Byron Bay & travelling – day 296

Woke up early in our dorm, delighted to find it was still just the two of us (or someone had come and left in the middle of the night without us knowing!!). Got dressed and checked out, putting our bags into a storage locker and having breakfast before heading out for the day. Byron Bay has a reputation of being a famous beach town and it was lovely, but not entirely sure what the fuss is about. I could have happily lived there as a local but, for us, a day as a tourist was plenty! The beaches are great but we’ve already seen spectacular beaches along this coast (and are due to see even better ones shortly!!). The vibe in the town is very surf culture meets hippie, resulting in lots of barefooted people padding around the streets and supermarkets. That being said, it was lovely – possibly because it wasn’t as crowded as it could be – and we had a great time wandering through the back streets on our way to the Cape Byron State Conservation Park. We started on the Cape Byron walking track and, before too long, we were treated to views of dolphins swimming adjacent to the morning kayak group (lucky bastards!). You can see how close they got…IMG_1956IMG_1967We continued along the path, encountering brush turkeys along the way and stopping off at various view points to admire the spectacular views and watch the migrating whales pass by… That’s right – we have now seen humpback whales for five days in a row. Jayne is beside herself and I think, now more than ever, I have a real chance of convincing her to move here!! The walking path hugs the headland as it dips and soars towards the lighthouse. We managed to spot some more whales passing at the most easterly point of Australia.IMG_1983IMG_2545We stayed for ages at the lighthouse, admiring the view and being wowed by the passing marine life. So much so that any plans of renting a surf board before our coach this afternoon went out the window as the time flew by as we sat and enjoyed. IMG_2547IMG_2550IMG_2000IMG_2012IMG_2016Walking back down towards the town, the path went through beautiful forests and it felt like we were the only people there for miles. Descended upon the beach and decided that, even though we couldn’t go surfing, didn’t mean we couldn’t have fun in the water so we jumped in!! Swimming in the ocean in the middle of winter in Australia is a lot more agreeable than doing the same thing back in the UK or Ireland!! Back at the hostel for a shower and a late lunch before catching our coach to Brisbane. Three hours later, we were walking through the streets to the YHA. I sorted out laundry whilst Jayne went to Dominos to get us something for dinner. Sat on the roof top terrace, enjoying the eye-popping views of the city before going to bed.

Friday 29th July 2016

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