ROAD TRIP FROM BRISBANE TO SYDNEY

DAY SEVEN (CHRISTMAS DAY 2018)

COFFS HARBOUR TO NELSON BAY 

Opal Cove Resort, Coffs Harbour  This was the accommodation booked for my friends by the Swiss Travel Agent. The Resort has a beachfront location and facilities include 9 hole golf course, heated swimming pool, 3 floodlit tennis courts, gym, sauna, games room, etc, all most appropriate if staying for more than one night. This, for us, was a whistle stop tour to give my friends from Europe a taste of the Australian countryside between Brisbane and Sydney so it was another one night stop. After exchanging Christmas greetings and gifts we breakfasted in their room enjoying cereal, fruit etc purchased the previous evening when stocking up for our Christmas Day picnic lunch. They had collected me from Surf Beach Motel which is situated close to the centre of Coffs Harbour.

Coffs Harbour is a city on the north coast of New South Wales. Coffs Harbour owes its name to John Korff who named the area Korff’s Harbour when he was forced to take shelter from a storm in the area in 1847. It is known for its beaches and the Big Banana monument and amusement park. It is one of the largest urban centres on the north coast, with an estimated population of 70,000 (2017). Coffs Harbour’s economy was once based mainly on bananas but has now been superseded by blueberries as well as tourism and fishing. It is located where the mountains tumble down to the sea. In the waters off Coffs Harbour Marina is the Solitary Islands Marine Park, home to abundant wildlife, seasonal whales and coral reefs. Just east is the Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve with its large population of wedge-tailed shearwater birds and learning centre. Sadly, we didn’t have time for exploring. We walked around the Marina on this beautiful sunny morning before driving along the Pacific Highway in the direction of Port Macquarie.

Port Macquarie is a town at the mouth of the Hastings River. It is known for its beaches, wildlife and penal colony past. St.Thomas’ Anglican Church was built by convicts in the 19th century. A coastal walk from the town centre to the 19th century Tacking Point Lighthouse offers views over waters, home to whales and dolphins. Driving through this town on Christmas Day was quite an experience as it was deserted – no traffic and very few pedestrians – everything was closed. We did find a cafe that was more closed than open, but the owner cheerfully made coffee for us and there was a toilet for customer use.

Lake Cathie is a town about 15 minutes’ drive south of Port Macquarie. It is a popular holiday destination because of its tranquil location. Its main feature is a tidal lake fed by the ocean daily. Several  times throughout the year the lake is closed over by shifting sands and becomes dark in colour due to the tannins in the local flora. Tourism centres on the lake as it is a popular swimming and fishing spot all year round especially when the lake is open. It was now time for us to locate a place to enjoy our picnic Christmas lunch. As we drove we suddenly spotted a table with shade cover, just what we were looking for.

On arrival in Nelson Bay we first located my accommodation at Dutchies Motel in Christmas Bush Avenue (a very appropriate name on Christmas Day). When making the booking I was given precise instructions on location and where to find the key as there was nobody in attendance. I left my belongings and we were on our way to Mantra Resort, booked for the girls. After check-in, the three of us walked down to the Marina. It was now about 6 o’clock so the sun was low in the sky as we walked out on the breakwater. Returning to Mantra we enjoyed a meal where we aimed to eat leftovers from our freezer bags, perishables needing to be consumed before we travelled further the next day.

Back to Dutchies to my bed in Room 5. The beautiful waterfront location was very special. We each have different expectations when making bookings and, during these one night stops, I have realised how important it is to me to enjoy, and have memories of, the surrounding area.

 

ROAD TRIP FROM BRISBANE TO SYDNEY

DAY SIX

Byron Bay to Coffs Harbour

My day started soon after 6 o’clock when I was outside my cabin in my PJs (pyjamas)taking photos of the morning sunrise. When the girls arrived soon after 8 I was showered, packed, ready and waiting at the gate. Breakfast for me was a most enjoyable berry pancake and good coffee at Espressohead Cafe. This cafe has been the hideout of locals for 15 years and had been recommended to us by a local. A clean retro decor is the setting, with impeccable coffee and locally sourced products.

