“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” –Mark Jenkins

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Day 267 – 26th January, Tuesday, Australia Day.

After watching the river swimmers set off from the wharf at Stockton, Liam and Carly took us on a tour of Stockton and Newcastle. Fighting the Australia Day traffic, we swam in the sea at Dixon Park, had a couple of drinks at The Brewery, where a band were playing and people were jumping off the wharf to cool down.We said goodbye to Liam and Carly mid afternoon as they headed back to Mudgee (about 4 hours inland) for work, and spent the afternoon chilling out round the pool and listening to the ‘2009 Hottest 100 Countdown’ on the Triple J radio station, which is fast becoming a religion for people on Australia Day.

Day 266 – 25th January, Monday, Stockton.

Back down to The ‘Gladdy’s’ today to load the jukebox with all the Big Day Out favourites. Narelle made us all a wonderful roast dinner (known as a ‘Bakedy’ over here) which was devoured outside by the pool. Starting to feel human again now. The after dinner show was an awesome thunder and lightning storm, with THE loudest crack of thunder I think I have ever heard.

Day 265 – 24th January, Sunday, Stockton.

Don’t even ask me to remember what happened today – my brain was scrambled and I think my stomach took pretty much all day to accept food. By the time late afternoon came, we had ventured down the road to The ‘Gladdy’s’ pub for a hair-of-the-dog. The boys headed over to Jack’s to listen to him and his band jamming and the girls went back to the house to wallow in the pool for a while.

Day 264 – 23rd January, Saturday, “The Big Day Out” Music Festival, Sydney.

The BBQ was lit once more about 7:30am for bacon and egg sandwiches as people started to arrive. They had hired a bus and driver for the day which arrived at 8:30am and was technically full to the brim, however, Narelle and Reynolds had a word with the driver who allowed Ant and I to sneak on board and sit on the coolboxes in the aisle... perfect. It took about 3 hours and 5 crates of beer to get there, and then another hour or so for us to collect our tickets, swap them for wristbands and get inside Sydney’s Olympic Park where the festival was being held. The day seemed to be over far too quickly, but looking back we managed to see a fair number of bands, including BlueJuice, Karnivool, Kasabian, Hilltop Hoods, Lily Allen, Calvin Harris, Simian Mobile Disco, Muse and Groove Armada! The coach got us all back to Stockton for about 3am where I showered and crashed immiediately, but the boys continued partying at a house a couple of doors down.

Day 263 – 22nd January, Friday, Stockton.

Swam again in the sea in the morning, but no sharks this time. We then headed south to meet Liam’s parents and get into the mood for the “Biggie”. We drove from Hawk’s Nest around Port Stephens and along the very dusty Medowie road down to Stockton where we found the house and pulled Betsy up at the back and met the most wonderful family with the most inspirational attitude to life. Narelle was at work, but Liam’s Dad, Gav and his Brother, Weap, put on a lovely BBQ with people coming and going all evening. It wasn’t long before we had met most of the people going to the festival and had sunk a fair few beers.

Day 262 – 21st January, Thursday, Hawk’s Nest.

Drove through Mungo Brush National Park today and crossed the river on a tiny four-car ferry. We drove along the coastal strip between the sea and the Bombah Broadwater through the Myall Lakes National Park. Very green, very thick and very dusty. We arrived at Hawks Nest and changed into swimmers and just as we got to the water’s edge, the lifeguards sounded the shark alarm and I have never seen 200 people swim so fast in my life!! The shark cruised slowly passed the beach about 30mtrs out and continued down the coast towards Jimmy’s Beach. A helicopter went back and forth over us a few times before the lifeguards put the safe-to-swim flags back up and we were straight into the water. Very exciting. The shark looked to be between 6 and 8 feet long and the water was so clear we saw the complete outline of it in the waves as it passed.

Day 261 – 20th January, Wednesday, The Ruins, Tiona.

Found a perfect spot to stop in the Booti Booti National Park, right on a surf beach just north of Boomerang. As soon as we pulled up we spotted a large lizard in the grass next to the van, but it wasn’t until a couple of hours later that we realised it was only the baby one, when Mum (or Dad) came out of the bushes in front of us and started to go through the washing up bowl of the people next door. It was about 5 feet long!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Day 260 – 19th January, Tuesday. Tuncurry Beach.

