It had only been one night in Brisbane and the city, Australia's second largest, but it looked like an interesting place to return. Today starts the drive to Sydney but would begin with a slight detour north.
The change in plans resulting from the blocked roads meant that planned visits to Townsville, Whitsunday and Rockhampton had to be canceled. The main disappointment was Whitsunday since a tour of Whitsunday Island, a visit to Whitehaven Beach (voted #1 in the world) and some more snorkeling would not happen.
Also it had been hoped to visit Noosa and the Australia Zoo (Steve Irwin's Zoo) just before we reached Brisbane. Since both were only an hour north of Brisbane it was decided to head up on April 2nd and take a look. Most hotels and motels in Noosa want 2, 5 or 7 night stays so we were lucky to find one for Saturday night only.
Chad had a screw loose (in his prescription glasses!) so, after leaving the Brisbane Hotel, a short stop was made at a nearby mall for breakfast and to allow Chad to get his screw tightened.
The drive out of Brisbane was slow but once on the highway we headed north and by mid-day we reached the Steve Irwin's Zoo - Australia's number on tourist attraction. Chad and Dino visited the zoo while Michel and Graham decided to drive on and have a chance to see Noosa National Park.
C and D had a great afternoon, with Crocodile and Kangaroo feedings, an elephant performance, and a chance to get up close and personal we some Koala bears. At 4:00 p.m. they boarded the free shuttle to Noosa. Unfortunately, four hours was not long enough to see all parts of the Zoo (some 75 acres).
Michel and Graham reached Noosa by around 1:15 p.m. and checked-in at the Noosa Heads Motel. The Motel was only three years old and the location and rooms were excellent. A quick change and it was off to Hastings Street, the main street in Noosa, for a light lunch just off the beach.
Noosa is a beachside town very popular for surfers and those from the Brisbane area. Many were on the beach and catching a wave. A highly recommended attraction was to take the walk along the main beach and up into Noosa National Park. M and G could only do the ocean walk which wound take them along the cliffs and passed various bays - the views were amazing. All the bays had its collection of surfers although some were surfing very close to rocks which did not appear to pose a threat.
It took about an hour to reach the major headland, Hell's Gate, where Michel started to script a murder mystery. Any guesses who was going to be got rid of. Another hour for the walk back, just in time to meet Chad and Dino off the bus. Both groups having had a great afternoon.
Following gorgeous sunset from the motel balcony, it was time for dinner at a restaurant on Hasting Street was followed by a walk through the town and along the beach and then the short drive back to the Motel.
Day 24 - April 3:
During the walk along the beach the previous evening, it was decided to return to have breakfast at Bistro C, one of the restaurants recommended in the Frommer's Guide. It was a very popular location and the breakfast, although not cheap, was very good.
Before heading south to Byron Bay, the group took a slight detour to see the Eumundi Open Air Market. Unfortunately, it was closed on Sundays. A look around saw an announcement at Joe's Waterhole for Dino and his father's performance. We were not sure what they were going to do but at least Dino was here to check on things!
The drive from Eumundi to Byron Bay took about four hours and thankfully avoided driving through Brisbane. It was 3:15 p.m. when we reached the Beachcomber Byron Motel, only a five minute walk to the beach. A nice Canadian connection with the Motel was that the wife of the couple that ran the motel was originally from Edmonton who married an Aussie.
It was only for an hour but at least Michel and Graham got a chance to lay on the squeaky sand (does any know why?), and for Chad and Dino to fight the surf. As the sun lowered in the sky it was time to head back to the motel.
The Beachcomber was also very close to the town centre with lots of restaurants and bars, not all open later on a Sunday. Dinner was at the Orient Express. We did not get murdered but it did seem we got taken. They had a 10% charge which the waitress explained was a Sunday night charge for those in the back! Apparently this is true as several restaurants add a surcharge for Sundays and holidays so that they can pay the staff more and persuade them to not phone in sick after heavy drinking the night before!
The day ended with some time spent walking the streets of Byron Bay and final drinks at the Balcony Bar overlooking the town's main intersection. We were all looking forward to a quite day on the beach for Day 25.
Day 25 - April 4:
After a lot of traveling this was a day to relax.
Graham and Dino were up early and, as is the custom, Michel and Chad continued catching some more shuteye. The rooms and facilities at the Byron Beachcomber were very good and the motel even offered free laundry. This provided a good chance to catch up on the washing before heading out for a day at the beach.
A short drive to the Broken Head Nature Reserve and a walk down some sloping paths and more than 250 steps lead to Kings Beach, a part of 7 mile beach. A day at the beach was actually three hours when a heavy rain shower moved in. A quick pack-up of all the gear and a quick walk back up the 250 steps got everyone to the car before the rains started.
Back in Byron Bay, a take-out lunch was obtained which was eaten in the Bar-B-Q area at the hotel.
