Brisbane And Laidley

Australia, Queensland 1 Comment »

Panoramic of Brisbane from South Bank

South BankCommunal swimming pool in South BankWe bid Gina farewell on Monday afternoon as she hopped on a plane to Sydney, bound for Los Angeles and home to her family after almost five months here in Australia.  We didn’t spend much time in Brisbane, a couple of hours exploring the South Bank precinct before meeting up for the night with my cousin Sarah and her boyfriend James (I forgot to take any photos of us with them but we’re seeing them again this weekend so I’ll be sure to snap some shots then…).  We all enjoyed a dinner of pizza – a favourite of ours lately as it’s one of the few things we can’t cook on the road – before heading off on Tuesday morning to the country town of Laidley, roughly 90 kilometers west of Brisbane’s city centre. 

Five years in South Bank with Brisbane in the backgroundThe Plough Inn TavernRefurbished wool storage buildings in New FarmRefurbished wool storage buildings in New Farm 

Branell Homestead: Sam and Lisa with Angel the miniature ponyA welcoming herd of Brahma cows on our arrival at Branell HomesteadBranell HomesteadIt was out five year wedding anniversary on Monday so to mark the occasion we decided to treat ourselves to a little romantic getaway at the secluded Branell Homestead just outside of Laidley (S27°37.880’ E152°23.637’).  Branell was great, run by a local family who built the house from scratch, the homestead is a spectacular construction with amazing attention to detail inside and out.  We even had our own herd of cattle and a miniature pony to keep us company during our stay!  The homestead has three separate wings, the other two were empty during our stay so we conveniently had the place to ourselves.  Our residence included a spacious lounge room, bathroom with claw-foot tub (which Lisa enjoyed twice) and bedroom overlooking the backyard.  We ventured into town for dinner, having to choose between the two Laidley pubs and single restaurant in town, deciding on Emily’s restaurant for a dinner which cost us all of $29!  Laidley’s a small town, small in the sense that everyone knows each other and whenever we walked into a pub or store everyone stopped what they were doing to have a good look at the newcomers!  But very friendly people and a fantastic little getaway for us, I have to give Lisa credit for the great idea.

Branell Homestead A welcoming herd of Brahma cows on our arrival at Branell HomesteadA welcoming herd of Brahma cows on our arrival at Branell HomesteadA welcoming herd of Brahma cows on our arrival at Branell Homestead A welcoming herd of Brahma cows on our arrival at Branell HomesteadBranell HomesteadBranell Homestead: the kitchen Branell Homestead: our living roomBranell Homestead: our bathroomBranell Homestead: our bathroomBranell Homestead: the library Branell Homestead: our bedroomBranell Homestead: our living roomBranell Homestead: our deck Branell Homestead: the eating and BBQ areaBranell Homestead: The Tank with Angel the miniature ponyBranell Homestead: feeding Angel the miniature ponyBranell Homestead: feeding Angel the miniature pony The eclectic post office and cafe in Forest HillThe eclectic post office and cafe in Forest HillThe eclectic post office and cafe in Forest Hill

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The Rainforest Way

Australia, New South Wales, Queensland 1 Comment »

Minyon Falls in Nightcap National ParkThe picturesque rainforest campground at Rummery Park next to Nightcap National ParkWe actually started our tour of the Rainforest Way in-between our stay with Matt and Anna, and when we met with Gina back in Byron last Wednesday.  Our initial foray into the hinterland took us through Bangalow, the quaint hilltop settlement of Federal and through the magnificent Nightcap National ParkThe picturesque rainforest campground at Rummery Park next to Nightcap National ParkNightcap hasn’t had National Park status for very long, but the grandiose Minyon Falls crashing over 100 meters into the rainforest below has recently ensured the area’s conservation status for many years to come.  A scenic drive through the rainforest took us to Whian Whian Conservation Area and the Rummery Park campsite.  Rummery is a secluded clearing of green grass next to a creek in the Nightcap rainforest where we enjoyed a good campfire late into the evening.

Bringabong: one of the plethora of so-inclined stores in NimbinThe main street of NimbinMany years ago Byron Bay was one of Australia’s most prolific concentrations of marijuana-smoking hippies.  The more recent massive influx of tourists, high-priced restaurants and soaring real estate prices in Byron weren’t a welcoming set of circumstances for the hippies, so from Byron they all moved into the mountain rainforests to the enclave of Nimbin.  Although I have a few reservations when it comes to dope-toting hippies, Nimbin enjoys an almost mythical status in the Australian community The main street of Nimbinso we decided we really must take a look whilst in the area.  We took back roads from our Rummery Park campsite through the forested valleys around Australia’s macadamia capital of Dunoon, through The Channon and finally to the psychedelically-coloured main street of Nimbin.  I think I’d been out of the car for no more than 30 seconds before one of the locals tried to sell me a weed.  And another 30 seconds after that another high-as-a-kite tweaker started talking to me in a language that sounded like a cross between Aboriginal and Swahili.  We were walking past the suitably named Hemp Cafe when a passerby unrolled on the sidewalk one of the biggest stashes of marijuana buds either of us had ever seen in our lives, followed by the proprietor of the cafe screaming bloody murder at a passing logging truck for destroying the forests…  Definitely an eye-opening and quite surreal little spot, we had planned to have our morning coffee in Nimbin but only lasted five minutes before we were back in The Tank and scooting south toward Lismore!

