Leave: sick, holiday, long service, sabbatical etc

How much leave do you get from work?

Is it enough?

Do you want more? I do. For years, I’ve wanted freedom from work. To own my time. To be able to do something or nothing. To potter. To read. To go slow.

I have one week until my next break. I feel I could work for another few weeks – I have enough work that to do that won’t fit into a week, that’s for sure.

But conversely, I also feel like it is Friday today and the week should be at the end.

The fortnight I have off is already largely full of things to do.

Coming up in a few months is our trip to Germany – on extended leave (which used to be called Long Service Leave. As someone who thinks words matter, as they control thoughts, I worry about the govt changing the name – what do they have in stall for us? I can’t help thinking m.)

And then there is my year off – which I am blogging about once a week over here. Pop over and see where I’ve been daydreaming and planning for time off.

I live for the holidays

I’m a teacher. You may know me from such favourites as “Yes, the holidays are great. Study and become a teacher so you can have them too” and “Enjoy your holidays. Oh sorry. You haven’t got them. Well, enjoy the time with your kids.”

The Man and I have just had five weeks off. I know you won’t be sympathetic, but the summer break used to be six weeks. Unsurprisingly, I much preferred having the six weeks. Still, we always manage to fit a bit in our five weeks summer break.

This summer break, working up until the 20th didn’t leave much time for Christmas prep. It finally felt like Christmas on Christmas Eve. We had a lovely family day.

Then it was time to pack for our South Pacific cruise. Sixteen years ago The Man and I went on a South Pacific cruise. We swore we’d never do it again. Not our scene. Like a floating RSL club. Bogans who stuff themselves with food. Our cabin was tiny. We had to eat dinner separate from our kids and with people who had limited conversation and one of whom really disliked us. And we had to have dinner with them every night!!!

Well, I’ve changed my tune.

We loved it.

On the top deck, cocktails prior to departure.

Travelling with friends meant we didn’t have to engage in much small talk with strangers which is not our thing. We joined our friends for breakfast and dinner in the restaurant every night and never ran out of conversation. During the day at sea, I slept, read, listened to audio books, drank cocktails, daydreamed. We went to a few evening shows. One was amazing, one pure corn, one hilarious.

As to the cabin size, we booked a balcony cabin. I wasn’t going if I didn’t have my own balcony. But lucky us, we were upgraded to a suite – fancy term for a bigger room with a bigger bathroom and balcony and a small entrance to the bathroom with extra wardrobe space. Luxury!

View of ship from Mystery Island. Look at the clear water.

We did the usual stops. Mystery Island. Port Vila. Lifou. Noumea.

Island opposite from Mystery Island

There was no waiting for the tenders to Mystery Island or Lifou. We were surprised at how quick and efficient the transfers were.

At Mystery Island, there is no mystery. We walked around it in about 40 minutes, and then snorkeled along a rock ledge, with beautiful, colourful fish. We also snorkeled at Lifou. This time with sea turtles. Such big creatures look so mobile and fluid in the water.

Port Vila was visually unattractive. We walked into town and I nearly passed out from the heat and humidity. Clearly my white, white soft skin makes me unsuited to tropical days that involve even the slightest physical activity. It may have been better to visit a resort. The best thing was the cheap duty free alcohol. $11 for a litre of vodka and $24 for 750ml of Chambord. I see some French martinis coming up.

I enjoyed walking around Noumea, eavesdropping on the French conversation and using my poor French when buying some clothes and beer.

I think I want to live on a tropical island for a bit. The s-l-o-w pace appeals to me. Not being able to do a lot, not being able to go far afield.

Leaving on the 28th, early in the break, made the holidays seem longer. Unbelievable that we had a week at home until I flew to Queensland to catch up with family and friends. And then I even had a few days at home before work resumed.

Between the cruise and Queensland, I went to see Bohemian Rhapsody with a friend. I am so glad I saw it on the big screen with big sound. What a toe tapping, joyous movie.

Before the movie, we went to cafe. I’m not a cafe frequenter. I find the food often pompous or overpriced and not much different from what I can do easily at home. My main takeaway from this cafe: is there are shortage of glassware? The water came in finger bowls and the chocolate milkshake in a jar.

Also caught up with another friend for lunch in the city.

Summer isn’t summer without some trips to the beach.

Avoca Beach

The Man’s Kiwi cousin came to stay for a couple of nights. We took her to the beach and then home to laze by the pool and escape the heat with alcohol.

