Australia: 1/7/17 – 1/13/17

(Australia) Mudgeeraba [Housesit with Rupy & Teebo] >>> Port Macquarie >>> Blue Mountains >>> Sydney

1/7 – Exploring Byron Bay!
1/8 – Australian Friends Reunion and Relaxing in Birdsville
1/9 – Brunch and Beach Time in Coolangatta
1/10 – Last Full Day of Housesit! 😦
1/11 – Left Housesit and Started RV Trip South towards Sydney!
1/12 – RV Trip Along the East Coast and into the Blue Mountains!
1/13 – Hiking in the Blue Mountains and Return Vehicle to Apollo Sydney Branch

1/7 –
Day 20 of Housesit – Exploring Byron Bay!
+ Probably the most popular place here along Australia’s Central East Coast area was Byron Bay. Celebrities vacationed there, rich Aussies moved there, and even backpakcers flocked there in giant numbers! We were excited to visit the area and see what all the Hubabaloo was about.
+ With our day trip bags packed and stomachs full of cereal, we headed south for an hour until we arrived in Byron Bay. We’d seen only a few campervans on the road since the Cairns area, but we now found where they were all hiding. Huge campgrounds with more campervans and tents than we could count, and they were all over the city too! The town was quirky too and we saw all sorts of hipster restaurants and shops.
+ We continued driving east as far as we could along the twisting cliff roads until we found a parking place in Cape Byron. It was perfect because it was right next to the beginning of the hike we wanted to do on the Cape Byron walking track.
+ This hike was hugely popular and filled with both tourists gawking and picture-snapping (like us) and even lots of joggers too going up and down all the stairs. For about 3 hours we made our way along the path stopping often to admire the views from the cliffs of the sweeping coastline and jungle lined beaches.
+ We also visited the Most Easterly Point of Australia and met some friendly Germans that were visiting old friends they hadn’t seen since Germany was split into the East and West sections and both sets of friends were forced to flee to different areas of the world. Crazy!
+ Near the end of our hike we hiked up to the top of this rock that was out in the water, but accessible because it was low tide. Everyone was watching the surfers wait in a big long line (about 100 yards long!) to catch waves from this one specific spot near the rocks.
+ After watching for a while we were getting ready to go but noticed a pod of dolphins a little bit to the right of the surfers frolicking in the waves. They were a different type of dolphin than we have back home (spinner dolphins maybe?) and they slowly made their way over towards the surfers. It became apparent they were chasing after this big bait ball of fish and once they moved the fish into the shallower waters they were able to feast with less effort. The surfers didn’t even seem to notice or be phased by the dolphins but we thought it was really cool!
+ Once we got back to the car, we got our beach stuff and headed down to the shore where we went in the water a little bit and then threw around the frisbee for a while.
+ Just before dark we packed up and started our hour journey back north to the house. Since Byron Bay was in New South Wales (not Queensland where the housesit was), they were an hour ahead in time. This meant the sun didn’t set until about 8:30. Nice!
+ For dinner we made Kangaroo Burgers! We cooked them on the grill and had them with some fries and veggies. They were a bit more chewy than beef burgers but still yummy and an item we felt we definitely had to try before leaving Australia. Then we finished off the Chocolate Cheescake we had leftover from Christmas for our dessert.

1/8 –
Day 21 of Housesit – Australian Friends Reunion and Relaxing in Birdsville
+ Today we were going to meet up with our friends Natalie and Michael who lived just north of Brisbane! We had first met them while hiking the Quilotoa Loop in Ecuador and then had a fun night with them in Lima, Peru about a month later. We’d just missed them at Oktoberfest and now that they had completed their RTW trip, they were both back home and working again. We were excited to see them and drove north about half an hour or so to meet them at a Australian meat pie restaurant they’d recommended. This was an essential food item to try and tlace supposedly had the best around! We all ordered something different and none of us were disappointed. Very tasty. Like cornish pasties but better!
+ After a couple happy hours of talking and reminiscing, we said our goodbyes and drove opposite directions back home.
+ The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing at the house. Liz started her Paint-By-Numbers canvas she’d gotten for Christmas and Corey watched NFL game highlights on the tablet. Then we enjoyed the nightly bird show that we could witness from the back patio.
+ We wanted to have Fajitas one last time and so we went all out tonight with a bunch of exra peppers and cheese and even extra beef too! We made so much we had a good bit of leftovers for another day. Like always, it was super tasty and probably our favorite dinner meal overall.
+ Watched more OitNB episodes that night in the living room enjoying the A/C before going to sleep.

