Tag Archives: Big Banana

Sydney – Newrybar – Byron Bay: Weekend Coffee Share.

If we were having coffee today, I’d be talking so fast, filling your head with so many stories, photos and flashing such an array of treasures at you, that nothing would be making any sense at all.

It would all just be merging into a chaotic, kaleidoscopic blur.

The Kaleidoscope.

Mesmerized by such a kaleidoscope of images. Photographed this at Zakay Glass Creations Gallery, Bangalow.

I can hear you now: “Slow down!Take a deep breath! Calm Down! I can’t understand a word you’re saying…especially with that unintelligible, Australian accent.”

So, bursting with impatience by now, you could well be hitting me over the head with what we Australians call a “lump of 4 x 2” (pronounced fourbetwo”) We’re basically talking about the Australia version of hitting someone over the head with a baseball bat. A fence paling would do the job. Figuratively-speaking, this is how Australians knock sense into a blabbering mess like me.

Anyway, just to put you in the picture, we’ve been on holidays at Newrybar.

“Newrybar? Where the heck is Newrybar?” You ask.

“What do you mean you haven’t heard of Newrybar?? Where have you been hiding????”

Okay. Get your passport. Take the first available flight to Sydney, Australia. You could just catch a connecting flight to nearby Ballina Airport but why miss out on all the fun of a 10-13 hour 800 KM drive? After all, taking the Pacific Highway up the coast is such an Australian experience?!!

Just a friendly reminder to you peoples in the Northern hemisphere that heading North in Australia means it is getting warmer…we fly North for the Winter and definitely try not to fly South!

So, I naturally recommend hiring a car from the airport and driving. By the way, make sure you drive over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, instead of taking the tunnel under the harbour. You definitely do not want to miss The Bridge and the stunning harbour views, which also take in the Sydney Opera House when you crane your neck. Yet, somehow, you’ll need to keep your eyes on the road while taking in these views and if you’re not used to driving on the left hand side of the road, that will even complicate matters further and you could well be having a nasty accident.

There are further sights along the way. You can take the Sommersby exit near Gosford and visit the Australian Reptile Park and don’t miss out on the Big Banana at Coffs Harbour, which is roughly halfway to Newrybar and when you see the Macadamia Castle you are almost at Newrybar.

I don't think this quite puts Newrybar on the map.

I don’t think this quite puts Newrybar on the map.

Located half an hour’s drive in Byron Bay’s lush green Hinterland, Newrybar’s main claim to fame at this time of year, is the snakes. It’s currently mating season and the grass is full of amorous Romeos and Juliets, just waiting to strike at any unsuspecting feet. After spotting a deadly black snake slithering through the grass while eating my Weetbix the other day, you can take it from me that you need to look where you’re going.

However, in addition to the snakes there’s the Harvest Cafe, which is well-regarded, an antique shop and a few B & Bs…and a petrol station and small grocery store. Definitely, no major anythings, which is such a part of it’s natural, unspoiled charm.

This week has simply been too much for me to compress into anything coherent.

I have been feasting with my eyes. Pigging out. Gorging myself. Eating, Eating,Eating. Stuffing myself eyeful, after eyeful after eyeful. Surprising even myself how much I could somehow stuff I could keep stuffing in without somehow triggering the regurgitation switch. Through some absolute incomprehensible miracle, my eyeballs just kept expanding and expanding like an exceptionally generous, elastic waistband and I’m completely mystified about why they haven’t exploded…just like Mr Creosote’s unforgettable effort in Monty Python’s: The Meaning of Life: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aczPDGC3f8U

My eyes are even fuller than my over-packed, set-to-explode suitcase.

That says it all!!

With eyes the size of thunder thighs, I’m now needing some kind of specially –designed, see-through “eye bra” . Or, perhaps it’s already too late for that. An eye mask ensuring complete darkness, could well be required by now.

The kids near Byron Bay Lighthouse.

The kids near Byron Bay Lighthouse.

Yet, this incredible, sensual smorgasbord hasn’t simply been visual.

