31 October 2014

The final days in Adelaide

Caution: this blog post may or, may not contain slanderous comment for happenings during our stay for the last couple of days in Adelaide.
Blog being types from around 30000 ft en route to Sydney :-)
The last couple of days have been a bit of a whirl wind to be honest. We posted a very quick blog entry when we arrived back at Chez Wood/Martin but managed it appears to omit anything we did that day. To backfill the gaping holes....
Yes, there were wineries involved. Visits were made to Leconfield for a light lunch and girly wine tasting. Then followed d'Arenbrug where more wine was tasted whilst Alan and I took photos of views, farm machinery and a plastic Kangaroo. No snakes or deadly spiders were found. Next winery was Rosemount, who just happened to have cases of wine on offer. The car wasn't full enough, so Miss Wood made the effort to fill what room there was left in the boot.
Still reeling from Mr Martins giant cockup of trying to insist on taking us to Myponga brewery that was closed, we made our way to some other winery. We didnt buy anything there. Apparently they only sold red wine. Ah well.
That night, we made an effort to get the telescope out and tracking again. It worked well, until the cloud rolled in. Another plan gone, but at least I got to see the set up of a GoTo system from scratch.
This brings us to Thursday, and a visit to Ingle Farm. Not so much a place for looking at animals, as looking at mad shoppers. For Ingle Farm is an out of town shopping complex. And, a purchase was made! Much to Alis disgust, and embaressment, it was cheeky shirt purchse time. Although, I did tone it down slightly from the initial plan of lots of colour and palm trees etc, in favour of blue with white flowers. I look very good in it. Then, onto Glenelg, one of the beachside suburbs of Adelaide. And a lovely place it is too. Lots of shops, cafes, resteraunts and such like. Light lunch was consumed, and following a strole around, a visit to a chocolate shop for desert.
Once we'd had our fill, it was more walkies time to try and ease off the days excesses, and wait for our next phonecall. We were expecting a call from Alis old schoolfriend, Mark and his lovely family. 24 years after they last saw each other, Mark has made his new home in Adelaide, and it proved to be a good time to catch up on over two decades of missed gossip. We also got to watch workmen pile driving new stantions into the jetty as repairs were made. I was forced to drink beer. Alan came to meet us from work. I was forced to drink more beer.
Because I was forced to drink more beer, we missed the closing time for the butchers, having a knock on effect on the planned BBQ for that night. We had to eat out. Shame. T-bone steaks were the order of the night. The bad man tried to force me into drinking more beer. This time, i was prepared and I resisted. I managed to get my hand on a nice couple of jugs instead, containing water.
The stars were another no show for our last nigt in Adelaide, and it was time to hit the pillows one last time. We said our goodbyes to Alan. He was due to leave before we even were considering getting out of bed in the morning. We must work on an action plan for him to apply the next time we come and visit, involving better organisation of stargazing weather, and opening times of breweries. :-)
And onto this morning, our final morning in Adelaide. Bags packed, and what else is there to do in 30 + degree morning sunchsine than sit outside and eat and drink. We went to the Watershed overlooking a small lake and ate. We ate a bit more and drank. Brekkie was good this morning. The weather is very warm, and the wind isn't providing its normal cooling effect as its coming from the wrong direction. Its days like today that aircon in vehicles and buidlings is mandatory.
Ali brought us to Adelaide airport and very kindly stuck with us throughout up until we joined the queue for boarding. We've said our goodbyes and bring to a close our visit to Adelaide and our very good friends, Ali and Alan. We've got excellent memories to take back to te UK with us.
Tonight, we book into our hotel at the airport. We need an early night as we need to be up and at the airport by 3.30am local time in the, morning. This is when the fun of jetlag starts. It wasn't so bad coming out, but from our travels to NZ in 2011, I know it comes back to bite you going back home.

29 October 2014

Back into civilisation

En route from the island to the mainland, and connectivity is restored! Yesterday (28th) was a day of exporing the North of the island, and also the big smoke, Kingscote.
Highlights of the day:
1. Stokes Bay
2. Emu Bay with a dissapointing lack of emus.
3. Light luch in Kingscote.
4. Ice cream in Vivonne Bay store and bottle shop with two leases for sale.
5. Commedy moment when Alan tipped up the picnic bench all on his own.
6. Pulling out on a T junction in front of a black SUV.
7. Overhearing locals at the table next to us describing the welsh as 'unusual', and as having 'their own language and everything'.

