Road trip day 5

If you thought yesterday was about rain, then you hadn’t seen today yet.

We woke to frequent showers of extremely heavy rain, with close to gale force winds. There was a break in the rain during which we went to get breakfast, but the rain returned and we got very wet just climbing back into the car to return to the hotel. After packing our bags and checking out, we had to return to the car, which again involved getting very wet. The inside of the car got very wet as we climbed in.

Our first stop was back near the brewery where we’d had lunch yesterday. Next door to the place where my wife got the free coffee was a place that made condiments, jams, preserves, and similar stuff. We’d planned to go have a look at the retail outlet and perhaps buy a few things, but exactly as we’d left the brewery to walk over, they’d closed up shop for the day. We arrived back there, and the rain was pelting down. We parked maybe 10 metres form the door, but again got very wet dashing over to look at the shop. It was worth it though, as they had a lot of really nice looking stuff. We bought six different jars of sauces, jams, and mustard.

From there we set out on the drive home. It was very wet. At times driving on the freeway visibility was reduced to maybe 50-100 metres due to the rain. It took more concentration than usual, so we had a welcome rest break about halfway home, stopping at the town of Bulahdelah. Leaving the freeway, we headed into the town… only to be stopped by floodwater across the road. Turning around, we saw another road cut by the floodwater as well, but were able to find another route to get into the centre of town.

We stopped at a cafe, but because of Scully we needed to sit outside, where all the tables were getting drenched by the rain. But the woman running the cafe offered to set us up at a table out the back, under an awning on the leeward side of the building, which was significantly drier. The cafe owner told us that part of the town was being evacuated because of the flooding.

After lunch, we continued the drive home, again through some ridiculously heavy rain, although as we got closer to Sydney it eased off and stopped. However, once we got home and caught up on news (we typically never see any news while travelling), we discovered just how bad this storm system is. Port Macquarie, our departure point this morning, is now under a flood evacuation warning for some areas.

And this rain system is moving south. It will hit Sydney tomorrow, and flood warnings have been issued. In fact, the State Emergency Service has issued a warning for all people in Sydney not to leave home tomorrow, if possible. Given the expected danger from the weather this weekend, I also received notification from the organisers of Sunday’s market that they were cancelling the market. So that’s another one where I was planning to sell my photography cancelled. It seems starting a market stall during COVID and leading into a la Nina event is not a great idea…

New content today:

Road trip day 4

The theme of the day was rain. Rain. And more rain.

The forecast for Port Macquarie was 80-120 mm of rain, with heavy bursts, developing into thunderstorms in the afternoon. But the morning had some dry spells, allowing us to get breakfast and then take Scully out for a run in the park near the hotel. Although by the time we got back from the park it had started raining.

Storm over Port Macquarie

We lined up a few wet weather activities. We started by driving out to the suburbs of town, where there is a small craft shop that my wife was keen to check out. After that we went to a large craft warehouse, where my wife bought a bunch of different material to use for her sewing.

Following these, it was my turn to choose a destination. So we ended up at the Wicked Elf Brewery… where I tried some of the beers and we had a lightish lunch. They did a tasting paddle of four small glasses of different beers, which I ordered, selecting four of the different ales. The woman who poured the beers completed the four glasses, but then said she’d accidentally done a glass of another beer that I hadn’t ordered, and she said rather than pour it down the sink, I could have it for no charge. So I got a free (small) glass of beer.

It was a very nice place to sit for a while out of the rain. My wife wanted a coffee, but they didn’t make coffees there. However, she saw across the street a place that had a coffee sign on it, and so walked over, while I waited with Scully. She returned with a cup of coffee and a story…

She said that the place across the road was actually a warehouse for espresso machines, but they also ran courses to train people to use them. So they had a row of machines set up. She had poked her head into the warehouse to see what was inside, and someone had asked her what she wanted. She said she thought it might be a place to get a coffee. The staff member said no and explained it was a warehouse and training facility… but then said he was just about the clean the machines and he could make her a cup first. So she ended up getting the coffee she wanted, and didn’t even have to pay for it! So we both ended up with a free drink.

We drove back to the hotel, and decided to go for a walk through the shopping area of town, to see what interesting shops were around. We looked at some crafts and homewares and my wife checked out some clothing. I found an old record and collectibles place, which had some cool comics and books and other stuff. We returned to the hotel, through increasingly heavy rain.

For dinner we had a reservation at a nice restaurant in town, a few blocks from our hotel. Because we had Scully, we needed an outdoor table, and we hoped they had one under cover well out of the rain. They did – there were tables against a wall under a large awning, so we were about two metres from the rain. We enjoyed a good meal, and watched the rain fall…

Until it got REALLY heavy. It absolutely pounded down for several minutes. Despite being well under cover, we both got soaking wet, our dining table got wet, we had to pick up Scully’s cloth mat from the ground as it was getting soaked.

Rainy dinner

Fortunately this downpour didn’t last very long, but the damage was done. I was soaked through my clothes to the skin on one side, and my wife as well. We finished our meal, and then had to walk back to the hotel in the heavy rain. Now we’re here, and we have entire sets of clothes including socks and underwear arrayed around the room to dry.

