bryan&jmedownunder


leisha’s journey continues

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leisha’s journey


Final Post: We’re home…the wrap up!

So I went to the dr as soon as I got home, and he basically said I would be fine. My ears should heal ok, and he said I did the right thing getting treatment right away. He gave me some nasal spray to open up the eustachian tubes more so I can hear, but I am concerned about taking it, having it be a steroid…I knew someone who couldn’t breathe right anymore after chronic nasal spray use…I would HATE that…so maybe I just see how it goes for a few more days and then try if need be…I still cannot hear completely out of my left ear, which is annoying…but so far from what it was, I can handle it for a bit more…

and I am going to go to the dermatologist for my foot- though this seems much better…also I have a lot of little moles and freckles- and the message is clear in Australia: get your skin checked frequently. This is something I was going to do anyway, but figured whatever. All the more reason now…and in returning I found out a friend just had melanoma removed- a family member is suffering from it now, and doing treatments…so this is nothing to mess with…there are so many reasons I hate cancer…but there are even more pressing ones at the moment, I shall not go into here…but perhaps a new blog will start from what is going down now, and in the near future.

Also, I went to the bank to get the last of our money changed back, and cash in our last travellers cheques, and i told the guy at the bank about the whole lsoing them incident. I showed him the 5 receipts and we tried to figure out which was stolen…in looking at the log of sales though he noted, “but you only purchased 5 packets”…and I was just dumbfounded…somehow I just thought I lost a packet, and I really didn’t!?! What!?!? The crazy thing is that I folded that one all up- there is no way I couldn’t tell the difference between that and the ones I had not touched yet…and when I looked, they were both all nestled together as though they had been folded that way, and not touched…SO WEIRD…but oh goodness, not losing $250 is awesome 🙂

Besides being a tad tired and totally overwhelmed with Motley Zoo already, I have had some trouble figuring out which side of the road to drive on, especially when making turns. I noticed something about the lanes here- that the center line and turning lane lines are sometimes carried right through the intersection…boy that would help over there I think! But to their credit they do already on sidewalks and stuff have notes telling pedestrians to “look right” and I doubt that the US would ever consider or care to instruct tourists how to look in order to cross safely…so I guess we each have safeguards, but nothing is perfect J

All in all this trip was totally amazing, and a life changing experience. We really needed this break- and although it really went by so fast, it was so worth it, even all the debt…really that is the stupid roof’s fault, but whatever…we will move on and this will go down as the best vacation ever…though I’d love to top it someday! Stay tuned for what is next…but don’t hold your breath haha- it will be a long while before we head out on another vacation…

Thanks for all your notes and comments…I enjoyed reading them, and hearing from you, especially when we were so far away from everyone!


Day 32- Sydney for the last time

So we got up at 630 today- although I had set the alarm for 6am…the thing about alarm clocks is you have to turn the alarm part on, when you want to use it- and it appears that a few times throughout the vacation, this thought eluded me…good thing we didn’t have an early flight- or that 630 was still pretty insanely early to rise for our getting into the city to return the camper van…

We got everything organized, cleaned up a bit more, threw out some garbage and got ready to go…our friend couldn’t start his truck for some reason so we pushed it out of the driveway and he pop started it…glad it worked, because I can’t say pushing a truck that early in the morning was something I could do for long, hehe. After we got everything done and got in to leave, we realized though the caravan park office didn’t open until 9am on Saturday, and we hoped to get our $20 deposit back! But thankfully we saw someone in the office and she graciously opened and let us check out…at this point $20 is gold to us- and with the exchange rate being basically dollar for dollar that isn’t cheap- so we were glad. We kept the directions that the caravan park had given us in our’welcoming” packet- since our map was quite vague and crowded, and hard to read. Also it doesn’t help that the locals call the highways different names than the map- or that the map has the same road being 3 different route numbers on the same road- or that the same route can so east and west and still be called “route 1”- only they don’t give you the directional indications on the overhead and road signs- they only say “so and so city” one way and “so and so city” the other way…so in a split second you have to know that Liverpool (off your map) is ___ and ___ is ___. Actually this is the way it was in New Zealand too- and they don’t use the nearest city or town- they use one way the heck far off, at the end of that route…but as stated, the end of the route is very likely NOT on the map you have at that moment…much of the time you can gather I am headed in this direction so I will keep going in this general direction- but go around a roundabout, or notice on the same sign, two ways to get to the same town and it is just not so clear…so yeah, no directional indications of where you need to go and you have 2 seconds to decide…

The instructions said the M2 motorway was 6 lights away, but at the 3rd light we found it- well really the 2 and M& which is the same as the M2 we discovered…then it is a toll road- again with no tooll booths- but bryan got us covered finally. They put our card on file and any tolls incurred up until the 8th at noon would be charged to our card…so we were not worried about the tolls this time thankfully! But after being toll for a few miles, then suddenly it wasn’t and then again the reintroduced the tolls. I think maybe one exit was no tolled- but what the heck is the point with that? I believe it was tolled then all the way to the city- but all the more reason it not be untolled for a blink in between…

Thankfully traffic wasn’t too bad, but it was still a bit busy and stressful for us. We got to go over the Sydney Harbor Bridge this time, but the direction we had to go after wasn’t so clear…we ended up going to the west side, when we needed the east; they have “transit” lanes, like for busses only, separating you from the left turning lane- and or the left turning lane is also the bus lane- which yes, makes things confusing! People are somewhat nice about letting you merge last minute and so on, but either way, with medians and one way roads, it does not make it easier. Oh and the center lane is not yellow like here, it is white, so it can be very hard to distinguish when you are allowed on a road or not besides. so suddenly you see 4 lanes of oncoming traffic on the opposite side when you want to go straight- but really you can go straight, you just get only one lane…but after some stressful, crafty downtown driving on bryan’s part, and some creative navigating on mine, we figured out where we were…and pulled up in front of the camper van place. Bryan did a nice parallel park- and then suddenly we realized we had forgotten to fill it up.

In Cairns, we were charged $35 for that- and it would have been a hell of a lot easier to find gas there…we were so busy concentrating on getting here we never noticed a gas station, and like in NYC they are not very plentiful…Bryan walked a ways to see if he could find one- and even *gasp* asked for directions to one…and a dude said, down the hill nearby. It looked pretty residential and we doubted this plausibility but went anyway…and sure enough we found one on the waterfront- the busiest and smallest, gas station I have ever seen, complete with giant fire truck and garbage trucks also filling up together. The lanes were so small, there was no way he could have fit in there with our camper van (plus pump on the wrong side) and you’d partially have to drive over the curb to get there, so we were kind of half into the lot, behind the fire truck, and the butt of the van kind of sticking out a bit, into the “parking” lane of the road…so we just waited our turn, like any logical person would…but some girl- apparently the only girl in all of Australia who was in a hurry- pulled up behind us and began honking. She was so impatient she even attempted to drive over the curb and grass herself then thought better of it. Finally she got the idea to drive around the corner and try from the other direction (smart) and backed in…but in backing in she was cautious and hesitant because suddenly then she realized how small the space was and that it was not easy to get to- certainly not in a camper van…and that being said, driving a campervan she should definitely 100% assume we were not from around there, and gotten the kinks worked out of her attitude…I just smiled nicely at her when we had to pull up side by side, and pump our gas…

So now, finally ready we went back to the street where the campervan was on- which was not easy to get to as it was on one side of a divided road…but we got there and thankfully there was one parking space left and we snagged it. Props to Bryan on the parallel park again, and we sat to wait- since their office didn’t open until 930a- or so we hoped. If this office had anyone like the clown we encountered in Cairns we would not be in luck..and anything getting us on the road past 10 or 1030 to the airport would be cutting it close for my liking…At 915 I suggested that I wait with the van and he walk down to see when someone arrived and if they’d maybe accommodate us- to my surprise as soon as he got in front of the door it opened and he walked in, yay!

