Still, at last

We’re home. It’s both much too soon and at the same time not a moment too soon!

We’ve unpacked the car, put away the trailer, and restored 90% of what we took with us to its proper home. There are still a few random things sitting around the place, but I have no more energy today to do anything more than make some supper, and just possibly put a load in the washing machine.

This is the view from Clairview, where the tide was out. It’s a tiny beachside community about 120km/75 miles from where we live. It’s a mixture of tiny shabby beach shacks and elegant cyclone-proof modern beach houses. We stopped there on the last leg of our journey, at the beach, to eat some lunch, chill out, stretch our legs and take in the heat and light that said we were home, back in the tropics.

We’ve travelled about 3,500km/2,175 miles. We’ve stayed with friends old and new, in some lovely places and some real shockers. We’ve lain in our new tent wrapped in quilts and quaked as a howling gale and lashing wind buffeted our new tent. It held up just fine, and we’ll have more faith next time! We dived headfirst into the airbnb experience, and can thoroughly recommend it, so long as you do your homework. We used three. One was magnificent and we made good friends there. One was quirky, pleasant and friendly, but we probably wouldn’t go out of our way to stay there again. And one was just dreadful, and our experience there has become our new best travel horror story! We’ve eaten some memorable meals, seen some gorgeous scenery, had some wonderful days out on Miss Scarlett, and slept in 9 different beds in 14 days. It was all great fun, and a great change from routine.

But I’m glad to be sleeping in my own bed tonight…

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Homeward bound

Our holiday is almost over, and we’re on the way home.

It has been a wet old trip, and no mistake. We thought we’d struck it lucky this morning, but by mid afternoon, the skies turned black and we got our overnight kit out of the car and into our accommodation just before the heavens opened.

Map © Bureau of Meteorology. Brisbane radar loop.

This storm cell was moving at a tremendous rate, and as you can see, was fairly violent. We’re staying exactly where that dark red spot is, halfway up on the left. We were lashed not only with heavy rain which burst out of the gutters, but pea-hail, coming down with a density and violence that made us tremble for the car and the bike. Fortunately they’re both fine – the hailstones were fairly soft and melted quickly.

There was a second pulse of hail an hour later, and then we were treated to the sight of blue sky and sunshine emerging.

 

Take a look at the photo below. Don’t you love what the camera’s done with the bright glow of the late afternoon sun. Zoom in and look at those radiating lines!

Two more days of travelling, and then we’ll be home and I can tackle a mountain of laundry, a frenzy of fridge and pantry restocking, an orgy of mail opening and an unholy early start on Monday morning, when the Husband goes back to work.

I think I might need a holiday to recover from my holiday…

Fun on two wheels…

It’s not over yet, but I wanted to share a few photos from our trip.

The main purpose of the trip was to go down to northern New South Wales to the annual rally of our motorbike touring club, OzSTOC (Australian ST Owner’s Club).  Along the way, we’ve stayed in airbnbs good and bad, eaten great food, caught up with friends and family, endured lashing rain and howling winds in a tent and days glittering with warm, bright sunshine on the road. When I get home I’ll probably post in more detail, but for now, I’d like to leave you with a whole group of happy, smiling motorbike riders, Aussie style, and some fabulous scenery.

This is the club rally photo, and everyone who made the trip is here, although there are also many members who couldn’t make the long journey, spare the annual leave or afford the cost of the fuel and accommodation if they were coming from thousands of kilometres away. A quarter of those shown here are women, so it’s not like many other motorbike clubs with almost exclusively male members

Today, Monday, the Husband and I and the friends we are currently staying with rode our bikes an hour and a half down the coast to South West Rocks, which has been a popular NSW holiday destination for generations. We visited the Smoky Cape Lighthouse, which overlooks the migration routes of Humpback and Southern Right Whales, and from the top of the cliff saw them spouting and breaching. Sadly, despite numerous attempts I didn’t manage to capture a single example, but I promise you, they were there! The scenery is breath-taking, the view is magnificent and the colours are extraordinary. We followed it up with a ride into town for a lavish lunch overlooking the beach and the extraordinary turquoise of the ocean under a bright blue spring sky.

