Posts Tagged ‘New South Wales’

5th January
written by Hope

As mentioned in my previous post, it took us a few days to find our new Aussie rhythm. It’s funny…our two weeks on the beach is exactly the type of vacation I would normally prefer: warm weather, swimming in the ocean, relaxing on the beach, and generally getting away from it all. But what I learned from this experience is that when you don’t have anything to “get away” from—when your life is not that stressful on a daily basis (save those moments when we’re lost in a big city or really hangry)—relaxing on the beach can be really boring. Like, “counting-down-the-days-until-we-return-the-van” boring. You need something to occupy your mind and feed your curiosity when it’s just miles and miles of “sun-drenched sands and crystal-clear waters with the constant soundtrack of rolling surf,” however nice that sounds. It took me a couple of days, but I finally realized that I needed to chuck my boring non-fiction book and start reading something that I was really engaged in. Once I did that, our new routine fell into place, I started enjoying the uneventful nature of the beach, and didn’t even mind the hippie camper. It’s interesting how simple the solution can be sometimes.

Another simple solution that helped solve our issues with the creepy flesh-colored vinyl curtains and general ugliness of the hippie camper’s interior: we rigged up our travel mosquito net! Not only did this allow us to sleep in peace with the windows open, but it added some ambience to our dreary camper interior. It was a total McGuyver job—we set this puppy up with dental floss and duct tape (no joke):

the inside of our van
Back view of the Hippie camper with mosquito net in the cab.

Our NSW routine consisted pretty much of the following:

1. Drive somewhere nice. Or not.
2. Yoga or run on the beach (Hope) or surf (Jeremy) in the morning, followed by swimming in the ocean, or any combination of the above.
3. Hide from the sun when it gets too hot.
4. Buy groceries (we shop on a daily basis since the camper fridge is tiny).
5. Make food.
6. Clean up from making food.

downward dog on the beach in the AM
Downward dog on Back Beach.

Just a few photos of the places along the coast we really liked:

view from our campsite at crescent head
Our camp spot on a river than leads into the Tasman Sea in Crescent Head. Yes, we were living in a van down by the river.

roos in south west rocks
Kangaroos by the river in Southwest Rocks.

The beach near Coffs Harbour.

sunset in yamba
Yamba, where we stayed on Christmas Eve.

sunset walk on christmas day
Taken during our walk on Valla Beach while the sun was setting on Christmas day.

We got as far north as Byron Bay, which is a big beach destination in NSW. We heard and read a lot about this area, but I think our timing was unfortunate…we showed up the day before Christmas Eve and the place was a madhouse: very scene-y, very busy, lots of posers. We were there about 45 minutes before we decided to get back in the car and drive back to some of the more secluded beaches that we saw on the way there. It’s funny, many people drive from Sydney to Byron Bay in a single day…it took us about a week and a half. :) Our sluggishness could have been a reaction to our more “motivated” pace in New Zealand, but I prefer to think that we were just responding to our environment. In NZ, the scenery changed dramatically every half hour and we were engaged in both the activities and the new sights around every corner. In Australia, where you just take your pick of beautiful beaches, we slowed it down a lot and just moved when we wanted to (we averaged less than 100 km a day during that first week and a half). So, in hindsight, some of the original anxiety I had about moving too fast was unfounded, I think…we were moving as fast (or as slow) as felt right according to the environs.

One last thing I do want to mention about the NSW coast during this time…about a week into our drive, the school holidays began, and entire families moved out to the beach for 3 or more weeks to celebrate Christmas and the new year. This is a big thing in Australia and it was so cute watching all the families open presents on Christmas morning. What a great environment for kids!

xmas on the beach
Taken near the Trial Bay Gaol (that’s how Aussies spell the word “jail”) campgrounds.

After a shaky start, it turned out it wasn’t a bad environment for our Christmas, either. :)

out for a surf at angourie
Jeremy heading out for a surf at Pippie Beach in Yamba on Christmas Eve.

