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Merry Christmas – enjoy the holidays!

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Hi all,

 

We’d like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year… and what a year it’s been!

 

We started 2015 in Cairns, where we stayed until May, working and biding our time until we had to fly home for two weddings.

 

Australia Day 2015 Cairns

 

Once we were on the road again, our task was fairly simple – explore the east coast of Australia.  After a magical visit at Paronella Park, we passed through Townsville and Mackay before heading inland to the beautiful Lake Elphinstone.

 

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We cruised through the Central Highlands before returning to the coast. We ate beef in Rockhampton, drank rum in Bundaberg, then caught a ferry to Fraser Island. We gave the Troopy a 4WD workout at Landcruiser Mountain Park and watched the rain clouds come in on the Sunshine Coast.

 

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We spent about three weeks in Brisbane because Dave needed some medical attention, but it was great to spend time with friends in that beautiful city.  As we approached the Gold Coast, the dark clouds returned and by the time we got to the Best Of All Lookouts, we couldn’t see a thing!

 

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We crossed the border into New South Wales and bee-lined straight to Byron Bay for a few days in the easternmost town of Australia. We were lucky to get a few days of sun but the drizzle returned as we made our way to Coffs Harbour.  Finally, with some sun, we got to enjoy the beautiful coastline from Port Macquarie to Newcastle.

 

 

We enjoyed a tipple in the Hunter Valley before spending a week on the Central Coast, helping out a family with their household duties while Juz scored some work with a school holiday program in Gosford.

 

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Arriving in Sydney was a little surreal. It’s the biggest city in Australia and we spent a lot of time walking around the city getting exhausted. We also have a few friends in Sydney so it was great to catch up and spend time with them.

 

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We headed inland to the Blue Mountains and Central West just in time for a freakish cold front to sweep through the area. We had the pleasure of experiencing subzero temperatures and snow, as well as seeing the Dish in Parkes and exotic animals at the Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo.

 

 

With a few more friendly visits in Kiama and Milton, and a stop at the Big Merino in Goulburn, we finally visited our country’s capital. We called in at the War Memorial and National Mint and even saw our old travel buddies Tom and Bella.

 

 

Once we returned to the coast, the wet weather reappeared and we reached the Victorian border within a day or two. From then on, there was no point stuffing around – we were 4 hours from home.  On Sunday the 2nd of August, we rolled in unannounced and enjoyed a hot shower and warm bed.

 

Since our return to Melbourne, we’ve been busy.  We got jobs, reconnected with friends, and started making plans for the future.

 

We’re going to take a few weeks off to enjoy the silly season and spend time with our family and friends. We’ll see you all in the new year with more posts about the last leg of our lap around Australia, as well as our run down of Tassie later in the year.

 

Thanks for all your support,

 

Dave & Juz

 

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Explore : Central Coast NSW

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We spent around 10 days in the Central Coast region and while we didn’t do too much sightseeing because we were busy with various jobs, we did manage to visit all the breweries in the region and a few markets.  The Central Coast is only an hour away from Sydney and covers a variety of landscapes from golden beaches and vast lakes to forests and rolling hills.

 

Things to See and Do

The main city of the region is Gosford, which sits on the edge of Brisbane Water.  There isn’t a whole lot to see and do in Gosford city other than doing your banking and shopping, so we spent most of our time exploring the other regions.

 

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Beach Villages

The beach villages of Terrigal and Avoca Beach were bustling with activity.  Think cute little cafes, seaside restaurants, shopping and beautiful coastlines and beaches where the locals spend half of their time.  The Skillion in Terrigal is a popular spot, with lookouts on the headland that are perfect for whale watching.

 

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Avoca Beach gets busy on the fourth Sunday of every month for the Avoca Beachside Markets. Listen to live music, grab a feed from the food stalls, taste local produce, or buy some fresh fruit and vegetables.  Just off the coast at Avoca Beach is the HMAS Adelaide, an ex-naval warship that was purposely sunk, or scuttled, in 2011 to create an artificial reef.  The site is open for diving and is located 1.8km from Avoca Beach.

 

The Entrance

We were on the Central Coast during the school holidays and the waterfront park at the Entrance was bustling with carnival rides and activities for the school holidays.  We rocked up at 3:30pm just in time for the daily Pelican Feeding, when the resident pelicans come to a specially made feeding area for a fish or two.  It’s strange to watch the pelican’s enormous bills move in unison.

 

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Northern Lakes

North of the Entrance is the Norah Heads lighthouse, which offers fantastic views of the ocean and rocky plateaus below.  On the other side of Lake Tuggerah is the gateway city of Wyong, where you can get some award winning cheese from Little Creek Cheese.  They even do körözött, a kind of Hungarian spreadable cheese.  We walked away with a jar of marinated salad cheese which is like a feta but milder in flavour.

