On to Byron Bay – via Ulmarra

On to Byron Bay

Monday. We continued up the coast to Byron Bay. While there were many places we could have stopped for a break we chose – almost by accident – Ulmarra, only an hour or so north of Woolgoolga.

This quaint little village is a real gem. Picturesque and antiquated. it seems to be almost untouched by time. Everything is almost exactly how it was when the village was first built during the early 1900s. It was an important river port on the Clarence River at a time when river transportation was vital in the area.

Bookshop in Ulmarra
Art Galleries
Ulmarra Hotel/Pub
Main Street (such as there is one)

Across from the classic looking Ulmarra Hotel/Pub was a little bookshop packed floor to ceiling with second-hand books. I never found anything in the short time we were in there, but Dani and his mum did. After a quick refresher in the local hotel and with a few new books we were back on the road and soon in Byron Bay.

Byron Bay

We had booked a kid friendly caravan park a short drive out of the town. We had just enough daylight for a quick visit to the town centre. First impressions? It’s a nice small resort town. Smaller than I expected (I think) but enough of everything you would need for a holiday. Unfortunately there are still places that have not yet reopened after the “lockdown”. But the majority of businesses – despite the capacity restrictions in restaurants etc – are open.

Byron Bay has had many faces. It started off as a timber centre as many places did in the north with large red cedar trees. That industry almost stopped after the first world war when dairy farms sprang up in the areas cleared by logging. There was also a mini gold rush as people staked claims to search for gold among the lack sands of Tallow Beach. That too dried up as quickly as it started. That was followed by more dairy farming and more infamously the whaling industry which was centred in the area. The killing of whales lasted a couple of decades before laws made it illegal. Then in the 60s long board surfers discovered the beaches here and the town slowly began to become a tourist trap.

Byron Bay was also supposedly the place in Australia that hippies made their own. Or so I thought – because that is what many guide books tell us. More on this one later….

Tomorrow is a big day. It involves a trip in a small boat. Something I have wanted to do for many years. Not quite a ‘bucket list’ thing but… Then again…

First two days of Holidays (incl. Dorrigo National Park)

We got our holidays under way heading north to the famous Byron Bay. Sydney to Byron Bay is a bit too much for Dani in one day. Plus, there are so many places to see in between. First we stopped in the Coffs Harbour area. It broke the journey up nicely.

Stopover.

To break the trip up we decided to stop for two nights in the almost unpronounceable Woolgoolga. Maybe that’s why the locals call it simply Woopi… A nice place just north of Coffs Harbour, an area full of motels, caravan/camping sites and holiday resorts.

We stayed in a small cabin, one of only a handful, on what is mainly a caravan park. The place was fairly full. After missing the milder autumn months due to the ”lockdown” places like this – and the tourists – needed this economic boost.

We arrived just before dark so could only have a quick walk around the immediate area where we discovered a huge colony of flying foxes. The following day however we set off to explore the immediate area and inland to the Dorrigo National Park.

Headland – looking for Whales

The first stop was just around the corner. The Woolgoolga Headland is supposed to be a good place to spot the migrating whales. We never saw any from the shore but we did see some unexpected land-based animals who also appeared to be checking the waves for the whales.

Kangaroos scan the sea
Flying Fox colony
Huge Flying Fox Colony near our accommodation
Foxy face of one of the bats

Dorrigo Plateau

The Dorrigo National Park is inland and high up the mountains. After climbing up the mountains along the wonderful ‘Waterfall Way’ you reach the Dorrigo Plateau at an altitude of just under 1000 metres.

The national park contains a fantastic rain forest that is like something out of the Predator movie. An amazing dense forest with some incredibly large trees. Some thought to be at least 400 years old. But plants were not the only life forms in this area. There were many exotic looking birds and some not so exotic. There is also a steady flow of water through the forest. Well, it is a rain forest after all.

View from the Dorrigo Plateau
In the tree tops at Dorrigo National Park

The complete entanglement of some of the plants and trees is amazing. More like a jungle in places than a forest. (what is the difference between a rain forest and a jungle anyway?) There were also quite a few wild turkeys roaming around the foliage.

Huge trees grow on the hillside
Wild Turkeys forage on the forest floor

Crystal Falls

There are several trails around the rain forest. One takes you down to the Crystal Falls.

Under the Falls
Crystal Falls from below

Robbery at the Sydney Petrol Stations

In a recent post I spoke about being conned. By the politicians on this coronavirus thing (which if you missed you can read here). Well here’s another con trick going on right under our noses. And just like the familiar conning politicians I suppose we should not be surprised at the perpetrators of this one either…

Petrol Thieves

Not people stealing from the petrol stations or driving off without paying. I am talking about the owners of many of these places. With the world oil price extremely low the prices at the pumps should be also very low. This was true just a few weeks ago (I posted about it here.)

