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Back To Australia Part 4 Onto New Zealand Part 1 Return To Home

















Not as much fishing this time. Just a monster road trip taking in as much of east coast Australia as possible, driving from Cairns to Sydney in not enough days, pushing the Scarlet Battlecruiser to the very limits of mechanical endurance... And beyond.

 

After arriving back on terra firma from Planet Marlin, I'll have to be frank and say I felt a bit 'fished out'. I mean, just how do you follow that? There was a mountain of photos from the trip to be reviewed and sorted out, and of course the last load of drivel for these web pages to try and write about it as well (why oh why did I ever start doing this?). So that was basically how the next week or two was spent. That and relaxing in the tropical sunshine down on the Esplanade, watching the eclectic mixture of characters making fools of themselves in swimwear they had no right to even try and squeeze their body parts into. Speedos, a beer gut and a pouch of nuts has never been a good combination. The humidity had really started to rise too- up to over 80% most days, with yours truly having a permanent "bead-on", sweating relentlessly like a pervert at the Patpong Market unless I got holed up directly under an air-con unit. There was also the odd late night excursion to the voyeur's delight of the notorious Rainbow Inn, where the contest for "Most Bizarre Thing I've Ever Seen In My Life (So Far)" got a new leader, when a strange, if nice enough, alcoholic lady of perhaps fifty years of age sat next to me at the bar at about 4 in the morning, slurring at me in a tongue with which I was unfamiliar. As she teetered on her stool, she dragged up the hugest lump of phlegm from her throat and spat it into her hand. Weird. She then pulled the top of her flowery dress out and rubbed the snot into her not-so-pert-these-days tits, screeching "It's all bloody good mate!!!" (or something like that). If that's not bizarre, then I don't know what is. I have been scarred by the spectre ever since.

Troy demonstrates the ancient oriental art of Extreme Sashimi.


Who farted? Final party night at the Green Ant ruined. 

The odd 'small-time' fishing excursion was also undertaken with Deckie Tim and Troy ("The management" from the cool as chuff Green Ant Cantina round the corner), catching a few of the ever present Bream and Estuary Cod from the mangrove lined creeks around port Cairns under the baking hot sun. All good fun, and a pleasant day out, albeit that hooking a half pound Bream somehow lacked the adrenaline rush of 12 foot of billfish. Strange, that.

There was another reason for hanging round a couple of weeks too, in that my very good friend from way back in the days of the Perhentian Islands, Lynne Wilko of the Lake District Peninsular, had also decided to make the long drive down the east coast with me, since our flights to Auckland had been changed to coincide each other. There were so many things to see on the route down the east coast, and in the 20 days or so we had left, it was planned to drive something in the region of 3000 kilometres and take in some of the scenery, beaches and flora and fauna on the way on a break-neck road trip... as well as maybe wet a line or two if the opportunity arose.

Finally it came to pass that after a 'leaving party' at Tim's place, and another big night out for Lynne's final day in town, we packed the gear and left yet another day later than planned (well it was a late night...), pointed the newly tyre-shod Scarlet Battlecruiser southwards, and with great sadness waved goodbye to all the acquaintances we'd crossed paths with in Cairns. It's funny this travelling business. It's full of highs and lows. For all the highs of the good people you meet and have a memorable time with, the corresponding low always comes in the form of the parting of ways at the end of that particular chapter. Hence it felt strange and not a little hollow to pass the 'Thank you for visiting Cairns' sign on the outskirts of town for the final time, knowing that this time, barring the unforeseen, we wouldn't be back.

On the porch of Tim's Des Res and sadly it's finally time to leave Cairns...

...and search out some of the beaches and wide open spaces of Australia again. And antagonise some indigenous wildlife on the way.


Tame Wallaby

 



This is a picture of a Giant Trevally in Sydney Aquarium striking a pose for the camera. Not shy it seems.

First stop; Townsville. What can I say? Same same but similar, I suppose, and the first two or three hundred kilometres knocked off the run-in. And that's about the best I can say about it. A trip was booked to do some diving at Wheeler Reef. Cue an early morning three and a half hour journey across choppy seas to get there, Lynne laid flat out with sea sickness. Ear pressure trouble caused an aborted first dive for myself, then cramp put an early finish to the second dive for Lynneth. And then another three and a half hour journey across even choppier seas to get back, my travel buddy reading the instructions in the bottom of a bucket for most of it. Nice. In fact at one stage about half of the passengers aboard were yodelling down the plastic megaphone. It's fair to say it wasn't the best of days out on the deep blue briny. 











