NEW SOUTH WALES Slideshows

BBQ time Beacon Hill Apartment

Sunday 19 March Mallacoota to Pambula Beach, NSW

Weather brighter & some hot sunshine later in the morning. We drove into the town & went to the café called Lucy’s for cooked breakfast which was tasty & coffee. We then drove through the residential area of Mallacoota where there was a sign by some woods which showed lyre birds were around, but we didn’t see any. Keef thought he saw a snake by someone’s front garden so we turned round the block to have another look but it had gone.

Stopped at a car park at Double Creek where there were some very noisy bellbirds but no koalas. At Eden in New South Wales we stopped to visit the Killer Whale museum which Brian & Gina had recommended to us before the trip. It was $10 each & well worth it as we were there for a couple of hours. It showed the history of whaling in the Eden coastal region from the 1840s onwards. A pod of killer whales had helped humans to catch whales by driving the large whales into the bay towards the men in boats. The killer whales were then rewarded by the men allowing them to eat the tongue & lips of the whale (gory). Often the pod of killer whales splashed to alert the men to a nearby whale. It was the only example known in the world where the interaction of man & killer whales was for mutual benefit.

The whale blubber was boiled down to create whale oil which had various uses back then, such as lamp oil (before electricity was invented) & the baleen from whales’ mouths was used for whalebone corsets of Victorian women. The locals who had rheumatism used to sit for hours in a large hole cut in the top of a dead whale where the rotting flesh meant that the temperature rose to 40c - yuk. The local people swore that this treatment did them good although a hot steam bath/sauna may have been more environmentally friendly. No doubt the horrible smell from the rotting whale meant they forgot about their rheumatism.

In the bay at Eden the whalers caught a massive Blue Whale that was 93 feet long in Victorian time. The killer whales continued to help three generations of one whaling family at Eden & the whales were all given names based on the characteristics of the dorsal fin. Killer whales live to be about 37 years old on average. A skeleton of a killer whale called ‘Old Tom’ was displayed in the museum.

The whole whaling industry & the rheumatism cure was pretty disgusting and repugnant to us all now. We want to preserve whales & love watching them rather than killing them. The museum also covered the local timber & tuna fishing industries. The tuna was caught off the Eden coast and then taken to Narooma further along the coast for canning then exported to the USA. There was a section on local people who had fought in France, Belgium & Gallipoli in WWI & WWII. The museum was fascinating.

We drove to the harbour to take some photos & the lookout point on the steep hill but it started to drizzle & the sea mist was coming inland so the views were poor. We finished the afternoon at Pambula Beach where we stopped for one night at the Big 4 campsite $35. The site was flat, grassy and right by the sandy beach. There were several kangaroos who wandered around eating grass & were obviously used to people & vehicles. Took some photos & a video. We saw some rosellas in the tree (red, yellow & green). I nearly got knocked over when a very big grey kangaroo bounded right past me from the corner of a chalet which took me by surprise. The other grey kangaroos were quite little. Allyson saw some black cockatoos in a tree but didn’t manage to get a photo.

Keef, Chris & I went swimming in the indoor heated pool – the weather had turned cool & misty/drizzly. Keef even went in the unheated outside pool. This campsite is very good for amenities (camp kitchen, BBQ, showers, pools with changing room/shower, TV room) & the fact that it’s so close to the beach. There were a couple of people surfing on the big waves but hardly anyone on the beach apart from a lone sea fisherman. In fact the campsite was less than half-full – so it felt more spacious with so few vehicles.

Keef & I cooked pasta & sausages/ stewed apple & nectarines with yoghurt. There was no wi-fi as a lightning strike on the Bank Holiday Monday had damaged the power lines so Keef & I read our Kindles.

Monday 20 March Pambula Beach to Dalmeny

We set off along the tourist coastal route from Pambula to Tura Beach. We parked & walked to the long stretch of lovely sandy beach with hardly anyone on it. We continued on the tourist drive to Tathra, NSW and we stopped at the historic wharf/ warehouse where lots of kids & adults were fishing. There were some large rocks next to the wharf called Point Danger. The sea looked very blue & a lovely sunny day. Saw no dolphins. People were catching fish called ‘flatheads’ from the wharf & we could see lots of salmon in the clear water by the jetty. The warehouse was now a restaurant. Steamships used to call in at the wharf to deliver goods, post & passengers.

