Brisbane to Summertown - Byron Bay, Australia

Byron Bay, Australia

This posting has been done by Max & may seem a bit disjointed. It is a selection of my diary notes & some are sequential although others are selections.

We left my nephew Anthony & Rose's at Marcus Beach in the early afternoon but before doing so we went into Peregian and had morning tea with all but Sally & Amy who were at school. I wanted to travel via the coast as much as possible which slowed the trip a bit & Kathy dropped off a parcel of Aussie eatable goodies at Bli Bli for friends from Thailand who would be passing through in a day or so. Then on to Mary my sister & Bruce's. As they had had kitchen floor tiles laid that day & the previous one, we were all a bit restricted as to where we could walk that evening, but by the next day it was fine, Once again a very pleasant time with them which included going out to the Club for tea with their friends Bronte & Jan.

It was Grandparents day at Peregian Beach pre School where Mary's grandchildren have attended & this year it was for Erin. So we all went up and participated in this important day for the little-ies. We arrived well before Rose with Erin & with Brooke although we had travelled for almost an hour to get there. Erin came running up to me barefoot straight to me and announced that I had left my bowl at her place. In fact she was talking about one of Honey's water bowls which we had left behind. It was a lovely day for Mary & Bruce as an appropriate fuss was made of Bruce due to a gift he had given them. Bruce skillfully makes old fashion looking rocking horses, usually for orders but he made one for the Pre-school to use as the main prize in this years raffle. As a consequence they raised more money from the raffle than they ever had before & there had been a photo & article in the local paper about him. The rocking horses he makes are truly amazing. We then went down to Peregian Beach centre again for lunch together, this time with Rose as Anthony was working. She is a Doctor & Anthony is a paramedic on the ambulances. This was our last night with Mary & Bruce and we had a very tasty barbecue & salad meal.

We left Mary & Bruce's soon after 9.30 to head first for Alexander hills to visit Carol Cock and old room mate & team mate of Kathy's from YWAM, who also used to attend Norton Summit Baptist Church when I first new Kathy. Carol is a foster mum and shared a house with her parents & foster children, until her mother had to get full time care, so now her father is still with her & her foster family. After spending a worthwhile & pleasant time with her we moved on to a spot that Kathy had found through her searches. We wanted to go to Binna Burra in the next day or two & Kathy had found a bush camping spot towards Beechmont. It was near the town of Canungra and the actual camping grounds were either side of a river almost opposite some of the Army base there. It was a great spot.

On the Sunday we left for Binna Burra at about 10.00 after a quiet morning and knowing that it would be less than an hours drive. Kathy had wanted to have a coffee at the cafe/restuarant which is new since our last visit about 15 years ago, Whilst there she checked her email & then said that I should check mine. There was a Fathers day greeting from Michelle, advising me that she had left a F/day card in the pocket at the back of the drivers seat in our car. At the time we were enjoying our drinks and a particularly nice piece of cake called a 'heavenly' cake, so I replied to Monk that I would check it a bit later. When I did she had left some money with me for my morning hot chocolate so that was nice. Kathryn had seen the F/book message & given Michelle the thumbs up for good planning. Kathryn phoned later in the day & Jo tried but it was while we were walking at Binna Burra & we didn't have the phones with us.

We thoroughly checked out the Binna Burra Lodge where we had stayed & Kathleen & a friend before she new me also. There are new lodges there now as well as the original ones & some in between. As there is the restaurant nearby they don't do lunches either, but it is a great spot to stay for a bit of peace & nature, & a little pricey as well. From their back lawn you can look across the mountains to the coast & see the sky scrapers along the Gold Coast.

After the washing we left our caravan park at Brunswick Heads for Byron Bay. Once again I wanted the road closest to the coast as the new freeway is the main way. Byron is only about 20 minutes away and was of course bigger & busier than years ago. After a bit of a look at the main beach we drove up to the lighthouse where we were charged $7.00 to park in what were fairly limited parking spots. We were virtually at the lighthouse but there was a further walk out to the main lookout on Cape Byron. Then I went on to a further point down many steps to actually be on the point of the cape, but not quite. I enjoyed just sitting there watching the swells come in, unhindered from probably South America somewhere. Amazing. Kathy was back at the car with Honey but said we can go back another day. When we came down we went to a beach cafe & bought a small but costly lunch which we ate on the beach in fairly hot sun, before doing some shopping & returning to our park back at Brunswick Heads. Byron Bay is certainly a young peoples place & many look like they are living the alternative lifestyle, possible on the dole, but there are plenty of well heeled young people there as well. And I guess a few old grey nomads like ourselves.

