Pam's Journal for November 2007

Thursday 1st November 2007.

When we decided to stay in Grafton we didn't realise it was the Jacaranda Festival. Today was the big day of the Festival with most businesses closing at midday. We travelled into town and found the most beautiful jacaranda trees everywhere, quite spectacular.

Pete Mate's not the only one who can take pictures.

We met up with Rhonda, John and family for lunch and then we wandered around, soaking up the atmosphere. Later, after a short rest in the caravan, we went to Travis and Helen's place for a barbecue. (Travis is John and Rhonda's son, Helen his wife.) There were several other guests there and . . . Buster, the Killer Poodle.

Hey, all my friends, bet you never thought you'd see me cuddle a canine, did you?

It was a lovely evening with some really nice people. Whilst we were there yet another storm erupted. It is becoming a way of life!

Friday 2nd November 2007.
We said goodbye to Rhonda and John as they were going away for a week and we would have moved on by the time they returned. We then went into town to the Post Office to investigate our missing mail. It was traced as far as the Grafton Sorting Office but after that it seems to have fallen into a black hole. What a drama, I had to visit two Post Offices and fill in a form. I guess it will eventually turn up. After we left the Post Office we headed to MacLean, a town that has strong Scottish connections. We drove through the town and headed out to Yamba which is situated between the Clarence River estuary on one side and the ocean on the other. We had lunch at a pub high up on a hill with marvellous views. The Caesar salad was good, I gave it 10 out of 10 but Pete Mate gave it 6.5. After lunch we went back to MacLean to have a look around. As part of its Scottish heritage, every power pole in the town is decorated with a Scottish tartan. The Tourist Information Office pointed us at the MacNeil tartan. My maiden name was McNeil.

We're not going to quibble about the 'a' in Mac, are we?

We went to the lookout which had some fabulous views but by this time the rain had started again so taking photos was out of the question. We decided to head for home. We arrived home to find the deserted park that we had left this morning practically full. People, tents, boats of all shapes and sizes and dogs everywhere. Apparently people come here for the weekend to enjoy the water sports.

Saturday 3rd November 2007.
Today Glenreagh had the pleasure of our company. We went there because the local volunteer train enthusiasts were running a steam train. We arrived just in time to catch a train for the short ride out of town and back. After the train ride and Pete Mate having had his fill of looking and photographing, we had a look around the markets. Nothing outstanding there. We then went into town for lunch and the only place you could get lunch was the pub. We had the Caesar salad again and this one was better than yesterday's even though we didn't get any anchovies. After lunch there wasn't anything else to see or do in Glenreagh so we headed back to Grafton. In Grafton we saw some small sailing boats on the river and some vintage cars on display in the middle of town. We then decided we had had enough and headed home to enjoy some more rain.

Sunday 4th November 2007.
At last the sun is shining, but it it still hot and humid. We spent the day amusing ourselves reading, knitting and working on the computer. In the afternoon we prepared everything for our travels tomorrow. We have actually had a day without rain or a storm; instead we a most beautiful evening sky, such vivid pinks.

Monday 5th November 2007.

We awoke to sunshine and dry warmth that was very pleasant indeed. We were on the road by 9.00am and had a very pleasant journey through winding roads that took us through beautiful green country side. As we travelled higher into the mountains the temperature dropped and by the time we arrived in Armidale it was positively cool. We set up camp and then went for a drive around the town. We called into the information centre and booked a free town tour for Wednesday. We then went back to the caravan for the evening.

Tuesday 6th November 2007.
I awoke this morning to the sounds of someone making coffee. Have I forgotten an anniversary? I asked myself. Not only did I get coffee in bed but Pete Mate did the dishes as well. Ain't life full of surprises? The day was dry but overcast so I decide to take a chance and get the washing up to date. Pete Mate cleaned Billy inside and out and I did the inside of the caravan. I also ironed everything I had washed as the sun had eventually come out and dried it all. Before Happy Hour we went into town and did some grocery shopping and then it was back for some 'red'.