Nature’s music is just as breathtakingly awesome. The sun has set and right now, I’m soaking in the chorus of croaking frogs outside. Yet, that’s not all. There’s the budgie’s chitter-chatter and the flutter of their feathered wings. My in-laws also have Guinea fowl, the strangest sounding birds you’ll ever come across. All week, we’re been debating how to best describe their call. Suggestions have ranged from “constipated duck”, “donkey” and a “squeaky gate”. Finally the penny dropped and Geoff and both agreed they sound like a “duck impersonating a donkey”. That’s a very weird noise!

Wategos Beach, Byron Bay.

Wategos Beach, Byron Bay.

However, while we’ve been awestruck by stunning beaches, lush green pastures, birds and butterflies fluttering through the leaves and such incredible artistic inspiration; these “roses” haven’t been without their “thorns”.

The morning after our arrival, I was half-asleep and hadn’t quite adjusted to my new surrounds, when I spotted a deadly, venomous Black Snake, slithering over the grass and over the wire fence into the cow paddock next door.

For some strange reason, even though the kids were outside picking mulberries, for some strange reason, I didn’t raise the alarm. That said, they were out of sight and further afield.

However, as soon as Geoff saw the snake, he was out of there, letting them know. Not that the kids were scared of the snake at all but for some strange reason, they immediately decided that they’d “picked enough mulberries”!

Updating our annual family photo at the Byron Bay Lighthouse.

Updating our annual family photo at the Byron Bay Lighthouse.

Getting back to the beauty of Byron Bay, what you might not appreciate is a local phenomenon known as “Byron Time”. This has nothing at all to do with traditional time zones or being on “Holiday Time”. Indeed, when it comes to Byron Time you could say the region has fallen off the grid and gone AWOL. You just throw your watch out the window of your Kombi when you drive into town and succumb to the more intuitive forces at work around here… or, more likely, not at work at all. The other night, when the fish & chips shop was closed, we were told that “it only opens when he feels like it”. Although you might wonder how you can operate a business like that, he’s been in business for years. That said, his fish and chips are incredibly good but it’s not the first time we’ve missed out!

Loved this quote spotted at Poet Bookshop in nearby Bangalow.

Loved this quote spotted at Poet Bookshop in nearby Bangalow.

However, perhaps the greatest tragedy of Byron Time isn’t missing out on fish & chips. It’s having to go home and Byron Time stops just as tragically as that broken antique fob watch, filed at the back of Grandpa’s drawer.

Tragically, we’ll be leaving early tomorrow morning to drive home.

Speaking of clocks, time and tomorrow, at midnight tonight NSW switches to daylight savings time and we gain and hour, lose an hour or just get thoroughly mixed up. Either way, the start of daylight savings means: “It’s Summer”.

Bring it on!

The kids eating the mulberries they'd picked on the farm, while I spotted a snake.

The kids eating the mulberries they’d picked on the farm, while I spotted the snake.

Just before I head off to reload the coffee cup, just a last word of travel advice.

Don’t forget to pack your SLR camera charger. I’d charged my camera up before we left like a very well-prepared Scout but managed to leave it behind. After visiting multiple camera shops in two different cities, we couldn’t find a suitable replacement. That forced me to use my phone. There I was a serious amateur photographer, looking like Maxwell Smart using his shoe phone. Oh! The humiliation of it all! However, worse was yet to come. I put the phone in my pocket to go to the toilet and the next thing I knew, it had done a kamikaze dive straight to the very bottom. Following immediate CPR, it spent the next two days in a “rice spa” to dry out while I fretted about whether all those precious photos had been lost, not to mention my contacts. Fortunately, it recovered but meanwhile I was using the kids’ i pads. While, I’ll begrudgingly admit the photos weren’t that bad, I won’t be hanging up my SLR any time soon.

Meanwhile, the kettle calls. Dinner is boiling over and it’s time to go!

By the way, the Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Part Time Monster.  You can join this week’s Coffee Share on her blog or by clicking on the “Linky“.  In fact, I encourage you to click on the “linky” to see what’s been going on in the lives of other bloggers and even join us if you haven’t before!

