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Goodbye Australia

Written on: Monday February 5th, 2007

A journal entry from: The Winter of 2006/2007

We drove out of Sydney, on the 31st, because of all the National Parks surrounding the north of Sydney we had to take a bit of a circuitous route but soon we were leaving the traffic behind us. After a couple of hours it was time for a stop and at Terragil we found a sharp walk up to a promontory with a lookout. That gave us our exercise for the day. In fact there were some ladies who were walking up and down the hill just to get exercise. A short time later we stopped for a look at Elisabeth Beach but then we accepted the fact that would probably be our only contact with the coast that day until we reached Hawks Nest where we?d planned to overnight. This was more like it, the RV site only cost $22.20, it was a short walk to a windless beach and we didn?t have to pay for the barbie. It?s funny how you look at a map and imagine the place you?re going to, most of the time the places were quite different. I?d imagined Hawk?s Nest to be quite the holiday town but it was a bit of a backwater, don?t understand why as the beach and scenery were quite lovely but we felt as if we just about had the place to ourselves.   We were now within 700 kms of Brisbane and the next day I?d planned a short day (180 kms) to Port McQuarrie which is a bigger centre and I thought we?d want to spend more time there. However when we got there it was drizzling so we decided to have a walk around the town and then press on. Port McQuarrie was originally established as a place to imprison convicts who were repeat offenders but it?s now a beautiful city which seems to be growing rapidly. We felt as if we?d seen as much as we wanted to see after a couple of hours though and decided to put some more miles (kms) behind us. This brought us to Macksville, with a campsite that cost $19.00 with free Barbie ? things are looking up.     February 1st dawned; we only had an hour?s drive to Coffs Harbour, a place I?d heard a lot about and was looking forward to visiting. It was a bigger place than I?d imagined and very busy, we followed the signs to the harbour and parked up. A walkway took us to yet another Muttonbird Island ? there must be a lot of them in Australia. This time though we found out what the Muttonbird is all about. Apparently they?re migratory birds who fly from the Phillipines to nest on the Australian coast. They build their nests in burrows ? usually on islands ? lay their eggs and raise their chicks on regurgitated fish. They spend all day fishing and return to their nests on a night, the chicks apparently get so fat that sometimes they can?t get out of the burrow. Once the chicks have their flight wings, the adults give them instructions on how to get to the Philipines and leave them to find their own way there. The chicks that manage to find their way, spend about half the year there and then return to Australia, to the same burrow, to begin the cycle all over again. We may have seen a couple of Muttonbirds flying around but we certainly smelled the fish that they regurgitated, the island stank of it.   We had originally planned to overnight in Coffs Harbour but because we?d covered more ground the previous day we had to replan where we would stay that night. Yamba was the stopping point that seemed to work. On the map it appeared to be similar in size to Hawk?s Nest so we were in for a surprise when we arrived in a neat town with a lovely shopping area. The town was situated between an estuary and the ocean, our campsite was situated on the estuary but with a short walk we could be on the surf beach. After a bit of shopping we took our books and towels down to the estuary beach (is this starting to sound like a familiar routine?), it wasn?t long before we were hot enough to need a swim so we waded into the water. The estuary is tidal and the tide was on its way out so the water wasn?t deep, I had a quick cool off dip and went back to my towel, Roger stayed in a bit longer but soon joined me. A few minutes later a woman walking a dog stopped to tell us that when Roger was in the water a dolphin had been only 10 yards from him. There were two dolphins she said and she?d been watching one of them chase a fish and he?d got pretty close to Rog and then veered away. She then pointed them out and we could see the two of the swimming away. Well we?d already fallen in love with Yamba but that made it extra special.    We would have loved to stay at Yamba an extra day but we were conscious of the fact that we only had two days left before we had to take the van back so the next morning we had a quick drive around the surrounding area which only confirmed the fact that this was our favourite camping spot of the whole trip, wish we?d found it earlier and could have had longer there.    We drove to just south of Surfers? Paradise which put us within 125 kms of Brisbane so we knew if anything went wrong with the van, we would still be able to make our flight two days later. Along the way we called in at Lennox Heads and Byron Bay, both places that we?ve been to in the past with Kay and Ian for long weekends.   We ended up at a small place called Pottsville which we would have found delightful if we hadn?t been spoiled by Yamba the previous night. Anyway once again we were on a campsite with access to the beach either on an estuary or on the ocean. We took advantage of the good weather, had some time on the beach, went to the local market and then had a drive to Tweed Heads which seems to hover along the border of New South Wales and Queensland. There?s an hour?s time difference between the two states so it must be very confusing. It was Sunday so Tweed Heads was very busy with people beaching and surfing everywhere, from there we were able to see Surfers? Paradise which seems to grow by the week.   On Monday morning we drove to Brisbane. It was funny to be there knowing that we wouldn?t see Kay, Ian, Ben and Anna. We picked up our golf clubs from Kay?s neighbour who had been good enough to store them for us and had a quick chat and a farewell to her, then we had a few hours to spare before we took the van back so we parked at Nudgee beach ? which actually has no beach at all but it was quiet and we were able to sit in the shade and read. There were tons of jellyfish in the water there, I?ve never seen so many.    We dropped our luggage off at our hotel which was close to the airport and the van drop off site. Before leaving Brisbane we?d gone to check where we were supposed to take the van just so we wouldn?t be driving around getting panicky. We had to fill the van up with gas but had difficulty  finding a gas station which was a bit weird so close to the airport, anyway we did eventually find somewhere, filled it up and went looking for the rental place. Both Roger and I were convinced we knew where we were going and for once we agreed on the direction and the side of the road where the rental place was but after driving for a while we realised that something had gone wrong. So I got out the rental agreement, looked up the address and we were hopelessly off-base. We were on the right road but not in the right place. When we eventually did find the rental place it was right next to the gas station where we?d filled up!!   The best laid plans?..   Anyway there were no horrible charges, they didn?t appear to notice there was a hubcap missing, although we?re not sure if it was there when we set off or not. We said goodbye to the van and walked to our hotel and prepared for our next adventure ? New Zealand.