There were no fines or fees that we knew of- we are still a bit worried about the speed cameras, and how strict they are, or whether we had accidentally gone 10km over…but I guess that either remains to be seen, or we’re in the clear. He checked over the van, and as we had no incidents, we were given the clear. I asked him to call us a cab, but he said they go by frequently, so we were glad…but in waiting they were all full of fares…we waited for about 10 minutes, and just as I was ready to ask him again to call, a station wagon cab (thank goodness with all that luggage) pulled up and we got in…this was it, we were done in Sydney…now the sadness of the vacation coming to an end was setting in- while the stress stomach aches for our return, had already begun 3 days ago…yay. But anyway we were glad to be on our way back to our friends and family, of course our fur kids, and definitely our bed- definitely ready to go out of Sydney…though didn’t really want to leave Australia!! Especially since getting back to real life again was going to be hard! As we pulled up to the airport I was definitely sad it was over…and dreaded the travelling frustrations and customs dance we’d be doing- but such is the price to go where you want in this world!!

This time I had basically just resigned to checking my little wheely carry on rather than argue the 7, 8 or 10 kilos…so we had packed Bryan’s little one with our most important items, and we unloaded at least one more piece of luggage for the time being. We got through security- though I had forgotten and packed the 4.3 ounce toothpaste in our carry on…but they threw it out, no big deal thankfully and waited…lucky us there was an internet kiosk in front of us with free internet (why doesn’t the US do this?) and I entertained myself for a bit, brushing up on the charges posted on Motley Zoo‘s Petfinder page- and had so many questions about who got adopted and why others didn’t…but I knew I’d get the full story when I got home!! We finally boarded and the flight was pretty full- no laying down this time, but we had plenty of movies to watch- so we settled in for a long ride. After 3 movies in a row, we were starting to get tired, and I was starting to get a bit uncomfortable. I had a lot of trouble falling asleep, but was pretty tired, and the familiar annoyance of having to pee and sore butt, sore knees started to set in…oh it was a long ride, but we made it.

The customs dance in San Francisco was pretty easy- but dummy me, I took the water bottle and banana from the plane, which is totally not allowed- the banana could cost me a fine! I cannot believe I spaced on that at all…the banana I suddenly remembered while claiming my dried fruit from Trader Joe’s that we still had not finished eating…phew, just before the bags went through the xray! The water though I didn’t catch until at general security they pulled me aside to hand check my bag…ugh. I am so much savvier than that with the travelling normally, but whatever- thankfully no real probs, no fines- and their way of getting from customs back into the terminal was SO much nicer than LA’s unmarked, un-manned, wander where you may plan…they even rechecked our luggage at a checkpoint to make it easier for us- how nice. Then more waiting- and this ride though only an hour and a half was the worst for us because at this stage we were at the painful tired, where you only want to put your head down and cannot…and the sudden realization that along with many other difference, the seats on international flight are so much nicer and more comfy than domestic- meaning reclined actually puts you in a slightly leaned back position…the ones on this plane we so straight up I was craned forward and my head kept falling over. Even Bryan’s head was bobbing and it seemed to take forever to taxi out to the runway…and the finally we took off- but recline didn’t mean much…so I took the put my head on the tray table route- and my leg totally fell asleep…but at least my head was down! I had totally creased face when I got up, but that little bit of nap really helped…

Our luggage all came off finally, which is always exciting- and then a short cab ride back to our old house and we were nearly home…As we went to get into the car, I offered to drive, and then laughed at how I was on the left side of the car, like duh, so dumb…and then I realized, ha, actually that IS where the steering wheel was (should I be driving haha??). And then we went to get gas, and as I looked over at the car next to me, he was driving on the right side of the car. I was still having a tad bit of trouble feeling like the left side was normal- but then this kid on the right I got so confused…how weird that in my whole life (other than mail trucks) think I have seen cars with steering wheels on the right maybe 2 or 3 times at most…and then suddenly I see it RIGHT after we get off the plane?! Anyway thankfully driving on the left side of the car, right side of the road wasn’t that hard for me…but as a passenger today (May 9) I almost told Bryan he was on the wrong side turning a corner…this is already after he briefly couldn’t figure out, in pulling out of the driveway, which side to be on…goodness. Hopefully after a day of driving this will right itself a bit more J Thank goodness we don’t have safety cams posted everywhere- or P is for stupid stickers and tabs for our cars here!

So the vacation is officially over, and we go back to life as usual…and start planning for brazil, and my delicious mamey sapotes!


Day 31- Sydney, on repeat

Today is our last day in Sydney, and in Australia in general…in commemoration of the event, we had planned to do the Harbor Bridge Climb…and thankfully the weather cooperated too! It was cold again when we woke up, but seemed clear- and turned out to be an amazing day…the weather was so clear and gorgeous it couldn’t have been better planned.

We had no idea what time we should leave to cope with rush hour issues and stuff, so we were at the bus stop before 7am. We did our morning “routine”, as I joke that now we know Sydney basically in and out 😉 it has definitely grown on me a bit. I am not sure why Auckland didn’t stress me out in the same way, but maybe it was because of the whole not getting to see Auckland thing that kind of made the whole ‘city’ idea not quite the same…but anyway, I wouldn’t want to live here- just as NYC or LA are not for me either…but I don’t feel it is stressful or annoying as I initially did- and I hope that we feel this way after trying to find the campervan office tomorrow too, haha…but anyway it is kind of fun to “play” resident for a few days- and see what life is like for the people who do this everyday…

We got to the ferry area, where we’d walk to the bridge climb more than an hour early…so we got our last “pies”- which were so steaming hot, I burnt my mouth numerous times…it wasn’t quite what I pictured either- I expected creamy, cheesy, and it ended up being saucy, spicy, almost like a burrito or something. It was from a place called “pie face” and each pie had a smile baked in- like literally, a smiley face poked in it…and she had asked if we wanted mash and gravy on top- we refused, so she continued on with ‘tomato sauce” ie ketchup, to which we again refused…and I am so glad. As most know, I am not one for condiments in general- I like my food unadulterated, except maybe with some salt…but this thing was so tomato saucy as it was already- it would seriously have been gross with more!

