Sydney to Port Macquarie

Sydney to Brisbane trip (Part-1)

Note: I have changed the names of my friends. Most of the pictures here have been clicked by them. 
As such, not much was planned. We got the plane ticket on a Wednesday: 5 days into the trip, waiting for the prices to fall. I cleared my browser history, cleared my cookies, changed my location on VPN. Seems like the bloody airline search engines have gotten cleverer. We booked them at $88. I think it was somewhere around $70 or definitely closer to $80 last week. Kev wanted to gamble and wait until it fell to $65-ish. I guess it would have been better had we booked earlier coz I would have managed my luggage weight. Guess I’ll have to pay the extra fare for the second time in my life (first being when I took the flight from India to Sydney). Falling for the scam isn’t fun. 

On Friday (31stAug), Kev and I went to Arncliffe to collect our rental car. Driving rules are kinda flexible in India. And you can get away with a little cake offering to the policemen. So obviously Driving back home was a bit stressful as I had to make sure of the road signs and whatnot. Luckily, Ed had given me a little driving lesson earlier that week, allowing me to drive for over an hour in and around Maroubra at night. Then we went to Coles to buy some snacks. We called up Ed to decide the meeting point. He had his own car and could only be with us on the trip for a couple of days. So, we decided to meet at Toukley, somewhere near the Central Coast. It is about mid-way between Sydney and Newcastle and seemed like a nice place. 


It was raining for most of the week in and around Sydney and Saturday was no different. Kev can tell you the number of turns that I missed on our way from Sydney to Toukley. The 1.5hr journey took us over 2hrs to complete. I’m pretty sure he was pissed as shit. But hey, being stressed makes you double guess yourself and everything else. On the bright side, no one honked on the journey. Guess I drove ok then?

Me so stressed

Foggy road
We met Ed at around 10am. By that time, he had had a little nap and a walk around the beach. I had conveniently forgotten my umbrella at my desk just before leaving. Kev and Chris hadn’t bothered to get theirs either. So, we couldn’t do much while it was raining.
We reached Newcastle museum right after Ed. I had warmed up a tiny bit to follow the GPS. We hung out at the museum for a bit while it rained outside. Guess it was more of a tiny, kids’ museum. Too many of them buggers in the science section. 
Nothing to do here.  No thanks, rain. 
Sky’s clearing up

The bacon and cheese fries from Toukley still had me going so I skipped the hotdog that everyone else was enjoying. The sky had started to clear up and the drizzling had finally stopped. We enjoyed the sunshine for a bit before heading to our Airbnb accommodation for the night. I was pretty tired from the drive so Ed and I took the single beds in the room while Chris and Kev shared the double bed (the convertible sofa/bed thing). The place a commercial apartment so there was a kitchen + living, a room, and to our surprise a washing machine and a dryer. 
Across this walkway is a shopping centre
There was a shopping market about 10min walk from the place, across the highway. We crossed the foot over bridge and grabbed fried chicken along with some booze. Of course, we went to Woolies first so that we had the discount voucher from the receipt.

Brisbane is a nice place and I immediately fell in love with the roads and the buildings. I think the longest I had driven before was from Bombay to Pune, which is about 200km. Over the course of 9 days, I drove a little over 1350km (1384km to be precise), sometimes driving over 250-300km (including detours) in a single trip. We stopped along the way, but this does not negate the stress or fatigue from the drive. 
This was a first-timer for all of us, and Ed had already warned me in Newcastle about going on a trip unplanned. Guess the expectations need to be managed well before starting the trip. Being the only qualified driver kinda gives you the authority since the passengers don’t have much of an option. Some might also call me assertive- but I have been working on that. But you also quickly learn how far apart the trip expectations are. Some are into shopping, playing or reading on devices, or other things. I like going on long walks and watching sceneries, buildings, and good (and cheap) food. Don’t get me wrong, I love browsing the internet and would often prefer sitting indoors sipping tea or long black and watching TV shows. But when I’m on a trip, I’d rather get my money’s worth and walk every street. 

