I forgot to mention that the Budgewoi Caravan Park has bunnies in abundance! I saw about four just on my way to the amenities block. Naturally I was so tired and itchy last night, and M had been driving for a bazillion hours, that we had a spat and both stomped to bed. The same bed, and harrumphed our way to sleep.
After arranging myself on top of the sleeping bag, under the quilt, with the small of my back bolstered by a windcheater, I slept the best sleep that I’ve had so far.
The right indicator on the trailer had some issues, so we got underway closer to 9am than we would have liked. On the lookout for breakfast somewhere, M detoured into the beautiful Catherine Hill Bay (which appears to be under threat of development, judging by the signs people have out the front of their houses).
Their were heaps of surfers our, but the surf itself looked dumpy. We went past the pub, which had a sign out for breakfasts. The verandah was out in the sun, and excellent place to start the eating day. We wandered about inside for a while, where a few staff were busy getting started for the morning. Someone took pity on us, gave us a menu, and said they’d be starting breakfastsin about ten minutes.
Wandering out on to the verandah, a local guy (who, when I shut my eyes, sounded just like William McInnes), said,
“Didja get caught out by daylight saving finishing up?”
We were thwacked by the sudden realisation – daylight savings had finished! We hadn’t got underway at 9am, we’d started driving at 8am. Amazing. We had been granted an extra hour in which to breakfast in the sun.
I had a stack of pancakes that was bigger than my head. It’s always a mistake to eat things bigger than your own head, but I did it anyway. M had scrambled egges and bacon. The local on the verandah litereally knew the name of every single person that came to the pub for breakfast, as well as the ones just walking past. I was envious.
It was a good hour or so before we got going, waddling our way back to Vanee. We drove on through Swansea. We saw the Swansea channel that empties into Lake Mascquarie. It was as blue as blue. I realised that all the waterways we were passing were greens and blues, and did not feel at all nostalgic about the muddiness Melbourne.
We bypassed the city of Newcastle, and skated past the suburbs. I like Newcastle, the temperature and the Hobart-like hilliness. We crossed the Hunter River, which was the first of many NSW rivers which only seemed to get grander and wilder the further north we drove.
About 70km before Taree (famed in my mind as the only place on the planet that I have worn ugg boots in public – about eight months ago) Vanee started coughing and choking. We were horrified. I’d taken him in for a service a week or two before we left Melbourne. To our untrained ears, it sounded like a blockage in the fuel filters, or something. We stopped at CooperlookXX where M got a new fuel filter and checked the spark plugs. I got on the phone and changed my RACV membership from the Humber to the van, just in case.
We tootled to Taree, and found a Super Cheap Auto (open on a Sunday – I immediately retracted everything nasty I’d ever said about the town). We kitted out Vanee with new spark plugs, fuel filter, oil and a can of the ever essential WD40 – jusice of the gods. Vanee is worth it. Purchased in 2003 for $900 he has taken us to Queensland and back, driven at least 20km a day for the two years we were in Hervey Bay, and has just down three or four trips to South Gippsland with all our crap and a trailer on the back. In that time we have not spent more than $1500 on him. All Hail Vanee!!
Driving north from Taree, Vanee was a dream, so we’d obviously diagnosed the problem correctly. M found a lovely place, just off the highway, for lunch. A big, cathedral ceilinged building, with chairs and tables alongside a little creek.
M brought his binoculars, and we took turns looking at the most beautiful little bird, who was sitting on a branch staring down into the water. He looked like a Kingfisher kind of bird, with a blue head, blue feathers and a bright orange chest. His beak was long, curved and black. He was so colourful that he looked as if he had been super-imposed on the background.
I had an average curried egg sandwich and iced tea, while M had something adventurous with chicken and turkish and a fan-bloody-taastic coffee. On the fenceline of the property were lots of fatly cows and M and I dreamed for a few moments that the cathedral celings belonged to us, and the cows were our pets – but then decided that the whole setup was too close to the highway and that we have a catamaran to build, goddamn it.
Back in the car, M pulled over only after about ten minutes on the road. I heard the magic words,
“It’s your turn to drive.”
I flung myself behind the wheel. Of course, as Vanee is his baby, M had to instruct me on when to change into third gear, how fast to go so as not to stress the engine, and where vanee liked to be rubbed under the cover of darkness. Sorry.
No. The only major problem I had was being told to stay on 90km an hour or lower, and doing it dutifully, only to have M break out the GPS and berate me for ‘fanging on 100’. It was then I found out that Vanee’s speedometer is about 10km out of whack. So when I thought I was sitting on 90km an hour, I was hovering above and below 100km an hour. Huh. Whatever.
I drove drove drove drove. M directed me down the detour to Stuart’s Point- a place I’ve often mooned over on maps of the mid-North coast. Like most of the other little towns we’vve cruised through, it was to die for. “Let’s live here,” I chanted, for about the eighth time in three days.
We took a campsite so close to the water that we are almost in it.
M bought some bait, and we spent the hour before dark letting the fish eat from our hooks, while we sipped hot milky tea. The snadflies waged an attack, but we doused ourselves in Bushman (which sent me back to our time in Hervey Bay where I would spray myself every morning after coating myself in sunscreen).
No fish. M cooked a dinner of pasta, cherry tomatos and basil. We made friends with a resident dog. We are now sitting in the newly healthy van eating bread and drinking red wine under the light of the torch. You can hear the surf pounding over the far side of the creek. We’re going to get up early to try and catch a fish for lunch. My new reel is a winner!