The Pacific Highway takes you past surf breaks and beachside towns all along the east coast. In some parts it’s three lanes each way, in others, a minefield of potholes with semi-trailers whizzing by and no shoulders to pull over on. But with a beach sunrise every morning and the unique sound and smell of cicadas in the evening, a roadtrip up the coast to some of Australia’s finest waves is a must for any summer. Whether you’re travellers in a campervan, four Japanese crammed in a Ô92 Ford Falcon, or like us – two crusty ol’ sea-dogs in a panel van – the surf is calling.

Sunday
Colin: Mark and I left Bondi Beach after an early-morning grovel in crowded two-foot surf. Hopefully King Neptune would send something with grunt as we moved up the coast. After escaping the city traffic we headed north to Newcastle, where a couple of Novocastrian friends told us about Anna Bay, just north off the highway. We met them in the carpark where a nice little left-hander rolled through. It’s a little protected from the north-easterly winds here, so we jumped in and shared some waves before resigning for the day.

Monday
Mark: Waking up to the first glimpse of sunlight, we headed a few hours north, past Port Macquarie to Point Plomer, a healthy little right that usually delivers. The swell had risen and after a quick paddle on the three-to-four foot swell and a few lazy rides, we decided to scout a bit further north to the town of Crescent Head. ‘Crescent’ can get up to 10 feet and give you a 500m ride on a good day. Today, the smooth four feet swell made for an indolent afternoon of quality longboarding and a kick-ass sunburn on our calves (idiots).
After spending too long at Crescent Head (a complete oxymoron) we bypassed some great spots like Hat Head, Nambucca Heads and Trapdoors (not for the novice), to stay the night at Red Cliff campgrounds in Yuraygir National Park, Brooms Head. It would be an early start in the morning to nearby Angourie, so it was time to get our heads down. Camping is a paltry $5 per person per night, and wood BBQs and mobs of wallabies are readily available.

Tuesday
Colin: Angourie Point is famous for its set up, a classic right-breaking wave (moving left if you’re on the beach) on a thin headland just south of Yamba. But this morning nothing much was going on, so instead, we ventured to Arrawarra, a wave that is pretty consistent and more forgiving for a novice. To get there we turn off the Pacific Highway on Arrawarra Headland Rd, just north of Woolgoolga. A nice longboarding wave about four feet was running. We pulled out the nine footers to get 10 toes on the nose, some successful, most sinking.
As we made our way north to the town of Lennox Head, the right-breaking point was world-class and can stay well-shaped up to 15 feet. But the entry/exit is sketchy, you have to jump from the rocks as the wave comes in, so it’s not for the beginner. We dived in for some steep take-offs and long barrels. This is where our shortboards came into their own – snappy and responsive we… ahem, ‘got totally gnarly in the green room, dude’.
Drying off and jumping back in the van, we headed to Broken Head, just south of Byron Bay to camp, where rainforest meets the ocean. Drive from Ballina along the coast road and you’ll find the turn-off. It’s a right-hander with a beachbreak 200 metres north. Although we got nailed on a few shore breaks, the purple, red and orange-splashed sunset more than made up for it.
With the sound of rumbling bellies, we ventured into Byron Bay for a kebab and a drink at the Beach Hotel. Pretty girls detoured around us – I blamed Mark’s Hawaiian shirt, and the kebab.

Wednesday
Mark: Saltwater and easy surf clears a hungover head so The Pass to the right of town was our perfect choice. On the southern side of Byron’s headland, Tallows Beach provides one of the few waves on the North Coast protected from the north-easterlies common in summer afternoons.
There are some great spots between Byron and the Gold Coast: Cabarita, Hastings Point and Fingal south of the Tweed, while everything from Duranbah north (Queensland territory) is over-crowded, but still has kick-ass breaks. I grew up surfing these spots so we bypassed most of the usual haunts, had a quick paddle in Snapper Rocks, to see how the Spit looked.
If you looked up Surfers Paradise in the dictionary it would read: See Irony. Have a body bash by all means but unless you’re with a surf school, try to avoid it at all costs. The Spit is right opposite Seaworld and is the surfer’s gateway to South Straddie through the Gold Coast Seaway. If you’re not a strong paddler, don’t try to make it across. ‘Straddie’ is famous for a heavy beachbreak, which was evident when removing sand from every orifice.
One good thing about Surfers Paradise is the nightlife. It is a veritable meat market at the booming club scene. After drinks at the SP Tavern, we stumbled into Shooters where we decided to take the club’s name literally with many shots, got shot down with the ladies and then got holstered by two large gorillas.

