Australia's biggest banana, the home of the gnomes, some frothy coffee, Cundletown (which incidentally wants to be autocorrected to cuddle town 🙂 ), pimply squash, timber towns, Santa hat wearing kangaroos, islands made of muttonbirds and acquiring a road trip mascot called five are just some of the things we've been up to in the last week… It has actually been most interesting to explore a new state… New South Wales genuinely has the widest variety of animal signs I have encountered yet… Kangaroos of course but wombats, koalas, horses, deer and quoll signs have all made an appearance… What has surprised the most though is how green the state is. The greenest state I've seen I think… Western Australia had many colourful flowers to blend with its green surround, Tassie a lot of blue and brown, Victoria a tinge of red and Northern Territory the dusty red of the outback. The further we drive north, we find an ever changing landscape. Through forests and plains, lakeways and coast, it is definitely a good way to appreciate Australia's divergence and contrast.
Thirteen days spent exploring together, Ben and I are getting on well. With a seemingly similar exploring philosophy, both liking brown sign scenic detours, he also either likes my propensity to make pictures of random banter or is very tolerant of this. He's learning very quickly that my mood is directly proportionate to mealtimes and that if I am starting to get cranky it is probably time to fashion a meal… I am learning that I can't get too easily distracted so I am on hand to provide navigational or directional assistance… For he seems to have a habit of going the wrong way… ;-). We'll blame the GPS… 😉 Definitely with his uses though, he has been giving me Flemish lessons. Very patient with me, I have high hopes of learning it properly :-). My favourites so far are 'alstublieft', which means please and 'pannekoek' for pancake. I have also learnt useful phrases 'een pintje alstublieft' and 'en een fritje met mayonaise' (a beer please and also some chips with mayonaise) for if I ever make it to Belgium… In other news, I have developed a fondness for happily balanced warm showers, acquired some lovely new insect bites, managed to get sunburnt on a cloudy day (I really should know better having been here so long) and developed an unhealthy liking for lime and black pepper red rock deli chips. They are actually amazing. Seeing some very beautiful places, interesting towns, nice beaches to walk, we have done too much to share all of it with you. Some particular favourites on the journey between Cessnock and Coffs Harbour though…
- We bay hopped round Port Stephens. Stopping at Nelson Bay, Shoal Bay and Fingal Bay, we watched kids jump in the water and enjoyed the crashing of the waves on the beach.
- Seal Rocks. An unplanned stop, arriving late afternoon, we walked the rocks at the water's edge. We sat and watched the world go by. This included a man taking a picture of an orange telephone… It reminded we still needed a road trip mascot…!
- We stayed the night in Banksia Campground in Myall Lakes national park. It rained all night. I got up in the morning and clambered over the sand dunes to the beach. It was a beautiful morning. Not quite brave enough to be immersed in the water, I made it leg high then relaxed on the beach enjoying the peaceful moment. Topped off with pancakes for breakfast, it is one of my favourite road trip mornings 🙂
- Booti Booti National Park. We walked on water at Smiths Lake and climbed up to Cape Hawke lookout. The highest point in the south east between Newcastle and Laurieton, named by Captain Cook in 1770, we learnt that booti booti means lots of honey and that the repitition of a word in a place name means 'lots of'. It was also a reminder to always carry insect repellent with some fierce mosquitoes joining us on the climb up the stairs.
- A funky bridge, colourful water and quirky shops made Forster one of my favourite towns. Walking its paths, both Ben and I agreed it had a really good feel about it. Always loving the quirky, random places, Coco's closet shop told us quite a few things in the window including 'choose happiness', 'be daring', 'smile' and had a very nice welcoming message on the floor. The fact I found out of date Santa's and Christmas cards in Forster only added to its character. A definite worthy stop on a trip north from Sydney.
- On the recommendation of a fellow camper, we spent the night in Hat Head national park. One of the quieter sites we have chosen, with only five other people we rolled in and made taco's just as the sun was setting. With company of just kangaroos for most of the night, grazing away, one of which let their joey out to hop around, with the stars overhead it was an awesome end to the day. Waking again to wildlife in the morning, we took the car for a spin on the beach. Save four others, we had the entire beach to ourself. Four wheel driving, after Ben 'engaged the hubs', listening to husky rescue (I quite liked this choice on Ben's part), I enjoyed the water and the waves. Me capturing my feet and Ben writing 'relax, nothing is under control' on the beach, after attempt number four to get back up the dunes we headed on our way, looking back on the beach from Kemp's corner lookout.
- I wasn't feeling Port MacQuarie when we drove in… Lunch and a wander after seeing what the visitor centre had to offer led us to the water. Guided on our path by painted rocks, there were rocks telling of love, of sadness, of family unity and many interesting pictures. I found one informing all that Braveheart was a good movie and that someone had walked 500 miles… I also found two Scottish flags :-). Undoubtedly one of my favourite things on the road trip, these rocks are awesome. Well worth walking the coastline for.
- Just further than Hat Head, I decided South West Rocks was a diversion worthy of a visit. It didn't let us down. The road leading there itself is pretty spectacular. Mountains, rivers and lots of green provide for an impressive driveway. Impressive coastline and a pretty beach, we enjoyed a late afternoon walk along its waters.
- Chilling out in Coffs Harbour. It was most nice to spend more than one night somewhere. My favourite moment there is Bruxton lookout. The drive up was awesome. We passed steep hills covered in banana trees, could see the sea and were met with an impressive view over the harbour.
- All the randomness we have encountered. Telling Ben we were in Pembroke he said back 'your pen broke…?' Nooooo. We have found not one, but two Bald Knob roads… The first one we saw, directing Ben's attention to it, he responded that it was better than it being hairy or cheesy… A point well made, he made me laugh. A bit random, we keep encountering squash centres in the towns we drive through… This led me to question whether Australia was good at squash in the Olympics…. Which resulted in Ben telling me its not an Olympic sport… Which then needed the help of google which corroborated the story but informed it very much does want to be an Olympic sport. Good luck to it. The highlight though was treating ourselves to dinner in Port MacQuarie and being left astounded when the latte that I had ordered appeared as a flat white (White coffee) and the long black (black coffee) that Ben had ordered arrived in a latte glass with a straw… A straw?! Who drinks coffee with a straw?! Actual madness…!!
Road tripping on… 😉