Embarkation Day

Date: 17th December 2022

Why? You may well ask…

A few years ago I went on a cruise, it was not something I had ever thought about doing or was particularly interested in doing but this was a family affair, a celebration of my daughter, her husband and friend’s 30th birthdays. In the event it turned out to be better than I expected but perhaps not good enough for me to want to go again.

A combination of circumstance  this year made it look like I would spend Christmas alone, which, after the great debacle of 1971 when, for job related reasons, I spent Christmas Day alone eating a chicken the size of a sparrow and listening to John Lennon’s “So this is Christmas”, was not an event I cared to repeat.

A couple of months ago I started looking for Christmas holiday packages but was quite surprised to discover that they barely exist. I came across a P&O 10 day cruise that left before Christmas and returned after Boxing Day but when I tried to book there were no vacancies so I thought that was that. However a week or so later I received an email from P&O telling me of special cruise offers and to cut a long story short I paid for a balcony cabin with an obstructed view on this Christmas cruise.

I was only advised about a week before sailing of my cabin number together with a note to say that I had been “upgraded”. So here I was on yet another cruise set to sail with only a few weeks notice on Pacific Adventure. I was off to the south Pacific – visiting New Caledonia and Vanuatu on a very large ship indeed!

P&O Pacific Adventure

Getting There

No rush, don’t need to catch the train until after 9.30 so I watered my pot plants in the hope that they will survive until my return.

The train was late arriving at Central but still that is no worry the bus to White Bay didn’t leave until 1pm, there was over an hour to kill so sat down on one of the seats in the Grand Concourse and prepared to wait. Had only been there for five minutes when some fellas in Hi Vis and P&O shirts wandered by asking for people waiting for the shuttle bus. They said there were people waiting at stand 1 just outside the station so I wandered out. In fact there was one couple! But here was as good a place as any to wait.

The bus arrived after about 20 minutes and they loaded my case while I sat on the bus. At least it was comfortable because this turned out to be a long wait of nearly an hour and it was not until after 1.15pm that the bus finally left for the White Bay Terminal.

It got much worse…

On arrival at wharf terminal I dropped my bag at the baggage drop off point and joined the long queue outside the terminal building, this queue was slow but worse was to come.

When I finally arrived inside the building I was asked if I had completed the Verifly app. I had not, in fact I deleted it off my phone because it wouldn’t recognise my vaccination certificate so was useless. Because of this I was directed to a separate queue, this queue moved at a glacial pace and it took over an hour to get to the front, several times I thought of just going home because I was fed up with all this standing which was killing my back and walking was getting painful.

When I did eventually get to the front of the queue I was directed to a lovely lady (no complaints about any of the staff I encountered) who took pity on me, after examining my proof of Covid vaccination and RAT cassette she wrote a big P on my boarding pass. From this moment on I experienced no hold ups at all, every queue was bypassed and within half an hour I was on the ship. (A big Thank You to her)

They really need to do something about this initial queuing it was awful. No seats, no social distancing, just dreadful.

On Board

Once on board it was a matter of finding my cabin and waiting for my bag to arrive – finding a lift was the next challenge, I think the reception was on Deck 7 so I had to get to deck 11, the lifts were in great demand but eventually I did get to my deck and found my cabin. My pass key was waiting in the letter holder outside the door together with my meal times and the ship’s news paper.

My BalconyMy Cabin

I certainly had an unobstructed view of the ANZAC Bridge and the old White Bay Power Station from my balcony.

Pacific Adventure White BayPacific Adventure White Bay

The cabin was nice enough, the shower was tiny but quite useable so I watched the safety video when I was interrupted by a knock on the door it was my room steward telling me that I had to report to my Muster Station as soon as possible and that food was available at the rear of the ship.

Muster Station

The cabin had a double Australian power point as well as a couple of, what I presumed were US power sockets, so I wouldn’t need the double adapter I had packed just in case.

A hiccup

My bag didn’t arrive, eventually I found a note in the mail holder telling me it had been deemed suspicious and I needed to collect it from the library on deck 7 . After attending my Muster Station (waste of time that was) I went to pick up my bag, the girl asked if I had any alcohol or liquids in it (I hadn’t) and asked if I would open it which I did. She then said all was well and I was allowed to take it back to my cabin. Again a bit of a waste of time but so it goes.

Underway

By the time I got my bag back to my cabin the ship was moving and before I knew it we were travelling under the harbour bridge.

