Our journey back home was a long one, not helped by the fact of a slight hiccup with Flybe. A long story, but I have written to them about it. It is freezing and to top it all we have had snow, that lasted a couple of days. We are planning to go back to the boat very soon and just hope our winterisation of her has worked and we aren’t going back to find burst pipes etc. We are armed with stuff to put things right if needs be. First trip will be to get her to Norbury Wharf (on the Shropshire Union canal) for grit blasting and twin pack epoxy coating for the end of April. This will probably be the last big thing we will do on her apart from maintenance of course. Once travels start, the narrowboating adventure blog will resume.
14/02/2018. It was Valentines Day (no different to any other and never has been), and we were up early for the drive back to the family in Iluka. We took the tourist route to McLean, but made a slight mistake and ended up going over the wobbly bridge at Grafton again, then had to get the ferry back over at Ulmarra (same river but different ferry location than previously).
We were the only vehicle travelling over that way at that time, very honoured. We stopped in McLean as we wanted to visit the camping shop again; also stopped in the local butchers for some meat to BBQ in the evening. We had decided for our last few nights we would use the cooking facilities in the campsite. On the way to Iluka we stopped at a view point and viewed Twelve mile beach. 4×4 vehicles can drive onto the beach at low tide, but we didn’t risk it.
Back at Iluka campsite and whilst driving into our pitch, the van drove over a waste pipe, which we hadn’t realised was there. The owner of the van opposite came and told us never to drive over these; we duly apologised and offered to pay for any damages, but he was adamant it was ok. To be fair to us I don’t know why he positioned it so far away from his pitch as there was one nearer him on the other side. Anyway we felt quite bad about it for the rest of the day. In the afternoon the kiddies had to go to the local doctors clinic for vaccinations (they are compulsory in Australia), so I went along for moral support, and supplied the large ice creams after. We had a BBQ in the evening and sat outside till it got dark.
15/02/2018. It had been a very humid and sticky night, so not much sleep was had. I went to the Butchers and Bakers in Iluka early to get more supplies for the evening BBQ, and as it was grand-daughters birthday after we leave , we decided to have early celebrations, so I ordered a birthday cake to collect on the Saturday. Very hot and humid; the children were having a day off school to spend with us, so while grandad watched films, I took them to the campsite to swim in the pool. After lunch the same then BBQ in the evening.
16/02/2018. We are now prepping for our departure on the 18th, by cleaning the van inside and out. We could have paid $150 for the privelege of the hire company to do it, but we decided to do it ourselves. Kiddies off school again so more swimming in the morning; though we did have to vacate to the small jacussi pool as aqua aerobics was happening that morning. Films in the afternoon and barbie again in the evening; then it rained!
17/02/2018. More van washing. Off into town to collect the birthday cake (quite expensive for what it was but didn’t have tin to bake our own, and after all I was on holiday). We had the early birthday with present opening and cake
even managing to eat the pie and mash I had made on arrival as the cooker had been mended. Must say though it was rather hot to eat such a dish. In the afternoon whilst grandad watched more TV, I went with the family for a walk through the rainforest to the lookout point at Iluka Bluff.
18/02/2018. Our holiday comes to an end, and our home journey starts. Final bit of van cleaning, and it is now cleaner than when we first had it. After a short walk we then left the family in Iuka at around 11am to get back to Brisbane and return the van before 4pm. It was approximately a 3hour journey, but all on the highway; a short delay along the way because of traffic volume, and we arrived at 2pm. Duly the van was checked in and checked over and all well. Taxi to the airport and we arrived at 14.30 for the 20.45 flight. A bit early, but we had a leisurely lunch.
We had a lovely time. The scenery was fantastic. We had driven 2138km (1347 miles) in the time we were there (not alot by Australian standards though). We took over 600 pictures and have many wonderful memories. Who knows we may even go back, as now the family have moved to Lismore for better jobs, and there is more exploring to do.
