A little more of Sydney then North.
A Reunion under the Harbour Bridge.
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.
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.
Pelican feeding takes place every afternoon.
C'mon guys, straighten that front row.
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.
performers ranged, as at Tamworth, from young to old, and many were
very, very good.
Will your child be a singing star one day? Spot the early signs.
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.
Amongst many other things, the 'littlies' could watch the performers.
Or play chess. Or ...
... cool off in the water playground which looked very pretty after dark.
The adults had a wide variety of food to choose from or they could always
go for a beer ... or could they?
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
of those empty vessels made plenty, right into the
harbour master's ear.
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 ...
... to run towards
the edge of an almost sheer drop,
lean forward and jump into space. But
that's what we saw her do.
And away she went, climbing rapidly in the strong up-draft from the sea
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.
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
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
Left: Jill, Sandy and
Pam are fascinated by this Lace Monitor Lizard which doesn't show
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.
up too well against the background on the photo. His size, however, is
Right: A female Satin Bowerbird. Pretty, isn't she?
Well, I think we've squeezed all we can into Page 22 so let's move on to
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
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.