Walking along inlet to North Curl Curl Beach

Surfers waiting for the next set

The holidays will end with a few days lazing by the pool, and dozing inside with a fan, the only way to escape the heat wave.

You know how teachers always say they work during the holidays and you think, “Yeah, right!” Well I did go into to work for a couple of days and did field calls and emails. So it wasn’t all relaxing and fun. But hey, I still had five weeks of awesomeness.

Do you know what teachers fear most about holidays? Running into students. So I was caught doing the congo line in the restaurant on the cruise. Three families from my school were on the cruise! And then another family on my flight to Queensland. Luckily they were all lovely families with great kids.

Already thinking of my next break. And how to escape Sydney’s heat.

Travelling or a holiday?

Possibly because I have so many breaks as a teacher – every ten weeks, I have at least two weeks off – or possibly because of the effort needed for a long haul flight; either way I don't see our trip to France as a "holiday".

For me holidays are slow and relaxed, even if we do plenty of active things, whether going away or staying at home. OK, in France we won't have to get up every morning by 6 to be at work by 7.40. But we won't be lazing the days away with a book or five, on the beach. We won't be hanging by our own pool with cocktails and music. Not that we don't do active things on our holidays. Mr S can't sit still for long, hence the annual ski trip, and I have to go for walks. Our ski trip and our road trips are holidays. In the past my favourite holidays were camping by the beach in national parks. Still, while we might be on the move, we have a slow relaxed feel.

Like our trip to London two years ago, in France we will be on the go. This time it will be slightly more challenging given the language and driving challenges. We will be busy.

I want to see everything, eat everything, sit and absorb the local atmosphere. Of different places.

For we may never take this path again!

No matter how beautiful, how beguiling, we may never pass this way again.

No, my trip to France is "a trip", not a holiday. I'm like a woman on a mission.

Travelling in Australia, I'm a little more relaxed, as I know it is more likely that I can pass this way again. I didn't get to do something I wanted to last January at Lake Crackenback (in the photo above) but no worries. I think I will be back next summer.

Actually for most of my breaks, my holidays are about going on trips to somewhere new or seeing a new bit of something I missed (like my Kelly expeditions or stopping off at different places on our road trips north and south) or simply relaxing at home. I never understood the attraction of a holiday home. Why would I want to go to the same place every holiday? Why would I want another home to be responsible for? Mr S likes routine and going to the same place, like the same ski field, and having the same pub counter lunch.

What's your approach when travelling somewhere new? What's your approach to holidays – is it the new or the known that attracts you?

Once a bustling, noisy place

Mr S loves going to the same place for holidays. I don’t. So three years ago I agreed to go to the same ski resort only if we spent a couple of days exploring Kelly Country. That’s Ned Kelly. 

I had read a host of books on Ned – it was my Summer of Ned. I wanted to retrace Ned’s journey. 

Did I tell you an amazing coincidence? It will only make sense if you know the importance of Room 101 in 1984. The cell Ned was placed in Beechworth Prison was number 101!!! And a sign of the penal attitudes, while most people lived in dirt floor shacks, the prison is huge and imposing. I don’t think most visitors to the prison get it. Anyway that was the winter of 2015.

For the last three winters, I have explored different parts of Kelly country for a few days before we head off to Mr S’s favourite holiday.  This year, despite being bedridden with flu (in a lovely BnB) I managed to get out for a morning drive through Woolshed Valley. 

Fireplace in the lounge room of our lovely BnB

I wanted to go to the Woolshed Valley because it used to be a thriving place of gold diggings, Chinese market gardens, schools, pubs, small holdings. And because it was in this valley that Ned’s lieutenant lived and learnt Chinese from the Chinese gold miners, and apparently adopted their love of opium. 

You have gold diggings and deserted roads, you have bushrangers. You have a large rock, you have a place for a bushranger to hide behind, and jump out at passing coaches. “Bail up!!!”

It was also where Joe Byrne and Dan Kelly shot Aaron Sherritt with the police hiding under the bed in the two room shack. This precipitated the siege. 

It is hard to believe that there were two story hotels, restaurants, pubs and a public bath along this road. Now there are saplings, scrub and bush. There are signs along the road which describe was once was; some pointing out features left in the landscape. I couldn’t see them. 

Sebastopol Flat, a thriving town in the late 1850s

The cold, wet day made it all the more possible to imagine the miserable lives they led in Kelly’s time. Wet. Cold. Without an insulated, centrally heated house. With little furniture and limited clothing.  Just hard work all round. 

