I titled it ‘Sport My Quarry’ cause it sounded like Port Macquarie and I thunk to myself how can I start the post off and tie in that silly title and this is how I did it. I did consider simply titling the post ’Port Macquarie’, but that would have made all my other posts sound strange. So what sport it is to chase a quarry. We left Tia Falls and headed down the Oxley Highway or the Ockers as I have just decided to call it. And it didn’t take too long for it to turn into a mountainous, twisty turny old thing. It is bordered on both sides by national park for quite a way and those bits that aren’t national park seem way too steep and treacherous to be of any agricultural use. So we spent ages snaking through amazing dry rain forests and ferny gullies. It took a deal of concentration to negotiate it and luckily there was very little other traffic. It was one of those magical, bell bird soundtracked drives that you would enjoy much more if you weren’t being pushed down it by three tonnes of caravan. I still loved it though and just tried to zen out at sixty to seventy kilometres an hour for what seemed like endless hours.
We finally got to the self promoted timbertown of Wauchope and drove straight through. This is where my ‘Port’ stories started. I have a few of them as I spent some time here from about March 1985 to about October 1986 working as a waiter at a fairly new resort called Pelican Shores. I remember seeing an ad in the employment pages for work on the NSW north coast and I thought I’d be applying to work at Byron Bay or Brunswick Heads. No. I remember riding my Honda CB 250 from Brisbane to here! A hair raising ride on a bike that was not built to do it. Anyway the stories started at Wauchope because that’s where I had to go to get my car licence. “See that street there?” I asked my enthusiastic and literally captive audience, “That’s where I had to do a hill start.” “If we drive around a bit I’m sure I can find the spot where I demonstrated my reverse parking skills. Who wants to do that?” I frothed eagerly. Silence.
We are staying at the NRMA Breakwall park and it is right on the river at the breakwall so the river is virtually right next to us and Town Beach is a 5 minute walk through the city sized caravan park. There is also a pool, which is a big winner with certain members of our party. We are also less than 3 minute walk to the town green so we couldn’t ask for a better location. It has come at a higher rate than we have paid at other spots but I guess you have to expect that.
I tried to have a fish off the wall but there has been a constant nor’easter that has been blowing steadily since we arrived and it has pushed a lot of weed into the river. So as soon as I cast, my line just gets dragged away by these stinky tiny flakes of red weed. Very sad. However I am the only one upset about that. We have been doing a bit of exploring of Port itself with a running commentary from me “Oh yeah I remember once eating a pie from there,” and “I fell off my motorbike there,” but the groans of boredom I get in response to my enlightening remarks are not worthy of recording (You try to educate people).
Port has everything you need and is not a small town and has certainly grown since I was last here. Memory is a funny thing. And after 30 years you lose a lot of detail. So it has been interesting for me to go past some places and think – hang on wasn’t that where I used get my laundry done. I found the place where I used to work easily because it’s next to a marina. But it is a different place altogether. When we had finished setting up the restaurant the other waiter and myself used to throw a couple of handlines into the marina from the deck of the restaurant. We would use yesterday’s bread rolls for bait. One day I actually caught one big enough to give to chef who cooked it up for me.
This part of the coast is excellent, in fact I have to say that there seems to be endless lovely spots on the NSW coast. We spent one day doing the tourist drive south to a little place called Kendall. This takes you past some idyllic little coastal hamlets like Bonny Hills and North Haven to Laurieton then a skip inland past Kew to Kendall. These are all beautiful little coastal villages that do not yet to seem to suffer from the overcrowding you find on the coast north and south of Brisbane. Mind you it seems the water temperature here is a very degrees less also which isn’t to say its cold, just a little bracing to start and the surf has been a bit ugly due the constant wind.
We spent another day travelling to tourist spots north of here and took a look at Kempsey, Crescent Heads, South West Rocks and Trial Bay Gaol. You could easily spend a week at each location exploring all the different reserves and National parks that surround them. We drove along the Macleay River during this trip and I remembered seeing some of the signs up around Dorrigo saying that this area was a catchment for the Macleay. It’s a big river.
Talking about catchments and water it is all a bit brown here too just like Tamworth you can see, feel and hear the dead grass under foot. The weather has been great for us as far as holidays go we have been able to go anywhere and have not felt cabin bound at all but the area definitely needs more rain.
