Day 61

Start:  Coffs Harbour

Finish:  Coffs Harbour

Distance:  0

Total:  965

Today was a much needed day of rest. It was my last day off before I finish my walk on 15 March in Brisbane. 

I can’t say that I slept in late because I still woke up around 6:00, but I refused to get out of bed until 8:00. Then I needed to find some breakfast. I’ll admit I’m not a big breakfast eater.   On walking days I force myself to eat something good. But on days off I’m really not looking for much. I remember the receptionist when I checked in two days ago saying something about room service. So I walked down to the lobby to check that out. The lady there was very nice and said I really didn’t need to order room service; she would just give me some things to take to my room. I thought SWEET!  So I got some cereal, milk, juice, and fruit for this morning and tomorrow morning. 

After breakfast it was laundry time; my favorite thing in the whole world.  Luckily the motel has a guest laundry. The washer was free and the dryer was $3. That’s a little backwards if you ask me, but whatever.  I didn’t do laundry two days ago or last night so for a change I actually got to put the washer on the MEDIUM LOAD setting!  LOOK OUT!  After doing laundry I was wasted from all that work so I sat around and read all the accurate and reliable information on “X” (formally known as twitter) for a while. Finally lunchtime came and I had some leftovers from last night’s Italian restaurant. 

By mid-afternoon I had one last official duty to take care of on my day off. I needed a haircut. Or at least I’ve been told I could use one from several thousand miles away. So I walked a few blocks to the business district and found a barbershop. The barber did a great job. So good I’m surprised I wasn’t getting stopped on the street by random strangers complementing me on my haircut. But not one person said a word all the way back to my motel. 

So here I am now. Totally rested and ready to get these last 15 days and 267 miles completed. I’ll start tomorrow by walking 16 miles to Woolgoolga; another coastal town straight north from here. That’s all for today from Coffs Harbour. Sorry if this entry was a little heavy in sarcasm but it just starts flowing if I sit too long in one place. Have a happy Thursday. JB. 

My home in Coffs Harbour for the last three nights.
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Day 60

Start:  Urunga

Finish:  Coffs Harbour

Distance:  18

Total:  965

I was back on the bus this morning, returning to the small town of Urunga where I ended my walking day yesterday. However, this bus ride was quite different than my trip yesterday with Damien and the empty bus. 

My day began with a scheduled 8:19 pickup at the bus stop about a 10 minute walk from my motel. As I was waiting on the bus a couple of middle school-aged kids, dressed in their uniforms were also waiting. When our bus pulled up and I got on, much to my surprise, the bus was packed full of kids going to school. They were all dressed alike in their uniforms.  I went toward the back of the bus looking for a seat. I finally asked a young male student if he would move his backpack and share his seat. He was very nice and said of course. The kids were all well behaved, but of course were doing kid-things like playing games on their phones, giggling and laughing, and generally just being kids. After riding along on the bus for about 30 minutes, I got curious why these kids were riding so far on the bus. I asked the boy I was sitting beside and he said they go to a private school in the country.  

Once we got to the school, all the kids got off and there were only three of us left on the bus. The driver said his bus holds 46 students with the elementary kids sitting three to a seat, and the high schoolers two to a seat. This all helps explain why all the city busses have “School Bus” posted on the front around the time school starts and ends. There are no school busses as we know them in the U.S..  The city busses are used as school busses.  Also, the whole bus system in Australia is government subsidized. I guess that’s how they can afford to run me around for an hour yesterday on an empty bus. 

After the morning’s school bus ride to Urunga, I had some breakfast at a cafe across from the bus stop and then started walking about 10:00. Most of my route was on backroads but the freeway was nearby. The last 5-6 miles found me on a bike trail beside the four-lane. 

Tonight I spend my second of three night in Coffs Harbour. Tomorrow is my last day off before the finish line in Brisbane. I’ll get there 16 days from today. JB. 

Getting photo bombed on the school bus.
Aussie entrepreneurship at its best.
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Day 59

Start:  Macksville

Finish:  Urunga

Distance:  19

Total:  937

Today got off to a very early start because I had a bus to catch at the end of my walk to Coffs Harbour where I’ll be staying for the next three nights. 

