Caravanning for 2 months – young, inexperienced nomads with anxiety

Prelude…

 

2013 was a tough year, so was the end of 2012. My wife and I were in stressful jobs mainly because we were working in a completely dysfunctional workplace where 75 redundancies had occurred across the company and some of our managers are not stepping up to improve anything. Needless to say that our supposed corporate values became notions of escaping aspiration rather than a reality.

 

Apart from a stressful work environment, my wife’s father passed away; I lost my PhD scholarship and therefore did not take up PhD candidature; I was called to hospital to say goodbye to my father as well (although he survived and had several complicated surgeries to follow); we were robbed and lost $25 thousand dollars worth of stuff plus ALL of our photographs and memories – they even stole my good clothes, my wife’s lingerie, my photography studio equipment, and anything of any value financially or personally – we were not covered under our insurance; and I was diagnosed with a mental illness, which significantly reduced my capability to function normally and contribute positively in all areas of my life. It also had a huge impact on my wife.

 

I had a breakdown at work one morning and could not return. A few months had passed and life was a real struggle at times. It was even harder for my wife. I knew we needed to get away from our lives and reconnect with humanity, nature, and the real purpose of life. I concluded that existing is not living and the quality of life is only possible if you remove the poison that prevents happiness. I needed to heal and my wife needed to be a part of that process.

 

One of the steps to healing included travelling with my wife and getting away from the stresses of the city. Dad suggested my wife and I take his caravan and travel. So, we did! We had no idea what we were doing or how we would do it. We’d never caravanned before and I was clueless. All we knew is that we had a large, expensive caravan that was not ours and we could somehow do something to it that would result in catastrophe.

 

This post serves 3 purposes: 1. It is our story of caravanning around NSW; 2. It is a rating structure that enables you to determine if you want to stay at some of the caravan parks that we have; and gives you generic information about some of the spots we stayed.

 

There are our conclusions at the end which are obviously limited to our experiences. Also, caravan prices listed are for 2 people off-peak in a powered site unless otherwise specified.

 

Firstly, this is the final rating of the caravan parks (apologies for the formatting but WordPress seems very limited when it comes to graphs):

Price/Value 30 View/Surrounds 30 Facilities 10 Extras 12 Atmosphere 10 Location/Conv 5 Clean 3 Total
Name PRICE Average/100 James Elaine James Elaine James Elaine James Elaine James Elaine James Elaine James Elaine James Elaine
Blue Dolphin Holiday Resort – Yamba riverfront 32 87 29 28 25 26 8.5 9 9 11 9 9.5 3 3 2 2 85.5 88.5
North Coast Holiday Park – Urunga 35 85.75 26 26.5 28 29 9 9 6 6 9 9 4 4.5 2.75 2.75 84.75 86.75
Emerald Beach Holiday Park beachfront (no view) 36 82.25 24 26 25 26.5 8 9 10 11 8 8 1.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 79 85.5
Oxley Anchorage Caravan Park – Harrington 30 77.75 24 25 25 26.5 7.5 6.5 7 6 8 7 4 4 2.5 2.5 78 77.5
Pacific Palms Caravan Park Elizabeth Beach 24 77.25 28 26 26 27 7 6 6 6 8 6 2.5 2.5 2 1.5 79.5 75
Happy Hallidays Caravan Park Hallidays Point 37 76.375 22 26 22 23 6.5 7 9 11 5 8.5 4 3.5 2.5 2.75 71 81.75
Broken Head Holiday Park beachfront (no view) 31.5 75.25 26 25 26 27 7.5 7 4 4 8 7.5 2 2 2 2.5 75.5 75
Big 4 South West Rocks 37 75 24 25 23 25 5.5 6 8.5 9 6 8 3 3 1.5 2.5 71.5 78.5
Iluka Anchorage Caravan Park 35 74.25 22 25 24 23 6.5 6.5 8 7 8 8 3.5 3 2 2 74 74.5
North Coast Holiday Park – Coffs Harbour (highway) 30 73 24 28 20 25 7 8 4 6 5 7 3 4 2.5 2.5 65.5 80.5
Emerald Beach Holiday Park beachfront (no view) – shoulder season 36 72.75 22 22 25 27 7 7.5 9 9 7 4 1.5 0 2 2.5 73.5 72
North Coast Holiday Park – Mylestom beachfront (no view) 34 72 24 23 25 22 8.5 7 7.5 7 5 6.5 2 2 2.5 2 74.5 69.5
Nambucca Heads (Big 4) beachfront (no view) 36 70.75 23 21 17 22 7.5 8 7 8 8.5 8 3 3.5 2.5 2.5 68.5 73
Massey Greene Holiday Park – riverfront 36 70.5 23 23.5 25 24 7 6.5 3.5 4 6 7 3.5 3 2.5 2.5 70.5 70.5
Bulahdelah Rest Park 25 68.75 29 28 21 22 5 6 3 3 6 7.5 1.5 2.5 1.5 1.5 67 70.5
Hat Head Holiday Park riverfront 32 68.375 25 25 28 27 5 6 1 1 7 6 2.5 1 0.25 2 68.75 68
Pottsville South – Tweed Coast H.P. riverfront 34 65.875 21 21 25 26 5.5 5 2 2.5 5 6 4.5 4.5 1.75 2 64.75 67
Foreshore Caravan Park Nambucca Heads riverfront 32 65 20 21 26 23 6 5 1 0 8 8 3.5 3.5 2.5 2.5 67 63
Banana Coast Caravan Park 30 64.5 23 22 21 25 4.5 4 5 4 4.5 4.5 4 3 2.5 2 64.5 64.5
Roses Park – Thora – free camping $1 1 63.25 29 25 23 22 2 2 1 1 8 6.5 3 3 0.5 0.5 66.5 60
Ferry Reserve H.P – N.C.H.P – Brunswick Heads 32 61.25 21 23 23 22 4 5 2.5 3 6.5 5.5 2 1.5 2 1.5 61 61.5
Iluka Riverside Tourist Park 36 61 17 20 26 23 5 5 3 3 5 3 4 4 2 2 62 60
Shaws Bay H.P – North Coast H.P – Ballina waterfront 36 59.25 19 20 26 25 5.5 5.5 2.5 3 2 3 2 3 0.5 1.5 57.5 61
Twin Dolphins Caravan Park  Tuncurry 28 52.5 17.5 21 20 22 5.5 2 2 3 2 2 3 3 0.5 1.5 50.5 54.5
Belongil Fields – Byron Bay 34 47.5 15 15 18 20 4 4 0 0 5 5 2.5 3 2 1.5 46.5 48.5
Bellingen Showgrounds 25 36.5 10 9 15 20 4 2 0 0 4 1 3 3.5 0.5 1 36.5 36.5

 

Also, we kept a record of ALL expenses during the trip. We averaged $49.97cents per day. Our largest expense was accommodation at averaging $32 per night followed by petrol and then food. I have a full breakdown of costs which I will include at a later date.

 

Departure….

 

It is hard to get excited about the trip. My mind keeps going over what could go wrong. ‘Have I connected everything correctly? Is the caravan packed safely? Can I handle the towing? What do I do if we fishtail or crash?’ All these anxieties are preventing me from relaxing.

 

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My wife and I agree that we’ve done everything correctly to tow the caravan for the very first time. The aerial is down, the handbrake is off, the emergency brake wire is connected, the chain is on, the windows and doors are closed and locked, the hatch is down, the rear winders are up, the electrics are connected, the gas is off, et cetera. We double check the list Dad left for us and anxiously head off.

 

We set off for Broken Head (7km south of Byron Bay) at around 1pm Queensland time. The GPS and www.whereis.com suggest the trip will take roughly 2 hours and 9 minutes. I figured it would take 3 hours when towing; I was terribly wrong!

 

We’ve never towed a caravan before and take our time to navigate our way through Brisbane and tell ourselves there is no hurry: ‘We get there when we get there.’ So many motorists in Brisbane and the Gold Coast are selfish and their driving behaviour shows they’ve never tried to tow a 5-meter long caravan.

 

3 hours later we are still on the road. It seems that towing a caravan reduces your speed significant especially when going over hills and through dense traffic in a capital city.

 

Along the way we lost revs to around 2,000 on one hill and our speed was only just above 20kph. I actually thought we were going to stop, which would be a huge problem considering that we drive an automatic X-Trail as I am not sure we’d get rolling again. This peaks my anxiety. Can we really do this? Am I setting myself up to fail? Will I have an anxiety attack and we get stuck in the middle of nowhere with no one to help us? I thought about turning around and heading back to my parents place as neither of us were relaxed and were only seeing potential hazards.

 

{TIP: I spoke with a grey nomad who said that you need to tow for the road ahead. I.e., speed up before a hill and gear down as soon as the engine drops below 2,500RPM even in an automatic 4WD}

 

We eventually arrive at Broken Head Caravan Park 3 hours and 15 minutes into the journey, which makes it 16:15 Queensland time. The office was closed! I could not figure it out until my wife said New South Wales were 1 hour ahead still due to daylight saving. This meant it was 17:15 local time.

 

A few minutes later a lady opened the office door and informed us that there were no sites left as it was a Saturday and they usually fill up fast over the weekends and that they close at 17:00.

 

I managed to haphazardly reverse out of the caravan park into a round about with my wife spotting. This was a huge challenge and took around 10 minutes to reverse 15 meters.

 

We head back into Byron and stayed at the only Caravan Park that we knew would have spots left – Belongil Fields. I can now say the reviews of this caravan park are somewhat accurate.

 

We were greeted by a young, thin reception lady who has bright purple hair and is wearing a very loose fit white shirt with a see through lace bra. I automatically think: ‘We are in Byron.’ This lady told us there were plenty of spots and to drive in and park anywhere we wanted to. After lapping the place twice we found a spot close to the amenities but far enough away from the blaring speakers of the party crowd.

 

There seems to be a very diverse crowd of people. The older hippies are camping along the swamp/tree line, the younger partiers are near the BBQ place, and those caravanners that want to get away from others are on the next field down.

 

I was buggered after setting up the caravan. ‘Is it level? Do we have power? Have we switched the fridge over to 240V, is the water in correctly? Have we anchored the caravan properly? What if it rains?’ I went to sleep immediately and then awoke in a panic – ‘Oh NO! IS THE HANDBRAKE ON?’.

 

After waking I realised how limited Belongil Fields amenities are. The male toilets are clean but are very basic and not worth the $34 per night it costs to be there.

There were a crowd of young people playing music in the common area (which I am sure was meant to be the communal kitchen). We slept most of the night. I was woken up occasionally when the music was changed in the common area. They played it really loud and I am sure that everyone in the camp was also listening to their music. I guess no-one complained to the managers or, perhaps, the managers do not really care.