Wednesday 7th November 2007.
This morning I awoke to the sound of rain on the caravan roof. We were due to leave Billy for a service and then walk everywhere, however the garage gave us a courtesy lift to the Information Centre where we boarded a bus for a free tour of Armidale. As we had planned to walk there and had allowed plenty of time we were now rather early. We spied a Hungry Jack's burger joint across the car park and headed there for some coffee. Meanwhile Pete Mate discovered he had left Alice in the courtesy car. Two phone calls later saw the poor woman bringing her back to us and Alice was reinstated with her Dad! The coffee was surprising good and the place absolutely spotless. After coffee we went over to the Information Centre to join the tour. It would have been a really good tour except the rain spoilt it. The bus windows steamed up then its roof started to leak cold water down my neck. Armidale has a very long history of people donating money, buildings, gardens and paintings. It is a city rich in culture and employs a lot of people in the education field. We enjoyed the tour and bookmarked one of two places we would like to return to when/if the weather improves. (Now you know the reason for taking Alice). When we disembarked at the Information Centre it was still raining so we once again made a dash across the car park to H.J.'s. Again we were surprised. We could order a healthy roll with grilled chicken and salad - one associates fast food places with burgers. We had more of their excellent coffee and then ventured forth into the weather. We walked back to the garage only to find Billy wasn't ready. We waited a while for the rain to stop and then walked the 2 kms home. We hadn't got very far when the heavens opened again and we got very wet and cold. Thank goodness we had a warm comfortable caravan waiting for us at home and not a tent! Later the lady from the garage collected Pete Mate to pick up Billy. I stayed in the dry and warm. Happy Hour was very enjoyable . . . have I ever said that before?

Thursday 8th November 2007.
It poured with rain all day. It was cold and miserable but we were warm and cosy inside our caravan. We watched our neighbours, all rugged up and freezing. We felt sorry for the poor devils, we wouldn't be in a tent for anything. Later we noticed their car had gone and decided if they had had any sense they would be in a nice warm pub or cinema. Maybe they even went to a launderette and stripped off their clothes to dry them! Yes, I know, I must get out more.

Friday 9th November 2007.
The sun is shining, hurrah.We rushed around to get ready to go out; well it was rushing for us. We wanted to revisit some places we had seen in the pouring rain. We had a lovely day, wandering through some of Armidale's beautiful old buildings. On our list were the two Cathedrals, both impressive but without doubt the Catholics have more money than the Anglicans. The gardens in the centre of the town were beautiful and we spent some time just wandering about. The trees were magnificent, so many different kinds. The flowers were delightful but the poppies were by far the winners for me. We finished our wanderings and went to have some lunch before doing some shopping. This is when I discovered I had left a birthday card in the Catholic Cathedral; hopefully someone directed by God will post it for me. Mr Grumpy got very grumpy as he hates shopping, especially when it is for clothes for him. With that out of the way I did the grocery shopping and then we decided to go home. Timing was excellent, we had no sooner got into the car when it started to rain.

Saturday 10th November 2007.
We were on the road by 8.30am as we had an hour's drive to the festival we were attending. We arrived to find nothing happening. I cannot believe that we, Pete-n-Pam, arrived too early. First stop was the Doll and Teddy display, plus they had some model cars. Pete Mate could be found staring hard at all the model cars just in case anyone thought he might be looking at a doll. When we left there we wandered around and found where the action was. Well, it was a display of cars, some old, some not so old. We then found the markets and a fun fair. We sussed out where the entertainment was going to be later in the day and wandered back to town. We decided to have an early lunch as we had had a very early breakfast. After lunch we found a good spot for watching the parade. Well, we thought we had a good spot but as it turned out it wasn't and we moved. The programme didn't run to time we had to hang around for a while. Once it started it was excellent, from the RAAF march past which preceded the parade through to the last float, we enjoyed it all. Once that was over we went back to the park to wait for the entertainment. It started well with the Belly Dancers but then the heavens opened and we got drenched. I was okay as I had my coat on but in the end gave it to Pete Mate to go and get the car whilst I sheltered under a tree. Just after he left we had a heavy downpour and I was soaked. We waited in the car until the rain stopped and then ventured out for the rest of the entertainment. We watched and listened to Melanie Dyer and Kirsty Lee Akers, both we have seen before at Tamworth and are very good. Once the entertainment had finished we watched the firework display. Before we left Pete Mate decided he would grow old disgracefully and have a ride on the 'Zipper'. He did look at little green when he disembarked and was a bit wobbly. It really knocked him about and it took him until the next day to get over it. He said all his organs had been displaced and it took time for them to settle back into their rightful places. On the drive back to Armidale we realised we had had an AFD. Best make up for it tomorrow.

