Port Macquarie – day 292

We both woke up this morning slightly cold but delighted that we didn’t have to creep around trying not to make noise – we are the only residents in our 6-bed dorm. It was bliss! Showered and dressed before heading into the kitchen to begin our usual morning routine. Jayne makes breakfast and coffee whilst I make our picnic lunch. Decided to make the most of our full day in Port Macquarie and, with the sun shining down, we opted to do the 9km coastal walk along the Hastings River and the stunning coastline of the Pacific Ocean. 
We began at the Town Green foreshore, walking along the foreshore pathway out to the rocky breakwall, which is popular with anglers and each boulder has been painted by a different holidaymaker – either as a memorial or as a holiday memento. Before we had even gotten to the end of the foreshore pathway, we spotted bottlenose dolphins feeding in the mouth of the Hastings River estuary. Unfortunately, we were too flabbergasted by seeing them to take any photos, but it was incredible to see them so close to the shore. 

We continued along the foreshore pathway, which connects to Town Beach, the first of Port Macquarie’s series of eight beautiful beaches that are located along the route. We walked through several different beaches, pausing at various places for photos and to use the headland vantage points to look for any signs of passing whales – water spouts formed when the whales blow or splashes caused by their tail slapping the water. 

We got to Shelly Beach when we started seeing something far out to sea. Not sure if it was our imagination or our eyes playing tricks on us, we kept walking keeping an eye out on the horizon when every few minutes one of us would shout ‘there’ and point wildly into the blue. It was only as we began our ascent up some steps that the water spouts became so frequent that it couldn’t possibly be anything else – we were watching whales!!! Hurried along to Harry’s Lookout where we bumped into a guy who worked for one of the whale watching tour operators. He told us that they were migrating humpback whales passing by the coastline on their annual migration between the Antarctic and the Great Barrier Reef. Absolutely beautiful, we got to see them splashing around and even saw some spectacular leaps out of the water when they breached. A bit too far away to get any decent photos, but good enough to prove we’d seen them!! The guy gave us one of the brochures for his company… Maybe tomorrow?!? 

We sat at Harry’s Lookout for about thirty minutes, watching the whales and eating our lunch before heading on to Sea Acres Rainforest Centre where they have built a 1.3km walk through the rainforest canopy. We had a guided tour from a retired volunteer from England. He was brilliant as he showed us various plants and animals in this habitat. Since most of the rainforest resides above ground level, the boardwalk provided a perfect platform to explore it properly. We saw some different birds and evidence of them nesting in trees and we kept an eye out too for goannas and the slithering diamond python but, alas, we saw neither! We learnt that the rainforest was a rich resource for the Birpai people; they used the walking stick palm as a travel aid and made weapons from the python tree – the second hardest wood in the world. We also learnt about the hemi-epiphyte strangler fig that grows around its host tree, basically killing it. The way it wraps around the tree causes some beautiful shapes in the trunk. After our hour and a half free tour, we wrote in the visitors book, praising Jim for his humour and enthusiasm, before heading back down the coastal walk towards town. Stopped less on the way back as it was beginning to get dark (and cold!) although we did stop for a while to watch the surfers ride the waves.A quick stop off in Coles to buy lunch stuff for tomorrow and Liquorland for some wine before heading back to the hostel. Jayne cooked dinner whilst I looked into whale watching cruises for tomorrow morning before we catch our coach to Coffs Harbour. Chatted to a couple of guys over dinner who were adding cold Dolmio pasta sauce to their instant noodles… Thank goodness that Jayne loves to cook otherwise that would probably be what I would be eating…

Monday 25th July 2016

Travelling & Sydney – day 290

Woke up with the sound of the wind pounding against the window and decided it was far too windy to spend another day walking out in the Blue Mountains, especially as my ears were already hurting from yesterday’s exposure! So, after breakfast, we headed back towards the train station and caught the train back into the city. There were planned engineering works on the line so we could only get half way before we were put in a rail replacement bus service to take us the rest of the way into the city. Was kind of nice navigating the streets from the coach window, recognising places we had been to! At the central train station, we walked the 20-metres to our hostel – the Railway Square YHA. Actually it’s not just central – it is actually in Central Station! The nouveau-industrial renovation turned a former parcel shed (complete with platform) into a hostel. You can even sleep in a dorm in one of the converted train carriages. Unfortunately, we weren’t in one of these dorms, but our dorm window looked out onto them. They looked incredible and when we are next in Sydney we will make sure we are in one of those rooms!

Had some lunch in the hostel before deciding to walk Sydney’s most famous, most popular and (so we are told) best walk – the Bondi to Coogee Beach coastal walk. We jumped on the bus and used the last of our Opal credit to get us to the beach. We started at Bondi Beach, watching the surfers (and wanna-be surfers) ride the waves in the crystal clear turquoise waters. We then headed up the steps at the south end of the beach, passing the Icebergs Swimming Pool (a lovely outdoor pool nestled in the rocks). As we continued south, we were treated to views of stunning sandstone cliffs next to never-ending views of the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately, due to storm damage from earlier this year, some of the coastal path was closed but there were clear deviation signs to show us where to go. We passed through Tamarama beach (which was small but perfectly formed) before descending into Bronte beach, full of young people drinking beers next to a sign that said ‘alcohol prohibited’. A little bit further along the coast, we walked through the Waverley Cemetery where some famous Australians are buried. 


The views from the cemetery were stunning and we looked out to sea in an attempt to spot whales or dolphins but no such luck. We walked past the bowling club towards Burrows Park and Clovelly Beach before we came across Gordons Bay – a place that may have stolen a piece of Jayne’s heart! It has an underwater nature trail for scuba divers and clearly is an amazing place to do shore dives, especially given the amount of divers in the water and dive vans in the car park. Finished our walk by passing through Dolphin Point before arriving at the gorgeous Coogee Beach. Feeling slightly tired after our walk, we jumped on a bus and headed back into the city. Stopped by a supermarket to pick up some snacks for tomorrow’s bus journey before grabbing some take away food from China Town to eat back at the hostel. Ended up sitting outside on the terrace as the dining room was incredibly noisy! Went upstairs to pack up our stuff so we wouldn’t have to do it at 6am tomorrow morning (and be hated by our roommates!) when we got a video call from Ed. He was keen to show me Ben’s obsession with the Hoover, however as soon as Jayne came on the phone he stared waving and making noises (not happy that another Park child prefers Jayne to me!!! Lols). A quick shower before climbing into bed, falling asleep with the sounds of the railway station slowly closing down next door.

Saturday 23rd July 2016