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Published: February 10th 2019
There is always that little voice in my head when I get home from a nice long trip which says " you haven't finished the blog !!"- well now is the time to silence that voice.
It was the middle of December when I arrived at Port Macquarie (PM or Port as its called ) airport ...straight off the tarmac and into a building site I spotted Susan ( there seem to be no security measures here )... I looked in vain for signs to say baggage collection to be told its coming on the trailer !!! sure enough a sort of tractor thing pulled up with the bags in tow. I was driven to my new abode ,Susan and Geoff, more home exchange friends were to be my hosts for the next couple of weeks . How lucky I am .... I soon settled in to their lovely newly built home and was quite happy not to range too far from home. It was never too hot , breezes from the ocean and a shady verandah kept me cool and I was happy to sit at times and read in the garden, only interrupted at times by squawking parrots.
Port was established in 1821 as a Penal Settlement and convict numbers peaked a few years later with over 1500 convicts ..there was a military presence too and soon the town and port flourished . The town lies at the mouth of the Hastings River and today is a popular tourist destination with its wide streets ( laid out so that the oxen carts could turn easily) and buildings in Spanish Mission and Art Deco style.
But it wasn't all sitting in the garden reading...not at all ! Jenny ( a second cousin of my husband) lives in Forster not too far away so we arranged a pick up point about half way down the highway and I spent a couple of days catching up with her. The beaches in NSW are stunning and you will see miles and miles of sandy beaches with not a soul on them. High winds one stormy night and we were driving through forests where several trees and branches had come down. Climbing up to Sugarloaf Lighthouse we were nearly blown away but then a turn in the coastline and we are on a secluded calm beach sitting in the sun at
Susan and I pottered about driving to a fabulous Lookout along the coast at Lake Innes, then along the river , taking the ferry across to the deserted North Shore with stops for coffee of course and exploring some of the small towns . There are several beaches at Port but unfortunately there was an inundation of red algae in the ocean, as well as pretty big waves so I wasn't too keen to swim and settled for a paddle most days. ( Not to mention sharks !) It was great to catch up with some of the women who had become good friends during my previous stay in Port and we met at Shelley Beach on Thursday evenings for a BBQ.
And of course it was Christmas and New Years celebrations while I was there....you can't get away from the fact that its sunny and most people are wearing shorts and sundresses so Xmas Trees and sleighs don't seem to be quite the thing ... but there were Santas, Rudolphs and the usual Xmas decorations every where. We started feasting the day before Xmas Eve when a friend came bearing Sydney Rock Oysters and masses
of prawns... first time i tried oysters and I must say these were the best!! Xmas Day has to be different so there we were at 8 am down on the beach with our breakfast picnic and started off the day with Bucks Fizz .... friends joined us there and then later in the day as we had salads,ham and a turkey roll all washed down with some good Australian wines of course.
Boxing Day we joined in with the locals a few miles inland at Wauchope for the WoopWoop Horse Racing event !!! this was great fun to see with some folk dressed up to the nines and others like us in shorts and t Shirts. It was fascinating the see all the betting going on and the men and ladies parading around for a prize as "best dressed". Some of the races only had 3 horses running but I guess that's quite normal for such a small meeting.
New Years Eve we celebrated with most of the rest of the town at the Town Centre at 9 pm with fireworks...we didn't stay up for the midnight ones! But what was spectacular was as twilight descended the
local bats all flew in to roost and the sky was filled with them and what a noise they made too!
Susan and I visited the Koala Reserve and hospital as its just down the road.... good to see how these rescued koalas were cared for and learn about their lifestyle. It didn't take much persuasion for Geoff to dust off his geologist's hammer when I showed him a map of a geology trail I had picked up at the Tourist Office. Well done NSW ...that's the first time i have ever seen a dedicated trail for geology. So we set off to walk about 5 miles along the local beaches from Shelley Beach to Town Beach...with the map showing us where to find particular rocks. We were walking on Ocean floor 460 million years ...we started seeing basalt pillow lavas formerly undersea volcanoes like the ocean ridge where Iceland now sits ... we saw many other rock types...cherts , sandstones and best of all serpentinite, a beautiful polished green rock ...this is a rock which is formed deep in the earth at a depth of 50km where the ocean floor is pulled down usually under a continental mass.
The coast here is one of the few places on this planet where these rocks formed deep within the Earth are now exposed on the surface so its very rare and for me was a grand day out among the rocks.
Having seen the bats on NYE it didn't take much for Geoff to persuade me to accompany him on a nature trail ...and anyway how could you resist a walk at Kooloobung Creek ( lovely name !!) Mangroves by the creek, lots of different trees , lots and lots of bats roosting in the tops and then I spotted some black cockatoos .... perfect.
Finally it was time to leave and I was to take the Express train to Sydney for my last couple of days. I didn't have high hopes of this train as i had done it once before . It is only 380 km from Port to Sydney but this Express train takes 8 hours !!! Say no more , but i did travel first class had a nice chat with my neighbour and the time passed.
Last few days in Sydney staying in Double Bay with Angela...and so it was again a
mixed bag of weather ...sunshine and a picnic at Nielson Beach , sunshine and a ferry to Manly then a thunderstorm on the way back walking down the street in a river a rainwater , a visit the poshest library i have ever seen, a chilly rainy walk along the coast by Waverley Cemetery and a sunny day at Circular Quay visiting David Goldblatt photography exhibition at Museum of Contemporary Art.
I have seen and done so much in this 5 months and its thanks to so many wonderful old friends and new that I have been able to travel this way. Now all that lay ahead of me was a 14.5 hour flight to Dubai and be thankful that I could stopover there a few days with Suzanne before finally returning home.
I will say au revoir to Australia there is still so much i want to see here.
Here are a few stats about my trip
Time away - almost 5 months
* distance driven - about 10,500 km
* 3 car rentals and 1 loan car
* slept in 41 beds
* 12 Flights
* thanks to home/hospitality
exchange friends and 5 W friends I only paid for 13 nights accommodation
One last thing ...the glitch on the website which stopped you getting emails to say i have posted a blog has been fixed ... ( I am told) ..so if you think you missed anything just go back to previous blogs. Thanks for reading and coming along with me.
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