I also came across this great post by Corina at Wasted Days & Wasted Nights where she talks about the Love Rocks she makes and gives to people grieving or going through a hard time.  https://corinajoyc.wordpress.com/2015/10/03/rocks-stubborness-other-tough-things/

Hope you’ve had a great week!

xx Rowena

Postcard from Coffs Harbour

When it comes to visiting Coffs Harbour (or “Coffs” as it is known), I must confess that we are fairly recent converts.

Coffs was little more than a quick food or petrol stop roughly halfway between A (being Sydney) and B (being Byron Bay), although I did stay there overnight on my epic solo journey up to Queensland. However,  I considered Coffs as more of needing a bed to break the journey, not as a destination in itself. You see, when compared to the bright lights of the Gold Coast and the peace and serenity of Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour had a bit of an image problem. Moreover, for me Muriel’s Wedding, an Australian film classic set in the fictional coastal town of Porpoise Pit, didn’t help. Coffs Harbour wasn’t Porpoise Pit and yet…

That has changed. Coffs Harbour has now become a favourite stop-over. If we didn’t have family further up the road, we would definitely stay longer and I have no doubt we’ll be back.  There is so much to see and experience.

The Big Banana

The Big Banana

Although there is so much natural beauty in and around Coffs Harbour, Coffs Harbour is probably best-known for the Big Banana www.bigbanana.com. This is a big, smiling yellow banana perched beside the Pacific Highway.

For some bizarre and unexplained reason, Australian tourist towns have had a passion for big things and seem to compete with each other for the kitchiest objets d’embarrassment. I mean these things have an incredible cringe factor…a bit like having Dame Edna Everage as our national ambassador.

We have stopped off at the Big Banana a few times and the kids both peer out the window looking for it whenever we drive past. Even I feel a bit of childish excitement when I see it. Although these days, there’s also a sense of relief. The Pacific Highway seems to stretch on forever and the Big Banana now means that we’re more than half-way to Byron Bay, our usual holiday destination.

However, we didn’t stop at the Big Banana on this visit.

Seal Kiss

Seal Kiss

Probably the next best known tourist spot in Coffs Harbour is the Pet Porpoise Pool www.dolphinmarinemagic.com.au/ It is absolutely fabulous and we went there last January on our first overnight stay in Coffs Harbour. We had such a fabulous time being able to get up close to the dolphins and seals without the huge holiday crows you get at Sea World on the Gold Coast. This was personal, intimate and we weren’t jammed into a sardine tin supposedly “having fun”. I would really recommend going.

I was very pleased with this photo after capturing many a empty splash, missing the moment completely!

I was very pleased with this photo after capturing many a empty splash, missing the moment completely!

But we didn’t go there on this trip either. We wanted to do something different.

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We booked into budget accommodation at the Clog Barn. We have been driving past the Clog Barn forever but have never stopped off before.

Wearing clogs in Coffs Harbour

Wearing clogs in Coffs Harbour

I was tempted to buy a pair of clogs yet succumbed to the beautiful blue and white Delft China and bought a cow milk jug and an ornament with a boy and girl kissing. It was great to have a genuine piece of Holland from Coffs Harbour. I couldn’t afford or carry around this sort of thing when I was backpacking through Amsterdam over 20 years ago.

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The proprietor was very friendly and suggested we go to the Fisherman’s Co-op for dinner (which was excellent by the way).

One thing I really like about travelling is that you find these little spots where you experience something unexpected, breathtaking that may not be completely off the tourist track but is at least a little bit lateral.

That was Mutton bird Island.

Muttonbird Island is attached to the mainland and to get there, you simply go to the Jetty at Coffs Harbour and follow the walk across the breakwall.

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From a distance, it’s hard to believe this little patch of ground is the summer host to over 20,000 Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, or Mutton Birds. It looked almost uninhabited when we were there aside from a few walkers and joggers. However, a closer inspection of the ground beside the walking track revealed a series of holes or nests and very definite ankle-spraining territory.