We went to watch the surfers and body boarders on 9 mile beach in Tuncurry; a lovely long sandy beach with 10 foot barrel waves crashing so heavily in front of us that we could actually feel them through the ground where we sat. Ant bravely ventured in and managed to at least get past the incoming forces and position himself to catch one back, but after a fair whack on the head from his board, we left the locals to it and retreated to the rockpool area where I had another very bracing swim before returning to the van for lunch.
Wandered into town in the afternoon for a look about and managed to find some shorts to replace my now baggy £10 pair that have been in daily use pretty much since June last year!
One thing we still can’t get used to over here is the fact that supermarkets don’t sell alcohol, you have to go to a bottle shop, most of which are ‘drive-thru’ too. We found one and took a few beers back to Betsy and had a massive spag bol.

Day 259 – 18th January, Monday. Tuncurry Beach.

After an enlightening breakfast in Old Bar (the owner kindly warned us to look out for police since we were parked illegally – apparently you cannot cross oncoming traffic to park, and you must only park facing the same way as the traffic flows - oops), we headed further South to One Mile Beach in Forster – the water was absolutely bloody freezing at 19.5 Degrees C – the coldest swim we’ve had yet.
So we booked into Tuncurry Beach Campsite for hot showers and checked email.
That’s when I discovered that the $666 speeding fine I had received whilst driving 110 in a 100 zone back in Queensland I wasn’t supposed to pay! Typical.
On a brighter note, we saw our first wild Dolphins today in the Tuncurry estuary, ate fresh prawns for lunch and found the second Stephanie Meyers sequel in the bookshop in town.

Day 258 – 17th January, Sunday, Old Bar, NSW.

Spent the afternoon resting and watching the micro-lites and a bright yellow micro-helicopter landing and taking off next door. I must say, having fallen in love with micro-lites after a flight once before, I was half tempted to hop over the fence and ask one of them to take me up. (We later found out that they probably would have obliged since people from the campsite have asked in the past; gutted.)

Day 257 – 16th January, Saturday. Old Bar, NSW.

I stayed in bed all day not feeling well at all and read two books whilst Ant disappeared to the beach and had his best surf yet – typical.
I dragged myself into the shower at tea time and we wandered into the town as we had been invited to George and Ruby’s Twilight Bazaar; which turned out to be a kind of mini shopfront-boot sale with a stall selling hippie crystals and books about how to achieve an out-of-body experience. We moved on.
We found a small BYO cafe/restaurant over the road with a blind and deaf chef and had a wonderful meal. After pondering for a while, we asked the owner (the Chef’s father) how his son knew when Ant’s steak went from rare to medium and were told he does it all by his sense of smell. Pretty impressive really.

Day 256 – 15th January, Friday. Old Bar, NSW.

Used MacDonalds free Wifi to check email on the way to Old Bar and managed to buy tickets for a music festival in Sydney next weekend where we will meet up with Liam and Carly (whom we met at the Bennicassim festival in Spain), should be a really good day.
Old Bar is a quirky little beachside town with a surf club, a few shops and cafes and a campsite run by a lovely Brummy guy. We took a pitch alongside the towns Historic Aerodrome which was used in the 1930’s to ferry people to Sydney or Brisbane from Coff’s Harbour and Old Bar. Apparently it was also used by famous aviators such as Charles Kingsford Smith and Nancy Bird Watson on their early pioneering flights.
I took a walk along the beach and returned through the parkland between the campsite and the airfield, where I saw my first electric blue fairy-wren.

Day 254 – 13th January, Wednesday. Sawtell beach.

Another pretty much sleepless night for both of us. I can’t sleep on a slope, so decided to sleep at an angle which meant poor Ant’s feet were poking out of the side door to the van and he had no covers for most of the night. Oops.
Since arriving at this site we have befriended a Magpie Lark which we have named Ralph. He eats everything and anything and has been in the van twice. Funny little thing. Quite happy to come and go every few minutes, in between our legs and on top of our table, but just refuses to pose for a photo.

Day 255 – 14th January, Thursday. Sawtell to South West Rocks.