Cape Byron Lighthouse (built 1901) is located at the top of the oceanway that runs from the centre of town to the top. This is the route planned for pedestrians walking to the lighthouse. The three of us started on the walk, not really knowing whether or not we would go the full distance. Nadine was first to give up but I am pleased that Erika and I persevered. My thought was “who could visit Byron Bay and not walk to the Lighthouse?”  It is not really the lighthouse that one goes to see as that can be seen from a distance – it is the magnificent coastal scenery along the way. We enjoyed some of the best views of the ocean on the entire coast. The area was just begging us to take the walking path with its well planned boardwalk, steps, benches and viewing spots, all making the climb easier. I am the first to admit that I was huffing and puffing and needed a break every now and then, but enjoyed it immensely. On reaching the top we viewed the displays inside the lighthouse, filled water bottles, enjoyed ice cream and rested. By the way, the top can be reached by car but the views of beaches, cliffs, ocean and rainforest would be missed. The car park at the top was so full that cars reaching the top could do nothing but turn and drive back down. We returned via Lighthouse Road watching the hang-gliders and making contact with Nadine who came part way in the car to take us back to the Motel as it was time for us to leave Byron Bay and continue our journey.

Continuing along the coast we came to Lennox Head, a seaside village in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, situated on the stretch of coast between Byron Bay and Ballina. The headland, also known as Lennox Point, is used by surfers who come for the noted right-hand break. Hang-gliders visit the headland to launch off its 65m cliff. The Point is also used for watching dolphins and the annual whale migration. Lunch was at Quattro, a beachfront Italian Restaurant and my choice was Arancini balls, a very good choice indeed.

Continuing our day’s travel we took a slight diversion at Ulmarra, a  town on the south bank of the Clarence River in New South Wales. The tiny settlement was established when Thomas Small bought land along the river in 1857. It is generally accepted that ‘ulmarra’ is a local Aboriginal word meaning “bend in the river”. At the 2006 census Ulmarra had a population of 446. A rather imposing building is the historic Ulmarra Hotel. Built in 1906 it sits on the east bank of the River. The interior is filled with memorabilia and old photographs grace the walls. This is a true example of a genuine Aussie Pub. It even had the rather rotund, singlet-wearing guy seated at a table on the verandah reading the paper, dog at his feet.

On arrival at Coffs Harbour we found Woolworths, Park Beach Plaza and were pleased that the store was open until late even though it was Christmas Eve. With the three of us making choices we soon had a trolley full of goodies for our Christmas Day lunch. We filled freezer bags with everything in readiness for our picnic.

My accommodation for the night was at Surf Beach Motel, 2 minutes’ walk from Coffs Harbour Beach. Early morning found me walking across the road to the boardwalk where a few early surfers were looking for a wave and I enjoyed views of the coast as I waited for the girls.

ROAD TRIP FROM BRISBANE TO SYDNEY

DAY FIVE

Mount Tamborine to Byron Bay

The first stop was at Surfers Paradise Beach – Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. The three kilometre strip of golden sand between Surfers Paradise and the Pacific Ocean is Australia’s iconic beach. It is a major tourist destination with its sunny subtropical climate and has become widely known for its surfing beaches, high-rise dominated skyline, theme parks, nightlife and rainforest hinterland. After a windy walk along the seafront it was apparent that the storm had blown through this area the previous evening. Montmartre by the Sea, Surfers Paradise, was our cafe of choice for morning coffee.

Next stop was at Kirra Beach, Coolangatta. There are variations on what the word Kirra actually means, but some believe Queensland Aborigines named it after a boomerang. This makes sense as Kirra wraps around the bend separating Coolangatta and Kirra beaches and in front of Kirra Hill. Surfers still flock to Kirra bend for its world-class breaks. This was our place to stop for a late lunch and this time our choice was Tupe Aloha where Hawaiian meets Mexican in a vintage tropical atmosphere.

Byron Bay is a beachside town located in the far-north-eastern corner of the State of New South Wales. It is located 772kms north of Sydney and 165 kms south of Brisbane. Cape Byron, a headland adjacent to the town, is the easternmost point of mainland Australia. The lighthouse was built in 1901 to protect ships passing along the coast. Operated by resident keepers until 1989, its now automated light is clearly visible from Byron Bay Township. As at 2018, the town is reported to have around 5,000 permanent residents, while being visited by over 1.5 million tourists each year. The town has several beaches which are popular for surfing. It is a resort popular with both domestic and international tourists, including backpackers, who travel along the Australian coast. The area is also noted for its wildlife, with the whale watching industry a significant contributor to the local economy.