Smoky Cape Lighthouse

The lighthouse keeper’s cottage, available as a holiday let. What a view!

Looking southwards down the coast. Yes, the sea really is that colour…

The beach at South West Rocks. Nice view for our lunch, eh?

Tonight, we’re getting freshly caught snapper for dinner, sitting outside on the verandah in the scent of jasmine with the cicadas and tree frogs providing the entertainment.

It’s a hard life, but someone has to do it. 

Jacaranda time

It’s spring in northern New South Wales.

In this sub-tropical climate, that means new leaves, green grass and above all, flowering trees. Our route southwards has been decorated with blossom, most notably the spectacular orange blossoms of Grevillea robusta, the Silkoak tree, and the gorgeous misty purple of the Jacarandas.

Yesterday we passed through Grafton, the Jacaranda Capital of Australia, and home of the annual Jacaranda Festival. Sadly, we’re going to miss the event itself as we’ll be virtually home again by then, but the trees are already in spectacular bloom throughout the city. It was pouring with rain as we passed through, so all my photos are taken through the car windscreen, but I think you’ll get the idea anyway!

We’ve travelled something over 1400km (870 miles) since Sunday, with still a way to go. It has been wet every day of our trip so far, so I have no spectacular views to show you; the landscape has been shrouded in mist and cloud, or dense rain all the way. I’m carrying my camera with me, so if an opportunity to capture something does arise, I’ll be ready, but it’s not looking too hopeful!

I’m hoping for a few dry spells at some stage, but given the forecast this may be too much to hope for :-/  It’s going to be a soggy old camping trip…

An ignominious retreat

Small birds are amazingly courageous.

I’ve often seen a crowd of small and not normally fierce garden birds seeing off a larger potential predator. Today, though, I had to applaud. A pair of Peewees (Grallina cyanoleuca) were relentless in seeing off a large juvenile Brown Goshawk (Accipiter fasciatus), who’d wafted down and had taken up a watching post on the neighbour’s fence. He sat there impassively for a while as they swooped closer and closer, yelling noisily all the while, until finally he leapt into the air, clapped his wings hard a few times, and disappeared into the sky to take his hunting exploits elsewhere.

Sorry about the poor focus – I ran in for my camera and fired off a couple of shots but by the time I’d got the thing properly focused he was already away. Brown Goshawks prey on small birds, but will take larger ones if the opportunity arises. They have large, strong yellow legs and talons, a raptor’s tearing beak and mad, staring yellow eyes under heavy eyebrows. You can tell this one is a juvenile because of the heavier brown splashes on the breast feathers. Adults have finer barring on the feathers there. I’m not at all sure I’d want to mess with one myself, so it’s particularly impressive that the Peewees got rid of him.

Routed. And by a pair of noisy clowns!

Prehistoric creatures

No, not dinosaurs, but a distant relative.

I’m talking about Helmeted Friarbirds (Philemon buceroides). They’re strange, gaunt-looking creatures that give the impression they’d be quite happy flying about on webbed membranes instead of feathered wings. They have large, bony skulls which are strongly reminiscent of pterodactyl heads and are very bold, at times flying up to the screen door at the back of the house and hanging from the mesh while they eye the inhabitants of the room.

There’s a pair which is currently making a point of adorning the car with white splotches while they strut across the windscreen or admire themselves in the wing mirrors. While they’re at this artistic endeavour, we’re treated to their raucous, uninhibited song. I don’t quite know why this is suddenly happening after 3 years in this house, but we appear to be greatly favoured! They’re weird, but I like them 🙂

I just wish they’d keep their, um, offerings to themselves…

Colour as sound

Sometimes, Nature springs something that stops you in your tracks.

This is what stopped me in mine yesterday. Do click on the photo to get a larger image, it’s worth it! Can you believe those colours, those clouds? I have a very mild case of synaesthesia, and I could hear those colours. Think Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary (formerly attributed to Henry Purcell).

You’d stop seeing it if it was like this every day, but sometimes, we’re reminded how amazing this planet is…