Written Wed 22nd Feb 2017
Early Saturday morning with left Shellharbour, about three and a half hours later we arrived at the famous Hawkesbury River. We paddled in the tepid waters of the Hawkesbury admiring its width and the tall cliffs and sandy shore lines. The river itself is a truly amazing site. The camp ground we stopped at was called Swallow Rock Reach and although it was a nice clearing and the camp area is nice enough, there is a small track you need to walk down to get to a bit of a beach where you can walk in the water. You can see the water from where you camp but there is a very steep bank to get down to it. It is a free camp ground and so you can’t expect too much but the toilets there definitely need some maintenance and an upgrade, especially considering that it seems to be a fairly popular local swimming area. If we had of been staying more than one night, I would have set up our camp toilet so I didn’t have to use the ones provided.
We left Swallow Rock Reach the next morning and tracked over 5 hours to another free camp ground in a small town called Ellenborough, which is about 5 minutes’ drive from another small town called Long Flat. Long Flat has a good general store and a reasonable pub . The camp ground is quite large and very grassy. The toilets there are long drop style toilets but they are very clean and are serviced twice per week. Some of the campers at Ellenborough Reserve appear to have been there quite a while. Whilst others seem to use it as a weekend party area. The river that runs through there is a branch of the Hastings River. The part of the river you can access from the camp ground is fresh, flowing and rocky. There is a stony road that you can walk or drive to get down to it.
The first night we were in Ellenborough it rained and was a fairly gloomy night, we had planned to make some noodles for dinner but given the rain and the fact that we didn’t set the roof up we decided that a pub meal was the way to go. We stopped at Long Flat pub again (we had stopped there on the way in as well) but they don’t serve meals on a Sunday. We stayed for a beer and chatted with one of the locals. Most of the locals at Long Flat pub seem to keep to themselves. We then moved on in the rain and found our way to Bago Tavern, which is just outside the ‘main town’ in the area Wauchope. The lights coming through the windows at Bago Tavern were inviting and offered a chance for some dinner and a bit of time off the wet roads. The meals were surprisingly fresh and quite delicious, especially for a country pub. We munched on duck spring rolls and stir fries. Not your typical pub food, we know, but it was a nice change.
We had a swim/bath in the Hastings River, Ben even laid in the rapids and had a ‘bush spa’. The dogs loved the fresh cool water too and are happy that they are getting more off lead time now that we are out of the caravan park.
After two days at Ellenborough, we embarked on a two and a half hour drive to a very historic and well known pub to most Australians. Yes, that’s right, we’re at The Pub With No Beer in Taylor’s Arm. The pub is full of country music and Slim Dusty memorabilia, it was established in 1903. The walls are literally covered interesting reads, photos and albums. They have a fairly good selection of different beers at The Pub With No Beer and the meals (especially the pizzas) are very satisfying. The bar area is done up really nicely and there is a good outdoor area to sit and have a drink, there is an outdoor music stage but this rarely gets used, even the bands that visit the pub on a Sunday play on the deck, rather than on the stage. It’s an Aussie icon and conveniently had a really nice camp ground across the road, which offers a toilet block and there are showers that you can use at the pub. They do encourage campers to make a $5 donation to go towards the local fire brigade, which we more than happily paid. There is fresh tank water available in the camp ground.
The locals here in Taylors Arm are really friendly, they are accommodating and are really interested in the stories of the campers from across the road. They do have their local pest, who tells a lot of tall stories and talks way too much but they all seem to either give him a wide berth or put up with him. The locals do like to sit back, watch and have a laugh when the local pest closes in on some unsuspecting newcomers. Its great entertainment for them, it wasn’t long until we figured out why it was that when this local pest came to speak with us, that all the other locals moved to the other end of the long outdoor tables and began giggling amongst themselves. It seems that they enjoy palming him off to people who don’t know any better for a while and then having a laugh about it at the same time.