11/02/2018. Up early and off the Dorrigo. I had read there was another Skywalk here in a rainforest, so we were going to investigate. The road from Armidale is called The Waterfall way, and there are numerous stops to view waterfalls and scenery. We stopped at a few along the way.
We stopped at Bakers Creek falls and Wollomombi lookout, but because there had been very little rain over the winter not much water was flowing over the falls. Things were better at Ebor falls though.
On to Dorrigo and the rainforest centre. This was very different to the last skywalk in that it was a much smaller platform, but the nature reserve and rainforest was larger. We had lunch here, took in the lovely views and did the forest walk.
We had planned to stay the night locally, but Charlie wanted to crack on to Coffs Harbour. As it was Sunday I phoned ahead to see if they had space; luckily they did though the site was very busy due to a national sports event taking place that weekend. This was the most expensive site yet, and due to it’s business was a little untidy with rubbish lying around and toilet blocks being dishevelled. We stayed here 3 nights to recover and look round.
12/02/2018. Lots of people leaving the campsite today, so much quieter. Hot and Sunny now we are back on the coast, so we went off for a walk to Coffs Harbour. We partook of a very expensive ice cream on the way back.
We chilled out for the rest of the afternoon watching the birds and drinking wine.
13/02/2018. We had a short drive to Coffs Harbour Plaza shopping mall. We bought a few items there. Charlie had spied someone eating KFC the day before and took a fancy to trying some; so unlike us we did and it wasn’t too bad either. Lazy afternoon as it was hot and very humid.
09/02/2018. We were up early and off the the show. It was only a short walk to the showground but was already getting hot. We purchased a 2 day ticket in case we wanted to return on the Saturday. We walked around the showground to get our bearings. It was Friday and things were getting set up. A big funfair was dominating much of the area. Food stalls, animals and craft stalls. Not so much machinery shown here though.
A small snapshot of our visit. We have many more photo’s to bore people with!
We spent the evening chatting with a lovely Aussie couple
It’s a good job we purchased a 2 day ticket as we went back on the Saturday morning. We purchased some blue cheese, and a strap for the pocket watch I had bought Charlie in Iluka market, which was made from kangaroo leather, and made by a lady that had emigrated from Essex 30 years ago. Once we had finished at the show, we set off again for Armidale to a campsite there. We weren’t too impressed with it for the price but it was only for one night. We did partake of the pool though to cool down. We were so tired at this point we decided not to investigate Armidale on this trip; maybe another time.
08/02/2018. We are over The Great Dividing Range in the heart of New England with wonderful scenery. We left Inverell campsite at09.30 as we were going to do real touristy things today. So we headed for Gum Flats and the Olives of Beaulieu. I had seen an advert in the free map we had for it and thought it would make a nice visit. On the way we had a brief stop to allow cattle to cross. Men, dogs, quad bikes and horses all helping to move them.
We didn’t expect to be there so long as there wasn’t much there to see, but the elderly proprietor had so many interesting stories we stayed and chatted whilst tasting the olives and oils.
Herself and her husband had started the farm 25 years ago, not knowing anything about olives, and built up the business, making oils, meat rubs, soaps and of course jars of olives. The farm is now run by their daughter and she comes in daily to run the shop. She had pictures of her ancestors when they first came to Australia. Very interesting talking to her.
After sampling the wares we bought some olives and oil and a couple of spice jars before heading on our way to the next stop.
Next stop was back through Inverell to the transport museum. Charlie liked this one as full of old restored cars. Many of which get shown regularly at Show and Shine events. A few pictures now of the many cars on display.
There was also a small display of vintage wedding dresses and dolls, but the official photographer omitted to take any photo’s of those. We then visited the Pioneer Village which was just down the road. One dual ticket purchased allowed access to both with a saving. We had lunch in the van then ventured in.
