A baddish start, surly Prison inmates and Poorly Koalas! – Day 319 – 3rd December

During the course of the night we had both had to nip out for a wee and where we were situated in the little car park far away from prying eyes, we could pee to our hearts content – hoorah! Morning eventually came and first off I decided it would be a good idea to eat the rest of last night’s tea, some cous cous which turned out to be well past it’s sell by date – urgh! So instead we went across to the roadhouse and I had a bacon and egg butty which to be fair, was as crap as the cous cous! On the TV in the roadhouse there was something of a depressing reminder that even though we are out here on our great backpacking adventure the world still goes on getting madder and madder as the news came up of a gunman going into a disabled centre to shoot the place up. It was all a bit too much for us so we high-tailed it back to the sanctity of our little van and onwards to our next port of call – Southwest Rocks!

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‘Hi Crabs!’, Hi Pat and Liz hope you adventure is going most excellent!’ … Crabs eh!

It only took a short while to get there, such a short time in fact that we arrived there even before the good employees of the visitor information centre. He eventually turned up though and was very informative, giving us a complete agenda for what he called a ‘ripping’ day out at the ‘Rocks’, so for the rest of the day we pretty much followed his lead. So we first went up a hill that overlooked the Macleay River waterways, then onto a place where we could go out for a little bit of a walk to stretch our legs. Along the way the crabs that we passed appeared to be waving at each other to come and have a look at their own homes (holes in the mud, if you please!) – ‘hey look at my place, no you come over here at look at mine, no mine is better’ … you get the picture, well at least this is what I saw was happening anyhow!

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Place where dolphins were just 3 nano-seconds ago! … Doh!

From here we drove to the nearby gaol and once we had parked up and still in the car park we looked down from our vantage point at the sea and, fortunately for us, saw some dolphins – a most excellent start to the day! Trial Bay prison was quite an all round good visit as it had a bit of a story running through it, all about how it had been used in World War 2 to house German prisoners in order to build the harbour wall but the apparent ‘wall building’ turned out to be a bit of a complete and utter disaster as try as they might the blasted wall kept getting washed away by the powerful, powerful sea!

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My good self acting the part of a German World War 2 prisoner … Gott im Himmel!

The  prison though was still in good condition but had some very strange residents, a surly bunch of kangaroos hanging about the place. A group of kangaroos is actually called a ‘mob’ and seeing these sulky looking animals we could pretty much see why. They did nonstop us though from having a good nosey about and taking advantage, where possible, of some good photo opportunities.

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Jail and the inmates were a surly bunch!

Then we went out and took the walk past the memorial up towards the nearby and aptly called Little Bay and back, along  the way seeing more ‘Roos’ and even a small and possibly poisonous snake on the return journey. From here there was really not that much more that we could do here at Southwest Rocks, we had hoped to do a spot of diving whilst here but the weather was not really ‘playing ball’ so it was pretty much out of the question, so nothing for it but to head down the main road towards Port Macquire. We did not exactly leave in a rush but it was quick enough for a bit of a faux par to be made by my good self. We had bought some provisions including the much valued BEER and as we hit the Pacific Highway Liz then asked me what I had done with the aforementioned frothy  possessions (aka – the beer) and it transpired that I had only left those cans of loveliness back at ‘the Rocks’ … Doh!

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A rough old jail where they did not even have a roof!

Port Macquire turned out to be a bigger place than we had imagined but simple enough to navigate as it seemed like a big grid and here we stopped off to watch more surfers and have a look at the Koala Hospital. No folks, this was not a hospital for humans run by those charming little koalas – though back home in the UK the NHS may want to consider this idea – no, this was a hospital for poorly koalas and those that had been involved in accidents and the like. It was cool but we had arrived there quite late in the day so we only had enough time to have a quick run round the place. Koalas, as you probably know, do not move around that much even when they are in the best of health so we could not really tell who was poorly and who was on the mend but the place did seem to be doing a lot of good. As we left the place, we left a bit of a donation for the little creatures in the hope that some of them would actually take their medical degrees, who knows eh!

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As the sign says ……

So it was that we left Port Macquire and had set our hopes on getting an overnight stop even though these seemed to be a bit more few and far between here on the Australian East coast. The one we first stopped at we found was no longer a night stop so things were looking a bit desperate until my good wife spotted a camping site in a national park.

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My wife doing the walk … as she does!

This place turned out to be quite brilliant as here we were entertained by a Dutchman on a guitar, who was quickly on hand with a joke or two and we then settled down to a brilliant meal provided by our good selves. When the good fellow went to bed it was then my turn to entertain my wife by pretending to be a Geordie, with a poor accent. We even had bought a couple of beers to replace those we (I) had lost earlier in the day and whilst having a drink watched some bats doing some quite batty things – good eh!

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One of the koala doctors …or possibly a patient, poor fellow!
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A bit of a Yamba and then a bit of a Coff! – Day 318 – 2nd December

Today we were going to a place that was recommended to us by the tagline – ‘Byron Bay the way it used to be ten years ago’ – we were not really sure what that meant, maybe there was no electricity, water etc., still we thought it would be interesting! The short drive to Yamba was interspersed with lots of waterways and lakes of all sizes and in-between lots of greenery, very nice indeed. In Australia it seems that every water source is used in some way, be it for fishing, swimming, water skiing etc etc., all sports covered. 

