Monday, July 1, 2013

Sugarloaf Point and Tuncurry

1 July 2013

It's so hard to believe it's July already - we've been living on the road for 10 months, and having a wonderful time.  And somehow having winter in July just doesn't compute - while we know intellectually that the Southern Hemisphere is on an opposite seasonal schedule from the Northern Hemisphere, well, years and decades of experience and habit say otherwise.  Cold weather and sweaters in July just feels so wrong!

Plus it's still very green here, despite the cold.  I know, cold is relative - what feels cold to me feels balmy to a Minnesotan.  Around here, 60 F (15 C) isn't cold, it's just a little chilly.  The trees seem to agree.  

I think just as the trees have adapted to wet cold climates and retain their leaves, showing a certain toughness and hardiness, so too have the Australian people adapted to the cold wet climate.  We're wearing jeans, sweatshirts or sweaters, rain jackets, and closed up shoes.  We see all kinds of Australians running around in shorts, or tee shirts, or short skirts, and the ever-present flip flops - as if it's summer!  I suspect the harsh terrain and weather, where 3/4 of the animals are some of the deadliest in the world, has led to an attitude of toughness, grittiness, fortitude, even maybe a kind of machismo.  The Crocodile Dundee Syndrome, we could call it.  The unforgiving land, deadly animals, and weather that provides either droughts or floods has created survivors, people ready to meet the animals and the elements on their terms, people determined to win.

So, as a pseudo-Aussie these days, I braved the elements and the dingo-warning-signs and walked to the Sugarloaf Point lighthouse.  It was roughly a mile or so hike, through lonely and dense bush, dripping from all the rain, and cold (for me).  But a beautiful hike up and down the coast, with views of treacherous rocks and rushing waters and isolated beaches and dunes - and finally the lighthouse, pristine white and ready to shine its light and warn ships and sailors and pirates of the rocks.  I walked up, despite the clouds in the distance, and of course it began to pour.  Actually, I could see the rain coming, but by that time it seemed crazy to NOT go up to the lighthouse, after the hike in, and considering how wet I was by that point.  And, more of course, the lighthouse was locked.  I still walked up the stairs for wonderful views, although in the pouring rain I could only see in one direction - the one with the rainbow.  Perfect!

I eventually walked back down the hill and back to the car.  Somewhere partway down, my rain jacket decided it was only water resistant, and no longer waterproof.  Soon I could feel cold rain seeping across my shoulders, down my arms, and of course dripping off the jacket across my jeans.  By the time I got to the camper, I was soaked to the skin.  

The good part about having the camper is that my dry clothes were right there, so it was easy to dig out some dry clothes and change.  The bad part about a camper in the rain is that there isn't really any convenient place to hang wet clothes.  We managed.  And we drove onward, following the Lakes Road, weaving along peninsulas and bridges that make up the network of saltwater lakes along the east coast. 

We saw a wallaby family walking around the front yard of some house, complete with the joey poking his/her head out of the pouch.  Such fun to see the wallabies, no matter how many I see they are still exciting!  No dingoes, despite the signs.  No koalas, despite the quantity of gum and eucalyptus trees.  Just some wallabies, watching the cars go by as they ate the grass and bounced around.

We're moving northward slowly, trying to get behind this storm that hit us while in Sydney, and that has slowly been following us up the coast, heading to Queensland.  So we decided to just head up to the inlet that feeds the Wallis Lake complex, another of the great saltwater lakes along the coast.

There are two towns, Forster and Tuncurry, one on each side of the inlet and connected by a long long bridge.  We headed there and, after consulting our maps, decided to head to the Tuncurry Beach Holiday Park.  The campground is situated on the landward side of huge dunes, which lead to Nine Mile Beach.  

On another side of the campground is the inlet, with a long rock jetty to protect the mouth of the lake, and prevent shipwrecks - apparently a change in wind direction or sudden gusts, and ships would be blown out to sea or onto sand bars.

We went out exploring at sunset. Even though we were facing every which way except west, there still was a lot of color in the sky and on the water.  As well as numerous rain clouds, letting us know that this weather system was not finished with us.

We saw a bunch of people trying to surf (and they didn't seem to be in the area with the most waves, but they probably know something about the beach that we didn't).  My favorite were these two, a young couple, maybe even teenage, who seemed to be on a sunset surf date!  So romantic! 

After our walk across the dunes and back, we walked over to the local bowling club (lawn bowling, not bowling alley with pins bowling) for a little pokie time, just for something different.  There isn't a lot to do in a holiday park except hang out with other campers or hang out in our van.  And after a day of driving, even half a day, it feels good to get in a decent walk.

We're settled in now for the night, and will make the bed and make plans for tomorrow.  We may stay here and explore Tuncurry, we may move on.

Such is life when the plan is to not have a plan.

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