Friday 14 March
A quick breakfast run to Public 41 (in Adelaide) for croissants and pack up for taxi ride to airport. Flight to Brisbane on time and full with taxi ride into town on arrival over A$50.
Hotel Mantra Southbank is a modern building that the Kiwi taxi driver was not overly familiar with but which was quite easy to find. Lunch on the great area that is Southbank with it’s cafes, walking passages and general liveliness. View Brisbane from across the river, what a shame the low skyline has been ruined by the motorways though.
Quinten and his wife Angela had invited us out for a meal at their house and Q picks us up spot on the agreed time. A lovely meal followed by coffee on the terrace and lots of chats about our time in Jersey. Q and Angela have led a varied life with work in London, Jersey, Solomon Islands and now Brisbane. Their son, Sebastian, is a member of “The Ten Tenors” presently touring in the USA. His daughter is also a musician, signing jazz in Melbourne.
It was absolutely lovely sitting outside in the evening watching a few possums in the garden, one of which was pregnant. Driven back to hotel just after midnight with the sound of a few trains still evident outside our window.
After breakfast, Q and Angela picked us up and took us to the Three monkeys Coffee House and restaurant for morning coffee. Deserted when we arrive, it was absolutely packed by the time we leave and head for a Saturday market at West End. Stalls set out around a sports pitch meant that you just had to walk round to view everything. Produce, jewellery, wooden plates etc. A drive around some of the centre of Brisbane before being taken to the Westfield shopping centre at Carindale (near Morningside which is where Q & Angela live) where we are left for a bit of retail therapy as Q and Angela had a prior engagement.
Catch bus back to Hotel Mantra, rest and evening meal at The Sangria Bar at Ole Restaurant opposite from the hotel.
Very noisy and vibrant and a good meal next to a couple of girls going to see Bill Bryson later – should have tried to get tickets, he is a good writer. Walk down to riverside for some night photos with a lot of people waiting for the ferries across to the other side of town.
Wander over to local market after a good breakfast (why can’t all hotels serve poached eggs that keep runny?) and then Richard goes accross river to collect car. A bit of a wait whilst others are served and back over river to collect Sal and luggage.
Take roads south to join crowded M1 which turns into M3 and four lanes of slow moving traffic in 35C heat.
Stop for an iced coffee at The Coffee Club @ Homeworld Helensvale, QLD – probably the best iced coffee I have had and a meal in itself. Back on motorway, slow to about 20km/h for about 10k before it thins out and the scenery turns from industrial to bush and trees before we reach the turn off for Byron Bay.
Poor instructions and lack of evidence of street names again and we go into town before retracing our steps to find Motel. A A$100 deposit is required which is not really appreciated but they do have complimentary washing and tumble drying but no free Internet access. We could have bought internet access but hope we can find some in town.
Dinner in Fishheads on the sea front in Byron Bay, the most Easterly town in Australia.
Excellent steak washed down with local Stone Wood beer followed by a walk on the beach and some photo taking as the sky and sea were both pretty angry pre storm.
What a storm we later had, thunder lightening and torrential rain, it was surprising we didn’t have a black out.
Charm offensive by a young girl in asking me if I had a lens cloth for her camera – she had to do with my polo shirt instead, still the views were lovely.
Usual Sunday night helping of Rake and Wallander on TV, probably the only decent night TV is on but winds high with noise from sea quite loud in our apartment.
No meals provided here as it is a really basic Motel type accommodation where you even have to make your own bed!
Off to breakfast at Balcony and some Internet access and a chance to get up to date with the world, the first time since Adelaide last Friday morning.
Try to get to the lighthouse but despite the parking being $7 (we didn’t pay) there was nowhere to park so we left – the views would be stunning though. Headed off instead to Bangalow and stopping for lunch at Mullumbimby, a sleepy town.
All the area around here is “hippy” type country so the styles of clothing and are outrageous but the views from the route are quite stunning, some like English countryside.