30th December
written by Hope

We arrived in Australia on a Saturday afternoon, a little sad to say goodbye to amazing New Zealand, but nonetheless excited to start a new chapter in our adventure. We saw and did so much in NZ…our camper van rental peeps were shocked at the amount of mileage we put on the van given the amount of time we were in the country. They said they expected (for a 28 day rental) around 2000 km—we drove over 5000 km. But instead of feeling proud of how much we were able to squeeze into our month-long trek in NZ, I grew contemplative. Wasn’t the point of this trip to try and slow down? Did we just transfer all of our anxieties from daily life in SF over to our trip? Was I still living too fast, just with a prettier view?

These thoughts were in my mind as our plane approached Sydney. OK, first things first: Sydney is HUGE. And flat. And beautiful. And HUGE. I turned to Jeremy and said, “we’re not in New Zealand anymore.”

It’s funny…I would totally expect a huge culture shock when traveling from an English-speaking country to Asia, for instance. I didn’t expect any difficult transition from New Zealand to Australia. And perhaps that’s precisely why we had such a hard time adjusting the first few days. We were so focused on trying to squeeze every last experience out of NZ that we completely forgot to prepare ourselves mentally for a new country, a new routine, and a new (much smaller) van. A van that, quite honestly, looks pretty ridiculous:

our new campa
Yes, that says “Hippie Camper.”

We got off to a pretty rocky start in Australia. Because we changed our flight to a later time, we ended up getting in later and were charged AUD$75 by the rental van company because we showed up 10 minutes after closing time. Then we headed out of the city and both of us were WAY past the point of hangry and bonking before we finally got something in our stomachs. And when we rolled up to the holiday park, the place was bigger than most of the cities in New Zealand and cost AUD$45 per night. That’s right…we’re not in New Zealand anymore. And on top of all that…the van. Jeremy wasn’t sure we were going to make it the full two weeks in that tiny van. We were too tall to sit up straight in it and it had flesh-colored vinyl curtains. I repeat: FLESH COLORED VINYL CURTAINS. He even suggested trading the van in for a bigger one after our first night in the car.

Before you all get too concerned, I’m happy to report that we worked all of these issues out. I think we were both on edge the first few days driving up the coast of New South Wales (NSW), and we didn’t really like the areas directly north of Sydney (too scene-y for our tastes). But once we got about 3 hours out of Sydney, we started to find our new groove and settle in to this new, bigger, hotter, and still-beautiful-but-in-a-different-way-than-New-Zealand country.

back beach in blackhead
Jeremy walking on deserted Back Beach in Blackhead.

I think the biggest adjustment we had to make was to get used to the fact that in Australia, the natural beauty is much more focused towards the beach. Once we accepted this fact, we were able to open our hearts to this land they call Oz. And now I’m going to lift a line directly from one of our guidebooks because it so perfectly and accurately describes the experience of driving the coast of NSW that I wouldn’t be able to find better words myself:

“The north coast of NSW stretches almost 900 km from Sydney to Tweed Heads, a seemingly endless string of beautiful beaches, bays and headlands, crystal clear waters and national parks. There are so many stunning natural features that, after a while, they all seem to merge into one golden memory of sun-drenched sands and crystal-clear waters with the constant soundtrack of rolling surf.”

lighthouse beach
View of Lighthouse Beach near Seal Rocks. BTW, you can rent this cottage overlooking the beach.

Indeed, I can’t remember anything from the two weeks we traveled the coast of NSW. That is, I remember that we saw this lighthouse and that incredible sunset, and we walked on those rocks and swam in that cove, but I can’t remember where we were when we did those things. Compare this to New Zealand, where I could remember the name of every podunk little town we passed through, even if it was some crazy Maori name. I kept having to ask Jeremy, “where did we do that again?”

Still, a few things do stand out, and I think it’s best to say it in pictures:

cool clouds in nelson bay
Incredible clouds over Nelson Bay.

sand dunes near nelson bay
Hiking some sand dunes near Nelson Bay.

seal rocks lighthouse
Watching the sunset from the lighthouse in Seal Rocks.

sunset at back beach
Another incredible sunset while freedom camping on Back Beach near Blackhead.

to be continued…