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Christchurch to Newcastle

November 22, 2012

W flew out from Christchurch on Thursday 15 Nov to Sydney then took a train up to Newcastle to spend the next few days with Lynda and Steve Parish. We were amazed that the cost of the 2.5hr train journey was a mere $8 each and the scenery once we had got out of the suburbs of Sydney were excellent. The trains are a rather basic and in need of upgrading with the toilet facilities being very basic. But hey, the views were priceless and we would not have seen them had we gone by road.

Lynda and Steve were there to welcome us as we arrived in Newcastle East station. It was so good to see them again since they left the UK over 2yrs ago.

We truly had an amazing time with them as they showed us around the lovely area they live in. For us it was a but strange as we both grew up in the north-east of England and the nearest city to us was Newcastle. There were so many similarities with the north-east with the river and dock yards, coal, many areas named after areas that we used to frequent such as Jesmond, Wallsend, Stockton etc. as well as Cardiff and Toronto!!! On the Friday as Lynda and Steve had to work we took time exploring the area. it was just like home as it virtually rained all day!!!

On Saturday Steve and Lynda took us on a great coastal walk (a round trip of circa 8k) from their lovely home to have breakfast overlooking one of the many awesome bays before driving us out to Hunter Valley a name known worldwide for its fabulous wines.

On the way we went into the ‘bush’ area and it was amazing to see that virtually all the trees (and we saw millions) are gum trees. We had a fabulous day with the weather improving all the time. We stopped for afternoon in what I could only describe as the ‘outback’ – a small village in the middle of the bush. It really was a piece of Australia that was worth visiting.

On Sunday morning we attended the Church that Lynda and Steve are members of. It was really interesting comparing the style of worship with that of St Mary’s. The music used was virtually all ‘Hillsongs’ and was sometimes more of a performance style though it did feel participative. A very different style to St Marys and probably more like Soul Survivor! However having not been able to attend a place of worship on our travels it was great to listen to a message (sermon) that was clearly preached with a sound bible context and we both felt really nourished.

After church Lynda and Steve took us up the coast to Nelson’s Bay a lovely resort about an hours drive from Newcastle and a place that they have spent their Christmas holidays at for many years. It’s rather strange seeing the advertising for Christmas and decorations up with the sun shining and the temperature around the mid 20’s.

Sunday evening saw us going to a Christian Fest that had been running in Newcastle since Friday evening. What a great event this was with Christian artists performing to a very high standard. We listened to a Christian rock band with the name Antisceptic – they are a nationally recognised band in Australia and their performance was amazing – full of energy and with great lyrics that would appeal to a younger age group. This was followed by the Salem Gospel Choir from Chicago – what singing and what energy exuded from this group. Headlining the show was Darlene Zschech a singer songwriter synonymous with Hillsong but now with her husband Mark pastoring a new church. The first section of her performance was full of energy with a range of songs that were new to me. Darlene then moved into a more reflective section and it was great to be able to sing along with songs which were familiar and which we use at St Mary’s. Being outside and being blessed with an awesome sunset there was a feeling of standing in the presence of God – at that moment I really felt close to our great creator.

It was with a sense of sadness that we said our farewells wot Lynda and Steve on Monday morning. What special people they are and their hospitality, kindness and love to us is not taken for granted. So we set off on the next phase of our travels which would take us up the ‘sunshine’ coast to Brisbane.

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