We finished up and could see at the Museum of Contemporary Art next door to the park we were munching in- there was a really cool metal sculpture of a neuron, and they were setting up for some kind of event…turns out it is Sydney fashion week- as later we saw the models and make up tents…oh the familiar world of fashion, that I have since abandoned…Seattle’s fashion Week is actually coming up next weekend- and I guess Vera Wang is showcasing, and Apolo Ohno is modeling…fancy things happening since I showed last year…I also missed the Project Runway auditions- or rather, maybe the audition is coming up shortly, but with the trip would have had no time to prepare…and I am done with that idea now anyway- I think after 3 times of being really super close, but no cigar, I can gather that it’d be much the same yet again, even had I been ready…I would not mind attending the event- but I know with an all day Motley Zoo event next Saturday also, I will not be in the going to fashion shows/ parties mood. I guess I traded fashion for mutts, for good! J

So we began the walk up towards the bridge and finally found the building we were to meet at…we went in and sat down for a bit- while they showed a video of what we’d be doing…they give you a ‘flight suit’ type get up, and you cannot bring cameras, which I was devastated to find out! They have a mock set up of what the ladders are like on the climb so you can try it out, while rigged in and connected to the safety line. The gadget that you use to run along this cable is so cool: it is like the size of a baseball and has 2 toothed gears that wind together. Once you clasp it onto the cable it just goes seamlessly over each junction and interchange of cable and angle- so unlike rock climbing where you remove a carbineer to move past each safety connection point- this just rolls on through. It occasionally catches and you must give it a tug, but otherwise it is genius…anyway one thing I thought a bit odd was that they gave a breathalyzer test before going too- which I can understand, but really, if someone was drunk enough not to attend, I think it’d be pretty noticeable! Anyway, a metal detector too…but everything from jackets to gloves and hats are provided- radio headsets also- and everything is attached to some kind of strap and clipped to you, so nothing flies off and gets away into traffic or the water.

We started the climb and it was really cool to be walking behind the scenes. They are doing repairs on the bridge and so we saw the workers all strapped in like us, working and walking around…The guide told us stories and history about the bridge while we climbed the eastern side, from the south side to the middle and then back down the western side…the guide brings a camera and snaps pics every so often along the climb, which they sell later…but it is nice because they also give you a group shot, complimentary- and a certificate of the climb. Our group was a fun one- a couple from long Island, and a family from nearby, who sadly were celebrating the death of their father/ husband 8 years prior. The youngest girl couldn’t have been more than 10, so she probably remembers nothing of here dad- the oldest boy about 15 or so…the mom shed some tears as we all explained who we were and why we were there…there was a kid celebrating his 21st, someone for their 50th, and then the couples mostly for anniversary or mothers/ father’s day…we chatted a lot with the couple from the Blue Mountains (where we were a few days ago), who received the gift from their son…he has apparently planned out all sorts of cool things for them- including a great white shark dive, in a cage J gutsy peeps in their early 60’s!! See, this is why I always say rather than have kids, when we’re about that age we will adopt an independently wealthy 30 something in need of a good family- and then we’ll have someone to take us on fancy exciting trips hehe.

Anyway the climb was truly awesome- at its peak the bridge is 440 feet over the water. There is still nearly 3 feet of steel girder on either side of the walkway, so you cannot see directly down through the path to the water, which I would have liked, but it was darn high. I was amazed that the NY couple told us his son had been bungee jumping at that height in NZ…honestly I cannot imagine choosing to step off a platform that high- I think I would freeze up. It was one thing with skydiving where someone else was technically in control, I had little choice even had I resisted…but in bungee jumping it is up to you to jump, and I don’t know if I could! I am sure I would enjoy it, but it is something we have not done…I don’t know that I will- but probably I will try it someday…though I think it can lead to back issues…maybe it would straighten out all my kinks! One good SNAP and I’d be better? Ha- I can imagine my chiropractors wanting to kill me at this thought!!

They let us stay up there for quite a while, which was nice- especially sans camera. The day was just right- perfect weather, great visibility and just a gorgeous sight…we learned that only 16 people died while building the bridge- and this is when they didn’t use safety lines and ropes either!! One guy fell from the road deck height onto the water- and though the force of the fall, exploded his boots, soles embedded in his feet (taking 2 weeks to remove by tweezers), and boots gone all the way up his thighs, to his groin- that they had to cut off with knives- ouch! But he lived…and went back to work on the bridge shortly after. Now that, I think is nuts…but I guess a job is a job if you really need it! We continued on back down and suddenly it was done. We were really done with all the exciting parts of the trip and the reality of leaving was setting in. We got our pics of the climb and they made me crack up…but by then we were starving and thirsty and had to find food.

We went down the street and found a little chocolate shop that served lunch- good Panini/ bruschetta and we got a delicious chocolate shake- which was something I had craved a while back, but not really seen on the trip. Much of the ice cream goodies, other than convenient store freezer popsicles etc, is fruit- they go for the fruity, gelato more often than the creamy stuff…so I was really excited about some dark chocolate ice cream shake! It was indeed the best shake I have ever had, and we sucked it down so fast, it was ridiculous! I had told the server to give us lots of water, and she gave us this tiny glass which I drank down before she even finished putting Bryan’s on the table- but did she come back with more? Of course not! And wait for our bill? Nope- we just asked this time for them to bring it, which seemed to surprise them…and then again we were off to wander a bit. We were not in a hurry- but we did want to get going 😉

We were really tired right now so our options were to walk the Botanical Gardens or go home- We wanted to see the gardens and get closer to or go in the opera house but we were so tired…and really at some point, a park, is a park, is a park…we chose home, to pack (in daylight)- but with a stop at the flea market before. Although we had purchased a round trip ticket with transfer from the station, the machine sucked up our ticket (one transfer early) and we got screwed out of our ride home which was lame. Thankfully we got a little bit more money changed over, as we had been on our last $100 and still needed to catch a cab tomorrow…then we went to find the market. 

We meandered a bit, I finally did decide on a tshirt- and Bryan finally found his hat! It is a nice light gray straw one that looks quite nice on him, so that is good…no more felt hot wool hat for summer time for him! We also finally documented the awful products they make from the animals here- including bottle openers and lighters from kangaroo nuts, and then their paws L also jerky from roos, emus and crocs…as well as wild board pate in a can with native berries sauce. YUM.

and then a cane toad, now functioning as a change purse…

eating lunch…


Day 30- Sydney again

So this morning we got up- me again, before the alarm. It was pretty darn cold, even throughout the night. After the middle of the night half mile trek to the bathroom to pee, I left my clothes on because really it was just too cold…we have to leave the windows cracked so the condensation doesn’t build up and make us colder- but it also seems to be a tad bit breezy, when it is that cold out. There is no heater in this van like there was in the other- and for most of the trip we’d not want it of course with the steamy jungle like environment of much of Qld…but the past few nights it’d have been nice. Also when Bryan pulled in, he did so head first- and for the third time out of 3, we ended up slightly uneven, with our heads facing a tad downhill. This time it was subtle enough we didn’t much care…but the other 2 places it was pretty dramatic and we’d turned our heads the other way…I didn’t sleep as well then though, as my feet kept falling off- so we have been sleeping with our feet slightly elevated…

Anyway our only real goal was to make it to the front office by 830 to take a tour of the aviary they have at the caravan park…this morning I had seen a hot water spigot, so we were able to make coffee today, which was such a relief- but nothing for brekky, as we needed to go grocery shopping later…anyway after coffee, a little golf cart picked us up at the office an drove us to the aviary. It is a giant dome about 30 feet tall perhaps in the middle with a variety of birds inside- many parrots and lorikeets…now I have mentioned my slight uneasiness about birds right? Well I had to get over that- as pretty much as soon as we got in they swarmed us…and I was going to feed them!

