Friday, April 30, 2010

Tweed Heads

Gregory enjoys riding his new scooter with new friends Cooper and Luke.

April 30, 2010

We took the day off at the Tweed Heads Billabong BIG 4 Holiday Park today. We needed a day to just relax and catch up. We made arrangements to switch out our camper van up in Brisbane tomorrow (faulty battery connections and bad radio), booked E-tickets for the theme parks (Dreamworld & White Water World), did laundry, swam, read, blogged and generally rested. We picked up a Razor scooter for Gregory at Kmart yesterday so he road that around all day, along with brothers Cooper (9) and Luke (10) who are down here on holiday from their home in Nambour up on the Sunshine Coast (an hour north of Brisbane).

I think I mentioned before that it is a three-day holiday weekend for the folks just over the border in Queensland. (Tweed Heads is in the state of New South Wales and just over the border is Coolangatta which is considered Queensland. The Gold Coast of Queensland is full of theme parks as well as lovely beaches.) Well, our day in camp was quiet for the most part with a few folks trickling in this afternoon but tonight we were inundated around dinner time. The people who set up next to us must have over 10 kids with them and there are kids everywhere! People have been setting up in the dark for hours. We'll see if we get any rest tonight! Ha!

Gregory's Kangaroo Report

Kangaroos at Trial Bay Campground ~ South West Rocks

This joey is having some breakfast.

We saw four kangaroos this morning, two mothers and their joeys

Gregory wrote this report prior to our departure for New Zealand and Australia. He used books from the Henderson County Library (in North Carolina where Grandma and Grandpa Williams live) and he did research on the Internet. He first made a web (graphic organizer), then he wrote a sloppy copy, we did some editing, and then he wrote this final draft to publish.

By Gregory Williams

The kangaroo is a marsupial, a mammal that has a pouch. Some other kinds of Australian marsupials are the koala, Tasmanian devil and the wombat. The only marsupial native to North America is the opossum.

There are 60 different kinds of kangaroos. Some of the kinds are the yellow-tailed tree kangaroo, the red kangaroo and the grey kangaroo. Kangaroos have very strong hind legs and sharp claws. The kangaroo has hair on the outside of its body. A male is called a boomer, a female is called a flyer and a baby is called a joey.

The grey kangaroo can swim by doing the doggie paddle. Kangaroos can run up to 40 miles per hour and can jump 25 feet in mid-air. They can grow up to 80 kgs. Kangaroos travel in mobs of about 12 to 100.

A kangaroo’s diet is insects, larva, grass, mulga, snakewood, fungi, shrubs and leaves. Kangaroos can go months without water but not years!

Kangaroos enjoy bushland, woodland, open forests, under trees and some even live in trees, caves and on rock cliffs. They like mallee, mulga and other scrublands. The grey kangaroo can also be found in the alpine regions. I am looking forward to seeing a kangaroo in Australia!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Clarence Coast and Byron Bay

Beautiful Blossom

Interesting Fruit

Crested Pigeon

Watching fisherman on the South Breakwall, Yamba

Gregory poses with the catch, a long-finned tuna.

Jaws & Chips

Our camp at Calypso looked out over Yamba Bay

Crested Pigeon

Pippi Beach (above and below) where we saw a pod of dolphins.

Fisherman at Pippi Beach

Rock Pool at Angourie Bay

Zebra Shell (We left it there because Angourie Bay is a Reserve.)

Gregory thought this looked like a brick wall. This is another rock pool at Angourie Bay.

Gregory explores the Coffee Rock Cliffs of Angourie Bay.

Angourie Blue Pool

Gregory enjoyed jumping off the cliffs into Angourie Blue Pool along with several other kids around his age.

Lennox Head is popular with surfers. We are looking south from Pat Morton Lookout the perfect vantage point for watching the action. (Lennox Head is between Balllina and Byron Bay.)

Gregory watching the surfers from Pat Morton Lookout

I was the only one up for the walk out to the most easterly point of the Australian Mainland at Cape Byron. Spectacular views of Byron Bay and the lighthouse were my reward.

Byron Bay lighthouse was built in 1901

View from Cape Byron Lighthouse

In the morning, at Yamba, we had a beautiful early morning walk from Calypso Holiday Park out along the South Break Wall where we watched the surfers and fisherman. Yamba is famous for the fishing and it also has excellent surfing. Out at the end of the “Wall” we watched the excitement as a fisherman reeled in long-finned tuna. He was using an enormous rod and balancing on the break wall rocks with his legs shaking like a leaf. You could tell he was thrilled with his catch but also exhausted.

