Friday, November 23, 2012

South to Hunter Valley -- Fri., Nov. 23

Checked out of our timeshare around 8:30 a.m. for our drive south to Hunter Valley, New South Wales. Two views from our balcony before we leave...

Golf course at the resort.

Pool and partial ocean view.
The day was cloudy and cool with a forecast for rain.

We called Hertz customer service to find out where we could trade in our damaged car. The answer was Port Macquarie. Off we went.

Two stops were made before Port Macquarie: (1) Frederickton to have meat pies at Fredo's, and (2) Info Centre at South Kempsey to pick up a map we didn't have.

On our approach to Port Macquarie, Bob turned off the highway into Cassegrain Winery. He wanted to show me some beautiful trees I missed while I was sleeping in the car when we traveled north a week earlier. Jacaranda trees were interspersed with flame-red trees along the driveway exiting the winery.

As we got closer to Port Macquarie, we talked to Hertz again to find out which location to return the car to in town. We were told to go to the downtown location, which we did. When we got there, the franchisee told us he didn't want the car at his location because he would have to get it fixed and it was hard to collect from Hertz. He told us to take it two hours south to Williamtown Airport just north of Newcastle because they're a "corporate location" and they could handle our request better. Whatever.

I wanted to go to Billabong Koala Reserve and Zoo in Port Macquarie because I hadn't yet seen a koala. Well, once I saw the price to get into the place, I decided not to go. $22.50 per adult. Aaack! So, no Billabong Koala Reserve and Zoo today.

In my online research about Australia before we left on our trip, I had read about Tillegerry Habitat State Reserve in Tanilba Bay that offered guided koala walks. That is in the Port Stephens area which is pretty close to our Hunter Valley location. I will give that a shot. If that doesn't work out, I read about a town in the Port Stephens area where the koalas live in the trees and are accessible to the public. I WILL see koalas before we leave Australia...even if it is in a zoo.

We waited around Port Macquarie for almost an hour because Hertz customer service was supposed to call us back. She said we should be able to trade our car in in downtown Port Macquarie. She was a bit disgusted with the franchisee. We called her back as she didn't call us back and we ended up leaving Port Macquarie to head to Williamtown Airport two hours south.

For lunch, we stopped in the small town of Kew and had a surprisingly good lunch of honey mustard chicken and rice. Then we high-tailed it to Williamtown Airport and exchanged cars with no problem. It was around 4:30 p.m. when we finished there and the travel day was getting looooong.

We had about a 45-minute drive to our next timeshare in Cessnock in the Hunter Valley wine region. A few back roads later, we arrived at The Vintage and checked in. We have a nice one-bedroom unit. After removing our bags from the car, off to Woolworth's (grocery store) we went. We have a full kitchen again so we stocked up on groceries for the week.

The movie theater was directly across the street from Woolworth's so I walked over to check out what time Skyfall plays there. I see a movie in our future.

While we are in this area, even though we are not really into wines, golf or horseback riding, we will check out the Hunter Region Botanic Garden (especially at night when they have the largest Christmas light display in the southern hemisphere), some of the scenic drives, and head out to Port Stephens and Newcastle to explore the coastlines and look for koalas. We may even spend a day or two in Sydney which is about 1-1/2 hours away.

That's about it for today. Check back in to see what 'stralia's got in store for us tomorrow.

Travel Bug out.