But Schute Harbour near Airlie Beach. was just pretty, and home of some very spooky disappearing Giant Trevally which I wanted to catch and photograph. Very, very shy it seems.

We decided to press on with our journey the next morning, although not before I'd tried to chop the tips of my fingers off in the ceiling fan while attempting a pretty tidy rendition (even if I say so myself) of S-Club 7's genre defining classic "Reach For The Stars". A box of red wine is very cheap in Australia.

Onwards and southwards thundered the awesome Battlecruiser, destination Airlie Beach. This in itself is something of a misnomer, because there isn't even a beach there. It was here I hoped to maybe find a way of encountering a Giant Trevally, a species of fish I'd harboured ambitions of tangling with for some time. Upon asking around at the local tackle shop, the very helpful assistant scribbled some productive marks on a chart I had with me. Good news indeed. And then he dropped in the bad news: "You got a boat though mate, cos you'll be needing one?" So that sent that plan sliding down the poop-chute. I asked at a local dock whether there were any charter skippers who targeted the GTs, only to be told by one of the deckies from a 'party charter boat' that no-one went after them "because there was a good chance of getting nothing". No change there then. 

Taking the next best option, the following morning a ferry was taken out to the 'deserted tropical paradise' of the Whitsundays, specifically Hamilton Island, hoping to encounter any species of fish at all from one of the bays around there. Anything. In fact, the only qualification needed was that it had a set of gills and was breathing when it rolled up on the beach. 

As we waited for the ferry at Schute Harbour, I passed the time by gazing down into the turquoise waters of the dockside, as anglers tend to do, watching a large shoal of baitfish hanging motionless in suspension. As I watched, the school suddenly parted... and through the middle of them cruised a pair of big Giant Trevally which must have been forty to fifty pounds each! The harbour was obviously a pretty busy kind of place, so I immediately hatched a plan to come back at dawn the next morning when all was quiet and try and extract one of them while no one was around.

The afternoon was spent on a pleasant enough beach, notwithstanding that the high-rise resorts up behind us in the deserted tropical paradise were, well, a bit of a surprise, and that there were the usual expanses of thinly stretched Spandex at breaking-point dotted about the place. 

Leaving Lynne to top up her tan, I wandered down to the rocks at the end of the cove and negotiated the outfall pipes from the hotels in search of a fish or two, having first tried the centre of the beach itself, only to find that a pair of sailing dinghies playing battleships 20 yards out in your swim tends to hamper things a little. 

The usual handful of Cod (i.e. Grouper... again...) threw themselves on my hooks, and things only got remotely interesting when a school of large Mullet came skittering around in front of me, the only big mullets I'd seen in Australia until this point being perched on people's heads in Mount Isa. Spookily enough, Lynne, being a thoughtful type of sort, had given me some bread from her breakfast that day "because it was good fishing bait", which although I gave her the 'sideways glance with raised eyebrow' at the time, therefore had turned out to be a good move. I threw out a handful of crusts into the waves which the shoal devoured greedily. 
"A five pound Mullet it is then..." I thought, "...no problemo!". The next half an hour saw the cunning fish knock every bit of bread off my hook before they ate it, leaving me baitless, biteless, brainless, and pulling my hair out sat on my rock. We returned to Airlie Beach that evening with yours truly uninspired yet again, but at least with the prospect of being done over by a Giant Trevally to look forward to.





















Like the Wallabies, the Kookaburras weren't so shy of the lens either. Tart.

Dawn the next morning, after a quick drive down the winding coastal road I crept into position at the harbour, the heaviest gear I have with me at the ready: 55 kilo Power Pro braid, 150 pound mono leader tied to the end, a nasty 8/0 Owner SSW Cutting Point hook securely tethered to the business end of that, and the drag on my TLD reel twisted round to 'sunset'. As much as this tackle meant business - and if it didn't give way, then I'd most probably be dragged down the rocks and into the drink - I was still sure that pulling one of these animals out was going to be as much to do with luck as judgement. Peering over the railings again, the shoal of bait fish were still hanging like a huge grey cloud in the same place as I'd seen them before. As I watched and waited, the twin Trevallies ghosted into view, smoothly parting the shoals before them. 

