Tag Archives: navigation

An Australian Road Trip…All roads Don’t Lead to Wollombi.

Yesterday, I had to drive my daughter to GATS Camp at Point Wollstonecroft about an hour’s drive North of Sydney on Lake Macquarie. This was Mummy’s cue for adventure. So, I ensured our son had his key and my only specification was, that I didn’t get home before sunset.

At the same time, I also had a few ideas. I was going to start off by exploring some of the coastal beaches around Lake Macquarie, but I really had it in mind to get to Wollombi where my Great Great Grandfather, William Henry Gardiner, married his second wife, Jane Lynch. Thanks to Google, I’d already been to Wollombi online and found out it was one of those preserved country villages which had gone into a 100 year slumber thanks to a bypass. Being a lover of historic anything, I’ve been trying to get there for awhile and thanks to the mushy geographical soup in my head, had the strange idea that just because I was heading North, Wollombi would somehow be “on the way home”.

It wasn’t.

That’s how my road trip of a life time began. Well, it was actually more of a once in a lifetime road trip. That’s because when it came to travelling from Lake Macquarie to Wollombi, I bypassed the A to B route and detoured via just about every letter of the alphabet. Not that I was lost. Indeed, I knew exactly where I was and where I was going and blame whoever it was who designed the NSW road network, for my convoluted route. So, before I leave on my next great road trip, you can be sure I’ll be reciting this traditional Gaelic blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Anyway, before we leave on this road trip of a lifetime, I’d better provide some  coordinates. After all, my stats tell me that most of my readers aren’t Australian and to be quite honest with you, most Australians won’t be able to pinpoint Wollombi on the map either.That is, unless they cheat and use GPS. I’m a firm believer in using actual paper maps and when you’re travelling,those huge foldout monstrosities, which almost take up the windscreen (goodness knows how many fatal accidents they’ve caused!). Nothing else will do. No matter how lost I get, I refuse to sell out, or I’ll never find my way out of bed. My sense of direction is not allowed to get any worse!!

wollombi-map-and-directory

Wollombi is a small village in the Hunter Region of New South Wales, Australia. It is within the Cessnock City Council LGA, situated 29 kilometres (18 mi) southwest of Cessnock and 128 km (80 mi) north of Sydney. To the south is the village of Laguna, to the east, the village of Millfield and to the north, the village of Broke. To be quite honest, Wollombi is very isolated, but that’s part of its charm and how it’s become a time capsule of sorts.

However, back in the day, Wollombi was at least somewhat central. In 1836 the Great Northern Road was finished. Built by convict labour, it joined Windsor to Wollombi, and at Wollembi forked off to either Singleton or Maitland. It spanned the 200 kms from Sydney to Newcastle and took on average 9 days for a traveler to get to Newcastle. Consequently, it was mainly used as a stock route.

Anyway, we haven’t got to Wollombi yet. We’re still at Lake Macquarie.

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Looking North towards Swansea from Caves Beach.

It was an absolutely beautiful day, with deep blue skies and water was a dazzling diamond carpet of blue. I headed North and followed a sign to Caves Beach and pulled over. I could almost inhale the ocean and feel life’s burdens blow out to sea. The fisherman and a couple of walkers, looked like stick figures below and the windswept coastline stretched for eternity and I could truly spread my wings and soar and keep soaring. There was no ground beneath my feet.

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Illawarra Flame Tree at Pelican near Swansea, NSW.

I did wonder whether I should just stick to the coast, and head inland to Wollombi another time. However, the day was my own and I made no set plans.Indeed, lured down a side street by the enigmatic Illawarra Flame Trees in full bloom, I chucked a left into Pelican, which seemed to be little bigger than its sign beside the road.

I kept heading North, looking for a road to reconnect me with the Motorway. Wollombi was still on the cards and I was also looking for signs to Cessnock and the Hunter Valley. I know exactly where they are driving North. However, missed the lot heading South and found myself exiting at Morriset, turning right and going on the windiest road through Mandalong and Dooralong expecting to connect up with the inland road, which runs like a peripheral artery somewhere through here connecting up with Wollombi somehow. I knew it was there because I have been on it before. AND, I actually did consult the map before I left, not that I did a very good job of it.

 

Yet, just because you know there’s a great road system out there somewhere, doesn’t mean you’re find it.

By this stage, things were becoming DESPERATE!! Even finding a person to give me directions was hard enough, let alone find somewhere to buy food and dare I mention the unmentionable…a toilet or even a camouflaging clump of trees. There was nothing until I finally stumbled across a bonsai nursery. That seemed quite appropriate for someone going on an epic adventure. Having downloaded my troubles, I perked up as I cast myself as Gulliver on his journeys through Lilliput.

Thankfully, the guys at the nursery directed me out of my geographical quagmire over Bumble Bee Hill and then right, then right, then right. OMG!!! Although I didn’t believe in GPS, I was relieved to have my mobile phone. By this stage, I was already starting to picture the search party looking for my last known whereabouts. Indeed, I probably should’ve left my card.

