On the third and final day of my New South Wales odyssey, I left the soothing landscapes of the Hunter Valley for the seaside charms of Newcastle. But not before eating breakfast at a place called Oscar’s, where I had the single greatest french toast experience of my life. It was nigh-transcendental, and like all experiences that transform one’s spirit it is difficult for me to verbalize exactly what went on when that waitress set down the plate in front of me. Suffice it to say, there was cream and strawberries and a small pond of maple syrup but my mere words can’t do justice to the near-orgasmic quality of their combination.
The Visiting Girlfriend and I drank coffee and enjoyed the surroundings as my breakfast excitement subsided. Afterwards, we left the Hunter Valley in the rearview and made haste to Newcastle which is much less industrial and metal-focused than its British counterpart but didn’t have its own brand of beer. I spent most of the day dicking around various beaches and parks. I would have done more exploring of the rock formations on the beach but for the annoying reprimands that kept coming over the staticky loudspeakers from the lifeguards (or as I like to call them “Haters Who Are Threatened by My Awesome High-Tide Jagged Rock Climbing Skills”).
They also took some timeout from chastising me to yell at a bunch of goods who engaged in some seriosuly perilous grab-assing on the edge of a rocky pool. There were also a bunch of dudes playing rugby nearby, and at least half of them were wearing speedos. This sartorial choice created a homoeritic undercurrent that juxtaposed nicely with the masculinity of their sport.
Nobby’s Head struck me as appropriately named and simultaneously unique and exactly like every other jetty I have ever seen.
It was sticking out in the middle of the bay, and was breaking some serious waves on the ocean side. There was a desolate looking lighthouse, which reignited my childhood fantasy of living in one. The idea of having a perfectly circular room has always been a source of delight for me. I am also continually impressed with the defensibility of lighthouses. I think a tower would be harder for invaders to breach than a regular house. Alas, my suggestion of setting up residence in a lighthouse was never seriously taken into consideration by my parents. No doubt this had something to do with the dearth of good lighthouses in central Florida.
Satisfied that we had seen the requisite sights, we checked into our well-appointed if curiously modular hotel. It was like being on a cruise ship, small but cozy. From the outside, though, it looked like it was made out of legos. Perfectly constructed of blocks resting on top of other blocks with a porthole set into each room.
A quick change of clothes later I found myself at Queen’s Wharf, a smallish dining and drinking complex on the harbor that bore a fairly strong resemblance to Port Canaveral in Florida, the land where I was born and raised before becoming the peripatetic vagabond I am today.
It was here that I discovered the common Australian practice of giving people a little card with your number when they open their tabs at the bar. It is a practice I wholeheartedly approve of, as it cuts out the uncertainty of having to mouth your last name to a distracted bartender over the din of the band/jukebox/general murmur.
After beer, we went for dinner at a place called Scratchley’s. The dining room extended over the water and after I was done eating the continuous lapping of the waves inspired me to capture the experience in a haiku:
Irish coffee with desert
brings contented smile
Having satisfied my inner poet, I began to reflect on my experiences so far. I haven’t been traveling like this in a few years. Sure I take weekend trips from here to there and I get to cover more ground than many people but I have been largely stationary for some time. An extended journey like this brings with it any number of logistical headaches and requires a certain ability to adjust on the fly. I don’t think I’m quite as adventurous as I once was, when I waded into every back alley and small town I heard of unsure where or if I would have a bed for the night. These days I prefer a bit more stability. I can’t say I’ve outgrown my thirst for adventure, but there is a definite urge to be more in control of my fate as I go. The idea of not having all my flights, hotel, and car rental sorted out well-ahead of time scares the hell outta me. This is a development that 20 year old Sean would have laughed at as he slept in a train station with his backpack for a pillow and a half-empty bottle of Aberlour cradled in his arms like a beloved stuffed animal.
I’m still hungry for the nomad experience, but the doubt that I am up to the task would only continue over time as I became more and more alone on the open road…