Coffs Harbour and Port Mcquarie

I woke up really early and found Simon had gone, I guess out photographing the sunrise. When he comes back we have a coffee and I walk down to the waterfront. There is a group of around 15 pelicans sat preening themselves in the cold morning sunlight and we sit and watch them for a while.

After quickly eating breakfast we set off around 1000 am and whilst Simon drives, the kids and I learn a bit of Australian history. Although Australia is mostly thought to be a relatively young country we learn that the Aboriginal people lived here 50,000 years ago in extended family groups. Rituals, traditions and laws bound them to the land and they honoured their ancestors and the creators of the Dreaming. Australia was the last great land mass to be discovered by the Europeans and the British sailor Captain James Cook raised the Union Jack here in April 1770.

It is believed that when Sydney Cove was first settled by the British there were about 300, 000 Aboriginal People in Australia. Slowly and surely they were driven from the land by force and by the introduction of diseases such as smallpox and TB. We decide that we need to learn more about the Aborigines and when we see a sign for The Aboriginal Cultural Centre we stop off. It was a complete waste of time; despite our encouragement the fella seemed very reluctant to give us any information about Aboriginal culture, customs or present day life in Australia. So far it all remains a bit of a mystery. Despite Australia’s tourist board heavily promoting the Aboriginal culture our experience of this minority group hasn’t been the interesting cultural experience I expected.

We have spoken to a lot of Aussies on the way down from Cape Tribulation about the Aborigine,s trying to learn a bit more. We have seen many groups of people sitting in parks and drinking alcohol and when we asked about this it seems that alcohol misuse is a big problem for them. The opinion of many people is that the social problems faced by the Aborigines are self made. In the end we haven’t got much more time here and I don’t think we have really learnt anything about their culture at all. I’m disappointed at this and feel that what we have experienced and heard including a major news story about the forcible removal of children due to child abuse allegations has mainly been a negative impression. We will give the Aboriginal Centre in Sydney a try if we have the time.

We learn a bit about Australia’s famous convict settlements. Cooks botanist companion suggested New South Wales would be fine site for a colony of thieves and the first group arrived in 1778. It must have been a really grim experience for them. Although most only had sentences of around 7 years of hard labour there was little hope of returning home. By the time convict transportation was abolished in 1868 more than 168,000 people had been shipped to Australia.

We also learn about the gold rush and after an hour or so pack it in. We haven’t been doing as much schoolwork recently and told the kids they could have a holiday from it. There is so much to do here and as we have virtually covered the curriculum I’m not too worried.

We have our lunch parked by Parks Beach at Coffs Harbour. The New South Wales schoolies are on holiday from today and they are out in force on their surf and body boards. It’s cool watching them and I think our kids are quite envious of their lives here. Kids in Australia have it good with plenty of sunshine and outdoorsy stuff to do.

We stopped at a campsite at a place called Port Mcquarie for the evening, the sun is just setting and I take a good photograph of the red sky over the pool. We bought some food yesterday and Ali makes our dinner again. He’s getting pretty handy at cooking now and I tell him I will expect more from him when we get home! The weather is beautiful here, the blue, blue skies and crispy clear air makes you feel so good although it’s getting colder the further south we go, the bright sunshine everyday keeps us all cheerful. Had a quick shower off to bed now, we have to leave early tomorrow as we’ve got to drive over 350 k to Sydney before heading off to our next destination The Blue Mountains.