A Travellerspoint blog

The koala hospital and Nimbin- cannabis central

We had a lazy morning at the campsite before driving to Port Macquarie to visit the Koala Hospital. There were lots of recovering koalas, some on low perches and some high in the tree in their enclosure, they were cute and the joeys asleep in the trees were really cute! We had a quick look around Roto house, a museum which was a house of the Roto family who used to live there to show what life was like during the second world war. We had lunch at Oxleys beach with the seaguls before a quick coffee in Gordon's bike shop esspresso bar (which we found especially) and drove to Coffs Harbour where we cooked Gnocchi for dinner and ate it watching the waves. We looked for a camp spot in the evening but the first few places said no camping, eventually we found a beach where there was already a campervan, no "no camping" signs and a lovely spot of grass right next to the beach. We pitched the tent on the grass as we weren't sure whether the tide would come in over all of the sand and went for a little wander on the beach and gazed at the Milky Way which was really bright that night before bed.

We woke up to the sound of waves and bright light piercing our yellow tent, put on our swimming stuff and went for a swim in the sea, this time with goggles. We did a little actual swimming and some diving into the waves before our first outdoor shower for a while then breakfast and off in the car. We managed to find a good radio station (for once) and listened to a story about a guy who took a year to travel around South Africa doing marathons and mountain climbing on the way. We sat in the car to listen to the end of the story before getting out at a lookout to look at the river delta below us and the mountains in the distance. At lunchtime we stopped at a complex comprising a cafe, Aboriginal art gallery, museum of Italian immigration and a glass-art gallery where a man was sat making a glass dummy so we watched him for a while until he stopped as he was getting cramp in his hands. The Aboriginal art was really good- well made and bright with lots of paintings made with dots of oil paint and some items made from dried leaves. I had been reading Lonely Planet out to Sam all morning whilst he drove and we've decided that Nimbin is the next place that we'd like to visit so I drove us there. It was really hot in the car and we were glad to eventually pull into the shade outside the info centre in Marjuana central! We grabbed a map and list of "must-sees" from the guy there and went to see the candle factory first. It was a delight to the senses, both sight and smell as the scent of vanilla, lavender and rose laced candles wafted around the rainbow coloured room- the largest candle burned for over 10,000 hours! Next on our list of places was the "Rainbow Power Company" which sounded cool but was actually a shop selling things like solar panels so we had a quick look before finding a caravan site to put the tent up in. We parked Reece in our prefered camping spot and went in search of a cold drink on the main street. The road was lined with help and drug related shops, hippy clothing shops and there were lots of slow moving chiled-out people whispering under their breath as we walked past "mushrooms, weed, hemp" and "want any drugs". We politely declined and bought some apple juice and sat on a bench listening to a man playing a harmonica and singing. Once we had cooled down a little we found an art gallery/shop and had a look around. There were some inventive pieces such as insects made from scrap metal and a coconut shell decorated on the inside with beads. We had a look around some of the other shops such as "bring-a-bong", selling marjuana paraphenalia and had a look in a little museum that was hippy styled. Everything in the museum was painted with rainbow colours and had messages like "god loves you". In the evening we had a swim in the public outdoor pool (which was round!) before a phonecall home in the rain then a sprint to bed in the tent.

Posted by SamAmy 09:05 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Food-touring the Hunter Valley region

