Vagabonding – Minnie Water, Wingham & Newcastle

Vagabonding Week 1

Monday morning, 5th Feb, early, we left Brisbane to begin our adventure and our drive south to our first stop in Minnie Water, New South Wales.  After a couple of short but important stops with Jenni’s Mum and Dad to say Hasta Luego we were finally Vagabonding.

Shortly after 11:30am  we crossed the border into NSW and waved goodbye to Queensland for the next 6 months. As mentioned on a previous blog, this trip isn’t a holiday, we’ll be working and visiting clients as we travel around. We are both fortunate that we have jobs that we can do if we have a phone, a laptop and internet access. As we have a WiFi hotspot in the car we have internet access wherever we go. This part of our journey’s final destination is Newcastle where we have a couple of meeting with clients but on the way there we will be stopping as Minnie Water and Wingham and probably a few other places in between.

Road Office
Office on the road

Jenni drove and I did some work. This is to be our plan during our longer drives if there is urgent work to be completed, one of us would drive and the other would work. We also planned to swap places regularly and stop every 2 hours for fun and safety. It’s also true that when your head is down and buried in a laptop you don’t get to see the world around you and seeing Australia is sort of the point of this adventure. We’d booked 5 nights in Minnie Water as we had a few critical customer reports to push out and needed to be relatively static while we did that. We also wanted a place that could be a transition experience between our old existence and new. Minnie Water was chosen to be this important place and it delivered effortlessly and above expectations.

Minnie Water

We had been told there wasn’t much by the way of shops such as supermarkets or bottle shops (off licenses for the UK folks) in Minnie Water and as we needed some provisions and some beer and wine for the week we stopped at the nearby village of Wooli, just 14 kms from Minnie Water, where we were told was a “proper town” and where we expected, naively as it turned out, to have a supermarket. Turns out Wooli is about 500 people and has 3 streets but it also has a petrol station which is also a provisions store right beside a hotel which has a bottle shop. We were served by a really friendly lady who was from Minnie Water and took the opportunity to tell us how amazing the place was and how much she loved the place.  By now we were really looking forward to getting there and settling in for our week of decompression.

Our little Airbnb cottage in Grevillia Parade in Minnie Water was an amazing find. Set back off the road behind some trees hidden between a couple of larger properties, you could easily miss it on the way past.

Grevillia Parade
Grevillia Parade

It was a cosy haven, an appropriate home away from home and a perfect place for us to decompress. We unpacked our stuff and poured ourselves a drink and  settled in for the first night of this Vagabonding life. The night sky was bright with stars as there was almost no light pollution, the silence was palpable and as a consequence our first nights sleep was deep and sound.

The Beach

It was always going to be our plan that when we are staying by any beach we would go there each morning for a swim so the next morning we filled our thermos flasks and made for the beach, passing the Tree of Knowledge Lookout on the way. Stood under the sign for a while hoping for enlightenment. I think it’s defective. Jenni suggested that maybe should have stood under the tree.

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The entrance to the beach in Minnie Water

Our plan worked out well though. The beach was stunning with great character, rock pools and pristine sands.

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Breakfast on the beach

As we were there out of holiday season we had the beach pretty much to ourselves every day. Our rough morning agenda was we’d set up on a different part of the beach, I’d leave Jenni to her thoughts and meditations while I went off with my camera for 15-20 minutes to explore that part of the beach and take some, hopefully, interesting pictures.

Out of the dozens of pictures like this, by far most common pictures were of Jenni  from the viewpoint of wherever I was on the beach at the time. Seems to me looking back over the pictures that it is obvious that I though the most beautiful thing on the beach was Jenni.

Minnie Water Beach
Minnie Water Beach

We visited the beach regularly, maybe 2-3 time each day, and always saw something different and always interesting. We even worked on the beach a couple of times but more of that later.

Warning Sign

This warning sign greets you on the way down to the beach. It warns of Strong Currents, Shallow Water, Submerged Rock, SHARKS!!!, Uneven Ground and Boat Launching.

They could just have said Sharks and left it at that, I’m pretty sure that they only put Uneven Ground in there to make the sign look symmetrical. We didn’t see sharks despite what this picture seems to suggest, this is Jenni swimming one morning.

Jaws
Jaws remake

 

Dogs

The sign also says, No Dogs Off Leash. In the week we were there we saw a lot of people with dogs on the beach and I don’t think one of those dogs was ever on a leash.