1/9 –
Day 22 of Housesit – Brunch and Beach Time in Coolangatta
+ Melanie and Ian (our housesitting hosts) had surprised us for Christmas by getting us a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant in the nearby town of Coolangatta. We had decided to wait until the end to use it so we had something to look forward to and make a whole day out of the trip down there.
+ Once we’d had our brekky and loaded up one of their coolers (or eskies, as they’d call it) and a few different beach items like a pop up tent, some chairs, and a surfboard, we drove south to Coolangatta.
+ The restaurant was called Cafe D’Bar and it was a lovely looking place right on top of a big cliff overlooking to beach. Liz ordered a Snapper burger and Iced coffee and Corey order a soft shell crab burger along with a Boysonbeery smoothie. It was all delicious and we enjoyed the whole experience. It was definitely something we wouldn’t have done otherwise without the gift certificate and we felt very thankful!
+ From there we strolled the walkway along the cliff and took some pictures at the big monument marking the border between the states of Queensland and New South Wales. Then we hiked back to the car and drove over to a beach area in this little harbour we’d seen that looked like it had decent waves and a bunch of surfers.
+ We set up the little pop up tent and took refuge from the sun for a bit while Liz read a book and Corey relaxed with some beers. This beach was nice because it wasn’t very crowded and it was almost completely silent, leaving us to listen to nothing but the waves crashing against the shore.
+ Once the sun subsided a little we threw around the frisbee for a while and then Corey decided to try his luck with surfing. (Ian and Melanie had let him borrow a board from the house) This would be the first time since 2003 that he had tried surfing! Before he could really get started though, he realized that the surfboard needed a lot more sex wax since it was so slippery he couldn’t even stay on it to paddle out! Plus the board was too short for Corey anyway so he decided to just body board instead and had fun doing that.
+ After some more relaxing time on the beach, we packed everything up and headed back to the house.
+ For dinner we had leftover Fajitas and lots of dessert! We had gotten so many snacks and desserts for this housesit that we were now rushing to finish them all off before we had to leave. We know, poor us!

1/10 –
Day 23 of Housesit – Last Full Day of Housesit! 😦
+ With this being our last full day that we’d spend here in Mudgeeraba housesitting, we wanted to spend it all in the house with the kitties and enjoying the peaceful tranquility of it all.
+ Before we could do that however we did spend quite a lot of time cleaning the house and packing our bags and ensuring everything was ready for our departure and the family’s arrival.
+ For lunch we made more of the delicious chicken wings we’d had about a week earlier. They were sooooo good!
+ In the afternoon, Corey went and got his haircut at a nearby barbershop while Liz worked on her Paint-By-Numbers out on the back patio.
+ In the early evening we both sat on the back porch and watched one last time as all the lorikeets flew home one direction and all the Cockatoos flew home in the other. Then like clockwork all the bats started coming out about 15 minutes later. We had really enjoyed this nighly bird show and definitely understood why this street was called Birdsville!
+ For our last dinner we used the barbie to grill steaks and had some veggies and fries to go with. Corey cooked these steaks much better and with them also being a better quality, they rivaled any of the steaks we’d ever gotten in a restaurant! Then we finished off the chocolate cake Liz had made a few days earlier for dessert. We were stuffed! This housesit we’d eaten like Kings and we weren’t looking forward to having to go back to not knowing where we’d eat every meal again.
+ Once the dishes and laundry were finished and everything was neatly organized, we relaxed on the couch and watched one episode of OitNB before going to bed super late. We knew we’d be tired in the morning but wanted one last relaxing time on the couch watching Rupy and Teebo race around the house chasing each other and acting like crazies.