When we got there Yamba was quite a small place but quite spread out and as finding somewhere to park ‘in town’ was quite difficult we went up the hill to park just around the corner from the Yamba lighthouse. We had it in our heads that there was something of a local market going on here today but thus far on the drive in it seemed to be the town’s best kept secret! We could take the suspense no longer so we asked a lady out walking her dogs about the market and the town’s nearest toilets and, directions in hand, off we set.

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Australia’s first manned spacecraft!

Along the way we had a quick look over the lighthouse and we noticed that further back behind it there was a second smaller lighthouse – maybe they grow and this was just a small baby lighthouse that would take over from its parent later on or maybe it is, once again, just my warped view of the world I suppose … or is it just lighthouses and their strange ways! The market, once we had discovered it, was lacking in the stalls department but those it had were somewhat ‘crafty’ in content. I had set my sights on some nice fresh artisan bread and although there was a stall offering such goodies, the loaves’ combination of being too big and being too expensive (for our liking) meant that we left them be in its place on the stall

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Lizards do love to watch surfers!

We walked along the harbour wall and we watched the lizards who themselves seemed to be watching the surfers at play, I wondered in turn who was watching us! I was a grim old day but those out here in the surf certainly seemed to be having a great time. Whilst driving to Yamba we had heard that at Byron Bay, after we had left it a surfer had gone out in something of a storm as the waves were bodacious (which I believe to be the correct terminology used by surfer ‘dudes’)  and he got struck by some – even more bodacious! – lightening! We think he survived but it does show that going out in bad weather is not exactly good sense. We walked along amongst the rocks for a while before going back to the van!

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You can go to anywhere on the coast in Australia and there will also be this kind of scene going on!

We repositioned our van nearer the high street and went along it for another stroll and a rush of blood to the head meant that we bought ourselves some very expensive olives – stuffed with feta – and had some dates with it, very tapasie indeed! We then found a place more appropriate for ‘people watching’ and had ourselves a cuppa each, with mine I had a savoury scone. This was a vegetable scone served with fruit jam and sour cream, a really top idea which I am sure could have been made even better if the jam had been a chilli jam and the cream replaced with a light cheese – this is my idea and I am soon to be opening a string of such shops in my home town!! (Lol!).

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A beautiful photos of rocks on rocks!

Whilst doing our spot of people watching we noticed a couple of surfer dudes with most un-surfer like builds as they were huge fellas who, to my mind at least, they would have broken the boards – perhaps they were surfers in spirit, still fair play to them if you have got it flaunt it! Yamba ticked off the list we moved further on down the coast to another recommended place – Coffs Harbour.

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Coffs Harbour – great place for fish and chips!

The harbour took us quite a bit of time to get to but it was a nice drive as we followed the river along the way. It was quite a huge place and took us ages to locate the harbour, due in part to some internal wrangling that was going on in our cockpit! Finally, whilst there we wet for a bit of a stroll round the boats and saw some huge fish being landed, they were yellow bellied with snobby little noses. For some reason the scene we were witnessing made us fancy a bite to eat and what better than to try a bit of the local delicacy – barramundi. We had our fish grilled so that we could taste it properly and it was delicious and a really meaty eat too – excellent eating. Fed and full we took a walk along the jetty and even in the harbour a couple of souls were swimming just back and forth. It had seemed a nice enough place though and after making ourselves a cuppa on our little camp stove it was time to be off and find ourselves some lodgings.

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Whilst we were admiring the scenery, others were still hard at work!

We went off to a place that we had in mind, a BP truck stop but this was quite a noise place for a restful night’s kip. Our saviour, the guy running the place, came to our rescue though and asked us to move on to a small car park where no camping was allowed. As he moved us he warned us that there could be anywhere between 100 and 150 trucks coming through the truck stop so to be moved on to our ‘safe haven’ was something of a Godsend. We even managed to get something of a good night’s sleep so what was there not to like?

Julian Rocks and Power Cut in Byron! – Day 317 – 1st December

The first day of December and we were to be diving – fingers crossed – Julian Rocks just out from nearby Byron Bay. Yesterday the weather forecast for today left us feeling that today would all be a bit ‘touch and go’ but lo and behold during the night the weather had greatly improved, there had been no further storms and the morning was all bright and blue skies as we awoke – hoorah. The guide at the dive shop had said yesterday that someone would ring us today to let us know the state of play but no-one had yet been in touch and to make matters worse, we could not get hold of anyone there either but we were going to go to Byron Bay no matter what, so we set off anyhow just hoping for good news when we got there.

Thankfully the Gods of Diving – Poseidon or Neptune or whoever it is – were on our side so it was all green for go, for the first dive at least and, if our luck held and the rains held off, then the second dive would be a goer too – hoorah! We got kitted up at the shop and we are actually beginning to find that we are getting much more used to the scuba routine now – being somewhat ‘old hands’ lol – but we still have a bit of ‘healthy’ trepidation about the diving itself and my wife’s increased by 100% when she saw that our transport to the rocks was to be a small RIB, no toilet on there my Chicky! We were soon aboard and off though and, as expected as it was still a bit choppy, the journey was not unlike a rollercoaster ride where onlookers throw salty water at you as you go past! Liz’s reaction as ever with rollercoaster type motions was to do what she does best in these situations – screams loudly and with great gusto, a bit too much gusto for some of the other divers and crew too!