It is Monja’s birthday so she got to have a little time alone at pedicurists and we are going to have a family dinner and movie night. She got a some presents in the morning and I cooked her up some crepes. So not the hoo haa you have at home but not too shabby. We an excellent Thai meal at a restaurant overlooking the river.
I have a special talent. Sometimes it’s a useful talent and other times it has been the cause of some distress to various employers over the years. My talent is to be able to look like I have no idea what I am doing. The latest episode of it coming to the fore was when I decided to try to put the annex up.
When we bought the van it came with an annex. Very handy we thought– double your space we thought– what’s the harm we thought. Thus far the most we have done with it is to take one of the heavy pieces of canvas out of the bag and say ‘ooohh so that what a piece of annex looks like.’ We kept it out and stared at it for an hour then put it back in bag with it’s other heavy waterproof friends. But at this point we thought it best to actually have a go at putting it up. We are getting to point where we have to make a decision about whether we keep lugging it about or drop it off somewhere and save the weight and space. So I watched a video on youtube which was very helpful. So it was not like I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. My conscious plan was to fumble about looking at the different bits and scratching different parts of my anatomy while slowly formulating a plan of attack hopefully making mistakes as I went, as I find this is the best way to learn to do something—you do the wrong things first and that leads you to the right things. I find it easier to remember the right way when I bugger it up first.
So out I go with my 11 year old helper who has limited amounts of concentration and enthusiasm for the job (but a helpful enough attitude). Thing is with me and my helper there is a language barrier as we have not agreed on terminology in this new annexation venture. So I say to him “You need to lift up the clip while I hold on to this leg so I can get it out of it’s cradle.” I grab the leg and wait for the clip to be lifted. 11 year old turns in the vague direction of the clip but starts lifting up everything else except the clip including a towel. I get a bit teeth gritty. “Will you lift up the clip that is holding the other end of this leg” “What’s a clip?” he says. “Is it under this towel?” “No!” I say “ It’s the blinky thing that’s holding the end of this leg onto the godforsaken van. That thingy there. The curved thing.” He raises his eyebrows confusedly sat me. There’s too many thingys in this world and he is new to most of them. Poor guy, I feel sorry for him. I can be a difficult person to assist at times. So I show him what the curved clip thingy is and we start again. With me thinking ‘What a chip off the old block, he’s inherited my talent for looking confused.’
Our combined talent however has worked it’s magic and the beardy bloke from a few vans down comes to tell us how impressed he is with our clueless shenanigans. “Do ya need a hand mate?” he asks rhetorically. I give him the rundown of how I haven’t ever put this thing up before and it’s all a bit new. “I’m fairly new meself” he admits “but I have put mine up a few times. Do you have any poles?” he asks. I remember seeing poles in the long PVC tube at the front of the van. “Yeah” I says “I do have some.” “Excuse me my good man” I motion to the 11 year “Would you mind opening the screw lid on that PVC tube there at the front and getting those poles? There’s a good chap.” You can imagine the state of total confusion he is in now. ’What’s a PVC?’ he thinks ’I know what a screw looks like’ he logics ‘but I’ve never seen one with a lid.’ At least he knows where the front of the van is.
Meanwhile Mr Beard is looking at the annex walls. “Hmmm” he says “I can’t see the sleeves for the poles in this” I point out the embedded rope in the edges. “You thread that sewn in rope through the channels in the anti flap and the van.” I say. “There’s poles, but they don’t hold up the edges.”
“Yeah” he says “Mine’s got poles.”
“Yeah” I say “This ones got the rope edges and the channels.”
“Yeah” he says “Mine’s different.”
“Yeah” I say “You’ve got those pole in the sleeves thingies”
“Yeah” he says. “Hmm” I am pretty sure he’s thinking ‘what have I got myself in for here, with all these ropes and channels?’ But it’s good to have someone else’s eyes looking at the same thing and trying to work out what’s the front and what’s the back and which end goes in first and how you better put that bit in first so you can slide that other bit up by lifting the whole thing. So we ended up getting the basic structure together with the 11 year old help and with the birthday girl’s assistance. But we couldn’t zip up the sides so maybe it’s goodbye to the annex and it can spend the rest of the trip in the too hard basket. Unless you simply do the whatsit first then connect the zips then adjust the legs. Maybe we’ll give it one more chance. Mind you we’ve been surviving very well with just the awning so far. And almost everyone you talk to says annexes are for holidays, not for travelling.