Our first full day in Nambucca and Julie was having a bit of a sleep in after our late night putting the blog post up and writing Christmas cards. Glen went for a walk via the track from the caravan park to the beach below and got back to find Julie awake and wondering where he was. Her first thing is usually to look at her phone, particularly when we have reception, so Glen had sent her a text telling her where he was. Today she didn't look at her phone! After breakfast we went into town, posted the Christmas cards and Eli's postcards and explored the town. The area newspaper had headlines about Shelley Beach, which is at Nambucca Heads. The 2016 version of Top 101 Beaches, which is just out, had ranked Shelley Beach 8th overall and a beach near Coffs as number 3. Shelley Beach didn't even rate a mention in our 2012 version of the book, who knew we should have checked www.101bestbeaches.com to see a more up to date list? Naturally we had to visit it. Luckily it wasn't raining as council has erected signs saying the road is closed in the wet due to the risk of land slip. They'd better fix that if it's to become the tourist mecca now… We had a swim and a walk along the beach to the end of Bielbys Beach where we could see around the point to the headland where the caravan park is and Main Beach below it.
The next day we went for a drive to Dunggir National Park and Kosekai Lookout following information in the free Nambucca Valley visitor book. We only had a quarter of a tank of fuel but with high fuel prices and being the day before payday Glen drove past every servo on the way. From Kosekai we went along Kosekai Rd toward Killekrankie Lookout which took us up the section of road known as Jacobs Ladder. We had to do a bit of track clearing on the way with fallen trees blocking the road. It seems Jacob's Ladder is more popular with trail bike riders as it's so steep it's a very technical ride for them. Not many 4wds seem to pass this way either as the road is narrow and overgrown in places. We were climbing up in 1st low when suddenly the engine died. That's not usual for the Fun Truck, Glen tried restarting it but it just wouldn't fire up. That NEVER happens on the Fun Truck. It always starts instantly. There was no hope in hell of us holding on the hand brake so Glen slipped it out of gear, put his left foot on the brake to free his right foot for the accelerator. It sort of caught with full throttle but then died. Julie got out to see if everything was as it should be under the bonnet and finding nothing obvious spotted Glen rolling back a couple of metres to get the vehicle slightly more level. Glen suspected that the fuel pick up was sucking air as the angle was too steep with only a quarter of a tank. He swapped over to the other fuel tank hoping the pickup was at the other end of that tank so even with only one eighth of a tank of fuel there he hoped it would be sucking diesel not air. It started but died at idle so Glen used the hand throttle (so lucky we have it) to rev the engine, left foot on the clutch and right foot holding the brake until the engine could take us forward. It started and kept going and Julie said to drive - she'd walk up. Glen went 50m up the badly rutted road to the next erosion mound and waited for Julie with the vehicle fairly level. He jumped out to watch her scramble up the track and she was practically panting when she got to the Fun Truck. It's much steeper than the photo looks. We drove to the top of the track with a bit of hand throttle on, just to be sure we wouldn't stall. The 80 made it easily. With the lack of fuel we had to head back to town rather than go on to the next lookout.
We drove through Gumbaynggir State Conservation Area and Mistake State Forest (no, not making it up) to Scotts Head where we had lunch then a swim at the beach followed by the obligatory cold outdoor shower. The following day we checked out of Nambucca Heads and explored a bit more of the area. Although first stop was the post office to post the rest of our Christmas Cards where there was a anchor with a plaque stating that this clock was installed by the Rotary Club to commemorate Roley Graham. Maybe it's a sundial… I guess something happened to it since 1973 and they haven't changed the sign. Amused we went to the lookout at Crescent Head where the stunning views were shared with a number of baby magpies who hung around begging for food. That afternoon we ticked another top 101 beach from our edition of the book. Dunbogan Beach had very friendly flies and the long wide beach was devoid of people. There are so many places around this country where you can feel you are miles from the nearest person.