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Messing about on the beach

One of the things we need to be mindful of is if only one of us has a camera you only ever get one of us in a picture at any one time. So we always try and take some photos of the both of us. Out of shot in the picture above there were a few surfers, Minnie Water surfing looks great, the surf is sometimes low and long and sometimes big and challenging. The locals were out in their droves every day, well there was usually 3 or 4 surfers each day. Most of the local surfers brought their dogs with them and left them to roam around the beach while they surfed. When taking this picture we were photo bombed by one of the local surfers dogs.

Giant Dog Photo bombs Romantic Picture Attempt

There were 3 dogs around at this point just roaming the beach waiting for their owners to come in off the surf and playing around with each other. I guess that’s their fun for the day too. Right after this picture was taken we spotted this particular dog sniffing around the spot where we had put our beloved Woodford blanket down and where we were having our morning coffees. The next thing we saw while we were just too far away to stop it, was the mutt did a dump in the sand behind our blanket and then dragged its arse across the blanket to wipe it’s butt clean. I suppose it seized an opportunity to wipe it on something smoother than the sharp grasses around here or as ineffectual as the sand. Can’t really blame the bugger, I still chased it though. The blanket went straight in the wash when we got back to the cottage.

Dolphins

One day, on our way back to the cottage from our morning constitutional we were greeted by a lone dolphin swimming just off shore in the small lagoon protected by the rocks.

Dolphins came to visit us

It was amazing, I only had my wide lens that day so the pictures weren’t too detailed but this was nothing compared to what happened later in the week.

As I mentioned previously we occasionally brought the WiFi hotspot with us and worked from the beach for a while during the day, to get some sun as well as jump in for a swim now and then.

On my way to the office
On my way to the office

This was part of our transition activities to try and get into new ways of working instead of sitting in an office all day. Anything was possible now we are Vagabonding. After first spying the lone dolphin we’ve been keeping an eye out for it’s return. This particular morning we looked up from the work we were doing in the shade of a tree on the beach we’d parked ourselves under to see a dolphin fin gliding above the waves, then another and another. A pod of dolphins had come in close to shore. Jenni ran into the sea while I grabbed the camera and started clicking away trying to get a picture of the event.

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Jenni swimming with wild dolphins

There were about 10 or so dolphins, including some young ones. They were traversing up and down the shoreline looking for fish to eat. Jenni managed to swim up really close to them and they didn’t seem to mind at all.

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Dolphin catches a fish

They were leaping out of the water and seemed to be riding the surf sometimes, I swear they were playing but they were probably just feeding. It was a fantastic experience seeing these remarkable creatures in the wild. An experience we won’t forget. We set of on this Vagabonding journey seeking new experiences and in our first week we got a cracker. We named this our first “Vagabonding Moment”. We’ll be keeping a record of all of these extra special moments as we continue on our journey.

Snake

Looking out the window of the cottage one day I spied a movement in the grass, a long, thin green snake was wriggling along the ground just outside the window. I’m from Ireland and one of the things Ireland is famous for is that it has no snakes, thanks to St. Patrick if legend be believed. I called Jenni over, pointed to the snake with shaking finger. “Snake!!” I said is a slightly shaky voice. “That’s just a green tree snake” she says dismissively and walks away. “THERE ARE SNAKES IN THE TREES AS WELL!!!!” I not so, calmly responded. There are trees everywhere around us, we’re surrounded by National forest, there are even 2 trees you have to walk under to get to the cottage. Up to that point all I knew about preventing being killed by a snake in Oz was stay away from the long grass. Now I have trees to worry about as well. A bit of googling later I discovered green tree snakes are harmless, non venomous and just stink all over you if they are scared.

Minnie Water General Store

Turns out Minnie Water has a store, it was either 1.7 kms to it along the road or 1.1kms along the beach from our cottage. The shortest distance is one of the most beautiful walks to any store ever.

