Train to Newcastle and three days to explore.
03.11.2013 - 06.11.2013
We board our train and settle in for the night watching another Aussie film, the Castle. Silly and funny. This car is very noisy and Roger had a hard time falling asleep. Arriving in Sydney we are able to get on the train to Broadmeadow that leaves right away rather than hang around for the one at 9:30 and we are on our way again.
We are off at Broadmeadow and back on another train to Newcastle. Newcastle is the second largest town in NSW! But it doesn't feel like it. We stop for fish and chips before heading down to our apartment. It is a newer development, fifth floor but not facing the ocean....still it is bright clean, central and has a washer and dryer!
We wend our way back along the waterfront and check out the fort, it's not open tomorrow so we'll save that for Wednesday. We wind our way down to the baths. The waves coming from the Tasman Sea are huge! Some of them breaking over the wall into the baths. Today is especially windy with a bite in the air. There are kids challenging the waves and other adults wandering out onto the rocks to take photos.
Roger decides we have to have groceries...the store is somewhere to the south and west from where we are at the baths. We head off....but not knowing where we are going. we head to the highest point of land so Roger can get his bearings. It doesn't help as roads and house are set down willy nilly. I pull out my GPS, find the nearest geocache to the store and we make our way down to the Coles store. From there it is only 2 km home as the crow flies. However, you can't get there from here, as the train line runs through it. An hour later we make our way home and have a late supper. Our little walk became a four hour trek.
Day two includes a quick visit to the tourist info centre and then we caught the Famous Tram Tour around the city. It is only $15 and gave us some history. It is hard to imagine this is the second most populated city in NSW. The first European to explore the area was Lieutenant John Shortland in September 1797. His discovery of the area was largely accidental. He had been sent in search of a number of convicts who had seized the HMS Cumberland as she was sailing from Sydney Cove. His reports included info on the great amount of coal and this town was built to mine coal and gained the reputation as a hell hole where rough convicts were sent to do the mining. It still ships coal from here and coal prices are dropping causing unemployment....he said that Canada produces coal for half the price...the wages are huge here!
After lunch we take the ferry to Stockton. This area is very nice with more great beaches. Stockton and Newcastle are either side of the Hunter river. It is a huge area for Shipwrecks. They extended the breakwaters using the hulls of a number of wrecks. We can still see some of the wrecks although the largest one was blown up and the masts cut off by the council due to 'young boys' climbing on them.
There are a number of people here from Melbourne to get away from the Melbourne cup. The bars here are hopping. All the ladies are dressed up as are many of the men. The dress code seems to be short short dresses, tall, tall shoes and big fascinators.
Our last day started slowly - a bright sunny day. We arrived to bright skies and a cold strong wind, day two was partly sunny, less wind and warmer and day three was sunny and hot.
We walked to Fort Scratchley. There was a bus tour as we arrived and we declined to join the 22 seniors on the tour of the tunnels and said we would wait for the next one. We explored the grounds for an hour including our picnic lunch overlooking the harbour. The coal ships coming in are enormous. There was one photo of the harbour full of sailing ships in the 1800s. They said one super ship now holds more coal than all those ships together.
The breakwaters were also reinforced with rubble from the 1906 earthquake in San Fran. They would have gotten coal in exchange.
We learned that the Japanese fired on Newcastle in the war...something like 34 bombs, but only a few exploded, they were made in England for the First World War. The sub hid in the harbour's only blind spot, thus enabling them to bomb freely.
We did the tunnel tour with our guide Bruce, a lady and her two kids, much better than 22 seniors. I've got nothing against seniors, but ...That was a lot of people for the space for the tour. The Fort was built for the Crimean war between England and Russia, but it was never used for that. It was used to keep ships from leaving the harbour without paying their port taxes and of course the only action for WWII.
Every time we turned around we had guides and the ticket staff talking to us, taking us to show us something we might have missed or unlocking a room most don't get to see. I guess it was a slow day. Thanks to Bruce, Ian, Al and David plus others. We walked down to the baths to soak our feet and slowly worked our way out the breakwater past Nobby's Beach and lighthouse.
It was fun to watch the school kids have their surfing lessons.
The beach is littered with blue jellyfish, they are different from the ones in Hawaii, but they say they are Portuguese man of war. In Australia and New Zealand, this jellyfish is known as the blue bottle, due to its colour and shape when strewn on a beach. Elsewhere in the world it is known as the "Portuguese Man o War" as it is said to look like a Portuguese battleship with a sail. We also did some geocaching… not sticking our hands in holes because of the spiders.
From here we head towards home and tour Hunter street mall, looking for stamps. Nope, there has been a rate change and people don't have the correct ones and the post office is closed. We remember there is a place along the waterfront that has a Wednesday special of steak, fries and salad for $12. Roger ate his and part of mine, he is a happy man.
We have some wine to finish from the Hunter Valley. We did not tour there, we went to the discount place and purchased our wine there. Why not, it was cheap! Good bottles of wine from $5 and up. We did splurge on a really nice Verdelho for $17. Okay it is also because the tour company never got back to us about a tour.
We watched Ned Kelly an Irish folk hero in Australia. The details about him don't paint his as innocent as the film did.