off we go! travel blog

Hunter Valley

Another grey morning (sigh), but we got ourselves together, quick visit to the library for email checks (and to object to a planning application by our neighbours!), and headed north. We followed the inland route up along the Great Dividing Ranges and alongside two national parks, the Wollemi and the Yengo. A great road to travel, but the condition of the road surface was not always good. Scenery was fantastic but it did get a bit monotonous as there was a great deal of it, much the same, mile after mile. The sun started to appear through the clouds and very soon it was hot and cloudless.

We pulled over for some lunch and when we got out of the camper we found remains of several kangaroo in varying states of decomposition, mostly advanced. We returned to the road towards the vineyards and on the 30km or so we spotted probably a dozen more kangaroo or wallaby carcasses; gruesome! Also along that stretch of road, and much objected to by the locals was a vast open cast mining site, not all that obvious from the road but we could see the huge spoil hills.

Our first vineyard in the Hunter Valley was the Oakvale Winery. It has been going since 1893, though it only has a modest production, all sold locally, no exports. We tried the Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc blend, the Semillon, for which the Hunter Valley is famous, Ruth tried the Verdhelo, and we finished with the Shiraz, probably the wine that brought the most fame to the Hunter Valley. All were very good, but we only bought two bottles, Verdhelo and Shiraz.

Out from Oakvale and into the next drive for the Hunter Valley Distillery. We arrived just behind a wine tour group who were on their last stop of the tour. It must have been a good tour as they were all pretty well oiled and very loud. The Distillery made gin, several,flavoured vodkas and even more flavoured liqueurs. We only tried the gin and the lemon-myrtle vodka and enjoyed both, so a bottle of each found their way into the camper. Enough!

Time to find a campsite, and after inspecting the two local sites and the beautiful Bimbadeen Lookout (strictly no camping) we headed to Broke for a freedom site in the forest. We arrived just before sunset and the light through the trees was beautiful. We listened to all the bird calls as the evening darkened until we were just left with the sound of cicadas.

Woken early again by bird calls, so breakfast shower and we were off. We planned to go to the Bimbadeen Winery for lunch, but it wasn't very far away and we didn't feel like hanging around all morning so set off for the coast. We drove north to the New England Highway that we followed until we hit the Pacific Highway near Newcastle. It was strange to see a couple towns around there, Hexham and Wallsend. On the way we called in at a VW dealer to sort out the near side headlight and the rattling rear wheel arches. This camper is a wreck!

On up the Pacific Highway, one of the best roads we had driven on in Australia, most of the others had very poor surfaces. And some even had patches on patches which were terrible to drive on. Anyway, back to the Pacific Highway, we drove for a while to get clear of the Newcastle conurbation and out into lovely countryside before heading for Port Stephens and a little place by the ocean called Hawk's Nest. A lovely spot, we saw a group of pelicans, and then it started to rain. The pelicans just stood there with mouths agape, collecting the rainwater.

Our next move was thwarted; we checked with the local I-site who advised us the only way to our destination for the day involved two ferries, both of which were closed for the next few days! Plan B. Back to the Pacific Highway and north again until the Bungawahl road which we followed all the way out to Seal Rocks, the eastern-most point in this region. The road was a bit bumpy towards the end but eventually we arrived at treachery Bay Campsite. A bit basic but very laid back people who said if we like the site just find a space and he'll be along shortly to collect the fees. He never did show.

By the time we had cooked dinner it was too dark to do,anything else, so off to bed. This getting dark by eight in the evening was not so good, we had enjoyed long evenings in NZ and missed that, but it was only going to get worse as we moved further north.

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