My accommodation for one night in Byron Bay was in a Cabin at Glen Villa Resort (approached from Shirley Street!). This Resort, with a mix of accommodation, is located next to the Cumbedin Swamp Nature Reserve. The self-equipped cabins were spotlessly clean and set in very neat grounds. Late in the afternoon Erika and I walked the streets of Byron Bay with many other tourists but, as it was Sunday, many businesses were closed. We found a Supermarket open and the Information Centre (Erika’s favourite place) closed, but we did locate the place recommended for breakfast the next morning so all was well. Back at the girls’ Motel room we found Nadine and the three of us walked through Apex Park to Main Beach to watch the sunset before they chauffeured me back to my cabin where I enjoyed  a shower before sleeping well in a very comfortable bed.

LIVING LIFE AS AN EXPAT.- UPDATE 14

So how do things look different: Year 2 in Phnom Penh

  • We no longer take running water and electricity for granted. The Prime Minister has just announced daily power cuts for at least the next three months. Selfishly we are not so concerned if they happen during the day while we’re at work (where we have a generator) but imagine the plethora of small businesses whose livelihood will be compromised. The plan is 6 – 12 on day one and 12 – 6 on day 2, on rotation. Overnight it is not so great. Last night power was off (for unknown reasons) – not part of the scheduled cuts.
  • About 70% of our staff have no running water in their houses, and haven’t had now for more than a month. A drought year and poor infrastructure have combined for the ‘perfect storm’ (no pun intended) to ensure that without a household pump you may have water to your front yard, but not into the house. Fortunately for us the situation in our Borey at present is OK. No great pressure, but we can still shower and flush inside!
  • We don’t talk about the weather much. There is an element of wondering when the rain will come, but otherwise each day is simply ‘hot’ so there is little point commenting on the temperature otherwise. Temperatures didn’t go below 32 degrees in the December/January cool season!

From the Phnom Penh Post.                                                                      ‘The statement, which cited a government directive on water preservation from last Thursday, said Cambodian weather is set to be heavily influenced by the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, a weather event involving a cycle of warm and cold temperatures impacting the tropics and subtropics.                                                                                                  During El Niño, temperatures can rise to highs of 42 degrees Celsius, with very little rain. This will result in the government issuing a cautionary statement on Thursday which raised concerns about the possibility of a drought in the Kingdom in April and May’.        

                                                                                                                          This of course has significant implications for the many rice and other agricultural producers here in Cambodia.

  • We are enjoying improved access to some local facilities. There is now an Aeon 2 Mall (named after the original which is located  in city central) within 15 minutes’ ride of us. This brings all the trappings of a western style mall with an Asian flavour. There is a supermarket, many small stores; from designer to the equivalent of ‘cheap as chips’ (here called the 7900 riel store i.e $1.90); a cinema where we were fortunate to see ‘the Green Book’ recently; and numerous coffee and eating options. In addition ‘Global House’ has opened and is something like Bunnings and Home Hardware with some Myer and David Jones thrown in for good measure.                                          Who would have thought that wandering in a mall could become a chosen pastime…… but the air-conditioning is a drawcard!
  • Work continues to bring new and interesting opportunities. David has continued to make further facilities improvements: netball court marked and posts made; new preschool play area built, fenced and equipped; cladding around the external courts…. and new role as ‘art assistant’ while the Middle schoolers recently worked on a wooden toy project in Art.          I am working with our staff to finalise our transition to a more effective reporting system, upskill people in working with students with various learning needs and facilitating sessions to look at more progressive pedagogical approaches.

Our biggest work stress point is a lack of staff applicants for the new school year starting in August: we are still seeking a Primary Principal: a Principal for Siem Reap: three primary teachers: a Business teacher: middle school maths/science/English/SOSE – two positions: Music: drama: English Language Learner coordinator and teacher and a Learning Support coordinator…. and two maternity leave replacements in Art and for our Librarian. Oh, and our IT Manager is leaving!                                                                                    If anyone has any interested contacts, please share or pass on my email ……..principal.sec@hope.edu.au                                                         otherwise life may be a little busy for any blog updates for next year.

