It was sad to leave Coffs again, I had such a great time but I was heading through familar country albeit the M1 Motorway now bypasses all the towns as it powers its way to Newcastle and on to Sydney.
Headed south I deviated along the Macleay River to Bowraville where I relieved in the Bank for a few weeks. I enjoyed my time working here and it was familiar to see the old bank premises again. Of course like so many of the old banks it has been repurposed but still remains a landmark building in the main street. Many of the old bank branches now carry heritage listing.
I called into Port Macquarie and Wauchope when I had the hire car. Port of course has grown so much but still had the familar look. The headland overlooking the Pacific Ocean is still a drawcard. Wauchope was much busier than I remembered. For the 2 weeks I worked in Wauchope I stayed at a caravan park in Port Macquarie to save money. I had a blue Rx3 Mazda at the time with the rotary engine. A couple of days before I was due to finish in Wauchope I blew the engine up on the way to work. What a saga that was. I had the car towed into Wauchope. It was pretty much worthless in that condition and I couldnt afford the repairs. The only thing I could do was to trade the car in. I exchanged my sad looking RX3 for an old tank, a Morris 6. It was a beast of a thing but at least it moved. Well sort of. I only kept it for a few months because it used to overheat something cronic. I often had trouble starting it and on many ocassions I had to push it along the flat until I could turn down hill and get it started. It was such a heavy cumbersome thing that it was a real effort to get it moving in the first place.
When I finished my tenure in Wauchope it was a Friday afternoon and I had to wait until the Saturday morning to do the trade transaction for the Morris so I stayed in town the night. I went to the pub with a few of the people from work and it ended up a very messy night. I hadn’t found or booked accommodation for the night and I ended up going home with some random girl. It is the only time in my life that I asked myself “I didn’t did I?” when I woke up the following morning. I think I swore off drink for a while after that.
Next stop was Kempsey which was very much a bustling town despite being now off the highway. I used to spend a fair bit of social time in Kempsey and used to have regular church group camps here when I was 14 to 16 years old. We used to camp in the Presbyterian Church hall. The church building is no longer a church, it has been divided up into about 3 shops. Woolworths Shopping Centre carpark has all but devoured the church grounds. I can recall on one such camp a few of us boys “kidnapped” one of the girls, Heather McGill in her sleeping bag and carried her out to the medium strip in what was then the actual Pacific Highway and left her tied up there. It was about 5.30am Sunday morning and a Police car just happened by. The coppers thought it was a bit dangerous to leave her there but they could see we were just having a bit of fun. Our Youth Group leaders were not so understanding and we were all given a stern talking to when they found out what we had done under the cover of darkness.
Just south of Kempsey I called into the Slim Dusty Centre (see Bucket List #43) and then stopped overnight at Taree Showgrounds. It was very wet and muddy but they had a night food market happening so that saved cooking in the rain that night. There were about 10 different food vans with food from every nationality. Despite the inclement weather it proved quite popular. It had been postponed from the previous week due to heavy rain. Taree of course has grown although not as much as the coastal towns do.
The next day I headed to the twin towns of Forster and Tuncurry. At one stage I worked at Forster and I stayed with mates in Taree and drove out and back each day. The first day I was headed to work there was roadworks and I came across a guy holding a stop sign. When he turned around it was a guy I knew from youth group days and we had a good chat. From then on each morning he would either chat or he would rush me though depending on if I was early or late for work.
Forster was a hive of activity. Being now school holidays it was packed and apart from taking a photo of the where I used to work, I kept on going along what they call “The Lakes Way”. This scenic drive brings you back out to the highway at Bulahdelah. From here it was along the Motorway into Newcastle where I caught up with a mate that I met while on the road north of Geraldton in Western Australia and also saw again at Daly River when I was in the Northern Territory. He has been stationary at Newcastle for a while and had brought a little runabout car so we went for a drive and he showed me all over Newcastle and pointed out some great camping spots by the river for future reference.
Just south of Bulahdelah was a Driver Reviver Stop manned by the Bulahdelah Lions Club members. I stopped here for a while to get something to eat and drink and had a good chat with them. The club also run a donation camp for travelers in the Bulahdelah township but due to Covid that has been closed all year. The parking was established to help keep the town going after the Motorway bypassed the town a few years ago. It was a great drawcard and brought much needed revenue to the town and to the Lions Club who in turn donate the funds back to worthwhile causes in the town. Hopefully they will be able to reactivate the overnight stop early in the new year. I was also able to buy a few of the Lions Mini Christmas Cake slices which I will enjoy on Christmas Day along with the off the bone ham I brought for my Christmas Day dinner.