Sick Koalas and Cute Camels at Port Macquarie!

Trip Start Nov 29, 2012
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Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Saturday, April 6, 2013

After escaping the hell that was Dubbo (aka Yobbo) which I'm choosing not to write about in my travel blog for legal reasons, I arrived back in Sydney, completely exhausted but resolute to start heading up the East Coast, albeit three months earlier than I had originally planned. I decided that I would undertake my regional work in the Brisbane/Queensland area instead and hope that my savings would get me to Brisbane. I managed to buy a reasonably cheap hop-on hop-off train ticket from Sydney so I knew I would least get there if my funds ran out!

I checked into the first hostel I could find, I was booked on the following morning departure to my next stop of Port Macquarie. Mr You Like the Party? had raved about it, especially the koala hospital. The only one of its kind in the world, it takes in injured koalas found in the local area. Being the massive koala fan that I am, it was a definite must-see! My one night in Sydney was really rather non-descript, I spent the evening catching up on emails, I'd been deprived of internet for two weeks and most people, including mother had given me up for dead! As I had booked my room at the last minute, the YHA saw fit to put me in a room with a bunch of old ladies. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not ageist but these woman, who were at least in their 60s, were not exactly the most agreeable roommates. The first, sleeping across from me, was naked from the waist down and was fast asleep, snoring like a car backfiring with her rather large backside hanging out of the bed! I'm not even exaggerating! I was rather traumatised. Then, a couple of minutes later, her friend came into the room, smelling strongly of weed and promptly got into the bunk above me. The smell was so overpowering I couldn't sleep!

And there was me thinking that older ladies liked tea cosies and knitting!

The train to Port Macquarie took around seven hours but as always, it was the people on the train that made it more interesting. I think I'm the only backpacker in Australia not taking the Greyhound bus. I don't understand why anyone would subject themselves to the Greyhound, all you meet are other backpackers and you're stuck with them for hours on end with no means of escape! Take the train and you meet Australia's most interesting characters. I got chatting to a girl who was a year younger than me and had just had her 4th child! She was really nice and we talked for ages, she even let me hold her 3 month year old baby who was seriously cute

I arrived in Port Macquarie to be greeted by a lovely little seaside town and went for a walk to find my hostel. When asking for directions from a local couple, they very kindly gave me a lift, saying that my backpack looked heavy. One of the things I've found since I left Melbourne is that lots of nice looking men are always offering me help with getting my backpack on, I think I must look like some sort of forlorn refugee who they all take pity on! The hostel itself was really cosy and welcoming, I instantly struck up a friendship with Lynsey, a Scottish girl in my dorm and one of the first I'd met in a while. Like me, she was a blue eyed blonde and it was really refreshing to hear another Scottish accent, the first I'd heard here in Aus for around five months!

One of the main reasons I chose the hostel was because my guidebook had said that they had a resident parrot called Cheeky! He was really sweet, I fed him apple and he walked up and down my arms, he was adorable! Along with all the other animals I've met so far in Aus, I wanted to take him home too!

Having not learnt from the Boris-bike fail in Melbourne, I was adamant that I wanted to go cycling. Port Macquarie is very quiet and according to my guidebook, the best way to get around is by bike. So I had it in my mind that it would be like Millport and nice and flat. The cycle hire at the hostel wasn't great, the bikes didn't have gears! As I was choosing my bike, one woman returned complaining that she'd nearly been killed having realised her bike had no brakes, half-way down a hill! By some miracle, I chose a bike that had brakes and seemed to go quite well. My plan was to cycle to Lighthouse Beach where it was possible to go camel trekking! I'd heard about it beforehand and was desperate to go! I wasn't even sure I'd even seen a camel in real life before!

My cycle trip could have been better planned I have to admit. I forgot my map AND bottle of water. So I ended up taking the coastal route, which consisted of hill after hill. I'd picked up a throat infection a few days before and felt like I could hardly breathe! It was very hot and sunny and I thought I might be in serious danger of passing out. At one stage, I got one of the straps of my backpack tangled in my bike chain (brilliant cyclist that I am) and was amazed at how helpful four strangers were in giving me a hand! It's true, the moment you leave Sydney, everyone becomes lovely! I was so grateful for their help, mostly because I wasn't expecting it!

Two hours later and half-dead, I arrived at the beach and saw to my amazement, a trail of camels walking towards me across the sand...it was a very surreal sight! They smelt TERRIBLE but their faces were really cute, especially their long eyelashes. The guy who organised it, on hearing I was Scottish, spent the whole time cracking jokes about 'Haggisville', it was hilarious! He put me on his favourite camel, Bueller who was very well behaved. I had no idea how high off the ground I was and was amazed at the camel's gait, we sort of shoogled from side to side, it was brilliant fun! Due to Aus health and safety regulations, I had to wear a bike helmet which looks pretty funny in the photos!

The guy gave me a much quicker route back to the hostel than I'd taken and MUCH less hilly! Just a shame it was a main road, I looked like a right tool cycling along on a bike with no gears and hardly any brakes and was convinced it was only a matter of time until I got arrested! Somehow, I got back in one piece and then headed off with Lynsey and a German girl called Denise to the Koala Hospital. As heart-breaking as it was to see these poor little things, some with no eyes or only three legs, it was lovely to hear about how the hospital was helping them and rehabiliate them so they could eventually be released back into the wild. It made me rethink my desire to actually cuddle one, they are wild animals after all. But still, if I find one willing then I may gave him a hug, just a wee one! :)


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