Woke up to the sound of passing traffic again and neither of us had slept very well so we drove for an hour to the Hunter Valley region, went for a coffee to wake up and then started on a food tour of the region as that's what it is famous for. We stopped at a cheese factory and tried some pickles and conserves before Sam got to try the cheeses produced on site- blue, brie, cheddar and goats cheese. He liked a couple of them but as things go off quickly in the car he chose his favourite- blue and bought a wedge :) It turned out that the lady working in the factory was from Knutsford (near where Amy lives) and she moved out here 15 years ago- it's a small world! The next stop that we made was at an olive place, which incidently had only a couple of varieties of olives and lots of jams, butters, dessert sauces and pickles- we tried most of them on little chunks of bread with Amy going for seconds of the extra hot chilli and Sam re-trying the lavender and blueberry jam which he thought was yummy. We couldn't choose one thing to buy as we liked different ones so we moved on to the next place- a chocolate company - no free tasters but more types of chocolate than I could have imagined! I spent 15 minutes choosing from the hot chocolates, dessert sauces, bars and bags of delights before selecting "Macadamia dark thins" and a ginger and dark choc dessert dressing :P We got directions to the chocolate and fudge factory nearby where there should have been people making the chocs that we could watch but they were on holiday :( We drove out of the Hunter Valley feeling very full after the cheese and chocolate and towards the Southern hemisphere's largest moving sand mass - 32km long sand dunes - with the idea of a paadle in the sea as we've been inland for a while now. We parked Reece just before a sign saying "4x4 only past this point" and set off on our walk. It was a scorching hot day and the sand was hot beneath our feet, we had been walking for about 20 minutes and were contemplating turning back when a 4x4 with 3 guys in stopped and asked if we wanted a lift, of course we did! We jumped on the back of their pickup and held on tight whilst we sped over the dunes - it was awesome. We got to the beach after about 5 minutes and the guys said good luck getting back. We would probably have to walk back and it is such a long way so we had a quick swim in the sea and ate our lunch before asking a guy which way was back hoping that he might offer us a lift but he pointed us in the right direction and said "it's a long walk"- yeah thanks for that. We set off towards the first post then over the first couple of dunes. We weren't sure that we were following the right tracks until we saw a cross in the sand with 2 bunches of flowers on and I recognised it so we headed over towards it and followed the tracks back. We were in good spirits (although very hot and sweaty) for the rest of the way back- it wasn't all that far after all! We got some air in Reece's radiator on the way to the Booti Booti National Park to see the Green Catherdral- an open air consecrated church which was beautiful with it's pews beneath the canopy of trees, the lake just behind the altar and a pulpit made from un-treated wood. We met a couple there whose daughter was married there the day previous- it was easy to picture how lovely it must have been. We found a campsite just down the road and put up the tent, went for a 'swim' in the really powerful sea then washed Reece before bed.

Posted by SamAmy 09:00 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Bondi beach, Glow worms and the Zig Zag Railway

When the time had come to leave Sydney we went via Bondi beach which was a little detour but definately worth it. The sea was really wavy and Sam dived under the waves whilst i struggled to hold onto my bikini in the strong waves. We watched some skateboarders in what looked like an old swimming pool, they were doing really big jumps and even 360s. After a morning at the beach we headed off in the direction of the Blue Mountains. We stopped in Katoomaa at 4 different lookouts, the first of which was echo point which was the most impressive as it was our first view of the blue hazy mountains in the distance and also because the 3 sisters, 3 sandstone pillars were lit up a brilliant orange colour by the low sun. Oberon was our next port of call as we had a leaflet about a steam fair happening there tomorrow so decided to go check them out. We camped in a forest for the night, just off the main road. It was noisy but i was happy that no-one from the road could see us!

We were woken by the sound of a vehicle going past then stopping, turning and parking just down the track. Sam got out and found a middle-aged man who asked if we were looking for mushrooms?! we said no and he pottered off into the forest whilst we packed up the tent and he returned with only 1 mushroom-it's a good job that we weren't all looking for some! We drove to Oberon and got a coffee as it was still early then found the fair but it turned out that the real fair started tomorrow and things were only turning up today and not many had arrived yet. They were doing a practice run around the town today though so we thought we'd stay to watch. We parked near a sports field where a school sports day was taking place and relaxed for a while before hearing a steam tractor go past and realized that we'd almost missed the parade so got into Reese (our car) and chased the parade, overtook them and stopped to watch them go by. We drove on to lithgow in the afternoon to get more information on how to get to the glow worm tunnel that we'd read about. It is a gravel road but a 2WD should be fine the lady said, so off we went. It was a really bad gravel road and it was 5pm by the tome we arrived and walked the 1km down to the tunnel. We turned on my wind-up torch and plodded carefully around the puddles deeper into the 400m long curved cave. Our first glow worm was beautiful. A pin-prick sized spot of blue-ish light. We stopped and turned off the light and waited. After a minute or so thousands of them started to glow-it was like looking at the stars but on the darkest night imaginable. It was fantastic to be there, so quiet and dark (although the bugs themselves weren't so cute when we looked at them close up with the torch!) We had a little explore outside at the far end of the tunnel which involved Sam getting his foot wet in a stream before going back for a second look at the glow worms on the way back to the car. It was dark by the time we got back to the car and we didn't fancy driving all the way back to Lithgow at night so decided to look for somewhere to camp. Luckily about 20 minutes into the drive we came across three 4WDs stopped in the bush just off the road and we asked if they knew of anywhere to camp- they said yes, just through there and pointed. We found some other people camping so put our tent up and got into bed.