Brilliant weather, but horrible day. We decided to go to the surf beach at Scott’s Head... fully booked (and the surf was over rocks anyway), we then targeted Grassy Head... all booked too. We arrived in Stuart’s point and pulled into the first place we saw, which turned out to be a Seventh Day Adventist campsite where the rules include; no alcohol, no smoking, no drugs, and as a result, no guests. They had loads of space and were charging only $25 a night but the manager suggested we go further into the village and try the main campsite. I don’t think we fitted their site requirements!
A bit spooked, we headed back onto the Pacific highway to South West Rocks where the annual surf championship was gearing up to kick off, and ended up staying at the Trial Bay Gaol Ruins of 1886. The prison was built on the headland so that they could use the inmates to build the breaker wall on the beach. Unfortunately the wall was never finished and the remains of the gaol (a bunch of crumbling rocks) is now a very expensive tourist attraction set in the middle of an equally expensive campsite. We grabbed a half price spot in the overflow area overlooking the rocks, slightly disappointed to learn that the surf championships due to kick off in the morning were for under tens!

Day 253 – 12th January, Tuesday. Sawtell beach.

The lopsided parking space in the woods. We have decided (due to what we think must be jellyfish stings covering my boobs and Ants bits) to stay out of the water for a couple of days and heal. So I treated myself to a couple of bottles of a nice Australian red and settled down with a book called “Tuk Tuk to the Road” which is the story of two English girls who drove a 3-wheeled Tuk Tuk from Bangkok to Brighton in aid of the mental health charity, MIND. Puts our little adventure to shame.

Day 252 - 11th January, Monday. Moonie Beach.

Today is the day campsites should calm down and get less busy. Apparently this is the day that Australians usually go back to work after their summer/Christmas holidays.

So far on the trip I don’t think we have fallen as much for New South Wales as we did for Queensland in the north. The people are less friendly and the campsites twice the price. The scenery is as green, but the towns are much larger and more built up. Maybe it’s because we are in the middle of school summer holidays here, but it seems that the Australians here are much less sociable than they were in the North.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Day 251 - 10th January, Sunday. Moonie Beach.

Bought new bikini and flippers in Woolgoolga. Still reeling from the shock that two pieces of material which are collectively smaller than Ant’s board shorts can possibly cost four times as much!?
Had some lunch and then tried out the new gear on Moonie Beach; the bikini holds up well and looks fantastic, until of course I put on the board fins... unfortunately the only pair that fit me snugly were a bright yellow pair which make me look like a duck waddling out to the surf. Classy.
We set up camp on a large bank overlooking the sea which provides some welcome breeze and I set about making dinner. We are now down to just the one large ring on the gas stove (since the smaller one, which never worked that well to begin with, as finally given up altogether). It’s becoming increasingly difficult to create evening meals that don’t consist of one-pot rice or pasta, and much as we love paella, risotto and tuna pasta, it can get tedious after a few months. So I decided to try Crab Cakes. I should have thought it through. Crab Cakes... on one ring, without a non-stick pan, no recipe, no potato masher, and no stale bread! It wasn’t a complete disaster, (I had raided mum’s campervan before she gave it back, and so could use the trial pack of rosemary and sea-salt crackers in place of breadcrumbs) but I think it’s a meal I won’t be attempting again in a hurry. So anyone with any simple, one-pot recipes using only a few basic (packet or tinned) ingredients (we don’t have a lot of space, or a fridge!!) food that doesn’t rely on a grill, oven or non-stick pan, please send them on – don’t be shy – believe me, ANYTHING will be a welcome change.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Day 250 – 9th January, Saturday – Arrawarra

Morning Crisis: The gas ran out this morning, half way through boiling water for our morning cuppa –and on the day that it was my turn to have it bed too – typical! Thankfully the reception shop has a refill service which cost us only $11.
More surfing, this time I had to go in the old blue bikini with the snapped elastic. I put a vest over the top in an effort to hold everything in place – the nearest swimwear shop is in the next town along the coast, so baggy bottoms it is.

