Having given our livers a bit of a hammering with Chris and Viv we set off for a 7hr journey south for an overnight stop at Urunga. It was a very quiet site with lots of colourful parrots and an owner with a passion for taking beaten up old Ford Capris and turning them into 1000BHP monsters!
Next day we climbed up the hills to Dorrigo via The Waterfall Way where we took a 3hr stroll through a rainforest. It was beautiful with waterfalls you can walk behind and it was so cool in the shade of the forest canopy. It was quiet and great for listening to the birds, watching a Goanna go about its day and enjoying a lovey picnic fighting off the hungry forest turkeys. Afterwards we had a short drive to Armidale for an overnight stop and a little bit of clothes shopping.
Next morning we set off for Murrurundi for 2 nights on a campsite run by a lovely couple that kept the site spotless and with a camp kitchen containing all sorts of memorabilia and a fridge with 2 large wine boxes labelled ‘have a drink on us’. We came here to walk to The Eye of The Needle in the hills and to explore the town. It was also a stop off to visit The Burning Mountain which is a coal seam, 30m underground, that has been burning for thousands of years at the rate of about a meter a year. As you climb the hill you can see various signs pointing out the different state of the ground as the vegetation is killed by the heat and then as the burning moves on it is replaced by different plants until the Gum Trees reestablish themselves as the dominant force. It was also our first sighting of Grey Kangaroos that seemed extremely comfortable with our presence.
Next stop was Mudgee which is a very popular haunt for wine lovers. There are lots of wineries and we decided to take a one-day tour for $95 (just over £50) which included tastings at multiple wineries, lunch and a Gin distillery. We were the first pick up so sat at the front behind our gregarious driver Jim. As more and more people got on, about 17 in total, we quickly realized we were in for a fun day. Our first tasting started at 9.45am and once back on the bus we took a selfie of us all. After that we took a bus selfie after each stop and you can see from the pictures that as we moved through the day the party got more and more boisterous. In the process of having a very boozy day we made an impulse buy of a box of 6 Kama Sutra Wines just before we had lunch which was an enormous cheese platter and antipasto platter. We almost finished the antipasto but decided to take the cheese home with us. We were in bed very early that night and slept soundly until about 7am.
Next stop was The Hunter Valley which is also very popular with wine lovers. We booked another day tour and hoped for another fun day out. It was a contrast to Mudgee as the group we were with turned out to be much quieter types. We also found the hosts at each tasting were keen to enhance our appreciation of their wines and took time to explain how their winemakers made a difference. We felt we learned a lot on the day, and we returned to the campsite without the need to crash into bed. A final relaxed day at Cessnock allowed us to prepare for another weekend with Chris and Viv.
We booked a 2-bedroom water view cabin at Lake Macquarie just North of Sydney. It’s a vast lake and the campsite was situated at the water’s edge. The cabin was fine but the water view was a bit of a disappointment as you could see the lake but only if you stood sideways on the deck! The deck itself also didn’t have much shade and the weather was so hot we had to stay indoors until the sun went down. We set off for a walk along the lakeshore path only to find it ran out after about ten minutes walking so we turned round to try the path on the left of the site. Oh dear, another dud which soon ground to a halt. Things weren’t going well so we decided to start the BBQ and make a start on the Kama Sutra wine we bought in Mudgee. Neil got creative with pork, prunes and peas and we got chatting to a group of Samoan lads who were cooking enough chicken to cover the entire BBQ.
Next morning we set off for some sightseeing and following the local tourist guide leaflet tried to find St Catherine’s Bay, a historical mining site. We failed. Next stop Caves Bay for a walk along the coast. This started well with some fine views, but the path soon deteriorated and we made a few guesses as to where to go as there were no sign posts. It was a good walk but after an hour we were getting hot and headed back to the car. The nearest major town was Swansea so we set off to see the small opening where the lake meets the Pacific Ocean. The town was unexciting, so we returned to the campsite for a relatively quiet and restrained night. We spotted our first possums on the roof of the cabin next door and managed to get a good photo.
Saturday was predicted to be hotter so we looked for a walk in the tourist guide which might offer some shade. A long walk along the esplanade at Warners Bay with plenty of photographic opportunities looked good and we decided to start at the end with the Art Gallery. It began in full sun but it was early and not too hot. The path curved around the bay but no mention in the tourist guide that we would soon be walking along the edge of the highway as it crossed over a large bridge. After 25 minutes walking with the traffic blasting alongside we gave up and went back to the Gallery Café for a drink. A closer look at Google Maps showed the walk continued along the side of the B53 pretty much all the way into Warners Bay!
Cheryl remembered the guide had another walk at Wangi Wangi which we went past on the way so we drove to the town in search of the start point. No signs at all so with the help of Google again we finally tracked it down to the end of the promontory and found the car park and large signboard showing a circular walk in the trees, hurrah! This started well with a peaceful track and lake views. Inevitably, the promised ‘well signposted’ track soon disappeared so with a few detours and backtracks when the trail disappeared we finally made it all the way around.
The evening was spent in the usual fashion, finishing off Viv’s lovely Massaman Curry followed by blue cheese & crackers and a few bottles of wine – far too many!
Apart from having a great time with Chris and Viv Lake Macquarie had turned into something of a dud and it wasn’t helped by the weather forecast. C&V were due to drive back to Sydney on Sunday and we had decided to stay on until Monday. However, the weather forecast for Sunday was for around 40C which would have been horrific. So, we too packed our bags early and left for the cooler climate of the Blue Mountains.