While we were sorry to leave Tamworth, we were not sorry to leave the site we had been allocated in the caravan park. They had packed people in everywhere so when we arrived it was a case of 'beggars can't be choosers' and we were grateful for what we got. The ground was bone dry and dusty, and the gradient such that the caravan door was two deep steps up. Poor Pam struggled every time she entered or left the 'van and four weeks of that was quite enough. She did, however, book a nice level site for the 2008 festival in a much better location.
Alice - you remember Alice, our GPS navigator? - brought us unerringly to the Sundowner Breakwall Tourist Park in Port Macquarie. This park was large and well organised with plenty of green, soft grass and many tall Norfolk pines and palm trees. Our site was only a hundred metres from the breakwall which held back the water where the Hastings River meets the Pacific Ocean. The large rocks of which the wall was constructed were decorated with many different types of graffiti ranging from no-brainers to nice art. Nothing offensive, mostly happy memories of the various holiday-makers who had spent time in the Port (as Port Macquarie is known locally).
The wall stretched for about a kilometre, it's whole length decorated as shown above and below. Most, but not all, were of happy memories . . .
Happy messages from the 'phone text' generation, it seems.
Surrender earthlingsis the caption on the left image. What a shame somebody had to daub paint over this excellent Mickey Mouse. And who's Kero?
Fragile: This Way Up. Well, this is Australia. And what do you make of this image?
These were but a minute sample of the messages left on the rocks. Most were just the names of the visitors over the years. A few rocks bore religious messages, many contained happy birthday messages and others the names of pop groups and sporting teams. Some were quite thought provoking - even puzzling.
At one end, the path and rock wall terminated overlooking a beach where the young - and sometimes the not-so-young - were surfing. The waves looked very big to me, and the rocks below the footpath lethal. My heart was in my mouth several times as youngsters came racing towards an agonising death, but just as all seemed lost they nonchalantly turned their boards and surfed away.
At the up-river end of the path we found a moored square rigged sailing ship, the Alma Doepel which was built in Bellingen, just 110 km north of Port Macquarie, in 1903. It is now a tourist attraction and maritime museum.
A little more modern than the Beaver float planes that we saw operating from Sydney Harbour, this Cessna 172 did brisk business at weekends.
The name Port Macquarie probably conjures up images of industry, docks, oily water and giant rusty ships. Nothing could be further from the truth. Port Macquarie is a seaside resort town, just a little upmarket perhaps, but a very popular holiday destination.
If you've read Pam's journal for Sunday, 11th February, you'll know all about the odd tour operator that took us for a day out in the mountains. He didn't appear to know any history or anything about wildlife. Most tour guides have an answer for everything and endless funny stories, but not this boy. Pam's covered the tour pretty thoroughly so I'll just add some pictures here.
There was an equally lovely outlook from the opposite side of the lookout. The two mountains in the background are South Brother and Middle Brother. The mountains were named by one of my heroes, good old Captain Jim Cook. The significance of 'brother' I can't tell you.
Just look at her hair piece, doesn't it look silly?
I thought I should tell her but I didn't veal
I cud as
we'd only just met. In the end I decided I couldn't just turn the udder
cheek and moove on.
So I told her, but not beefore I'd taken
her picture as she did heifer nice face.
You could see her
How dairy say that to me!
Anyway I gave her a pat to show I meant well.
The Kindee Suspension Bridge, a weird construction of cables, girders and wood, was opened in December, 1936. It's the largest bridge of its type in the southern hemisphere. (Tour guide talk.) Why is it in black and white? Because colour wasn't invented in 1936, of course.
Until now our only plan was not to have a plan. This week, however, we've done a complete about face and drawn up an itinerary which will take us into 2008.
To the left is a map of the eastern seaboard of Australia with our proposed route shown in red lines. Each stopping place is represented by a red circle. The two yellow circles indicate where we will start and finish. The starting circle (on the coast) is Port Macquarie. The finishing circle is Tamworth. Between the two we will travel down, almost to the south coast of New South Wales, and then travel north again through Queensland on an inland route, to the Gulf of Carpentaria before turning east to cross the base of the Cape York Peninsula. We then turn north again as far as Cooktown - it isn't possible to take the caravan further north as there are no sealed roads. We'll then head south down the coast through a lot of familiar places to arrive in Tamworth just before the 2008 Country Music Festival. That's if all goes to plan. The total distance the 'van will cover will be 7,500 kilometres. The car will do many additional kilometres solo.
Setting off from Port Macquarie we will travel up into the Blue Mountains where we'll stay at Katoomba. After that we'll return to the coast at Wollongong before moving further south to Bateman's Bay. Then it's back to the mountains, this time the Snowy Mountains. Leaving the Snowy Mountains we'll visit the nation's capital, Canberra, followed by Orange, Lightning Ridge and St. George which will bring us back into familiar territory. We saw those fabulously decorated emu eggs in St. George (page 19).
Leaving St. George we'll head for an overnight stop at Tambo. What's at Tambo? About 20 streets in the middle of nowhere and possibly not even a caravan park. So why . . . ? Because the distance from St. George to Longreach is 825 kilometres, too far to go in one hop. Tambo is on the way and it might have a pub. What better reason for stopping there?
In Longreach we'll again be back in familiar territory and we know the inside of the bar called Captain Starlight's Hideaway well enough. The Stockman's Hall of Fame and the QANTAS museum, with its giant Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet, are there too and we'll be able to see whether their first Boeing 707 has arrived after its restoration. Wouldn't it be something if it flew in while we were there? Oh well, please yourself. I think it would be fantastic to watch it land.
Anyway, we can't hang around too long, we must head off into unknown territory again, this time to Julia Creek. Why Julia Creek? Well, it's a pretty name, it has about twenty streets, it might have a pub and it's about half way to Normanton.
Before you ask, Normanton has about forty streets and a railway so its bound to have a pub or two, isn't it? Besides, it's close to Karumba which is where we really want to go. Karumba (17 streets, but one is an Esplanade!) is a fishing village on the shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Well, actually it's on the banks of the Norman River, but close to the Gulf of . . . .
We'll then hitch up and head east across the bottom of the Cape York Peninsula to Mount Surprise where the Lava Tubes are to be found - but more of them when we get there. On again to Ravenshoe. We liked Ravenshoe when we called there (page 30) and it has a restored steam railway that might even be in working order this time.
Farther north we'll revisit Cooktown which we liked a lot when we previously stayed overnight on a tour (page 29). The journey south again is mostly revisits to places we love, including the Coolwaters Caravan Park in Cairns where we'll stay for the third time and 'catch up' with old friends. We'll revisit Cape Hillsborough and stop at Emu Park for Christmas then hightail it down to Tamworth via Childers and Toowoomba. We haven't stayed at Childers before though we have previously visited the town (page 25).
So there you have it. Half the places at which we'll stop will be new to us and maybe new to you, so we'll show you the pictures and tell you the stories. As for the future beyond Tamworth in 2008, well we still have all of Victoria, the north of Western Australia and the island state of Tasmania not yet touched. The main task might be staying alive and reasonably compos mentis for long enough. Re-reading the caption under the picture of the cow (above), I feel it may already be too late.
And that, dear friends, is the end of this page. You know what to do.
Footnote: This re-working of Page 38 was completed on 26 April 2013. It conforms to HTML5 and CSS level 3.