Four Wheels, Three Friends and Silvaner Skunk

Last time I wrote, I mentioned that we were hatching another plan. Skunk was obviously getting bored and lonely, and decided to make use of the free house while we were off working day in day out.

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So another road trip was needed. And pronto. This time we wanted to hire a car and drive north with Mennan, our friend from Turkey. He was leaving Australia soon so this was a last chance at a little adventure with him. We had ambitious plans to reach Brisbane. But Aidan wasn’t sure whether he could ask for a day off as things were super busy at the office. (Apparently that is putting it very politely.) We decided to meet Mennan at Frankie’s and figure out the possibilities.

We had a few hours to kill and popped by Motorcycle Heaven – Deus. Who knows when we’ll next get a chance to…

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Nothing better than wandering around the city so we decided to walk to Frankie’s, which inevitably turned into a bit of a pub crawl. Taking a wrong turn and completely missing Chinatown we found the Pump House, a really cool pub with excellent beer and giant lamps above the bar, if a little pricey.

On the way stood this little fella, seemingly random in the middle of one of the city’s busiest shopping streets. The refugee crisis has reached as far as Australia and here too, there is a discussion of whether to let them into the country and what to do with them. That little guy is powerfully moving as he stands there, shoppers rushing past him in their vain pursuit of consumerist happiness, reminding them of things that really matter.

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Mennan was already there when we arrived at Frankie’s a little early. It was good to catch up with him over a couple of beers and the pizzas were on their way.

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With its awesome live bands this wasn’t exactly an ideal place to discuss road trip plans though.

So a couple of beers and some headbanging later Mennan simply booked the car. Aidan would just have to take the Monday off. And that was that, road trip planned 🙂

After a while Frankie’s was getting a little pricey. But no dramas, Mennan knew where there was a fridge full of free beer to be found: in his office!

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Once there he introduced us to the Ravebox, his secret plan to make sure we’d be fit as a fiddle and ready to launch into work on Tuesday morning!

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Saturday morning real early, Mennan picked us up. We’d been working late on Friday and hadn’t packed anything yet. Unlike with a motorbike where everything has to be meticulously packed in the right order into its right place, you just open the car boot and chuck it all in. Problem solved. Skunk was a little confused by this new mode of transport. Why isn’t the wind blowing across your face?

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First stop was a mental hospital. Mennan’s friend had lured us here with the promise of heaps tame kangaroos just outside it. We were driving this way and that, down small private roads, approaching the hospital from different angles but no roos in sight. What was his friend planning for us?

Eventually a bunch of tourists chasing across a field gave the elusive Kangaroos away. They were really cute and munched bananas people handed them. We were allowed to pet them for the chance of more bananas.

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They weren’t too convinced of skunk though. Maybe it’s because he was mourning the misuse of bananas, saying they would make perfectly yummie banana bread beer.

You have to be careful though. One slap with those huge claws will have your guts spilling in the grass before you know what happened.

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Back on the road we came across a very Australian oddity: The Rock Roadhouse. It is nowhere near Uluru and is otherwise nothing special. But apparently roadhouses across Australia like to attract customers with giant things. Like the giant crab or a rock. I wonder how many of these we’ll come across on our travels…

Just as we were beginning to think of a nice spot on the beach to cam, it started raining. That’s another good thing about traveling in a car. You don’t get soaked in the rain. Bu the prospect of hoveling up inside a sodden tent for the evening didn’t appeal. So we decided to outrun the rain. Google said it wasn’t raining further north. (It also said it wasn’t raining where we were now.)

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Eventually it did stop and we scoured WikiCamps and found a nice little campsite by a river estuary. All the best swimming spots by the entrance were taken by families with screaming kids. Luckily further in there were some quiet spots and the fire spots looked promising. There is a fire ban all across New South Wales from October til March, but the nice lady who came round later that night to collect a small camp site fee explained that the site had purchased a permanent permit so fires were allowed except on total fire ban days.

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The roadside fire danger indicators were all in the green and blue: there wasn’t much chance of bush fires in this damp weather. Heaps of wood was provided. So we cracked open an beer, pitched the tent and lit a fire just in time for the rain to catch up with us.

Our french neighbours, a wickedly worldly older couple in a camper van, had been hanging out for a ciggie and a chat in a mix of French, English and German. There was even talk of their cooking their steaks with us on the outside BBQ Aidan had lit. But now that it was raining, they retreated.

