We decided to take a couple days away from the city and go to a place called Port Stephens (which is about 150 miles north of Sydney). We are staying at the Samurai Beach Bungalows, which are in the Tomaree National Park.
When we arrived, I knew that we had gone outside the city. There were no large buildings, the houses were spread apart, and we had passed several horse farms on the way out to Port Stephens. The bungalows are nestled in a rain forest and a cacophony of bird calls. A large dog came bounding up to greet us and the check-in to our room occurred on an outdoor patio. The place was beautiful and very calming. Our hostess, Sandy, showed us the bushman’s kitchen (an outdoor covered area with a grill and propane fired burners) and the path down to our room. The rooms were basic, but very nice. We had a little refrigerator unit, a bed with night stands, and large windows with views into the forest. There was porch with a sitting area and a table.
We quickly realized that we had no food, and there were not exactly any cafes around the hostel. We hired (Australian for rented) some bikes and decided to trek to the closest grocery store. We mapped out the course recommended by Sandy. We were given some beach cruisers (bikes with only one gear setting) and were off on our way. Sandy recommended we look for koalas along the way, which sounded like a nice idea…until we got on the road. The road she had us get on to go to the grocery store had a speed limit of 90 km/hr (60 mph) and it has not been my experience that Australians follow speed limits too closely. The cars were a worry, but the buses and trucks nearly made me fall off my bike. The speeding cars combined with one gear bike and a trip up a long, large hill did not leave much time to watch for koalas. We eventually made it to the grocery store in one piece. We even stopped by the bottle-o (the liquor shop) to buy some beers which conveniently went into Dawn’s basket on the front of her bike.
The next day after I got some work done, we headed out to Samurai beach (walking this time). It was a pretty path through the woods down to a pretty secluded beach. I think dawn picked Samurai beach because it was a “clothes optional” beach and she was looking to take in the sights. It took about 45 minutes to walk down to the beach and we were surprised to find the beach mostly deserted. We decided to do some exploring and walked towards some of the rock cliffs for a better view of the beach. Off in the distance we saw a man doing some surf fishing…with no clothes. It took a second to realize as I thought he just had a flesh colored shirt on and white shorts, but nope, he was naked. At first I was a little embarrassed, than strangely intrigued. I had never given notion to the idea of fishing naked, but it suddenly seemed like an interesting idea (giving my boys a breath of fresh ocean air). I made a mental note for something to try in the future and we continued walking. I then started to notice that the beach wasn’t quite as vacant as it seemed. There were a couple men hiding behind the dunes sun bathing. Another man had set up a partition behind his car so that no one would see that he was naked (but we all knew). After what seemed like an eternity walking through naked men, we finally reached the cliffs. We climbed up the middle of the cliffs, took in the view (filtering out male parts), and then went back to the hostel.
We decided that we may want to go into town for some dinner, so we took the bus to Shoal Bay. The most scenic part of Port Stephens was Tomaree Head according to the national park sign we read at Samurai Beach, so we decided to check it out. It was a very steep hike up the mountain, but the view at the top was absolutely worth it. You could see the three bays surrounding Port Stephens and the beaches that connected them. The national forest surrounded everything. You’ll have to check out the pictures once they are posted. It started raining on our way down, so we grabbed some food to cook back at the bushman’s kitchen (Dawn wanted one of the famous Flynn egg & English muffin sandwiches).
Since the hostel is in the national forest, there is a far amount of wildlife surrounding the bushman’s kitchen. The most daring was the kookaburra bird. At first it was cool that this unique bird got so close to us, but we started to realize he was just waiting for the perfect time to snag some of our food. The first night I was cooking BBQ chicken on the grill and he stole a piece as soon as I took it off the grill. So when I was making the egg sandwiches, I made sure to leave nothing available for the bird. I put the finished sandwiches between two plates and started to wash the pans I had used. The bird knocked the top plate off and stole one of the eggs. The bird went from being cute and unique to being obnoxious and annoying. The only saving grace was that the bird prompted Dawn to sing her kookaburra bird song over and over again (I tried to get a video of her singing it but she absolutely refused to be recorded).
It down-poured that night, so it gave us a good chance to relax with some of the people also staying in the beach bungalows. We played a furious game of UNO, which was way more fun than I remembered. I started to notice that people took a perverse pleasure in dealing me the draw-4 and skip cards. Quiet time was at 11, so we all shuffled back to our rooms. It was very soothing listening to the rain hit the roof of our room, but I had to drag myself out to attend a staff meeting that night at 1:30am via a conference call. The “internet room” was an outdoor patio with wireless access. All the lights are out, so I’m sitting in the dark in the middle of a rain forest with a million mosquitoes. You guys at work should appreciate the levels I’m willing to go just to hear your voices .
The next afternoon Dawn and I decided we wanted to hike through some more of the national forest and possibly see some koalas. We hired some mountain bikes (instead of the beach cruisers) and headed off. We missed the path entrance we had intended, so we continued on to the sand dunes at Anna Bay. It reminded me of the dunes at Kitty Hawk in the outer banks. Dawn and I climbed to the top and were rewarded with another glorious view of the national forest. Again, make sure to check out the pictures. We did catch a koala on the way back to the hostel.
Next stop, Collaroy Beach in Sydney.