While we in the comfort of a heated car with heated seats, Ned and his gang traversed the area by foot and on horse back. 

The ford across the creek. It would flood after rains.

Totally unrelated to Ned’s time, the world’s biggest dredge, or some similar claim to fame, anyway it was damn big is in Eldorado, the village at the start of the road to Beechworth through the Woolshed Valley. It was eerie walking in this industrial relic. Again, it harked to an harder era. 

Seats from an old roller coaster? No, scopes from the dredge.

Not a shed. This is a massive floating dredge. Yes, it floats on the creek.

I told you I didn’t want to ski

We come to the ski fields every year. Actually that’s a slight generalisation. We come to the same ski resort every year. 

I’m over it. Have been for three years. I like to see different places. There’s not really any place new to walk in the village.  And I’m not really a skier. 

I CAN ski. I just don’t really like it. I mean some runs have been great fun but speed and heights are not my thing.  Which kinda rules out sliding down a mountain. 

For the last three years I came under sufferance. Or with caveats. Like, “I’ll come but only if we do a Ned Kelly tour first.” And, “I’ll come if we go on this dirt road to see where Ned’s mate came from.”

So now I’ve exhausted the Kelly places I want to see in winter. And I don’t want to be stuck on the resort for 10 days. Two years ago there wasn’t any snow, so we went walking. Which I really enjoyed. Mr S less so as skiing is One Of His Great Joys. (I don’t get it. He knows all the runs. He’s not seeing anything different.)

Anyway, I thought I should go for a ski. I mean, I’m here. There’s snow. It’s sunny. I shouldn’t just sit and read for the 10 days. And I get a little stir crazy in the tiny (but expensive) unit (which is a fancy word for a room).

It’s easy to stay inside when it’s snowing or the queue’s massive or the visibility is limited. 

I bought a two day lift ticket. You can go up the afternoon before. So I went for a run. Mmm. It was OK. Mr S, as usual, wanted me to do more. Why? Cause you’ve paid for the lift ticket. Nah, that’s enough. My back has been twinging. 

Today was spectacular. How could I stay in the room with a day like this?

 I thought of taking my book up top and reading. No, I will do some green runs. 

And wouldn’t you know it. One of the green runs is actually harder than the blue run next to it. Rocks and grass are exposed but of course you don’t know this until you’ve committed. 

And as I was going slow because I’m a nervous Nelly, I hit a rock and fell. And twisted my knee. 

I managed to right myself and limp home but that’s it. I’m not risking my limbs. I want to be whole for France. 

I asked my son to bring me some snow in a bag so I can ice my knee. (My eldest is spending the season here, working and skiing and drinking beer. Mr S is jealous. He’d love to spend a season in the snow. Do it, I say. But without me.) 

When you send your son to get you some ice, be specific. Or you will get a massive amount.

The next few days I will dedicate to finishing the novel I am reading. And blogging. I am not risking being one of those who are taken off the mountain by skidoo. It’s just not worth it. 

You know I wish I’d stuck to last year being my last ski. Then I could have gone out with pleasant memories and stories of skiing well. Not, I fucked my knee and I’m just too old for this malarkey. 

Easter adventure – driving south 

The Pacific Highway is a different beast from that of my childhood; even from that of five years ago. 

In my childhood it was a narrow, windy road with tall trees right next to the road. Me S and I were once nearly wiped out by a logging truck that crossed to our side of the road. Another time one washed a wave of water, from rain that covered the road, over us, so we were blinded. On a narrow crest and curve!

Now for much of it, it is two lanes both ways on separated roadways. Safer. But boring. And by bypassing towns, you don’t just come across interesting places to stop. 

Hence our mid trip cuppa was at an awful stop. The first town we passed through was packed. Because it was the first interesting place to stop! And everyone wanted to stop. So, of course, Mr S didn’t want to stop. 

We tried the first roadside rest stop, one that signs from the start of the highway in NSW has advertised as future rest stops. Surely that must indicate the stop must be large, have good facilities and be attractive? OMG. It was so bad, we drove off. 

Mr S had taken over the driving, and he didn’t notice what may have been a suitable place off the road. Or did he just not want to cross the highway? He took the next road side stop on our side of the highway. It was bleak. Mozzies started to attack me. Mozzies the size of flies. Huge buggers! And then it started to rain. I hid in the car. Mr S stayed outside and fed the mozzies. 

