Saturday 1 March – Back on the Highway we were heading to Noosa. The riding is now pretty dull, and not a whole lot to write on it. Noosa is a bit of yuppy town lots of golfing resorts and boats. People we have come across seem to be a bit miserable too, especially in the supermarket. The lady on the check out would have got a telling off from the checkout supervisor in Nantwich Sainsbury’s for her lack of customer service. I remember Paul got the compliment of being the worst checkout person she’d ever seen back in his Sainsbury’s days. He got moved to the home department after that episode. Even at the campsite check-in the women was pretty miserable not even the normal Australian greeting of ‘how you goin?.’
Noosas pretty spread out, there was a yacht marina and nice foreshore area on one side of the peninsula and then a more laid back surfing beach on the other, both areas have lots of nice looking places to eat and drink. It seems to be the place for families having parties; all the public BBQ and picnic areas were in use and had even been cordoned off for weddings. The campsite we were staying at matched the area, pristine lawns and cooking area and home to really colourful birds Paul tried and failed to entice them with bread onto the bike. He also failed in his frog selfie – there was a frog on the post next to the tent. We thought we were pretty scrubby, stocking up on sugars and plastic cutlery from McDonalds, but no there is a lower class than us. Someone stole one of our only two bowls. We don’t have plates. So now one of us eats out of the cooking tin, too scrubby to even buy a new one.
We spent one day at the surf beach watching some amazing little boys surf for a competition; the waves were pretty big and crashing so hard I wish I’d invested in an all-in-one cosie not a bikini. We did a very small walk up the headland in hope of spotting koala bears but there were none.
Monday 3 March – We left Noosa after two days, it was raining on the morning so we decided to give the Hinterland Escape drive that goes inland to some mountain villages a miss. We’ve become a bit weather snobbish, and the sight of drizzle makes us seek the warmth. So we headed south to Brisbane instead. The road again was just a highway broken up only with stops for petrol or lunch. Our stops are a lot more lonely these days. If we do get asked about the bike, which is very rarely now, people tend to think we have shipped it over direct from the UK and we can’t be bothered to correct them. So they go on to tell us how they have travelled Australia in some kind of way.
We got to Brisbane and found the nearest campsite to the city. It was actually really close, only about 20 minutes by bus. It was pretty crappy though and full of German backpackers. Their efficiency a bit too much in the communal camp kitchen arena, they just need to relax and not queue for the washing up sink.
Back onto the people encounters, now I know in general bus drivers tend to have a bit of chip on their shoulder but the one in Brisbane just pointed, like we knew what he wanted us to do. Paul attempted to take the ticket he’d printed rather than place the money down, which is what the apparent pointing meant. He grunted at Paul ‘no, money’ he wins the point for the most miserable Australian we have met so far. Brisbane felt really compact for a city. We walked round in just a few hours. There is a really nice botanical gardens and an area called the south bank. Like London, it’s supposed to be the cultural area. The city is also laid out around a river too. They even have a wheel. What they do have that you wouldn’t find in any UK city is a huge outdoor lagoon that is free to use. We ogled all the clothes we can’t afford these days and called it a day. We left the following morning via the view point over the city. It was a pretty drizzly day so the pictures don’t look that great but it was a really nice view point. All the suburbs of the city are built into the hills so a lot of the residential areas have great views too.
The drives we’re doing now are only around 2-3 hours at the most, almost entirely on the highway. Today we’d planned to go to a place called Coollangatta on the Gold Coast next to Surfers Paradise, but as soon as we pulled off the highway for Surfers Paradise, we changed our minds. Surfers paradise is a bit like Benidorm, water parks and massive water slides on the beach and huge high rises. It’s traffic clogged so we kept going. We were both on a downer as we thought we’d left Noosa too early and this is what it was how it was going to be down the rest of the east coast. Especially as we’d been told to give Byron Bay a miss, the next place along the coast, but we decided to go have a look anyway.
There are certain places where you just feel like you could stay a while and Byron Bay was one of those. It felt really laid back, there were no high rises and the beach was huge. The campsite was the only let down, an expensive pitch of gravel but then again we were right on the beach. There are a lot of backpackers here, which I think keeps the expensive hotel chains away, plus the local community is made up of lots of hippies, wanting to save the whales and shit. So I reckon they probably oppose any sort of massive construction. Apparently it’s known for surfers claiming benefits and just surfing all day. It doesn’t really feel like a benefits town. By that a mean everyone is pretty friendly, a normal weight, generally sober and they don’t have tearaway horror kids wearing Adidas tracksuits in tow.
