This must be one of the longest posts ever….
It’s been nearly 2 weeks since I last wrote and since then I have been body boarding all along the coast, been to the fireworks in Sydney for New Year’s Eve, swam in the Sydney Olympic swimming pool, visited the Blue Mountains, been to Bondi Beach and Botany Bay and am now in Kiami, South of Sydney. It feels like absolutely ages since Christmas –I guess because I’ve done so much since then.
So starting from the beginning….
On Boxing day we drove away from Byron Bay down the coast to Coffs Harbour stopping at Maclean, a little Scottish village where the lamp posts are painted tartan. I even managed to find the Keith tartan and get a picture of it! We thought we might be able to go to the sales in Coffs Harbour but it was 3pm by the time we arrived and the only thing left open was BigW –which is a bit like Asda Walmart without the food. So we went to look at the harbour which was quite pretty before heading inland past Bellingen to a free campsite.
The next morning we headed back to Bellingen which is a little craft town. Unfortunately all the shops seemed to be shut –some until the middle of January. So we moved on pretty quickly and drove down to Nambucca Heads. Nambucca Heads is a town where the river meets the sea and has a really pretty riverside and stunning beaches. We spent quite a while on the beach –I managed to sit and read for a while which was really nice whilst Ryan walked down the beach. Until all of a sudden I heard the first icecream van of the trip! I hurried down the beach to find Ryan and we both had rainbow ice creams, which were delicious –they tasted like an ice cream form of Zap lollies! We then went body boarding in the sea. It’s the best body boarding we’ve had so far –the waves were taken us right up the beach until the only thing stopping us was the friction from sliding up the sand! From Nambucca heads we drove down the highway to find a free rest stop but everything in our camping book seemed to not exist, not allow camping or be closed. We ended up driving about 150km to a rest stop past Port Macquarie near Taree!
On the Tuesday we drove along a tourist drive that took us past lakes and coastal views before going to Newcastle for some shopping. Newcastle was a pretty horrible town with not much in it –Ryan compared it to Newport. Luckily there was a huge shopping centre just outside it, in Charlestown, which we went to instead! We then drove down the highway to stop at a service station for the night. This service station turned out to be the place where we’ve spent the most nights as the surrounding councils seemed to ban camping from every single place anyone would possible consider pulling up in to camp –even tiny lay-bys! So on Wednesday morning we headed back towards the coast and visited some of the lakes, Lake Macquarie and Lake Munmorah on the way. We found a nice little walk on a tiny island at Lake Munmorah which was joined to a public park via a little bridge. We then stopped at some lovely beaches. The first one we stopped at was a dog beach and we saw the funniest collie dog that was chasing the waves. But he wasn’t just running into them he was waiting for the really long ones and then running all the way along them as the wave broke! I wanted to steal him! We then went to another beach down many, many steps with sand and rocks to climb on. We managed to get a bit stuck in the car park though as a burnt out minivan was being towed and they’d decided to park behind us as they loaded the van on. One man was winching the van up all by himself until someone called a group of lads over to help. It looked like hard work! We then drove to The Entrance a very touristy town where the lake joins the sea. We bought some curry to share by the lake, had a look through the town where we found a yummy sweet shop with delicious white chocolate frogs. Ryan got his own body board and we watched the pelicans being fed. A very funny site with them all with their huge beaks in the air squabbling over the fish. We then walked to the beach with our body boards before realising it was a bit rocky so floated on them in the lake instead. The water was absolutely freezing! After our swim we shared some chips before heading to Norah Head lighthouse. We went down the stairs to the beach which was just made up of huge rocks to climb upon, with channels between them where the waves came splashing up. There were a lot of fisherman around here so the waves must have been bringing all the fish in. We set up camp in a beach car park when we saw a few other people already parked up there. It was a little strange as there was a proper campsite just a little way away along a little path. We decided to make good use of their facilities and did our washing there, which had been becoming an urgent matter for some time! We even used the tumble dryer so we didn’t end up with clean but smelly wet clothes. We then drove down the coast to MacMasters beach where we met Guy, my housemate from Brisbane. He’d been staying with family friends there and his family were also over to visit. We did a bit of body boarding before the waves started to bring ridiculous amounts of seaweed into the beach and we had to get out. We sat in the natural saltwater lagoon for a while and then headed to the house where Guy was staying. Everyone was really lovely and they let us use their showers and park up by their house for the night (actually in the neighbour’s driveway as they were out- but they seemed to think it would be alright). It was so nice to be clean again as it had been a while since we’d found a shower! The evening was spent hanging out while Guy and his sister were babysitting the kids as all the parents had headed out for dinner. We even got to cook on an actual cooker!
