Italics are Narda’s notes – straight up – Terrell’s scribbles…
Laurieton 26 November 2020
On the road early this morning; well, by 9.30 am. In retirement speak that is early. Locals have been saying we should visit the nearby hamlet of Laurieton, 42 km south of Port Macquarie. As you would know from your upbringing the Birpai (also known as Birrbay) people have lived in this area for more than 40,000 years.
We rode our bikes around town, over a couple of bridges which are in the amazing video below; the one with friendly kangaroos, a slow-moving goanna, a pod of hungry pelicans, and to the top of North Brother Mountain – with its fantastic view of the Pacific Ocean and our day at Diamond Head. Not the one in Hawaii – of course.
Further useful information is that Captain James Cook named “the Brothers” on 12 May 1770 for their resemblance to mountains in his native Yorkshire. He was unwittingly mirroring the name given to them by the Birpai. The Camden Haven area was explored on foot by John Oxley in 1818 and was first settled by Europeans in the early 1820s. A convict settlement was established at nearby Port Macquarie in 1821 and the first settlers were limeburners burning oyster shells for buildings there. Some of these lived at the foot of North Brother.
We did come across some large oyster farms on our bike trip. Too expensive for me, and Narda does not like them. They were $20 a dozen at the factory – before they hit the shops. I looked up whether these were overpriced and discovered that the most expensive oysters in the world come from Coffin Bay, a mere two hours up the road, and retail for $100 EACH. Why? Well, they are ENORMOUS: 18cm long and weighing up to 1kg.
We stopped at the local Coles Supermarket and bought lunch fixings of smoked salmon, rolls, Castello Blue cheese, and Farmer Union Iced Coffee (the best iced coffee in Australia, of course, from South Australia and took the dirt road to Diamond Head Camping grounds in the Crowdy Bay National Park. [Diamond Head gained its name from the quartz rich rocks, plentiful in the area, which contain an abundance of small, perfectly formed, clear quartz crystals whose appearance resembles diamonds.] Having lived in Waikiki for more than a year, a few blocks from Diamond Head Crater, I was intrigued by the sign pointing to Diamond Head when we were driving out of town. It is a beautiful place overlooking the Pacific with a lot of folks camping. If we had not already settled in on back in Port Macquarie we may have come here. Of course, Diamond Head in Hawaii is a volcanic tuff cone on the Hawaiian island of Oʻahu and known to Hawaiians as Lēʻahi. The Hawaiian name is most likely derived from lae plus ʻahi because the shape of the ridge line resembles the shape of a tuna’s dorsal fin.
November 25 2020 Hastings River
We took the Hastings River Ferry from the Ferry terminal in Port Macquarie, New South Wales across the North Shore then rode the 9 K’s to the Settlement Point Ferry through the countryside. then back home to our caravan park.
November 24 2020
Yesterday, strong winds near a lighthouse warning of sharp rocks. A very blue sky, and an even bluer ocean. Walks with trails warning of snakes, glorious overhanging rainforest. Us on a balcony high above Port (the name the locals have for their lovely little city), There is a view and a constant breeze all around us. Our final night on the hill was a spectacular light show of lightning, with jagged spikes and light flashes showing the whole coast for a split second. We relaxed, the thunder came much later.
Today, cycling to Maccas for our morning 2-for-one decent senior coffee. Under the cicadas in the trees, the noise is sometimes deafening. Our caravan park is on the shore of the Hastings River. Last night we sat near the wharf in total silence.
Even the water, a wide expanse, had no ripples, Only those caused by the lone pelican which patrols the wharf. He seems quite old.
Today is Maggie’s 9th birthday. She got some money. I asked her what she might spent it on. She replied, in her 15-year-old voice, “clothes oma, duh”.
