Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Sircling Stralia – Week 1

Kilometres Travelled – 1204
States Visited – 2

Getting off the starters blocks is often the hardest thing to do and the beginning of our lap of Australia was to be no exception. A combination of a heavy last night, Foxtel being the most annoying company in the world, a flat inspection and it taking a lot longer to pack the wagon than anticipated meant our planned mid morning departure was more of an early afternoon one but we were at least underway!

We decided to miss out a planned trip to Palm Beach to save a little time and headed straight to Newcastle. Here we found ourselves pulling in to the middle of a giant World Youth Day event with hundreds of people marching down the coast, there were even a few nuns and monks hanging around when we got there. It was an interesting diversion and helped to ease away some of the stress of the day.

Next we headed on to Bonny Hills, our planned stop for the first night. Unfortunately by the time we got there the reception of the campsite was closed, the toilets and showers were locked up and we were out of luck! We decided to head on to Port Macquarie and see if we could find anywhere else to lay our heads for the night.

Unfortunately by the time we got there we had just about enough time to grab a bite to eat, there was no cheap accommodation to be had and we were too tired to keep going. So we took full advantage of our Wagon on the very first night! We found a nice little parking space by the beach drew the curtains and went to sleep, not the best first day but we were well and truly on our way.

The next morning we drew back the curtains to be greeted by warm sunshine and drove out to the lighthouse at Tracking Point to see if the whales that migrate up the coast at this time of year would come and say hi. We were in luck, a particularly energetic humpback jumped out the ocean as we came to the top of the hill! A whale watcher who was already there told us he had been doing so for a while and by the time we left he was on about his 30th jump of the morning. Apparently there were a few other whales about but they were staying under as a group of male ones were trying their best moves on the girls without much success.

We then checked out the Sea Acres Rainforest Centre and the wildlife park before carrying on up the coast. Using our camps 4 we had found a rest area with toilets where we could stay for free that night so off we went. After a couple of hours on the road we came close to our stop for the night only to find that road works had caused the rest area to close down. We luckily spotted a sign for a caravan park and headed that way. The reception was again closed but we found a mobile number and managed to get a very nice lady to check us in to a site right on the Bellingen River, we dined on pasta and sauce and relaxed in this lovely little campsite.

Monday saw us visiting the big banana, riding a toboggan down a hill, eating frozen chocolate bananas and heading on to Lennox Head to camp near Lake Ainsworth for a couple of nights. The campsite was ok and we were close to Byron Bay so we headed in there for the day. The weather gave ont about half way through the day and the glorious sunshine soon became rain, we nipped in to the cinema, had a few drinks and headed back to Lennox Head decidedly unimpressed with Byron. We planned to go hangliding the next day then head on. The weather was against us the next morning so that idea was off and we decided to press on to Nimbin instead. We arrived mid morning, visited the campsite the guide book recommended, were shocked that anyone ever recommended the place and found another site round the corner.

We visited the village centre, learnt about the history of Nimbin, visited the museum, discovered this was also the local weed dealing shop (it is a thriving industry for all ages in Nimbin) and then headed back to the camp site to cook bangers and mash and chill out. I have heard mixed opinions of Nimbin but for me it was not a place to stay long. It had a grubby run down feel to it and the type of people who seem to spend weeks here were not the kind I was really looking to meet on this trip so after one night we packed up again and headed out to Surfers Paradise.

Surfers Paradise, where we had planned to just pass through, turned out to be an overnight stay and we had a great night, visited a selection of Irish bars and stayed at a back backer resort called Vegas that had its own resident transvestite who kept calling me sweetheart. While Lennox Head seemed to be what Bryon use to be Surfers seemed to be what Byron is hoping some day to evolve in to and I am glad we stayed longer than planned. So as week two begins we woke up in Paradise, packed the van and headed out to Brisbane, week two begins with a lot of lessons learnt and a fair share of optimism about the trip that lies ahead of us…

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