Reconnecting in Emerald: A Holiday to Remember with My Friends

Reconnecting in Emerald: A Holiday to Remember with My Friends

In 2022, a dear friend of mine got married. We were supposed to be there but because of the pandemic restrictions, flights were so expensive and borders were so strict, we couldn't be with her at this special moment in her life. Sitting in front of my laptop, 5,811 kilometers away, I cried as I watched the livestream of my friend marrying the love of her life.

When we were younger, I've always imagined that if one of us walked down the aisle, we'd all be there for each other. But then all of a sudden, two of my friends got married during the pandemic and none of us were there for each other. While we couldn't physically be there for each other's weddings, we were still able to celebrate and support each other from afar, which is a testament to the strength of our friendships. 

The thing about friendship, especially adult friendship, is that it evolves and adapts in ways you never expected. It's about understanding and forgiving the absence during significant moments, because life, as it unfolds, brings with it challenges that are sometimes beyond our control. This pandemic has been a harsh reminder of that, yet it has also shown that our bond endures beyond physical proximity. 

Fast forward to 2024, the world has opened up again, and so has the opportunity to make this trip a reality. When Taylor Swift announced the Australia leg of The Eras Tour, I knew that this was the perfect time to finally fly to Australia and be reunited with my friends. In our teenage years, we would record ourselves singing and dancing to Taylor Swift's hits. We'd even buy a cake to celebrate Taylor's birthday.

This was why this trip was such a big deal for us. It is rare to find friends that grow with you as you get older. We've known each other for 15 years. How many 15 years do we even get in this life?

But the majority of this holiday, we spent in Emerald, Victoria. Ahhh, sweet and beautiful Emerald. It is now one of my favorite places in the world. It's at least an hour from Melbourne CBD which makes it the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Situated in the Dandenong Ranges, surrounded by lush forests and quaint villages, Emerald offered us the tranquility and beauty we had been craving after years of being apart. The air was fresh, filled with the scent of the earth.

Also read: Applying For An Australian Tourist Visa In 2024: Guide For Filipinos

Emerald Lake Park and the historic Puffing Billy Railway

Perhaps one of my favorite spots in Emerald is the enchanting Emerald Lake Park. In some mornings, while everyone else is still asleep, I would go for a run in the area. Sometimes, I would often find myself alone just listening to the gentle hum of the lake.

A short walk from the lake leads you to the historic Puffing Billy railway. Puffing Billy is the world's oldest surviving steam railway. It was built in the 1900s to serve the local communities that lived in the hills. It carried anything from potatoes, timber, livestock, and passengers. Today, it is a major tourist attraction that invites visitors from all over the world.

I didn't get the chance to watch the Puffing Billy chug along its scenic route, but I hope I can visit and get a ticket next time.

Eastern Dandenong Ranges Trail

I was also drawn to the many hiking trails in the area with the Eastern Dandenong Ranges trail standing out. I don't even know how to describe the lush surroundings. Hiking this part of the world was truly a refreshing escape from the everyday hustle and bustle.

The Eastern Dandenong Ranges Trail is a 15 km railside path that takes you through the Wright Forest and alongside the Puffing Billy Railway. The scenery is spectacular, but I didn't have enough time to explore the entirety of the trail. It's a bucket list I want to explore in the future. Ah, the thought is already making me look forward to my next visit.

Local shops and businesses

The charm of Emerald is magnified by its beautiful local shops. So many small businesses are thriving, each with its unique offerings. From handcrafted goods to local produce, the variety is astounding, and the quality is unmatched. What struck me most was the palpable support locals have for these enterprises. It's one of the things I noticed in Australia - they genuinely prefer local businesses, and it's heartwarming to see such a strong sense of community and support for local artisans and entrepreneurs. Sadly, it's a stark contrast to where I'm from where exports are far more preferred than local produce.

The incomparable steak pie 

No visit to Emerald would be complete without savoring the delicious steak pie at the Emerald Village Bakery and Cafe. This humble eatery, with its warm, inviting atmosphere, is a must-visit if you ever visit Emerald. Families and friends, even bikers from far-flung places, gathered outside the bakery.

The place is brimming with pastries but their steak pie is truly a revelation. I am not much a fan of pies in general but my goodness, their steak pie is the STEAK PIE of all steak pies.

The flaky, buttery crust was filled with tender chunks of steak in a rich, savory gravy that was just heavenly. It was the kind of pie that made you close your eyes and savor every bite, wishing it would never end. I can still taste it as I'm writing this, and I can't wait to go back for more.

Walking around the neighborhood, eating pastry, or just watching other people - it truly is the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary. It was the quiet and the serenity of Emerald that provided the perfect setting for my reunion with friends.

I don't know when I'll be able to return to Emerald, but the memories of this trip will forever be etched in my heart. Life has taken us to different places and circumstances in life. We never know when's the next time, but I hope we can meet again soon. The laughter, the late-night conversations, the walks in the serene environment, and the joy of simply being together after so long. This trip was a powerful reminder of the importance of making time for these connections, of cherishing the moments we have, and of the beauty of exploring new places together.

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