She handed me some pieces of apple and immediately I had a ton of them all over- in my hair, on my shoulders, arms and hands…one was gently nibbling my ear while another was picking at my teeth while I was laughing so hard. I am sure the vid and pics are hilarious- I will choose just a few…all in all though it was fun- however, even when we were out of food a few wanted to nibble my ear harder, and my hand! We read all about the history of the aviary- most of which I don’t recall- except that there used to be peacocks, but with their loud trumpeting, were eventually evicted- because the nearby prison complained they were too loud! OMG, I thought that was funny. Anyway this aviary had been there for about 15 years or so, and It was a very nice one…but we were done with birds all over us, and decided to head back to Sydney- it was looking to be a nice day, and so we were def going to hit Bondi Beach today…but on the way out to the bus stop, a guy asked us what our plan was- and he suggested taking a ferry across the waterfront as an alternative route to Bondi Beach, which sounded fun to us- like doing a harbor cruise but not having to pay for it!!

To be continued…


Day 29- Sydney

So we got up today relatively unsure of what we would do- should we drive into the city and risk more tolls and such or should we take the bus/ train combo, and see if we can navigate that way?? I was really paralyzed with decisions making as either idea caused me some anxiety…it is funny to think I am one that went to Europe twice on my own and have always been independent…but then I guess being used to things the way I am (relatively quiet and no traffic) the idea of doing all this was a bit annoying- especially when I think about Emerald beach we left a few days prior…why didn’t we calculate the time we needed and stay there? *sigh*. Anyway I am not sure why bustling cities are just not really my thing anymore, but they just are not…I like the boonies- which as a kid I was afraid of…small towns freaked me out! And initially before moving to Redmond, I was a bit nerovous about moving out of a neighborhood type setting, with sidewalks and a grocery store less than a mile away…but now that I have it differently, I am pretty comfortable…oh well, enough about my neuroses- I know it is just not my fault 😉

Anyway we finally decided we’d spend one more night here- and on taking the bus and then train into the city. I was a bit anxious about this, but it was really pretty easy…at least going there! Heading to a big target like “city” is much easier than the very specific Sydney Gateway caravan Park in Parkela! The whole ride took about an hour and a half perhaps with the waiting for the busses and trains…and annoyingly enough, as soon as we arrived in city started to pour rain! We ran to hide out in Paddy’s Market, a kind of flea market…oh boy, shipping, Bryan’s absolute fav! I say that with total sarcasm, as he normally practically had a panic attack in public, he never sets foot in the mall…so this was going to be interesting- but I must admit, it was basically the only way I would get any kind of shopping in at all 😉

It was a pretty big place, with a lot of flea market type stalls- a lot of the same stuff, but some was nice. They had some booths with really pretty Asian clothes and saris, and then plenty with Australia paraphernalia…I checked out some tees but didn’t decide on any…Bryan continued the search for his straw hat, to no avail…and we also checked the fruit section for mamey sapote- certainly slim chance to none we’d find it…turned out none! Anyway it was enjoyable enough and with our arms full of some knick knacks and such, we headed out- noticing it had stopped raining…we got a tad disoriented in there, but reoriented ourselves quickly and went back on track…we decided that if it was going to keep raining on and off then we’d hit the museum…

On the way we stopped at the giant ANZAC memorial- another war memorial…I told you they are really big on their war memorials here- not that we aren’t but they have cookies called anzac, and streets named it, a warm memorial in every town, sometimes more than one…and this one had a sign on it out front that said it was illegal to sit on the steps leading up to it- and that it was also under surveillance…I guess that you are invited to look at it, but it would be considered desecration or something to sit on the steps…which I found a bit odd, but I guess understandable. Their motto is “lest we forget” which is repeated all over…there is a ‘etenerla” flame of sorts on one side, a crazy crucified statue in the middle, and in the giant dome, stars all glued to the ceiling. I guess way back when they were selling the starts for the whopping proce of 2 shillings, the equivalent of 20 cents- in order to complete this memorial…anyway it was an interesting place…and then we moved onto the museum.

This was the Australian museum, the special displays right about now were called, “Surviving Australia” about dangerous and unusual creatures here; a special dinosaurs display; birds and insects; indigenous people, and what turned out to be a really cool skeleton one of bodies posed in different ways (right up our alley right?)- which was of course closed this day! Grr! Anyway we of course still enjoyed ourselves and basically saw every corner of the museum…we saw all the birds we had seen and so I took pics of them so I can recall them over time…and we say all about the insects and spiders we had encountered, and thankfully still plenty on display that we had not!! The dinosaurs thing was pretty cool- there were some really bizarre ones I have never seen- I guess maybe they were specializes to Australia…and then some extinct marsupials and ancient animals from here- basically like the mastodon or sabre tooth tiger…but one was a kind of tiger bear, another like a bear lion and the last was like an elephant sized koala- a marsupial even…it was really bizarre…sadly they had taxidermy versions of all our fav little friends like the koala, tree kangaroo, all the wallabies and versions in between, and then a dingo. Of course I had to pet the dingo…I miss the puppies!!

Anyway we were really pretty tired by then- all the walking we did, and the backpack full of beach gear, in case we headed to Bondi…but with the weather not cooperating, we clearly decided against, hoping that tomorrow would be better…and we basically headed home…we stopped at some budget hotels to find out rates- we thought maybe we’d return the campervan early and then stay in the city- but we had to make that call to the campervan people when we got back to the home base…by the time we got home, their office was closed, and in going through our paperwork they said they don’t give refunds for early returns, and somehow I am not surprised…I am not so thrilled about this company in general but whatever- it is what it is…and really $25 for us both to get in and out of the city in a day is pretty good- certainly better than we can fathom it being for tolls and parking…

So we nuked some hot dogs and made a scant dinner with our scraps and some fruit…and sat down to lounge- got some ice cream, and despite the funny name, it was indeed tasty 😉 …our friends from the previous day did now show- I know she was in school and perhaps they did some extracurricular evening errands and such that night…I got a lot of typing done. Some other dudes showed up to watch tv with Bryan, and then bed.


Day 28- Katoomba to Parklea (outside of Sydney)

This morning Bryan was thinking about not to take a shower because of the formaldehyde smelling bathrooms, but as we didn’t really know our plan (and knowing there are no caravan parks in Sydney) I wasn’t really sure when I’d get my next shower…so I figured I’d grin and bear it. We were up early enough- no one seemed to be up early at this park despite in general it seeming as though the Aussies rise a bit earlier…it was COLD too when we got up. I am not talking like frigid, but coming from 85+ to this was a bit of a surprise…we got out the cold weather suitcase again, which we have not used for weeks…but now we’re all over it…I layered, which was a good idea, because it did get warm again in the day- tshirt weather…so I guess it is just kind of the extremes of inland and elevation, from one extreme to the next as the sun goes down…

We started out by heading back across the street to the lookout point we had visited last night. it was certainly much different in the day time- the vast blackness you could tell was miles and miles of blue green mountains, covered in a hazy fog laying low in the valleys…it was really beautiful. I read in a tourist brochure that the reason the mountains look so blue is due in part to the oils that the eucalyptus trees put off into the air…it is a really pretty sight…we could finally really see the 3 sisters and we even realized we could walk to the cable car, we hoped to visit…we wanted some coffee and breakfast and we figured they might have something there…but when we got the it was closed…at that point I was cold and wanted to add a hat perhaps…I thought about gloves but I knew that might be overkill…but anyway we headed back to town to get some food and coffee, and hopefully check the internet to figure out the toll bridge situation…

We stopped back at the caravan park office to check out and return the key (ie get the deposit back) and we mentioned how we befriended Agro, the cockatoo earlier. I said he was cute and sweet- and the guy said ‘yeah until he starts cursing”…and I said I am sorry did you say he swears? And he went on to tell us that Agro used to live in a large open air cage in their backyard in some other town…there was a pub or ‘beer garden’ next door and the bird used to pick up the colorful conversation of the drunkards…so then when they moved here and started running the caravan park, the kids would walk over to meet the bird and go back telling their mom’s that he said “#$@% or $^%#” and the moms were mortified…I guess over the years lately he has forgotten his wild days, but what a story. Seriously, Agro is an even cooler bird because of that- especially as he was nothing but a gentleman to me, flirting and saying hi only…very sweet.

