Overnight stays: Illaroo Camp Area, Minnie Water (2 nights); Brooms Head Caravan Park, Brooms Head (3 nights); Iluka Riverside Tourist Park, Iluka (2 nights); Reflections Holiday Park, Evans Head (3 nights); Wyatta, Tucki Tucki (2 nights)
When we were at South West Rocks, Loz stated casually that “our next stop will probably be Byron”. That was 3 weeks ago, and we’re still south of Byron – all part of the beauty of semi-retirement 😀.
Illaroo Camp Area
If you want unsolicited advice, all you need to do is not ask a Grey Nomad, because they’ll give it anyway. Our lovely nomadic neighbours at Illaroo were a beautiful old couple, eager to give us more tips than a topless waitress on a Friday arvo at a yellow-vested pub. We shouldn’t complain, as they were incredibly well-meaning, and we took note of everything they said, and plotted the advice on our map.
Our beachfront views continued at Illaroo Camp Area, towards the southern end of Yuraygir National Park, when a banging site popped into our peripherals just as we lapped and were about to give up and find another campground. Campsites can be hit or miss like this, as you just need to be in the right place at the right time to snag a site.
Goanna, goanna, go go goanna (sung like a woo-girl)
Shortly after pulling in we also spotted another neighbour keen for the view (below). I’ll say this in the kindest way possible: I reckon Loz is a reincarnated goanna from a past life. They each like as much sun as possible, and will go to great lengths for the best view possible, just like our scaly mate at Nullo Mountain.
Feeling hot hot hot
Despite the precious view, the days here were scorching hot, and the wind was more absent than the Russians in a US election. With a finite amount of water (so limited showers) and no power to run our a/c, swimming seemed the only respite. Or that would’ve been the case in the absence of the blue bottles who decided to arrive simultaneously. So sweating it out became our only option, even for Loz, the girl who doesn’t sweat. I had more than enough to share with her anyway 😓.
Thankfully, the heat was in-part broken by one of the best electrical storms we’ve witnessed on our second evening. Although we weren’t in the thick of it, it was enough to wake us and give us a show to remember – more lightning than I’ve ever seen, only seconds apart.
Two nights of roughing it in the extreme heat was tough, and we were seeking civilisation, especially after packing up in the wet after the storm. So we moved to Maclean in search of a laundromat to no avail, stocked up on groceries, and decided we’d spend a night at Brooms Head Caravan Park, just to get on top of things and do some washing.
We were so impressed when we arrived that we decided it’d be more than a laundry stop, we would actually stay 3 nights. There’s beachfront, and there’s Brooms Head beachfront. Literally metres from the water, an incredible find.
Brooms Head also provided some welcomed windy respite to keep us cool on our unpowered site.
It was here we came across our first neighbours also doing a ‘lap’; a lovely young family of five from Belmont. Liv was in her element and busting to play with the kids, of whom she invited to paint on the rocks while I fished for snags and Loz cooked up a storm. This family gave us hope that we weren’t moving too slow. They were nearing the end of their 5-month lap and said they never felt rushed along the way, and always stayed 2-3 nights at each place. Prior to meeting them I was starting to feel anxious about our speed, but now feel increasingly comfortable we can take our time.
Couples who plumb together…
On our final night, after finishing the washing up, I noticed the sink was draining slower than a few wombats lapping Australia, and started to throw all my white-collar handiman skills into practice – multiple tablespoons of Draino outta do the trick. Nothing, barely a bubble. Now the pipes were chocka block with water, just as Loz raises her head from her novel to ask, “whatcha doin, babe?” When I informed her of the predicament, she was like a bull at a gate, head first under the sink, unscrewing pipes like there’s no tomorrow. I guess this summarises one of the key differences between Loz and I; I like to plan, and Loz likes to JFDI (just effin’ do it). So here we were, a couple of wombats with the slightest of ideas between us, pipes-a-plenty, headlamps in full glow, trying to unblock a drain.
