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BALLINA: 6th January

We woke up early in expectation of a very long drive up to the seaside town of Ballina. Despite our early start, we still found time for a little swim in the hotel pool before playing a round of mini golf at the local golf centre. Whilst sitting by the pool, a large chattering Kookaburra landed on the fence and showed himself off. He allowed me to get fairly close to photograph him before he was scared by a slamming gate from another hotel resident.
Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree The rather large Kookaburra sitting on the fence by the pool. I was able to approach quite closely without alarming him.

The first stop on the long drive to Ballina was a road side service station. This station was somewhat unusual in that the shops were inside a fibre-glass replica of Ayers Rock (Uluru). The shops themselves had little to write home about other than a wide range of pies, but the tackiness of the fibre-glass monolith had to be seen to be believed!
The tack-tastic plastic Ulura/Ayers Rock service station. I don't think the real Ayers Rock has shops underneath it though? The delights of fibre glass
We didn’t hang around for long.

The next stop, another couple of hundred kilometres further on was the town of Coffs Harbour. Once again, there was little here of interest for people just stopping for a look around, but we managed to get some lunch from the local Hog’s Breath Café; staffed by just one overworked waitress.

Then it was back on the road for the final few hundred kilometres up to Ballina. Ballina sits about 30km from the important beach-side settlement of Byron Bay. Development in Byron Bay has been restricted of late thanks to the election of a Green Party dominated council. As a result, money has moved out to Ballina which has caused a surge in building and development. On the quayside, a brand new hotel had just opened and a large new apartment complex was just being finished. Our accommodation, the local YHA was a little more Spartan than these plush complexes, but as YHAs go, it was pretty impressive as it boasted a new little swimming pool and some comfortable double rooms.

We kicked back and relaxed for a short while before heading out to have dinner on the quayside at a restaurant nestled beneath the new hotel. The views of the last rays of the day’s sun setting on the estuary water provided a stunning backdrop as we ate, drank and chatted as the evening passed us by.

Sun sets in the West? The beautiful orange sunset over the estuary at Ballina. Whether the little town will be quite the same once they've finished building all the hotels and apartment blocks, I don't know.
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