We woke up late- 9.30 and drove back along the gravel road stopping only to help a motorbiker who was a bit lost. We arrived back at the main road just in time to see the train pulling into the station of the zig zag railway so stopped to have a look. We watched them change the engine and enquired about tickets and times, we decided to walk down to the "bottoms-point" then ride the train back up. We walked/ran down the track trying to get glimpses of the train which was travelling at the same time as us and we sat on a rock halfway down to watch it pull into the station below us. The carriages were nice inside, with leather seats and windows that opened all the way-good for sticking our heads out of! The train puffed it's way up the first track with lovely views of the valley below us and the smell of steam train in the air -mmmm. Halfway up the hillside the train pulled into a station to change the engine to the other end, change tracks and head up the next section of hillside. We chugged up the incline and through a long, dark tunnel before arriving back at thetop station. It was quite late by this point so Sam asked a couple of questions and we headed off to find somewhere to camp for the night on a quiet country lane.

Posted by SamAmy 05:20 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Sydney

We woke up late, packed the dry tent away :) and went to play in the sea. Sam started body-surfing the waves then moved onto diving under the waves- it was a lovely warm morning and the sun was bright! We grabbed showers and set off to Sydney. The first stop we made was at a huge bridge out over the sea, following the cliff face around. It was built because the road along the cliff had been washed away too many times. We stopped lated that morning at a Hindu Temple and had a look inside, it was very white and barren with lots of statues around the edges. The journey from here to Sydney was punctuated by stops in search of internet to see if anyone had replied on couchsurfing to give us somewhere to stay in Sydney. Eventually we found internet but had no replies so posted on the 'last minute' page and drove on. We mad it into the city before taking a wrong turn and driving over the Harbour Bridge, out of the city. We realised and drove back but in that direction it was a toll road which we would have to pay later online. We got into the city, found a parking space for $6 per hour- not cheap! We eventually paid the toll in an internet cafe and found a hostel to stay in, took the car to an underground carpark where it was only $28/day then texted Natalie, from Irkutsk, who is now in Sydney enrolled at the university here! She agreed to meet up soon but after some confusion over where we were meeting we asked her to come and meet us in the train station and we were finally re-united. She introduced her friend from Israel and we went to Starbucks in the Harbour and had a good chat. We walked Natalie back to the central station before it got too late as she has to catch a train to her accommodation before grabbing takeaway Chinese and going back to the hostel to bed.

During our 3 days in Sydney we covered many of the toursit sights and also some of the not so common ones. We walked along the harbour bridge, watched an opera in the opera house (which was amazing- the set was like an 18th century ball room and the singers voices were out of this world!) We took a 3 hour guided walk of the centre and discovered a lot about the history of Sydney right back to how the convicts were responsible for making Sydney bigger than just the original port area of "the rocks" as they were put in charge of using dynamite to create an access road through the cliffs. We visited the contemporary art gallery and watched Avatar on the world's largest 3D screen which was really cool! The world of Pandora was magical and it was made even better by the documentary that we watched about its making at Nicola's house in Melbourne :) We met up with Natalie from Irkutsk in Russia whom we had couchsurfed with for coffee a couple of times and it was really nice to hear how she's getting on and getting used to the heat in Aus as shes here to study for 3 years :) We watched some jellyfish swimming in the Darling harbour at night which were pretty and found out that we had got places to volunteer on a tall ship which is docked in Brisbane for a re-fit for 2 weeks just before Amanda arrives on the 15th March :) good times! We went to a lunchtime concert in a church and listened to a trio named "Strelitzia Piano Trio" playing "cafe music" by Paul Schoenfield which was beautiful to listen to as they were all amazing musicians. We checked out the Kings Cross area which was aparently really seedy and dangerous at night but we only saw a couple of adult shops (and bad iced coffee- but that's not really something to judge a place by!).