Just going to take a leak turned into a nature trek sometimes. A confused tree frog stuck on the side of the toilet paper holder. Does this make it a Frog Roll holder...?

Having ascertained that they were out to play, I obviously needed to formulate a plan to get one on the hook, and then sort out another plan to get it out of the harbour. I surveyed the scene, and decided that perhaps I was best to bait them up in little-and-often fashion until they were in feeding frenzy mode, and then once I was sure they couldn't refuse another bit of food, send a baited hook down the tide to them from the reinforced banks to the side of the wharf... and then wait for the fireworks to commence! Cutting open a bag of shrimps and a bag of pilchards, I made sure everything was at the ready. And then, as the fish completed another circuit of their harbour tour, I picked out a shrimp to flick in their 

Below: Can you see what it is yet? No, there hasn't been a leak at the sewerage works upstream. This is a Duck Billed Platypus in the wild. No, really, it is.

 

direction to begin the process, expecting it to be hastily devoured the second it broke the water's surface. The shrimp fluttered through the air, and landed some 5 or 6 feet in front of the patrolling GTs with a gentle 'plop'; perfect. The Trevally then bolted, leaving two large wakes as they departed the docks!! They were obviously a lot shyer than advertised! Patiently I waited for an hour and half for their imminent re-appearance, but it wasn't to be... 

As the sun began to burn its way into the day I made my way back into Airlie - making a note to track down a dynamite supplier in town. 

We pressed on, the bullet like vehicle veritably chewing up the tarmac beneath us, swathes of sugar cane plantations passing by in an almost supersonic blur, and there was to be no rest until our next port of call; Mackay. A brief drop in at the town itself, then inland an hour or two up into the hills of the Pioneer Valley to a small place called Eungella, where we had been told that the elusive Duck Billed Platypus could be seen going about whatever it is that they get up to. This journey involved the negotiation of some steep and winding roads, which I have to admit did slow the progress of the cruiser down to a notch below warp speed 2 for a while. In fact, a cursory check on the temperature gauge about half way up the hill revealed a worried looking needle teetering above the 'N' of 'NORMAL'. Assuming that this wasn't to do with the afterburners or anything, and that it wasn't a particularly good sign, she was quickly pulled up at the first available spot at the side of the road to allow her to cool off a little. As we sat in the hot sunshine letting the engine take a breather and calm down, an elderly couple pulled up in their car.
"Everything alright?"
"She's just a bit hot mate, that's all", I replied (master of understatement...)
"Well it gets a lot steeper up ahead. If you're struggling now, you'll be in proper trouble up there". Marvellous.


Oh dear. A hill too far. At this point we're not sure whether the Battlecruiser is gasping for air or water. So let her have both I say.


The most easterly point of Australia*. 
(*Mainland)... (*It said so on the sign).

 

After the nice couple left us with a little extra water to make sure we'd be alright, the sensible decision was taken to beat a retreat back down into the valley, make sure the coolant and water situations were all in order again, and then after our first refusal, make another valiant attempt at an ascent of the Pioneer. A couple of hours later we were back at the base of the hill again, and after a deep breath and a short prayer, we set off on the nerve jangling climb. I don't know why I ever doubted her, because the Battlecruiser made it to the top, and we only had to stop and let her cool down three times. No worries...(!)

Eungella is a strange little place. A proper two-pony outpost that looks like it's still in the 1940's for the most part. 

 













Fraser Island. Great place- highly recommended.

We got a room at the Pioneer Hotel Motel, ignoring the cobwebs up the walls, sawdust on the carpets and the cluster of dead moths flaking to dust on the stairs, and since evening was approaching, got ready to make our way up to the stream and track down a Platypus or two.

