East Coast of Australia, Sydney to Gold Coast

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March 21st 2010
Published: March 27th 2010
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East Coast BeachEast Coast BeachEast Coast Beach

Lots of Waves
Warning! This entry covers about a week and about 1,400 kilometers (875 miles) so it gets a little long. Sorry, Hal

On Saturday we lleft Sydney and made it about 200 kilometers (125 miles) to the little town of Raymond Terrace, still in the state of New South Wales. NSW is the state that includes Sydney. We found a set of cabins that had a vacancy and spend the night. Very primitive. Very trailer park. Not very restful.

Sunday morning, tropical storm Ului hit the east coast of Australia as a category 3 storm but didn’t really affect us as it came ashore in northern Queensland, the state farther north of where we are located. The rest of the day we spent driving north up the cost of New South Wales, stopping in Port Macquarie for a peek at the beach, lunch and a visit to the Kuala Hospital.

The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital takes in koalas that have been injured usually by fire, but sometimes by other animals or by a fall from a tree. The koala is not really a bear, but looks like a teddy bear. It has gray fur, is very docile and a
Koala CrossingKoala CrossingKoala Crossing

Beware, wouldn't want to smash one, mate!
very fussy eater. They only eat the leaves of the eucalyptus tree and then only about six of the over 150 varieties of that tree. Many of the koalas are so badly injured that it is years, if ever, that they can return to the wild.

We continued up the coast to Coffs Harbour where we found a resort overlooking the town for the same price as the trailer park at Raymond Terrace but includes a very good internet connection in the room for free, a nice restaurant, a much larger room and a swimming pool. Needless to say, we’re pleased with Coffs Harbour.

It’s a large enough town to have a decent shopping center downtown where we could buy some meat and cheese and hole up in the room to watch a little tube in the evening.

We ventured down to the jetty and saw row upon row of sailboats just waiting to get out in the ocean. The jetty runs out to Muttonbird Island, a wildlife sanctuary for Shearwater, AKA Muttonbird. Shearwaters are a large migratory gliding bird that actually skims the water with its wing while fishing.

We also drove about 20 kilometers

Just out for dinner.
(13 miles) to the Moonee Wildlife Preserve at Emerald Beach and got to observe a family of six kangaroos having their evening meal of fresh grass. We were able to get within about 6 feet of them without frightening them away. They are obviously far too used to having humans around as they watched us, but didn’t seem to startle easily. They were also oblivious to the surfers who were catching the last few waves of the day about a hundred yards away.

On our way up the coast of Australia, it has been fun to try out the small town eateries and get a flavor for local life. One of the things that impress me is that all the streets are very wide and therefore, angle parking rather than parallel parking seems to be the norm. The difference is that everyone backs in to the space rather than pulling in forward. It makes perfect sense to me; but is completely foreign to Americans.

After three enjoyable day at the Sanctuary Resort in Coffs Harbour we continued our quest north up the east coast through Ballina, Lennox Head and passed by Possum Creek before settling into a quaint
Coffs HarbourCoffs HarbourCoffs Harbour

Pretty backdrop
little hotel in the small town of Mullumbimby. The hotel is right next door to the RSL (Returning Soldiers League), the Australian version of the VFW. The manager explained to us that they’ve had to change the name to the Ex-Soldiers Club, since the Returning Soldiers are getting fewer and fewer as they die off. I think the last conflict the Aussies took part in was Vietnam (conflict, war, whatever) which was over 40 years ago. We Americans, however, seem to find fights around the world wherever, whenever. Oh well, that’s a discussion for another day.

We spent the evening in the RSL, where we were treated like visiting celebrities. It seems they don’t get many tourists here in Mullumbimby and certainly not Americans. They were all curious as to what we are doing in Australia and in particular, how did we end up in their little town. We explained that we’re just wandering the east coast and are a bit fed up with big cities (like Sydney, Melbourne, etc.) and with the beach/touristy scene so we decided to venture off the highway a bit (it’s 12 km - 8 miles from the highway and even farther away from
Muttonbird IslandMuttonbird IslandMuttonbird Island

Interesting looking bird.
the beach). Even the relatively small town of Coffs Harbour (population 100,000) is a bit too large for us.

The highway, the Pacific Coast Highway, is far enough off the freeway that runs Sydney to Brisbane that it could qualify as being a “scenic” route. It’s still not “scenic” enough for us. It’s a nice enough road, complete with warnings of koala and kangaroo crossings, but we’re really looking for the “real” Australia without going to the Outback. It’s not that we’re opposed to going outback; it’s just that our car rental agreement precludes it. We’re in their country; we’ll abide by their rules.

