A Travellerspoint blog

Day 6 and 7 - Hunter Valley, Sydney, Hobart

Mission Impossible? The big wet continues

rain 21 °C
View Oz on pkd064's travel map.

This is another belated blog post that was started on the first evening that it relates to but we didn't finish it at that time. Those who are regular readers may recall that on days 4 and 5 we got thoroughly soaked in Port Macquarie but packed up our wet items, drove on and found a little cabin in the Hunter Valley to recover.

The objective of that night, while we were in our little cabin, was to get all of our wet gear, including the tent etc, completely dry and repacked before we had to leave it in the car while we went to Tassie. It was no small feat but we're pleased to say, "mission accomplished!"

With that behind us, we put everything into the car and ventured further into the Hunter Valley while keeping an eye on the weather. We visited a few of the big name vineyards but, being non-drinkers, we really just admired the view. We were most impressed by the Audrey Wilkinson vineyard which was in a particularly beautiful setting near Pokolbin.

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We then set out up a nearby 4.5km unsealed road so that we could get to the Pokolbin Mountain lookout. It was a bit boggy in places because of the recent rain and, to be completely honest, the view from the top wasn't all that special but some of the views along the way were lovely, especially those that looked toward Barrington Tops.

My favourite place though was the Hunter Valley Gardens and adjoining village. There's 60 acres of display gardens, including various themed gardens, a beautiful chapel for weddings, an aqua golf course and a small shopping village from which we bought some locally produced chocolates. The Chilli Bomb was fabulous.

Mmmm chocolate!

Mmmm chocolate!

The weather soon turned for the worse and reports suggested that we might be in for the biggest rainfall of our trip to date, with possible flash flooding in the Hunter region and in Sydney. Knowing that we had to fly out to Tasmania the next day, we decided to get closer to the airport.

Gosford seemed a good option but, when we tried going in from the north, we found head to tail traffic, supermarket parking lots that had cars up to their door sills in water and trees fallen on to houses. Apparently they had 83mm of rain in the hour prior to our arrival and it was still raining. We back-tracked to the Newcastle to Sydney motorway and continued into Sydney.

What a drive! The rain that had passed through Gosford continued south with us. Visibility was terrible, water was right across the road on the high passes prior to the Hawkesbury river and a van nearly rear ended us when we slowed for a car that abruptly stopped after a passing truck threw a huge sheet of water on to it's windscreen. I can't recall a time when I've felt more stressed behind the wheel.

We eventually made it to Mascot and checked into the Formule 1 hotel as I simply didn't care what our room was like...I just wanted to rest and not have to drive far the next day if the rain continued.

On Thursday morning we checked out of the hotel, put our car in long term parking, sat in the airport for 4 or 5 hours talking about the trip (mostly about the incessant rain) and playing Scrabble (as I recall it, I won, but Karen might remember things differently) and then, with a sense of relief and anticipation, flew out to Tasmania.

Posted by pkd064 00:20 Archived in Australia Tagged rain weather april nsw tas Comments (0)

Day 4 and 5 - Rain, rain, go away

Under the weather in Port Macquarie

rain 19 °C
View Oz on pkd064's travel map.

When we arrived in Port Macquarie yesterday (Sunday April 15th), just after 3pm, we set up our tent.  We're getting pretty practiced at that.

As we'd followed the previous night's poor sleep with a 5 and a bit hour drive we decided to stay in, prepared a simple meal and then went off to sleep...or Karen did.  I typed up day 3's blog entry.

Around 8:45pm the rain began but, by the time I went to sleep, it still wasn't particularly heavy and we woke to find that our little tent had held up well, everything outside was wet with light drizzle still happening.  That had stopped by the time we'd showered (don't ask me about the camp's amenities block) and eaten so we set out along Port Macquarie's waterfront walk and then into town for a little shopping (essentials only, not really "shopping" - thank goodness) and some sight seeing.

We found some novel art pieces.  The Barry's from work might like this one...

Barry

Barry

At the top of town we stopped in at a little Wesleyan Methodist chapel that was built in 1845.  A delightful older lady told us about it's history.  When we stepped back outside the rain began again so we headed, awning by awning, to the centre of town where we found a food court and had lunch while waiting for the rain to stop.  I don't know why Port has this attraction to cows but check out the chairs in the food court.  They all looked like brown and white cow hide.

CentrePort Chairs

CentrePort Chairs

The rain didn't stop but eased a bit so we donned our ponchos and headed back to camp.  We jumped in the car and had a look at some of the nearby beaches or bays getting the occassional rain break to take photos.

By 4pm we'd had 7mm of rain and it was getting really heavy.  A little bored at being tent bound, I took the only available measuring device I had (my arm) and worked out the volume of our little tent in cubic cubits...as you do.  As you can see from the following diagram, if the rain continued, and there were a couple of anxious elephants nearby, we'd be in real trouble!

