The Blue Arsed Fly is a wonderful grey nomad travel series by Bruce Hathaway and his wheelchair-bound wife, Elaine. If you’d like to read his previous blog, you can find it here
But never fear kiddos: all’s well that ends well, the lift is on and mother is able to get in and out of the van much easier now. That night the van stayed on the car ready to move out and head for Tweed Heads in the morning. We stayed at the Tweed Billabong HP Big4 at $55 p/n with discount, slab site, amenities: good. Now the new lift works a treat but fair dinkum and fair suck of the sav, there be gremlins still bugging me (you-know-who must have heard me swearing). When they put the lift on there wasn’t much room to manoeuvre so they had to compromise, so here’s the gremlin. Being sunny I go to put the awning up but the lift’s platform partly covers the awning strut. No problem all that means is if we want the awning down I have to lower the lift platform so it’s parallel with the ground, problem solved. But me friends here’s the rub, the toilet door to the potty is slightly behind the upright frame swivel of the lift and won’t fully open. I can’t get canister out; solution: I will have to drop the lift a few inches so the door will open. So me buckos, I have to do a few canoodles with the lift to get the awning down and to empty the potty but hey, what the heck – small price to pay to have mother able to get in and out of the van. Even though I’m a senior person who is young at heart or as the missus says, “You haven’t really grown up, you silly old bugger”. Off we go to look for a caravan dealer in Tweed Heads and buy a new jockey wheel. So I troop off after ensconcing mother in the van; the new lift works a treat and I hurry down to the local JAYCO dealer forgetting I’m wearing my brand new ‘ROMA Caravans’ cap. Now I know why he gave me a funny look! No, they don’t have the jockey wheel I want – they have to get it freighted in from (of all places) Melbourne and delivery date will be uncertain so I said forget it and I’ll keep using the jack until we get to Byron Bay or Coffs Harbour and try again.
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Now we’re normal grey nomads (stop laughing), so the first thing we usually do is go to the Visitors Centre to ask the important questions like: what’s on, where are the scenic drives and where can we eat without paying the earth? The lovely ladies at the Tweed Heads Info Centre were very obliging – they recommended the Tweed River lunch cruise which we booked at $55 p/p for a cruise and the Surf ‘n’ Turf steak, but more of that later. Then we cruised around Tweed Heads and Coolangatta before going back to the caravan park. Did you know that one side of the street in Tweed is in QLD and the other side is in NSW? One side is Coolangatta and the other TH.
Next day we went for a scenic drive to Murwillumbah where we stopped at the Margaret Olly’s Art Gallery, where they transposed her house and studio into the gallery. It’s well worth a gander and the view from the café is spectacular. Then a nice drive to Tyalgum with a silent “y”, where we lunched at the Flutterbies Café – we had the veggie soup and the raspberry and lemon tart with cream. If you have the soup take a tip from me and get the entrée size soup as the main course soup could feed a whole crew of starving sailors. Then it was a drive to Chillingham, but mind you it is a narrow road but lovely drive and back through Murwillumbah and Tweed Heads. We left at 9:30am and got back at 1:30pm.
On our next trip, we followed the Tweed Way Tourist Drive No 38 along the coast south of Tweed Heads; nice little drive going through a number of towns along the coast. At Cabarita Beach the surf was up and there was quite a few White Pointer bait out on their surfboards. Drove down to Pottsville where we stopped at the bakery for a cappuccino and a pie before heading back to TH via the Pacific Highway. We saw quite a few caravan parks along the way, Google ‘Tweed Holiday Parks’, select the town and then CP. But a tip, me fine feathered friends, if you are anywhere from Coffs Harbour to Points North during the September holidays: pre-book because nearly all the caravan parks were booked out and we missed out on our chosen park a few times. That night (Sunday), we had tea at the TH Bowling Club – fair dinkum the place was nearly as big as Crown Casino in Melbourne, with entertainment, lots of pokies, a nice roast lamb tea for $14 ($7.50 for lunch) oh, and they also play bowls there as well. I left Elaine on the kerbside and went to get the car but as it was dark I couldn’t find the way out, ended up in the place next door with a dead end, circled two or three times and then followed another car out to a side street and then back in to pick up mother.
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Monday arrived and our next adventure was a river cruise on the Tweed River and a surf and turf lunch. We arrived at 9am and Elaine, being in a wheelchair, was manhandled over the gunwale (that’s the side of the boat for you unfortunate landlubbers). Ensconced at a table, we started off down the Tweed River for some 20km to a little town called Tumblegum, learning about the river and the history of the area. Along the way there was a feeding of the Albatrosses, kites and osprey and wasn’t that a free for all! At Tumblegum we parked on the small jetty for an hour, all there is there is the very old Tumblegum pub and a general store; had a gander, went back on board then started back. Then they served the lunch, steak, sausage and king prawns with salad. Going up was okay, coming back was a little slow. If you want to you can pay to go up and get their bus back which would be cheaper.
On to Byron Bay and boy was that place an eye opener, the place would have to be one of the tourist meccas in Oz. Geez mateys, the place was packed to the gunwales (or for you landlubbers, rafters) with tourists, backpackers, grey nomads and holiday makers. Remember: at this time (September), it’s school holidays. We stayed at the First Sun CP in the heart of Byron – it was $63 p/n (ouch), we had one of their great double slab sites that was actually easy to get on as it was at a bend in the road site No 57. This park is very compact and they squeeze the vans in like sardines – take a tip and ask for a site around the perimeter…the amenities are very good. But talking to the ladies in the office, it would pay to book ahead at anytime of the year if you want to come to Byron Bay, me friends. It’s a very short walk to the shops and the beach, but let me tell you the traffic going past the CP is nonstop but most drivers let you in.
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The Byron Bay shopping area is a rabbit warren of streets with lots of shops for the tourists. Parking is a hit and miss affair so if you miss out, you drive around and around and around so much you could get dizzy. After setting up, mother coaxed me to go for a drive and we went to the BB light house a short drive away, but they wanted $7 to park there and being a tight arse – oops, sorry, I mean a well meaning thrifty saver – I refused to pay and so we went back down the hill. The view while driving up and down is spectacular with great views of the beaches on both sides of the point. All the parking areas at the beaches are metered so you have to pay for the privilege. At night when the traffic and the sun goes down. you are serenaded to sleep by the symphonic cadence of the waves crashing on the beach.
Next day, after those never ending chores – laundry, washing up etc., we went for a drive south along the coast through Lennox Heads to Ballina. The drive wasn’t anything special; we went through Lennox Heads where the CP were all sardines again with a lot of camping sardines. I wanted to drive this way because when we left Byron I took this road to miss all the road works for the Pacific Highway. Turned right at Ross Lane which brought us out on the highway just after the road works and bypassed Ballina. On the way back along the Pacific Highway we stopped at the Macadamia Castle for a look-see; bought some macadamias of course and a drink!
Have you visited this area before? What did you get up to? Tell us about your adventure below!