As we drove down along Pippi Beach Gregory spied a pod of dolphins so we parked and walked out along the beach for a while to have a look. Gregory was eager to try to go in and swim with the dolphins but there was not a single person in the water and the signs warned of dangerous waves. Our map said it was a patrolled surfing beach, in season, (not patrolled today) but we didn’t want to risk going in at a dangerous spot and getting caught in a rip. These were big waves. The beach was beautiful though so we had a stroll and Gregory got to throw a stick for a dog.

Just a little further south of Yamba is Angourie which, “is famous as one of Australia’s best surfboard riding spots and was the first designated surf reserve in Australia.” (Cartoscope Coastal Explorer Pacific Coast Touring Route,

Here is what Gregory had to say about his day:

April 27, 2010

This morning my mom and I walked out on the Breakwall and there were a lot of surfers out in the waves. We walked all the way down to the point and were just in time to see a man pulling in a long-finned tuna. It was as big as a rig shark! Then, we drove down to Pippi Beach and saw a pod of dolphins! We then drove to Angourie Beach and walked along the huge rock masses! It was really cool! I also jumped off some cliffs into the Angourie Blue Pool that was formed by a quarry hole that filled with fresh water from a spring! Then we drove to Byron Bay and my mom and I went boogie boarding on the main beach. I had a fun time.

The end of the day was just bliss as Greg and I spent the last hour before sun set out in the surf. We watched the sun dip below the horizon before taking the short bare-footed walk back up to the camper. We rinsed away the salt and sand then settled down for a dinner of barbecued chicken, sausages and sweet potato fries done on the grill.

The breeze was warm and the night relatively peaceful until about 3:00 A.M. when the "Hippie Camper" neighbors (we were packed into this park pretty tight) decided to bang dishes around and talk at the top of their voices. Both Mike and our other neighbor, the TREX 4-Wheeled drive adventures host, John, let them know we didn't appreciate the noise. Mike and John had plenty to talk about in the morning and not just the noise-makers.

Gregory was actually the first to talk to John and told him all about our bicycle adventures since John leads outback adventures around Australia. John had a pretty fancy Nissan Patrol truck so he and Mike talked trucks amongst other things. John leads other folks in their own 4-wheeled drive vehicles around Australia on various length tours.

All three of us had one more surf at Byron Bay before we departed. If it hadn't been for our noisy neighbors who were booked for another night (and the fact that they wouldn't move us) we probably would have stayed another night. However, we ended up in lovely Tweed Heads for the evening and are just on the border of New South Wales and Queensland.

Soon we explore the Gold Coast and finally make good on our promise of a theme park for Gregory (a "reward" for his TransAm US bicycle crossing). We had promised Busch Gardens in Virginia but we didn't arrive until December and it was closed! There are many to choose from here and we've booked an Unlimited Entry World Pass (until June 30) for Dreamworld and White Water World. The price was right at AU$69 each (US$64.17). With the holiday weekend (labor day is celebrated on Monday in Queensland) we may wait until Tuesday when things quiet down but the weather isn't expected to be as good so we'll see!

Nambucca Heads

This post is totally out of order but I wanted to put in a few pictures here. We stopped at Nambucca Heads on the day we left South West Rocks (Saturday 4/24). South West Rocks, Trial Bay is where we saw all of the kangaroos and the lagoon. After spending the afternoon at Nambucca we drove north and camped at Emerald Beach just above Coffs Harbour. It was pretty grey and windy at Emerald Beach when we arrived so we didn't spend much time on the beach, but Gregory rented a bike the next morning and had a swim in the pool before our 10:00 check out. (Actually they extended us to 11:00.)

Ready to take on the waves at Nambucca Heads

I love how there are signs to show you how to find almost anything. The brown sign in the middle directs you to the "Pub With No Beer." I saw an ad in a magazine and the delicious looking food was accompanied by a beer so go figure!

Boogie boarding at Nambucca

Interesting rocks at Nambucca Heads (And my legs are getting pretty tan too!)


The Vee Wall is a breakwater at the Nambucca River entrance and is a gallery for graffiti artists. Anyone is welcome to leave their own work of art. I especially liked this recent mosaic.