Above: I stumbled across a gourmet oasis and stopped for lunch at Jerry’s Gourmet Kitchen & Cafe, Kulnurra.

At this point, I should tell you that I’m not the most confident driver and that I don’t usually go on such long road trips.Indeed, I live on a Peninsula and have what I call “Peninsularitis”. Some days, even the ten minute drive into Woy Woy is too much, and that complicated gourmet dinner, becomes chicken schnitzel out of the freezer.

Moreover, while part of me loves this whole serendipity thing of just driving with the wind without any particular destination in mind, I also get a bit edgy on unfamiliar roads, especially after doing a loop the loop through the wilderness. After all, this is Australia and the outback’s only a stone throw away. (Ssh, Australians! Don’t ruin a good story!)

It doesn’t take much once you leave an Australia city and the main roads to feel like you’re off the beaten track. I was so close to so-called civilization. Yet, I was driving through farms, and was definitely “out in the country”. Indeed, even the road signs had changed. There were now multiple wombat warning signs. Yes, I had made it into Wombat Country.

By this stage, I’ve almost made it to Wollombi and I can start to relax. Unwind. Yes! I am actually going to get there and this journey of 1000 goat-trailing miles, is finally going to end and I couldn’t understand why they didn’t have a big sign set up in my honour: “Welcome to Wollombi, Rowena”. I sure deserved it.

Stay tuned. In my next post, I’ll take you on a walking tour of town.

Have you been on any road trips recently? Please share.

xx Rowena

 

 

Driving to Newcastle …Mum’s Taxi Seeks Gold!

Shame I didn’t have the meter running yesterday. Mum’s Taxi clocked up some serious K’s (kilometers) driving to Newcastle for my daughter’s violin rehearsal, especially returning via the “scenic” route. However, being only ten years old, of course, she couldn’t pay the fare.Perhaps, she could find me a gold medal? I certainly deserved it!

Milly Violin

Before I delve into our travels, I should clarify that I was driving to Newcastle, Australia and NOT Newcastle in the UK… or anywhere else for that matter. Although I can get catastrophically lost, the last time I checked, the car can’t fly or swim. So, no matter how badly we got lost, we were still confined to the Australian continent! Phew! That’s a relief. Wandering into another country can get dangerous, and I’d hate to cause an international incident in addition to the usual road rage.

Newcastle is 168km North of the Sydney CBD and 110 KM up the freeway from home. As we have family in Newcastle, I’ve been up there quite a few times, but usually as a passenger. We were actually on the outskirts of Newcastle on the weekend, but that didn’t prepare me for finding yesterday’s rehearsal at The Junction, near Newcastle’s CBD.

All went well until we took the Newcastle turn off from the freeway and we pulled over at a servo (petrol station) to consult the map. My daughter had been on her iPad so far, which of course, does nothing to hone your map reading or navigational skills. I wrote out a list of streets for her to find and walked her through the route on the map. For some reason, I’d assumed she’d inherited her father’s sensational spatial skills and not my Blindis Mappis, or map blindness.

Big mistake. We’re driving along in very unfamiliar territory when she tells me she can’t read maps. That she couldn’t find where we were, where we were going or the all important Crudace Street where we need to turn right.

Meanwhile, I was peering through the windscreen trying to read street signs needing a magnifying glass. Of course, I only picked up the street names too late. Don’t you hate that?!

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Mind you, that’s why the U-Turn was invented. Indeed, my husband’s done quite a few U-turns over the years thanks to my navigation and I’m not mentioning a certain trip to Canberra, which nearly ended in divorce!

But, as I’m sure you can appreciate, the U-turn is a last resort. Missing your street can be incredibly stressful, especially when you’re on a main road. Moreover, although the sign should have been bigger, a miss always feels like a personal fail…a mistake. Nobody likes making mistakes, even when you’re used to it.

Abandoning the map, I get my daughter reading street signs. We never found Crudace Street but instead, she’s calling out names of streets further down our list. I don’t know what’s going on but Newcastle’s on the coast and we’re running out of road. Surely, we’re not going to drive into the sea looking for this !@#$% street??!!! Suddenly, I see our destination, Union Street, out the window. It wasn’t the route we’d planned, but we’re there.

I don’t know whether I was being too hard on Newcastle’s signage. However, despite The Junction’s popularity, I was surprised not to see one sign for the place. Isn’t that strange? Or, with my fixation on street signs, I might have missed them. Quite aside from the usual street signs and directions, I’d also been expecting a bit of a welcome. Wasn’t Newcastle expecting us? Hadn’t the Mayor stuck up a few extra signs for us, preferably in neon…such as: “Ro, turn here!..Left…right etc”

Apparently NOT!