Heading out of the village, we got to realise that the whole economy of the place hinges on the fate of one little bunch of Platypus (Platypussies.... Platypus'... Platypi... Whatever). There's Platypus Tours... the Platypus Takeaway... the Platypus General Store.... Heaven forbid that the critters should croak it, cos some poor sod will have to be hidden up in the bushes every day pulling a stuffed one up and down the river on a bit of string just to keep the punters coming to town. We took up position on the wooden platform over the river, and dug in for the long wait. As darkness began to close in, there was a feint disturbance in the water.
"Is that one there?" pointed Lynne.
"Is what one where?" asked I, being a bit less eagle of eye and sharp on the uptake. 
And then, slowly, the disturbance materialised into a Platypus, which to be honest looked more like a ten inch long floating turd than anything living. Yup. Awesome.

Back at base camp, we were discussing our success with a heavily bearded bloke who turned out to be the local Platypus guru called Tom. Being a faucet of all knowledge concerning Platypus behaviour, he informed us that dawn was actually the best time to get a good sighting, so at 5.30 the next morning we were up and in position again, awaiting their appearance. And sure enough, a few of the miniscule creatures came out to show off- even hanging around long enough for us to get one or two pictures of them in the developing daylight. We retired to the hotel and some breakfast, our aching desire to view a Platypus in it's natural environment now well and truly satiated...








Lilly the Loggerhead getting strobed-out down on the sands. There would have been less cameras going off if it was Britney dropping her eggs in a hole on the beach.

151 eggs in 20 minutes with all those flash guns going off? Enough to make your eyes water.

Gravity assisted, the car found it a lot easier heading down the hill that morning than it did going up it the day before, and once on level ground again, she was soon happily eating up the miles, this time in the direction of Rockhampton, Bundaberg and eventually Hervey Bay, where it was planned to go and watch some of the whales for which it is famous, and get ourselves over to Fraser Island and take in the sights there - mixed in with a bit of fishing and camping. 

After what felt like a mammoth drive, we found ourselves drifting around the streets of Rockhampton, searching out a place to sleep for the night. It was 1am, the roads were pretty much deserted. Outside every motel or hotel glowed a neon 'No Vacancy' sign, and after a frustrating age and a half, I got the hump and decided to give up on the place and just keep driving through the night. Perhaps not the smartest move, considering I was already nodding like an octogenarian on Ovaltine. But there, as we left town, was a big sign on the side of a trailer park proclaiming 'Cabins Available. $45 a night. 24 hr Reception'. We swept into the car park, and the night buzzer rang for some service. Twenty minutes later the proprietor appeared at the office, hair in the air and wrapped in a dressing gown, for some reason not looking as happy as you'd expect to receive two new customers.
"Have you got a cabin left please?" asked Lynne.
"Yes".
"Great. We'll take it then thanks".
"60 dollars". Eh? 60 dollars? I was about to mention the advertised price on the fence, but just stopped myself in time, realising that being knackered, at 2 o'clock in the morning, and having just dragged the nice lady out of bed, our bartering position was pretty weak.
"Erm. That's fine".


Wilko trying to get a bite from anything at all at Hillsborough Point. The bait and rig had actually landed fifteen yards up the beach behind her. But she's happy, bless her...

 






















"And for my next trick... a beach."

"There's no linen either", added our friendly hostess with the mostess, before we sloped off to the trailer. 

The Japanese sniper on top of the wardrobe knocked Lynne out in seconds... while after feeling tired for the previous two hours I suddenly developed another bout of insomnia and just laid awake for the rest of the night, counting the joints in the ceiling tiles, debating in my head such important subjects, amongst other things, as whether calibrese is just an advanced stage of broccoli, and pondering a local news item I'd seen about people playing golf with Cane Toads, wondering how the handicap system worked, and furthermore how they held the clubs with their little webbed feet. All things worth laying up all night for to get straight in your head.

Bundaberg was quite a nice town, set in the heart of sugar cane country, and home of the Bundaberg rum distillery, which was surprisingly small considering its huge popularity across the whole of Australia and beyond. How do that many bottles come out of such a small shed? But again, after a brief stop, the big push continued to reach our temporary target of Hervey Bay. As I mentioned before, one part of the idea was to get out into the bay and spot some whales on their migration. Plenty of outlets offered the trips in town, so a number was selected and given a call.
"I understand you do whale watching trips in the bay, and was wondering what time they went and how much they cost".
"Sorry mate. The whales left last week. There's a dead one on the beach which the sharks sometimes eat at high tide. Someone might take you out to see that".
Sounded nice. But we decided to keep the dollars in our pocket rather than skint ourselves spending a day watching a couple of tonnes of blubber decomposing in the sand.

