Location: Mid North Coast NSW
Date: March 2008

March 30, 2008. Nope, the speed boats on the Manning last weekend didn't eventuate. I tried, but failed. I'll spare you the details. This week, I drove down the Pacific Hwy (south) to just before Bulahdelah, took the Lakes Way turnoff to Bungwahl and then the turnoff to Seal Rocks. The plan was to take the Lakes Way back up the coast, via Forster/Tuncurry to Taree, but I ended up back at the Highway. I'm a hopeless navigator... so I drove a little further south and took a few pics of Bulahdelah... after all, I said I would. Bulahdelah is by no means London or Las Vegas, but... well... it's there. Click here for the photo album or read on and click the link at the end of this article.

I got lucky on the way down by calling into Nabiac to see if I missed something last time I was there. Well, whaddayknow! There was a cycle swap meet happening so, as I bonus, I got pics of tricky cycles. I didn't venture into the museum, though. Maybe I will one day. Meanwhile, I got some worthwhile pics, including a couple of a vintage Austin A30, a lovely little British car from the '50s. I knew twin sisters who owned one, and who took me for a drive one night when I was just 11 or 12. I was impressed! Most of the cycle owners were old blokes like me... not a scary bikie in sight. One owns a Honda Gold Wing. "Is that a bike?" I asked. "No, mate, it's a car... it's got everything."

Seal Rocks was interesting. On the way, I noticed "Peace" signs painted on the road... like something out of Woodstock. I wanted to stop and take a photo but the road was narrow and I figured it was a bit risky. *SPLAT* Sure enough, I stopped at one spot just near the beach and spotted a used Bong hehe (in case you're wondering what the plastic bottle with a piece of green hose is).

Nearer the beach, I saw a bunch of young surfers near the general store. One was Mr PP... perfect pecs... and I mean perfect. No, I resisted the temptation to ask if I could take a pec pic in the interests of my continued well-being. I bleed easy. However, I'm sure even Schwartzenegger would have been bug eyed. And yes, the kid was blond. Hey, I'm a photographer, right? I take pecs. Uh... pics.

BTW, the new/used Kodak DX6490 I bought for $150 on eBay (as a back-up to the Sony) worked pretty well. Better than I anticipated, actually. It's not as good as the Sony at handling contrast, and definitely saturates colors, especially blue sky, but it did well. For $150, who's complaining?

So then I wandered up the road that leads to the Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse. The views are stunning. And the climb to the top? Sheesh. I was buggered when I *almost* reached the top, and had to rest a while. But it was worth the grind. Younger people had no trouble at all. One bloke, with calves 37 times bigger than mine, even carried a baby on his back with no effort.

Anyway, on the return journey, I had a 4WD up my ass which made me nervous so I took the wrong turn and ended up back at the Pacific Hwy. Never mind. On the way, I found a place where I could pull off the road and get a few pics of Myall Lake at Bungwahl. Those yellow trees, by the way, are Aussie Wattle. They're in bloom everywhere this time of year. Then I checked out Bulahdelah (pop about 1100), found a few novelty subjects then hit the road back to Taree. The highway is a divided four-laner that whisks you along at 100+ k's. It's boring, though, and I would have preferred the coast road. Click here for the photo album

March 22, 2008. I heard on the radio this morning, in the bathroom, that the Manning Regional Art Gallery has an exhibition of surfing paraphanalia on show... surfboards, clothing/fashions, photos, etc. So I toddled up there to Macquarie St and took some pics. "You can take photos provided they're not for commercial use," said the lady in charge as I happily snapped away. Oops! In my haste, I forgot to ask. I thought the pics turned out pretty well despite being indoors with the use of flash. The Mid North Coast has its fair share of famous personalities in the surfing game, as well as famous clothing manufacturers from Taree. Speedo started here, and so did Hot Tuna. Both brands are now internationally famous, as is Elle McPherson who modelled HT in the early days. Tomorrow, I'll hit the Manning River just down the road and try to get some good action shots of the speed boat races. Meanwhile, check out the Art Gallery's display of surfing memorabilia. 

March 16, 2008. The weather was crook this morning so I postphoned the trip to Bulahdelah. When the skies cleared, I went for a wander on foot (both, actually) down to the Manning here in Taree and took a bunch of pics of the Martin Bridge, which is due for renovation. I figured it was timely before they tart it up. As you know, I suffer from vertigo so I wasn't too thrilled about crossing it on foot. Anyway, the pics are worth a bit of a squiz.

The Manning is a sizeable river, with a couple of islands in the center, and takes a good 10 or 15 minutes to cross as a pedestrian. There's no way I would try to swim it! And even though the bridge is level from one end to the other, it's still pretty high above the water. A few major floods have reached the deck so you can imagine how much rain that would take! Local kids sometimes jump from the bridge footway. They're braver than I... either that or dumber.