Boat tour tonight up the nearby Brunswick River. At Brunswick harbour head for River after picking up 4 other people. Ride out to see the “most dangerous” harbour entrance in Australia with no protection and a sand bar.
Head up stream, passing wildlife, trees clinging to the water’s edge whilst sipping XXXX and wine and eating nibbles, all for $30 each. Highlight was a kingfisher and a sting-ray. Fish and chips by the Pacific Ocean listening to the waves and watching the full moon rise. Not so much wind today so sea not so loud from our apartment as last night.
Drive up to lighthouse for panoramic view of bays both north and south watching the Rosellas (parrotts) and butterflys nibbling at the tree blossom before buying breakfast on the go.
Ring Lilly Pilly as requested for tonight’s accommodation and say we will be there at about 5pm, about 6 hours time for a four hour journey.
The next township South, Lennox Head, is much more civilised than Byron Bay and spot what could be a nice appartment for a longer stay.
So many nice beaches along this coast and virtually all for surfers but not crowded.
At Belina, spot a shoe warehouse open to the public attracts our attention and we come out A$150 lighter for a pair of UGG boots for Mel and sandals for Sal. Onwards to Grafton, but not knowing where the antique type shops were find a shopping centre for lunch but no time to look around as we have to get to Lily Pily by about 5pm – we were eventually about 25 minutes late.
Sad news from looking at emails, Tony Fulford, G & S member, has died after a 7 week illness (cancer). Such a sad loss and has cast a shadow over today.
There are so many roadworks on the way reducing our speed from 110 to 80 or 60 and even 40 at one stage. Scenery varied but mostly wooded and weather very hot so once again, the travel time taken was.
Lily Pily is a lovely place and we are the only guests.
In fact, Jeanneatte and Bruce have already asked Audley to only book guests for a minimum of two nights so it is a shame we are only staying one night. Fantastic view from the cabin overlooking the valley full of trees and the river at the bottom of the valley. Nearest neighbours about 500 yds away and next ones probably about 2 miles away.
Back down to town and at Bruce’s suggestion, go to 5 Church Street for an evening meal followed by a viewing of the Fruit bats circling around before going into the trees at dusk.
We have the sitting room to ourselves of course and have some Port, courtesy of Lily Pily although decline Bruce’s offer of a hot drink before we are off to bed.
Breakfast on the verandah and a Skype with Flic, doing wellish after her operation.
We say our goodbye’s to a lovely room and guest house after a very good breakfast and on Bruce’s suggestion, head for Urunga and walk the boardwalk for 1k each way – a good suggestion but not on Audley’s suggestion list.
Drive on, only stopping at Port Macquarie for lunch, again through loads of roadworks which considerably slow us down.
Our instructions were to turn left off the Pacific Highway at Morpeth but as we found, Morpeth is not on the PH so we missed the turn and had to do 2 sides of a triangle.
The Anchorage looked on paper a first class hotel but the room we get is far from First Class with a peeling non slip film in the bath and dirty grouting in a room that has certainly seen better days.
Even our replacement room has some antiquated 1970s furniture, carpets not fitting properly and no room guide. Internet costs A$30 for a couple of days, extortionate and therefore not used.
This hotel has a great view over the harbour but the refurbishment can’t come quick enough.
A hotel that provides powdered coffee, no coffee percolator and hard toilet paper in no way can be classified as “First Class”.
Mind you, the food in the restaurant was generally good, albeit the service slow. Nuts were mentioned on the menu as being in all but one of the deserts but the one that did not mention nuts came with, yes, nuts on top. Do they not have nut allergies in Australia? The Anchorage certainly needs to get it’s act together.
Slept well last night after a long drive in the heat. A lazy day is called for especially as the kayaking tour mentioned as an option is not going to happen (it only happens at the weekends at this time of year) so we opt for a coffee and an email catch up at a local coffee shop and a paddle in the sea before the heavens open for about an hour.
More bays, more beaches, some Pelicans following fishermen, some different style houses to see and back to the hotel for a chill out and swim followed by dinner in the sleepy nearby town of Port Nelson as another meal in the slow service hotel is not really required.
