Trip Start Sep 01, 2008
Trip End Sep 01, 2009

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Where I stayed
Jimmy's Beach

Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Friday, December 5, 2008

Well, it's been a month since my last entry.  A lot has happened in that time making it hard to keep on top of the travel blog.  And now I'm left trying to condense a month's worth of activities into a readable diary.   Where to start?  From the beginning would be good I guess. 
We arrived in Sydney and decided to head straight to our friends place that we met in Bali.  We took the train from the airport and caught the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly Beach.  As soon as we arrived we realised that our money was not going to go as far here.  Crikey, it's expensive!  We had budgeted for a western country but didn't realise just how pricey it was here.  Luckily our dollar is strong and we are getting about $1.25 Aussie dollars to the Loonie, which helps.  So, we arrived at Sharon and Tony's place in Manly beach.  They have a beautiful house set up on Queen's Cliffe overlooking the beach.  Tony is quite a handy man and completely renovated the house to their liking.  It has a very open concept.  In the kitchen, all of the windows remove so you feel as if you're cooking in open-air.  When Zeke came home from school he was very pumped to see us,  as were we to see him.  He took us on a little tour of Manly bay, walking through the cliffs and caves around the Queen's Cliffe point.  The beach is beautiful.  White sands and great surf.  Later on in the week we also did a four hour trek of all the bays and beaches around Manly.  Its crazy to think that a sprawling city like Sydney can offer such amazing tranquility and beautiful nature at the same time.  That night Sharon had a friend over to stay the weekend as well.  Just goes to show how accommodating they are to friends and strangers.  We all hit if off great!  Andy (Sharon and Tony's buddy), Zeke (and his buddy Dave) and Erin and I all sat around and drank, got to know each other and had a wicked jam session.  It was great fun! 
Over the course of the week staying at Sharon and Tony's they were so hospitable.  We ate like a King and Queen.  Sharon actually wrote and published a Mexican cook book.  Needless to say she knew her way around the kitchen.  And she'd passed on her talents to Zeke who was also an excellent cook.  Tony was brilliant!  He took us to a car auction in Sydney and helped us buy a car.  We ended up getting a 2002 Ford Folcon station wagon, with only 160,000 kms on it for a hell of a deal.  Then he took us all over the place to help us get it "street legal" (i.e. Registration, plates, insurance, etc.).  Without him, I don't know how we would've done it.  Sharon drove us into to town to help get us all set-up for our camping excursion.  They were both awesome help and we are so indebted to them for taking in complete strangers and showing us the ropes.  Staying at their house also gave us an address in Australia to ship all of our camp gear to from home.  My parents were great in sorting out all the details and making that happen.  So in one week we had a car, camp equipment, empty wallets and we on the road!  Before leaving they took a look in our Lonely planet guide to Australia and sat down with us and basically said "forget everything you read in here, until you get to Queensland state, we'll give you all you need to know to get you through New South Wales".  So, now we had our "improved" itinerary so we set off. 
