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Watching Jeff get knocked over will always be funny

Now with 100% more History facts!

rain 22 °C

Started today with a walking tour of the historic sites of Newcastle. The ocean baths were full of old people and some kids that looked like they were training for a swim meet. From there we walked up to the Bogey Hole, which Jeff talked about yesterday, well today he was dressed for the occasion and ready to jump in. After he hands me his wallet and stuff I start to take a step up the stairs when a wave comes rushing in and knocks Jeff right off his feet and into the water. I didn't have the camera ready and before I could get ready another even larger wave comes along and washes up to my knees and takes off with Jeff's thongs. I try to reach them without falling in with all our stuff but can't get there in time and Jeff has to swim around to collect them. After this we've spent enough time in the water and move on. Getting out of the water Jeff notices his toe is bleeding, pretty sure he's going to get gangrene now.

From there it was up to the old signal and command station from WWII and before. Its not much today but an old concrete bunker covered in graffiti and full of rubbish, but it still is pretty cool. Running under it is a network of tunnels that may not technically be open to he public, but when the gate is left open, its like they're just inviting us in. It was pretty dark and eerie down there and I was nervous that at any moment some homeless person would emerge brandishing a broken beer bottle, or a zombie. It could go either way down there. After safely making it back to ground level we walked down the hill to the large open street mall and meandered down the street looking at everything we can't afford. We crossed a bridge over the street and train tracks back to the waterfront where we climbed an observation tower and watched the shipping traffic.

From there it was back up a hill to Fort Scratchley, the old defense of Newcastle. Home to several large guns and memorabilia from Australia's military history. During WWII Newcastle was fired upon by a Japanese submarine, who knew? The sub surfaced near the harbour in a blind spot of the shore searchlights and fired the industrial part of town. Of the 34 shells fired, only 1 actually exploded, causing minimal damage and no casualties. The AU defense guns we're able to sight the sub intermittently, and managed to fire two salvos, but scored no hits.

It was then back to the car for our travel to the Hunter Valley! One of Australia's most well known wine regions. We found a place to camp right near the town of Cessnock and close to the many wineries and just up the road from a brewery. We went up to the information center and picked up a map of the region and started to pick out which wineries we wish to hit up tomorrow. Most of them have Cellar Doors which are listed as having free tasting. So tomorrow we're going to dress nicely, maybe rent a bicycle, and be wine snobs.

At our campsite though, many of the backpackers who work at the vineyards are also staying here. I talked to a group from the UK who have been here fro 3 weeks and only worked 4 days. They were sitting around waiting for their boss to show up and pay them. Nice guys though, but can't wait to get out of here and think I'm crazy for purposely coming up here to tour.

Posted by owensj11 00:39 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

It's only getting better!

Nothing negative today folks, just happy to be here.

sunny 26 °C

So after the monsoon that we had yesterday in Port Macquire it was nice to wake up and walk the beaches that we read about and experience all that it had to offer. Stopped at the Koala Hospital on our way out and got to see some koalas doing their thang. Very cool. First time I've seen any since I've been here. They are pretty sneaky in the wild. After that the destination was Newcastle which was a few hours down the coast. Now there was supposed to be 2 "bigs" along the way but the big axe in Kew proved elusive so instead we got to see the big oyster in Taree which is now a Kia dealership. Then I made the decision that the Pacific Highway was a little too highway-y. So took a turnoff and found an area that called itself the 'Great Lakes' psh it was just a few lakes in the mountains from what I could tell. Sure it was beautiful and cool and picturesque but it was no Great Lakes. Then we arrived in Newcastle and it is a proper city. It's less than 100kms to Sydney so things are starting to build up. It's odd coming from all the beach towns that we saw along the coast. It is also the busiest coal port in the world according to our talkative hostel receptionist. After checking in we took in the sights and they were amazing. Newcastle was one of the first penal colonies to be established so it's nice to have a bit of history. It made me realise how young the rest of Australia really is. Brisbane is just beginning to build up and even the oldest cities here are only 200 years old at best. It's weird. Has some awesome historical sites though. The lighthouse, the ocean baths, and the renovated cathedral. Will hopefully spend the morning checking out a few more. Oh and has some great beaches but you all have heard enough about those by now. Just assume that everywhere has them and that we are spending 80% of our time at them and just telling you about the other 20% of our time doing other things. Then the hostel I picked was offering a free bbq tonight so of course we went. Was hosted by a surprisingly upscale restaurant along the wharf and then we opted to stay for trivia night festivities. We lost to an older British couple who had teamed up with two girls from Finland. They were fair winners and we joined up tables and just stated to chat. The older couple were enjoying a holiday now that their youngest son turned 18 and were basically doing the trip they did as broke backpackers in their twenties. Was interesting to hear the saga of the backpacker from their point of view. As the night wore on we were joined at the 'winner's table' as they never let us forget, by other backpackers and just got to enjoy one of the best nights yet. Sure we didn't know that any of us existed this time yesterday but it didn't stop us from chatting away like old mates tonight.

