So I’m picking up the story as we’d just entered New South Wales at Tweed heads. Queensland was one huge state, we couldn’t believe how long it had taken to get this far.
Getting up at the crack of dawn, Em and I were sat next to the estuary as the sun rose, fishing rod in hand of course. Despite a lack of fish, the two turtles repeatedly surfacing in front of us made up for it. Back home when I fish I worry about hooking a swan or a duck, here it’s turtles. I was very careful not to let my hook get anywhere near them of course! A pair of dolphins swam past us too, heading inland to hunt. We’d even seen humpback whales out at sea that morning, it’s quite hard to get your head around seeing these sorts of creatures so easily.
At the next town along, Kingscliff, we made a monumental discovery. The 7eleven was selling $1 coffees! Alright, watching the automated machine pump the thing out wasn’t all that appetising, especially the fart-like sigh at the end as it tried to froth the head, but it was a decent coffee and made from freshly ground beans. A good tip for anyone heading to Australia 🙂
Along the estuary here were loads, or heaps I should say being in Australia, of fishermen all after Luderick. All were using a tiny piece of weed on their hooks, it seemed to work though. The river here was a beautiful blue colour over the clean white sandy bottom, a really pretty spot. A pair of Osprey were nesting on a post above us, so we were treated to some amazing views as they took off from their nest.
Over the past few days we’d been camping at another free spot, inland at a place called Stutts Island. Unwanted chickens that had been dumped here entertained us as we cooked our dinner. We saw a guy pull up in his car and throw one in his boot one night. You certainly get some odd characters at these spots. The day before, a very larey English guy stopped for a chat immediately after having pissed two feet in front of our van, the toilet was only a little further on. He was from Nimbin, a town inland infamous as a place to buy and smoke weed. It hadn’t really appealed to us and meeting this twat confirmed we didn’t need to see it. He was a dealer, I think the only reason he spoke to us was to offer us some, the paint job on the van had probably attracted him. He was apparently now unwelcome back home after having been busted growing large quantities of naughty stuff and selling crack cocaine, and was now living over here. Nice to see a fellow Englishman flying the flag for us 😉 Today however, we were talking to an Australian Bogan (aka a chav/red neck). We’d been watching him prior to our conversation take ten minutes putting on his red Rambo headband before washing his crappy old ute (a car with an open pickup type back). It was time to leave.
We headed back to Kingscliff which had a big Surf and Lifesaving event down on the beach. We watched in awe as wiry 12 year old girls swam out to sea through huge breaking waves in a race. For the final part of the race the girls paddled back in on kneel boards, the type used by the life guards. It seems to be a skill all kids learn here, I was blown away by these kid’s confidence in water that rough. I couldn’t help feeling jealous of their abilities!
We spent the next three nights in a quiet little spot called Brunswick Heads. I loved this place, I had an estuary right in front of the van and so did even more fishing. In my time here I learnt that the fish did not like squid at all, but they did like a tiny little bit of burnt ham leftover from a Domino’s pizza, they liked it a lot actually. I also discovered yabbies, little prawns that the Aussies suck out of sand beds at low tide with a hand pump. An old boy pitying my poor fish catching abilities gave me a bucket load of them. The moment they hit the water the fish start devouring them, yet like I said they wouldn’t even touch a bit of squid. Both of us had some fun catching and releasing some little Yellowfin Bream and Luderick at the yabbies expense and watching the occasional blue spotted stingray and pufferfish swimming past.
Our next big stop was Byron Bay, I wasn’t too keen on the town itself, hundreds of backpackers everywhere which we hadn’t really seen since Cairns, but Cape Byron was stunning. Surfers and dolphins were sharing the waves in this pretty spot and expensive houses were perched on the hillside looking out to spectacular views of Australia’s most easterly point. Walking around the lighthouse we could see manta rays swimming in the clear water beneath us along with dolphins and humpbacks. That was all we wanted from Byron Bay, not the bars and clubs, so on we went.
Our next stop was Ballina followed by Evans Head, in between we stopped off at the Thursday Plantation. This is where any Tea Tree products you purchase back home will more than likely have been produced. I remember using bars of Tea Tree soap to wash my dreadlocks back when I was a grumpy teenager. I had no idea what the plant looked like and besides, the visitor’s centre was free so we called in to find out. Within 5 minutes of entering, Emma had filled a basket with different soaps, shampoos, oils and creams, all laced with the magic stuff. I was sweating when we reached the till, but I needn’t have worried, that lot only came to $4.50, ‘cheapy cheapy’ as Nicola would say. Emma had swagged a load of end of line bargains so as you can imagine we both now stink of it 🙂 After the shopping spree we decided we should probably find out a bit more about the magical stuff. It turns out that Captain Cook (of course) had made tea from the plant, hence the name. Of the many varieties of the plant it’s only one, melaleuca alternifolia, that has the healing properties. Aboriginals had used it on wounds to clean and speed up the healing process and Mr Eric White had investigated scientifically the oil’s properties finding it to be an antiseptic that unlike all others, didn’t harm living tissue. Quite incredible stuff, but due to the discovery of penicillin at the same time, it was overlooked. Apparently Australian soldiers took it with them in their first aid kits during the Vietnam war. I can testify myself that the stuff works great on any cuts that are starting to look a bit suspect, and it smells amazing too.
Anyway, after all of the information about the plant it was time to see some growing, so we headed out to the gardens. We spent half an hour getting lost in their maze of tea tree, that was good fun. Then on we went through an area of regenerating rainforest they were managing, complete with art sculptures. It’s a really nice spot that you shouldn’t miss if passing by, we loved it.
The next stop of this leg was Evans Head, another chilled out little town beside an estuary, it’s a repeating landscape in this area. Here we were lucky enough to see a huge shoal of mating Stingray, quite a strange sight. I realised what they were fortunately just before casting my fishing lure into them, I wouldn’t fancy trying to unhook one! The following day we saw millions of small crabs running away from us on a sand bed, things were getting a bit biblical! Here we also got to try our hand at the aforementioned practice of yabby pumping. An old guy let us have a go with his antique hand pump. The idea is to find a nice exposed sand bed at low tide, head out with a bucket and pump up sand like a maniac exposing the angry yabbies as they try their best to get you back by nipping you with their claws!
Our last two stops on this leg were Maclean and Grafton. Maclean was a small town with a big Scottish theme. Tartan was everywhere along with pictures of bagpipers, this lot were very proud of their heritage. They had an awesome bakery there where I got myself a raspberry swirl and shoved it in my face, it was a bun of epic proportions laced with the fruit and pasted thickly on top with fruity icing. Writing about it makes me dribble and want to go back. Imagine poor Emma’s face when she saw the bun I was packing next to her tiny apple slice, I don’t think she’s over it yet.
It was pretty hot and sweaty in Maclean, but Grafton, just slightly further inland and on the same day, was hotter still. Grafton was 37 degrees centigrade on that fine day, absolutely scorching! This town is famous for Jacaranda Drive, a long road lined with these stunning trees. We were lucky to be there in the height of the blossom, it truly was a stunning sight. The blue flowers were everywhere like a spring day back home yet with the oven left on.
On we went as we couldn’t handle the heat. Our next stop was to be Coffs Harbour where the Mrs picks up the reins.
Thanks for reading,