019.15th February 2003.This is a WOOPS. About buying a house, lots of driving, family and rekindled motorhome aspirations…

I had taken 2 weeks holidays but Donnis was not sure if she would come. She had to study. Eventually she decided to bring her books and read as we drove along. As it turned out it did not happen that way but she did study. So it was on this glorious Saturday morning we were driving South. Looking for a motorhome had gone onto the backburner – you know the one where “if we win lotto” otherwise we can’t afford it?
In my mind I thought it would be nice on day one to stop at a CP or Motel somewhere around Noosa. I was tired of driving 12 or 15-hour days. Then I started thinking maybe Tweed Heads might be OK to stay overnight.
The mobile phone rang mid afternoon as we were coming down a long straight stretch of freeway near the Sunshine Coast. It was Jo, our real estate agent in Mackay. We had put a silly offer in on a house near Shoal Point, not expecting to be successful. Jo was calling to say the owners had accepted our offer and ready to sign a contract. I said fine, would do that as soon as we come home in 2 weeks. The excitement and adrenalins generated by that phone call gave me a new lease of strength to drive to Tweed Heads, then as we arrived Donnis suggested if I was still OK why don’t we push on to Ballina? So we did. Arriving in Ballina at 6.30 we had to find a CP with cabins. We also discovered as we booked in that daylight savings was still in full force and it was now closer to 8pm and the office would be closing in a few minutes and so would many eating houses. We rushed up town, bought take away Chinese and a bottle of wine and back to the cabin. By the way it was windy, wet and cold. Must be in NSW!
From Ballina we pushed on all day passing the coastal towns I wanted to stop at. However we only drove until we arrived at Port Macquarie to visit with my old war buddy, Tony Jonas and his wife Dawn. Not actually war buddies but certainly Army mates. You see, way back in 1966 we were both called up into the Army in the days of Conscription. We both approached a railway man at Central Railway Station in Sydney. We could not find the bus to take us to our first taste of Army life. We both asked the same question at the same time. We laughed at our inability to find a bus, introduced ourselves and became friends from then on. It’s a much longer story than that of course and maybe another day I will write about it.
We stayed overnight with Tony & Dawn and next day we were on our way again, this time bound for Forster to stay a day or two with my brother, Al and his wife Rae. What a nice place on the coast is Forster.
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

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Forster - Tuncurry Bridge

The lakes the sea, the beaches the fishing, the inlet, the oysters the walking trails and my gosh the whole package. This trip seems to be starting off as re-visiting of my childhood and youth. Many years ago we camped at Forster and I recall my brother and I being caught on the beach when a violent Southerly hit. The sand was being blown against our legs like a sandblaster. Within minutes we were crying with the pain and could not even find a way back to our tent or shelter from the wind. We could not see! Eventually we crawled over the sea wall and sheltered on the other side until the wind eased. The campground is still there!

 

We also took time to visit Seal Rocks

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Sea Rocks Lighthouse at Sugarloaf Point.

where I had surfed a couple of times in my youth. Funny how all those many years ago I only had eyes for the surf and was not even aware of the lighthouse up on the point. This time around I did notice the lighthouse and we spent a lot of time looking at the exhibits and just enjoying the wild beauty of the place.

Alas time to move on. This time to the Hunter Valley and visiting the vineyards, tasting the fare and looking forward to another visit.

On the move again this time to Katoomba and further West to Jenolan Caves.

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Grand Arch - Jenolan Caves.

 I have always enjoyed visiting caves and a visit to Jenolan, staying at Caves House and enjoying the olde world charm of the dining room complete with excellent food and service. Of course a couple of visits to caves

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Donnis inside caves at Jenolan.

 both in the daytime and night. Somehow Donnis was managing a few hours of study while I went for long rambling walks. We must do it again but next time in the middle of Winter as I did many years ago.

A more perfect visit would be with snow on the ground!

And no study next time!

After leaving Jenolan we returned to Katoomba and an obligatory visit to the Three Sisters.

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Three Sisters at Katoomba.

Amazing how all the streets near the parking area now have parking meters. Far different to my last visit when Al & Rae lived just two streets from the lookout and we walked to the Three Sisters with very few people at the lookout. Now it’s crowded and commercialised. As a kid I coveted owning a Katoomba Devil. These were just stick figures made out of red pipe cleaners with the head made from a three pointed burr found in the area. Painted with a face they became devils. Kids at school proudly showed these things at “show and tell” to prove they had been to Katoomba! On every trip to Katoomba I have never been able to find a devil. Found burrs of course. These days tourist shops sell junk made in China.

