Days 10, 11, 12: Coopernook to Umina Beach

Friday: Stayed put for a day at Coopernook. It’s such a pleasant camping spot on thick grass, with an outlook to grazing cows and the back of a quiet country pub. Steve spent the day playing around the outside of Priscilla working out how to change the tyres and deflate and inflate the tyre pressures. I fiddled with cupboards and drawers and reorganised them. In the afternoon we brought out the fold-up bikes and rode into town for a look around. It was great to do – a nice leisurely way to view a town. We’re getting used to riding them more now too – working out the gears, etc.
The pub was noisy until quite late this evening – must make a point of not staying here on weekends in future.

Distance: 287K
Weather: sunny and hot

Saturday: The Newcastle Caravan and Camping Show is on and we have a list of a few things we want to buy so took the opportunity to go to it.
Left Coopernook at our usual leaving time of around 10am (oh how quickly we’ve fallen into these leisurely ways) arriving in Newcastle around midday. Funny thing on the way – we’d put the venue address into Priscilla’s navigator – straight down the highway until you reach Newcastle. As it so happened my favourite place for oysters, Karuah, is just off the highway. Steve doesn’t eat oysters so wasn’t keen on making the detour but reluctantly agreed, and without touching the navigation Priscilla took us off the highway and into Karuah anyway – already she knows me well!

The show was disappointing – so much smaller than Brisbane’s. We’d looked at places around Newcastle to stay anticipating they’d be shooing us out at 6pm closing time, but we’d seen all there was to see by 2pm, and not found half of what we wanted. The decision was make to keep going to Umina Beach where we’d planned to be tomorrow night anyway, ready for a short drive to Trakka’s factory on Monday.
One great find though was the Great Divide 4WD driver training which is the group that tested the Jabiru at their property outside Braidwood. We’ve decided we’ll spend a day there learning what this little baby can do.

A noisy evening at this magnet for families of pre-teen children – hopefully they’ll all leave tomorrow and Sunday afternoon will be peaceful. Oh dear, I’m beginning to sound like an old grump.

Sunday was much more peaceful. We did some grocery shopping – so convenient to drive your pantry and fridge to the shops! In the afternoon we walked the beach and generally had a relaxing day and evening.

Ocean Beach Holiday Park, Umina Beach. Saturday afternoon.

Ocean Beach Holiday Park, Umina Beach. Saturday afternoon.

Day 3: Heatons Lookout to Coopernook

Weather: stinking hot – mid 30’s
Distance: 234K

It rained in the early hours of the morning. I woke worrying about what the rain would do to the road conditions on the way back down the mountain – and also because the window was leaking and I was getting wet!

After breakfast, as we were preparing to leave, the Forestry Ranger arrived. We had a good chat to him about the district and here in particular and he reassured us our vehicle would have no problems negotiating the wet, slippery conditions on the way down – and we didn’t. While we were chatting a man popped out from the rainforest just behind where we were camped. This lookout forms a part of the Great North Walk, which is a 250K walking trail that stretches from central Sydney to downtown Newcastle. We’d walked 50 or so metres down it earlier, and I got a leech for my efforts. This chap said he does the walk from the bottom of the mountain every week, finishing at the coffee shop. That’s a good way to keep fit – we’re pretty high up here. Meeting and talking to people on our travels is one of our goals – everyone has a story and they are all so interesting.

Anyway before setting off we read the Mercedes manual and discovered some non-intuitive steps to take to put the vehicle into ‘low lock’ 4WD. Our first real test of this vehicle on roads that need 4WD and she came through with flying colours.

On the way to Coopernook we saw the turnoff for Karuah – we’ve started our own tradition with this little town now and HAVE to stop to buy fresh oysters from Cole Bros every time.

Coopernook was bypassed by the highway in 2006 and is a very pleasant, well-tended, small country town of about 350 people. The primary school was opened in 1875 so it has a pretty long history. The pub at Coopernook offers free camping to self-contained RV’s, and a lovely spot it is too – a large, grassy area within about 50 metres of the Lansdowne River. Fishing must be good in the river by the look of the Achievements Board on the wall of the pub.

We really appreciated this spot today because it was so hot – had a few cool drinks and lunch in the air conditioned pub. There was one other RV parked here – two women who now live permanently on the road and seem to be enjoying the lifestyle.

hotel coopernook

We’re camped on the grass behind the pub, right where that rainbow ends.

Bulahdelah to Jenolan Caves

Early start this morning. Headed south on the highway looking for a nice spot to stop for breakfast. Port Stephens seemed promising and a place we wanted to see anyway, so the little township of Karuah in the bay provided us with the perfect location. Karuah is noted to be a quiet place to get away from it all, with fishing and oyster farming being the major industries. We cooked our bacon and eggs on the barbeque at the foreshore watching the pelicans following the oyster farmers in to their sheds with great anticipation, and a retired couple catching bream from the jetty.

The harbour.

The harbour.

I felt we should support the local industry so a dozen of the most delicious, plump oysters found their way into our fridge – pity Steve doesn’t eat oysters (wink!). Karuah is a delightful little place.
Click here to see some more photos of Karuah.

You may recall that our tickets to the Opera in the Caves were a gift from Nick and Kim who read in an earlier ‘chronicle’ how much we had previously enjoyed the opera in the caves. Well … Nick and Kim take note of what I’m going to write about now just in case you’re looking for your next gift for us – we’d be happy to combine Mothers Day and Fathers Day gifts for this one (maybe even birthdays and Christmas too)!

Seeing as how we had to skirt around Sydney to get to the Blue Mountains we decided to pop into Trakka to take a look at their motorhomes. We’re keen to purchase a motorhome to continue our cruisin’ in and have narrowed it down to either the Trakka or the Horizon. Martin Poate the General Manager at Trakka showed us the Jabiru 4×4 – I’m definitely in love! Anyway no decisions yet until we see the Horizon. (Stay tuned Nick and Kim!)

So, onward and upward, and upward, and upward as we climbed the Blue Mountains. Our plan is to return to Katoomba to camp this weekend and do some of the Blue Mountains walks – but the weather isn’t looking promising. I was surprised how brown everywhere was – they sure need rain up here. When you reach Katoomba you feel like you should be at the Caves, but it’s still another hour’s drive, and the road is very windy, tight hairpin bends and narrow in places. They close the road for a couple of hours from around 11am for the coaches exclusive use. Good idea – I wouldn’t like to meet one of those big buses on that road.

Caves House, our accommodation for the next two nights is delightful. Oldy worldy – but more about that tomorrow. It was a long day today and we were both grateful to arrive and get settled into our room before adjourning to the lounge bar for a gin and tonic.