Australia Roadtrip – North Coast

I guess I’ve been postponing finding a job, as I mentioned in the last blogpost. Lots of reasons for that, some bad weather, meeting new people and wanting to see a few more things.

The next day was predicted to be rainy, but turned out sunny. Me and Phoebe went to the Sky Pier overlooking Coffs Harbour.

I did put a little effort into talking to (or well, trying to) the fishermen in the harbour. It’s not easy, they just never seem to be there. I figured out I could leave a note on the noticeboard I was looking, but haven’t had any response so far.

Phoebe left the next day, but I met Suzan whom I’d been talking to online for a while. I’d even asked her to join us in Sydney but she had different plans back then. When we met in Coffs Harbour I suggested we could just go for a little (round)trip for a few days.

First destination was Dorrigo Rainforest, which had been recommended to Suzan, but can only really be reached by car.

Suzan was up for some more serious hiking so we didn’t back down and went for the full 6km walk. It turned out fairly easy, going past two waterfalls.

That evening, we headed further to a campground near Cathedral Rock, where I spotted two Triumph Scramblers with UK licenseplates. Aelaine and Norman had come all the way from Scotland, through Russia and Japan. I talked for ages with them about gear, riding, routes. It was just so inspiring again, a big reminder how much I miss riding motorcycles, it’s just not the same with a car. I swear one day I’ll do something similar, hopefuly soon!

After an extremely cold night, for which we were not very well prepared, we decided to do the 6km hike up to Cathedral Rock.

The sign had warned us this was an advanced “Level 5” walk, but after the easy walk yesterday we figured it wouldn’t be an issue. The Level 5 part turned out to only really be the last climb to the top. We had to ascend boulders with chains even and Suzan required some encouragement now and then to make it all the way to the top.

The view was really worth the effort though, I think this was one of the most impressive sights I’ve seen so far. It turned out to be hard to capture on camera even, ironically.

The walk back turned out to be the toughest part, so we decided to stay in Armidale, a city about an hour from there. They had a department store where we could get a sleeping bag for Suzan to avoid further bad nights due to the cold.

We went for a few walks again, first a bigger one at Gara Gorge, where there were supposed to be remains of an old hydroelectric plant (disappointing, not much rusty things to be seen), and then to Wollomombi Falls, which were much more impressive than the falls from Dorrigo. We camped near Wollomombi since it was getting late again.

The next day we decided to head back to the coast, which would have to be along a smaller road to avoid a big detour. The road, Kempsey-Armidale road, turned out fantastic. Definitely the most remote and adventurous feeling I’ve had so far driving in Australia. There were lots of warnings about narrow, winding gravel roads, falling rocks, not suitable for trailers and caravans, etc… Progress was much slower than the GPS expected since some of the drops by the side of the road made me drive at 40km/h or so just for safety.

After the most unnerving part in the mountains, we ended up in the Maclean river valley, where the roads were a bit less challenging. It’s amazing there are farms out here, they have hours to drive on quite difficult roads just to get to any civilization.

About halfway through we ended up at an unnamed campspot and open area by the river that looked gorgeous. I regret we didn’t camp there instead the night before, but we probably would have been late and tired for the kind of roads that lead there.

This spot was really one of the best I’d been to, so I crossed some streams to get closer for an even better picture. That night we had to shuffle around a bit to find a place to stay since, as always, there’s little free camping near cities on the coast and most campings were still very expensive.

The next day we went to the beach South West Rocks and Suzan wanted to “look nice for a change” after all that camping. We get along pretty well, Suzan is pretty funny, and it was nice to talk Dutch again with someone.

One of the main reasons I wanted to go to South West Rocks were the three big shipwrecks that had washed up here in the 70s. Unlike at Stockton Beach, there wasn’t much left here, this rusty column was about it, the rest of the ship is buried under the sand below it.

I made up for wasting Suzan’s time looking for “rusty monuments” by having a bit of a photoshoot of her on the beach. She’s my harshest critic yet, every photo I took of her barely made the cut!

On the way back I had to give up on finding the second wreck, the Koondooloo, in the dunes. 5 years ago it was exposed by heavy waves, but I assume by now it’s just covered by sand and vegetation again. Bummer.

The other thing I wanted to see was the Trial Bay Gaol, an old prison from the late 19th century. Here’s a kangaroo trying to gain entry to the gaol without paying admission.

The Gaol museum was pretty interesting. Surprisingly it wasn’t a very harsh jail for the time, the main gate was not even locked during the day and prisoners were allowed on the beach. It was used for end of sentence convicts in the late 19th century, and for German “enemies of the state” during World War 1.

After that we drove back to Coffs Harbour since we both wanted to do laundry and Suzan would catch a ride to Sydney from there. She said she’d never seen such a dodgy joke of a laundry room (the entry is in the side alley next to the hostel).

Suzan had been feeling a bit lost the past week, after a bad job and a previous failed roadtrip in Brisbane. She wanted to find decent work but wasn’t sure where to go. She’s skipping ahead to Sydney and then to Tasmania in hope of finding decent farm work. The guy that picked her up drove a very cool but very dodgy Landcruiser (bugga-bugga mobile in his words), and he looked and acted exactly like a stereotypical stoner beach bum.

I can relate to the way Suzan feels, by now I’m getting a bit worn out on traveling. The constant issues with the car have just drained my finances quite a bit, and I’m starting to feel like I lack a purpose or goal at the moment. It’s compounded by the fact that I might have a shot at an interesting job back in Europe in a few months, which sort of makes me feel like I can’t commit too much to anything.

But right now it’s really just me and my car, and I have to figure out what to do for real.

Here’s the map of the past week:

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