Seda: As we left Mackay on the 31st Dec 2019, we had 4 days to get to North Sydney and cover the 1700 kilometres, just over a thousand miles. That’s the thing with the house-sits, they don’t work around your plans, you plan around them if that’s the one you want to do. Imagine visiting London and think about the cost of staying in hotels or even hostels. Sydney is no different. So when a couple contact you asking “erm are you free to spend two weeks or maybe three in our lovely posh house in the north of Sydney looking after our rather well trained, hassle-free dog”, you kind of see the value in making effort to get there on time!
It was already lunch time as we left Mackay and our overnight stay was booked in a hotel/motel in a town called Gladstone, about 440 kms or 275 miles away. We did the distance no problem and got to the town which was industrial looking, yet still somehow managing to be pretty.
The room was lovely and adjacent was a bar and a pub style restaurant which is where we celebrated stepping into 2020.
Andy insisted that we should enjoy some drinks whilst watching the fireworks and went to the bar to get them. When he got back, the show was over but I’m sure my enjoyment of watching the show was enough for my lovely husband! Turns out he was held by an admirer!
Andy: After a while I’d had enough of the same old Aussie lager, and so thought I’d try something that my fishing guide Colin had recommended to me – Tooheys Old. It is a darker beer and something I’m a bit more used to. So, I went to the bar to order one and and got chatting to one of the barmaids. She was telling me how she liked that darker beer, and how I was sure to like it. I asked for a wine for Seda too, but when she priced it up, it seemed awfully cheap. I asked her about it, but she said she was so taken with my accent, she’d given me the wine for free! I replied “My wife will be pleased!” and left quickly!
Seda: There was a celebration party in a nearby park and we joined them to listen to a few not-cheesy-but-actually-very-good bands. Unlike locals, we didn’t have comfy camping chairs or picnic blankets so when our asses finally went numb, we continued the celebrations with the live music back at the hotel.
Whilst the first few months of 2019 were a blur, what a year that was for us! And what a feeling to say hello to 2020, in the random Australian town of Gladstone. We never underestimate anymore what life can offer!
We are proud to be the only mad people to be found in the small gym of the motel the next morning. Since we arrived in Australia, it’s not often that we find opportunities to do any exercise and especially in a proper gym. This is no new year’s resolution, lasts year’s was to never have resolutions that last a day!
Off we go to continue our journey. Arriving back on the Sunshine Coast, we had a quick catch up with John who we did our first house-sit for and played with the long ears of Tina, his lovely dog.
Andy: As we cover these long distances day after day which is something we are not used to doing back home in the UK, we have to find ways to entertain and amuse ourselves. We also use the opportunities for some Turkish practice. Me, not Seda! I am proud to say I now know the months of the year, days of the week, seasons and names of most of the vehicles we see! Also, we do lots of trivia quizzes found via google! So, not only is my Turkish improving, but also my general knowledge!
Seda: Our overnight stay was at an airbnb. In case you are wondering wether you could get into airbnb if you only have a spare room and a spare bed, the answer is yes. Because this was it. It was a room with a bed in it and nothing else. Not even a bedside table or clothes hanger, nothing. Minimalistic approach at its best!
The couple who owned the place were from Brazil and their conversation more than made up for the lack of furnishings in our bedroom. We talked about a range of topics from difficulty of having confidence in public speaking as a none-English to life in England and politics in Turkey. I feel instead of paying for the room, I should have been paid for my consultancy fee as I gave Renata loads of useful tips. Oh and none of them involved imagining your audience naked! Once we knew everything was put to right, we went to bed to a comfy sleep before another early start!
Andy: Renata and Angelo were a lovely couple who had only lived in Australia for 10 months. They were both academics working with plants which sounded rather interesting. They were quite interested in our travels so far, and picked my brain about England for a long time hoping that they can visit one day.
Seda: Certain places on our way are famous tourist spots on the east coast that we didn’t want to miss. Places such as Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie. Here is the thing though, it’s school holidays here, it’s the weekend after new year and possibly before going back to work and people were swarming like bees to Byron Bay as we arrived.
If you are not carrying a funky surfboard or carrying a beach bag or a body board, you haven’t got a sane reason to be in the queue of 8000 cars! So we headed up some extremely steep roads to see this beautiful beach from the amazing – and still active – Cape Byron Lighthouse. Breathtaking views!
Tiredness was getting to us by this point but finding a room was a distant dream. With every man and his dog on holiday around Byron bay, we weren’t going to get a good deal on the coast. “Fine” we said and arranged a room on a roadside motel at another random location – Grafton! Necessity is the mother of all “adventures” for us!
It was a nice and easy place to get to, pleasant room and a comfy sleep. Using some of our Hotels.com rewards, we managed to get this room for the third of the price of what we would have paid at the beachside towns. Rise and shine early the next morning and try to see as much as we can before setting off to Sydney.
Coffs Harbour! As crowded as Byron Bay if not more. Could we see these lovely places and not struggle through crowds? Could we have our cake and eat it? Of course we could! Sealy lookout Forest Sky pier. The best view of Coffs Harbour and a beautiful forest high above the town. Gorgeous!
Next stop, Port Macquarie.
What beautiful things can we see in this amazing place and still avoid beach-lovers?
Sea Acres National Park and Rain Forest. Complete with its delightful terrace-cafe in the green forest serving delicious healthy lunches.
How would you like a 1.3 km elevated rainforest boardwalk on a loop to burn of your lunch afterwards?
Hmm, that sounds nice!
Talking about sounds, there was a deafening orchestra of cicadas in the background for your walk. It was easy to spot a few of them on the trees as we walked and noticing how ugly they are, it’s no wonder why they scream so loud seeing each other‘s face!
Andy: Before we came to Australia Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie were both places that we wanted to visit. We’d heard they were beautiful, and we planned to stay there a few days each. However, and mentioned earlier, when you opt for house sitting jobs to see more of the local life you have to fit in around the home owners plans, not your own unfortunately. Still we managed to see these few beautiful spots though.
Seda: After a tasty lunch, we left for Sydney and witnessed the suffering New South Wales countryside with sad eyes. I know those of you who know us personally worry for our safety when you see the news, especially on English TV but rest assured, we have never been near danger here in Australia. Although we are painfully aware that there are people near the fires, fighting really hard to save their homes and sometimes even their lives. Hopefully these bush fires will soon be controlled without further damage.
Andy: As we approached Sydney we caught our first glimpse of the smokey skies caused by the bush fires. We arrived on time, and in one piece thankfully. It was, as the title suggested, an epic journey. One we are really glad we did rather than fly. We got to see so much of this massive country that we would never have otherwise. So, let’s see what Sydney has to offer then…