Hope you're all well and not having too many problems with the snow...It sounds like getting places is a bit of a nightmare for many people. The Australian press is loving the fact that there's a place in New South Wales which is currently -7 degrees, apparently the same as parts of the UK.
We're just a few days from Christmas now and it feels very surreal. Christmas time should be cold and dark, not sunny and warm – not, of course, that we're complaining one jot!
Mind you, we have had more than our share of rain: last time we wrote we were sheltering from torrential downpours in Noosa and on our way to Kin Kin in the outback, headed for a pub we'd read about in a newspaper back home. We had a brilliant day there – even if it rained non-stop the entire day. We arrived, keen as mustard for the hog roast, only to find out that it had finished not long before. And that, being a Sunday, the kitchen wasn't opening again that day. Ah. Cheese and onion crisps for lunch it was, then. The only other food option in Kin Kin was a little shop that normally sold pies, but they were out too – so, a provision of emergency baked beans for dinner was made. Luckily, the locals were lovely and once they'd got used to the random Poms hanging out in their pub, the landlady said she'd do us a couple of plates of roast dinner later in the evening.
We had a great afternoon listening to Kevin Barker and the Beagles - the first one-legged frontman we've ever seen. In one break, I was enlisted to zip up one of the Beagles back into her tight black dress...(not entirely sure what she was doing out of it, perhaps best not to ask.) We were also treated to a bizarre but surprisingly good turn by a Tina Turner cover artist, with the broadest Irish accent you'll ever hear. We were made very welcome and chatted to lots of the locals, and were even shouted a bottle of vino by some birthday boys. All good fun.
From Kin Kin, it was on to a campsite just South of Brisbane. From there, we had a lovely day visiting a koala sanctuary and then I tried my hand at golf for the first time ever, and actually quite liked it (but was predictably fairly rubbish.) We totally fell in love with the koalas – they are ridiculously cute! We learnt that they sleep 20 hours a day, and that they're dozy because they only eat eucalyptus and the leaves provide little energy, not because it has any kind of narcotic effect, as we'd heard erroneously somewhere along the way. It's apparently the equivalent of humans solely eating lettuce leaves, which would no doubt leave us struggling a little on the get-up-and-go front.
As well as having a koala cuddle, we also checked out some crocs (passed on the cuddles there) and hand-fed some kangaroos, which are truly bizarre creatures. Their tails and legs are huge and at perfect right angles to the ground - and then they have these little spindly arms just hanging down limply. When they spring across the ground, you can really feel the thump of the power behind the boing.
Next day, we continued Southwards along the Gold Coast. We stopped in Surfers Paradise, which was a lovely beach (especially on a beautiful day) but the town seemed really overdeveloped for us, so we headed a bit further and stayed near to Burleigh Heads. This is another pretty but quieter part of the coast, where we treated ourselves to to some delicious local seafood with a perfect view over the sea.
From there we carried on South (by now in New South Wales) to Byron Bay. Had a relaxed couple of days here, enjoying the sunshine and the beach – and seeing in Mum's very special birthday!
After Byron, we went a couple of hours inland to Nimbin. This is a hippy hangover from a festival held there in 1970s, and there's certainly still a lot of peace and love (and way too much tie-dyed clothing) wafting around. We stayed in a great hostel with beautiful countryside views - we even saw our first wallaby in the wild which was pretty special for us (but probably as common as seeing a rabbit for Aussies...) We'd upgraded from camping to a yurt (a big, posh tent where, if you were so inclined, you could probably swing multiple cats- and with a Proper Bed!!) Camping certainly does make you appreciate your creature comforts...
From Nimbin, it was on to Port Macquarrie – quite a bit further South. This was a smallish, laid back beach resort which we really liked, especially as we had two gorgeous sunny days here. Having said that, we did spend a fair portion of both days at various mechanics and a locksmith's trying to fix the front passenger door lock which seemingly was no easy task. But frankly, after a day of clambering across and bruising myself on gearstick, handbrake and any other pointed and painful debris in the front seats, it needed to be done.
And finally, we carried on our journey towards Sydney with our last stop in the Hunter Valley, Australia's oldest wine region, known for its Semillion and Shiraz. We've had a lovely day today, visiting various wineries (really love this wine-tasting lark) as well as olive and cheese producers. Have tasted some delicious wines – in particular some chilled reds and some crisp Verdelho (a grape variety we'd not come across before). More importantly, we stocked up on a couple of bottles of fizz for Christmas Day and New Year's Eve, which we're very much looking forward to celebrating with our visitors from England!
We hope you all have a very merry Christmas, and that you can eventually travel to where you need to be. We'll raise a toast to you all back home, when you're still all tucked up on Christmas Eve!
Have a good one.
Lots of festive love,
Helene and Roland xxx