Australia - Port Macquarie

Trip Start Dec 05, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Sunday, January 8, 2006

Day 1

An early (7:45) start saw us making some quick home-made pancakes before getting a lift to the station with Richard - didn't need the bus ticket after all - good as a back up though.

We nearly missed our Greyhound bus as it was cleverly disguised as a McCafferty's bus (no idea why!) but once we were safely on board, thankfully without any crazed lunatics this time, the journey flew by.

Our destination this time was Port Macquarie, a small, sleepy town about 3 hours north of Newcastle. We were picked up by the hostel shuttle and taken to the main hostel; The Port Macquarie YHA. Strange as it sounds we were lucky that the hostel was full - as a result we were put into an apartment that the owner had recently bought in a block nearby the hostel. This meant that instead of a double room in the hostel we had an apartment with a living room, kitchen and bathroom - and only had to share it with a couple of girls who were in the other room of the apartment (PIC).

After a quick lunch we wandered into town and down to the portside area (where the river enters the sea) which boasts a number of posh looking bars and restaurants overlooking the water. The area is really peaceful and picturesque (PIC) and the breakwater that borders the river has some interesting, brightly coloured rocks that visitors have decorated over the years (PIC).

At the end of the breakwater the pathway juts out into the sea and gets constantly pelted with the oncoming waves, on occasion these waves are big enough to engulf the pathway...and everything that is on it. On this occasion Verdi happened to be on it, in the right spot, at the right time and got drenched (PICS).

The irony is that a few people were stood in their swimming costumes on the rocks, deliberately trying to get wet in an effort to cool down. The wave missed them and got ONLY Verdi - Andrew just stood back, laughed and whipped out the camera - we couldn't let everyone at home miss the spectacle! Despite another 10 minutes waiting to try and photograph a similar wave, it appeared that Verdi managed to get the only big one for ages.

We continued to stroll around the coastline, taking in the views from Flagstaff Hill (PICS) and then headed towards the bus stop for the lighthouse, only to discover that the buses had ceased a couple of hours earlier. We weren't up for the hour-long walk and so decided to trundle back to the apartment.

The rest of the evening was spent doing a bit of food shopping for the following days, showering, eating dinner and watching Alfie (which we hired from the hostel and played on the DVD player in the apartment - luxury or what!), before heading to bed at 1:00am.

Day 2

With a busy day ahead of us we got up at 8am and headed over to the hostel to check out and leave our bags while we went sea kayaking. We had already decided not to get up at 6:30 to go to the Koala hospital for their 8am feeding time (we wouldn't be around for the more sociable 3pm one).

It turned out that we were the only two on the kayaking tour, so again it was like having our personal guide and a bargain at $35 each (14GBP). Once we had donned our life jackets and suncream we carried the kayaks (two man) down to the water and had a quick practice while our guide sorted himself out. Unfortunately EVERYTHING that we took would get soaked so we could not take the camera to capture what we saw.

The start of the tour saw us working our way up the river and negotiating a particularly shallow and rocky section before entering the mangroves which were very calm and peaceful...that was until we came across thousands of fruit bats nesting in the trees. One area was called the 'Colliseum' as it was a small circular part of the river that was enclosed by bat infested trees. Our guide thought that it would be a good time to clap his hands loudly to get the bats circling about 5ft above our heads in a frenzied panic. On exiting the 'Colliseum' he also decided to splash the trees to make even more of the bats jump out on us!

Taking a different route back down the river (to the harbour where we started) was interesting as it saw us having to fight our way through tight tunnels of over hanging mangrove trees some of which almost had us capsizing.

The mouth of the river presented some small cascades for us to tackle before heading towards a small cove (PIC) where we were going to take it in turns to go out 'kayak surfing' with our guide. En route we unexpectedly did a bit of 'surfing' all on our own when a massive wave came straight for us - our guide was shouting for us to hit it straight on and 'PADDLE!'...luckily we did hit it straight on, went over the top of it and got soaked BUT stayed upright. Our guide was really pleased and slightly relieved.

Safely on the beach we tucked into a lunch of bananas and watermelon before one by one going out with the guide to surf the waves - the right way round. Typically there were no more waves as big as the one that hit us straight on, but we did manage to catch a couple each which were really good fun.

We would have liked to spend a lot longer there trying to catch more waves but we had to be back at the hostel (to catch the next Greyhound bus at 1:30) so we started the arduous journey back to the shore - it hadn't seemed that far on the way out and our arms were beginning to get REALLY tired. Spotting a small pod of dolphins helped to num the pain for a while!

A quick shower back at the hostel and we were soon relaxing and reminiscing about the morning's adventure on the bus to Coffs Harbour....
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