Taylors Arm is a very small place and doesn’t have much at all besides one very famous pub. There is one primary school a short bus ride away, which had 7 students last year and it has grown in capacity to 10 students this year. There is no general store and there is no phone reception. The kids here play in the park and on the grassy hill at the pub whilst they wait for parents to stop drinking and chatting and put them to bed. If it wasn’t for that great pub, Taylors Arm would be a very quiet place indeed. We like here though, the pub is really good and the locals seem great. They are quite sick of hearing the famous Slim Dusty song and so most of the music coming from there is rocky and modern, which suits us just fine. There is a river nearby but not near the camp ground, if it was near the camp ground there is a good chance that we would stay here a long while.
Ben’s back to trying to do some bush maintenance on the car and camper again. One of the bolts from the adjustable levelling legs on the camper snapped off in Ellenborough when he was trying to wind the leg up, so he’s going to need to replace the bolt at some stage. He also fitted some new brackets for the light bar to the bull bar on the Prado today only to find out that the bonnet won’t close now. He’ll probably have another look at it later, after a beer or two in The Pub With No Beer.
Joke of the day… this pub is so old that even people who are looking for dinosaurs come here…
Written Thursday 23rd Feb 2017
Well it’s been a while since we have been this hungover. Last night we had quite a few schooners at The Pub With No Beer with the locals, then before we knew it we were back at the camper drinking beers, scotch and rum with two German and Swedish backpackers. They were called Sebastian, who had come here from Germany two weeks ago and Oliver, who had come from Sweden and had already done quite a bit of travelling in Australia. They love music and a drink and so they weren’t hard to get along with. Sebastian wants to go fishing in Australia and is going to try to catch up with us again up North so that he can go on a charter with Ben.
This morning we found ourselves feeling pretty lethargic and thirsty and so we decided the best cure was some Zooper Doopers, apple juice, cordial and to have a lie down on the cool grass in the shade with our pillows for a while. The dogs were loving it. Yes, we do have a bed but anyone who has ever slept in a tent or a camper before knows that as soon as the sun hits the canvas, staying in bed is damn near impossible. Sebastian and Oliver were just as drunk as we were, if not worse, so we wouldn’t like to be them today, they had to get up early and travel in their little van to Coffs Harbour. At least we can spend today recuperating and then decide how much longer we will stay here before moving up the coast, it’s nice having no time schedule.
If anyone out there is interested in leasing a pub, The Pub With No Beer lease is up for sale. The current lease holders and the locals are pretty keen to get someone new up here to run the famous pub. We are getting to know the locals a little better now the stand outs are Stary (the shit stirrer but a nice bloke), Rochelle (works at the pub but drinks there too), Rolly (an old concreter who doesn’t mind a bit of hunting and a beer here and there), Newman (a Balinese guy, who has married a local girl and stirs and gets stirred by Stary), Gary (a funny guy anf one of the only guys who seems to work around here, always with a beer in hand), Sue (Stary’s wife, who is an ex-bar lease holder herself and loves a chat), Bing-Eye (the local dare devil and weird cat), Nobby (a local fishman and punter) and Daffy (the local pest, he’s hard of hearing but boy can he talk).
There is also a church at the pub, strangely enough. It is an old church that was relocated to the pub in 2001. It has a lot of interesting old tools and brewery machinery surrounding it and more interestingly has the ‘largest beer can collection in the Southern Hemisphere’ (according to the locals) lining every wall of its interior. An impressive site, to say the least.
Written Saturday 25th Feb 2017
We are still in Taylors Arm across the road from The Pub With No Beer. We took a drive to Grassy Head and Stuarts Point yesterday and into the main town here called Macksville. The beach at Grassy Head is up there with the best we have seen so far with aqua surf, rocks and almost white sand. We had a fish in the estuary at Stuarts Point and got some bites but no fish.
We have met Sean at the camp ground here, he is an ex-concreter and ex-security guard. He is traveling on his own at the moment in his caravan. He has a lot of stories to tell about his days working as a bodyguard and as security at big concerts, he had a few beers with us at the pub yesterday and a barbeque at the camper with us today.
A big bull escaped from a nearby paddock and spent the night on the loose. He thought he might like a beer too…
We are looking at leaving Taylors Arm in the next day or so and heading to a halfway point, between here and Gold Coast. We are hoping to find some more work in or around the Gold Coast area.