Archive for December, 2009

Day 19

December 20, 2009

The storm did hit Coffs Harbour but thankfully there were not the hailstorms predicted. However it rained all night and we were unable to pack the tent properly as it was still wet by the time we set off in search of our final destination – Brisbane. We left bang on 9am along the busy Pacific Highway. Our first port of call was to be Ballina where the big prawn is. We stopped just off the highway and quite frankly the prawn looked as if it had been out in the sun too long. We moved on to Maclean for breakfast on the banks of the Clarence River and then we stopped in Byron Bay. We had planned to stay there for a night but it was such a busy place we were glad we had changed our minds. Byron was packed with holiday-makers and backpackers. The campsites wanted to charge extortionate prices too and I can imagine it would be a bit of a party town. The weather did not show Byron in its best light, although, there looked to be a few good waves. After our brief visit to party town it was off to Tweed Heads and Coolangatta. They are called the twin towns as they are split down the middle by the state border between NSW and Queensland. Tweed Heads is in NSW and Coolangatta is in Queensland. At one point both Joy and I had a foot in each state and there are the pictures next to the monument to prove it. Our clocks went back an hour as we headed north and from then on in it was back to reality on the driving stakes. Busy, busy, busy. Just as you would expect in a big city. But with Kate in great form we managed to get to our final destination and the kids – Chantelle and Chloe – were there to greet us as we pulled up to our new home. It was unbelievable to think we had just driven across Australia. It has taken just under three weeks but we finally did it. We have seen some fantastic sights on our journey. We have travelled more than 7000km and spent more than $1000 on petrol but it was worth every cent. It was fantastic too to see the family again and sleep in a bed. The tent has been a great home over the past 19 days. In fact, there was only one day we did not sleep under the stars and that was in Cocklebiddy. Our journey has been a long one but it is something we will remember for the rest of our lives. I hope this blog has portrayed a little of what it has been like and thanks to everyone who has taken the time to log on. We could not have done it without you. We would also like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year and hopefully that 2010 will be healthy and wealthy one for us all.

Joy and Phil at our final destination, Wynnum West Brisbane


Day 18

December 18, 2009

We had an unexpected and unwelcome guest in our tent this morning. We thought the cicadas were louder than normal and it turned out one had somehow broken in to our inner sanctum and taken refuge in our doona. We don’t know how long he had been there but after Joy found him he did not last long and he was ushered, or should I say thrown out, back to his mates. That was a close encounter we did not want but an hour or so later we had some which were highly memorable. We went to the pet porpoise pool, an interactive park which allows you to get close up and personal with dolphins, seals, turtles and big, big fish. Both Joy and I have been to Sea World in Florida but this, for us, was better – purely because it was a more personal experience. Before the show we were able to get a kiss from a seal and a dolphin.  The show was the usual tricks but somehow it seemed the audience was more involved as it was a small park. And involved is what I got as I was picked to take part in the show with three others. I had to feed a dolphin which jumped high in the air. They threatened to release the pin on the gang-plank but unfortunately they did not and I stayed dry, which was a shame as it was a hot day and it would have been great to swim with the dolphins. We did have a swim in the afternoon at Sapphire Beach which is just a short stroll from our tent. I wouldn’t say it was a swim more of a dip where we got thrown around by some big waves. It was a bit colder than the other day but refreshing nonetheless. We came out of the surf and I am sure I heard Joy say I looked like Daniel Craig (in the Bond film Casino Royale). But on second thoughts maybe she said I should go and see Jenny Craig (the diet guru). After our swim the stroll back to the tent became more of a sprint as the sand was so hot it was burning our feet. I felt like Dudley Moore in the film 10 (remember that scene on the beach?). It had been a hot day but reports on local radio suggested a storm was brewing. We battened down the hatches and sure enough the storm arrived about tea time. It is still raining a little as I write but hopefully we have seen the worst. Watch this space. I hope people have had a look back at previous blogs. Most days have pictures now attached.

Day 17

December 17, 2009

We had a lie in today on our second day of chilling out after all our driving exertions of the past two weeks. Coffs Harbour is a great place to take it easy and after a morning of not much at all we took the short drive to the big banana.

