We’d expected to be on the plane for 8.5hrs from KL to Sydney however, a few hours earlier than planned, we were landing. I asked the steward what was happening and she said we were making an emergency landing due to a passenger being sick. We landed at what looked like a closed or disused airport at Port Hedland and waited a while for the paramedics. There was very little communication and we were held up another 3 hours but I think the sick passenger had needed to be resuscitated. On arrival at Sydney airport everything was automated and so getting through the airport was quick and easy. The hire car we had booked had a number to call but wasn’t answering so we cancelled and booked with another supplier. Later than promised and after a couple of shop detours we were on our way to Glossodia to stay with Amanda and Greg. In the evening we went out for burgers and ice-cream. We had a super comfy bed and I was so tired that I couldn’t keep my eyes open.
My first full day in Australia was Monday 10th December, 2018. Captain Caveman and I didn’t wake up until 10.30am, by which time our hosts were already at work. We drove in to the town centre and went to Simon’s cafe for breakfast then nipped to Coles supermarket for BBQ stuff for later. In the evening all 4 of us went to the nearby Colo River, which is so clean you can drink the water (we did), for a cool down and to chill out. We intended to have a BBQ picnic but there were some bridge repairs which meant a cordon was in place to where the dining area is. Instead Greg did the BBQ at home in their outside kitchen area and we had a feast. I had turkey burgers with lettuce and red pepper in a gluten free wrap, pork and beef steaks too. We had some pink fizz to celebrate being in Australia, my very first time.
On Wednesday 12th December our tour bus picked us up at 9.30am outside the Airbnb in Aberdare. We were going on an all day wine tasting tour around the vineyards of the Hunter Valley, New South Wales. Our guide, Tony, made it clear that we would be visiting the smaller local winemakers as we picked up our fellow tasters, Esta & Nick from Wollongong. We started at Savannah winery and the lady serving us there was really friendly. We started with a sparkling brut and went through about 10 different wines including the $70 premier Shiraz which wasn’t on the tasting list. Nick, who was celebrating his birthday, bought a bottle of this while we opted for a 2014 Hunter Valley Shiraz – it reminded us of the primitivo we had in Italy. The second stop was at Irongate winery and had a look of a greek/mexican place with nice views at the back. I noticed the place was decked out with Fired Earth terracotta tiles as we were shown to an outdoor seating area. There were a few mozzies but we soon forgot about those as we tasted the latest white wines (semillon and verdelho, pure and blended – for you wine buffs). Interestingly we found that Captain Caveman preferred verdelho where I preferred either mixed or just semillon. We tasted an additional wine called Roze, after the winemaker’s mother, which was very nice too. The wines at this place were all around the same price range of about $30.
The sommelier gave us each a piece of shortbread (mine gf) to cleanse our palates before we moved on to reds. We also sampled the chocolates with the sweet Shiraz, which they were selling for $13 a go.
We left there with a bottle of the 2017 Shiraz which we were reliably informed wouldn’t keep for long! We went to the lovely Hunter Valley Gardens for lunch where they did gluten free food which was really nice and we dined with Nick and Esta too, it turned out they live near people we are going to visit in Wollongong later on our trip. After an hour off the booze we rejoined Tony and we were taken to our third winery, Pokolbin. The samples were plentiful but smaller in size at this one and the owner was the one who gave us the low down on the wines, he’d won awards for his wine and we bought a bottle of the 2014 Belabula Tempranillo as that was by far the nicest one. Next off was a quick visit to the Pokolbin shop to test out all the jams and chutneys – the others were given a bag of bread to dip while I used my own gluten free crackers and we tasted a couple of olives too. Tony, the driver, obviously didn’t think we were tipsy enough and decided to mix things up a bit by getting us in (for free) to a gin and vodka tasting at Hunter Distillery. We started on gins then onto vodkas and made our way through lots of flavours that I can hardly remember but included coffee, toffee, mint chocolate, Turkish delight, chilli, salted caramel, and more. We had 10 tastes all served to us in testtubes (it was like being in Walkabout but at 3pm in the afternoon). Our last stop was an interestingly named winery, Piggs Peak. We tried a few wines with funny names like Pork Hunt and the winemaker told us about each one but in the end we bought a bottle recommended by the driver ‘because his wife loves it’ called Piggs Blood.
The tour was marvellous and finished around 4.30pm and I would definitely recommend it if you visit Hunter Valley.
Back at the Airbnb we played games for a bit before having a nap, only to wake up at midnight, incredibly thirsty.
The next day we left our Airbnb and had breakfast in Cessnock, in a cafe with a kids play centre (they also had children’s sized toilets next to the adult ones). Next we bought some cutlery, picnic plates and cups ready for some camping. We stopped off at our first beach and view point at Nambucca Heads and it was extremely windy. I learned some history about Captain Cook as I stood on Australian sand for the first time. The weather was blustery so Captain Caveman booked a last minute Airbnb in Bellingen. When we arrived the owner wasn’t expecting us and I gave her a bit of a scare. We opened a bottle of wine, ate a cooked healthy meal, washed clothes then watched Paddington 2 on Netflix, I was already enjoying being in Australia and was glad I had decided to join the trip.