After I picked up my Britz-Campervan on May 22 In Sydney I started heading up North along the coast of New South Wales. My plan was to spend the next 10 days driving up to Ballina (about 1000 km) to drop off the car there and then meet up with my friends Viv and (Ninja-Boy) Phil to spend a week at their home in Evans Head and at famous Byron Bay, the surf capital of Australia.
I was looking forward driving around in a campervan again, this time I even had the luxury version (compared to the little Jucy van I had in NZ) as I had a fully equipped kitchen in it and was able to stand up in the van without crouching. It was really spacious yet not too big and bulky to drive around and being able to drive with a manual instead of automatic was another nice change. My first stop was The Australian Reptile Park near Gosford. I spent a couple of hours petting Kangaroos, checking out mini-Koalas and beautiful snakes, alligators and some of the local spiders. My first night I spent on a quirky campground in a cute beach town called the Entrance where I stocked up on groceries for the week. The next morning I headed out to the beach promenade and did my first longer walk on the wonderful beaches of this town. Australia has simply amazing beaches. Almost all of the little (or even bigger) towns I had visited during my drive up the coast have long, white-sand beaches with beautiful clear water and the special bonus in winter here is that almost all of them are deserted, every now and then the occasional fisher putting his rod in the water or dog owners walking they dogs on the beach. After a nice morning in the Entrance I continued up the Pacific Highway and stopped at a few beaches for walks. It was windy most of the time and the ocean was at times quite rough, giving the beaches a very unique and pretty appearance and atmosphere (and quite often I was able to watch a bunch of surfers hanging out on their boards and waiting to ride some waves). After a night at Lake Macquarie I stopped in Newcastle, a nice town with superb beaches, a charming lighthouse and many old ocean swimming pools. Those pools are carved into rocks along the shore or on beaches and they are basically an extension of the ocean with sea water sweeping into the pools at high tide, filling it with fresh sea water day by day. If the water hadn’t been that cold (between 16 and 18 degrees) I would have loved to jump into some of them. Late afternoon I headed to my next destination, the Hunter Valley. One of the many wine regions in Australia, the Hunter Valley is particularly known for its Semillon (white) wine and I was keen to check out another wine region after having had such a nice time in the Barossa Valley. My original plan was to spend the next day in the Hunter Valley, doing some wine tasting and good-food-eating and then continuing my trip up north the morning after but (fortunately) my plans changed a bitJ. I managed to be so persistent (or annoying) that Sydney-Phil came up to Hunter Valley on Saturday morning and we spent 2 great days in this wine region, porking out (i.e. enjoying lovely food), doing tons of wine tastings and driving around the area. It was wonderful to have Phil’s company up there, and having a wine connoisseur with me didn’t exactly hurt either :).
On Monday Phil went back to Sydney and I continued my trip up North. Over the course of the next 3 days I stopped at tiny towns which were literally out the back of Oodna Whoop Whoop (i.e. an Aussie saying for “in the middle of nowhere”, strolling along deserted beaches (in rather stormy and cold and sometimes rainy weather) and I found amazing spots to camp and enjoy beach walks at 7 a.m. with NOONE else around.
On 31 May I arrived in Evans Head where my friends (ninja boy) Phil and Viv live. I had met them in Burma 1.5 years ago and I was looking forward to seeing them again very much as they are amazing and fun people. We had 2 great days in their home town, they showed me around the area, we did some bush walking along the Goana Headlands (stunning beach views!) and caught up with what had happened in our lives in the past 17 months. I also managed to pick up some REEEALLY Aussie expressions and I practiced my Aussie accent while sitting in the back of the car every time we drove somewhere (poor Viv and Phil had to listen to me, repeating EVERY single word at LEAST 3 times! But that was SWEET AS!:)) On 3 June we drove to Byron Bay, Australia’s infamous surfer capital. Everyone who comes to Australia hears about this place and I only knew that it was the mekka for surfers but what I didn’t know was that ANYTHING GOES IN BYRON (a very common saying about this town). What does that mean? Well, this means that you see about anything and everything you can possibly imagine in this funny, quirky, cool and cozy town. Guys running around in dresses, a decent percentage of the people you meet being hippies, organic-mania, amazing variety of food (healthy AND good), yoga everywhere, surf shops eeeeverywhere, sales people in shops being veeery spiritual, telling you that venus crosses the sun’s path today, that there is a partial lunar eclipse and that for all those reasons you might feel a halo around your body and soul, interesting combinations such as a thai restaurant with a huge Buddha sitting in the middle of the local brewery and many other interesting things. I really loved this place and being there with Viv and Phil was just the perfect thing! I also experienced (for the first time in my life) glamping (which is glamour camping, or 5-star camping): I had a whole 7-person tent inkl. A massive and comfy airbed to myself (I called it the Taj Mahal of tents) and Viv and Phil had their caravan. We spent our days in Byron with doing beach walks and the wonderful coastal walk up to the lighthouse, once again porking out like there was no tomorrow and one day we even went diving. We hoped to see some grey nurse sharks which are common in this area but the currents were to strong so we weren’t able to go to this particular dive spot. But what we experienced during this dive made up for the lack of sharks BIG TIME!!! We saw a manta which stayed with us for about 10 minutes and we were able to swim up to it to about 1 meter!!! It was soooo beautiful, I was a happy camper! After our great 4 days in Byron Bay we headed back to Evans Head for another day and the next morning Viv and Phil dropped me off on the Gold Coast airport. It was very sad to say goodbye and I wish that the wonderful friends I have in Australia would live much closer to me so that we would be able to see each other more often. In that week with Viv and Phil I had trained my stomach muscles big time – on the one hand because I had eaten like a horse and on the other hand because we had laughed soooo much together. With tears in my eyes I hopped on the plane and flew back to Sydney where I was going to spend another 5 days with (Sydney) Phil.
I was looking forward to getting to know the city better and to spend more time with another wonderful friend. I got to see great markets in Sydney, cute little suburbs of the city, the impressive Sydney fish market, we had superb lunches and dinners, a nice picnic with stunning views of the Sydney Harbor Bridge (also referred to as the “coat hanger”), and many long interesting and fun conversations along with oh so many wonderful bottles of wine. But just as the week with (Ninja boy) Phil and Viv the time in Sydney with (Sydney or Shortcut) Phil flew buy and today I had to say goodbye to another precious friend. It is 5 p.m. on 14 June and I am enjoying my last glass of wine in Brisbane before I fly to Bali tomorrow. 5 weeks in Australia – in a beautiful country, with amazing people who are my friends.
P.S. Mates, this blog is dedicated to you, from the bottom of my heart: Sydney Phil, Viv and Ninja-boy Phil. Thank you so much for a really wonderful time that I had with you, for your hospitality, your company and for being my friends. I hope I will see you in Austria the next time! (and when you come to Austria, don’t forget your anti-mozzie and miggie spray, your frocks and budgie smugglers for the barbie, otherwise you are up sxxx cxxx! I will make sure there will be enough Cab Sav, Spag Bol, Eggs Bennie, chokkie and a stubbie in the fridge for you! Sweet! 🙂