Pacific Adventure Leaving Sydney Pacific Adventure Leaving Sydney Pacific Adventure Leaving Sydney Pacific Adventure Leaving Sydney Pacific Adventure Leaving Sydney Pacific Adventure Leaving Sydney Pacific Adventure Leaving Sydney

As you can see it was a grey, miserable day and while it didn’t actually rain it always looked like it would.

The Evening

According to the timetable they provided my evening meal was in the Dragon Lady Restaurant. My meals are scheduled at a different restaurant each evening with different cuisine. Dragon Lady is Chinese, Angelo’s Italian and Waterfront is apparently modern Australian. I can change the venues but I will try each first. According to my schedule on Christmas Day I will eat at Angelo’s.

Dragon Lady was a bugger to find, it is on deck 6 at the rear of the boat BUT you cannot reach it directly because the theatre is in the way so you have to go to deck 7 to get past the theatre then down to the restaurant. I had to ask several times to be able to find it.

Pacific Adventure Dragon Lady Restaurant

It was a three course meal and pleasant enough, no complaints there, I had trouble hearing the girl waitress because she was wearing a mask and I am getting deafer but she was very attentive and the courses arrived regularly without any delay.

After the meal I had a look around the bars etc but I was pretty tired after today’s proceedings so I went to bed about 9.30pm.

Wauchope to Wollongong

5th November 2022

Distance: 498 Km
Fuel: 32L

The original intention had been to travel to Newcastle and complete the journey home on the 6th but it was only 11.45am as we approached the Newcastle turn off so decided to press on. In the end arrived home at about 2.50pm.

In the event it would have been perfectly possible to have taken the camper and saved a lot of money on accommodation but the forecast had been bad.  You are a bit cut off staying in motels whereas caravan parks are much more sociable.

Statistics

Total Distance: 1126 Km
Total Fuel:  109L
Av Fuel Price: $2.32/L
Motel Costs: $818

I would estimate that the same trip staying in caravan parks would have had accommodation costs of about $200 to $250, while towing would have used marginally more fuel, it is still a big difference.

Travelling up the coast is not my favourite trip normally I would have travelled inland but the flooding made this very difficult and I suspect those communities have enough on their plate without us adding to their problems. It is so long since I went up this route that I don’t think I recognised any of the route because previously it went through every little town north of Newcastle, for example the road around Bulahdelah was particularly dangerous. The road is much better now but the trip has lost something.

We went to see the Jacaranda Festival and Timbertown so it was a successful trip, the weather was particularly kind to us even the forecast showers never eventuated.

Timbertown

4th November 2022

Distance: 13 km
Fuel:

It was so cold last night, no idea why, had to turn the reverse cycle AC on to warm the room up.

Today was a trip to visit Timbertown, somewhere I haven’t been for 35 years. It turned out to be a very enjoyable day, even though it remained overcast the forecast showers never happened.

It has to be said the place is not what it was. However the staff were really nice and all rides were included in the entry fee. There was a terrific steam train which circled the park, every half hour, as well as horse drawn carriage rides and a tractor ride.

Timbertown WauchopeTimbertown Wauchope

I suspect the place is kept going by local school visits because there were three coach loads of children while we were there, they seemed to have a wonderful time with the gold panning and all the rides. Personally I always enjoy watching the the boilers and steam engines in use too.

At lunch time we visited the cafe next door and a had a very good toasted sandwich and coffee. When I was last here there was food served in the restaurant on site but that seems to be defunct now.

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For reasons I will blame on my total lack of any sense of direction I left the park travelling west so the satnav guided us back to town using back roads, hence the 13km trip when the park is only 2 km from the motel.

Grafton to Wauchope

3rd November 2022

Distance: 247 Km
Fuel: 27 L

Went for a walk early just for the exercise, it was a lovely sunny morning and there was no need to set off early as we only had about 250km to drive to get to Wauchope.

GraftonGraftonGraftonGraftonGrafton

The drive was mostly back down the route we travelled up on but instead of heading east toward Port Macquarie we drove inland to Wauchope.

Checked into the motel early and went for a walk into the town, quite a nice shopping centre with an IGA where we bought some snacks. It is a fairly typical small Australian town of about 7000 people.

Wauchope Motel

In the evening strolled down to Wauchope Country Club for a meal and a couple of beers.

Wauchope Clock TowerWauchope

The town has an RSL Club too but the Country Club was only a few minutes walk away.

