Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Australian Sojourn – May 2016

Part 8: Port Macquarie

Continuing with my series of posts on my May visit to Australia, I share this evening a few images of my time in Port Macquarie, the coastal town that my parents, Gordon and Margaret Bayly, have called home since 2002. (To start at the beginning of this series, click here.)

Normally when I return to Australia from the U.S., Port Macquarie is the first place I head to after landing in Sydney. This year was different, as it made more sense to first visit family and friends south of Sydney before heading north to see my parents. And so after spending a few days in Sydney and nearby Morpeth, I flew south to Melbourne (and the "mystic Mount Diogenes") and then made my way north by train to Port Macquarie via Albury, Goulburn, Exeter, and (ever so briefly) Sydney. I arrived in Port Macquarie on the evening of Thursday, May 20. As you can imagine, it was great seeing my parents again, a year after last seeing them.

Above and below: The rock platform at the southern end of Port Macquarie's Town Beach. As I've noted previously (here, here, and here), this platform is sacred ground for me. By this I mean that whenever I'm there I always feel at one with the energizing and transforming presence within and beyond all things.

I like to think that my wedding will one day take place upon this rock platform, this "somewhere-in-between" space that at times can be both land and sea; a place where it can feel as though one is walking on water! Like I said, it's a very special place.

Above and below: Dad on Town Beach – Friday, May 21, 2016.

Above and right: With Dad and Mum in Port Macquarie – May 2016.

Port Macquarie is located on the New South Wales mid-north coast and is about a 5-hour drive north of Sydney. Situated on the Hastings River, the town has a population of around 41,000. For most of the year (with the exception of the summer holidays around Christmas) Port Macquarie is a quiet place, owing largely to the fact that the busy Pacific Highway bypasses the town about seven kilometres inland.

My parents relocated to Port Macquarie from my family's hometown of Gunnedah in 2002. In 2013 they moved from Swallows' Ledge, overlooking Port Macquarie's Town Beach, to the "independent living" section of a local retirement home. They are very happy in their new digs – which, in keeping with the bird theme, we've named Ibis Villa, owing to an Australian White Ibis we often see walking stately around the garden.

Above: My parents (at left) with their friends (from left) Yonni & George and Cheryl & Jeff.

Above and below: Views of the Hastings River in Port Macquarie.

Above: One of the oldest buildings in Port Macquarie is the former Court House, built in 1869.

In 1821 Port Macquarie was founded as a penal settlement for convicts sentenced for crimes committed in New South Wales. Two years later the first sugar cane to be cultivated in Australia was planted at the settlement. The region was opened to free settlers in 1830 after it was decided to abandon Port Macquarie as a penal settlement. Because of its good pastoral land, timber resources, and fisheries, the area was quickly settled. During the 1840s the “Wool Road” from the Northern Tablelands was constructed to enable wool and other produce to be shipped from the port.

Port Macquarie was declared a municipality in 1887, but the town never progressed as an actual port due to presence of a notorious coastal bar across the mouth of the Hastings River.

And, yes, that's a statue of a koala in the photo above. They're actually all over town as part of the Hello Koalas Public Art Sculpture Trail. Residents and visitors alike are encouraged to seek out all 50 large-scale koala sculptures, manufactured in fibreglass and hand painted and decorated by celebrity artists, professional artists, and community groups. The one at right is modeled after Australian mega-star Dame Edna Everage!

For more about the Hello Koalas Public Art Trail, click here.

Above and below: Views of Port Macquarie's Town Beach.

On Tuesday, May 25 my parents and I traveled from Port Macquarie to Gunnedah to visit family and friends. Midway across the mountains that separate the coastal shelf from the rich farmland of the New England Tablelands and Liverpool Plains of north-western New South Wales, we paused at Gingers Creek, where Dad snapped the above photo of me.

NEXT: Gunnedah

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Australian Sojourn, April 2015: Part 2 – Port Macquarie, Wingham, and Ellenborough Falls
Port Macquarie Days (2014)
On Sacred Ground
Diamond Head
Christmas in Australia (2010)
Town Beach (2010)
Swallows Ledge (2009)
Port Macquarie (2008)
North Brother Mountain (2008)
Ellenborough Falls (2007)
Everglades Exhibition (2007)
Boorganna (Part 1)
Boorganna (Part 2)
A Solitary Ramble (2006)
Australian Sojourn, May 2016: Part 1 – Maroubra
Australian Sojourn, May 2016: Part 2 – Morpeth
Australian Sojourn, May 2016: Part 3 – Melbourne
Australian Sojourn, May 2016: Part 4 – Hanging Rock
Australian Sojourn, May 2016: Part 5 – Albury
Australian Sojourn, May 2016: Part 6 – Goulburn
Australian Sojourn, May 2016: Part 7 – Exeter

Images: Michael J. Bayly and Gordon Bayly.

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