Now this was an outdoor museum collection of old buildings that would have been destroyed if they hadn’t been saved and put here. We have been to a museum like this in the UK on our narrowboat travels. We wandered around the buildings, a few of which were housing collections of war memorabilia, photography, models etc. Very interesting as I love social history.
The next picture I am hoping can be read as I thought it amusing; story about the rabbits and how they got into Australia.
Now this next bit of the story sounds amusing when retold, but at the time was quite alarming. I partook of the ladies room whilst going around. I was just sorting myself out and then flushed, and to my alarm a large bright green frog appeared from inside the bowl! I didn’t know if to laugh or scream. It disappeared again as fast as it had appeared. Apparently it shows that the water system in the area is healthy. I’ll take their word for it.
Off again back to Glen Innes for our 2 night stay and visit to the show. There was a Woolworths store within walking distance, so we had a walk and look around. Woolworths out here is a supermarket. It had been a hot day and the cool of the air con in the store was refreshing. We spent the evening sitting outside (till the mozzies started biting|) watching the bats and the stars.
07/02/2018. It has to be said that we hadn’t packed for cold weather. We awoke in the night feeling cold. Until then we had been sleeping on top of the duvet covered by a sheet; but once inland in the mountains we changed to sheet on the bottom and duvet on top!
It improved as the day went on though. Off to visit the Railway museum; manned by volunteers aiming to restore and rescue unwanted stock; but by the sounds of it many people were trying to hamper their efforts by charging way too much for stuff that otherwise would have been scrap. But they soldier on.
Now they don’t have any engines that nmove because there are 2 bridges that are more modern that the engines cannot get under, so this is purely a standing exhibition.
Once in we were scooped up by a little old chap who showed us around the exhibits and told of their history.
They have a variety of skilled volunteers from upholsterers to carpenters and painters, who keep things looking restored.
The last train departed in 1988 and there are many photo’s of this event.
A very enjoyable morning spent. We then went into Tenterfield town and looked at more “historic buildings”. Photo’s of a few now follow.
After our whistle stop tour of Tenterfield we were on our way again heading for Glen Innes. This was the reason for our visit to this region as there was an agricultural show on at the weekend, that we wanted to visit. We stioopoped briefly at Glen Innes and booked 2 nights in a campsite near to the showground, so we could walk there. Once sorted we were off again to Inverell for the night. There was much to see here too.
03/02/2018. We were back in Iluka for the weekend, so we all decided to visit Yamba on the ferry, as it was easier than driving round. The day started well, but it soon became breezy so a cardigan was needed.
We had a good look around the town, stopping for coffee along the way. There is a massive climb up a hill to get a view over the town, but we managed it (just). The weather now was turning into overcast and breezy.
Yamba is a pretty area similar to Iluka, with surfing beaches and cafe’s. We all had lunch in the local bowling club as it was now raining, so a good excuse to shelter. We headed back for the 13.45 ferry to Iluka.
Spent the rest of the day at the house with the family, and it rained all afternoon.
04/02/2018. Emily and Jamie’s friend Pete had arranged to take Charlie and Noel fishing in his little boat. The weather had calmed and was warm again so off they went with a packed lunch, suncream and hats.
Now whilst the men were fishing, Emily, Grand-daughter Charlie and myself headed for the Sunday market in Iluka. There were quite a few interesting stalls, and we bought a few items there. Weather remained sunny until the evening, then the rain started again. We had slow cooked lamb for dinner as the electrician still hadn’t come to fix the cooker.
05/02/2018. Monday morning and we left Iluka to go travelling again. Now we had bought a sat nav before we left the UK, that has Aussie maps, and this proved invaluable throughout our trIP. This day though Charlie took a wrong turn whilst we were heading for Ballina. Never mind we thought, there is the Macadamia Castle en route that we can visit first, housing a collection of animals, gardens etc., will be good for a visit.
But when we arrived we found it was closed for refurbishment, so we had a coffee from the stall there and chatted a while with the barista.
Turned around and back to Ballina, there looked to be a few good spots to view the area.
