Nelson Bay, Australia. Almost as safe as a visit to Somalia.

There shall be troglodytes…

Expect this sort of thing

Expect this sort of thing

Nelson Bay is a little harbourside town, surrounded by several other small harbourside towns, on the retirement belt that is the mid NSW coast. It’s pleasant and isolated, with a lovely harbour that’s too shallow for any vessel larger than a duck. Therefore, it is almost completely natural. This might lead you to think it’s unspoilt. But put away your illusions, because you’re in for a wild ride.

The first thing that will happen, on arrival, is that a gang of four year olds, with neck tattoos, will steal your stereo before your car has even come to a stop. And don’t think you’ll escape this experience by cleverly being called Graham, having a comb-over and driving a Peugeot 404 with only a cassette player, because cassette tape technology is about to arrive here this year, if the new council drive to replace the gramophone is successful.

Don’t get the idea that the council is stuck in the 1800s, however. Oh no. They’ve moved forwards to the mid twentieth century, or more specifically, Germany in the early 1940s.

If you decide to live here (for God’s sake don’t) you may wish, like 99 % of residents, to buy yourself a speedboat on a trailer. With the gorgeous and shallow harbour, it’s the best place in the world to own one. Sadly, there’s nowhere to store it.

On your own property? No, the council has banned it. In your own driveway? Banned. In the water? Banned. And if you flout this ban, council officers in Gestapo clothing will march in and fine you.

But back to the matter of your stereo, your car that is now sitting up on bricks, minus its wheels, and is now engulfed in flames, all of which which has occurred before you’ve even had time to unbuckle your seatbelt.

The Bay Rats, as this group of preschoolers is called, will run down the road to sell your stereo at the local preschool, so they can buy drugs from grandmother at the nursing home. Don’t chase them, because if you do, you’ll start to hallucinate that there’s a steam locomotive charging towards you from the innards of the dole office. In fact it’s the children’s mothers, whose names are Sharon, Sherree and Shazza, charging out in a cloud of bong smoke, as the syringes hanging out of their arms tinkle and clatter together like the bell atop a locomotive.

But it’s not all shambling drug-crazed zombies and devil children robbing you. In fact, the place itself is quite pleasant. People in the street will smile and say hello, and most shopkeepers will greet you by name, except at Coles, which has the largest range of expired yoghurts this side of parliament house. This is because everyone who works there is called Sue, has a face like a cow’s intestines, is 45 years old, weighs more than a tractor, has thighs like a mammoth, a moustache like a walrus, and the personality of Pol Pot.

There are more friendly locals awaiting you at the harbour. Dolphins frolic in the waters of the harbour, which are so blue and clear, it’s as if the sky has melted and slid to earth. If you don’t see any within a few minutes, you’ll definitely see them on their evening visit to the rock-wall enclosed mini-harbour where rich people’s boats sleep, and there’s pelicans standing shoulder to shoulder with the many fisherman, waiting patiently for their meal of fish guts. If these don’t ring your bell, it’s a five minute walk to fly point, where there’s glorious shallow-water diving, and the occasional pacific turtle to be seen.

Port Stephens itself is a large, shallow harbour guarded at the sea entrance by a pair of mountains, and outside of these, whales can be seen most months of the year, travelling between Antarctica and the equator. Which is about as far as you’ll need to travel to visit the “shopping centre” of Salamander Bay. Which is not a bay, but a desolate stretch of wasteland. But you’ll travel there anyway, because your children will have been so frightened by the herd of Gorgon Sues at Coles, that they’ll threaten to pull their own heads off and impale themselves if you ever suggest shopping there again.

So you’ll trek out to “Sally Centre,” even though it’s further away than the Voyager 2 probe, which left the solar system last year. But don’t feel convulsed with excitement, because this “shopping centre” has only one level, is the size of a single car garage, except for the other half of it, which is as far away as the moon, for no apparent reason. And both halves of it, ie all six shops, are about as inviting as a Welsh Coal mine after a collapse, or perhaps the lower cirlces of Hell in Dante’s Inferno.

These things aside, Nelson Bay is lovely to visit- if you have your own transport. Just don’t bring it with you, because it will be firebombed immediately, and you’ll have to use the local bus service. Which last ran before the time of the Pharaohs. So you’ll wait at the bus stop until your body mummifies, and is found by aliens, or a future civilisation of humans, sometime after the sun turns nova. And that’s not for another five billion years.

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