YAMBA, NSW for Pelicans, Prawns and Peace

Pelicans patiently waiting for fish scraps after fishermen clean their fish. Yamba, New South Wales, Australia. www.gypsy@60.com

Pelicans patiently waiting!

YAMBA is a must do stopover for anyone driving along the northern new south wales coastline of Australia.  Apart from having a couple of the best pubs on the east coast of Australia, it’s only an hour or so drive from Coffs Harbour, Byron Bay and a bit more to Brisbane.

So, if being surrounded by pelicans while wetting a line or gorging yourself on fresh prawns is your thing read on.  Oh, and the surrounding countryside and beaches are stunning.

Blue Dolphin Holiday Resort, Yamba

This was part of a caravan trip and the Blue Dolphin Holiday Resort was home for five nights.  What an eye-opener it was to see artificial grass for caravan pads and not bare concrete – such luxury.

For those not towing a van there are villas, cabins, waterview units and even a spa villa with views.  The on-site restaurant and large swimming pool and slides will satisfy even the fussiest child or adult.

Then there’s the daily Happy Hours on the jetty at sunset…..

Pelicans at Yamba heading off into the sunset to roost for the night. www.gypsyat60.com

Angourie – Surf’s Up

Surfers at Angourie Beach, New South Wales. www.gypsyat60.com

After a lazy start to the first day at Yamba we headed off to Angourie Beach to watch the surfers.

This beach is considered sacred by Australian surfers with advice being “the swell needs only be one or two metres for the point to start breaking, at which stage it’s rideable for surfers of most abilities.  Anything bigger should only be tackled by confident board-riders”.  Oh well, back to fishing rod for me!

Walking down to the beach and climbing up to the headland we spent an hour watching the surfers waiting, attempting, missing and (the lucky ones) catching, the waves.  Such a fascinating sport.

Lone surfer at Angourie Beach, New South Wales, Australia. www.gypsyat60.com

Lone surfer at Angourie

Yangiri National Park – 65 Kilometre Coastal Walk

This popular walk starts from Angourie Bay Picnic Area and is worth a go if you are a true outdoorsy person and enjoy hiking and back to nature camping.

The walk is 65 kms, takes about five days (give or take) and follows both the beach and the National Park.   Tents and supplies need to be carried – but what a fantastic family or friend bonding exercise this would be. (Well in theory anyway!)

I’ll stick to cycling but the beauty of the walk plus the wildlife to meet along the way should be on the bucket list of all walkers and hikers.

The race across the finishing line (for those who make it) is Red Rock.   The map shows all facilities along the way as well as fitness levels recommended

The Clarence Tourism website has plenty of detailed information on this walk and other surrounding national parks.

ILUKA on the Mighty Clarence River

Old wooden ferry arriving at Iluka from Yamba, New South Wales. www.gypsyat60.com

Ferry arriving at Iluka

A ferry trip from Yamba to the neighbouring village of Iluka was next on the list.  We parked our push-bikes at the front of the old-time wooden boat and sat back to enjoy the trip.  This took about half an hour and was so much more enjoyable that looking out of a car window at the bitumen.

Bikes parked ready for riding at Iluka after the ferry ride from Yamba, New South Wales. www.gypsyat60.com

Bikes parked ready for riding at Iluka

Many old photos hang on the wooden walls telling fascinating stories of days gone by and the difference of life from then to now.

Catching the ferry from Yamba to Iluka, New South Wales, Australia. Both famous fishing villages. Bikes on board. Lots of pictures around the walls of days gone by. www.gypsyat60.com

The Ferry Ride

Clarence River Ferries (www.clarenceriverferries.com) have a daily timetable and they even have Island Cruises on Wednesdays and Fridays and a “Sunday Live” cruise. (Obviously on Sundays)

The small village of Iluka is all about fishing and beaches. With a population of about 1800 the atmosphere is relaxed and peaceful.  Cycling around the streets and along the beachfront was carefree as there was no worry of cars speeding past.

A couple of locals suggested a ride out along the beach road to the broadwater.  Here we walked out to the end of the groin rock wall and watched some hopeful fishermen waiting for the big bites..

Stomach rumbles meant it was time to ride back to the old Sedgers Reef Hotel for pub grub.  The hotel is quite ancient and has a run-down appearance but this the old girl has character beyond belief.  The food selection is excellent and reasonably priced.  With roast pork being one of daily specials there was no need to look further!