Posted by SamAmy 05:15 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Tilba Tilba and the leeches!

We spent the early morning sat in the car writing our diaries to catch up before setting off on the dirt track again. We came across a huge kangaroo by the side of the road, the car scared it and it made a lot of noise bounding off into the bush. We saw a couple of wallabies just off the road, having their breakfasts before it started to rain. We eventually made it back onto tarmac roads and stopped for lunch in the car before pushing on in a torrential downpour to Tilba Tilba, a place recommended to us by a Couchsurfer who lives near here but can't host us. Amy got breathalysed on the way, maybe because our car only goes at 85 on the 110km/hr roads or maybe because the officer was bored! We parked the car next to the only shop in the village and went in to ask for directions to the rock formation that we wanted to see, the man there gave us directions and also told us about a nice place to spend the night, so Amy bought a giant bottle of diet coke (which we carted all the way up the hill) and we set off in the rain up a farm track that reached the forest and turned into a stream due to the recent heavy rain! We kept climbing and eventually, with sodden feet we reached the saddle from where the turnoff to the rocks was. We took a tiny side track to the natural standing stones piled high. We banged sticks together as we approached the formations as is customary to let the spirits there know that you are coming, and then went exploring the massive towering boulders. There were huge, impossibly balanced on a single point, and a stack of 3 precariously leaning over. We started to get cold so headed back down before it got too dark and drove to Mystery Bay to find the recommended campsite. It was aptly named 'Mystery Bay' as where the campsite was was indeed a mystery! After driving around in the dark for about 20 minutes (in a tiny place) we stopped outside a house and Amy went and knocked on the door and got directions. We cooked dinner, got into bed and as Sam took off his trousers, Amy noticed something on his leg and said "what's that?" It was black, attached and moving. It was a leech! Disgusting! Amy pulled it off, then found another on his leg and one on his arm. Once they were removed Amy checked, only one on her trousers luckily. We managed to get them all out of the tent and after a thorough search of the tent floor we eventually went to sleep.

After a bad nights sleep dreaming of giant, man-eating leeches we got up early, packed away the tent- wet again and stopped in a picnic area further along the road for breakfast. We carried on along the coast towards the Grand Pacific Highway. It has been created as a drive through the little towns of the area to drum up tourism and is not a long-distance driving road with low speed limits and lots of speed bumps! We found a pie shop for lunch which was the best lunch that we've had so far in Oz. The steak, bacon and cheese pie was as good as it sounds on a bed of mashed potato with mushy peas and gravy on top mmmmm. We drove on in the rain (it rains a lot here!) until we reached Kiana which had a surfing beach, and up on the rocks was a man-made swimming pool (free from sharks and jelly-fish) set into the rock shelf. We only went paddling in the pool as it was a grim day and quite cool before taking an outdoor shower then watched the surfers for a while. We wanted to spend a night out of the rain tonight and dry out but in Wollongong where we were all of the hostels were full and everywhere else was extortionately priced so we got some (horrible) fish and chips and sat on the pier watching the waves. The view from the lighthouse was nice and made up for the bad dinner and lack of bed but soon we were tired so drove out of town to try and find a travel inn, it was late on a Sunday so all of the receptions were closed at Holiday Parks so we couldn't get in. It was brightening up a bit so we decided to bite the bullet and camp again. We eventually found a patch of grass next to a beach which had been set up as a campsite with a few amenities- perfect! We went for a walk along the beach in the evening. It was a beautiful place and by the time we got into the tent it was almost dry :) a nice finish to valentines day.

Posted by SamAmy 05:00 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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