Stop 1, Broken Hill
An offer of home exchanging with Pt Macquarie came through Homelink from Geoff and Rosalind. So here we are tyres pumped to 45 and 38 at the front, car serviced and way too many clothes packed. We managed Adelaide to Broken Hill in one shot, despite our misgivings. Following the same route as Brendan did in July. Stayed at the racecourse on the outer edge of town, not a great spot though it had lots of caravans ($20 no power), but next morning took a nice walk down main street with a coffee stop and a magnet purchase at the newsagent, which had opened 6.30am on a Sunday morning. Impressive!
We are up and ready early; thought we would be on the road at seven, maybe even six am. We slept in the caravan the night before and had the car attached, ready to race across Australia @ our usual elderly, dragging our home behind us pace. These plans seldom mature, we did well though, 8:15 out the door and headed across the country. Fifteen minutes later we were at the grandchildren’s house as we will miss Maggie’s ninth birthday later in November, we dropped off her birthday present. We give cash these days as children have too many toys that disappear into landfill for the next generation of architectural nightmares to be built upon. Maggie was happy as she is saving for roller skates.
Finally, on the road by nine, still a good start for us. We managed to go for almost an hour before pulling over for our first coffee stop. Port Macquarie seemed like a long way away. ‘18 hr 4 min (1,747.9 km) via Sturt Hwy/A20’ according to Google Maps, meaning it will take us five days if we hurry.
What a time we live in. This is our first long road trip since arriving back from The Netherlands more than seven months ago when we went into quarantine for a couple of weeks and stayed home for the following months except for two short camping trips.
We had Brendan with us for these seven months. Teaching in Lahore, Pakistan he was given 48-hour notice to leave due to Covid-19, did his quarantine in Adelaide then spent every weekday with us teaching his fifth-grade class via Zoom @ our house. The door was closed but we would listen in sometimes. They sounded like quite lively classes, quite different from the years Narda and I were teaching. One of my favourite interactions was when Narda took him a cup of coffee and a child in Lahore watching said, ‘you still live with your mother?’ We stayed away the rest of the time. We would have dinner every day at five pm as that was lunch time in Lahore and the children would be away for half an hour. They still had their regular schedules such as their specials; Phys ed, library, even music classes. All through Zoom as they were home. Sixteen students are a lot, I would think, to keep track of via computer, but Brendan did. It is an American private school with classes taught in English. We had visited Lahore in November 2019 (blog @ https://neuage.me/2019/11/29/lahore/) including a visit to Brendan’s school.
Brendan returned to Lahore a few days ago. They were doing a mixture of in-person teaching at the school and online teaching. After a week, the school went into lockdown and Brendan is back to teaching on Zoom, hopefully temporarily.
Two days before we left, my son, Sacha, came over from Melbourne. He had to do a two-week quarantine at a hotel as the border between his home state, Victoria and our COVID-19-free state has been closed since July so we got to see him for a couple of days before leaving. I wrote about that , ‘A cautionary tale’, https://neuage.me/2020/10/25/a-cautionary-tale/ at the time.
What a time before we left. I voted a month ago as I am a duel citizen, born in Michigan, growing up (sort of) in New York until 16 then all over the States (mainly New Orleans, NYC, Hawaii, California, Maryland, and Oregon until 33 years old when I moved to Australia). As New Jersey was our last home (Narda and I lived in Jersey City in 2010) I am voting through that state. Sacha, another one of those duel citizens you read about in comic books, born in Hawaii in 1981, six-months before we moved to Adelaide, voted in his first USA election, via Hawaii.
Narda, not exactly a duel citizen, we lived in New York from 2002 – 2010 (including a bit in New Jersey at the end) has a strong tie to what happens in the States. Her son, grandson and daughter-in-law live in Washington DC not far from the White House. We were so sure Biden would win by a landslide and it would be obvious by the end of election day on the third of November. We were aware of all that Bill Maher has been saying all year that Trump would be ahead by election night and would proclaim himself the victor. Tuesday in the USA is Wednesday in Adelaide. We had the TV on all day and as the day progressed so did Trump’s numbers. We were extremely upset and stressed along with 75,000 million Americans who voted for Biden. I became physically ill, sore throat, cough, runny nose – not COVID-19 because we had not been anywhere to catch it. The next day, our Thursday, things were looking even worse, with Trump declaring himself the winner. We got Sacha’s car back to him at six am as he was through his 14-day quarantine and we went out to brekky. At home we continued to pack and prepare for our road trip and three-week house exchange in Port Macquarie. We spent Friday with Sacha, the news of Biden getting Michigan (my birthplace) then leading in Nevada and Arizona was helping us heal. Then there was Georgia. Really! How could that be? A southern state voting for a Democrat. Holy Guacamole! Yes, it was true with more and more votes going toward Biden.