Bikes parked at the old Sedgers Reef Hotel, New South Wales. www.gypsyat60.com

Bikes parked ready for lunch!

Eating lunch on the old wooden tables outside is he way to go.  Sit back and enjoy the harbour views across the road and watch out for dolphins playing in the shallow water.   The resident pelicans of course are meandering everywhere.

The old Sedgers Reef Hotel at Iluka, New South Wales, great view of the harbour. www.gypsyat60.com

Sedgers Reef Hotel – a pub with a view.

Brooms Head – Beach front Village

Brooms Head Main Beach, New South Wales, Australia. A quiet seaside village with great fishing. www.gypsyat60.com

Main Beach

This is another of those unique beachfront villages that are sadly becoming all too rare.

Of interest – The name Brooms Head was first used in 1870 when a broom thought to have come from the wreck of the schooner ‘Eureka’, was washed up on the beach.  These days the locals simply call the town “The Broom”

The Main Beach is in Yuraygiri National Park and has the same timeless atmosphere of neighbouring beaches.  Reminded me or Ireland, the way everyone just stops what they are doing for a chat.

There’s a local bowls club and general store for lunch or snacks.   We definitely didn’t need food (still stuffed from the roast Pork) so it was off to the lookout for a panoramic view of the beach.    A prime spot for whale and dolphin spotting, but this wasn’t our day unfortunately.  (A goodreason to return.)

Locals in the general store told us that fishing and mud-crabbing are the obvious favourite pastimes.  Lake Cakora is a great place to launch a canoe – but the closest thing we had in the car that would float was an esky so had to be content with watching the activity of others.   The lake extends quite a long way behind the dunes and apparently, if in a canoe, you have the chance of seeing Jabirus, swans and other wading birds out on the mudflats.

On our travels we missed out seeing the endangered coastal emu but were often surrounded by the screeching the yellow-tailed black cockatoos.

Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoo at Brooms Head, Lake Cakora, Yurangirii National Park, New South Wales, Australia. www.gypsyat60.com

Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoo

Note to all bird photographers – head to Brooms Head, New South Wales.

Minnie Water

Next stop was Minnie Water – another haven for fishermen.

Stopping high above the beach above Minnie Lagoon we watched boats coming and going.  Fascinating to see them being winched on and off the beach with little effort – admittedly we were watching from quite a distance and wouldn’t know if it was a struggle or not.

The list of fish to be caught off shore or in the river is huge and includes flathead, whiting, bream, jew, tailor and mangrove jack

Boats being launched from the beach at Minnie Water, New South Wales, Australia. www.gysyat60.com

Boats coming and going.

The row of colourful chairs sitting on top of the headland meant this was a favourite spots for the locals to enjoy Happy Hours and sunsets.

Empty chairs on cliff top ready for Happy Hour Minnie Water, New South Wales, Australia. www.gypsyt60.com

Ready for Happy Hour

Wooli

Yet another seaside village recommended as being worthy of a peek and only a short drive off the main road. (Note to self – the word is pronounced – Wooleye and not – Woollee! I wondered why strange looks kept coming my way)

Again surrounded by Yurangir National Park, if it’s solitude and relaxation you are seeking, look no further.

A drive out to the breakwall at the mouth of the Wooli Wooli River only took a few minutes – only 2km along a narrow bar past the houses of Wooli Village. Here we chatted to a serious fisherman (Although I think they’re all serious!).  He said it was a guaranteed spot to get a decent feed.  The proof was in the pudding as we watched him cast out twice and bring in two decent sized Cobia.  These fish are also called Black King Fish and definitely a culinary delight – we were more than a little envious.

Make sure you have a rod tucked away in the boot (which we didn’t) as The Wooli Bait & Tackle shop has every bait imaginable.  The owner, Stan Young, will tell you the best locations for fishing.   Talk long enough and he’ll have you out on a six hour charter with a 100% guarantee of hauling in enough fish to feed the family for months!

Each day we would return to Yamba to watch the antics of the pelicans patiently waiting at the fish cleaning table for scraps.

Pelican's at Yamba, New South Wales, taking it easy on the banks. www.gypsyat60.com

Snooze Time

Mind you the choices were tough.  Would we wander down the jetty to enjoy the sunset, or hop on our bikes and pedal down to the new Yamba Shores Tavern and enjoy the sunset over the water from a different angle.

Life is all about choices!

Sunset at the Yamba Shores Tavern. Sitting on the deck enjoying the reflection with a glass of wine. www.gypsyat60.com

Sunset at the Yamba Shores Tavern

Forgot to mention the Yamba Prawns!

