Tags: Australia, NSW, New South Wales, Travel and tourist destinations
Trials and Tribulations in Northern New South Wales
After our rather chaotic drive getting lost through Sydney, we decided we needed a longer stop at Shoal Bay, to get the van and ourselves back into shape. Wherever we went a certain smell was following us, if you know what I mean…we had a few misdiagnoses, blaming spring fertilizers and other vans, until we finally had to admit that WE had a black water valve problem!
Featured Image(above): View over Shoal Bay and Zenith Beach from Tomaree lookout
To top it off the hot water system collapsed, with water leaking out the van, right left, and centre! Luckily we still found a spot in a caravan park close to a toilet and shower, yet parking was another topic. Everything was chockers, and we had to squeeze in between multiple vans and a huge boat. Not sure why someone had their boat in the park, but I guess if you love boats and get sea sick then the caravan park is another option. Unfortunately, as the boat was so huge, we were eye to eye with a love nest… do I need to say more?
Thankfully the surroundings of Port Stephens were so amazing, that we hardly spent any time spying on our active neighbours, and instead took advantage of all the great restaurants, shops and parks. Our favourite place was the spectacular Tomaree lookout, just half an hour climb from our caravan park. From there one could see across the whole region including dangerous Fingal Spit, which Richard and Ginger braved to cross at low tide.
Fingal Spit warning sign
It took ten days to get all our plumbing issues sorted before we were ready to pull up stumps. For a change, that morning, we were on time with our packing up, which is important when you have to leave through boom gates with an access code that stops working after your check out time has expired… And then unexpectedly our hooking up of the car to the van turned out rather tricky, as over the last few days caravans left and came and it looked like we were hemmed in!
This is one of those crucial times when you need all those helpful, active neighbours to come out of boats and the woodwork, with some good advice, on how to get you out of the pickle… In the end, all the adjacent caravaners had to move their cars and some even had to hand wiggle their vans until we finally were set free! While everyone was waving good-bye, Richard rounded the corner and a surge of water poured out from the under storage!! It was just like one of those water trucks spraying a dusty road…
Tomaree Head lookout with Fingal Spit in the background
The waving stopped and everyone stared in disbelief, knowing and having suffered through all our plumbing problems, hoping that it was not the black water tank again! Meanwhile, my bladder was at bursting point, extra agitated from witnessing all that water, but with no time to stop we left the onlookers behind in their puddles in search of a new spot to pull over.
By then we were in a busy town area, and as soon as Richard found a big enough parking area, I dashed into the van to do my business just to hear him call out: ”Sorry Love but I have to move! The van is blocking a driveway, and the driver is in a hurry to get out!” The ‘hurry’ car made it out all right, while I was hanging on to my dear life in the cubicle, as you would on a plane with major turbulence! When I eventually made it out of the van, feeling totally carsick, I mentioned that we should call it a day, find a quiet caravan park and have a Schnapps… never mind it was only around 11 am and the traveling day had not even started yet!
Anyway, once all this was sorted we were finally ready to hit the road, me following closely behind the Dodge with the Rocket (the Nissan 300 ZX, my birthday present we just picked up at Ulladulla), as the brake lights on the Dodge were still dodgy… going on and off depending on bumps in the road. We only had a three hour drive ahead of us and therefore decided to check out a few headlands on the way, with the first one being Black Head. In hindsight, maybe this was not the right day to go sightseeing…
Beach at Manning Point
Never mind, we pushed on and as luck had it we missed an important turn-off, ending up on a downhill road getting narrower by the minute until we saw a tiny one-way wooden bridge, … which we now totally blocked with our rig… Fifteen months on the road, never getting stuck, not even in the outback, and now on the home stretch in the middle of civilization, here we were… Deep breathing, counting till ten, saying a little prayer…nothing helped and we were faced with reversing up that steep hill or trying to turn around…
We went for option number two, with me informing the piled up and oncoming traffic of our plan while directing Richard until the Dodge and van got jack-knifed … Now it was up to poor hubby to maneuver in multiple tiny steps forwards and backward into the bushes until at long last he was able to complete the turn!
Pebbles at Manning Point
By then it was around 2 pm and we were rather shaken, as you can imagine, yet for whatever reason decided to keep on exploring… This time we figured out a less dangerous approach, namely that I should check out the bays with the Rocket, and Richard, Ginger and Coco would wait with the rig further on at Diamond Bay. Off I went and it was not long before I got stuck between two oversize trucks, carrying a couple of houses, which in return got stuck under a power line…
When I finally got unstuck and reached the Red Bay village centre, I found out that it was a dead end and I was forced to turn around and face the houses on the move all over again. Hoping for something amazing at the end of that exhausting day we arrived at Manning Point …but we could see nooooothing…
Ginger’s sleeping area next to the dining table
On a closer look, however, after risking a few more side roads, we found a gorgeous caravan park situated between a beach and river, with an amazing pool and a secluded spot just for us! It turned out to be a little hidden gem, backed by a unique beach filled with pebbles on one end, and running into pure white sand on the other. For dinner, we discovered a little pier restaurant on the riverside, where you can watch the pelicans settle in for the night, or view some live footage from an underwater camera, showing fish swimming below, while you eat your anchovies on pizza above.
Our neighbour’s boat at the van park
Now you think I over exaggerated about that day, but let me tell you… I actually had to leave out a couple of more incidents as I was running out of space! Maybe it was a sign, that it was time to go home before real disaster strikes? But you know us by now, and I will squeeze in a bit more exploring before we arrive at our new home at Bribie in the next and last episode of The Long Way Round to Bribie!