Wildlife tally inclueded 2 koalas - road kill. 1 Koala alive in the trees. Lots of wallaby road kill. Lots of kangaroo roadkill. Lots of possum roadkill. Lots of unidentified road kill. However, this mornings wildlife tally is much better. Whilst driving to the ferry. One koala bidding to become roadkill, but avoiding it. Several KI roos. Some wallabies. Dolphins.

Todays lowlights.
1. Not going to Myponga brewery.
2. No stargazing. Technically, a lowlight from last night, not tonight.

28 October 2014

Well, that was remarkable!

Good afternoon!
Earlier today, we came across the rare delight of phone reception. This is rarer than seeing a live KI kangaroo on KI. Approx. 35km west of where we are staying, the road lifted high enough for phones to buzz, and notifications to ding while we were driving down an unsealed road. Time was critical and whilst on the move, I managed to publish the last post. Hours later, here I am typing the next installment to cover what we have been up to since yesterday morning. (Today is Monday 27th by the way). So, back we go.
Sunday was designated Flinders Chase National Park day, and a day to explore the West of the island. And it started with a bang. Well, more of a few flashes and a rumble really. Parts of the island were getting some thunder storms, althoug rain wasn't really forthcoming. We left our little hut and headed west into the gloom. Every inch of the drive, we carefully scour the road for wildlife. We see lots of wilddead, not so much life. But, we did see our first close up ish KI kangaroo lolloping across the road in front of us. Nice.
To get access to the national parks and the features within, you have to buy a permit from the nearest office and dispay the ticket in the windscreen. We picked ours up from Flinders Chase visitors centre. The lady was thankfull that at that time, there was rain with the lightening. In recent years, they lost up to 60% of the park due to dry lightening. Pass purchased, we were free to enter the park and visit the attractions within. First on the list was Admirals Arch, a popular location for Australian and New Zealnd fur seals to come out and rest. Set in amongst some massive limestone cliffs, a boardwalk has been built down through the coastal tundra to various viewing points from which the seals can be seen. I saw a dead rotting seal. It was smelly. But also we saw lots of live seals and pups. Good job really. I bet the sharks get into a feeding frenzy off this bit of coast. The water is gin clear around here, and when not chruned up into a white foam, you can see the bottom of the deepest pools many many meters deep.
We left here and made our way to the next stop, Weirs Cove. Here, there is a lighthouse, and a stroppy German teenager wrapped up in a hoody, sat next to the car parking spaces, with her face hidden and chin on her knees. At least, i assume it was a she. This was a lookout point looking over the cove and had parts of buildings that used to be the lighthouse keepers houses on top of the cliffs. Photos taken, we returned to the car where stroppy german teenager had been picked up by the happy police, and bundled back into their campervan.
Next on our list was Remarkable Rocks. I think they were begining to run out of names for things, but the name is catchy, descriptive and accurate. Back in the days of volcanos in this part of the world, a huge lava dome rose up from the core of the earth. During the erupting years, magma was thrown out and solidified to produce various granites all around. Over the years since then, the outer layers of the volcano have been weathered away, leaving the granite dome of the volcano and some rather remarkable rocks left teetering on top of the dome. These were impressive. Many arty farty photos were taken and some giggles were had.
It was time for a light lunch back at the visitors centre. During our time in the park, lightening had carried on striking around the island. Strangely enough though, the weather above us remained quite stunning. However, it turns out that the island was subject to a powercut, and if you weren't connected to a generator you were powerless. The visitor centre was on a generator, and was cooking on gas. Literally. The only thing that wasn't in action was the coffee machine. Light lunch was consumed in the shade from some rather warm sunshine. Following from light lunch, we decided to walk the Heritage Trail from the centre. This was a good move. We saw 3 wild koalas in the trees, one with joey. We saw a wallaby in the bushes, and geese and a little blue bird, and a black one, and some loud ones and loads of other things. A good trail and a good choice to walk off lunch.