         

Cheryl Flight                Secondary School Principal                                                         HOPE School                 principal.sec@hope.edu.kh Continue reading

ROAD TRIP FROM BRISBANE TO SYDNEY

DAY FOUR

Another day on TAMBORINE MOUNTAIN – this place of beauty and tranquility is 550m above sea level, 30kms from Gold Coast and 70kms from Brisbane, Australia. At every turn there is breathtaking scenery, abundant wildlife and clean mountain air. There is a strong cottage industry including many local arts and crafts, a host of natural and man-made attractions, award winning wineries and top-class restaurants, country markets and festivals and a host of accommodation choices. The day started early for me as I drank a coffee while sitting on the little balcony adjoining my room. I once again enjoyed the magnificent views over the hilltops and valley.

At 8 o’clock the girls arrived and we went back to Witches Falls Cottage to enjoy the array of goodies from the breakfast basket that had been delivered to the room. A bush walk was planned for the morning so we were on our way at 10 o’clock into Tamborine National Park. The Park protects large areas of rainforest. At first the path was clear and level but not for long. We were soon making our way through branches across the path left from the storm of the previous evening and could hear chainsaws in the distance as other tracks were being cleared and we were going down, down, down into the valley. It was very humid and it was on my mind that what goes down has to come back up again, certainly not a place to fall, so take care Shirley!! This was a beautiful place . We came to a viewing platform where we could take in the magnificence of distant hills. After a short rest it was time for the uphill climb, this time aided by a strong stick.

 

Another walk in the afternoon was at Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk, probably the best, and easiest, way to get one’s head around just how beautiful Mount Tamborine is. The setting is 30 acres of privately-owned rainforest beside the crystal clear rock-pools of Cedar Creek. We wandered among the treetops over steel bridges and followed the 1.5km path that gradually descends to the lower canopy past the rock pools to the cantilever bridge that stands 30 metres above the valley and offers views for miles.The walk takes about an hour, including a stop at the Rainforest Eco Gallery which explores some of Mount Tamborine’s local and indigenous history. We, of course, stopped at the Birdwing Cafe for refreshment as we took in the view of the treetops from the balcony.

Erika and I had a late afternoon walk and thankfully were on our way back and not far from the cottage when the sky darkened and the thunder began to rumble getting closer by the minute. We were back under cover when the storm came to the mountain. It was quite spectacular with gutters overflowing and the day still warm. It was a unanimous decision to stay in for dinner as we had enough leftovers in the refrigerator and were checking out in the morning. We enjoyed  our picnic in the outdoor room experiencing the sight and sounds of the storm.

ROAD TRIP FROM BRISBANE TO SYDNEY

DAY THREE

BRISBANE – MOUNT TAMBORINE

After an extended time at the Hertz office we loaded our luggage into a Toyota RAV4 and were on our way out of Brisbane with the assistance of the GPS, heading for Mount Tamborine. First stop was at Springwood Conservation Park, a former quarry site which was saved from development by the community and Logan City Council and is now natural parkland in the middle of suburbia. This area is great for walks along the Stringybark Lookout track or longer Gorge Discovery Circuit through open eucalypt forest, passing interesting rock formations and criss-crossing the gorge via wooden bridges. The day was hot and so were we after our walk so it was back into the car and a short drive to a cafe for morning tea.

Next stop was at the Daisy Hill Koala Centre. Built by the Queensland Government, 25 km south of Brisbane as a dedicated koala education facility, the centre was opened to the public in 1995, extensively refurbished in 2009 and most recently in 2018. Nestled amongst eucalypt trees and featuring a large outdoor koala enclosure and many interactive displays, the Centre is a unique place to learn about koalas and their conservation. There are films in the Woodland Theatre and Wildlife Officers give presentations to groups of visitors at allotted times of the day. Time was spent watching the koalas – namely Molly, Janice, Aretha and Kyra.

Tamborine Mountain is a plateau (8km long by 4 km wide) and is located in the Scenic Rim, the name given to a group of mountains in South East Queensland. The name is of Aboriginal origin and has nothing to do with the musical instrument. It is considered part of the Gold Coast hinterland and has a strong tourist industry. Settlement on the plateau is centred on three villages with approximately 5,000 residents. There is no reticulated water supply or sewerage system. Many residents commute to work in Brisbane or Gold Coast.