The first leg of our travels took us 3.5 hours north of Sydney to a place called Hawk's Nest via The Tea Gardens.  There is a beautiful stretch of white sand beach running up a sort of narrow channel dividing one surf beach from the sheltered bay behind it.  We set-up our first camp at a site called Jimmy's Beach.  We were quite pleased with ourselves and feeling like we were finally embarking on the adventure we were expecting in Australia.  Our tent was comfortable, our stuff sac pillows were great, our sleeping pads like heaven.  Wow, do I miss that feeling!  I think it lasted about two nights.  Then our tent was too small, our pillows uncomfortable and our sleeping pads like blocks of wood.  But hey, its not so bad, we're 1 month in and only another 2 to go........ AHHHH!!!  Anyway, back to Hawk's Nest....... We hiked up the mountain on the point for some great vista's of the coast line.  The only downside on such a great beach was the ocean water was frigid (unless you had on a surf steamer, which unfortunately we did not).  Two days there of hiking the beaches and we packed up camp and drove up to Myall Lake National Park.  We set up our camp in the park where "camping fees applied".  Owkay???  We were the only people there and kept expecting someone to come along and collect our money.  The area was great.  We were right on the lake.  We went into the nearest town (Buladelah) and I picked up some cheap fishing gear.  For the next week we swam in the lake, fished, hiked around the park, read our books and hung out with the local wildlife.  Still, nobody came.  So, a week's free camping.  What a relief on our budget from our week in Sydney.  The park was beautiful.  Our first night we introduced ourselves to the family of kangaroos that came to see us every night after that.  Erin had a name for each one.  The possums also came around at night to see what we were up to on a regular basis.  The goannas (large monitor lizards) hung out with us during the day.  And the kookaburras were always around trying to pick up food scrap and laughing at us all the time.  Oh, and who can forget the very boisterous wild turkeys who would jump in the back of the station wagon and get into all of our food if we weren't looking.  By the fifth night our private wildlife sanctuary was disturbed.  We had gone into town to pick up some supplies and came back to see a number of other camps set-up.  It took a while to clue in as we had totally lost track of what day it was, but turns out it was the weekend and a lot of Aussies had come to enjoy Myall Lakes as well.  At first we didn't like sharing our camp and realised that with all of the people around, our local camp buddies weren't coming around to visit anymore.  It wasn't so bad though.  We met a group that were wake boarding and fishing in the lake and they were very friendly.  They had gone out fishing at four in the morning and came back with a huge catch of prawns (shrimp).  I guess they went out with a big spot light and in the dark all of the prawns are attracted to the light, then they simply scoop them out with a net (which would be considered poaching in Canada, but crikey!  We ain't in Canada no more Todo).  They gave us a whole bunch as they had more than had their fill.  We ate them for dinner that night and they were delicious.   
The next day the weather took a turn for the worse.  It started to rain and got quite cold.  We packed up our wet tent and headed out of Myall Lakes as we were told that the weather was not going to let up for the next few days.  We made our way further north along the coast to Seal Rocks.  The weather had let up so we set up our camp at Treachery Beach camp ground.  It was a very cool area.  The camps were set right in the bush which almost looked like a mangrove forest.  We still saw kookaburras, and wild turkeys, but the possums didn't come at night as there were dingoes all around the camp area.  The beach at Seal Rocks was really nice, but the water was still too cold to swim.  We took a hike up to the lighthouse on the point.  It was set quite high up in the cliffs so you could see quite a ways up and down the coast line.  We stayed at Treachery beach for two nights.  The weather was on and off.  When it was off, it completely sucked!  Camping in the rain is definitely not much fun.  So, once again we packed up camp and headed out to our next spot on our itinerary.  We were going to stay in Port Macquarie, but it didn't look like there was much to do there and the weather was terrible, so we travelled on to our next spot.  We got to Point Plumber late in the day and it was still pissing it down.  We decided that setting up in the rain and   being miserable all night didn't sound like the best idea, so along the way we noticed beach side cabins for rent.  We decided to ride out the storm there.  We rented a great place with three bedrooms, living room, kitchen, laundry room and a hot shower.  It was such a refreshing change to be somewhere warm and dry.  We took full advantage of all of the amenities and charged all of our electronics, did all of our laundry and cooked an amazing meal in the kitchen.  We watched TV and movies all night.  It was heaven!  The next day the weather cleared, but we were just too comfortable to leave.  We had had the best night's sleep we'd had in days, so we decided to stay another night.  We went for a great hike along the coast line of Point Plumber that day. 
