Thursday, August 22

At 7am, I landed at Kingsford Smith Airport in Sydney, Australia. I’m back.

Because I will be driving for a fair bit of this vacation, often in less populated areas, my dad had given me a good supply of beef jerky, no doubt thinking that if I were stuck somewhere remote with a flat tire, I’d be able to survive for days. Alas, while I knew well enough that I could not bring fresh meat into the US when traveling overseas, it had not occurred to me that dry meat taken out of the US would be an issue anywhere. All my jerky was confiscated in customs/quarantine. I’m sorry, not for the loss of the beef jerky, but simply because dad will be so disappointed. He thought it was such a good idea—one more way to protect his little girl. Oh, well. I still appreciate the thoughtfulness that prompted the giving. On the other hand, it frees me up to rely on Aussie products.

I picked up my car and travel documents at the car rental place and set off on the adventure of driving on the left side of the road. With less time for this trip, I felt the need to do a bit more planning, so I pre-booked more things, including this car and the next week’s accommodations, so I wouldn’t have to worry about a place to sleep as I wound my way up the coast.

Being in the wrong lane and on the wrong side of the car made changing lanes just enough of a challenge in the maniacal airport traffic that I missed the turnoff for Sydney and had to go all the way around the airport again. Outside the airport, it was not immediately clear which way to go, so at a stop light, I asked a charming cabbie if I had any hope of getting on the Princes Highway. He replied that I had every hope and gave me simple directions, and soon I was on the main thoroughfare that would take me up the coast—but right through Sydney, first.

As I crossed Sydney, I could hardly believe how much she had grown. But I didn’t have to think about that for long, as I was out and over the Harbour Bridge, through the northern suburbs, and out of the city. Soon the scenery was comfortingly familiar. Tree-covered mountains and sparkling water surrounded me. Signs bearing familiar names— Kuring-gai Chase, Brisbane Water, the Hawksbury River—flashed past my windows. I rejoiced to see these old friends again, all looking even more beautiful than I remembered. There was only one “scenic view” turn off where I could stop and take pictures, and while I was glad for that one, I would have liked more. Of course, I could have gotten completely off the highway and explored, but I didn’t know how long the drive was to my evening’s accommodation in Bulahdelah, and I didn’t know how long my energy would hold up, having just spent two days flying, so I pressed on.

The rugged, forested mountains of Kunring-gai Chase gave way to rolling, green farms, horse properties, and sheep stations. The drive was alternately pleasant and gorgeous.

My maps were old (they had none at the car rental place for outside of Sydney), so I wasn’t always sure where I was, particularly because there was a lot of construction in progress and a number of extended detours. But signs would appear before I got too worried, reassuring me that I was still on or headed back to Highway One. I passed Cessnock and drove through Kuri Kuri in the impressive Hunter Valley wine-growing region. No time for a winery tour this time, alas. But I could hardly feel sorry for myself, given my surroundings.

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