Aussie Dreaming Part Two

Trip Start Aug 01, 2006
Trip End Dec 29, 2006

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Saturday, December 9, 2006

Emerald Bay

The campsite bordered a forested area and then the beach. I decided to take the blocked off road directly behind the campervan to the beach for a surf check. As I walked down the road I was overcome by a creepy feeling, like eyes were watching me, hungry angry eyes, the eyes of nature gone wild. Every fourth step was accompanied by a slithering noise of some unknown animal or reptile pushing its way through the grass. To me or away from me I could not tell in my paranoid state. Visits to the zoo came vividly rushing back, looking through thick glass at any animal from Australia whether it was a lizard, wombat, or insect and seeing the red dot that signified poisonous. After the dot was a clear and concise description of the poison. "Causes blindness and then death by suffocation" or "Brings on paralysis followed by loss of consciousness and then death". They all had the same ending except for the ones that resulted in, "permanent and deep skin lesions." Leaping spiders and small green deadly snakes. At one point a tree rustled and several large black parrots flew by my upturned head. I kept getting caught in horrifically large spider webs and spastically had to clear them from my body. I don't know what prompted my state but Australia was teeming with peculiar and unusual wildlife that seemed to be within an arms distance away.

Later at the same campsite I saw a five foot green snake that weighed at least fifteen pounds take an excruciating long time to cross the path. I waited until an Aussie told me it was a tree snake and completely harmless and then I waited some more. I liked the harmless part but didn't approve of the tree part.

The insects don't help. There are flies the size of cherries and many things are fuzzy, have large eyes or have some other peculiarity about them. The mozzies and the sand fleas have already made our legs look like a map of volcanoes. Red and mountainous. I know my fears are unwarranted and a local Ozzie would dismiss them as completely incomprehensible. None-the-less they are still buzzing around my head like the slow flies that try to crawl up my nose or in my ear like I am a sullen cow resigned to a field on a hot summer day.

Not all of the wildlife was threatening because in the mornings and especially in the evenings Kangaroos would casually hop between the trailers and motor homes to graze on the grass. Collette was more than excited and one time Christy had to actually restrain her from running after them. As dusk would descend we would take Collette for a walk and sit happily watching the silhouettes of the large animals as they contentedly and completely oblivious to us chewed the grass and hoped around. Collette would point and chatter the whole time discussing how kangaroos hop, what they eat, or any unusual behavior they exhibit. "Kangaroos eat grass. Ohh look at that one he is moving away. He is going to his friend over there. That one is big, that's a big kangaroo" ....and on and on. Later on Collette didn't want to go into her bed, " dada," "yes" "I don't want to go into my bed" "Why not?" "My bed has kangaroo poo in it" "Kangaroo poo? I don't think so." "I think so dada."

Here we were introduced to the jumping pillow: A huge air bag covered in a thick rubbery membrane. It resembled a thirty-foot water balloon. Collette spent hours on it hopping alone, hopping with other kids and wanting to hop.

There were plenty of other families and Collette invaded their campsites with complete aplomb looking for toys or playmates. At the communal kitchen a large group of families had gathered for their annual get together. As they sat down on large wooden benches for dinner with a nice view of the jumping pillow Collette sat at the end of the table and waited for her plate. They served her and she ate her sausages. At the point she started gnawing on some corn on the cob I decided to intervene and asked if it was Ok that our daughter sit at their table, eat their food, and grab whatever caught her fancy. I got the same response that I frequently heard, " No worries mate, she's fine." I was constantly surprised at how nice and generous people were.

As I drove by the entrance to the caravan park a sign caught my eye that read "happy hour". We parked the van I waited patiently for 6:00. Not able to contain my excitement we headed for the local barbeque area at 5:30. Randomly sprawled out on the tables were plates with pyramid piles of cheese cubes and accompanying crackers. Our host met us and poured us some free wine and we sat down on the benches to munch and soak in the afternoon. Soon more patient campers joined us and we struck up conversations about where we had been and other topics that were not inflammatory or offensive but quite entertaining. The conversation flowed in correlation to the wine. It was a nice occasion and a great chance to meet your fellow trailer parkies.

In the US this is often a dubious if not down right dangerous pursuit but not in Australia. Usually in the US I don't want to meet the people in the campsites, especially when alcohol is involved. I thought how thoughtful that the owners of the park put this together just for the sake of the campers getting to know each other better and thus making their vacation more pleasant.

The next day at about 5:00 I told Christy that I was going to spruce up for this evening's happy hour and I was even considering changing my shirt a few days early. She said that the happy hour is only on Friday. The muscles in my face went slack with disappointment and I mopped around for at least an hour muttering phrases such as, " What does it matter?" "Whatever" and "If that is what you want." The dusk kangaroos cheered Collette and I couldn't resist her charms.