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My dear wife, mid-scream!

The swell was quite high but we soon enough got out the boat into the sea and down to the depths via a mooring rope, kindly left for us by some Turkish Moor one can only assume! As can sometime happen when the tide is a’tumble, the visibility was not exactly the best but it becomes a difficult balancing act between the waters being how the fish like them – i.e. full of particulate matter = possibility food = no great viz OR it being how we would like it – i.e. no particulate matter and the visibility of that an aquarium but no food = no fish!! … Doh! Ah the riddle of the sea eh!

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A Wobbegong – does not seem too wobbly to me!

The dive was still a good one though as we managed to see a couple of the most strange looking Wobbegong Sharks who turned out to be fast asleep – possibly rocked to sleep by the rolling sea! We also saw a wee green turtle, a reasonably large Bull Ray and some of its smaller cousins, the Stingrays, a large Grouper and a couple of very bright Starfish as well as some smaller fish with extraordinarily colourful markings, none of which I managed to get a photo of. Sometimes by the time I get the camera ready the ‘stuff’ has already gone so I find it better to simply watch them and admire the view and then if they stick around only then do I venture to try to take a photo.

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The even pose for you the lovely little things!

Before our next dive we had to come back in to the dive shop to change our equipment as our little diving RIB was simply too small to carry the additional equipment needed for a second dive. When we got back out this dive was much the same as the first except additionally we also saw some lobsters and a Large Loggerhead Turtle with it’s tag on it which reminded us of our recent visit to Mon Repos to see a mother giving birth, maybe this was her, who knows eh! Even our safety stop gave us the chance to see yet another turtle who, like ourselves was coming up for a bit of fresh air, they are still definitely one of our favourites creatures of the sea.

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An underwater tarantula or perhaps the elusive Marine Mophead!

The return journey to Byron Bay was once again a bumpy ride but it was not so bumpy that the ride did not yield one last treasure, a dolphin jumping about in the waves. Our captain stopped the boat to see if the dolphin would be inquisitive enough to come over and have a look at us (!) but it must have been in a hurry to go somewhere as it did not want to know. Still it was a perfect end to what had been a good and very interesting couple of dives.

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Me looking amazed and bemused not really sure why!

Once back in town and dried off our next ‘job’ was to post our Christmas ‘presents’ back home to the UK but this turned out to be a bit more difficult to do than we thought as the town had a power cut. So as the electricity had gone off we were asked by the staff to vacate the post office. So somewhat stifled from our ‘task in hand’ we went to the supermarket to get some shopping done and as supermarkets, like cockroaches, are unstoppable they turned out to be still open for business! As we neared the end of our shopping the electricity came back on – hoorah – so we went back to the PO and completed our mission for Christmas.

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Lennox Head looking just a wee bit desolate in this light!

Our ‘work’ here done we left Byron Bay to the school kids who seemed to have all of a sudden taken over the place and so we continued our slow but steady Australian migration southwards. We stopped at Lennox Head for a bit of a refuel and the road to the place reminded us both of back home, Cornwall and the grey clouds seemed to add to the illusion. After our pitstop we carried on to try and get as close as we could to a place called Yamba for tomorrow’s look-see. We pitched up our wee camp and planned our next moves before I cooked us up a curry and just as we had finished eating, the heavens, as the heavens are wont to do in these parts, just opened up and let the lightening loose along with much rain and grumbling from the clouds.

A Bright Day at Byron Bay – Day 316 – 30 November

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One of my better wildlife photos, I think!

Liz was awoken quite bright (?) and (more definitely) early by a coffee van setting up their stall just a stone’s throw from our van here at the free campsite. To be honest I was still full from last night’s food so I boycotted breakfast and Liz just had a quick light bite – a Kruskit with peanut butter, one of our five a day I suppose!! Our ‘town of the day’ today was to be Byron Bay and already it was looking to be the right kind of day, nice and bright, to do some exploring on. The Bay was only half an hour from our campsite as well so it did not take long at all to get to and along the way some early morning Skydivers made the journey just that little bit more exciting with their antics, all well and good until it seemed like they were going to be landing ahead of us on our road – Gulp!

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Julian Rocks – where we hope to go diving tomorrow if possible!

We went directly to the Byron Bay visitor’s centre in order to try to book some scuba diving for tomorrow, in which we had very little success but we did learn more about a walk to the lighthouse which sounded quite a good thing to do on such a sunny day as today. It was a great day to be going for a bit of a wander and the walk was equal to it. We started off at the main beach and kept going alongwards – and upwards – towards the headland, stopping at the various viewing points and beaches along the way. Part of the walk was along the boardwalk and it was great to see the various beach types at play – the kite and surf boarders pitting their wits against the waves and the sea had a few surprises in store for them too as it was beginning to look quite choppy.

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It looks as though the tides could just stream in!