Having missed out with the whales, a visit to the turtle sanctuary at Mon Repos a few kilometres up the coast seemed a reasonable substitute. This is located at a beach reserve at which this time of year Loggerhead and other turtle varieties shuffle their way up the sands under cover of darkness to lay and bury their eggs.

 I was surprised to see just how many people had turned up to view the spectacle that evening, and admit I was put off the whole event by the gathered throng. I felt a little out of place having not brought along a cagoule and a Thermos. However, there was no way to access the beach other than in a supervised Turtle-Troupe, so we joined the gaggle in search of a lone Loggerhead Turtle which had earlier been spotted dragging itself out of the ocean. We found the huge creature a few hundred metres up the sand, and she was just finishing digging her hole. I was surprised she wasn't sectioned off with traffic cones. The whole event was very controlled to ensure the safe delivery of the eggs, not wanting her to be put off her stroke and all that, so any photography was outlawed in the initial stages. However, once she'd moved herself up to a higher plane of tantric egg-laying, the say-so was given by the ranger to get some pictures... 

And then all hell let loose. A ten metre square patch of beach illuminated like Blackpool seafront and about 3 dozen flash bulbs (including mine...) simultaneously exploded in the poor thing's face. In fact there were so many photos being taken that I even managed to get a picture just using the light from everyone else's flash in the pitch dark.

 























Tiger Shark spotting from Indian Head as a storm rolls in again. No score I'm afraid. The turtles must have eaten them all.

How can you be a surf dude in that girly bonnet?
Oh, like that. Point taken.

 

 A while later, the Loggerhead had completed her labours, and dragged herself off back to the sea, somehow finding her way even when hampered by arc-eye and strobe sickness. She was followed by a herd of multi-coloured cagoules waddling along benevolently behind her. It turned out that the eggs needed to be moved since they had been dropped in a spot not conducive to their successful hatching and survival, so they were immediately dug up and re-located a little further up from the tide line. There were 151 one of them in the end - a reasonable night's labouring I'd say. 

In all honesty, and all the usual cynicism aside, it was a unique thing to witness, and the sheer size of the animals is amazing, but I suppose given the choice anyone would prefer to just haphazardly stumble across an egg-laying turtle on a deserted tropical beach rather than have to join another 40 people to do the same thing. However in the absence of any other option it was the only way of seeing it, with the added advantage that conservation of the turtles is also aided by the whole programme's existence. Always nice to do your bit for a good cause.

Next stop Fraser Island. Somewhere that several people had recommended as a must see. We rented a 4x4 and some camping gear to take us out there for a 3 day scout about the beaches and forests, with fishing rods and a couple of frozen packs of squid and prawns lodged in the back of the Ute. After an induction at the 4x4 centre which detailed the dos and don'ts of driving on the island, and the signing of a disclaimer that was enough to make you hand back the keys in concern for the security of any immediate family, we picked up the ferry over the short channel from the mainland ready to try not to get the vehicle punctured, bent, rolled in a creek, stuck in deep sand, buried in the surf, wrapped around a tree trunk etc etc, and do all this without burning out the clutch or straying from the marked and colour coded routes. Within minutes of arriving though, we loved the place. There were sandy tracks winding through thick green forests, opening eventually onto miles and miles of wild beaches, the Pacific Ocean rushing up onto the sand, pinnacles of multicoloured sandstone rock faces, crystal clear spring fed lakes with their own white sand fringes, flocks of gulls and oystercatchers, rolling dunes and marauding Dingoes. If there was anywhere we'd seen this far on the trek down the east coast of Australia that was a don't miss, then this was it.

Mile after mile we drove up and down the beaches, being careful not to break any of the protocols we signed up for back at 4x4 central, the sun beating down from a big blue sky and the mist of the breaking surf stretching to the horizon. Come evening we set up camp beneath the bush and dunes marking the upper edge of a beach, the bright moon glowing and the background crash of the ocean just down the sand. A really nice spot, although I did manage to temporarily lose the jacket potatoes I'd cooked in a pit in the sand with hot charcoals, Wilko developing a theory that they must have "grown arms and burrowed away... Or do Dingoes eat potatoes?". Like I say, a box of red wine is very cheap in Australia.