 

The next morning the man camping beside us informed us one of his surfboards were stolen from inside his tent. He said Byron Bay was not what it used to be and nor is Belongil Fields. He is going to relocate to Evans Head. We decide to leave this park as well!

 

Broken Head…

 

We move to Broken Head Caravan Park. This place is so much better and only $35 per night, however he gave us a 10% discount when he realised that we had to stay at Belongil Fields last night as they were booked out.

 

The facilities seem great in comparison, it has free Internet (limited to 100MB per day per site) and it is only a few hundred meters to the oceanfront.

 

We pull into the caravan park and try to reverse up the gutter into our site. Unfortunately, the wheels spin when the caravan wheels hit the gutter when reversing and the 4WD does not have the torque to push the caravan up the 15cm concrete gutter and onto the site. A few grey nomads see our struggle and come to assist. After a short discussion they agreed that I should reverse the caravan while they put boards up against the concrete gutter so I can gradually reverse up them. After a few attempts we successfully climbed over the gutter. 25 minutes later we’d set up the caravan. The stress did not abate until after the walk.

 

On check-in the man suggested we do the walk up to the 3 sisters.

 

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It took us 15 minutes to walk up there and the view across Byron and Kings Beach was great. We head down into Kings beach and see that a number of people are completely naked. We did not bring swimmers (as we were bush walking not beaching) and we do like the locals do and jump in starkers! The current is very strong, the water is a little cold and there seems to be a man with a very large appendage walking very fast up and down the beach. Another few men walk closer to our things on the beach and I feel a little uncomfortable as they only became interested in our spot on the beach (which was a few hundred meters from their original spot) after we entered the water. We get out, collect our belongings and head back to the caravan park enjoying the view all the way back.

 

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I strongly suggest staying in Broken Head Caravan Park as this walk alone makes it worth it if you are staying the night in Byron.

 

That evening I spoke with some grey nomads who advise that towing a caravan will double your fuel consumption (generally). I feel more comfortable about our fuel consumption after that conversation.

 

The park winds down well before the designated quiet hours of 21:30. I head to the beach at around 23:00 to take night pics but the visibility is poor. Perhaps tomorrow night….

 

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We stayed another night at Broken Head and received a lot more information from grey nomads. They informed me to use my gears (despite driving an automatic) when climbing hills as the automatic transmission will often change before the torque enables the pulling power to be maximised. This bit of advice makes hill climbing a lot easier but consumes more fuel and puts significantly more strain on the engine. I am now glad we are towing an Adria, which are a lightweight caravan champion. Our Altea 512 (5.12 meters) comes in at just over 1Tonne.

 

 

During the day we go Op-Shopping and buy a saucepan for $1 and go to Woolworths in Byron Bay. We are surprised at how expensive the meat and vegetables are in comparison to Brisbane.

 

 

 

That afternoon we swim at Kings Beach again and also across the headland. We decide to head on the next morning as we are meeting friends and are told that the Blue Dolphin Holiday Resort in Yamba is amazing.

 

 

 

Yamba…

 

We arrive at Yamba after a short but stressful drive. It was busy, hot, and I had to stop midway to rest despite it only meant to be a 1.5-hour drive. The anxiety associated with the possibility of crashing the caravan was overwhelming especially after a few cars cut us off and some caravan sway while cornering. I guess anxiety is one of the weaknesses of humanity in general. The very fact that I was worrying about crashing causes me to reduce my effectiveness at driving, physical conditions manifest that could cause an accident. In other words, anxiety can cause the very thing we are anxious about and want to avoid (i.e., a singer might be nervous about making an error while performing in front of a large crowd – this anxiety then reduces the quality of their singing performance). I tell myself that it will get easier towing the caravan in traffic and I will learn how to better handle a swaying caravan and control anxiety.



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DSC00812edThe grey nomads were correct, the Blue Dolphin Caravan Park is a great caravan park right and it is right on the riverbank. It is a truly beautiful spot with soldier crabs running across the low laying sand below where we sit and we occasionally see fish jumping out of the water.

 

That afternoon we enjoyed the facilities. There are 2 pools – one is a heated pool with a soft-bubbled spa for adults and the other pool in a separate area has two slides. We have fun in both pools including the slides prior to using the jumping pillow. Yes, we are big kids!

 

 

Then the sun started to set and then the mozzies came out.

 

We decide to stay another night. At the time, we really like this caravan park but did not realise until much later in our trip how wonderful this caravan park really is.

 

 

The next day we explored the local area including the Angourie Blue and Green Pools and the local beaches. The Angourie pools were good and so was the beach where they are located. We walked the entirety of the rock face and beach enjoying watching the waves hit the rock face and splash over onto the rocks.

 

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DSC00819edAfter this we head back to the caravan park and went kayaking in the river. We land on the smaller uninhabited island and walked between the islands on the sand bars and the shallow water. It was good to be able to cross to the other islands but there really was nothing there apart from more beaches and bush. We only came across 1 other group that afternoon on those islands. While it was fun, there was not really any point going to these places apart from exploring. I doubt the fishing would be any good but the water was warm and good for swimming.

 

That night we decide to head to Emerald Beach the next morning.

 

Emerald Beach…

 

It was very difficult to pull out of the spot we were camping in. I forgot to choose a site that was easy to get out of.

 

<Tip: Always think about how you will tow the caravan out of the place you are parking it. If in doubt about how to get out, ask a grey nomad as they are usually very happy to help and I found it makes them feel good as well>

 

After several attempts to unsuccessfully manoeuvre out and my wife getting frustrated, an ex-truck driver came across and talked me through how to get out. Seconds later we were off on the next leg of our journey.

 

The drive to Emerald beach was okay and my wife drove the last 30km after Grafton. I am very proud of her for towing the caravan along the highway – she did so well! She seldom drives on the highway nor has she ever towed anything. She was anxious, her palms were sweating, and I think it took her a few days to relax after this experience but she did so well!

 

We stayed at the only caravan park in the area – the Emerald Beach Holiday Park at a cost of $36 per night. While there are a number of good things about this park there are also several negatives. The positives are: the camp is basically on the beach (although you cannot see the beach), there is unlimited internet, the walking tracks start on Emerald Beach and are very scenic (especially up to the bluff), there is a sauna, the reception staff were nice, and you can have a camp fire in designated areas until 9pm if you want. The negatives are: there are not enough facilities to accommodate the campers in shoulder season (I had to use alternate showers both times), the layout makes the place feel crowded and loud when busy (i.e., the children screaming 5 tents down affects everyone camping along the 3 roads), the small pool is meant to be heated but is freezing cold and full of children in off-season, the only grocery store close-by charges ridiculous prices (2 litres of milk and a loaf of low quality bread cost $10), and the entry and exit bridge is very stressful to navigate across if you don’t have a lot of experience driving in tight spaces.

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We spent most of our time walking along the beach tracks. The best spot was up at Bear Bluff (which you might accidently call Bluff Head) as the views across to the other beaches were incredible. Keep in mind that you will need to use an overgrown bush path on the tracks North of Emerald Beach due to NSW government cut backs (there is now no-one maintaining the walking trails which are little more than a line in the grass in some spots). Also, check out Shelly’s Beach and Look At Me Now Headland if you like Grey Kangaroos as the place is full of them (the paths at these two places are made of sandstone and grass is low due to the kangaroos consuming it).

 

While this area is pretty, my wife does not feel comfortable at this caravan park and cannot relax. We decide to head to Coffs Harbour even though we have not done all the walks!

 

It is getting easier to pack up the caravan and drive with it! We now have it down to 20 minutes.

 

Coffs Harbour…

 

The journey to Coffs Harbour is short and effortless. We decide to stay at the North Coast Holiday Park Coffs Harbour as it is the cheapest in the area at $30 per night and is part of the same caravan park chain that offers a ‘stay 6 nights get the 7th free’ deal. We figure we will be staying at North Coast Holiday Park in Mylestom so we will make use of this deal.

 

The park is on the main road so there is traffic noise but it is also only a 7-minute walk to town. The facilities are basic and there is no pool or other extras that other caravan parks provide. The site is, however, currently under reconstruction and there may be more facilities in time.

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After setting up (which is becoming easier and quicker) we plan our day. We head to the botanical gardens, which is okay for a smaller town and will be nice in the years to come. We see the entire place in around 1 hour.

 

 

Thereafter we head down to the jetty, which boasts a completely calm and rip-free swimming area that is akin to swimming in a pool. The NSW government have still erected signs suggesting this and nearly all their beaches are unsafe to swim in. Kids are jumping off the nearby jetty and the locals are launching small sailboats and kayaks from this sheltered area. We jump into the cold water and wade around.

 

 

The next day it is raining and we decide not to see the headland at the Harbour, see the Big Banana or head to Diggers beach. Perhaps we will do these things on the way back up the east coast.

 

The next morning we hook up the van in record time and set off for the 30 minute drive to Mylestom.

 

For more information on Coffs Harbour please see ‘Coffs Harbour northbound’ as we stop here on the way back up the coast.

 

Mylestom…

 

We arrive in Mylestom early and without issue. It is getting easier to tow the caravan and I am starting to think ahead (i.e., Do I need to reverse if I park there? Do I have enough room to exit?).

 

At first, we are surprised that the North Coast Holiday Park Mylestom is not as amazing as described to us by the experienced grey nomads. Perhaps they value the new facilities more than we do.

 

The camp kitchen is new and there are two barbeques and one gas stove top as well as a microwave, kettle, fridge-freezer and stainless steel cookware. The floor is hard wood and tile and there is a new flat screen TV. Apart from this, the rest of the place is very standard. One thing we did not like about this park is they always seemed to be whipper snipping or mowing which completely killed the quiet atmosphere that the area was known for.

 

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We visit the beach and realise

it is so isolated that we could not see anyone else on the 5km stretch of yellow sand.

We head to the river, which is only another 1-minute drive from the park, and we see many small to medium size fish swimming around in the water. We decide we will go fishing here later.

 

After fussing around the campsite we head back for an afternoon of fishing. We can still see many fish around the jetty until the local kids jump off the jetty screaming until it gets dark.

After the kids leave the fishing improves. Three of the bream we caught are large enough to keep – one of them is over a kilogram.

We arrive back at camp at 9pm, but the cooking facilities are now closed – I have never seen a caravan park close its facilities until now. Even the best, modern facilities are worthless when locked shut each night! Apparently these facilities are closed around 10:30pm each night, but it was closed early this night for some reason.My wife and I try to cook the fish using the electric frying pan in our van and now we have a strong fish smell throughout the caravan. We spend half of the next day trying to wash everything and remove the smell.