But just before the long (Queen’s Birthday) weekend prices in the city jumped massively. Like at least a 30% increase overnight to about $1.35 per litre (for unleaded which is the one we use). The prices dipped a week or so later but remained around $1.20 or so. Until just now, when they have leapt back up to $1.45 in many petrol stations. .

When we left the city for the holidays we needed fuel but hung on until well out of the city and filled up at a motorway service station. Now in the UK and Spain (and I thought pretty much everywhere) the prices at these places are usually much higher than in the towns and cities. Not so in Sydney. It was significantly cheaper at the motorway service station. Crazy eh?

Even cheaper?

Better than that, in some petrol stations in the city and even some in the mountain towns and villages, there is unleaded petrol for under a dollar per litre!! That’s a saving of 45 cents per litre. That’s an amazing $2.04 per UK gallon less! Apologies to any youngsters reading. I can’t help but think in old money sometimes…

The petrol station owners in the city of Sydney are basically thieves. Pure and simple. It is actually cost effective to drive for an hour to the mountains to fill up your car. The savings justify it. Not only that it means those stinking city centre thieves can’t have your money too.  There are even some people on the radio I have heard advising people not to refuel in these petrol stations and seek the cheaper ones. Similarly, as always in such situations, my advice is to vote with your feet. Or tyres, in this case.

A Fine End to a Fine Holiday

When a word has two meanings…

We just spent two weeks on holiday which I will write about over the coming days. In short it was an eventful and sometimes exciting holiday with several firsts for all of us. It was indeed a “fine” holiday. Then, on the  drive back to Sydney, more ‘firsts’. I was stopped by the police and received a speeding “fine”.

Incidentally, the main reason I never wrote daily updates on this blog while we were away is that there was never any wifi up to the job. It was either very poor or non-existent. Plus I thought, what the heck! I am on holiday too… More on all this later of course.

Being ‘Nicked’…

I could kick myself for being too honest. The police officer was female and looked about my age – certainly not much younger. She was very polite and I knew there was a short distance that I was definitely speeding. Of all the bad luck…

But when she saw my UK driving licence the first thing she asked was “How long are you in Australia for?”. “About a year” I replied. Then naturally, she asked if I had an address in Australia, which I duly told her.

I have to say that she was very pleasant. Much nicer than the horrible police in the UK who treat drivers as if they are some kind of mass murderers. That must come from their complete inability to catch real criminals. But (as usual) I digress….

First time Breathalyser

She then gave me a breath test – which I can only assume is standard procedure when they stop someone on the main road for speeding. This was the first time I had ever been asked to do the breathalyser test and I feel a little ripped off. There wasn’t even anything to blow into! She held the device up to my face and told me to count aloud to ten. I must have looked very confused because I repeated it back as a question; “count to ten?”. She grinned and nodded.

“One, two, three…” Beep beep beep went the machine. What? Already? I hadn’t even reached the count of FOUR! Did it think I had been drinking? Actually the night before I had drunk half a bottle of wine. Was it registering still? Anyway,  she smiled and went back to her car.

After a long wait she returned with a piece of paper. She explained that I had to pay a fine of $285 (odd number eh?). I never really took everything in as I was still a bit shocked that I had been so unlucky to get caught out. I just wanted to get back to driving home. It was all detailed on the back of the penalty notice – I got that part.

What I could/should have done?

It was only a bit later that I realised I could have just said that we were driving to Sydney and would be flying back to Europe in a day or two. What would she have done then? Would she have asked me if I had $285 in cash on me to pay there and then? An ‘on the spot fine’ so to speak?

If I said “no” to that question would she have produced a card reader and asked for a credit card? I am convinced they just want to make a little money out of an upstanding honest speeding driver.

The point is I was honest and I got hit with a fine. The usual thing would be a fine and (probably) points deducted/added from/to * the driving licence (* depending on which country you are in). I believe they cannot enforce the points thing on a passing tourist. Also they would not have a local address to follow up if the fine is not paid. So I may have been able to drive away with just a warning (of sorts).

Lesson Learnt

At the end of the day it was a lesson learnt. I may try that ‘tourist’ tactic if (when) it happens again. I can ‘dispute’ the fine and I intend to at least try. Why not? What do I have to lose? Well, $285 to be exact. You can be sure I will post the result of my ‘dispute’ right here…