The next day we went back to Byron & made a coastal walk and spent a long time out virtually on the tip of Cape Byron, and enjoyed our lunch there together.

We then left Brunsick Heads and went the short distance to Yamba. On the way we went in to Ballina which is where a friend of ours, Louise Ryan, is from. It is on the Richmond River which is much wider than the Murray in SA, so is an amazing size by our standards. Ballina was quite big and extremely busy but we learned later that it had been a local public holiday day for the Ballina races. We travelled for some time alongside the Richmond River & then later alongside the Clarence. We arrived at Yamba in time for lunch & later had a good drive around, enjoying the coast & where the Clarence River which is even bigger than the Richmond, enters the sea between two big breakwaters. The caravan park is great & of course allows dogs, but they are very strict about where abouts in the park we must walk them.

Left Yamba after just one night, and headed towards Coffs Harbour, but not quite. We were actually heading for Corindi Beach Caravan Park. We stopped at a little place called Tyndale as Kathy was attracted by the 'Bakery' sign and the idea of a hot drink, which we both enjoyed. Then through Grafton after a backwoods road and on to Corindi. An amazing amount of work is being done to build the new 4 lane divided highway up along the coast between Coffs Harbour and Grafton. It is badly needed but we hated seeing all of the trees & scrub being removed to enable the new road. We are delighted with the caravan park which seems very new, and the beach & locality. There are various walks including board walks and the beach is dog friendly without a leash. Honey so needs and is ready for just running without the leash. A real little gem.

After 3 nights we left the delightful Corindi Beach Caravan Park for Port MacQuarie, a distance of app 200kms. The main town that we went through was Kempsey and we had lunch there in a big but poorly maintained Park. In fact I was a bit disappointed with what I saw of Kempsey. I am sure that there is more of Kempsey which is much better.

Our main impression for the day is the amazing amount of roadworks being undertaken to convert the Pacific Highway into a 4 lane divided highway from Sydney to the northern rivers & beyond. In many places parts of the new road are almost ready. In other places there are enormous areas of tree & scrub removal making way for the new roads. In some places you just see orange flags along roadsides and in some places it is hard to see if works are under way. But the amount of activity and numbers of workmen & heavy equipment is quite remarkable. There will be work for traffic controllers for years as the people with their 'lollipop' signs going from 'stop' to 'slow' are evident in so many places. But it is an enormous project and will increase safety & decrease travelling times significantly. But for all of that most of the time I/we preferred the less travelled roads with less people and without the feeling that we were being rushed by other traffic. We are in a hard to find caravan park called Flynns Beach near one of the beaches. It is fairly small & has a real 'forest' feeling about it.

I had been aware that there is a lovely area full of coast & lakes south of where we have been. The main town is Forster and I also wanted to go to Hawkes Nest south of Forster. Travelling short distances we often arrive at about lunch time and then can check out the area in the afternoon. We were delighted with our Lakeside Resort C/pk as we had a lakefront site with mainly excellent lawns & plenty of time to drive around locally.

After leaving Forster e arrived at Hawkes Nest for lunch staying at Jimmys Beach C/pk. In the afternoon we went for a drive up along the coast to Myall Lakes National Pk with its many large lakes & forested areas, & also we particularly liked Mungo Beach, part of an extensive coastline with remote beaches. We were impressed by the number of areas set aside for camping and day picnics. All very delightful & worth coming back to.

Although the day started with warm sun the weather change that we were expecting came mid morning. We decided to take a drive across to Nelson Bay at the other (south) side of Port Stephens which is also part of the Port Stephens-Myall Lakes National Park. It took almost 2 hours to get there in which we experienced rain & thunder, & most of our time there it was very wet. We later heard that we were adjacent to areas that had been severely hit by hail & storms, & today will mark the change to the weather that we have been having. A very interesting area if you like nature, coasts & lakes all in bush settings.