Grafton–Day 2

2nd November 2022

Distance: 7 km
Fuel:

At 9am walked to the Post Office to buy some stamps. Was surprised to see it still using the original Post Office building, far too many have been sold off and replaced with a Post Shop in the local shopping mall.

Grafton Post Office

Set off in the car back to See Park but parked on the other side so we could get a better look and walk around the area. Yesterday we were on the side with a steep slope.

Grafton Jararanda Fesival - See ParkGrafton Jararanda Fesival - See ParkGrafton Jararanda Fesival - See ParkGrafton Jararanda Fesival - See ParkGrafton Jararanda Fesival - See ParkGrafton Jararanda Fesival - See ParkGrafton Jararanda Fesival - See ParkGrafton Jararanda Fesival - See ParkGrafton Jararanda Fesival - See ParkGrafton Jararanda Fesival - See ParkGrafton Jararanda Fesival - See ParkGrafton Jararanda Fesival - See Park

Even the colours of the flowers fallen in the pond looked interesting.

Grafton Jararanda Fesival - See Park

Also strolled down to the old Grafton Bridge which is always worth a look it was built in 1932 with a roadway built on top of the railway. Until I actually stopped in Grafton I thought it was the daftest bridge ever built, being very narrow, with steep and badly angled approaches at each end. I never realised there was a railway underneath because you cannot see the line from the road. It also has a pedestrian way each side on the railway level and the road supports have been decorated with modern art.

The new bridge now runs parallel but the old bridge remains in use for road traffic.

Grafton Bridge (1932)Grafton Bridge (1932)Grafton Bridge (1932)Grafton Bridge (1932)Grafton Bridge (1932)Grafton Bridge (1932)Grafton Bridge (1932)Grafton Bridge (1932)Grafton Bridge (1932)Grafton Bridge (1932)

After returning to the motel for a very late lunch went for a walk to see all the Op Shops, have a coffee, ice cream and buy more milk in the shopping town.

All in all it was a busy but entertaining day.

Port Macquarie to Grafton

1st November 2022

Distance: 248 Km
Fuel:

The highway has changed a lot since I last drove it maybe 30 years ago. It is a road that I have avoided like the plague preferring to go through New England and the inland routes. Now it bypasses every town on the way so is just like driving on the Hume Highway fast but pretty uninteresting.

Made a stop at a rest area to stretch the legs and have a sandwich.

M1 Going NorthM1 Going North

Arrived in Grafton too early to check in at the motel so went for a walk to the shopping mall which is virtually opposite to stock up with a few odds and ends. By the time the shopping was complete we were able to check in, fortunately have a room on the ground floor coincidentally right where the car was parked. If I stay at motels in future must remember to always ask for a ground floor room when booking, stairs are becoming a bit of an issue. The room was fine but pretty expensive.

Grafton Central Motel

After settling in drove to See Park which offers the best view of the Jacarandas in flower. It was just a quick drive round the tree lined streets, will spend more time on it tomorrow.

Grafton Jararanda FesivalGrafton Jararanda Fesival

In the evening discovered a nice looking Indian Restaurant within walking distance of the motel so visited and had a really good meal there.

Indian Cottage Restaurant

Wollongong to Port Macquarie

30th & 31st October 2022

Distance: 502 km
Fuel: 42 L

This is just a short trip to revisit the Jacaranda Festival in Grafton and to get out of the house.

Not an exciting start to the journey, have to go through Sydney which is hell at any time. Normally I would avoid the coast road and go inland through Tamworth BUT the floods have made that difficult so for the first time for decades  am heading up Highway 1.

The other change also brought about by the flooding I am not taking the camper because mud is no fun so am staying in motels, am already regretting this decision. However it is only for a week so not the end of the world.

Wallsend (Newcastle)

Stayed at the Ibis Budget Motel, very similar to the Tune Hotels in Asia, small rooms – 300mm between the end of the bed and the wall – but perfectly adequate and clean with pleasant staff. Newcastle is so close to the resorts of the central coast, motels generally want an arm and a leg for you to stay but there must be less demand to stay in Wallsend because it was a reasonable price.

Ibis Budget Motel, Wallsend

It is a few minutes pleasant walk though a park to Wallsend Shopping centre with everything you need.

Wallsend Park

Port Macquarie

A very uninteresting drive with one stop on the way where we had a sandwich watched by curious birds.

Random Bird watching us eat

Port Macquarie is a town I last stayed in over 30 years ago, the motel was one near the highway rather than in Port Macquarie itself, it was very quiet and clean but a long way from anything.

