Newcastle, NSW

I’m sitting in a cafe called Scottie’s, located at 36 Scott Street (cross: Zaara St.) in Newcastle, New South Wales. I’m a block from the beach, and can see the surf from where I sit against pillows made of beach towels, and container ships further out in the ocean.

I rented a car and left Sydney airport around 2:30pm, scribbled directions copied off Google Maps in hand. Naturally, the places I needed to see signs in order to follow the Google directions lacked signs, and I wound up going the wrong way on Route 1 for about half an hour before finding a gas station at which to stop. They didn’t have any maps, but they had a short, bespectacled, cell-phone-talking man in his late sixties with a heavy Greek accent taking a coffee break outside with the diesel driver who was filling up his 16-wheeler, and this accented man gave me directions. They amounted to, “turn around,” but coming from him were a series of exhortations to “stay the middle line!” and watch for signs to Newcastle. After assuring him about 6 times that I would “stay the middle line,” he let me go, and I hit the road again.

Speaking of road, one co-traveler earlier this week was opposed to my renting a car (in place of taking cabs everywhere), citing my unfamiliarity with driving on the left as being a risk factor for an accident. I’d like to take this opportunity to state that I had no trouble acclimating (just as in Japan 15 years ago), and after the first hour, I didn’t even have to remind myself to stay in the left lane. I only hit the windshield wipers by mistake once. One thing was less than optimal, though… the car I rented has a manual transmission, about which I was psyched originally, because I prefer driving standard. However, I failed to think about the fact that the gearshift would be on the left, and my bum left wrist is already feeling it. Happily, Byron Bay, an upcoming destination, is filled with acupuncturists, massage therapists, cranio-sacral therapists and all manner of alternative body therapists, so I am sure I can find someone to fix me up.

There was a rest stop on the highway, and I was pleasantly surprised to find a fast-food place next to the McDonald’s that was all organic and vegetarian, featuring gluten-free options, sushi and fresh juices, not to mention lavender hand lotion in the eco-friendly restroom. I bought an carrot-apple-ginger juice for the road, and a chocolate bar with chamomile, which I’d never heard of, so I had to try it. Verdict: kind of grainy, but I think that had to do with the chocolate itself, and not the chamomile.

What I’ve seen of Newcastle so far is cute (I haven’t seen much yet). I’m staying at a hostel, and am sleeping in a bunkroom for the first time since I was 21 or so. Things I need to buy that I hadn’t thought of: a towel and a padlock. Not exactly sure where to go for either, but am sure I will find something if I hop in the car and just drive up and down. Actually, I’m not that confident, since a lot of things seem to close at 5pm here, but I’m hopeful.

I’m planning on being offline for large portions of the day for the next couple of days so I can crank through some writing I’m overdue with for work; when I’m online I get distracted by other work stuff, and I need to get this done before 2.7 final launches next week (assuming all goes according to plan). The plan is to log in 2-3 times per day and check email, respond to skypes and let my mother (who worries about single female travel) know I’m safe. One of those times per day I’ll also post whatever I’ve written about the day before.

Upcoming itinerary is not set, but I’ll be driving north in general, toward Byron Bay, and depending on how soon I get that far, maybe up to Port Douglas (though the latter is doubtful). If you have any suggestions of places to see, stay or stop, email me at my name (jane) at my job (automattic.com).

This cafe is playing The Shins, yay.

I promised Matt I would take iPhone pictures (my regular camera battery died, and of course I forgot to bring the charger), so I’ll upload them once I find the cable.