No rain!
There were few clouds in the sky when we left Newcastle for Port Macquarie. For the rest of the trip, we would have clear skies and we were looking forward to that after a rather gloomy week in Sydney and Newcastle. We said goodbye to Ed who left for Sydney soon after. From the A1 highway, we took the road towards Boomerang Beach and Forster. In all honesty, we only took the route because it looked nice on the map. The idea of going along the ocean seemed fine. At the Boomerang beach visitor centre, we were greeted by an old, friendly lady who insisted that we have a look at the rip current images so that we don’t get caught in them. She also made us identify the currents- like a small quiz and joked that we should write a 1000 worded essay and send it to her by next week. She recommended a few places to eat in Forster. We stopped for a short trek to have a look at the beach. The place was rather empty. Seems like the region is only popular amongst the locals and some surfers. I suppose tourists and backpackers prefer more popular places like Coffs Harbour or Byron Bay which offer more company. We had our lunch at Beach Bums Café in Forster, which faced the ocean. 

Boomerang beach I think

I got my can of Redbull to help me stay focused on the road. Chris had taken the front seat for the day as Kev wanted to take a nap. We stuck to A1 for this leg of the journey until we reached Port Macquarie. 
By the time we reached it was probably closer to 4pm because I remember rushing to Dan Murphy’s to grab some drinks before it shut for the day. I didn’t feel like driving anymore when Kev insisted that we go back to Coles later to grab something to eat. It was a 15-20min walk and 5min by car, but the drive had taken its toll on me. We had planned a 2-night stay here, for which I was plenty thankful. We drove to Coles nevertheless after I unsuccessfully tried to sleep and grabbed some chicken wings at KFC. I got some salad as well because mom said so; also, I didn’t want a bad stomach from eating just fried chicken and meat. A good potty equals a healthy and happy life. 

Hostel at night
Hostel in the day
There were some psychedelic paintings around the hostel. A VW van was parked outside that had ‘Backpackers’ written at the back. It was all so hippie! The neighbourhood had some poorly maintained houses and some buildings. At the hostel, we met some nice people from Germany and the UK. The hostel was basically 80% German. They were here on the work-holiday visa, but many of them were just travelling for the time being. We played a game where we named the capitals of countries and talked about drugs, alcohol, and travel. I briefly smelled greens while taking a piss. They were chilling at the back of the hostel and everyone was carefree. The hostel seemed to know a few dealers around and a couple of locals hanging around the hostel (I have no clue as to why they hung around) seemed to be well equipped. I learnt while playing foosball that two of them were in fact high on acid and had begun to feel it. Nice. 

I wanted to swim in the ocean and take some surfing lessons as well. But I didn’t have the motivation to wake up early just for the lessons. So, we just went for a walk along the shore the next day. We saw an old guy chilling on the rocks, smoking greens. I have been told that beach and greens go hand-in-hand. I suppose that’s because both have a calming effect. Chris and Kev decided that going ankle-deep in the water was the best that they could do so I was the only one to feel the waves. There were very few people at the beach, and although it did have a lifeguard, I was quite anxious about the rip currents and decided to be where a couple of other people were. 

One of the beaches at Port Macquarie

Painted rocks. Several had tributes to loved ones who are no more.

I didn’t know how much I have missed hostels until Port Macquarie. Back in 2015, I backpacked on my own around the UK and met some lovely people. Travelling with friends and family is fine, but you don’t meet the people that you would in a hostel. Plus being a group puts you into a comfort zone that you’re less likely to leave. 
These people that I met made me realise that there were other ways of enjoying the world around you. When you live in a traditional society, you tend to have less flexibility with thoughts and actions. You remain in that comfort zone, fearful of trying out new things. While travelling on your own, you have no option but to interact with new people. Else you might end up feeling lonely. 
My parents had made me contact a few people they knew in the UK when I landed. It is nice to have someone reliable to go to if you get in trouble but visiting them would have gone against the whole point of travelling alone- to be in unfamiliar territory and flourish.
I think I have grown a bit comfortable at UNSW, which is probably why staying at hostels and meeting new people was refreshing. 

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