Minnie Water General Store
Minnie Water General Store

We went to the store to top up our food and drink supplies. The store reminded me of an old wild west store from the movies. It’s the sort of place that sells surfboards and sunglasses, magazines and merlot, tent pegs and tomatoes and everything in between.  Their web site says they open at 7 “ish” and close at 5 “ish” and they even have a fast food cafe that serves food between 11 “ish” and 3:30 “ish”. The “ish” was obvious as soon as we got there. Two young fellas in front of us were handed a huge take away box with about 7 kgs of real potato chips, sweet potato chips, meat pie and gravy. It was the most unhealthy and delicious looking tray of food and that was about 4:30 “ish” well past the food serving time. I’ll bet the lady fired up the kitchen just for the fellas. The young guys went away happy and the owner looked happy they were happy. Minnie Water is a real happy place. We were looking for some fresh produce but the supply in the cool cabinet  was very limited. When we asked the lady owner said “I can do you a tomato, maybe an avocado and I think I have some salad leaves left I could put in a bag for you.” She disappeared out the back and came back with her hands full of the fresh produce. I surmised it was all stuff from the cafe left over from the day.

The General Store also has tiny corner set aside as a a bottle shop. There are 2 fridges with cold beer and white wine. In the red wine section, not in the fridge, you could get Merlot or Merlot. When we asked the lady if she had any other reds she said they were getting some more in tomorrow and there was an especially good Rioja coming. We said we would come back next day and she handed us our stuff laughing at the difference between our healthy food parcel and the previous one. It takes a great store to cater for all types of customers and I’d say this one did a great job. The next afternoon I strolled up the beach to the store, procured the 2015 Rioja and a 6 pack of Cooper Sparkling Ale and happily walked back along the beach back to the cottage. What a life and what a great place to live.

These colourful chairs were set up, presumably by a local, overlooking the beach and the sea.

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Minnie Water Observation Post

Alien Writing

The first morning walking along the beach we came across hundreds of strange lines in the sand, like some sort of alien writing.

Alien Writing
Alien Writing

They were everywhere, long lines, short lines, strange scrawls the length of the beach.

Discovered they were being drawn by these little shelled creatures. Still don’t know their names but the marks they make are quite beautiful.

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Around the point

On Friday we took some time off from working to explore around the headland. Minnie Water is on a rocky promontory, with a beach to the south and a beach to the north separated by the aforementioned rocks and surrounded by Yuraygir National Park. The park is 55 kms long and and has hundreds of kilometres of bush walks to explore. We decided this particular Friday to ignore all the walks and walk around the rocks of the headland from beach to beach, a path less travelled.

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The rocks are sharp granite looking mottled with sandstone layers and a bit treacherous and we took our time and picked our way around them. After about 15 minutes we successfully made it around the first headland and found a remote and isolated little cove with a rocky beach. After fantasising for half a second that very few people would usually set foot on this beach I spied, at the end of the beach,  the steps leading up to a car park. Anyway it was deserted and secluded and quite beautiful, well worth the effort getting there.

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Rocky beach

At the end of this small cove was another rocky headland and we courageously decided to make out way around this also. This proved to be a bit more tricky as the tide was coming in quite fast.

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The tide is coming in

We didn’t know what was around the headland or if we could get out of it or even if we could get back with the tide coming in so fast, but onward we went anyway. So we didn’t drown, just in case you were wondering, instead we found another little cove, but his one had no steps down to it, it was truly isolated. Nevertheless we were surprised to find a discarded plastic fast food carton washed up on the beach.

Plastic waste on the secluded beach

Jenni and I both work in the sustainability sector and try at all times to preserve and not pollute. This sort of waste is unnecessary and very damaging to the environment plus it also looks shit washed up on an otherwise beautiful beach. Now we hadn’t seen any other waste on any of the beaches we had been on so I presume this was washed up from being discarded somewhere else which is actually worse. Plastic just doesn’t go away, there is no “away” for plastic products, they never disappear, that’s why we try hard not to use plastic and never for single use purposes. Protect and preserve and don’t pollute. We, of course, picked it up along with a straw from a drinks carton and another plastic container. I’d encourage everyone to do the same.

By this time the tide was in too far for us to go around the rocks of the next headland so we went up and over. It seemed to be a well trodden track we were following.

The cove at the end of our journey
Jenni’s Cove.

What greeted us was a most beautiful little cove I named Jenni’s Cove. Australians have a tendency to name things quite literally so this coves given name was probably Round Beach or Hard to Get to Beach or Small Beach. Jenni’s Cove is better.

The beach and the view was beautiful, whatever it was called. Minnie Water never ceased to delight no matter what we did or where we went. We followed the path we had clambered up into the trees and it took us to a short dirt road and then another tarmac’d road which turned out to be Grevillia Parade. We were at the end of our street just 5 minutes from the cottage and it had taken us 45 minutes the long way round.

Final Night in Minnie Water

On our final night we took a drink down to the beach to watch the sun go down. We watched the fishermen and women come back to the shore with their catches at the end of the day. Every day we were on the beach we saw several locals set off in their tinnies, small aluminium hulled boats, for a days fishing.

Fishing from a tinny

We also saw an inordinate amount of pelicans and seagulls around the same place each night. Every time on of the boats would pull up the pelicans flew from their perches on the rocks surrounding the lagoon to the beach hoping to get some fish scraps from the fishermen. They are just magnificent looking when they are in flight.

Pelican hoping to get a snack from a fisherman

Overhead another magnificent bird, a large sea eagle glided back and forth along the beach looking for food. Not sure if it’s called a sea eagle or not but it looks like an eagle and we were by the sea. We saw it dive to the ground around the rocks we clambered earlier and return with its dinner in its claws.

Is this a Sea Eagle?
Is this a Sea Eagle?

As happy and contented as the sea eagle we left the beach and went back to our cottage for the final night. The next morning we would be driving 363kms to the historic town of Wingham.

We loved Minnie Water, it exceeded all our requirements a hundredfold. We will be back.

Wingham, our next destination, is about 4 hours drive away. We intended to stop for lunch after about about 2 hours drive. We hadn’t picked a place and decided to use the force to find somewhere nice to eat and Jenni must be the Obi Wan Kenobi of this talent. On her hunch we turned off the freeway towards Yarrahapinni as we ended up stopping at the most fabulous Matt’s Cafe in Stuart Point. It’s right next door to the Yarrahapinni Hotel and Country Pub, resist going in there and go into Matt’s instead.

Matt's Cafe
Matt’s Cafe
Matt's Cafe
Matt’s Cafe

By this stage we were a bit hungry, we normally share a single dish between us, maybe with an extra side, but as we were a bit hungry we decided to have dish each. Jenni came back from ordering and said she’d felt a disturbance in the force when going to order 2 dishes so just ordered one dish between us as usual, the smoked salmon on rye, and a side of chips. What we got was a huge portion, more than enough for both of us a the quality was superb. This place goes on our Highly Recommended spot for lunch.

After this superb and generous lunch we ploughed on non-stop to another Airbnb find and our overnight stop destination, Linga Longa Farm. Well I say non-stop, we paused briefly in Wingham town supermarket and bottle shop for some vital supplies of course.

The reason why we stop so often is three fold, we don’t have enough room in the car for a large amount of groceries or a stack of beer and wine, also we don’t have refrigeration so food spoils quickly so we stop often and only get what we need for the day, or maybe 2 days at maximum.

At Linga Longa Farm we were met by the owner Lauren who, along with her husband Greg run the farm. They breed Hereford Cattle for sales at farmers markets in Sydney and also have 3 dogs, some chooks and some guinea fowl. Their place was beautiful and Lauren was very gracious. We had already decided we needed to catch up on some work so rather than look around the spectacular property as she offered we stayed in, worked a bit and fell asleep happy.

The next morning we were up before dawn and went out for a look around. I am glad I brought the camera as their place is in a very picturesque location.

Sunrise at Linga Longa Farm
Sunrise at Linga Longa Farm

It was a glorious misty morning, perfect for pictures like this. But anyone who takes picture know this light only lasts a couple of minutes.

This morning we were surrounded by wildlife of all kinds.

Rozella
Rozella
Evil Birds
Evil Birds
Crane warming herself in the morning sun
Crane warming herself in the morning sun

And of course the cows, Herefords. Lauren took me round the farm when she was checking the cattle. The herd looked fit and well fed and were very friendly and happy.

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There were many lively young calves. This young fella was only a week old.

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We met Greg, Lauren’s husband, who was about to take the dog Dexter for a run around the property.

Greg with Dexter the Dog
Greg with Dexter the Dog

Dexter sits on the front of the quad bike while Greg does his rounds.

Lauren and Greg were such a lovely couple and Linga Longa farm was just beautiful I hope we get to stay again but it was onwards for us, to Newcastle where we are meeting some clients next week.

I’ll cover Newcastle and the Sydney leg in the next blog. Meanwhile here’s a picture I’ve just take on my phone from the window of the apartment we are staying in. So far Newcastle looks very interesting.

Hang glider over the Newcastle Beach
Hang glider over the Newcastle Beach

Till next time

Jim and Jenni

 

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