Martin Bridge was completed in 1940 and built by the Department of Main Roads (now the RTA - Roads and Traffic Authority). It was a big deal for Taree and attracted many dignitaries to its official opening. I was minus 4. Prior to the bridge, a punt ferried traffic across the river downstream from where the bridge stands now about a block away (Pultney Street). One of the pics looks under a big old fig tree on the south bank back toward town. That fig must be a hundred years old, and it's a monster. I would have expected a plaque or something to commemorate the spot where the punt crossed the river there, but no. On the south side of town there's very little except a few houses. Check out the album here.

March 9, 2008. Went over some old ground this time - Wingham, Marlee, Bobin, Elands, Blue Knob, Dingo Tops... in other words the Tourist Drive 8 loop, and back to Taree. But I still managed to take some different pics. Otherwise the trip was fairly uneventful. I went mainly to check out Blue Knob Lookout, which is in a fairly shabby state. The 360 degree viewing tower at the top of the lookout is unsafe to climb and has had its stairs removed. Nonetheless, impressive views can still be had. The picnic area is similarly shabby but usable. If you suffer from sleepwalking I would not suggest you camp there. While up on the summit I heard strange noises that I eventually determined were kids on dirt bikes deep in the valley below. Several had passed me earlier when the sealed road gave way to rough gravel. Some of them ride standing up, and they all ride dressed in special colorful gear that protects them from tumbles. Click here for the photo album or read on and click the link at the end of this article.

The other reason I wanted to check out the area was Rowley's Rock Lookout. I'd missed it on a previous trip... it's just north of Dingo Tops Rest Area. The gravel road to Rowley's gave way to a wet track, which Tough Titties had some trouble negotiating, especially a muddy section which sent the old girl's wheels spinning and swaying from side to side. That brought back my youthful lunatic driving skills in a helluva hurry! Whoa! When I climbed the final section to the lookout, which was steep as hell and gave TT a task I thought she couldn't possibly manage (but did) I found a locked gate and a sign. The rest of the ascent was on foot. "Strenuous 45 minute climb". No way, baby. Not for this kid. Forget it. However, I did manage to find a pic of Rowley's on the internet for your viewing and dancing pleasure.

The charm of the trip, overall, is the one horse towns with a single general store. One shopkeeper was even fixing his tractor in the drive of his. How often do you see that in town? And I just loved the historic church in Marlee (30 yards forward of Red Tail Wines, which my doc assures me is a yummy drop - and handy for the vicar). The views are also a great pleasure to admire. I also loved the sense of isolation on top of Blue Knob... not a soul in sight. After a cuppa and a rest, I strolled to the edge of the cliff and took a pee with nary a care in the world.

When I photographed Marlee General Store, I heard a car traveling at high speed toward me from the distance. It was brown and looked familiar. Yes, TT's sister! She was covered in mud, doing a high rate of knots, and wearing a mesh bug catcher across the grill... a real country car and still going strong.

Oh! That old iron cart. Not sure what it is/was but probably a log carrier from the old logging days. Click here for the photo album

March 2, 2008. Just a quick trip to Wingham Brush, 15 minutes north west of Taree. The rainforest here is a rare remnant of subtropical floodplain rainforest which has been regenerated by the local community. It is one of the state's most significant maternity sites for the endangered grey-headed flying fox. I took the looped boardwalk through the forest and heard the bats squawking their heads off in the treetops, however, I was more concerned with being the target of bat excrement, which increasingly littered the boardwalk as I ventured deeper into the forest. "She'll be right, mate," one local volunteered when he saw me reject one pathway as I explained my concern about the critters' digestive systems. "You can walk around here all day and not be pooped on." Yeah, right. So I waited until he disappeared before I took the other direction. Who needs a close-up pic of bat anyway? But the bloke sprung me later on; "Did you see the bats?" he asked. "Yeah," I lied, "at least I saw where they've been." Click here for the photo album or read on and click the link at the end of this article.

I pinched a pic from the internet so at least you can see what a member of the bomb squadron looks like. Years ago, the locals tried to eradicate the colony but failed, despite providing free ammunition to anyone willing to shoot them. Now the colony is protected as is their home. "You shoulda been here last night at sunset," the bloke said. "They took off toward the west to their feeding grounds and blackened the sky." He might as well have recommended I stand beneath a thousand flying elephants.

Wingham Brush reserve is right in the middle of town, bordered by two schools, the library, and the Manning River. 

Then I headed to the old concrete wharf, just a few meters further along, which was used by shipping up until the1940s. It replaced a timber wharf, built during the mid 19th century. Shipyards just up the coast at Harrington constructed the vessels of timber and powered them by steam. They were as long as the wharf - 350 feet - and plied the coastal route between Sydney and Brisbane, carrying a variety of supplies including locally logged timber.

There I met a kid and his grandpop. Pop (who is younger than me!) told me about the wharf's history, including the demise of the timber steps that came to grief during a recent flood after heavy rain. Another old bloke joined the pair to check a yellowtail bream the kid had caught just before I arrived. He saw my camera, and asked if I'd like to take a pic. Yes, of course... so there was an unexpected bonus for my mini expedition. Pop caught another a few minutes later but it was just one centermeter undersize so it was released. Shoulda got a pic of that too! Thilly me!

So there ya go... I whizz out to Wingham Brush to check out the flying foxes and all I get is a fish!  Click here for the photo album


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