Thursday, April 01, 2010

Forster, Australia

On April 1 we vacated our apartment on Manly Beach, and headed north for the resort town of Forster, some 450 km north of Sydney. Following the east coast of Australia we worked our way steadily northwards, investigating many interesting towns and spots along the way. In this regard we passed through some of the best and some of the worst settlements in the area. Among the best was the exceptionally pretty town called, unremarkably, The Entrance. It is full of lovely little shops and a very nice main street, close to the beaches and sand dunes. A nice town like this deserves a better name than The Entrance; how about Seaside, Pleasantville, or Cuddly Cove?

At the other end of the scale is the city of Newcastle, which, like its English namesake, made its reputation through the local coal industry. Evidently the coal business is really bad these days; the streets were a depressing collection of vacant old turn-of-the (previous)- century buildings, pawn shops, tattoo parlours, seedy bars and thrift stores. The locals are a tough, weather-beaten lot with the grim look of a rented mule in an overworked colliery. You know that the place is a low-rent establishment when the dress-code at the local nightclubs lists teeth as optional! We did not tarry here, except for a brief break at an outlying Pie Shop to sample some of what are reputed to be the best pies in the area. Personally, I was disappointed to discover that the town did not offer something I have been looking forward to trying; The Floater.

Now in Canada, The Floater would be something found in the water at beaches, public toilets and in swimming pools that you would definitely want to avoid, but down here it consists of a meat pie launched into a bowl of pea soup. Unfortunately, the shop did not carry this Aussie delicacy, so I had to settle for one of the meat pies. Equally unfortunate was the fact it was 2:30 in the afternoon, many of the favourite selections were already sold out. I tried a steak and onion pie, which was very good, with the exception that I am not keen on 'wet' fillings; this one featured a steak centre covered with gravy. I also confirmed my initial research; the Aussies turn out some very good bottled drinks, but Lemonade is not one of them. I have now tried three different offerings of what is supposed to be Lemonade, but was disappointed in every one. Best to stick with anything that comes in a brown bottle.

Many of the local towns have odd-sounding names, such as Ku-Ring-Gai; Berowa; Bulahdelah; Boolambyte; Topi Topi and Booti Booti. We asked a local friend of ours where these strange names came from and every time he cheekily replied that they derived from an aboriginal word referring to water in some form or another. As in: Place Of Flowing Water, Falling Water, Where The Waters Meet, Don't Drink The Water, Watch Out For Watered-Down Drinks In Tourist Joints, and If You Fall Overboard Thrash About Mightily Until We Can Launch The Rescue Dugout.

Forster, pronounced ' Foster ' since the 'r' is silent, (we have no idea why), began its dubious European History in 1816 when survivors of two shipwrecks staggered ashore. The rest either went down with the ship or were slaughtered by the locals. The next encounter with white people was in 1818, when one of the Wallamba Tribe indigenous to the area speared a member of a survey party passing through from Sydney. The settlement then had a brief flowering as a timber producer in the 1830s, but when the cedar and pine rainforest was completely clear-cut, the locals reverted to their ancient subsistence living traditions that continue to this day; bagging unwary passers-through. It is a modest little ocean-side town with great beaches that cater to vacationing Sydneysiders from down south. As such, the town core consists of bars, restaurants, fast-food joints, beach supply shops, with a liberal lashing of dolphin-watching boats (their one brief effort at cultivating an interest in Clam Watching having evidently failed), boogie board rental shops, parasailing ventures and fishing boat outfitters.

Pictured; our place at Forsters, and the local beach. So it looks like we will be spending the next 5 days mainly laying on the beach, soaking up some sun, and giving the Aussie Salute, which consists of brushing away flies with your hand! I will report back on our further adventures in a few days!

Aussie Oddities

- if you ask for gas at a service station, they will look for the metal bottle tank since 'gas' means propane; what the automobile takes is petrol ;

- above is a photo of another of those strange Aussie roadsigns; we think this one warns of mudholes that might obscure your windscreen (windshield);

- down here a picnic cooler is called an Esky

- in addition to the great seafood, the Aussies are renowned for their excellent steak. Last evening I had a very tasty and tender steak sandwich in a local restaurant. Oddly, the Aussies often serve up their steaks with a topping of beets, which is actually a refreshing experience!

- the smallest beer-size is the Middy; next up is the Schooner, and the largest is the Pint, unless you go for the full Pitcher! In the photo, a 355 ml bottle of Carleton, next to a 750 ml Toohey's New; the glass is a Schooner.


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