Published: March 30th 2012January 13th 2012
It's another long one, you might want to grab yourself a coffee and heaps (Aus Lango) of biscuits!
January, On the road again.....
A 5 door Toyota Yaris automatic was the car of choice for the final leg to Brisbane but the first stop was in fact 3 hours inland to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. The mountains turned out to be a gorge, think the Grand Canyon only not as big and full of Eucalyptus and Tea Trees. We got talking to an old boy that turned out to be Polish but who had lived here for over 40 years, he knew everything about the place, even why they call it the BLUE Mountains. Apparently it’s something to do with the eucalyptus oil evaporating and diffracting the light, he told us where to find a free campsite and where the best walks were for the following day. No he was not a mad axe murderer, I know what you are all thinking because I was too at the time, right up until he gave me a book about Christianity. We found the campsite, got pitched up 50 metres from the George edge and out came the pans
for our first camp cooking session on the single hob. Then it rained again, all night !
Another morning was spent in the Blue Mountains, we completed a trek of about 2 hours around the rim and back along a fault line halfway up the cliff, under and around various waterfalls which after the previous nights rains were in full flow. The highlight of the walk was Wentworth Falls which we first passed under and then walked over the top more than 200 meters up. We didn’t hang about after the walk as we had decided to make it to the Hunter Valley that evening for some wine tasting, but it was 200km away and it was already after midday.
We opted for the scenic route which turned out to be a windy stretch of road flanked by the Wollemi National Park to the west and Yengo National Park to the east. The road in question is the Putty Road and it links Richmond to Singleton via the Howes Valley. It was a crying shame that we only had a 1.4 Yaris to throw around the bends because the road should have been on Top Gear. With Nat
fast asleep I had the little Yarris squealing like a pig for most of the way, at one point we were driving on a ridge high above both parks and through the trees you could see for miles, if you were awake, needless to say Nat woke with neck aches! I managed to steady the pace for a few miles as the tiredness kicked in and when I saw a ‘last stop for 90km’ sign I decided to pull in for some supplies as the second night in the tent was fast approaching, then we saw it. A huge kangaroo round the back of the shop, staring straight at me and a few kids who were feeding the fella with crisps. The last stop for 90km turned out to be one of several on the way to the Hunter Valley.
We decided to stay in Broke, right in the centre of the wine region and found a free campsite to boot. We got settled in to a bottle of wine (when in Rome and all that) and got a fire going to keep the mosquitoes at bay; at one point I had over 15 splattered on my thighs in
little over 10 minutes. Some random dude invited us both over to his campervan for drinks and he seemed ok from the few words we exchanged at that time. How wrong were we, he was a proper weirdo! He invited us around for breakfast the following morning (stalker) so we got up at the crack of dawn and did one. We ended up at Margan Winery over an hour before it opened so out came the hob and we had a massive fry up in the car park with sun blazing, overlooking the vines. We ended up with a 90min tasting session and a tour of the whole operation, including the vine yards and winery. We even went with the Manager tasting the grapes in the various fields and testing them for sugar content. It was great, like our own personal wine tour for free. We left with a vintage Semillon and a bottle of Botrytis Semillon, this stuff was not going to be wasted in a plastic beaker whilst camping. Only the 3 litre carton would rise to that challenge and it did so in Port Macquarie that evening. We were up early and made it to Coffs Harbour
for breakfast where I made Nat some pancakes on the camp stove and drew a crowd of workers hoping for some leftovers... Unlucky Terry’s!
Camp for that night was in Whian Whian state conservation area and turned out to be 10km along a dirt road, in the Yaris it felt like 100km, anyway it was the most amazing site we have found so far. A creek run through the centre and probably made its way in to the local dam (Rocky Creek Dam) which we stumbled on by accident, a nice little find. This is where it gets interesting with the wildlife, when we first got the tent pitched a huge monitor lizard came out of the creek and walked right past us through the campsite, it was like a mini Comodo Dragon. Then Nat was screaming and in a considerable amount of distress; “there’s something on my foot” was what I could make out through the whimpers. It turned out to be a leech, a pretty one at that with little yellow stripes and a black body and this thing was really stuck on. It took 3 attempts to get it off with all the histerics, and me
laughing. Next up was dinner and tuna & cheese toasties, I was just opening the wine carton when Nat went off it again but this time things looked a bit more serious, she was being attacked in the neck by what looked like a big bird of prey and it was flapping and squawking. By the time I got over to the rescue, it was too late. Nat had lost it, there was tuna and cheese everywhere and the Bird only flew 2 meters away to the fence! It sat watching us and gulped down the tuna, it turned out to be a Kookaburra and it had a head like a cricket ball, the thing didn’t get hold of Nat as its beak was firmly lodged in between 2 slices of toast. He also had a mate with him, they turned their noses up at some bread I threw them so I gave them what they wanted... some tuna but this time it was chilli tuna. We were in hysterics as they were wiping their beaks on the fence for ages. Lesson learned I believe!
Byron Bay was the last stop on our way to Brisbane. It was a
beautiful day and we had only heard good things about this place so we made the most of a few hours on the beach. It didn’t fail to disappoint, it’s a kind of surf meets bohemian style place, with a lively young atmosphere. We ended up in the surf again getting smashed in true Brit style. There’s nothing quite like a mouth full of sand and a nose full of sea water to convince you that big surf is for surfers and not for idiots abroad! Then it was on to Brisbane via Surfers Paradise which is more like Blackpool Australian style, in fact it is nothing like paradise and there was no body surfing......
We decided to arrive at my Cousins unannounced for a laugh, somehow Nat managed to navigate our way through the 15km of Brisbane’s Northern Suburbs using only a map the size of a postage stamp. She got us straight there at about 5pm much to the surprise of my Cousin who I had not seen in 15+ years.
There are more photos below