We drove round the hill top down to the beach at Tathra & walked on the beach to admire the view & saw the wharf across the bay. We had our lunch at the car park by the beach & Allyson did some rolls with chicken salad & mayo- yum! Very hot at lunchtime & I could feel the intensity of the high UV rays.

Then Chris & Allyson set off to meet Laura & Steve who were driving down from Sydney & the plan was for us all to meet up at a campsite in Dalmeny, which was further along the coast in NSW. Chris & Allyson hadn’t seen Laura & Steve since last summer when they came over to the UK & France. We planned on staying for two nights at Dalmeny. Keef & I did a slight detour before joining them all at the campsite at 4pm.

Keef & I drove to Tilba & Central Tilba – two villages about 2km from the Princes Highway. Central Tilba is a National Truct village with Victorian buildings & pretty little front gardens with roses & lovely shrubs. We realised when we got there that we had visited the village 10 years ago! The single storey houses looked like small shops from the pavement but due to the steep hillside they were jutting out on 2 or 3 levels at the rear. We had an icecream from the village Emporium which was for sale – the owner had run the shop for over 30 years & was retiring. We noticed that a lot of the buildings in the village were for sale. We were the only tourists in the village.

We continued our journey north along the Princes Highway to Narooma. Very sunny. Like a lot of coastal towns most of the houses were shuttered & closed up as they were holiday homes. Also not much work in these places either & lots of businesses & homes were for sale. Narooma has a sea inlet with a small harbour. There were no fish shops, oyster shops or restaurants. We arrived at Dalmeny Campground about 4pm & saw Laura & Steve who had just arrived & checked in to reception. Nice to see them again after 4 years. We checked in & were given a space next to C & A. Laura & Steve put their tiny tent up & then we all gathered for drinks (Laura opened some champagne), appetisers, cheeses & lots of chatting with a great view of the coast & beach below us.

Just before 7pm we decided to go & get some fish & chips across the road from the campsite. We ate them overlooking the coast. They were the most expensive fish & chips takeaway that we had ever had ($21 including chips, which alone were $12 – worked out at £12.60 each). We carried on chatting until it was dark. Laura & Steve had spent 6 hours driving down from Sydney today so we were not surprised that they were tired after this long journey. Later that evening we had some heavy rain. Our pitch was already muddy from previous rainy days but it got worse overnight.

Tuesday 21 March Dalmeny, NSW

We stayed all morning in the campsite. Steve had organised a boat trip for us all at Wagonga Inlet , Narooma as he knew the owner of the electric boat there who did boat trips. Keef & I went in Steve & Laura’s car & Chris & Allyson drove their van. The boat was built in 1905 & had been diesel/ petrol but had been converted to electric some years ago. Electric boats are very quiet & there is no smell of diesel either. We left the jetty at 12 noon & had a very informative & humorous commentary from the 66 year old captain. He had lived all his life in the area & since a boy had fished & rowed to school in a small boat. He told us lots of yarns including his dad catching a Mako shark & a Great White Shark which had swum into the inlet after fish. There were lots of oyster beds & we found out a lot about the industry. We also saw sea eagles & their nest high up in the tree tops.

He pointed out a ‘stinging tree’ which is toxic if the leaves touch your skin. The pain can be very intense & last for weeks or even months. Apparently there are 3 types of stinging tree – all in Queensland & NSW. Keef & I had heard about these trees when we went on a river trip up the Daintree in Queensland. Also Great White Sharks are now protected in Australian waters & you are not allowed to kill them. The captain also told us he had worked in a tuna canning factory in Narooma in his youth. The boat trip cost $30 per adult – well worth it & very enjoyable.

As we neared the jetty it started raining & then it stopped briefly. We had tuna mayo wraps for lunch which I had prepared for everyone & sat at a picnic bench with a view of the inlet. It started raining again & got heavier. We did a short walk past the marina & jetties, which looked rather decrepit & unused apart from a couple of boats moored.