 

ADVICE:- if cooking fish, do so outside the caravan. Ask a neighbour to borrow an extension lead if you do not have one! This fish smell lasted 3 days and was horrid!

 

After a few days we decide that we’ve done everything on offer in Mylestom. We’ve gone fishing, seen the beach but did not swim because of all the blue bottles (stingers) and jellyfish that were washed up on the beach on the second day. The only other thing on offer there was the local pub (bowling club). We decide to head inland with the intention of seeing Gondwana National Park and the waterfalls.

 

Bellingen (Bello) and Dorrigo…

 

We arrive at Bellingen early in the morning. It is getting much easier to tow the caravan and I am less concerned that I will make an error that could end in devastation.

 

We had a lot of trouble finding the showgrounds as the camping book we were using as a guide gave incorrect GPS coordinates to the campsite and the road was spelt wrong.

 

Bellingen showgrounds, as a campsite, is well below par. We basically pulled in and asked another camper the rules. They said “Park anywhere you want and sometime tonight a lady will ask for cash. $25 for powered sites and 18 for non-powered.” That’s exactly what happened. A lady (apparently named Rhonda according to Facebook posts) asked us for money, gave us the shower code, and then left. The grass was long; the male showers remained dirty, smelly, and uncared for; there were no communal cooking facilities; they charge extra for air-conditioning; and the price was still $25. I found it incredibly difficult to believe that people still went there at that price. I hope that caravanners stop going there and the caretakers attempt to improve the facilities and atmosphere of the campgrounds as Bellingen has a lot more to offer and so many people will bypass this town as there is no where of quality to stay.

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IMG_0204edIMG_0230edThat afternoon we drove to Dorrigo and then onto the Dangar Falls. From Bellingen it w

as a winding and sometimes steep 25-minute drive through beautiful scenery. We were grateful that we did not try to take the caravan up as we saw an older fellow pull over with smoking brakes. The road is steep in some places and unforgiving.

Dorrigo itself is a small, sleepy country town that has a natural charm to it. The locals were very friendly and all seemed to know each other. Dangar falls is only a few kilometres north of the town centre.

 

 


Upon arrival, it is only another 15-minute stroll to the bottom of the 30m high waterfall. My wife swam under the waterfall along with some other keen Swedish lads all of which said the water was freezing cold!

 

We agreed that we would make our way to Thora the next day and camp at a free site. It is a shame that Bellingen showgrounds overcharge without providing facilities. I guess they are trying to cash in on their proximity to Dorrigo and know that some travellers refuse to tow their caravans up the mountain. What they fail to realise is that people will eventually bypass Bellingen, as their site does not represent value for money. This will hurt the town financially.

 

Thora – free camp…

 

After some consideration we park wherever we want which ends up being next to a rusty, old wood fire BBQ and a nice picnic table. This camp is right on the road so we can hear the traffic but it is not really a concern. There two old, ‘slightly off’ toilets that don’t not have a light. Luckily we have solar and kinetic powered torches. Also, there is no electricity or water here.

 

 

We chill out for the day at this new campsite and I read a Wilbur Smith book – something I have not done since a teenager. Without electricity, one has little choice but to engage in activities that existed prior to electronics and cyberspace!

 

That evening we chat with some other nice campers and, after a few minutes, we’ve got around 8 people all introducing themselves and sitting around having a glass of wine together and sharing stories. None of us know each other but we all seemed to get along very well! We even got invited to one of their places when we reach Port Macquarie.

 

IMG_0367ED2The next day we travel up to Gondwana rainforest information centre in Dorrigo, do the skywalk (which lasts around 1 minute), and do the Wonga Walk, which took around 1.5 hours. Along this track we saw the Crystal Showers and walked behind this waterfall. It was a very good experience to walk behind a waterfall without getting wet. There was just enough water to make it interesting but you cannot swim at the bottom as the catchment is small and runs down more rocks at the base. Along the trail we saw several birds and another animal named a Pademelon – an animal similar to a Kangaroo.

 

Once again, we did our grocery shopping in Dorrigo at the tiny IGA and headed back to Thora to cook on the open fire using wood and mingle, once again, with the other campers.

 

Nambucca Heads…

 

We arrive at Nambucca Heads bright and early. Towing the caravan today was simple. I guess after 7 times of setting up and pushing off it has become easier.

 

We decide to stay at the Big 4 in Nambucca Heads as we wanted to stay somewhere decent considering we have not showered for 2 days or had decent cooking facilities for 3 days. While this is not a big deal, it is nice to have good facilities. The Big 4 in Nambucca Heads charge $37 per night (the most expensive park we’ve stayed at so far), are situated on a wild beach with several rips, and we cannot really pick anything special about this park that can justify the price. They do include 60 minutes of wireless internet use but the advertised ‘2 pools’ is an exaggeration as the first and second pool are beside each other and the kids are all in the adults pool, which completely defeats the idea of having 2 pools!

 

 

We spend the afternoon looking around town and decide that tomorrow we will move to the Foreshore Caravan Park, which is on the river and sheltered from the intense wind but still very close to the beach. It does not have wireless Internet or a public kitchen but the toilets and showers are good enough, clean and the hot water in the public sink is very hot! Also, we finally come across an old-fashioned caravan park where we do not have to carry a key to the toilets everywhere or remember a code. I look forward to fishing and kayaking in the river after we move from the Big 4 tomorrow.

 

Late that evening, around 2:30am, we hear our young neighbours arrive home from a nights drinking. A few minutes later that young blonde girl is crying loudly. We look out the window to see if she needs help but her brutish partner tugs on her arm with excessive force and drags her back into the van. We then hear what sounds like thuds before silence. We were not sure what happened and whether he had hit her. The next morning she headed to the toilets with a make up bag even before showering. I told the male manager what we’d heard in case something else happens in the following nights. We only tell him the facts of what we heard and saw and do not speculate what has happened. He takes down the information, makes notes, and we both agree it was best that neither of us confront him directly as it might end up making matters worse for his partner if he is actually assaulting her.

 

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After arriving at the Foreshore Caravan Park, which is only a few kilometres up the road, we go kayaking in the river. There is not really much advantage to kayaking to the nearby islands as they are endangered bird habitats and you are only allowed on the sand bar.

 

Later we went fishing from the Foreshore Caravan Park literally 20 meters from our caravan. We caught a few decent sized bream one of which we ate. The next day we caught another few bream but they were only around 25cm so we released them.

 

We decide we will stay one more night here before heading to South West Rocks.

 

South West Rocks…

 

The drive to South West Rocks was simple despite several gradual bends in the road at speed. I am now comfortable driving the caravan.

We saw all three caravan parks in South West Rocks. The first on Horseshoe Bay was $43.50 per night and they only had 1 site left next to bins and cabins – that particular site is not exactly worth the money but the sites at the front of the park wake up to million dollar views of the ocean.

 

We then head to the caravan park on the river at George St, which was $38 per night plus $4 per hour for the Internet. The facilities are nice and so is the river but we are budget conscious in this area and decide we need to stay elsewhere.

 

We went to the last Caravan Park in the area, which is a Big 4. They were offering sites at $37 per night or 4 nights for $120 with limited Internet use in their office (i.e., check email quickly from the 1 VERY slow public computer). We took them up on this offer.

 

One thing we have noticed is that some caravan parks do not offer gas-cooking facilities in their public kitchens. This is a huge inconvenience for people like us who want to cook in pans using gas rather than frying meat on a BBQ every night. This Big 4 is no different. It was surprising to learn that the gas bbqs provided by Big 4 at South West Rocks require a 1-dollar coin to operate. I always thought that the Big 4 were meant to be quality hassle-free parks where you leave your stress at the door. Congruent with all the Big 4 parks we’ve been to, this park is well set up with activities for children.

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We spend the afternoon in the pool, which is designed really beautifully (actually this is the best pool we’ve seen at a caravan park) but very cold and not very well maintained (at least in the off season when we were there). I had actually written a scathing review but changed it after we were told that the solar heating is off as they are in the process of constructing a second pool with a pirate ship and slides. The blue print and 3DI plan looks amazing! I look forward to seeing this project finished if we ever return to this caravan park.

 

 

So far this morning is not going well. We have a few places that we want to see but our GPS cannot find the roads, the Longitude and Latitudes in the guidebooks are wrong (or the GPS is off), my camera door has just broken, our wireless dongle password for some reason is incorrect, the big 4 complimentary public computer at the reception is so slow that you cannot even do a Google search without it taking more than 15 minutes, and the only internet option we now have is the Net 4 which is a complete waste of money and time as we were not even able to use our 1 hour access at the other big 4.

 

We end up going to the beach directly beside the Trial Bay Gaol. It is a very calm, flat beach with see through water and the occasional fish swimming around your feet.

DSC00711edDSC00647edLater we head out and see Trial Bay Gaol. The history behind this place can really sum up modern politics and ethics. The Goal was first established in the 1874 and from 1886 convicts on their last term of prison were sentenced to this prison to take part in hard labour to build the Breakwater wall, which commenced in 1889. The breakwater construction was designed to reduce the amount of ships that ran aground in the area (i.e., provide a refuge for ships) but the walls were damaged during storms in the 1890s. In 1903 the government decided the project was a failure, abandoned the breakwater project and closed the prison. In 1914 Europeans living in Australia (‘enemy aliens’) were rounded up and detained in this gaol in case they were hostile toward the Australian people and government (which seems like a stupid move as detainment would naturally cause hostility). 582 aliens were detained here until 1918 most of which had to sleep in tents in the limited space available. These civilians were rationed food and water and treated akin to prisoners of war despite being registered migrants. In 1918 (when WWI was officially over) the prison was, once again, closed in 1923 and deteriorated over time. In 1965 the government decided that this was an important monument to be maintained. Today it is a protected national park. I guess this is a metaphor for current governmental practice. Put heaps of resources into a project; do it the wrong way and then it fails. Close the place for years and let it start to deteriorate, then use that site for unethical detainment, then much later tell the story of the site as if it was a failing of that era and ignore that these practices are still continuing today. I wonder what stories our grandchildren will be telling about our current asylum seeker detainment and policies?

 

The Trial Bay Gaol costs $7.50 entry per person and is worth it if you like history and old (by Aussie standards) buildings. If you do not like history or seeing these buildings then you probably wont think this place represents value for money. I strongly suggest taking young people here so they can learn about the history of our forefathers and hopefully learn from our ancestor’s mistakes so they can, hopefully, provide a more harmonious and inclusive future.

