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Port Macquarie

By Simon Bayliss

The drive to the coast from Tamworth was sensational, especially through the beautiful mountain forests of Cottan-Bimbang National Park and then the descent to the coast.

Our stay at Port Macquarie for the next few nights is at the Leisure Tourist Park about 5km up the Hastings River from town.

So much to see and do in Port Macquarie and things got quickly underway with Macca leading the way, almost unassisted, through the Maze at Bago Vineyard. While he may not shine as a maze guide, he was pretty spot on getting to the cellar door for all to learn about and sample some quality Bago wines.

The next adventure was a visit to the Billabong Koala & Wildlife Park, which is passionately run by Mark Stone and his family. A very animal-friendly operation that not only displays some amazing animals but Mark’s efforts to help endangered species and breeding research with many charities supported by the zoo.

On the last day in Port Macquarie, Macca and Robby serve up something special which is a hit with everyone… Burrata with Caramelised Figs!

Next stop, Byron Bay. With such a long drive ahead, the vanners head off to make it before last light while the rest of the group drop in a line with Port Macquarie Fishing Adventures, a very early start but well worth the effort, especially for Marc Almeleh who bagged the catch of the day by bringing in a 5kg Snapper.

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Byron Bay

By Simon Bayliss

The drive to Byron Bay was long and nice for most of the way, dual carriageway, but the Woolgooga to Ballina is still the old single lane road; but a lot of works along the way is a great sign this section of the Pacific Highway will soon be dual carriageway all the way to the border. Much overdue and will make the drive a lot safer.

When on the coast, it is best to hit the water, so Robby and Marc lead most of the group to a cruise along the water from Ballina to Byron Bay with Out of the Blue Adventures. With perfect weather, we cruised north spotting a couple of pods of Dolphin, stopping every now and again for a very informative chat by the operators on not only the marine life but also the geology and indigenous history of the coast. A wonderful 2.5 hour return trip.

While Macca did a trip to the famous Byron Bay lighthouse, those thirsty from the water adventure up the coast did not have to wait long for some refreshment as the next port of call was the Stone and Wood Brewery, a famous Byron Bay boutique brewer of some amazing ales.

With the last day upon us, Macca and Robby are up early to cook breakfast for the group and on the menu is a wonderful omelette with sizzling bacon and chorizo on some local sourdough toasted in the cooking fat.  Thumbs up all around.

The big event for the day is horse riding with Zephyr Horses, a local business that specialises in horseback tours through the rainforest and along the beach just north of the Byron Bay beach. The great thing about Zephyr horses is that no riding experience necessary.

The two-hour ride brought out the cowboy and cowgirl in all the group, with some very sore muscles predicted for the drive home tomorrow.

Our time in Byron finished up with a group dinner at the iconic Balcony restaurant; sensational food with discussions about the highlights of the trip.

Great laughs, great memories and many new friends made… that is what travel is all about.

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Blackheath to Colo

By Simon Bayliss

Having all met up the night before at the Blackheath Glen Caravan Park, cast, drivers, and crew are up early and there is a palpable buzz of excitement among the group as we chat about the planned route on our first leg of the Blue Mountains to Byron Bay trip.

Joining Macca and Robby for the drive is Marc Almeleh from G&S Chassis/Austrail RV Chassis, Aiden Saggers from Vacationer Caravans who is towing a Rough Rider, Ron and Di Sinclair with the Billabong Drover, and photographer Simon Bayliss towing the Universal Explorer caravan.

No visit to the Blue Mountains would be complete without visiting Govetts Leap, one of the most well-known and majestic lookouts along the Great Dividing Range, so the team make the short trip from the caravan park to experience the view 180m above the valley floor.

With the obligatory photos taken, it is time to hit the road for tonight’s destination on the upper Colo River in the Hunter Valley.

The drive through the Blue Mountains via Bells Line of Road is spectacular with glimpses through the trees of the many valleys that traverses the Blue Mountains.

With Mt Tomah roughly halfway, it makes for the perfect place for a quick lunch-break as our accommodation tonight is under the stars and we want to ensure we are in a setup well and truly before sunset.

We arrive at the Bielany Campground, with plenty of time to setup and some post-trip entertainment from Macca and Robby preparing a Caprese Salad to accompany our post-drive chat around the campfire, which Marc nurtured to life with notable care and finesse.

Marc was not only a master of the flame but master of the grill as well with more than enough to feed the party of eleven.

After dinner, we were provided with some wonderful fireside entertainment when Ron broke out the guitar and took usual and some not so usual song requests for a couple of hours.

What a way to finish the first day!

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Colo to Tamworth

By Simon Bayliss

A beautiful morning greeted the team and it was time to break our riverside campsite and hit the road for the 350km trip to Tamworth, along Putty road then the Golden Highway taking in Singleton, Muswellbrook and onto Australia’s Country music capital.

The drive along Putty Road and then the New England Highway made for a wonderful route, with great variability to put the vans and vehicles through their paces and see how the G&S Chassis’ work under each caravan.

Travelling with Marc from G&S Chassis enabled thorough and regular explanation over the 2-way radios on the machinations of chassis design and suspension characteristics and how it affects handling; great to have such a knowledgeable person joining us on this trip.

With the sun getting low in the western sky we arrive at Tamworth and our perfectly located accommodation at the Paradise Tourist Park.

We all head into town for dinner and with lots to explore around Tamworth for the next two days it is an early night for all as tomorrow it is going to get a little country.

 

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Tamworth

By Simon Bayliss

The general consensus from the group was that Tamworth’s  main street would have to be one of the prettiest around. Some of the group did a bit of exploring before meeting up to experience the Tamworth Miniature Railway, which is located next to the botanic gardens at an elevation which provides a wonderful vista of the town, especially when aboard the tiny loco’s.

The inner child in all the group certainly came out as each took a turn.

Next stop was the Country Music Hall of Fame which, housed in a guitar-shaped building not far from the caravan park, provides a wonderful insight into the history of country music in Australia.

Everything from recording desks, clothes, instruments, and a vast array of nick-nacks relating to country music is on display.

The highlight is the relatively new section ‘Walk a Country Mile’, which features interactive touchscreen displays as well as displays of memorabilia.

Without a doubt, and the envy of others, the best highlight was the visit to The Workshop Kitchen at the Quality Hotel Powerhouse, where three times recipient of a Michelin Star Executive Chef, Ben Davies, showed Macca how to cook a $150 Wagu beef porterhouse.

Our last night in Tamworth had a musical flair was ventured down to the Albert Hotel to check out local up and coming talent performing at the Muso’s Jam.

Our time in Tamworth was great and now it is time it the coast and Port Macquarie is our next destination.

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