Meeting the Koalas
It had just bitten its handler!
What do you get if you put three Irish, two English, two Dutch & three Swiss in a yellow bus with an Aussie drive for a week? A bloody good time
After our first early start in while we were off. Our first stop was the Australian Reptile Park, where we were to get up close to the Koalas. However the Koalas had other ideas, it is mating season with makes them aggressive. When we arrived the first thing the keepers said was that they aren't it a very good mood. Understatement I would say, this supposedly cute, cuddly, adorable koala sank its teeth into the keepers shoulder just in the process of putting him on a tree. We were then encouraged to have a close look & photo, a few of us were brave enough before the Koala had enough & climbed of the branch. We were warned to be careful while he got down (I don't know why, perhaps they may have mistaken one of us for a tree). We went on to meet the friendlier Kangaroos, possibly more friendly as we were carrying bags of food (a bit like sugar puffs) to feed them. It was then
Feeding the Kangaroos
James with a new friend
BBQ time before heading off to the Hunter Valley for the wine tasting.
We tasted a seletion of wines at McGuigans Cellar Room, it was far too good a wine to spit out after tasting! So we all left a little worse for wear & with slightly lighter wallets. We got wine for the camp fire & a very nice port for over Christmas. Then we embarked on the first long journey of the day, it is a four hour drive up to Manilla. At times we drove for miles without seeing anyone, due to the amount of rain everything is very green so it looks a bit like England at the moment. The farmers are of course celebrating this fact, where in the Hunter Valley if they have much more rain the grapes are going to be ruined & the price of wine is going to rocket. We stopped off at Tamworth on the way, the home to country music & a very large gold guitar to celebrate this fact. We stayed in Manilla on the first night a real country town/village in the middle of knowwhere. We expected tumble weed to blow up the street. We got
to meet the local who were very amusing with their stories & insults to one another. James & the Irish guy managed to upset the younger locals by winning at pool for the entire evening whilst the rest of us got lessons at the shooting game from Davo.
The next morning it was off the the homestead where we spent the day on the farm. The farm is in a beautiful area, completely surrounded by fields we couldn't see another building from where we were staying. We had cabin type accommodation with an outside shower & toilet. We met James the farmer who was looking after us for the day. Once we had signed we wouldn't sue & promised not to eat any chemicals we were allowed on the farm. They have a complete array of animals including a kangaroo, deer, a blind cow & a pig called cinderella. We were then introduced to the horses. After getting them ready & having a brief lesson for those who hadn't ridden we were off to round up 50 cattle in a large field. Those of us who have ridden before were to round them up & those who hadn't ridden
before were to take them back to the field.
I was presented with my horse Topgun, who apparently was an ex race horse who if I encouraged to much would have me there 10 minutes before everyone else. Off we went, to begin with we couldn't do much mustering as a young horse in the field wanted a bite/kick/play with the horses so they were all spooking. We went with a guy called Bob who at 84 was a proper cowboy who was racing round the field chasing any cattle who strayed the wrong way. We got all the cattle including a very large bull called Dave out the field across another 3 fields before getting to the holding area. After lunch the work began, we had to trim the horns on three cattle, then the boys had to catch two young calfs who had to be tagged & castrated. It was then time for them to go back. So James' time to ride, not overly keen but willing to go he set off, luckily not on an ex race horse. We then hosed the horses down & put out them in the field.
After this we all
got in the ute & made our way up to see the sheep. The boys had to be the sheep dogs & run round to round them up. It was after they had taken off madly running across the fields that we were warned to watch where we walk because of snakes in the grass. We then had a talk about sheep & the wool industry in Australia. The farm in 1935 used to have 30,000 sheep which would take 6 to 8 weeks to shear!
We headed back to the shearing sheds where we were staying. Boys being boys were eagar to get the camp fire going. Rob the tour guide was busy cooking dinner so said that they could go & get one going. Only thing being thinking the fire had already been built they set fire to it. However what they had set fire to was the wood pile! The actual camp fire area was 20 yards away. When Rob came out they we were pleased to show there effect, which he quickly turned a hose on as there was a plastic water pipe which supplied all the water running along side it, it had us
all histerics! We had dinner, Rob's Aunt & Uncle came & joined us for dinner, they had lots of stories of the area. We moved to sit around the camp fire & Rob's Uncle played a harmonica. It was amazing just sat by the fire, watching the stars. Some of the guys from the pub came & joined us for a few drinks & sang some country songs. They guys are so funny, I think mainly due to the amount that they drink.
The next day started with a long drive stopping along the way to do some gold panning, unfortunately we didn't hit gold although our feet turned gold due to the small pieces which are just found naturally in the river. It was then on to see a bush ranger hide out & listen to the story of thunderbolt a bush ranger. The story was told by an retired teacher who told it in a very exciting manner. Today was about doing a lot of driving we went along the Waterfall Way stopping at waterfalls along the way, which due to the rain were looking very beautiful. We arrived in Bellingen a sleepy town where we went
to the pub & saw a very good jazz band.
Then the day James had been dreading the canoeing. Everyone thought he was brave enough even to give it a go not being able to swim. I don't think any one expected him to enjoy it however the opposite happened, once he got the hang of it he loved it. There was no stopping him & he's egar for us to go canoeing again soon! We stopped for a swim in the river our tour guide wanted to teach James a little swimming & finally managed to convince him go under water, swimming is taught at such an early ages in the schools out here. We then went on, I saw two lizards apart from that we didn't see much wildlife.
After the canoeing it was on for lunch at an Aborginal centre for some bush tucker. We tried crocodile which was okay & Emu which we weren't overly keen on. We had a walk in the bush & were told what we could & couldn't eat if we ever got stranded. At the end of the walk there was a beautiful beach which was desserted. We got
back to the centre to discover that we had a puncture not the ideal thing when your on a bus tour! As all the girls announced none of us could change a tyre again it was down to the boys to roll up there sleves. Due to now not having a spare we had to find a garage to get the tyre fixed, at 5:20pm we got our first experience of an Australian garage, where they swig from beers as they fix your tyre which turned out to be a faulty valve. For them it was heaven all these different nationalities to take the piss out off. It was our final long drive up to Byron Bay running slightly behind schedule we arrived just as it was getting dark, so couldn't see much but made it up to the lighthouse. We headed out to the pubs of Byron Bay for a few beers, we ended up in a club which had picnic tables as the dance floor??? but was playing all the typical cheesy christmas songs.
Time for the long journey home, all in all it took 14 hours to drive back although we did stop for a couple
of hours at Newcastle for some dinner, to see the beaches & to get off the bus having been on it for 10 hours! We headed back on the pacific highway which I expected to have at least two lanes in each direction how wrong was I, for a long way it was just one lane in each direction, only when we neared Sydney did it get to three lanes.
It was a long week, we are very tired today, but it is all completely worth it. It was the best week & has given us hundreds of memories which we will treasure. We would with out doubt recommend this tour to anyone.
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