 

There is beach-side camping available next to this gaol (jail) at a cost of $53.50 per night for 2 in a powered site with showers, toilets, and a communal cooking facility. Despite the great location, we did not stay here as we do not think this represents value for money in off-season.

 

Later we drive around to the other national park campsite at Smoky Cape beach. It costs $17 for a site with a communal non-flush toilet (no lights) and bin as the only facilities. I was keen to stay there but my wife did not like walking in the dark in the bush to get to the toilet. Fair enough.

DSC00868edWe head up to Smoky Cape lighthouse, which boasts great views over the South and North Smoky Cape beaches. We decide we will do the Jack Perkins walk down to the secluded South Smoky Cape beach another day.

 

 

This morning I learn the value in choosing a camping spot away from kids play areas. It rained nearly all night and I did not get much sleep. Just before 7am screaming children awoke me. I don’t blame the children for their loud bickering, fighting, and calls for parental attention and love. It is apparent to any bystander that this behaviour is a product of their parents who seem to think noise and loud talking is acceptable and the only way to reduce the children’s noise is to yell over them more aggressively. Obviously the one who makes the loudest noise commands the most respect and ultimately triumphs, right? I found it relaxing when the rain came again as it drowned out the continuous reverberations from the loud family. Right now I am anxious and pissed off and am doing my best to try to defray tension hence me writing this.

 

They are now packing up their tent and leaving, probably due to the rain. Finally, we will have some peace. It is amazing how one group of loud and selfish campers can ruin the entire place for everyone else.

 

I am hoping this weather clears up and we can spend part of the day doing a bush walk and finishing at the beautiful beach.

The weather has not cleared up.

 

<ADVICE:- Take activities with you that you can do when the weather is bad. I’ve brought some novels with me that I haven’t read but have been on the bookshelf for 12 years. I’ve also found the time to edit some film that was on the backburner. My wife loves Sudoku and has been doing that ALL DAY!>

The next day we head do the Jack Perkins trail down from the Smoky Cape lighthouse and end up at North Smoky Beach.

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We are leaving tomorrow for Hat Head. I think South West Rocks is a lovely area and certainly has a lot to offer families who like the beach, history, and fishing.

 

 

 

 

Hat Head…

 

The drive to Hat Head can make the area feel very remote. It seems like no-one lives in the area until you get closer to the coast.

 

This area is isolated with only one eatery and no general store or petrol station. Despite this, the caravan park was populated with residents and guests and the adjoining park had many people visiting on motorcycles, others in cars with boats, and families. It was very busy when we arrived despite being off-season. Every third vehicle was a ute and every fifth camper had a boat. A grey nomad said there was a fishing tournament earlier that week somewhere nearby and that some of the boaties would have gone to that and be on their way home with a stop off at Hat Head.

 

The kitchen facilities at Hat Head Holiday Park were very old and did not seem like there was any effort to ensure they were usable. I got the feeling that this caravan park is set up for boaties and fishers and therefore the facilities are limited. There is, however, a new shower and toilet block near the reception, which is very good but not cleaned very well (at least when I was there).

 

The creek running alongside the caravan park is beautiful with transparent water that meets the ocean three or four hundred meters in front of the park (although you cannot see the water from the campsites). This caravan park really is in a magical spot and the snorkelling in the shallow waters (that reach around 1 meter in the creek) toward the beach and rocks is very good. We saw plenty of bream, whiting, tarwhine, blackfish, some flathead and trevally. There were some fisherman trying to catch some of these fish but all were unsuccessful as they were fishing near the bridge rather than where we snorkelled alongside the rocks (where all the fish hung out).



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The beach at Hat Had was okay to swim in although there were some small waves. There were plenty of sprat and herring at the mouth of the creek swimming in the small waves that lapped the yellow-sand beach. This beach was busy despite being away from the highway. Boats were coming and going every 15 minutes or so which means that the people in the creek mouth need to watch out for boats (as this is where the boat ramp is).

 

I  strongly recommend taking children to Hat Head as the creek is safe (apart from the boats) and great for snorkelling, kayaking, and swimming. We will probably return to Hat Head on the way back.

 

However, the Korogoro Point walking track is not suited to families and only highly experienced orienteers with bush resources should attempt to do this ‘circuit’. This walk (starting from the left hand side) would be fine for couples up to the point if they head back the same way they came and be attentive to the path rather than attempting the circuit (as the path seems to disappear midway). The wild purple flowers (we saw them in March) along the walkway are pretty.

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There is a sign that suggests experienced bushwalkers only should proceed past that point. That sign loses all meaning when the NSW government put up dangerous currents signs in Coffs Harbour next to the jetty where the ocean is flat and akin to a swimming pool! We should have payed attention to this sign and turned around because the rest of the path is not maintained and the NSW government has failed to even try to ensure there are clear marks on the path. We got lost and if we were not savvy there would have been a search party sent to find us!

 

Apart from the ocean, river and the walk there is not much more to do in this area. We enjoyed the few days we had there (apart from getting lost on the bush walk). We headed to Port Macquarie after this.

 

Port Macquarie…

 

The drive to Port Macquarie was good until we approached the city itself. The entire place is full of tight roundabouts and 70,000 people. It was mentally very tough, as I had to be attentive of other vehicles and be conscious that I would cross into 2 lanes at times around tight roundabouts. This meant sometimes waiting until other cars had gone through the roundabout and then hogging both lanes. This sounds easy enough but there are some very unforgiving people on the roads.

 

We arrive at a fellow travellers house about 7km out of the city centre and stay with them for a few days. Consequently, I am unable to provide any feedback on caravan parks in this area but we saw the local attractions.

 

DSC00089edDSC00097EDA river, beaches and rainforest surround Port Macquarie. It is a very pretty area with an abundance of dolphins and marine life. We saw dolphins playing in the waves off lighthouse beach, a falcon learning to hunt, and koalas at the koala hospital.

 

We learned the intergenerational history of a local family that lived in the area in the 18 and 1900s at Roto House (located in front of the Koala Hospital), saw the art gallery in the city centre, caught the free ferry (for pedestrians or $5 return for cars) across to Settlement Point, and visited the local beaches. It was raining most of the time but we still enjoyed the area, which really is akin to paradise in so many ways. The local people were also nice.

We’d like to return to Port Macquarie some day and hope it is sunny.

 

Hallidays Point…

 

The drive to Hallidays Point was easy and carefree once we navigated our way through the roundabouts. An hour later we arrived at Hallidays Point and it was raining. It did not stop raining the entire time we were there.

 

We stayed at Happy Hallidays Holiday Park at $37 per night (off season). While there are some great features about this caravan park (such as a heated indoor pool, a great children’s play area, and a kids train) it is also awfully designed with only one shower block and the camp kitchen is a long distance from the main hang out area – the wireless internet hotspot. Also BBQs cost $1 dollar for 15 minutes.

 

There are a number of Grass Parrots that hang around this park.

Despite the rain we ventured out to Pebbly Beach (also called Little Pebble Beach) and Shelly Beach. This area would be a okay in clear weather. However, swimming at these beaches might be challenging for the inexperienced as there are strong rips, currents, some rocks and waves.

 

I thought I’d take this opportunity to free up some space on my computer but accidently deleted caches and triplicates of .mov files from my external hard-drive as well, which effectively meant I deleted all our files from our trip. When my computers and hard drives were stolen last time we lost nearly all of our photos then so I was extra unhappy with myself. I had a little troppo moment, then calmed myself and tried to recover what I’d lost. Two full days and $109 later I’d managed to recover 75% of what I needed from my hard drives.

 

{Advice:- If deleting several files at once from your computer by using the search feature, ensure that your external hard drives are disconnected from the computer as the computer bundles those files with your own hard drive and you may accidently delete them too}

 

We left Hallidays Point without getting a great look at the surrounding areas.

 

Tuncurry/Forster…

 

The drive from Hallidays to Tuncurry was seamless. We stayed at Twin Dolphins Holiday Park ($28 per night). It seems this is a family run caravan park and its best days are behind it. The mother was particularly cold and borderline rude informing us of all the things we cannot do rather than welcoming us. After enquiring about the internet she informed me that there was none because the pie shop that provided wireless internet (which I presume used to be next door) did not have internet anymore. I was shocked by this statement. Also, they put adverts on the website stating that if you stay 4 nights they will charge you for 3 nights only. Upon enquiry she told me this was only for cabins but their website does not specify this. This actually worked in our favour as we are very happy that we do not have to stay at this place more than 1 night. Large trees, which are nice, are scattered throughout the park but there is no creek like the map online implies and mosquitos are particularly bad. Plus some the old trees are dropping very large branches in the wind right onto campsites. There were also leeches as soon as you stepped off the path. The misses screamed and yelled when one latched on between her toes and then again on her hand as she had no idea what it was. The facilities are dated. We advise staying at a different caravan park if in the Foster area.

 

Like most of the coastline, Forster and Tuncurry are beautiful. There are some semi-protected beaches in Foster and the beginning of the lakes present a nice, calm saltwater area to swim and fish. These towns are populated and Forster is going to be another Gold Coast in 30 years time as there are several 7-story buildings that line the seashore. Apparently around 100,000 people flock here over xmas.

 

On sunset we saw dolphins enter the lakes from the rock-walls that line the creek (lake) that separate Foster from Tuncurry. They did not play in the water like in Port Macquarie and seemed to be powering along to get somewhere inside the lakes. We were told they head that way everyday.

 

We decide to leave this area for Pacific Palms tomorrow. I am a bit nervous about the final stage of lakes way given that the last stretch to Bulladelah is narrow, winding, and steep and we’ve been told to avoid the last part of this road by grey nomads.

 

Pacific Palms, Elizabeth Beach…

 

We arrive after a 25-minute drive with a short stop to dispel anxiety. There are a few roundabouts heading out of Forster and I clipped the gutter of one due to a car failing to recognise that I needed to cross slightly into the other lane to safely manoeuvre around the round about – as I’ve swung wide they’ve accelerated on the outside of me to race past me on the round about which caused me to tack toward the round about and slow down considerably. Ignorance and stupidity created this situation. Then I came to a petrol station but could not get in the driveway as it was congested and consequently I overshot the driveway. Just when I was starting to get a bit of confidence – I am now back in the novice caravanner category.

 

When we arrive there is no one at the reception of the Pacific Palms Caravan Park. A few minutes later they came and gave us a site for $24 per night, which ended up being $152 for the week. This is the lowest we’ve paid for a powered site so far so we did not expect much. We walk around the caravan park and realise that there are all the essential facilities despite being very old. They even provide gas cook tops, BBQs, and an old fridge in the very dated kitchen. We prefer that this caravan park is functional and fully equipped with free cooking resources as opposed to other newer caravan parks that provide only BBQs and then charge additional fees for their use. There is no pool but there is a fairly sheltered beach about four hundred meters away called Elizabeth Beach.