I didn't get any surf (I went out one day but don't count it) in Emerald bay but a happy hour buddy told me it did get good and that the beach directly off the end of the park had a nice uncrowded left. I didn't see it but I did see the potential under the two-foot swell that the strong north easterlies had made to look like a frothy café latte.

Excited about Australia we packed up the van and headed south.

Port Macquarie-

Under brooding skies we drove around Port Macquarie with no idea where we were going. After several u-turns and circles in roundabouts the rain started to sprinkle the windshield and we finally found a car park. After trying to establish blame for any driving mistakes we set up camp and watched the unsettled weather pass through.

After consulting my very good Australian surfing guide we retraced our steps and ended up on the other side of town. The sun had come out to cheer up the day and as we came around a bend we saw a beach break sprinkled with surfers. I quickly suited up and surfed a nice glassy right. Afterwards I couldn't find Christy so I sat by the van shivering. A car pulled up to me and asked, "Is it still freezing mate?" At first I couldn't decipher the thick accent but then it dawned on me and I gave an enthusiastic, "Yes". This part of the coastline was being hit by an uncharacteristically cold spell. At this point I also seriously considered buying a spring suit.

After the surf we spotted a new caravan park closer to the break and town. At the check in office we noticed that it was full of twenty something Aussies. In fact it was our second introduction to the schoolies. The caravan park boarded a walkway that was lined with colorful spray-painted rocks left over from tourists. Most of them commented on the strength of their relationship by proclaiming "forever" or they had the simpler message documenting who and when they were there. These rocks made up a break wall that lined the harbor. Follow the path along the break wall, turn right, and you are at the beach and the surf break.

The actual car park was a large lawn that didn't offer much privacy. However this did not distract from the advantages or beauty of its location. We could walk to town browse the coffee shops, gorge on fish and chips, watch the Aussies and more importantly to me, I could scourge the surf shops in search for a spring suit. I found one and surfed the next day under a little worse conditions but still fun.

The first evening that we settled in I made dinner in our little camper van. A dexterous pursuit in such a cramped surroundings. As Christy watched me in complete comfort we noticed that the schoolies were starting to head at to the beach. Like migrating birds they headed along the walkway with their numbers increasing as the evening progressed. While their numbers increased their behavior decreased. We could hear them yelling, singing, and getting into fights over girlfriends or ruffled prides. The other Aussie's in the car park took it in stride and said, "They're just blowing off a little steam they are." As the dawn crept in dissolving the shadows I left the comfort of the van to pee at the communal bathroom.

I noticed that two schoolies had a motorized scooter that sounded between a chain saw and a motorcycle out of tune. Emitting this piercing loud noise they raced up and down the little lanes obviously still drunk. I returned to the van to an extremely agitated Christy. "What the hell are they doing," she indignantly proclaimed with puffy eyes. They would stall out the scooter when they crashed and yell and swear at each other until they got it running again. We had had enough and Christy reminded them of the time and the amount of noise they were making. At first he seemed to be humbled but then raised his voice, "I just finished twelve years of school what do you think of that?" Well I think the Australian school system is in a sorry state if you are their product.

By the afternoon everybody knew who they were and that they had been kicked out of the park. We never found out what he did with his degree.

After browsing the town we walked past the cabins that housed the schoolies about two in the afternoon. A large group of them had congregated at one of the cabins and between the ranting of an extremely loud girl with a shriek that only comes from heavy drinking we heard them chanting, "CHUG, CHUG, CHUG." I did a quick mental calculation on the time and the amount of alcohol and gave them another five hours of consciousness. They didn't make it to ten and we had a peaceful evening.

Port Macquarie was a nice treat to us. It was beautiful and gave us the ability to walk to surf and to town, a unique pleasure. This bypassed the lengthy procedure of transitioning the van from sleeping mode to driving mode. A lengthy and labor-intensive procedure that was sure to shorten tempers. Eager to look for more isolated locations we headed to ominously named TREACHERY BAY. With a name like that it had to be isolated and full of adventure.

Treachery Bay-

I don't exactly trust my navigator. Previous experiences had made me skeptical if not downright cantankerous. So when the road turned to dirt and the last farmhouse disappeared in flurry of camper van dust I was on edge. We passed another caravan park that bordered a large bay with white sand beaches. I knew we had to be on the other side of the point so we drove on. At what appeared to be the end of the road we found another smaller dirt road and now I was worried but my fears were unfounded. We arrived at Treachery Camp. You drove down through they heavily wooded area that bordered on jungle to the campsites. There were no designated sites so you could park anywhere. We had to plug the van in so the camp host drove to meet us on a Quad bike and helped us plug into the barbeque-kitchen area.

After settling in we walked around absorbing the lush surroundings and the wide variety of wild life. Christy was taken with the peculiar assortment of birds that squawked from branches ten feet from our van or hopped through the underbrush.

The far end of the campground had a thirty-foot sand dune bordered on both sides by vegetation. A small path lead through the bushes and trees to the top of the dune which gave you an unobstructed view of the huge white beach sprawled out below. The hike down off the dune was about ten minutes to the water but the return trip was made difficult by the soft sand, especially when one is, lets just say for example carrying a surfboard and a thirty pound chatty passenger on his head.