The walk took us to the end of Cape Byron and then to the most easterly point on the Australian mainland before the stepped walkway led us up to the white lighthouse. From here as you can imagine were the most scenic views all around us and whilst here we also had a bit of a look inside the lighthouse itself. In it you could see one of the original lights as well as an unoriginal manakin dressed as the lighthouse keeper would have been back in the day – very dapper looking, as manakins go!

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A really beautiful place, from all angles really!

From up here it was downhill all the way and to begin with this started off quite easily and then we walked on into the conservation area which was a bit like being back in the jungle and made a bit more spooky by there being no-one about on the walk, which seemed to us most strange. It took us a while walking but the path was good enough and finally we reached the other end of the trees and found ourselves back near the beginning of the walk not far from where we had originally parked.

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Liz at the most Easterly Point of Mainland Australia … in small letters it also tells you to bob down … honest!

We had not yet eaten so after looking through a few shops and even managing (finally) to book our diving for tomorrow, we finally stopped off at a cafe, my mushroom quiche and salad – even though it never even contained any meat – was still quite delicious. After all of this ‘hard work’ it was now time for a bit of a rest, so we picked up the van and drove back to the main beach where we found a nice enough portion of sand to do a spot of relaxing on. This was all going quite nicely until a big black cloud came over and took away our Sun, so thinking it may be more of yesterday’s rains we packed up.

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The Lighthouse of Byron Bay!

We sat and pondered our situation for a while and whilst doing so we continued to watch the beach, lots of others seemed to be thinking along similar lines to ourselves and vacating the place but some of the surfing types were hanging on in there even though the seas were roughing up even more. So we left the place hoping for more blue skies tomorrow and returned to our campsite of last night to be fair it was more of a truck stop really. The entry in my diary for the night reads – ‘thus far the rains have held off and the skies are starting to clear of cloud so we have our fingers, and all other bodily items crossed in order to appease the Gods of the rains – or whoever switches on the tap up there!’

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Possibly a Puma … or a dog!

Goodbyes, a Koala no-show and a torrential downpour but no Celebs! – Day 315 – 29 November

Today we awoke with mixed emotions, on one hand it was nice to be finally in a position to move on but leaving Mick and Myumi and Mick’s sons Trent and Jai, even the dog Zeus – it was all quite a wrench, we had only stayed a short while but they really had made us feel like part of the family. So off Liz popped off to Skype her sister Diane whilst I went for a quick shower, on the way there though I ‘somehow’ managed to scare the living bejesus out of my wife by suddenly popping up behind her, she has killed people for less so I counted myself lucky just to get a good screaming at before I bolted and locked myself in the bathroom … lol!

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The Mighty Curtis Falls – hear the roar!

We had already told Mick last night that we would be leaving today and to be fair their mood was similar to ours, somewhat sombre and subdued. They really had been terrific Couchsurfing hosts and we asked that they would keep in touch, he is, without doubt somewhat uncompromising and I can imagine not to everyone’s tastes but he is a top bloke and loves his sons, who are both a credit to him and I do hope that he and Myumi make a go of it as they really do seem a contradiction in that they seem so unsuited and yet so very suited … lol! Anyhow they had to be going out so we popped to see everyone else who was at the house and when all our goodbyes were done we were once again off on our way.

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A great slide for a Mouse!

Our next port of call, now that we were back on the road, was to be Mount Tamborine. Now this was pretty much along the same route as when we took the road south to the Gold Coast except just after halfway along it we came off and headed inland and upwards. The whole area looked lush so nice and green and with my spirit of adventure back – coinciding with my backache’s departure – we decided to stop off and go for the signposted walk through the trees to Curtis Waterfall and back again. To be fair, there was not that much of a cascade going on at the viewing point when we reached it but there was a huge spider indulging in a bit of a basking on a log but more importantly, it was great to be up and about and ‘doing’ rather than just relaxing!

My first good walk in quite a while had left me feeling quite invigorated so we drove a bit further and went to the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk. This drive a ‘little bit further’ turned out to be quite a bit further along the way than that but we thought but it would be quite interesting especially if we managed to see koalas in the wild, which so the leaflets advertised had been known to happen! This walk was quite a good one as it was a mixture of boardwalk and path although it did get a little sweaty under the canopy of trees. The koalas obviously had not read the script at all and turned out to be no-shows – boo! And the walk took us up quite high and gave a great view over the tops of the trees and though, from our vantage point, once or twice we heard ‘things’, those ‘things’ managed to stay out of sight, if not mind! In particular, the creek was really cool along with the view from the cantilever walkway, which ended in a swaying platform looking out over the rainforest, it was one of those you could see though downwards which caused my wife great trepidation but she did it and I think she enjoyed it too!

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The Creek, like I said really very cool!

The rainforest completed we went onwards to Tamborine North where lots of other tourists seemed to be milling around the place so we stopped off and joined the crowds to see what there was to see and we were not to be disappointed as there were plenty of crafty craft shops and lots of places to grab a bite to eat. The first, well to be honest I can take or leave the craftiness but the second, in the form of a piece of pie eating was delicious – I had myself a most brilliant concoction consisting of meat, bacon and cheese, so what was there not to like.

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My wife on the walkway, not a very happy bunny on the walkway.