We felt good driving toward our first night’s destination, Broken Hill. We got there five o’clock, taking only eight hours for a typical five-and a half hour drive. We take turns every hour or so and the passenger keeps the driver UpToDate with what is happening in the States. We even took a break from the election, that Saturday, four days later, to listen to Michael Palin’s audiobook on his trip to North Korea. A good listen or read if you need something interesting to take your mind off whatever.
Broken Hill was our first time out of South Australia since March. There was no one at the border stopping people coming in. I believe it is only those coming into South Australia that are being stopped and checked that they have permission to enter. We are hoping when we return in December that the border is totally open. We plan to come home via Victoria if those borders are open. It is impossible to know what will be. The worse that could happen would be a new surge of viruses and we would have to quarantine in a hotel in Adelaide like Sacha did, @ $3000 for two-weeks, which we will not do. We will just camp as long as it takes to get home.
I passed through Broken Hill in 1992 when my 87-year old father came to visit from New York. My two children and I picked him up at Sydney Airport with a rented large RV and spent a few weeks driving up through Queensland and back to Adelaide via Broken Hill. [tales of such a life in, “Leaving Australia, ‘Again’: Book 2 ‘After’” https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M2CBL0X]. Narda and I had coffee and took a short walk with the agreement that we would return here in a few months and spend a week exploring Broken Hill
We found Broken Hill Racecourse Campground, which is listed in our free and/or cheap caravan places. It cost $20, cheaper than the usual $35 – $45 formal camping places.
Clean bathrooms and showers and quiet. We left the next morning @ 7.30 AM, stopping for coffee and a couple of hour later in the town of Wilcannia. This was the third largest inland port in the country during the great river boat era of the mid-19th century. At the 2016 census, Wilcannia had a population of 549. We had heard/read quite negative things about this town, though all we saw were closed shops with bars over the windows. We had a bit of lunch alongside the Wilcannia River. Narda, as she does, found some lads fishing and sat down and had a conversation with them about fishing, school, the river…’the river has gone down a lot over the years’.
The four boys were in agreement about Perch being much nicer to eat than Carp. They had sling shots which they told me were quite strong. I got a demonstration. The stone reached the other side of the Darling River. Two of the boys were in grade 4, one in grade 3. ’But he is in grade 5’. There is clearly a pecking order.
About the water level, was it getting lower? I was assured in an Eastern European accent by the boy in grade 5 that in 2016, the water level rose ‘very high’.
I told them I was a teacher. They looked at me with no expression and made no comment.
I had read several blogs written by my Grey Nomad fellow travellers, warning against stopping too long in this town. It was supposed to be dangerous and there was talk about caravans being vandalized.
All the windows we saw, petrol station, Catholic Care office, and the supermarket had completely barred windows.
The river is currently quite low.
Our next stop was along the Bogan River in Bogan Shire. Of course, I had to get my photo taken in front of the sign…
noun: bogan; plural noun: bogans
an uncouth or unsophisticated person regarded as being of low social status.
Definitions from Oxford Languages
There is a great Australian series for those not versed in Australian lore… Upper Middle Bogan (TV Series 2013–2016) – IMDb “Middle class woman, Bess Denyar, discovers she’s adopted. She’s shocked to find her birth parents head up a drag racing team in the outer suburbs.” I loved this series, and it is what has made me realize that all I want in life is to enhance/fulfill my life as a bogan in retirement.