Our next stop was Forster/Tuncurry with more rain forecast. We had dinner with Paul and Tracey Cook and their children Jennifer and Andrew. Glen used to umpire with Paul in Sydney many years ago and they lost touch until Glen saw a comment from Tracey on the Love Your Sister Facebook page and contacted her. We had a lovely night and will be back to spend bit more time with them and hopefully hit a few tracks. Paul has been four wheel driving and camping for many years as well as being a pretty fair mechanic so it would be great to explore the tracks around here that he knows so well. With drizzle the next day we couldn't do the lookouts Paul and Tracey recommended so we went for a bit of a walk along Wallis Lake, next to the caravan park we were staying in. Pelicans must have sensitive beaks because they were all sitting in the rain with their heads turned around 180 degrees so their beak could be covered by their wings. We also went to the movies and tried to get a Chinese meal but just as we got there we were told that the chef was being sent home sick.
Leaving the twin cities we made our way (with a wet camper again! Four wet packups in a year so we really can't complain) to Seal Rocks. On a nice day this would be a fantastic place to stay. Really a top 101 beach because it was in the book. That night we were staying with Glen's sister Lynette and her husband Rick at Toukley where they back onto the golf course staggering distance from the club house. Rick even has a remote control garage door so he can drive his golf cart straight up to the first tee! We walked up to the club for dinner. Being a Friday night there was a meat raffle. We ended up with a Mega Meat Tray and a ham while Lyn and Rick took home a leg of lamb and a turkey! We drank way too much and after spending the night in a real bed overlooking the golf course Julie woke a little second hand. Rick cooked up a feast of bacon and eggs for breakfast and Lyn took us on a guided golf cart tour of the course. They have a lovely spot to live and play since they are all excellent golfers and have their name in gold leaf on the boards in the club house. We said our good byes and checked out a café that had been recommended to us. The Ark Café did not disappoint and the beach near it was a lovely place for families.
Heading south we called in on our friends from the road, Sandy, Simone, Ruby and Daisy. Due to having to change tenants in their house they couldn't go home and will spend the next 6 months in the van at Simone's parents place. Poor Ruby had even been at school for the last week of the year. At least the last week isn't too hard to take and she renewed her friendships for next year. We spend a lovely afternoon in and by the pool and ended up staying for pizza dinner with them. Thanks guys.
That night we stayed in a rest area next to the Brooklyn Bridge as we were planning on surprising Glen's family at the Hanson Christmas Party. Usually it's at Bents Basin and we'd planned to stay there and wander over (we said we wouldn't be back in time) but with it being at David and Belinda's we had to reassess. We arrived at the party in time for lunch and we did surprise most, although a couple had thought we'd turn up as they assumed we were so close, despite a self-imposed Facebook location ban over the past week. Julie got to meet Glen's eldest niece, Karen, for the first time and we got to remind Eli we exist. Leaving the family we stopped at Tomerong State Forest for the night then moved onto Oaky Beach where we intend to spend some time free camping between new year and our return to school. We watched a Low Range DVD we'd picked up ages ago and found that we were in the background.
On the 20th December we pulled back into home as planned - the only date planned apart from when we booked transport.
Everything was pretty much as expected. The inside fish had all died but the outside ones had bred prolifically. The gardens we planted before we left had failed to thrive and the house needed a damn good spring clean. We were home and needed to prepare for Christmas. Glen posted our totals on the Everything Camping and Caravan Facebook page and got 2300 likes and in the order of 150 comments. They all liked the platypus video… and the most common question was how much did fuel cost. (we estimate about $13k)
From Glen's Facebook post to family and friends here's the trip summary in case you missed it.
Today we will be home five days short of a year since we left to explore our country. We drove 50,000km and spent $3277.50 on accommodation, $1309.05 on lattes and hundreds on ice coffee milk. We did the lap in the direction some say is the wrong way around but leaving at Christmas clockwise is the smart way to go. We saw tassie devils, billies, quolls, crocodiles, sea snakes and killer whales and swam with dolphins, seals, sharks, turtles and whale sharks. We stood at the tip, the Bight, and camped on a sand dune overlooking Uluru. We swam in oceans, rivers, creeks, dams and gorges and even held the Melbourne Cup in outback Queensland. We drove tracks where we didn't see anyone for days and main roads where you couldn't move for traffic. We only packed up wet canvas 4 times (once in the first 11 months and 3 times in the last month). We have gigabytes of photos and thousands of memories of the places we've been, the things we have done and the people we have met. We're so glad we took a year off to do this.