 

We visited Elizabeth beach and were surprised to see it was patrolled and there was a surf life saving club (it was a Sunday). The water was very calm until a few freak waves dumped a number of us on the sand. I found this exceptionally odd, as the water is very flat at all other times.

After this we ventured over to Shelly Beach. I was surprised by the number of old naked men on the beach. Shelly beach is a nice little sheltered beach that can be accessed via an 800 meter walk over the headland at the south end of Elizabeth beach. There is okay snorkelling nearby the rocks on the right hand side of the beach (as you enter from the walkway). There is, however, a slight current as you approach the rocks so flippers (fins) and strong swimming ability is a must if you intend to snorkel here. Tomorrow we will return to Shelly Beach and spend the day tanning and snorkelling.

 


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Over the next few weeks, and when the sun was shining, we spend a number of days at Shelly Beach enjoying the sun, the sand and the calm ocean. This would be the perfect spot if there were not degenerates who hang out in the bushes at the far end of the beach (where the good snorkelling is).

 

On the second day at this beach we thought about climbing the headland. As we walked up into the sand dunes where there appeared to be a path we saw several naked men engaging in practices best kept indoors. Perhaps they are trying to hide closet deviancies from their families – imagine what their children would think about them if they knew their father was a peeping predator at a beach who preys upon and tries to coerce other men into explicit acts only meters from beach-goers. If you are one of these delightful gentlemen, please contain yourself to a place of complete privacy rather than a public beach! I was so dissatisfied with their selfish and overt behaviour that I wanted to set up a few remote Wi-Fi GoPros (cameras) around in deviants spot and also in the car park (to match the number plates and vehicles to get their identity) then hand the footage over to an appropriate authority. I decided against this action for the moment, as I did not want to end (hetero and homo) marriages! Also, how many parents would want to take their kids to this area if they knew there were deviants up in the bushes.

 

Despite the awful weather, we explored around Seal Rocks, Sugarloaf Point, and boat beach. Seal rocks is impressive and we will stay here another time.

 

For the rest of the week it rained. Very soon it was Easter and we made the rookie error of not booking ahead. Every quality campsite was fully booked and we had no choice but to head inland.

 

Bulahdelah, Tea Gardens & Hawks Nest…

 

We ended up driving through The Lakes Way up to Bulahdelah. Earlier on we were told by Grey Nomads not to take the van along Lakes Way past the Seal Rocks turn off if I was not confident. After completing this leg of the journey I know why. It is very steep and winding in some parts. I had to drop down into first a few times and nearly redline to get momentum to continue up the hill and around the corner only to come to a narrow and winding peak and have to be heavy on the brakes to go back down. After around 25 minutes of challenging driving we made it over the hills and onto the highway. I felt elation, my wife felt delayed pressure from the experience. This reinforced in my mind that how we process these events can drastically affect our mental health. I try not to let her anxiety affect my own mental state and tell her reassuringly that we’ve just made it through the toughest part of the journey and that we did it without any dramas whatsoever. We are now intermediate caravanners! The next morning she smiled when I repeated these sentiments but she replied ‘We are never going that way again with the caravan.’

 

<ADVICE:- If towing over the mountains at Lakes Way from Seal Rocks to Bulahdelah make sure you balance the caravan and reduce the weight where possible. For example do not refill you water tanks prior to this leg of your journey and evenly disperse weight in your caravan>

 

We are now safely at the Bulahdelah Rest Area (caravan park), which is still using a sign titled Alum Mountain Caravan Park for some reason. This place has very basic facilities and is just off the highway. The only reason we are staying here is because it is Easter and it is $120 for the week (or $25 per night). We are staying the week, as every other place is full and/or very expensive over Easter. Despite being away from everything and next to the highway, this caravan park was nearly full by the afternoon, which emptied out over the next few days. I guess other campers are making use of the low price sites here that do not go up over the Easter period.

 

The township of Bulahdelah is surprisingly busy and there are several cafes. We had prepared for a town without any resources but this place even has a hardware slash fishing slash camping store. Across the street is a bakery and butcher. It is apparent that this town once was thriving and growing but, I presume, since the highway bypass was constructed it has suffered financially. That could be why they are now offering the 72-hour free camp spot at Lions Park, as this is likely to encourage some campers to use some of the local stores. Lions Park does not have any facilities apart from a few sheltered picnic tables and a brown river but it is located a few hundred meters from a pub, a few cafes and the town centre. The wife did not want to stay at Lions Park as we would need to haul water over the hills at Lakes Way – this made sense to me. If I were to take the caravan back through this area I would still do it with an empty water tank.

 

After arriving we set the caravan up but I have a lot of trouble disconnecting the caravan connection from the tow ball. While I am winding the lifting mechanism (the jockey wheel) the back of the 4WD is lifting instead of releasing the tow ball. The Adria caravans are famous for having an incredibly tight grip on the tow ball but this was ridiculous. The winding roads must have increased the tightness of the grasp on the tow ball. After 10 minutes of winding and jacking the tow ball finally breaks free and the 4WD drops about 30cm which can explain why it was so difficult to wind the jockey wheel. We then use the orange plastic levellers on one side of the caravan to lift it level, as one side is about 20cm lower than the other. This worked well until the jockey wheel slipped off the board it was on and the caravan moved a few centimetres forward. Once again, we are back in the rookie caravanning category.

 

We learned from our error and correctly chocked the wheels this time before releasing the tow ball.

 

We spend the week exploring around the area starting with the shores of Myall Lakes then Tea Gardens, Hawks Nest, Bundabah, Pindimar and finally the Mungo Brush area.

 

The Myall Lakes is a nice peaceful spot and the lake is great for kayaking in. It is not the best area for swimming as it is shallow in parts – sometimes you can walk for more than 100 meters before the water gets deeper enough to swim. There is a North Shore Holiday Park right on the river. When driving out of this area we noticed a pungent smell, which we could only account to a stagnant swamp. I guess this area smells after large rainfall, as there is a water catchment on the other side of the main road and nowhere for that water to run off.

Bundabah and Pindimar are areas that most travellers bypass. Upon seeing these towns I can understand why. There are a number of houses on the lake in these areas but nothing else. Plus, the beaches in both these areas are a composition of muddy sand and mangroves and very shallow – not the best place for swimming.

 

Hawks Nest and Tea Gardens are joined by Singing Bridge and so close that you might mistake them for being one place.

 

At Hawkes Nest, the waves at Ocean beach is sometimes dangerous dumpers but Jimmys Beach (just around the corner) is a protected beach – a long stretch of white sand with a flat ocean and a view across to Port Stephens. While the water depth drops quickly at Jimmy’s beach, it is very safe to swim in. We enjoyed our time at this beach – the sand is incredibly fine and white.

 

Our favourite place, however, is near Mungo Brush and is named Dark Point Aboriginal Place. This place is magical. After parking we climb a beautiful white sand dune, which was probably at 45 degrees steep. Then we walk 600 meters across rolling sand dunes before reaching a pristine beach and there are only another 15 or so people here. When on the sand dunes it is very easy to imagine that you are in the desert right up until the last few meters when you can clearly see the ocean and islands. We walked 400 meters up the beach and found our own spot. There were hundreds of large mullet a few meters out from the waters edge and handfuls of pipis digging into the sand after the waves expose them. There were a few fisher-people who’d anchored their boats around 600 meters out from shore. If we are ever in this area again we will certainly return to Dark Point Aboriginal Place!

 

After a week at Bulahdelah we are enjoying seeing the Black Cockatoos (which might actually be Major Toms) and Galahs but we are growing tired of the jets that constantly fly over at low altitude. I guess you can have too much of a good thing. We head off for Harrington along the highway.

 

Harrington and Crowdy Head…

 

The highway north to Harrington from Bulahdelah is mostly at a climb and I am back in a position where I have to drop back to first to maintain momentum and climb hills on the highway. While most cars are doing 100+kph we are struggling to reach 40kph on some gradual hills. We hug to the left lane the entire trip until the turn off to Harrington. This 100km journey took 1.5 hours without any stops.

 

We are staying at the Oxley Anchorage Caravan Park at $30 per night. It has a full size fridge and free BBQs in the camp kitchen, showers and toilets are plentiful but you have to use a key to get in (which is annoying as you only get 1 key), a pool, and is across the road from the ocean (like a lake due to the break wall) and the bowls club, and next door to a petrol station. There is a large IGA down the road a few kilometres. Overall, this place is good.

 

Harrington and Crowdy Head are beautiful areas. We spend the rest of the beautifully clear and warm day travelling around looking at the beaches, the lighthouse, and the river. We see a dolphin swim through the 10-meter gap in the break-wall, which is flowing at around 30knots and is only around 2 meters deep. It was shocking as we were staring down from the footbridge into the water and a dolphin swam past at lightning speed – both of us had to ask each other what we saw and whether it was real as this dolphin used the strong current and its tail to propel itself so fast that it crossed the gap and disappeared in less than 1 second. We were in awe and will never see anything like that again in our life.

 

That night the weather turned. We wound in the awning at 04:30am and prepared for the onslaught. The bulk of the storm hit around 8am. Hail stones the size of 5 cent coins hit at speed for around 20 minutes composed with lightning, thunder, sideways rain and hail and then power outage. I felt sorry for other campers especially those in tents. It certainly was another experience being in such intense weather. While the hail was very loud, the caravan withstood the constant pelting and so did the car. The neighbours boat was not so fortunate having several dings in the aluminium frame.

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DCIM101GOPRODCIM101GOPROWe spent a few more nights here. We were surprised at how quiet the beaches between Harrington city centre and Crowdy Head lighthouse were. For about 30 minutes we were the only people on this 4km (I guess) beach. We also see a pod of dolphins playing in the waves about 300 meters out from the end of the rock wall. Earlier we went to the beach in front of the surf club at Crowdy Head and there were many families there but the area smelt strongly of seaweed and the water was shallow.

 

Urunga…

 

The drive from Harrington to Urunga is around 200km and it took us nearly 3 hours with one short stop for fuel. Initially we stopped at Urunga Waters Caravan Park but they wanted $35 per night and that site seemed rather dreary and very expensive for the limited facilities and location. We then headed to North Coast Holiday Parks Urunga which is right on the mouth of the Bellingen and Kendall rivers. There is a board walk along the edge of this waterway to the ocean and this area seems to have a lot of fish. We look forward to kayaking, fishing and snorkelling in this area.

 

This caravan park has great cooking facilities, good amenities, and rabbits running around the park.