If there's a Dingo hanging round in the car park, is it Dogging?.

 

Heading up to Indian Head rocks the next morning, the weather had turned for the worse, with thick dark storm clouds and rain squalls rolling in off the seas. If any of the guides about the island were to be believed, it seemed that all manner of marine life could be spotted from the top of the rocks- Turtles, Dolphins, Tiger Sharks and even Manta Rays. So we sat in the sporadic rain for ages, waiting for one of the creatures of the deep to come and entertain us. Unfortunately, again, the only thing we saw popping up above the surface were several turtle-heads (not to be confused with the Platypus we'd seen a few days earlier...), and after a while we had to beat a sharpish retreat back to the truck to get out of a heavy downpour that rattled it's way up the coast, pushing a waterspout and whirlwind of sand in front of it. 

The ropey weather was short lived though, and within an hour or two, the sun was out and shining brightly again, coinciding with a visit to Champagne Pools, which are about at the northern limit of the beach where access is permitted in a rental 4x4 (Clause 223/1, Section A, Part XI, Addendum b1.1, Paragraph 2).

The area of rocks around the Pools actually looked pretty fishy, so I decided to give it a go, and on the basis that the other couple of spots tried had only provided huge strings of suspended weed washed up the lines, what was the worst that could happen? As the tide rose beneath us, an entertaining few hours was spent catching a clutch of dart on strips of squid and shrimp fished on light tackle in the foaming waves, as well as catching some more sun. Lynneth had quickly mastered some casting by now, improving her range from 15 metres back up the beach behind her, to directly vertical ("Fore!!"), and eventually to 30 or 40 metres out into the sea in front. And once I'd explained what a bite looked like (I forgot about to tell her about that bit) she wound her first Queenfish up the rock-face. 

A defining moment perhaps, since when I mentioned later that we should probably pack up and go find a camp site for the night, her comment was "Oh - can't we go and find another spot to fish for a bit?" I'm still not convinced whether I should have caught the irony over the sound of the waves or not. 

Lynne's fish and a couple of others were bled out, gutted and put in the cooler ready to cook that night, although I actually wasn't sure whether they were any good to eat or not. But given that it was either try them or be stuck with a Pot Noodle each again, there was nothing to lose. Tent up, they were placed in the hole in the sand with charcoals, wrapped in foil with butter, garlic, chilli and lemon. At least if the fish tasted crap, the sundries would mask the worst of it. But before they could finish cooking a rainstorm crashed it's way in again. The foil packages ended up in the charcoal for about two hours cos neither of us could be bothered to leave the sanctuary of the cab and the remnants of the box of red wine. But the fish tasted ok though for what it's worth, the rain stayed all night, and we woke the next morning under dripping canvas with damp sleeping bags, and the rain hung on through the early part of the next morning. Great.

Once it had stopped and we had packed all the stuff, the truck rattled all around the centre of the island all day, taking in some of the beautiful forest and crystal clear blue lakes, which had almost Caribbean style white sand beaches. In fact, the Fraser Island book said Lake McKenzie had 'one of the top ten beaches in the world'. Having seen a few, this claim was certainly pushing it a bit, but it was quite nice. Luckily we made it back to the ferry and got the truck back to the mainland on time and in one piece, and it was a big relief that the post hire checks on the truck were carried out without penalty to either credit card or hostages.




















Champagne Pools on Fraser and Lynne has tamed her first dart. 
"Yes, yes. Very good. Now, two sugars luv. And be quick about it".


Nimbin? Could be. I'm only going by the rainbows 
all over the place, but I might be wrong though. 
Not sure. Is it Thursday... no, erm... Saturday? Oooh.

Back in the cruiser after its three day sabbatical, Brisbane was the next target, just for a day, and after a tired, late night arrival, we were driving around looking for a place to stay again (despite all best intentions to avoid doing that again after the last time!). This was followed by a day wandering round what, after all, was just another big city, and after another night of sleeping on the floor in a swag at a friend of Lynne's in town (it was here on Simon's veranda I saw my first Possum that WASN'T squashed into tarmac), we finally sped the car further southwards still towards Byron Bay, where I naively planned to try and get a day fishing out on a boat or something, if it was possible to arrange such a thing without emptying the whole travel budget. 