1/11 –
Left Housesit and Started RV Trip South towards Sydney!
+ Having only slept about 3 hours or so, we groggily forced ourselves out of bed and had some quick brekky before getting in the car and heading to the Brisbane airport to pick up the family!
+ An hour later around 7:15 am we pulled into the arrivals area and saw all their smiling faces. We loaded up some of the luggage and then only Ian joined us as we drove 10 minutes over to the Apollo office to pick up our RV. He unloaded a bunch of the luggage to make room for the rest of his family and then left us there to rent the RV while he drove back to the airport and got his family.
+ After we got the explanation on how everything in the RV worked (and there was a lot of stuff to know!) we hit the road and drove back to their house. This RV was practically brand new and built for 4 people so it was way more than just the 2 of us would ever need. But it was a relocation so it was a fantastic deal! Then we all went to a nearby restaurant to get some food and swap stories about our vacations and all the funny things the cats did! Everyone ordered various Nutella and Smore’s themed food and milkshakes and it was all delicious! They even paid for us which was super nice! 🙂
+ Once we’d all had our very chocolately breakfast we went back to their house where we loaded up the RV and said one last goodbye to the kitties (who were now very alert and on edge) and the family. We were going to miss them and the wonderfully relaxing times we’d had in the housesit so much!!!
+ Somehow it was already after noon when we started our trip and we knew we had limited daylight before we”d have to find a powered campsite for the night.
+ On the drive we passed many signs for Koalas but even with the both of us scouring the trees we didn’t see any. We did pass a brush fire though and saw some firefighters working to put that out!
+ With the help of many different gummy worms and cookies and gulps of soda, we managed to stay awake until we pulled in a campground called Stoney Park Watersports for the night. We found ourselves an available powered site and got everything hooked up correctly. Then with a few minutes of daylight left we walked around the campground and spotted some kangaroos on the other side of the lake. They were much bigger than all the ones we’d seen in the wild previously.
+ In our R/V we cranked the A/C and ate some of the spaghetti we’d pre-made for ourselves at the dining room table. Then we cracked open a bottle of wine and decided to play a game. The game was basically Heads Up! It involved writing down different Places/Things/People/Characters on pieces of paper and switching with the other person. The other person then held them to their forehead and tried to guess what was written on the paper while the other one gave them clues and answered questions. It was really fun!
+ After a whole bunch of rounds of that, we finally called it a night an got into one of the 2 beds available to us in this mammoth RV. A long but fun day!

1/12 –
RV Trip Along the East Coast and into the Blue Mountains!
+ This had been the first night we’d slept with A/C since we were in Cairns! Needless to say, we enjoyed not sweating all night and chose to sleep in a bit longer than we should’ve. It was much nicer sleeping in a spacious RV instead of a campervan! We were already spoiled.
+ Once we’d gotten the RV road ready again, we continued our journey south along Australia’s famous A1 highway.
+ After a quick lunch at a rest stop Subway, we kept driving and eventually decided to break up the monotony and veer east onto the Scenic Tourist Route. This followed a road called The Lakes Way and crossed over a bunch of neat bridges and narrow strips of land as it bounced between lakes and the Pacific Ocean. We saw pairs of Lorikeets and Sulphur Crusted Cockatoos perched on light posts on the bridge above sandbars along the way!
+ We eventually reached a little town called Seal Rocks with a lookout point over the beach. The plan was to continue here south through Myall Lakes National Park until we reached another road that would reconnect us back with the main highway. Google Maps said it connected but after driving a bunch of bumpy dirt roads and visiting some secluded sand dunes, we discovered it actually did not connect and that the road it told us to drive on was a closed mining road. That was a bummer and instead we had to retrace our steps back for half an hour before we could reconnect. Oh well, at least we had some good views along the way!
+ Since we were behind schedule now we had to forgo any of the other stops we had planned and instead just book it south towards the Blue Mountains.
+ We managed to make it just before sunset and Liz parked at a free campground called Bulls Camp Reserve in the beginning of the Blue Mountains. All the other vehicles were campervans and we were the only RV. We felt super schmancy and a bit snobby! But we were paying less per day than any of them!