Brushbox Falls in Border Ranges National ParkLismore Pie CartLismore Pie CartAfter another couple of days back in Byron with Gina, we again made our way into the hinterland and back onto the Rainforest Way.  A stop at Lismore, Our campground in Border Ranges National Parkmorning tea at the superb Lismore Pie Cart and we continued north to Border Ranges National Park and the Sheepstation The trail through the rainforest from our campground in Border Ranges National ParkCreek campground (S28°24.822’ E153°01.370’).  Border Ranges National Park forms the New South Wales portion of the dormant volcano caldera surrounding Mount Warning, a stunning area of mountainous rainforests almost all of which remains as wilderness.  The campground at which the three of us stayed next to Sheepstation Creek was a brilliant spot: we had a grassy clearing amongst the ferns and palms with an array of rainforest bushwalks at our doorstep.  Before the afternoon light faded we explored one of the trails leading to Brushbox Falls and further along the lush Brushbox Creek below the rainforest canopy.  It was spectacular albeit quite short walk, a great introduction to the hinterland rainforests for Gina.

New South Wales hinterland on the way into Border Ranges National Park Driving into Border Ranges National ParkGina and Lisa near Brushbox Falls in Border Ranges National Park Gina and Lisa at the top of Brushbox Falls in Border Ranges National ParkLisa working on dinner in Border Ranges National ParkGina in Border Ranges National Park

Lisa and Gina at one of the lookouts on the Lions RoadRoadblocks on the Lions RoadFrom Border Ranges National Park we continued north on the Lions Road, through the picturesque Northern Rivers area of New South Wales and into Queensland.  The Lions Road was reconditioned a few years ago by the Lions Club (hence its name…) to improve travel times for farmers living in the Northern Rivers wanting to travel to Brisbane.  The road traverses a dizzying number of creeks and rivers, Lisa and Gina counted a staggering 24 bridges along its length.  I also encountered a few road blocks in the form of cows through the northern Queensland valleys!  East to Lamington National Park: cascades along the track to Ballanjui FallsCanungra, a morning coffee (and pie for Gina and I) at the charming Outpost Cafe and we continued on to Lamington National Park.  Lamington is the Border Ranges National Park equivalent in Queensland: the caldera of the dormant volcano centered on Mount Warning.  Lamington is mostly wilderness, but the section around Binna Burra where we visited for the day is the starting point for hundreds of kilometers of hiking trails through the surrounding rainforest.  Lamington National Park: cascades along the track to Ballanjui FallsStrangler Fig in Lamington National ParkWe opted to explore the rainforest and escarpment via the Border Track, Daves Creek Walk and then a 4.6 kilometer (2.85 mile) out-and-back hike to Ballanjui Falls.  The Ballanjui walk was awesome, we lost count of the number of waterfalls and cascades we passed on the way to the main falls, which themselves roared down the escarpment to the rainforest hundreds of meters below.  All up we walked close to 17 kilometers (10.5 miles) during the day, it was a great tour through the rainforest and along the escarpment looking south into New South Wales.

One of the plethora of bridges along the Lions RoadLamington National ParkLamington National Park: looking south into New South Wales Lamington National Park Lamington National Park: cascades along the track to Ballanjui FallsLamington National Park: Ballanjui FallsLamington National ParkLamington National Park: Lisa and Gina at the end of our roughly 17 kilometer hike through the rainforest 

Greenmount with Surfers Paradise in the distanceGreenmount beachWe’d originally planned to stay at Binna Burra in Lamington National Park for the night, but due to the long weekend the campground was full (and good thing because it wasn’t much of a campground) so we instead headed down to the Lisa, Sam and Gina enjoying an amazing starry night by the fire in Mebbin National ParkGold Coast (S28°10.172’ E153°31.328’) at Our campsite in Mebbin National ParkLocked kookaburras in Mebbin National ParkCoolangatta.  A caravan park was the only patch of grass on offer amongst the metropolis of high-rise apartment buildings and hotels, we had a tough time finding anywhere to have a beer on Saturday night as most places wouldn’t let us in the door with thongs on our feet (so much for being a beach town…).  A swim at the beautiful Rainbow Bay beach on Sunday morning and we were again on our way back into the mountains, this time through Murwillumbah and on a scenic drive around Mount Warning to complete our almost week-long tour of the Rainforest Way.  We spent our last night with Gina in Mebbin National Park (S28°26.687’ E153°11.673’), a portion of which is World Heritage Listed.  It was a great spot: plentiful firewood, wallabies munching on the grass around the campfire and my famous chicken sandwiches for dinner.  It was a stunning clear, starry night as we sat by the fire sipping on some aged Muscat courtesy of my dad.