We found a place in town that served pancake brekky- although they didn’t call it that; it was hotcakes, and they were the size and thickness of English muffins and they were indeed delicious…topped with macadamia nuts and bananas…Bryan got Italian style eggs with cilantro and tomato, and we both got lattes…all delicious. And it this restaurant was attached to a hat shop…which we took a look around in, and liked..but the hats were a bit too pricey. Bryan has been looking for a straw hat, like a fedora kind of, but I am not sure of the actual technical name for it…but these ones were like $150. I think the most he’d pay for one would be like $50…anyway with food in our bellies we moved along, back to the cable car place to start our scenic view of the Blue Mountains…

We were able to ride each of the 3 different trams: one was a steep railway car that went to 52 degrees incline! The other was a gondola style cable car, going up the mountain; and then the skyway cable car that was suspended from one mountain top to another with a glass floor. We started on the railway, taking us down to the rainforest floor…we took a walk on the boardwalk, going on an approximately an hour walking tour…at one point I had to pee so badly I had to sit on the railing and pee off it- thankfully no one was there…but boy I felt better after that! Funny as I noticed at the top there were little symbols for the walking trails- one had a guy falling off a cliff, the other was a dog crossed out, as in don’t bring them; the other a fire crossed out, as in don’t build any…and then last was a toilet crossed out- does that mean no bathrooms, or you can’t pee?? Too bad I broke that rule if the latter!

Anyway our walk was fun as we raced along ahead of a bus load of Japanese tourists. It is always hard to be in a group of tourists especially, and then when they are all crowding around the interpreter, and blocking the path it can be even harder. We have encountered quite a few groups of tour busses lately (especially Japanese), but for the most part we can usually sneak off along ahead, while they stay together in their groups…plus we seem to be good at getting to these parks and such a bit earlier than everyone else, so we practically get the whole place to ourselves anyway, at least for a while…

We didn’t see any koalas sadly, nor roos or wallabies, but we did see some kind of pheasant type brid that came running along the forest floor with a pal, meeping, kind of the way the roadrunner did in the wiley coyote cartoons…It was hilarious, and I tried to catch them on vid, not sure I did a very good job, but it caught us off guard and then they were so funny running along making this noise…we had been watching and filming a gorgeous black and white bird- a strange combo of the magpies we saw in NZ and then a crow or raven…we are not sure what it was but he was quite close.

After spending a while on the forest floor, and climbed into the cable car to take a ride back up…we checked out the view a bit from the top and then boarded the skyway…it was nice because as the sun had burned off some of the clouds, you could see a bit more of the view and so it gave us a different perspective than in the morning….the rides are quick but provided nice views of the whole area…and in the skyway the glass floor down the center of the tram starts out cloudy and then clears so you can see what you are floating over…clears though is a respective word, since after the scratching and scuffing of people’s feet on the glass it was hard to see anyway…but still cool, and a good idea…once we got on the other side we did a few ‘tracks’ climbing up and down, near the waterfall there and around to some lookout points…we saw a lot of huge and majestic gum trees, really big in girth and extremely tall…the white ones are my fav, where the bark has peeled off in strips over the years leaving a smooth and kind of naked trunk appearance…well anyway, I enjoy the botanical aspects of Australia as much as anything else…so many of my pics are of funny trees and flowers…I wish we could grow half of them- especially mamey sapote…we stopped at a third fruit stand/ store today to just hope we might encounter one, one last time…but again no such luck.

After a while of the hiking I was growing a bit faint and needed some food and more drink- we had brought water, but just a little rest would do me some good…we really had to figure out the internet and tool thing, so we headed back into town again for a bit to grab some food, get on the web and hopefully mail a package to our sponsor child in Rwanda. It is her bday next week, and although I know the gift won’t arrive in time, it will at least be on its way. We got her a book of Australian wildlife, so mostly a picture book. She is 7 this year, but still, I don’t think she can read English, though she is probably learning some perhaps…but anyway we basically just said we’d been on vacation and wanted to send her a small gift…we mailed out 2 postcards to family too- but don’t feel bad if you don’t get one: we forgot our address book!! So there were a few addys we knew by heart, but otherwise, sorry Charlie…no offence! 😉

We ended up at a falafel place- a place we had laughed at earlier for it’s “hommos”…we of course totally know it is hummus, but the spelling naturally made me chuckle as that is not what your brain reads…we noticed though there must be a sizable vegetarian population, since the veggie pies were gone at once place…and there were a number of signs on restaurants that said ‘vegetarian meals’…so I guess that’s cool…but no pies, which was what we had hoped for…though the falafel was good, since it was a tad different than at home. Either the falafel itself or the tabuleh had nutmeg in it, which was good…hummus was on the sandwich, which is not always the case at home…and strangely they offered us ketchup 9here, called tomato sauce; bbq sauce or hot sauce…I did notice that back in NZ at the airport the very first day of this trip, at Sumo Salads- they did put bbq sauce on it, which I thought was a fluke…but I guess it is the norm here! The guy serving the food was quite nice- it was a bit hard to understand him when he got going fast…but it was good, and overall a pleasant transaction…he did say that it was unusually warm for this time in the year, noting that normally it was about 5 degrees and sometimes 80k/hr  winds…but not today! It did start sprinkling for a few minutes but was still sunny out too- hey, kind of like Seattle!

We finally got to the internet (pay by the half hour at the local video rental store) and tried to go to the website that the billboards noted as to how to pay tolls…road.com.au- which didn’t work…so I tried ‘roads” also, which didn’t work either…so I had to do a Google search…finally one of the sites came up…it was really hard to figure out how to pay for the tolls at all- it involves buying a pass…so I went about trying to do this, and as Western Australia is a state here in OZ, and WA is our state, it accepted our address- and then queried which street in WA we meant, and gave us a list of addresses in Perth or something to choose from…so as a tourist, it is next to impossible to pay a toll! We finally got the phone numbers of the toll offices and Bryan used some change to try and make some calls, while I wrote some emails to the offices begging them not to fine us and to send us a bill- but that we were having issues…we are not toll evaders though…but in about 30 mins Bryan came back and said he thought things were ok- and we should be able to get back on the “motorway” that got us to the Blue Mountains without issue…and so get this- to pay two $2 tolls this is what it cost: $4 internet; $4 phone call; $4 for tolls; and the international transaction fees from our credit card are yet to be tallied…they run 3% of the transaction total at least and sometimes a flat fee also on top…so more than $20 for a measly $4?! Goodness…I think the roads are being paved by tourists and their fines…but anyway I guess we should be relieved…until we see all the toll roads it will take to get into Sydney.

