Day Two – Port Stephens – Nelson Bay
We took it pretty easy in the morning since we were still exhausted from the ride before. We received the wonderful news that we didn’t have to switch rooms—after we had already packed everything and stripped the sheets. However, this allowed me to claim a bottom bunk, which any backpacker will tell you is a serious win. Over breakfast, we met a British guy who was mixing mushroom extract with fermented protein sprouts and who proudly announced he did not identify as a vegan, since he abhors the label, yet chooses not to eat animal products. He also boldly stated that he runs two businesses—one an e-cigarette business and one an illicit business that he intentionally and mysteriously did not elaborate on.
After our leisurely breakfast, we hopped on Kiwi and drove to the base of Tomaree Mountain. As far as mountains go, it’s just a large hill, but the view from the top was incredible and swept over the entire bay and ocean. It was school holiday this week, so the peak was crowded with families and children, but we still managed to snag a spot to enjoy our leftover pasta for lunch with a view.
You could also see Shark Island from here, which is connected to mainland by a small strip of sand that is exposed for only a few hours per day. Tourists are warned of the dangers of being stranded out there during high tide by great big neon signs, yet I’m sure it’s happened many times. One might even look forward to having their own private island for a night until the tides receded 😛
We trekked through the forest walk to Fingal Bay (which connects to Shark Island), and trudged through the sand dunes–a few steps forward and one giant sandy slide backwards–slowly making our way to the thin strip of sand in the middle. The sand was already partially submerged with water, but it was only ankle deep, so we knew we had at least a few hours before the water would be dangerously high to cross.
The island had one tiny lighthouse at the other end with an old abandoned light-keeper’s house adjacent. The view was also stunning, but we didn’t stick around for too long since the warning signs of high tide were fresh in our minds. We safely crossed back to mainland and the sun was already low in the sky at 3pm, reflecting brightly off of the smooth mirror-like wet sand. The trek back over the dunes felt like forever, but we started singing Bowling for Soup songs to keep us moving. Back in town, we grabbed some veggies, tortilla chips and avocado at the grocery store and headed back to the hostel to cook up some dinner with all the other backpackers. One girl had impulsively bought a massive bag of macadamia nuts on the side of the street, unshelled. The task of the evening was trying to get the damn things open by smashing two rocks at the dinner table. One of the older Aussie guys managed to get a few, but then the tiny Canadian nurse sat down and had a go at it and cracked them all perfectly in one swift crack. The hostel owner, Mark, hung out for a bit sharing stories about the resident owl and possums, and about the one rooster he tried to get the backpackers to wrangle by offering two free nights for whoever caught it. I stayed up chatting with the Americans, Canadians, and the older couple from a local town nearby about the homeless in the states, or how apparently all Americans can’t stand raccoons picking through their trash, but we all thought the possums here doing the same thing were adorable. I tucked into my cozy bottom bunk and slept so soundly.
April 18, 2018
Accommodation: Samurai Backpackers, $23