We drove to an oyster shop on the other side of the bridge across the inlet & some of us bought oysters & ate them. We then parked nearby & did a boardwalk along a bay of the Wagona Inlet. By now it was pouring with rain & only Laura & Steve had sensibly brought rain jackets with them. It had been sunny when we set off from the campsite & we thought we were just going on a boat trip which had undercover seating. From the boardwalk we saw two large stingrays and a small brown one.

We were quite soaked so went back to the campsite, got into dry clothes & had a cup of tea & then all chatted in Chris & Allyson’s motorhome as it was still raining. The ground by the door of our van was extremely muddy & boggy & we sunk in by about ½ inch. Gradually the weather improved & we could all sit outside again. Later on Chris & Keef cooked a lovely BBQ of beef burgers, sausages, fish, salad & cobs. Lots of stars out in the sky.

Wednesday, 22 March Dalmeny to Mittagong

Chris, Allyson, Laura & Steve had planned on staying on at the campsite for a bit & then travel north to Jervis Bay National Park & camp there for two days. Keef & I thought we would head inland as we’d been all along the coast in the past & wanted to take another route to Sydney. We said our farewells after breakfast & left at 9.30 to drive to Bateman’s Bay along the Princes Highway. Then we turned left to take the Kings Highway across the Great Dividing Range. We hadn’t done this route before & we drove through National Parks on both sides with eucalyptus bush stretching for miles. It was sunny, the scenery was great & it was quite a steep climb over the mountain range with steep drops at the side of the road. Some of the eucalyptus trees were very tall & there were deep valleys with a few sharp hairpin bends going up. We met a few road trains going the other way but the highway was not very busy.

We reached Braidwood where we stopped for a break. Had a walk around the town looking at the heritage houses. Braidwood is a historical town with extremely wide streets, old shops, a supermarket (IGA) & a pub of course. Bought some pasta sauce from the IGA store & then drove on to Bungendore & on to historic Bywong goldmining town. When we eventually found it we were disappointed as there was not much left of the town – a couple of wooden mine shafts.

We joined the Federal Highway to Goulburn. This was the first inland city in NSW & was quite big – 24,000 population. The city streets were built on a grid system and it had a big shopping centre with old Victorian & 1930s buildings & numerous churches (we counted 6 just on one street).

Then we took the Hume Highway towards Sydney. We turned off the main road to a small sleepy village called Marulan where we bought some pies & a cake for lunch. A Chinese family ran the bakery & cooked everything on their premises. Another Chinese family ran the new general store (or they were all part of the same family). The buildings were very old & interesting, including the Royal Hotel & general store. It suddenly started raining very heavily with lightning.

We rejoined the Hume Highway again & the rain became torrential, so much so that our windscreen wipers could hardly cope. We pulled over onto the hard shoulder as the road was awash with water & visibility was very poor. Despite this we were amazed to see lorries & cars rushing past at high speed. On downhill slopes the rain was collecting in the dips which was worrying if it became too deep to drive through.

We got to Mittagong where we decided to stop for the night. The rain had stopped & we found an excellent campsite with no mud & hardstanding for the motorhome @ $35 a night. For dinner we had pasta, sausages & sauce. There were some large noisy cockatoos that made quite a racket at dusk. We saw some more lightning but no more rain & it turned into a nice evening.

Thursday 23 March Mittagong to Narrabeen Lakes, Sydney.

Dry weather today. We took the country route through NSW via Balmoral & Thirlmere. We saw some old train engines & carriages behind a fence in the NSW rail museum in Thirlmere (see below for more info - I am a coset anorak honest). Keef took some photos. Saw some kangaroos in fields & a flock of white cockatoos. Quite a lot of farms, homesteads & horses in paddocks – very rural. We went to Warragamba Dam which I had last visited as a teenager with my family in the late 60s-70s. I remembered that there used to be a lion safari near the dam which my family had visited but this no longer existed.