Today is Friday 18th Sept.and we turned the car & van towards home, in a fairly indirect way. The most direct way would have been through or around Sydney, but I decided that I would like to go up the Hunter valley and get an idea of the NSW vine region, as it offered another reasonably logical way home. It meant going up towards Dubbo & then heading for Balranald down towards the Rivers Murrumbidgee & Murray. (As it happened we changed the route again). Turning off towards the Hunter Valley I realised that the road was going to be a 4 lane highway & I didn't feel that I wanted that much tension & pressure so got off it for other main roads. However although we went through Singleton and Musselbrook the only vines we actually saw were derelict & dying. So obviously we erred on the route somewhere.

At Musselbrook I realised we were too far north & east, so we headed south along a road with delightful scenery including a lot of hills covered in brilliant wattle. What we did see somewhat unexpectedly were a number of open cut coal mines and several electricity power stations. We spent the night at Dunedoo about 100kms short of Dubbo at a community Caravan Park with old facilities and a caretaker who comes for an hour a couple of times a day. However the Dunnedoo Hotel supplied us with excellent meals served in very quick time for a moderate price; $33.00 for both of us.

We left Dunedoo and headed for Dubbo before turning down towards Parkes. Before arriving we went into the Parkes radio telescope which is about 25 km north of Parkes. It was a worthwhile stop as Kathy had not been there previously & there is a lot to interest. We paid to see the 30 minute 3D films which give a lot of info about the solar system & the role of telescopes in astronomy. Whilst there many people arrived in cars, buses & with various forms of caravans, & it being the 1st day of school holidays there were piles of kids. We are not used to that. We drove on towards Naranderra and after missing it, returned to a little town called Mirrool where they have a park allowing free camping in the middle of the tiny town. They also offer showers & toilets but ask for a gold coin donation. Most people go to the Pub across the road for their evening meal as the serves are quite large. I loved my T bone serve but Kathy was disappointed with her lamb cutlets that had been deep fried. We joined some other people from our camping site and had a good yarn with them. On returning to the van Kathy spoke to Debbie Price at Manangatang about us possibly coming on to them in a day or two.

Most others in our campsite left fairly early today, but we were not in a hurry as we had plenty of time. We went on to Naranderra & had a bit of a look around. Both Talbot Lake & the Lions free stop & survive caravan were not worth visiting although I support the Lions effort. We particularly wanted to visit the porcelain water fountain in the War Memorial Park as it is only one of two in the world and made by Royal Doulton in the early 1920's. We then went on to Jerilderie where we had lunch alonside the lake/billabong towards the edge of the town. This town is where a famous Ned Kelly hold up ocurred at the Post Office. We then drove on to Deniliquin where we spent the night. Our main impression of the past two days is the expansive acreage of Canola being grown and looking the most brilliant yellow as we drove through. Much bigger acreages than in SA. I don't think I have ever been through these areas other than in summer and didn't realize that so many crops were grown. It has obviously been an excellent season and that was also part of discussions in the Mirrool Pub last night with a local landowner.

Our 2nd to last day of travel was from Deniliquin to our friends at Managatang. We had lunch at Barham where there is a nice park along the River Murray and then to Kerang, Swan Hill, Toolybuc & Mananatang. I was surprised by the number of big lakes between Kerang & Swan Hill. We parked near the big murray cod for a rest before going on to Manang.

After Debbie had gone to work & Lionel had driven us around the 1600 acre farm we left at about 9.45 for home. We stopped at Pinnaroo & Tailem Bend for breaks and arrived home at about 4.00pm, only to find a vehicle parked in the exact spot where I need to pull the van over on the left side of the road, to enable me to approach our driveway on the opposite side & enter gingerly.

We quickly realised that it was a police car checking speeds of cars coming down around the corner into Summertown. He told me that he wasn't allowed to shift his position once set up & that he would be there until 9.30pm. Clearly I didn't want to leave the van on the side of the road that long. As it happened his Supervisor came along & arranged to stop the traffic coming down into Summertown while I pulled across the road with the van, as with the radar vehicle where it was, my manouvre was going to be slower & more difficult than usual. It all went to plan, we got into the driveway well, I thanked them both & the speed check stayed until 9.30. A bit amusing to have help from the Police to get into our driveway.

We had travelled just under 14,5000kms in exactly 12 weeks since leaving, & kept pretty well to budget, especially with fuel & park fees. A holiday well enjoyed.

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