Cycling back to the van site from the ferry ride, we stopped in at the Clarence River Fishermen’s Co-op and bought a kg of these beauties.  What a way to finish a magic day with pelicans, prawns and peace at Yamba.

Prawn and Oyster appetiser from the Clarence River Fishermens Coop, Yamba. www.gypsyat60.com

Prawn and Oyster appetiser

Whether you’re a surfer, hiker, fisherman or just seeking solitude – Yamba with the surrounding fishing villages and national park is calling out to you.

A Whisky Toast to Ernest Shackleton’s Life, Grytviken.

Shackleton – a Man among Men

What an honour to stand next to the grave of the intrepid polar explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton, and toast his extraordinary life.

Shackleton, also called “The Boss”, was among the greatest explorers to ever walk on this earth. A great leader who inspired others to strive for greatness, while always putting the safety of his team first.

Ernest Shackleton and ill-fated "The Endurance" in 1914 - Antartica. Photo - Toronto Press. www.gypsyat60.com

Ernest Shackleton and his ship “The Endurance” – 1914

From humble beginnings in Ireland he made four epic voyages to the land of ice and snow – Antarctica – during his short life of 47 years. A life full of daring exploits and survival against impossible odds are the stuff of which legends are made.

A toast with Shackleton at Grytviken, South Georgia should be on everyone’s itinerary for an Antarctic trip. To stand next to this man’s grave and be enthralled at his daring and incredible polar expedition achievements is humbling to say the least.

Arrival at Grytviken

But… before the whisky toasts, our trusty ship, the “MS Ushuaia” needed to lower her zodiacs to transport 80 passengers to the shores of Grytviken, South Georgia.

Luck was with us weather wise, sunny and mild at 6 degrees. Quite opposite to the day before at Stromwest where we were met with sleet, galeforce winds and snow.

Sheltered harbour of Grytviken. South Georgia, Antarctica. www.gypsyat60.com

Sheltered harbour of Grytviken. (Photo credit Alek Komarnitsky – www.komar.org)

Grytviken was one of the major seal and whaling stations in the 1930s where approximately 1.3m whales were harpooned. The statistics are depressing and you are better off speaking to Mrs Google for more details of this horrible whale devastation.

The small settlement is now the administrative centre on South Georgia with a handful of permanent residents at a British Antarctic Survey Research Station.

But…as they say it’s now history and Grytviken is a really interesting little community to explore.

Ruins of an old Whaling Boat, GrytvikenGrytviken, South Georgia, Antarctica. www.gypsyat60.com

Whaling boat that had seen better days.

Somehow I got sidetracked on the way to the cemetery by taking so many photos of seals (a firm favourite), boat wrecks and abandoned machinery used for processing of whale blubber, meat etc.

Chains to drag whales to the boats at Grytviken, South Georgia, Antarctica. www.gypsyat60.com

Chains of Menace used to harpoon whales.

Tripping over umpteen times on massive whale bones scattered all around the foreshore didn’t help my progress to the cemetery either!

All this procrastination meant I was the last to arrive at Shackleton’s grave for a whisky (at 11.30am!). This meant I hadn’t heard we were supposed to wait until AFTER the quotes about Shackleton’s life had been read to everyone present BEFORE we drank the whisky.

Whisky Toast to Ernest Shackleton at the Whalers Cemetery, Grytviken, South Georgia, Antarctica. www.gypsyat60.com

Whisky Toast to Ernest Shackleton

So….when the toast was made to this truly heroic Antaractic explorer I had nothing left in my glass!

Plus we were supposed to save a bit of whisky to throw onto his grave out of respect. I immediately prayed for forgiveness from this intrepid polar pioneer and later bought a book on his life from the souvenir shop to catch up on what I’d missed. (SHACKLETON THE BOSS by Michael Smith.)

The Boss was laid to rest high on the hill at the Whaler’s Cemetery on 5 March 1922 with his head facing south towards his exploring ground of Antarctica. There are 63 other people buried there, all facing east which is a Christian custom carried down through the ages.

Overview of The Whalers Cemetery, Grytviken, South Georgia, Antarctica. Ernest Shacketon's grave is the large stone pillar at the back of cemetery. www.gypsyat60.com

The Whalers Cemetery showing Shackleton’s stone pillar headstone at the back.

The simple granite headstone is inscribed with a quotation from one of his favorite poets, Robert Browning, “I hold…that a man should strive to the uttermost for his life’s set prize”.