Major Innes Motel Port MacquarieMajor Innes Motel Port Macquarie

Drove into town to get some fuel in the late afternoon.

Temora to Wollongong (Home Again)

8th June 2021

Distance: 416km
Fuel: 41L

It was not going to be an early start but in the event we packed up for the last time on this trip very quickly. Originally I was going to carry some of Katie’s excess baggage as far as Yass then hand it over to her but she got it all in her car and we decided to make Yass just a lunch stop.

Leaving Temora Campsite

We had a leisurely lunch at Yass before going our separate ways, she to Canberra and me to Wollongong.

Temora to the Hume HighwayBack on the Hume Highway

Trip Statistics

Time Taken: 17 days (plus a couple of days in Canberra)
Total Distance
: 4473km
Total Fuel: 464L
Fuel Consumption: 10.4 litres per 100km
Average Fuel Price: $1.42/L
Cost of Accommodation: $514 (that was just for me)

It was a really enjoyable trip, travelling with adult kids is a very novel experience as was travelling in convoy. I was very glad that I bought a new jumper and puffer jacket before I left but I did get used to early nights and mornings because of the cold, the temperature plummeted as soon as the sun went down. The camper was very easy to warm up with my new 400watt heater from Amazon. The night skies in the bush never cease to amaze me, there are just so many stars.

The only fly in the ointment was the need to plan ahead and book camp sites at least a day before, this is something I have never had to do before and while it is not a deal breaker it has got me rethinking my travel arrangements.

Covid has certainly changed people’s travel, the number of caravans on the road has noticeably increased and the number of brand new ‘vans in the parks is also an obvious feature as is the lack of backpackers.

Thanks to Katie and Andrew for accompanying me, it was a great trip and one I had been wanting to do for some years. The next serious trip is to once again attempt the Oodnadatta Track – I have tried three times before but each time it rained just before I arrived and the roads were closed. I have to be honest I have never had any ambition to attempt the more serious journeys like the Gibb River Road, or even the Birdsville Track. but I still enjoy camping and travelling no matter where it is.

The Route

Where we travelled – for some reason the Cameron’s Corner section is wrong (blame Google) because the corner (G), is, for obvious reasons, right in the corner where the NSW, SA and Queensland borders meet.

Dubbo to Temora

7th June 2021

Distance: 325km
Fuel: 33L

This is where we say farewell to Andrew (and the doggie) who has to return to Sydney for his work, We only have one more day left of our trip too.

Dubbo Katie's set up

It is possible to drive from Dubbo to our respective homes in Wollongong and Canberra but it is a long drive so we decided to drive to Temora and go home from there.

This morning was cold though not as cold as yesterday so we all had a late start, Andrew left by 8.30am but Katie and I didn’t get away until after 9am.

It was an easy drive through undulating country, quite different to the Outback.

Arrived in Temora just after 1pm to an almost empty caravan park. It is one of those council run parks where you pick a site and a council worker/caretaker comes round in the late afternoon to collect the money.

Temora

Once we set up we wandered over to the Temora Aviation Museum, I have been several times before but it was Katie’s first visit and I think she really enjoyed it. Most of their planes still fly.

Temora Aviation MuseumTemora Aviation MuseumTemora Aviation MuseumTemora Aviation MuseumTemora Aviation MuseumTemora Aviation MuseumTemora Aviation MuseumTemora Aviation Museum

It was cold that evening.

Cold!

But the sunset was spectacular.

Temora Sunset

Looking at Dubbo

6th June 2021

Distance: 14.3km
Fuel: 33L

It was cold this morning, there was ice on everything, even the table has frozen dew on it. My car was covered in flowering gum nuts so later I made a point of parking a bit further over.

Gum Flowers

First visit today was to Old Dubbo Gaol.

Old Dubbo GaolOld Dubbo GaolOld Dubbo GaolOld Dubbo GaolOld Dubbo GaolOld Dubbo GaolOld Dubbo GaolOld Dubbo Gaol

After this we followed a part of the Heritage walk but to be frank it was one of those with a sign showing a beautiful old building which was replaced in the 1950s by a particularly ugly Coles supermarket. Not that interesting to be frank.

DubboDubbo

Because this was the last day with Andrew able to travel with us we decided that a nice meal was in order so a booking was made at the Commercial Hotel in the centre of Dubbo. It turned out to be a good choice – the meal was excellent and the staff very friendly. It was washed down with a couple of beers.