Since our last adventure we continued to have an amazing run of housesitting assignments (Neutral Bay, Balmain) but despite our best efforts, opportunities had run dry and we were just one week away from being homeless – yikes! Although we were tempted to wait until the last moment, we decided that perhaps it was time to try out more conventional accommodation, in the form of a house share…
It seemed lady luck was on our side, and we soon lined up a two bed flat share at Kurraba Point with a friendly English bloke, his Aussie girlfriend and an almost toothless ginger cat named Henry. Although the old style building was a little err… rough and ready, the weekly rent was a bargain, and the balcony offered incredible harbour side views. To top it off, my 30 minute daily commute consisted of a ferry ride past the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, how surreal 🙂 I was even treated to occasional firework displays on the way home – apparently these occur frequently for various events that happen in and around the Botanical Gardens.
Five weeks of work whizzed past since our previous trip to Narooma, and soon we came face to face with yet another holiday within a holiday. This time we were heading North to Queensland, for my Aussie mates Sarah and Kael’s wedding, who had decided to fly over from London to tie the knot in their homeland.
Rainy lay-bys, gorgeous beaches and big trees
Not wanting to waste a second of our time off, I raced home from work early on the Friday arvo and jumped in the car that Joella had skilfully got ready, full of all our life belongings. We made a solid 3 hour dent in our drive North, before stopping for the night in a muddy lay by on the edge of Bulahdelah, just above Newcastle. For the first time we felt like proper travellers and were rather proud of ourselves, although having to walk over a bridge in heavy rain to the local public toilets, wasn’t the most convenient!
Delightfully, the next morning we were greeted with warm sunshine, so headed down to nearby Seal Rocks and its stunningly beautiful beach that we practically had all to ourselves. After a brief amble along the golden sands while being mesmerised by the view, we took a rewardingly sweaty stroll up to the gorgeously positioned Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse.
Prior to leaving Sydney, I’d done a spot of digital digging and discovered an awesome travel app by the name of ‘Roadtrippers’. Brilliantly, it allows you to research and plan various kinds of stops along a route between two set waypoints. During our days drive this led us to visiting a famous tree named Old Bottlebutt (apparently the largest Red Bloodwood in the Southern Hemisphere), as well as making a detour along a tourist route involving a quaint chain ferry and pulling over to let swarms of tiny classic cars cruise by, who cheerfully honked their horns in appreciation (this thoroughly reminded us of Brum – a childrens TV program from the 90’s). Finally we made it to Coffs Harbour, where we enjoyed some tasty Japanese food and Tasmanian whisky before settling down for the night at a nearby campsite.
Chillaxing in Byron Bay
After a very necessary stop for pics at the Big Banana on the edge of Coffs Harbour, we drove on to Byron Bay. Given it’s fame, we were a little hesitant about visiting Byron in case it had become unbearably touristy; fortunately we were proven entirely wrong. The place oozes with chilled vibes, and the beach never felt too busy – it was impossible not to fall in love with the place!
Once we’d set up camp (which pretty much equates to parking our car in the campsite) we took a hike up to the most Easterly point of mainland Australia, en route to Cape Byron’s picturesque Lighthouse. After a quick dip in the sea to cool down, we treated ourselves to some ice cold espresso martinis atop a balcony, while gazing down at the alternative crowds dressed in tie-dye clothing, grooving to the music from various buskers peppered along the streets below.
On our last evening Joella did a great job finding a tasty eatery away from the main drag, where apparently Chris Hemsworth’s crew regularly hang out. While leading me down dark side roads on the way, it did cross my mind that Joella had potentially got fed up with me, until we reached the twinkling lights of the appropriately named ‘Treehouse on Belongil’. It served us up some mighty fine pizza, salad, calamari and vino, in its charmingly quirky outdoor decked garden – we really couldn’t think of a better way to end our time in Byron!
Dangerous selfies, old friends and a moist wedding
The next day we excitedly headed up to meet the wedding party at the world famous Australia Zoo! It was difficult juggling catching up with so many friends we hadn’t seen for ages, while trying to take in all of the amazing animals that surrounded us. In the end we spent most of the time competing to get the best Kangaroo selfies, before being blown away by the signature show: Wildlife Warriors, featuring countless entertaining animals such as snapping crocs, enormous vultures and playful tigers. That evening we made it back to Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast for a pub quiz that we half heartedly attempted / cheated at, in amongst booze and banter.
