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Sunday, May 8, 2011

May 1–7, 2011 Port Stephens

I neglected to mention two of our highlights at Newcastle. On April 30th we took a water taxi/ferry Across the Hunter River over to Stockton just to see what is over there. Well, there isn’t much to see in the way of a town but there is a lovely walk along the beach leading out to a jetty that is completely formed of recovered ships that ran aground in this area. Stockton Beach and the Oyster Bank were notorious for shipwrecks. All along the walk are plaques identifying the name of the ship over which we trod, and the information gleaned from records of the ship, such as the type of vessel, the name of the captain, the date and circumstance of the wreck. It was a fascinating walk, and being so engrossed with the historic theme of the walk, before we knew it we’d gone several kilometers. Once again, it began to rain so we turned back to catch a loud reverberating sound replacing that of the wind and crashing waves.  Out of nowhere a couple of sleek racing boats sped by throwing beautiful rooster-tails in their wakes. What is this? We huddled underneath our jackets to watch the show. Apparently we had stumbled upon the time trials of the upcoming “Offshore Superboat Championships”. It was quite a thrill to watch these guys go airborne, jetting across the river and out across the bar into the ocean and back again. So loud!!! We realized we had better get out of here before we’re stuck in Newcastle until the races are over in a few days. This place is going to fill right up and the harbor will be closed to us.

On the morning of May 1st, as we are pulling away from the dock; Frank at the helm and me making the rounds on deck stowing dock lines and fenders, we get a shout from one of the “arms” (marina floating dock)…”Frank! Barbara!” We looked over to find Tomkat with Russell and Jan aboard waving their arms. They had come in to watch the races and yet neither of us had known the other was coming/going. We all blew kisses and vowed to stay in touch as we moved along the coast. Thankfully we got out of Newcastle before the race committee closed the harbor on us.

Our journey was fair, arriving Port Stephens’ Salamander Bay at 3:00 PM. Port Stephens is very large and within it are many bays, inlets, cruising, fishing and dolphin watching areas. It is so lovely that we motored around for a while before deciding to settle in. We grabbed a pink mooring buoy, which is complimentary to visitors for a 24-hour period and then went to shore for a walk along the shore.  Right away we noticed an abundance of beautiful birds all about. Literally hundreds of Rainbow Lorikeets, white parrots, large ravens and cockatoos danced about in the trees and screeched their little lungs out. Although beautiful to look at their screeching sounds like fingernails on a blackboard, so when you hear the combined chatter of hundreds of them you just want to put your hands over your ears! 

The walk we found all along the waterfront is extremely well laid out and diversely beautiful. They meander up and down through densely forested steps, along the beaches, through grassy and well-tended areas and literally through residents’ lawns right into small townships. We just took off and as we seem to do, later realized we were hungry and a little worn, so we stopped for a bite at a local fish and chips and then returned to Destiny.

Each day we did much the same – got to a new bay and then explored the trails on shore. One day we came upon a stump in a back yard absolutely covered with stuffed animals. 

Upon closer inspection we saw that they are a form of mushroom. We felt we were in an absolute fairyland of beauty.

On our return I began to notice tiny little feet imprinted on the walkway. Hmmm. It looked as though they were made from a stencil with either white flour or some sort of powder. Could it be there are Hash House Harriers in Port Stephens? We followed the trail for quite a long way, noting that at various points there would be two, three and sometimes four little feet printed together. Could these be Hash checks? I grew excited about the prospect of stumbling upon a HHH group here. We ended up going quite far beyond Destiny’s anchorage, up a very steep hill to one of the “points” before giving up and turning back. I “googled” Port Stephens HHH, but never did find out what that was about. Another mystery in the adventures of Frank and Barb.

Port Stephens is by far one of our favorite places to visit here in NSW (New South Wales), and we warmly embraced their little catch phrase or mantra: Port Stephens…P.S. I love you!

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