Southport to Sydney

We woke up early in Southport with a lot of issues to sort out. First and foremost, we had to work out what to do with Jade’s clothes as her bag was still wet from the leak. Then we had to sort out whether the car was dry enough to pack the storage zone, or whether we would have to struggle for space and leave everything in the car. All of this on top of showers, charging, checking out, eating, washing up. They may be reimbursing us for the stay, but it is still a hassle!

Once we were showered and feed, ee checked the car and discovered it was fine to use the storage zone. Once Jade’s stuff was packed in plastic bags, and my stuff was back inside my rucksack, we packed the car and were eventually on our way (once the front desk guy had carefully manouvered the van out of the overfilled car park).

The stop today was Byron Bay. It was one of the stops we had planned for before we even decided to get the van. It now had a new job, to gave a pub that would show both the AFL Dockers game, and the boxing. After finding free parking (and dodging a hefty fine thanks to a Chinese couple) we wandered up to the main road in search of food and a pub.

We didn’t find them both together. After splitting to order the food we both fancied, a burrito for me and a pie for Jade, we made our way to the sports bar. It was rammed inside and out. People were spilling out onto the roads with half an hour left until fight time, so we found a position that would let us watch the Dockers too. After a hot afternoon, we watched the Dockers win convincingly again, and we watched a decent fight between two of boxing’s most renowned stars. Not a bad afternoon.

Shortly after, we walked down some back roads and ended up chilling for half an hour on Clarke’s beach. We got a great view of the bay, and could see up to the famoous lighthouse on the hill – our next stop. Once we had bought our postcards and had a look at some souvenir shops, we walked back to the car, and drove up the windy road to the lighthouse.

When we got there, the sun had just set, and the full moon could be seen framed between the clouds. The beaches, and the bay, looked stunning and the lighthouse stood proudly on the top of the headland. It was a pretty awesome view and a great end to the day. Well, almost end; Jade drove another 100km to a free rest stop well on the way to our next stop: Coff’s Harbour.

It was a bit of a drive to Coff’s Harbour the next morning. Not only were we there to see the views, the jetty, nd the harbour, we were also booked in to see a mechanic in the hope of solving Draco’s leaking problems. Once there, we drove straight to the crash repair, and after some confusion, and a water test, they found the leak. They patched it up for us until we get to Sydney (having told us it had clearly been ptched up before and a new seal was way overdue) where we were now due to switch vehicles. As much as I don’t want to say goodbye to Draco, I am now more than ready for a new van.

Once the kind staff there had given us tea, biscuits, and some places of interest to stop at on our way, we left for Coff’s harbour jetty. We looked around there for a while, walked to the end of the jetty and wandered along the beaches. It was too cold to go into the sea, so once we had stopped for lunch, plugs, and WiFi, we set off for our next stops: Scott’s Head, Grassy Heads, Stuart Point, and South West Rocks.

We arrived at the first stop just before sunset. We walked on the beach, filled out water bottles, and took advantage of the attractive look outs. By the time we arrived at Grassy Heads, the sun had set and we couldn’t see much, so we decided to skip visiting Stuart’s Head.

The windy road up to South West Rocks and the lighthouse atop the rock was very dark and not the easiest to navigate. Once we were at the top, we stood at Captain Cook’s lookout and enjoyed what little we could of the amazing view. We turned round and began to head towards the lighthouse when we both stopped. I thought we had saw a creepy guard dog staring at us and Jade thought it was a statue,  but once we realised that it was a kangaroo a few mintues later, we turned back to the car rather sharpish. I was worried I was going to hit a roo the whole way down the road back to the highway.

Once we were on the highway, we were worryingly close to empty on the fuel gauge. We limped to Port Macquarie, the place the ladies at the garage had called a glorified retirement home, and put in some petrol. We didn’t fill it, we didn’t want to pay the expensive price, and we didn’t want to leave too much in the tank when we returned it to Spaceships if we didn’t have to. By stopping at night, we missed looking at it in the day, but after the not so great descriptions the ladies have given, we decided it wasn’t the worst thing. The painfully long journey to the next free rest stop took us further South than expected, arriving in Sydney is getting closer.

When we woke up near Taree, it was absolutely freezing. We got going quickly, knowing the next, and only planned stop of the day, was Newcastle. We hope it hadn’t been washed off the mao by the freak storms a couple of weeks ago. Jade at least wanted a picture there.

When we got there, it was a beautiful day and there was little evidence it had been flooded or battered by cyclonic winds. We started by walking across the memorial walkway that honours Australian war heroes. It hugs the cliff tops overlooking the beach and the ocean, and was a great viewpoint to watch the surfers and look out to see. I even made some friends with some youngsters who had a deep appreciation for my superman t-shirt.

Afterwards, we had a look at the beach. It was the only place that hinted at the recent weather systems. The beach was covered in debris, and distinctly less sandy than all of the other beaches we had seen.

On the way down from the Newcastle, we had to stop for lunch. We noticed a few places down the coast, but ended up in the McDonalds in Swansea. McDonalds is becoming a regular haunt with it’s decent WiFi, and surprisingly nice food in Australia. I had to take a picture and send it to my uni friend Sarah. I shall return to proper Swansea at some point in the a little bit distant future.

After Swansea, we bypassed all the free rest stops and committed to driving straight to Sydney. We found a free road to park on, but after siome confusion and deep conversations with the National Park staff, we ended up paying to stay on the neighbouring campsite. It’s still fairly cheap considering we’re in Sydney, and allows us to leave the van at no extra cost all day. The train station is only round the corner, so once we have our new van, we’re thinking of committing to staying there. We’ll see.

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