After saying our goodbyes to AV at Brisbane airport, we headed up to Mount Coot-tha, from which there is a beautiful lookout of the city. Tourists and locals come here alike to enjoy the stunning views, particularly at sunset. We walked around and got some great shots but only lasted about 20 minutes before heading back to the car as it was getting pretty chilly up there. After a nice dinner, we packed the apartment up ready to head south the next day.
Our first stop was returning the car rental and picking up our campervans. A routine moment for Alan and I who now know Apollo motorhome branches far too well…an exciting moment for my parents who were about to discover what would be their first ‘home on wheels’ for the next week. Unfortunately, the experience did not begin too well as it seemed every single frenchman alive was there to pick up a campervan. No, seriously, 35 vehicles were going out that day and we were vehicles 32 and 33. Most people got there before us (a lot of them happened to be French) and we had to wait for each group to be attended to before getting our vehicles.
Alan and I were picking up our standard two person van but we selected something different for mom and papa, something a bit more comfortable one might say..For them, it was just getting what they expected but for us, their van was pure luxury! Not only did it have room for 4 people to sleep, but it had an oven, outdoor bbq and best of all, an electronic bed. Getting their bed ready each night only necessitated the effort of one finger, simply to press the switch for their already made up bed to come down from the ceiling. Needless to say, Alan and I were very jealous and spent most of our time in their van.
Teaching these guys to live in the campervan was pretty amusing at times (we had to keep showing Papa as someone didn’t listen to a word of the training ), from plugging in, to filling up on water, switching the appliances on and best of all, emptying the toilets. In fact this was a highlight for mom and I as we watched our men pull the toilet cases to the dump every two days, to do the dirty job. I’m being too nice to Papa here, poor Alan actually ended up emptying both most of the time. Now that, is love.
The ‘going to the bathroom in the campground’ experience was also quite fun. Mom managed to take one inside a few times but the cubicle was way too small for papa to even attempt it. What was funny was really what we looked like as a family heading into the shower rooms. Now, no one looks stylish when heading to camp showers.. You try to minimise how many clothes you bring (which is difficult in winter!), have to carry your towel, soap and shampoo etc.. Alan and I always look a bit rough, but were hysterical when we saw that my father had even less shame than we did, strolling out of his campervan with his chequered robe and winter coat on top, making him look like a Scotsman on the way to wash, with his towel casually hanging over his shoulder. Oh, the memories.
We had lots of fun during the week, but the campervan effect hit mom day 5 on a cold wet wintery morning when she looked at us and said ‘Ok, this was fun but I’m done now’. I think this happens to anyone who spends a holiday in a campervan, particularly their first time. Of course, it happened a bit early for mom, probably due to the cold and early wake up calls. I personally went nuts on day 31 in New Zealand when in our first campervan, haha. The more you get them, the more they quickly they become home.
Our first destination was Byron Bay, where we would stay for two nights and where all the fun adventures I described above occurred. Alan and I visited Byron Bay in January (which you can read about here), but were happy to rediscover the magic of this wonderful little beach town again, this time during winter. They were immediately charmed by Byron, its beaches and lovely cafes and we all happily walked around town just looking around the first morning. Even during what was effectively low season, the town was pretty packed and the campgrounds busy.
We were also in Byron on July 9th, for our two year wedding anniversary! My, how time flies. We went to a local deli to pick up lots of delicious treats to make one of our favourite lunches. Cold cuts, olives, salad, cheese, crackers and champagne (Chandon, what else? ). Yum. Alan also surprised me with two beautiful pairs of earrings at the end of the meal. We spent a nice afternoon relaxing and going for a quick drive up to the Byron Cape Lighthouse for a spectacular sunset view of the coast, town and ocean. We also came up here looking for whales as many humpbacks are spotted here each year during migrating season from June to November. During this time, what is estimated to be about 17000 whales travel from their antarctic summer feeding grounds to their tropical breeding and birth grounds in the north and Byron Bay is right on that path. No whales were in sight that evening and we unfortunately were quickly told the parking was closing and that we needed to exit. When it came to be time for dinner, we ditched the retirees and headed out to a restaurant to celebrate our anniversary some more . They followed suit, probably happy to have an evening to themselves also.
The next morning, we headed back up to the lighthouse for a day view of the coast, also in an attempt to see some whales. After a spin around the lighthouse, we headed down the track in direction of the most easterly point of mainland Australia. About 10 minutes walk down, we arrived and looked out into the blue trying to spot breeching whales. A short wait later, I noticed a little girl pointing and before she even could, shouted ‘we have whales!’, making Alan, mom, papa and the other 20 tourists around us run over to me like excited school children. Three whales gave us a little show in the distance and we headed back up to the lighthouse. We also saw some dolphins which was a nice bonus. Before heading into our car, Alan and I walked down the road a bit to a group of tourists looking into the distance. Here, we saw two more whales, but that were a lot more playful; one breeching and showing off its belly, the other diving and showing off its tail.
The next day, we left the lovely town of Byron Bay and what had been our first campground experience together and headed south in direction of the Hunter Valley.