Brisbane to Sydney Road Trip: December 11 2007
Grilling has become a favorite activity on Barefeet with our newly installed and plumbed grill. She is a real beauty and is the result of multiple inputs: Bobby (s/v Barraveigh) suggested using the port, stern winch as a base of operations; Fletch donated an old winch from his circumnavigation boat; Ralph noodled out the best way to plumb the propane from "house" tank to grill; and Chris wove all inputs into a fantastic final product. Awesome! Suzie and Tom of s/v Priscilla joined us for the inaugural meal...very festive evening. They will be in Scarborough with us for the cyclone season and certainly our partners in sundowner crime. We first met in Panama and have happily crossed paths ever since...Suzie and Tom are the ones that invited Erin to join them for the unbelievable hike in Bora Bora. Welcome Suzie and Tom.
We have settled into a nice routine...a walk to start and end the day and an expanded social calendar. Monday night is a cruiser barbie out behind the chandlery hosted by Fletch and Leona (circumnavigator cruisers currently taking a break and running the chandlery). They provide the grill, table and chairs. We bring meat to grill, cocktails for ourselves and a side dish to share. It is a lively group and a fun way to meet our neighbors (okay, there is one sailor we will be avoiding...note to self). Vegetable and noodle casserole: boil 6 oz egg noodles per instructions on bag; saute chopped veggies in butter until soft (1 rib celery, 1 sm red bell pepper, 3-4 yellow squash, 1/2 green bell pepper, 1 onion, 1/2 cup broccoli florets); add 3/4 cup milk and 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese to saute-ing veggies; season with salt and pepper; stir until blended; pour over noodles and stir until blended; pour into 2 qt casserole; bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes; sprinkle top with combined 3 T melted butter and 1/4 c breadcrumbs; bake another 15-20 minutes.
Road trip! Off we go (12/4) making our way South to Sydney where we will fly to the states for the holidays. It is a straight shot of 13 hours; however, we plan to make some stops along the way in order to get a broader understanding of Australia. We stuck to the M1 highway and first noted the Surfer's Paradise area...definitely like South Beach in Florida...right down to town names...there is a Miami here, too. Our first real stop was Byron Bay. This is a dramatically beautiful spot with a circa 1901 lighthouse perched on a sheer cliff and Australia's most Easterly point. Humpback whales often pass through but all we were able to spot was a brown, swimming turtle. Driving through the town of Byron Bay we saw a casual surfer spot that we would like to visit again. From here we headed a bit inland to Bangalow...a mere 30 minutes from Byron Bay but scenery is much changed...from rolling waves and glorious beaches to back roads and pristine farmland. Bangalow is a charming small town in a valley of still working farms with locally grown food found in cafes, cheese shops and sandwich shops. Our good fortune was too good to be true as we found the Patriots vs. Baltimore game on a big screen TV in the Bangalow Hotel with fresh food from Fresca next door. Yes, we were the only ones in attendance on a Tuesday morning...but what a game! It was messy but a victory was finally achieved by the Patriots. Go Pats!
Back on the road and a drive by the big prawn at Ballina...yes, the Australians love the giant, eye catching roadside novelties. Since we are not big crustacean fans we kept rolling down the highway. We pulled into Yamba for the night at the Yamba Sun Motel (in-room wifi, too, bonus). Another beachside, surfer town with a delicious Mexican restaurant. In the morning (12/5) we strolled along the beachside path and out the rock jetty. A few fisherman were trying their luck on the grey day...eventually giving way to some raindrops. We zigged between the drops and made it to a charming, bohemian breakfast spot for eggs and the best French toast Chris can remember...by the way, the Aussie's call it "brekky." Back on the Pacific Highway headed South and we passed through Coffs Harbour...and the big banana (yes, another giant roadside novelty)...Sawtell, Nambucca Heads, Kempsey and our stop for the evening at Port Macquarie. This was a bit more roaring compared to our previous spots...think miniature golf and waterslides. 12/6 saw us pass a long, full day with our final stop at Terrigal. Considered part of the Central coast area there are miles of sandy beach and big surf...with requisite shark nets beyond the swim line. The twenty year old Crowne Plaza (www.crowneplaza.com.au) is a beautiful hotel full of grand windows and sweeping balconies to make best use of its location. We had a room overlooking the ocean...thanks to Chris sweet talking us into an upgraded room...and we had take out pizza on our balcony. We watched surfers catching waves and coast guards practicing with their oar powered life boats...yikes, plowing through the surf does not look easy.