Phil trying to show his strength

This is not just a big Aussie icon like the rest, there is something of a small theme park. There is a small water slide place – mainly for kids – a couple of movie shows about – you guessed it – bananas. There is the obligatory souvenir shop and cafe – cashing in on the banana again and there is, somewhat surprisingly given the climate, an ice skating rink and a toboggan run. The toboggan is a thing like your own little rollercoaster where you get winched up the run and come down via your own joystick which governs your pace on the other side. 

After our what now seems like our daily ice cream – banana of course – we set off for Nambucca Heads for lunch. We had heard it was a nice place, and it is pretty, right on the estuary. But apparently there has been a bit of trouble lately at night-time forcing a couple of cafes to only open in the day. On the drive back we stopped off hoping for a swim at Sawtell after driving through a little place called Toormina which is also pretty. Sawtell’s beach is a big bay and perfect for surfing but sadly not for a relaxing dip. It was a windy day, too, so we just settled for the camp pool instead, which is one of the more cleaner and deeper ones we have seen on our travels. I am writing this blog at about 10pm eastern summer time and once again our friendly neighbourhood possums are back. True to form they have been here – the camp kitchen – the same time each night. They are obviously used to us humans and one even came and sat on the laptop last night just staring at me and no amount of shooing on my part would move him on. It was as if he was saying ‘Oi mate you taking the piss, this is my territory’. They are not the only wildlife in this tropical-style park. Birds are in abundance and as I said last night, cicadas and their discarded skins are also everywhere. 

Look closely at the tree trunk

Ugly looking critters aren't theyThe mossies, too, are out in force and my feet – once again – have taken a battering. The bugs – cockroaches, beetles etc etc are also supersized as we are heading towards more tropical climes. I will, therefore, get going as I am downloading some more pictures tonight.

Day 16

December 16, 2009

We were serenaded by thousands of cicadas and had a good night’s sleep. We woke early determined to have a lazy day. We did, however, drive 80km to Grafton to check the town out. I had applied for a job there but had no reply from application. Thankfully – as it turned out – Grafton did not appeal to us at all. The river Clarence is spectacular and flows through the middle of the town. But apart from that there were no redeeming features. In fact, the place needed a total revamp to bring it into the 21st century. We both believe in fate and something obviously was telling us we should not go to Grafton. We drove back along the Pacific Highway – the main route from Sydney to Brisbane. My God this is a busy road and it’s full of people rushing to get somewhere. It was definitely a wake-up call for me after the easy driving – relatively – we had done up until now. We needed to chill out so decided to stop off at Emerald beach for our first swim in the Pacific for a few years. It was surprising how much warmer it was to what we have been used to and was totally refreshing. You surfer boys would be pleased to know there were some good waves too. After lunch back at the site we headed off to Coffs and a walk on the jetty. We also stopped off in the Coffs Harbour Hotel to have a couple of beers and it gave me a chance to catch up on the Perth test match. Sunbathing earlier in the day had the desired effect and there was a bit of colour showing now. It was certainly a lazy day and while Joy had a nana nap I pushed the kids out the way and played on the Playstation the camp provides. But just as we thought day 16 would have no dramas, the tent pole broke and we had to do some running repairs. Hopefully it will hold until we get a replacement. We are off to the big banana on day 17 and it seems there is much more to do than just get a picture. We shall find out. For those interested we have now downloaded some pictures. If you go back through days 1 to 10 there should be some to see and we will download the rest as soon as possible. Happy blogging all and good night.