So we basically wrapped it up in this town, went to a different viewpoint to see the rocks in a different light- got some good pics and made our way to the only caravan park within 50km of Sydney, in a town called Parklea, which is kind of a suburb outside of the city…I don’t really know if it is like an actual Sydney suburb, I don’t think so…more like a Marysville is to Seattle perhaps…but now we are not really sure what to do. We basically arrived to the Sydney area much quicker than we imagined and we’re a bit sad because now we have a little time on our hands we don’t really need. I wish we had kind of realized this along the way, and had maybe stayed longer in Noosa, or Byron bay (though there were many “no vacancy” signs there, and not sure we’d have been able to get a spot…Somehow even today when in the park I didn’t make the connection that today was only the 4th…and our bridge climb is not until the 7th…that is basically 3 days to kill in a city we only really thought we’d spend 1 in…not that Sydney won’t be great, but with driving and parking and the whole toll situation and all the hassle, it kind of takes some of the fun out of it honestly…

We finally found the caravan park, after making dinner we hit the lounge to watch some tv, maybe catch up on the news- and for me to type the blog…we met some friends- a couple of kiwis who had been transplanted here for the last 9 years. They are living here in a tent until their house closes- for 6 weeks. I don’t know about you, but I could not live in a tent for 6 weeks…they are very nice though and gave us quite a fun perspective on Oz, NZ and the US, especially politics…it is interesting to see what foreigners think of our politics…we talked about tv shows- much of what they have here is the same, without delay…but they are really into some very different things- and reality tv is not the phenomena it is at home, and never was. They don’t really like top Model or Survivor and so on- so they tank after like a seasons or two…Anyway we chatted with them for quite a bit- but I had a terrible time hearing them, as the tv was blaring in my good ear, he has a bit of an accent and mumbles a tad, and makes some jokes with dry humor that are hard to get with all of the above…but anyway we enjoyed the conversation, but had to go to bed eventually as we were exhausted…we had to rest up for the big trek into Sydney…oh boy!


Day 27- Coffs Harbor to Blue Mountains (Katoomba)

Today we got up, in the best caravan park yet. Emerald Beach Big 4 Caravan park is by far the nicest- including the great beach it is adjacent to. The bathrooms here get a big A++ from me- the nicest yet…everything was really modern, clean and had music playing any time you were in there. No spiders under the seats to boot- fantastic.

We got up at our usual 630 and grabbed some showers- people were up which was surprising at that hour, but some dudes were planning to go surfing (not sure how at that hour after being up late all last night), and some young kids as usual, waking their parents up way too early to use the jumping pillow- one of the bouncing inflatable things, which seem to be really popular here. The big caravan parks have either had jumping pillows of trampolines it seems…this one had a heated pool too- and we marveled at the pics posted in the rec hall of Santa dressed up in the height of their summer, sitting next to the pool with kids on his lap. The pool stays open extra late on xmas 😉 It dawned on me that just about no one ever goes camping for xmas in the US, but here it would be prime time…interesting.

We made come coffee from a tube- our last of that- which we have found that by adding the instant espresso crystals is just right- ate our roillinia…and we made our way to the beach. It was literally only a few hundred meters to the sea, and boy was this an amazing surprise…what a great beach, only   a few people on it- just quiet, nice waves, secluded, but still large…seemed so idyllic. The sun coming up silhouetted the 2 islands off shore, one with a light house on it…some cliff walls on either side…at the top of the one to the right, I said to Bryan, “what is that up there, a goose?” thinking that must be some BIG ass goose…and then I realized it was a kangaroo!! Finally we got to see kangaroos in the wild- on the top of a gorgeous cliff overlooking the rising sun and the sea!? NO WAY, how cool. Then we noticed there was a stairway off in the distance leading right up to the top of that cliff, so we trekked off to get closer to the roos.

We went up the steps quietly, and ran into some lady coming down. I was so worried she’d scared them off, but when we got to the crest of the hill they were still there. They took slight notice of us but went about their business eating grass and whatever else. There were 3 of varying sizes, and it was just so cool to see! We got some great shots of them, and admired them for a while…they we cut across the top of the hill to see what was on the other side, and found another gorgeous view of an even more secluded beach and some great cliffs and rocks view…this place is awesome. We walked pretty close to the roos on this path and they really didn’t seem to care- I suppose if you ran at them like an idiot they might, but just going about your business is not enough to get them going…which is great.

We watched the beach for a bit longer, found some more of the bubble crab holes…on the way down the steps I had commented on how cool it would bee to see kangaroo tracks on the beach, and practically no sooner had I said than I spotted some- long flat ones with a little claw mark on the end- occasionally the mark of the rested tail…they went across the beach and up the walking path…how cool would it have been to see them on the beach too?! Anyway there was one surfer out there, turned out her was an older guy which was cool…the waves were actually really nice and had we had a board would have most definitely tried. I have been hesitant to get in the water still, since my whole ear thing, so perhaps I would have had to sit out, but I would have been tempted by these waves and conditions…

As usual we packed up and headed out, for a long day of driving again today. We went by the Big Banana, as mentioned in the Bill Bryson book…it was not terribly impressive as it did not stand alone but was rather attached to the façade of the building. If you are going to make large fruit sculpture you should really make it stand alone, so people can appreciate it’s massive size. It made me wish we had indeed stopped at the Big Pineapple and the giant mango we had seen a few days back…but eh…I have my many cows from Rockhampton, and the avocado from Tropical Fruit World…good enough!

We tried to stop at Pet Porpoise Pool on the way out of town for a seal and dolphin kissing experience but a no go until 10am, and at 830, and us needing to make headway we will not wait…so I got a souvenir coin (not a crushed penny) with a dolphin on one side and a porpoise on the other, hit the toilets and we were off…now just driving through every small town you can imagine on our way to Sydney…

XXX

We arrived at Glenbrook- the first town technically inside the Blue Mountains area, just 5 minutes late for the information center. Thankfully they have this cool interactive computer- where the computer and kiosk are inside, but there is a touch screen pad sticker on the glass you can touch…the speaker is piped to outside, so you can stand outside, when the kiosk is closed and still get info about the area if need be. We also found a brochure display, again left out for later than 430pm visitors, and thankfully this gave us the much needed info we would need: where to stay tonight…we figured we would get to Katoomba and settle in there, kind of a central point for the general sights…

We stopped to have dinner first as Bryan was tired and grumpy and starting to be irritable, I was pretty tired, not quite as grumpy but definitely hungry…we got Thai food, which was really good- but I wish we’d have been given bigger servings…I had a lot of fruit to eat later, so I saved some room, but I would have mowed down the whole thing had we not been on the move! The service was slooow to say the least but the food was good, so whatever…you just cannot be in a hurry in Oz I tell you! We again hit the road, to make this tiny town before it was late, and we could potentially be denied access to the camp…