It started to rain along the way and didn’t stop. We were laughing to ourselves as at each viewpoint we could hardly see a thing! Typical British weather, and we didn’t even have our pacamacs. By the time we got to the third viewpoint I decided to brave it outside to take some photo’s.
Lovely place despite the rain. Off again this time stopping at Lismore for diesel and shopping. We didn’t explore this town as the family will be moving here soon so we will keep the visit here for our next trip. Then on to Casino for the night.
Passing a rather large prawn, which now has become a permanent fixture apparently. The campsite at Casino was once again very quiet, but well equipped as have all the campsites been. This country is certainly geared for camping and caravanning.
As it got dusk, Charlie went outside to be confronted with a most wondrous sight. Thousands of fruit bats heading back to their roost (wherever it was); now I mean thousands and they stretched right across the sky. I took a photo which doesn’t do it justice, but Charlie took a video (which friends can see if they want).
06/02/2018. Sunny morning so we walked around Casino town following the heritage trail. I’ll show a few pics of the buildings just to get the gist.
Now by Aussie standards these buildings are old and history; not by British standards but nice to see that heritage is being preserved. Once the trail done we were back in the van and onto the Bruxner Highway
stopping at the above lookout point with it’s spectacular views. We were now entering New England territory, and from the pics you can see why. Could be Wales or Scotland. We were up and down on the road like a rollercoaster; round tight bends and narrow passing places. Along the way there was a rest stop that had hand carved totem’s, that were put there as part of a peace process between the people involved.
They were beautifully carved but had been there for approx 20 years so showing signs of deterioration. We stopped for lunch at a very secluded spot in the forest called Crooked Creek; found a shady area to keep the van cool.
Our destination was Tenterfield and we eventually arrived around 14.30. Early to stop really, but driving is very tiring on the driver, so a rest was needed. We booked in for one night, and decided to look around the town in the morning. We did though venture out for a walk in the evening to the cemetery up the road. Interesting to see grave stones of no great age, but also the cemetery was laid out in religious denominations; something I’ve not seen before.
07/02/2018. The campsite had been bought 2 years ago by the couple running it, that included the lodge in which they lived. On request you could look around the lodge, which we did. They have converted this lovely building into B&B rooms and offer Devonshire cream tea’s. Don’t know if it includes clotted cream as never seen any for sale. My official photographer let me down though, as he forgot to bring the camera so no pics! You just can’t get the staff. We left the campsite and headed for the Railway museum which was just up the road.
30/01/2018. Kiddies were back to school so we were off and travelling around. We headed for McLean, a Scottish town; the scenery around it could quite easily be Scotland.
The buildings are typical of the older towns in this area as we find out later in our trip. Many late 1800’s and early 1900’s. We had a little walk around. Checked out a camping shop and bought a billy can for the boat, and 2 wide brimmed hats with neck covers in their sale. Just hope we get the hot weather in UK to make use of them. We drove out of the town to The Pinnacles rocks
and to the lookout point; then onto the Scottish Cairn (a memorial to the founders of the town).
The poles around this (and the street lamp poles) are all painted in different tartans.
On leaving McLean we then got detoured off the road we were on, and onto a gravel track for a couple of kilometres, which was very bumpy indeed, and not what we wanted to do in a new van. Anyway this took us to the ferry over the Clarence river to Lawrence.
Time was getting on, so we decided to find a campsite inland for the night. Through Grafton and over a very strange bridge (that has a bend in it and clearly not designed for big vehicles), and on to Seelands and The Big River campsite. A lovely position on the river Clarence, that caters for many water sports and is a ski centre (water not snow).
31/01/2018. We awoke to the sight of mist, but as it was warm it soon cleared. Something we are used to in Cornwall.
The campsite was virtually empty as kiddies all back at school now, so was lovely and quiet. After breakfast we left Big River for Grafton, and back over the wibbly wobbly bridge.
