A Travellerspoint blog

February 2009

Australia - Coffs Harbour to Noosa

A few weeks of giving . . .

View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.

Watch out! Take hold of your children in the water! Dave is now catching waves!

The middle of February is holiday time for Dave and me. In the span of a week we have Valentine's Day and several birthdays, including that of Abe Lincoln, George Washington and me! These may not be your top holidays, but we like to celebrate in style and this year's gifts were creative, thoughtful and fun (and relatively cheap)!

For V Day, I gave Dave surf lessons. In Byron Bay, he joined 20-somethings Geraldo and Giseppe from Italy for a beginner lesson, but Dave's 30-something body outshined them. He caught good waves first and in my humble opinion he looked pretty good!

Dave was extremely creative for my birthday. He scheduled painting lessons for both of us throughout Australia, starting in Noosa. Our first lesson was with artist Bill MacKay. Teaching us quick techniques on how to use the brushes and paints, he had us working with oils within minutes. Our assignment was to copy a Cezzane painting and have it finished by the end of class in three hours. Neither Dave nor I had painted since elementary school. With that said, I don't think we did too bad. The MFA (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) isn't calling yet, but soon enough .....
Elizabeth's masterpiece

Dave's masterpiece (unfinished)

There was also some much appreciated pampering to celebrate my 34th courtesy of my parents ... a hair cut, color, massage and a few other treats. Thank you! I'm glad most of you missed my two inches of grey hair ; - ) Let's save that for a showing in my fifties.

Ok ... back to our whereabouts for the past few weeks.

Coffs Harbour: For some reason this coastal town is known for two major things: surfing (understandable) and a big banana, which is on display on the side of the road. We're not sure why the big banana is so popular, but since I like bananas, we decided to stop and take a photo.

While in Coffs Harbour we also caught a junior surfing competition. In heats of four people, the surfers have 15 minutes to catch as many waves as possible and showcase their best moves.

From Coffs, we drove up to Lennox Head, a quiet town just south of the bustling Byron Bay. Unfortunately, when it rains in Australia, it pours, so we spent multiple days hanging in the crib and looking out the window. When the sun did flicker, we got a quick glimpse of the beautiful beach, a long stretch of white sand, primarily filled with kite surfers. (Not shown here!)

Dave also took a swim in Lake Ainsworth, which is surrounded by tea trees. The trees make the water a murky brown, but it is supposedly full of natural conditioners that are good for the skin.

Lennox Head had lots of holiday homes. I love this mailbox!

We also are amused by the road signs.

We were warned that our next stop in Byron Bay would be "touristy." However, we loved it! There was a fantastic downtown full of life and energy! It was full of fun surf shops, restaurants and bars. The town has about five beaches all along the same strip. This is where Dave took his surf lessons. We also hiked in the bush and along the coastline to see the town lighthouse with beautiful, rocky scenery.

My friend Cheryl recommended Noosa to us, which was our next stop, and we couldn't be more thankful. It was the first community Dave and I felt like we could relocate and live comfortably. Don't worry, realistically that won't happen! Noosa is broken up into several smaller towns: Noosaville, Noosa Junction, Noosa Heads and a few more. This is where we took painting lessons. We particularly loved all of the bike and hiking trails along the coastline.

Dave also spent time at the Eumundi Market with more than 500 stalls of crafts, food and music, while I was at the spa.

In Noosa Woods, we caught a beautiful sunset, before heading out to dinner, a treat in itself. Dave found a place that had a special two for one dinner, keeping in line with our budget, and he enjoyed telling me he bought the cheapest bottle of wine that came with bonus cadbury chocolates. I'm so proud ; - )

Back to reality (traveler's reality), one of my favorite things to do is go shopping for food. In every city, I just love browsing through supermarkets. I should work for Wegmans : - ) Plus, I found it funny that the big market here is Woolworths (for those of you who remember the five and dime store in New England, it is where all of my parakeets and gold fish were bought).
Too many granola bars to choose from.

Noosa was also our last overnight location with our Jucy Crib. It was sad to depart with our home, but in all honesty, the heat was killing us and we desperately looked forward to a good nights rest in an air conditioned hostel in Brisbane. I will miss living in a car, which we surprisingly did for two months, and would seriously consider making a campa van at home for local travel!
The last supper!

The last sleep in the heat!

But look at all of the storage space!

We'll miss our home on wheels for sure!

Relatively speaking we had a very conservative campa van. Check out the competition. Wicked vans are everywhere, each with a unique 'pc' quote. Fragile readers ... close your eyes!

Brisbane: Brissie, as the locals call it, is the third largest city in Australia, and our last stop on this leg of the trip.