The dam had an excellent visitors centre & a viewing area overlooking the dam. Warragamba is one of the biggest dams in the world supplying domestic drinking water. In fact it supplies 80% of Sydney’s water. The dam’s volume of water is four times that of Sydney Harbour. It was built between 1948-1960 & 15 men lost their lives during the construction. There was a wall of plaques commemorating them. A lot of young immigrant workers were recruited to work on the dam & a whole town was built to house them. Warragamba Dam was considered to be a major engineering feat in its day. I didn’t know that Sydney also has a desalination plant to convert sea water to drinking water & is powered by the wind. We found the visitors centre was very interesting.

We then headed to Narrabeen Lakes, a Big 4 campsite in Sydney which we had pre-booked for 1 night whilst in England. This was the 3rd time we had stayed at this site. We went to the local Woolies supermarket to do some shopping & it started raining. Had cheese & biscuits back at the campsite for our evening meal.

NSW Railway Museum

Friday 24 March Narrabeen to Britz (to drop off motorhome) & then to Beacon Hill

After breakfast we packed our bags & drove to our apartment in Beacon Hill (78a Beacon Hill Road) to drop off our luggage & food supplies. We were met by the owner Katrina Dell as her husband Roy was on their boat. She showed us around & explained how all the equipment worked, such as washing machine, dishwasher, coffee machine etc. She was very chatty and pleasant & said that they also owned the house adjoining the 1 bedroom apartment. They rented out the house to an English family. The landlords owned a boat & they had moved there whilst we were staying in their flat. They had previously lived on their boat for 4 years.

The apartment in Beacon Hill had magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean and beach suburbs. It had a swimming pool, sundeck, BBQ & thatched dining area that Katrina called a Bali hut. The fully equipped kitchen was open plan with lounge/dining area, TV, downstairs loo and bedroom with balcony, TV & en suite bathroom. We weren’t used to this luxury after being in the motorhome & on campsites. They left milk, wine, coffee, butter & chocolates for us which was very kind. Keef was pleased we could use the De Longhi coffee machine.

After Katrina had gone we put the food away & then drove the motorhome across Sydney to Botany Bay, Meadowbank. We left Beacon Hill at 12.45 & it took us almost 2 hours to get across Sydney because of the heavy traffic – such a busy city. We dropped off the motorhome at Britz reception & then saw Chris & Allyson who arrived there after us. They had travelled up from Jervis Bay which took them 3 hours along the Princes Highway.

Keef negotiated a refund of $80 for a half day’s motorhome because we had been kept waiting for hours at the pick-up in Adelaide as the previous hirer had returned the van a day late. Also we said that the toaster had blown a fuse & there was a small fault with the pull-out BBQ on the outside of the van which meant that the knob on one of the gas rings didn’t work. Chris & Allyson had a nice time at Jervis Bay with Laura & Steve & they were waiting for them to come & pick them up from Britz in their car.

Keef & I caught a bus outside Britz which took us to Redfern station & from there we got the train to Chatswood on Sydney’s North Shore. At Chatswood bus station there were no timetables for buses but having asked several people & bus drivers we found a bus that would take us to Beacon Hill. However, we were misinformed and when we went past my old house in Frenchs Forest & turned somewhere I didn’t recognise I realised that we were not going the right way. Noticed also that a massive new hospital is being built on the outskirts of Frenchs Forest called the North Shore Hospital. We had to change buses & luckily caught another one that was going the other way. This bus dropped us off at the top of the road where we were staying. It started to rain at 4pm as we walked down the hill to our apartment. Too tired to unpack our bags & Keef said he had found it stressful driving across such a busy city.

I did some washing in the machine & hung it indoors on a clothes airer while keef cooked us steak, vegetables & jacket potatoes. We watched a film on TV – The Bucket List with Jack Nicholson & Morgan Freeman which we had seen before. Quite a busy & tiring day.

Saturday 25 March Beacon Hill, Sydney

We had a relaxing morning- had showers, did some more laundry, Keef cooked us bacon, scrambled egg & baked beans, which we ate outside on the deck. The sun came out for about an hour & I put the clothes airer outside our bedroom on the balcony. Keef was sorting out finances & checking transport routes in Sydney on the laptop. The wi-fi here is quite slow. The family who live in the adjoining house have a boy (junior school age) & a teenage girl aged about 13 & they went in the pool for a bit.

