Drive from Sydney to Brisbane
Warners Bay, Kempsey, Yamba and Currumbin
We had a devil of a time getting out of Sydney, firstly the major street in the CBD (George St.) was closed due to the construction. We took an Uber XL and spent $53 US dollars to get to the rental car office by going all around the city. Once in our car, Barry familiarized himself with the knobs and indicators, got into a driving on the left side of the road frame of mind and off we went, sort of. We circled around a while until we found the route to the major highway, this, with a gps unit rented from the car agency and google maps on an iPhone. Barry nearly sideswiped us twice. I yelped the first time and tried to keep it to a restrained whimper the second.
The landscape changes when we get out of the city. Ken, the caretaker at the Lord Nelson, commented that we’d take Pacific Motorway and that it was a nice drive. Barry and I agreed that it wasn’t what we expected. We had California’s Pacific Coast Highway in mind, on this drive we see very little water. Though we are near the coast throughout this drive, the few water views are of green waterways. The vegetation does not disappoint, it’s lush. There are eucalyptus forests and mangroves in brackish water.
Our first night’s stay is at Warners Bay. Barry planned this part of the trip and he explained to me that he thought that a two hour drive would be enough for our first day. After circling Sydney for a while, we were ready to get out of the car by the time we got to Warners Bay. Unfortunately there’s not much there to do on a really hot and muggy day in the early afternoon. We are near Hunter Valley, which is a popular place for wine tasting, but absolute sobriety is needed for us to drive. The shore of Lake Macquarie is inviting, with a walking path and lots of trees, but its too hot. Thundershowers are expected as well. Our hotel is very modest. It’s clean and the people are friendly, but these are far from luxury accommodations. Trip advisor lists the number one ACTIVITY in Warners Bay as the bottle shop, which is just a liquor store. Mmmm. The sky opens up in the late afternoon with a dramatic tropical thunderstorm!
At dusk, a cacophony of bird cries erupt outside. The trees, power lines and building tops are crowded with white cockatiels. I have never seen anything like this! The volume is overwhelming and I am feeling a little “Hitchcocked”, as in The Birds, by the number and activity level of these birds. This is a real treat! One of the locals on the street is nonchalant when I ask her about them,”Oh, cockatiels, noisey, aren’t they?”
It’s only one night at this hotel, so we enjoy some cold local beers, try to figure out how the keno game works in the casino downstairs. The local ladies look nice in bright floral sheath dresses, and they look like they are having fun.
During the night, I awaken because it sounds like one of the grand-darlings saying, “Grandma, Grandma”. (I do miss those little buggers!) It’s a cockatiel perched outside on the bathroom skylight, and lots more in the distance. It reminds me of the story that our New Zealand guide told, that Captain Cook’s crew would row back to their ship at night to sleep onboard because the bird sounds were too loud ashore. I can understand.
We have a longer drive, (over 3 hours) to our next stop, Netherby House B and B in Kempsey. At breakfast in Warners Bay, I order a “long black”, that’s a large black coffee. Trump is on the TV news in the restaurant. We try to keep it light, joking that we are Canadians, but laugh and say we are from California. The fellow at the counter sympathizes with us for being Americans, no levity here, and hopes that Trump doesn’t start WWIII. In our travels, I’ve felt that people in other countries may think Americans were a little loud, ethnocentric, or maybe unworldly. Always, I felt we were well tolerated and maybe liked. It’s a different vibe on this trip. There’s uncertainty, wariness when a stranger hears our accent. They seem to wait to see if we support Trump before they say anything.
When we arrive in Kempsey, the innkeeper has a real fear of Trump. “Trump has such a big ego, he should not be a world leader. He is dangerous. What Trump does effects us, we are your allies.” At one point I am afraid that our host will shake me by the shoulders and ask me what I will do about this situation.
In Brisbane the young woman who does my hair tells me that there are lots of anti-Trump protests in Brisbane and other cities in Australia. She asks me to explain to her why Americans have such a problem with immigrants. She’s not kidding around with me. Brisbane is full of all kinds of immigrants and she doesn’t get what the issues are with some Americans regarding immigration.
Trump is ridiculed and reviled in the papers here as well. Also in the local papers, Mem Fox, grandmotherly Aussie , 70 year old children’s book author was recently questioned and detained, and treated very badly by US Immigration. Fox had made well over one hundred previous trips to the US. Now, however, she said that she may never return to visit the US, and sobbed like a baby when her ordeal was over. Termed “Trump’s America” it is called, it makes my stomach turn. This is now the image of my beautiful country.
We take a respite from the turmoil with this trip, and are delighted by road signs today:
- Watch for kangaroos
- Watch for koalas
- Stop, revive, survive. Driver reviver stand in 10 km.
- Prepare your bush. (Tee hee Fire preparedness)
The place names are so much too. Aboriginal places such as Dodingalong, Cooperabung, Coolongolook, Kundle Kundle, Pappinburra, and Woolgoolga just make us smile.
Our home tonight is Netherby House, a heritage 1922 property on the banks of the Macleay River. It is damp here, everything smells damp, feels damp. Locals are as wet as we are from the humidity and heat. The river has a slightly off-putting smell, and the surrounding garden feels so heavy, heavy with fragrance and moisture. A little breeze would feel so good. There are dead bats still hanging from the trees and loud choruses of insects. They were causalities of the previous week’s heat wave. Why are they still up there? The dark interior of the B and B and the fussy silk flower arrangements in old “pocketbooks”, with crocheted doilies on so many surfaces makes me glad we are only here for a night. As with the weather yesterday, a loud thunderstorm erupts in the early evening. Raindrops loudly pound the metal roof. The only thing to do is to give into the weighty lethargy and sleep.
Sleep, we did! During the night eight police cars arrived at the bnb to look for a robbery suspect. We didn’t hear a thing.
Barry’s not having the best of times today. When trying to buy some gas it took us both a full ten minutes to figure out how to open the gas tank lid. I got the car manual out to learn that all the doors have to be unlocked to allow the gas tank cover to unlatch. It didn’t help that when signaling to turn into the gas station, Barry (not for the first time) turned on the windshield wipers instead of the turn indictors. Further, someone in the shop referred to him as the man in the floral shirt, not the Manly aloha shirt that he so loves. “Doesn’t he know it’s an aloha shirt, grumble… grumble …floral shirt…grumble.”
Yamba (YAM ba), is a wonderful beach town. I wish we had more than one day here! It has beautiful powered white sandy beaches, little down town, surfers, yoga, meditation classes, my kind of place.
Next stop is the mountaintop subtropical bnb in Currumbin. This is the real deal jungle. Waves of insect noise rise and fall and the Chinese Australian hostess warns us not to go on the bush walk without pants and closed toe shoes. Jungle ticks. We have two nights here, though I don’t care for narrow, windy, mountain roads, DRIVING ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD THIS TIME, it’s a pleasant and unique stay.
We spent a wonderful day at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary holding koalas, feeding kangaroos and seeing all kinds of Australian animals. Barry booked a Segway tour for us, and we had a blast. Just the two of us and a guide, we ran all over the park. (See the movie)
I have to admit that it was a relief to arrive in Brisbane and return the car. We were getting the hang of navigating and driving. However, “No one died. There was no property damage.”, is today’s mantra.