The beach stretched for about two miles with cliffs forming the boundaries on both sides. The surf was almost flat but that didn't stop about five guys who were bobbing in the water. The water looked inviting since it was a deep turquoise so clear you could see the sand bars underneath. I couldn't resist and went out anyway.

In the afternoon we took a walk underneath a canopy of trees while the insects buzzed and chirped to fill the air. The vegetation was lush and exotic, bordering on being a jungle. Christy jubilantly pointed at the birds and gave me their names which I quickly discarded. I am on vacation and refuse to learn anything.

Later on we passed a campground with two little kids in it. Collette attacked their site with relish and began looking for toys like a Viking hitting the shore of a defenseless village. I made small chat and we did the usual exchange of kids names and their ages. This is followed by a description of things each of tour kids do wrong and their most outlandish behavior. This being accomplished the young couple asked me to sit down, then if I wanted some wine, then if I was comfortable. I was once again floored by the hospitality of these strangers and hoped that some of it would be absorbed into my psyche and I would be transformed into a better person. As I sat there sipping a nice red Collette was in their car with her new friend pushing every button and grabbing every lever. The father leaped out of his canvas chair and scolding, herded the kids into more constructive behavior. It was relaxing to watch someone else cracking the parent whip and I once again pretended I was autistic and completely oblivious to the world and certainly not responsible for my daughter's behavior. The wine was good. We had a wonderful chat and I felt rejuvenated and happy walking through the strange trees and the noise of the wildlife on the way back to the camper.

We had to leave too soon in order to find an Internet site to complete some banking. Determined to surf I walked through the overgrown trail, over the big dune and to the waters edge. It was small but I was left to myself and had a wonderful surf. Hitting a few nice turns as the clear waves pushed over the sand and wound down the beach. I returned to the camper van to an excited reception. In my absence a monitor lizard had wandered through camp. Collette had been the first one to see it and her index finger was still rigid from pointing. Christy showed me the pictures and Collette blabbed away, now an expert on lizards.

I didn't want to leave Treachery and it was one of the most exotic and relaxing spots I have ever been. So with dust billowing behind the camper van we headed for the next town.

Munmorah State Recreation Area-

With my constant driving mantra of stay to the left, stay to the left we got lost in the city of Newcastle. Weary from driving and worn thin from the heated exchanges between driver and navigator we stumbled upon a café and through it access to the well of bad news called the Internet. Collette and I sat at an outside table with our roles clearly defined. I was determined to eat my muffin and she was intent on grabbing the silverware and throwing napkins.

Leaving the café we were again driving as randomly as bees swarm around a hive. Just as my irritation began to burst due to the constant u-turns I saw Mark Richard's surf shop. For those of you who are ignorant, Mark Richards was the four-time world surfing champion and dominated my high school surfing days. I had to stop. Deciding on which overpriced t-shirt to buy took some considerable amount of time and foundling the boards took up the rest. There was an older lady who ran the shop and I think she might have been his Godmother. I don't know why I thought it was his Godmother but I have a hazy recollection about reading about it somewhere. After we left I thought I should have asked her and tried to get her to autograph something with a bunch of smart remarks such as, " I always thought you had a better cutback than Mark" or "Mark should have given you more credit for developing the twin fin".

We made it to our destination with our marriage damaged but intact. Passing through a gate we entered the Munmorah State Recreation Area. The road passed over and around small hills covered with stunted trees that burst out from the dense undergrowth. Our van dipped into the valleys and over the ridges until we emerged on the coast and the blue waters of Australia. After looking at four small tent sites we decided not to stay at this campsite but in the meantime I had to surf. It was pretty bad, windy, choppy, with fast walls that quickly morphed into a mushy shoulder. It was still fun and cleansed me of the road that not only clings to your clothes but to the psyche. My mantra of "left" "left" stay to the "left" could quietly fade.

Afterwards I talked to some of the locals to pick their brains and learn the inside scoop on the surf conditions. They answered my questions with a frankness and friendliness that appalled and startled me.

Returning to the meandering road we drove through the wilderness reserve until parking at a campsite. The road outlined the campsite into the shape of a circle with a few campsites on the inner perimeter and the majority on the outer perimeter. The center was filled with a communal barbeque area and a bathroom. We came to roost on the inner side next to a three other camper vans.

I noticed the other vans because one evening one of one vans had invited another couple to dinner. Over wine the gentlemen went into great detail and to an outlandish length to explain and highlight the features of his van while his wife nodded in agreement. I liked his van, and was acutely jealous, but didn't want the details spread out over an hour and a half of droning and was glad to be in the refuge of our van where only Collette's constant ramblings distracted me. In a small campsite you tend to spend a great deal of time casually spying on the neighbors. It's quite fun.
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