Canadian RYAN SENGARA found plenty to do between Sydney and Byron Bay…

Okay, okay, I’ve got one. Stop me if you’ve heard it before… There are nine people sitting around a campfire: two Mexicans, two Indians, one Chinese, one Turkish, one American and two Canadians. There is one slab of meat to share between everyone. How is it cooked? I know what you’re thinking. Perhaps in a burrito? Curried? In a stir fry? In a kebab? The answer may be more simple than you think. On a twig. This is what tends to happen if you arrive at a campsite after dark with no BBQ grill, no cooking utensils and no firewood. Such was the case as our wannabeUnited Nations posse headed up the north coast of NSW for a weekend of camping.

Into the wild

Contrary to popular belief, Byron Bay isn’t the first town up the coast from Sydney. There are also many bloody good national parks, so as the Opera House got smaller in the rear view mirror, we felt a surge of excitement.

We reached Port Macquarie in the early afternoon. You can sense the laidback atmosphere as soon as you get out of the car, the best thing being it’s not Sydney – you’re not going to get knocked over by a possessed businessman late for a power-lunch.

It was reaching dusk and we jumped on a small ferry to take us into the beautiful Limeburners Nature Reserve, about 45 minutes out of Port Macquarie.

“WAIT! What was that? It’s a kangaroo!” We stopped the car on the gravel road. As the dust settled, I laid my eyes upon my first wild kangaroo. Looking through my photos now I don’t know what I was thinking. It seemed like a good idea at the time to take 15 photos of a kangaroo scratching himself. I’ve since learned this is common for your first roo sighting, but nonetheless ridiculous.

We reached the forest campsite as darkness was upon us, giving us the problem of setting up our tents in the dark. Having such a multicultural group to camp with is great. Despite any language misunderstandings, the one thing you have in common is a passion for experiencing Oz. Sometimes, however, you run across a cultural difference that makes you laugh, such as when my first time camper Indian friend asked: “What’s this for?” as a tent pole almost took my eye out. Cooking our steaks was a farce as we took the old, “how many people does it take…” adage to a new level by having nine people strategically arranged around the campfire to cook a grand total of four steaks at one time. We felt like throwbacks to the caveman days, using twigs to skewer our meat and eat it by hand.

The morning was brilliant. As I wiped the crusties out of my eyes, I watched 10 kangaroos gracefully race past. I smiled.
This was why I came to Australia.

We piled into the car and prepared for the next stop, Coffs Harbour, a great little town that’s a step slower than Port Macquarie. I spotted a dolphin jump just meters from the harbour shore.

The town is set in an area prolific in banana production. So in typical Aussie style, there was a giant banana sculpture at which to take the obligatory, “wow, it’s a big banana” photo.

We next set our sights on Yuraygir National Park. The park has everything you could want, set in a forest by an amazing stretch of isolated beach.

A couple of lizard sightings and wine-drinking evenings later, it was time to pack-up, with just one final stop in the beautiful town of Bellingen, surrounded by lush green valleys, for one
last “we don’t want to go home yet” coffee.