East Coast Road Trip – Part 2

Now a four-hour bus ride isn’t anything to write home about so I won’t bore you with the details, but I did see the Big Prawn as we drove through Ballina. Much to my friend Gina’s delight, it was located next to a Bunnings and a roundabout.

Brett from Coffs Harbour YHA picked me up at the Greyhound stop and took me up to the lookout where we spotted some whales before heading to the hostel. I checked in an was given a room that was almost identical to the room number I’d been given in Byron. Some people may not believe in serendipity or synchronicity, but it was evident to me that day. I told Brett that the sole reason for coming to Coffs was to see the Big Banana and he told me that there was more to Coffs than just a banana. He gave me a map and highlighted all the things that I could see in the 48 hours that I was in town.

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Thanks to the 5pm sunset I was limited in what I could do in the first few hours so I headed out to the harbour and walked towards Muttonbird Island. The island is off limits to people as it’s breeding season so walk was cut short as I headed back to the hostel to enjoy movie night.

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My first mission for my one full day in Coffs was to see the Big Banana. I had a choice of heading along the road, or down the beach and through the bush. I chose the beach/bush route and jogged my way along until I hit the hilly road when I slowed to a walk. I followed the trail back down the hill and along another beach before heading up the road and hitting the Pacific Highway. As I dashed across the highway I had a huge grin on my face as the Big Banana was in sight! I joined others in taking typical tourist photos, but also made sure to strike a messner.

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When at the Big Banana – Strike a Messner!

There wasn’t much else around and I wasn’t in the mood to eat a banana split, so I jogged back along the road and path before stopping to watch whales swimming offshore. When I got back to the beach I took off my shoes and enjoyed walking barefoot in the cool water.

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Later that arvo I was craving a milkshake and after a quick Google search of milkshakes in Coffs Harbour I went out in search of Old John’s. The café reminded me of being at my nanna’s house, complete with an old teapot identical to the one I used to play with in the sandpit as a kid. As I hadn’t yet enjoyed a Coffs Harbour banana I picked the banana milkshake with peanut butter. It was definitely worth the $7 price tag as it’s one of the best milkshakes I have tasted to date.

I headed out to Corambirra Point and met a lady who was blowing bubbles. We spoke briefly before she left and I trekked down the cliffs in my thongs. Now if there’s one type of footwear that isn’t suited to hiking along rocks, it’s thongs. I told myself to remember to wear trail shoes next time I attempt to hike across jagged rocks. But I made it back down safely and went back to the hostel. As I got back the lady spotted me and gave me her bubbles so I could spread some bubble joy elsewhere.

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My evening was spent enjoying the $5 BBQ at the hostel and completing a jigsaw puzzle of the map with a Scottish girl who was sharing my room. At around 2am I was woken by the sounds of snoring coming from one of the ladies in my room. Stopping short of shaking her awake to stop the snoring the three of us just had to laugh as we said her name repeatedly to try and wake her up. We failed miserably but luckily fell asleep not long after.20160720_091939

As I packed my suitcase the next morning I was a bit sad to be leaving Coffs so soon, but was keen to see what Port Macquarie had to offer. I checked out, left my bags and walked along the creek in the search of koalas. They all seemed to be hiding from me as there were none in sight, so I kept heading along the path until I arrived at the highway and headed up to the Clog Barn.

Clogs aren’t the first thing I think of when people mention Coffs Harbour, but I stayed and watched the clog making demonstration. Afterwards the guy explained that the demo clog goes to whoever had travelled the furthest to see the demonstration. One lady said she was from a town close by, another lady said she was from Adelaide, but I was declared the winner after mentioning Perth. I couldn’t take the clog and I wasn’t going to post it home so I left it for someone who would appreciate it.

Throughout the morning my nose started dripping and I hoped it was just allergies, but as the day went on it started getting worse. By the time I got to Port Macquarie I was sneezing like there’s no tomorrow. When I woke up after a 12 hour sleep it was apparent that I had a chest infection and it wasn’t going away any time soon.

I spent the morning relaxing in bed and napping, but by lunchtime I was going stir crazy and wanted to get out. I decided to walk to the Koala Hospital with Laila and Wes, an English couple that I’d met in Coffs. We meandered for 3km to the hospital and made it just in time for the feeding.

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Now I just want to set the record straight. A koala is not a bear. A koala is a marsupial (like a kangaroo) and has a pouch for its young. People often confuse koalas for their evil relatives, the drop bear. The drop bear looks like a koala but has sharp teeth and claws and attacks people by dropping out of trees. The only way to stay safe is to smear yourself in Vegemite which is exactly why us Aussies eat Vegemite all the time. Don’t believe me? Read this: http://australianmuseum.net.au/drop-bear

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We all oohed and aahed over the gorgeous koalas and wished we could take them all home. On the way out we stopped by the Roto House to learn a bit about Port Mac’s history. The volunteer told us that whilst convicts were sent to Sydney, those who re-offended whilst in Sydney were then sent to Port Mac. I shared some of my knowledge of the east coast in relation to Captain Cook and told them the story of how he was sacrificed in Hawai’I in 1775.