Next to Shackleton’s grave the ashes are interred of Frank Wild with an inscription on the rough-hewn granite block that reads “Frank Wild 1873–1939, Shackleton’s right-hand man.”

Young fur seal at the Whalers Cemetery - unimpressed with the company. Grytviken, South Georgia, Antarctica.

Young fur seal at the Cemetery – apparently unimpressed with our company.

South Georgia Museum

Because I’d missed so much of Shackleton’s life by arriving at the cemetery late, the South Georgia Museum down the hill seemed the obvious choice to stop and gather more information on the explorer.

South Georgia Museum and displays. Chronicling the sagas experienced by Sir Ernest Shackleton and history of South Georgia. www.gypsyat60.com

South Georgia Museum and displays.

Here you will find the entire Shackleton chronicles which include:

  • Four intrepid polar expeditions
  • Stories of defeat and determination
  • Ships crushed with pack ice and mighty icebergs
  • Crossing the rocky mountains and glaciers mountains of South Georgia in freezing temperatures to get help for his men

This, together with stories and displays on the general life and history of South Georgia make for a well worth stop.

Norwegian Lutheran Church

Norwegian Lutheran Church, settlement of Grytviken, South Georgia. Sitting at the bottom of the Mighty South Georgian Mountains. Also called the Whalers Church. www.gypsyat60.com

Norwegian Lutheran Church, Grytviken

You can’t miss this pretty Grytviken church that is a standout at the base of the mighty and humbling mountains of St Georgia. Also known as the “Whalers Church” (part of the Church of Norway) it was built in 1913 and still has some church services but not on a regular basis.

Do you remember the animated Happy Feet movie made in 2006?   Well this little church with its cameo appearance was the background for one of the shooting days.

Moving On…

With the cold creeping back into our bones, it was time to zodiac our way back to the ship.

Back on board you stop and think of the successes this courageous explorer could have had in the world of technology today with access to:

  • Marine navigation systems
  • GPS receivers
  • Satellite phones
  • Gyro and magnetic compasses
  • Automatic track and electronic chart displays
  • Long range tracking system – and the list goes on.

Well it was then time for one more toast to:

Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton CVO, OBE, FRGS

15 February 1874 (Ireland) – 5 January 1922 (Falkland Islands)

Next Stop – Salisbury Plains

The next exciting stop was to get up close and personal with the King Penguins at Salisbury Plains but that’s for another post.

What to take on an Antarctic visit:

Fact: It’s super important to keep your head, hands and feet warm at all times. These are the bits that lose heat quickly.

  • Wellington boots that come at least up to the knee. Otherwise when getting out of zodiacs the water will slosh into your boots!
  • Warm wind and water proof jacket and trousers – waterproof and breathable. These need to be large enough to fit thick woollen jumpers/clothing underneath. I bought a size larger– as much as my ego was bruised in doing this!  NB – My cheap trousers split after the third day and I was reduced to making the seams stronger with duct tape This didn’t work  so a garbage bag was raided from the kitchen to wear over the torn trousers like a skirt. Not the most attractive look!  Better to buy quality jackets and trousers)
  • Windproof warm gloves or mittens. (Mittens can be pulled over the warm gloves)
  • Warm scarf or neck warmer
  • 2 pairs of long woollen underwear, tops and bottoms – preferably Merino 
  • 3 pairs of woollen socks
  • 3 long sleeve tops, shirts.
  • Sunscreen and lip salve. You can get burnt very easily with the reflection off the snow on a sunny day.

This is the outdoor list. When indoors your usual casual clothes are all you need, e.g. on the ship.

Your Own Antarctic Expedition

So…when are you booking your own Antarctic Expedition for a toast to Sir Ernest Shackleton’s life? Jo Van Os Tours  and Natural Habitat Adventures  can be recommended from first hand experiences!

 

Snapshot of Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon), Vietnam

Snapshot – Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon), Vietnam

Office of the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee.

OK, so this post is written through the eyes of a boomer on a cruise ship meaning you only get a thumbnail sketch of places visited.   Having said that, it was ample time to get a taste of Ho Chi Minh City (previously Saigon), Vietnam and its culture.

With a great guide called “Foo” and feeling like millionaires (our wallets were loaded with 2,700,000 Dong (the local currency equal to $US100) we headed off to explore the city.

NB – Foo also doubled as the driver’s assistant. His task was to direct traffic so the bus could get through roads clogged with motorbikes!

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