Day 15

December 15, 2009

There must be something about night-time when you are camping in the great outdoors. On this trip at any rate I am sure we are destined to have interrupted sleep until we reach Brisbane. The culprit last night was the mother of all thunderstorms. It was windy too, so much so that I could not sleep for fear our tent would take off (not much chance of that, I hear you all cry) that we would be struck by lightning. Thankfully neither happened and eventually we both dropped off. An alarm from a nearby business would have woken us if we had not already got up. Then we went to the Country Music Museum in Tamworth. More of the same really and frankly the only people we had heard of were Slim Dusty, Keith Urban, Adam Brand and a couple of others. Interesting all the same. What was also interesting was our drive from Tamworth into the New England region of New South Wales. Not long into our drive the blues skies of previous days were replaced by clouds, though not many, and the temperature dropped to 20-21 as we climbed into the Great Dividing Range. Armidale was the next big town we came across and after that the roads got windy and even more windy. We stopped at Ebor Falls and soon after we came across a strange sight. It was 2pm and the mist just rolled in suddenly and we could hardly see the road ahead at some points. Joy was driving – thank God, I hear everyone yell – and I too said the same as conditions worsened. Thankfully after a break for lunch in Dorrigo it eased and I took the wheel for what I thought would be an easy run into Coffs Harbour. How wrong could I be. As the saying goes, what goes up must come down and after being high up in the mountains for most of the day, we needed to make the descent towards the coast. A little bit more mist, more steep descending roads and quite a lot more of windy roads. At some points I am sure I heard Michael Caine and the cast from the Italian Job singing this is the self-preservation society (if you don’t get the joke watch the film, the last part, and you will see what I mean. Eventually, after what seemed like an endless nail-biting descent, we made it to Coffs Harbour. We had a drink to celebrate the fact we had just driven across the continent of Australia. WHOOOO. We found a nice campsite near town and decided to set up tent for a few days to recuperate and perhaps catch some sun and swim with dolphins. I cannot believe we made it. We are close to our final destination and I am sure there will be a few more trials and tribulations before we reach Brisbane. Stay with us and hopefully (now Joy has worked out how to put them in) there will be some pictures to go with each day’s blog soon. Cheers for now.

Day 14

December 14, 2009

It was a chilly night in Dubbo despite temperatures yesterday reaching 36C. Perhaps it was our decision to leave the doona (that’s duvet to British readers) in the car for the night – I don’t know – but note to selves – do not leave doona in car as temperature drops quite considerably when sun goes down. Generally the campsites we have stayed at on our travels across Australia have been excellent. But this one was the first we saw with signs up warning of thieves. It just put us on edge a little. Perhaps that was another reason Joy did not sleep that well. We were going to have a look around Dubbo but decided there was little to see apart from the old gaol and the Western Plains Zoo which is similar, apparently to safari parks in the UK. We cracked on towards Tamworth. The road was a bit dodgy. It was narrow in parts and not well-maintained. Hence we could not do the speed we needed to keep on timing track. Although we really at this stage have no set time to be anywhere. We noticed how brown the grass etc was – another example of the lack of rain which falls in this area. The temperature again peaked about 36C on our trip and when we stopped at Werris Creek – called the first railway town in Oz. Interesting little place but the humidity was rising all the time and it seemed to be getting hotter. We arrived in Tamworth mid afternoon. For those who don’t know Tamworth is called the capital of country music in Australia. Country music is not really our cup of tea but it was interesting all the same to visit the exhibition called Walk the Country Mile which told the story of Aussie country music from its beginnings in the 1920s to the present day. Names like Slim Dusty and Keith Urban might ring a bell with you Brits. We then moved on to the big golden guitar. This is a 12ft high replica of the Golden Guitar which is given to award winners at the Country Music Awards of Australia. The real thing is like the Aussie country music version of the oscars. Tamworth also has a country music festival when everyone who is anyone comes to the town. Tamworth itself is a lovely little place on the edge of a range of hills and pretty. There seems to be more cloud here and maybe more rain. It certainly is a lot more humid and thunderstorms may be coming soon. Let’s hope the tent can stand up to if storms come. Tomorrow we might pop into the country music hall of fame museum – that’s if we can put up with any more country stuff. It we don’t then it will be straight on to Coffs Harbour and the big banana where we will be hopefully getting some sunbathing in. It will also mean we don;t have to put the bloody tent up or bring it down for a few days. I am fed up with banging in tent pegs. Oh well time for another slurp on the beer and then bed. Cheers!!!

Please let me know if you can see our pictures or not.

Day 13

December 13, 2009

Had a well-deserved lie-in this morning after a good night out in Griffith with Mel and Mike. Thanks to them for their hospitality and well done Mikey, Nigella’s second best to you – in the cooking stakes. We left the house at about 11am for a look at the hermit cave on Scenic Hill overlooking Griffith. This was a cave where an Italian, Valeri Ricetti, made his home for some 20-odd years from the 1920s until 1952. He made stone walls, steps and even had a chapel and kept a garden next to his home on the hillside. An amazing site and sight.