The rain stopped in time for dinner – some much needed real food after all the sweeties we’d been munching in the car all day. Then we spread the tarp by the fireside and chillaxed, watching the stars, listening to music. Still exhausted from a busy week, I kept falling asleep and called it a night. But Mennan and Aidan stayed up well into the night chatting about music and everything else.

The next morning glorious sunshine roasted me out of the tent and I went for a wonderfully peaceful swim in the river. Just like all the other campers I ignored the warning sign mentioning sharks among other things. The water was warmer than the air and no one was awake yet. It was beautiful!

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Skunk found a couple of shells like the ones we’d found the other weekend with Susan and Lawrence.

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Aidan made our standard yummie hangover camping breakfast of cheesy beans on toast and we tucked in. I managed to convince Aidan to come for a swim after, but as usual he was complaining that the water was too cold. So we packed up and hit the road again.

Its funny, on a bike, the ride is a much a fun part of it, but in a car the destination becomes much more important, even if you can listen to awesome music along the way.

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On a bike I would simply stop and whip out my camera but in a car it was a long process of telling the driver to pull over, he then had to find a suitably safe place to stop…. Anyways, I made the guys pull over for this eerie shack to have a nosey.

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We popped into Byron Bay for lunch. The town really does have the awesomely laid back surfer hippie feel to it that it is famous for. After yesterday’s lightening-speed Maccas Drive-Thru experience, we fancied a real burger. Though Mennan’s was taking its sweet time.

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When it arrived he was super happy.

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Sadly we’d only managed to get a two hour parking spot, so we had to drive off. Little road signs took us to the lighthouse. Normally we don’t go for the touristy thing but this time we paid the $8 parking ticket and had a wander around. The views were stunning!

And just as we were leaving we were treated to a mesmerising rainbow over the water.

Back on the road we had a mind to reach Brisbane, but it was still really far away. We picked up a hitchhiker who was nice enough but got a little annoying after a while.So poor Aidan pretended to listen to him in the back while I tried to find a good camping spot on WikiCamps. Which was easier said than done. We had reached Goldcoast with its hi-rise tourist trap hotels and heaps of caravan parks. The entire coastline is lined with resorts all the way to Brisbane. Our idea of a nightmare.

I finally found a campsite out in the mountains where nature still rules and we dropped off our hitchhiker in town where we could stock up on supplies for the evening. On the map the drive hadn’t looked too far. But then it never does when you look at Australia with European eyes, assuming that since is just one country, it can’t be that big. The Sat Nav ended up taking us in a scenic loop around some beautiful parkland estates, trying to entice Mennan to stay in Australia after all.

That meant we reached the campsite long after dark. The manager was still awake, watching TV in his cabin behind the reception and let us in. We picked a random place in the dark and pitched the tent in the beam of the car lights. After our giant burgers for lunch, we weren’t hungry so a liquid dinner of cold beer by starlight in the company of possums was just fine.

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The next morning we finally got to see the beauty of this ginormous campsite. Cheese sandwich breakfast in hand we went to explore the local wildlife. There are loads of birds around and we even found a shy wallaby by the stream.

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We had crossed the border to Queensland and as with seemingly any border in the world the people on one side say the people on the other side are strange, not quite right or even dangerous. And it was no different when I told my friends in Sydney that I was heading to Queensland over the weekend. I didn’t see any weird people. But skunk discovered some new Aussie vocabulary.

The road back to the highway took us past cow fields an into the misty hills of Hobbiton and then up into the mountains. The twists and switchbacks with stunning views made for a great riding road. And Aidan had fun driving it in a car too. The hills were so steep that I got a proper roller coaster feeling in my tummy. But being in a car Mennan and I just got car sick!

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Back on the highway we came past that truck wreckers with loads of wicked old-timer trucks rusting away in the yard. Once again I just had to pull over for pictures. I’d just love to roam around that place for a day!

By beer o’clock our tummies settled down for some yummie lunch.

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Afterwards it was just a long drive home. Two days driving north and just one to come back meant we still had far to go and no time to stop for anything else. Bored and unable to find the wine, Skunk stole the last of the Tangfastics.

When it got dark and we couldn’t watch the landscape pass by I couldn’t wait to get home. Only to find that this would be good bye to Mennan until an undetermined day in the future. We had invited him to stay the night, but he was determined to get more miles under his belt to continue his road trip to Melbourne. He would drive around the country for a few more days until his flight home.

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