Stop 2, Cobar
Caravan park. We watched Jo Biden speak to the nation while eating chiko rolls at the local service station. The Indian person behind the counter obligingly turned up the volume for us.
This trip has been completely dominated by the US election. We have had trouble sleeping but are now making jubilant daily phone calls with Chris in celebration mode.
By late afternoon we arrived in Cobar, staying @ the Cobar Caravan Park, http://www.cobarcaravanpark.com.au/. We paid $20 for a site without electricity/water. It was better than the power sites as they are closer to one another. The shower/toilet blocks are available for all and as we do not need the electricity non-powered sites are best for us. We rode our bikes through the small town and that is about all we can say for this stop.
Tuesday, the 10th, a week since election, we are feeling better about the States. We avoid any news about Trump, so that we can view life as once again normal. We managed to go for almost two hours before stopping for coffee and ice cream in a town called ‘Nevertire’. To state the obvious, not being tired we continued to Dubbo.
Stop 3, Dubbo
Adelaide is the haemorrhoid of Australia. This was our greeting as we pulled into a central, somewhat feral caravan park called Poplars. The guy had travelled all over, Bolivia, Thailand and South African, but he was not having Adelaide. He charged us $30 pn with power. Turns out Bren was there too, on a grassy spot with a view of the bridge. Kmart, Coles etc across the road, lots of bike trails and parks and a decent Asian Wok takeway. Easy stop, despite the caretaker. So, we stayed and did the right thing by visiting the Dubbo Zoo. We rode our bikes and it was great.
The only memory I have of Dubbo is from my drive-thru with my 87-year old father and Sacha (11) and Leigh (9). We went to the Dubbo Zoo, which is a zoo one can stay in their vehicle and drive through. [Formerly an army camp during World War Two, the site was transformed into a 300-hectare oasis of woodland and irrigated grassland. Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo opened to the public on 28th February 1977 and was the first zoo in Australia to be constructed on the open range principle.] This time Narda and I rode our bikes to the zoo from the Poplars Caravan Park we spent two nights at. The zoo is merely fifteen minutes away and we spent most of the day riding through the zoo. We are not zoo people; I think the only one we have been to in the past twenty years was the Thiruvananthapuram Zoo in Kerala, India, which is a great zoo with huge outdoor areas for the animals. Dubbo Zoo has larger areas than the Thiruvananthapuram Zoo for animals to roam. We especially liked a performance by some bamboo apes – We have a short clip at https://youtu.be/ug_n_TG6WcA
Our other favourite display were the Galapagos tortoises – We have a short clip at https://youtu.be/RtVWFWGrG4M
As with any tourist event we were met at the entrance to the zoo by the local mayor-peacock,
The Poplars Caravan Park is a bit feral, a few long-term stayers, a bit of rubbish and car parts and ‘bogans’ around the place. At $30 per night it is cheap. The toilet blocks are a bit gross, the owner a loud opinionated character; “I loved America, the only problem is that it is full of Americans”. Narda has some quotes in her piece above. However, we did not mind, it is across the street from a shopping centre with Coles and Target and two blocks from the main street where we got take-away Chinese food our first night. There is a good bike trail along the Macquarie River taking us to the zoo and further if we were less lazy. The caravan park gets a one- and two-star rating on the Internet. We found it all quite convenient and quiet enough for a stay.
Stop 4. Jerry’s Landing
Fancy fences for horses in beautiful country. A shady spot, free, with clean toilets; this was Jerry’s Landing. We considered the pub but agreed on another caravan meal to eat through our fresh stuff, accompanied by Terrell’s gourmet egg dish which we have named “Bloody Eggs”: two sunny -side-up eggs slathered in tomato chutney. YUM.
We are out by 8 am and to our next destination, a free camp area in the village of Jerry’s plains. One of our better stays. Quiet, except for the road trains on the nearby highway. A very well cared for toilet block is nearby and we have a good sleep and are rested for our early morning trek to the New South Wales coast.