Yesterday in my blog I said I would be walking to the town of Urunga and then catch a train. Unfortunately I was not able to make a train reservation on my phone app last night and the train does not stop at these small town stations unless you have an advanced reservation so they know they have a passenger there to pick up. So instead of starting my walk this morning in time to catch a 3:30 train, I had to leave in time to catch a 1:27 bus in the same town. To ensure I got there on time I started walking at 6:30. 

The walking route was very good. I followed the old Pacific Coast Highway which basically paralleled the freeway most of the way. There was far less traffic on the old road. However, the old road tends to go to the top and bottom of all the hills unlike the freeway that has a more level route. 

I made it to my destination of Urunga with 45 minutes to spare. That gave me time to grab some lunch at a cafe across the street from the bus stop. The bus was right on time and I was the only passenger, so I sat on the front seat and for the next 45 minutes the driver, Damien Pell, and I had a great conversation about everything; except politics. We must have gone by 25 bus stops and never picked up another single passenger. A few times there were customers at the bus stop, but each time Damien would stop, they would only have a question for him. So we kept going down the road with me sitting on the front seat talking to Damien on an empty bus. We finally got into Coffs Harbour where my motel is located. The bus stop was a few blocks away from the motel which worked out good because if I had taken the train, the station was two miles from the motel. 

Tomorrow I have two options. Either take the bus 18 miles back to Urunga and finish my walk here to Coffs Harbour, or take the day off and wait until day after tomorrow to walk. Either way I’ve got one day of walking and one day off coming up. 

That’s all for my Tuesday in New South Wales. Thanks for following along. JB. 

My new friend, bus driver Damien Pell.
An early morning start in Macksville, NSW.

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Day 58

Start: Eungai

Finish:  Macksville 

Distance:  12

Total:  918

After a good night’s rest in the Mandarin Motel in Macksville last night I had an easy day of walking today, though it was mostly back on the freeway.  

My day got started with a 5:45 alarm. I bought my breakfast goodies last night at the local grocery store and ate in my room so I wouldn’t have to get up even earlier. I was packed and out the door at 6:30 for my one mile walk to the train station to catch the 7:15 train back to Eungai where I stopped walking yesterday. The train was right on time and it took 15 minutes to get to Eungai, which you’ll recall is out in the bush off the main road. 

Immediately after stepping off the train the flies attacked. When those suckers are around, they’re persistent. I put my net over my face and that solved the immediate problem, even though there are hundreds hitching a ride on the backside of my backpack that I can’t do anything about. 

After about a two mile hike to get back out of bush country, I was on the freeway. It was quite cool this morning (68 degrees) and I had the shade on my side of the road so other than the humidity, it wasn’t too bad. I walked about eight miles on the freeway until I came to the Macksville exit, then another two miles into town to my hotel. 

Here’s a quick human interest story. Every day I do laundry. That’s because I only carry two sets of walking clothes and I don’t want to run out by not washing every day. In these small town motels, they usually have a guest laundry. Sometimes it’s free. Other times it’s coin operated and costs maybe $2-3/load to wash and $1/load to dry. Sometimes the owner/manager even volunteers to do my laundry for me for free. So yesterday I checked in to this motel I’m staying in now in Macksville. As I always do, I asked if they had a laundry. The lady said yes, that it was $10/load to wash and $10/load to dry. Now I’ve been known to overreact, but I don’t usually just blurt it out right then and there. But I did this time because this was quite a deviation from what I was accustomed to and it caught me off guard.  I said “$10?  Are you kidding me?  That’s $20 to wash and dry one load of laundry.”   She said that’s right, but I could take my laundry into town to the laundromat if I wanted. So yesterday I didn’t do my laundry. I waited until after I walked today with my second and last set of clean walking clothes on, and went five blocks into town to the laundromat and spent $9 total to do two days worth of laundry. And I feel really good about that. 

Tomorrow I pack up everything and walk 19 miles to another train station where I’ll hop the train and ride into the next big town, Coffs Harbour. That will put me back on the coast again and I’ll be in a motel there for three nights, including a day off on Thursday. 

That’s all for my Monday. I hope your weekend was a good one. JB. 

Let’s all do some laundry!

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Day 57

Start:  Kempsey

Finish:  Eungai 

Distance:  21

Total:  906

I really never know what to expect from the weather when I go to bed at night. Last night it was forecast to clear off and be partly cloudy today.  That’s not what happened. I’ll explain. 

Today I had a very specific schedule to keep.  I needed to walk 21 miles to a train depot in the bush, in the middle of nowhere, that doesn’t even have a gas station nearby that’s open, and I needed to be there by 2:50 to catch a train to my next motel town. If I miss the train, there is no place to stay and it’s 12 miles on to the next town. The 21 mile walk takes me seven hours with no stops. So in the middle of the night last night I thought I heard it raining but I was too lazy to look outside until 6:00 this morning when I discovered that in fact it was raining right down. Faced with a seven hour walk, and a deadline of 2:50 to meet, I needed to leave no later than 7:50. And I always pad that a little so I figured not later than 7:30 to be safe. So I got packed up, ran across the street in the pouring rain covered with my backpack rain cover to McDonalds to buy breakfast and bring it back to my room to eat, and sat waiting for it to quit raining. It did not. At 7:30 I had no choice but to cover up with my poncho and start walking. It rained until I’d walked about five miles, then quit for the rest of the day. 

I walked on an awesome road today. Before the freeway was built, there was a road called the Pacific Coast Highway that was very nice with wide shoulders. It went through many small towns. Now that the freeway has been built, it bypasses many of these small town, like the one I’m staying in tonight. But the old highway still exists, much like Route 66 in our country, and I spent my day walking along it. 

Near the end of my 21 mile day I got off my nice road and literally followed a backroad into the bush to a somewhat hidden train platform called Eungai. I made it with about 30 minutes to spare.  The train was right on time and it took me one stop down the line to Macksville where I’m staying tonight and after I ride the train back to Eungai tomorrow morning, I’ll walk the 12 miles into Macksville and stay here again tomorrow night. I don’t want to jinks myself, but the weather forecast shows no rain for the next 3-4 days. 

That’s all for my Sunday of fun. I hope your Sunday is fun too!  JB. 

Today’s destination; the Eungai Train Depot.
I caught the train from Eungai to Macksville.
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Day 56

Start:  Telegraph Point

Finish:  Kempsey

Distance:  18

Total:  885

Last night I was fretting over how today would play out because I didn’t know how I was getting 18 miles back down the road to where I stopped walking yesterday. But never worry about things you have no control over.  I’ve learned by now it will all work out. 

Yesterday afternoon I talked to the nice receptionist here at my motel in Kempsey to see if she might know of someone going in the direction of Telegraph Point this morning that might give me a ride. Unfortunately that didn’t work out. This morning I was in no big rush, even though the forecast called for rain and thunderstorms most of the day and it was already raining on the radar at Telegraph Point when I got up. I had breakfast in my room, having bought it last night at the grocery store next door. By 8:30 I was ready to go with the only real option I had; try to hitch a ride to Telegraph Point since the bus doesn’t go there on weekends. So I walked through downtown Kempsey, over the bridge that spans the river running through town, and stationed myself on the shoulder of the road leading south out of town. It didn’t take 10 minutes until a nice guy named Tom offered to give me a lift. 

It’s always sort of a bummer that what takes less than 20 minutes to drive in an automobile takes me six hours to walk. But I get to see the scenery up close in real time so there are benefits. When I got to my starting point it was showering so I put my poncho on and it stayed on for the next five hours. My first four miles were on backroads, then I was back on the shoulder of the freeway. Of course there was the usual road spray from trucks but I’m through complaining about that. I finally got off the freeway with four miles to go to my motel and the rain had stopped so I could uncover. The rain held off until I was actually unlocking my motel door, then it started again. It’s been raining a lot here. Even Taylor Swift’s concert last night in Sydney had rain issues. 

Just as i was walking into the south side of Kempsey, I passed by the Slim Dusty Centre. That probably doesn’t mean anything to most of you, but Slim Dusty made an old Australian folk song famous called Waltzing Matilda, which most consider the unofficial national anthem of Australia. Slim Dusty, who died in 2003, was considered Australia’s King of Country Music. If you get a chance, go to YouTube and watch Slim Dusty sing Waltzing Matilda at the closing ceremonies of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. 80,000+ singing along; good stuff.

That’s it for my Saturday. I hope your weekend is a good one. JB. 

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda, you’ll go ah Waltzing Matilda with me 🎶🎶

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Day 55

Start:  Wauchope

Finish:  Telegraph Point

Distance:  13

Total:  867

HOT!!!  It is hot in Eastern Australia today. It’s currently 98 with a heat index of 106. Luckily for me it’s 1:30 in the afternoon and I’m already nice and cool in my motel room in Kempsey. 

I knew the heat and humidity would be an issue today so I had a plan to deal with it. With only 13 miles to walk, I set my alarm for 5:30 and got off early. I packed up and walked a few blocks into town in Wauchope for breakfast, then got on the road to walk right as the sun came up at 6:45. I was immediately on backroads so the traffic was light. After about 5 miles my road turned to gravel. That’s no big deal except when cars and truck came by, I was getting a heavy dose of dust. The gravel road lasted for about 3 miles, then became paved again. 

By 11:00 I had made it to my destination, a gas station and bus stop at a crossroads called Telegraph Point. Telegraph Point is about 20 miles south of tomorrow’s destination, the city of Kempsey. My plan was to try to catch a ride from someone at the gas station, or catch the bus from the bus stop at 2:45 to Kempsey. Obviously I didn’t want to wait 3 hours and 45 minutes to ride the bus, so I was trying hard to get a ride. This particular spot, Telegraph Point, is an intersection where vehicles could be going to one of several popular destinations, not just Kempsey. Therefore, I was not having much luck with getting a ride from the numerous customers who were stopping at the gas station where I was standing in the shade enjoying a cool drink while soliciting everyone who came by. I must say, no one was being rude or giving me the cold shoulder; they just weren’t going my way. Finally, father and son Rick and Ryan Kralic, who were traveling in the area visiting relatives, offered to take me to Kempsey, even though it was 20 miles in the opposite direction from where they were going. 

As far as tomorrow goes, I’m working hard on a plan for how to get back out to Telegraph Point so I can finish walking to Kempsey. The bus doesn’t run to that bus stop on weekends. I asked the nice lady who checked me into the motel if she knew someone who traveled that direction tomorrow, but she did not. Kempsey doesn’t have Uber, but they do have a taxi service, but that would cost an arm and a leg. I may have to go park myself on the side of the road and see it someone might be heading in that direction tomorrow morning who will give me a lift. 

That’s all for this hot Friday on the East Coast of Australia. Thanks for following along. JB. 

Rick and Ryan Kralic gave me a ride into Kempsey today.

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Day 54

Start:  Kew

Finish:  Wauchope

Distance:  14

Total:  854

After a good stay at the Kew Motel, and an equally good meal at the Royal Hotel Pub last night, it was back on the road today for my first of two consecutive days on backroads. 

The day got started with a stop at the Corner General Store in Kew for some breakfast. Then I walked out of town on a backroad that paralleled the freeway. There was much less traffic to deal with but without the wind that the cars and trucks kick up on the freeway it got hot pretty fast. Speaking of hot, here’s an interesting observation. The high temperature for the day where I’m walking normally occurs at around 12:00-1:00 PM. That’s much earlier in the day than back in Texas where our high in the summer normally comes at around 4:00-5:00 PM. 

The road I walked today was very hilly and crooked through dense forest. I kept an eye out for kangaroos because this looked just like where I’ve had my two previous encounters, but no luck today. And still no kuala sightings. After talking to locals about the kualas, they say it’s highly unlikely I’m going to spot one.  

Tonight I’m in Wauchope (Wau-hope). It’s a nice size town of 7500 but only has two motels.  I picked the one closest to the center of town so I can walk to restaurants, etc. 

Tomorrow is another short day; only 13 miles to a bus stop. Then I’ll catch the bus to the city of Kempsey where I’ll stay two nights. It’s a good thing tomorrow is a short day. The forecasted high is 96 degrees. 

That’s all for today from Wauchope. Thanks for following along. JB. 

I spent Day 54 on the backroads.
The backwoods along my route on Day 54.

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Day 53

Start:  Coopernook

Finish:  Kew

Distance:  18

Total:  850

Another good, productive day of walking but not much “action” to report. I survived the three consecutive meal regiment at the Coopernook gas station with minimal damage to the digestive system so I count that as a win. 

