If the vans a rockin' don't come a knockin'


19th Mar 2012 - 1st Apr 2012

Left Darren and Lorraine's after a lazy morning (and catching up with laundry- who knows when will be next). It was great to see Darren and Lorraine, it's been a long time, and they have a fantastic house and were very kind letting us stay and eat all their hula hoops, monster munch and beer. So it was on the road for us, our plan is to go back up the east coast, up to the top on Darwin, and down the middle to Alice Springs and round the bottom and back to our departure point of Sydney for around the end of June, where we'll try sell our home and fly back to Guernsey. With only our guide books and GPS for guidance we were off, keeping our mobile off (as per usual, we're always together anyway, and it's expensive) and only relying on McDonalds for free internet, we were off...... *Caught in the ACT* Our first destination was across the Victoria border and back into NSW to a little city called Albury. We used it just as a rest stop but it looked a nice little place, it was late when we arrived so we had a look around before having a quiet night, parked in a side street which looked safe.

In the morning we left and headed to the capital of Australia- Canberra. Stopping off at a place called Holbrook for a salty toastie for breakfast. Arriving in Canberra we headed straight for Capital Hill. We went inside the parliament building, we even sat in on two speakers meetings in the senate rooms (like house of lords/commons in London). We went onto the roof which is a grassy garden and looked up at the oversized structure that holds -the size of a double decker bus- Australian flag.

For dinner we went to a nice Irish bar, then we took a walk around even taking part in a Magicians show. At night we slept in the actual middle of the city, right slap bang, in a car park. (now before I go any further we know your not meant to sleep in car parks or side of the road but some places have signs in some areas saying no overnight parking and if there's no sign we take it's fine to stay). The next day we went to the Royal Mint where all of Australia's coins are made. We seen how coins are made and pressed. We even pressed our own coin.

*Grey Mist and Blue Mountains* We left Canberra and headed to Katoomba the largest area in the Blue Mountains National Park. We were surprised how commercial and built up all the towns were, we expected because it was a National Trust Heritage Site it would be preserved. But then we realised how spectacular the Blue Mountains were when we first seen them. We were at Echo Point looking out to the vast land and close to the Three Sisters, named so because Aboriginals thought a father was protecting his children, the Three Sisters. It is a large rock formation of three rocks sticking out. We then attempted an hours walk to see more great scenery but it must have been raining and the path was deep in water. The Blue Mountains is named so beacuse of the blue mist coming off the euclypt trees. We ate dinner in the van overlooking the mountains just as the sun was setting. We had planned on doing the scenic railway in the morning but we woke to rain battering the roof of the van. We decided to have a chilled out day in the van but even when the rain died down we couldn't see anything as there was thick fog covering the road and we couldn't even see the mountains. So we left and headed to Sydney...

*Sorting stuff in Sydney* So we were still owed a some of our deposit from our Korean landlords so to make sure we got it we paid them a visit, and they were apologetic saying they'd forgot to transfer the rest, we also asked to borrow their key to access the swimming pool, it was great we spent ages swimming and in sauna then had a long hot shower. Also we sneakily sat outside the apartments and stole their Internet! We had dinner at The Norfolk a pub on Cleveland and then slept outside our old apartment. In the morning we took our IPad for an update, and now we have lots of room for even more photos! Cleaned out the van and got rid of lots of clothes for charity bin. Never had time to meet any old friends from work but we'll be back. *Whey Aye Man!* Leaving Sydney we headed for Newcastle- so now shamefully we can both say we have seen Newcastle in Australia before we have seen Newcastle in UK. We arrived at night and the place was buzzing with newly passed drivers whizzing around Kev/racer types. But in the morning we realised the place wasn't full of clowns and it was a nice place, with old buildings, art deco baths, long beaches and a nice bar called the brewery on queens wharf overlooking the many export freighters coming into port to collect coal. Newcastle was founded for the convicts too hard even for Sydney to cope with.

*Ps. I love you* Left Newcastle and tried to head to Port Stephens, but the GPS sent us to a street called Port Stephens so we back tracked to the main town called Nelson Bay which is the biggest town in PS. We had dinner out and then had a look round the harbour. Then later we caught the most amazing sunset at one of the beaches. We got a good sleeping spot overlooking the port.