Fisherman and more Vee Wall Art at Nambucca

The Van at Nambucca Heads

Bike rental at Emerald Beach Holiday Park

Sugar Cane and Battery Trouble

We had to laugh at this parking garage. At the entrance it says Max Height 3.3m and then just inside it says Max Height 2.3m! Mike whipped a big "U" in a hurry.

Brembia Street in Grafton is lined with fig trees.

Fig Tree

Near Pound St. Jetty off Brembia St. along the Clarence River

Flood Marker for the Clarence River located in Lawrence Park ~ Gregory's head is by the 2001 flood mark.

At Lawrence Park

A typical BBQ found in parks and holiday parks. Some are coin operated and sometimes the use of the BBQ is included in your camping fees. After use you pour water on it and use a scraper to clean. The water runs down a hole in the middle. They get really hot as I can attest to since I burned my fingers nicely up at Byron Bay.

Walking amongst the sugar can with Roger.

Roger shows us the "eye" inside the sugar cane. If this freezes the cane won't grow any further and must be harvested.

Yummy Sugar Cane

Macadamia Nuts ~ The above have the shells on. Don't they look chocolate covered? Gregory cracked them open with a hammer. (See below.) Delicious!

Gregory shows Dulcie and Roger pictures of our bike ride across America.

Gregory and Leah

Ferry across the Clarence River from Lawrence

Tartan Power Poles in Maclean

Lunch in the Maclean Park with our camper in the background. We've been told they are called "Turtles" because you carry your home on your back. Someone also said that Aussie campers call them Whiz Bangers because of the sound the sliding door makes when it is being closed. (Especially annoying in the middle of the night!)

Mike liked this Land Cruiser work truck we saw while waiting for our battery to be checked at the mechanics in Maclean.

April 27, 2010 ~ Grafton, Lawrence, Maclean (This posting is a bit out of order. This came after Nambucca Heads and before Byron Bay)

A stop at the “i” center let us know that we were in Grafton, “the jacaranda city” famous for “The Jacaranda Festival, Australia’s longest running floral festival…held from the last Saturday in October when the streets are lined with vibrant purple blossoms.” (Clarence River Tourism brochure, Though our timing was off for the festival we still enjoyed driving around this stunning city that boasts over 7,000 trees. (Later, our hostess Dulcie shared dozens of pictures from the 2008 festival with the town glowing in purple blossoms and a carpet of purple blanketing the ground.) We crossed the majestic Clarence River over the famous ‘Bendy Bridge’ that is considered an “engineering marvel” and was built in 1932. Chris, a volunteer at the information center, directed us to Breimba St. that is lined on both sides with massive fig trees with their enormous twisted trunks, and Chris also told us of an alternate route that would take us through pastoral countryside to the lovely town of Lawrence situated on the banks of the Clarence River. We were to cross the car ferry and head through the Scottish town of Maclean and on to the coastal surfing town of Yamba but fate lead us to Dulcie and Roger and an evening amongst the sugar cane. We’d had a stop in the pretty Lawrence Park where we admired the river and played on the equipment before headed to the toilet block. As I waited out front for the boys I said hello to Brien who then enquired where I was from. As we visited, Brien’s wife, Dulcie and finally Roger, soon joined us. They had just finished having their Monday musical practice session and were loading instruments into their vehicles. We chatted for a half hour or more about our trip, sugar cane and other local crops and a variety of other topics and could have talked all night but we finally went on our way thinking we had to make Yamba before dark. Well, as we were lined up in the number two spot for the car ferry, Roger walked up to the camper van and asked if we’d like to see a sugar cane farm. I instantly said, “We’d love too!” And, just like that Mike whipped a “U” turn and we were off to Roger and Dulcie’s for the evening.

We were thrilled to get the grand tour of the sugar cane farm (right across the street from their home) complete with a bit of Roger’s family history mixed in along the way. Roger retired a couple of years ago and sold his land to his brother Roger who just happens to live across the street! It was his grandparents who originally settled the area. We learned that the cane is usually harvested after about 2 years and that it can be cut just inches from the ground and will grow back up to full height in about 8 months. This can be done about 5 times before the roots are tilled under and they have to start from scratch. Roger cut a bit of cane for us and showed us the inside where the “eye” can be found and explained that if it freezes the cane will stop growing and you have to harvest it then. We even had a bit of cane to chew on and found it to be quite sweet though, Roger explained, that it wasn’t at its peak.

