Sydney – Seventeen Seventy
All of you die-hard blog fans would have noticed that Dave’s written most of our posts – well since I’ve finished building the website I have no excuses, but how do I sum up 11 weeks? Dave’s covered our fave places so I won’t double up there. Instead I’ve compiled random snippets from my journal notes. Buckle up folks it’s pretty long but here are some of my thoughts and highlights on the trip so far.
Life on the road
You know, whenever Dave and I drink a beer we look at each other and “Cheers”. We’ve never said what were cheering for, there’s no need. It’s in our grins – were doin’ it!
Forster – 19 March
We’re camping in a beautiful park by the beach. I’m listening to the waves and insects as I type and smelling our soup bubbling away – hmmm almost ready. It’s just chilly enough to crave soup and you know how good dinner is when you’re camping! Taking the time to enjoy these simple pleasures helped me wind right down from my hectic Sydney life, and it feels really great. I’m sitting here smiling away and when I look at Dave he smiles back. You know, we’ve gotten used to hearing the ocean, it’s quite loud when there’s nothing else around and we notice it especially when we’re going to sleep and waking. I’m sure we’ll notice its absence when we’re back in a house!
Crescent Head – a true highlight
The camping here is amazing! Today Dave was chuffed about catching his biggest fish, filleting one for the first time and eating it for dinner, all in a days work. Fishing has definitely caught on for this trip. I’ve always admired how he’ll give anything a go, even after admitting that he doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing. I’ll research, put it off and worry that I’ll botch it up before even trying – why? It’s much harder. But when I see Dave do things like this, I’m inspired to not be scared and to give new things a go. (Not fishing though, booorrring.)
New England NP – fairyland, inspiring
We started a hike from the cliff top and wound down into a rainforest valley. It was late in the afternoon, there was low light and foggy mist filled the gaps in the big-based trees. We could see for about 30 metres but we were enclosed in fog so it felt mystical. Our little trail wound through moss covered everything – boulders, tangled tree roots and massive fallen trees. Huge birds nest ferns and towering old trees laden with hanging moss was all around. My kind of hike! My imagination was running wild and I got inspired to draw pixies, fairies and all manner of mythical creatures living in this untouched pocket of the world. It is my favourite hike to date.
It was windy, drizzly and very cold the next day but we decided to hike anyway. We set out for a 4-hour circuit in our warm and wet weather gear. We would have looked crazy…but we would have gone crazy sitting in the icebox of a van…so this adventure wasn’t so crazy for us. You see, whenever we set our minds to doing something that could turn out to be a dud i.e. our less than ideal conditions today, we always say “adventure”. That’s it. No more talk of how it may or may not turn out. It’s kind of an acceptance that however it turns out we’ll make the most of it because it will be an adventure in the least. Come to think of it we’ve never discussed what the word actually means to us, it’s just a conveyed message that we both picked up on.
I’ll get back on track…literally…it started heading into scrubby bush and we soon popped out on a cliff top with a spectacular view of mountains for what distance we could see (mostly fog). Winding down into a rainforest valley also lovely like the first hike, through sparse woodlands, to a creek that we followed upstream past little waterfalls and back through the reverse of that scenery. It was really cold so we kept moving but the rain often didn’t reach us under the canopy so we were content. The scenery was breathtaking the whole way and we talked a lot about life. Towards the end, at the top of the cliff there were only low shrubs so our path had no protection. We couldn’t help but get soaked through to the bone. It was windy and there were huge puddles of water. We were rock hopping and couldn’t go fast because the rocks were slippery. Our hoods were on and our heads were down in concentration. Our feet were wet and numb. But – occasionally we would glance at each other to check in and still we were smiling back at each other…adventure. We would have done it all over again, the hike was incredibly rewarding. I write about this in detail because I loved it and I don’t ever want to forget it.
Byron Bay bliss
25th April – Today Dave somehow managed to hot potato his yummy fresh baked ham and cheese roll out of the car window after only one bite! I looked at his empty hands…what just happened? I looked out the back window and there was Dave’s lonely roll on the side of the road as we drove away. It was one of those it’s funny, but not funny at the same time occasions. Not funny because Dave was starving and had been looking forward to it. After we finished laughing at the absurdity of the situation, Dave’s puppy dog eyes turned to me pleading; can I have some of yours? Haha, other than that today went smoothly.
Another day in Byron – Dave caught two fish, you beauty. I worked 7 hours in Dusty and didn’t mind. Most importantly Dave had his best surf session ever. He got barreled by more than one wave today (where you squat down and ride across the wave as it curls over your head) – every surfers dream. The first time I cheered out loud and threw my hands up in the air before I could stop myself. He looked up to my spot on the rocks straight away and I could see the big smile on his face. His arms went up too – yeeha! What a day!
North Stradbroke Island – peaceful, winding down
Loving Straddie- You couldn’t possibly be stressed in a place like this, you can’t help but slow down here. I’ve had down time from work so I got the chance to prepare our blog site to a point that I’m happy with (well sort of!). Glitches and all, I told myself it was time something went live and I can fix it up later. Exciting times!
14th May – We finally got a snorkel in, yey! Today it was sunny which meant the visibility in the water would be good. Okay, it was still windy and choppy but we got out there anyway. I noticed straight away how the waves raised me up and sunk me back down. Seasickness crossed my mind…we swayed with the fish back and forth, it was pretty cool and as always I was amazed at how calm it seemed under water.
