We spent a few days catching up with some familiar faces – Peb’s friend Luke and his girlfriend Caz, and met her sister Lindsey and her boyfriend Chris, oh and their dog Chocolate. Chris showed us a few local spots, the Currumbin rock pools where the boys all jumped off a waterfall (major accidents avoided), Natural Arch – a pretty spot where a waterfall goes through a hole into a cave, and fish’n’chips by the Tweed River.
Thanks to a suggestion from our buddy Muller, we all got up at 2.30am to walk Mount Warning, reportedly the first place that sunrise hits Australia. Thankfully, I hadn’t seen the mountain before we started walking, as I probably would have stayed in the BFG. It’s 3793 feet high, made up of 1.5km of horrendous steps, 1.5 of pleasant rocky slope, then 1km in cloud, and a final 400m vertical rock scramble, most of it in the pitch black. I complained quite a lot on the way up, and at some point demanded to be left behind, but somehow we made it in time to see…well, nothing, because it was too cloudy to see the sunrise. Ah well, at least I saw my first snake on the way down – a little marsh snake.
Then we all headed down to Byron Bay, a town with no brand names like Maccies but lots of hippies. We went to a farmer’s market, jumped waves in the sea (turns out I’m too small to jump some waves), then checked out the Byron lighthouse where a sand goanna hissed at us. We said goodbye to everyone as we headed south and them north.
We stopped at Lake Ainsworth, where I drank tea while stood in the tea tree lake. I had an obligatory photo with possibly the most impressive Big Thing yet, the Big Prawn at Ballina, which Bunnings thankfully saved by buying the land it was on when the council had put a demolition order on it – good on you Bunnings. Peb sliced his arm open in the lazy river at Moonee estuary, probably one of the prettiest beaches I’ve seen, and pretty empty. Had a photo with the Big Banana at Coffs Harbour, and walked across Muttonbird Island, which was incredibly windy, and saw a group of locals bring some baby muttonbirds back for another chance at migration as they’d flown the wrong way.
From there on, the weather got progressively worse. We saw a grey sea at Nambucca Heads, an even greyer sea and rain at South West Rocks, then grey and cold by the time we reached Old Bar, where a kookaburra was attacking some guy’s Mazda. We had a free tour of the Koala Hospital at Port Macquarie, a wonderful place where volunteers look after injured and poorly koalas. We stopped in Forster, where it was getting really cold, had a photo with the Big Turtle and followed some dolphins down the estuary. Had a photo with the Big Boomerang, then the weather got even worse.
By the time we reached the aptly-named Newcastle (home of one of my favourite teenage bands, Silverchair), the rain was relentless, befitting the industrial Gotham City look of the place. When we parked up for the night, the campervan was being rocked back and forth by the gale force winds, and the driving rain had begun to leak in. When we woke up, two trees around us had fallen over (thankfully, in the opposite direction to us), someone’s tent was inside out, and the place was trashed. We drove down to see a choppy Lake Macquarie, observing the devastation en route – road signs were bent over, traffic lights out, power lines down, fields flooded, trees upturned in gardens, and roads closed.
Between the sheets of rain and bitter cold, we couldn’t do much. Peb found it highly entertaining; I just found it annoying. We tried to watch the daily pelican feeding at The Entrance in Tuggerah, but even the pelicans didn’t want to come ashore, almost everywhere was shut, and the radio reliably informed us that we were in the worst storm of the century, cyclone-standard, and that we should go home and avoid being outside or on the roads. Excellent news when you’re stuck in a campervan and need to drive 100km to drop it off the next day. So we did what any sensible people would do went to the cinema, then camped in the Westfield’s carpark.
We stopped at Moonee Moonee estuary and gave breakfast to a soggy possum who was hiding from the rain in the toilets, then dropped the BFG off in Sydney, where we got stuck in more torrential rain getting to the airport. But, it was for the exciting reason that we were going to meet my mom! It was lovely to see her after a few months of being away, and we all headed back to our apartment in Bondi for two wonderful weeks in Sydney.