Despite our best efforts with detachments, chemicals, boiling water, and high pressure hosing, the water just wouldn’t budge. So we jumped under the WomBatmobile and tried to isolate the blockage, what and where could it be? We eventually identified where it was and did our best to detach the stubborn piping, no luck. Next stop, hacksaw, that should do the trick – fixing the sawn-off hose is future Loz and Davo’s problem. So we sawed, and low and behold, out flies a bunch of boiling water onto my leg, followed hastily by a bright blue full Chux dishcloth, wowsers! How the hell does something so large fit down the tiny sinkhole? Anyway, the blockage was freed and water was free-flowing again. We’ll fix the hose another time…
To Yamba or not to Yamba; that is the question. Yamba reminds me of a mythical place where seemingly every Tamworth family would venture in summer as a group. Loz and I had been there on separate occasions, but had very little memory of it, and couldn’t see any value in the hyper-priced caravan parks throughout town. So we decided on a day-trip, had some ripping fish, chips and local prawns, followed by a swim at the gorgeous crystal clear beach, the perfect andedote for the extreme heat.
Liv showed us here how her water confidence is improving dramatically; sticking in the water with me while we were walloped by waves. So much so that I, born to be in the water 24×7 had to call stumps and drag Liv out of the water (not literally, she just didn’t want to get out).
We figured we could get the best of Yamba at half the price by staying in Iluka, on the other side of the river. We snagged a great spot on the edge of the park, close to the playground and fishing spot on the river. Here, Liv’s rod proved lucky, with nearly all the (albeit small) bream caught coming from her inexpensive pink novelty sparkling rod and reel. Still nothing to feed the family though.
With winds whirling and clouds crowding overhead, we took advantage of Happy Hour at the local bowlo, packed to the rafters, no wonder with $3.50 schooners.
We also decided to try and fix the sawn-off piping we’d hacked to collect our blue Chux a few nights prior, and winged it with some local hardware purchases, and elbow grease, which seems to have not leaked again since. So handy 🔧.
When you travel, you’re always making decisions on whether to visit places or not. If we wanted to see all of Australia we’d probably need to take the rest of our working lives off, not just a year. And one particular spot we ummed and arghed about was Evans Head. As with all towns and villages worth visiting on the Pacific Highway in NSW, you need to go out of your way to get there, which increases the risk and annoyance factor if the place is a dud.
Thankfully Evans was an absolute gem, one of our favourite spots to-date; enough for us to decide on 3 nights, rather than the customary 2. The unpowered sites, of which we had decided on, are bang in the river, close enough to supervise swimming children from under your awning. And with one of the advantages of a motorhome being the ability to park onsite in any direction you choose (rather than a caravan where you can only reverse it in), we parked parallel with the river, allowing full awning frontage view of the water. The only downside was that we didn’t consider the fact that we were between two gigantic Norfolk Pines, providing enough shade to cover-up a Deputy PM’s sex-scandal, and block enough sun to leave us powerless for days, literally. Time to warm up the generator and give the BatMobile some daily juice.
Loz and I have discussed this regularly. When you park there are so many things, nah, too many things to consider where and what angle you should park. Wind direction & speed, sun exposure on fridge-side of van, proximity to potential falling trees and branches, and aspect to not blind you every time you sit down for an arvo drink. None of these factors can possibly align, so we have a general family rule that we will always pick view as the most important factor. And so far that hasn’t let us down 😄.
I’ve caught fish that have spent less time in the water than Liv at Evans Head. The beautifully clear, calm and warm water suited her swimming ability perfectly, and she swam like she would never be allowed again. This allowed us to not only play and spend quality time with her, but read, write, relax, and do exactly the things you would expect on holidays.
Fish on! Now what?