 

Later that afternoon I went fishing and caught a decent size bream directly in front of the caravan park off the rocks. The next day I also caught another bream a few meters from the start of the jetty. This area is teaming with small fish and will be a great habitat in years to come as long as people do not get greedy.

 

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The next day we drove a few kilometres down the road the Hungry Head, then down to Schnapper Beach Road and to Wenonah Head. During our track along the beach we saw an Echidna that buried itself in the sand, an octopus hunting crabs in the tidal pool, many kangaroos around the roadside and a drop bear. What a magnificent day.

We ended up staying 5 nights in Urunga as the area is just so beautiful. The locals we met were all friendly and township itself is very accommodating of travellers – except those that catch undersize fish and keep them (which I completely understand). We thoroughly enjoyed Urunga.

 

 

Coffs Harbour (again)!…

 

The trip to Coffs Harbour was brief and unchallenging. We decided to stay at Banana Coast (or similar) Caravan Park at $30 for the night. This caravan park was full of permanents who seemed to live there because it was cheaper than renting a house in the community. Most of the residents did not greet us except for one lady who was surprisingly nice and friendly despite supporting Pauline Hanson and her immigration policies (and was open about it in front of my Asian wife who is obviously a migrant). We only stayed at this caravan park one night as the place was not really conducive to relaxation.

 

DCIM101GOPROAfter the rain stopped that afternoon we went for a walk around the jetty, the harbour, and then Muttonbird Island which connects directly with the harbour. There were many colourful fish swimming around in the boat harbour. It was great to just watch them swimming around in multitudes. We then headed up Muttonbird Island and were asked by Wires Volunteers to assist in returning captured Muttonbirds back to the island. Each night over a three week period each year the Muttonbirds fly towards the lights in Coffs Harbour because they mistake them for the moon (apparently). They then hide in dark crevices. The Wires Volunteers collect them each day and take them back up to the top of the island, their natural habitat, every afternoon. On this afternoon around 50 birds were returned to the island. This was a really great experience and we were impressed that local conservationists devoted themselves to saving this species. Great work Wires and Coffs Harbour residents!

 

The day after we took the short drive to the Big 4 Emerald Beach.

 

Emerald Beach…

 

This time we enjoyed Emerald Beach Big 4 caravan park as there were far less fellow campers in the place. Last time we did not get a decent sleep here as screaming children woke us up several times. This time we had a decent sleep, we could enjoy the pool without kids bombing in, we used the sauna without interruptions, the facilities were more than sufficient for the amount of people staying, my wife did all the walks around the area, and we made use of the free Wednesday morning pancake breakfast. I recommend staying here in off-season if you like walking over headlands, as it is good value for money at $36 per night. We stayed 4 nights and then headed to Iluka, which is across the river from Yamba.

 

Iluka…

 

After putting myself back into the intermediate caravanning category we encountered a hitch. The corner post near the laundry in Emerald Beach Caravan Park was preventing me from navigating the caravan past a parked car. A few reverses later and a few observers spotting for me and I drove on another campers site and went between their campervan and that post rather than swing around the post. I told the staff there upon check-out that this pole made the corner impossible with a caravan if someone parks their car right on the edge of the grass on their site.

 

The drive to Iluka was fine except for a few trucks that decided to overtake us at the last second in an overtaking lane on the highway. Once again, we found ourselves braking hard and up against the metal barrier to prevent crashing. Sar Jay (the lady with her MC licence we met at Bulahdelah) said to get used to being cut off on overtaking lanes as it goes with towing a van with a smaller engine 4WD – I acknowledge that it was dangerous don’t let it bother me.

 

We end up staying at Iluka Riverside Tourist Park, which sounds nice enough but we cannot recommend this place. They charge $36 per night but could not see value for money here. When we arrived it rained and the cold wind gushed through. We could not understand why this place was full.

 

The next morning we moved to the ? Iluka Anchorage? Caravan park which had unlimited wireless Internet direct to your van, reasonable toilets and showers, and an okay camp kitchen next to the heated pool and spa. While this place was not amazing, it represented far better value for money at $35 a night. It is across the road from a mangrove lined river (with only limited views) but there is a small jetty that one can fish off.

 

I caught several legal sized fish off this small jetty including 3 bream, 2 flathead, and a flounder. I released 2 bream and 1 flounder as they we had enough fish for dinner on those days and do not like taking more than we need. Also, the area has many whitebait (sprat) and herring especially at the end of the street off the rocks. Use a jig and cast out toward the yellow marker.

 

We met several nice people at this caravan park including some permanent residents. Everyone had a story to tell and it was great that they were comfortable telling it. One lady had lost her husband recently and, once her relocatable home was renovated, she was going to head north to scatter his ashes across the ocean in his favourite spot. I listened to her story for around 30 minutes without interjecting. I think this lady needed someone outside of her circle to share her story and I was glad to listen. After she talked she appeared to be more relaxed and smiled reminiscently. We hugged and I left knowing that she would be okay and that I needed to hug my wife.

 

Iluka is a nice, quiet little town and people there are still very friendly. All the locals at Iluka were very happy to chat and sometimes even wanted to tell us about the history of the place. They all seemed to agree that Iluka is far better than Yamba – I guess that is why they live there. One Canadian local (LOL) said that he’d moved there 12 years ago and resident are mostly single mothers, pensioners, and unemployed people. He also said the area was mostly free of crime apart from the occasional break in and DV case.

 

There is one IGA that has a range of overpriced groceries and some very low price specials and discounts. I presume they need to make use of some of the locals that can afford to pay top dollar for groceries against the probability that they may need to throw out old stock and therefore let some of it go at a very low price. We bought 1kg of honey-soy pork for under $7 (no bones) and prime sirloin steak for $10 a kilogram.

 

One thing that disturbed me about Iluka was that every entry point to the beach after the main area at the breakwater was a national park and required a $7 dollar day use permit. This restricts beach access all the way along the coast in this area. Now I understand why so many people bypass Iluka – no visitor wants to pay to use a beach sight unseen.

 

We left Iluka thinking the area is good for fishing but there is no real prospect that the area will develop much beyond its current capacity.

 

Ballina…

 

We arrive in Ballina after a mostly chilled highway journey with the exception of a truck cutting us off at the end of an overtaking lane. The truck overtook us despite the overtaking lane merging. If I did not brake we would have collided.

 

There are several roundabouts on the way into East Ballina and we get lost twice as Brighton St has been divided into three different streets. This would usually not be an issue except we are towing a caravan in narrow streets up hills without enough room to turn around. By the time we find the caravan park I am exhausted and in need of a rest. Shaws Bay North Coast Holiday Park is right next to the pub on the river.

 

When we arrive and check in the young lady informed us many campers get lost in the hills on the three Brighton Streets – that should be reason enough for them to take action to ensure their customers make it there the first time (A large sign perhaps?). We were told our site number and given a map (which I found odd as all the other places gave us a map and told us to go for a walk into the park and choose our site from an available list). After checking in on a Sunday the music then starts. This should be something guests are notified about upon check-in. The pub has live music on Sunday afternoons and it is VERY LOUD!!!!!! If we had not just driven for 2 hours and in need of a short rest this music might be okay, but we are tired and the music was definitely 4 hours of unwanted noise.

 

Despite needing a rest, after setting up we occupy ourselves away from camp (to escape the rockfest) and head up the break-wall walk to the beach, which is nice but not unlike any of the other beautiful walks up the river to the beaches in Northern and Central NSW. We see some dolphins up the river in the centre of the town but they are shy and head away from the crowd. We return to camp and the music is still going.

 

We are very disappointed with the Shaws Bay North Coast Holiday Park site as the camp kitchen is well below par, they require a $1 coin to operate the BBQ, the amenities are not the same quality standard experienced at the other sites, and the signs in the female toilets imply that there are thefts in this park (probably due to the public access along the river walk right along the front of the caravan park). This site is not value for money at $36 per night.

 

We travel to the other caravan parks in the area as we intend to move to a park that represents better value for money. The other North Coast Holiday Park in Central Ballina also has a horrifically awful camp kitchen but is still $35 per night. The amenities are new and nice and it is across the road from the river (although there are no views). It is walking distance to shops and the supermarket. We think this site is still nowhere near the standard that North Coast Holiday Parks usually present.

 

We go around the corner and see Ballina Lakeside Holiday Park. Their facilities are far better and they represent far better value for money at $36 per night or $39 for premium sites near the lagoon. Despite this, the lagoon does not have an entrance way to the river and therefore the fishing in the lagoon is limited. Also, they charge $1 for bbq use and do not provide any other cooking facilities.

 

We decide to remain where we are in Shaws Bay for an additional night and cut our stay in Ballina short due to the poor facilities offered at the three caravan parks in the vicinity. Now I know why people in Iluka said Ballina is “S*%t” and to bypass the place. Perhaps they meant that the caravan parks were overpriced for what they offer. When you consider that there are many other parks along the coast that offer similar views at a lower price with more facilities, I have to agree with the critics. Ballina is not a place I recommend stopping at if you have to stay in the caravan parks here.

 

The next morning we are slow to decide what we are doing. I was typing this and my wife woke up late. At 10:40am we were walking out the door of our van when the receptionist called us on our mobile and said that our code to leave the park was soon to be deactivated. Despite being incredibly angry with this (I think I remained composed) I told here that we were just about to head out for the day and were going to pay as we were walking past the office. I went into the office and paid immediately but in the process told her that out of 20(ish) caravan parks this was the only one that called us looking for either payment or getting us to leave. She replied that it was nearly 11am (it was 10:50am on their clock by that stage). I can understand why they’d be strict with the times if it was peak season or the park was busy but this is off-season and the park is very quiet. On a side issue, they charge for the use of their BBQs and, consequently, no-one cleans them. In the two days we were there staff did not clean them once. Instead of pressuring people to pay immediately or leave (especially in off-season), why not focus on ensuring the resources you do have are clean and functional? I don’t know what else to say except for this park should not bear the North Coast Holiday Parks logo as it devalues the entire brand. So does the Central Ballina campsite. If they want to charge premium prices for their sites they need to invest a small amount of money on facilities and decent staff like they’ve done in Urunga and Mylestom. Despite having a good view, the atmosphere in this place is like rotten fish and we can’t wait to leave. We will definitely move on tomorrow and raise our concerns about the Ballina Parks with the corporate managers.

 

Brunswick Heads…

 

It rains most of the trip to Brunswick Heads. It is still raining gently when we set-up the caravan at Ferry Reserve – North Coast Holiday Parks. This park is very basic, allows dogs, and is right on the river. There cooking facilities are limited to BBQs but they plan to upgrade to a decent camp kitchen soon. The bathrooms are old and poor quality but do the job. It is a little dear at $32 per night, but the staff are friendly and the park is riverfront.

