Sunday, March 1, 2015

Lovely Port Macquarie
 I will admit that my arrival to Port Macquarie was less than ideal.  I was fit to be tied by the time I arrived at Ozzie Pozzie, my hostel for the night.  To start off with the bus left Yamba at 9:15pm and arrived in Port Macquarie at 1:15am so I was quite tired, which often doesn’t improve one’s attitude.  The hostel used to provide a shuttle to pick up the late-night arrivals, but doesn’t any longer so I was on my own.  I had a small map on the back of their brochure and asked the bus driver which direction I should be heading down the street (I knew I was on the right street but wasn’t 100% sure if I should go left or right and certainly didn’t want to drag all my luggage in the wrong direction).  He told me a different route to the hostel that was to save me from having to walk up a big hill.  I should have followed my instincts and just followed the map, but I didn’t because I really, really didn’t want to drag my luggage up a hill if I didn’t have to do so.  After dragging my suitcase all over tarnation, often down the side of the road because there was no sidewalk, a nice young man rode by on a bicycle (he must have noticed my lost and exhausted state) and asked where I was headed.  He tried to give me directions and was even so chivalrous as to ask if I wanted him to go with me.  I didn’t want to be a pain so I told him I’d be fine and he headed off.  I of course still couldn’t find the right street and in the end made a big loop and still had to walk up the stinkin’ hill which yet again only had sporadic sections of sidewalk!  In addition to not having a sidewalk throughout the entire trip there was no light out front of the hostel and you could have easily walked right past and missed it because it was so dark.  I’d finally made it there and was, by this time, sweating and incredibly mad at them for all the inconveniences for which I was feeling subjected.

I met a lovely Israeli-American girl during breakfast and we ended up talking the entire morning; we’d never moved from the table where we’d had breakfast and had the cleaner not come at 12:30pm to clean the kitchen, and therefore kicking us out, who knows how long we’d have talked.  We’re the same age and we just clicked.  We didn’t end up spending the rest of the day together, but that was alright.  She headed off to the beach to read a book and I headed into town to see some of the sights.
 I got a personal tour of St. Thomas’ Anglican Church which was built by the convicts in 1824.  It’s a nice old building – not all that impressive from the outside (or the inside for that matter), but the view from the top of the clock tower is quite beautiful, you can see the whole town.  The gentleman who led me around showed me a picture on his phone of a sunset from up there and it was lovely.

I’d decided to do a sunrise surfing session on Saturday morning, despite the bruises I still had from Yamba.  It was twice as much as the cost in Yamba, but I figured it was possibly my last chance to go surfing before I leave, and I do love  a good sunrise.  Not the most spectacular sunrise I’ve seen in Australia (I think the Whitsundays wins that award), but it was beautiful.
 As far as the surfing goes…ugh, I think it was the worst day of surfing I’ve ever had, and yes, I realize I haven’t actually done all that much surfing.  Kit, the British guy who took us surfing gave me a 7’2” (because I told him that I felt the 6’8” Shane had last given me was too small), but I still just wasn’t riding any waves!  I stood up a few times, but never felt like I actually rode any (and we were out for nearly 3 hours).  He kept asking if I wanted to go out the back – I felt as if he was a bit over-confident of my skill level – but I knew that I would love it out there: I really enjoy just floating on a board looking at the horizon.  The others had never been surfing before, or had only tried one other time, so by about 8am most of them were sitting on the beach.  I wasn’t getting any waves and by this point in the morning there were too many swimmers and I was afraid I’d run into someone (I’d already had too many close calls), so when Kit headed out I decided to go with him.  Sometimes just getting to the back waves is just as hard as riding the bigger waves.  There were a lot of good surfers out there so I didn’t even try to catch a wave, mostly just sat on my board and chatted with Ruby (the girl who works in reception).  It was time to go so I decided I might as well try and catch one in to shore, but I got pummeled on both tries.  In a way it seemed fitting considering how lousy my surfing skills had been all day.  After spending a few hours at the library uploading photos – the connection was so slow, it was taking forever, I headed back to spend the rest of the afternoon and early evening lazing in a hammock by the pool listening to music and then starting and finishing a book I’d found in their library.  I of course jumped in the pool a few times to cool off as well.  Of all the hostels I’ve stayed in during my year here, this one was definitely at the top.  It has a fantastic atmosphere with these beautiful murals on nearly every wall, lots of palm trees and hammocks – it just doesn’t really have the best location (it’s quite a walk to get to the nearest beach, and then of course there’s the lack of sidewalks…).

I’d had it in my head that I was staying for three days, so on Saturday night I was debating with myself on whether I should get up early and do the sunrise surfing again – I wanted my last surfing session for the foreseeable future to be a bit better – or try to sleep in since I’d have an overnight bus.  I was ready for bed but knew I needed to decide so I could pay if I was going along.  Since I couldn’t decide what to do I determined that more information might help with the decision and proceeded to head to reception to do some recon.  I’m convinced that prompting was from God, because as it turns out I was to have checked out at 11am that morning!  I didn’t have any roommates so I had a feeling that I was going to get some and they would be arriving sometime after 1:30am.  My inquiry into my future roommate status led to the surprising information that I wasn’t actually to be in a room at all.  At first I thought it was a mistake, but then had that sinking feeling that the guy in reception was right.  After consulting my carefully prepared travel calendar I did see that he was correct.  My bus was technically at 1:10am Sunday morning, which is really Saturday night….so you can see how easy it was to get confused; especially when I thought I was to have spent three days in Port Macquarie and was only on day two.  They graciously allowed me to just stay in the room the remaining three hours until I had to make my way back to the bus station, so I did get a bit of a nap before my overnight bus to Sydney.  They say you always want what you can’t have and of course after I realized that I was leaving and wouldn’t be able to do the sunrise surfing I then really wanted to do it.  All in all though, I really enjoyed Port Macquarie.  Not as many backpackers visit (maybe that’s partly why they’re lacking so many sections of sidewalk – not enough tourists), but I think it’s an absolutely charming place.  Definitely a city to which I would make a return visit.

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