The next day we headed out to Belingen.  This is a small hippie town more inland from the coast.  We decided not to stay there and headed straight to Urunga and Mylestom.  We ended up staying the night at a caravan park in Mylestom.  The whole park was packed full of a caravan club that was touring up and down the coast.  There was probably around 100 people there.  They were all over 70.  They had set up a large marquise tent for the nightly bingo and uker tournaments.  The barbeque area was right next to their tent, and when Erin and I went up to cook our dinner we became the star attraction.  They couldn't understand why such young people had come to this "Biddy" park, and at this point, neither could we!  They were all really nice people and were feeding us rum balls and other tasty pastries that they had baked in their caravans during the day.  It was all very nice, but they really wouldn't leave us alone.  So with nowhere to escape, we hung out with them until bed time.  So at 8:15pm we all decided to turn in for the evening...... LoL! 
The next day we headed down Waterfall Way (aptly named for all of the waterfalls scattered along the side of the highway) on our way to Point Look-out National Park via Dorrigo.  The drive into the mountains was great.  We stopped off a few times along to way to snap some photos of the scenery and waterfalls.  When we got to Point Look-out we stood out of the platform and took in the view for quite a while.  It was beautiful!  We went and set-up our camp at the base of the mountain at the Thunggutti camp area.  It was a great spot.  For $5 / night they had great camp sites, all of the fire wood you needed, and free barbeques to use.  But again, the place was deserted.  We were wondering where the hell everyone under the age of 60 was hiding out.  That night we made a great meal and had an awesome camp fire.  Everything was going great, until the sun set and for the first time we started to feel really isolated.  It was a little eerie.  Erin wouldn't go anywhere alone.  I was her bodyguard for the night, trying to be the big man and not show that I felt just as scared as she looked.  And to top it off, it was absolutely freezing that night.  We huddled together in the tent with our long-john's on, four layers of T-shirts, sweaters, and Erin with her big woolly hat on.  We were still freezing.  Every time we heard a noise outside Erin would freak!  I would tell her it was nothing, then lay there wondering what the hell the noise was.  There was one noise in particular that sent the hairs on the back of my neck standing straight up.  It sounded like the deep growl of a gorilla, or something big and friggin' scary.  It wasn't until a while later that we found out that it was a male kangaroo call.  Sure wish we would've know that at the time.  So, in the morning, after maybe getting a total of two hours of restless sleep we decided that we'd had enough. 
It seemed very logical at this juncture to head to a place that was populated by a lot of people.  We skipped by a couple of remote looking spots on our itinerary and headed straight to Byron Bay.  Now this was more like it.  The place was packed!  Byron Bay is a very touristy beach side resort town.  It has great shops, restaurants and tonnes of things to do.  We had   arrived as all of the high school kids had just finished their semesters and were out for summer holidays.  The locals called them "Schoolies" and didn't seem to enthusiastic about them invading the town.  There was literally thousands of kids hanging out and getting wasted all over the place.  It was a refreshing change for Erin and I, except now we felt like the old "biddies".  Nevertheless, it made for great people watching.  We met a girl at our camp site (Kate) who was from Newcastle (about 2 hours from Sydney).  She was around our age and we hit it off.  We went into town one night (Friday, I think) and hit the local pubs.  It was hilarious walking around town and watching the chaos of hundreds of drunk teenagers unfold.  We noticed throughout the course of the evening how many kids were on crutches.  Kate found this quite perplexing and had a fascination with finding out what had happened to them.  We just assumed that most of them were surfing injuries.  We ended up talking to one guy and it turns out he had a nasty cricket accident and that was how he ended up on crutches.  We found this quite funny.  I'm not sure how you get a nasty accident in cricket, but we didn't push the issue.  After talking with him we were approached by two police men.  The police were out in full force all over the town, for obvious reasons.  They asked where we were from.  After telling them they asked us if we'd every heard of a "Serial Pest"?  We tried not to laugh and answered "no".  As it turns out, we had just been cavorting with a "Serial Pest" according to the police officers.  It was hilarious!  I mean come on... a Serial Pest? With an Australian accent it actually sounds like "Serial Pissed", which just added to our amusement.  