Climbing up the hill.

Climbing up the hill.

What struck me most about Mutton Bird Island, however, was the steep hill. With my muscle disease, I usually can’t manage steep but I was feeling uncharacteristically energetic and took up the challenge.

shearwater chick

shearwater chick

We started walking up the hill. About halfway up, Mister calls out: “I’ve found a chick”. I was pretty impressed because these chicks live at the back of small burrows and they aren’t the easiest things to find. We even managed a photograph!

We kept walking up the hill. We still hadn’t actually seen a Shearwater at this point or even heard the much anticipated cacophony but the sunset was starting to look absolutely breathtaking.

Sunset Viewed from Mutton Bird Island

Sunset Viewed from Mutton Bird Island

Being a keen photographer, I have seen and photographed many sunsets, especially as I’m not much of an early bird and it’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen the sunrise. This sunset was pure orange with undulating volcanic hills in the background. I took so many photos that my trigger finger must have been close to getting RSI (repetitive strain injury). I felt such peace and serenity absorbing this incredibly beautiful sunset that it somehow became a part of me, somehow absorbed into my soul.

Ferris wheel at Coffs Harbour

Ferris wheel at Coffs Harbour

Walking back, we couldn’t miss the lights of the Ferris wheel back in town. Even though it was getting quite late, we had to have a turn. My inner child remembered riding the Ferris wheel year after year after year at the Royal Sydney Easter Show and there was this magnetic attraction. It wasn’t cheap and we baulked at the price but relented. I’m so glad we did because there is something so special and timeless about the Ferris wheel that takes you back to your childhood and a sense that you never really want to grow up.

Ferris Wheel

Ferris Wheel

The view across the fairground was dazzling. Our daughter, who has quite a fear of heights, was pleased we’d dragged her along and also loved the view.

The View from the Ferris wheel.

The View from the Ferris wheel.

After succumbing to the Ferris wheel, the kids also went on a pony ride.

The swimming pool at the Clog Barn

The swimming pool at the Clog Barn

The beaches around Coffs Harbour are very beautiful but we didn’t get there on this trip. Instead, the kids were really looking forward to swimming in the pool back at the Clog Barn. That suited me just fine. The sand could stay at the beach. Swimming in the pool also opened up the opportunity for me to play rough and tumble games with the kids where the water helped to support their weight. Mister is often reluctant to practice his swimming but I challenged him to some races and we both got moving. I benefitted from a few laps myself. Strangely, Miss was feeling quite scared of the water despite years of swimming lessons so it was great to encourage her in and build up some confidence as well.

Model of Anne Frank's House

Model of Anne Frank’s House

After a swim, it was time to pack up and leave but we visited the miniature Dutch village before we left. This was a bit of a trip down memory lane for me. I flew into Amsterdam back in 1992 on my epic backpacking holiday after I finished university and spent a week there. The village even includes a model of the Anne Frank House. There was also a garden railway. Above all else, I was really struck by the friendly, chatty ambience. It was a lovely place to stop off.

Posing in front of a model of Gouda Town Hall.

Posing in front of a model of Gouda Town Hall.

Before we leave Coffs Harbour, I’ll just mention another popular spot we explored on our last visit.

Close encounter with a butterly.

Close encounter with a butterfly.

Mister and the Butterfly

Mister and the Butterfly

That was Butterfly House www.butterflyhouse.com.au. I’m not quite a butterfly fanatic but I am an enthusiast and it was amazing to experience so many butterflies at close range. I From memory, I had been a bit disappointed with the photos, however, when I finally found them (somehow they had been completely misfiled) I was pleasantly surprised. They were actually very good. I’d definitely recommend a visit and I would like to go back. Being surrounded by so many butterflies, we were in paradise.

Miss with a butterfly

Miss with a butterfly

From Coffs Harbour, we drove up North to Brisbane.

Our next postcard will come from the Workshops Rail Museum in Ipswich.

PS It seems we timed our trip well. We enjoyed bright sunny days in Coffs Harbour well before the floods.