Not unsurprisingly, as soon as we pulled up outside the school, I parked the car and wasn’t driving anywhere. I had 3 hours up my sleeve and set out to find a cafe on foot where I could write, read and chill out without getting lost.

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Hello Talulah. You wouldn’t believe I’d stumbled into Mum’s cousin’s restaurant. Unfortunately, he wasn’t there. Had lunch and wrote a short story and arrived back at the school in time to hear a full run through of their concert repertoire. It sounded heavenly en masse and I can’t wait…Sydney Opera House here we come! Thank goodness we know where that is! No navigation required.

Now that we’re back in the car, I can hear you pleading with me to drive straight home. Get out of there before we’re in a major accident, as our drive-by-feel tour of Newcastle continues. In that case, driving home would have been a no brainer. I just had to turn the car around, and drive out the way we came in. Simple Simon…even I could do that!

Except…(and as we know if there wasn’t an except, there wouldn’t be a story. I don’t need to write fiction to come up with plenty of complications!)

I wanted to buy myself a pair of ballet shoes and there was a Bloch’s store conveniently located in nearby Charlestown. We don’t have a local dance shop. So, you could say “it seemed like a good idea at the time”. However, this little excursion meant that we weren’t going back the way we came and trouble was looming. Just how lost could we get in one day?

You’d be surprised!

Spotting a huge Westfield Shoppingtown out the window, I didn’t even question whether we were at the right place and was very unimpressed to find out we were in the wrong suburb and Charlestown was still out there somewhere…lost.

Or, was it us?

By this stage, I was starting to wonder whether the ballet shoes were worth it. Somehow, I’d managed to live 36 years without a pair of ballet shoes. Yet, suddenly I had to get these shoes. There was such an urgency, a determination. I yearned to have my daughter with me when I bought them so we could do it together…the same way my mother came with me to try on my wedding dress. I wanted Miss to see me slip my huge clodhoppers into those dainty pink ballet shoes, pointing my toes and dancing away. Forget that I haven’t done ballet in 36 years. I had changed.

Charlestown Square

Finally found Charlestown Square shopping Centre.

Finally, we found Charlestown. Found Bloch’s and bought my shoes, satin ribbons, pink tights and some black dance pants. I was a real dancer and it was time to drive home.

Oh! If only I could slip into those same precious ballet shoes and tap my heels together saying: “there’s no place like home” and suddenly find us parked in the driveway at home.

Alas, no such luck! More caffeine required!

Worse still, we were on the slow road home, via the scenic route…the Old Pacific Highway. What with driving through 60kph zones, stop-start traffic lights and peak hour crawls, an hour’s journey stretched into two without even stopping to photograph the sunset over Lake Macquarie.

After all of this, I almost fell through the front door when we arrived home…a marathon driver falling over the finish line, dry retching and completely spent. While nobody would expect a marathoner to cook dinner straight away, I could forget that! Should’ve ordered takeaway. What with all these medals in Rio, surely they could spare a weenie gold medal for me?

I deserve it.

However, unfortunately driving Mum’s Taxi hasn’t become an Olympic sport.

Meanwhile, thanks to my daughter’s teacher, I at least had a thank you box of chocolates.

It was great to be appreciated!

Do you have any good getting lost stories? Of course, getting lost is an important part of travel and so many travel stories simply wouldn’t exist if we directly went from A to B!

xx Rowena

 

 

 

Are you sure we didn't miss the turn off?

Are you sure we didn’t miss the turn off?

The dogs love being able to run around at low tide when we go to Pittwater, Palm Beach. the rippled sand is pocked with soldier crab holes and as the sun sets, the place is quite a moonscape.

Bilbo (right) is striding straight ahead and while I was flicking through possible Rumi quotes, my husband suggested:

“Are you sure we didn’t miss the turn off?

I shouldn’t laugh.

My husband and I have had many explosive moments with me in the navigator’s seat. I don’t know why I always end up navigating because I get lost in the shower and even struggle to follow a map when I turn it the right way up (OK folks…I mean “upside down”.)

I know we probably should invest in one of those GPS thingies for the sake of our marriage but after experiencing the possibilities of neuroplasticity personally, I had hoped that with a bit of practice, that I’d miraculously find my way.

Moreover, I was also concerned that if I gave up, my sense of direction could even get worse. In that case, I might even need GPS to find my car parked in our own drive way.

I shouldn’t jest!!

Anyway, Bilbo looks hell bent on going straight ahead but Lady isn’t quite so sure: “Are you sure we didn’t miss the turn off? I can just see Bilbo, who is a much more introverted, serious dog grumbling back to her:

“We’re fine. I checked the map before we left. I know exactly where we are.”

Then I can see Bilbo quoting Daniel Boone:

“I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks”.

As much as I love John Lennon’s quote Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans,” sometimes, you just want to reach your destination!

Do you have any navigation dramas to share?

xx Rowena