Even though we had driven a good five hours from Sydney to get to Port Macquarie, we still had eight or nine more before we were back home on the Sunshine Coast. Since I had never been any further south than Broadbeach on the Gold Coast, we decided to depart Port Macquarie by 8am (or, as I like to refer to it when on vacation, the crack of dawn) so we could make pit stops along the way and still arrive in time for New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Relatively soon after leaving Port, I talked to James’ father to get an update on their progress. His mother, father, and brother had all made the 14-hour trek to Temora with us, but rather than make a roadtrip of it, they visited family all week before leaving at 9pm the night before New Year’s Eve. This would have put them in Queensland by the time we talked—but unfortunately, there had been a bit of a problem.
James’ father had taken over driving while the rest went to sleep. When he saw a big, post-harvest hare in the middle of his lane, he thought nothing of it and didn’t slow down. Their car, a Volvo, which sits fairly low to the ground, did not approve of the hare as soon as the bumper hit fur, and immediately, lots of lights on the dashboard flashed on. On getting out of the car, they found radiator and transmission fluid everywhere. As James’ father described it to me, “You know that rosella (bird with a broken neck that he picked up and showed me in Temora) I showed you? The hare was a lot more dead than that.”
So, rather than being near home, they were stuck in the middle of nowhere trying to get a bus to Dubbo, the nearest place they could hire a car. Even worse, the car could have been totaled, although luckily everyone inside the car was ok. His parents didn’t have many other details for us, other than the fact that they might not make it back to Queensland this year, so it made for a slightly more tense ride up the coast as we worried about what was happening in Coonamble.
On the way to Byron Bay, which we had deemed to be our couple-hour pit-stop of the day, I not only saw the Big Banana (in Coffs Harbour and continuing the Australian tradition, started by the Big Pineapple, of giant fruit on the side of the road), but also the Big Prawn, a disturbing-looking thing sitting atop a building in Ballina.
Rather than take the direct route to Byron, we took the coastal route starting in Ballina. This route offered so many brilliant panoramas of the Tasman Sea that we eventually decided to stop. Funnily enough, the first good lookout we found was the same one James’ grandfather had recommended before we left!
There was a paragliding company operating at the bottom of the lookout hill—this looked fun but expensive, so we sidestepped it and made the short hike to the top of the hill. The view from here, across the area around Lennox Heads, was breathtaking. Luckily, we had a brilliant, clear day as well, so we could even see as far as Byron Bay, with its easternmost point of the Australian mainland reaching out into the sea. It just seemed that we couldn’t take a bad picture.
We would have stayed up there even longer taking pictures, but as we had a schedule to keep, James snapped a couple more pictures and we continued on to Byron Bay, still not knowing what was going on near Dubbo.