Ark

Ark


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...and we were.  The rain just kept coming down.  4pm = 7mm, 6pm = 17mm.  Despite that, we went out for dinner and had a fabulous meal at the Pancake Place.  Great food, great service and a reasonable price...but the rain continued...

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...25mm (an inch for you old folk) when we woke at 4:30am, the next morning, with water lapping around our tent.  Alright that IS a bit of hyperbole but there were VERY big puddles, it was still raining heavily, and our tent, though still drip free, was looking pretty water-logged so we hopped in the car.  Realising we'd be packing up a very wet tent and other wet items and having to fit them in the car, we spent the next couple of hours before sunrise rearranging the contents of the boot and back seat of the car without ever hopping out of it.  I knew those gymnastics lessons at the PCYC as a kid would come in handy one day.

By the time we'd finally finished and were leaving Port Macquarie, 45mm of rain had fallen and it was still coming, albeit slowing.

My clever wife, who I must say has endured the last few days of rain with good grace, hopped on the phone as we headed southwest toward Cessnock in the Hunter Valley and changed our tent site into a self contained cabin with ensuite and reverse cycle air conditioning.  As I'm typing this, various parts of the tent, camp chairs, inflatable mattresses etc are drying around us.  It's a bit crowded, but we've got a view of the vineyard, we're blissfully dry and warm, the bed is really comfy and the fact that the Bureau issued a severe storm warning with risks of flash flooding for regions including the Hunter don't worry us.  We'll deal with that tomorrow.  G'night.

Posted by pkd064 13:18 Archived in Australia Tagged rain weather april nsw Comments (6)

Day 3 - Ballina to Port Macquarie via Coffs Harbour

Church in Coffs

overcast 23 °C
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Day 3 was primarily a get from here to there day.

After sleeping (hah?!) in the car we got off to an early start without the need to pack the tent. A long shower in the great BHPL facilities (have I praised BHPL enough yet?) made us feel much better. If there had been any other campers up at that time they'd have probably been surprised to see us go into the showers in our daggies and emerge in our Sunday best. It was almost a caterpillar to butterfly transformation but I'll confess to still feeling a bit like Heimlich from A Bug's Life...

When planning for the Oz trip we'd decided that part of the whole experience for us would be attending church, whenever possible, in a new town each Sunday. So, as we ate breakfast, we deliberated over which of 3 nearby towns, Lismore, Grafton or Coffs Harbour, we'd attend church in. Lismore seemed to be a needless westerly detour from our southerly path and Grafton seemed too close. Coffs Harbour, about 220km away, seemed juuust right so we set out shortly before 7 to ensure we'd be in time for church at 10.

The run down the Pacific highway was easy with a pleasant mix of river lands, cloud filled valleys lit by the morning sun, interesting bridges, occasionally pot holed roads and frequent road side reminders to "Check your speed" - if I did that as often as they suggested I'd rarely be looking at the road. Thank goodness for cruise control.

The church members at Coffs Harbour were lovely and, as it happens, we arrived on a day when they were watching General Conference (a semi-annual broadcast). They put on a light lunch between sessions and invited us to join them.

Coffs Harbour Chapel

Coffs Harbour Chapel

After that unexpected but lovely meal we drove another 2 1/2 hours southward to Port Macquarie, and found our caravan park. My Mum always told me "if you can't say anything nice then don't say anything at all", so I'll just say that the tent area was well grassed and it's close to the water and the CBD.

Why have I posted this so early in the afternoon? Wait for Day 4's entry and you'll understand.

Posted by pkd064 16:57 Archived in Australia Tagged bridges churches accommodation april nsw Comments (2)

Day 2 - Something's Missing!

sunny 22 °C
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I finished yesterday's blog shortly before I went to sleep.

Having now slept in the tent for only the second time (yes the SECOND time - those who know Karen and I well know that we like to be prepared so when we first bought the tent and other camping gear we pitched it in the back yard and slept in it) I can say that it was quite pleasant.

We woke to find the tent fly and floor of the little annex area damp from the night's rain but everything inside was completely dry. There's one worry behind us as it didn't rain when we did our trial camp at home.

BHLP Tent Site 4

BHLP Tent Site 4

Frill necked lizard

Frill necked lizard

We had our breaky, used the BHLP's excellent shower facilities and then chatted briefly with Kerry and Brian who, in one of life's little coincidences, were on their way northward to the Sunshine Coast from their home in Tasmania. I hope other parts of our trip give us opportunities to talk to folks that we meet. I'm pretty sure it will as Karen has one of those faces and manners that says "talk to me.". Perhaps that's why I sat beside her on that Tallebudgera beach so many years ago?

A little later we went for a drive to check out Ballina's sights. After looking around the town we found our way to Shelly Beach where we parked and went for a stroll. As it did yesterday, it showered while we walked...