Google claims it is only a tad bit over three hours to Port Macquarie, so we are up early I eat brekky (Narda is doing one of those 16-hour fasts, eating only between noon and 6 or 7 pm) and we are on our way. We have all day as we are to meet our house-exchange hosts at five pm. After a couple of hours we see the New South Wales Coast, and as it is only mid-day and we have hours before we need to be in Port Macquarie and we are elderly folks who have already driven for a couple of hours, we pull over, have lunch, take an hour nap. We did not put the top of the caravan up as we did not want to look settled in.
Arriving in Pt Macquarie
Try it sometime, getting a big chunky caravan onto a vacant block, which has many trees and slopes steeply in two directions. Add to that a friendly neighbour, who offers to keep an eye on it, but does not want it to have a view of her living room, nor be anywhere close to her overhanging bushes which are due for a clipping on Wednesday. Half an hour later I had crushed the top of the awning against a tree. OK, enough; we have the caravan on the highest plastic risers and can sleep in it. If we decided to go to the portapotty sometime during the night, we would stagger into the left wall of the van.
Despite all this, we slept well. We enjoyed a nice evening tea with our hosts featuring local whiting (they assured us that the SA King George whiting was better), but it was nice evening meal. We were introduced to the Blue Burmese cat aristocracy. She, an elite member, has complete control over the occupants of the house. She sleeps in the queen bed in the master bedroom, uses the ensuite toilet (not kidding!!!). The only thing she does not do, is flush the toilet.
Our hosts come from SA originally, she was a Uniting Church pastor in Dernancourt, and knew the Hope Valley folks. Small world. Lovely people.
EmCee, the cat, does not sleep with us. We have decided to use the other bedroom and she’s not allowed in. Despite that, she will happily sleep on our laps while we watch Netflix, and we are actually taking quite a shine to her. This morning at 6.30 am she was waiting at our door. Bless.
Day 3 I think
There are a couple of guys working on solar panel on the house opposite in very HIGH winds. I have my caravan first aid kit ready to go. We’ve had warm weather, a nice walk yesterday morning to Miner’s Beach, just a few minutes down the road. Speccie!! Today we are getting the storms that seem to be crossing our country. Here just very windy with some spots of rain but not cold.
We got 2 cups of coffee, one small and one regular. The small one was free a Maccas for us tight arsed seniors. The area is called New Setttlement. Lots of homes on water front, which has been extended by artificial canals. But nice. We prefer the older bits, with a mixture of old houses, ex beach shacks and places on stilts. The new area is all square Lochiel Park style housing, mostly white.
“Ten years ago, my wife left me for my best friend. I still miss him”. That’s our host on the cruise. He and his wife busily doling out generous serves of pizza which was delivered to the boat on the of the landings. Then icecream with choose-your-own maltesers and lollies. No dophins really, just the occasional arched dive you had to be quick to see. But all in all very pleasant on a Sunday morning.
So now I am watching with alarm as these tradies and trying to hoist the panels onto the to roof across the road. The wind has not abated.
After two days here we did the most touristy thing to do, a dolphin cruise. https://cruiseportmacquarie.com.au/ We saw a few dolphins, the two-hour cruise was really good including all the pizza we wanted, I always get a lot as few chose the vegetarian selection.
,morning we took an hour walk down the cliff and to Miners Beach. What a beautiful area we are in, every day we will walk a different route either through the rainforest or along the beach. Our clip of Miners Beach – https://youtu.be/9lHozBc4vzM
There is so much to do and see. Today or tomorrow we will go to the Koala hospital, https://www.koalahospital.org.au/. We are looking at some 4-wheel drive into heavy rain-forest areas north of here too.
Meanwhile, we are settling in to a routine of getting up early, walking along the beach or through the local rain forest, blogging, taking an afternoon nap and watching shows on Netflix and Stan; currently watching Scorpion (Stan) which is getting routine by season three or four – whatever it is we are up to – they all blend into the same do-overs, Republic of Doyle, on Netflix, a Canadian comedy-drama television series set in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador – two places we are looking for a house-exchange in as they look really good. Like Scorpion, it is getting quite routine by season four, but we like the characters. And the wacky Black Books, a British sitcom that must be watched to believe – up there with Schitt’s Creek though sillier. And less ‘nice’.(N). And ‘Brave New World’.