Sunday 11th November 2007.
The sun is shining; this means we can pack everything away dry. We had a get-ready day as tomorrow we are off to Port Stephens.

Monday 12th November 2007.
We left Armidale around 9.15am and had a good journey through to Port Stephens. It was long and the roads weren't the best but the scenery was magnificent. What a beautiful part of Australia it is. Rich green rolling hills, mountains in the background, streams that have water in them and plenty of trees. Dotted along the way were little towns we passed through - Gloucester, Stroud and Stratford. Stratford was very close to the Avon River, all very English. By the time we arrived at Port Stephens and had set up camp it was time for Happy Hour. It is so nice to be warm again. In another week we will be complaining we are too hot.

Tuesday 13th November 2007.
We went for a long walk into Nelson Bay today. It was very picturesque with lots of people on the beach and in the water. We even found a Gloria Jean's to have some coffees. So far we really like what we have seen and the people seem friendly enough.

Wednesday 14th November 2007.
We again awoke to glorious sunshine so I quickly did a load of washing. We decided we would go for a drive this afternoon to explore Soldiers Point, an area new to us. In the morning we spent a very pleasant ten minutes learning how to fold a tee shirt Japanese style. I kid you not! I found the instructions in a magazine that I picked up in the laundry where all good information comes from. If you need to know anything, go to the laundry in a caravan park. If the answer isn't on the notice board or in a magazine, there is usually an expert or two milling around the place. Anyway, back to the tee shirt. Pete Mate was much better at it than me so he can do all the folding in the future. Anyway after lunch we went for the aforesaid drive. It was very pleasant along the coast but soon we lost sight of the water and travelled past many many houses and apartment blocks. Once at Soldiers Point we had views of the coast and found a nice spot at a marina. This nice spot being in a café/bar, where we could indulge our weakness of consuming alcohol. Very enjoyable too. Before my good character is further tainted I would like to point out, contrary to popular belief, that I did not know there would be a bar there.
Later we made our way back into Nelson Bay where the shopping had to be done. One downside of living in a caravan is that we do not have much fridge/freezer space so therefore we have to shop two or three times a week. Then home again once more after spending a very pleasant day in Port Stephens.

Thursday 15th November 2007.
We walked into town to board the River Cruise at 11.15am. We arrived in plenty of time, which was good as we had an emergency to deal with. Pete Mate's fly zip gave up the ghost and I didn't have a safety pin. Amazing what you can do with a fish hook. Once on board we set off across the water at a good pace over to Tea Gardens. We hadn't realised but the river cruise is also the ferry. Once at Tea Gardens most people disembarked to be collected later. Thank goodness the two 'delightful' children got off, never to return. We were given our allotted lunches and then it was off sailing up the river. It was very pleasant and we saw a lot of birds and at one point saw a dolphin which kept playing with us by disappearing then popping up for a second. On the way home we collected the passengers that had spent the afternoon in Tea Gardens (a funny name for a town). The tea part comes from the tea trees all around the area but why name a town 'gardens'. We then sped at high speed back to Nelson Bay. Pete Mate and I then did the half hour walk home where we treated ourselves to an ice cream. Another excellent day.

Friday 16th November 2007.
Sometimes I have good ideas, other times I need locking up for my own safety. I suggested we take a drive to Shoal Bay and walk to the top of Tomaree Head where there is a look out. It was a three kilometre round trip. Easy, I thought, as the path is smooth and even. (I have trouble with rough ground because of my crook ankle). Little did I know that the walk was very steep indeed and that the nice path petered out to steps, grating and rough paths to walk on. Now anyone who knows me well knows I hate walking on anything I can see through. I thought I was very brave, (even though I was never too far away from the hand rail). The walk to the top was worth it as the views were magnificent. But . . . we then had to descend. I am never sure which is worse, the climb or the descent. Different muscles are used for both and I can tell you without a lie that those aforementioned muscles haven't been used in a long time! I staggered to the car and vowed I would get fit - sometime. We then went for a drive to look at Fingal Bay before heading home for lunch. After lunch we took a trip to Salamander Bay, not for the scenery but to the bottle shop so we could obtain a 20c/litre discount voucher for fuel as the offer is about to close. We will be topping up with over 100 litres so we save over $20 - worth having. The added bonus is we got the wine as well. Then was home again where we declared we had too much wine so we had better drink some.