We had lunch (egg mayo roll & cheese & biscuits) & then watched a film ‘Eddie the Eagle’ about the ski- jumper from GB who was in the Calgary winter Olympics – a good film & true story. Then we watched an Aussie film called Red Billabong which started OK but then got ridiculously stupid with a monster terrorising people on a country homestead – a dire plot! Saw a cruise ship go along the coast at Dee Why.

We did a Skype video call with Doug, Phoenix & Charlie who was bouncing around & happily showing us her new 20 piece jigsaws which she had completed- clever girl. It was so lovely to see them again & chat. Charlie had a virus with a temperature yesterday but she is OK now. She kept waving to us & telling us the animals on the jigsaws. Doug & Phoenix told us that they were going on a cruise with P’s parents at the end of June. It’s for 5 nights from Hong Kong to Japan on an American cruise ship. Charlie is only two & already she’s been to China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Bali & England – very well travelled!! P’s parents have organised the cruise for them all – sounds good. Doug said he’d been to an interview with another bank this week with Standard Chartered Bank (English) & may get a second interview. It was 7pm in Singapore & 10pm here in Sydney – they signed off as their dinner was ready. Went to bed at 11.45pm.

Sunday 26 March Beacon Hill & Sydney

In the afternoon we caught a bus to Manly from the top of Beacon Hill Road as we were meeting Laura, Steve, Chris & Allyson in Sydney for a picnic & the opera (Carmen). The bus went to Dee Why & Warringah Mall & then to Manly Wharf. We asked at the tourist info in Manly about return buses on Sunday evening after the opera but all buses stopped by 6.20pm!!! For a big city this was ridiculously early.

We took the very crowded Manly ferry across the harbour to Circular Quay. On Sundays there is a cap of $2.50 per adult to travel anywhere on the NSW transport system (bus, Manly ferry, train) which is very good value. We had bought our Opal travel cards whilst in England & they allow you to put money on the electronic travel card & then use the card to register trips on the transport system (similar to the MRT/bus cards in Singapore). The maximum daily amount you can be charged is $15. We started with $40 on each card. This is such a good idea for Sydney & NSW as you don’t need cash for travelling.

From Circular Quay we walked to the Botanical Gardens where we were to meet up with our friends. Very hot today in Sydney & the gardens were tropical. When we found the Victoria Lodge Gate (which wasn’t signposted anywhere) we waited a while before Laura came to collect us. They had trouble parking the car. The venue for the opera was in the gardens opposite the Opera House & Harbour Bridge.

Laura & Steve had prepared a picnic for us all & we took along a bottle of wine. The sunset was around 7pm but it was overcast & cloudy – very humid & sticky. After the food & drink we took our seats at the opera (the tickets were a Xmas gift to us from Chris & Allyson) & we were really looking forward to the performance & music. We had a good view of the stage which was like a floating pontoon with 2 access ramps on either side of the stage for the opera cast to use. There were 2 cranes either side of the stage & when the show started they swung round to deliver a tank & truck to the stage. The whole performance was spectacular & the setting of the night- time Sydney skyline, illuminated Opera House & Harbour Bridge enhanced the event. Very enjoyable show by Opera Australia. There was a 25 minute intermission.

At 10 pm Keef & I had to leave 15 mins before the end as we had to walk a long way back to Circular Quay to get the last ferry at 11pm. All the gates round the Botanical Gardens were closed at dusk so we had to exit at the Victoria Gate Lodge entrance. We could not walk round the edge of Farm Cove to the Opera House which would have been a much quicker route. Instead we had to walk into the central business area past the Art Gallery & museum & past the Cahill Expressway (underground tunnel across the harbour) to Macquarie Street. On route we saw a large possum on a grassy area & took some photos. He was oblivious to us & was intent on searching for tree seeds. We made it to Circular Quay with about 10 mins to spare! Good job we left when we did. The Manly ferry left at 11pm on time & when we got to Manly we got a taxi back to Beacon Hill ($20.80. Had showers when we got back as such a humid day (80% humidity).