Its a place where lots of people come to learn to surf aswell so we initially planned to stay 3 days and give it a go. Just after we arrived we headed down to the beach to see what it was like, and the sea was swarming with surfers. The little kids again were amazing and the waves looked pretty gentle so even I was fairly confident I’d be able to get up. The next day Paul got a board and got in, it wasn’t as easy as they made it look. There was a strong undercurrent, and the waves were a lot bigger than they looked, plus they crashed down. I got good at paddling and that’s about all I managed before giving up.
We had to move on from Byron Bay as the campsite was full so we went just down the road to a place called Lennox Head. Which was tiny, but equally as nice and the campsite was luxury – it had a hot tub! There is a lookout on the headland overlooking Lennox Head beach and the sea was so calm when we went to the lookout, we could see about 5 different pods of dolphins. Apparently you can surf at Lennox Head but there weren’t many places to rent from so we ended up going back to Byron Bay.
Byron Bay was swarming with Police ready to pull over and administer a fine at any time so we were always skulking around trying to avoid them. Its an easy life of sleeping, eating and beach. It felt like an effort to leave even after nearly a whole week. I’m finding it difficult to find things to write about, not because it’s boring but because Australia is a pretty alike to England culturally and we’re really only doing things that are normal to us. Although we did see a Labrador chasing a really big lizard down the middle of the road. The lizard was straight backed running in his hind legs. Pretty funny but that’s about as unusual as it gets.
Oh Yeah, and there was a guy in the campsite, again a single male, with no transport in his 40’s. Don’t know why we keep finding the sites with these weird ones. But anyway, he was from England but had lived here before, so was telling us about the sharks. We’d heard on the news that morning a Great White shark had been caught in Coolangatta, just north of Byron and the newscaster delivered the news ‘the shark would now be chopped up’. The water is so clear that they are spotted by the helicopters that are constantly keeping an eye over the main beaches.
This area really does look like Wales, I thought I read Captain Cook called it New South Wales because it looked like Wales but can no longer find any facts to prove this to Paul. So this may or may not be a fact. If it’s not fact it’s pretty good logic for me.
We moved onto Coffs Harbour, home of the big banana. I have no idea what the Big Banana is, nor did we find out, but every piece of literature states its home to this banana. We just drove straight past. There was big banana with some token tourists posing underneath. This area looked even more Welsh, the temperatures were definitely more Welsh too. It’s getting a bit chilly. When the rain came, it was like being back in France, half freezing to death. A bit dramatic, and it’s mainly as we no longer wear layers.
We stayed only the one night in Coffs Harbour, it didn’t really appeal to us. I think this just shows we have been a little spoilt, the scenery was beautiful and the beaches perfect, but it just wasn’t that impressive. The couple who couldn’t go to the camp fridge without holding hands and kissing maybe helped with the decision to leave before we gagged over breakfast. We did manage to see what I think was a dolphin jumping in the waves alongside a nervous surfer, who quickly paddled out to the shore, leaving his mate behind, after he thought the dolphin was maybe a shark, maybe it was, I couldn’t say for sure.
Monday 10 March – I woke early this morning and just lay still – our tent doesn’t allow movement without waking the other person. As I lay enjoying the peace, Paul suddenly screamed something muffled. He was actually shouting ‘get out’ in his sleep. He dreamt there was a shark attack in the sea.
We continued south today to a place called Port Stephens. Again, highway driving. On route we stopped at Maccas. It’s cheap. I could probably recite the value menu to you. I went all out and had two soft serve ice creams. I paid the price later. First time I was sick I managed to get Paul to pull over. I’m always a bit scared if I suddenly tap him, he’ll turn around and lose control of the bike, especially on the highway. The second time it came too quick and I lifted my helmet only to find spewing on the back of a fast moving vehicle is not going to end well. It was on my face, in my hair, all down jacket sleeve and in my helmet. Pretty gross, just to add to my dignity I was also sick into the bin on the petrol forecourt. See, sorry not a whole lot to write about.
Port Stephens is made up of lots of little bays. We stayed at Soliders Point and had an amazing view over the marina. They gave the best views to the tent campers, not sure why. As we entered the area, there were lots of signs for ‘call this number for injured koalas’ and a koala death count board, plus some local literature stated that you only had to look up to see koalas. We thought we were in with chance. No sign of any koalas. There was a stray dog at night dragging his rear end along the grass. The great Australian wildlife.
A koala copped it over night, the sign showing 4 had now been killed, it was only 3 the day before. I reckon that’s definitely the reason we didn’t see any then. We spent our time driving around Port Stephens visiting the all the beaches with waters that we are now finding a bit less easy to get in, Paul practically pushed me in. A little lady with a dog took a liking to us at the campsite and filled us in on her opinion of Sydney people “arses who have not time for anyone”, Great.
