Taken Down To Peg

With Halifax situated on the coast, naturally there are a number of scenic spots in the city’s vicinity, and on one night Ashley drove us up to a particular favourite of them, Peggys Cove, to watch the sunset. She wasn’t the only one to have this idea however, as there was a small number of others who had come to enjoy the view, although hardly enough to be as over crowded as I can imagine it would get during the peak summertime.

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The focal point of the sunset, perhaps somewhat ironically, was a small lighthouse built on the rocky outcroppings which the waves crash against, occasionally fatally for those either unaware or overconfident and who aren’t aware of the dangers. Luckily everyone enjoyed the spectacle carefree that night though, as the moon was also visible and the colours of he sun were spectacular against such a beautiful landscape.

Although the lighthouse is the ideal spot to watch the sunset, Peggy’s Cove itself is a small fishing village that perfectly fits the idea of what one might look like: small wooden houses surrounded by lobster pots, ropes, and all manner of fishing equipment necessary for the local livlihood, to say nothing of the boats themselves. Even in the dark when driving back through remote Nova Scotia, the numerous lakes also offered a picturesque view of what Maritime scenery has to offer.

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As if this wasn’t Canadian enough though, Ashley and I also wailed along to Avril Lavine on the stereo with our complimentary singing voices (ie, we’re just as bad as each other), and when returning to Halifax we also stopped off at Tim Horton’s for some TimBits (essentially the holes from the middle of the donuts). Not bad for the night I also had my first locally brewed Alexander Kieth’s, another of Halifax’s must try local specialties.

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Port of cool

If there’s one difference between the towns on the east coasts of Queensland and New South Wales, it’s that NSW is alot less touristy. And despite being a tourist myself, I like it this way.

For a start, it feels more like Australia. When I visited Port Macquarie I stayed at the Beachside Backpackers, which despite it’s mainly European (with even some Dutch and Scandinavian thrown in with the German) visitors, is one of the very few hostels I have been to where the majority of the staff weren’t just other people on working visas. Not only were Nic and Dan Australian by birth, but rented out surfboards, and with dreadlocks and a big beard respectively, they were also most definately Australian by nature. Admittedly Doug came from Luton, but he’s a nice guy so we won’t hold that against him. The fact that socialising was actively encouraged, combined with the decor and artwork, all adds up to this being the cosiest hostel of my travels.

Couldn't do that on canvas.

Couldn’t do that on canvas.

Ideally situated between Coffs Harbour and Sydney, Port Macquarie is great for backpackers, but seemed to not have many. Not only does it break up the journey but there are also a small number of attractions, and the outskirts offer a scenic hike along the coast. Dropped off by the lighthouse, I spent the best part of an afternoon enjoying this walk, rambling between dense forest and sandy beaches. As I got to the edge of town I also noticed another feature that added to the town’s individuality; the rocks all along the sea wall had each been painted by previous visitors, leaving their own artful mark long after they have left.

Some koalas just need a little tlc.

Some koalas just need a little tlc.

Of all the attractions on offer, it is has to be the Koala Hospital which is the most visited. As the name suggests it is a treatment centre for ill and injured koalas, but one which is open for the public to come and look at the patients whilst they are waiting to be rereleased. It also offers a daily tour, in part because of the fact it relies on public donations to help fund their work, and may be familiar to anyone who watched the BBC series John Bishop’s Australia. The Liverpudlian comedian also visited the hospital as he cycled from Sydney to Cairns, and it was here that he asked if koalas mate for life, having just been told how quickly chlamydia can spread through a koala population.

Another reason I enjoyed staying in a far more ‘normal’ town than somewhere such as Airlie Beach or Town of 1770 (which I have to say I didn’t visit due to time constraints and a recommendation not to), is that it gives you a chance to have a more ‘normal’ day out. Spending 8+ weeks travelling is a great experience, but sightseeing is hardly a full time activity in Port Macquarie, and even the fact that Australian cinemas have just as many adverts as British ones is a nice reminder of something familiar.

Not that I was simply pretending to be back home, the fact they have much more leg room is yet another bonus of being in a country with so much more space.

Lording over Byron

With its laid back atmosphere and kilometres of sandy beaches, it might seem odd to single out one small place in Australia as the ‘hippie surfer town’, but that’s exactly what to do when describing Byron Bay.

Where others have tacky tourist shops, the small town centre of Byron has boutiques selling tie dye clothing alongside those selling wetsuits, stalls offering hair wraps are not uncommon, and there was even one man offering palm readings for a small fee. If the friends who I was exploring with are anything to go by, it is definately a place which can also bring out the inner hippy of anyone visiting.

As for the surfing, unfortunately the windy and cloudy weather meant that was something I didn’t get to experience, but it’s not as if I don’t have hundreds more kilometres of coastline offering other opportunities. My time in Byron wasn’t limited to indoor activities though, as the hostel also arranged a guided walk to nearby Cape Byron, which is home to the most eastern point on Australia’s mainland. All three of them in fact.

Easterly points 1 & 3, photographed from no. 2.

Easterly points 1 & 3, photographed from no. 2.

Just like most such geographical locations, there is of course a sign along the cliff line hiking trail which points out the particular landmark. Again like most such signs, it also attracts a lot of tourists posing for photographs. Further along the path is a lookout spot located right by the beach, which as far as I could make out, was more easterly than the sign on the cliffs above. Therefore I can only assume the sign is in fact meant to refer to the bottom of the cliff it has been placed on rather than signalling the most easterly point you can physically reach.

As well as multiple seemingly singular locations, the local lighthouse is also situated on the cape, which since becoming unmanned now houses a small museum. Tours to the top are also available for a small donation.

It's not the size that counts.

It’s not the size that counts.

Lighthouses aren’t something I’ve given a huge deal of thought to before, but it’s amazing just how simple they really are; the light source itself is a mere 1kw bulb, similar to any ordinary household variety. The power to project this however, comes from the prisms which make up the fresnel lens, all of which are originals, and can project its beacon up to some staggering 20-something nautical miles.

That’s a huge beam, shining over twenty miles, powered by a bed side lamp.

Yeah, science!