Arriving in Bellingen, where we planned to stay for two nights, was like arriving in Nirvana. Lush, green, and sunny. The town was full of hippies and hipsters or weekend hippies. 

Our accommodation, on the main street, was above shops – a masseuse/naturopath, an alternate bookshop and a locally-made Nepalese-inspired clothes shop. Of course! What else would you expec  in a large rustic building in Bellingen! 

With large front and back verandahs, our accommodation was a spacious retreat. Rustic and arty. And it was all ours. Well except for one room off the back verandah which was used by a masseuse or acupuncturist. We couldn’t see but heard the music and smelt the incense. 

Morning view of the misty mountains from my bed.

Mr S, breakfasting in our kitchen

Back verandah

Back verandah dining table. All ours. Looking over the shops. With a spot like this, why would you go to a cafe for breakfast?

The first night we drank and ate in the pub. The food was gross. So the second night we bought the makings of our own antipasto spread and enjoyed the feast in our flat. 

Cauliflower pakora, lentil and pumpkin patties, prosciutto, cherry toms in fig balsamic vinegar, artichokes, semi dried tomatoes and olives, and French bread.

The pub. Nice beer. Meh food.

We spent the day walking around the shops, along the river, around the town. This is cafe paradise, if you’re into cafes. We’re not but we visited one for a chocolate milk shake and another one for a toasted roast pumpkin, creamy feta, spinach and dukkah sandwich. The afternoon was beer and chatting on our verandahS – time spent on both verandahs, enjoying the different views. 

We’d never seen these birds before. A quick internet search, blue-faced honey eaters, described as “pugnacious”. So accurate. They shooed off other birds to eat the scraps from the outdoor tables at the cafe.

Very yummy roast pumpkin, spinach, feta and dukkah toastie

Lots of choices of places to eat. Bellingen, cafe territory.

Mr S walking down steep path, which we walked up by mistake. The chain would be needed if it was raining. I needed it for the way up.

Old emporium.

We visited the town museum, gold coin donation entry. It has a few interesting pieces but is very cluttered and not well laid out or described. The volunteers here are going for quantity. I don’t think they want to throw anything out but really don’t have the space for it. (By the way, the Uralla museum is also run by volunteers, and while having a much bigger space, have realised space between exhibits is as important as the items exhibited. Without the space and labels, it all just becomes stuff.)

We had a five hour trip home. Time for more Dad’s Army and Agatha Christie radio plays. And, of course, a stop for a cuppa. This stop was off the highway. The toilets were built by volunteers from the local community. Not sure about the tables and playground equipment. I can see the spot will be well used by travellers. It was clean, with a playground for kids to play, somewhere to sit, an information display to read. We watched a family exercise their dog in the field you see behind Mr S. The area is removed from the highway noise but only a short way off the highway. Good for those who hate deviating off the route too far. I hope the local community don’t regret building this and that travellers treat it well. 

The sun had a bit of bite. We were grateful for the shade of the shelters. It was about 25°.

Hedge of fuchsia bottlebrushes in flower along the rest area, separating it from the road.

Mr S and I are universal in enjoying our adventures. A friend pointed out to me that I am lucky to have a partner who enjoys the same “adventures” as I do. And she’s right. 

What awaits us next break? It’s snow season, so not much guess work needed. 

Tambourine Mountain

Shush. We’re in hiding, tucked up in Tambourine Mountain. OK, we were tucked up. Our Easter hibernation den. 

On Friday we didn’t venture out. Hung around my mother’s place, talking, reading, blogging, drinking, eating, snoozing. 

On Saturday we snuck out for supplies. What are all these people doing on our mountain? Quick, back to our hidey hole. 

Lorikeets feeding in my mother’s backyard

On Sunday, my cousin and aunt took me to the Botanic Gardens. I haven’t been here for over 16 years. What a difference! The gardens are extensive and beautiful, with interesting and whimsical details. There’s a little section, The Sooty Owl grotto, to entertain kids with lots of hidden owls. 

A working waterwheel. Who’s that looking out the window?

Can you see now? It’s Sooty Owl.

Oh great! Pester power. To build a home for snakes and spiders in your yard!

By the time we left, the car park and surrounding road was full of people stopping in for lunch. Lucky we came relatively early. On most days there are not many people here. 