Monday 27 March Beacon Hill

Had a relaxing day in & around the swimming pool. I did some laundry & ironing. Watched some films on the TV. Keef cooked burgers on the BBQ for lunch by the Bali hut. Winds were strong in the afternoon – palm trees were swaying & weather turned cloudy – storm coming.

Tuesday 28 March Beacon Hill

Strong winds & heavy rain drumming on the roof woke us up during the night. Cyclone Debbie was hitting the Queensland coast around Townsville, Mackay & Airlie Beach (we had been to these coastal towns in 2008). It was a category 4 cyclone with winds recorded at 270kms/hour which is 167.7 miles per hour. The townspeople had plenty of warning about the cyclone & were told to stay indoors. There was lots of damage to houses, boats in harbours & businesses & schools were closed. The news said that this was the second worse cyclone to ever hit Queensland.

We decided to go to Warringah Mall in the morning and then watch a film called ‘Lion’ at the cinema complex there. The film was a true story about an Indian boy aged 5 who was adopted by an Aussie couple in Hobart & he wanted to find his roots & family back in India. A very good film starred Dev Patel & Nicole Kidman. I got a new watch battery at the Mall & we did some food shopping at Coles before getting the bus back to Beacon Hill.

Wednesday 29 March Beacon Hill

Hannah & Connor came round at 3pm which we had arranged & Connor had a little dip in the pool with his swim nappy on. We had bought him a cardboard book of Australian animals which we bought yesterday at the Mall. He is 20 months old & knew shark, koala & crocodile & the colours apart from orange. We then went in Hannah’s car with them back to their apartment in North Balgowlah as Hannah had a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon. She is expecting a second child in July & knows it will be another boy.

We looked after Connor whilst Hannah had her appointment. Hannah & family had just returned from a weeks holiday in Thailand. They were off on Friday for a few days to Orange, NSW for the food & drink festival which they had been to last year & really enjoyed. They’re staying in the same rented accommodation nearby as last year. David came home from work (he cycles into the city centre which takes him 40-50 mins).

We hadn’t seen the family for 4 years which was the last time we’d visited them in Sydney when they lived in Vaucluse. Riley, their dog, was still as cute as ever. We took along a bottle of sparkling wine & Hannah cooked us a lovely dinner. Hannah gave us a lift back to Beacon Hill at 10.45. It was lovely seeing Hannah, David, Connor & Riley again & just before dinner we did a Skype with Brian & Gina, as it was Gina’s birthday. B & G were going to some national trust gardens for the day.

Thursday 30 March Beacon Hill

Rained all day non-stop & it was quite torrential at times so we decided to stay in the apartment all day. Watched some films & read our Kindles. The cleaners came 9am to do the apartment – took them 1½ hours.

Whilst we cleared off to Rural NSW and across the Great Dividing range from Dalmeny Chris and Allyson went with Steve & Laura for a few days camping in Jervis Bay NP before we all returned our vans to Britz near the airport. Whilst we had time in our Apartment in Broken Hill and then a trip to visit John & Diana in Tassie C&A spent time with S&L on the boat in the harbour, visiting the Blue mounations and staying in a cottage and seeing the "dish" at Parkes observatory. For more details please see Allyson's diary and the slideshow below.

Friday 31 March Trip into Sydney & Darling Harbour

Got bus 169 through Dee Why & past Warringah Mall to Manly Wharf & took the ferry to Circular Quay. We walked round the Quay & saw a huge cruise ship called ‘Emerald Princess’ moored at the overseas passenger terminal. We walked through the business/office district to Darling Harbour. There were lots of restaurants around the harbour & it was 12.30 so lots of business people were having lunch. As we walked along the quayside there were information boards & pictures showing what Darling Harbour used to look like.

We walked all the way round to the Hard Rock café where Keef bought yet another T-shirt costing $40 to add to his collection. Then we had lunch there – we shared some chips& chicken goujons. After a rest we walked through the shopping centre called Harbourside which wasn’t very good (a few tourist tat shops etc). We crossed back to the other side of Darling Harbour on Pyrmont Bridge, built in 1905. We caught the ferry from Darling Harbour wharf back to Circular Quay, then the Manly ferry & bus. We got wet as it was raining when we walked back down Beacon Hill Road. Turned very overcast & then the rain was torrential in the evening. Watched TV & had dinner.

