Walkabout Straya #7: On my way to Byron Bay
RV day 6: Clueless driving into the unknown
I wasn't ready, not the slightest bit. I got in the RV and all I knew was that I was going to drive north. In a few days, I was going to meet @anarcist69. A nice spot to park the RV for the night was my goal. One with a good view and electricity. I needed to spend the evening doing some research about the route I was going to take. I didn't want to randomly drive to a campsite and having my fingers crossed that they had room for me. Spring break was about to start and I just didn't know how busy that would become. But according to some online reports that I read, it was going to be impossible without reservations!
I had my Lonely Planet ready near the bed. The aim was to get to Port Macquarie. There is a JB Hi-Fi there and I was sort of desperate for some cables to attach my GoPro to my laptop in such a way that it could live stream while I was driving around. The idea was great...
While from the past few days I learned that it becomes dark pretty early around where I was, and dark is like pitch black. And since it is not recommended to drive around after dark, my driving hours were limited. I would just start driving and I would google campsites during my break later. I installed google maps on the dashboard and told it to drive to Byron Bay and to avoid highways and toll roads. It told me to turn left and drive through the hills of Hunter Valley, THE New South Wales wine region.
After 2 hours of driving, I took my first break. It was lunchtime anyway. So far, the road was pretty much a lot of the same: Trees, grass and motorway. It was so uninteresting that it absolutely makes sense to already stop after 2 hours. The alternative is falling asleep behind the wheel. And believe me... it is a thing in Australia!
No way was I going to get to Port Macquarie before dark. As soon as I had reception, I checked the app for campsites that were close to the route and seemed beautiful and interesting. Forster seemed okay... there was a mention of seals there and the campsite was located on the lakeside. I was still high on the experience at Potato Point and I needed more of that. Maybe this spot would give me that!
It was still pretty far away and it probably would be dark by the time I got there. That day I drove some 400kms to arrive at the lakeside campsite after dark. The owner told me there were still spots available at the lake, so I should get one of those. But minutes after I finally installed my RV and I was finally ready to chill a little, someone knocked on my window to tell me to leave. They had reserved this spot and I shouldn't be in it. I waited for the owner to show and explain. The result was that I had to unplug all the cables again and move to the other side. And doing that while being super annoyed with the owner for not keeping track of his reservations.
I decided that I didn't want to stay an extra night if I wasn't standing at the lakeside. Also... it was completely dark, so there was nothing to see anyway.
The next morning I quickly checked the lake out. The fact that I didn't even take a picture says it all. I wasn't impressed (and probably still grumpy). So nothing else to do but take a shower, put away my stuff inside the RV, unplug the power and water and drive off!
RV day 7: I'm getting outta here! Let's go shopping!
Of course, I didn't see any seals. I was too focused on getting this cable thing over with. My goal for the day was to get to Coffs Harbour's JB Hi-Fi. Today that would take some 300kms to drive, which is still a lot. I had to be there before the shops would close and if possible, get me at the campsite way before dark this time.
After driving only just over an hour, the dullness of the road (forest, forest and forest) started to kick in. I had trouble staying awake and found a place to park my RV and have some food and take a quick power nap. During this stop, I learned that I wasn't really tired when I had trouble keeping my eyes open on the road. Because as soon as I got in the bed, there was no way I was going to fall asleep. It must have been that my eyes were so bored that they wanted to close.
This resting area was in the middle of nowhere and it was just me, and an older couple with a caravan. They were having car trouble and didn't have any reception on their phones. I was somehow the strange foreigner that did have 1 bar if they stood in the right spot, but with an almost dead battery. So here the game started of getting the road assistance on the phone and explaining where we were before we got disconnected or my battery gave in. It took a few tries but eventually, it all worked out. They gave me a few suggestions for things to see and a folder with campsites that I picked of few of my next spots from. As soon as the assistance arrived, it was time for me to leave. I still had some shopping to do!
Two hours later, I found myself driving a parking lot, desperate for a spot where I would be able to fit my 7 meter long RV. This JB Hi-Fi didn't have what I needed and they suggested another shop in the neighbourhood. Unfortunately, that area wasn't made for bigger vehicles so I had to park in a bit of a dodgy place near the oval where you weren't allowed to park. But when I returned, after finally finding that this special shop didn't exist anymore, I was lucky enough to not have received a ticket (and nobody had broken into my vehicle!!). The parking stress was something that I would never learn to deal with while driving this thing....
I filled up my tank, did some grocery shopping and got to the caravan park at Moonee Beach and it was time to finally relax. I was only a few hundred kilometres away from Byron Bay and my planned meeting with @anarcist69 was still days away.
Moonee Beach was going to be amazing! While I tried figuring out what to do in this area for the next day, I discovered that a spot near Forster was the best place to swim with wild dolphins. I wasn't planning on turning around now. But I promised myself to use my time in Moonee Beach to finally figure out a plan to prevent driving past a spot I wanted to see.