Arriving in Byron, accommodation seemed to be at a premium, and the rooms that were available seemed expensive for what was no more than a rock hard bed in a box. The car came in useful yet again, after booking in at a campsite and using it as a 'tent' - a tight squeeze for two of us with the mountain of luggage, but at least we'd save a few bucks. Bonding.

As it turned out, the weather followed us down the coast, and this really did it for us in Byron. The wind blew and the rain tipped down, there was no way of doing anything in the weather, and at this time, after over two weeks of virtually constant travelling the last place you needed to be was limited to the confines of the car for even more time! It is of great testament to both our high levels of easy-going tolerance that neither of us succumbed to the temptation to suffocate the other with a pillow in his/her sleep.

After two nights in Byron waiting for things to turn around, listening to the rain rattling on the car roof, finally the sun came out again and the rain subsided, albeit on the day we had decided to leave. This finally gave us a chance to check out some of the beaches of the area, of which there are some very nice ones, watch the surfers getting 'stoked' out on the waves, and take a look past Cape Byron to the most easterly point of the Australian mainland, a spot from which it was apparently possible to view whales and dolphins. 

None turned up during the time we were there (no change there again, then), a point Lynne made quite nicely in the Cape Byron Lighthouse visitor's comment book: "Very nice if a little windy. But where are the whales?" I hope that the management have resolved the issue by the time of our next visit.


Cape Byron Lighthouse. 
But where are the bloody whales?

 

Following this was an overnight visit to the stoners village of Nimbin, a lovely drive in from the coast. Set in beautiful rolling countryside and forest, this is a bizarre little town of cosmic beads, rainbows, henna dip and hemp underpants, where all the rules and regulations seem to have been either torn up, ignored or forgotten (most probably forgotten, being Nimbin and all that). As we drove into town, a phone-in on a local radio station had a bloke ring in who was performing chicken impersonations. It didn't seem out of context.

It was good to have a proper bed in a proper room again for the night, at a really cool place which I think was called Grandma's Backpackers. The proprietor, a friendly little bloke with a lot of bangles and big hair who didn't look like anyone's grandma (let's call him 




The Scarlet Battlecruiser made it to Bondi Regis! How did that happen?!!

Warlock) showed me to the room. 

Warlock explained that "There's a band on tonight at the hotel in town. Get in there and have a good time, man. This is Nimbin, relax, take what you like, but don't drink and drive cos the cops will be down on you like a ton of shiiiit. Enjoy yourself, man". I worked out from this that you could get whacked off your tits on whatever you liked, but just don't take the car. So they hadn't forgot all the rules and regulations. The band was crap, but an enjoyable evening was had down at the hotel, although we were a little confused to find the place closing down at 10.30pm. "Must be Nimbin time..." we concluded. Back at Grandma's, as I sat on a bench under a tree in the dark, a large owl swooped down and landed on the lawn in front of me and stared me out. Meanwhile, Lynne laughed herself to sleep trying to recreate the chicken noises off the radio. Nope, none of it seemed out of context...

Time was now running short to finally hit Sydney. We had planned to be up at the Sparrow's crack and setting off from Nimbin on a long drive down to Myall National Park to meet some friends for a final couple of night's camping. But having slipped easily into Nimbin time, we were a bit late dragging ourselves away, after all, the clock in the cafe only read 9.30 when we left... 

A visit to Cullen Street for coffee and a quick bite to eat turned into two hours, and to be honest we would have stayed longer if we could. A wander amongst the ladies and kids selling bags of grass and (lethal) cookies along with racks of tie-dye tackle was followed by a quick bit of shopping in "Perceptio Books & Gifts", where the hippy-dippy lady behind the counter insisted that Wilko read up in her book on what mystical healing powers were possessed by the stones in the bracelet she'd just purchased. Apparently this 15 dollar bracelet could heal anything from rheumatoid arthritis to haemorrhoids, which kind of makes a mockery of private healthcare premiums these days. The lady then handed Lynne a lump of quartz as a free gift (RRP $7.50), informing her that it could be 'programmed to do whatever you want'. 
"Can it cook?" I asked.
"Listen, you can programme it to do whatever you want, man", she repeated. We left the shop shortly after.