Posted by owensj11 04:27 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Do I have a story for you...

Freakin' New South Wales!

rain 27 °C

Stayed the night in the lovely town of Tamworth, it was pretty nice. Now Tamworth isn't the prettiest town around by any means, but it is the Country Music Capita of AU and has a Big Golden Guitar to prove it. The Big Guitar is an eye grabbing roadside version of the award that is given out to the Award winners of the National Country Music Awards. The Tourist Trap - I mean Centre attached to the Guitar also has a Wax Museum! It cost to go in so we gave it a pass. There was a souvenir shop bursting with knick knacks branded with the Big Guitar and oddly had a wall dedicated to 1930s Cricket memorabilia. I didn't get a chance to read into to much, but it seemed to center around Donald Bradman. It also has three MacDonald's! Or so the billboards going in told us. I only found two so I remain skeptical of the third.

We back tracked along the way we came in so we could meet up with the Oxley Highway and cut back through the mountains to Port Macquarie (pronounced Ma-Cory, or so we think right now, its up in the air, it could also be Mac-ery, or Ma-Cow-ry). This back track allowed us to revisit the town of Moonbi and its reported "Big Chicken." Upon sighting this so called Big item it isn't that big at all. We downgraded it to "larger than a real chicken, but not that big really."

Back into the mountains we go! The trip this side started out easy enough, we were already up in the mountains so all we have to do is go down right? Haha, so we thought too. Cory seems to be running alright, we started out well and the weather is nice, things are going well. We're cruising along through farm lands, seeing many cows, stop in Walcha to fuel up, pass through Yarrowitch (No, you're a witch!) and hit the winding road down the mountain when we hit, a pot hole. Wait, wait, let me back up, Jeff is coasting down the mountain and letting the car just idle and occasionally pressing the brake to control our descent and we're discussing the car and how it likes to stall and THEN we find the pot hole. BAM! Suddenly I look over and the lights are on the dash and the RPM is at 0. RazzinFrazzin... Haha, so the Power Steering is gone and the power assisted brakes stop being power assisted. Great right? Oh and we're hurtling down a a mountain along a road packed with more pot holes to avoid and no turn off in sight. This trip already is more action packed than our previous ones and its only been a week!

After rounding a few curves and a couple of unsuccessful attempts at restarting we find a flat-ish roadside stopping bay and decide to stop and break out the butane powdered stove and the Billy Can and have a cuppa. We watched the trucks that we had previously passed pass us by, drinking our coffee and eating some biscuits. After fiddling with fuses and giving Cory some time to sit he thankfully started again! This was punctuated with Jeff just yelling to get in the car and we were off! From then on he was adamant that we would not stop again until Port Macquarie. The NSW Road Works peopled called his bluff and had a few stop lights placed for ongoing road improvement projects (none of which there ever seemed to be any work going on at). We flew through a nice forest that just popped into being around us and passed a truck or two. On the flats, on anything that passed for flat (and the small town of Long Flat) Jeff was going to get to Port Macquarie as soon as he could. I stopped looking over at the speedometer after awhile, it was easier that way.

As we came into Port Macquarie the weather took a turn for the worse and it started to rain. We found our Hostel after a little searching in town. We come in and the desk is unmanned until 4pm. It was 3pm. I browsed the book shelf and found a good book "The Search for Schrodiner's Cat: Quantum Physics and Reality." Jeff wandered the hostel and read the book he picked up in Tamworth, a Michael Crichton thriller, I look forward to reading it when he's done, I can't say the same about him and my book. As we wait the weather gets worse and the rain is really coming down out there. More people start showing up to the previously quiet hostel and start queuing up. Including this group of five Canadians who have been our evenings entertainment. They've been in AU for all of three weeks, bought their own car and are traveling like us. Except from what Jeff was able to gather they had some sort of Grant or something when the arrived of $10,000 each, of which they've all spent it already. Their accent and and sayings have been an entertaining reminder of why we don't live in America's Hat, but their use of Miles per gallon for the economy of the car was nice and made sense. Our car gets something like 100km to 6L. What does that even mean? Where is my nice one to something comparison? Their car gets 30 miles per one gallon of fuel. Ah, that makes sense!