We are a mere 1.5 hrs from Sydney (12/7) and hope for an easy drive into the city. Holy cow...gobs of signs and arrows, tolls and tunnels, small lanes and tons of cars. We are in the big city! We have maps and think we can find our lodging for the night...Base Backpackers (www.basebackpackers.com). We found the spot and have deposited our bags. Out we go to meet our friend Mike. Mike is in Sydney on business and has enough free time to spend Friday afternoon and evening with us before he returns to the states tomorrow. Together we walked along Sydney Harbour and were awed by the Opera House...very impressive....and the Harbour Bridge...our next adventure. Together we climbed the Bridge! It provided amazing 360 degree views of the city. We did the climb in the late afternoon and had a bit of sunset during our trip. The three hour Bridge climb is safe and never once did we feel nervous about the undeniable heights...breathalyzers are required at the start, no loose items allowed, all equipment is attached to loops on the provided jumpsuit (note the amazing fashion), all climbers are tethered to a steel cable at all times, leader communicates to all climbers via headset and on and on. We stopped several times to admire the views. We were lucky because before our climb a pouring rain and lightening storm passed through...when it passed, as we did our climb, the air was clear and visibility was fantastic. Friday night sailing races provided additional activity on an already active harbor. Wow - spectacular! After the climb we headed to a pub in the lively Rocks area. Lots of holiday excitement and TGIF energy surrounded us as we wandered, ate and caught up on our lives since last we saw each other.
12/8 we made an early start on the day and (as with many big cities) the parking bill for the car (20 hours) rivaled the hotel bill for us...hhhhmmmmm. Off we went on the Western Highway to the Blue Mountains. The Blue Mountains are a mere 90-minute drive from Sydney but a world apart. The vistas are amazing...a cross between the Grand Canyon and the Smokey Mountains with loads of bushwalks of varying lengths. We checked into the High Mountains Motor Inn (www.highmountainsmotel.com) located in Blackheath and set out for our first bushwalk. We chose the Grand Canyon Circuit. The trail is through a narrow chasm cut through yellow-orange sandstone by the waters of Greavers Creek. The trail is shaded and damp with ferns and mosses growing along the creek and the drip ledges of the cliffs. Although slippery and eroded in spots it is well marked and handrails and carved steps made it a straightforward walk.
Blackheath is a great home base from which to explore the Blue Mountain area. It is a short drive to trailheads and walking distance to a collection of bistros, bakeries, fresh fruit and veggie stands, bottle shop and small boutiques. We especially enjoyed an Italian restaurant, St Mounts Trattoria, that reminded us of the North End...delicious...and right across the road from our Motor Inn(www.stmounts.com.au).
12/9 and we hit the trails again...Govetts Leap, Pulpit Rock, Bridal Veil Falls, Horseshoe Falls as well as fern groves and gum (eucalyptus) trees. Trails are well maintained with handrails and steps periodically placed along more squirrelly sections. Sneakers are sufficient and definitely better than Tevas/flip flops due to sections of steepness. We spotted a skink crossing the path ahead and slowed to see him lizard-slither across. Skinks are Australia's most common reptile with head, neck and body joining seamlessly. We also spotted more cockatoos and king parrots...dead giveaway to look around are their bellowing squawks. Make no mistake...these are not chirps. It feels great to be in the mountains hiking and exploring...but flies are a new aspect of the mountains for us. They are really pesky and are persistent inspectors of any body opening...say an eye, ear or nostril. Keep up the fly dance...iiicckkk.
The mist has rolled in thick, damp and cool. Today (12/10) was spent exploring Leura and Katoomba. Leura is a town full of gardens and fine boutique shops...lots of fun window shopping once Chris was settled at a cafe with his book and a cup of coffee. Then it was off to Leura's neighbor of Katoomba...heavier representation of camping/hiking stores and the fabulous Paragon Cafe. The Paragon Cafe is a chocolatierie and cafe built in 1916 in the art deco style, lovingly maintained...flappers and jazz seem right around the corner. We ordered hot chocolates that were velvety smooth, rich but not too sweet...complete with two homemade marshmallows. Really chased the cold and mist away. 12/11 we had hoped to hike around the Three Sisters rock formation but the fog and drizzle remain...ah well, something for next time.