Well I don’t think I could possibly have a better day to write about my experience one month down the line, on the exact day I left home 4 weeks ago – as there is currently a MASSIVE thunderstorm over our heads. The plastic shelters throughout my tiny hostel are being severely battered. I don’t think there is anything to do in this town on such a day, especially when you’re dressed in a bikini and shorts. Yeah, reallyyy wasn’t expecting this today. Even now, the forecast on my phone says ‘Sunny with clouds 22c’. Lies.
So there really is not a lot for me to do but sit in the hostel, eat cookies and write. Sounds like an okay day especially since I could kinda do with some rest after completing the 9km Port Macquarie Coastal Walk yesterday, which was STUNNING. The weather was sunny and hot yesterday, with a little breeze. God knows how it’s turned into this today. But I should really stop talking about weather, it’s boring isn’t it? You can tell I’m British.
Anyway, Melbourne and Sydney down, I am now in the sweet coastal town of Port Macquarie. I’ve been here 5 days and am planning on booking a couple extra nights because I think there’s more to see here than people let on. When I arrived, the girl at reception said ‘You’re staying here a WEEK?!‘ She was shocked as most people only stay here for 2 or 3 nights, whereas I booked a week thinking it’s a coastal town (I like coastal towns) and I can enjoy the break from the cities and chill out (chilling out is good). It’s also because I’m carefully splitting my time between my next destinations before I reach Byron Bay, where I’ll be for Christmas and New Year.
As soon as I arrived here, I liked the hostel. It’s not a huge building as such, but several chalets in a cluster. There are palm trees and colourful surfboards on the walls, dream catchers hanging from the ceilings, a display of flip flops that past travellers have decorated and left here over the years, and there’s even a pool. The numbers have increased a little bit since I got here but from day 1, it felt like I was one of about 20 other travellers staying here. So it’s super quiet and almost like a retreat.
All I knew of Port Macquarie before I arrived was the photos I’d seen of the colourfully painted breakwall at Town Beach. Exploring the town on my first day reminded me of holidays in Florida. And actually, the more I’ve seen of the area, I think it is somewhere Australians would spend their weekends away. It is 6.5 hours from Sydney on the train, which flew by quite honestly. Views from the window consisted of green hills, green fields, green, green, green – the whole way. I jumped off the train, smelt the fresh air and heard the chirping of the birds and realised just how far away from the city I was now. I liked that.
I get the feeling Port Macquarie isn’t the most known place but if it is known, it is for the picturesque coastline and the Koala Hospital – the first one of it’s kind in the whole of Australia. This was a really heart-warming place because it’s not a commercialised organization like zoos but a not-for-profit organization, almost built from nothing and kept in business over the last 45 years due to donations. It’s also run almost entirely by volunteers who give up their time to care for the koalas and deliver a FREE tour to visitors every single day. The tour allows you to walk around the enclosures of koalas who have been injured or are in ill health and are still being cared for and will most probably be permanent residents in the hospital until the end of their lives. They’re most commonly treated for symptoms of chlamydia, car accidents, falling from trees, dog attacks and bush fires. Look how cute they are!
After completing the coastal walk and seeing just how wonderful Port Macquarie is, I’m in no rush to leave here. Although my next 2 stops will be Coffs Harbour and Yamba where more beautifully coastal scenes await.
In terms of travel and me, we are getting along quite nicely. Living out of a rucksack isn’t so bad, until you have to carry it from a bus stop to your hostel on an uphill road. I realised quickly in my hostel in Bondi that there were still things for me to learn about hostel life and since then I purchased my own cheap set of cutlery and a tea towel, in case you get cut short in a hostel that doesn’t provide them for you (or if they do, they are presented to you in a sticky, crumby bag for $5). Luckily my current hostel provides a lot and the kitchen is super spacious to comfortably make meals in. Aside from hostel living, I’ve learnt more about the cost of things here and where is best to go if you want to save money. I’ve also learnt – as Australia is nearing Summer – just how intense the sun is and how my days of using factor 15/20 sun cream are well and truly over. The shops barely sell anything below factor 30 and almost every Australian you meet has a story to tell about skin cancer.
There’s a wide array of people to meet here. The conversations are repetitive – ‘where are you from? Where did you just come from? Where are you going next? How long are you here for?’ And if you’re lucky, there’s a few people that ask questions beyond this selection and you can hold actual decent conversations! I’ve met some really great people but after a day or two, they move on or you move on and that’s just how it is. Then there’s people who keep very much to themselves and that’s something you learn to realise and just leave those people be. Sometimes I have been one of those people. Only sometimes! In general, I guess I speak up more than I would with strangers at home because you’re on your own in a foreign country and what do you have to lose? As for locals, I seem to have come across old Australians who love a good chat but I can’t quite go out with them to social events so people more my own age would be good please. Until then I’m fine hopping between conversations with Europeans.
I can’t really believe I’ve been here one month. Its taken certain things to really feel like I’m in Australia – like witnessing the Great Ocean Road, seeing those beautiful koalas and then small things like watching an old topless man with scraggily grey hair riding a skateboard down Bondi Beach and coming across ‘Beware of Snakes’ signs on walks. There’s been 1 or 2 days where I’ve dipped but then you go to sleep, you wake up and everything’s alright again. And the reason for the dip? I find it hard to explain, (stared at the screen for a good 5 minutes here) but I think it is a feeling of figuring things out, of feeling slightly out of place in a hostel with travellers who have been there a lot longer than you and you have become the “newbie”, just like when you start a new job and you have to learn the ropes. It’s also strange to have no routine – not bad, just strange. And as much as I’m not thinking about work yet, I think eventually I will want to find work as something to challenge myself a little. There’s also an exciting element to feeling new to something and knowing that there is still so much to see and learn, which is why it’s just as easy for me to tell myself to shut up, go to sleep and wake up feeling brighter. Overall, looking back on the last month I feel I’ve achieved a lot already and I’m excited to see and do more the further I travel along this amazing coastline.
Thanks for reading! If you want to follow along, I am posting photos and stories on the reg over at my Instagram (@lucethurlo_).
P.S. I just put my name down for a speedboat at 9.30 Saturday morning. Definitely a good way to wake up I guess?
P.P.S. Can’t get used to seeing Santa’s in shopping malls and hearing Mariah Carey playing round the supermarkets. It’s been 26 degrees and it’s just WEIRD.