RV day 8: Chillaxing day at Moonee Beach
At Moonee Beach, I was on a campsite close to the water and when I started wandering around I stumbled upon this mysterious bridge. No clue what I was going to find on the other side. There I followed a beautiful path with some gorgeous trees. It was quiet... just the sound of the wind through the leaves. And me walking there. I almost had a heart attack when a dog came running towards me out of the blue. Thankfully it was a friendly dog with an owner that followed shortly after.
At some point, I saw a weird plant that really stood out. It was growing high up the tree. Before my trip to Australia, I wasn't familiar with the staghorn fern, a plant in tropical areas. Normally they are a bit better hidden in the green of all the surrounding leaves, but somehow this one decided to go sunbathing! While taking this photo, I could hear the waves. I was really close!
Minutes later, there it was, the South Pacific Ocean! It was windy and about to rain, but there was an amazing tree sticking out that looked like it would keep me perfectly dry anyway. The beach was completely empty and I found a nice spot in the sand to enjoy the view and meditate a little bit. I couldn't believe that I was alone...
The mystery path
There I was, sitting underneath a massive tree, for the first time not feeling any stress. This tree with thick leaves was a great hiding spot and made me nostalgic. It felt like a hut that my brothers and I would play in when growing up. On the outside, from where I came walking, it didn't feel spacious at all, but it was! I waited for the rain to stop and continued my walk around Sapphire Beach. From my spot, I could see a hill next to the beach, with something white sticking out of it. My curiosity forced me to follow the path. It was clear, I wasn't the first person to have walked here. But I was still happy that I did. I turned around and saw the empty beach that I had been sitting on during the rain moments earlier. Now I was walking on a green hill with small flowers everywhere.
I am just such a sucker for flowers! Especially wildflowers (oh, and lavender)! I was nervous to walk on the grass outside of the paths... the soil was almost elastic and I sort of bounced with every step I took. And the footprints were very visible. I made sure I wouldn't step on any flowers around (and avoid all creepy Australian deadly animals). It was such a weird experience: From a tiny rainforest via a sandy beach to the grassy field of Green Bluff within minutes.
And there it was, in the centre of Green Bluff, a white "thing". I have no clue what it was though and Google didn't help me either.
From the top of the Green Bluff, I could also see the north side. This is where Moonee Creek meets the ocean. When the tide is low you can have amazing walks on the sand bars here. So many people were walking here with their dogs or families. I decided to join and see if I could reach the private beach a bit further...
I took off my shoes and rolled up my trousers... I saw a woman walk through the low tide stream to the other side and that was what I was planning on doing. But after a stroll around the wet sand, I decided it was time to get to my RV and figure the rest of my trip out.
RV day 9: A detour to Byron Bay via Grafton and @anarcist69
I learned that there were amazing Jacaranda trees in Grafton. There are a few very photogenic streets that, when the time is right, are just purple blossom heaven. It was spring in Australia, so I decided to check out how lucky I was. It was a bit of a detour to stop in Grafton on my way to Byron Bay, but it could be well worth it. But I drove around Grafton and found nothing... Hugely disappointing!
The route would, coincidentally, pass @anarcist69's hometown. And since he wasn't feeling too well, and our planned meeting at Byron Bay was on thin ice, I thought I would make everything easier for him. I would arrive in his town around lunch so I pinged him and asked him if he wanted to have a quick lunch with me.
It all seemed to be the perfect plan. But then a lollipop man showed up in the middle of nowhere, telling me to stop. It took longer than I liked... The available lunchtime was ticking away. But 30 minutes later I arrived and met @anarcist69 for the first time! How fun is that! You travel the world and find Steemians in every corner!
Before we knew it, we had to say goodbye. It was weird to arrive in a busy town again after driving through mainly small towns and just nowhere. But I needed it. My caravan park was right in the middle of town and I took this opportunity to see if there was a nice view I could photograph at the beach and then get myself some proper takeout.
That evening I learned that Byron Bay is a bit of an odd town. I expected hippies, but all I found were wannabes. Everywhere you looked you saw people walk in way too stylised hippie wardrobe, pretending to be cool. In the evening everyone seemed to gather at the beach with their friends, probably smoking weed and being cool. It was so crowded that I wanted to get away from it asap. The town just wasn't my cup of tea, I guess. But the food was amazing!
That night I booked an activity for the next day. I had to keep myself entertained while staying in this town! Because there was no way that I had the opportunity to chill in this busy campsite!
Keep an eye out for my next blog where I'll share what I did the next day. I really need to start writing more often, so maybe if I make the blogs a little smaller it will help me post more regularly!
Also in this series:
- Walkabout Straya #0: What did I get myself into?
- Walkabout Straya #1: A stormy first week at the west coast!
- Walkabout Straya #2: After the storm...
- Walkabout Straya #3: Things I didn't do in Perth
- Walkabout Straya #4: The Indian Pacific (Perth-Sydney)
- Walkabout Straya #5: Sydney
- Walkabout Straya #6: Turn around...