*Ssssnake....* Next stop was Port Macquarie named after the NSW governor. And where, from 1821, convicts were sent if they continued their crimes. Had a drive round looking at the nice beaches then had a barbie on the beach. Went to Port 'Maccas' Macquarie pub for a few before descending on McDonald's 30cent ice cream cones (we don't know the price in UK but that's probably the cheapest thing you can buy in Oz!) And we are now relying on McDonald's for Internet access. Next day we had a shower at the beach! (big thing) then went to Kooloonbung national park which is straight off the main road but once inside, apart from the faint hum of traffic, you feel like inside a forest. We went in search of koalas in the eucalypt trees but never found any. We did hear and see hundreds of bats in the trees, seen crabs in the mangroves, lizards scurry passed us, and..... a Ssssnake!!! As we were walking along the boardwalk Shan suddenly jumped- a snake was crossing the path right in front of us! Like he properly jumped, and a squeal noise escaped from his mouth! Needless to say we hot footed it back to the van! We didn't know what kind it was, it wasn't too big but still scared the hell out of us but later googled it and we think it was a non-venomous tree snake!

*Coming back to Coffs* Left Port Macquarie and headed up to Coffs Harbour. On the way we stopped off at a place called Urunga and seen the river meet the ocean, took some photos and were on our way. So we had already been to Coffs on the way down and done everything then (whale watching), so we chilled by the beach for a while before having dinner at The Plantation- same as last time. The food there is great and very very cheap at $7. Shan ended up eating two steaks just cause it was a good price, and I got dessert! It's a stretch-but if anyone ever happens to be in Coffs Harbour go to The Plantation! In the morning we were lying in bed when the police pulled up next to us, we crapped ourselves a bit, but they only parked up to look at the view, then were on their way. And we were on our way- to The Big Banana! Which is a plantation of banana trees and a kinda museum thing which we skipped, and headed for the cafe where we got a chocolate and sprinkled coated banana and a real banana smoothie.

*Hippy Hippy Shake* Drove on up the coast to Byron Bay (via Grafton for lunch). We have also been to Byron before but we really liked the place. We had dinner at a cheap pub before heading to the famous ''Cheeky Monkey's'' bar. We ended up on the stage trying to win some prizes. Along with 3 other couples we had to do the most sex positions in 45 seconds.... And we won with 14 positions! (hope that makes you proud, parents) We won two prizes- a trip to Noosa for one, and a scuba diving course for one!!!! This is not our usual thing- we both normally shy away from participating in quizzes etc! In bed the rain battered down. The next morning was beautifully hot and we went to the beach before going to Peterpans travel agent and sorting out our prizes. We ended up booking tours to Fraser Island and the Whitsundays too! (that's all our fantastic Christmas and Birthday money spent now, thanks family).

We had decided to go to Nimbin and spend the night, so off we went stopping at an essential place- Lismore- because I grew up in Lismore Gardens (In Scotland) and my mum and dad still live there! Then we drove the road named one of the best in NSW and arrived at Nimbin- famous since the Aquarius festival was held in 1973 bringing hippies and weed smokers. The guide book says you will be offered marijuana within first 5 minutes, and we were asked but within the first 3. The place was full of pot smokers but they didn't seem the friendly kind, they looked malnourished and scraggy. We visited the Nimbin museum which is run by hippies, it was the most oddest place. A VW camper had crashed through the front door so they left it there, there was paper mâché walls, pictures of the queen, giant spliff, more VW campers, and lots of random crap glued to the walls and floor. We went a look in a shop and were greeted by two stoners babbling rubbish and then outside got asked if we wanted to buy weed. We decided as we had literally covered Nimbin- which is mainly one street, that we didn't need to stay the night, and we didn't like the look of the locals. Now as people may read this you might think Nimbin sounds great with the drugs but it wasn't our thing. We drove the hour back to Byron and went back to Cheeky Monkey's for dinner. Left Byron in the morning and headed north, we'll be back in hippy country soon enough.

*Wet n Wild and Superheroes* Arrived at Surfers Paradise and spent our time at theme parks and water parks. We got a super pass for 3 parks and normally it's $99 but we said we were locals and used our Brisbane address and Shans QLD driving licence and got it for $79. It's unlimited park entry until June. We went to Wet N Wild two days in a row and went on all the big rides. There's one- the aqua loop- which you are placed inside a capsule and then on countdown the floor is pulled away and you fly down the slide and do a loop. We also met up with Shannon's ex boss and good friend Paul, and his family. They were very kind people letting us stay overnight and gave us lots of food and drink and were lovely people. We chilled the first night at their lovely house and the next day we went to Warner Bros. Movie World. It's the start of Easter holidays but wasn't too busy. We went on all the big rides including the new Green Lantern ride and Superman- where you do 0 to 100 in 2 seconds. We had fun at the theme park and it was great to see Paul and a friendly Guernsey face!

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