On our way back down the mountain towards Penrith the mobile phone rang. We had it turned off at Jenolan as there was no signal. The call was from Jo. The vendors of the house wanted a signed contract otherwise they would not wait another two weeks. I convinced Jo to find an office of LJ Hooker somewhere on our route to Sutherland and to fax the contract there. We could sign, have the manager witness and fax it back to Jo. She also arranged a meeting with a loan manager on the first day we arrived in Mackay.

So our next visit was with Sister Bev her husband Pete and their three boys at Oatley. Once again it was fun spending time with family but I must admit to being a bit wary of so many people living in cities and I prefer more open spaces.

Bev & Pete suggested we drive to Bald Hill Lookout watch the hang gliders and drive to Wollongong Harbour for fish n chips for lunch. Not a bad idea considering it has been over 20 years since I was in the Gong. First disappointment was the masses of people at Wollongong Harbour and the commercialisation of the place. Still most things were as I remembered. Just more cars and people.

Before leaving Sydney I gave Donnis a mini grand tour of where I lived at Maroubra, the beach, Malabar, LaPerouse and Bear Island

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Bear Island at La Perouse, Sydney.

through the suburbs of Botany, Mascot, Redfern, through the city and along the Tunnel under the harbour before heading to Forster once more.

On our drive back North again we stayed once more with Al & Rae for a night then did a long drive to Yamba. Along the way we stopped at Nambucca Heads, a place I have fond memories when I was a child.

As a kid I remember going to “the pictures” at Nambucca. It was a strange theatre. A small footbridge led to a door which was the upstairs. A path led down the side of the theatre to another door which was the downstairs section. I encountered segregation for the first time and did not know what it meant. The Aboriginal population sat downstairs while Whites sat upstairs.

Of course none of it was recognisable now but it was still fun to look around. On the way out of town there was a caravan & motorhome yard with a wonderful green coloured Coaster. Inside it even had a washing machine. Anyway just seeing it and doing an inspection rekindled our interest in motorhomes started in 2001.

Arriving in Yamba

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Yamba Lighthouse

we first went to a Big 4 Caravan Park to rent a cabin. Not very nice cabins, although they looked out over the water they were basic, faced the West and had no AC. They were hot and stifling. We drove around town looking at motels and other accommodation finally settling on an old guesthouse across the street from the beach. Still no AC but we could open the windows and let in a good sea breeze. Same price as the Big 4 cabins. We stayed two nights. Donnis studied while I walked and drove all over.

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Yamba Rock Pool.

One morning as I was driving the main road which follows the river I spied a small marina. I stopped and walked over for a sticky beak. Amazing! What did I find? My old yacht “ASTARET”

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"ASTARET" at Hamilton Island berth.

sitting at a marina berth looking much as I last saw it 5 years before. I then realised that the buyer lived in Yamba. Imagine of all the places the boat could be it was at the one marina I stopped to look! I pelt a pang of jealousy. He had my boat in a lovely place. The huge Clarence River stretches to Grafton and beyond and is a sail exploration haven.

Lots to see and do at Yamba especially if you are interested in surfing.

Hmmm. Some lovely places along this stretch of coast. Nice places to live. Hot in summer but cool in winter. It would give Donnis a change of season to what we have now. Endless summer.

We spent a night in Brisbane visiting Donnis son Peter and his girlfriend Regelyn before we headed North again. We ended up at Bundaberg and while Donnis studied in the motel room I decided it was time to visit the famous Bundaberg Rum Distillery. For $7 they give a one hour tour then take you back to the bar where you can sample all the goodies on display. Two drinks are included in the price. I tried the new “on tap” rum and coke and then tried the black label liqueur with cream. Gee after that I had to drive back to the motel. Good thing Sizzlers was only a block away and we could walk there for dinner. I will let it be known now. I enjoy Sizzlers. Prices are still reasonable, you can eat as much as you like and the quality is always consistent. I would rather pay $15 for all I can eat good quality food then $8 for McDonalds and chips and still feel hungry.

We also saw a motorhome for sale just North of Bundaberg. It was a 10 year old Swagman with – what we thought were all the bells and whistles. Well it appealed to us and was about $60,000 more than our budget. We also became convinced we wanted certain things in the motorhome and if it meant waiting a bit longer…So we drove home and tried to put motorhomes out of our plans. At least for a little while.

I am looking forward to your comment. Any questions.

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