Friday, January 16, 2009

Day 7: Sydney to Port Macquarie

7 DEC 2008, SUNDAY

Before breakfast, we got acquainted with a friendly Australian guy of whom we had met while he was chain-smoking outside the hotel. While we were discussing how nice the views from the Harbourview Hotel were, we were told by our new friend that he was one of the guys responsible for the building and design of the Harbourview Hotel! Having managed many of the 5* hotels around the world, he had many interesting tales to share. So we invited him to join us for breakfast where we continued to chat and had some great laughs while having our breakfast toasts and coffee. I think a big part of the fun with travelling is getting to know people and forging new friendships. It was a pity that we were leaving Sydney that morning and couldn't afford more time to hang out with him. But we exchanged contacts and promised to stay in touch.

We had approx 6hr drive from Sydney to Port Macquarie. We were in a hurry to leave Sydney 'cos we were a little behind schedule after our long breakfast...and as a result of momentarily loss of concentration due to us being in a hurry, we backed the car into a pillar and caused a small dent! God damn Murphey's law...we had to dent the car when we hadn't got excess coverage!

So after all the cursing and swearing...and blaming the incident on our bad luck, we headed out for Newcastle. We reached Newcastle in just slightly less than 2hrs. We drove around Newcastle and stopped for awhile at Nobbys beach to watch people learning to surf. Then, we decided to head towards the wharf for lunch and some sightseeing. As it was a Sunday, the restaurants along the wharf were packed with of the restaurants had a live band playing and there were people dancing to the music on the sunny wharf deck. We also saw many pleasure sail boats at the bay area. It was interesting to see how the Australians spent their weekends.

From the wharf, we could see the coal being loaded on to ships in the far distant. Newcastle has always been famous for its coal and it's currently the largest coal export harbour in the world!

We decided to have lunch at this little waterfront eatery called Starfish Cafe - how cute is that! RG had grilled yamba prawns with corn fritters/salad while I had beer battered white snapper with chips/salad. Lunch didn't come cheap at approx A$40 per person inclusive of drinks and there was also a 10% surcharge on Sundays & Public Holidays!

After lunch, we bought 2 cups of coffees and sat on a bench at the was one of those perfect moments as we slowly sipped our coffee while taking in the wonderful sights and having the sun in our faces. A bunch of teenagers were having a wild time jumping off the boardwalk and into the water. I took out my camera and signaled to them that I was going to photograph them...cheeky grins appeared on their faces and they started "performing" for me...taking turns to leap into the water in all kinds of different styles - backflips, somersauts, synchronised dives etc. I had as much fun photographing them as they had jumping off the boardwalk.

As it was getting late, we left Newcastle reluctantly and continued on our journey towards Port Macquarie. Halfway through, we had to pull over along the banks of Myall River at Bulahdelah as we were feeling kinda sleepy after our heavy lunch. We later found out that Bulahdelah is an aboriginal word which means "the meeting of the waters"....and this little town is the gateway to the Myall Lakes National Park. There was this quaint little hotel/pub called Plough Inn by the Myall River. Apparently, Plough Inn was an important staging post when the region was first opened up by cedar-getters.

Feeling a little more refreshed, we continued our journey on Pacific Hwy. After passing Kew, we decided to make a turn towards the coast to take the scenic route. The route took us through Lake Cathie and along the Lighthouse Beach. From Lighthouse Beach, we could see a lighthouse at the far end and we decided to check it out. Although the Tacking Point Lighthouse might not be as pretty as many of the other lighthouses in Australia, it has great historical value being Australia's third oldest lighthouse...and it had served to prevent many potential shipwrecks near this rocky headland. As the Tacking lighthouse was perched on very high ground, the view from the lighthouse was just awesome.

Nearby the lighthouse was another amazing lookout point. And at the lookout point, there was a bench with an inscription that read "Take time out of Life's journey to sit, and wonder at the beauty of this place". And so we sat to admire the view that god had so skilfully crafted.

A group of students were having a picnic on elevated ground near the lighthouse....they picked the best place for a picnic 'cos it was almost like you are on top of the world from up there! From where they were sitting, there was a panaromic view of the coast.

The Tacking lighthouse ain't very tall as you can see from the below photo. It needn't be 'cos it was perched very high up on the headland. Some idiotic person had vandalised this pretty architecture by breaking all the glass around it. Sick b*stard!

As the sun was setting, we quickly made our way to our hotel Rydges Port Macquarie We got a riverview room for A$158. The room was super huge with 2 double beds and a to-die-for view overlooking the Hastings river. We could sit at the window all day just to enjoy the view. Oh, and we spotted some dolphins swimming playfully in the river! The river was also visible from the hotel's infinity pool.

As the sun went down into the distant horizon, the skies turned from gold to orange and then to a purplish blue. It was so beautiful that it felt almost surreal. Just in those few moments, we fell in love with Port Macquarie.

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