Sunday, 1 June 2008

Coffs Harbour, Byron Bay, Surfers Paradise and onto Brisbane

We are currently staying at Emily's uncle's house in Brisbane.  Her 5 year old nephew is very excited today as they are picking up a new 5 month old Golden Retriever puppy.  I dare say I am little excited too!  We are basing ourselves here for a few days to dry off and recharge before heading up the coast again.

The last few days up the Gold Coast, before we got here, have been wet and not that great really if I am honest.  I thought I wouldn't particularly enjoy this area of Australia, but it has to be seen I guess.

We drove from Tamworth via Armidale, spent a night camped at a campsite on the edge of a spectacular gorge - Dangar Gorge - at Oxley Wild Rivers NP.   The campsite was not in any of our books, and so was quite clean and rather pleasant.  We were lucky enough to see a Peregrine Falcon surveying the gorge when we arrived.  No sign of the elusive Rock Wallaby's though.  This area is home to the story of bushranger Captain Thunderbolt.  I am reading a famous Australian classic called Robbery Under Arms which is loosely based on the story of Thunderbolt.  Ned Kelly was another infamous bushranger.

In the morning we dried off (not from rain, just a dew) and headed onto Coffs Harbour.  Not my favourite place (but better was yet to come) as it was busy and touristy.  However it does have a big banana:


Hmmm.  So anyway....we camped at a clean little caravan park out of town thankfully.  Next stop up the road (after the big prawn, bigger than the banana,  but with an grotty little fish and chip shop beneath it):


was Byron Bay....plenty of Wicked Camper vans (British backpackers on holiday around Australia for those that don't know!) and expensive, cramped caravan parks.  Good beach all the same.  When we arrived there we set up camp and managed to get in a swim, a surf, a bit of beach chill out time.  The ocean water temp was the mildest yet.  However the weather turned nasty the next day after a beach bike ride to the Cape Byron Lighthouse and checking out the most Easterly point in Australia:


Around the cape we saw a pod of dolphins doing what seemed to be surfing the waves!  They would cruise along the line of the wave, then when it was about to break they would turn into it, surf it and then jump back out the other side!  Quite remarkable.  We also spotted a large turtle bobbing around above some reef.

Back to the had drizzled a bit in the day, but the thunder and lightning then started and overnight it just didnt stop.  Me & Em had a bad nights sleep rudely interrupted by leeches (yes, leeches) in the tent.  Em had one on her throat and there was another on the inside of the door to the tent.  We think they must have attached to our clothes when we got up for the loo in a break between the rain.  In the morning when we packed up we also found we had a wet mattress with what appears to be a hole in the tent floor somewhere (yet to be found).  All in all a bad night.  We did manage to see Byron Bay at night and had a nice meal out which made a decent change to camp food though.

We packed up dry, amazingly, after at first a wet, then windy night the next night and headed out of Byron the next day cruising up the coast via Pottsville, Mooball and into Surfers Paradise.  Now if I have a favourite worst place in Australia then Surfers Paradise is it.  What a dump.  It was a wet, grey day which probably didnt help, but it was dirty, scummy, full of faux, plastic people and expensive, high rise apartment blocks right on the beach front and the beach had an oil rig in it!  Bizarre.  And certainly not any kind of paradise that I imagine.  Anyway we didnt stay long, but at least I've seen it.  Strangely I didn't take any photos of Surfers, but here is a pic of a nearby suburb (Miami I think) to show you what lush weather we are having:


Mount Tamborine on the other hand was nice, but a tourist trap.  We camped there and got rained on from about 4am onwards (mattress still wet/tent still leaking remember).  The English breakfast, then cheese and fudge tasting in the morning got us back on track a bit.  Then we arrived at Emily's uncles place around lunchtime, and after a hectic evening with lots of kids around and a few beers last night here I am writing this blog!

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