It is a medium sized city, with a large arts community. The city architecture is a dichotomy between old and new.
The City Council building is industrial, yet modern.

Where as the casino in the former treasury building has a much older style.

Here are a few highlights from our walking tour of the city:
Bell tower at City Hall, with a view of a church from above ... looks like a doll house church.

Pagoda given at World Exhibition.

Sculpture and city view from arts center.

An interesting walking bridge.

An Australian White Ibis, a bird we see everywhere.

It was move in day at Queensland University of Technology. With our backpacks we looked like students, so got all sorts of freebies as we walked through. There were also some odd meet your classmate activities going on around town ... check out the elephant walk.

School kids on a field trip. Every school has a different uniform, which is mandatory. Some teens asked us about 'free dress' in the US. They seemed a little jealous. We also learned that Aussie and Kiwi students are in school longer than most Americans. They only get a six week summer break, with one to two week breaks every ten weeks.

This is a great family pool and beach area in downtown. Makes the Boston Frog Pond look extremely weak!

Every place you go there is a BBQ for free use ... shirt and shoes optional!

We also visited a retro club area called Fortitude Valley and wrapped up our tour at a popular street mall on Queens Street for a drink and some cricket, which we still can't figure out.

In closing, we are still amazed by how friendly everyone is in Australia. Unlike my experience in Boston, it is common for us to strike up conversations with people walking on the streets, at a beach or at a bar. Everywhere we go, people inquire about us and tell us more than enough information about what we should do, see and experience in their country. They are very proud of Australia, and we certainly understand why!

Even the immigrants have taken on this philosophy of kindness. When we visited the Contemporary Arts Museum, which exhibited the theme of optimism, we lucked out by parking poorly on a side street. A nice man named Herman, originally from Germany, came out of his house and started chatting with us. Herman, now in his 60's used to travel like we are doing and ended up staying in Aussie after meeting a woman. He took a liking to us and had us park in his driveway. He invited us inside his house to look at his art gallery as well. He was about to host a show to raise funds for the Melbourne Bush Fire victims.

A few sayings in case you plan to visit the land of Oz...
- I love Dave heaps. Heaps and/or heaps and mounds is used in almost every sentence here.
- How you going? This phrase for "how are you" is a common greeting.
- Easy. This is used at the end of sentence in place of the word ok.
- Reckon. I reckon that if you are reading this, you are one of the few people who reads our entire blog. This word is extremely popular. I think it has just been dismissed from the more casual American English language.
- Ta. This is short for thank you.
- Where is the toilet? This is the polite way to ask "where is the bathroom?" I find it sort of crass, but using the words restroom and bathroom don't get you very far.

Interestingly enough most Asians and Europeans we've talked with say it is much easier to understand people with American English accents than Australian, New Zealand, English, Scottish, Irish and South African accents. They say we enunciate each letter a lot better making each word more clear.

We're in Melbourne now. More on that soon!
We miss everyone!
Until then,
- Elizabeth

Posted by daveliz 16:06 Archived in Australia Comments (4)

Australian Hospitality

An ocean apart, but a world of difference ...

View A Rough Outline of our Trip on daveliz's travel map.

Kangaroo at Blackbutt Reserve, Newcastle, AU.

We must first address the news you have surely been reading about Australia. The Melbourne bush fires have taken close to 300 lives, and in Cairnes, the community is dealing with horrific flooding. We are currently north of Melbourne and south of Cairnes in a very safe, although hot, climatic area. We plan to travel to both areas, but will do so only if the natural disasters have run their course and are safe for visitors. The outcrying of support from locals for the victims of both tragedies has been amazing.

Wow! What a difference an ocean makes. In Australia the grocery store clerk wants to chat, find out where we are going and then give advice, the rental car guy goes the extra mile to print us out google directions to our exact destination, and the people who work at the information centers want to give us ample information and then some (what a novel idea!). We wanted to give each of them a big hug after our New Zealand experience where people were often shy, abrupt and typically not forthcoming with information, especially without a direct inquiry. Australia has been a breath of fresh air.

Traveling has really given us an appreciation for the few cultures that speak our language; not just english, but a similar communication style. We've met a plethora of nice people from many different countries, but when we sit down with Australians and people from England to have a few drinks and a few laughs, we almost always feel like we've been drinking buddies for years. Our theory is that these cultures incorporate the key ingredient to fun conversation - SARCASM, and as they say, "taking the piss out of each other" (a.k.a. making fun of each other.) Making this point very clear for us was our experience at Melaleuca Backpackers in Anna Bay, which we'll tell you about in a minute.

