hours of the morning, emerged from the track to join us. People searching for enlightenment, people ticking boxes, people conquering fears and mountains. A magnificent view lay below, the land a mass of dancing colour. Jacob and I smiled at each other as the first golden rays of sun stretched over the horizon. 

A small gathering of travelers stood in the quiet, listening to the wind and the song of the rising sun. Each person on that mountaintop put their arm around whomever they were with and hugged them, basking in the golden light of sunrise. The mood was delicious. 

As the sun rose higher we introduced ourselves and shared our reasons for making this journey. There was something about being on that mountaintop that made us want to connect. We formed a small circle and, joining hands, breathed in the fresh energy of a newly begun day. 

It was the 25th August 1988. Unbeknownst to me this date would be a special one, as my daughter would be born on the same day sixteen years hence.

Jacob and I remained friends for a while. Being of no fixed address, he wasn’t the sort of person you kept in touch with. After we went our separate ways he seemed to just reappear in my life when I needed him most, until I became more settled and found a comfortable place within to live. 

‘Divine love brings into my life the right people who can help and make me happy, and whom I can help and make happy.’ – Jacob

The Yearning by Kate Belle


It’s 1978 in a country town and a dreamy fifteen year old girl’s world is turned upside down by the arrival of the substitute English teacher. Solomon Andrews is beautiful, inspiring and she wants him like nothing else she’s wanted in her short life. 

Charismatic and unconventional, Solomon easily wins the hearts and minds of his third form English class. He notices the attention of one girl, his new neighbour, who has taken to watching him from her upstairs window. He assumes it a harmless teenage crush, until the erotic love notes begin to arrive.

Solomon knows he must resist, but her sensual words stir him. He has longings of his own, although they have nothing to do with love, or so he believes. One afternoon, as he stands reading her latest offering in his driveway, she turns up unannounced. And what happens next will torment them forever – in ways neither can imagine.

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  1. Νіcе post. I learn ѕomethіng nеw and challengіng
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    1. Thank you, glad you enjoyed it. Blogs are a great way to discover the world without leaving your loungeroom.

  2. What an experience to treasure. It makes me want to buy a tent and go to Nimbin :) Think I've probably missed that boat now!

    Love the sound of your book too. Good luck with it!

  3. Thanks Kez. 1988 was a great time to travel in Australia. Our population was a lot smaller, places were easy to get to and the world felt safer (probably because there was less of us). When they finally invent time travel I think Byron Bay 1988 will be a popular destination.

  4. Thanks for sharing your experience, Kate. What an amazing trip it must have been and how lovely to revisit and bring back all those memories.

    1. It was fun (and horrifying - the SELF INDULGENCE!!!) to read over old diaries. Has inspired me to do a few more of these. x

  5. Thanks for sharing a little of the peace you found there, Kate. It sounds wonderful. High places draw me too; I guess that's why I live on the edge of a mountain!
    Cheers, Susanne

  6. Lucky you living on the edge of a mountain Susanne! Wollumbin is certainly a very powerful place. I climbed it again many years later with a boyfriend and it was very different. The sacred space was much more protected and there are a lot of stairs etc to make it a safer climb. Well worth a visit.

  7. Kate, thanks for sharing your experiences of Byron Bay in 1988. I've lived in Byron now for nearly seven years. It's still a fabulous place but much, much busier than back then! I climbed Mt Warning not that long ago. Unfortunately its was cloudy, so no view, but still fabulous to trek up the mountain.

  8. Hi Jennifer. You lucky thing! I've always wanted to live in Byron - it really is heaven on earth i think. I did get disappointed to see the amount of development and tourism that had beset it last time I visited. Still, I can't get past my love affair with it. There's something magical about it.

  9. Lovely post, Kate, thank you. It reminded me of that not-so-distant past when the world wasn't hustling and bustling so much, the low-tech technology (not even cell phones, if we can remember that far back...and definitely no Internet or emails) and no information overload to keep distracting us. It's hard to remember that time now. And boy, do I sound like an old-timer or what? :) Thanks again, and best wishes on the book.

  10. Thanks for sharing with us Kate! It sounds like you got a lot out of that trip.