Time was a’ticking on though so off we went to do a bit of stalking on my wife’s behalf! She wanted to get the lowdown on the whereabouts of that Unfunny Geordie Duo – Ant and Dec – and she only had the name of the nearest town – Muwilumbah – to go on! Once more we unleashed our cunning plan, to go and beg at the visitor’s centre for any other clues. However there were a couple of wee hiccups to be had with our fine idea, first we had not taken into account yet another time change when we hit New South Wales, this meant that there was another hour added onto the time meaning the Visitor’s Centre was in fact closed! Secondly, my wife also ‘came clean’ about the so-called ‘lead’ that we had been working on was not quite as ‘definite’ as she had made out to me earlier. My very own little ‘Miss Marple’ confessed that it was actually more of a hunch based on what the hotel concierge had let slip coupled with the fact that this place possibly seemed to ‘fit the bill’ somewhat – possibly a case of two plus two equalling five or so my ‘little grey cells’ told me anyhow … lol!

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And this was when the rains had eased!!

Surprising it was then that our search came to a big fat zero so we tried to drive back towards the main highway once again but this turned out to be much easier said than done. As we followed what we thought was the right road the heavens above absolutely opened up and it was just like being caught in a river flowing downwards from the sky – full sized lightning and lashings of torrential rain meant that it was all we could do to drive along at a crawl! At some point though during the downpour we must have taken a bit of a wrong turn, as we actually got back on the highway a bit further along than we thought and it was only when we reached the next sign that we realised we had passed the turn-off for our campsite and so we had to retrace our steps. Still the silver lining  to our tale of woe was that at least when we did park up the rain had relented and to all intents and purposes it felt like tomorrow would be a good day.

 

 

The watching of Cricket and a bit of a German Knees Up – Days 313 & 314 – 27 & 28 November

After going out yesterday when I woke today my back was feeling a bit painful again so we decided to have another day of rest, see if my back could recuperate a bit. So, once again I started sorting out all of the storage and computer things to ensure all the photos that we have accumulated along the way on our travels remain safe up there somewhere in the ‘cloud’. I managed to update the blog a bit as well and during the course of the day my back started to feel just that little bit better.

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My wife, doing her Bond-girl bit!

Later on though the swimming pool would not let up and started to call out to me, so in me and Liz both jumped for a bit of a lounge around in the cooling waters. As I have mentioned before, Mick has a really nice place but the epicentre of it all is the bar next to the pool and everyone, be it family, friends and ‘lodgers’ or ‘freeloaders’ like ourselves all end up gravitating to this area, especially towards the end of the day.

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And this was the sum total of our exertions for the day – arrr!

Mick had finished work early today so that he could see the cricket as it was the start of the test match between his beloved Australia and fierce rivals New Zealand. I must admit, as I have mentioned earlier, to not exactly being a cricket aficionado but it was not too painful to watch as it was made more palatable by Mick’s insightful thoughts, expletives and musings during the innings – most entertaining indeed … lol!

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Zeus, Mick’s Dog! A top dog but he appears to have found my drug stash cunningly hidden underneath my toenail!!

On the following day, the 28th November, my back which had hitherto always had me in agony upon waking, this morning the pain had all but disappeared. Every time I made a move I expected the pains to re-appear and give my back a right good tweaking but it did not, so things were actually starting to look up … hopefully! So to keep up the process of recovery we decided that I should continue with the tablets and once again take things easy both in and around Mick’s pool. It seems strange to continue writing a blog about nothing more than me having back ache but when I decided to write this it had to be warts and all, so these are the warty and possibly boring bits I suppose.

Anyhoo we popped along to the shops first to load up on supplies and whilst we were out we grabbed ourselves a bit of a bite to eat. On the way back we strolled alongside two of Mick’s latest boarders, two young German girls one of whom had taken a shopping trolley – on Mick’s advice of course – to bring their shopping back, so we were all hoping not to get arrested on the way back!

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Mick and Myumi really fed us very well all the time we were there and today was no exception!

When we arrived back at Mick’s we found that he had been out and about but when we got back we all settled back to watch the cricket again and I started reading a new book – an excellent way to finish off my recovery process thought I. Mick and Myumi seemed to be fretting about a new couchsurfer who they were expecting to appear, a young Korean lady by all accounts but every time she got in touch she seemed to be having a new problem with her travel plans. When she finally did turn up it turned out that she had left part of her luggage on the train she had just arrived by – I am not so sure that everyone is cut out for travelling (so says the expert … lol!)!

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Mick’s an Albatroaz! Dah, dahdie dah ….

So we spent our time relaxing, dividing it between chilling in the pool and chilling watching the cricket on the TV again! In the evening, the German ladies (or ‘Krauts*’ as my ever PC friend Mick called them) played some pool with us and they managed to play the very worst game of pool I have ever seen, resulting in some of the very longest games ever, it was that type of gam where you simply want to break the player’s cues! I do remember though at one point someone putting on the ‘I’m an Albatroaz’ song and Mick gave his own inimitable rendition of how the song should sound and possibly how it should ‘look’ as well, such was the albatross-ness of his performance! It was absolutely hilarious, Liz was filming it all and although a bit of a weird end to the day it had been great. I was finally feeling right enough in myself now to proclaim that tomorrow was time to be moving on folks. Onwards and downwards, who knows where it will all end … lol!