 

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The Peninsula

We made time to drive through the Peninsula region and marvelled at the beautiful scenery around the lakes and lagoons.  We even popped in at the peculiar Ettalong Markets, a long-running undercover market set in a Mediterranean piazza style building.

 

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Drink

Block N Tackle Brewery

While they’ve been brewing for over 10 years, the Block N Tackle outlet has only been open since April 2015.  They do small batch craft beers and also offer snacks like pies and crisps.  We loved the Rip Bridge Golden Ale (5.9%) – it was a delight, with citrus and tropical fruit flavours balanced well with malt, hops and a yeasty finish.  They also brew the Rip Channel Golden Ale, a smoother version of the Rip Bridge that is just as fruity and sweet, and a Coffee Porter that needed just a little more coffee, but it still smelt fantastic.  If you love their beers, grab yourself a cool stainless steel growler that looks like a mini keg, and fill it with your favourite brew.

 

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Six String Brewing Co.

This brewery was hidden away in a windowless shed but once inside, the atmosphere is rocking!  Near the bar are tables to sit down and enjoy a drink or a pizza from the kitchen, and in front of the fermenting tanks is a little stage for live music.  All of their beers were well balanced and delicious.  Juz favoured the Coastie Lager – yeasty and sweet with hints of grapefruit and bread with a crisp and refreshing finish, while Dave really enjoyed the Dark Red IPA because despite prominent hops, it was balanced with creamy caramel flavours.

 

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Central Coast Brewery

We had never come across a brewery where you can brew your own beer!  They have a menu of over 160 varieties of beer, and you spend a day at the brewery doing the cook before your brew goes into the fermenting tanks for around 10-12 days.  The full process takes about 2 weeks and you end up with about 6 cartons of beer.  They also have a fridge full of their own brews that have been compared to some well known beers.  They sell three long necks for $13.50, which is a bargain, and all the boys in the shed seem like seasoned brewers.

 

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Distillery Botanica

Philip is the man behind Distillery Botanica – he found that he couldn’t drink wine or beer for medical reasons so he began to distil pure sprits.  All of his products start out as vodka and he uses plants to add flavour and colour.  All of his spirits are smooth and he has won a few awards.  Our favourites were the Raspberry Liqueur and the Mr Black Cold Drop Coffee Liqueur.

 

 

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Helpx : A home on the Central Coast

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We were in Byron Bay when Juz got assigned to a cartoon camp in Gosford for the school holidays.  It was easy enough to get there on time, but we needed somewhere to stay for the week and Dave needed to be kept occupied while Juz was at work, so we consulted the Helpx website for a new assignment.  We found a host near Gosford who needed help with clearing fallen trees in the garden and were willing to put up with us for a week.  Perfect…

 

Nigel and Sophia live on a large block with their two boys Kit and Jeremy.  Nigel is an artist while Sophia runs a home away from home dog kennel called Hip Hound Holidays.  On our arrival, we found nearly a dozen dogs in the backyard and got initiated with a few paw prints on our pants.

 

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Work

The working week started with Juz heading off early to her job at the cartoon camp while Dave got started on a few tasks around the house.  Apart from chopping wood for the fire, he also used a chainsaw to chop up branches from a fallen tree in the backyard, and then stacked them up to dry.

 

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Due to a vicious storm that blew through in April, many trees in the Hunter Valley and surrounding area had fallen.  The council collected the trees and turned them into free mulch, so another job was to collect a boot full of mulch and lay it out over the garden bed.  Aside from the garden work, there was always playtime and patting time with the dogs, and we took a couple of them for a walk as well.

 

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When Juz would come home, it was time to prepare dinner – not only for us but for the dogs as well.  Each dog would have a unique dinner made up in their own bowl of various foods that the owner prescribed, such as chicken pieces or a mixture of wet and dry food.  The dogs would watch from the windows with anticipation, and one by one, each dog would be invited inside for their evening meal.

 

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Once the dogs were fed, it was the humans’ turn. Sophia is an incredible cook and made delicious curries while Nigel was a connoisseur of well-priced wine.  This was our favourite time of the day – sitting around the dinner table, talking and swapping stories from the past.  Juz would usually help to clear the table and wash up, as her way to contribute to the household duties.

 

On a few occasions, we cooked dinner.  One night we did a huge feast of Dave’s special schnitzels with bacon potato salad, while on our last night, Juz wanted to cook some Hungarian favourites – lángos and chicken paprika.

 

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Thank You

Our time with Nigel and Sophia and their kids was great, and we appreciate that they took us in at such short notice.  They were so welcoming and made us feel like part of the family.

 

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