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Published: December 31st 2009
G'day - how ya goin'?
I'm afraid I'm rapidly turning into an easy-going Brit - compliments of Australia. But no worries, mate
I still think the piss is
piss and will never want to play Aussie Rules Footie. There, see? I've not gone soft - there's still plenty of bile left in this stomach.
Next adventure - no time for philosophical treaties in a travel blog I'm afraid - nor am I getting paid to do this y'know.
Australia is difficult to really see without a car, you don't come here to live in the city, you come here to see everything else; the views, the scenery, the wildlife, the countryside, the space and the natural environment. I've finally understood this. I am at one. Yom. I still don't have a driver's licence (at 29 yo for pete's sake) and that means I can't just take off and see all of the above - which is here in abundance.
Thankfully Irish Niall from Galway obtained an old banger of a car. Who is Irish Niall with a banger I hear you ask? Well, I know Niall from the Somewhere to Stay
hostel in Brisbane where
I lived for 3 whole weeks back in September. It's only recently that he has been able to take a weekend off from work - his horrendous Thursday-Sunday night shifts in a factory - he must have done something equally wrong in a past life. But, every shit job has its pithy reply - at least it's good money.
So myself, Niall and ubiquitous Tracy from Tyrone took off for a road trip using said banger. Hang on minute, it's the Irish connection....Galway, Tyrone and me the plastic paddy whose parents have immense joy at actually being
Irish. Suffice to say we all get along very well; must be the genes.
So on Saturday morning I met Niall and Tracy at Roma Street station...Niall rolled up in a patchy scrawny little thing of a car that he'd bought off a house mate. Not only was it an old banger but was on the recieving end of some terrible home improvements: an Irish tricolour was painted on the roof and a Playboy bunny covered the front seat. As navigator that was to be my seat and also for showing all my bitches what a playa I is.
None of us being used to driving in this country and Niall only having a provisional licence let alone a full-fledged licence to drive a bloody vehicle...we got lost a few times on the way south along the Gold Coast. It's at times like these that you realise how utterly suburban and sprawling Australian conurbations are. Indeed, Australia practically invented suburbia and not the Americans as often assumed. This might be the aspirations of many Aussies but to me suburban sprawl is revolting.
So, we got to Mount Warning
okay. It's a big thing in the countryside apparently, and what lovely countryside it was in the end, rolling green fields and trees and all of that stuff. It reminded me of England...alot, except it was a fair bit hotter out.
When we reached the car park we got changed into sensible shoes and attire. Who parks up behind us but some bloke on his own, who asks a few questions about how long it takes to reach the top etc. I noticed his accent is odd but still English so I ask him if he's English (yeh he is) - where from?- London? - yeh where? North
west - yeh, wherein north west? Eastcote - well I used to live up the road in Northwood - grew up in Harrow etc. Small world etc. I used to actually cycle through Eastcote when I lived in Northwood. Anyway, he didn't count Eastcote as he'd been a way awhile - living in Singapore for twenty five years in fact. He loved the place which I found bizarre.
Anyway, we all dicked about for a while - stretching, talking, eating melted Mars bars and we let Englishman go on ahead of us.
We started the ascent around midday and already along the trail groups were coming back down teh other way. The large trees (I nearly wrote "wooden trees" there) and the dense loud forest was very cool indeeforest a dominant theme. Plenty of opportunities to take photos of the views overlooking the cauldron (the mountain being a remnant of a massive prehistoric volcano - a cauldron). Niall had irritating underwear on that chafed him so that was interesting.
3 hours later and we reached a steep vertical climb up rocks. Tracy couldn't be arsed with it because she doesn't do heights very well. So it was
just the boys up at the top in the end. A very good view of the surrounding hills and mountains, just a touch cloudy to get the full deep and colourful panorama.
The descent was way more difficult, you are literally pounding down on your calf muscles and your Achilles tendon. I was a bit worried about the latter as I suffer from tendinitis when I do mountains, it's a bugger really. I'm getting old. We made it back okay, but it did drag on a fair bit.
We then drove to a small town called We then drove to a small town called Murwillumbah
, which is in New South Wales. We had a booking at the YHA youth hostel there and a very nice spot it was, right beside the river.
We went out the at night in the sleepy town, had a few drinks at a pub but Niall and myself were absolutely knackered. Tracy of course was well up for it, I don't know how she does it really.
We then went to eat at a restaurant and had some very nice pizzas. The place was BYO so I went and got some beers
from the bottle shop.
We were both ready for bed by about 7ish, but we went to another pub for a quick pint. There (to my absolute amazement) a second-wind took place, the legendary second wind. It must have been the band that was playing and the jugs of beer that Tracy ordered. We ran into Mr Englishman again, first at the restaurant, but he ignored our invitation for him to sit with us. He was there again at the bar where he opened up a bit more about life in Singapore. More beer was bought, us and the locals not really interacting - I think Tracy and I have the same sort of stand-offish approach to the Aussies, we won't go out of our way to talk to them if they won't go out of their way to talk to us. This rule is broken of course when the Aussie male will try and get himself into a female's knickers.