I should probably take an aside here and note that although they drive on the “wrong” side of the road, they do not stand on their heads, just because they’re in the “Land Down Under” and it’s true the water in the toilet drains the other way around. My wife and I wittinessed this first hand when, on our first venture into the southern hemisphere last year, the water indeed drains clockwise rather than counter clockwise as in the northern hemisphere. All in a day’s work. Your intrepid reporter (hard) at work.

Angle ParkingAngle ParkingAngle Parking

See! They are exactly upside down from the US.
original objective was to get to Byron Bay, a resort area on the coast, but as we got closer, we discovered that hotel and food prices were well beyond our budget. Actually, a place like Mullumbimby is only double our budget and the resorts are double that. We tried Ballina, which shares a small airport with Byron Bay and found that a canping-type cabin there would cost as much as our nice little hotel here. Oh yeah, at that price we also had choose between air conditioning and a toilet. All in all, we’re much happier with our accommodation here in Mullimbimby.

However, one night in Mullimbimby was enough, so we moved on to the similar-sized town of Murwillumbah about an hour up the road. Murwillumbah is an aboriginal term generally agreed to mean “place of many possums.” We never did see a possum (or an opossum, as they’re known in the US) during our stay here. This, of course, makes us somewhat skeptical about the meaning of the town’s name.

We found lodging at a motel and set off further west (inland) to the Springbrook National Park (also known as the Natural Arch National Park) about 40
Grey Eastern Water DragonGrey Eastern Water DragonGrey Eastern Water Dragon

No, he doesn't breath fire.
kilometers (25 miles) away.

We drove through sugar cane fields and booming hamlets with names like Chillingham and Numinbah. We climbed the mountain to the national park and walked the 1 kilometer (5/8 mile) path around the park and past the natural bridge. The theory is that pebbles in the fast-moving stream broke through the natural base of the stream into the undermined waterway below. This created an arch or bridge naturally.

The park is protected by the government and requires all visitors to stay on the boardwalk or blacktop path so that the fragile infrastructure is not injured. As we walked, we saw not only the geologic formations but also a bit of wildlife. We saw a brush-turkey, a wallaby and a grey eastern water dragon.

While they do speak English here in Australia, it takes a little getting use to beyond the difference in accent. I keep telling them that we don’t talk funny, but we do listen funny. Some of the differences: Hungry Jacks - the Aussie name for Burger King, Home of the Whopper; Mackers - Aussie slang for McDonalds; those triangular road signs say “give way” rather than “yield”; a pharmacy is
Humble PieHumble PieHumble Pie

Proof positive that it does exist -- and award winning pies at that.
a chemist; Woolworths (same logo & colors) is a food store rather than a variety store and they still make and drive the Ford Falcon.

We also found that most pubs have accommodations (not hotel rooms, accommodations) upstairs. We looked at a couple and given the quality of the rooms we decided to stick with motels. We’ve been pleased that both in Australia and New Zealand we can drink the water from the tap. That’s something my wife and I couldn’t do on our entire trip for 80, er 76 days last year.

Another fun invention in the land down under is their version of pie. Oh, they still have apple, peach, etc. etc. but pie here generally means a meat pie. A plain pie is a beef pie, but they also come in chicken, bacon and egg, mushroom and spinach and just about any other configuration you can imagine. They are a lot like our pot pies, except that the crust is thicker and they are served in a wrapper so that you can eat them by hand. They are delicious and (I hope) nutritious as we have had them several days as our breakfast. We even

Sunrise over our beach at Gold Coast, Australia
found a spot on our tour up the coast that bills itself as Humble Pies. They claim to have won awards for two of their varieties.

Australia has its share of Toyotas, Nissans, Hondas and Fords (they’re manufactured here in Australia) but the most popular car here is the Holden. Neither of us had ever heard of the Holden before, and it seems that they’re manufactured here and just not exported. They come in all sorts of models - sedans, SUV’s, sporty models, pickups, you name it, they produce ‘em.

Our last two nights in Australia are being spent at a beachside motel in an area called Gold Coast. We are about 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Brisbane and we will fly out of Gold Coast airport (Coolangata, airport code OOL) on our way to Singapore via Kuala Lumpur. This is big time surfer country here. There is a week-long surfing festival at Kingscliff, a small town about 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of here. We stopped and watched for a while, but continued on to our destination because we see surfers all the time and all over the place.

I'm finishing this up on the night before we leave Australia for the last time. It's about 8:30 PM here and we need to get upabout 5:30 to catch our taxi to the airport for our trip to Singapore via Kuala Lumpur. I guess it's time to publish this entry. I'll be back when I have something to write about Singapore.


29th March 2010

Today's 2 cents
1. You guys travelled all the way to Australia to become trailer trash? You could have just headed over to Lauderdale. 2. Of course the Grey Eastern Water Dragon doesn't breathe fire. The water keeps putting the fire out!

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