More ‘Stralia Stories

Our trip to the Blue Mountains – Katoomba, Mudgee, Armidale and beyond – gave us a glimpse of the stunning wilderness that is the Great Dividing Range. Flowing down the east coast of Australia, it separates the populated coastal areas from the interior and stretches from the tropics of Queensland down through New South Wales and then west to the Grampians in Victoria. It is vast, often remote, and astonishingly beautiful.

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And of course, as with the rest of Australia,the European ‘rules’ for flora and fauna, wildlife and climate do not apply. Once again we have witnessed the unique and glorious way that nature works in Australia – it still amazes.

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The people at the top of the waterfall give some sense of scale

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In our brief time here, we’ve come across rosellas, gallahs, kookaburas, sulphur crested, black, and salmon cockatoo and some majestic wedge-tailed eagles. We’ve seen water dragons, blue tounged lizards, huntsman spiders and an emu. Koalas, brush-tailed rock wallabies, eastern grey kangaroos, dolphins, cormorants and pelicans. Goanna, lyrebirds, red-beak oystercatchers and fruitbats.

We’ve also seen wombats and possums – but only as roadkill 😕. It’s a very different world…

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We found these brush-tailed rock wallabies on the road to the Jenolan caves
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A Goanna, hiding in the rainforest canopy
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A fledgling muttonbird emerging from its nest on Muttonbird island
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Dolphins in the bay at Evans Head
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Koalas preserve energy by sleeping for extended periods, and stay cool by hugging gum trees

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Urban Fright. This Huntsman on a box of beer in Melbourne …
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A water dragon after our lunch, and a blue-tounged lizard after some cat food

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Kangaroos in the upper pasture. Eastern Greys, early one morning, Evans Head
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Pelicans with diving cormorant beneath

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Eucalyptus

Then there are the gumtrees. Massive, varied, superbly adaptable – from the high Snowy Mountains of NSW, to the dry, hot red centre. They define the environment, and drive the process of renewal that distinguishes this continent from any other.

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Of course, we now see them everywhere, Africa, Europe, the Americas, the SE Asian rainforest, devastated by Agent Orange, and garden centres in North London.

Yet until the 1770’s they were unique to this place, with over 700 varieties perfectly adapted to tropical rainstorm, drought, flood, bushfires and extremes of temperature. They are the tallest flowering tree (only the coniferous American redwoods are taller), and some, still standing, predate the European invasion by a hundred years or more.

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The Journey

Our trip from Sydney to just over the Queensland border took a couple of weeks. Driving a hired car, staying in motels, country pubs, Airbnb and Youth Hostels – it’s a different sort of traveling than we’re used to in SE Asia. Though accommodation is expensive, cooking our own food in hostels helps the daily budget.

T20180216_095255-881x1568he cooler climate also means we’ve been able to a lot more walking, and the National Parks are fantastic places to explore Australia’s natural world.

After a few days in the fabulous art-deco Blue Mountains YHA  in Katoomba we went via the Jenolan caves to Mudgee where we stopped for a night in a grotty, but cheap bar and then on to Armidale. High in the Northern Tabelands at an altitude of 1000m we felt cold for the first time in a long while.

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The Jenolan caves must have been an unbelievable discovery for the early explorers. We spent two hours in just one cave system

P2015378-864x1152From there we had a spectacular journey with forest walks and waterfalls, down towards the coast and Coffs Harbour.

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The journey to the coast is dotted with country pubs and small town Victorian wrought iron/weatherboard frontages.

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Bellingen

The Coast – Coffs Harbour, Evans Head and Byron Bay

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The Southern Pacific. Coffs Harbour – Park Beach
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We walked along the coast from Park Beach to Muttonbird Island

We really enjoyed our stay at Evans Head. Catching up with Roseanne and Bill, exploring the local area (this is where we saw the Koalas, Pelicans, Dolphins and Kangaroos above) and relaxing into the way of life.

We also came across some old photo albums from our dear friend Grum, who we first met him in a losmen on Java in 1983. Our paths crossed regularly as we did our first backpacking journey through SE Asia, and he became a great friend. Happy memories, and sadly missed.

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With Anne, Grum and others in Borobodour. I’m reading from ‘SE Asia on a Shoestring (2nd edition)’.
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The river in Bangkok City – on our way to the Post Restante, for news from home
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Idyllic Koh Samui. Things have changed in 35 years.

The Southern Pacific

Lenox Head and the Cape Byron Lighthouse offer spectacular views of the coastline, wide sandy beaches, waves crashing onto rocks and endless surf.

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Our journey up the east coast ended in Mudgeerabar, Southern Queensland. Our diving buddy Lindsay, who we’d met in Komodo last August, was working there, and it was also the childhood home of Rachael, a good Aussie friend from London. We had great fun catching up with Lindsay and swapping yet more travel tales, and it was fantastic to meet Rachael’s folks and make the connection.

Heading back towards Sydney we stopped for a few days at Port MacQuarie (Ozzie Pozzie YHA) and explored the area. The Tacking Point lighthouse again gave spectacular views of the coastline.

We also walked through the rainforest canopy boardwalk at Sea Acres National Park. Made more wonder full, because we had the place to ourselves.

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Strangling Fig

We then visited Roto House, a beautiful example of an old colonial house, built from Australian redwood, with wide, bull nosed verandas and cool interiors.

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It’s also the site of a Koala hospital (rescued from bushfires etc) , which gives me the opportunity to finish by posting a couple more pictures of sleepy Koalas.

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Displaying the unique ‘two thumbs on the front paw’

So, after a brief stop with old friends in Sydney, a quick flight to Melbourne, our next port of call is Tasmania. Despite living in Melbourne for two years, it’s a place we’ve yet to explore…

 

 

 

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