We decided to start making our way back to base for siesta oclock, but got a bit distracted. We stopped at Hanson Bay. We nearly stayed here, but after the booking was made, Miss Wood was contacted to say that ther had been an error, and the cottage was in fact unavailable for our chosen time. This turned out to be a good and bad thing. The cottage are over looking the coast. The coast and beach next to the cottanges are simply some of the most stunning parts of unspoilt beach and coast that i've seen. Sand was brigt white, sky way bright blue (OK, not strictly part of the coast, but stick with it) and the waters were a whole palet of blues, turquoise and greens. Surf crashed into some parts, whilst other parts were protected by a shallow reef that just screamed 'snorkel me!' The good thing for the cottage being booed and us not being able to stay there? It would have been hard to get in the car and go anywhere else on the island. The whole holiday could quite easily be spent on that one section of coastline.
Back to base, and siesta. The wind whipped up, what little cloud there was flew passed and, sleep.
Waking up and stepping outside showed the sky covered in cloud, but with hints of cloud break. As it got dark, the sky became clearer and excitment for some possible stargazing action grew. But we needed to eat, so whilst Alan missed photographing the sunset, and then set about setting up the telescope for an evening of observing, I got on with the BBQ. Scran was eaten, wine was drank, beer was drank and warm clothes were put on. The wind hadnt dropped through the day, but this did mean that any obscuring cloud was moved on after a couple of minute. Whilst Alan got to grips with setting up his GoTo telescope, he learnt where North was. Strangly enough, in the exact opposite direction to South. Its not rocket science really, but kind of related, so we'll forgive him.
The stars were coming into view nicely, and we started picking out lots of features. On my bucket list of things to see were the LMC and the SMC. I have managed to capture both in photographs, but they will need some processing to bring them out clearer. The astro stuff will wait until i get home and will be blogged on my astro blog when i get back to the uk.
And sleep. We woke this morning to the sound of rain on the roof. But only breifly. We got up, and brekkie was prepared after washing my hands like a good boy. Today (Monday 27th) was the day for exploring the south part of the island to the east of where we are. Our first stop off was Bald Hill viewing point over Murray Lagoon. A 7km drive off road brought us to a road closed sign. And a trail closed sign. Bugger. Time to drive back up the track back to the tarmac road and retrace our route back to Seal Bay. This is a permanent residence for Australian sealions. Another board walk down to the beach and we saw a flipping huge black tiger snake in the dunes. It was a bit cool this morning. He/She was a bit cold and slow. It was good. We carried on down to the viewpoint and saw the sealions. Photos were taken.
Back in the car and off to Vivonne Bay. Internationally voted as the best beach on the island. The weather was fairly blustery, so its fair to say that we perhaps we didnt see it in its best light. However, it was still very impressive. We found two dead birds. We got back in the car and carried on around to Point Ellen. The sheltered beach to one side of use, and to the other side, the full force of the ocean crashed against the crags and cliffs.
Next stop was Vivonne Bay Store, home of the Internationally voted best whiting burger. I have the feeling the guide for the island kind of over hyped the facilities. Yes, petrol was available, and food but its accurate to say it wasnt exactly what we were expecting. Nevertheless, we had a really good feed, and the guy running the stores was friendly and fed us well.
One last stop for the day was another off road trek for about 12 km to Two Wheeler Creek wines and Andermal Marron farm. Marrons are kind of a freshwater lobster come crayfish. The main buildimg for Marron viewing contained many tanks of Marron on various sizes. It was also the location for the tasting and the cellar door. Wine tasted, we beat a hasty retreat.
Back to base and siesta. That about brings you up to speed.
Things to do:
Organise a lift home from Birmingham airport when we get back to the UK. Wheel come off the plan. Will wait until we get a proper internet connection before we start on that one.

