Seal Rocks to Nelson Bay, including a journey to the Hunter Valley.
7 Aug 2007
The reputation of Seal Rocks as a wonderful place to watch wild life had not happened for us. Even the fishermen were reduced to eating only chips. Had we stayed longer in this very nice place it could have been different.
On leaving the caravan park we drove the short distance to the headland, parked at the entrance to Myall Lakes National Park, and walked through to Sugarloaf Point where there has been a lighthouse since 1875. We took in the standard beautiful views from infront of the lighthouse before climbing the very steep slope to the lighthouse itself. It did not matter how hard we looked, we saw only waves, the marine wildlife were all being busy being wild under the sea.
Our journey onwards took us past beautiful lakes and up and down steep winding wooded hills; I can't help feeling this type of journey has been getting to be a habit. Five miles before we joined the Pacific Highway at Bulahdelah we came across the Two Moos Café. I had read the interesting leaflet back at the caravan park and so we pulled in for coffee. After reading the menu we ordered a big bowl of soup, big pieces of cake with cream and two cookies to take away with us. The venue, proprietors and menu impressed us very much. The restaurant had memorabilia both inside and out, interesting goods for sale, and was in a very tranquil bush setting.
After a two hour lunch break, (reminded me of the better days of employment), we set off for the area of Port Stephens of which Nelson Bay is the main town. Today's whole journey was only 75 miles and we arrived at the area in good time to look at two caravan parks that had interested us. One was in a woodland setting where koala bears were frequently seen in the trees on the site, and one was at Soldiers Point; both were about 7 miles from Nelson Bay.
At Soldiers Point we spent time at the marina and Sylvia took great interest in some boats that were for sale. She has a notion that after we have driven around Australia, next time we should sail round. Unless we can arrange road side assistance, this notion is not likely to be realised. On our way back to the park with the koalas, we saw a 'tyre' company and we need new tyres. As it was busy we resolved to return tomorrow morning.
It seemed this was not to be our day for seeing wild life. At the caravan park we had an hour before night fall. Although no koalas had been seen that day, we checked out the trees and then walked the trails in the local woods. Although we only saw trees, we discovered later that the local wild life, in the form of flies, had not only seen us but some had enjoyed our company. "There are no flies on me; unfortunately there are the marks where they have been".
Next day, the bad, but expected news was that the original three remaining tyres needed replacing, at a cost of £120 each, and they would not be delivered from Melbourne until Monday or Tuesday. Today is Thursday. We drove on to Nelson Bay and found some waste land where we and others could park for free, and then walked around the centre of the town. Whilst taking pictures of Red Ned, a figure of Ned Kelly with an advertising board infront of him, we got into conversation with the owner of the bakery/café. He has won many prizes for his pies and if you like eating pies, check out the web site www.redneds.com.au; we promised we would return for lunch. At the tourist office we took advice from the worker and booked a three hour whale watching tour for 1.30pm.
The sea was as calm as it ever was likely to be, and although whales were not being seen every day, our trip offered a free trip, 'on a stand by basis', if no whales were seen. As it is not holiday time, stand bys were guaranteed a place on the boat. We went back to Red Neds and had an early lunch. I had a beef stroganoff pie and chips and Sylvia had a coffee and later a sea sick tablet and we ordered 4 pies to be collected for our freezer.
Our boat was big, the sea was calm, and the captain told the smokers they could enjoy a cigarette at 4.30pm. Dolphins swam with us on two occasions as we sailed out to where the whales should be; swimming under the front of the boat right beneath our gaze. Eventually whale spouts were seen in the distance, and glimpses of their bodies and upturned tails were seen. This wonderful sight means they are going into a deep dive.
Normally the whale will be under the water for 4 to seven minutes but can stay under the water for up to 45 minutes. The captain times how long they are under and plots where they surface, so determining their direction and speed of swim. He then pilots his boat to shadow the whales. Our whales stayed under for indeterminate times of at least 10 minutes and were never seen other than at a distance. Despite having seen some whales the captain announced we would be given a free journey; we would try a morning journey tomorrow, tonight we will stay at Soldiers Point.
Another beautiful day. Every day is a beautiful day and this one was warm, calm and we collected our pies from Red Ned at 9.30am. Our choice was a smoked chicken, a lamb, a beef stroganoff and a Thai green curry. Then we drove to our free parking and were on the boat ready for a 10am sail. This time we followed a pod of 4 whales for over an hour and could see others in the distance. When it was time to turn back we watched for a male whale that had been catching us. After he had been sighted the captain positioned his boat where he thought the whale would surface. He was big and he surfaced right under Sylvia's nose at the front of the boat; just the once and no time for a photograph but the memory will last a long time. Before docking we sailed round the large bay to watch Bottle Nose Dolphins.
We had decided to visit the Hunter Valley and return next week for the tyres, so after a walk along the front and a nice meal of freshly caught fish and chips, we drove the 46 miles inland to Cessnock. Sylvia has told much about the Hunter Valley in her tenth edition of 'Tipples with Sylvia', and I refer you to this.
Whilst in the Hunter Valley, we visited the Hunter Valley Gardens. Although winter has some weeks left, the Hunter Valley Gardens were all prepared for their new season and this weekend was the big event. We walked around the many various styles of gardens, sat by the dancing fountain whilst listening to two classical pieces of music, lunched, and watched part of the concert in the grounds before finishing our walk around the gardens. In one area we were serenaded by a wandering barber's quartet. At another we enjoyed the children's area, 'Storybook Garden'. After a walk around the nearby purpose built tourist village shops we set off back to our home for the night with many photographs.
On Monday morning, we received a phone call telling us our tyres had arrived. We left the Hunter Valley by a different route after first calling at the Cellar Door of Capercaillie, and again stayed the night at Soldiers Point before leaving the motorhome for the fitting of three new tyres. Whilst this took place we walked along the shore lines special walk and watched near by lorikeets before succumbing to coffee and cookies.
The tyres had come at a slightly cheaper price but after paying for valves and disposal of the old ones the bill was £365. At least we won't be in trouble for driving on worn tyres, and these should last us as long as we have our motorhome as there should be no out back roads in New Zealand comparable to the ones we have driven on over the last 10 months.
Pay back time for the tyres; they can now take us south on the remainder of our journey around Australia.