Wednesday 12 March – We’re dawdling towards Sydney as we are less than 500km away but don’t have a place to stay until the 16th. So we headed inland next, to the Hunter Valley and camped in the neighbouring town of Cessnock. We visited, as probably most people do, a vineyard, we did no tasting just brought a bottle from the bargain bin and left. To keep a little adventure the trip, we went up the gravel roads to a view point. About as out of the ordinary as it gets now.
Like I said, we are certainly not bored. We love going to the beach and the nice weather. When I think back to almost every country since Turkey, and what we have experienced Australia just seems a little dull. We have got over the novelty of walking into a shop and being able to buy cheese, salami, fruit and coffee and all the other stuff. Its so similar to England, if it wasn’t for the heat you could be in England. The dogs on leads, the fashion, styled haircuts, coffee dates, the daily commute, learner drivers, angry drivers and the sideways glances if you don’t fit in. In most cases we don’t, we’re usually still a bit too dirty. The cuticle in my nail has been infected for a while, I’ve not had a hair cut in 8 months, Paul’s razor has broke, he’s not had a haircut since Darwin, almost every item of clothing has a hole in it from little creatures or some kind of stain, usually engine oil. I use the mini-speaker bag as my purse, my $3 bag is taped with gaffa as the exhaust burnt a whole in the bottom. Everyone else is more tailored, smart, more sophisticated and more clean. I’d like to be a little more clean.
Thursday 13 March – The drive to the Blue Mountains was abit of a highlight we drove via a little place called Windsor which is abit hippyish with some friendly protesting going on about a bridge and baggy pants on sale from shops that smell of incense. Richmond was the neighbouring town. Southern English settlers named the places. That’s an Amy fact. It may or may not be true.
Almost as soon as we left Cessnock for the Blue Mountains we could tell we we’re in for a treat. The road passing through the beautiful rolling hills of the endless vineyards of the Hunter Valley. Then straight onto winding country roads, yep, no highway and even a few hairpin turns up the hill. It’s the first time we have seen an active concern for motorcyclists on the road, lots of signs to look out for us and endless warnings to take it easy. Not quite the Indian slogan signs ‘take it easy on my curves etc’ but still. Although it did make me think the police may also target bikers in this area but we didn’t see one. We could have only reached about 1000m above sea level but the temperatures plummeted. I was actually shaking even though I have started wearing thermals again. Whilst it’s not on the level outback Australia, so of the towns felt like a scene from ‘the hills have eyes’ they moved fixated on us as we passed through places with populations not topping the 200 mark. Whilst they are not far from civilisation, it feels like they live like they are.
We reached about 1000 metres above sea level and could see Sydney in the very very very far distance. We stayed just outside the main area called Blackheath. The temperatures feel like it’s about 10 degrees cooler than anywhere on the coast and the lady at check-in said we should expect rain. People come to the Blue Mountains to trek and see the three sisters – they are 3 rocks. This one place we knew nothing about, had read nothing and therefore didn’t really expect anything. Plus, the highway runs right through the area and it kind of wrecks it, especially the first opinion anyway.
There were lots of serious’ walkers around. You know, kitted out in expensive walking boots, high tech waterproofs, maps attached their bags that kind of thing so it makes you think it’s necessary – whilst flip flops were my only option, I think they would be my shoe of choice anyway. A broken ankle probably was definitely more likely.
We went to Govetts leap on the first night and made it there about 30 minutes before sunset. After walking through dense jungle, I really wasn’t expecting much at the end but we literally came across the grand canyon before one tourist had ever been there. It was pretty amazing and there was lots of picture taking going on, until we both ran out of battery.
A guy back at the campsite [one of the proper boot wearing ones] told us about this walk and a couple of others so he basically made our plans for us. He was there to go to some hippie folk festival, which I think a lot of people actually were.
The next day we went to some of the walks he told us about, and did the ‘tourist drive’ which takes in all the really good view points – including the three sisters. The government are buggers though and they have $8 parking ticket at the main one! I literally took a picture and left. Probably best anyway, the Chinese tourists in their bus loads were hot on our heels.
We went to Wentworth falls with the intention of looking at them and going back but the first few view points we reached were a bit shitty so we continued on, got so engrossed and unable to do the same ‘road’ twice we ended up completing the 4 hour walk. The end was up steep ladders and it was pissing it down. Navigation not our strong point as we ended up a mile or two away from the bike at the end.
A whole gang of teenagers had set-up camp near us and took to hanging out in the shelter near us. Pretty good as they provided the nights entertainment telling really shit ghost stories. Apart from that we didn’t have a clue what they were talking about most the time.