27 October 2014

Its a bit remote here :-)

Good morning.
At time of writing, it's 8.23 am on our first morning on Kangaroo Island. Although, time of post publishing migt be different. Go to wait for some sort of internet connection before we can make it happen!
We had an early start yesterday morning, and made our way out of Adelaide to the ferry portat Cape Jarvis to catch the ferry over to Penneshaw on the island. The crossing was smooth, weather bright and all good. First stop was the TIC to pick up some more info on the island. Leaving the TIC, it was time for some driving on the island to our next stop at the most western part of the island, Cape Willoughby Lighth Station. En route we came across a juvenille black tiger snake, dead in the road. However, the next one wasn't so juvenille, and wasn't roadkill - just. It was about 4 or 5 feet long and crossed the road in front of us. We didn't stop, but he soon made his away across the road and into the bush the other side.
Next on the list, a vineyard. Sunset winery provided some brilliant views over the coast, and for interested parties, a tasting tray of the wines produced using grapes from across the island. Together with the light lunch platter, much enjoyment was had by all.
KI is a long island. It can take a couple of hours to drive from one side to the other. Bigger than the isle of wight, although home to a fraction of the population. The island is quite rugged, full of parks and nature reserves hosting loads of wildlife. Our accomodation is down the western end of the island, so we have driven the length of the island almost to our lovely little cabin on the edge of the bush. Its going to be a good visit :-) Beer and wine were fastracked and the rest was put in the fridge. BBQ set up, telescope set up next, siestas had and then ***STOP PRESS*** our first true encounter of a wilde koala and joey, right next to the cabin.
With cloud rolling in, and little hope of any stargazing action for the night, it was time to retire indoors, eat and drink a bit more. Throw in a bit of planning, and random idea generation, that about brings people up to speedmfor the end ofmevening 1 on KI.
This morning, we've had a rumble of thunder, a great sunrise, a broken back door lock locking us in from the back and a gradual wakening ino this, the next day of our holiday. Plans and ideas for the next few days include wildlife, rocks, beach, vineyard, potential fishing action and asking Cindy to come and mend the door for us.
Cheerio :-)

24 October 2014

Koalas and STD's

Today, I cuddled a Koala, and didn't catch an STD.
In other news...
So, we've been in Adelaide for 3 nights now, and the pace has slowed a little which is why postings have tailed off a little. In the last post, as could be seen in the pictures, wine and beer was drank and then takeaway was eaten. Since then, we have had a trip to Adelaide where we saw a hat shop. In fact, we saw two. I didn't buy a hat, but we did find a coffee shop - that sold Italian craft beer. Beer was drank out of a wine glass. A happy time was had.
The weather has been pretty good, with temps over 30 each day. Just the sort of days that you do with a hat to be honest. We went to a shop and bought a fridge magnet. Our international fridge magnet collection is coming on well. We have bought two so far. I also bought a hat.
Yesterday was Alans last day in work before we embark on a holiday from having a holiday with people Wood and Martin. BBQ was used, meatball burnt, sweetcorn caught fire and Ali made a mess at the dining room table. Oh, and beer and wine was drank.
So, today. Well, first there was the train ride. Tomorrow we travel to Kangaroo Island, so a vehicle has been hired to take to the island. Its a couple of hours drive from Chez Wood Martin. You might be suprised at the level of organisation that has gone into today bearing in mind tomorrow. So, train into city. Hire car picked up in city. Drive from city to the Gorge Wildlife Park about 40 minutes outside of town. This is one cool park. Lots of feeding of animal. Lots of enclosures to walk through. And koalas to cuddle. Happy days. Its been a long time since I have been to a placd like that. The nearest thing to it was the old Penscynnor park that used to be near Swansea. Actually, scratch that. Its nothing like that at all. I never cuddled a koala there. Ali Wood pushed a small child off the end of a bench whilst we queued to hold a koala. She then tried to feed another small child to a rather excited duck. The child cried and ran away.
All this spending time in heat and the outdoors does mean that a thirst can be worked up. It was time to visit Mt Lofty Ranges Vineyard. Set in the hills above the city, the vineyard has moved in from being a 'tin shack' as it was described to me, to now being a very pleasent place to spend some time drinking wine (not for me though) eating eating a light lunch with a tidy dessert. No children and no ball games please. Pointing at the proprieter and telling him to build a childrens playground is not the best way to make sure you are welcomed back. Not only was wine drank. It was bought. A single bottle of Rose,  turned to two. And then all common sense was lost and a whole case was added to the bill "because it was cheap". Apparently, there didnt need to be much thought given to this decision making process. I dont understand these things.
Light lunch, dessert and wine consumed, it was time to head off. Now, you might have noticed that beer had not been mentioned so far for today. This was now being solved. Off we went to the BierHous brewery and a tasting paddle was ordered. And some wine, suprisingly. Some really nice beers available from here, but all in the German style, so not really classed as ozzies thinking for themselves and brewing in their own style. Nevertheless, a very pleasent experience, and a good way to spend the day. Interesting articles on the walls to pass the time in the toilet too.
Tomorrow, we depart early for KI. Phone reception is sketchy, so updates might fail. Nevertheless, this a brief rundown....
Beer, wine, wildlife, bbq, nature, astronomy, relax, tidy.
During our travels, we have taken hundreds of photos. I have picked out the most mundane and silly ones for the blog. To see the rest - if you really want to, please let me know, and I will gladly go through every last one with you when we get back :-)
Did you know, a standard can of soft drink in oz is 375ml, not the short measure of 330ml like we have back home? Amazing. 
And the std reference, 
One direction were once worried that they caught chlamydia after a koala urinated on them.