Greenmount with Surfers Paradise in the distance Driving around Mount Warning on the way to Mebbin National ParkSam working on the fire in Mebbin National ParkLisa and Gina enjoying the fire in Mebbin National Park Gina's last dinner: Sam's chicken sandwichesLisa, Sam and Gina enjoying an amazing starry night by the fire in Mebbin National ParkKookaburra in Mebbin National ParkLocked kookaburras in Mebbin National Park

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Byron Bay

Australia, New South Wales 2 Comments »
Planet View: S28°38.317’ E153°36.296’
Street View: S28°38.317’ E153°36.296’

Matt filleting a TailorRelaxing on Brays Beach at Broken HeadMatt fishing in the surf in front of our houseWhat an awesome spot!  Both Lisa and I had visited Byron before, around the time when we met over 10 years ago in Adelaide (and Lisa also when she was five).  We loved the laid back little beach town as much as we both remembered when we visited this time…  Byron’s a small beachside town a short drive south of the Queensland border, one of its claims to fame is being Australia’s most Beer margeritas on Saturday nighteasterly point.  Decades ago it was overrun with hippies, drawn to the pristine beaches and tranquil rainforests (my mum’s told me stories about her camping on the beach and skinny dipping at the main beach!).  These days the town retains its super-laid back feel but is more of a tourist destination, especially popular with backpackers and nomadic travelers like ourselves.  It’s no wonder why: with an extensive array of eateries to One of the busy Byron Bay gelateriasMatt unable to resist the lamb roast leftoverssuit any budget, plenty of fashion shops, no shortage of pubs and some of the most crystal clear waters lapping over striking white sand there’s plenty to keep oneself occupied.  All of us were big fans of Bay Kebab, Lisa and I returned three or four times!

We arrived in Byron last Friday afternoon, Matt and Anna flew up Lisa and Sam in front of the Cape Byron lighthousefrom Sydney and Adelaide respectively later in the evening to meet us for the ANZAC Day long weekend.  Matt organized a fantastic two-bedroom townhouse tucked into the sand Our humble abode in Byron Bay courtesy of Mattdunes a short walk from Byron’s centre, the place was absolutely palatial: expansive downstairs living area with a well-stocked kitchen, coupled with two big bedrooms upstairs, a great outdoor eating area with BBQ and our own little private walkway through the dunes to the pristine waters and white sand of Byron’s main beach.  You couldn’t ask for more in a holiday house, a little different to the living quarters we’re used to these days! 

Lisa and I took advantage of the kitchen and cooked a lamb roast for Matt and Anna on our second night in town (from the photo above I have an idea that Matt enjoyed every last bit of it!), which we coupled with beer margaritas and a little too much tequila late into the evening.  Matt and I both threw in a line from the beach in front of our house during the late afternoon, I pulled in a small dart but otherwise we just spent our time battling the strong rips while the girls looked on with their cocktails.  A very fun night, I had a tequila-driven hankering for gelati at around 10:00PM so Lisa and I wandered to the town centre, only to find all the gelaterias closed and having to settle for a few more drinks at the plethora of pubs lining the main street.  The rest of the night is a little hazy…  I do remember Matt seeming to have taken lessons from Tariq on his beer drinking, though!

Central Byron Bay Our humble abode in Byron Bay courtesy of MattOur humble abode in Byron Bay courtesy of MattOur humble abode in Byron Bay courtesy of Matt Lisa, Matt and Anna on the railway line between our house and the beachAnna and Lisa with a few beer margeritas on the beachMatt fishing in the surf in front of our house Sunset over Byron BayMatt and AnnaMatt and Sam getting stuck into the tequila The least we could do was stock the fridge for Anna and Matt for the long weekend...Sam working the BBQLisa, Anna and Matt enjoying and outdoor breakfast

Sam with a Dart and TailorCape Byron with Julian Rocks in the distanceDoctor Matt getting a little nursing from AnnaWith the amazingly clear water surrounding Cape Byron Matt and I were pretty keen for a snorkel.  We headed out to Wategos Beach on Saturday afternoon, a secluded cove at the tip of Cape Byron, and swam through the crashing surf beyond the breakers toward a bombie a few hundred metres offshore.  It was quite a challenging swim, the barnacle covered reef being pounded by swell made getting beyond the break a little challenging (see Matt being tended to by Anna in the photo on the right after a confrontation with the barnacles!).  Once Watego's Beachbeyond the break the water clarity was amazing, surrounded by huge schools of Swallowtail Dart and Tailor it was hard to know where to point my spear!  I returned to the same diving spot a few days later when the surf had toned down a little, making the swim all the way out to the bombie (the bombie is the small area of whitewash in the centre of the photo above left).  Some of the most amazing fish life I’ve ever seen: I swam with a turtle on the way out and at one point was engulfed by a school of thousands of Silver Trevally buzzing around the reef.  It didn’t take long for me to realize why the Silver Trevally were encircling the bombie: there was a lone dolphin chasing the school hoping for a bit of a feed.  Snapper, Wobegong Sharks, turtles, dolphins, Tailor, I could go on and on…  A great spot to take a look at life under the surface.

