Ok, I say it wasn’t a hangover, but others would disagree… it took two painkillers, some seriously strong coffee, and a very hot shower to get moving this morning. My head was coming apart at the seams. A late start to the day.
By the time I packed the car, paid my bill and had another quick dig through the nearby bookshop I was ready to rock n’ roll. Completed another lap of Coffs, nice place, but the highway was calling. Pulling into a service station I was surprised (horrified) to see that while I was sleeping, the price of fuel had gone up by 13 cents a litre to $1.54. The little Asian lady had heard it all, and most of it from the two blokes in front of me at the checkout while I waited to pay. She looked bored as one of them really gave her a gobful about the price hike. I had nothing to add so I simply paid, winced as my card took a big hit, then went outside to wash my windscreen. The water in the bucket was full of mud, and I didn’t notice until I had slapped it onto my screen. Great. A bloke standing nearby laughed, “Yeah, the poor pricks can’t afford water mate! Times are pretty tough for the poor old Arabs!” I grinned, and looked at the amount he had pumped into his four wheel drive so far, $150! He saw my face, “Company car,” he said and really smiled this time, he was still filling up when I pulled out a couple of minutes later.
Back on the road, I found myself turning into little towns and beach side villages which helped relax me greatly. The morning was crisp and clear, the scenery simply stunning, and the car humming nicely. Traffic was a tad intense in places, plenty of trucks and caravans. I took the opportunity to get off the highway whenever I could.
At Nambucca Heads I pulled up at a small lookout and was left breathless by the beauty of the place. Instantly I also declared this area to be annexed by the Qld Government, and after the revolution I would ask to be proclaimed the Governor of surfing and fishing for the region. My photos didn’t do this place justice.
Moving on I found the small hamlet of Gladstone NSW. I took another photo, I don’t know why, and the thought occurred to me that it would be sort of fun to visit the remaining Gladstones’ throughout Australia. I think there’s one in South Australia, and another in Tasmania, but by the time I got back into the car I was over it. The only thing that worried me now was that to find Gladstone NSW, I had pulled off the main highway and was instantly in the land of ‘No Signage’. Obviously the locals knew where to go, but woe betide the hapless tourist. Not that I cared much. Following a wide and lazy river I eventually wound up in the hilly, and quite charming township of Kempsey.
It was mid-morning, and I thought about pulling up for a bit of smoko. It must have been market day, because every available car park was full to the brim. I cut two laps of the main street and was unable to wedge the family hot rod into a space for love or money. I drove on, determined to visit one of the small deli’s that looked oh so inviting, and before I knew it, I was back on the main road heading southwards. Disappointed I shrugged, and continued forth, wondering what the next place would be like.
Flicking on the radio, I found my favourite show on Radio National, “The Book Show”. Todays featured guest was a pommy writer Rupert Smith, author of erotic novels, or, as the shows host put it, “Books that are generally read one handed.” Well, that was an educational hour of radio! And neatly filled in the time it took me to drive to Port MacQuarie.
To say I liked Port MacQuarie would be a massive understatement. I fell for the place hook, line and sinker. I drove around the town with a growing sense of wonder and happiness. This truly was a beautiful part of the world. Coffs what? Nambucce where? Who cares, get a load of this place! Parking near a seaside van park I went for a quick stroll along the promenade which sat beside a deep blue river that ran into the sea. The area was pretty, and clean, and everyone was smiling, particularly a big, dopey looking Queenslander who had a canvas bag slung over one shoulder. The history, the views, the greenness! I had to sit down for a bit and take it all in.
A nearby shopping centre had the very thing I needed, a cup of tea, and salad roll. I took out my novel, and spent a blissful 1/2 an hour of peace reading and eating. It was one of those perfect mornings. Afterwards, I popped a Fishermans Friend into my mouth and went for another look round. I found myself at the headland overlooking the sea, the mountains, and the beaches. Directly below, two young ladies were learning to snorkel in the crystal clear waters around the rocky point. Surfers were everywhere, and old men with fishing rods were doing a brisk trade off the bund walls. I didn’t want to leave.
Strolling back to my car near the van park I read some of the paintings that covered the line of rocks on the sea wall. Some of them were funny, others a little sad (memorials to mates who had died), one was a classic:
“We came here to swim and play, but Nan and Pop decided to Stay!”
Looking around, I felt like joining Nan and Pop. I was struck with the sudden urge to call my wife and tell her to sell everything and get down here asap. I sat down on a park bench for a while, took some more photos, and watched as a young bloke opened his cabin door, tipped me a friendly nod, grabbed his fishing rod, and walked ten feet to the edge of the rock wall. He cast his line in, and slowly reeled in the lure. The second time he did it, he caught a decent sized fish, and picking it up by the gills wished me a ‘Good morning’, and disappeared back inside his cabin.
If I didn’t leave now I would never go. Dragging myself back to the car I opened up my map and had a bit of a look. Stay or go, stay or go? Southward there were more beaches calling me, lakes, and resorts. Newcastle beckoned, the Hunter Valley. Mmmm, decisions, decisions. The smell of frying fish assailed me, and I was seized with the desire to book into a cabin and spend a week in this idyllic spot. No, I decided, I’ll come back with the family and have a real good look around.
Before I left, I spent an hour or so driving around the foreshores, up town and through some of the pretty suburbs. The place was a knockout, and I decided to add it to my small list of places “I Must Visit Again”.
Pulling up at a set of crossroads, I munched on an apple while I thought about which direction to take. I love these moments… South or West. South or West. The midday sun baked my right arm as it rested on the window sill, I hesitated a moment longer, then made my decision.
I was back on the road again, Slim Dusty joined me and we started singing ‘Lights on the Hill’, quite well too, even if Slim was a bit off key, and forgot some of the words 🙂 I let him off lightly because he was having such a good time!