22 October 2014

Catchup posting from Adelaide

Afternoon! Before I start, some did you knows about Australia that we found out about along the way...

1.  Did you know, you can not take a pet rabbit from New South Wales into Queensland. If caught, you face fines of up tp $44,000 AUD?
2.  Did you know that most ratings given to how venomous snakes are, are given in relation to how they effect mice?
3.  Did you know that you can get into lots of trouble for bringing fruits like oranges and bananas interstate, for instance between Queensland and South Australia?

So, time for a catchup. We have left Brisbane and arrived at Chez Wood Martin in Adelaide where its been a bit warm. Hovering around the 35 mark. Today was supposed to be cooler, but doesn't feel like it. Think its about 32 today. Anyway, these pictures pretty much sum up the activites of the time between leaving Brisbane and this afternoon so far :-)

20 October 2014

Koala no show around Brisbane.

So, tonight's the night as Rod Stewart once said. It's our last night in our little campervan and brings to a close this leg of our jaunt down under. We haven't travelled far, but we've successfuly managed not to see any Koalas despite many roadsigns advising us of their presence all around the coastal suburbs of Brisbane. We took the tourist road out to Wellington Point this morning. Along the way, we saw some ozzie roadkill (namely a dead kangaroo - nice a swollen in the mid morning heat and ready to burst by the look of it) and loads of signs for Koalas. Wellington Point is quite a calm and quiet part of thr coast around here. Its popular for fishing and watersports. The waters are very calm around here, and although tidal, various boat ramps and slips give easy access to the water. It was nice for once to spend some time next to the sea and not have the sounds of crashing waves on rock amd beach. As nice as thst sound is, it was a good change to have some piece.
Whilst there, we had a mesage and some directions for our next hook-up. 14 years ago, whilst working in Embrun, France, I worked with Cara. An aussie by birth, and someone whome I have stayed in touch with since. At the moment, Cara lives just outside of Brisbane, so it was a good excuse to carry out a threat made long ago, for me to come to oz and track her down. Today was that day. After dismissing a number of carparks because of the heigt restrictions, and our van being too tall, we chanced upon a parking space on a street, pulled up and wandered off towards the River to find Cara. In recent years, Brisbane has suffered some severe flooding, as has some other parts of Australia. Since this flooding has happened, many rebuilding projects have been carried out, including the river side which now accomodates a new artificial beach area for public bathing and many pubs, resteraunts and bars along its length. It was in one of these fine places that we caught up with Cara. This was only a fleeting visit. She's a very busy lady! After an all too brief meet up, Cara had to dash and head back to her studies, which left Ali and I to wander around the river area. We didnt really go anywhere else in Brisbane becuase we had to be back to beat the meter on the van. No gold bikini wearing girls topping your meter up around here im afraid.
We made our way from Brisbane to our final campsite  and our final leg of the journey. Tomorrow morning, we head to the Britz depot near the airport and leave the van so we catch our flight to Adelaide. Apparently, its warm there at the moment, in the region of the high thirties. I will be doing as what many of the oriental tourists seem to be doing in this fine weather, and wearing my jeans, long sleeved shirt, waterproof (with hood up) and surgical mask. Go figure :-)

18 October 2014

Whales, and Up Against The Wall, America.

