Backpacking Pensioners travel blog

Manley Wharf

Sydney Harbour

Leaving Sydney Harbour

Evening View at Narrabeen camp site

Evening View at Narrabeen camp site

Robert and Cathy

James, Cathy, Robert and William

The beach at Narrabeen

View of the camp site at Narrabeen


Our reason for being in the Sydney area is to be on hand to collect our visas for New Zealand and re-gain possession of our passports. Our reason for choosing the caravan park at Narrabeen is to be able to visit our friends Robert and Cathie whom we first met during our walks in the Green Mountains at Lamington when we stayed near O'Reilly's.

Last night the evening light had been too poor for good photographs and I had resolved to be out early and re-climb the many steps to the lookout, and hill top at the Narrabeen Head Coastal Walks and Wetlands area. Fortunately, before I got out of bed, I realised it was cloudy and raining. This could be my lucky day.

At our last caravan park we had e-mailed Robert and Cathie in the morning and should have been able to use the camp internet facilities for the rest of the day. True to form, the Big 4 Camps e-mail system let us down and this camp site, also a Big 4, is no exception. I telephoned Robert and explained we had not yet been able to receive his message. We had a choice of visiting the home of Robert and Cathie tonight after 7pm, or tomorrow night. Rather than tie up their weekend we opted for tonight and the chance to dress up posh for a change.

It is a miserable sort of day but hard to be churlish when the area is in need of rain; and every day is still a beautiful day. We elected to have a day out in Sydney, so setting out with no plan whatsoever we arrived at the bus stop for Manley only to find we had just missed one and the bus service now changed to an hourly service. Back at our van we made coffee and got out the biscuits; a poor substitute for cookies but cheaper. This time we were at the bus stop early for the 11.40am bus, and the bus was 10 minutes late.

The day transport passes cost £6.50 each but we had the run of the city busses, ferries and trains, and we knew the journey in and out would be more costly if we did not get the day pass. At Manley we got off the bus and learned we had missed the connecting ferry and would have to wait a half hour, so we looked around the terminal shops and identified a supermarket where on our return journey we could buy fresh orange juice and bread for tomorrows breakfast. The big Sydney Harbour Ferries are all sea going vessels and the half hour direct journey from Manley to the heart of Sydney was smooth and pleasant.

We walked up the hill from the ferry terminal in the light rain, cut through a shopping centre and came out at the top of a street whose name sounded familiar to Sylvia. Across the road, on the corner was number 55, a very tall building. We went inside, checked the floor directory, and learned that the New Zealand Embassy was on floor seven. What a woman I have.

Nothing daunted, nothing gained, we went to find out what had happened to our visa requests which should have been in the embassy possession for 11 days. At reception an efficient Chinese man told us he could not give us any information if we could not supply him with photographic ID. All we had was our van cards with the blog site, e-mail and phone number; and of course that lovely picture of us both with the motorhome. When he accepted our photographic ID was at the embassy, along with the application, he told us the application had already been approved but the officer dealing with it was at lunch.

After our lunch, we retraced our steps to the embassy and our officer was waiting for us, along with all of our paper work. What a nice lady. She has Scottish relatives; her husband came from Bonhill which is just down the road from Loch Lomand, near to where Sylvia's sister and family live. After this interview we were taken through to the inner sanctuary of the customs and we spoke with a really nice man whose coat, which lay over the back of a chair, had lots of gold stuff on the shoulders.

Despite having a clear conscience, Sylvia wrestled with her guilty feelings when in the presence of a customs man, whilst we received some very good advice for transporting our motorhome and possessions to NZ. We were sat at a round table with great views down to the street level. On the wall was a very good Maori wooden carving which was a bit out of place; it had been brought to the embassy by an important visiting NZ diplomat. As we were leaving I saw a very classy wooden bowl on the sideboard. "Another present"? I was told, "Yes", and another high ranking official was named.

We had thought we may have to visit the Blue Mountains and Canberra before the visas were ready, and waste the precious 'seeing Australia time' by having to return to Sydney.

Damp but happy, and armed with our visa's, passports, and information leaflets we went back to the terminal and our waiting ferry which then serenely sailed back to Manley. Coffees on board were freshly made and only £1 each. After doing our small shop at the Manley terminal supermarket we went outside to find our bus waiting for us. As we rode to our home for this night, the sky backdrop to the sea had a wonderful quality of light and was a joy to watch.

When we alighted from the bus the best of the light had gone but I took some good pictures of the night sky to our west from inside the camp site.

After we scrubbed up, I set off with my lovely wife in search of the home of Robert and Cathie. Despite not having received Cathie's detailed e-mail we were very close before we phoned for extra help. It was really nice to see them again and after a good chat over drinks and nibbles, we dined on thick pork chops served with a thick rich sauce, potatoes and an avocado side salad. There was nothing left for the dog so it is a good job they don't have one. I produced our Bundaberg Coffee Chocolate Rum Liqueur to add to the strawberries and ice cream.

We were joined by James, the son of the house, for the sweet course, and later William, a Chinese student who has lodged with Robert and Cathie for 5 years, returned home and joined us. Squeaker made an appearance and the C U Jimmy hat was used in some of the photographs before Katrina, the daughter of the house, returned from her employment. It had been a very enjoyable evening and before leaving at 11.15pm we showed off the inside of our motorhome. Even the next door neighbour was interested; well they were banging on their window.

Back at the camp site, we gently rolled into position without disturbing our neighbours and I put my tie back in the cupboard. At home I would even garden whilst wearing a tie; this is only the third time I have wore one in 10 months.

With every expectation of sleeping in, we went to bed knowing we could now leave this area and make the most of our remaining time in Australia.

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