I started the day with a walk on the beach, all the way up to the headland. It was a bit calmer this morning and the sun was trying to break through the clouds. As I started back up the track to camp, Amelie came down the other way, so I went back to the rocks with her and we had a bit of a play.
Back at the tent we had a cuppa then breakfast, joined by the other two as they woke up. We started packing up just before 9 and all the kids did a great job helping out – it was mainly new to them and they were really keen to do what they could to make the job quicker (partly because they wanted to stop at the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie so I said we needed to leave early enough to fit that in).
Around 11 we were nearly ready so I sent them down for a last play on the beach while I put the bikes on and hitched up the trailer, we were on the road before 11.30. Not bad for our first bush camp pack up, with the annex. And everything being wet. The campground had ended up being completely fine to stay at – I’d heard there was a lot of wildlife around though we didn’t see much – just a couple of kangaroos and some kookaburras who liked to hang around the back of the drop toilets. Oh and about a million mosquitos and some march flies. It was peaceful though and the beach was beautiful, we all had a good time there.
I was a bit worried about the state of the road after 2 days of rain – it wasn’t too bad although there were still some heavily corrugated areas so it took me a while to drive out. Once we reached the bitumen Caitlin was going to put our audio book back on (The Colour of Magic) but we couldn’t find my iPad. We stopped in Laurieton to have a search for it, with no luck. I was a bit concerned then realised there was nowhere it could have gone – we didn’t leave it at the site and I didn’t take it anywhere else, so it had to be in the car somewhere.
We drove through to Port Macquarie, using the coastal scenic road rather than going back out to the Pacific Highway. It was quite beautiful, lots of lakes and rivers, and I don’t think I’ve been through that way before. I enjoyed driving through Port Macquarie, remembering a trip there with my parents when I was about 20, and a trip with Tony when he was playing baseball there. We stopped at the Koala Hospital (and I found my iPad in my camera bag) and spent a happy hour exploring the little museum, looking through a microscope at gum leaves, and looking at and reading about the permanent stay koalas – the ones who have conditions which mean they can’t be released back into the wild. It was also cool reading about those who have been rehabilitated and released. Amelie in particular was so happy to see the koalas – they were very cute and a few of them were even awake and we could watch them moving about. The kids had been talking about adopting a koala, to help with research and rehabilitation, so we looked through the book and found a wild koala that everyone agreed was the cutest, and paid to adopt it for a year. Amelie was vaguely disappointed that this didn’t mean we got to keep the koala, but was happy enough with the idea that our money will help to keep koalas healthy and safe.
It was even more humid here than it had been at the campground and I was keen to get back in the car – we probably should have stopped and had lunch though because we were all pretty hungry later on. My plan was to detour via Bellingen and have lunch by the river there, but we ended up leaving a bit later than I’d planned, and the place we were staying in Coffs Harbour closed reception at 5, so I wanted to make sure were there before then. Liam wasn’t feeling well so we stopped at a rest stop to cool down a bit, then stopped once for petrol and looked like we would have heaps of time to get to Coffs by 5 – our park was just north of the town and it took ages to drive through in afternoon traffic – then the signage was confusing and I wasn’t sure where I was going – we made it to the Sapphire Beach Holiday Park at about 4.55.
The kids had been so excited about staying in a beachside caravan park, and the photos looked amazing. When we got here though it looked much more unkempt and not as inviting – everyone was a little disappointed. We headed to the unpowered camping area – an area designed for 3 sites, but they weren’t marked out. 2 tents were already there and I couldn’t figure out whether they were together or not, or where they would be putting their cars. There was a spot right up against the sand dunes where we would fit, but probably not with the annex. After walking around and considering options for ages I decided to go to the left of the gate, away from the sand dunes – although I was worried that we might be a little too close to one of the tents. In the end though it seemed to be the only place we could fit. It was a tight space and took me quite a while to get the trailer into position. I was still worried about encroaching on other campers as well. I decided to go for a walk to the beach to calm down – although we were worried that the beach might not be as beautiful as in the pictures. Walking through the path over the dunes it felt quite gloomy as the greenery was very dense – then suddenly we stepped out into the light and could see Split Solitary Island and the ocean and it was beautiful. We played briefly on the sand (the surf was still too big to swim in) then went back to set up the tent. There was just enough room for us in the corner we’d picked. The kids explored the park a bit and found the amenities and the games room etc and came back very keen for a swim. Once the tent itself was up I said we could do the beds etc later, and went to close the car windows in case it rained – and my driver’s window wouldn’t go up. We’d had trouble with it for a while and obviously it had reached it’s limit. I felt like I had as well, I just wanted to cry because it felt like everything had gone wrong since we arrived. I taped up the window with plastic bags and gorilla tape and figured I’d have to sort it out in the morning.
We went for a swim in a beautiful new pool and it was lovely, it helped me calm down a little. We still hadn’t had much to eat though, and I was very tired, so reluctantly we went back to camp and Caitlin and Liam cooked pasta with tomatoes and kabana for dinner, while I struggled to set up the annex – normally I do it pretty easily but it was hard work this time. In the midst of it the people next to us came back – we were in the spot where they had parked their camper next to their tent. I thought they hadn’t marked their spot but they had put a rock next to the fence and I hadn’t realised it was a marker. I apologized and they said it was fine but seemed upset - I talked to them later and they said they’d just been surprised and were happy to put the camper in a different spot.
Dinner was delicious and we finally had the beds all set up so we could go to bed. I felt like I was getting a cold as well and was very glad for the day to be over.