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Our dysfunctional family in Brisbane, like the Simpsons on acid lol!                                                      Great folk – it will be a wrench to leave them all behind!
  • my apologies for use of the work ‘Krauts’ but this is Mick, he does everything he can for anyone who turns up but please do not expect him to modify his language!!

There’s Talentless Geordies on that thar Gold Coast! – Day 312 – 26 November

Today we got up at a reasonable time, mainly due to the trains across the road pulling into the station there quite noisily! My back was not aching (or spasming) as much as it had been over the past few days so we decided straight away to get out and about and take a drive ‘down the road’ to the Gold Coast to go and have a look around the place. Once again I had to be well strapped in my seat to ensure no unnecessary movement but as we drove on it proved not too bad a drive at all. Driving round here is a bit like it is back home in the UK except that rather than just overtaking on the roads here it seems that you can also ‘undertake’. This means that cars can pass you by from all sides but even in the busiest of places it is still not as hectic on the roads as it is in the UK, so we stood a fair chance of making it to our objective in one piece.

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Look no Geordies!!!

Before we left our host’s house though there came a bit of a shocker as Mick somewhat unexpectedly came home from work. It turned out that he had sent out an email to people he should not have which had (Mick’s usual) quite inflammatory language in it, so serious it really could mean he might lose his job. I suppose we have all been there at some point, you get engrossed in what you are writing especially if it is quite emotive and then rather than checking what you have written in order to ‘temper’ it, you go onto autopilot instead and before you know it your finger has pressed the ‘send’ button and away your harsh words fly off via the internet connections to weave their mischief. I do hope it all goes well with Mick as he really is a good bloke and it is much easier making your own career choices than others making them for you just for a single rash act.

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They can put up all the Christmas Trees they want it is far too hot to be Christmas!!

Still off we went and when we reached the ‘Coast of Gold’ our first thought – as usual – was to pay a visit to the local information centre. We only managed to reach it after our phone’s SatNav had had a bit a bit of a ‘panic attack’ and sent us on a bit more of a scenic route! The lady at the ‘Info Kiosk’ was not particularly helpful in finding us things to do but she did give us some tips on where to park for free, which in this town I suppose is quite a useful thing to know.

Useful information gleaned, it was now time to go ‘Geordie Clown’ hunting or perhaps as they are from Newcastle it would be more appropriate to say Geordie ‘Clooon’. This was a mission set us by my good wife, one in which we had to find those two tiny Northerners who never seem to be off the television in the UK – Ant and Dec! And the reason we ended up at the hotel, the Versace is because it had been featured on ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get me Out of Here’! So we parked up at the shopping mall next door to the hotel and off we went celebrity ‘stalking’! There was no real security at the hotel but then again, it seemed that there were no real celebrities in the vicinity either! We waited round and for a while watched a woman who showed real celebrity potential in that she had fake boobs, a great deal of ‘work’ done to her face and a ‘typical’ celebrity bad dress code sense – we had no idea if she was famous or not though. Liz, not unlike, Hercules Poirot then decided to use her ‘little grey cells’ and ask at the hotel’s reception where the two ‘Likely Lads’ were. It turned out that the two Geordies never actually come to this hotel at all, those little pranksters, the hotel is just for those celebs who get kicked out – doh!

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And this was when the wind dropped!

To console ourselves somewhat we nipped back to the mall and I treat myself to a Cream Tea, whilst Liz plumped for the more slimming and nutritious Carrot Cake! Whilst we munched, we discussed the clues that the receptionist had given her, that the two Gnomes may actually be inland somewhere not too far away … Doh! This information helped us recover quite admirably – well, actually Liz recovered quite a bit more than I did – to be fair I could have done with some more cakey consolation but instead came to the drastic conclusion that we needed some rest on the beach.

The sands, as ever in Australia, were never too far away but when we got to the beach the winds were whipping up the sands somewhat and it actually looked like a bit of a sandstorm was going on. This made resting on the beach something of an impossibility, the sand kept coming at us from all directions and ending up in the most private of nooks and crannies … ooer! We tried to relax and ‘enjoy’ it all and managed to last almost an hour but finally nature had the last laugh and saw us off!

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Just some of the many boats on offer – it was like a regatta staged for our benefit!

We popped a bit further on up the road to have a look at the local Sealife centre but by now it was getting on and it would have been quite expensive to get in for less than half a day so we decided to give it a miss. So what was there to do, well we are English so we went to the end of the spit of land and relaxed with a nice cup of tea whilst watching the various sea craft out there on the waters before us. And we pretty much saw the whole gamut, Jetskis, a Jetboat, Yachts and Whale Watching Boats, who must have been out spotting dolphins but from where we were pitched up we certainly could not see any sealife. It was still a very good way to relax and finish off our day out to the Gold Coast though.

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My good self plotting our way back to Bris … a couple of wormholes later and …..