Tuesday, the 17th, we did the Sea Acres rain-forest walk, almost walking distance from our home, though we drove there. Well worth the visit.
There is an elevated path through it. We have a minute video at https://youtu.be/NNvjTWOedSo
We liked seeing and learning about the Strangler Fig, a Steven King type of vegetation.
After six or seven months of no virus in South Australia and the borders closed to Victoria, news today has it that Adelaide has its first Covid-19 cluster – 17. Not much compared to the rest of the world or even the rest of Australia but enough to shut down the state. Within a day of the news Western Australia and the Northern Territory have closed their borders to South Australia. We are in the next state over and so far, there is no lock down with New South Wales. Thought they are saying if you were in South Australia since the ninth of November to quarantine here, lucky for us we left SA on the seventh of November. At this time, we are still planning to go back home December 3rd, so we will see what happens.
STOP…OK things change. Yesterday, 18th, November – Wednesday, the folks who we are exchanging homes with rang. ‘Adelaide has just gone into a six day hard shutdown…as of midnight no travel…’ there was more but at 3 pm, when our hosts first heard the news they had until midnight to get out of South Australia or face staying at our house for six-days. Nothing bad about that, we have a nice home with a yard, a shed with my 183 ties [https://neuage.org/iso/], greenscreen studio and so much more as well as a sometimes-visiting koala in our front gumtree as well as very at home magpies visiting daily. However, they were concerned it could turn into two weeks then longer. Being in their 80s they did not wish to hang about in a covid hotspot, so they made a runner for the New South Wales border town of Broken Hill. They managed to get there by 9 pm which is really a good run to do in six hours. It took us much longer but then we stop for coffee every ten minutes or so. Bottom line, they want their house back. We checked out caravan places, we love it here and are not ready to go back to locked down South Australia, we could not travel there anyway now. We found what we liked best along the Hastings River.
Today, the next day, from the day before; which some call tomorrow if they were saying this yesterday, morning, our hosts rang and said they were going to take their time coming across New South Wales and were visiting family on the way. Perhaps next Monday, today is Thursday, they would arrive. We are happy with this arrangement as we like their large home overlooking Port Macquarie – and it is easier making a mess in their kitchen than in our caravan.
Talk at ya later…
6 day lockdown
“You can stay downstairs if you like. We would like to leave as Adelaide is going into full lock down, starting midnight. We’re planning to drive out of the state before midnight”. “That’s fine, said we, “there is always the caravan and we can find a park in this town easily.” Our minister host and her husband are on their way back.
So off we went to check it all out. The first park, the town park is expensive, right on the beach and people are walking through it all the time. We actually discovered this park on yesterday’s beach walk. Up a hill, down a hill, along a beautiful beach and so on. Then there is the Park next to Aldi’s. A bit too Aldi, even for us! Then we found a beautiful park in the Hastings River, full of residents, and only a few caravan sites, quiet and relatively cheap….. and a bonus: still close to Aldi. Bike riding country, nice and flat, unlike where we are currently living on the top of Summit Rd….the name speaks for itself.
“We have arrived in Broken Hill and have decided to meander around and take our time to get home”. OK so now we can stay until Monday or Tuesday. It’s all good; nice to have the freedom to be flexible.
Before the Rainforest board walk, I bought my groovy new drink bottle for $18 eeek.
Strangler figs abound. They grow from the top down, wrap their tentacles around the host tree, which dies in time, leaving a (often enormous) hollow strangler fig, which provides food for the inhabitants of the forest.
Finally, I have ordered new glasse., though I could change my mind before the eye test on Monday! 😊
I am off to grab my umbrella from the car to go hang gliding – hope to see ya all soon.