The bridge being old in Australia terms is being replaced with a new one that is being built alongside it; though this one will remain. Stopping at Grafton we looked around the shopping mall and I managed to get 2 bikini’s in the sale for $20 (around £12), so I was well pleased; we then drove on to Minnie Water and a campsite there. Situated in a National Park and near a surfing beach. It was a short walk to the beach, but apart from a shop there wasn’t much else there.
The weather was turning a bit overcast and breezy. We booked 2 nights at Minnie Water, so as Wooli wasn’t too far away we drove there the next day. The afternoon and evening saw very British weather as it rained.
01/02/2018. Woke up to a cold, cloudy and overcast day. Drove to Wooli; similar to Minnie Water but it does have many picnic spots.
Back to the campsite and we got talking to a lady who originally came from Birmingham. She had been in Australia for 21 years; she then proceeded to tell us about her close encounter with a large lizard called a Goanna; luckily we didn’t see it as apparently they are huge and can rip you to pieces!! Despite being cloudy it didn’t rain, so we had a lazy afternoon.
02/02/2018. Leaving the campsite we were going to head for Yamba (an area similar to Padstow/Rock), that was oposite Iluka; but as it was raining we decided to go back to Iluka, as we were back there for the weekend to see the family again. On the way back we took a slight wrong turn, stopped to get our bearings, and saw our first kangaroo’s.
Once settled in campsite we went to house for the afternoon and evening as it was still raining. We weren’t prepared for rain.
23/01/2018. After spending a comfortable first night we headed out for the shops on the way to Surfers Paradise. There are many little shopping outlets around, and we found an Aldi to do our food shopping. Very similar in layout to the ones in the UK. Once cupboards and fridge stocked up we were on our way to Surfers Paradise to meet the family. We had a quiet day with them at their hotel., and had a walk around the shopping area. We were glad to be staying in Advancetown as it was much quieter there.
24/01/2018. The kiddies were off the Dreamworld, so we took the opportunity to visit Mount Tamborine and surrounding area. It was a winding drive up to the top but once there the view was spectacular.
We have visited Western Australia twice but hadn’t encountered views like this in the area we visited. We were pleasantly surprised.
We came across a rainforest walk on our journey so stopped to walk along it. Like the Eden project but without a roof, and much bigger!
It was lovely to walk along the treetop canopy and see the different types of trees and plants and occasionally some wildlife.
We also finished our trip with a visit to Clifton Falls, and stopped at the Gallery Walk shopping area for an Aussie pie for lunch. After lunch we then headed back to the campsite. The weather was quite cloudy and we even had some rain!
25/01/2018. We headed back to Surfers Paradise to meet the family and go to the beach. Lovely hot and sunny day, though a little breezy.
It’s a bit disconcerting seeing a helicopter patrolling looking for sharks; and also a shout went out to beware of jellyfish.
We headed back to the hotel for a light lunch as Emily had arranged for us all to go to a show in the evening at a venue called Dracula’s. We had parked the camper in a car park that we could stay in overnight so we could have a drink. We showered in the hotel, and set off to the show. It all started well but gradually went downhill as the evening went on. The show had been very expensive; a cabaret with a meal. The meal was paltry and the show inadequate. Emily had arranged for a cake for her dad’s birthday which we needed to fill us up!! We were all very disappointed for such an extortionate price. Needless to say I penned some constructive criticism to them the next day.
26/01/2018. We hadn’t slept very well in the carpark so when we arrived back at the campsite we had a snooze after breakfast. It was Australia Day and we had been invited by the hotel to attend a family afternoon of food, fun and music. The family were going to join us. We walked the short 5min walk to the hotel, and settled ourselves on a table with an umbrella. In order to get food and drinks we had to buy tickets, so we duly bought enough for 6 people. But because the children had had a late night in the kids club whilst we were out the previous evening, they didn’t join us, and we had quite alot of tickets left. The afternoon was very good with a band, pig racing and games for the children.