Back to our room only to find a cockroach lingering in the sink area.
No chance to catch or get a photo of it as it scurries under the sink area and away.
Hopefully it won’t return overnight. I do not like this hotel at all.
Brown deposits in the bath this morning which were similar to something Richard found the morning before but which had been dismissed as just poor cleaning.
This is certainly not poor cleaning but could either be from the ceiling or animal created. On check-out cockroach is described to the staff who dismiss it with a comment “they are supposed to spray”. It is highly probable then that the brown liquid deposits were from the cockroaches.
It is such a shame as this is in is lovely location, the public areas including the pool are fine, the staff friendly and the food is what you would expect from a hotel. The room decor etc. let’s it down badly. As I said, the refurbishment can’t come quick enough.
Having sampled a wine tour in the Napa Valley (California) a few years ago we knew what to expect in the Hunter Valley but of course with only three more nights in Australia would be very restricted in what we bought as we would not be able to take any back on the plane so had opted for a stay in Newcastle rather than (as Audley suggested) the Hunter Valley.
Newcastle is only a short journey down the Pacific Highway so meander in the direction of Australia’s East coast port which Lonely Planet named in 2011 as one of the top 10 cities to visit.
Stop at lots of bays on the way for photos but also some of the grand design houses that have sprung up.
Reach Crowne Plaza Newcastle at about 1pm and are able to check in which is good as it then gives us time to explore the area.
Lunch in The Dockyard on the boardwalk, an area converted from old dock workings and now a lively mini South Bank Brisbane type area. The area is now called Honeysuckle and is worth a visit.
Walk towards Nobby’s head but only get to ferry crossing point and Richard explores town whilst Sally waits and watches the world go by and the ferry crossing to the other side. Clothes shops are typically quirky and there are more than there fair share of book shops.
Dinner in hotel was memorable for the supply of Bubble Gum Ice Cream in a desert; weird.
What was good though was a live musician playing Jack Johnson type music.
Good night’s sleep, no cockroaches but awake at 7am by fog horns; it is foggy on the Tyne, sorry Hunter river. Breakfast in nearby McGourty’s though two of the four items requested were delivered wrong! Nothing wrong with the food we had though and considerably cheaper than a breakfast at the Crowne Plaza.
Check out and drive towards Nobby’s Head. Walk partway along the breakwater watching all the surfers and head off on the Pacific Highway and Motorway towards Leura, passing the outskirts of Sydney and then heading for Windsor and Penrith before the mountains start slowing our journey with the winding road.
The heavens open with an almighty hail and thunder storm shortly before Leura so we turn off and park up for 5 minutes or so before it subsides.
Find Buttercup cottage which was somewhat of a surprising establishment, especially after the Crowne Plaza last night.
A very rustic cottage built using recycled materials but probably could have done with coats of paint to brighten up the decor. It appears to be “shabby chic” with an emphasis on “shabby” rather than “chic”.
Out to Leura village centre, drive around to Toy Museum, it was already closed for the night, and a brief drive up road to Katoomba which looks bigger.
Back in Leura, buy bread and yoghurts for the two days and then dinner in Bon Ton.
We are supposed to have Internet access but it does not appear to work!
Not sure I’ve ever slept in a room with corrugated iron as a wall but a good night’s sleep was had and no dawn chorus, surprising. Breakfast on the patio with the sun streaming down on us after a misty start.
Trip advisor comments suggest that Scenic World gets crowded pretty quickly so go early to avoid the crowds. Entrance fee of $64 between us doesn’t seem too bad and we are supplied with arm bands to gain access, or exit, from the three “rides”. The main “attraction” is the three sisters although for a good photo opportunity the morning is not the best of times to go as the sun is directly in front of you.
Firstly, a very steep train ride, reputedly the steepest in the world, followed by a walk around the boardwalk at the bottom and a cable car ride to the top.
Fill up on a few souvenirs and then take the Skyway across in from of the Katoomba waterfalls.