At one point I tried to stand up on some rocks to get the water out of my goggles. Next minute, a wave crashed on my head and I was pushed up onto the rocks, tumbling with legs and arms up in the air. My first thought was “Shit this is gonna hurt”, but the rocks weren’t sharp and it was just my pride that was damaged. I laughed at how I couldn’t straighten myself up because the next wave hit me. I realised Dave was looking on worried…he couldn’t see that I was laughing because of my mask. All I could do was stick my thumb up in the air and he cracked up laughing “How did you manage that?!” Did I mention there was a wedding ceremony on shore? While I was entertaining the guests, Dave swam on.
Beach lounging – I’m sitting on the beach. Finally the clouds have passed and we have sun. Dave is walking up and down the beach at the water’s edge, digging his feet into the sand with a side-to-side jiggle and twist to bury his feet down, hoping to find pipis for bait. We found to buy bait adds up when fishing daily so it’s disappointing to have it nibbled away, as is losing a lure. But with pipis they’re free, so no fish = no loss and to catch something with a pipi = free dinner.
The next step could be to catch beach worms. Apparently we need a smelly sock or stocking filled with dead fish parts to draw them out. Dave can try to keep that stinky rotten sock in the outside trunk but he has to get past me first!
Wildlife spotting – I was so stoked to spot 3 koalas in the trees today! It’s the first time I’ve seen them in the wild so that was a very cool experience. We watched one climb down, walk along the ground (waddle, waddle, they don’t look like they were made to walk) and up another tree. Loving Straddie!
Dolphin encounter – Before I travelled I had a long list of things I wanted to see or experience. A jumble of things I really wanted to do, floating around in my head. Nothing was rated into numerical order but one thing was always easily on top: To swim with dolphins. Far fetched? Well I was always going to try.
Tick! I just had an extra special dolphin encounter that wasn’t paid for or arranged commercially.
There’s a jetty at Amity Point where people hang out to spot dolphins that frequent the area. Our first visit on the jetty steps going down to the water was shared with another couple from Brissy. The dolphins were fishing but occasionally one would do what I call a ‘drive-by’ where it would swim by about a metre away, on it’s side so it could look up at us on the jetty steps. You could hear them breath when they surfaced within metres of us. It was wonderful seeing them so close and I took in every detail. This was the closest I had ever been to a dolphin so I was over the moon at this point.
The gentleman with us started to splash his hand around on the surface of the water. This did seem to gain the interest of one of the dolphins and we got a drive-by. It slowed when it saw the hand and then took off. Still, it put the idea into my head and it wasn’t long before I was doing a little splashing myself.
I got a drive-by but he took off. Still, I am persistent! Next time he hovered to check me out. I wasn’t stopping now! He swam away, did a loop and came back by. I stopped splashing and kept my hand above the surface. He came closer…and closer…inch by careful inch and I was dead still…and then a nudge…he touched his nose to my hand and then swam off. Firm, smooth and cool to touch. Well I’ll be damned! It was a brief but perfect experience – it was everything and more.
I started breathing again and smiled so much my face hurt (seriously) and I tried to hold myself together in front of our new friends. “Wow” I said. Then “wowww”. Then another drawn out “wowwwwwww”. I didn’t know what else to say, I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. Seriously. To have a wild dolphin choose you to say Hello to you is something special, what a privilege. Dave knew just how I was feeling, I could tell by the way he was looking at me. In fact, he documented the whole thing, lucky me. I’ve looked at his pictures a thousand times already. My heart is so happy, what more do I need to say?
While one is doing the dishes the other is asking, “Should we watch TV in the lounge room or the bedroom tonight?” In other words…should I set up the laptop on the cushion next to the dinner table or should I make the bed and plonk it at the end? Choices, choices.
Dave was seriously grinning from ear to ear today. He loved the 4wding so much and he’s good at it too. I liked seeing him so happy! We often wouldn’t see another car, the roads were ours and it felt like a real adventure. We loved being off the beaten track (don’t excuse the pun) because you get to see so much more of the wilderness. We talked a lot about how we’ll do our next trip with a 4WD and camper trailer. That will be an entirely different trip again.
Days of our lives
In most places we stay we are the youngest people by far, with mostly retirees. The nice thing is that the oldies love to have a yarn so we’re never starved for conversation. We hear it all; what their kids do, travels they did when they were our age, detailed stories about random things and you get the odd crazy in there too. My favourite was a 70-year-old lady telling us that her 50-year-old roommate is actually a “friend with benefits” (why do we want to know that?) and that wasn’t the half of it.
We’re even taking on the lingo to help blend in; “Mooornin”, “G’daaay” – just draw it out, say it in a slightly lower voice and you’ll blend right in. Also, the greeting of making eye contact and a simple nod is sufficient in most circumstances. Oldies like to have a whinge too but generally they’ll just keep talking and all Dave has to do is throw in a “Bloody oath” every now and again. I am yet to throw in a “Fair dinkum?” I did hear it yesterday so it’s still around…
All jokes aside we’ve met countless friendly travellers with amazing life stories. This morning our caravan neighbours left a surprise for us on our camp chair. A note with a list of their fave campgrounds up north and a bag of fruit they had picked from their friends farm. We’re stoked at how lovely some people can be!
1st June – As I write this Dave is in charge of making pizza. So far he’s jiggling his hips around to the music, eating parmesan cheese from the packet (he must be hungry!), drinking beer (a must) and generally not getting much done. So far he’s suggested: “Seeds Chels? What do ya reckon?” Me “nooo“. “Radish Chels?” Me “nooo“. “Lemon?” Me “um noooo“. “Beetroot?” Me “okay that’ll pass“. Dave “I still think seeds are a good idea…”
Okay so finally we have all of the ingredients decided on and he’s excited “Watch me go Chels!” So cute…but I had better go supervise or I might find seeds on my pizza!