Hopefully the weather clears up enough tomorrow to take a stroll around Port Macquarie before we shove off for somewhere else.

Posted by owensj11 01:47 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

The Adventure off the beaten track.

Even though the Nance wanted to make a break South on the Pacific Highway, it was my day to choose and I chose the Giant Chook.

all seasons in one day 26 °C

Whew, it's been a long day. Started the morning in Coffs Harbour and ending it about as far from the coast as you can get.

The morning was picture perfect. Spent it walking about Coffs and seeing the things I missed yesterday. This included a huge nature reserve island that is only connected to the mainland via a sea wall. Very cool. Learned that the EAC, that's the East Australian Current btw, flows right along the coast here, I'm doing a bit of a Finding Nemo tour of sorts, because I too hope to find my son in Sydney. Haha just kidding. It's more because I am doing a long trip starting at the Great Barrier Reef and heading towards Sydney. Have met some characters along the way and had some problems too. But I should probably stop comparing my life to an animated movie, some people might find that strange. Anyways from there we walked out on the jetty and saw some kids jumping off the 2 meters into the ocean. Had to try it. Was a bit scary but come on, when do you get the chance to dive into the ocean from a high but safe height? Ended up jumping 3 times just because it was so much fun. Tried to get the Nance to jump but he invoked the crippling fear of heights excuse and did not. Got some pretty good video of me trying to talk him into in and what not. Then it was back to the Pacific Highway to make for Port Macquarie. Or so we thought. I asked if we were going to pass any of the "Bigs" along the way and he said that we are going to miss the Big Chook and the Golden Guitar. Now that is entirely unacceptable. "They're pretty far inland." He says. "But we could see two! I can understand missing one because it's way far and not that impressive, but the Big Chook?!" I have him find it for me on the map and off the Pacific Highway and towards Bellingen.

Now it's like going back towards Gympie from the coast. Farmland and mountains in the distance. That is until you start climbing them. This one road, appropriately named Waterfall Way took us over 1300 meters up from sea level, which is pretty substantial considering that we were swimming in the sea a few hours before. One waterfall thundered down a few meters from the road and nary a fence to stop you from slipping down the mountain. Sure there were signs saying "Don't walk to falls" and crap like that but hey it was cool to stand under them. Then it was with another prayer that we hopped in the Corolla and made for Dorrigo. Almost thought we weren't going to make it up that mountain. Anyways fueled up and high spirited we headed towards Armidale. Along the way we saw a rest stop that advertised Ebor Falls and only 600m to boot. Had to stop. Glad we did the falls were magnificent and we got there just before the sky opened up and would've made viewing the falls a bit wet. That and cold, because of how high we were it was actually quite chilly that and the wind and rain I'd say it was at least in the low 60s F haven't had anything below high 70s in a few months and I was glad to descend into a more agreeable temperature. Then we hit Armidale, nicknamed by us the Bible Belt of Aus. Seriously churches everywhere and then more in the little towns leading away.

Here the story gets less original. Hit a gigantic pothole on the road about 60 kms from Tamworth and the Corolla decides to, with any sort of large jar, lose all power for a second and then act like nothing is wrong and keep plugging away. Was with more prayers and veiled threats that we make it Tamworth, alive and well. Shall see what tomorrow will bring.

Posted by owensj11 22:55 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

The beginning of...

Whoa guys we are off on another adventure let me fill you in on what's been going on.

sunny 31 °C

Day one - Departure from Gymps. Got an early start after a nice morning tea with Uncle Denny, Dolph, and Kate. Noticed a bit of a gouge on one of the front tires and of course feared the worst. Stopped at a tire place and mate said that we shouldn't be worried didn't come close to the cords and just to keep an eye on it. And with that we were off! Back on the Bruce heading down to Brisbane. There is a quick way to skirt the city but it's a toll road and in keeping with the backpacker ideals we made a rule to never pay a toll if we can help it. So the other option takes you through the city and out the other side. Well it should be as simple as that. We hit a bit of traffic once we got over to the southside, nothing too heavy but apparently too heavy for the ol Corolla. It was just like on the way to Noosa. The car just dies in the middle of traffic and again by some act of god I manage to get him off the busy road and into a small side street and it was even a legal parking spot. I had hoped that after the work that went into the car after my first bout with car problems would have solved it all, but it wasn't to be. Our RACQ membership has certainly paid off by now. Call them and in under 20 mins the yellow ute pulls up and takes a look. It's the ignition coil, he even shows us the crack in it and the bit where the spark has been escaping and burning a bit of the plastic. So he puts nail polish on it so that we can at least get it to a shop. Nice guy, not much small talk. So we get Cory back on the road and head for the closest auto shop. First one we find is dodgy as all get out, but instead of even looking at the car they refer us to an auto electrical shop down the road. Now Cory had stalled once on the two km drive over to there so it was on a prayer that we made it to the other shop. It was a small business operation and that worked in our favor because even though the proprietor was swamped he still found the time to look over the car and got us a generic part and then didn't charge us labour. Now that little pit stop took most of our afternoon so we headed for Cleveland, on the coast east of Brisbane a bit just to see what was there. I felt a bit crooked so we stayed in a motel and just got our bearings.