We then braved the shopping road, Gallery Walk. It’s aimed at tourists with knickknacks, soaps, candles, crafts, wine etc. Amongst the shops is one of my favourite dress shops. I can always find a bright Gold Coasty dress, something different from Sydney stock. And this time the shop did not disappoint. I got two dresses for the price of one – a super Easter special – and a necklace. 

On Monday I took Mr S to the Botanic Gardens. Look who greeted us. We were there early and the birds were in full voice. Though this fellow was quietly watching and hunting. 

Rare to see one right at eye level. Actually I just love everything about rainforests.

Mr S is not a gardener and not normally impressed with gardens. These gardens impressed him!!! 

The wall of green of the rainforest at the boundary of the gardens is so tall. Without ongoing mowing and pruning, the rainforest would reclaim the gardens and lawn. 

Wall of the rainforest. Look at the gums that tower over the other plants.

We then did a short bush walk through the rainforest. You can’t come to Tambourine Mountain and not do a rainforest walk. Listen to this whip bird from our walk! And get a feel for the rainforest. The jungle! Palms and trees and vines! Magic!

A few more shots from the rainforest. So lush!

Fungi working their magic on fallen trees.

You’re looking at a fallen tree, being overtaken by other plants.

Love the buttress roots.

And I love how the white ghost gums stand out. And tower above the canopy, so straight

In the afternoon we visited my aunt at her home. Mr S has teased/bullied her into baking a cake. She makes the most divine cakes and this one was perfect. She hand whips her cream. I don’t know if this is what makes it so silky but it has a different consistency and sheen. My cousin, who had visited her mother, had to go home early as her cows had escaped – best excuse ever. My cousin’s daughter’s anticipated visit did not eventuate as she is still cleaning up after the recent floods. Her town just south of the border went under. Here’s some photos of the flood at her house. 

Flood waters lapping at my second cousin’s verandah.

So you understand the enormity of the floods, my second cousin lives in a Queenslander. For overseas readers, that’s a house on stilts with the residence upstairs, so designed to allow air flow underneath and aid with natural cooling. The flood waters in the Ohio above are actually lapping at her top storey. Here’s her house when the floods just began. Now you can see why everything is so green and the waterfall at Armidale was gushing!

By Tuesday, the worst of the traffic was gone and Mr S and I snuck off the mountain, heading home the Pacific Highway route, one thermos filled with boiling water and one with milk for our cuppa rest break. Would we find a nice spot? 

New England adventure cont.

We don’t have many deciduous trees in Australia. We’re not used to seeing evergreens, especially on mass. So the yellows and reds of deciduous trees are not only beautiful, they’re unexpected. 

With the cold climate of the New England area and the early settlers’ wealth and longing for England, it is no wonder that they planted non-native trees. 

It is slightly early for the trees to be changing but the yellow on the golden poplars was striking. This was our first autumn trip though New England; the autumnal colour was an unplanned bonus.

We saw some beautiful views. Didn’t capture them but luckily for the Internet I found some pics. This was the entrance to a farm from the highway. 

Look at the start of the change to red on the vine of the little church. (It is my photo this time.) I googled it and there some strikingly red shots. We might have to go back one mid autumn!


We stopped at Inverell to buy milk for our tea. (Mr S had previously filled out thermos with boiling water at the guesthouse so we could stop for our obligatory cup of tea in a park.) Being the day before Good Friday, the supermarket was busy. Now supermarkets are not the best place to spend time (unless you’re overseas and want to try different foods), especially the day before Good Friday, but we really had to escape and quickly. This was not our sort of place; full of not our sort of people. Interesting buildings, though. 

We drove around town to find a park, we stopped at Jubilee Park. We always stop at parks with tables and benches. And the bench here is exactly why I pack a table cloth. God knows what the stuff was. Quick, hide the gunk! I realised this was not the park I wanted to stop at. There’s one further on the highway with extensive gardens. Oh well, next time!

Jubilee Park rotunda

The town ducks were not interested in my bread scraps, flying away when I tossed some to them. Maybe they were wild migrating ducks?

Ducks on the creek bed

Ducks flying away from me

Or maybe the ducks were just wary of sneaky cats?

The showground was surrounded by a hug fence. Ag shows would have been truely impressive in a time of little other entertainment. Probably still pull a big crowd for different horse shows. Hey, who doesn’t love still the woodchoppers? I captured them at the Sydney Royal Easter Show the week before. 

