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Up to the Sun and the Surf

Saturday 12th September 2015

sunny 23 °C

It has been such an enjoyable day today, with loads of interesting things to see. In theory it should have been a hard days driving (for Nigel at least as it was his turn today) but despite travelling 150 miles it was a great journey. We got away from Coffs Harbour just a bit after 10am and were quickly making our way up the Pacific Highway. The road took us past a lot of banana plantations as well as the Big Banana Theme Park just outside of the town. We hadn't travelled far before we hit more road works just as we had done a couple of days previously. It seems as though when roads are being upgraded in Australia that this is done in a large number if places at once in a way that wouldn't happen in the UK. It was a real shame to see the number of eucalyptus trees that were being cut down to make way for the road widening, particularly as this must have some impact on the koalas that inhabit them.

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There were again lots of places where there was fencing at the side of the road in order to reduce the likelihood of wildlife becoming roadkill. Several times now when we have been travelling we have seen narrow animal bridges over the road which are primarily in place for possums and also possibly for koalas.

As we drove further north the banana plantations gave way to sugar cane, an indication that we were getting nearer to Queensland. We had spoken about diverting to a National Park in order to have a break and some lunch. In the end we stopped at a bakery late morning for a coffee and bought some food for a picnic. About half an hour or so later we found a nice spot alongside the Clarence River near the town of Maclean. We managed to find a lovely spot to just sit on the grass and eat.

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We were quite excited at one point when we saw at least four dolphins swimming near the far bank (it is a wide river so they were quite a way away). Parking up also gave us the chance to have a closer look at the sugar cane of which there was plenty growing nearby.

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Perhaps unsurprisingly given the town's name it has strong Scottish links. It has held its own highland gathering for the last 100 years where people can compete in activities such as caber tossing and highland dancing. Apparently some of the road signs are in gaelic and we saw a number of power poles painted in tartan. Even the public toilets had 'Scottish' signs.

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I also came across this rather amusing review of the Clarence River in Tripadvisor:

"We live here and don't want all you others spoiling it. It's quiet without you, I can find places to fish without 15 other people throwing lines around and getting tangled up with me when they catch one. And you keep running into our residents and killing them: our Kangaroos have names and eat off our back lawn. Stay away. Your boats make waves. i don't like it when you spoil that perfect reflection. DO NOT COME HERE."

Once we had finished our lunch we went back on the Pacific Highway and over the truss bridge at nearby Harwood with its central vertical lift span.

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We continued on our journey passing through a lot of gently rolling countryside until we got within a few miles of Byron Bay.

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There we left the main road and detoured down nearer to the coast. We went through a place called Suffolk Park and briefly went and looked at Tallow Beach, another long sandy bay like many of the others we had seen on the east coast of Australia.

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From there it was only a short drive to Byron Bay and our accommodation at Garden Burees. They are tucked up a side street right on the edge of town. There are a number of differing types of suites but we were staying in one of the three garden burees that gives the small resort its name. Essentially a bungalow with a high curved roof and a mezzanine floor which is the bedroom. They have a little garden area front and back, a kitchenette, bathroom and then a shower outside. They are all decorated in a Balinese style which matches the construction and the rainforest which encroaches into the garden area also confirms the Asian feel.

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As we were bringing our bags and other stuff in, we were greeted by a water dragon who stood on the path showing no sign of wanting to move. We quickly grabbed our cameras and took a few photos. Not long after we found one with its foot on the threshold of our bungalow as if it was about to come in. We allowed it to remain there for a few minutes while we took so more pictures, but then gently shooed it away on the basis that if we let it in it would be very hard to get it to leave again.

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We also saw bush turkeys scrambling around. It was ironic really that we had seen as much wildlife in our tiny garden as we had seen in the few rainforest conservation areas we had been to.

Once we had settled in thoughts turned to sunsets and evening meals. On arrival we had been told that it is quite lively down by the town beach in the evening. I had also read great reviews about a pizza restaurant in town, so it seemed to make sense to take advantage of both. We drove into town because our thoughts were to get a take away and eat in our lovely bungalow rather than eat out. We parked up and went onto the beach. The area was very lively, partly I guess because it was a Saturday night. People were hanging out with friends, eating picnics and take aways. There were a crowd of people on the beach breakwater drumming and generally making music as well as the many buskers spread around the town. We settled down to watch the sun fade whilst listening to the music, near enough to enjoy it without being in the centre of the hubbub.

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The whole place had a real buzz about it, a bit like what I imagine somewhere like Newquay would be these days on a weekend evening. Most people were young; surfers, young girls out for the night with their friends, posers and a small smattering of surfer dudes probably now in their thirties with a baby or two in tow. Probably more people with dreads, skateboards and bare feet than is good for one town, but fun nevertheless. People of our age seem to be few and far between but we really enjoyed the experience, the people watching and the photographic opportunities.

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Once it started to get dark we went and ordered a couple of so called piccolo pizzas (which turned out to be bigger than expected), and made the short drive home. The pizzas were lovely, and were washed down by a glass of our Hunter Valley wine. We both agreed it had been a great day.

Posted by Gill's Travels 03:29 Archived in Australia Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises people sunset ocean australia byron_bay

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