Well, goods news! The last week has been better than the previous one! BUT, we're now over half way through our trip :O(
We left Lucie, Mike and baby Nate in Sydney got halfway across town and then decided to drop in on Pete & Denise. Fortunately Pete was prepared to drop everything and rush home to meet us!
It turned out to be the best move we've made in a while. We spent the evening discussing our itinerary and came up with a route which provided variety between the golden beaches and the hills in land
So off we set well rested from a couple of days not on the road and clutching Pete & Denise's TomTom (we didn't nick it, they lent it to us!)
We started off driving through the Hunter Valley wine region which was beautiful (even the weather had improved); we stopped briefly in Wolombi for lunch and headed on to Nelson Bay, where you can find dolphins, to spend the night
We then headed back in land via Gloucester and Barrington Tops before heading back to the coast and up to Port Macquarie for an overnight stop. Don't ask how or why but we couldn't find the big banana anywhere! We did have our first aussie beach experience and took in some body surfing - great fun
The next day we headed up the coast to Coffs Harbour via South West Rocks and Nambucca Heads. South West Rocks has an interesting museum which was a gaol used in WWII to house Australian citizens of German & Austrian descent - so it wasn't just the Nazi's then!?!
We had planned to get as far as Armidale (2 hours further inland) but for some reason it took us ages to get up the coast
The next day was a long 5 hour drive taking in the Waterfall Way across the Great Dividing Range via Armidale to Tenterfield. We passed through some lovely small towns (where we started a habit of stopping for coffee and cake!) and several hours of absolutely nothing!
Tenterfield is the place where a famous speech was delivered which apparently was the birthplace of the nation. It doesn't look like it! I think we saw a sign up in acknowledgement but nothing else. The place was so dead we stayed in and watched the 24 TV movie with a takeaway! Still, it was nice to get a fix of 24 even if Amanda was too terrified by it to be able to sleep!
The final leg of our journey took us through Casino where you can see platypus - we didn't though, it was the wrong time of day! - and on to Byron Bay. Byron Bay was like Newquay in Cornwall. It was also full of Schoolies
For those of you unaware of the Schoolie phenomenon basically all the 18 year olds finish their exams and then head to the coast for two weeks of boozing. They are closely followed by the Toolies - older people looking to take advantage of the large numbers of (hopefully promiscuous) young girls. Sounds more like Blackpool than Newquay actually!
We left Bryron Bay shortly after our Subway lunch (not as good as America) and followed the infamous Gold Coast up to Brisbane. Surfers Paradise was a shock to the system. More in keeping with the huge costa resorts in Spain than anything we'd seen in Australia, it's a seething mass of high rise hotels. Not sure why people stay there when there are better beaches further down the coast
We arrived in Brisbane on Saturday to be greeted by Helen, Jamie and Lewis and their sweltering house (apparently the air con arrives tomorrow)! Lewis can now walk and looks more like a little boy than the baby he was in the summer. We're doing our best to be the cool auntie and uncle. Basically our tactic consists of playing with him and winding him up until Helen has to deal with the aftermath!
Helen & Jamie took us out to sample a few bars along the South Bank finishing at the German Beer Cafe where I had a beer which required a $50 deposit for the glass!
Sunday was spent on the beach at Mooloolabar up the Sunshine Coast. We tried more body surfing, got too much sun, had a massive ice cream and lots of photos of Lewis
Today we had a tour of Brisbane from Helen which seemed to entail finding places to stop for coffee or something to eat and a brief bit of sightseeing in between. Our kind of day really!
So, we're sticking here for a few days to hang out with the family and go to one of the nearby theme parks before we go further north - our aim to reach the Great Barrier Reef. We'll let you know how we get on!