We left soon after on a day that was perfect. Not a cloud in the sky and temperatures pushing 35C as we headed for Dubbo in NSW. It may have been perfect for us but spare a thought for the people of Griffith who are currently in an eight-year drought!!!

Griffith was a bigger place than we expected but there is not much to do and I think alcohol may play a  big part in people’s lives!!! Dubbo was a good four-hour drive and Joy did the first bit as I caught up on some missed sleep on the morning after the night before. We arrived in Barellan for lunch and had fish and chips for $5.50 each a bargain. Barellan was the home of former Wimbledon champion Evonne Goolagong and guess what, to celebrate her success, they have recently built – wait for it – a big tennis racquet. It is giant version of the Dunlop wooden racquet she used when she was at the peak of her career. It is mounted next to a giant tennis ball and on a piece of astroturf court with a net. It is truly a work of art.

The temperature was rising as we headed north through beautiful country towns such as Forbes and Parkes. We arrived, as Kate said we would, at about 5.30pm and it was still 35c. We set up camp and then had a dip in the camp pool – bliss. I think another swim will be in order tomorrow before we head off for Tamworth, home of, guess what – the big guitar!!! Intrigued? Find out more tomorrow. By the way there are now more pictures in the media section if you want to check them out.

Day 12

December 12, 2009

Forgot to mention another WOW from yesterday was seeing koalas in the wild in the Otway Forest. Amazing. Anyway woke up to a wet tent and grey skies in Ballarat. There was no rain just a heavy dew. But it was bloody cold. Got packed up quickly thanks to the wonderful Joy. She has the packing down to a fine art now. After a free pancake from the park owners we headed into Sovereign Hill which is – as we found out – a working village of how Ballarat was during the gold rush in the 1800s. Sadly we did not have all day to see it, which is apparently what you need, and decided to go see the Eureka Rebellion museum instead. It is a fascinating story of a group of gold diggers who took on the might of the British Government over gold licences and won – not only a battle – but the war for democracy. Look it up on google or watch the film Eureka Stockade which stars my all-time favourite Australian actor Chips Rafferty. Ballarat was an interesting place full of old buildings and history, shame we did not have more time. We set off for Griffith about 11am. Bendigo was en route and that too was an old-style town with plenty of magnificent old buildings. Sadly we had to keep on trucking. Stopped in Ecucha for lunch in Victoria and then crossed the bridge into Moama, NSW – our fourth state. From then on in there was not much to report as the road to Griffith is a boring one and the speed limit is only 100km – it feels like you are walking!!! The sun was shining and it was still 28C when we reached our destination. We dropped in on Melody and Mike – friends from Albany – and had a good night at the local Catholic club. It was supposed to be a karaoke night for some local firms’ Christmas parties. But only 20 people were there in a big club. We waited for them all to go and had our own little karaoke party with a couple of locals Geoff – the bar manager – and Simon the DJ. A fun night and the chance to sleep in a bed for the first time in 12 days. A decent sleep but somehow for some reason, I missed the tent!!!! Off exploring today after a bit of a lie in, so will be back tomorrow. There you are Bertie – a little shorter just for you.