For the next eight and a half hours that day, the car was pushed to the very limits of her endurance. For kilometre after kilometre and hour after hour we shared the driving down, no doubt missing a lot of good stuff to see. I remember crossing over several really great looking rivers, the like of which we had seen nothing of on the road when up further north. If only we had longer to spare. But time was short, and we needed to get to the coast just a couple of hours north of Sydney to meet with Nick and Lien and friends, before selling the car and flying out to New Zealand. 

So we drove all day, initially through bright hot sunshine, but typically, as we neared the national park, the clouds thickened, the skies darkened and it pissed with rain. Two nights sleeping in the car at a remote campsite beckoned. Surely the Weather Girls couldn't shake their lettuce on us like this again? It was with some relief that we passed through the storm clouds and emerged the other side into bright sunlight again, an hour later than we thought, cos we hadn't changed our watches to the next time zone when we'd passed into New South Wales some 5 days before. And we thought we were right and the whole town of Nimbin was wrong... 

We had a nice couple of days down there at the Myall National Park, barbecuing, eating garlic and chilli prawns, yomping up the dunes down to the beach, another box of cheap red wine, trying to learn to wakeboard and the like, and the weather actually held it together for the most

 

part, which was a right result. During conversation about off loading the Battlecruiser it seemed that Lien was in need of a car to drive up the coast again... and after consultation with Nick ("Please please can I have the car Nick. Pleeease! Oh thanks... kiss, kiss"- I think that's about how the negotiations went anyway), it seemed I had a home for the cruiser without even trying. I told them a the price I needed - which was at a loss over what I bought it for, but the level down to which I would be prepared to go, since they would save me the problem of offloading the thing down in the city- with just a couple of days to do it. And this seemed to be the way to go. Everybody's happy.

After we'd folded camp, the drive was taken into and through the city, relieved, happy and amazed after all that had gone before that the car had made 


"Anyone wanna buy a motor?" 
One careful owner and all that... honest.

it without more major mishaps, and we decided to pitch up in Bondi Beach, due to it's infamy and it's proximity to where Nick and Lien were living.

I'd been forewarned that Bondi, although world famous, was perhaps nothing like what I would imagine it to be, and to be honest when I saw it first all I thought was "Bognor". I produced a few ads for the car and placed them in various internet and backpacker's places around town, just on the off chance that something went wrong, albeit that I knew it was probably a little late to do so. But I still knew that Lien was keen to have the car, and in the meantime, Nick was investigating moving the registration into their name and the implications of registering a car initially from Western Australia in New South Wales... and this is where it all went wrong. 

With just a few hours left of our final afternoon in Australia, Nick made a fateful call. It was going to cost too much to move the registration to NSW, and they couldn't take the cruiser of my hands...  

The car had been driven up shit creek and left without any paddles. The options narrowed to nearly none. The chances of a backpacker calling, agreeing to buy the car, sorting out the rego and then coming up with the money in the next four hours were about zero. We tried to think of anything we could do, and the only thing that came to mind was to take it to the Backpackers Auto Barn and see what they'd give for it... and I knew this would be a lot less than I had expected- perhaps even as low as $1500, which would have sucked. But she had to go- quick. After finding the place, and leaving them to give it the once over while we retired round the corner to get out of the way and have a drink, Lynne's phone rang. Recognising the Auto Barn number, she handed it to me:
I spoke to the man. Clicking off the phone a couple of minutes later, I looked across the table...
"How much?"
"Take a stab, me duck".
"A grand?" And I shook my head. "Higher?" And I shook my head again. "Lower?" I finally nodded my head.
"Ooooh dear no! How much?"
"Eight fifty". And my head dropped briefly into my hands.  

And so it came to pass that after buying, driving, coaxing, kicking, towing, repairing and selling the crate, I lost about 4000 dollars during my brief relationship with the Scarlet Battlecruiser. Something for which I could never have budgeted. A grand? Ok, no problem. Two grand? I'll live with it. But four...? Plans for getting about in New Zealand over the next few weeks would need to be severely re-evaluated...

What was it again...? Ah yes; "Tits and wheels, mate... Tits and wheels..."

Back To Australia Part 4 Onto New Zealand Part 1 Return To Home
 

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