Day 249 – 8th January, Friday – Arrawarra

We left Tina and Bard’s place (which prompted Ant to start singing ‘don’t cry for me BardandTina’ – I had to laugh) and set off South for Arrawarra. We had managed to call ahead and book a couple of nights at the SpotX Surf School camping area, right on the beach which was only about 150kms south.
When we got there, I hung out the wet washing and we disappeared down the beach to catch a few before lunch. If the bikini test is anything to go by, the waves were forceful enough and pretty consistent; perfect for surfing. I really do need some flippers though as my arms are killing me trying to get my body board up to the right speed, and a new bikini too now as we think that I must have left my Khaki James Bond effort on ‘BardandTinas’ washing line. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Day 248 – 7th January, Thursday – Broadwater

Went back to Evans Head for another surf in the morning, but the waves were fairly small, and a storm was brewing, so we returned to the campsite and prepared for the rain. A bit of a panic on the way back when we had stopped at the garage for Ice and couldn’t get Betsy to start again. Turned out to be just a dodgy connection on the battery, but it did remind us just how worn out she is. We have almost driven 4,000kms in her already. Add that to the 304k that was already on the clock and I suppose she’s not doing too bad.
One of our neighbours at the site (a permanent resident) did a book swap with me... not sure if the Dan Brown and the Stephen Fry I gave him were really worth the seven war crime stories, half a cucumber and a portion of Iceberg lettuce he traded, but the guy seemed genuinely pleased to be able to clear some space on his bookshelf. Another lovely Kiwi.

Day 247 – 6th January, Wednesday – Evans Head

We awoke after a brilliant nights sleep at Tina and Bard’s campsite in Broadwater, (what a wonderful couple), just inland from Evans Head. Spent the morning surfing (getting better at staying on my feet at least whilst getting out there and even better at keeping the bikini in place on the way back) yahoo. Ant isn’t fairing too badly either; progress is definitely being made.
Nipped into Pippy’s (internet-enabled) Cafe in the afternoon for a ‘Liver and Blood Booster’ (fruit and veg juice drink) whilst we downloaded all emails from the last two weeks.

Day 246 – 5th January, Tuesday – Byron Bay

The day we boosted a Byron Bay bank account.
We arrived and managed to nab a parking space right on the beach at Byron Bay – beautiful weather, beautiful surf and no plans whatsoever. We got changed into swim stuff, smeared some sun cream on and since we were only yards from the beach we took nothing with us except our boards. We spent a good hour and a half in the water; being smashed around, riding the odd wave but being dragged through the majority of them – not very elegant, especially when my bikini really didn’t want to stay put. Disaster struck when I was forced back to the shallow surf to cough up yet more saltwater and wait whilst it came streaming out my nose. I decided to try and tighten up my bikini top at the same time, something I now wish I had gone back to the beach to do. Moments later, Ant came wading back through the water having also consumed too much of the pacific than is healthy and we decided to return to the van for a break. That’s when realisation hit home, (not that I had been flashing my mangoes to the entire beach after every wave), but that during my readjustments, I had dropped the keys to the van (which were clipped onto my bikini top) into the surf! The tide was coming in, the force of the waves was immense and despite 20 minutes of wading up and down the area we agreed it was pretty pointless.
Everything we needed to sort it out was locked in the van; mobile phone, money, towels and even flip-flops (my feet were burning on the tarmac!). We borrowed the lifeguards phone to call the number on the back of the van... they were completely useless. We asked neighbouring car owners for wire and tried to break in.... useless, all the locks were caged. We started to burn in the sun – we had no clothes, no water and no money on us (not even to get another car park ticket since ours had now run out!). Eventually a kind Kiwi a couple of cars down gave us some water and managed to get hold of a local locksmith for us who said he could come out and sort it straight away.... for $300!!!!!!! $150 to get the van open and another $150 to make a new key. Despite the pain of the money involved, the time with which he managed it all was pretty impressive I have to say.
Sun burnt and hot, we decided we’d had enough of Byron Bay and left mid afternoon. Our day didn’t get much better, as we then spent the afternoon endlessly trawling from one campsite to another only to be told they were fully booked and to top it all, every lay-by or car park we passed carried a $300 fine for anyone caught sleeping in their vehicle overnight! Grrrr. This was not something we had factored in at all.

Day 245 – 4th January 2010, Monday – and we’re off again.

