North to Newcastle
North to Newcastle
The Old adage ‘coals to Newcastle’ once held true here with this town exporting vast amounts of coal and steel but the BHP steel works closing in September 1999 changed all that. The town now has other means of earning an income from tourism and university students for a start. The huge wave of disgust at the unpopular newly opened Adani coal mine in Queensland flies in the face of Australia’s coal mining history but is only too aware of how dangerous to the environment coal mining is and how undemocratic is the Queensland Governments decision. Books have been written about it.
Our train took us through three hours of lush wooded coastal region, around the fine estuary of the Hawkesbury River and others, always viewing them with the mind to bring Zoonie in to anchor for a night or two while moving south when we return in November. We were still in the Sydney area as far as train fares went so because the maximum fare per day on Opal ticketing is $17.50 that is all the journey cost (£9).
With our bags dumped in the room at Travelodge we went walkabout along the quay area, now home to luxury apartments and hotels and with a wide open promenade with plenty of room for walkers and cyclists, which would be us later.
In the Queens Wharf Bar, QWB as it is affectionately named, I pulled a comfy settee out of the sun into the shade for us while Rob went for the beer. A South African couple started chatting to us. They were enjoying their last shore time before returning to the Fred Olsen ‘Black Watch’ cruise liner that was due to leave at five on the dot. The lady lectured on wildlife as the ship stopped in various interesting habitats on route.
So they rushed off and before their seats even cooled a group of mature ladies, once part of a premier league national hockey team, took their places and started to let their hair down. Next to the wharf is the ferry that runs across to Stockton on the other side of the estuary. The shoreline is so vast here that the road journey would take 25 minutes, besides they were on a mission to enjoy themselves so driving was out of the question. Two were sisters and one of the husbands is retired from being a tug master but still does the odd shift. Coincidentally he was on one of the tugs that was in the process of helping the Black Watch move against the wind away from the quay at that moment.
We walked back towards our room slowly along the promenade while watching this graceful ship cast off her tug lines and start to make her own way to sea. As she passed the coastguard lookout she sound her siren. Three black crows were enjoying some bread crusts and each time a gun was fired in reply to the ship they ducked!
It was time for some food and just across the road from the Travelodge we found one of those attractive eateries that is run within a building that has hardly changed since its last role, this one looked as if it had been a car workshop. Mexican Street food was its new role and we had tasty Mulitas washed down with some good wine at Antojitos.
A massive High was creeping eastwards over Australia, the first of many, bringing temperatures up to 46’ in parts and storms all around the Australian rim but for us for the moment we had our window open for the cool night air and the birdsong in the trees outside.