Woodchopping contest at Easter Show

As we crossed the boarder into Queensland, the Easter traffic picked up. But still nothing compared to the poor buggers just leaving Sydney. 

View from our car on New England Highway in Qld

The steep road up to the top of Tambourine Mountain took us to our Easter hibernation. The holiday makers, among which we don’t count ourselves, can scurry about. We’ll be taking it slow and doing little. 
How to end a road trip? With mum’s home-made, slow-cooked, hearty lentil soup.  

New England stopover

We like having two nights stopover on our road trips so we can explore the place. Not for us arriving at night and taking off first thing next morning. 

Armidale is over the midway point on the more interesting route, the New England Highway. As a university town, the town itself has the buzz of youth. The town and surrounding area has a mix of beauty and things of historical interest. 

We stayed at Peterson’s winery. We’ve stayed here before and loved it – imagining being in our country estate as part of the squatocracy. While pricey, Peterson’s House is lovely. One night’s stay is not enough as you don’t get to make the most of the house and grounds. Those who only stay one night don’t get to play squatter and sit on the verandah and in the gardens.

Originally built by own of the first local settlers, one of the Dangars, it is now owned by a family who have several vineyards. 

As we arrived on dusk on the first night, the fireplaces in the main hall were already lit. Fireplaces? Yes, as one fireplace is not enough, the squatter had two in his main hall and one in all the other rooms. We enjoyed a few drinks to slough off the dust of the road trip in front of the fire. 

Then we repaired to the dining room for a two course dinner. Of course there was another blazing fire in the dining room. 

Mr S had an antipasto platter for entree. The mix of pâtés were especially divine. We seem to have a rule that we don’t order the same thing so we can try a greater variety of food. I had a tomato, basil and creamy feta salad. It was light and the cheese was beautiful. Mr S was happy with his choice. So was I as I ate quite a bit of it too. 

For mains I had pork and mash and Mr S had salmon steak. One of the good things about eating out with Mr S is there is never any wastage. I had to give most of the pork to him to finish off as the servings were very plentiful. Despite the deserts sounding divine, we simply couldn’t fit any in. So we returned to the main hall to talk and relax in front of the fire. 

Being on the outskirts of Armidale there’s very little light pollution. The night sky is rich with stars. But we didn’t actually sleep well. The room was too hot for us, or the blanket too heavy for a heated room. So in the morning we turned off the underfloor heating in the bathroom (though it is a lovely invention – to step onto warm tiles, what a luxury!) and turned off the room heating. 

We started our day with a full cooked breakfast, hearty fare for our planned day of adventuring. 

We were going to follow a tourist route. I’ve never done one before. I’ve often seen the signs in our travels and wondered about them and if anyone actually does them. 

We didn’t stop at the war memorial as we have stopped here before. The symbolism and the story behind the memorial is very interesting. Glad we stopped last time. 

First stop for us on Tourist route 19 was Dangars Gorge and Dangars Falls which is along Dangars Falls Road which runs off Dangarsleigh Road. All in the area called Dangarsleigh. Yes, the Dangars gave name to a lot here. 

We’ve been to the falls before; it is worth a return visit. The drive in is exciting. You drive through private property and the unsealed road is unfenced as you pass through sheep and cattle farms. We spotted a large brown bird of prey, a brown falcon, sitting on a fence post. 

The highlands are deceptive. You don’t notice you have gorges and steep cliffs around you. Much of the farmland looks like rolling hills. Dangars Gorge is awe-inspiring. Photos do not do justice to the depth and majesty of the gorge. 

The quiet water before the falls

We went on a two hour walk around the gorge, to McDirty’s Lookout which looks out over the eastern side of the highlands, not as impressive as the gorge itself, but then nothing can match it. The heavy recent rains meant that the waterfall was pounding. The fence is to keep out wild dogs to protect the cattle and sheep. Mr S is just haming it up. There’s no lock. 

We meandered through more farmland to our next stop, a massive shearing shed. That may not sound interesting to many but this is sheep country. The wealth was made “on the back of the sheep” with wool being shipped “home” to England. The wealth and the centrality of wool is evident in the amazing octagonal shearing shed. It’s massive and of an interesting design. Imagine the interest when it was first built in 1872. Most shearing sheds are utilitarian rectangles of slab construction. 

Just over the 1938 bridge, the Dangers has built a little piece of England. An avenue of oaks leads to another homestead which is hidden from view by trees. I imagine it is comparable to the guesthouse which was built by the same family. The little church is actually sad. Dangar built it as a memorial to his grandson who died in WWI. 

