Tuesday, October 28, 2014

ROADTRIP 7: Yamba to Urunga (afternoon)

In 1972 my family moved from Bourke in NSW’s far north west to the small fishing village of Urunga. Dad worked for a bank, and this would be his first post as a branch manager. We’d been in Bourke for exactly two years, but my ten months in Urunga would be amongst the most fondly remembered times of my childhood.

Our time there started badly, with our furniture van crashing into a tree a few miles out of town, furniture and personal items spilling out of ruptured boxes onto the roadway. Worse, we found that our dog Lucky had so endeared himself to the van drivers that instead of being transported separately he had ridden with them in the front of the truck. When we arrived at the scene, Lucky was missing. That dark shadow lifted within the hour, with our discovery of him playing happily in a field with some local farmers.
Yamba to Urunga

For an eight year old, moving to the seaside has many pleasures. Greatest amongst them for me was the Urunga Boardwalk, running from the edge of the town at the mouth of the Bellinger River, nearly out to sea. In the intervening decades it has been rebuilt and extended, so that it runs for about a kilometre out to ocean sands.
Pelican guarding the start of the Urunga boardwalk
Our family would walk out here on many weekends, and on the return leg, Lucky would leap off the boardwalk and swim the last section back to shore. I caught my first fish here, a red leatherjacket (not a song by Prince).

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The estuarine waters have changed so much since I was a kid, moved by the reshaped sands and mangroves have become a major presence on the southern side. The white sandy floor of the river mouth provide the setting for extraordinarily vivid blues and greens.3-DSCF0624-626_stitch
Gustav by the water
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09-20141028_162929 (2) Munson on the boardwalk
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We dined that night in the better known town of Bellingen, just a few minutes up the river. We’ll explore it more tomorrow, as we have two nights in a cabin on the edge of Urunga.

Church St BellingenChurch St Bellingen

ROADTRIP 7: Yamba to Urunga (morning)

Big Banana
Another  short morning of driving, stopping only for important stuff like coffee, beaches and big bananas.

We stopped in Maclean first for coffee (pretty good) and then the highway carried us inland to  Grafton with its jacaranda-lined streets and almost uniformly lilac-coloured shop window displays.

I can’t remember which beach we stopped at first, Munson wasting no time in heading into the surf to greet a few board riders.
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Our second swim was at Emerald Beach, just north of Coffs Harbour where Munson got to play with a host of other dogs. I remember one woman saying that her small white dog “looked like something that came out of [Munson’s] bottom”.
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1-DSCF0566 (2) Gustav attempts walking on water3-DSCF0601 (2)
Third swim for the day for one lucky dog – after our stop at the Big Banana – was in Coffs Harbour, which had a big dog beach. We had a short walk around the town centre but it was blisteringly hot, with most of the shops now swept up into one central mall. Not much there to grab the attention of those passing through, so we kept on passing.

Monday, October 27, 2014


Munson heads for the surf
The rest of our country roadtrip is entirely coastal, with much shorter driving stretches so that we can try out random beaches as we go.

We started out with a quick trip into Byron for coffee, and then made a brief stop at Lennox Head for a swim. The surf was a bit too rough for enjoyment so we didn’t linger there and decided to try to get to Yamba for lunch and a lazy afternoon.

Ducati, one of Munson’s old playmates from Sydney Park lived with his owner Mary in Yamba now, with Mary running Caperberry Cafe there. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to reach Mary before our arrival and we had to make do with catching up over the phone in the evening.

I established that there were at least two dog friendly beaches on hand; the first one we tried was Wooli Main Beach where these first photos of Munson are taken. One small grumble from our coastal journey was the difficulty in locating the beaches where dogs were allowed. Council websites would list a number of beach sections relating to places that couldn’t be identified on a map. In a few cases when I asked locals where such and such a beach or creek was, they could only shrug. Dear Councils, please put marked maps on your website!
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From there we moved onto the more sheltered Whiting Beach in the mouth of the Clarence River.
Gustav & Munson on Whiting Beach
Gustav & Munson on Whiting BeachMunson whittling away the afternoon on Whiting Beach
YambaI’d had trouble locating dog-friendly accommodation near Yamba, and ended up booking a farm-stay back up the highway. Our quarters were a lot more luxurious than our previous experience of “farm stay”.