Shelly Beach Ballina

Shelly Beach Ballina


Shelly Beach

Shelly Beach

Shelly Beach

Shelly Beach

The photos and panorama above (click on any thumbnail to enlarge it) are of the two halves of Shelly Beach that are divided by a rocky headland and lookout but connected by a cycle path. Here's a link to a larger panorama.

Other than a bit of grocery shopping in the largest IGA I've ever seen and a quite cold swim in the pool back at camp the remainder of the afternoon passed lazily by...with one exception...but more on that later.

As dinner time approached we decided to check out Ballina's culinary offerings. If a good measure of a restaurant's food is the number of people that are there then perhaps the only places in Ballina worth eating at are a small take-away chicken shop or the RSL or Bowl's club but there may be other attractions in the last 2 places.

The Tent's Gone!

The Tent's Gone!

As you can see from this photo, when we got back to camp, ready to go to sleep, something was missing...our tent!

No, there weren't any tent rustlers around. We'd chosen to pack it up earlier while it was dry as we had to make an early start the next day. It turned out to be a wise move as it rained a couple of times that night. "But where did you sleep?" you ask. In the car. Karen's 5 foot 3 height made her much better suited for that than I was! I can relate to those roast chickens in Ballina...I turned like I was on a rotisserie all night.

Posted by pkd064 19:27 Archived in Australia Tagged me beaches accommodation ocean karen april nsw perry Comments (1)

Day 1 - Byron Bay, Cape Byron Lighthouse, Ballina

semi-overcast 22 °C
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Well, after months of planning and waiting we finally set out this morning shortly after 10.

About 3 hours later, a little after 1pm, we stopped in Byron Bay for lunch. The weather was a pleasant 22' and sunny, albeit with some incoming cloud, and, while we ate our lunch, it began to lightly shower.

Byron Bay weather

Byron Bay weather

Although we'd seen the sights of Byron before, I really wanted to walk up to the Cape Byron lighthouse. It's a pretty walk and seemed to be a good way to get back into hiking as we'd done very little of that in the last 8 weeks or so. We drove a little closer, parked in Palm Valley, donned our boots and my knapsack and set out on the 2.7k round trip. It showered on and off as we walked but we had our ponchos ready and were untroubled by it.

Families enjoying Wategos Beach

Families enjoying Wategos Beach

About 2/3s of the way up the 146m ascent we reached the most easterly part of mainland Australia, Cape Byron. Yes, it's kind of nerdy to be excited about that but I'm sure my kids won't be surprised that I was.

Go East Young Woman!

Go East Young Woman!

We continued on to the Cape Byron lighthouse. Constructed in 1901, it was one of the last lighthouses built on the NSW coastline. Apparently the ease with which the bay could be seen from the sea led to the government of the day electing to not build one here when the other lighthouses were built in the mid 1800s.

Cape Byron Lighthouse

Cape Byron Lighthouse

As we went back to the car we saw a pod of dolphins swimming among the waves. As their fins sliced through the surf, and an occasional dolphin leapt from the sea, sea birds reeled overhead probably drawn by the same small fish that the dolphins seemed to be chasing.

Karen was fascinated by the behavior of some of the birds. They'd circle, swoop low to get a better look at the fish, go into a steep climb and then at the apex of their climb they'd abruptly drop and nose dive straight into the sea coming up moments later, often without a fish, and then repeat the process.

This was the first walk where we used trekking poles. These collapsible alloy poles (Helinox brand for those who are curious) made the walk so much easier. At the steepest parts of the climb, where our middle aged backs, knees and hips would usually be complaining, the poles were distributing the pressure more evenly across our whole body letting us maintain a more upright posture and faster pace. I was a little skeptical about the benefits of poles before today but now I'm sold.

Helinox Trekking Poles

Helinox Trekking Poles

On the way back to the car we came across a tourist who appeared to be rolling up his surfboard! It turned out to be an inflatable stand up paddleboard. He and his kids had been enjoying the Byron surf on it.

After returning to the car we continued south, staying on the coast road instead of returning to the Pacific highway. The run past Lennox Head and on into Ballina is pleasant although a bit potholed.

Our final stop for the day was the Ballina Headlands Leisure Park on Skennars Head road. The weather was kind to us, as the showers stopped while we put up our tent. For a couple whose usual idea of a nice holiday is somewhere that's fancier than home, the Park was a pleasant surprise. It is very well maintained and has great facilities.

Well, it's time I joined Karen in the land of nod. I'm sure I'll have no trouble as I listen to the chorus of the crickets, the sound of the wind and occassional rainfall on the tent fly. G'night.

Posted by pkd064 21:02 Archived in Australia Tagged me landscapes beaches gear weather karen april nsw perry Comments (1)

Before our trip

sunny

Here we are at the top of Mt. Coolum in Queensland. It was one of a number of practise hikes before we set out for our Oz trip.

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Posted by pkd064 02:46 Archived in Australia Tagged me karen Comments (1)

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