Tuomas: Anzac Day in Australia – Tuncurry/Forster and Norah Head
Norah Head, New South Wales
Our halfway trip festivities (read our last entry) were a little saddened by the fact that our car decided to come alive once more. We only saw one cockroach this time but considering that we were sleeping in the back of the station wagon it was still one too many. Hence, after taking off from the shogrounds camping area in Kempsey we drove to the nearest Woolworth's and bought some more insecticide. Afterwards we spent some time in Kempsey's shopping center using their free wifi (it's not super easy to find here but most shopping centers and libraries have free wifi for cheap shmucks like us).
There were no good tourist drives to take from Kempsey so we were forced to take the A1 but we deviated as soon as we thought it proper. We drove through Port Macquarie and stopped there for a lunch of some bread buns and canned chicken. Pretty soon after that we were back on A1 and turning towards our second deviation, once again closer to the shore. Our Camps 7 atlas of cheap campsites had been somewhat useless in New South Wales since it mostly just showed us rest areas beside the freeway, about half of which weren't even meant for overnighting. They were free, but they lacked pretty much all facilities like showers and drinkable water. Some didn't even have toilets…
So we just looked up nice looking drives and tried our luck. That's what brought us to the twin city of Tuncurry and Forster where we stopped at a tourist information office. Like so many times before, the tourist information was extremely helpful, they gave us brochures and even called a couple of campsites nearby to ask them about their fees for non-power sites. We decided to check out the cheapest one, the Twin Dolphins at Tuncurry. They wanted $26 for a site but offered clean bathrooms, a decent kitchen area, a swimming pool and a colorful bouncy thing for all ages. We decided to stay and truly, we enjoyed the bouncy thing as well as the other facilities. Sini even went for a very cold swim… We parked next to a street light to provide us with some illumination during the night. It didn't really help out that much though since I was constantly squinting to determine possums from kookaburras. I suspected that when they took flight it meant that they were kookaburras…
Since they were offering a kitchen (there were gas powered grills, a microwave and a water boiler but no stove or sink) we went and bought the ingredients for a tortilla feast. I wanted to get some kangaroo mince but they only sold it in one kilogram ($8.49) packages which we couldn't down in just one sitting. I've been super excited about kangaroo meat ever since I read about it on the travel app Triposo. There's a -nism I'd never heard of before, called kangatarianism (I'm not making this up), which is basically vegetarianism with the addition of kangaroo meat to the diet. I previously thought that they farm kangaroos here, but they don't. All the meat comes from 'roos shot in the wild to keep their numbers down. It's more ecological than beef and pork. We've been cutting back on those mostly because of health reasons but also because of their impact on the environment. If australus (a suggested name for kangaroo meat; I personally prefer maroo) is as environmentally friendly as it is delicious there could be something there for us… If not, perhaps cameltarianism, which is basically the same thing with Australian feral camels, could be it.
Man that was a long sidetrack… Back to the point, we got some other mince instead, 500 grams of it. With eight wraps, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, corn, salsa and taco mix we created what turned out to be the best thing we've cooked so far on the trip. It was plentiful and awesome, just as I like my dinners to be.
We slept snugly but soundly in the station wagon once more after spraying it with the insecticide once for the fourth time on the trip. No more roaches yet… We went out the gate at 10 a.m. (the usual checkout time on Australia's campsites) and realized that the streets were packed with people just sitting on the side of the road, talking to each other. It was very strange. I mean seriously, when do western people ever gather out to hang out by the side of the road? When they have a parade! It was the morning of the Anzac day that they had been advertising widely. Anzacs, according to Triposo, were soldiers from Australia and New Zealand who fought along with the British forces in World War 1. Obviously none of the veterans from that time were available for the parade but there were others to continue their tradition. I had no idea that Australia had taken part in the US wars in Korea and Vietnam… They had also warred in Malaysia at one point or another. Seriously, they don't teach us that much about these wars in Finland, even the world wars are mostly just viewed from the point of view of the Europeans. Where's the world in that?