Tomorrow we drive home to Sydney. The forecast is for 120-200 mm of rain here in Port Macquarie, and up to 120 mm of rain in Sydney. I think it’s going to be a very wet drive.

Road trip day 3

Today we had a lunch booked at The Byabarra Cafe, based on a recommendation from a friend. This is in a tiny settlement that doesn’t even count as a village, in the mountain hinterland inland from Port Macquarie.

Since it was only about 40 minutes drive, we took some time in the morning after breakfast to go for a walk down to the beach and along it the grassy parkland just behind the sand. It had rained very heavily overnight and was very windy this morning, and threatening drizzle. But the rain held off enough for us to let Scully run around in the park a bit, which was good.

We set out in the car and stopped at the town of Wauchope to have a look around. It’s a typical small country town, with a single main street lined with a couple of blocks of shops. But down a tiny narrow alley we stumbled across a coffee shop called Dark Alley Coffee. We only went in because my wife felt like a coffee (I don’t drink coffee), but then we noticed the whole place was decorated with Star Wars posters, models, toys, and trinkets. I chatted with the owner while he made my wife’s coffee. He was into Dungeons & Dragons too, so I mentioned Darths & Droids and gave him the address, which he said he’d definitely check out.

Lunch was excellent, sitting on the back veranda looking out over a long valley stretching into the distance, partly forested with eucalypts and partly grazing land, listening to the calls of numerous birds in the trees.

After eating, I wanted to see if we could return to Port Macquarie via a different route, and there was a promising looking road that would form a convenient loop via the coast. I asked the staff about the road, wondering if it might be unsealed gravel or dirt. They confirmed there was a dirt road, but said it was in good repair and should be fine.

So we set out, on a beautifully scenic road through dense forests, taking a turn off the main road onto the dirt road that cut across back to the coast. It started off okay, but after a few kilometres became very rocky and bumpy, shaking and rattling the car alarmingly. We pressed on, eventually returning to paved road, and it was then that I noticed a strange sound…

We pulled over and I went out to check the car, to see if there was a branch caught underneath or something. I found instead that a rear tyre was flat, obviously punctured by a sharp rock somewhere on the dirt road. Well, we were basically in the middle of nowhere. It was about 15 km to the nearest town. And our car is so small that it doesn’t carry a spare tyre.

My wife called her roadside assistance membership organisation, and they said they could arrange a tow to the town, where we could get a new tyre. The problem was that by the time a tow truck could get to us and then return us to town, it would be about closing time, and we might have to leave the car overnight. Which would mean we were stuck about 50 km from our hotel, and might have to get a taxi there… and then back again in the morning.

Well… we waited, and it rained… and eventually the tow truck showed up. The driver said we had to leave Scully in the car, it was illegal for him to drive with a dog in the cabin of the truck. So we had to leave her there alone for the ride, which she didn’t like at all.

Anyway, long story short, we arrived at the service centre at 4:55 pm, and the receptionist said the mechanics were just about to go home for the day… but the head mechanic saw our predicament and said they’d do the tyre change for us before they knocked off for the day. Phew!

So 15 minutes later we had a new tyre and were on our way. So it was all a bit of an adventure which we’ll laugh about later.

Road trip day 2

Today we drove up from Port Macquarie to Coffs Harbour for lunch… and to see the Big Banana. This is a famous roadside attraction, a giant fibreglass banana, which you can walk through, and pose in front of for photos and so on.

We didn’t really have any plan for lunch, so I asked one of the staff at the Big Banana and they recommended an area down by the Coffs Harbour Jetty, with several eating places to choose from. We didn’t really want a big sit-down lunch, so we found a bakery there and had pies for lunch. And we were glad we did, because they were incredibly good, so much better than what we had at Heatherbrae’s Pies yesterday. After a walk around the foreshore and marina area to see the sights and exercise Scully, we went back past the bakery to the car, and I got a lemon meringue tart too, and it was also amazingly good. Now I’m going to be upset that this wonderful bakery is over 500km from home.

On the way back to Port Macquarie we stopped at Urunga to have another walk. Here there is a boardwalk over a mangrove swamp in a tidal inlet, all the way out to the beach. This was a lovely walk, and we spotted several interesting species of birds, many of which I photographed.

Following this we drove back to our hotel, then went out for dinner. We found a very nice Mexican place, and had some excellent soft tacos. This was a nicer meal than last night. So all round it was a great day.

Road trip day 1

It’s the first day of our road trip holiday. We left home this morning after baking some fresh sourdough bread, which we took with us to give to my mother along the way. She lives an hour north of Sydney, and we stopped to have morning tea with her on the way.

After that we continued on, stopping at Heatherbrae’s Pies for lunch. This is a famous pie shop on the highway north, with a high reputation. Unfortunately it didn’t quite live up to the hype. The food was good, but not really exceptional in any way.

We continued on, stopping at Taree for petrol and to stretch our legs. We let Scully run free in a park by the river to get some exercise. Then it was back in the car for the final leg to Port Macquarie.

We arrived, checked into our hotel, and then went for a walk into town to get dinner, finding a Turkish place open with al fresco tables where we could sit with Scully.

After eating, we walked back along the river shore, which treated us to an amazing sunset.

Hastings River sunset

(No new content links today – it’s too much work to do them remotely. Check my usual comic sites.)