Rain and Lightning
We made it to Lightning Ridge after nearly 8 hours of hard driving. We now fully understand how unpopulated the country truly is. We will post photos after dinner.
We also found Toby! We met Toby in Fiji at the First Landing Bar. Toby is an Old-Timer Opal miner from Lightning Ridge. We told him we would be visiting and we wanted to know how to find him and he said just ask for Toby...everybody knows him...and he was right. The first person we asked knew him and where to find him. We can't wait to see the old bugger!
Hunter Valley Wine Country
Hot and Dry
We moved up the coast to Hunter's Valley which is the Gold Coast wine country just outside New Castle and 150 km North of Sydney. It is hot, arid and windy today. There are well over 100 vineyards in the area and they are mostly boutique family owned operations with the oldest vines in all of Australia according to the literature and map of the area.
We are actually camping right in the middle of the vineyard.
The campground we are staying in is quite wonderful with two pools and Jacuzzi and lots of shade trees. In the shade trees we have dozens of wild pink and grey Cockatoos called Galahs. These guys are noisy and they seem to not like the fact that we set-up our tent under their tree. It is completely amazing how many wild parrots there are in Australia...and exotic parrots at that. The Cockatoos are everywhere and seem to outnumber the ducks. We have seen the ducks and cockatoos fighting over food on several occasions and find that the ducks typically win. However the fights between Cockatoos and Magpies go the other way.
Sunny and Warm
We spent the day visiting our cruising buddies on S/V Totem and walking down town Sydney. We were glad to see that the Totem clan is doing well living aboard in the Sydney area and what a beautiful location they have found. Anybody who has lived on a boat would be envious. The stairs to the street from their marina will surely keep you fit.
After visiting Behan and Jamie, we made our way towards the down town area of Sydney to get a retake of the brief view that we had coming across the Sydney Harbor Bridge via the Greyhound Bus. After getting lost on traffic and taking the tunnel under the harbor, we circled back and came across the bridge in the opposite direction. Once we found some reasonably priced parking near Luna Park, we walked across towards the Opera House and the Rocks. We wanted to do the Sydney Harbor Bridge Arch walk which takes you up the topside of the arch...BUT when we saw the $212/pp price just to walk for an hour 200 feet above where you walk for free, we decided otherwise. Some things are just stupidly priced for tourists and this was one of them...and yet there were dozens of people paying the ridiculous price.
Sydney was as beautiful in person as it is in the pictures. The vibrant water front really puts San Francisco to shame.
Camping Australian Style
Sunny and Warm
11/11/2011, Sydney, Australia
Our modest camping arrangment using a dome tent this year rather than a van.
We are camping again, but this time we know what works and what doesn't work. It only took us 3 hours of shopping and half the amount of money to buy exactly what we needed for camping this time. It took us nearly a month to get situated in New Zealand.
Camping here in Australia comes in two sorts. Bush camping and Holiday Park camping. Bush camping seems to be what Aussies like the most since every good Australian has a Toyota Land Cruiser fully equipped with a snorkel, roo-guard, popup-trailer tent systems, roof rack, jerry cans, UHF radios and lift kits. This enables an Aussie to go outback and pull off the road at anytime to camp in the bush. Holiday Park camping is also acceptable but it seems to be a waste of money for the fully equipped sort. Unlike New Zealand where everyone camping is a tourist, the facilities here at the Big4 Holiday Park hardly get used. We are the one people using the kitchen since all the Aussies take great pride in having at least two BBQ's. In New Zealand it was often difficult to get a space in the kitchen to cook your meals.
A bush-ready Aussie camper set-up.
We are currently camping a Big4 Holiday Park a few mile north of Sydney. We are camped only feet from a beautiful beach and the facilities are top-notch. It is however a bit more expensive than New Zealand. We are paying $44AU/night versus $30NZ/night...so, nearly 2X the price.