Relaxing on Brays Beach at Broken HeadTackling the hike down to Brays Beach at Broken HeadLennox HeadThe four of us spent a day exploring some of the Byron surrounds in Matt and Anna’s rental car.  We began our day by taking a trip south to the neighboring town of Lennox Head.  Famous for its peeling right-handed surfing break, Lennox is a markedly lower-key spot than Byron, a few small cafeterias and restaurants lining the esplanade above the Tide pools at Brays BeachTackling the hike down to Brays Beach at Broken Headseemingly never-ending white sandy beach between Lennox Head and Broken Head to the north.  We enjoyed a coffee at one of the esplanade’s restaurants before venturing back toward Byron and into the The quaint hinterland town of BangalowBroken Head Conservation Area.  We hiked down the cliffs to isolated Brays Beach for a bit of a bake in the sun and paddle in the crashing waves.  Brays is a beautiful beach with some very picturesque tide pools at either end, a great spot to escape the crowds of neighboring Byron.  From Broken Head we ventured inland to Bangalow, a town that one of Anna’s friends suggested we visit, it’s a bustling little hinterland settlement replete with all kinds of eateries as well as some very well-maintained heritage buildings lining the main street.  Matt and Anna left us early the next morning after a very fun and action-packed weekend.  Thanks for coming up to meet us guys, we thoroughly enjoyed it!

A morning coffee in Lennox HeadA morning coffee in Lennox HeadThe lighthouse at Cape ByronOn Tuesday Lisa and I ventured up into the hinterland to explore a portion of the Rainforest Way, a selection of scenic drives through the New South Wales and Queensland countryside surrounding Mount Warning.  We spent the night near Nightcap National Park before returning to Byron on One of the dive boats we took to Julian RocksAmazing turquoise water below Cape ByronWednesday to meet Gina on her way down from Brisbane.  Gina spent a couple of weeks with us after Christmas, when her and Chris explored the South Australian and Victorian coast along the Great Ocean Road between Adelaide and Melbourne.  After working the wine vintage at Chapel Hill she had a bit of time to kill before returning to California and was yearning for a little Crystal clear water at Clarkes Beachmore time with The Tank, so flew up to join us in Byron as we continued our way north to Brisbane.  We spent two more nights in Byron with Gina, enjoying a night at the Byron Bay Brewery as well as the Great Northern Hotel, where we discovered they served $2.50 beers all night on Thursdays!  Gina and I Lisa on Cape Byronalso took a SCUBA Lisa and Gina enjoying a couple of local brew at the Great Northerndiving trip out to Julian Rocks, a marine park located a couple of kilometers offshore from Byron Bay.  Julian Rocks is famous as a Grey Nurse Shark breeding ground, making it a very popular spot to dive.  Unfortunately it’s the wrong time of year for the Nurse Sharks to be at Julian Rocks, but we did get to swim with some gargantuan Leopard Sharks, plenty of Wobegong Sharks, massive schools of Mulloway, Spangled Emperors and just about every other reef fish one can imagine…  One of the roughly 10-foot Leopard Sharks gave me a bit of a fright when it swam toward me and put it’s nose within 10 centimeters of my mask.  I thought the behemoth fish was going to head butt me!  Gina also saw a Manta Ray off in the distance, something I unfortunately missed, but there were plenty of Eagle Rays cruising the reef and we even got to see a turtle rummaging in the rocks for a bite to eat.  An awesome spot to dive, definitely one I’ll remember for a long time…  I also twisted Lisa’s arm and had her swim out to Wilsons Reef with me, a bombie sticking out of the sand roughly 800 meters (0.5 miles) off Byron’s main beach.  Swimming through 30 feet of water on the way out was a little unnerving and I had to convince Lisa not to turn back a couple of times.  But it was well worth it as we swam with giant gropers, turtles, rays and some amazingly coloured reef fish pecking the rocks for food.  I don’t think Lisa would do it again but I think she’s glad she stuck with it!