Next morning we got back on track and headed for our original destination of Byron Bay. And we made it! Got some beds at a hostel right off the main beach and set in to enjoy some of the Aussie summer sun. The number one reason that I love hostels aside from the price, is that you meet people doing the same thing as you and get to hear about places from all over the world. We stayed for two nights and since we aren't loaded holidayers we stay in the first night and just chill and plan a bit of the next day. Which consisted of sleeping in and then headed out to the famous historic lighthouse. It took us almost 2 hours to reach it, but that was because I had to stop to watch some surfers and then we ran across the most eastern point of the Australian mainland, and then we saw a group of dolphins swimming around the bottom of some huge cliffs. Then we got to the lighthouse and it was pretty cool. Be-eee-ay-utiful views. Then it was a leisurely 3 km walk back. Had a plan to pick up some ingredients and make dinner at the hostel but on the way back from Woolies we saw a sign that said "free barbeque" now we don't like to pass up free tucker so we went and took a look. Turns out it is a local christian organization that puts it on every friday and it shows. The beef was a nice off white and while we eating we saw a grubby guy go through the whole bin of buns to find a "good 'un." We decided that it's good for our immune systems to take the time out and try those things once in a while. That night one of the people I met at the hostel, a finnish girl who's name was something like Outi and a group of others I hadn't met went out and hung out at the beach. Was a good time, give Byron a good mark.

Left Byron and made our way to Yamba for a few nights of camping. First passed through Ballina and saw the Giant Prawn, it's still there even though the business that it was part of is now gone. Good thing too, we went through Ballina just to catch a glimpse of the elusive prawn. Almost missed it though and right when I said to the Nance, "Quick find it on the map, did we miss it?" Of course I then see it coming up on our right, can't miss it, it's massive. On the way from there we passed a scenic lookout and I like scenery and I like looking so we stopped. Boy oh boy am I glad that we did. For some reason the surf here has been excellent and the place we stopped, Lennox Heads, had the best and the break happened around a set of giant cliffs that were stunning. Got some cool views and saw some awesome surfing. Feeling good as we walked to the car, it all evaporated when Cory wouldn't start. I'm starting to think that this trip is more about the car's quirks than anything. I just want it to go from point A to point B, with no dramas. It doesn't need to look nice or sound nice or smell nice or go fast or anything. Just go. That's it. Anyways after about 5 mins I try it again and it starts. Thank goodness. I didn't do anything that I know of other than fumble with a few fuses and just stare angrily at it. Either way we made it to Yamba without a call to RACQ. The weather couldn't be more perfect. Spent day one just hanging in the sun and picking up a few sausages to have a little BBQ with. Was our first go at camping after assembling what we believed to be the bare minimum of camping gear. After surviving the first night we felt like we had the bare minimum and made a short list of what we'd like to pick up if we find it cheap. The only thing that went on the must-have list was bug spray. I got eaten alive. For some reason the mozzies over here love me. Even just having dinner outside covered in aeroguard and mozzie smokers burning away, they seek me out and bite up my legs. Either way camping was fun and we'll be doing it again fo sho.

After two nights of relaxing we got in the Corolla said our prayers and then took off for Coff's Harbour. Now Coff's Harbour is known for one thing and one thing only and that is the Giant Banana. It's right off the highway and totally worth a stop. The banana itself is exactly what you'd expect but then you get a chocolate covered banana and sit down facing it and you begin to contemplate. Why? Not to say it's not a nice monument to fruit and all that, but is it worth a whole roadside attraction? Sure it got me to stop but that's where my interest waned. The choco banana got me to stay an extra few minutes but after that we found a backpacker place, watched the end of the Super Bowl and then I headed for the beach. More surfers and cliffs and you know what? It's not even close to old yet. I could watch surfing and sit on cliffs everyday. Which might be good because the Nance said one of the beaches around Sydney is having a comp starting next week so hopefully will check it out. While that's it you're up to speed.

Posted by owensj11 00:57 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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