Saturday 1 April Beacon Hill (see slideshow Beacon Hill Apartment from now on)

A lovely warm sunny day. I did some washing & we prepared for a BBQ round the pool. Keef & I went swimming in the pool & tried to clean up some leaves from the pool after the previous nights storm. At 2pm Chris, Allyson & Laura arrived for the BBQ – burgers in cobs with cheese & bacon, chicken on skewers, green salad, red & yellow salad. Laura had brought along some homemade lamingtons- yummy- & we also had rock melon. Steve arrived later as he had some customers for his eco boat (self-drive electric powered boats for hire). We’d saved some food for Steve. They all left around 8pm in the car to return to Wollstencraft, on the north shore, where Laura & Steve live. K & I went to bed early as a busy travelling day ahead tomorrow.

Sunday 2 April Beacon Hill to Broadmeadow, northern NSW (see slideshow Beacon Hill Apartment)

Got up really early today as off to Newcastle, NSW on the train to meet my cousin Susan & husband John (Browne). I’ve not seen Susan for 45 years ( I was 18 & just returned from Australia with family. We walked to the bus stop at the top of Beacon Hill Road at 7.30am for the bus due at 7.50 to take us to Wynyard Station in Sydney CBD. The bus was 20 mins late so we were worried we would miss our train.

Once at Wynyard we took a train a couple of stops to Central station & then got on a two tier train all the way to Broadmeadow, just south of Newcastle in northern NSW. The train was packed because on a Sunday you can travel on buses & trains in NSW for $2.50 per person – a bargain. The bus journey into Sydney took an hour & the trains took 2½ hours. At 11.45 we arrived at Broadmeadow station & could not see Susan & John so waited for a few minutes. We realised there was another station exit via the tunnel which gave access to a street on the other side of the railway line.

Luckily Susan & John were there with their car & John said “Are you the Hellingers?” We finally met up after all these years & they were very welcoming. John drove us to their triple level duplex apartment a few miles away, just off the main Pacific Highway at Merrywhether Heights where we chatted & then had lunch (chicken thighs, salad, asparagus, giant couscous with peppers & onion & wine. Susan & John were very friendly & both were retired. They had moved to NSW from Perth, WA to be near their daughter Hannah, her husband & children. We took along a box of chocs & some red wine. Unfortunately red wine brings out a rash on their faces & they only drink white wine. The lunch was lovely & we continued catching up the years until 5.20 & then they drove us back to the station. Susan & John had just had my other two cousins Janet & Rob to stay with them for 3 weeks but they left to return to Canada 10 days before we arrived.

Unfortunately we just missed the train & had to wait ¾ hr for the next one to Sydney. Another train went past heading for Brisbane which was an overnight train journey of 6 hrs from Sydney. Susan & John joined us on the platform as they realised we’d missed the train. It was lovely to meet up with them & we invited them to stay if they came to the UK. Their daughter Georgia lives in Glasgow & she is a musician (plays the flute). Keef & I read our Kindles on the return journey to Sydney as it was dark. We had seen the country towns, bush & Hawkesbury River on the journey up this morning.

After arriving in Sydney we caught another train to Circular Quay & then the Manly ferry to Manly. We stopped off at KFC in Manly for a snack & then got a taxi back to our apartment at 10.10pm. A very long day & a lot of travel but worth it to meet up with my cousin.

Monday 3 April Beacon Hill

Did washing & ironing. We packed in the afternoon & the weather was not good enough to swim in the pool. Watched TV & read our Kindles.

Tuesday 4 April Travel from to Sydney airport to Tasmania to stay with John & Diana

Got up at 3.45am, showered & had a quick breakfast. Keef called an Uber taxi at 4.30am to request a pick-up & to take us to Sydney airport. We were annoyed to find a text to us from the Uber taxi driver saying he had cancelled. We had been waiting with our luggage on the pavement in the dark and rain. Keef called Uber again to order another taxi. We were not impressed with Uber – this was the first time we had used them.