The girls had booked their accommodation through a Travel Agent in Switzerland and I booked mine from Australia so, although each night we were in the same town, we were in different places. This meant that I was picked up in the mornings and taken back in the evenings, but it was never far. Here I was at Mt. Tamborine Motel and they were at Witches Falls Cottages (much more upmarket than mine) but I had the most amazing view from my bed. A breakfast basket was delivered to their room each morning. Hence they came for me prior to breakfast as there was more than enough for the three of us.  (Photos below are views from my balcony or room)

Tamborine Mountain Botanic Gardens combine a colourful and diverse range of exotic and native flora. The gardens include a lake as the centrepiece, a tranquil Japanese garden, a tropical rainforest walk and are open during daylight hours. Erika and I spent the remaining hours of light wandering in this beautiful garden. The gardens are maintained and administered by volunteers and members of the Tamborine Mountain Garden Club who instigated its development in 1983. The 11 hectare plot of land was formerly a weed-covered swamp.

Dinner was at Hickory, a small Mount Tamborine Restaurant, full of character – what a treat!      Quote from the Menu……                  “Enjoy our amazing full plate dry rubbed whole rack of ribs, succulent maple chilli chicken wings, our new Seafood Shovel!   Rosemary real potatoes. Decadent desserts. VEGE’SAURUS Trencher (my choice) – House made felafel, roasted pumpkin, quinoa and beets + red onion, feta and toasted macadamia nut salad served with blistered truss tomatoes, our rosemary potatoes + warmed flatbreads, pumpkin hummus and beetroot hummus”……….

 

ROAD TRIP FROM BRISBANE TO SYDNEY

DAY TWO

Our second day in Brisbane started with a leisurely breakfast at a cafe situated near the hotel. Erika had booked a walking tour with Brisbane Greeters Free Tours where enthusiastic local volunteers with bucket loads of historical information are excited about showing their city to both locals and visitors. The three of us joined three other tourists at 10:30 and with our guide set out on a very hot, humid morning. At each point of interest we stopped, often in full sun, while information was given. At one of these stops I asked a question and immediately knew that I must not do that again as I proved that the information did come in bucket loads – actually the bucket was overflowing! Very interesting, BUT … After 2 hours there were just three of the group left. Nadine had gone to the shops and an Asian couple departed leaving a gentleman from Holland and the two of us. We continued but indicated that we would have to leave soon and it still took another half hour before we felt it appropriate to make the break. Places of Interest –

Brisbane City Hall is truly one of the symbols of the city. The original building, designed in the Classical style, was built between 1920 and 1930. After closing for extensive renovation (worth $215 million) in 2010 Brisbane’s grand old dame re-opened for business in 2013 in all her restored glory. King George Square is Brisbane’s premier public square located in front of City Hall. The Clock Tower has been in operation since the opening of City Hall in 1930 and is 87.47 meters high.

Albert Street Uniting Church at the corner of Albert and Ann Streets is heritage listed. It was built from 1888 to 1889. In 1907 the church became known as the Central Methodist Mission in recognition of its wider responsibilities as the main Methodist church in the city. St. John’s Cathedral of Neo-Gothic ‘grand design’ is in the Anglican diocese of Brisbane. The Cathedral itself is a renowned Brisbane landmark where diverse people gather to worship, celebrate, seek solace, converse and learn. With Christmas only a few days away the church was dressed with an amazing Nativity scene which was totally constructed using cardboard.

Hoyts Regent Building – Regent Theatre was a heritage listed cinema at 167 Queen Street (on Queen Street Mall). The Regent Theatre was constructed as the first and only American-style picture palace to be built in Queensland. It reflects the opulence and grandeur of the great Hollywood era and was one of many operated by Hoyts in Australia. It has been restored and now houses the Visitor Information Centre. Brisbane Arcade is a heritage listed shopping Arcade at 160 Queen Street through to Adelaide Street. It was built in 1923 on the site of notorious confessed murderer Patrick Mayne’s butcher shop. It is a splendid Edwardian baroque alley of shops.

After making contact with Nadine and enjoying a late lunch we were on our way to Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mount Coot-tha, Queensland’s premier subtropical botanic gardens. The 52 hectare gardens, located at Toowong are open every day of the year and entry is free. We decided that an Uber would be our transport to the gardens as we wanted to make the most of the time we had there. We both love to be in a garden and this was certainly a beautiful, tranquil place.

Another Uber ride and we were at Mt. Coot-tha Lookout and Kiosk which was listed on the Queensland Heritage Register in l995. It was built from 1918-c.1950. It is also known as One-Tree-Hill. Panoramic views over the CBD stretch as far as Moreton Bay. We sat, relaxed and took in the view back over the city as we had our evening meal.Sunset saw us calling another Uber to take us back to our accommodation in central Brisbane.

A most informative, enjoyable day – DAY THREE will follow