Don’t be daft! We weren’t making a ridiculously expensive trip back to Scotland for a week, as many people thought when mentioning we were heading to Aberdeen. Instead we were venturing to Australia’s own incarnation of Aberdeen, situated in Upper Hunter Country, to the North West of New South Wales.
Pelicans and sleeping in the boot: An overnight stop-over on Central coast
Although Aberdeen is in within a day’s drive of Sydney, we opted to break up our journey by testing out our bed setup in the boot of our awesome Holden Commodore. Joella had sourced a super comfy self-inflating double bed that fitted perfectly in the trunk with the back seats down.
Before bedding down for the night, we dropped in past The Entrance (the entrance of what, Joella constantly kept asking) to see the local Pelicans being fed. This has become such a popular event, that it now happens daily in a purpose built amphitheatre featuring talks and even pelican themed merchandise. It was fairly incredible, and at time a little alarming, to see how enormous but yet how dainty these mighty birds are, even within close proximity of crowds of impatient children chasing them!
We lucked out at the campsite – our spot was right on the beach of the lake, and we were treated to a gorgeous sunset following a satisfying feed of enormous Chicken Schnitzels at the local workers club. Our first nights sleep in our boot bed was marvellously comfortable and mostly tranquil, despite the odd bit of noise from nearby possums scurrying about.
Blinky Bill and Skippy’s crew: A quick pit-stop to meet Australia’s famously unique wildlife
As we weren’t expected until the evening, we had the afternoon to visit an animal sanctuary en route. This gave us the opportunity to catch a glimpse of some of Australia’s famously unique wildlife, including koala bears, wombats, emu, tree frogs and various venomous snakes.
Low maintenance animals and a cinema room: Making ourselves at home
On arrival at our house sit in Aberdeen, we were treated to a welcome BBQ of familiar sorts; the weather wasn’t great, so we ate inside. It was nice to hang out with the family to hear about their work at the mines, to learn of Aberdeen’s importance in the world of stud farms, and to be told morbid tales of recent, local, psychotic murderous women!
That week we were looking after two very well behaved and low maintenance German Sheperd Kelpey cross dogs by the names of Diesel and Mia, as well as a friendly but rather independently minded cat named Misty.
Our treat at this house sit was their cinema room featuring a huge HD projection screen, full 7.1 surround sound and proper reclining cinema chairs. We made good use of it while watching numerous films including the epic Australia, mind-blowing Star Wars Rogue One, and the terrifying Wolf Creek – we’ll have to consider any lifts with strangers very carefully from now on…
Beautiful scenery and rescuing animals: Adventuring in Hunter Valley
Despite working away on my online portfolio (www.jonathanmclellan.com) we found plenty of time for adventures in Upper Hunter County too: One day we trekked up to what is locally known as ‘Burning Mountain’, which is so named because of the constantly burning coal seem; giving off a slight hazy glow. Informative signage provided explanations for the burning and it’s history, although we preferred the aboriginal story of why, due to a weeping widow who was turned to stone.
Later, after Joella picked up some locally made lemon curd, we decided to embark on a self-drive tour of the legendary Barrington Tops; a scenic stretch of road that climbs high up through rainforests and subalpine woodlands, featuring a number of stunning view points and walks along the way including The Devils Hole. Little did we know what our drive back was to be even more memorable.
While driving past the many fallen kangaroos (they’re mowed down at an alarming rate due to their love for the green grass on the road side, and inability to hop backwards when cars come) Joella thought she saw some movement from one of the newer looking carcasses. Remembering the words of my Auntie Christa to check the pouches in case they have a Joey, we reversed back for a closer look. Miraculously there we found a baby Joey struggling to get out of it’s dead mother’s pouch. We immediately pulled it free, then wrapped him up with some towels from the car and nestled him in our esky (cool box).
He was super cute, but we knew bringing up a kangaroo as our pet wasn’t a sensible option. Fortunately there was a nearby animal sanctuary and two ladies came to collect him, after having thanked us for being so vigilant.
Attempting to stay sober, faced with a barrage of fine wines
Before our departure we couldn’t avoid visiting one of the many local vineyards, after all, Hunter Valley is one of Australia’s best known wine regions! We chose the James Estate, as they also had a ridge walk which we fancied doing. Things were rather hectic when we arrived as a bus of tourists had just arrived, so we opted to head out on the ridge walk that proved to be even more picturesque than we expected.
On our return to the vineyard, things had calmed down and we were treated to an exhaustive and rather generous tasting of the Estate’s wines – all 10 of them! Unfortunately I was forced to use the spittoon giving I was the permanent designated driver, but Joella had a good session! We were impressed with their Reserve Chardonnay amongst others, so couldn’t resist buying 3 bottles.
Doing time in Maitland: Visiting an old country jail
To break up our long drive back to Sydney for our next house sit, we stopped in past the town of Maitland to visit it’s old jail that’s now become a tourist attraction following its closure in the late 90’s. The audio guide excellently brought its past to life, including stories of successful but short-lived escapes and notorious criminals including Neddy Smith and the Murphy Brothers.
Despite our apprehension that there wouldn’t be anything to do in Aberdeen, we were thankfully proved wrong. We definitely enjoyed our time there and were ready to once again head back to the bright lights of Sydney.