We had a great time in Byron.  The weather was on and off again.  It mostly rained at night.  One night it rained so hard and for so long that we were hanging out in the camp barbeque shelter all night.  People were coming up and telling us how their tents leaked and everything in there was soaked.  We were dreading heading back to our tent that night, expecting the worst.  Luckily out tent was bone dry on the inside.  What a relief!  But on the nice days it was great.  The temperature was in the mid 30's and the ocean there was actually 'swimable'.  We had a couple of beach days.  We did a long hike around the bay and up to the lighthouse one day.  Rented bikes another day.  We ended up staying in Byron for a total of 7 nights. 
After camping in the rain for the last week we decided that we needed to stay somewhere with a solid roof over our heads.  We packed up and drove to Murwillumbah.  We ended up staying in a YHA hostel there.  It was a great place.  The owner, Tassie (because he came from Tasmania) was very dedicated to the tourist industry.  He had a great business set up.  If you stayed for three nights or more you could use the bicycles and kayaks free of charge.  The hostel was built right next to the river tweed and with a great view of Mount Warning.  Every night at 9pm he would bring ice cream up for everyone in the common room.  'Everyone' at the hostel consisted of Erin and I, two 70 year old Aussie backpackers and a 60 year old backpacker from The Netherlands and Tassie.  WooHoo!  Party time!  Across the street from the YHA was a recreation center that had just invested $16 million into renovations.  They were offering free entry to everyone over the weekend to debut their improvements.  Erin and I went over and used the swimming pools, then went kayaking down the river, then went biking.  At the end of the day we were exhausted.  We tried to stay up but had to turn in at 9:15pm, after ice cream, with the rest of the biddies... LoL!  We decided the day after to relax from the strenuous activities and save ourselves for the hike up Mt. Warning the following day.  Tassie drove us up to the base of the mountain and picked us up at the end.  Before we left, in his very professional manner, he gave us a little talk about the mountain hike in the common room.  Then we got into the car and he informed us that we were about to listen to a tape recording of some of the history of Murwillumbah and some background of Mt. Warning during the drive up there.  We expected some sort of recorded narration from David Suzuki or something.  Tassie hit the play button on his portable stereo and it was his voice!  We were trying so hard not to laugh.  He had done the drive up to the mountain so many times that I guess he was tired of saying the same things over and over again, so he just recorded it.  It was perfectly synchronised to the drive.  You could even hear parts of the tape that happened just before we drove up to them (like crossing over a wooden bridge).  'Tassie', on the tape, would say things like "and on the left is this and that" and the 'Tassie' driving the car would keep quite but point to his left or right to indicate what the 'Tassie' on the tape was talking about.  It was quite comical.  But Tassie was very straight faced and professional, so we just sat quite, trying not to laugh and sound very interested by saying "Hmm" and "Really?"   The hike up Mt. Warning was awesome.  Turns out it is part of the world's third largest volcano crater.    Over the years water had eroded the edge of the crater so it just looked like a range of mountain peaks.  The walk up only took around two hours.  The last part of the walk up the steep mountain peak was quite strenuous.  The National Park had installed a chain railing so that you could pull yourself up the incline.  It was cool.  On the way back down you had to almost ab-sail backwards with the assistance of the chain.  The views at the top of the mountain were spectacular! 
We are now in a camp site on Mount Tamborine called Thunderbird Park.  It's a great spot.  There is an adventure park right on the grounds that we are going to tomorrow.  It has platforms elevated a good 20 feet from the ground with all kinds of obstacles on it (rope nets, swings, elevated tunnels, zip lines, etc.).  On the mountain itself are tonnes of wineries, great views of the volcano crater, waterfall walks, just to name few.
From here we are heading to Brisbane, and then who knows from there?  Our itinerary is pretty open.  A few 'definites' are; Fraser Island, The Whitsundays and The Great Barrier Reef.  And before heading back to South East Asia it looks like we might be meeting my parents in Fiji for a few weeks, so we are pretty excited about that, if we can fit it into our budget.

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