So nicely chilled out we tootled back towards Brisbane but something about this route seems to give our on-phone navigating system seizures and so we found ourselves sneaking up back to Mick’s place, often seemingly heading off in totally the wrong direction at times. As I am sure has happened to everyone of the male persuasion who is reading this, as the journey wears on – and sometimes due to the pleading from your partner – you actually begin to even consider ‘ASKING SOMEONE FOR DIRECTIONS’! Now this to me, and a good few other of us guys, is one of those unwritten laws of, possibly the jungle but most definitely of the road at least. As men we should ‘NEVER, EVER ASK FOR DIRECTIONS’ so onwards we battled until suddenly and quite finally we dropped, seemingly out of the sky, down back at Mick’s place. To this day I have no idea how we got there, possibly dropped down a wormhole and popped back out there, I don’t know but tired and somewhat dishevelled we saw out the rest of the evening with a beer and a bite or two!

 

Photo-calls with Koalas in their Sanctuary! – Day 311 – 25 November

Despite the pain, which I must admit was not quite as bad as it had been over the past couple of days, we had decided to ‘get back on the horse’ and venture out and about exploring again. Today our outing was to the Brisbane Koala Sanctuary, supposedly one of the best things to see here in the area. The Sanctuary is situated next to the Brisbane River which was a bit of a drive from our host’s place but easily doable, so after a bite of breakfast we were up and at them.

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Call yourself the star of the show!

I got myself well strapped into the van seat to keep my back as still as I could thus making the journey just about bearable. When we reached the place, from the outside at least, it seemed quite a small place but the boards advertising the day’s events showed that there was definitely plenty to do here. We decided to follow the day’s events round the park and, if it did not break the banks too much, see if we could actually cuddle a koala!

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Not really sure what the animal is but a sudden gust of wind certainly caught it by surprise!

The first event was not too far off starting so we followed the maps to it but on the way looked in on some of the tropical (indigenous) birds they had here, many of which I am glad to say that we have actually seen on our travels but in their natural environment – much better. We also popped in on the Platypus exhibit and this fine specimen, unlike his (or her) tiny relations we had seen previously, seemed to have been pumping iron or having a course of steroid injections because it seemed huge – or was it just that we were closer up to it, we wondered … lol!

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How on earth can a Koala look as if it is scowling at you!!

First off on our day’s entertainment we kicked off with a menagerie of animals all being beaten, cajoled or merely temped into performing for us – well not the beaten of course! We watched a parrot that flew between two of the park’s keepers, a dingo who really did look like and act like a dog – to my uninitiated eyes at least – and lastly, for this part of the show at least, a possum who was blind in one eye, so it just seemed a little bit clumsy! Then came the build up to the act we all wanted to see, the hottest band in the world ….. sorry, got a bit carried away there. So next the keepers gave us an introductory talk about Koalas, tempting us with tales of what these cuddly little creatures get up to! Then it was time to have our photos taken with them – hoorah. They hardly moved at all (perhaps they were toy koalas) and have quite long scratchy claws but they still are the stars of the show here in Oz, so go figure eh! When the ranger came to grab my little fella back I am sure he did not want to go but I might be wrong as they are quite difficult to read!

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Cute and hairy little thing … the Koala is not too bad either!!!

After being koala’ed we went onwards to make sure we were at the right place to see the next show, a farmer and his two sheepdogs, one he told us, was a collie and the other a kelpie. Both of the dogs seemed to love their jobs and seemed to be here, there and everywhere and even when they were standing still they were shaking in anticipation for their next command. First the collie did some rounding up of the sheep and took them through a course in the paddock and then the kelpie took over and herded them into the pen before proceeding to jump their backs and, this way he ran over the top of them, possibly because he could I suppose!

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One minute the shearer was being balanced on top of the sheep, the next minute …..

Then the farmer showed off his own skills by demonstrating to us a bit of sheep shearing which is my wife’ s favourite type of entertainment. As he sheared, he explained to us what was going on and it was quite interesting although I am not so sure that the sheep were particularly impressed by it! The farmer passed a sample of the wool round and, fresh from the sheep it was still sticky because it still had lanolin on it! Whilst he was shearing he appeared to be using a counterbalance weight to take the strain of the weight of the sheep off his back. Now this was what I could have done with as, by now, my back was once again starting to smart somewhat.

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Please … I couldn’t eat another thing!

Show over, we had bought some food to feed the kangaroos earlier so now we popped over to feed them. However, we were not the first though and by the time we reached them they were lying back looking well and truly ‘stuffed’. We tried all we could to prise open their greedy little mouths to force a bit of our food into them but it was all for art … well our photos of course.

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Help … somebody help me … I backed up into here and ….!!!!

It was now time to have a look round the rest of the place and see the animals we had not yet seen and there were some good ones too – snakes, a Golden Possum, Wombats and all the others too – but after running round the place, it was finally time for us to make the move and head off home. It had been a thoroughly good trip out though and although my back was now hurting a bit, it was still not as bad as it had been before our trip out.

 

 

A couple of days of trying to Recover – Days 309 & 310 – 23 & 24 November

I awoke today – on the 23rd – in quite a bit of agony, too bad in fact for us really to be moving on much further, which was our original plan. So we asked our hosts Mick and Mayumi if they would let us stay a while longer and being the good people that they are simply told us to stay as long as we needed. I am not really sure I could have gone anywhere either driving or as passenger if they had not been so kind and told us to ‘sling our hooks’. My back kept flaring for no real reason so the only course of action left was to rest up as best I could and hope for a quick recovery.

