Coffs Harbour

We drove on up the Pacific Highway to Coffs Harbour which in itself seems a nice place though with the rain we didn’t see too much of it. 

We drove down to the beach and the swell was some thing to behold. There was a group of Surfer’s stood on the beach who presumably had booked a lesson, but were waiting for the instructor to decide if it was safe to go into the water as it was so rough. We drove along the beach road to the actual harbour where there is a great Sea Food restaurant but by this time the rain was so heavy we couldn’t actually see anything and the wipers couldn’t clear the screen quick enough for us to be able to see our surroundings.

We drove back out of town and saw a tourist information centre so called in there for advice. They suggested the Ibis which was just across the road and as the Ibis is a bog standard chain, we thought we knew what to expect. Wrong.

This is an Ibis Budget with emphasis on the budget.

its our own fault as we didn’t ask to see the room first (presumably because we were so tired) but when we did it was about 4 foot by six with a bed in the middle that obstructed the door to the bathroom which surprisingly was bigger than the room. There was a strip light fixed vertically on the wall by the side of the bed and a shelf that looked like it was made by ‘Tim the Tool Man’. It could have taken 4 ton in weight.

There was no room to sit so we went out into the lobby where free coffee was available and caught up on face book and the blog (last one) and when Jaki went to shower I witnessed a bit of action. A young lady who appeared to be either under the influence of drugs or with mental health issues was asking the proprietor to phone her Mother to ask the mother to pay for her room as she had lost all her belongings. However, when she spoke to Mum she became abusive and Mum refused to pay. The lady then threw chairs around the room and kicked the doors before running out pursued by the proprietor. Free entertainment ibis style.

in reality this is a back packer hostel and I’m surprised the tourist information suggested Jaki and I stay here.

Everything is done on the cheap and most guest were engaged in some form of self catering. Two Asian guys set up a portable gas BBQ on a table outside and proceeded to cook Asian food in the rain. Others used the boiling water from the urn to make noodles or soup.

We went out to eat and discovered that most of the local restaurants were BYO  which is a sensible way of doing things.

The whole culture seems to support self catering, as every room (apart from Ibis) that we’ve had to date has had a cooker of some description, a fridge and an outside BBQ. My advice to fellow travellers, particularly those hiring a car is, buy a good cool box straight away, fill it with essentials and maybe even some basic BBQ equipment. This will save you a fortune and isn’t frowned upon as it would be in the UK.

We settled on a local Hotel and ordered some food and a nice bottle of wine, went into the bar afterward just in time to hear which team won the quiz night and then wondered at the disappearance of everyone once the quiz was over, leaving Jaki and I on our own.

Back at the Ibis we settled down for a fretful nights sleep and were relieved to get up and go the next morning.

The lesson learned from all this is, book your rooms in advance using internet, if not, check the room out before paying.

One useful note was the acquisition of a SIM card for the iPad which now allows us to access the internet without having to pay.

Ibis wanted. $10 per hour and a 4 gig card for 39 days was only $40 and it’s 4 G. If we had done this in the first place we would have saved $20 on useless maps that aren’t detailed enough to show you anything useful (we’ve bought two so far) and they have been hopeless.

Our plan for today was to drive to Byron Bay and find another overnighter but as the weather was still awful we decided to keep driving and try to get to Brisbane.

The A1 (Pacific Highway) isn’t a great road, in fact driving in OZ has been less than inspiring, poorly maintained, at best two lane at worst one with huge double length lorries trying to bully you to go faster or get out of their way and police cars hidden along the route and speed cameras every few yards, this isn’t a road trip like Route 66.

The worst bit was from Grafton to Byron bay as they are building a huge new road which runs parallel to the existing one and as a result there are road works everywhere, we could have done this trip quicker on a mobility scooter as our average speed was about 20 kilometres per hour.

Once past Byron the road becomes the. M1 and is three lane (well mostly) and the speed increases to 110 Kilometres per hour max.

We got ourselves lost going through Brisbane by going onto the M3 instead of keeping left and staying on the M1 which meant we went through a very long tunnel under the Airport and this is a toll road but we didn’t find anywhere to pay and I think you have to phone a number and make a payment within 3 days or presumably get a fine?

Coming out of North Brisbane  we headed for the Gold Coast and a motel room.

We had a surreal experience when we saw a sign for M1 Motor Lodge next left, came off, followed the signs, even the one that said. “reception” but there was no Motel in sight.

Eventually we ended up in Caloundra, but more about that later.

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