When I got up this morning around 7:00, I checked the weather forecast and it looked good all day. Partly cloudy, low 80s, no chance of rain. I walked down to the gas station to pick up some breakfast, took it back to the motel to eat and walked out the door at 8:30. I literally was still able to see my motel’s sign from the shoulder of the road when it started raining. SERIOUSLY?  I could not believe it. Should I turn around and go back and wait out the rain in my motel room?  Should I cover up with my poncho and press on?  Neither actually. I stood under a tree and minimized the damage until the shower stopped. But that was only a temporary fix. Thirty minutes later when I got on the freeway the real rain started and lasted about an hour so I ended up wearing the poncho anyway. 

About halfway through my day there was a small town, John’s River, that had a gas station where I could take a break and get a snack. Unfortunately, I decided not to take the freeway exit ramp as if I were a car or truck, but wait another half mile until I was actually even with the gas station and just hop off the shoulder of the road right into the gas station parking lot. But when I got there, some wise guy had built a fence between the gas station and the freeway so I watched my lunch break slip right on by. 

Without a midday break, I got to my destination, Kew, at about 2:00. Kew, pop. 1,029, is a nice little town with a pub, general store, motel, and gas station. Also, Kew has The Big Axe. The Big Axe is a tribute to this regions logging heritage from the past. But there’s more to this “big” thing. It seems big things have come to be seen as a uniquely Australian phenomenon and are affectionately known landmarks scattered throughout the country.  Things like big fish, big birds, all kinds of big fruit, giant mushrooms, big coffee pot and cup, the big beer can, and of course Kew’s Big Axe. You get the picture.  There’s an estimated 600 “big things” in Australia. 

Tomorrow I have a fairly short, yet hilly, 14 mile day to Wauchope. I’m off the freeway for the next couple of days walking back roads. I’m looking forward to that. JB. 

The Big Axe in Kew, New South Wales.
The Royal Hotel in Kew.
Along my route on Day 53.
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Day 52

Start:  Taree

Finish:  Coopernook

Distance: 14

Total:  832

Today was an easy day, even though I had a two hour period of rain where I had to get all covered up with my poncho. But when you’re walking through unfamiliar territory, there’s always a hidden surprise waiting just around the corner. Today’s unexpected surprise was waiting in my destination, Coopernook. 

Last night the weather forecast said there was a 90-100% chance of rain all day today. So when I got up this morning I was expecting the worst. However, much to my surprise, it was not raining, but it looked like it could start at any time. So I jumped up and hurried out the door at 7:30 trying to get as far into my 14 miles as I could before the rain came. The first few miles were in town and right before getting on the freeway there was a McDonalds where I stopped for breakfast. Just down the road from the McDonalds I needed to start walking on the shoulder of the freeway.  But before I got to the on ramp, it started raining. That’s OK because if I was going to need to cover up, it was easier before getting on the freeway rather than after. 

The rain lasted about two hours and I had my usual challenges of truck and car blasts and road spray, but at least it was not a thunderstorm and the rain was not heavy. 

By 12:30 I had gotten to the turnoff for my destination, Coopernook, which is my surprise for the day. Let’s call Coopernook a village. It has a few houses, one very old motel, and one very small gas station. And that’s it. So the only source of food in this village is the small gas station, from which I will be purchasing three consecutive meals. I stopped in the gas station as I walked into Coopernook to checkout the situation. There were a few assorted snacks, like candy and chips, ice cream bars, drinks, etc., but they also had a small grill with a limited menu. Unfortunately there is no place to sit; everything is takeout. I bought a toasty (grilled cheese sandwich) and took it down the road with me to check in to my motel, The Palms Oasis Motel. Once again, it meets the minimum standard: shower (check), Wifi (check), a bed that’s at least softer than the floor (check).  However, with all that said about Coopernook, I really should have done my homework a little better and I probably would not be here eating takeout from a two-pump gas station tonight. 

Tomorrow it’s back to a more normal 18-miler, once again along the freeway. And the weather is forecast to be good for at least two days. JB. 

The Coopernook gas station/food source.
My home for the night; the Palms Oasis Motel.
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