Cape ByronLisa on the walking path along Cape ByronByron Bay's Great Northern Hotel

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Coffs Harbour To Yamba

Australia, New South Wales 3 Comments »

Sam sampling the fare from Pot Belly Pies in MacleanNew South Wales and Victoria It was a picturesque drive through the rainforests and Eucalyptus bushland out of the mountains from Nymboi Binderay National Park into Coffs Harbour.  As we came out of the foothills to the outskirts of Coffs Harbour the bushland was replaced by groves of banana trees, something for which Coffs Harbour is famous.  Acres upon acres of banana plantations cover the hills around town.  Lisa and I took advantage of the fresh produce by stocking up at the farmers market being held in Coffs Harbour yesterday morning.  Loaded with the best fresh fruit and vegetables the locals had to offer we continued our coastal route through Grafton and into Maclean, a small riverside settlement brimming with One of the eclectic shops in MacleanScottish heritage on the banks of the Clarence River.  The couple camping next to us at Platypus Flat in Nymboi Binderay National Park hailed from Yamba, the coastal town next to Maclean.  They used to own one of the bakeries in Yamba and – when they discovered my love for a good Aussie pie – recommended we dine at one of the Pot Belly Pies shops in either Maclean or Yamba (they recommended Pot Belly Pies instead of the bakery they’d recently sold!).  We found Pot Belly Pies in Maclean and – originally planning to share a pie between us – almost had to roll ourselves back into The Tank after each downing one of the monstrous baked goods.  Now, I’ve sampled a hell of a lot of bakeries in the last year, and I can firmly attest that Pot Belly Pies is absolutely the best bakery at which I’ve dined to date.  Amazing pies, a solid gold medal on our map of Australia’s Best Bakeries!

Coffs HarbourCoffs HarbourThe Big Banana in Coffs Harbour The main street of Maclean 

Sunrise from our campsite at Lake Arragan in Yuraygir National ParkOur campsite at Lake Arragan in Yuraygir National ParkWith fuller than full tummies we left Maclean and Pot Belly Pies behind, setting our sights from the coastal Yuraygir National Park.  Yuraygir encompasses the longest stretch of undeveloped coastline in New South Wales, rolling plains of scrub-covered Company at our campsite at Lake Arragan in Yuraygir National Parkbushland littered with kangaroos and beautiful beaches along its entire length.  We setup camp at a secluded spot next to Lake Arragan (S29°34.144’ E153°20.246’), arriving early enough to secure a location with a fantastic view of the adjacent beach from The Blue Room.  It was kind of a surreal spot to camp, almost too good to be true: a beautiful beach within 10 meters of our site, wood for the fire provided by the DECCW, a brilliant view of the ocean from our bed and close to 40 kangaroos munching on the grass around us late into the evening.  I don’t think we could ask for much more in a campsite…

The Tank skirting the edge of Toumbaal Creek in Yuraygir National ParkThe beach in front of our campsite at Lake Arragan in Yuraygir National ParkRed Cliffs in Yuraygir National Park Company at our campsite at Lake Arragan in Yuraygir National ParkCompany at our campsite at Lake Arragan in Yuraygir National ParkCompany at our campsite at Lake Arragan in Yuraygir National Park 

Taking a dip at the beach pool in Yamba

Pot Belly Pies in YambaTaking a dip at the beach pool in Yamba

One of the beaches in YambaWe’d planned to take a look at Yamba and Angourie on our way between Yuraygir National Park and Byron Bay, and we couldn’t resist another meal at Pot Belly Pies in Yamba after our experience yesterday in Maclean.  After breakfast at Sugarcane plantations near Yambathe bakery we explored some of the local Yamba and Angourie beaches, it’s no wonder the area’s such a hotspot for surfers: the lines were rolling in like a movie when we visited, with so many surfers in the water they could be mistaken for ants from a distance!  After a dip at Yamba’s main beach and a bit of bodysurfing to burn off some of our pie breakfast we hopped back in The Tank, headed north through the sugarcane fields to the famous coastal resort of Byron Bay.

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Nambucca Heads And The Dorrigo Rainforests

Australia, New South Wales 3 Comments »
Planet View: S30°11.137’ E152°41.509’
Street View: S30°11.137’ E152°41.509’

Lisa by the V-Wall Rock Art Gallery in Nambucca HeadsAfter a memorable few days in Adelaide for Sam and Priya’s wedding, we flew back to Sydney to pickup The Tank and continued where we left off on the New South Wales central coast.  Angie Stuart organized a fabulous dinner for us on Monday night in Edgecliff, where we again caught up with old friends and got to meet Angie’s two new grandchildren.  Great to see everyone and, as always, Angie’s cooking didn’t disappoint.  We made it as far as South West Rocks on our trip up the coast last week, a little too far for us to drive in a day from Sydney, especially with the head-spinning Tuesday morning traffic resulting in the trip Fredo Pies in Fredricktonacross Sydney taking over two hours!  We stopped off at Crowdy Head National Park for the night, where we found a great campsite at Kylies Beach a short walk from the water.  A few wallabies and kookaburras kept us company into the evening, after which we were back on the road early to pick up where we left off north of Kempsey.  A mandatory stop at Fredo’s Pies in Fredrickton and then onto Nambucca Heads to try to find the mural Lisa painted with her family in the V-Wall Rock Art Gallery almost 15 years earlier.  Unfortunately the sun and salt spray had worn away most of the older paintings and we couldn’t find what we were looking for…  We made the most of our trip into Nambucca with a swim at the picturesque Main Beach, lunch in the beach parking lot and then up into the mountains to take a look at Dorrigo National Park.

