The Holiday Post
Town Beach, Port Macquarie...this was actually taken at about 2pm, although it looks like early morning.
Okay, I've finally gotten it all together...culled from my notebooks, camera and memory, here's my account of my holiday (this may take awhile to read, so you might want to get a drink before you settle in...but did you expect anything less?).
Newcastle was looking a bit sad under a grey, drizzling rain as I boarded the XPT for Port Macquarie via Wauchope on Thursday afternoon. On a mid-week afternoon, out of season and with school in session, I'd expected the train to be half empty, but to my consternation I had a seat mate. So I sat, squashed, for about an hour, till I got up to visit the ladies and realised that everyone was bunched up at the front of the carriage, to make life easier for the on-board staff, and the rear carriages were empty. So I grabbed some seats to myself, sprawled out, and settled in to enjoy the journey. The train journeyed inland up into the mountains, before heading back towards the coast. We passed through Maitland, Dungog (I considered visiting my old friend at the museum there, but sadly there wasn't time), Gloucester...and by now I badly needed a cigarette. A beer wouldn't have gone astray either, but there was only lite beer available on the North Coast services for some reason - regular beer being freely available on all other Countrylink train services. I decided just to forgo this, and the on-board meals, and wait till I arrived to get a drink (it wasn't easy!).
Eventually the train arrived in Wauchope, and I took the connecting bus for the 30 minute journey into Port Macquarie. It was dark by now, and the grey drizzle at home had turned into a rather steady rain, but I didn't really notice as we pulled into PMQ itself. I hadn't been there since 1995, and then with my parents, so my memories were a bit hazy. Anyway, the place looked far livelier than I expected, especially for a wet winter week night. I was pretty tired though, so I got myself a huge serve of deep-fried seafood, an even larger quantity of white wine, and retired to my lodgings for the night.
So on Friday morning, I set off early to explore the town centre. I grabbed some breakfast, had a wander and checked house prices in estate agents windows. There were quite a few interesting shops, and I was amazed to discover several shops that sold Goth clothing. In particular, I was very taken to discover a full skirt made of variegated layers of velvet, most unusual and not the kind of thing that you'd find in Newcastle. Then I checked the price tag. $275. $275?!? I couldn't believe that Port Macquarie could support a market for that kind of thing. But I did buy a very inexpensive corset, and also some jewellery.
All this was very well, but I wanted to get a feel for the "real" Port Macquarie, so I went into the town visitors centre to see what was on offer. I paid little attention to the brochures for camel rides, waterskiing and rainforest tours, but immediately was drawn to the literature from the Historical society. There was a well-mapped and easy walking tour of the town historical sights, so I set off on that. It took me up the hill from the town centre, towards the beach, where I stopped at an overlook that was the site of the town's original cemetary, where I spent a few suitably reverential minutes of reflection. Only four headstones remained, and three of those were too weathered to be read. I took a photo of the fourth, but it didn't come out.
From there, I walked down to the beach, but it was too windy to sit and soak up the sun, so I decided to walk along the breakwater past the river back into town. Along the breakwater, I discovered something wonderful. It was lined with large flat rocks, and each of them had been decorated by a group of visitors or locals, with pictures, messages, welcomes or whatever else they wanted. Most of them were dated within the past three years, and there was suprisingly little graffitti. Here are some of the rocks I managed to photograph: