Uralba and Ballina
Jenni and I stayed in a lovely cottage in the middle of a forest in a place called Uralba. You can read a little more about it in the previous blog. It is a very peaceful place.
The weather had been sunny and warm for weeks. It was going to change soon but for the first few days at the cottage the weather was dry. Warm, sunny days and balmy starlit nights.
Sitting out by the firepit one night we saw flashing lights flying through the air in the forest. Fireflies! I didn’t know they existed in Australia until that moment.
I ran into the cottage and grabbed my camera, set up the tripod in the pitch black and left the shutter open for 60 seconds. The focus was off but I captured a glimpse of them. The yellow light trails are the flashing tails of the fireflies.
The Australian firefly is a male beetle that only lives for a few weeks and it’s flashing is a mating signal that it only exhibits for about 2 weeks. We were very lucky to see the spectacle.
As mentioned in the blogs before we try and get out and some exercise every day, if only for 30 minutes. The road next to the one we are in is called Forest Road, we walked that one day. It was a dirt road, not very long maybe 3 kilometres long, but I ended up with 20 pictures on our walk. There were wild banana trees growing at the side of the road, and a wild Jenni.
This old, overgrown, abandoned cottage was hidden in the trees. I wonder what it’s story is, I bet it’s fascinating.
Thick snake like creepers encircled trees creating organic art.
We discovered, not surprisingly, the place was a Conservation Zone.
Eucalyptus trees, their bark shining in the sunlight, were all around us. Koalas live in Eucalyptus trees. We looked in every one we saw but there were no Koalas visible.
There were, however amazing banana flowers that I’ve never seen before.
But then that’s understandable, you don’t get banana’s growing wild in Ireland.
At the end of the road we found we were at the edge of the Uralba Nature Reserve. The path deeper into the Reserve was overgrown and obviously not used often so we didn’t go any farther.
This ancient wooden sheep crush, built from logs and rough cut timber, stood guarding the end of the path.
In case you don’t know a ‘crush’ is a device to get animals into a trailer that don’t want to go.
At the other end of Forest Road you will find Duck Creek and more fields full of Sugar Cane and Banana trees.
Uralba is a very fertile and interesting place.
Broadwater Beach Picnic Area
One time we went to Broadwater Beach Picnic Area to work for the day.
It was a beautiful sunny but blustery day. We had the place to ourselves, and worked on the picnic benches for the day. Jenni cooked lunch on our picnic stove and we ate it in the picnic area. It was one of those vagabonding moments as we like to call them.
On the way back to the cottage after we had worked for the day we stopped at the impressive sand dunes at Broadwater Beach. It was VERY windy and the dunes were spectacular.
In the distance the Broadwater Sugar Mill pushed out smoke, processing the sugar cane that grows all around.
Uralba is just 15 minutes drive from the coastal town of Ballina. Amongst other things, Ballina is famous for a couple of features, the Big Prawn and the Lighthouse.
The Big Prawn
Originally unveiled in 1989, a 60 tonne concrete prawn, head only, sat on top of the West Ballina transit centre and restaurant. It was a big tourist attraction. But in 2009 it fell out of favour with the locals and had fallen into disrepair and was badly vandalised. The local council approved it for demolition, idiots! Then Bunnings, an Australian DIY giant, bought the plot the Giant Prawn was on to build their new store. They gave it a $400,000 makeover and added a tail and mounted it at the entrance of their new store in 2013. The store is very busy. I had to wait 15 minutes to get a picture without a car in it coming or going into Bunnings.
The Ballina Lighthouse
The correctly named Richmond River Light was built in 1879. It looks like this on a normal day. Without Jenni hugging it of course.
The first day we visited it was sunny. The next time we visited it there was a thunderstorm. The light was amazing, I risked getting the camera soaked to take this picture, but the light was so good I couldn’t help it. I sheltered under a tree with the camera under my raincoat then jumped out quickly to snap this one shot of the lighthoue against the storm clouds.
Photographers love storm clouds, there’s another picture of them later in this blog taken in Sydney.
Someone has been Crochet Bombing the concrete blocks along the breakwater.
A guerrilla poet adorned this one with some thoughtful prose.
Ballina sits at the mouth of the Richmond River and the Burn’s Point Ferry takes the good folk of Ballina across it between West Ballina and South Ballina for just $4 a trip.
As we have travelled around we have seen a wide variety of novelty post boxes. I read there’s a Dalek one somewhere. I tracked it down to a farm outside Tenterfield but I subsequently read it was sold and relocated in 2015 and its location is currently unknown. However, near the place we were staying there was this interesting beast of a post box.
Someone put a lot of work into this.
Ballina has a craft brewery, Seven Mile Brewing.
I had a very acceptable Pale Ale but it wasn’t the best Pale Ale I’d try in this blog. Spoiler, it’s from the Black Duck Brewery.
On one of our coastal walks one day we walked along the beach and found Flat Rock.
A lot of seagulls had found the place first.
The rock pools contained a multitude of fishes and other creatures. One of those unknown creatures leaves the these intricate patterns in the sand in the pools. More alien writing I presumed trying to communicate with the land people.
The wildlife was all around. This bird, don’t know what sort of bird it is, sat picturesquely on a rock watching the weird pink creatures learning how to stay standing up on planks in the water.
Whilst some people were learning how to surf others were surfing all around.
I took some, what I thought were atmospheric studies of them. By atmospheric I mean in black and white.
