Monday, 5 May 2014

Missing The Road

Beach at Bonny Hills
Last October, we purchased an Avan ... a Cruiser to be precise. It seemed the suitable tow vehicle for us to make the transition to a more comfortable existence on the road.

We started out as car campers in our long-haired student, no responsibility days and then onto box trailer camping when the kids were out of nappies and we needed to pass on our love of the bush. When they left, we stayed with the box trailer, towing it around WA and sleeping in the car sometimes ... even though it was a foot short of a good stretch out. I'll always remember slipping off to sleep while watching the stars through an open sunroof on the Nullabor Plain.

The wife's back forced a concession so we moved into a camper trailer and it saw some happy tours, including north Queensland but eventually, the need for a proper mattress (Sue) and being sick of the work needed to set up and break down (Peter), moved us into the Avan, with a new Forester as our tow vehicle.

Sounds good but the stumbling block has been getting it out of the yard. Illness and other circumstance has stymied us over and over.

The school holidays not long finished in NSW prove the perfect example. Sue had organised long service leave so we could be away for four weeks, touring through Canberra, Victoria and into South Australia before coming back the outback route through Broken Hill. We never left. Frustrated by illness from myself and family members, we amended our plans at one stage and headed for a shortened eleven days up the NSW north coast. We got as far as the first night at Apsley Gorge and had to turn back.

Finally, late last week and with her leave almost exhausted, we left the Avan at home and took a cabin at Bonny Hills, just north of Laurieton on the NSW lower north coast. Sue hasn't towed the van yet and coming up through the hills on the Oxley Highway in the event of me being indisposed,  didn't seem the right place to start.

Lunch at Wauchope
On the first day, we stopped at Wauchope for what turned out to be a delicious lunch at Modishe Cafe. A creation of vegetables, just right for a couple who have gone gluten free, hit the spot and the service was provided by the happiest person I have ever met. I left wanting to hug everyone just by way of paying it forward.

We got to Bonny Hills pretty quickly after that and our small amount of unpacking was dismissed and out of the way. We had sand between our toes soon after. The beach at Bonny Hills is a long one, with a gentle run into the sea. As a result, long walks are all the go and we did several over the three days. Plenty of colourful rocks to pick up and admire and the best trained dog owners in Australia. Didn't see one dog poo but lots of happy people carrying plastic bags in one hand and rover's lead in the other.

On Saturday we went to Ricardo's Tomatoes, just outside of Port Macquarie off the Pacific Highway as you head north. Once you cross the Hastings River, you are almost there. Sheds of strawberries, mostly growing in companion with lettuces and all poking out of poly pipe arranged in deep V's. You simply take a bucket and pick your own, paying by weight when you check in. A big shed of tomatoes is beside the cafe and shop. The tomato plants grow straight out of the bag of potting mix and are held up to the light by strings suspended from the roof.

With lunch approaching, we drove into the heart of Port Macquarie but didn't stay long. The place
Lighthouse Point
was full of beautiful people in town for the ironman race the next day. We headed out to the ocean drive along the beaches to the south and stopped at Lighthouse Beach for lunch at the surf life saving club. After lunch we walked up onto the northern headland and took in the views around the lighthouse ... which included divers around the rocky foot of the headland and a replica of a Chinese junk which was sailing by. Lovely views to the south were savored and recorded.

Going south, we stopped at Lake Cathie, down by the creek and the spot where our youngest, Sam almost drowned before being saved by his older brother Chris, who was maybe seven at the time. It was a feat he would repeat with his sister Sarah, when he held her face above water in a small pool at the back of the pub in Tambar Springs until an adult could help.

The afternoon was more beach walking and taking in the last hour of sunlight as it played on the breaking waves and the surfers riding them.

On the Sunday, it was more beach strolls and a walk to the south past a very tidy looking caravan park up on the southern headland. Here a promenade has been created with lookouts and seating which directs the walker to the view to the north. A perfect place to watch wales I would imagine.

We left about midday, briefly becoming part of the ironman event as we were escorted along a kilometre of road the cyclists were forced to share with us. We stopped at Wauchope for sandwiches made on the fridge in the back of the car and a coffee at a nearby cafe and again at Gingers Creek for a very cold cuppa. The tea was hot but the atmosphere was a bracing 6 degrees. Further on at Walcha, it was raining and even worse at 5 degC. We felt like we had driven out of late summer into the dead of winter.

It wasn't anywhere near being long enough and without the van, it wasn't our future, but we weren't completely defeated. At least Sue returns to work with something other than memories of home.

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