Thursday, 28 January 2010
Tuesday, 19 January 2010
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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’.
More booze and more food and we ended the evening with a hilarious game of charades – which if course the girls team won.
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.
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.
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.