Katoomba was still about 30 mins or so down the raod- we were very surprised at this area in general. Here we were thinking we were going to a national park to camp, and it was really a residential area, quite bustling, even this far outside the city. The double decker commuter trains also indicated that people have really sprawled this far out, and they do indeed commute all the way to Sydney. I would guess the drive in total would be about 1.5 hours…so as for a daily commute this is hefty I think…but this place was SO busy…there was a lot of construction, because they are actually building highways here- not repairing them, but building them…I find this really kind of strange and unusual as we just drive and in and out on these mega highways that were built in the 60’s to start, expanded and made better at a min of 20 years ago…the repairs and updates now do not count as development, in this way- because this is a place that didn’t have a highway, or still doesn’t and they are waiting for it to be finished…this is a fast and windy, one lane in either direction area through small towns- but it is the only way out of Sydney going west…It is called the great western highway- or rather it will be a great highway soon…for now it is just a road under construction! But anyway what we noticed here is the speed limit- it seemed waaay too fast for the area being so populated and with turning traffic from every direction…we found it odd that they just couldn’t let us go very fast way out in the open, in the middle of nowhere, but here 70-80 which really was fast for the location, was the norm…I do need to speak with some of these department of transportation folks I think…and this too is when I really took notice of these letters and tabs stuck to people’s cars: a P or an L on white 4” x 4” square. Some are stickers and the P is red or green, and sometimes has a number 80k, or 100 in a circle on it…the L’s seemed to have 80’s in a circle on them…They are not very frequent, and at first we theorize they are toll passes or something of the sort…but the don’t look very secured on the car (the tabs), and never is the sticker straight (as though it is an annoyance to put on rather than a desire)…one was plastered across the hood of the car…what the heck are these? I doubted the toll pass thing, since they didn’t appear to be functional in any way- I mean how could a sticker pay a toll? But I continued to ponder- and would for a bit…

We finally got to Katoomba but the directions from the brochure were a bit vague, saying “2km south of the train station”…does that mean on the road that runs directly into the train station? Or a side road still going south for 2 km…we take our chances on the road dir in front of the train station, but as we head out of town we doubt it’s the right way. It was Katoomba St and we were looking for Katoomba falls Rd, but still…guessing when you’re running out of time is tough, and we were tired and just wanted to rest…so we went back into town to ask someone after a bit of circling about…finally I saw an information map and jumped out to read it…but the plexiglass and map had separated a bit, and condensation had gotten in, basically right where I needed to look. I was thinking this was some kind of hard display box and I went to kind of press on the glass out of frustration and to my surprise it gave…I could barely read the map this way- and it was heavy…but with all my might I pressed on this map, standing on my tip toes, trying to figure out where I was. It took me a while but I finally found the road we needed- again just a bit further than we had been- but finally we were on our way. Just in front of us we saw another spaceship van cruising down the way- so we figured they were headed there too…they were a bit more confident- or annoyed- and got there fast. I think they were Italian, Bryan disagrees, but I am the one who is  more in tune with the language stuff, so we will say foreign for now, non English speaking…and not very friendly sadly, despite parking next to them and all, we never spoke a word. Doubly as sad because all spaceship drivers have been very friendly on the road, waving to each other…even sometimes just campervaners in general waving no matter which van style they are in…but not these two!!

We hit the bathrooms to brush up for bed- oooh not a good transition from yesterday’s …they were old and 60’s and hideous, again kind of scary like a horror movie, and reeked like formaldehyde…I have no idea why, I don’t think you can clean with it, but smelled like dissecting animals…made me a bit ill really…but I would suffer through of course. Bryan was not so inclined to take a shower there because of that, but I figured we had no idea when we’d get one next or where we’d stay, as the prospects for around Sydney were not looking so good. We also arrived in this area so soon it was a bit daunting…

It was COLD here, but as suggested by the caravan park receptionist, we went on a hike toward the falls to see it light up. On the way we passed a cage at the front of the caravan park- hidden back inside was a cockatoo named Agro. It said he was friendly, but maybe would bite…he seemed excited to see us nonetheless, and said hello, to greet us…he came forward to the front of the cage and started bouncing and throwing his crest open and cocking his head and flirting with me. We had a fun little bit of interaction, but he never seemed to want to talk, until we turned the camera off or we were leaving…but eventually we had to move on and left him for the night.

It was not very clear which way to go for this little walk, but thankfully Bryan had his headlamp on…we didn’t go too far, but did finally find the cliff edge and lookouts…we could hear the waterfall but not see it and we could see some of the rocks lit up…it was weird looking off into the distance though, the great blackness that is usually just ocean. For a minute I felt like it might be but then I thought no, I think this is just mountains…but we’d have to wait till the morning to see…back to the car, another movie, this time a meerkats documentary- and I typed for a bit, then bed.


Day 26- Maroochydore to Coffs Harbor

We had decided last night to try the canopy thing on the car, so we wouldn’t sweat to death…I decided that sleeping in my swim suit would be a good way to stay clothed, but not really dirty my clothes, or get sweaty…we had also opened the sunroof a crack to offer some more ventilation…but it started pouring rain at one point…I was closest to the door and had the key (thankfully) so I had to get out and turn the car on to electronically close the sunroof. Bryan was totally not comprehending what was going on, and didn’t think to move our pillows, so they got wet, not to mention I got completely drenched…at this point I had to go to the bathroom- and the rain must have woken up a bunch of other people too because it seemed busy at 3am…but either way I am certain I looked ridiculous walking around in my now wet swim suit…but seriously, did not think I’d run into anyone…and then I had to go back to bed a bit wet, with soggy hair and pillow…but whatever, that is what happens when you leave the sunroof open a bit!

I wanted to check out the Big Pineapple, which I knew was nearby, so I asked the desk lady about it…she told me that it was backtracking a bit- but again it really wasn’t that bad when I checked it out on the map…she said “it isn’t what it used to be” with a kind of frown on her face…she really didn’t want me to go there I guess- people seem to want you to take their advice despite whatever enthusiasm you have for something…but in the end we decided not to, as we thought we had to make headway to Sydney (or so we thought)…and we pressed on. As we neared Surfer’s Paradise I saw an ad that had a lady in white suit with a derby hat on, sniffing a rose and the ad said “White Lady Funerals: a woman’s understanding”…what the heck? Really? I was still pondering this when I again saw their store front too- I mentioned it to Bryan who thought it was really weird too…Since then I noticed some other kind of funeral home, that seemed really “kitchy” and chain like- and a memorial park whose logo was a bit to cheery and sweet, to be noting a place of eternal rest…we have also seen signs in every small town for the ‘crematorium”…I mean sure, we need crematoriums, but do you even know where there is one near you? Let alone having a street sign pointing to it, like it is a tourist attraction??

