Day 7 Coffs Harbour to Port Macquarie

We woke really early this morning in anticipation of our whale watching expedition. However much to our disappointment, Lee of Pacific Explorer called to inform us that it was cancelled due to strong winds and choppy waters. One of the disadvantages of the catamaran. Noting our disappointment, he told us to try out Jetty Dive ran by Mike but unfortunately they too declined to head out.

We did a rethink of our plans and decided to go with the Spirit of Coffs Harbour (owner – Peter) as they were proceeding with the boat trip out despite the weather. So we packed our stuff, checked out of the hotel and headed towards the harbour to board our boat.

The morning was slightly drizzly and coupled with the chilly sea breeze, all of us were up for an extremely cold expedition. We boarded the boat which has two levels and an inner and outer compartment. Being typical Singaporeans, we snagged up the second floor seats which supposedly would offer the best views.

How wrong we were. As the boat took off out of the harbour passing through a narrow channel, we were constantly buffeted by freezing cold winds which soon rendered our limbs numb. It didn’t help that we were also slowly getting soaked by the drizzle. It wasn’t long before we surrendered to the elements and retreated into the shelter of the inner compartment where the majority of saner passengers had already found refuge.

The 2.5 hours boat ride turned out to be quite uneventful as I had hoped for really upclose sightings of the humpback whales. Apparently the stormy weather (winds blew up to 20 knots)  did not help as most whales tend to hide under water during this time. I was a little cheesed that the boat operator still went ahead with the expedition knowing this. Still it was our own choice so no one to be blamed.

It wasn’t exactly unfruitful though. We caught sight of a shark’s dorsal fin, dolphins swimming next to us, hundreds of mutton birds taking to flight, glimpses of humpback whales but most astonishing was how a baby whale about size of a dolphin ended up coasting along the boat, having lost sight of its mother.

I was able to catch the full view of the baby and its blowhole as it swam under us. The captain of the boat told us that this was an exceedingly rare opportunity as boats are prohibited from going near the calves for fear of hurting them. We had to stop the engine until the calf swam away.

By the second half of the journey however Theo was overwhelmed by the incessant rocking of the boat and became sea sick. So for half an hour he confined himself to the toilet under the deck puking himself green. The captain had specifically warned us not to puke into the basin and Theo had the privilege of finding out why.

You see the pipes all lead right into the ocean. So what happened was as Theo heaved the contents of his breakfast into the basin, the waves also simultaneously gushed it back up the pipes and right into his face. Ewwww! And because Theo could not control the vomitting, he was continously sprayed in his face with his own vomit. Double ewww!!!

So when we finally got back to land, we had to camp out in our Xtrail for an hour for him to get back some colour. Thereafter we drove a short while along Harbour Drive before arriving in the town of Coffs Harbour proper. So it wasn’t as dingy as I thought. There is a large shopping mall and as they were having their annual buskers festival (24 Sep – 22 Oct 2011), the streets were alive with all forms of live entertainment.

We had lunch at a Chinese restaurant called The Happy Duck and were their only customers. Food was not too bad and definitely tasted better than the night before.

We left Coffs Harbour after 2pm and continued southwards on the Pacific Highway. Around midway to Port Macquarie, we made a detour towards the coast at South West Rocks. This is a really scenic nature reserve overlooked by Trial Bay Gaol which was a 18th century prison turned POW camp during WWII and now museum open to public for a fee.

The nature reserve is a popular camping ground (equipped with clean toilets, BBQ pits) evident by the number of campers present and home to a herd of wild kangeroos. We were really fascinated to be so upclose and personal to these beasts, short of touching them. They took no notice of our presence grazing on the grass, cleaning each other and bounding around the park.

What was rather annoying though were the tons of faeces left around by them and Joel had the unfortunate experience of slipping on the, soiling his pants and shoes. Triple eewwwww…

Another amazing feature of the park is the proximity to the ocean such that you can witness and hear the thunderous roar of the waves as they crash onto the rocks. The winds were so strong that I felt like I was going to be blown away on several occasions. Definitely no swimming here.

We left South West Rocks and continued towards Port Macquarie. By the time we arrived it was past dinner and I had an unhappy episode checking in at the Mid Pacific Motel. The grumpy innkeeper insisted that I pay an additional A$46.50 for some surcharge. However I told him that I already paid for everything via Agoda. He was adamant that I pay or he would not let me check in.

So reluctantly I made the payment which I was fortunately able to get a refund from Agoda few weeks later. The hotel was cozy with four beds and Theo liked the design of the toilet.

Anyway thereafter we headed out to explore the town. And boy was it cold!! It felt like winter had not left this town and with the wind chill I really didn’t want to stay outdoors for long.

Across the road was a shopping arcade. We bought McDonalds and then retreated to the warmth of the shopping centre which was opened until 9pm on Thursdays to dine there. We also had a plate of Chinese economical rice. After dinner it was too dark and cold to go venturing around.

However judging by the queue at Mc’s, the population here is relatively young and definitely not touristy.

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