CONVICT KANGAROOS AND COLONIAL ATTIRE
Trip Start Mar 15, 2011
35Trip End Jun 11, 2011
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Where I stayed
One of them wanted to get his iPod to enhance their little music set-up, so declared he would run down to the car to go fetch it. In his underwear. So while he was sprinting across the road and fumbling terribly with the keys to his Range Rover, Justyn popped his head next door to ask the others if they wouldn't mind turning the music down a wee bit. As funny as it was, we did want to get some sleep before getting back up again at sunrise!
So a guy answered the door, and was most obliging, yelling out 'woowwww, sorry mate!' in slurred tones. It was then we realised it was only two of them, having a bit of a special music singalong in their undies. When the other guy returned from the car it seemed he failed to find his iPod, but it was OK, they just listened to the same song on repeat for about 20 mins (For your listening pleasure: http://youtu.be/1XOWSfj-mtA), singing all the high bits together, sharing the manlove. It was all pretty funny, and we knew that they were so hammered they were really due to just conk out into sleep at any moment... and they did before too long.
We were back up at sunrise to continue our roadtrip, and opened our curtains to rather awful, rainy weather. South West Rocks had a few sites to explore beyond the Seabreeze, and so that formed our first port of call. After a drive through the town (an exercise of all of 30 seconds) we cruised towards the old jail perched on the headland. Everything here feels incredibly remote, and the jail felt fairly spooky in the inclement weather. The historic site was built in the mid 1800s so inmates could be shipped up the coast from Sydney and work on building a break wall with the thought that this rather treacherous area could be used as a port. It was an exercise they soon gave up since a better and easier port was settled nearby. It was then emptied and later used to house German interns during the First World War. When we arrived, we discovered new inmates: kangaroos!
The jail is now a tourist site with a shop, and they seemed stuck in the cafe area! We pressed on to the nearby lighthouse to check out the views of the coastline. As we parked our car we saw some very hopeful people unpacking their breakfast on a picnic table on the side of the cliff. It wasn't raining at that point, but we were surrounded by looming grey clouds. By the time we reached the base of the lighthouse we could see huge sheets of rain falling into the sea, about 100m away. It was so absorbing to look at, then we realised it was heading right for us, and started cantering back to the car. Within about 30 seconds we were hit by a torrent!
While bolting back we almost ran into a giant Justyn-sized kangaroo (well Erin almost ran into him, alerted by Justyn in the final moments) who looked fairly disgruntled by the weather. And fair enough too. We climbed back into the car, completely soaked and headed onwards to find breakfast. We stopped in the inland town of Kempsey at a cheap and cheerful diner-style establishment before heading on to the main attraction of the morning, Port Macquarie.
Since the weather was absolute crap, we considered seeing a movie, but alas the only morning showing had just started by the time we arrived! And so we wandered briefly through the shops and the huge tourist information centre before taking a turn around the streets. That was when the tour guide pulled the tourist into a colonial museum! Port Macquarie is one of the oldest coastal towns in the country, so contains lots of heritage houses, convict relics and archaeological sites... just like the colonial museum really. Here, the tourist was fascinated to see the outfits of the colonial era, and even got the opportunity to see his tour guide don some of the wares herself (they were available for members of the public to try on!). This has to be the best tour ever!
On our way out of town we stopped at the Little Brewing Company, a microbrewery set in an industrial village whose beers had recently been featured in Oprah's massive Australian visit. So you'd think they'd be reasonably happy. Alas, in the process of trying and buying some beer, the owner told us all the company's woes. I'm not sure, but complaining about the bank not giving them enough money is not a traditional approach point for visiting tourists. She was very nice, but maybe needed a bit of coaching in how not to make visitors run away in case they start to hear more complaints!
Our plan was to take coastal roads for the rest of the day, aiming to wind up about 200km south in Nelson Bay. While heading along our first stretch which took us around a lake, we saw a shop called 'Addictive Pies' and felt compelled to stop! We grabbed a pie to compliment the cheese and fruit we'd picked up (a natural combination) and quickly discovered there was no truth in their advertising. The pie was completely rubbish! So sitting with a fairly pretty view, gusty wind and a dud pie, we packed up quickly again and continued on!
An hour or so later we stopped in Forster, where the weather had miraculously cleared up! We took a short walk around the waterside and managed to time our visit with that of returning fishermen cleaning up the day's catch. That meant there were loads of pelicans about! These were obviously very used to being around people, and had no qualms with us getting in right amongst them. And while still not offering up any dolphins, the tour guide managed to point out a stingray in the water. What an excellent tour guide!
About 3pm we decided to move on again, heading south along a rather beautiful stretch of coastline containing a huge beach in the National Park on one side of the road, and lakes on the other. We were near perfectly timed, heading out on the Port Stephens peninsula to reach Nelson Bay by nightfall!
Port Stephens is a collection of beach villages on a huge bay, with Nelson Bay at its hub. We pulled into the town looking for accommodation, hopeful that we could find a pub room at a much better deal than the night before! Strangely enough the local pub was also called the Seabreeze Hotel, and we wandered up for rates. Within about a minute the manager made it clear they were no relation to the South West Rocks pub, and the owners of that one were the bane of his existence since he often got letters of demand for late payments, just sent to the wrong location! They had big rooms at a proper bargain pub rate, and we snapped it up straight away! And after about half an hour Erin realised she had stayed there before!
We decided upon a bit of exploration and since we missed out on catching a movie in the morning, we checked out the local cinema. Luckily we found a film we'd been recommended to see was playing later that evening, and so we wandered down to the marina for a few nice beverages at a couple of different spots. With some excellent wines on offer, we were getting excited about our upcoming trip to the Barossa Valley wine region!
We decided on a sharp change from much of the food we'd been eating over the last week or so and opted for a great looking Indian restaurant near the cinema. While laughing at all the awards it had posted on the wall (EVERYTHING in Port Stephens seems to have won some kind of award!) it turned out to be fantastic! We wrapped up the evening with a great movie (Barney's Version) and were rather excited that we weren't planning to get up at sunrise again, instead opting for a more cruisy morning since we were only about 250km from Sydney!