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Just before closing time we started the walk back to the hostel stopping at Red Rooster for Laila and Wes to experience some Aussie take-away chips. Later that night I stepped back in time to the 90s as I had to choose a movie to watch from a collection of about 100 VHS tapes.

I woke up on Friday morning feeling only slightly better than the day before so I knew it would be another quiet day. I grabbed my bubbles and walked to the marina in the hope of spotting dolphins but there weren’t any in sight. I started blowing bubbles and then realised that people in the playground behind me were talking about the bubbles. I headed into the play area and for an hour I just blew bubbles as the kids went crazy for them. One kid was on the swing and he yelled “Mum! Let me off! I want to play with the bubbles!!”. Some mums came over to thank me for distracting their kids whilst others clearly looked like they wanted to play with the bubbles too.

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Later that morning I walked along the Kooloonbung Creek walkway and saw hundreds of flying foxes just hanging out by the creek. Yet again I failed at spotting a wild koala, so I headed back to the hostel and spent my afternoon relaxing in the hammock. That night was spent watching movies (Eat, Pray Love and Deadpool – because clearly those two are both love stories) before having a restless night thanks to my chest infection.

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Saturday was another travel day so I packed up all my stuff and together with Wes and Laila we were dropped off at the bus stop to wait for the Greyhound. We boarded at 11am and the first stop was around 2pm at a BP in some small town. Due to a power outage they could only make limited foods so I settled on a ham, cheese and salad sandwich. $7.30 later I ate my stale sandwich before getting back on the bus. An hour later I said goodbye to Laila and Wes in Newcastle as I settled in for the rest of my journey to Canberra.

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I arrived in Canberra at 10pm and my initial thoughts after walking to the hostel were along the lines of “holy crap it’s cold!”. The next morning was even colder as the temperature was a chilly -1.8 degrees when I woke at 7:30am. It wasn’t going to stop me from enjoying my day so after brekky I rugged up and walked to the National Museum.

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When I arrived the previous night I’d picked up a guide to what was on in Canberra for the month. I opened it and saw an advert that read ‘Happy Birthday Play School’. I couldn’t believe it. I’d been talking about Play School only a few days before and now I was seeing that there was an exhibit at the National Museum that finished on my one day in Canberra. My inner 5 year-old was jumping for joy so I had to pay it a visit.

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I know that most Australians reading this would have watched Play School at some stage in their life. I remember the days with Monica, Noni and Benita who were on our screens in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I was so excited to see Big Ted, Little Ted, Jemima, Humpty Dumpty, the flower clock, the rocket clock, and of course – the arch window! I don’t care what anyone else says, the arch window is the best window. After reminiscing about my childhood and singing the Play School song to myself more times than I could count, I meandered through the rest of the exhibits at the museum.

As lunchtime neared I walked to Patissez and met up with my friend Claire for an awesome lunch and epic ‘freakshakes’.

Later we headed to Parliament House for a quick walk around and looked at the House of Representatives and the Senate rooms. Claire was excited as she successfully owned Parliament House for 5 minutes in Pokémon Go, before losing it to a 10-year-old.

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I said goodbye to Claire at the National Gallery where I met up with Anja and Steph, two women who I’d met weeks earlier at the Big Red Run. We walked around and saw some fantastic art, including works by Monet, Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol before heading to the National Portrait Gallery for a quick look around. Unfortunately the High Court had closed for the day, so we said goodbye and I headed back to the hostel for my second and last night in Canberra.

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I woke on Monday morning feeling slightly better than before, but still slightly congested. As I blew my nose the girl in the bed below started saying “sorry” before saying to me “sorry, but can you do that outside.” I couldn’t believe it. She was actually telling me to get out of the warm bed and blow my nose outside the room because she didn’t want to hear it. I can’t stand the sound either but I wouldn’t ever ask someone to leave the room to blow their nose. I had to get up anyway so I got changed, had brekky, got my luggage and walked back to the bus station for my 8-hour bus ride to Melbourne.

The last two weeks have seemed to have flown by, but have also gone extremely slowly. I hit three more mini milestones in relation to visiting places in Australia:

  • I crossed two more state borders – NSW/ACT and NSW/Vic (I’d crossed the Qld/NSW and Qld/SA borders in the few weeks prior);
  • I stood at the most eastern point of the Australian mainland; and
  • I visited Canberra and the ACT – the only capital city and state/territory that I hadn’t visited on the mainland.

I’ve met some incredible people on my travels and I’m grateful for all the experiences I’ve had in the last few weeks. Now it’s time to say goodbye to Australia for a week and head to New Zealand for some fun!

(Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Canberra – 18-25 July)

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