The next day we left the hostel, saying hello - then goodbye to the lizards that were domestic pets, cool as you like these prehistoric animals. We then got back on the road to visit the Border
Ranges National Park along the Tweed Ranges scenic drive.
However, before that we had to make a visit to the nearby stoner settlement, from the tribe of stoners and hippies - yep, Nimbin
. Basically this is a bit of hippy commune, remnants from some music festival back in the 70s or 80s. The only reason you go there is to pick up a bag of weed, it's practically legal there, although on the day we arrived it was a market day, and the police were crawling all over the place. We stayed a couple of hours, to my surprise there wasn't anywhere decent to eat, nothing organic or vegetarian, just all overpriced, limited menus. We managed to score some of the dirty weed, Niall going down some back alley and waiting for the bloke who'd temporarily run off because his house was being raided! On the way back to the car we got some other supplies for camping, mainly booze and some food. I then passed a bunch of backpackers who'd come off a tour bus and were now stretchering away one of their friends - who clearly couldn't take the weed. Welcome to Nimbin!
The Tweed Valley
Scenic Drive is 64 kilometres in length and takes in large parts of the Border Ranges National Park - and it's a really lovely scenic drive. Border Ranges National Park (31,683 hectares) is a World Heritage listed rainforest park on the rim of a vast and ancient volcano, adjoins Lamington National Park in Queensland. It stretches 85 kilometres from east to west. Together with the McPherson Ranges, the Springbrook Plateau and the Nightcap National Park, Border Ranges National Park forms part of the caldera of the Mount Warning shield volcano the largest caldera in the southern hemisphere. Sounds impressive huh? Once we entered the park itself, it seemed we had the place to ourselves, dramatic viewpoints like Pinnacle Viewpoint which overlooked the caldera rim, no one there. After some more walks to view points we were really enjoying the place. We then drove to a remote camp site called Sheepstation Creek and camped up, and walked up the hill to sit and watch the sun set.
For food that night I think Niall ended up making peanut butter or jam sandwiches, followed by beers before starting a fire in the barbecue pit. We all had a good a laugh,
as I've come to call it.
The next day we drove the rest of the scenic drive out of the national park and onto Byron Bay, the famous Byron Bay. On the way we stopped for some lunch at a place called Bangalow
- which according to my work mates back in Brisbane was what Byron was like twenty years ago. It was a charming place to have lunch, with boutique gift shops, butchers and cafes. Alas poor Tracy had to deal with the shock of her employers calling her up and asking her where she was (it being Monday) - despite the fact she'd told them that she'd be away for the weekend. Of course they ended up calling everyone she knew, including her brother and even me getting a voice mail message from the bloke who ran the YHA in Murwhillumbah! Tracy is a nanny but the people she works for are the children it seems.
When we drove into Byron Bay, it was schoolies week
- a hectic time for anywhere sunny and on the coast when teenagers who have finished school (usually 18 years old) invade en masse and take over for
a week with parties and beer and puke. Fortunately it was coming to the end of schoolies so it wasn't as hectic as I thought it would be. We had some fish 'n' chips and sat on the beach and then drove up to the light house. It's a beautifully scenic place Byron bay, named after the grandfather of Lord Byron the poet who was a big shot in the Admiralty. I think the pictures say it all really, but we couldn't stay very long at Byron as we had to get back to Brisbane that night.
So we went back to the beach and jumped into the sea - Niall and Tracy braving leading the way - whilst I shivered. I eventually jumped in or rather the surf attacked me and we had a great time swimming about in the surf waves heading over us. It was later in the afternoon, perhaps around 6pm but it had been a
beautifully hot day so the water was fine.
We set off back to Brisbane after having a great weekend together, Australia is great for stuff like this, camping, hikes, beaches. We hit the pacific Highway southwards and then
the car stopped. Yep, the car stopped working and we were stranded on the side of the motorway. It was now dark and after a few phone calls to the Aussie equivalent of the RAC, complicated by the fact that we were on the border of NSW and Queensland we managed to get a mechanic out to us. The car would be towed to Murwhillumbah again and we'd have to stay there the night, so off I go on ahead as there's only room for one with the mechanic. The others follow later on with the pick-up truck. So we ended up having to stay in the YHA again that night.
Th next morning I was meant to be at work and so was Tracy - Niall was off for a few more days. So Niall dealt with teh car getting repaired and me and Tracy got on a bus at 9 back to Brisbane. Fortunately the bus stopped off at Garden City at Mount Gravatt so it was only a short bus journey back to my house, and within 45 minutes I was actually back at my desk - about 12pm.
It was a spoiled ending to
a great weekend but we were lucky the car didn't break down whilst we were in the middle of the woods.
What I'm reading: The Corrections by Johnathan Franzen
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