Queensland to New South Wales

Sunday (24 April) we headed out with Sandra and Nigel for a drive up to Tamborine Mountain. Was a bit chilly but we enjoyed a stroll down the Gallery Walk and took a quick peep inside the local brewery – was a bit surprised by some of the colours of the liqueurs in the fancy bottles. Think some of them looked more like bath salts than alcohol LOL.

We then continued up the hill to the local hostelry called Fortitude and enjoyed a local craft brew whilst listening to the live music.

On the way back we did stop hoping for a scenic view but the dodgy weather had other ideas. Despite the weather, though, we had a really nice day. On return to Hope Island we had a quiet night in and perhaps a few drinks LOL.

Monday we all headed over to the lock up and did some more sorting including some tough decisions to dump stuff. Sandra and Nigel were really great to help us out with this. We then returned to their apartment and unpacked and stowed everything before chilling out for a little while.

Later on we headed along the waterfront to have lunch with Helen and Lester. So funny, we had been to their property before in their car, but never realised that it was just round the corner from where we were staying. So we walked there….on a rainy, overcast sort of day, chatted to some parakeets on the path, said hello to SV Joule on her pontoon before enjoying fantastic food and company.

They have a dream apartment and I love the fact that they are able to look down on their boat from their balcony. Just proves Island Packets have nice lines whatever angle you look at them from LOL.

Was so nice to see them for a final time and we really hope they will come and visit us in the UK before too long so we can return their kindness and hospitality.

Eventually we returned along the boardwalk for another quiet night in with Sandra and Nigel.

Tuesday morning we were up pretty early and drove to downtown Brisbane. We had to collect another hire car as the current one was for Queensland use only so we needed to get a one-way vehicle to finally drop off in Sydney. So up the motorway we went and it was pretty busy – have to say Australian driving habits leave a lot to be desired, particularly their tendency to undertake at high speeds! Eventually we found the Ace/Hertz office and went to pick up our vehicle. We had originally booked an intermediate vehicle but had already realised that it might not be quite big enough, so were quite pleased to be offered an upgrade to a Suburu Outback for a very small additional daily charge. The car has NSW plates so think we are probably doing them a favour in relocating this car back to Sydney, so that probably explains the very good deal they offered us.

We then drove in convoy back to Hope Island and returned the local car. Afterwards we headed to The Boatworks to say our final farewells to the staff and some of the tradies. We had been treated really well by everyone and it felt like saying goodbye to family – particularly in the office where hugs were the order of the day. So chocolates delivered we were finally on our way….

Back to the lock up for a final sort out and then home to Sandra and Nigel for our last night together. We decided to have a Chinese takeaway which was great although, of course, we did slightly over-order! And then it was time to say goodnight.

Wednesday morning we said our farewells to Sandra and Nigel. Not sure when we will see them again either in Australia or in the UK so it was quite emotional. They had been so kind to us putting a roof over our heads whilst we sorted the boat sale and now it was time to leave Queensland for the last time. But we were going away with a celebratory bottle of bubbles and a Bon Voyage card. A lovely touch, thank you both.

Slightly tearful we headed around the corner to the lock up and proceeded to pack the car. OMG it was a good job we got the bigger vehicle – it was full to the roof! We then started our drive to Armidale. This trip we had decided to follow the ‘hinterland’ route rather than down the coast road so we had a six hour drive ahead of us. The scenery was beautiful and it was so high up in The Tablelands (otherwise known as New England) my ears popped on the drive up into the mountains.

However, one of the towns we went through was Lismore, which had been devastated by the recent floods not once but twice. All the shops, the petrol stations, the malls, the large supermarkets, the car dealerships etc were closed and sealed off with tape while they assessed the damage. Lots and lots of personal belongings littered the verges outside homes that had clearly been inundated by the water with many looking abandoned. This awful aftermath was terrible to see and we saw lots of people just wandering about looking quite desperate having lost everything. Was a very sobering experience. The picture below is from a news agency, we didn’t feel it right to snap away in the circumstances.

Carrying on, the roads were pretty clear of traffic so were able to just meander our way through the chicanes and simply enjoy the scenery. We had lots of roadwork-related traffic hold ups with most of the construction appeared to be flood-related damage. Lots of pretty serious roadslips in evidence. Clearly we were in beef country as the majority of the homesteads had grazing cattle and not the normal Brahman-infused breeds we had got used to in Queensland but more usual ones such as Hereford and Aberdeen Angus. Guess these breeds worked better in the cooler climate here. Thoroughly enjoyed our drive down although, unfortunately, the rain continued to follow us!

We arrived into Armidale and found The Tattersalls Hotel. Well, we thought we had. Expecting an art-deco building we found an older colonial style property so parked up and I tried to find the entrance….well, the place was locked up and virtually derelict! What?!? Here is a photo of the property dated back to 1924.

A tad concerned we rang the number on the booking form to find out that the actual car park was just down the road (150m) and the hotel access was pedestrian only. Anyway, we continued down the road and there was the guest car park behind the hotel which looked pretty smart. Phew!

We parked up and took our valuables and small overnight bags into the hotel (leaving the car full of the rest of it) and checked in. We had been upgraded to a family room – so a much larger room than expected with a fantastic huge rainfall shower – so very nice thank you very much! We sorted ourselves out and relaxed for a little bit before heading out into the pedestrianised street that our hotel frontage was actually located on. We went literally just down the pavement a few yards and ended up in a hostelry sitting in front of a lovely open fire. But this public bar was like something out of the 1950s and clearly hadn’t been cleaned since LOL. Seriously it was pretty rough so we decided to drink up and moved on.

