Friday, 23 March 2012
Newcastle to Tea Gardens
I certainly saw evidence of the coal industry today. Wow! Felt dwarfed by the slag heaps, the cranes, converyor belts, warehouses, silos and God knows what other gubbins, some of which were the size of ships. The smell of the stuff hung heavy in the hot air. The wind was once again on my side, shuttling me along a straight, flat road up another peninsula. Yes, once again I took a ferry, rather than ride the long way round, against the wind and then on the highway. As the plant subsided, so the trees thickened and the traffic thinned. The trees provided scintillating company; is there anything better than trees in full leaf sighing and swaying in the breeze.
Nelson Bay was a bit of a dump; touristy, commercial and full of miserable-looking fat Brits. I reneged on another promise - not to partake of any American fast food - and bought a Subway sandwich. The ride in the tiny, rickety ferry was a lot of fun, replete with sea spray and a friendly captain dispensing information. A lady who worked in a national park befriended me and gave me a lot more helpful tips about wildlife and my route, which will go through her park tomorrow. She picked me up when I said 'koala bears' as they are not bears at all of course. I still haven't seen one and hope not to have to go to a zoo for the privelge. Bronwyn also invited me to stay with her! I declined, however, or rather, changed the subject, not out of fear but embarrassment. Had to pay $2 extra for the bike though - the cheek of it! Arrived in Tea Gardens (named after an unsuccessful tea plantation) which was much prettier and more sedate than across the bay. I like the way all the houses are unique shapes here, a mixture of wood and brick, and different colours; that along with the tremendous variety of foliage makes for a very ambient environment to wander around.
Stayed with yet another well-travelled couple, who have hosted a great many Couchsurfers in a large, double bedroom - and private bathroom. Retired Kiwi Stephanie and Tasmanian Rex live in a beautiful, big, open-plan bungalow, bustling with objects and paintings from the obscure places they have visited. They were extremely good-natured and interesting company, as well as stuffing me to the gunnels with pasta and baked bananas. They also drove me round the neighbourhood and showed me the beaches where they regularly swim and row their kayaks. Rex bought a bespoke traditional Indonesian boat recently for $1,000 - and substantially more to ship it. Next week they are heading to these islands again, en route to Iran no less!