Crossed into New South Wales and struggled to find anywhere to stop, passing fave surf spots such as Cabarita and Hastings Point and ending up at a hippy place near Wooyung Beach where the flies were simply relentless. Ant disappeared with his board, only to return shortly afterwards, still bone dry, with a face that said ‘not on your life’! So we ate, sulked, and slept. Such a comedown from the luxuries of Mundoolan.

Day 244 – 3rd January 2010, Sunday, Mundoolan

Mary’s friend called to warn of a storm coming, saying that the radio report advised people to batten down the hatches. We checked the satellite images on the internet and decided to go for it since it looked like it would pass further north nearer Brisbane and we were heading south.
We said our goodbyes and left around noon, stopping at Tugun beach for a rain-soaked surf before continuing along the coast to Tabebullah where we sat out the rain on the estuary, feeling a little dejected.

Day 243 – 2nd January 2010, Saturday

After Mum and Jon went hiking in the bush yesterday and spotted not one but two wild Koala’s, we decided to venture out and see if we could do the same (Pete sensibly stayed home). We donned tick-proof footwear, hats and shades and set out across the fields behind the house towards the Eucalypt forests. I only wished I had remembered the bug repellent too, because whatever was feasting on us made sure we knew about it – Ant must have had something trapped in his top, because he returned with 6 enormous mounds on his shoulder and more on his legs and I had a few nasties on my back and arms. Not good. We got pissed on by a huge group of black and orange spotted Cicadas, walked through numerous spiders webs and didn’t see a single sodding Koala! But on the bright side, thanks to Mary’s army-march pace, we worked off some Christmas calories and earnt ourselves a takeaway.
Only in Australia would you be forced to drive 40 odd kms for an Indian, but by God I’m glad Pete did – I haven’t had a curry like that in months!

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Day 242 – New Year’s Day

Swimming, packing, sleeping, reading, eating, resting, washing, re-hydrating! Not a lot really, surely that’s the same the world over?

Day 241 – New Year’s Eve

With heads a little jaded and the boys staying home all day in recovery, the girls headed out to the Mountain to see the Cedar Creek Falls and to view the rainforest from the brand new Skywalk canopy trail. The rainforest was beautiful, as always, with giant strangler figs, Staghorn tree ferns and lots of fairy bell fungi. We got back just in time to get ready for our big night out on the Gold Coast.... A 3 course meal at the Hope Island Resort Golf Club, with live music and fireworks, and to top it off, a 45 minute ride home in the champagne-filled white stretch limousine!!! Fantastic evening all round.

Day 240 – Wednesday 30th December

We were kindly invited to witness the bird feeding at Tom and Pat’s in the afternoon which should actually have been renamed ‘getting slaughtered’. We had an absolutely amazing afternoon sitting out on their decking, chatting, watching the birds and drinking a ridiculous amount of alcohol, including some whiskey and Rum liqueurs which were 52% proof and made locally on Tamborine Mountain. They had a hilarious effect on Ant, who, upon reaching home, decided to go to sleep underneath our van on the concrete floor! Pete staggered straight to bed – it was only 8:30pm.

Day 239 – Tuesday 29th December

We spent most of the day in Brisbane, touring the city by river on the ‘City Cat’. Very cheap method of transport and very fast. We had a gorgeous Italian lunch at Brett’s Wharf (I had Moreton Bay Bugs which were even better than I remembered), then the heavens opened and the return journey on the city cat was replaced by a taxi ride back to the South Bank and a quick stop off at the DFO shopping centre on the way home where Ant got a bargain of a wetsuit top from the Billabong factory outlet store along with some new sunnies.

Day 237 – Sunday, 27th December

I dragged myself out of bed in order to drive into Brisbane airport to the shopping village to meet Theresa at 10am only to be reminded via text once I was half way there, that’s she’s ALWAYS LATE!. Some thing’s never change!
We chatted and shopped our way through the entire day and I returned back to the palace for tea time and a gorgeous Paella... mmmmm... my favourite. Thanks Pete.