1/13 –
Hiking in the Blue Mountains and Return Vehicle to Apollo Sydney Branch
+ Drove to what was supposed to be the National Park Visitors Center and Liz hopped out to look while Corey parked the RV. He did such a good job of parallel parking that the left side of the roof was rubbing up against a thick low hanging branch. Woops.
+ It turned out the visitors center wasn’t really that at all, just more of a restaurant with some info. When we went to leave, the branch rubbed up against the RV a whole bunch no matter how we tried to pull forward or backwards. It rubbed so hard the roof basically got wedged against the tree! It messed up the top left corner of the RV and even carved a little notch into the tree! Liz sat on Corey’s shoulders and tried to pull bits of the tree out that were stuck into the RV and brush it off, but it was clearly damaged. Oh no!! We were worried this may be a very expensive mistake.
+We had taken out the insurance but that only reduced our liability from $1000 to $250 (unlike in the U.S. where it would be $0). So we were pretty bummed about that but tried to not let it put a damper on the rest of our day.
+ Nearby we stopped and did a short hike out to an overlook of the valley and then another short hike to see a waterfall. Both areas were pretty good and we were surprised at how green and mountanous the whole area was since we were less than an hour away from Sydney!
+ Drove to the actual visitors center and parked for free just 2 blocks away from all the people paying $5/hour just to be a little closer. Walked out to the view point and got some good photos of the valley below. It was much more rocky over here than the hike we just finished!
+ Stopped into the store and got some info from a ranger about what day hike and drive we should do. Then went back to the RV and drove along the cliffview road taking in the sights along the way. Being up so high off the ground was definitely an advantage in these situations as it allowed us to see more from the road!
+ Our main destination was a hike called the Grand Canyon Loop. Our friends Josh and Kristina had told us about it and how much they loved it, and the ranger earlier in the day said it was the best hike around too! So we were excited to check it out.
+ The first stops we made along the hike were the Valley View and Evans View lookouts which provided even better 180 degree views than the ones we’d seen earlier. From there we hiked down down down into the lush green valley below. This type of flora was Corey’s favorite to hike in because everything was so wet and green that it made for fantastic photos and a really neat and secluded feel. Plus it was all shaded and therefore much cooler, which is always good. This type of environment is how we imagine everything looked when dinosaurs roamed the earth, lol.
+ After meandering along through the valley of this “Grand Canyon” (we were expecting much bigger since we’ve visited the actual GC in the U.S.!), we slowly worked our way up along the path until we were back out in the sweltering sun. We had hiked quickly since we had limited time today and we managed to finish the hike in only 2 hours! The ranger and signs had recommended 3-4 hours. We’re just that fit I guess! Ha! not!
+ We had a quick snack of the last of our spaghetti in the RV and cleaned out the toilet container (required before we could return) and then sped back for 2 hours to the Apollo office in Sydney. We managed to make it there by 4:15, a whole 15 minutes before they closed. Whew!
+ While checking in the RV, the Apollo rep was using a long stick with a mirror on it and checking the bottom and top of the RV. We had given up any hope of not being charged for the damage since it was clearly visible even without the stick mirror but for some inexplicable reason, she didn’t see it! Or if she did, she thought it was already there or something? We dont know but we do know she didn’t charge us! We counted our blessings and quickly ordered an Uber to get us up into Sydney CBD.
+ The Apollo office was located comically far fom Sydney and although it would’ve been possible to reach our hostel by hiking and taking a few different buses and trains, we had way too much crap with us (leftover food and such, in addition to all our normal bags) that we didn’t want to go through all that process for 2 hours in the sweltering heat. So we opted for the overpriced Uber instead.
+ After checking into our 2-person dorm room (so basically a private room with a bunkbed) in Jackaroo hostel, we showered and spent some time perusing on the interwebs. Then we eventually decided to go grab dinner. The cheapest thing around was Dominos so we ordered their pre-9 pm special and ate it over there. Then we spent an hour or so walking around this King’s Cross area of Sydney looking at all the different restaurants, shops, and people dressed up that were headed out to all the bars and clubs for a fun Friday night.
+ Being the ultimate party animals that we are, we instead chose to head back to our room and use the internet again to check email and plan out our time in Sydney. Liz passed out first and after reading some sports articles and perusing any new housesits Corey then followed. A long day!

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