We continued walking and ended up at Charlie’s Last Stand which was a small wine bar. We enjoyed some smoked trout pate (bizarrely served with crisps) and a nice sauvignon blanc before heading back to our hotel. This sleepy town was pretty deserted and it was only around 8pm. At the hotel we went into the ‘Ladies Lounge’ which is in keeping with its Art Deco renovation. Great staff and, again, we sat in front of a nice fire enjoying a lovely glass of wine before retiring upstairs for the night. OMG the bed was absolutely amazing with fabulous crisp linen – definitely getting used to this land-lubber life again quite easily!

Thursday morning we enjoyed a complimentary continental breakfast which we weren’t expecting – guess it must have come with the upgraded room?!? Definitely not complaining. Afterwards, we were heading out to visit the waterfalls at Wollomombi which are in the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, New England. We had chosen these waterfalls to visit because they are the highest in Australia with the water cascading 220m down into the gorge below – plus, of course, we needed easy access to the lookout without a long bushwalk to get to the views. This place ticked all the boxes and we thoroughly enjoyed being the only people at the lookout. Fantastic!

Leaving the falls behind we headed towards Dangers Falls but the trek down to the viewing area was too much for me, so I waited at the car for Richard to return. Looks pretty nice.

We then headed towards the historic town of Hillgrove which is an old gold mining town situated on a granite plateau 1,000m above sea level. There are a few old properties here although most were just ruins but delighted to find a great little church intact. We were surprised, however, to find a working gold mine at the end of one lane – obviously we had to turn around at this point. Leaving the gold mine behind we realised that lots of the accommodation in the town was transient with lots of cabins etc which probably houses the current workers.

Moving on we drove back towards Uralla (on the other side of Armidale) and had a wander around this historic settlement town – which, is now famous, for being the resting place of a notorious bushman bandit ‘Thunderbolt’ who was killed by a policeman during his final robbery and was laid to rest in this small town. And here he is in all his glory – we couldn’t really understand why they had a statue to a baddie in the town – but guess it keeps the tourists coming?!? Anyway, some nice architecture and some great artisan pies to try from The Pie Mechanic. Even the motorcycle parking was stylish…

Afterwards we headed back towards Armidale – stopping off at an Aboriginal centre and enjoyed looking at some great artifacts and paintings, but sadly no photography was allowed indoors.

Back at Armidale we did a little walking tour of the town. This has quite a lot of pioneer-type original properties plus Art Deco architecture side by side. We had hoped to visit the Catholic Cathedral but there was a funeral going on so this wasn’t possible. There were lots of churches lining Church Street covering all sorts of different denominations. Now pretty tired from a full-on day out we returned to the hotel and enjoyed resting up for a while.

Then we got ourselves spruced up and headed to the hotel restaurant – which is award winning – and were very happy to be allocated a large booth. The menu was extensive and we certainly made the most of it – absolutely fabulous food, couldn’t believe the standard, and think it may well have been the best restaurant meal we have had in Australia. We retired to the Ladies Lounge again for our cheeseboard and enjoyed a Tasmanian Sauvignon Blanc to round off the evening. Wow what a wonderful start to our road trip.

Friday morning, after another complimentary breakfast, we drove across the Hinterland again. We eventually started to come down in altitude and the roads straightened up and suddenly we are motorway driving again. But still beautiful until we hit the congestion of the coast road again and we were very pleased with our decision to travel this route. Had been very interesting to see ‘small town’ Australia.

Eventually we arrived into Green Point (where my nephew and his family live) and Budd the giant Groodle was so excited to see Richard again. Was so funny – he virtually pounced on him – and then sat with him on the sofa for the rest of the night. Not much room for the rest of us LOL. It was lovely to catch up with the family again….

Saturday morning it was raining, again! Obviously we have brought the weather with us LOL. We did a bit of shopping and later on decided to stay put relaxing when the family headed to the large mall in Erina. We kept the animals company and just chilled out on the sofa in front of the TV – which is quite a treat having not had one for so many years – and recovered from our journey. In the evening we had a takeaway and started to watch a movie but I couldn’t keep my eyes open so had an early night in the end.

Sunday and the sun came out – the family headed off to Terrigal – and we stayed behind to start sorting through our belongings in the garage. We did quite a lot before calling it a day – including some laundry – and we have now donated all our towels and blankets to the family. We also advertised our dive equipment on the Sydney sites as we had failed to sell them before leaving the Gold Coast. Everyone wants a bargain here in Australia and, despite the very cheap price we are offering them, we really haven’t had a sniff. Looks like they may be coming home with us after all….

In the afternoon both Hayley and Jamie were busy with work and the boys were playing computer games online with their friends so we just chilled – watched some English football – and Hayley and I cooked a full English roast dinner for the family. So at 6pm we had our dinner and it was very tasty, if I say so myself LOL. Here is the family after we had cleared up after dinner and no Budd isn’t being strangled, he just wouldn’t keep his head in the right direction LOL.

Monday morning it was back to work / school for the family. So we left them to their own devices, not wanting to disrupt their daily routine, and had a bit of a lay in. The laundry I had left out overnight was still really wet so, as it was already drizzling with rain again, we headed to the nearest laundromat. This was a bit of a fail as, despite its advertisement, it was a commercial venture. So we continued on to another one and finally found a self-service operation and finished the job. We then returned to the house, had a family dinner, and a quiet night in.

We are very excited about the time we have left here in Australia and am enjoying the family reunion – so great to see them all again. So that wraps up this blog. Decided it was time for another Tasmanian creature which we are hoping to see in the wild next week! So I give you a beautiful wombat – not so cute if you check out the claws LOL. Interesting fact about these marsupials is that they have a backward-facing pouch which means that the mother does not have soil impacting on their young when in the pouch. Enjoy and see you all soon!

Bye for now