Days 189 – 196 (Dec 7th – Dec 14th) Up the east Australian coast from Sydney to Brisbane: Forster and Yamba

Collecting a hire car was easy enough but Tali being over 25 made being able to add her to the insurance a real bonus, so we split the driving up to Forster, a place Tali had got to know from her trip down a few days back. We stayed in an apartment complex with a tiny bit of a sea view but within walking distance of all the amenities of Forster. Tali took us on a walk along along the beautiful, if windy coast followed by a tour of the shopping street

On our last day we took a boat trip on the huge expanse of tidal lake behind Forster, primarily Wallis lake and Island. We had several dolphin sightings (inshore bottlenose dolphins), lots of pelicans and a couple of White-bellied sea eagles before returning to shore.

That afternoon we crossed the bridge to view 9 mile beach, a totally unspoilt section of coastline known for its good surfing but on the southern end you’ll find Tuncurry Rockpool, an enclosed swimming area nestled into the breakwater.

Presumably sharks are an issue here

That evening we went to the Kings Valley Eqyptian restaurant in Forster. The menu was middle-eastern, as you’d imagine, the egyptian element being provided by a few statues of pharoahs and an ambience lifted “directly from Egypt itself”. It was pretty good but the ambience thing needs a bit of work!

380 km up the coast is the up and coming town of Yamba, our next stop. We’d booked at a holiday resort within a mile or so of the town proper but on the seafront with easy access to the lighthouse and a couple of surfing beaches. On day 1 I walked to the lighthouse, via a very lively local market

The Aussies start early to avoid the heat so the place was busy already, with surfers, BBQs, shoppers, walkers and cyclists all out and about. As you might expect this is a very outdoor culture, even the tents are works of art in all the gadgets they bring with them to make living outside that bit much more comfortable. That afternoon we reverted to Butlins mode and played pool in the clubhouse, before returning for real home-cooked food on the BBQ, via the beach and hundreds, if not thousands of Soldier crabs

Day 2 Tali and I drove out to Iluka Nature Reserve and the rainforest walking trail, which starts in the town and ends on Iluka point, a great lookout over the east coast. In between is a section of rainforest which had a number of fascinating and new birds for our Aussie list. On the way there we stopped at Woody Head, location of a campsite in the Bundjalung National Park where Tali camped during her mid semester break. It is a stunning place and for a while I was sufficiently won-over to start considering taking up camping in Australia…….

Within minutes of returning to the apartment a few White-throated needletails flew over. These are swifts by any other name and are rarely seen low down, preferring to feed much higher up. However, low pressure preceding an imminent storm may well have forced their prey lower, a phenomenon which also occurs in the UK with our Swifts. There are only 3 Swift species in Australia, all of which breed in Queensland so just 2 remaining to be spotted.The approaching storm offered the possibility of interesting photo opportunities so we headed up to the lighthouse to find a couple of kangaroos strutting around the place.

At the headland, in stormy seas we watched teenagers jumping off the rocks, holding our breathes until we saw them resurface. I’m glad Tali didn’t want a go! There were surfers on several of the small beaches, some with lifeguards present (until 5pm clocking off time), after which the beaches emptied.

Day 3 we caught the ferry to Iluka, a 40 minute trip. We were entertained by the ferryman’s help, telling us of tales of having to kiss the mermaid in the harbour there or experience bad luck.

He pointed out a sunken boat to prove his point! It was an incredibly hot day so we strolled along the sea walk to the small town, just generally enjoying the sights and several species of birds in the surrounding rainforest. A bit of shopping by Andy and Tali and we returned on the ferry. In the evening, we were “forced” to drive to Yamba Tavern, a 5 minute drive away for dinner as everywhere else was closed. It was typical fast food but with a great view of the river.

Tomorrow it was time to move on to Brisbane.

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