What could all this possibly mean? Well, let's try to bring you all up to speed. Lennox Head campsite is now two nights behind us. We enjoyed our time in Lennox, taking in the chance for more coastal sightseeing at the viewpoint on the headland. We were lucky enough to observe more whale activity in the waters a couple of km off shore. Given the reports that we were coming to the end of the whale migration season, we are happily taking any chance we can to see more whales. It seems that this area is ideal at the moment.
It appears that Lennox Head has the reputation of being  Byron Bays quieter cousin. Not as busy. Just as clean and tidy, but with only a reasonable smattering of backpackers. There seems to be still a strong local sense of community in this town, despite the thriving aussie tourist industry which is something that becomes very apparent when travelling through the bustling town of Byron. More on Byron later perhaps.
Other things about Lennox, well, like many of the coastal view towns, ther are lots of really nice houses. Holidays homes, second homes, weekend places, call them what you want. Much more in the way of tourist development might spoil this small town. It seems to have the balance just right. For the moment at least.
Leaving Lennox, we head back South along the coast, only for a little while to the viewing point next to Lennox called the Pat Morton Lookout. Here we had our next sigtings of whales out on their migration journey south. Also, there is access to a small, but nice point break to retreat to when the longer sandy beaches are perhaps a bit blown out or crowded.
Our journey then took us to our next stop, where we would stay for the next two nights. Not far from Lennox, further North along the coast, you come to the mecca for backpackers, Byron and Byron Bay. First stop, lightouse. Towering high above Wategoes beach, the lighthouse gives direction and reference to passing ships, and you might be forgiven for saying whales too! This is where we have witnessed whales in full breach. And not just one either. We think we saw two distinct groups of whales. Straight out from the most Eastern point of mainland Australia, we saw whales blowing and some tail slapping on the surface. Around to the Byron side of the lighthouse, we saw whales breaching with tail and fin slapping, seemingly much more active than the first group. We followed these whales as they made their way around the ligthouse head where they started to fully breach. Starting with the cow, she fully came out of the water, and even at several km looked absolutly massive. Through the camera lense, i could see two calves breaching next to her. Those too, coming fully out of the water. Certainly a site i will remember for a long time. I just hope the photos come out! But this wasn't the end of our marine wildlife viewing. On another point on the Byron side of the lighthouse, a pod of dolphins, much closer into the land, were playing in some surf next to an offshore reef. The pod was made up of around 15 to 20 dolpnins, sometimes jumping, sometimes playing in the waves, but generally always in a quite tight group. As an introduction to Byron Bay, this wasn't a bad way to start!
We made our way back through Byron and out towards Tyagarah. Now, Tyagarah is not really marked on many maps. It gets a mention as a place name in the lonely planet, but this is where we were to spend our next two nights. It was time to leave the comfort of the campervan, for the luxury of a proper bed for two nights. We were staying with Jane and Craig, relations to Ali, on their small hillside farm. We also later met with Sally who came up to the farm to see us. From the outset, they were the epithome of kindness and generosity. After a guided tour of the farm by Craig and some warnings on snake awareness, we were joined by his wife Jane on the veranda of their lovely house with views out across the countryside. Later, sally joned us and Ali renewed her aquaintence with her family members, whilst I got to know these lovely people.
