header

Page 22



A little more of Sydney then North.

A Reunion under the Harbour Bridge.


Sydney from Kirribilli

Beautiful Sydney from Kirribilli as the afternoon shadows lengthen.

Our time at Narrabeen was coming to an end. While in Sydney we had managed to meet up with five of my erstwhile work colleagues and it was fabulous to see them all again. We had also visited Brian and Marjorie, in-laws of my brother Andrew, and the nicest couple you could hope to meet. Pam has a long-time friend, Rosalie, who was in Sydney and getting married just after we left. Many of Rosalie's family had flown over from Perth for her wedding. We know them all well and there was a happy reunion under the Harbour Bridge from where the picture above was taken.

And so it came to pass that the morning after farewell drinks with Greg and Bev (who we really miss), we hitched up the caravan and set forth into Sydney's rush-hour traffic. Not a pleasant experience with two and a half tonnes of caravan on tow. However, we survived and headed north, first to (hopefully) have a leak in the caravan roof sealed at Tuggerah, then a few kilometres further to Toowoon Bay where we had booked a site in a caravan park.

The Entrance

Toowoon Bay is very close to a town with the unusual name of The Entrance. Presumably the name originated from the town's location on the banks of the channel which connects Tuggerah Lake with the Pacific Ocean. Tuggerah Lake is quite large, having a surface area of about 50 square kilometres. The map shows that the lake would be a coastal bay if it were not for two narrow fingers of land which encircle it from north and south. The two fingers don't quite meet, leaving a channel connecting the lake to the Pacific. The presence of a dredger suggests that the channel needs a helping hand to remain open.

Pelicans

Pelican feeding takes place every afternoon.

C'mon guys, straighten that front row.

The Entrance calls itself The Pelican Capital of Australia, a title which many other coastal towns might dispute. Pelican feeding takes place every afternoon throughout the year and a crowd gathers to watch. About fifty birds turned up over a period of about an hour prior to feeding. The ranger in charge of the operation asked the birds if they were enjoying the free fish. The feeder waved a fish up and down and, in perfect unison, fifty pelican heads nodded solemnly as if in response to the question.

The reason we had decided upon The Entrance for our next destination - apart from the areas undisputed beauty - was that there was a three day country music festival being held there. We spent the whole weekend watching free performances in the open air. The weather was perfect and there was a lovely, happy carnival atmosphere. And guess who was there? Our favourite singer from Tamworth, Kirsty Lee Akers. The festival was held in the Memorial Park which is bordered on one side by a host of cafés, restaurants and a hotel. On the other side is a beach. There was a stage at either end of the park so we always had a choice of entertainment. Overhead several large, colourful kites flew all weekend, adding to the gaiety of the occasion. The performers ranged, as at Tamworth, from young to old, and many were very, very good.

Singer and Ice Cream

Will your child be a singing star one day? Spot the early signs.

Flag

Kite

During the weekend we noticed how clean the park remained. The spectators at the festival are to be congratulated - they conscientiously used the many available bins and the uniformed cleaning staff came by frequently and emptied the bins. Due to the strong, gusty wind it was inevitable that some litter would blow around but it didn't stay around long - the cleaning team were onto it at once. When we left later, after a nice Thai meal, it was dark and the whole area was pristine.

The festival was very much a family occasion and there was plenty to keep the children occupied. The usual bouncy castle had been brought in, but there were also permanent carousels and a water playground in the park which was very colourful by day. At night it was beautifully lit up, the water still flowing. All weekend long a miniature train ran back and forth with its cargo of little passengers.

For the adults there was a selection of old agricultural engines, all running, and several were driving water pumps or generators. I just love those old 'hit and miss' engines where the exhaust valve is held open until the governor detects that the flywheel has slowed sufficiently when it allows the valve to close and the engine fires once or twice and then waits again until the flywheel slows. Knew you'd be fascinated.

Of course, wherever there's water in Australia there's people fishing and The Entrance was certainly no exception. The many food outlets were conducting a brisk business, as too was the hotel.

