The East Coast
August 27, 2011
From South West Rocks we headed towards Port Macquarie along Hat Head and Crescent Head, over rather rough 4WD tracks. There we stopped shortly:
Crossing Hastings River at North Shore via car ferry we made it into Port Macquarie.
As so often in the last days the weather was rainy, thus we only did a few short walks to look at some of the historic buildings in town and the town itself:
A drive along the shore brought us to Town Hall Beach:
Following the Lighthouse Road we reached Point Tacking Lighthouse, Australia’s third oldest lighthouse. Sadly it was in a really bad condition, hopefully undergoing repairs:
On our way to Sydney we had only one more stop: the Ellenborough Falls. To get there we took the roads via Wauchope and the Comboyne forests that might have provided for a nice surrounding – if we had been able to see anything in the fog. After a long and rainy ride we arrived at the falls which are the second highest falls from a single drop in the Southern Hemispere. And we saw this:
Actually, these are the better pictures. The fog and mist were so predominant that we refused to take the walk down to the bottom of the falls. Normally we wouldn’t have hesitated, but under these conditions we were heavily annoyed. Frustrated we left to Sydney, stopping shortly in Taree for .. well? Yes, another Australian Big Thing – this time the Big Oyster, called The Big Mistake by locals:
If we hadn’t known, we wouldn’t have recognized it. Another 350 kilometers later we arrived in Sydney – back there after almost a year! And sadly our last stop before we leave Australia as well.
Wednesday evening, 24 August – Saturday 27 August 2011
Due to bad weather (the swell was too high) our dive had to be postponed for quite a couple of days and instead of Monday we went diving on Friday. The advantage of the season and the weather was that we were the only ones who went diving that means a lot of space on the boat, a very personal dive since the dive master is only there for you and no rushing since there is nobody behind you. So we went down to do our first dive (the shark dive) and saw – nothing! : ( The downside of the weather was that the visibility was pretty bad and we could see sharks around but just the shapes of them. What a pity to have missed such a great dive! Our second dive was the actual cave dive and was awesome!
See for yourself:
First our trip to the Fish Rock Cave:
Then the shark dive:
And finally the Fish Rock cave dive:
I can’t describe what it feels like to enter an under water cave, swim through the narrow entrance only to be greated by hundreds of medium sized fish that are really really close and glitter in the remaining sunlight.
Right behind the entrance was a huge ray just lying in the sand.
Next we had to swim upwards a narrow chimney surrounded by rockwalls and even though there is enough space it feels extremely small.
Further up you reach the bubble cave where you can breath in normal air
and on we went trough the rest of the cave with another smaller ray, Frank almost stepped on a wobbegong, a comouflaged shark,
we saw lots and lots of colourful fish, lobsters and shrimps
and Ernie and Bert, two anemonefish (Nemo / clownfish).
Another shark swam our way when we left the cave but again outside the visibility was nonexistent.
Back on the boat we were told that the octopus that we had seen right in front of the cave entrance
and that our dive master had taken a picture of was actually a blue-ringed octopus, on of the most dangerous marine species that ranks around top four of the most dangerous Australian animals. Its venom is not lethal but triggers a respiratory paralysis so in order to survive you need artificial respiration. Well, we got taught well by Pro Dive in Cairns not to touch anything we don’t know and therefore were quite safe.
John (the dive shop owner) went down there too and what his super-duper camera got was more than our eyes had seen – simple astonishing:
So if you haven’t been into diving after all we have written about diving I hope this is gonna convince you to try it. For me it was the most awesome dive ever!
Apart from the dive we spend time with Patsy and her dog Jasper which was the most enthusiastic throw-the-stick-dog we have ever met and ranks on place 1 on Frank’s best dogs ever list. He therefore pushed Eric, Inga’s small dog to place 2. I still think Eric is on place 1 though, he is just too cute.
Going for a run with Jasper:
Sightseeing around South West Rocks:
And my favourite quadrichon:
We had couchsurfed with Patsy (and Dave) who had impressed us with her travelling 9 years on a boat with her husband, having had two children in between and having lived and worked in Saudi-Arabia. What a story! : )
August 20, 2011
Leaving Palm Beach there was only one major stop along the way until our next destination at South West Rocks: the famous Byron Bay. It’s widely renown for its very special, distinctive cultural atmosphere making it a “hippie alternative town” full of arts and events.
