Ballina weekend trip, 15/16 September 2007

Posted by John on Tue 18-Sep-2007

Our weekend trip to the Northern Rivers area on 15/16th September greeted us with beautiful, fine weather, and 7 cars with their occupants took advantage of it. 6 cars met at Coomera, meeting up with our other couple at Tweed Heads en route to our first stop….a winery at Carool in the hinterland. A very scenic, winding road led us to the winery and we settled down to coffee and morning tea for starters. Good conversation about the beautiful countryside, the upcoming weekend etc ensued as we waited for our refreshments….Ian, in particular, salivating over his choice of sticky date pudding – at 10.30am! Suitably refuelled, we attacked the tasting room and bought some tasty drops, while the owner gave us directions for an alternate scenic route to our next scheduled stop. He was right, it was very scenic, and we arrived at Tropical Fruit World with the intention of sampling (and buying) some exotic fruits and having lunch there.That plan soon changed when we saw the tourist-orientated prices for their offerings. Plan B swung into action, and we left via Murwillumbah for points south and a less-expensive meal.

On the way south over the Burringbah range (taking the old Pacific Highway) we found a roadside fruit stall, and stopped. One of the many signs invited us to “feed the ducks”, so some of our group bought 50cent packs of bread chunks and wandered off toward the pond with dozens of ducks in tow like modern-day pied pipers.

Mooball Feeding frenzy finished, the Prius Procession rolled on to Mooball, a quaint little town whose main claim to fame is its Jersey Cow look-alike paint job on anything in town that didn’t move! It also has a cafe which boasts on its menu the largest burger in creation….and if any individual can get through eating one, it’s free! We decided that here would be a good place to eat, but nobody took up the challenge on the Mooball Monster. Ian and Nixon went close though, ordering the next one down the list….a works burger. When they came out, it was a sight to behold. Truly a challenge as it was skewered by a satay stick to hold it together, sitting on a mountain of chips and side salad. The entertainment began, just watching the guys trying to get their jaws around a self-destructing monster burger was worth admission. Ian managed it best, and without wearing any part of it…a feat Nixon failed miserably. Our weekend mascot, Charlie the poodle, became a favourite of everyone as he played with the goats, rabbit, and other animals there while helping us eat our lunch.

After some photos, the convoy again rolled southwards and stopped at the Macadamia Castle just outside Ballina, where we indulged in some very tasty Macadamia nut concoctions and ice-creams. While we were talking in the carpark, a group of people started to board a tour bus and a few asked us about our cars. The usual misinformed comments about pricing etc came up, and we were able to tell them the real facts. It was then time to drive straight in to Ballina, and find our motel. That was fairly easy, and we all settled in to very pleasant, and well-fitted out rooms. A decision was taken to organise dinner around the pool and BBQ area at the motel, so we went out to get a pile of seafood, salad ingredients etc, and a bottle or two of wine. The motel also offered BBQ packs to guests, and some chose these. After Ian almost tried to demonstrate his walking on water trick, everyone enjoyed a meal around the pool, and a relaxed chat afterwards. A fierce overnight thunderstorm around 2 am put on a huge light show and washed the cars for us, but Sunday dawned bright and sunny again.

Some early risers were off to the local markets on Sunday morn, and recommended our first stop for the day….a huge antique shop on the outskirts of town. An hour or so was spent browsing through the old and interesting wares, but it seemed a bit too much of a comparison to have 7 of the motoring world’s most hi-tech cars sitting amongst all these olde-world goods.

Prius procession on Lions Road Next stop was the Thursday Plantation, a facility near Ballina which manufactures a wide range of medicinal products from natural plants such as the Tea-Tree. An interesting video was part of the tour, and morning tea/coffee refreshed us. We intended to have lunch at a Pecan Nut plantation and restaurant in a little country town called Eltham, and after a very scenic drive through rolling green hills, we found the town. The local Pub had also been highly recommended for its food, so when we stopped outside it, a decision was made to eat there and visit the Pecan plantation restaurant later. Everyone wandered in to find empty tables just vacated by a busload of departing tourists, and settled in to choose from the menu. After ordering, we were told there would be a 45 minute wait for our meals….as there was a crafty store next door, that wasn’t a problem for most of the ladies, who wandered off to browse there. The food started to arrive after 50 minutes and proved to be good….for those who were served. Unfortunately, one table missed out and waited, and waited for more than an hour and twenty minutes. Complaints to the owner got no results, as the 2 kitchen staff were just too busy to cater for a full house. When we finally left the pub, it was too late in the day to visit the pecan plantation….maybe another time?

We then travelled west along the Summerland Way through pretty country to the Lions Road, a shorter route over the range which was built in stages by the local Lions Clubs using volunteer labour. This is an interesting sealed route joining the Summerland Way to the Mount Lindesay Highway via a winding road following the Interstate rail line. At the top of the range, there is a lookout over the valley below where the rail line is engineered into a spiral loop in order to gain height to cross the Border Ranges. It just looks like a toy train set we used to play with as kids. Towards the highway, the countryside is rolling green hills and fertile valleys….very pretty.

We stopped on the outskirts of Beaudesert to say farewell, as some were going in different directions home. Everyone agreed it had been a very pleasant, and interesting weekend seeing a lot of areas they had not seen before. Thanks to everyone for your great company!

Lions Road, Northern NSW