Bellingen to Sydney

22 September to September 2002

On our first morning back at Minnie Water, Susie wanted to relocate our camp.  I was reluctant to do this, having grown tired of setting up and breaking camp for short stops.  But we found a spot further away from the beach that was shady and secluded, being nestled in a corner amongst the Banksia trees.  We packed up just enough to move the gear.  I spent some time getting “the full monty” set up, less the flyscreen which we didn’t need.  We set up the camp shower and the food preparation table, and arranged everything just so.  Then we settled in for another three nights in Yuraygir National Park.

On Tuesday September 24, Susie’s cousin Cate arrived around the middle of the day, and stayed on for two nights.  We went for a couple of swims.  Monday was the best day for catching waves.  The wind picked up on Tuesday and the sea was choppy with a strong rip.  We went for a walk along the beach and let Ruby and Clare’s ball go into the wind.  It blew about 1 km down the beach without any other assistance.

On the last night we were there, Susie and Cate played charades around the fire while I nodded off, cradling my guitar.  I had an idea for a song one night, and was able to complete it within the next 24 hours.  I’m keeping it up my sleeve for a special person and the right occasion.

It was nice to be back at Minnie Water despite the fact that there were many more people camped there than our previous visit in April, at the beginning of our journey.  It was a lovely place to just hang around, and there was lots of wildlife there.  One night I saw a bandicoot sniffing around the camp after everyone had gone to sleep.  During the day there was the usual assortment of birds and reptiles.  The first night we were there, a dingo sauntered through the camp, and Cate saw another dingo the next morning.

One night I crept down to the beach while everyone was asleep, and sang to the ocean and the howling wind at the top of my voice.  It’s not often I get a chance to do that.

We had asked Cate to bring the “kids’ room” (an extension of the tent) to Minnie Water, plus our rego papers.  She left a crucial bit of the tent behind with our rego papers, however, so we were snookered into following her back to Bellingen. But there are worse fates…

The drive from Minnie Water to Bellingen was easy enough: it took about an hour.  Clare and I drove together, with me singing along to a couple of cassettes at the top of my voice. When we reached Billingen, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and there was not a lot for me to do except maybe cook dinner.

Last night Susie cooked up a lovely meal with some fish steaks that Cate bought.  We’ve been catching up with David too, who is still living here as a tenant. The day we arrived he cracked a tooth and had to have it extracted, so he’s been a bit subdued this morning.

Susie is madly cleaning up our filthy camping equipment, so I’d better assist.  Ruby and Clare went for a ride on Cate’s horse, Magic, this morning.  Right now they’re out and about visiting neighbours with Cate.

Cate preps Ruby for a ride on Magic
Cate prepares Ruby for a ride on Magic

Much of our second day in Bellingen was spent cleaning and sorting our camping equipment.  In the evening, Susan and Cate went to the opening of a video production studio in Bellingen.  I stayed behind with David and made dinner, and we all ate together when Susie and Cate returned.

The next morning we packed up and headed south down the highway towards Sydney.  There was a lot of traffic about, since it was the first day of the school holidays.  As we had predicted, however, the worst of it was heading north, in the opposite direction.  The kids started getting excited as we approached Sydney, and Susie did some short vox-pop interviews with them on the tape recorder.

When we arrived home at Kays Ave there was no sign of Susan Feez, who was minding our house whicle we were away. We let ourselves in and offloaded some gear.  It was all I could do to stop the kids unpacking all of their treasures.  The house looked lived-in and homey.  We dropped in over the road to say hello to our neighbours, Jim and Sue, who kindly invited us to dinner.  We asked if we could sleep over, since we had been unable to contact Susan Feez and we knew that her parents had been staying at our house. If they were still in town, she might need the extra beds.  So at dinner time we tried to make ourselves look vaguely respectable, and went over to Jim and Sue’s for ceviche followed by barbequed kebabs.  It was so good to eat a meal that someone else had cooked!  Ruby and Clare ate chicken nuggets and chips in the bedroom and watched videos.  Then they bedded down in Jim’s kids’ bunk beds, while Susie and I bedded down on a divan in the study.

The next morning we got up and Jim made a lovely breakfast of pancakes with maple syrup, followed by crispy bacon and lashings of coffee.  This was a lovely welcome home from our neighbours.

Later that morning we drove 400 km south to Guerilla Bay to spend a week of the school holidays by the sea in our usual haunt.  But that’s part of a different story.

The recount of our journey around Australia in 2002 therefore ends here.  Using the car’s odometer, I calculated that the full length of our journey was 24,738 km. It was well over 25,000 km if you include the trips to Cape Leveque, Fraser Island, and the Bungles, where we used other modes of transport.

As I upload this final entry of the blog, the girls have both moved out of home. Ruby will soon be 25 year of age, and Clare recently turned 22.

Ruby and Clare in 2015
Ruby and Clare in 2015

Susie and I are currently dreaming and scheming of one day becoming grey nomads.

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