Fair enough, we stopped before Byron Bay and took a short look at Tweed Heads:
Nothing special, only the typical beautiful ocean beach scenery. The weather was not too pleasant at all today, but we were lucky to get a few minutes of sunshine when we arrived at Byron Bay. We drove through the little town right up to the lighthouse:
From there you’ll have a nice view over Byron Bay. But what’s more interesting: here lies the easternmost point on the Australian mainland. We’ve been already to the westernmost point – do you remember where that was?
The way to the lookout is steeper than you think. Especially as pouring rain started when we where just down there. Running back up all those steps can be a real bugger!
Due to the bad weather there was nothing more to do for us in Byron Bay. We still haven’t learnt surfing (we’ll do that later, promise!), we don’t smoke weed and the last pagan gathering had just been washed off the shore – too much rain.
On the way to South West Rocks we came across an ugly creature in Ballina that turned out to be .. yippieh, an Australian Big Thing:
Don’t know about you, but that didn’t wet my appetite for seafood. Later we arrived in South West Rocks, looking forward to our cave dive at Fish Rock. But would that ever happen in the current bad weather?
August 19, 2011
Today we had planned a day excursion from Palm Beach to the Springbrook and Lamington National Parks. The first one is located right at the rim of the volcano remnants of Mt Warning, the latter lies directly in the volcano crater. This provides for some stunning scenery as you will see.
Along the way we stopped at the Wunburrah Lookout and could recognize the skyline of the Gold Coast with Surfers Paradise in the distance:
In the Springbrook NP the Purlingbrook Falls were our primary target. The Purlingbrook Falls drop an unbroken 109 metres into a lush gorge filled with palms and lillies, and we stepped onto the circuit walk. Not long until we first sighted the falls from the higher grounds:
We stepped down further the exhausting walk to the bottom of the falls:
One of the outstanding features of these falls is the opportunity to walk below the falls as the boardwalk leads straight below the splunging waters, and from there again up to the escarpment:
Here’s a panorama from the bottom of the falls section:
What a beautiful waterfall! We headed towards the next attraction, the Best Of All Lookout and found some really ancient beeches along the way:
The view from the lookout itself is simply breathtaking:
Interestingly enough Mt Warning, well recognizable in the following picture, is close to the easternmost point in Australia, Byron Bay. This means it’s the first place in Australia to receive the sun’s rays on every new day.
Can it get better? Wait until you see what we found next. Having seen pictures before, we were keen on visiting the Natural Bridge ourselves, and we found ourselves not disappointed. Judge for yourself:
A lot of gorgeous places today, eh? Next we drove down into the crater and circled around Mt Warning via Tyalgum and Uki. We got up to the mountain as far as possible, but were much too late to do the summit climb that takes 4-6 hours and ends with pulling yourself up with ropes.
After we got back to Palm Beach via Murwillumbah we stayed there for another night.
August 18, 2011
On our way from Brisbane to the Gold Coast we made a detour to the Tambourine National Park. There awaited us a few waterfalls and nice views. We started with the Cedar Creek Falls:
Judging from Inka’s look she might be a bit fed up with all the waterfalls we visit. Continuing to Mt Tambourine (the town itself) we found a great view over the western landscape inwards:
A walk to the Witches Falls proved being worth not even a single photo to show you – sorry. But enjoy this shot of the Curtis Falls instead where we went afterwards:
Returning to the coast we at least wanted to take a quick look at Surfers Paradise, pretty much the northern start of the Gold Coast – where the sun always shines! Technically Southport is the starting point, but it’s hard to differentiate where exactly you are anyway. The various towns with glorious names like Miami or Mermaid Waters have transformed into a single stretch along the Gold Coast down to Palm Beach. We went to the beach at Surfers Paradise and experienced the sunset there:
Apart from that there was not much keeping us in this hotel-laden, busy and touristy place. We reached our next base in Palm Beach where we stayed with an elderly couple we had met on the Eyre Peninsula 4.5 months ago! Back then we had agreed to give them a call once we reach the area. Now they had invited us to stay with them and we were happy to take on the offer. Isn’t travelling great?