Saturday 17th November 2007.
It was my intention to go for another walk in the morning and then do the chores entailed in 'get ready' days. Well I still had muscle aches upon muscle aches from yesterday so I didn't go for the walk but I did do all the washing and ironing, cleaning and packing away things for our move tomorrow. Pete Mate washed the car and the outside of the caravan. Water isn't restricted here but we are assuming in Sydney it will be. Early evening we were sipping a glass of the red stuff, Pete Mate was reading and I was playing on the computer whilst listening to the dulcet tones of a young chap camped next to us. He was playing the guitar and singing and he was quite good. It was a very pleasant end to a beautiful sunny day. We have enjoyed Port Stephens very much and hope to make a return visit someday.

Sunday 18th November 2007.
We were away from Port Stephens by 9.00am; we made good time to Newcastle where we were calling in on friends, Ann and Tom. We first met Tom and Ann aboard the MV Trinity Bay in 2005 and have kept in contact ever since. We allowed an hour for a cuppa and a chat but ended up staying over two hours. As you do when you get together with people you really like. Once we left their place we seemed to be in traffic all the way to Narrabeen which was quite stressful for Pete Mate as often the lane he was driving in merged into the next. Anyway we made it by around 3.30pm and set up camp. Once we had set up we read for a short while before we realised it was time for Happy Hour.

Monday 19th November 2007.
We had a slow morning and then after lunch we did a few errands in the town. We voted for the next government, God help us. We voted early by post as we are 'a long way from home'. The times we have heard those five words when we tell people we are from Perth. Next year, when we will be in W.A., I am looking forward to saying the same thing to all the interstate visitors. In the evening we went to have dinner with friends Greg and Bev. It was, as always, delightful to see them and catch up with their news. Dinner was good too.

Tuesday 20th November 2007.
We went for a walk this morning, enjoyed a Gloria Jean's and then walked home again. In the afternoon Pete read and I spent some time knitting. We have extremely loud neighbours and were quite relieved when they went out. When we awoke this morning they were so close to our caravan I could have poured them coffee through the window. They obviously have never heard of caravan park etiquette. You do not walk through anyone else's allotted space and never park your chairs right outside their windows!

Wednesday 21st November 2007.
We had a walk around the lake. Enjoyed a G.J's and did some shopping. In the evening Greg and Bev came over. Bev left to go to a meeting and by the time she arrived home the three of us had had plenty of red. It was a good evening just a pity Bev couldn't be with us all evening.

Thursday 22nd November 2007.
Oh woe is me; I think I must have had a bad glass of wine. It is a very slow start to the day. No walk today or even a G.J's. After lunch we went to a very large shopping mall as I wanted to get some new shoes. We eventually found our way into the car park and then into the mall. We purchased the shoes, had a coffee and then proceeded to the car park. Half an hour later we managed to find the car. This place is huge. We then had to travel across the city to friends, Rosalie and Kent's place. Another nightmare as it was now rush hour. Eventually we found their place and after a few drives around the block we found a parking place - they live in one those huge old inner-city warehouses that have been converted to modern apartments. We enjoyed a very pleasant evening with them before doing the return journey home. It took us ages as it was raining, dark and we again got in the wrong lane and ended up God knows where, because we certainly don't! Eventually we arrived home.

Friday 23rd November 2007.
After our usual walk and coffee we did as little as possible, all this socialising is wearing us out.

Saturday 24th November 2007.
We did our walk around the lake to G.J's. Then Pete Mate walked home for the car whilst I did the shopping at Woolworth's which is very close to G.J's. Once the shopping was packed away, we relaxed before heading over to Greg and Bev's for the evening. We enjoyed their company and a Chinese takeaway whilst watching the results of the Federal Election. It was soon very apparent we have a change of government.

