We left Umina beach on Friday 25th March and set off for Port Macquarie, some 340km further up north. The drive up was great and we made it there in good time, leaving at 2.30pm and making it there for around 6pm. As soon as we got to the camper site we were amazed with the sights that were before us. Ash picked the site at random and we were pleased that she did with its coastal views of the port that swept the length of the site. As soon as we parked up on our spot we hopped out of the van for a walk about the site and along the coast of the port. Along the coast are brightly coloured painted rocks with all sorts of pictures and messages done by people who have stayed at the site. There is some brilliant ones, really well done, I would even call them art. As we walked the length of the port looking at all the painted rocks we noticed a few that had been white washed for new paintings to be done on them. Just so happens that I had some acrylic paints and some paint brushes in the van with me, so me and Ash would be back in the morning to adorn a rock to leave our mark on a little spot on this little planet of ours. As the sun set we made our way back to the van and broke out the red wine to accompany our camp site feast that we had made, climbed into bed and chatted about where and what we were going to get up to the next day.
We got up at 8am and grabbed breaky and a shower as we had a rock to paint. We gathered the materials needed and set off up the coast to the blank canvassed rocks we had seen the day before. "Lets not pick one that's too big as it will take ages" I said as Ash said "I think we should do this one!" pointing to one of the biggest rocks on the go. We set about drawing out what we were going to paint in pencil first but then thought balls to it and started painting freehand straight away. The place is always busy with joggers, families and couples constantly going up and down the coast and they would stop to look at what we were painting before moving on. Ash finished her part in two minutes flat and spurred me on to speed up. " What's that on the rock?" Ash said pointing to something written in pencil. #84 Johnson Family was what it read. We quickly checked the other rocks and these had similar things #72 Thomas, #156 Jones Family. We assumed that these rocks had been reserved and white washed for family's staying on the site, the numbers relevant to their spot. What could we do, we only noticed these once we had finished painting on the Johnson family's rock. So we did what any upstanding member of the public would do and we legged it before Mr Johnson turned up with his crying kids and gave me a bloody nose for ruining his kids holiday. Our painting was quite good and probably better than what the Johnson's would have painted anyway. If you are reading this Mr Johnson I would like to say sorry for spoiling your kids holiday and that they will have to wait till next year to paint a rock, but it was done by a total accident and with good intentions. If I do remember rightly it was Ashleigh that chose your rock so blame her.
So after our early morning vandalism we turned to each other and said what one Shepard would say to another "Lets get the flock out of here" and packed up our gear and made like a banana and split. We weren't going too far though as just up the road was Port Macquarie Koala Hospital. It was a cracking little place and we got to see loads of Koala's that are being nursed back to health from a number of different causes. Our favourite had to be Oxley, a koala that had been found in the road after being hit by a car. She had a severely dislocated leg that had to be amputated but has made a brilliant recovery. Me and Ash loved watching her climb up and down the trees with ease even though she only had one leg. It was the first time that I had actually seen a koala before and I thought they were great, they looked like they had the life of Riley eating and climbing trees all day. You cant touch the koalas as they are wild animals that are being cared for but we got one of the handlers to take a few close up shots for us and they look brilliant. Ash managed to pull me away from the hospital in time before I agreed to adopt a koala. Settling for a koala sticker for my guitar instead, we made our way back to the camper van to set course for Coffs Harbour.
Only another 150km or so up the NSW coast and we were there with time on our side. It was a glorious day and the drive up was quick and easy. First thing on our list was to see the famous Big Banana. In Australia, places have a tendency for having big things to represent the city or town, big pineapples or rocking horses for example. I'm sure we will see many more as we make our way round Oz but the Big Banana was the trend setter. It was built in 1964 and it is seen as a national Icon. At the Big Banana there is a sky walk too that overlooks a banana plantation funny enough but the views out onto the sea were a treat. After being all bannered out we made our way down to the Harbour for some fish and chips and an ice cream. The chippy was immense and had a fish mongers inside so if you wanted lobster and chips you could have it cooked fresh for you there and then, they got it, you got it. We opted for a dinner pack though of two fillets of Hake and a portion of chips to ram down out greedy necks. Before we hit the chippy we had picked up a slab of beers and a bag of ice to load up our eskie and sank a few cold ones with our fish lot. With bellies full to bursting we walked it off around the harbour whilst the pigs in us devoured an ice cream. Rolling back to the camper we looked up some camp sites and found a great site right on the beach for $30 for the night. We pulled in, set up and sat in the sun drinking some beers before taking a stroll down to the beach before the sun went down. We had left five beers in our eskie just outside of the door of our camper van and turned in for the night. We woke to find the eskie gone. Walking up to the amenities block there was our eskie on the floor with the top next to it and the few beers gone. Good job we only left five, if it had of been a full case I would have been foaming. A bloke walked up to me as I carried my empty eskie back to the van and informed me the same had happened to him that night and he had found his eskie next to mine that morning. But we have learnt a lesson to only buy what we are going to have for that day. On the plus side, the eskie itself wasn't stolen as that would have cost a bit to replace. We weren't going to let five beers get us down though and after a shower and a look at the map we were off again.
We were on our way to Warialda via Armidale. It was a further 180km to Armidale and then it would be a further 240km or so to Warialda so a bit of a drive was on our hands. The drive between Coffs Harbour and Armidale was beautiful with an awe-inspiring scenic drive along Waterfall Way. Along the way you pass handfuls of world heritage listed national parks full of magnificent gorges and water falls. The drive passes through some great little towns with the building looking like they have been lifted straight off the set of a western movie. After a few hours we arrived in Armidale and stopped off to treat ourselves to some lunch, as it was a Sunday we were looking for a roast but you cant win them all. After taking an hour it was time to saddle up and drive the second leg of our trip with Ash taking the drivers seat. Again the drive up to Warialda was nice and very scenic. When we got there though we weren't really feeling the camp site and decided to head on up the road for a look about. After passing through a few towns that were spooky as hell we ended up stopping at a town called Moree a further 60km up the road. We might have just had enough fuel to get us there but we topped Bert up using our trusty spare Jerry can. We found a little family run site for $25 a night with all mod cons. It even has a spa so what better way to finish off a long days drive then to jump into a jacuzzi and let the bubble work their magic. As soon as it got dark, crickets appeared our of nowhere and nearly took over the site. Where ever there was a light there would be hundreds of them jumping into it like lemmings throwing themselves off a cliff. We woke this morning with not a cricket in sight. Ash thinks they are vampire crickets only coming out at night.
Today we head up to Talwood a further 130km away to meet Yan the cotton farmer. The drive shouldn't take too long and we should make it there in an hour and a half. From there we will drive for another 30km or so to where we will be living and working for the next month. We are not sure what facilities we will have as regards to phones and internet so you might not hear from us for a while. We will try to keep you updated as much as we can but if we cant don't worry as we will just be slogging away in a red hot field earning some dough to hit the road again.
Next week we will have been travelling for seven months. In that time, over land, sea and air we have travelled roughly 10550 miles from Bangkok to where we are at the moment. 907 miles (1450km) of that total has been covered in the past four days driving from Canberra to Talwood.. We still have a long way to go and we are looking forward to every second of every mile.
Love Peter and Ashleigh x