Day 238 – Monday 28th December

We all went again into Jimboomba to find gothic costumes for a visit to the Dracula restaurant and cabaret show in Broadbeach, but unfortunately everywhere was shut as public holiday! So I ended up buying a black studded leather dog collar from the supermarket pet section and mum bought some silver chains.
We arrived around 6pm and the place was amazing – to get into the venue we were loaded into a mausoleum and given a ‘chat’ by the leading vampire. Once inside we were taken to our seats via a ghost train which we later discovered had a hidden video camera on it!!! Lol. The food and the show were both excellent, if a little bizarre. Took a little while to get into it and get used to the fact that all the waiters and waitresses were Draculas and characteristically either quite abrupt and bossy or totally absurd and crazy. But all in all, another fantastic night.

Day 236 – Boxing Day, Mundoolan

As per any British Boxing Day, we spent the whole day eating, drinking, eating, drinking and generally lazing about.
Ant and I went into Jimboomba town for more beer supplies and a little look about, before returning for round two of charades which included a never-to-be-beaten-for-comedy-value mime from Pete for ‘Dirty Sexy Money’, and a side-splitting display from Jon for the word ‘Jude’.

Day 235 –Christmas Day, Mundoolan.

It has to go down as one of the best Christmases ever! Had a swim first, then champers, stockings, breakfast, bucks fizz, pressies, more champers, another swim, more champers... etc etc. We watched a film in Pete and Mary’s movie room downstairs on a screen the size of which would outdo a town cinema - during which time the Turkey was slowly cooking on the Barbie outside and wafting its aroma down the stairs.
More booze and more food and we ended the evening with a hilarious game of charades – which if course the girls team won.

Day 234 – Christmas Eve – Mundoolan

The day started as they probably all will from now on.... with a morning Surf... Or rather a morning spent being bashed about by unbelievably powerful waves, losing my bead bracelets to the waves and filling my bikini bottoms with sand!
We got packed up and headed over to Brisbane Airport to dump the posh Maui van before all squeezing into Betsy and driving inland to Pete and Mary’s place, or should I say, palace!! What a truly awesome house.
We arrived early afternoon and by 8:30pm I had crashed and burned, closely followed by Ant at about 9pm! I think some serious drinking training is needed.

Day 232 – Tuesday 22nd December – Rainbow Beach

First surf was awesome – about 830 til 10am. The waves were long, constant and fairly fast. The second surf in the afternoon however was harsh – waves came at you from all directions, they dragged you in and out, and side to side, they repositioned my bikini bottoms every single time and they stripped me of sunscreen after about 30 seconds! We caught a few and gave up. Definitely wait for the tide to turn again.

Day 233 – Wednesday 23rd December – Dicky Beach

First surf was incredible again – we had a gorgeous breakfast with Paul, Monika and Cydney before we set off south to meet Mum and Jon.
Driving to Maroochydore and stopping at various campsites along the way, we couldn’t find anywhere with any spaces left ... until we reached Dicky Beach that is, where we found a couple of unpowered pitches almost on a surf beach... perfect. I can’t quite believe how many Aussies go camping for Christmas – all their tents and awnings are covered in Christmas decs and each pitch has a tree somewhere within it. Still can’t get used to a hot Christmas.
Ant and Jon disappeared to get some beer and rum and Ant returned beaming as he had found a surf shop selling second hand, high performance boards just up the road. Needless to say he disappeared back to the shop and returned with a board, new fins, some surf wax, a carry case and a huge grin!
Since it was Mum and Jon’s last night with their van, we had a wonderful barbie to use up pretty much everything in their fridge. You simply cannot beat Australian prawns.

Day 231 – Monday 21st December – Rainbow Beach – first of many surf stops.

After breakfast, Paul and Monika set off for Fraser Island and we set off for Rainbow Beach. With a vow to meet up Tuesday night. We drove through another torrential thunderstorm, which cleared by the time we reached the beach campsite. We set up camp and went shopping. (My €10 flip-flops from Croatia have compressed to the point where I can feel every tiny stone underfoot now and need a new pair. Well that’s my excuse anyway).

Tested the new body-board out in the afternoon; Came back beaming like a 7 year old with a year’s supply of sweets. Ant unfortunately managed to give himself a friction burn on the chest when he had a go, so the sooner he gets his new surf board which stays under his feet instead of on his front, the better.