This time the Uber guy did turn up & was very friendly (he was a Civil Engineering student from Sri Lanka doing his Masters in Sydney & taxi driving between 5am -12 noon to earn some money). He dropped us at Terminal 2 & the Jet Star flight was ½ hour late departing. The pilot apologised for the delay stating that the plane was “messy” after returning from Tasmania & the cleaners were still cleaning. Not an efficient service. All drinks & snacks on this flight were not free. The plane eventually left at 8am.

Saturday 8 April Tasmania to Sydney

When we arrived in Sydney we had to wait quite a while for our hotel shuttle bus. Eventually we got into our hotel room at 1pm.

Checked our e-mails & the BBQ invite for later that day from Chris, Allyson, Laura & Steve was cancelled as Steve was renting out his eco boats again. Just as well, because we were tired having got up before dawn & we would have had to get a taxi back to the airport, a train into Sydney, a ferry to Woolwich on the North Shore which would have been a further 2 hrs+ travelling. Also my cold & stye problem in my left eye over the last 3 days was not so good (Diana had given me a soothing eye lotion to use). Hope no one catches my germs.

We booked our hotel in England – Ibis Budget – a compact room with wet room ensuite, TV on wall & kettle for tea etc. We went out for a late lunch to Kentucky Fried Chicken 2 mins walk away. At the hotel reception we booked our hotel shuttle bus for 7.50am the next day to Terminal 1 for the flight to Auckland. Read our Kindles & went down to the lobby seating area to read the newspapers. At 7.45pm we popped out for a coffee & doughnuts at Krispie Kreme Doughnuts (USA company). The coffee was Ok but the doughnuts were dire – sickly- yuk- never eat these again! This was our evening meal too.

Things got even worse. When we got back to the hotel one of the two lifts wasn’t working. E-mail from Leanne to tell us that Keef had received a letter in England saying he had to pay a speeding fine from the police in Portland, Victoria!!!! Oh dear. Fine was $194/ £113.15. He had driven the motorhome 6kms per hr over the 60kms speed limit. To compensate for this additional trauma, Leanne sent a nice photo of Craig holding Edie who was wearing his sunglasses. Keef was in the dog house. Watched TV.

Things got even worse. At midnight the hotel fire alarms went off. The fire brigade arrived with blue lights flashing – turned out to be a false alarm (probably someone smoking in their room set it off). After all that it took me ages to get to sleep & another early start tomorrow as we’re flying to New Zealand.

Sunday 9 April Sydney to Auckland

Got up at at 6.35am & had our showers & tea. Trying to take our bags down in the lift took a while because the other lift was still out of order from yesterday. We got the shuttle bus from our hotel to Terminal 1 at Sydney airport. The airport was very busy as people were travelling because of Easter next week. Queued up for ages at the Quantas desk & took even longer to go through passport control & security. Chaos - the flights were all late & the plane going to Bali changed its departure gate twice. Then the planes by the gates had to change areas & the announcement on the public address system said that the planes & late planes had caused overcrowding on the tarmac. All very confusing for passengers.

A Japanese elderly couple stupidly lost their carry-on bag & were fretting about it to the airport staff & wandering about looking for it! Because of this they held up their plane to Singapore as all the other passengers had already boarded. They never found the bag as they could not retrace their movements & were frogmarched through the departure gate by the airport staff. Goodness knows what became of the ‘unattended baggage’.

Our plane was delayed by 45 minutes. Met up with Chris & Allyson who were sad to leave Laura & Steve. Whilst we were in Tasmania they had gone with L & S to Parkes, inland NSW, to see the radio telescope/ museum there & had stayed at a rented homestead. They went on to the Blue Mountains & did some bush walking near the Three Sisters at Katoomba & also near Wentworth Falls. The plane left Sydney at 12 noon & we got a good view of Botany Bay, the harbour & sandy beaches as we headed for Auckland.

The flight took 2½ hrs & we had to turn our watches forward 2 hours. Had lunch & an icecream on the Quantas plane. It was quite a small plane with 3 seats on either side of the aisle. Watched some films during the journey.