Craig is an accomplished author with many published works to his name, not to mention interviews for various newspapers and press. Jane, an accomplished climber in her days working in nursing in the UK, and Sally also training and working as a nurse in the UK. Without wanting to sound gushy, these people have been so kind to us during out short stay. We ate and slept the first night at their house. The next morning, we woke to a spendid breakfast. Breakfast seamed to last for ages, and was finished by talking about organising lunch! Anyone who finishes breakfast by suggesting and organising lunch is brilliant! We talked, and ate, and talked and ate through the most entertaining and engaging coversations. Craig had booked us in for lunch at the Byron Beachside Cafe where we were also joined by Billy and Amy. The beach cafe is tucked away in a quiet corner of Byron Bay, but is busy and bustling. It has lovely views out over the beach and the surf. Its setting is simply superb.
After lunch, Ali and I were taken by Sally for a stroll around the town of Byron. It become obvious by spending time with this people, that eventhough Byron is now very much a haven for backpackers and people travelling and working through their gap years, that it still remains a very special a meaningful place to the people who have lived there for decades. They see through all the visitors, and still see the beauty of the bay, for what it is and what it means to them. This is so good, and something quite special.
Ice creams consumed, Sally took us back to the farm where it was siesta time :-). The first time since we had been on the road that we were able to have an afternoon kip! What else are holidays for.
That evening, we went down to Sallys house. Sally insisted that it was her turn to cook for everyone, and she produced a lovelly morrocan type dish with cous cous, and a lemon pudding that was lovely. As well as a good cook, Sally also has a very good voice too. This was demomstrated to us when Craig took his place at the piano and started playing some blues, and Sally joined in.
I could go on for quite some time typing away in this blog of all the enjoyment and memories had and made during these two short days with these remarkable people, but I won't. These will remain with us for a very long time, and will be kept by us.
This morning was our last morning on the farm with everyone, and we were treated to breakfast and lunch before we made our way away from Byron Bay on the short trip past the Gold Coast towards Brisbane. It was a bit of a wrench for me personally leaving Jane, Craig and Sally this morning. The impact they have made in the short time I have known them is amazing. If the three of you ever read this blog, I say again, a big thankyou for everything, for putting us up and feeding us for our stay, for introducing us to the Byron Beachside Cafe, and to Craig and Jane for the gift given to us on our last morning with you. We hope to see you all again very soon.
That brings us on to the rest of today. We've made our way up the coast and time in our little campervan is begining to run out. With the bulk of the driving behind us, it was time to link up with some more friends. Tonight was the turn of Ruth and Neil. They live to the South of Brisbane and kindly took the time to track us down on our campsite here near the gold coast. Its been just over a year since we saw each other last, when Ruth left her role in PGL to return to her native Australia, dragging her man Neil kicking and screaming with her (hardly!) With the Gold Coast on a couple of junctions down the highway, they picked us up and headed down there looking for a parking space. Big spikey building located, park the car next to that, easy to find. Job done. Its been good to catch up with them both, but the year really has flown past and it seems like only weeks ago since we were all together in Ross Vegas.
Did you know, in the Gold Coast, pairs of young girls clad in gold bikinis and not much else walking the streets looking at parking meters and topping your parking meter up if they can see your time is up or running out so you don't get a parking ticket. I wonder if we could get this to work in Ross Vegas?
So, thats a catch up and a half. The last 3 days in one post. Hoefully most of the higlights are in there. Tomorrow, we track down Cara, who can paddle a raft, shoot you, patch you back up and study whilst bringing up a family all at the same time, and prepare for our final night in the campervan before we leave it behind in Brisbane and catch our plane to Adelaide.