 

Eventually the rain ceases and I go fishing.

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There are several small fish around but none of them seem to be hitting the bait. I decide to put on a whole herring and try for flathead. About 20 minutes and 2 herring later (small fish eating the herring) something big strikes my line and starts to run. I battle the fish for nearly a minute and try to keep it out of the many snags that run around the riverbank. An old fellow in a boat about 5 meters out watches the last few seconds before I pull the large bream over the riverbank. This is the biggest bream I’ve ever seen. It measures 44cm and 2.1kgs. Several other travellers gather around and then start fishing along the river. Nothing else was caught.

 

I was happy to show everyone my fish (if they asked). Apparently someone else caught a decent flathead the day before in the same spot I was fishing.

 

The next day we move around the river to Massey Greene – North Coast Holiday Park as the shower and toilet amenities are new and the camp kitchen is a little better offering a 2 burner stove top and free gas BBQs. Even though it is still slightly overpriced, we think it represents better value at $36 a night. This site would be best in the warmer months on the in-coming tide as all the particles are swept out to sea on the outgoing tide and the incoming tide produces clear water perfect for snorkelling. My wife decided it was time to swim at around 21:45 and the temperature was around 14 degrees. Why not, hey?

 

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Some of the grey nomads have boats and put crab pots along the river just past the Ferry Reserve campsite. Everyday they eat around 5 crabs each and do not share with anyone. I tell my wife that if we head here next time we will bring a crab pot and share with others.

 

This area is pretty, but we think Urunga is far better for fishing and relaxing. Perhaps this is due to the friendly locals, the better caravan park, or the wildlife. We found some locals in Nambucca Heads to be friendly, but some are not. I guess some get tired of travellers coming to their little town, catching their fish, their crabs, and disturbing their peace. I understand their mentality.

 

Tomorrow we will move on to Pottsville South.

 

Pottsville…

 

The trip to Pottsville was smooth despite the rain. We were surprised that both Tweed Coast Holiday Parks at Pottsville have only basic, old facilities. The Pottsville South caravan park is on the river a few hundred meters down stream from the ocean whereas Pottsville North is on a smaller, mangrove filled, muddy creek. Both sites are $34 a night. We stay at Pottsville South as we value the view of the river more than the pool at North. They are only a few kilometres from each other.

 

DCIM101GOPRODCIM101GOPRODCIM101GOPRODCIM101GOPRODCIM101GOPROThe river is beautiful, however, does not have that many fish in it. We snorkelling a few times and only found a few small bream, several tiny whiting, and some mullet. A grey nomad told us the area had been fished out and the stocks were depleted. It is unfortunate as this river is scenic.

 

DCIM101GOPROWe end up on site 18 at Pottsville South. If you ever stay here do not choose site 18 or 17. It is positioned under a tree where Corellas hang out at day and hundreds of Rainbow Lorikeets sit at sunset. This means your van/tent and car will be covered in bird shit. It took us 2 days to clean it all off.

 

There is a surprisingly large (for a small town) market across from the caravan park on a Sunday morning. Also, there is an IGA in town.

 

We left Pottsville thinking the area is nice, but we do not really have any plan to stop there again.

Our trip is just about over.

Back to Brisbane/Ipswich area:

 

On the way home we encountered the Gold Coast and Brisbane traffic. We have come to recognise that many divers around the Gold Coast tend to be in a hurry, tailgate a lot more, cut people off, and generally tend to demonstrate anti-citizenship driving behaviour. No wonder so many New South Welshman consider Queenslanders to be bogan fools when they are mostly exposed to people on the Gold Coast. Part of the blame needs to reside with Dept Main Roads as there are not enough lanes in most of the highway areas along the Gold Coast and Brisbane, which can lead to more aggressive driving behaviour and anti-social outcomes on the road.

 

Apart from a few ladies trying to step out in front of our van in Pottsville, the trip back was smooth with one major exception—the near crash that would have been fatal. We were 2kms from our final destination and a truck passes us at about 110kph on the highway. We are doing around 80 and the truck driver beside us leaving only centimetres between our van and their trailers. I physically felt the van and car get sucked in closer to the truck. For a split second, I thought we were going to crash on the highway at speed. This was not the best way to end our holiday, but it did remind me that driving with a light trailer can be very dangerous at times. It always pays to be cautious and careful.

 

Overall, this trip was wonderful and I strongly recommend people in stressful jobs borrow or buy a caravan or motorhome and just get away from the daily grind. You may rediscover yourself and find the answers to those lifelong questions that all of us ask from time to time. Good luck, comrades.

 

 General conclusions and tips about caravanning:

 

1. Get used to banging your head at the start of the trip as we seem to hit our head around 2 times per day on open windows, the microwave door, cupboards, the awning, et cetera. After a while we became more space aware and stopped hitting our heads as often.

2. Take a basic tool kit and at least 1 spare part for all critical areas of the caravan. Nearly all the pop rivets came off the front hatch and luckily a grey nomad was there to help with spares otherwise we would have had a few hour drive to buy pop rivets and tools. Also, our roof hatch keeps coming open, the window latches do not work properly, and the front door lock ceases periodically, the awning has bent, the plastic around the door handle has perished, the door latch has split, the electronic water pump fails often, etc . All this and the caravan is only 4 years old.

3. Do not take large bulky items that are unnecessary, as they will get in the way. We should never have brought the gas BBQ as we have gas cookers inside. Also, the clothesline takes up a lot of space – a piece of rope tied between two trees does the same job. The spare 20L fuel drum is also an added pest that I have to move.

4. Test your electronic devices and passwords prior to departing. Once you are on the road it is challenging to reset passwords without the Internet or waiting on hold for 30 minutes or more thus costing a fortune in mobile bills.

5. Expect to use twice the amount of fuel and trips between stops to take 30 – 50% longer than if you were not towing. A 2 hour journey without towing took us nearly 4 hours at the start. It now takes us 2.5 hours.

6. Make sure you set your awning up correctly otherwise it will bend, possibly break or fly off with the wind.

7. After a storm that ends in a sudden blackout, check your fuses and make sure your 240V power is still in the on position after power is restored. We were operating off battery for 24 hours after the storm and thought there were brown outs when our lights dulled and we could not operate more than 1 electrical item at a time (which was a result of a nearly depleted battery).

8. Learn how to reverse first and make sure your partner learns as well so that they can direct you when reversing the caravan. This is essential as it will lead to less frustration and, fingers crossed, eliminate phrases such as “Just come straight back.” This will result in less deep breaths and tension.

9. Travel in off-season. While part of the joys of caravanning is meeting other people, no one likes to hear screaming kids from 6am until 10pm every day. Off-season seems to attract a more travel savvy crowd (who prioritise relaxation and enjoyment) rather than loud, tired campers.

10. If you are a noise sensitive person, camp away from children’s play facilities, as you will be woken up early every morning if there are children in the park. Plus, often parents lack education and skills to effectively engage with their children, which makes matters worse.

11. Take activities with you that you can do when the weather is bad. I’ve brought some novels with me that I haven’t read but have been on the bookshelf for 12 years. I’ve also found the time to edit some film that was on the backburner. My wife loves Sudoku and has been doing that ALL DAY

12. If travelling during holiday season, make sure you book ahead! Prices skyrocket, kids yell extra loud, parents are extra tired, camping spots are limited and everyone wants that last spot available and have valid reasons for getting frustrated after trying to find a camping spot when there are none left.

13. Carry receipts for all technological devices that may fail. We had 1 camera die, another cameras waterproofing failed, and my phone screen cracked. We did not have receipts for any of these with us and therefore could not get a replacement under warranty where able to do so. Also, if purchasing a new digital device, buy from a national chain (such as Dick Smiths) so that you can return it to any store if there are issues.

 

General conclusions from this trip:

  1. North facing beaches tend to be calm (i.e., no large waves).
  2. NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service are primarily revenue raisers – perhaps they should be re-named as the Park Fee Tax Collectors. Nearly all parking spots (even in regional areas) in a national park and waterway charge a $7 parking fee and an additional $10 dollars per person per night for camping despite providing only toilets as facilities. Perhaps my thought process is wrong, but I’ve payed taxes so that anyone can enter the national parks without imposing an additional state fee. I understand the need for a fee for camping but $7 just to park a car is excessive especially if the money to create that park comes from the Federal Government and then the State Government decides to add an additional tax (fee) to park. Isn’t that double dipping? Call me a lefty socialist if you like but, in my view, national parks should be completely free to park in and visit and their upkeep should be funded by the federal and state government with some fee for service cost recovery on some occasions. QLD does not charge for vehicles to park in a national park. I guess the NSW government want to keep their national parks for the wealthy?
  3. Northern and Central NSW have beautiful river inlets and the towns on these oceans tend to be great. Eg., Urunga, Ballina, Port Macquarie, etc.
  4. The Lakes Way is steep in some parts. Only take this route if confident and alert.

 

The ideal caravan park would have:

  1. Gas burners in the communal kitchen as well as a wood fireplace and seating area. Hot and cold water, large sinks, microwave, fridge, and book swap.
  2. A doggie play area with separate areas for small dogs.
  3. An adult’s only area
  4. An adult’s pool with spa and another for children and adults.
  5. Several spots for showers and toilets throughout the park so that they are never really too far away from amenities (no-one likes a dark, cold, night time stroll in search of a toilet).
  6. A sauna and spa.
  7. A half-life size chessboard.
  8. Free wireless unlimited Internet across the park. This could be switched off at 10pm and on again at 8am to prevent overnight downloads.
  9. Vegetables and herbs (in a fenced off area) that are for sale and a café-style cookery where we cook a meal and charge just above cost price.
  10. A fish farm where people can catch fish and pay for what they catch.
  11. Plenty of natural light into the amenities blocks with ventilation that carries the steam outside.
  12. Several bins located close to van sites rather than 1 large bin at the entrance.
  13. Level sites with either concrete pads or crusher dust for the caravan to park on and soft grass or shade cloth flooring for the awning areas.
  14. On a clean, majestic river with an abundance of fish and crabs.

 

 The ideal caravan would have:

  1. large sun-roof windows to allow natural light in as much as possible and sliding screens to block out light when wanted.
  2. Areas specifically designed to store/use common digital devices when moving and for use in the van.
  3. Outside awning secured and contained with fly screen and wind resistant plastic.
  4. Remote controlled van re-positioning
  5. Electric and gas hot water
  6. Power socket outside under awning
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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recently released the findings of research on scams affecting Australians. They found the following: 

 

 

Scams reports

• In 2011 the ACCC received 83 150 scam-related contacts from consumers and small businesses, almost double that of 2010 when 42 385 contacts were received, and more than four times that of 2009 (20 554 contacts).
• Scam losses reported to the ACCC totalled $85 607 748, a 35 per cent increase from 2010 ($63 436 348).