Anyway as we approached Surfer’s Paradise, I think we were both totally shocked- glassy, glitzy high rises (as well as the old 60’s style thrown in)…This seems like Vegas at the beach…a bit too commercial we’re thinking for our taste…we are of course going to hang out and give it a try, but it seems like a really busy place- let’s hope the waves are good! It was again hard to get around and find parking, but Bryan gave parallel parking a try again with this smaller van. With a tad bit of direction he did great and we made ourselves some lunch quickly (again trusty pb sandwiches) and headed out to enjoy the beach…

When we got there we were a bit dismayed- the surfing area was in the weird rip tide area while the swimmers got the part of the beach with the good waves. “Surfcraft” are not allowed in the swimming part- designated by flags on the beach…so there was like 2 surfers as it was in this surfing area- one who was good and another who was a beginner…the lack of people always makes you wary- and maybe the really good surfer knows all about the currents and weird issues…we could see a good undertow ourselves, so who knows…the waves were all wishy washy there, and Bryan wasn’t feeling it enough to want to go in…sometimes this is how it goes, and if you’re not super stoked or confident then sometimes you just don’t go…as I was writing this, we were watching tv- first a show called Dopg Squad, kind of like Cops, but about dogs! And then “Surf Patrol”- where we watched a 17 year old girl almost drown on the very same beach, when she somehow got swept outside the flags! So yeah, strange beaches are sometimes prettier to watch…we walked along the beach and were in awe at the amount of lifeguards and their patrols- by helicopter, jet ski, on the beach, on paddle boards…they were everywhere…there is a show on cable called ‘surf patrol” about the life saver surf club, and the work they do in a day…I didn’t want to watch too much to scare myself out of the ocean before we left, but I plan to watch it when we get back, having seen their effort in action…

Anyway instead of getting in the water, we walked around a bit to see the town, and to get some ice cream…we were a bit dismayed initially to see a Baskin Robbins- I mean we wanted special gourmet, Australian ice cream or gelato as opposed to what we could get at home…but funny enough the other options were Italian gelato or Danish ice cream- which was our choice. I was almost swayed toward the chocolate creamy goodness again, as back in Cairns, but Bryan’s passion fruit ice cream there was so good when I tried it that this time this is what I got…and Bryan got mango. Both were good, but really we probably should have just got one big cone, with one scoop of each! Oh hindsight is 20/20…anyway we spent a while there, and then headed on out again- this was definitely not a place we were going to stay for too long…far too populated and commercial. We did stop at a nice quieter beach a little ways down the road, Bryan staring longingly at the waves…but it was again getting late in the afternoon, and no place nearby for a board- so we moseyed along…we were heading to Byron Bay, another big surf spot, we hoped would be better…and indeed it was.

However, on the way there, I had spotted Tropical Fruit World on the map days before…I had been planning that we must stop there and see if they had mameys!! It was not very far off the main road and so Bryan didn’t mind too much either. When we pulled in, there was a giant avocado, that Bryan posed with of course…and then we ran to the fruit stand. We immediately saw rollinia, which we got, and another dragonfruit…but no mameys…they had some samples out of some fruit- and we ggot to watch an employees working apart a giant jackfruit…it was like the size of a huge watermelon, and it was so bizarre…they even sold plants/ trees of some of these fruits and berries- oh how I wished we could buy some, but I doubt they’d go through customs L anyway I HAD to ask about the mameys because I saw them on a poster, they did usually have them…but she said the last one was gone last week! ARGH! Seven days separating me and my mamey, my delicious new addiction…Bryan joked that we’d have to get a ton, so that I would get so overstuffed on them I’d never want one again- and instead I told him, I might just start planning a trip to Brazil. I mean if we eventually are going to visit our friend in Buenos Aires, we may as well stop in the neighboring mamey growing land!! Hehe…

On the way out, it looked the like road continued on and connected back with the highway…after a few kms of twists and turns and passing OVER the highway, I saw the mistake- the tiny line drawn NEXT to the highway, but not actually connecting up to it…by this time we also ran into a bicycle race, and rather than go 20km/ hr on twisty country roads into who knows where, we turned around and headed back the way we came…I hate when I accidentally send us the wrong way, with something lame like that that you really cannot really tell or understand until you get there- but at least most of the time I am good at getting us the right way. On some day Bryan even drove because he didn’t want to navigate, since admittedly I am usually spot on…but anyway, fortunately I usually do have a good internal compass- so armed with a map I can typically manage just fine!

Byron Bay is a quaint and idyllic small beach town…still really busy- almost dauntingly so…the one road in took more than half an hour going at a turtle’s pace…but the town was cute. Not commercial or overdone, and not ‘exclusive’ or Hollywood hills like…just some nice shops and restaurants and plenty of beachgoers- so many we noticed ‘no vacancy” at nearly every motel we went by…some motels are also caravan parks- so we couldn’t tell if this meant the caravan part too or not…but we assumed it probably was full…we found one parking spot and paid for our spot, and walked to the beach…it was a very picturesque place, but the waves were TINY. It was nice and calm, which is great for swimming- there were even some people snorkeling- but not surfing. We enjoyed this beach, spent some time walking the shops, seeking a straw hat for Bryan- and had dinner. There was a vegetarian café there, serving “hair Krishna” veg food…we wandered over, and it was kind of like Indian food…we decided to try it. It was pretty good- we got veggie kofta and then potatoes and sour cream sauce…the kofta was a bit too tomato saucey for me as opposed to spicy or Indian tasting- but bryan liked this best. I liked the potato dish better,, though it was quite rich…it tasted pretty buttery, but I think it was the saffron and such…both together actually made a good pairing over rice- and we had a samosa, with passion fruit sauce instead of the traditional mint or plum- delicious!

By this time our parking was going to run out, and doubting our luck with a caravan park, we moved on…again we kept thinking we had to get along to Sydney (initially more than 1200km away) or we’d not make it in time for seeing the blue mountains and our bridge climb…so we drove and drove for a while until we nearly hit Coffs harbor- just shy of it at Emerald beach. Although it was just after 730, the office was already closed- but thankfully someone answered the intercom…she offered to meet us up the way and get us situated…what a nice lady she was, and what a great park- I cannot say that enough…and they had FREE wifi!! She gave us the boom gate key, and two bathroom keys, with NO deposit, got us set up with the wifi, and was just so friendly and helpful…I liked this place already. She noted to us some peeps had been a bit loud and rowdy the night before, so she suggested we find ourselves a spot as far away from them as possible…but she did say she had a talk with them, so hoped they’d be better…we were tired so we just figured we’d fall asleep fast anyway.

One of the ‘rowdy’ bunch came over to invite us to hang out, which was nice, but then we felt a bit awkward…meeting people and talking with locals is always fun and enjoyable, but we were both exhausted and I wanted to get the blog updated with free wifi before I got too tired! We went to brush our teeth and get settled, before we’d tell those peeps thanks, but no…we got to the bathrooms and OMG, the nicest place EVER…the bathroom was done up like a modern fancy hotel or restaurant- really nice fixtures, really modern stalls and design, and piped in music to keep you company while doing your business. The better caravan parks have had hair driers there for your use- this one did of course too- and both paper towels AND hand dryers…definitely the best one yet. This place gets totally top starts, grade A+++ from me…I wish we could stay longer…

We go back to camp and I am raving about this place, while Bryan is laughing at me…he thinks it is funny how much a nice bathroom impresses me, but seriously it is a great assessment of the overall standard of the place…we went over to the rowdy group to thank them for inviting us over and funny, the one guy didn’t tell the others he invited us over- so when I said ‘thanks for inviting us but we’re tired’ the one girl said we didn’t, but go ahead and pull up a chair…we started laughing and then were all drunk and ,making jokes. I pointed to the guy who had invited us over and he was on the phone- I guess prank calling someone…anyway we got it all straight, thanked them and left them to their shenanigans while we went off to our camper van. We drank the rest of our NZ wine from the bottle and had some messy leftover afghan cookies, and watch a lame movie, while I typed up the blog…I was eager to check out the beach in the morning, and see what else this great place had to offer.