Last stop was Uralla. We visited the museum in the old mill. 

This has a varied collection. A series of paintings tells the tale of Captain Thunderbolt, the famous local bushranger. He’s not Ned Kelly but his tale is very interesting. The collection has items related to the loss of locals from the world wars, Chinese migrants from the gold rush, agricultural settlement and the life of the battlers. In one section, the information blurb has been done by by a wit who’s evidently had great fun writing up the explanations. It’s an excellent regional museum. 

The main street of Uralla is worth a stroll to look at the facades. Mr S had visit the lolly shop to buy Edinburgh Rock. He loves it! But I ended up eating most of it!!!

We returned to our guesthouse in the afternoon to meander around the lawn and admire the trees; enjoy a drink on the verandah; and watch the changing light. 

That night we went into town for an Indian dinner. It was okay. Nothing to write home about but not horrendous. Of course, we had to spend a hour in front of the fire back in the hall at the guest house before bed.  

A deep sleep, another hearty breakfast and we were off for the next part of our road trip. 

Yes Armidale is a perfect place to break a road trip between Sydney and south-east Queensland.  

Easter Adventuring – driving north

We normally stay at home over Easter; the traffic, the crowds. 

Traffic escaping Sydney over the long weekend is mad and we don’t want to be stuck in it. After all we have enough breaks to be luckily enough to travel at other weekends. 

A friend posted this on her FB – leaving Sydney on the Thursday before Good Friday

Still, we planned a trip so we would avoid the traffic of Easter. Indeed this was our first Easter trip away in over 15 years as Easter fell in the middle weekend of our two week break so we couldn’t avoid being away at Easter if we were going to be anywhere but home for any length of time. 

The main purpose of our trip was to visit my mother who lives in the hinterland of the Gold Coast. We could fly up and it would “save” time. But saved for what? Chores at home?

It takes about 10 hours of non-stop driving to get to my mother’s place. We actually prefer to drive and break the trip with an overnight stay somewhere, exploring different regions and towns, and stopping for lunch along the way. 

Mr S is a man of habits. If he had his way, we would stop at the same lunch stop every trip. Once he has a place burned in his mind as being “our stop”, it is nigh on impossible getting him to change. Yet, conversely, when we exploring new places, he loves it. 

Our drive north was via the inland road, the New England Highway. It’s our tradition to stop for a lunch of tea and egg, mayo and lettuce rolls with something sweet for dessert. Mr S makes a thermos of tea and I pack the food, a tablecloth and my fine bone china mug. If I’m going to drink tea, it will be from something nice!

As highways are upgraded and towns by-passed, it becomes harder to get Mr S to stop at nice places. He just wants to keep driving and limit tea stops to roadside rest stops. It is not nice siting on the side of the highway with traffic roaring past and with very little to look at. These stops are utilitarian, rather than part of a sightseeing trip. 

Luckily the New England Highway is still mainly single lane and still goes through towns and villages, offering much to see and interesting places to stop. 

We stopped at Muswellbrook, on the Upper Hunter, in a well-maintained park next to the old railway station. It wasn’t actually very quiet as several long coal trains rumbled by. But in between it was peaceful. And it had various things to look at – a tree with aboriginal markings, gardens, a mural on reconciliation, war memorial, the old train station, playground equipment with families playing on them, information on various old trees in the area. Definitely worthy of a stop and a nice place to have a cuppa. 

Mr S in front of the tree with aboriginal markings and the mural in the background. The observant may notice Mr S wears a cap adorned with my favourite anti-hero.

It’s always sad to see so many family names repeated on war memorials in country towns. So many family lost multiple family members.

The war memorial at one end of the park. The blue sky hides the fact that it was a little cool, perfect tea drinking weather.

Satiated, we had a slow drive by of some of the interesting building of Muswellbrook. 

Another of our road trip traditions is to listen to BBC radio plays. We have the complete three series of Dad’s Army, various Agatha Christie adaptations and other plays. We have audio books too but much prefer full cast radio plays.  It really makes the road trip so enjoyable. 

As we set off late, we arrived at the historic guesthouse in Armidale in the New England Highlands where we were booked in for two night just as dusk was deepening.  

So are you a road tripper? Do you have traditions? 

If you make the trip between Sydney and the Gold Coast, do you have any favourite rest stops to recommend? Share away. New England or Pacific Highways? Which is your pick?