The V-Wall Rock Art Gallery in Nambucca HeadsMain Beach at Nambucca HeadsThe V-Wall Rock Art Gallery in Nambucca Heads 

The Tank cruising through the rainforest in Nymboi Binderay National ParkLush rainforest in Dorrigo National ParkDorrigo National Park is a swatch of World Heritage Listed rainforest roughly 40 kilometers inland from Coffs Harbour.  The mountains bordering the coastline are covered in dense, unforgiving rainforest with deep canyons, rivers and a myriad of waterfalls.  It was a picturesque drive into the mountains from the coast, some beautiful patches of Tristania Falls in Dorrigo National Parkorchards and cattle country on the way up.  The majority of Lisa hiking through the rainforest in Dorrigo National ParkDorrigo National Park is wilderness, but there are a few hiking trails exploring the rainforest in the western section of the park near the town of Dorrigo.  We took a little over an hour to walk to Tristania Falls, often stopping along the way to take in the amazing diversity of the surrounding canopy.  Really an eye-opening place, no wonder it’s World Heritage Listed…

After our time in Dorrigo National Park we cruised through the quaint hilltop town of Dorrigo on our way further up into the mountains.  Nymboi Binderay National Park was our resting place last night, we found a quite remote camping spot on the banks of Nymboida River next to some roaring cascades.  We wouldn’t want to make our way into the Platypus Flat camping area in wet weather, we had to tackle some seriously steep dirt tracks under the rainforest canopy on the way in.  While the gushing water didn’t make for the best sleeping conditions, we did enjoy a great campfire late into the night and our favourite camp meal of lamb chops for dinner.  The National park brochure we have mentioned that the only way to experience the true beauty of Nymboi Binderay National Park is to raft it in a kayak; after seeing the ferocity of the water next to our campsite at Platypus Flat we both agreed it would be one hair-raising ride to take any kind of boat along the Nymbodia!

Looking across Dorrigo National Park toward Coffs Harbour in the distance  Rainforest in Dorrigo National ParkLisa hiking through the rainforest in Dorrigo National ParkStrangled tree in the rainforest in Dorrigo National ParkSam and Lisa in front of Tristania Falls in Dorrigo National Park Camping at Platypus Flat in Nymboi Binderay National ParkCamping at Platypus Flat in Nymboi Binderay National ParkCamping at Platypus Flat in Nymboi Binderay National Park Breakfast at Platypus Flat in Nymboi Binderay National ParkThe Nymboida River from our campsite at Platypus FlatYes that's a mushroom!

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Crowdy Head National Park

Australia, New South Wales 2 Comments »
Planet View: S31°44.170’ E152°47.483’
Street View: S31°44.170’ E152°47.483’

Lisa on Kylies BeachKylies Beach Kylies BeachCampsite companions at Kylies BeachCamping at Kylies Beach A Kookaburra at our campsiteCampsite companions at Kylies BeachCampsite companions at Kylies Beach Kylies BeachBoats in the Camden Haven River near Diamond HeadBoats and pelicans in the Camden Haven River near Diamond Head

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Dinners In Sydney

Australia, New South Wales Comments Off on Dinners In Sydney

Jenny Burnell sent me some of her great photos from a couple of dinners we had in Sydney when we were in town last month.  The first three were taken at a BBQ hosted by the Fishers, the rest are from a dinner that Angie hosted in Edgecliff before we started heading toward Byron Bay.  Thanks for the photos Jenny!

Hannah, Lisa, Sam, Jess, Nick, Emma and PeggyFish, Hannah, Lisa, Sam, Jess, Nick, Emma and JennyHannah, Lisa, Sam, Jess, Nick and Emma Kate, Sam, Lisa and AngieVanessa, Alistair, Rob and Sam Jenny and JessJess, Kate, Alistair, Jenny, Alfie, Lisa, Vanessa, Sam, Sam, Rob, Angie and ShaneMolly Stuart Jenny and AlfieAlfie StuartAlfie Stuart

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Adelaide

Australia, South Australia 5 Comments »
Planet View: S34°51.798’ E138°28.728’
Street View: S34°51.798’ E138°28.728’

Sophie and Rosabelle at Sophie's graduationSophie and Jenni at Sophie's graduationBack to Adelaide for a few days to attend wedding: I was asked to be best man for Sam Opperman, who was next to me at the altar in Fiji five years ago when Lisa and I were married.  We were lucky to have our visit coincide with my cousin Sophie’s ceremony for her graduation from the University of Adelaide.  Great to see Sophie and her boyfriend Richie again, we stayed with them when we visited Jakarta on our tour of Southeast Asia last year.  Also good to see my uncle Bob and auntie Cathy again, with whom we stayed in Darwin and Nora Creina.