So I got myself as comfortable as I could and spent the day updating my blogs and uploading some more photos onto Flickr. There is nothing much more I can say about the rest of the day except that I spent most of it in some kind of agony or another, the only relief I could get was to lean against the side of the van in order to stretch my back out a bit, making it just that little bit better.

At night Liz and Mick’s son, Trent cooked tea together, a spaghetti bolognese, so we sat and ate with the family, which is really nice as they certainly know how to make you feel at home and part of it! As the night wore on the clouds overhead started to look both ominous and a strange metallic looking colour and after a short while we were treated to a lightening spectacular. The flashes lit up the entire skies and as we watched both forked and sheet lightening kept us quite entertained. This was not too bad until the rains came down just a bit later on but even this did not seem to last particularly long. Whilst we had enjoyed the amazing sea change in the weather our host Mayumi was not so impressed and was  frightened to death by the whole affair the poor woman was actually shivering during the light show.

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The pain was so bad, my face simply disappeared!!!!

The next day my back was not much better so we resigned ourselves to yet another day of lazing about. So, once again I spent my time trying to update my blog and get more photos on the Flickr site. Again the van came to my aid and I spent quite a lot of my time bent over it to stretch my back out a bit and relieve my pains whilst I busied myself as best I could. During this time, Liz took a wander off up the hill to the shops and the weather was back to being both hot and humid, so she did well but it was no journey for me as my back kept ‘spasming’ and giving me no end of problems even when I was trying my best to keep still.

Even when Mick got back from work, although I felt like I was being really ignorant, I simply could not get comfortable enough to sit with the family for even the shortest length of time – what a party-pooper! I was beginning to get to that point where having the pain was beginning to wear me down it just seemed like a constant companion – and that’s my wife’s job, well not the pain side of it, the companion part … honest … lol! Luckily, on her earlier excursion to the shops Liz had bought me some Magnesium which by the time evening came on, did at least seem to be easing the spasms somewhat and that was at least a bit of a relief.

 

Back problems and the Big City! – Day 308 – 22 November

After a very restless night during which I spent all my time just trying to get comfortable, I still ended up waking in absolute agony. My back hurt when I moved and it still hurt when I stopped so I decided we might as well just go out anyhow! So it was that we made an executive decision and stuck with ‘Plan A’ to take the train into the city’s centre to see if we could find the market there. The train seemed to us to be the best method of transport as there was a station just across the road from Mick’s house and chatting to Mick about it, it seemed that rail tickets were not too pricey either. Originally Mick was thinking about coming with us but he had to get some work done today so went popped to the station and got our tickets without him.

However, getting to our destination – Southbank – was made a bit more difficult though as there were repairs on the track so we ended up having to double back to get to our stop. The trip across though had done my back no favours though so when the train stopped we made a beeline to the nearest pharmacy. The pharmacist was a really nice guy and gave me lots of advice as well as selling me a cream and a couple of sets of painkillers too – well if in doubt I suppose!

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The beach at Brisbane but, for a change Mr Blueskies was not with us for a change!

So as soon as I could I took a couple of the lower strength tablets just to see if they would take the edge off the pain before we went to grab a bite to eat. The place we ate at was nothing out of the ordinary but other visitors to the eatery definitely were – ibis, a most strange looking bird indeed. Eating, drinking and watching of strange fowl done we went off for a mooch round the market stalls to see what riches they had on offer.

The market was not huge but was quite a crafty kind of place, people trying to sell all sorts of stuff that they had made, painted or even, in some cases, seemingly just thrown together! It was quite a nice place to meander and hang about in, though every now and again my back or side would spasm and cause me great agony to let me know it was there. From the market we went that bit further towards the river and saw the Brisbane ‘Eye’ – every big town or city seems to have one now, the town where I am from has one called the Grimsby ‘Squint’ … lol

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The Brisbane Wheel!!

On the Yarra riverbank there were loads of people just having a great time, we loved it as it was all just so very chilled. One fly in the ointment was the dark clouds overhead just taking the usual Oz shine down a notch or two, meaning that it reminded me a bit of London! We strolled on to another spot and saw the outdoor manmade beach – something you definitely would not find in the ‘Old Smoke’. The kids there were loving it as there were loads of sprays and water dropping out of big paps held high up. Some of the fountains were the ones on the floor that shoot water upwards and the kids were jumping all over them, it looked great fun but possibly not for me today – boohoo!

Even further on at a green area by the river we stopped to listen to a little band playing some instrumental stuff which was quite good and relaxing, if a little dated sounding but it got us tapping our feet and it was nice just watching others relax and chill out – a ‘group chilling out’ as it were. Again here the stars were the stars of the show, dancing along with each other or just doing their own little solo spots, it was difficult not to smile at the scene before us. If I had been feeling a bit better this would have been a great way to spend the day but I consoled myself with an ice cream walking back to the station which made me forget my pains for at least a little while.

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Me and Liz were thinking about joining the croquet club but we found out it takes place under the Scot’s guy’s kilt!!

The train transported us back to Mick’s and he and Myumi had laid on a little surprise, they had cooked us tea, which was only excellent and even took my mind off my aches and pains. Lamb (my favourite) with Cauliflower Cheese, Carrots and Potatoes absolutely delicious. Although he does not seem to like cooking he sure cooked the meat really well, it literally fell off the bone – a great way to end the day!