The next day, with the help of the handy Roadtrippers app, Izzy, Joella and I set off on an epic mini road trip to Montville where the wedding was taking place, featuring: a rocky road that led to nowhere while attempting to find an old railway tunnel; a dairy selling the most luscious yoghurt ever; a cheese factory offering countless free samples to try, a vineyard that turned out to be a micro-brewery; and a rainforest walk full of wallabies and bats!
In contrast to the previous sunshine filled days, we woke on the wedding day up to a dark sky full of looming rain clouds :-/ But of course Sarah and Kael didn’t let this get the better of them – they were in Australia and so stuck to their guns when deciding whether or not to move the wedding indoors. Despite walking down the aisle as the heavens opened without an umbrella, there were big grins all round and it was a lovely service. The reception kicked off with a quiz about Sarah and Kael (Joella’s team even won a prize… for coming last), followed by tasty canapés, a rather generous free bar and of course lots of epic boogying 🙂
Changing scenery and quirky stops while driving south
The next morning begun with a few sore heads being made even sorer, after Izzy somehow managed to set off the smoke alarm in our Motel! Following a quick stop past the wedding party, who had at least half a tonne of bacon piled up on the bbq, we said our goodbyes and headed off on our long drive South back to Sydney. As we’d stuck to the coast on the way up, we decided to take an inland route for our return leg. We were immediately treated to some excellent driving, especially compared to the monotonous motorways before; through windy forest roads and across vast open plains stretching out far beyond the horizon.
When not being entertained by the roads and surrounding scenery, the many hours of driving flew past while listening to an addictive true-crime Podcast called ‘Up and Vanished’ that my work colleague Kate recommended. The 24 part series follows an investigation into the 2005 disappearance of a young lady named Tara Grinstead, who went missing from her home in Georgia, America – it was so gripping we found it hard not to stay in the car and keep listening!
Our first stop for the night led us to the outskirts of a modest sized country town named Warwick, in a very artificial feeling campsite just a short walk away from Lake Leslie Dam. There were little to no trees or any other type of foliage about (jeez, am I sounding a little snobby?), and instead our surroundings felt almost like a desert. As it was the Easter weekend, many of the eateries in town were shut, but luckily we discovered an all you can eat buffet that we took full advantage of 🙂
The next days drive delivered a myriad of delights, including standing stones in Glen Innes – a town with Celtic heritage; The Giant Apple – another of Australia’s big things; and devilishly delicious Strawberry milkshakes from the nationally famous ‘Super Strawberry’ cafe and farm.
Apocalyptic predictions and empty skies
That evening we found a more picturesque campsite on the edge of Bendemeer; a very small village just North of Tamworth. There, we literally couldn’t avoid making friends with a fellow camper, who treated us to sweetcorn soup, coffees, and apocalyptic predictions! Mickey thoroughly believes the end of the world is nigh, but no worries, he has a plan: he’s drawn up a map of where in the world will be safe (obviously this includes Australia) and he’s in the middle of patenting new concrete to build his house from, that’s apparently resistant to earthquakes and extreme heat from forest fires.
The following day Mickey recommended we head over to Mount Borah near Upper Manilla, a popular spot for paragliding where apparently it isn’t uncommon to see “hundreds” in the sky doing all sorts of ludicrous aeronautical manoeuvres. Disappointingly however, after spending over a hour driving down tracks that gradually got rougher and rougher, we were greeted with just one paraglider who landed the second we arrived :-/ For our last stop, we checked into Tamworth – home of Country Music Down Under, where we bagged ourselves another cheesy pic of Australia’s big things; this time the Golden Guitar.
We’d had a great trip, now back to the bright lights of Sydney where Joella had found us an amazing house sit in Glebe – a community spirited suburb in Sydney’s inner West famous for its incredible array of cafes, bars and eateries, and was just 30 minutes walk from my work. The house was a lovely period property, reminiscent of English style terraces, beautifully refurbished with stunning interiors and artwork throughout. There we were to be looking after a gorgeous dog named Rosie and her equally adorable sidekick, Pistachio the cat 🙂