Thursday
Colin: 7am… 9am… 11, 12… At around 2pm we found the car and drove to Noosa. (It wasn’t like we were totally wasted like the dudes in Dude, Where’s My Car?, we were just lazy and slept in.) After a pie on route, we made it to Noosa Shire by six. The Sunshine Coast has surfable, often uncrowded beaches from Caloundra to Noosa. Point Cartwright, Alexandria Heads and Peregian Beach are the best picks for the stretch up to Noosa, but I had a one track mind and wanted to surf well into the evening at Tea Tree Bay, where there was a clean four-to-five feet swell. Thanks to a full moon, we were shark bait until about 10pm that night. Friday and Saturday (couldn’t write, too busy surfing) saw the same perfection, stopping only for a Betty’s Burgers lunch hidden along Hastings St.

Sunday
Mark: iPod on shuffle, windows down, car packed, tour virginity intact (damn it), and driving duties sorted, the long trip home began. After a stop at my folks’ place for breakfast, a late lunch, and a quick pick-me-up at our friend’s place in Newcastle, we arrived back in Sydney at midnight. Exhausted, tanned, and seriously in need of a good night’s sleep, the wet dream was over. Except for Col – he had another one that night.

For information on swell and weather forecasts as well as checking surf cams around Australia visit www.coastalwatch.com

May 31st, 2007

While trying to drive across the Simpson Desert, LIZZIE JOYCE and her partner were forced to hitch a ride with some dodgy truckers.

Early one January morning my boyfriend Dan and I set off on our trip across three states, covering 3,000 miles on what would turn out to be the best trip I have ever done, not to mention the most dangerous. We were attempting to cross the Simpson Desert on our way to Alice Springs from Sydney. We were fully prepared and set off in our 4WD loaded with equipment, including 60 litres of water, a double swag, a laser beam,
and an Epirb signal.

After 10 hours of driving, watching the landscape turn from highways and tall buildings to red earth and eternal horizons we glided past an old mining town called Cobar, stopped for a wee and drove on through, thankful that this ‘Hicksville’ town was not our destination. But while driving at an average speed of 120km per hour, the trusty car (which I was assured had “just had a full service and was made for driving across such terrain”) was disintegrating and the entire wheel was about to fall off.

Ugly mothertruckers

Suddenly, the brakes started to fail and smoke started pouring out the front passenger tyre. We were 120km from the last town and with at least 100km to the next, Dan decided we should drive on (without brakes) and see if we could make it to our destination. Luckily it didn’t last long anyway as the car stopped in defiance and we were forced to pull off the road in the middle of nowhere. Within minutes two semi-trailers driving in convoy by brothers, pulled up to offer us help and I’ve never been so glad to see two spectacularly ugly truckers before in my life. Freaky Brother One then began to undress me, with his eyes, almost frothing at the mouth at coming in such close proximity to someone of the opposite sex, while Freaky Brother Two was pretending to be a mechanic and baffling Dan with his bullshit. It was turning into Wolf Creek.

Nothing could be done with the car, and we had no choice but to accept a lift from Freaky Brother One to the nearest roadhouse 13km up the road. But then he said there wouldn’t be enough room in the cab so Dan should travel with his brother and I should hop into his cab by myself. By this point I was close to hysteria and there was no way I would be getting in that lorry by myself.

So we both hopped in with Brother Number Two. Dan settled in the middle of the very spacious cab which had enough room to house a small Albanian family! Relieved to be on our way to a phone box and in relative safety, (even if we were in being driven by an axe wielding maniac I had enough faith that Dan could knock him out if it came to it) I thought it would be plain sailing from here. After a couple of minutes on the road Brother Number One starts becoming agitated – he thinks he has lost his keys as he can’t use the radio to contact his brother. He pulls into the side of the road and asks me to hop out to see if he had left them in the door lock. This forced me into ungraceful acrobatic maneuvers in order to hang myself out the door and reach round to grab the keys, with freaky brother one more than enjoying the view of my ass in the air. The keys were there, so off we set again in stilted silence.

Roadhouse blues

Finally we caught sight of the roadhouse and saw our escape was only minutes away and we made a sharp exit from the freaky brothers. Good riddance!

The roadhouse turned out to be a petrol pump and a shop that was about to close. They had a phone though and we arranged for a tow truck to pick us up and take us back to the nearest town… Cobar (the Hicksville town we drove through scorning) where we would have to wait for the next three days for the car to be repaired. How ironic that the town we were laughing at turned out to be our refuge.

So we skipped the Simpson Desert and took another route to Alice Springs where we arrived two weeks later with the biggest smiles and the best memories!

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