Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Venturing further afield

A couple of weeks ago I travelled up to Coffs Harbour, a coastal town in New South Wales, 340 miles north of Sydney and 240 miles south of Brisbane.  I was going to stay with a very special cousin and friend of mine.  We catch up with each other roughly every 25 years!  However over the last three years we have been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to spend a little time together and this year we had the best part of one week to try and cover the last 40 years in some detail!  It was great fun.

Instead of travelling there and back by air I elected to do one of the journeys by train so that I could see something of Australia rather than zoom over the top of it!    We travelled together from Melbourne, which gave us an extra day of chat, chat, chat, starting with an overnight train journey to Sydney.  The train travelled alongside the Hume Highway and in the dark I could see enormous B double trucks like this one

with their profile outlined in orange lights.  They looked like travelling circus lorries!  We stopped at a number of stations throughout the night, ghostly old Victorian stations still sporting original signage and with their detailing unspoilt.  
We arrived in Sydney just before 7 in the morning, left out our luggage in the station office and walked off down Pitt Street, heading for the Opera House.
We only had about 3 hours in Sydney so I saw relatively little of the city but I have to say my heart belongs to Melbourne!  However, I could scarcely believe I was there, walking around Circular Quay with the famous Sydney Harbour bridge on one side, the busy green and yellow ferries bustling across the water, and the extraordinarily iconic Opera House on the other.  There are some places you never expect to visit and this is one of them for me.  So it just goes to show, never say never!
Along the quayside there are markers set into the paving slabs.  They indicate where the shoreline was in past times.
There were also brass plaques with quotations from poets and writers of the past.  This one features C J Dennis, a humorous Australian poet
and another by Rudyard Kipling. They are rather entertaining, from visitors of byegone days.
And of course the Opera House.  It's all been said really so here are a couple of photos!
We received a text message from the train line to say the next stage of our journey, to Coffs Harbour, was going to be by coach as flooding had disrupted the train services.  The prospect of 7 or 8 hours on a coach was not thrilling but there was nothing else for it!  It was a long and slightly odd journey.  The driver had to visit the various stations the train would have stopped at and he clearly had no idea where he was going at times, so we travelled through small settlements and towns, occasionally going round in circles, but finally we arrived in Coffs Harbour some time after 8 in the evening.  On the way we saw some of the extensive flooding and it is hardly surprising the rail service had been affected.
I was very amused to see this sign which sits half way down the slip roads coming off the highway but facing backwards, so that you will only be able to read it if you inadvertently set off in the wrong direction.  Think, if you will, of those doddery old drivers who manage to travel for miles along our motorways wondering why everyone is going in the opposite direction.  This notice offers good advice.
My cousin's husband works in pewter and produces some wonderful work in his establishment, nestled into the hills above Coffs Harbour.  He makes jewellery, serving spoons, salad servers, cheese knives, all sorts of things, taking inspiration from the Australian wild flora and fauna.
Coffs Harbour is a lovely place.  It has wonderful beaches and there is a wooded mountain range behind it.
It has a semi tropical climate and the local industry is the cultivation of bananas, blueberries and some avocados.
This wonderful red soil must have some magic ingredients to produce these yummy crops.  I thought the colour was just incredible.  Real fired earth.
My chauffeur spoiled me horribly!  We drove all over the place and I saw some wonderful things - magnificent views, waterfalls, trees, plants and countryside.  These two photos show the views from Griffiths Lookout and you can get an idea of what a beautiful part of the world this is.
These eucalyptus are growing in amongst lovely yellow flowering senna trees.  The white of the gum tree trunk is quite ghostly, especially in the half light of early evening.
Below is a vividly coloured flowering shrub called tibouchina, sitting alongside an orange grevillea. Then a beautiful white calliandra flower (I think) followed by a wild passionflower which I really love.  It has all the complexity of the cultivated version but is much smaller and more delicate.  It is delightful.
 On our travels we passed this pumpkin stall, sitting all by itself on the edge of a wood.
On my last day we drove up to Grafton, a lovely little town north of Coffs Harbour and then back through the countryside, passing traditional old farmhouses, a deserted railway station, and finally Kanga and Roo.


  1. I just thought I'd add that I also have family who live in Coffs Harbour, and when they visited the UK they had obviously been to your cousin's husband's shop as I am now the proud owner a beautiful pewter letter opener decorated with native leaves and berries! It's a treasured piece, so you can let him know that his work has now travelled all the way to Cornwall. x

    1. Good Lord! What a small world! We have a pair of salad servers which are also decorated with gum leaves and berries, and I have a lovely silver necklace which I bought from Wolfgang, which is a simple chain of eucalyptus leaves - also much treasured! Thank you again for your messages! So much appreciated. A x