Belinda, who ran the AirBnB, said they hadn’t had any rain in the area for nearly 5 months and her water tanks were low. However rain was due this coming weekend and Belinda was hoping the rain would be enough to fill up the tanks a bit. As it turned out the rain was torrential and lasted 5 or 6 days.
Belinda’s water tanks were filled to overflowing by the end of the weekend. It was during this storm I got the Lighthouse picture displayed earlier. The rain lasted nearly a week.
We left Uralba during the thunderstorm and drove towards Sydney in the rain.
We had a pit stop for refreshments in Tynedale at the Plantation Organic Bakery.
Next door to the bakery was this white gleaming motel with some very ornate columns.
We were scheduled to stop, after 4½ hours driving, in North Haven on the coast just south of Port Macquarie. We had stayed in Port Macquarie on the way north so we planned to stay in another location on the way back south. North Haven was chosen using the usual method of moving Google Maps up and down until you see somewhere else that looks pretty interesting. North Haven looked pretty interesting on the maps and in real life, it is actually very interesting.
North Haven is a small, relatively untouched village, on the coast south of Port Macquarie. Although the pictures feature a sunny outlook, the rain only stopped and the sun only came out for the 2 hours we took a walk this day. Before, after and all the rest of the time it was thunderstorms and lightning.
We were staying in an apartment with a delightful outlook over a river called Stingray Creek. If I ever start a rock band that’s going to be it’s name. It must be a very fertile creek judging by the oyster farms, plethora of bird life, fishing boats and jumping fish we saw. In fact it was an idyllic location.
We walked from the apartment along the riverbank towards the beach, stopping every so often to check in with work. We were in the middle of a large project at the time.
You can see from the pictures we brought our laptops and wifi hotspots with us so we could attend to our duties if we needed to.
A part of the river has been turned into a swimming pool for the locals.
The rocks, just above the waterline on the riverbank, were covered in what looked like oyster shells.
I presume they were escapees from the numerous oyster farms upriver.
The local authorities had installed this pathway, it was very popular with walkers and cyclists.
The path took us past some really pretty scenes.
At the end of this walkway is the mouth of the river and huge breakwater. This is where we stopped to get a selfie.
You can see the North Brother mountain in the background.
According to this that means the weather is fine.
Along the breakwater Jim Anderson’s permanent message bestows bad luck on anyone fishing who doesn’t buy bait from him.
On the way back we stopped for a late lunch at the Oasis Restaurant and Bar. As well as some delicious chilli prawns and pasta I had a Pale Ale brewed by the nearby Black Duck craft brewery in Port Macquarie. If you ever get a chance to try it, do. It was damned good, one of the best I have tried.
I have already mentioned the huge variety and quantity of wildlife we see on all of our walks. While we walked by the the apartment two native birds followed us and eventually stopped messing about long enough for me to grab a quick snapshot.
During our time in the cottage in Uralba we were serenaded every day at dawn and dusk by a merriment of Kookaburras. The delightful cacophony only lasted a few seconds. Kookaburras have a very distinctive call, like a thousand people raucously laughing in synchronised disharmony.
I have a recording here.
We drove 380 kilometres from Uralba to North Haven and the Kookaburras seemed to have followed us. Right outside the apartment window was a tree. The first night we were treated to another night time chorus coming from the tree. As the light dimmed I grabbed my camera, wound the ISO sensitivity up as far as it would go and tried to focus in the dark to get a picture of the birds.
From the noise they made I estimated there would be at least 50 of them.
There were 4.
They sure can make a lot of noise for little birds.
At night the river comes alive. Jenni and I sat on a bench on the river bank for a while that evening and watched the scene unfolding, it was more interesting than much of what is on TV. Dozens of Pelicans, looking like ghosts in the dark, floated up and down the river grabbing fish from just below the surface.
Two fisherman in a small boat fished under the bridge for a while.
By the looks of what we could see they were very successful that night.
All too soon it was time to retire to bed. We’re driving to Sydney the next day, another 4½ hour drive. The little glimpse of North Haven we witnessed made us decide we needed to return, and next time stay a while. It is one of those magical places.
It was Friday morning. The Kookaburras gave us our customary wake up call before dawn so we were up and away early. We had a client meeting in Sydney that afternoon and we wanted to beat the traffic.
It was still raining heavily on and off during the drive but we made it to the client without incident. The presentation went well and at 5pm we clocked off for the weekend.
We had planned to have dinner with friends Carol and Greg and Jenni’s brother Mark and partner Kathy. We were staying with Carol and Greg, who have a stunning view of the Sydney skyline from their top floor balcony. The storm clouds that had hung around all day were receding behind the lit up skyline. It looked like too good a picture to miss.
We had dinner at the Merton Hotel in Sydney. They had perfect Guinness and a range of delicious dishes not usual for a pub, all freshly prepared in house. I had Jamaican Jerk Chicken and Jenni had Fish Curry. Both were amazing.
I’ve covered the Merton Hotel before in this blog. It is well worth a visit.
Sydney was a pit stop, one night only. Our last destination on this leg was Kianga near Narooma which I have covered before in this blog.
In that blog we vowed to return and we did, we’re here. I am writing this part of the blog in our Airbnb in Kianga. I’m looking out of the window at the ocean. Just off shore I can see Montague Island. There are many pods of dolphins leaping out of the water and I can see the migrating whales slowly making their way back down to the Antarctic.
This will be where I pick up our Vagabonding adventure from next blog.
Till then, good luck and have fun, see you next time.