When Graham was in the last year of his Ph.D. in Calgary he met an Australian student, Greg Reddan who was completing a bachelors degree in Phys Ed. Greg then went to the University of Ottawa for a Masters Degree and then back to Australia. He currently lives with his wife and one of his children in Benowa, about an hour south of Brisbane. Greg drove the hour to meet in Byron Bay and about three hours was spent catching up on all the news. Luckily, they were under cover when a heavy downpour started. 2011 must be the year for connecting since, in June, Greg will be visiting Ottawa on business. So it will be twice in two months after more than 40 years.
Once Greg left to drive back to Benowa it was time for drinks and dinner. An excellent meal at the "Italian Pacific" just a short distance from the ocean. Michel raved about the veal he had for dinner that night, probably one of his best meal of the trip.
Day 26 - April 5:
It was raining hard as the four left for the drive from Bryon Bay, via Bellina to Coffs Harbour. The drive would take about 4 hours and as it got further south the weather improved. About 45 minutes outside Coffs Harbour it was time for a "pitt-stop". A good time to take a break as there was about four wild Kangaroos grazing close at hand.
Once in Coffs Harbour and checked-in at the Big Windmill Comfort Inn Motor Inn, the stomachs were growling. The first choice was at a Fisherman's Co-op very close to the beach. The menu was very limited so we headed back to a very nice coffee shop where the food was excellent - have you ever tried beer-battered chips with your burger?
Michel and Dino were going to drop Chad and Graham off for an hour at the beach but as they made it to the sands the winds, temperature and black clouds meant a change of options.
After a brief stop to walk around the city centre, it was back to the Comfort Inn for Michel and Graham to relax while Chad and Dino continued to help stimulate the Australian economy. It was then time for dinner at SSC Bar-B-Q Barn where our waitress was Australian who had twice driven across Canada.
Day 27 - April 6:
All night it had been raining and it was still raining as Day 27 dawned.
The hotel had a big windmill in the front and perhaps if the windmill had been turning it might have helped get hot water to the bathroom sink in Michel and Graham's unit. After 10 minutes and a lot of wasted water, no hot water had made it to the sink. Fortunately, the hot water did finally make it to the shower but the only way to get hot for the sink was to boil it. When M and G checked-out and explained the situation to the desk clerk the only reply was that their unit was at the end of the run and one had to wait. I am not sure if it would have arrived before they had to check out. Chad and Dino were luckier and did not have any problems. Michel did not consider it to be a Dr. Kaos problem!
The drive from Coffs Harbour to Port Stevens, with stops, took 6 hours. Sunshine and some heavy showers were part of the drive and as we drove into Port Stevens it seemed the skies had cleared for the day. The accommodation for this stop was the All Seasons Salamander Shores Hotel. Chad and Dino's room was on the ground floor overlooking the garden and Michel and Graham (for $20.00 more) were on the 4th floor with a view of the ocean.
As soon as C and D walked into the garden and M and G looked from their balcony above, some rainbow coloured parrots, called Larikeets, flew in for a feeding from the "bird whisperer".
The sun was shining as the four walked to take a look at the beach adjacent to the hotel. The Frommers Guide recommended "The Rock Lobster" in Nelson Bay as a good place for dinner. Dino, Chad and Graham drove to Nelson Bay Harbour to verify the location and prices - with a view of the harbour and a nice selection of seafood, it looked like a good pace for dinner.
Back at the Rock Lobster, and just before sitting down for dinner, there were cockroaches on the floor and the waitress was trying to step on them. As you can imagine we decided to choose another place to eat. Down the road was the Nelson Bay Diggers, an RSL (Returning Servicemen League) Club. Before leaving Canada RSL Clubs we were told that they were open to guests and a very good place for reasonably price food and drinks. This was indeed the case at this RSL.
After dinner and drinks at a local pub in downtown Nelson Bay, we headed back to the hotel for a few games of pool. Uncharacteristically, Michel lost to both Dino and Graham before calling it a night. It needs to be known that the defeats were due to chance since M had trounced them both on sinking the colours but unfortunately sank the cue ball along with the black; The cue being the real culprit of his defeats (according to M!).
Day 27 - April 7:
As there may not be a chance in Sydney, today was a day to spend at the beach. Three beaches were looked at before deciding on One Mile Beach only 10 minutes from the hotel. It was not a very warm and sunny day but C and D jumped in the weather while M and G kept and eye on the sand and surf!
Australians are very friendly and while at the beach, Ben, a native from Sydney and whose parents have a home in Port Stephens, struck up a conversation. Not only did he give us some excellent tips for our time in Sydney and the drive to the Blue Mountains, but he also mentioned Gamefish as a good place for lunch in Shoal Bay.
The skies began to threaten so we left the beach and took up the suggestion and joined Ben at the Gamefish for lunch. Chad and Dino each chose the combo calamari, fish and chips plate. Neither realized how much food they would get.
Back at the hotel the afternoon was spent at the pool. As true Canadians they stayed at the pool even if the temperatures were a little cool!
The Rainbow Lorikeets flew in for another feeding and , as the sun set it was time to get ready for dinner at the Hotel.
Day 28 (April 8) would start the final leg of the trip - the drive to Sydney and exploring the city and its attractions..