Thursday, December 14, 2006

Aussie Road Trip 2

After the cool and quiet of the hills we were fancying a bit of beach fun so headed to Yuragir National Park. On the way we made a short stop in McLean - Australia’s Scottish town, all the telegraph poles and lamp posts have different tartans painted on them, there are Scottish shops and the butcher even sold haggis. The town is right on the lake and if wasn’t for the fact it was about 35 we could have felt as if we were in Scotland. We head to the National Park and drove down about 10 kms of rough road and found ourselves in the completely magical spot of Sandon River. The camping area looked pretty ordinary on first impressions, but after we explored a little we found we were in paradise. We had a spot looking right onto the beach, at low tide there was an island just off the entrance to the river which was covered in pelicans. The river itself was as the back of the camping area and was extremely tidal. At the change of the tide we launched our kayak and had a beautiful leisurely push up stream through channels gorged in the sandbanks. Around us was the wildest scenery, all mountains, dry landscapes with the occasional area of mangroves. We took a picnic and landed on an island up stream for lunch - we felt like this was real Australia.

That night we got chatting to our neighbors and ended up being invited for drinks with Joan the ‘Mayoress’ of the campsite and her friends and family. Joan lived about 20 mins away but had been coming to Sandon River for the whole summer for practically her whole life, she was missing a few teeth and enjoyed homebrew made by her husband Bill in large quantities. It turned out that the whole group - about 12 people just move to the beach in their caravans/tents for the summer - some even go to work from there. We had two fabulous nights and then decided it was time to move on. Our next night was even stranger, we went to Crowdy Bay National Park in search of Koalas but instead found nuddie running, moonshine drinking cowboys. There was supposed to be showers at this place so after we put the tent up I went off in search, the spot called Indian Heads was deserted apart from a lot of Kangaroos and one large group with lots of utes and boats around their camping area playing loud music. I walked by the group nervously, but I should have remembered that I was in Queensland, as I was greeted by a really friendly bunch and one guy showed where the shower was. Later that evening after dinner Andrew and I kept getting different visitors from the group and in the end they invited us down. So off we went drinks in hand and met about 5 families that were camping for the weekend, they were farmers from inland and had loads of kids. Not long after we arrived out came the moonshine, Andrew having a chemical background was very dubious but we both tried a little and it was actually alright with a lot of coke. Next the conversation turned to another activity, nudie running! I was terrified when a middle aged man stripped off to nothing but hat and boots and started chasing poor kangaroos while the others shone a flashlight on his arse - this is country living for you!

We were both in need of a bit of luxury after the last few days so we decided our next stop would be in the boutique wine growing region, the Hunter Valley. After a lot of negotiation we managed to strike a bargain deal to stay in one of the nicest hotels in the region. The station wagon loaded with all our worldly belongings pulled in to the driveway of Peppers Convent, along the avenue through the vineyards to the turning circle complete with fountain - this was perfect. We were so spoiled, we got all dressed up, had champagne and canapés before going to diner at Roberts, a fantastic French restaurant on the same estate. Next morning we had the longest breakfast before spending a few hours chilling out in the spa. Life was good!!

Getting right in to the tourist trip now, our next stop was the Blue Mountains. We skirted round the edge of Sydney, nearly running out of petrol about 30 kms from the nearest town when luckily there was a truck stop which charged twice as much as a normal garage but we were so relieved we didn’t care. Our first night in the Blue Mountains was as Glenbrook just inside the park, we did a short hike and found the Nepean river where we took a swim underneath staggering cliff faces in the most clean tranquil spot. We drove 10kms down unmade roads and then hiked to find the Red Hand Caves - famous aboriginal hand prints - we were less than impressed by prints that looked like a two year old had done them - but who are we to comment!? Next to Katoomba, the tourist hub of the Blue Mountains, we did a great hike right out into the middle of the park to Mount Solitary. We stood on the top and looked back at the famous Three Sisters and the blue shimmering eucalyptus trees all around. Unfortunately a lot of the park was inaccessible due to damage caused by forest fires so we decided to cut short our trip and head back to the central coast. Here we spent a couple of nights at the beautiful Boudi National Park before heading to lake Macquarie to catch up with our sailing friends Paul and Liz who we last saw in the Canaries.

Paul & Liz returned from cruising a few months before after selling their yacht Amaranth in America, they live in a beautiful house that they designed themselves on the banks of lake Macquarie. It was wonderful to see them again and exchange all our stories. We spent a few days with them taking full advantage of their kind hospitality. They took us on a city tour of Sydney before leaving us to defend for ourselves in the big city for two days before we flew back to the UK for Christmas.


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