We enjoyed the afternoon, even chatting with a local couple for most of it.
27/01/2018. As we had alot of tickets left that could be used in the hotel, we decided as we were leaving the area we would go and use them to have breakfast. Charlie had a full Aussie breakfast, and I had muesli and Eggs Benedict which was lovely. The proprietor told us the scenic way to go, so we could take in some sights along the way. We were heading for Iluka where the family lived. On the way we stopped at the Hinze Dam that supplies water for the area.
We then stopped at Natural Bridge that has a waterfall and glow worm caves.
After our scenic diversion we then got back onto the Pacific Highway to Iluka. As we were in Queensland, and Iluka is in NSW, we had to alter the clocks forward an hour once over the state line. Strange to do this within the same country! We had one stop for a cup of tea before arriving in Iluka later in the afternoon. We spent one night on their drive, but because the camper electric couldn’t be plugged into house electric (not compatible), and it was hot, we couldn’t run the aircon. So the decision was made to book into the local campsite a few hundred yards away, so we could plug in.
28/01/2018. We walked around Iluka in the morning. Town by the sea that is favoured as a retirement area.
My grand daughter had requested I make her favourite pie whilst there. A London dish of pie, mash and liquor. I made this in the afternoon, but unfortunately Emily’s oven decided to break down so the pie had to be put in the freezer till oven mended, much to everyone’s disappointment. I did some washing, and we had Fish and Chips for tea from the local fisherman’s Co-op. Very different selection to the UK. Choose your fish, then they cook it. I think we had shark. The camp site was emptying a bit now as the kiddies are all back to school soon.
29/01/2018. Spent the morning at Emily’s babysitting. We had heavy rain in the morning.
We used up some bits and pieces for lunch, then we partook of the camp site swimming pool in the afternoon once the rain had subsided; and an evening of movies at the house.
As we were away for a month and have many photos of our trip, I am breaking the blog up into sections to make it easier to write and to read.
On the 19th January we set off from home in Cornwall to Gatwick. It was Charlie’s birthday and we had booked a Flybe flight, with a night over in the Premier Inn at Gatwick’s North Terminal, ready for our long haul journey the next day. We were feeling a little guilty at putting Izzy into kennels, but we had no other option available. All went well with the Flybe flight though it was raining, and still raining on arrival in Gatwick. We booked into the Premier Inn, and had an afternoon snooze. In the evening we went for our prebooked meal deal meal, which was very good value; even coming with a free glass of wine. We had an early night, and rose early for breakfast, avoiding anything too heavy in readiness for our next journey.
20th January and we left Gatwick on an A380 for Dubai. Watch set for Dubai time and all was on time with Emirates. Plane change in Dubai for a 777 which we found more comfortable. We had an extra stopover added in Singapore, which we didn’t expect, but it wasn’t for long, and we were soon on our way again on the same plane to Brisbane., watch reset for Brisbane time. We arrived on time in Brisbane at 00.50 on 22nd January; once through customs we were greeted by our daughter and family, which we weren’t expecting and was a lovely surprise. We were all staying in the same hotel overnight. We were up reasonably early, and I even went for a swim with the grandkids before breakfast. We weren’t feeling too bad, as I had followed the advice on long haul flying, and it worked. Breakfast in hotel wasn’t too bad, but extra to the price of the room, which we thought was very expensive for just a few hours. Once breakfast over, we checked out, and our son-in-law gave us a lift to the campervan hire base. Emily had bought us items of toiletries, suncream and teabags to save weight, but we knew we needed to go shopping to stock up the camper once sorted.
Once at the hirebase we were given a brand new Mercedes sprinter campervan that we were the first to use. We then headed off to our first destination campsite in Advancetown. We were staying a few days here, whilst the family were in a hotel at Surfers Paradise, but it was only 20mins away. We spent the afternoon sorting out the camper and putting clothes away; a small snooze to refresh us, then off to the local motel for an evening meal. We need to shop for camper supplies.