MacleanGustav at Maclean
We hoped to find something seafood-y for dinner but the dining options were limited around Yamba itself, with the much lauded Harwood Hotel restaurant being closed early in the week. We decided to try out some of the pubs in Maclean (one of the Scottish towns). While not auspicious from the outside, the Clarence (Bottom) Pub turned out to be a real find. Our meals were so good I found the window to the kitchen and sent my thanks directly to the chef.
Sunset on the Clarence River at Maclean

Sunday, October 26, 2014

ROADTRIP 5: Bangalow

Gustav gets a bit too used to having a back deck
Today was very much the lazy day. We spent the morning at nearby Bangalow’s monthly markets, a sprawling affair with less variety of wares than I expected. It’s like someone said “I can never have enough soy candles” and then everyone decided that this was a thing. Between those and the ubiquitous stalls selling “tree preserving” wooden chopping boards (?!), it was easy to miss anything else.

Dogs are not welcome at the market, so Munson stayed home.
In the afternoon we caught up with an old friend of mine, Michael who had been my next door neighbour in my first solo flat. He’s been up here for a number of years and hosts a local radio show or two.

I include the picture below as I was very impressed by the way this storm-snapped tree had toppled over and was caught by four other trees, wrapped around them like a giant paper-clip.
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More sunset watching, and appreciation of Craig’s great home-made pizza.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

ROADTRIP 4: Eureka & Byron Bay

01-DSCF0401In theory we’d be having a long sleep in this Saturday morning as we have nowhere to rush to, no far off destination to progress towards. In practice, the shaggy creature outside our bedroom window seeks our urgent participation in the local possibilities.

Did I mention that two schnauzers hold court here? Tiger and Jeddah are not wholly sure of how to treat Munson, but we are for a moment treated to a very Brady breakfast photo.
1-Byron Bay dog beach at Tallow CreekSwimming and coffee are at the top of everyone’s todo list. I’m confident we’ll find some good stuff in Byron soon enough, but that will be after Nick, Craig, Tiger and Jeddah take us to the closest dog-friendly beach. That beach is conveniently located near the junction of the Bangalow Rd and the local coastal trunk road. We park immediately off the road and walk down a long path crossing Tallow Creek, and moments later you’re on white sands and the Pacific Ocean beckons. Again, that’s the theory. Anyone with a water-loving malamute must allow time for said malamute to cruise around in the creek for a while before getting to the beach proper.
There is no doubt that Munson is just as happy in the salt and surf as he was in the creek. Munson begins his surfin' safari

Our time done here, it’s time to retrace our steps and – well why not skip the bridge, and simply swim across the creek? The wet trail back to the car indicates that Munson has retained enough water in his coast to lower the creek level noticeably.

 Munson crosses Tallow Creek  The malamute tide
It’s nearly twenty years since I visited Byron Bay, still recognisable but swollen with fancy shops and lots of backpackers. Off-shore winds whipping up the surf and sand make the town beach extremely unattractive for swimming, but there is a surf festival of sorts carrying on. Surfing legend Tom Carroll is signing copies of autobiography amidst a collection of tents that look like they’re about to be blown skyward.


Our attention is now directed to finding coffee, the Beanfinder app sends us off to Bare foot, a hole in the wall cafe in a side street which gets our thumbs’ up.

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After some idle shopping and lunch we’re done with Byron and return to our hosts’ hillside retreat. They suggested an afternoon cool-off at a local waterhole on Coopers Creek, which as they say, went swimmingly.
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The day concluded in theory and in practice with a fantastic home cooked meal, some table tennis and quiet thoughts as we watched the sun set over the valley. We conclude fittingly with Munson back on the stairs reflecting on his day.

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