In this series of posts, I draw on diary records to recount some of the road trips we have taken in recent years.
1st December 2010
Day 14 (270klm / app 170 miles)
Now we are on the main highway, heading directly south, after two weeks of solid travelling.
This is normally the time when Bill gets the smell of home in his nostrils and charges down the road, on a mission to get there no matter how far it is. But this time he shows tremendous courage to change his habit of a lifetime – maybe because he realises he is retired now and nothing has to be a job again, or maybe because we have skipped our planned stop to Tamworth and so have an extra day available.
Whatever the reason, he accepts an invitation to visit friends in Fingal Bay at Port Stephens, even though that means that we must turn off the Brisbane-Sydney highway and head once again to the coast, on the single road that goes in and out of this former fishing village area.
What he won’t do is explore anything along the way, so he says. I point out to him (diplomatically) that if we don’t stop for lunch at the farming community township of Nabiac, then we will be at Bulahdelah, and that is where we had the atrocious lunch on the way up from Branxton. We miss the first turn off to Nabiac while he considers this option, and then luckily there is a second chance. Actually it is really me who is behind the wheel, and in my negotiation rule book “silence is acceptance“, so I take his hesitation as a yes, and moments later we are cruising around this teensy, tiny village.
I am drawn to quaint stores with “antiques” and “craft” and such like on their awnings. Amongst them is a classy café decorated Oriental style. It is full of local ladies “doing lunch”, so the food must be alright. I am not sure what such an exotic establishment is doing in this off-highway Australian country by-village, but can’t criticise too much. Their decorating theme makes as much sense as the Asian inspired decoration I have been doing at home. (see https://garrulousgwendoline.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/the-colour-in-my-life/)
While thoughtful Bill moves the car so I don’t have to get caught in the rain that has started, I cruise the antique shops in search of treasure. Of course I find nothing, but I have had my exploratory time and Bill has claimed the steering wheel so we are both happy chappies and once again peeling down the highway. It is just as well we have changed roles as I am a better navigator than Bill (oh – by the way – I am also modest) and I think I have found a short-cut to our destination. On the map I am using, the road is dirt and rough, but that map is twenty years old. We have discovered a lot of civilisation has caught us up since we last travelled like this. I reason that they would hardly make the signpost so big if the road wasn’t tarred. So we turn off, saving ourselves thirty kilometres and thirty minutes, and arrive with enough time to stop at the bottle shop, so now the man is doubly happy.
Of course it has been a long time since anywhere in Port Stephens has been a fishing village. In fact, the first ever holiday that Bill and I had was at nearby Salamander Bay, a few months after we had met. We took a serviced room for a week and spent our days fishing, and drinking and eating at the local club, a very low budget holiday. For Bill’s part, he remembers this area from when he was married the first time and his boys were so young, they could barely walk. The whole family including his parents-in-law rented a house and played in the protected waters of the bay, safe from any surf or currents. It’s been that sort of place for decades, a few hours’ drive north of Sydney, a place you can rent holiday accommodation and have a family time, swim, fish, eat cheaply, play cards or games at night, go to the club if you want to have a go at the poker machines, take a boat cruise on the waters or even try a spot of dolphin watching.
We drive around the headland and on towards the last outpost – Fingal Bay, where our hosts still have their beautiful home on the prime position right on the bay. It’s a perfect spot, and we haven’t been here for at least ten years – it’s a lovely time to catch up and all the better for not having planned ahead.
We remind ourselves that it is now the first of December. Back at home our neighbours are decorating the communal Christmas tree tonight. It won’t be long now before we are back there, caught up in the preparations for Christmas and year end.
Next Destination: Tascott, near Gosford