After the amazing thunderstorm that was all around us last night, the skies cleared and temperatures dropped right down (but that was to be expected considering we were at 1,000m above sea level).
We made a decision this morning to just head for Brisbane, rather than re-treading the East coast. I might have been more interested in stopping at the beaches along the way if the weather was better, but it was overcast, and there were storms on the horizon. We followed a fun mountain road towards Grafton – it was one of those roads where you’d struggle to find more than 200m of straight road. It was also one of those roads that I wished I was on a motorbike instead of this boat on wheels… until the rain started, and steadily increased until the looks of joy had been well and truly washed from the faces of the motorcyclists out on a Sunday ride.
Apart from the giant prawn (shrimp, for any Americans) that is now sitting at the edge of the car park of Bunnings, we didn’t really stop or look around Ballina. But, for the first time in a while, we were back on the National Highway #1 (Pacific Motorway). It was odd seeing Brisbane on distance markers, and even odder knowing that it was only a few hours away.
We were well and truly within day-tripping distance from Brisbane, which is why we’ve covered this area many times before. If it was our first time though, I think we’d certainly love the long empty beaches south of Byron Bay. We’d also love them more if we hadn’t seen the beaches in Bay of Fires, or Esperance, or Broome, beaches that raised the bar for all other beaches. Yes, even though I’m hardly a beach person, I’ve become a beach snob.
It was a hot and sticky day, so we were actually looking forward to a quick swim. But, by the time we’d made it to the beach at Ballina, it had become overcast, windy, and cool, and all motivation had been lost… We were tempted to drive through Byron Bay for old times sake, but being a Sunday afternoon, it’d be packed with day-trippers from Brisbane anyway. So, we continued along the motorway to the Gold Coast.
We had one last social visit with yet another Australian/Japanese couple (and their cool little son) down the coast before we made our way back up the familiar stretch of motorway linking the two cities. It was weird being on such a wide and busy motorway after so much time on small and quiet country roads.
After the rubbish pie we had in Dubbo, I was craving a Yatala Pie more than ever. It’s a bit of a bad habit that I generally stop in and grab a pie whenever I drive back from the coast. So, when it turned out that mum had no dinner plans and quite fancied pie herself, we popped in, bought a family size steak and mushroom (complete with a giant container of fresh mashed potato) and a large apple pie (and a jam and cream donut to eat now as it was only $2).
From Yatala Pies it was only thirty short minutes to the end of the journey. Now more than ever the reality that our time on the road had come to an end. It had been an amazing six months, filled with ups and a few downs, but every day a new adventure (apart from the days wasted on a couch in Perth). We’d driven more than 35,000km and seen much more of Australia than the average person gets the chance to. Now it was some time for some well earned rest and relaxation while we get ready for our next adventure.
To Be Continued…