Since we got used to living in a car in New Zealand, we decided to stick with it. So for three weeks we are home owners of a new crib...this one with a brand new fridge, dvd player and radio. Are you jealous? At night we roast, but that is the price you pay for being a street person in a bug zone. The windows (give or take an inch) need to stay closed. We've heard one too many stories of travellers getting dengue and other fun illnesses.

Our first few days are a blur. After landing in Sydney, we got our crib and drove out to the Blue Mountains, which are west of Sydney. They are named for the blue haze created by the mass of eucalyptus trees in the area. To view the famous Three Sisters rock formation, we did a nice hike down a million steep stairs to only find out most people take the tram up, but with our wallets in the car, and my 'save a dollar' philosophy, we hiked all the way back up. May we have buns of steel after this trip!

Then we were off to the Hunter Valley, Australia's largest wine region. There are hundreds of wineries here, but we narrowed it down to about six to do some tasting. All and all, we are not overly impressed with the taste ... the local specialty of sharaz (very oaky, spicy, and heavy) may not be our thing. The area, however, is beautiful.

We raced through Newcastle, a city that is quite industrial and in need of a makeover, but the Blackbutt Reserve was a good stop there, introducing us to kangaroos, emus, koalas and other local habitat.

Next stop was Port Stephens, including Anna Bay and Nelson Bay. We planned to spend a day, but ended up staying for five. This area is known for its white sand beaches and impressive sand dunes, which we borded down with avengence. As a bonus, we got to check out the Nude Olympics, which were happening on the beach next to One Mile Beach, the one we frequented. No photos here, but invision lots of 40-70 somethings bending over for an egg toss. Yummy! Not appropriate were the few kids (old enough to know) watching on as mom and dad did a naked hurdle : - )

We enjoyed a hike at Tomaree Head, the highest point in Port Stephens. Dave has a new found love for spiders and their webs, as they are the biggest and most poisoness in the world. The other wildlife speaks for itself....they just grow bigger in Australia! The last photo here shows the kookaburra, which sounds like a group of monkeys. The birdlife here is incredible. Pictures don't do it justice. You need a cd! Think about the sounds of Pac Man all around you at all times!

The best part of Port Stephens was by far the hospitality. By fluke we parked our crib at Melaleuca Backpackers camping site on our first night in the area. The owners, Mick, Mish, Pete and Janeatte were friendly from the onset. Dave struck a deal to help them with some computer issues in exchange for a few nights stay, so our visit lasted close to a week. It was perfect! We needed to slow down; to stop and enjoy the scenery, to talk to locals, to breath and treasure the experience we are having. The owners also treated us to a dinner out on the town, which was more than welcome by Dave who is being fed "Budget"and "Home Brand" rice, pasta, soup, tuna, and pb&j daily. The poor man is wasting away.... ok, not really. We enjoy sampling every cookie and granola bar the supermarkets have to offer! And we do splurge on meat when we can cook at a camp site (not in our car) and fresh veggies and fruits!
Mick & Mish kindly take us to dinner, along with Pete (not in photo). Janeatte was taking care of the ship!!

Melaleuca was not only our home base for a bit, but also our school on local animals. Michelle works with the local humane society (of sorts) to treat injured wildlife. She was like 'Ace Ventura Pet Detective' specializing in birds, who took quite a liking to Dave. They also have a fews dogs and a kangaroo that was orphaned. Josie is probably the most photographed kangaroo in Aus. Coincidentally (or maybe not if you believe in that sort of thing), she also has a temperment just like Josie, Pat and Ellen's dog, who passed away last year. She was friendly, laid back, and just enjoyed hanging with the travellers.
Josie, the friendly kangaroo.
Sqeaky, a noisy miner, took a special liking to Dave. He confused Dave's curls for his nest, frequently landing on his head for a rest.

We can't thank our hosts enough for welcoming us and treating us with such hospitality! It was hard to leave, but we pulled ourselves up after Mick's specialty egg and bacon breakfast sandwichs to head north to Seal Rocks at Myall National Park. There is a beautiful lighthouse there that was erected in 1875 (100 years before my birth). The rocks surrounding the lighthouse are known for wreaking havoc on several boats.

The next day, we took our two booties to Booti Booti National Park for a hike bordering Wallis Lake and the Tasman Sea.

Driving north we stopped in several other small beach communities, not significant enough to write about.

Dorrigo National Park was a fantastic stop. On a rainy day we took a walk through the rainforest. It was ripe with enormous trees, beautiful waterfalls and flora.

On the road again,
- Elizabeth and Dave

Posted by daveliz 19:06 Archived in Australia Comments (5)

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