Saturday 9th March 2019
Following an unexpected month in Brisbane, we are finally on our way with the last flags for Singapore and Australia having been affixed to Landy. The missing flag was Tajikistan where the Pamiri separists objected to the lack of a Pamir flag and removed the Tajikistan flag! You can see that we have been given a container sticker to reflect the journey on the high seas immediately between Singapore and Brisbane.
We have left not only Brisbane but also Queensland as we cross the border into New South Wales.
The plan is to drive South and see how we do. We are heading slowly towards Sydney and there hope to meet up with Cousins galore and our niece Klara and fiance Will.
Following our letter to the local paper and Bobbie’s letter to her local MP, Landy was released by the quarantine inspectors and after months of limping along, the gears have finally been fixed by Australian Gabba Gears in Brisbane - three cheers for them!
And with no thanks to Tyre Sales, we also managed to get our new tyres fitted at 4pm on a Friday night, when every man in Brisbane is rushing off to shower, change and go out to watch some kind of football.
Another unexpected casualty of the car import was that both our main car batteries would no longer work, so more cost and short delay as replacements were sought. Now our new radio (and various cabin lights) wont work! It is a jinx. There must be another fuse box hidden somewhere? (There was).
Everything in the camper was now in the wrong place, having been packed to meet the strict instructions for entering Australia. I kid you not but it took me about 4/5 hours to put it all back together. This included climbing up on the roof to securely reattach the spare tyre and box of car spares.
Landy was now ready to take on a new Continent. And although we are all set for camping aloft again. Our style is being cramped by being out of cooking gaz and having no idea what to do about it in Australia. (Each country has their own attachments and valves).
We stopped briefly to meet other Cousins in Worangarey (Sam Peattie, Jane and boys) and then took ourselves off to Surfers Paradise to check out the beach and have more fish and chips. I was mesmerised by a skinny elderly white haired woman with massive sunglasses, taking a stroll, wearing huge shiny gold trainers and bright green cropped trousers. The sporty cabriolets that swept passed us on the road bore away silver haired owners enjoying the sun, sea and sand.
It was probably the best beach I have ever seen in a town, but obviously as we make our way round the coast we are going to be blown away by what we see. It was only another hour before the beaches around Byron Bay surpassed those we had already seen. Take your pick? Busy with bars and clubs and teaming with people. Or vast expanses of virgin sand with few facilities but great surf, lifeguards and signs saying that drones were being deployed experimentally to watch out for sharks!
I am not a big fan of rough seas and big rollers and the news that sharks were a possibility did nothing to change that.
We did not do quirky Byron Bay justice as we swept through passed the busy shops and cafes, dipping on and off the Pacific Highway, but we paused briefly at its most amazing lighthouse, sitting on perhaps the most Easterly bump on the Australian coastline with 360 degree views of coastline below. If we had had more time, the Council had built a really long board walk above the sea up to the lighthouse.
Unlike Surfers Paradise with high rise apartments and brash glitzy feel, this is a place I could spend time in. Here we noticed more children and adults with brightly dyed hair and more young touring Europeans.
That night we slept in a camping spot close to the sea in Lennox Head. This was at one end of ‘7 mile beach’ where passes could be purchased to drive along. (We didn’t). We were now technically en route to Armidale, a town in the New England part of New South Wales and back from the coast line.
Via another Wilson Cousin (Jackie Lee Lewis) for coffee in Clunes, we headed off to Nimbin. This curious town was literally a blast from the past and was seriously stuck in the 1970’s.
We were recommended to take a walk to an old butter factory where there was a cafe where you could ‘bring a bong’. I honestly did ask what that was! I should have known better.
If we had gone down that route I was promised a rare sighting of a duck billed platypus and heaven knows what other things would have been conjured up!
However, we gave the bong and the platypus a miss and I simply purchased a ‘Hemp’ sunhat before setting off for Ibor which was situated on Waterfall Way, one of the ‘must see’ drives in this part of the country which just happens to go to Armidale.
As night fell more wild life crossed the road in front of our headlamps and I had to brake for our first kangaroo. Other animals also scampered in front of us as we drove up steep winding roads, but I had no idea what they were!
Our overnight camping spot, Native Dog Creek in Cathedral Rock national park, was amazing. It was a permitted space with tables, trees, footpaths, and a loo! Added to that we were the only campers.
It was really peaceful and stars were visible in the cloudless night sky. When I stepped out in the morning, I surprised two small kangaroos who hopped away swiftly into the undergrowth.
We were now pretty close to Armidale, which is important because it was my Mum’s home before she came to live in Kidlington, Oxfordshire, but also because at 1,000 metres it is Australia’s highest City.
As we approached, the forest landscape thinned out and was interspered with cattle ‘stations’. What shocked us was how dry it had become as we drove inland. This was meant to be an area in the table lands with good levels of rainfall.
But it became increasingly barren and as we approached Armidale we saw herds of cattle being permitted to graze the roadside verges because they had run out of grazing in their parched meadows. We passed several signs of cattle stations up for Sale. Their owners probably having sold their cattle and given up because of the extended drought conditions.
We drove into pretty Armidale and very quickly I saw the Park opposite the family home, our street where my grandmother and her family had lived and her beloved Cathedral, St Peter’s.
The Demonstration primary school which I had briefly attended near the house, was still there, but the buildings had been replaced. Children in broad rimmed navy hats played in the yard under trees. Memories.
My plan was to spend a couple of days imagining what it must have been like for my Mum growing up here and researching the family history a bit in local archives.
141 Faulkner Street