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We really enjoyed Sydney, it was fun to be in a big city again!! Rushcutters Bay is a great location, being a short walk to Kings Cross and Paddington Markets and I found some nice places to go for a run around the area. We didn’t really get into the sightseeing but we did get the kayak into the water and paddle round for a view of the Harbour Bridge! We caught up with Ali (an old friend from Jakarta) and her partner Brian which was great and also my step-brother Martin came down to the boat. Nice to see some old faces!

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As soon as the engine was fixed we relocated about 40km up the coast to the Hawkesbury River and anchored in Akuna Bay in Coal and Candle Creek – love that name! The river is a beautiful network of narrow creeks with steep forested banks and is amazingly peaceful being so close to north Sydney. Ali and Brian came up for lunch one day and experienced a “Southerly Buster” by boat and the ensuing deluge! It’s amazing how quickly it can change from blisteringly hot to a downpour!

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Our plan was to head north back up the coast to Coff’s Harbour or Yamba. We wanted to have a look at the land in that area as we had heard it was a beautiful spot but still with reasonable prices. However the southerlies were proving a bit fickle, opening with strong winds, gales and heavy rain (a Southerly Buster), quickly diminishing then switching back to NE again. The first stop was Newcastle, an industrial port at the mouth of the Hunter River, which is the largest coal exporting harbour in the world. We found a great mooring right in the centre of town and watched the enormous ships being tugged up and down the river. Fascinating – except for a bit of wake from the tugs as they rushed about.

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The next stop was Port Stephens, another flooded estuary where the Myall and Karuah Rivers and probably a few others pour out into the sea. We anchored in Fame Cove, just north of the Narrows and were soon joined by a few other yachts. A gathering was soon organised on Trish and Lance’s catamaran Utopia, with Burney and Hans from Sea Fever II. Guitars and ukuleles were strummed, harmonicas were blown and, after a couple of beers, songs reverberated around the anchorage.

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With no southerlies on the horizon our northward plan, at least by sea, was thwarted. We decided to head back to Newcastle, leave Distant Drummer at the mooring and drive up north for a week. Edwina, Neil’s sister-in-law, very kindly let us stay at her place just outside Coff’s. Edwina’s hospitality was wonderful and we really enjoyed the long chats and great meals we shared together. We also learned from her broad knowledge of the area and appreciated her opinions on the great, not-so-great and “don’t-touch-it with-a-bargepole” places to set up home.

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The coast is dominated by a number of very large rivers which pour sediment out from the mountains of the Great Dividing Range forming wide flat alluvial plains and flooded estuaries. The rivers are separated by mountain spurs and rolling hills and between the river mouths are broad white sandy beaches. It really is a very scenic place! We explored the area between Port Macquarie and Ballina and as far inland as Dorrigo and we scoured the trees fruitlessfully for koalas.

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We looked at a number of properties; some were land only, some with infrastructure (power, road), some had residences in various states of repair. It was useful to get a feel for what was out there, how much and for what price and it was interesting how each location met some of our needs and how our desires altered from our opening play. We did not make an offer on anything but it certainly confirmed that there are properties within our reach in some desirable areas. The hunt will continue!!

We are now back in Newcastle and will return to Sydney in the next couple of days. We plan to continue down the coast for another week or two then wait for a weather opportunity to head back to Nelson . . . and beyond!

Suzy and Neil

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