Kids

Amongst many other things, the 'littlies' could watch the performers. Or play chess. Or ...

Water Playground

... cool off in the water playground which looked very pretty after dark.

No Alcohol

The adults had a wide variety of food to choose from or they could always go for a beer ... or could they?

So Sad

So sad . . . until she got onto the stage with a microphone and an audience!

During the festival, the lovely Mrs Bucket developed a horrible cough and cold with a fever and sore throat which rather spoilt the occasion for her. For several days I thought I was going to escape it but, living in close confinement in a plastic box the outcome was inevitable. Thus, when the time came to move on we were both feeling more dead than alive so we extended our stay for several days. Pam's virus cycle was well ahead of mine so she began to feel better sooner. We couldn't have asked for much pleasanter surroundings in which to recover. We were frequently visited by two very tame rabbits, one black and one brown, which made a change from the ducks and ducklings which had been so abundant in the Narrabeen caravan park.

Bunnies

Left: Visiting Bunnies

In due course we felt well enough to hitch up the caravan and hit the road. Our destination was Bayview Caravan Park at Belmont Bay, some twenty kilometres south-west of Newcastle. It was only an hour's drive but it was quite enough for me that morning. Thankfully good old Alice directed us unerringly to the park entrance and we booked in for four nights.
Belmont Bay

The roads in this caravan park were ridiculously narrow considering what they were intended to accommodate and we had three goes at negotiating one turn. A little too far to the left and the rear of the caravan would have 'collected' a signpost, a little too far right and the other side of the 'van would have chewed through some shrubs. We challenged shrubs to such a contest once before. The result was 2-0 to the shrubs.

Our site, when we reached it, sloped in two directions which made levelling the caravan an interesting exercise. The 'element' (or 'absorption') type of fridge used in caravans has to be reasonably level to work efficiently so we ended up with the wheels on the right sitting on blocks and the front draw bar high in the air as the picture below may show.

Caravan


The front appears high but the caravan was level.
It was the ground that sloped, and quite steeply.

A short walk to the west of the caravan and we were on the shores of Lake Macquarie. Two and a half kilometres to the east was the Pacific Ocean so it wasn't such a bad location. Our reason for staying at Belmont, apart from seeing the Newcastle area, was to visit two friends. We met Ann and Tom Grabau on the M.V. Trinity Bay when we sailed from Cairns to Cape York and back.

Ann, a children's tutor, has recently published an educational book called Mikie the Bikie for children aged from 6 to 9 years. The story covers the age-old problem of bullying - and the underlying causes of it - in a light and amusing manner, but in a way that certainly provokes thought. The first batch off the press has already sold out and more are being printed to accommodate the demand from schools. Ann has also produced Comprehensive Teachers' Resources for use with the book.

We were invited to a barbecue at Tom and Ann's home. Tom rides a big BMW motorcycle and Ann, an enthusiastic pillion passenger, dreamed up the idea for Mikie the Bikie while riding on the back of the bike. We enjoyed a very interesting evening as Tom and Ann share our love of Australia and they also travel the continent whenever they can. They are a lot more adventurous than we are, however, venturing far off the beaten track.

Earlier in the day we had driven into the centre of Newcastle and taken a tour on what was described as Newcastle's Famous Tram

Tram

The interior of Newcastle's Famous Tram was beautifully finished in polished wood and etched glass.
The small sign warned we'd be fined £2 for spitting in the car.
The hat of the bloke in the seat in front of us urged us to try the Land Rover experience.

The driver was amusing with a quick wit, as is the way with all the best tour drivers. Newcastle, we learned, has a very busy port which exports large volumes of coal - 84 million tonnes in 2005 - and also grain. Newcastle is a hilly city and when the tram reached higher ground we were able to see many ships loading. Moreover, there were nineteen large empty vessels anchored just offshore, riding high in the water as they waited their turn to enter port and load. Our driver, who knew all the facts and figures in the way that only tour guides do, told us that it cost $10,000 per day to keep each of those ships waiting and the all-time record was a queue of 52 idle ships. There's an old adage that empty vessels make the most noise. At that cost per day I expect the owners of those empty vessels made plenty, right into the harbour master's ear.

