A collection of short stories and journalistic commentaries depicting my simple life
and how I fit in with the modern day universe of our times

Sydney Bound



For our second week, I want you to imagine you might be stood at the white cliffs of Dover back in old Blighty and you were to decide to get in your car and drive all the way up to Aberdeen. That if overland would be a trip almost the full length of Britain and Scotland combined, top to bottom so to speak and a total distance of around 436 miles as the crow flies. That’s a 702 Km excursion that would take you the best part of a full day while travelling most of the way on normally chock-a-block 3 laned motorways.



By comparison, the same journey in Australia is dwarfed by the sheer immensity of the land mass that is the largest continent on earth, so what seemed like it would surely be a trip for only the hardiest of types now turned out to be a trip that many Australians wouldn't think twice about making and that is what we practically did in travelling the 723Km (455 miles) down to Sydney using the M1 Pacific Highway along the East Coast, only a two laned carriageway at best. Fortunately for us though, there wasn’t that much traffic accompanying us (not like the heavily congested UK roads) which helped in making the trip.

We did however take the precaution of including many stops en-route to help break up the monotony of the voyage. And as Australia has a few ‘big things’ on many of their routes to help cheer the wearisome traveller along. 

 

And two of the ‘big things’ we happened across were the Big Prawn outside Ballina on the North Coast and the Big Banana at Coffs Harbour but like I already mentioned, there are many more to choose from. You can Take a look here for a more complete overview of such 'big' places.

These were not however our main choice of destination as we had already pre-arranged to meet with a fellow Googler, Cath Slater who resides in Sunny Newcastle. Yes you read that right, Newcastle. And no, that is Newcastle Australia not the famous ‘Brown Ale’ swilling Newcastle of the Geordie homelands back in Britain.

It appears that in 1911, BHP chose the city of Newcastle as the site for its steelworks due to the abundance of coal in surrounding areas. The land put aside was prime real estate, on the southern edge of the harbour. In 1915, the BHP steelworks opened, beginning a period of some 80 years dominating the steel markets and heavy industry there. As Mayfield and the suburbs surrounding the steelworks declined in popularity because of pollution, the steelworks still thrived, becoming the region's largest employer. But in 1999, the steelworks closed after 84 years of continual operation and had employed about 50,000 people during its existence, many for decades. The closure of the BHP steelworks occurred at a time of strong economic expansion in Australia too. Since the closure, Newcastle has experienced a significant amount of economic diversification and a huge cleanup which has strengthened the local economy rather than decimated it, the place has improved considerably too because of this and has now become one of the most photogenic of beaches in all of New South Wales.

Welcome to Newcastle Beach
Anyway, by the time we arrived here it was getting quite late but we had already planned for this by making an advanced booking at a local hotel for the night a few weeks prior to the trip. We all met up there and trundled down the road to a local MacDonalds for coffee, cake and chat. I might also add at this point that the people watching aspect of such a place is good value for money too as you watch people coming home from nightclubs, police and other services coming in for breaks and the like. Oh and get this, this particular MacDonalds was a 24 hour affair too, something we don’t have back in England, even though we seem to excel in 24 hour shopping and other things, 24 hour happy meals is not one of them. And by now, it was almost three in the morning when we finished up and returned back to our hotel after making arrangements to meet up again with Cath the following morning for a meal or something more than just a good old chinwag.

HIGHLIGHTS AND LOWLIGHTS

Obviously, our new found company was a definite highlight, as was the coffee and cake we had together  that night. But along with the highlights we experienced, we suffered some pretty bad lowlights too, the first being the hotel room we had booked.


“I have stayed at other Formule1 hotels and they are much better than this.
When I arrived I was told that they weren't doing breakfast due to renovations (would have been nice to be notified when I booked) I was given a room with an air conditioner that had an air freshener stuck in it to make it smell nice. The carpet on the floor was stained and the very old tv had the worst reception I have ever seen. Even the pay tv channel was very snowy. 
If going to Newcastle, stay elsewhere.”


This was not a review left by us but it came pretty damned close. For a one night stop over it would have been ok if it had at least been clean which it wasn’t and yes the air conditioning unit in our room too, had one of those magic tree, vanilla flavoured car air fresheners stashed within its grilles. Unfortunately, we only found this review site after the event and yes it was cheap, but for only a few dollars more, we could have had a lot better.

Having survived the night though, we went to meet up again with Cath and chose a bay-side restaurant for the breakfast that was suddenly deemed unavailable back at the hotel. Highlight... bacon, lowlight... coffee machine was broken. Bad enough in itself, but we also had to wait just shy of an hour before the bacon turned up too. So there we all were sat at an outdoor table in the roasting heat of the clear blue skies over Newcastle. But the food was good when it eventually did turn up.


Click here for the full Newcastle photo album
After the food came the biggest highlight of them all. A trip along the length of Newcastle beach. And the scenery there is absolutely gorgeous. Neither was it so busy it would have been impossible to move like Britain's Blackpool beach front often gets. To date this was to prove the highlight of the whole trip and I would definitely recommend it. Even though Cath (a native of the area) reckons we should all keep it quiet so it remains the oasis of tranquility it appeared to be for our visit.

The trek up and down the beach took little more than an hour to complete and even though it was the cream of the crop as far as excursioning was concerned, it did however hold a final lowlight in tow. To learn more about this, you will have to read the further blog entries as it has quite a bearing on how the rest of the journey unfolded.

WHO ATE ALL THE PIES?

As an aside for a moment, it is worth noting too (especially after the pie shop fiasco in Yatala) that Australia has a few more 'Famous' pie vendors along it's Eastern coastal regions.



For instance, on our way out to Newcastle we happened across Fredo's Pies in Coff's Harbour again and later came across Harry's Cafe de Wheels for his 'world famous' pie and peas. Naturally, I had to give them a go.


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Its my own fault really, its all about what I see in the world, and how it all translates for me.

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