We watched the parade pass us by, clapping obediently as everyone else seemed to be doing when the veterans went by. They really were quite impressive with all their medals. Sadly I had no idea what they had done to get them. At home all anyone ever talks about when medals are concerned is the "Mannerheim Cross" that only the incredibly accomplished soldiers received in WW2. Moving on, we didn't stick around for the speeches or whatever they were planning on continuing with. We went back to the Forster side of the bridge where we had parked and walked a little along the shoreline where we happened to spot a few dolphins breaking the sea surface every once in a while with their back fins. At least I thought they were dolphins… The day was sunny and gorgeous which meant that we just had to get some ice-creams. For that we drove to McDonald's, as any cheapskate should. They have something called a soft-serve there, which is basically a sundae without the sauce, for $0.50. That's a cheap sweet. Also, McDonald's restaurants have free wifi for checking your emails and whether or not any of your last blog entries had made Offexploring's "Blog of the day". Turned out they had! Yay!
We continued south after that, returning to the A1 after a short while on the tourist drive. We took to the smaller roads again towards Newcastle, which we passed by. Only that wasn't really a small road, I had misread our map and taken the Sydney-Newcastle Freeway for the Pacific Highway (A1) that we'd been following so far. Turned out the Pacific Highway actually changed numbers and went to Newcastle whereas the bigger freeway passed from far off. So we actually took a highway south from Newcastle, through Charlestown and Belmont. This screwed up our plan a little since we'd planned on finding a nice little campsite along the nice little road. There were campsites but none to our liking, meaning too expensive. We finally stopped at Swansea at a tourist information which fortunately was open although it was not only Anzac day but also a Saturday. They gave us some good advice and called a couple places to ask their prices. In the end we asked for free places to spend the night and the lady suggested a rest area next to the freeway at Ourimbah.
We set off that way first but it seemed like the weather was taking a turn for the worse so we reconsidered. The lady at the information center had given us another pile of brochures and maps to different campsites so we decided to give them a go. We went south towards Budgewol and the nearest place but it turned out to be closed because of flooding. Did I mention about the weather before? We were a little worried about it since it was just a few days ago that a massive storm had swept across Sydney and the surrounding areas, such as the one that we were on. They had floods, they had hale, they had cyclone winds! People had died, trees had uprooted, power was still out at one of the gas stations we had tried earlier. It was clearing up now, but still… We continued our search in the general direction the guy at the closed reception had pointed us to, but found only another rest area. We did spot a lighthouse from there and figured that we were close to Norah Head that supposedly had a campground. We found it shortly afterwards and were glad to realize that it was a Top Tourist Park which meant a 10% discount with our car's key ring.
We stayed there on a non-power site for $24.30, which was OK enough for the facilities they were offering. They had a better kitchen than the place in Tuncanny but sadly their bouncy thing had been pierced in the storm ad was just lying there flat and sad. The storm damage was evident in other places too, as it had been on the road there. Trees had fallen on fences and everything else. Some of the cabins were missing a roof! It rained during the evening and there was thunder too but we were nice and cozy in the common area with the kitchen. We used the provided gas stove to make not only some delicious canned cocktail sausages from Aldi, but also some pancakes for dessert. We'd had the same instant pancake shake from Coles before and cooked 14 pancakes, this time we made it to 17. There were some left for breakfast also…
The night, in the undying words of a certain red priestess in a certain fantasy novel series, was dark and full of terrors. According to the news there was a huge earthquake in Nepal, right between Kathmandu and Pokhara, where we started our trip. The death toll was already 1400 and rising. That's what happens when earth shakes at 7.8 magnitudes in a place as crowded and as poorly built as Kathmandu. Back where we were it just stormed, the wind wasn't powerful enough to rip off roofs but it was still pretty strong. There was heavy rain and even some hail. There was so much of the latter in Sydney that several factory buildings had their roofs crushed under it. We didn't have it as bad, luckily. There was also thunder, so much so that it made me place the gas canister a little further away from the car, just in case. It was wild. There were crazed bunnies everywhere around the grounds, especially around our car and the bush next to it. I could almost hear them chanting "two bunnies enter, one bunny leave". It must have been so since come morning there were no bunnies left.
What am I talking about here?! It must be because of the advertisement about the new Mad Max movie. I'm not sure if they shot the first ones in Australia or not, but Mel Gibson is Aussie and there was thunder and the bunny filled bush looked like a dome. Need I say more?
Quoting another great fictional character, Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory: I'm not crazy, my mother had me tested.