Port Stephens & Stockton Sand Dunes

Eager to see some dolphins and try sand boarding for the first time I packed my things the night before, so I would be ready to go as soon as my alarm went off. I got myself ready, grabbed my things and hit breakfast before we met our bus at 9 am. Everyone was excited, but the awful rain that seemed to follow us everywhere we went (all of Cairns, Bushwalking, Sydney, leaving for Bali & now here) was really ruining our fun. To add to the gloomy day, Hayley, our ISA staff was no longer with us and we were all confused if she really got a new job or if she quit or got fired. Robert would be our new ISA staff to look out for us with this would be the first time we would all meet him.

Once the bus showed up we piled on and caught up with everyone that travelled to different places over break, whether it be the East coast of Oz or New Zealand, since my friends and I went to Bali. I was so excited to hear about everyone’s trips, not only because they had an awesome time, but because I was going to travel to go to the same places in the near future. It made my feeling of being a wanderlust grow even more knowing that I would be able to go to these amazing places that my friends have and it was a cherry on top knowing that they are wonderful places to travel to. We talked about our adventures while taking in the view from the bus and making our way to Nelson Bay, where we would get the chance to go on a dolphin cruise. I wasn’t sure how great the cruise would be, since the weather was cloudy with some spouts of heavy rain. Regardless, we made it to the docks in Nelson Bay, where we waited to board our boat. The tour would only be a couple hours, since we had to get to Stockton for sand boarding later this afternoon.

The boat was very nice, having coffee, tea and cookies for us when we boarded. I needed the black tea to wake up a little for dolphin spotting and get ramped up for sand boarding. A lot of the girls were feeling sick, but I was good as usual enjoying the view and laughing with friends. Once we got out far enough we spotted several pods of dolphins both playing and hunting for food. I got some decent photos, but living in the moment was the best part of it all, seeing them play and teach the little ones how to hunt. I’m not sure if I was more excited to see the dolphins or joke around with my friends while taking photos. The boat cruise as a whole was worth it, even if it meant being rained on a little. When we got out far enough, the boat anchored for us to spot dolphins and go swimming. I was not at all interested in swimming in this weather, so I watched as several people went off the slide into the cold water before coming aboard for their towel and dry clothes. Not many enjoyed the cold water, but it was entertaining to see everyone’s reaction to the water. Some coped with the temperature well, but no one tended to stay in for very long. After the short lived experience in the water, we pulled up the anchor and headed back towards the docks, spotting a few more pods and enjoying the okay weather with some fun photo taking.

Happy to be back on land again, we walked to the Warf Restaurant, where we had lunch together. I chose the roast capsicum risotto (red bell pepper). Never having risotto before, I had no expectations, purely excitement to try something new. The flavors were brilliant, a bed of spaghetti pesto pasta with a stuffed red bell pepper laid on top, where the risotto gladly awaited my fork. I indulged in my meal, unable to stop until it was gone. The flavors and aromas from this dish were both sensual and heavenly, so much I was even willing to share with my neighbours. Being the worst possible child when it came to sharing, I’ve recently opened my mind up to the concept. Slightly being selfish, I shared to be nice, but to also be given some of theirs to broaden my pallet at the same time. Lunch didn’t stop there, on our way out a couple girls and myself made a quick stop at Subway to buy some cheap warm cookies for dessert before climbing back onto the bus for sand boarding.

Off to the races again, we had a short drive back towards Newy (Newcastle nickname). Sand boarding at Stockton sand dunes, the largest sand dunes in the southern hemisphere. I was so amped for sand boarding! The rain started up again, but with no socks or shoes, I was ready for anything the dunes would offer. Hopping out of the van that took us from the parking lot to the dunes we were going to ride, I grabbed a board and hiked up the side of the smaller dune for a test run. Morgan and I dropped our boards side by side and shoved off together following the directions the instructors gave us of lean back, keep your hands behind you to steer and stay grounded, and no standing on the boards when riding. The first run was short lived, but awesome. Flashbacks of sledding crossed my mind as I flew down and grabbed my board to go again. I had enough with the kiddie hill and was ready for the real action on the bigger dune.

Hiking up the large dune with Morgan with the rain pelting us in the face and sand when the wind blew. Working our way up was well worth it though because going down was a rush of both speed and a little panic trying to avoid the footprints that would cause your board to dive, tossing you at a high speed tumbling down the rest of the dune. Being the victim of these foot prints a time or two, I was tossed like a rag doll for a few meters. Wet, full of sand and having to climb part way back up to get my board, I couldn’t keep the smile off my face or myself from laughing as my legs flew through the air. Eager to go again, I waited for Morgan or some of the other girls to climb back up through the steps of footprints up the side of the sand dune. Getting an epic workout climbing up the side of the dune, I pushed myself to get up to the top quicker to stop the burning. Little did I know at the top the winds were much worse. Winds that caused the rain to come down sideways getting us wet and even worse, making the sand blow and stick to us. Racing to a starting point, Morgan and I sat down, braced ourselves and pushed off to take the plunge again down the steep dunes trying to avoid the footprints as best we could, from those less fortunate to go a sufficient distance. We racied from the bottom back up to the top to go for the thrill ride several times.

Before we knew it, we only had time to go one last time and needed to make it count. I ran up the side of the dune with Morgan and we chose the steepest spot we could to get the biggest thrill ride before having to turn our boards in and head back to uni. Our last thrill building in intensity as we climbed up the side of the dune with our calves burning and racing against time, we finally arrived at the top and scoped out the steepest point. Racing over to it to avoid the sideways rain and sand storm, we put our boards down and on ready set go we pushed off and plummeted to the base of the dunes at a great speed as we leaned back with our hands in the sand trailing behind us to keep us from diving all the way down. Feeling the rush come and pass within seconds our time at the dunes came to an end. We got our van back to the bus that took us home to Uni in time for dinner. I was sad to say the least because this was the last excursion we would have and the last time we would all be together. Sad to see how time has flown by this semester, we enjoyed talking on our ride back and planning a few fun trips in the next few weeks together to the Whitsunday’s, Melbourne and Sydney.

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