Due to stressful and time gobbling jobs my cousin and I had little time to plan our road trip from Sydney up to the Central New South Wales (NSW) coast. We knew the time I would arrive in Sydney and our intended time of arrival at our destination firstly at Umina Beach, Gosford area then a few days later at Old Bar, Taree and the date we had to return the car. Our itinerary was sketchy and comprised of a mishmash of towns garnered from stolen work moments on Google.
The rental car…allow time for pickup
Our only bit of planning was almost derailed by a negligent car hire firm and chaotic Sydney traffic.
My cousin Chrissy offered to pick up the car from Bayswater Car Hire; yes, we would be driving around for nearly a week in car festooned with “No Birds” on the outside.
She noticed all the car windows were down but as the traffic outside was horrific and it was nearly closing time, Chrissy didn’t question the attendant who was handing her the keys. Within minutes of navigating out of the car hire building and back around to the other side of William Street Chrissy was assailed by a rank dog smell. Anyone who knows William Street at rush hour will tell you turning around was not an option. There was no choice but to go home and then pick me up later at the airport.
By mid-morning the following day, the little bit of sunshine, which shone in-between heavy downpours of rain, meant the dog scent had taken on an aroma rivaling any matured French cheese.
It was back to Bayswater Car Hire, while we exited in another car our spirits were as damp as the outside pavement after dealing with the blank faced and non-apologetic Manager.
Navigating out of the Sydney CBD, over the Harbour Bridge and then onto the Pacific Highway during a storm with the rental-car-blues was a recipe for disaster. Quick change of plans, parking found down in the back streets of Woollomooloo and we were in baking heaven, devouring a rhubarb and mascarpone tart; the pastry so thin and crisp it rivaled Carette, Patisseries et salons de thé.
Road trip essentials – food and maps …
The constant squalls bringing heavy downpours over Sydney and the unexpected departure delay meant I’d forgotten to stock up on road-food, but thankfully not water bottles.
Walking the Camino I was never struck by the need to eat “now” but on a road trip or sitting in front of a computer all day “now” is frequent. We were on the long and yes winding road up the Hawkesbury River heading for Wisemans Ferry. Somewhere between Mangrove Mountain and Spencer we entered a vortex; according to time and signposts we were covering only 10-15kms a mile. We eventually got to Wisemans Ferry, only to discover we needed to take the ferry across the Hawkesbury to reach the village, just in time to avert the h-angry state of being.
We stocked up on small bags of nuts, chips and chocolate at the local store. Before finding the local maps.
I can almost hear you say “who need maps when you’ve got apps” but if the plan is to avoid the motorway or main highway and explore the region then you can’t beat the old-fashioned map. Plus a visit to the local area information centre for maps and pamphlets on things to-do-and-see generally means you gleam a little inside knowledge on the region.
Before we discovered where exactly we were in relation to Umina Beach we tucked into burgers and chips at the pub next door.
Lastly, yes we did use the map app, very grateful for location finder on more than one occasion; off the beaten track the give-away maps are guaranteed to stir up my anxiety levels.
Thank goodness for USB sockets in rental cars and an eclectic playlist on an iPod or iPhone because sometimes karaoke is fun, other times you want to chill and if you’re overseas sometimes you want a little bit of home. Thank you, Nathan Haines for ticking two out of three boxes.
Crowded House sang, “every where you go always take the weather with you.”
Inside the car we were trying hard to drift into holiday mode, outside though the sky was multitude shades of ash to black grey and the recent text from my son said, “not a good time to be on the central nsw coast, hope you are guys are staying safe.”
It wasn’t the worst weather to hit the coast, that occurred the week before however, locals were worried the already swollen rivers would gather the upended trees near the banks, carry them downstream where they would catch on low bridges, causing road blockages and flooding.
As we left the coast road via The Entrance and joined the Pacific Highway a storm approached from the Tasman Sea; there was nowhere to shelter. The rain was too heavy to drive in, so we pulled in off the highway and Chrissy phoned home to catch up on family news.
The allure of the road trip I think is freedom…escaping the 9-5 cliché of city life and discovering new places, meeting new people, connecting with your travel companion and been set free for a few days. Simply… time to breathe…time to let magic flow in.
My magically moment occurred during an early morning walk along Old Bar beach. The beach like myself wasn’t looking its best, me from the previous evenings tasting session of Australian and New Zealand red wines, the beach from two weeks of storms. Further up the coast I discovered frothy pale caramel sea-foam stretched out like an unraveled bolt of raw silk. I was reminded of Princes Diana’s wedding dress; crumbled yet elegant. Then images of an art installation (1968-69) when Christo and Jeanne-Claude used one million square feet of erosion-control fabric and wrapped the northern cliffs of Little Bay, Sydney sprung to mind. My first sighting of sea-foam, lying stranded on a beach.