Gregory also got to meet Scruffy, Robert’s dog and his horse Leah who whinny and pranced around for us. She was quite worked up and had a roll in the grass to dry off her sweaty coat. Dulcie was quite busy while we were on our walk and had a lovely meal prepared for us. She also made sure Gregory had plenty to play with. She got out her son’s Legos and cars (she even gave him one to take with him), colored pencils and Frisbees. On the kitchen counter we discovered a bowl of dark brown, almost perfectly round objects filling a bowl. We learned they were macadamia nuts with the shells still on! We’ve eaten them but never seen them in their shells. Dulcie got out the hammer and let Gregory have a whack at them on the back porch. He sat one in a little dip in the concrete and swung away! We’ve had roasted, salted macadamias from the store before but fresh was even better!

Later that evening, while the adults had a visit, Gregory was allowed to pick a movie from Roger’s wide collection of John Wayne and Bonanza. Though he almost chose a western he went for the Sherlock Holmes instead!

We’d had a full afternoon and though it felt quite late when we went to bed around 8:30 P.M. after “plugging in” in the driveway. At dinner, I had explained to Dulcie and Roger about my mysterious rash from the night before and all agreed I might check at the chemist (pharmacist) the next day. Though I’d been relatively rash free most of the day, with my hands just a bit itchy, I’d had a flare up again that evening and my back was covered in massive red patches. I went to bed only to wake up in the middle of the night scratching my palms until they felt like they would bleed! My feet were also unbearably itchy and I couldn’t stop the incessant scratching. I’d woken Mike and he said, “Don’t scratch!” I wanted to throttle him because he had no idea how out of control I felt. I went inside to the bathroom and scratched away taking care not to break the skin. Fortunately for me, Dulcie left a note that said, Dorrie, maybe an antihistamine would help. She left a box of Fexal (fexofenadine hydrochloride) for me and I took one right away. (Last night I’d taken a Singulair I had with me but didn’t think to take one that night.) After about a half hour of washing my feet and hands in cool water, applying lotion, scratching and rubbing, things finally calmed down and I felt I might get back to sleep. I slept until morning and woke to the clippity-clop of Leah’s hooves in the paddock next to the house. It was a chilly night and as I peeked out the van window I could see the mist rising off of King’s Creek that runs behind their home. Warm air also was visible coming from Leah’s nostrils as she stood amongst the dew-covered grass framed by the sugar cane growing on King’s Island in the background. It was a picturesque pastoral setting and made better by the fact that I was rash free at least for the moment.

After leaving our new friends in Lawrence we crossed the Clarence River on the car ferry and had a beautiful drive to the town of Maclean, “The Scottish Town In Australia,” which has a highland gathering each Easter. The many power poles are painted with Scottish clan tartans and each has the appropriate clan name.

In Maclean, the chemist speculated that I’d had an allergic reaction to something, most possibly the fish or oysters I’d eaten in the past couple of evenings. It could also have been the little midges that fly about or mosquitoes and they guessed that the bloody bite between my toes was probably a leech! Geez! They said to keep taking the Fexal for a week or so and gave me an anti-inflammatory first aid cream called Paraderm Plus. We found a good deal on some snorkeling equipment at Maclean Outdoors and enjoyed takeaway in the park. Gregory had a Pluto Pup (basically a corn dog), I had a Satay Chicken Wrap and Mike had the John Dory fish and we all shared an enormous portion of chips (fries). We don’t eat out often so this was a nice treat.

We spent the entire afternoon with the camper van in the shop trying to sort out our battery issues and even after the install of a new “main” battery and pulling the alternator we still couldn’t find the reason that the auxiliary battery won’t take a charge off of the engine. The guys at the shop were terrific and dealt directly with Apollo (our rental company) and in the end we decided we would just have to swap out vans when we get up to Brisbane. We are fine as long as we can plug in each night but when we get to more remote areas it will be more crucial that the auxiliary battery can hold a charge to keep the fridge going. We closed the place down around 5:00 P.M. and it was already starting to get dark. Fortunately, we had a recommendation from one of the guys in the shop who grew up in Yamba, and we pulled into the Calypso Holiday Park well after dark. We had access to private ensuites (bathrooms complete with shower, toilet and sink all in one room) and had lovely steaming hot showers.