Sunday 25th November 2007.
We went for our morning walk around the lake, had our G.J's and returned home. After lunch we made the journey to the airport to collect Mike and Pauline. We allowed plenty of time, leaving home at 1.00pm to meet their 2.45pm flight. We arrived at the airport with only a few minutes to spare. The traffic was stop-go all the way; you would have thought it was a working day. We met them and took them to their accommodation in Darling Harbour; there we had a drink followed by a long walk around the harbour to have dinner. It was a very nice meal and it was lovely to catch up with M & P again. We then had a long walk back to the car. At this point I was wishing I had worn different shoes. We said our goodbyes and then started the journey home. What a nightmare! We ended up going the wrong way over Harbour Bridge having to pay the toll again. We eventually managed to find the right lane on the right road and arrived home safe and sound, somewhat tired and with a strong yearning to be in our beloved country towns.

Monday 26th November 2007.

We met Mike and Pauline in Manly for lunch. We find the journey to Manly not as harrowing as going into the city. We met them and had a really nice Caesar Salad, one of the best we have ever had. After a couple of wines we wandered around for a while before finding another place to relax. We then said our goodbyes and they caught the ferry back to Darling Harbour whilst we made our way home in Billy. By the time we got home I wasn't feeling too well so shortly after arriving I went to bed.

Tuesday 27th November 2007.

I still do not feel well and - as Peter had the Caesar Salad as well - we don't think that was the cause unless it contained something to which I am allergic. We declined the invitation to join M & P in the city and I stayed in bed for most of the day. Pete Mate also took the opportunity to recharge his batteries and had a long lie in. By the afternoon I felt sufficiently recovered to enjoy a glass of red. In the evening we heard a knock on the door and there were Greg and Bev; it was lovely to see them and we spent a very pleasant evening

Wednesday 28th November 2007.
I felt a whole heap better today and did my daily chores before getting ready to go to Shelly Beach for lunch. We found the restaurant and Mike and Pauline were already installed, drinking a very nice white wine. We enjoyed a very long and very pleasant lunch; we then dropped M & P off at the ferry before making our way home.

Thursday 29th November 2007.
We caught the bus into Manly and then the ferry over to Circular Quay in Sydney. Mike and Pauline were waiting for us and then we all took another ferry to Darling Harbour, returning to the city on the Monorail. We hadn't been on it before and it was good fun. We then had a wander around before having lunch which again was very nice. Pete Mate decided that he would ask any single female to marry him and, strange though it might seem, they all said yes. After lunch we had another wander around before heading back to the ferry and home. Another very nice day spent with the relatives from the Homeland.

Friday 30th November 2007.
We had to be out of the caravan by 7.15am so even though most days I am awake at 6.15am I couldn't sleep properly for fear of oversleeping. We made it! - a feat and a half for us. We drove to Gordon Railway Station to intercept the Boutique Wine Tours mini-bus for a tour of the Hunter Valley wineries. When the bus arrived, everyone else was on board including Mike and Pauline. Jason our tour guide was very friendly and chatty, he told us a lot about wine tasting and we also watched a DVD about it. The weather was cloudy and wet so we didn't see 'The Hunter' at its best but the scenery was still very beautiful. We visited three wineries, the middle one being my favourite; I got a little bogged down with too much technical information. If I like it, I like it. If I don't, I give it to Pete Mate to drink.Works for us. I did actually learn quite a lot which was interesting and we did try some really nice wines which I purchased to have at Christmas. The challenge for us is Christmas is still four weeks away - will they last that long!!!! We enjoyed another very nice lunch with a glass of vino; I think I could get used to this life, though maybe my ever expanding body might have something to say about it, never mind the bank manager. We had an excellent day but I have to admit by the end of the day I had had enough wine tasting and really wanted a cup of tea. I settled for an ice cream. On the way home we some watched a DVD called Sideways (if anyone can explain to me what it was all about other than drinking wine and bonking, please do). Some people slept and before we knew it, we were back at Gordon Station where Pete Mate and I left the tour for our short car journey home.

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