Day 11

December 11, 2009

I hope everyone is keeping up because it’s hard to keep track of the days when out on the open road. Anyway it was a wet night in Port Campbell but luckily the sun shone early so we could dry our tent out. We set off down the Great Ocean Road again expecting for a long, hard day of viewing and walking. After refuelling we first went back to the arch, a formation we missed out on seeing yesterday, then it was on to Loch Ard Gorge, Thunder Cave and the blowhole. All were fantastic sights but were really the calm before the storm, so to speak, as we drove off in search of the 12 apostles. They are the most famous rock formations on the Great Ocean Road coastline and we were both looking forward to seeing something we had only seen in books, magazines or TV programs. But nothing could have prepared us for what we witnessed. For me it was a special moment. Something I never thought I would have seen in my lifetime. Once again I was speechless – but only for a few seconds before the words came out OH MY GOD!!! Pictures do not do the 12 apostles justice. If they are not one of the seven wonders of the natural world then they should be. Just to be there was unbelievable and I have now crossed off one of the 50 things to do before I die. Joy has taken a full card of pictures, so hopefully we can put a few on this site. However, they will not give you the feeling of power, the noise of the wind and the sheer beauty that this place conveys. Gibsons Steps was next on the list but I only got halfway as it takes you down the side of the cliff and woosy could not manage it as he to thought he would fall – although you are obviously fenced in. Joy managed it, though and got down to the beach – almost – and has the pictures to prove it. The road was getting more windy as we went along and after reaching Apollo Bay – which looks like a magnificent place to retire by the way – it became even tougher. I bravely handed the driving over to Joy. But she managed admirably to negotiate the hairpin bends and tight turns. The weather was still OK but it was decidedly chilly. It reminded me a lot of Albany in some ways. There were a couple of other pretty towns along the Great Ocean Road, such as Lorne and Torquay. But Apollo Bay stood out. We finally reached the end of the Great Ocean Road at about 6pm after a short detour to Bells Beach – one of the best surf beaches in the world – to watch the surfers in action. We were planning to stay in Geelong for one night. But one camp site was full and another wanted to charge us $45 for one night’s stay. Too much, we said, and we headed off to Ballarat in the Victorian goldfields. We arrived at a cracking little site with just enough daylight to set up camp before having spag bol for dinner. There are a few things to see first thing so it will be up early tomorrow before making tracks to Griffith, NSW – our fourth State. It’s been a tiring and memorable day. One I shall remember for many years. As I said, you have to see the Great Ocean Road and all that it offers, to believe it


all pics from the great ocean road

Day 10

December 10, 2009

It was a wet and windy night in Beachport and we also almost had an unwanted guest. Some other camper, we think he had a few too many, mistook our tent for his mate Tristan’s. So at 1.30am he was shouting for Tristan. I was not going to make the mistake of coming out like at Ceduna. Who knows how big this bloke was!!! So bravely both Joy and I shouted ‘wrong tent mate’ and thankfully he headed off. But the damage had been done and no sleep was had for a couple of hours, especially as the rains and wind started again. It always amazes me that when you are struggling to get some shuteye, you only drop into a deep sleep just before you are due to wake up. So was the case this morning. We wanted a reasonably early start so it was up at 7am. We were all set to head off in search of the Great Ocean Road, but as Joy returned from her morning shower I noticed Kate was not with us. I thought she was a goner. She was talking but not working and at one point I thought we were going to have to bury her at sea just over the grass bank. There were tears and all sorts as Kate struggled for life. Maybe it was the thought of Joy having to navigate into Victoria, I don’t know, but we thought we were toast. We could not survive without Kate, so we headed for Mt Gambier – luckily it was a straight road – in search of help. We eventually decided to check out the Tom Tom website – that’s Kate’s home – and see what could be done. Would she need surgery? Was she dying? These questions and more ran through our minds. We even discussed buying a replacement. We thought that was it. But the IT guy on the other end of the helpline had the answer. Turn Kate off and turn her on again. Now why didn’t I think of that? It was obvious. It is always the answer and I should have known that. So the reset button was pressed and hey presto, Kate was back!!! Reports of her death were premature – as someone once wrote. With Kate back and Joy saved from navigating, we moved on into Victoria. We stopped off in  Portland and Port Fairy before joining the Great Ocean Road. And I have to say that I am not usually lost for words but the sight of the Bay of Islands just before Port Campbell was awe-inspiring. As Joy said it was nature at her most spectacular and it was all free. The Bay of Martyrs, London Bridge and the Grotto – all formations left by the erosion caused by wind, rain and sea spray – were next on the agenda as the southerly winds roared in. It was unbelievable stuff and something we will both remember for a long time. Port Campbell was the place chosen for our night’s stay before the beauty of the ocean road winds on tomorrow. We will be seeing the Twelve Apostles and much, much more, all with Kate as our guide. As Arkwright from Open All Hours often said: “It’s been a funny old day.” But it’s been one to remember. Be back to tomorrow for another epic leg of our journey.

All pictures on day 10 from great ocean road