Richie and Lisa at Sophie's graduationDavid and Cathy at Sophie's graduationSteve and Lisa at Sophie's graduation Sam and Lisa at Sophie's graduationLisa and Rosabelle at Sophie's graduationSam, Lisa and Rosabelle at Sophie's graduation 

Gina and LisaTodd and probably the worst pair of tracksuit pants on the planetLisa and ToddGina and Lisa playing table tennisWhile I took care of my best man duties with a no-photos-allowed bucks show on Thursday night, Lisa spent the evening in McLaren Vale with Todd and Gina.  They met Shaun and Katie for dinner at the famed Victory Hotel in Sellicks Beach before retiring to Todd and Gina’s house for one of Todd’s favourite fashion parades and what looked to be some intense table tennis matches.

Princess Grace and LisaThe wedding cake: caramel and Kaluha chocolate mud cakeSam and Priya were lucky with some beautiful weather for their wedding yesterday.  I met Sam and his other groomsman Mark early in the Here comes the bride...morning and after we readied the bridal car with its ribbon, all enjoyed a quiet lunch with a few Coopers at the Colonist on Norwood Parade.  The wedding was held at The Lane in the quaint Adelaide Hills town of Hahndorf, an absolutely spectacular setting on the winery’s grass overlooking the vineyards with rolling hills extending into the distance.  It was a fantastic event, the bride looked stunning and all the kids helping with the ceremony made it a very memorable occasion.  The reception went without a hiccup, brilliant food and so well organized.  Buses dropped us all back in the city at The Botanic on East Terrace, where we kicked on to the early hours of the morning before Mark and I decided it was time for a visit to an old faithful, the Falafel House on Rundle Street.  Both Lisa and I had such a fantastic time, very special for me to stand by Sam’s side on his big day!

   The bridal car ready to goSam readying the corsagesOne of the corsagesSam's wedding present from Priya Mel, Bevan and LisaSam with the kids before the weddingThe kids before the wedding Olly and JordanGrace and her cousinThe bride arrives Here comes the bride...The wedding party: Tess, Lali, Priya, Sam, Sam and MarkSam, Tess and Priya Lali and SamLisa and SamMel and Mark

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The Opperman Wedding

Australia, South Australia Comments Off on The Opperman Wedding

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The Central Coast

Australia, New South Wales 4 Comments »

New South Wales and VictoriaCamping in the dunes at Hat Head National ParkFrom Barrington Tops National Park we stopped off in Gloucester for enough time for Lisa to make a few phone calls over Skype while I hunted for a local bakery (no luck…), before continuing eastward toward the coast.  We made a beeline for South West Rocks, a small peninsula between Nambucca and Kempsey on the central New South Wales coast.  We’d been told stories of great fishing and beautiful beaches at South West Rocks by more than a couple of friends and travelers so figured we’d better make a stop.  South West Rocks itself is a small holiday settlement filled with weekend holiday homes and a few retirees mixed in.  The main beaches in the town are beautiful stretches of sand protected from the ocean by a north-pointing peninsula at Arakoon.  With a couple of bakeries, more than a few fish and chip shops and everything else one could want in a holiday retreat it’s no wonder it’s a popular place. 

Our camping book had a site marked at the end of the South Beautiful beach at ArakoonWest Rocks main beach in Arakoon State Conservation Area, so we headed to the tip of the Reef off the point next to the beach at Arakoonpeninsula to have a look.  And here it’s time for a bit of a gripe…  In general we’ve found New South Wales to be very expensive for travelers like ourselves.  In neighboring Victoria and further south in Tasmania every National Park (with the exception of Wilsons Promontory) offers free camping and does not charge visitor entry fees.  Taxes are collected and used to fund National Park amenities for everyone to enjoy, the way it Lisa doing her morning exercises on the beach at sunrise in Hat Head National Parkshould be.  Not only does every National Park in New South Wales charge visitors with a daily entry fee, but for a patch of dirt on which to pitch a tent there are always camping fees to boot.  Arakoon State Conservation Reserve was absolutely out of control: this government owned and operated camping facility wanted to charge us $48 for a patch of grass for the night!  That’s more than almost every other caravan park in which we’ve stayed!  And Arakoon even charges extra for showers!  Unbelievable…  One would think that the state with the largest taxpayer base in the country could at least provide National Parks free of charge for its residents!