So the next day was New Year’s Eve. We drove to Gosford and caught the train into Sydney as it would have been too ridiculous to even attempt to drive to Sydney. The train was really full, but we ended up sitting next to a nice man who was asking us about our trip and telling us how he’s going to the UK in July for 40 days to tour it all –he was asking our advice on where to go as he hadn’t really made many plans at all. It seems so strange that he’ll be able to go everywhere in that time as everything is all so close compared to the distances we’re travelling here. We got off at central and walked through the centre of Sydney to Circular Quay where the Harbour bridge and Opera House are. It was exciting to be in Sydney and walking down the streets it felt a bit like London. We bought bread and dips for dinner en route and got food down by the harbour. It was amazing to see the Opera house for the first time after seeing it every year on television. This year we’re actually in Sydney for New Year’s Eve! We were meeting Guy at Mrs Macquerie’s Point so made our way there, getting lost a few times on the way. When we got there the cue was ridiculously massive –there must have been thousands and thousands of people in it. We joined the back of the constantly growing line and had only been there a minute when Guy came wandering over. He had been in the cue for 2 hours and just happened to be parallel to us…so we sneaked over and joined the cue with his family. We ended up only cueing for about 20 minutes! It was already really busy by the time we got in the gardens so we set up camp in the shade of a tree and decided to just find a spot when it was firework time as all the good places would have already been taken. The afternoon was spent just lazing around in the sun and playing games. At around 8 we started packing up to get ready for the 9pm fireworks. We managed to get a really good spot on a pathway right in front of the fence. I think we managed to time it just right as earlier all the pathways were being constantly cleared. The fireworks were really good and we could see the Opera house and the bridge from where we were. After the fireworks we moved up the bank and found a spot where we could watch the flotilla of lit boats. They had lights all along their sails and looked really pretty sailing around the harbour. At this point everyone except me, Ryan, Guy and his sister, Charlotte headed home with the kids. We found a spot on the bank to sit for a while, eating some ice cream while we waited for the 12am fireworks. They were lighting hourly teaser fireworks leading up to it and then more often between 11 and 12. Just after 11 we went to find a good place to watch them as everywhere seemed to be filling up. We managed to get ourselves on a path along a steep hill where we could see the bridge and would have a firework display right in front of us. There was a security guard trying to keep the path clear but her efforts were comical. If she did manage to get someone moved they would instantly be replaced before eventually she seemed to give up and disappeared. The fireworks were amazing we had displays going off in front of us and to both sides as well as the harbour bridge to the left. Definitely worth the wait and I would definitely recommend going to Sydney for New Year. Next time I go, hopefully I’ll be rich and will be watching from one of the boats moored in the harbour! The only negative thing was that they didn’t seem to do a countdown for the 12pm fireworks they just started all of a sudden and no one knew if it was New Year or not! It was odd as there had been a countdown on the screen for the 9pm fireworks but it hadn’t been there when it was actually New Year.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
After the fireworks we headed towards town. It was completely packed. We amused ourselves jumping in some Asian tourist’s photo without them knowing as it was on self timer then slyly walking away. They were laughing when they looked back at the photo too so they didn’t seem to mind. We had the first paddle of 2011 in the fountain and decided that we must do more paddling in 2011. Then wandered down the main street towards the harbour. It was mayhem! There were families, people heading home, people completely wasted, people fighting and police riding around on horses. On the way back to the station I saw my first bitch fight- 2 crazy girls were punching each other. I think that after the fireworks it’s probably best to leave Sydney as soon as possible and get away from all the crazy people. On the train there was a scary woman who seemed to have blood in her hair and a slash on her face and kept falling asleep and then panicking that she had missed her station. When we eventually got back to the van we drove to the service station where we had stayed before, as the sun was rising. Parked behind a lorry so that we’d be in the shade and managed to get a few hours sleep. New Year’s Day was 37˚C, so we spent the day avoiding the sun in a shopping centre and sitting in the shade by a beach before heading back to the service station to use the internet and sleep.