The lookout point wasn’t as mobbed as it probably will be later as we have to wait over 10 minutes to get the Skyway back by which time the queue was probably another 50 or so strong behind us.
This is a tourist attraction taking advantage of nature. As one reviewer on tripadvisor put it, “go for a hike”, you see more.
Back to the thriving town that is Leura for lunch, drop food for dinner at lodge, try to get on Internet at lodge and head for a drive around the area to Lithgow, the fire damaged Zig-Zag railway and a viewpoint before heading back to pack the bags ready for tomorrow’s last journey back to Sydney.
Last Sunday in Australia, so it must be time for Rake, Waking the Dead and Wallender!
Our last full day in Australia and no dawn chorus to wake us up in the Blue Mountains, just rain. It certainly knows how to rain here, not surprising I suppose as we are over 3000ft high and the temperature is now down to 13C.
There was no one on reception throughout the weekend so it was the first chance we had to talk to the manager / owner just before we left. Whilst there was nothing wrong with the chalet / hut / barn, it just was not to our taste with a few black creepies around but we could see it would appeal to others.
Leave around 10 still in pouring rain, goodness knows what we would have done if it had rained like this yesterday, and headed along the M4 motorway for Sydney.
Quite heavy traffic and lots of it exceeding the speed limit. We were good but at least two drivers weren’t and probably suffered a heavy fine. Get complemented in a service station for reading a map rather relying on a sat nav, especially as instructions to get into Sydney a bit vague but fortunately, signposts were, for once, able to direct me to the centre.
The itinerary instructions we had been provided with suggested we turn up Essex Street in Central Sydney, the trouble was Essex Street was not marked on the map so anyone arriving in Sydney for the first time might be confused.
Leave Sal with bags in Hotel, much better one than the previous Sydney experience although still up a bit of a hill and return car to Hertz, walking back through the city for a quick rest before venturing out for final souvenirs.
Massive rainstorm hits the city dropping the city temperatures from a muggy 24 to about 17. It is later understood that one person died by being washed into a storm drain and drowning.
Back out for dinner at Opera House watching the cruise boat depart before settling down to watch The Magic Flute in the Opera House as our last night treat. Had been told it was sold out but far from it and our side two seats were adjacent to about 5 empty seats so we moved up into the more expensive seats, bargain.
Wonderfully silly story, almost G & S like but with outstanding costumes and a cast of probably over 40.
We were not supposed to take photos but being so near to the exit, we found it difficult to attempt unlike some others in the middle of the theatre.
SOH was built in an age when it was assumed that everyone had full mobility so lifts are scarce but we do find one, followed by some escalators so only a few stairs to climb, fortunately.
Years ago, people would dress up for theatre, be it Opera, plays or Musicals. Not now and all sorts of wearing apparel were present although thankfully not too many in Jeans and T shirts.
Walk back to hotel along harbour front which by night does look impressive before settling in for the night, a quiet room although it is understood Friday to Sunday nights are noisy.
Our last day.
Sal has a lovely call in the hotel from Barbara wishing us a safe journey and thanking us for the gift we sent, whilst Richard is collecting the takeaway coffee and croissants for breakfast.
Pack up and off to airport courtesy of the Qantas chauffeur. Flight on time and we leave Sydney for the short hop to Melbourne.
Have to change terminals in Melbourne and boy is that a long walk so we only get about 20 minutes in the lounge before our flight to Dubai and London in the A380 is called and we are whisked away for the 20+ hour flights.
Sorry to go!! Must come back as I have 2 A$50 notes unspent!
One of the advantages of flying business class is the shower on arrival evan at 5:30am. Showered and fed (again) we locate car and join the slow moving M25 traffic heading up country to Heysham and the ferry. Surprisingly not all that tired at the moment (no doubt that will come later) and relax for a smooth crossing back home to the mountain of paperwork, bills etc. Just as welll home has more than one toilet – the main bathroom toilet breaks about three hours after we get back!