All the meanwhile, my appetite and addiction for fishing was rising with the tide, and I took every opportunity I could to use my new bike attachment (Loz has patented it as the DeeDub) to shoot up to the break wall and throw a line in. Finally, after cutting more lines (from snags) than Jordan Belfort (Wolf of Wall Street), I reeled in our first ‘legal’ fish, a 28cm Yellowfin Bream. I had taken my brother-in-law, Muz’s advice, following a few simple steps to catch bream, and voila, fish on. It was the most well behaved fish I’d witnessed, successfully de-hooking itself in the net, and keeping my hands clean. Not knowing what to do, I chucked it in a bucket of water and kept fishing, now I had a sniff of success…
With no more success, I headed back towards home, fish in-bucket, swirling around in a washing machine hanging over my left handle. Loz has become so accustomed to my lack of success that she had stopped asking how my fishing expeditions went, as was the case this time, and she asked me something about something as soon as I arrived. No time for that, what the hell are we going to do with this fish?! “You got one?!” So with all three of us now equally excited and confused, we agreed we were going to eat it for lunch, doesn’t get any fresher. Okay, so now what?
We Googled how to humanely kill a fish, but I was immediately turned off when the first video that popped up was some dude slamming a fish into a rock, Game of Thrones style. Hmmmm… A bit more research and we found RSPCA’s guidelines, which seemed simple enough to follow. But then what? Once it’s dead, it needs scaling, gutting, bleeding etc. This all sounds like a lot of work, so we eventually decided that would be for another day. So breamy Mcbreamface, now upsized to an esky tank, would live to see another day, as Liv and I set him back into the wild for what was most likely his most dramatic and lucky day.
Then we bought fish and chips from the Co-Op for dinner, haha.
Just so handy
Some people have it, and others don’t. I fall well into the category of not having any handyman skills whatsoever. I can change a lightbulb, erect Christmas lights, and hammer a nail, but that’s about as far as my white-collar hands will take me.
With our tails high after our plumbing success, I had been looking for jobs to do around the WomBatmobile. Two things came to mind:
1. Outdoor shower
We’d experienced some pretty hot days, and cold showers were doing the job, but en-route we were dragging bucket loads of sticky sand through the motorhome to get to the shower. Step in the outdoor shower; refreshing, accessible, and clean. I simply rigged up a few hose connectors and with the girls getting their haircuts, created the simplest of showers.
2. Awning wind protector
We had been through plenty of wind, and our awning doesn’t seem designed to handle much more than a 3yo blowing out candles, so constantly erecting and retracting the awning was a constant frustration.
In Iluka I spotted a couple of Grey Nomads with the same motorhome, who had reinforced their awning with some rope running parallel to the van, pegged into the ground. Seemed like a simple solution so we put it to work, with some new rope and occy straps, and the awning bunkered down and handles the howling winds with ease.
So far two from two, but it’s only early days…
When we were driving through the Waterfall Way, weeks ago, Dave Hanna, a mate from college whom we’d seen sporadically since, reached out with an offer to stay at his farm on the way north. With such a generous offer from one of the nicest dudes you’ll meet, Tucki Tucki quickly became a must-visit part of the trip, as we were trailing through the Northern Rivers.
But not before Bingo at Lismore Workers Club. Loz tried to include Liv and I this time, which was an almighty fail. Bingo just isn’t the fun I remember as a kid in caravan parks. It used to be all about the bingo lingo, and a bit of fun. But now it’s all fast and just too serious, too much so for poor Liv, who is just learning her numbers. I reckon that’ll be the last time we try bingoing as a family.
Dave and Jess live on a beautiful farm in the greenest country, a stone’s throw from Lismore. Cattle, pigs, bananas, mangoes, pecans, avocados; you name it, it’s there. And some native koalas for good measure too.
Add to that Penny (Liv’s age) and Jack, the 2yo legend, and we were in for a great stay.
Jess cooked the most magnificent roast pork for our arrival dinner, and we traveled to Eltham Pub for our second night. A great country pub in the middle of nowhere, perfect.
The kids played like they’d been best friends for a decade, while we caught up and reminisced with a Dave, and got to know the beautiful Jess.
We’re still not in Byron, and couldn’t be happier.