Ships

Two of the nineteen empty ships waiting to enter Newcastle.

The tram stopped to give us a break at a lookout above the ocean. There were two hang-gliders assembled there, their owners making final preparations to launch. The first to go was a young woman and it must take some nerve ...

Hang Glider

... to run towards the edge of an almost sheer drop,
lean forward and jump into space. But that's what we saw her do.

Single Hang Glider

And away she went, climbing rapidly in the strong up-draft from the sea breeze.
Then she turned and soared back right over us. It looked wonderful.

Taree, New South Wales

Leaving the Newcastle area we set off north again, dragging the 'van a couple of hundred kilometres to a coastal hamlet called Old Bar, about 20 kilometres from the town of Taree.

Ellenborough Falls

There we settled into an immaculately kept caravan park which was only separated from the breakers crashing onto the shore by some low sand dunes. Consequently we lived with the sound of the breakers by day and by night. I don't know about you, but I find falling asleep to the sound of the waves totally relaxing.

Old Bar is not far from the town of Wingham where Jill and Sandy Dunn reside with their two children. Jill is my brother's sister-in-law. Once again we found ourselves made very welcome and almost overwhelmed by kindness. Jill and Sandy live on a hill above Wingham in a green and leafy setting with million dollar views across the Great Dividing Ranges. They took us to see Ellenborough Falls - reputedly the highest waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere.

Ellenborough Falls and Gorge.

We walked to a lookout platform overlooking the falls. The water drops into a deep gorge, presumably worn away by the flow over millions of years. We found that if we stared at the falling water for about fifteen seconds then looked at the trees adjacent to the falls, a strip through the trees appeared to swirl upwards. An optical illusion, of course, but it affected all of us the same.

After taking some pictures of the falls we returned to the car park for a picnic lunch. As we sat around the table, out of the undergrowth waddled a huge lizard. He (or it might have been she) wasn't in the least intimidated by us, and was clearly used to begging food from visitors. Quite successfully if its girth was any indication - it was (quite literally) bursting out of its skin. It had a very long, pink tongue, forked at the end, and it constantly flicked it in and out. We knew we shouldn't feed it but . . . what can you do? It enjoyed a bit of meat but a slice of orange to follow met with a sniff and total rejection.

As soon as food was thrown to the lizard, along came a beautiful, speckled bird to get a share. We didn't recognise the variety at the time. From Jill's description, Cameron, her son, thought it was a Catbird. When I later checked the photo I took (see below) against our bird book I wasn't so sure. I couldn't find a perfect match; the nearest I could get was a female Satin Bowerbird. So, dear Reader, can you throw some light on this critter?

Lace Monitor Lizerd and Satin Bowerbird


Left: Jill, Sandy and Pam are fascinated by this Lace Monitor Lizard which doesn't show
up too well against the background on the photo. His size, however, is apparent.

Right: A female Satin Bowerbird. Pretty, isn't she?










Many thanks to Alan Gillanders, a naturalist from Yungaburra, Far North Queensland, who identified both species in the pictures above for us. You'll find more about Alan on Page 27.

Well, I think we've squeezed all we can into Page 22 so let's move on to Page 23.

Explanatory Note to YOU, Dear Reader. These pages were originally written some years ago. At that time I didn't know a lot about running a web site; still don't, actually. Also our computer and my camera were inferior to the equipment we have now. Thus I cringe when I look back at the early pages. I have slowly been updating and reformatting those pages and this is as far as I've got; it's a very time consuming and tedious task. To complicate matters further, our screen size has altered twice as we upgraded our computer since we set off in December 2004.

Why am I telling you this? Because when you click below to go forward you'll be back on a page from the early stages so be warned.

Footnote: This re-working of Page 22 was completed on 30 March 2013. It conforms to HTML5 and CSS level 3.