Anyway, enough complaining, the beach and reef around the tip of the peninsula at Arakoon were very picturesque, the water was amazingly warm, just like a bathtub.  Lisa and I took a snorkel over the reef and a swim at the beach before heading south into Hat Head National Park.  We found a great camping area near the Smoky Cape lighthouse (S30°55.769’ E153°04.674’), nestled behind the Camping in the dunes at Hat Head National Parkdunes and only a short walk from a powerful surf beach.  I took a bit of a swim in the late afternoon before we collected enough firewood for heat late into the evening.  And what an eventful evening it was…  With daylight saving finished here in New South Wales it’s now getting dark around 6:00PM.  As soon as the sun started to wane the trees around The Tank began to rustle, shortly followed by piglet-like screeching.  We soon found that we were camped in amongst close to a hundred Grey-Headed Flying Foxes (or otherwise colloquially known as fruit bats) which kept us amused with their chatting and sociable antics well into the evening.  Generally not fussed with our presence, a few came quite close and hung in the trees near our fire.  It was a beautiful, clear night and fun to watch the brilliant stars interrupted by shadows of the huge bats flying between the trees overhead.  Some of them had to have wingspans in excess of a metre (3.28 feet).

Sunrise in Hat Head National ParkSunrise in Hat Head National ParkCamping in the dunes at Hat Head National Park

Sam with a Big Eye Trevally at South West RocksThe beach at South West RocksAfter our night at Smoky Cape we headed back into South West Rocks for breakfast at what turned out to be quite an ordinary bakery, then for an early morning swim at one of the town’s beautiful beaches.  I spotted some rocks a short swim off the beach and we ventured out for a look with snorkels and masks, the fish life was amazing and I couldn’t resist swimming back in to grab my spear.  I Sam with a solid Mulloway in Booti Booti National Parkcame across a school of Big Eye Trevally over the deep sand, hauling one in for dinner (which we ended up eating for dinner once back in Sydney at the Newby’s).

Camping in Booti Booti National ParkSilver Trevally, Mulloway and a Big Eye Trevally for Lisa's dinner in Booti Booti National ParkWe headed south along the coast (we have to be back in Sydney for a flight to Adelaide on Tuesday for a wedding) from South West Rocks, through Forster with its picturesque metro beaches and along Seven Mile Beach into Booti Booti National Park.  Welcomed by a great campground called The Ruins (S32°31.0621’ E152°52.0189’), it was more time on the beach while the weather was warm and we again ventured into the deeps with snorkels and masks.  Me with my spear and Lisa ‘shopping’ for her dinner, as she likes to call it!  This time it was a sizeable Mulloway and solid Silver Trevally the reward for an afternoon of diving, I’d never seen Mulloway in schools of hundreds like they were in the craggy reef near The Ruins.  Also quite interesting to find a couple of massive whale vertebrae and a whale rib bone in about 15 metres (50 feet) of water, the vertebrae would have easily been a metre wide (3.28 feet), must have been quite a whale that met its end off Seven Mile Beach.

One of the many picturesque beaches around ForsterSam with a solid Mulloway in Booti Booti National ParkSam cleaning a Mulloway in Booti Booti National Park 

Powerboats in NewcastleWe started our last day along the coast with a morning walk along the Booti Hill Walking Track, a scenic hike around the cape at the southern end of Seven Mile Beach with some amazing views of Elizabeth Beach and southern portions of Booti Booti.  A quick shower at The Ruins campground and then it was back to Sydney for us.  We ducked into Newcastle on the way south for lunch, stumbling on to the Australian Offshore Superboat Championships being held in Newcastle harbour.  Amazingly powerful machines, the largest of the boats were Hannah, Lisa, Sam, Jess, Nick and Emmadeafeningly loud and reached speeds of over 220 kilometers per hour (136 miles per hour).  The foreshore in Newcastle was buzzing for the event, definitely a fun way to break up the drive into Sydney.  We had an appointment for a late afternoon BBQ at the Fisher’s house in East Killara, I grew up going on vacations (mainly snow skiing) with the Fishers so it was fun to reconnect with them again while we were passing through Sydney.  The Fishers invited Jenny and Jess Kriklewicz as well as Lachy Jarvis, who I hadn’t seen for more than 10 years.  Great to see so many people with whom I’d spent weekends camping and holidaying when I was a little fella.  Thanks for organizing to get everyone together Peggy!

A morning walk around the cape in Booti Booti National ParkA morning walk around the cape in Booti Booti National ParkA morning walk around the cape in Booti Booti National ParkWallis Lake from the Booti Hill Walking Track Elizabeth Beach from the Booti Hill Walking TrackSeven Mile Beach from The Ruins campground in Booti Booti National ParkSeven Mile Beach at The Ruins campground in Booti Booti National Park Sam cleaning up in Booti Booti National ParkThe foreshore in NewcastleThe foreshore in Newcastle The foreshore in NewcastlePowerboats in NewcastlePowerboats in Newcastle Powerboat water trails as they tear through the bay in NewcastleDinner with friends at the Fishers'Graham, Hannah, Lisa, Sam, Jess, Nick, Emma and Peggy

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      A couple of months cruising up Australia's east coast...