Losses reported are based solely on information provided by consumers reporting scams to the ACCC. Actual losses are likely to be higher as many scams go unreported and the ACCC is only one of several agencies that receive scam reports.

• Most consumers (nearly 88 per cent) who contacted the ACCC about scams in 2011 reported no financial loss. The most common category of loss was $100 to $499 compared to $1000 to $9999 in 2010. This indicates an increase in ‘high volume scams’, which are delivered to large numbers of recipients but cause smaller amounts of loss per victim.

Most reported scams


• For the third consecutive year, mass marketed advance fee fraud (MMAFF) recorded the highest number of scam reports, contributing to more than half (44 233) the total reported to the ACCC.
• Computer hacking was the second most reported scam type in 2011, contributing more than 23 per cent to the total scam reports to the ACCC, compared to almost 12 per cent in 2010. For the second consecutive year this was largely due to scam phone calls requesting remote access to the recipient’s computer to ‘fi x’ technical problems.
• The ACCC also continued to receive a high level of contact about online auction and shopping scams, banking and online account scams, false billing, job and employment scams, and computer prediction software scams.

Age

• In 2011 scams were most commonly reported in the 25 to 34, 35 to 44 and 45 to 54 year age groups.

Scam delivery method

• In 2011 the ACCC observed a shift in preferred mode of scam delivery from online methods (including internet and email) in 2010, to unsolicited telephone calls in 2011. Almost 52 per cent of scams reported to the ACCC in 2011 were delivered by phone, increasing from just over 33 per cent in 2010 and almost 10 per cent in 2009. The ACCC received 42 977 reports of scam telephone calls in 2011 with a total loss
of $27 773 729.

For the full report please see the ACCC link: http://www.accc.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/1039349

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An exceptional story of humanity

This is an extraordinary story that I was sent on Facebook by a Journalist at TheSun newspaper in Malaysia. This story is written by Kent Nerburn and touched my heart. Please enjoy it.

By Kent Nerburn

We may not all live holy lives, but we live in a
world alive with holy moments
.”
~ Kent Nerburn

Image

Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living.

It was a cowboy’s life, a life for someone who wanted no boss.

What I didn’t realize was that it was also a ministry.

Because I drove the night shift, my cab became a moving confessional. Passengers climbed in, sat behind me in total anonymity, and told me about their lives. I encountered people whose lives amazed me, ennobled me, and made me laugh and weep.

But none touched me more than a woman I picked up late one August night. I was responding to a call from a small brick fourplex in a quiet part of town. I assumed I was being sent to pick up some partyers, or someone who had just had a fight with a lover, or a worker heading to an early shift at some factory for the industrial part of town.

When I arrived at 2:30 a.m., the building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window.

Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, then drive away.

But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation.

Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself.

So I walked to the door and knocked. “Just a minute”, answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80?s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knick-knacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

“Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness.

“It’s nothing”, I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated.”

“Oh, you’re such a good boy”, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, then asked,

“Could you drive through downtown?”

“It’s not the shortest way,” I answered quickly.

“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.”

I looked in the rear view mirror. Her eyes were glistening.

“I don’t have any family left,” she continued. “The doctor says I don’t have very long.”

I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. “What route would you like me to take?” I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired. Let’s go now.”

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

“How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse.

“Nothing,” I said.

“You have to make a living,” she answered.

“There are other passengers”.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.

“You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you.”

I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life.

We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware – beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

 

The above story was adapted from the book “Make Me An Instrument Of Your Peace” by the highly acclaimed author of 14 books, Kent Nerburn.


My brother goes to war, my parents lose their possessions, how did we end up here?

My brother and I when we were boys - an example of what the flood water did to all of our photos

Have you ever reflected on your life and thought: ‘How did I end up here?’  I’m not usually the nostalgic type but today I’ve been struck deep to my core. My parents house flooded nearly to the roof last year. They lost nearly everything. This is the second time. (The first time their house burnt down. They had kept some photographs in a box in the shed, which was not affected by the fire). The day after the water receded from their home, I headed in to help them clean up. When we arrived it looked like a war zone. My heart went out to all the people affected. My parents are in a retirement village, and most of their possessions were completely destroyed. This brings me to today…..

I’ve just unpacked the photographs that were in the flood. They are all the photographs my parents own. We came to Australia from South Africa when I was around 4 years of age. It was just Mum, my older brother, and me. We were very poor and Mum refused to become a charity case. We did it hard. My youngest memories are of my brother and mother getting up at 4am to do the local paper run. They’d fold the newspapers and I would wake up at 5am to help them deliver those papers. My brother was 8 (turning 9) and I was 6. Although this was only once per week, it was a challenge. My mother tried to find work wherever she could. This included working at the local football club, peeling scallops on the trawlers, basically anything that would bring in some money. Somehow, she managed to convince the local bank to lend us enough money to buy a very tiny house with a very small block of land. It was very cheap back then but the interest rate was also 17%. Before I knew how to count money, I knew 17% was a very high interest rate. Mum was under a lot of stress and sometimes she would hit us. My brother and I hated being hit especially when we felt we’d done something so small. The punishment rarely fitted the crime. It quickly became a blame game and my brother and I started blaming each other and sucking up to Mum to get her attention in the hope that she would not hit us. This completely destroyed my brother and my relationship. We were always in competition to vie for our Mothers attention and in fear of her disapproval. For me, I found solace in play buddies. It was not so easy for my brother.

My brother  found it very difficult to relate to other children our age. He had a lot of responsibility for a boy and other kids simply did not find him fun to be around. He was picked on a lot to the point where he withdrew from the world and became absorbed in a world of fantasy novels. My guess is this was an escape route for him. Unfortunately, Mum did not like him reading these books and encouraged him to play with the other kids – just like his younger brother was doing. He tried many times, but it always ended the same way. My brother was never going to be like local kids and they were not accepting of others who were different.

The years went by, and my brother grew up and got very ill. He was rushed to hospital one day. The teachers asked me all sorts of questions and they thought my brother might die. I was scared, really scared. My brother was a good kid and I didn’t want him to die. He was in hospital for what seemed like weeks on end. In the end, he was okay. He came home from hospital but was weak and brittle. Mum was even more stressed and could not contain her emotions anymore. Sometimes she would cry; sometimes she was really angry for no reason; sometimes she would flip out or shut us out of her life. It was then when my brother started to behave in a manner very different from what was considered usual. He stopped eating. For mum, this was a travesty. She struggled to send us to school with food for lunch and my brother wouldn’t eat any of it. The thing is, he wouldn’t throw it out either. He left it in his bag for months and it went rotten. I presume the stench was what eventually gave him away. Mum was so angry. I couldn’t understand why my brother did not eat at school. I guess he had no-one to sit and eat with so he hid in the library, read books, and took himself to a land of fantasy where he could be hurt anymore. Perhaps not eating was the only area of life where he could gain an element of control. I really wanted to help my brother, but was powerless and stuck in the same vicious cycle that he was.

Because we had very little money, and Mum had no security in her life, we rarely had family moments. That meant we never really took any photographs. The few photographs we had were taken during a birthday party or when someone else had a camera and we were given the duplicates of the photos. Those photos have now been destroyed by the flood and my own cowardice. Mum was so sad after the flood. I took a box of photographs home with the intention of trying to recover them. I tried to open the box and see what I could do a few days after the flood, but it meant confronting all the emotions that I’d left behind during childhood. I simply could not bring myself to open the photos. By this stage a week had gone by, then two weeks, then a month. Eventually I fostered up enough courage to take some of the photos out. Unfortunately, they were all ruined. I’ve been pulling all the photographs apart slowly – some of them are still just okay. Nearly all are now destroyed. I am usually a problem solver and can turn lemon into lemonade, but today I cannot. I’ve failed. I’ve failed my family and I’ve failed myself. If only there were other family members in our lives that had photographs that I could present to my Mum and brother. Unfortunately, there is not.

During these times I cannot help but think of poor people in the third world. These people are, unfortunately, far more poor than we ever were. They have no photographs to record their life and family. Their stories are all but memories that will die with them. We do not have it so bad after all. I try to convince myself that photographs are overrated but the emotions they foster in me are too strong. I cannot help but think about my brother.

My brother heads into a war zone in 48 hours. He may die. It seems really messed up to me that the kids that picked on him at a young age are probably living a selfish, self-absorbed existence right now. My brother is willing to give his life so those bastards can continue living their self-absorbed lives. If only my brother realised that I am really proud of him. He is doing what I have unsuccessfully done my whole life – defend the rights of the victims. I really want him to come home safe and sane. We are yet to live fulfilled lives and I’ve got so much I want to tell him but cannot. Please be safe brother – please, be safe. We have to start a new photo album; a new chapter in life. One built on strength and unity rather than competition and division. I love you my brother. You are more of a man than I will ever be. Please don’t die.


The Australian government has so far declined to investigate the possibility that Julian Assange may be extradited from Sweden to the US

According to Crikey journalist Bernard Keane, the Australian government has so far declined to investigate the possibility that Julian Assange may be extradited from Sweden to the US.

For the full story see this link: http://www.crikey.com.au/2011/11/24/julian-assange-kevin-rudd-extradition/


Dr Kevin Jon Hessler presents a paper on whether WikiLeaks CEO Julian Assange will or should be prosecuted under the Espionage Act 1917

Dr Kevin Jon Hessler presents a paper on whether WikiLeaks CEO Julian Assange will or should be prosecuted under the Espionage Act 1917.

This lecture is split into four 15 minute segments as YouTube will only allow me a maximum of 15 minute publications.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4 to come next week.


Bali and Lombok trip – a review

Nice beach at high tide about 2km south of Sambalan

Bali and Lombok were our travel destinations for late June as we were told these places had beautiful beaches, great shopping, a fun environment, and we’d love it. They were wrong. We researched our journey using the Lonely Planet guidebook, photos and video on Google maps, videos on YouTube, and read some blogs. Lonely planet was sometimes inaccurate, the photos and videos on Google maps and YouTube are of the best moments in traveller’s journeys, and a lot of blogs seemed to be a marketing tool run by businesses. Consequently, my wife and I decided we would document our journey and review cities, beaches, hotels, restaurants, ships, planes, and travel systems along the way. We will share some of the motion footage, photos and writing from the trip. If you intend to travel to Bali or Lombok and want some advice, please leave a comment and I will get back to you.

Here we go…