Vineyards, a long drive and low speed limits .....

Trip Start Mar 23, 2013
Trip End Apr 22, 2013

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Where I stayed
Novotel Coffs Harbour Pacific Bay Resort
Read my review - 4/5 stars

Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Saturday, March 30, 2013

A 7:30am start. We're in the Hunter Valley and that means one thing - wine! I'm out of bed in a flash, into the shower and clanging around with the purpose of waking the others. At 9am we have a wine tour and we need to have some breakfast before that.

Our guide, Nathan, was the laid back type. His roll call to check who'd paid was rather half hearted. First, he tried a couple of surnames, then random room numbers and then promptly announced 'dang I'm not going to bother - it's too complicated' and just got on with the tour. There were lots of snippets of information that he gave us. A few little bits that I remember are:
I) it takes about 2 1/2 kilos of wine grapes to make a bottle of wine but just 1 kilo of eating grapes to make juice
II)the shape and pattern of the leaf tells you the grape variety
II) that hangover from certain wines comes from the added sulphites in the cheaper wines as well as from over watering to get a bigger harvest yield ie spend more on a bottle to get the better quality. :-)

The boys, in particular Alex, quite enjoyed the wine lecture and even tasted a few sips. Luckily they are still of the opinion that wine/alcohol is as flavoursome as vinegar. They were soon outside and managed to make friends with a couple of Ozzie lads and had a good kick about with a football. Football truly is an international icebreaker!

For lunch we headed over to another vineyard - David Hookk - and ate in their open air restaurant. The food actually turned out to be pretty good - particularly my King Prawn linguine - and we took it slow and leisurely. Despite this and although being very tempted, I did resist having a glass of wine with the meal. More about that later.

So, about 2:30pm we set of on the estimated 6 hour drive......

That brings me nicely onto explaining the next part. You know, over the last few days, it has struck me how the Australians really stick to the speed limits when driving on the roads and motorways. Surprising really given that the distances are vast, the roads quite wide (although rarely more that two lanes) and tend to be empty. That said, there are lots of road signs warning of hidden speed cameras and heavy fines and electronic boards warning of 'double demerits' during the holiday period. So I figured the Ozzies are just an obedient bunch back on home turf. I mean, back in the UK, if the speed limit is 70mph, generally you're good for 80-90 mph. Likewise in Spain the limit is 120kph but 140-150kpm is common, right? And then there's Germany...

So, seeing the speed limit at 100 kph (62mph if my math does me well) and everybody not doing a kph faster just feels strange. Or is it just me and I lean on the side of being a slightly aggressive driver?

Anyway, so for the first 2 hours of the journey things were pretty uneventful and I glided in and out of the obedient drivers along the way (why are they soooo careful? - there are no towns around and never any police) and there were very few other cars that we saw anyway (empty roads again - where is everybody? ). I even stopped for a break at 2 hours when both the car and the sat nav popped up fatigue warning messages.

A macchiato, a walk and some stretches later and we were off again. Couldn't have been more that five minutes into the journey and guess what ? Flashing lights behind me (where did they come from). Couldn't be for me - I'd just left the service station - so I slowed down to let him pass. Only it was for me and into a siding I pulled.

Mrs Police Officer walked up to me and said 'Sir, just to let you know our conversations are being video taped. Can you tell me why you were overtaking at 120kph in a 100kph zone? '.
Damn: rumbled. There were quite a few answers to that question but I just mumbled that I didn't realise i'd been going that fast and was busy chatting to my wife (well, it worked in London once where the Police officer cautioned me and gave Rosa a telling off for distracting me ! ) .

Then the twist. 'Sir have you had any alcohol to drink today?'
Oh oh. 'Um yes , I've just come from a vineyard...'

So, breathalised I was and told to wait in the front seat whilst they waited for the results....

Well, dear readers. I still have my license and wasn't arrested. Somehow I passed (moral of wine tastings - spit, don't swallow)- the road journey can continue uninterrupted.

But I did discover what those double demerits translate into in monetary terms during this Easter break : $243. Ouch!

So, guess what? Mr Wad figured out how the cruise control worked and for the rest of the journey - about 3 hours long - stuck exactly to the speed limit. Can I tell you how difficult that is when that speed limit is 50kpm hour, the road is empty and there are virtually no other cars about??? Painful, very painful. Come on Ford / Mercedes / Toyota / Google - when are you going to launch the self driving car 'cause the final pleasure of driving yourself really has gone out the window. I may as well just sit back and enjoy the scenery.

Ah! Almost forgot. Remember , those long distances and empty roads? They're somewhat different from driving in Europe. For a start , less turn offs and far less petrol stations. And when you are driving along with the tank level indicator in the red zone, that is an uncomfortable feeling. Seeing a Caltex garage was a welcome sight. Note to self : must refill the tank more frequently in future.

And so to hotel for the night: The Novotel Pacific Bay, Coffs Harbour. From the short walk about the place already, it looks very nice. Think we will edit our plans and maybe spend a bit more of our time tomorrow by the beach and pool. And I can figure out how to pay that fine and upwardly recalculate the journey times for the rest of the trip.
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Mohina on

Shame on you! Driving while under a spell of speed limits. That's why the Australians are so laid back. They are not allowed to be fast or daring. Slow and steady wins the race! Yawn! For you taking it slow must be a real challenge! Good luck with all the rest of the driving in the holiday if you have to drive that slow everywhere!

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