The next day we drove further towards Sydney and got the train in from Hornsby as it’s a shorter journey. We had a look around the shops but managed to get lost in the ridiculously large shopping centre and then headed to the harbour. We bought cupcakes en route which we ate sat outside the Opera House. The Opera House seems different up close as the sails aren’t actually all joined together. We went inside to the box office and shop but we weren’t able to look in any of the theatres without paying for a tour. We then headed back into town for dinner at pizza hut. We got the buffet so got some extra slices which we sneaked into our bag for lunch the next day. But we thought it wasn’t stealing as we had actually paid for it… We then got the train back in the rain and found a lorry rest stop to sleep the night in.
The next day we drove into Sydney with the intention of going to Bondi Beach but got distracted on the way by a signpost to Sydney Olympic Park. It is a massive sporting complex, absolutely huge. Everything was pretty shut though but we had a walk around the outside before going to the Olympic Aquatic Centre. We swam in the Olympic competition pool! We also completed a giant inflatable obstacle course in the Olympic swimming pool. It has now been turned into a leisure facility with a fun pool with toys, slides, river rapids and Jacuzzi. Ryan managed to complete the obstacle course first time but I fell in –I did it on the second go there, even if I was very slow and the kids behind me were telling me to hurry up :s. We then drove into the Blue Mountains to camp as we would be exploring there the next day.
In the Blue Mountains you can drive along the highway without realising where you are as it is set on a ridge and you’re unable to see the scenery to either side because of the buildings and trees. So when we went the little way off the highway to Wentworth Falls it was amazingly beautiful. They’re called the Blue Mountains because all the eucalyptus trees give off eucalyptus oil creating a blue haze. We walked down loads of steps to stand on top of the waterfall and then walked around the side on the cliffs edge for close up views of the waterfalls. It was really beautiful but the walk back up was tiring! We then headed to Echo point to view the Three Sisters. The aboriginal dreamtime story about them is that 2 tribes were fighting and that the Chief of one tribe put a spell on his three daughters to turn them into rock so that they weren’t harmed in the battle. But he then died in the fight so the spell could not be reversed and they are still there today. Echo point was ridiculously busy though and we had to park 10minutes away to avoid paying for parking as they have made it ticketed absolutely everywhere –which is pretty rare for Australia. We’ve become accustomed to hardly ever having to pay for parking. We bought some fish and chips on our way out and ate them at Evans lookout. There are beautiful views everywhere in the Blue Mountains it seems. When we were there we saw a lyrebird which I think is pretty rare. I think they are the birds that copy other bird’s songs but I’m not absolutely sure. It looked a bit like a small grey bush turkey anyway. We then drove on to the zigzag railway, which zigzags down the mountains but there weren’t any trains running by the time we got there. So we drove back along a smaller road with much prettier views than the highway but some very steep hills as well. We stopped in a nature reserve in Bilpin for the night.
The next day we drove back towards the highway and headed into Sydney to finally go to Bondi Beach. Unfortunately I misdirected us and we got a bit lost in the big city. We made it in the end though. I wasn’t all that impressed by Bondi Beach though –it’s a nice bay but all the buildings around are pretty ugly though. I’m fairly sure I saw Nick from my family though…definitely someone famous at least as a small gay sounding man went up to him going “London, New York, LA….” and then hugging him like he sees him all the time in exciting places. It definitely looked like him and I’m pleased with my celebrity spottingJ. We also saw some filming going on at Bondi Beach…they were moving the flags so everyone had to get out of the water while they moved along. We wondered at first if it was a shark but it didn’t seem to be anything that exciting. From Bondi we headed to La Pereuse at Botany Bay –where Captain Cook first landed. It was interesting and pretty but not much to do there, the museum wasn’t even open.
We then drove down to stay near Kiami where we are now. It’s a nice little coastal town and is famous for its blowhole. It’s a rock formation where water gets pushed up through a hole in the rocks and spurts up when the waves come in. Everyone was oohing and aahing as if they were watching fireworks which we found quite funny! I’m now in the library writing this and it has taken a long time because I left it for so long! So I’m going to try and keep a bit more update now. Not sure what the plans are now but hopefully it will involve swimming in the ocean.