190. Maitland to Morisset

Reminiscence mode on: I was hoping to catch up with an old friend who lives in Newcastle. We shared many experiences when campaigning for increased television captioning in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The first time I saw captioning was in Bowen in Northern Queensland (NQ) in 1985-6, it had started the previous year in capital cities. I must have bought the first television with teletext in NQ and then had to wait impatiently for at least six months until the service was extended past Brisbane. At first there was very little available; the husband of one friend was disgusted to learn I wanted to rush home to watch “East Enders”, the only other thing captioned in NQ at the time apart from the late night News!!  When I moved to Brisbane I joined a group campaigning for more captioning particularly on the 7 o’clock news, and eventually ended up as Chair of the ‘National Working Party on Captioning’ (NWPC) for 2 years. Those were the days when there was plenty of money around and the Australian Caption Centre flew state representatives down to Sydney several times a year – which I appreciated as it meant I could also visit my father and aunt in their nursing homes a little more frequently.

Captioning is not subtitling, strictly speaking: the former is a visual representation of the soundtrack, (speech plus noises like music, people coughing, tapping sounds, footsteps), while the latter is translation – but the terms are commonly used interchangeably.  The very first captioned movie shown on Australian TV was “Ghost”, on Channel 9, sponsored by Toyota. At least one Deaf person was so happy he went out and bought a brand new Toyota!  The funeral of the Princess of Wales was live-captioned, a marathon effort by a few very dedicated former stenographers. Unfortunately real time captioning like that is STILL a rarity in NZ.  (Reminiscence mode off).

We had to wait a few days until Karen was free so spent the time exploring. The notorious old Maitland Gaol received a quick visit from the outside only.


Then on to the historical town of Morpeth with it’s cobbled footpaths, beautiful old sandstone buildings and enticing little boutiques – it must be where all the fashionable Maitland people go to buy their classy clothing like alpaca coats. Morpeth dates back to 1821 when it formed part of a land grant given to Lt. E C Close by Governor Brisbane. “Influenced by its desirable location on the Hunter river and the realisation of the area’s immense potential, Morpeth evolved from a rugged bush base to a frontier town and heavily frequented river port by the 1830s.”  There were once 18 inns in the main street. Morpeth helped lay the foundations for the entire Hunter Valley.



Nowadays the Hunter is a muddy little river, -swollen and discoloured at the time we were there due to recent rain. I could not get any good photos due to roadworks closing off all the approaches to the river and bridge.


Maitland proved a good base, not too far from Newcastle and not too far from the Hunter Valley wineries. We decided to visit one for lunch and set off with high expectations and NO map of the wineries area, so initially headed in the wrong direction. Beautiful green hills and valleys and little bridges were everywhere. But no vineyards.


Finally discovering a huge road sign with multiple wineries we headed down a dirt road but after many km could only find one with an open gateway – and a closed cellar bar and restaurant. Retracing our steps we went further into wine country but everything seemed deserted. It was a Thursday …. in Blenheim all the wineries would be busy. Here it was deserted. Perhaps at the weekends? – but we didn’t hang around to find out. The vines look quite different to NZ ones, more scraggly and untidy, on long spindly crooked legs. When we left Blenheim in early April the vines were just starting to turn autumn colours; here they are not yet so advanced, although harvesting has obviously ended.



We did much better the next day, firstly meeting with Karen – a wonderful catching-up morning which went by all too quickly.

Karen suggested we go for a drive ‘along the foreshore’ of Newcastle, so we did. The area leading to the eastern breakwater has become fashionable with lots of apartments and that means lots of little restaurants. We found one at 33 Hunter St. called simply ‘Moor’ and decorated with beautiful old Arabian tiles, where we  had a memorable lunch. Me with three large perfect fallafel with oozy cheesey interiors, green tahini sauce and Arabian salad; Dave with something less outstanding but equally delicious. A pity my photo is a little out of focus.


Then on to the rather long breakwater, no family art there as at Port Macquarie but a series of bas relief sculptures commissioned for the Bicentennary.





Nearing the end…


The breakwater was constructed from several different materials including cement-filled sacks, apparently


Rock sculpture on one of the natural rocks.P1140757



We did find this little painting on the seaward side of a large rock at the far end of the breakwater – I wonder what it is doing there and what it symbolises.


Two lone surfers braved the waves close to the lighthouse.


P1140744P1140755 About that time we discovered a crack in the windscreen, it starts right down at the bottom. As it has been raining on and off every day for ages, the first windscreen repairer we approached wouldn’t even look at it, said it had to dry out for at least 24 hrs before he could attempt anything. We decided to wait till we were at our next destination – somewhere around Lake Macquarie. Not to be confused with Port Macquarie which is some 100 km north. Morisset Showground sounded suitable and not likely to be as high priced or crowded as the lakeside commercial camps, particularly with Easter coming up soon.

As it turned out, after we’d carefully covered the windshield area with a tarpaulin one night in case there was any more rain after a lovely fine day, a repairer said it was impossible to repair as the crack started right down at the bottom. He did however drill a tiny hole which will hopefully stop the crack spreading any further. We have already used up the Jeep’s glass insurance for the year so hope we will not need to replace it just yet.

Lake Macquarie contains more water than Sydney Harbour, but does not take nearly as long to drive right around. Which we did – twice! The first windscreen repairer was in Swansea on the seaward side of the Lake, so we took the opportunity to visit Cave’s Beach and then Catherine Hill Bay, both just south of Swansea.  The caves are Cave’s Beach are only accessible at low tide; lo and behold it was right on low tide when we arrived. The rock formations were interesting, alternate layers of very hard conglomerate and soft sandstone. It was easy to see how the caves were formed.




Catherine Hill Bay is a historical mining village, of which very little remains now but an old pier. I think there were some mine remains further up the hillside but we did not go that way. The beach was practically deserted but surf lifesavers were still in attendance (their clubhouse was up on the cliffside). The main road through the township is lined with beautiful little miners’ cottages; we shot past them before I thought to take some photos.


More about the Lakes area in the next blog.


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