30 March - 4 April 2010
Newcastle was founded in 1804 for convicts too hard even for Sydney to cope with. I arrive in torrential rain and the landing on Oz’s equivalent of Easyjet freaks me out a bit but I am met at the airport by G & G and whisked off to their lovely home and their two pooches. They tell me that it has been boiling
up until now and now the rain has started – I am beginning to develop a complex about the weather in Oz!
I have a reasonably early night and I am still suffering a bit with all the flights and time zone changes: I know Oz is big but it seems ridiculous that there’s a half an hour time difference between Cairns and Brisbane and now an hour between Brisbane and Newcastle.
The next day Mrs G very kindly drives me around Newcastle and it reminds me instantly of Gonubie and East London in SA: the weather isn’t great but I manage to take some photos and then I spend the afternoon in the centre of town catching up on emails and visiting the old goal, which is now a small museum. Newcastle’s town centre is surprisingly small and a little run down but they are developing the harbour front and you can sit there and watch the ships come into the dock. Newcastle still exports a lot of coal and you can see a lot of ships out to sea waiting for their turn to come into the port and load up.
My neck is still bothering me, so Mrs G and I head to a massage session run by physio students and I get a full body massage done by a tall, fit hottie for 22 AUD $! What more could a girl ask for.
Luckily, the weather has improved the next day and Mrs G and I head to the beach to take the dogs for a walk. It’s nice to feel the sand between my toes but the water isn’t very warm (although warmer than Noosa) so I head back into the town for some free Wi-Fi and do some research on what to do in NZ. I have also decided to stay in a yoff hostel in Sydney as I will be closer to everything and there is the possibility that some of the people from the Ayers rock tour may be there at the same time as me.
It’s Good Friday and Mr G is off work so we head to the Hunter Valley for a spot of ‘champagne’ tasting and some lunch. The first vines were planted 150 years ago and the jail in the main town of Cessnock even has its own vineyard and apparently the prisoners have produced some prize-winning wines! Our first stop is Peterson House and the staff are in fine form and have already begun a tasting of their own (their mantra is ‘Life is flat without bubbles’) and I feel pissed after tasting a number of sparkling.... I treat Mr and Mrs G to lunch, although this does not make up for their generous hospitality, and then sample two more houses, including one called ‘Emma’s Cottages’ and then we head home after a great day out.
Mr G’s brother and family are due from Sydney for the Easter weekend and it turns out to be a magnificent day for taking the boat out on the lake and to have a picnic on one of the islands, where we sample more fizz! You will see that a pattern is developing.
I’m off to Sydney tomorrow.
Upate: Mr and Mrs G are still in Oz but have moved to Brisbane.