16 October 2014

Hello Possums (said in a bad Dame Edna Everidge type accent)

Mmm, where to start...
Time for a bit of a review and catch-up. Time has kind of ran away with us really whilst on this road trip. We've covered a fair few hundred km in these last few days. So, the last time you heard from us was when we had left the Hunter Valley with beer, cheese, chocolate and wine in hand.
Now, we were givem such delightful options for turn offs during our trip up Pacifi Highway 1. Such place names as Swansea, Newcastle, Singleton, Stroud, Gloucester and Tamworth all were available, but for some reason, just didn't sound too appealing. I can't quite put my finger on why though... Leaving the Hunter, we started off towards our next stop, Tuncurry, which you may or may not find just North of Forster. Now, I say, may or may not.... we're finding that the aussie road maps we've been provided with are not really what you might call detailed, or explicit maybe. I think 'a roug guesstimate' is more appropriate. Nevertheless, Ali 'Sat Nav' Hill was on the case. Life on the Pacific Highway is much like any other dual carrigeway to be honest. With the exception of warnings for Koalas, Kangaroos, Wombats, Wild Cattle and loose horses. To make the trip a bit more pleasant, the aussies have labelled up various tourist loops that take you off the highway and out to several places of interest along the way which you wouldn't normally go visit. Generally, there will be some hidden gem or view point somehwere, some local amenities, and bit of bush and roadkill, and then back out onto the highway. It was on such a tourist loop that we made our next stop, on the shore of Wallis Lake. The exposed position of the campsite on the shore made it a windy night, and a bit rainy. Little were we to know of what had been unleashed on the residents of Sydney until we heard it on the radio the next morning and via good old FB. To think we were sunbathing on manly beach a few days before, then after we left, storms, snow, wind and lightening hit withsome ferrocity. Ah well.
Waking to this news in Tuncurry, the resolve to start heading Northwards away from such weather was strengthend. Bacon butties and coco pops consumed, we packed off and headed North.
Now, aussies and campervans.... Not so much inter-campervan waving here between the hire campervans in comparison to those in New Zealand. Not sure why, but one thing must be said. I think the locals prefer the caravan approach instead of a good old campervan. Actually, prefer is a bit weak. They love them! Not necesarily big, but millions of them around the place. Certainly seems like the holiday of choice. One good thing though, they know how to tow, and they dont hold up the traffic. I feel Jeremy Clarkson may almost be impressed even!
We rejoined the higway south of Taree and started clocking up the km. Our first stop of the day was on a tourist loop south of Port Macquarie. We had several stops around this loop, at Lake Cathie and then a nearby beach where some bloke was offering Camel rides for tourists. Thing is, it was quite out the way so who knows how he made his trade work. To be honest, we didnt see the camels. What we did see was a board in the sand and a dozen or so cycle helmets and an empty cattle waggon next to the beach. I assume that was him. Very random. Port Macquarie lighthouse was next on the agenda. Lovely spot. Very windy. Back on the highway north of the town, passed Kempsey and another detour to Scotts Head. This is where we decided to have lunch, and where, perhaps the most memorable time so far was spent.
First sigting of the day was 4 foot guana on the side of the road. He was a big lad, but unfortunatly, with traffic behind, it wasn't the best of paces to come to a screaching halt to inspect further. Gutted! Whilst eating lunch in our van, and dreaming of riding the waves like the surfers on the beach beneath us Ali looked a bit more distracted than normal. Then declared the sighting of a whale on the surface of the ocean, a mile or two out from the shore. It didnt take long for the sandwich to take a back seat, along with everything else lunch like. Binnies were scrambled for, lenses were changed on the camera and positions at cliff edge were taken up. Sure enough we saw whales. We think two distinct groups on their migration path for the summer. We couldn't see what type they were, but I think i might have picked some out on the camera. During our time looking out, we also two pods of dolphins, much closer into the coast, just beyond the surfers. Perhaps 8 or 10 in each pod. Tidy :-) Once again, back out on the highway and we made our way straight through Coff Harbour and out the other side following signs for Woolgoola, and then Emerald Beach. At this latest of the Big 4 sites, we checked in to our pitch with nothing more than a bit of bush between us and the beach. When we checked ina reception, we were asked if we had seen any Kangaroos yet. We said yes and were promptly told that we migt see a few more tonight. Well, if you can't see a 5 foot kangaroo within 4 feet of where you are sitting, then there is something wrong. It was brilliant. Two juveniles, a female who was being courted by a big male. Wherever the female went, the male followed.... and the female came right to the side of where we were sitting at our pitch. Tidy :-) Lots of photos were taken, and then came the invasion of the black turkeys, one of which prooved to be rather territorial, and some cookaburras and parakeets. Tidy :-) We look forward to more of this type action when we get to KI.
This brings us to this morning, waking up at Emerald Beach and packing the van up before driving around 200 meters around the corner for coffee on the beach. Not a bad way to start the day. We headed in land with the free way taking us towards Grafton before directing us back to the coast again. After a double brekkie this morning with one on site and another at the coffee shop overlooking the beach, we opted to give lunch a wide berth. Instead, w left the higway on another loop and headed for Evans Head just south of Ballina. At the mouth of the river, Evans Head has a lookout over more surf beaches, free to use BBQs and all sorts. Again, well out the way of any touristic trappings and just generally a nice place to chill. Then, onto our final leg for today, coming to Lennox Head, South of Byron Bay. This is the first time we have ventured off Big 4 territory, and we're not dissapointed. A good site with everything you need and a massive surf beach.
Photos here show all sorts along they way, including a banana, a prawn, beer, beaches and a windy selfie.
Stargazing last nigt was brought to me by M7 and the Butterfly Cluster in the constellation of Scorpius.

14 October 2014

G'day! How are ya?

Not much time to put into words what we've been up to the last 24 hours, so here's the day in pictures :-)