A Travellerspoint blog


Christmas and New Year 2009

all seasons in one day 28 °C
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The drive to Sydney from Katoomba was actually very quick and painless! We managed not to wind up on any inner city toll roads and for some brilliant reason as we were cruising down Elizabeth Street not far from Hyde Park we spotted our Hotel!


We managed to turn around and park up close to it, have some lunch, drop all our bags at the hotel then take our trusty Hi-Top back to the Autobarn. When we arrived there we were told they couldn’t lend us a sponge to clean the outside (as you have to take it back clean) for some crappy health and safety reasons and were directed to the ‘carwash’ which was actually a valet service which would cost us $60! In the interests of not paying this, nor the $100 fine for taking it back dirty we eventually decided to go to a petrol station on Cowper Wharf Road and wash it with the squeegees they have for windscreens. Cheeky, but it worked a treat and we took it back to the ‘barn, where the first thing the manager said was ‘One of my employees saw you cleaning it with squeegees at the petrol station.’ Busted! Nonetheless, he laughed at us and didn’t even bother looking at the inside or anything! He also offered Joy a job doing admin work, so we took his card and told him we’d think on it!

Wandering back to the hotel, Richard discovered the camper keys in his pocket. So after dropping them back sheepishly (and being told in the time we’d gone he’d incurred a parking ticket! Oops!) we walked back hoping the job offer wasn’t now void!

We got to the hotel and realised it was Christmas Eve! So we went for a wander in Chinatown, stocked up with food and ate some PIZZA back at the hotel. It had been a shocking month and a half since Richard had eaten a REAL PIZZA and unfortunately for him he had accidentally picked up a gluten-free one, which when opening the box he discovered was half the size of Joy’s and seemed to be made of foam. When it was cooked it was floppy. It also cost twice the price of Joy’s. ‘Daylight (expletive) robbery’ said Richard.


Despite pizza-gate, we hit the watering holes of King’s Cross that night even though we were pooped! As we arrived at the bar and purchased a beer, an Australian Army fella bought us a drink for no particular reason apart from the fact it was Christmas and he was pissed. “Love the Poms” he said. We were starting to really like Sydney! Later when we were sitting outside a French woman with a small child came over to the bouncer looking quite distressed and asking for directions. He didn’t have a clue, saying in a thick Australian accent he wasn’t ‘from around here.’ Luckily, despite only being in Sydney a couple of hours Richard had been studying his maps and was able to give her some directions!

We called it a night at a decent(ish) hour ready for Christmas the next day! Unfortunately when we woke up it was completely overcast and it was forecast to rain in the afternoon. Eternally optimistic, we still made our way to Bondi, deciding that it was probably not too long a walk from the Surry Hills. Once again, we were mistaken and it took us about two and a half hours to get there, pretty much uphill all the way. Several buses with hordes of revelling backpackers drove past us on our way there but nonetheless, we made it! We collapsed on the grassy knoll looking over the beach and joined the ‘twats in Santa hats’ in a Christmas beverage.

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Some plucky (or drunk) folk were legging it into the sea regardless of the weather but we decided to save that for another day and settled for relaxing. We had a wander round the vicinity as there was some kind of daytime club-night going on at the pavilion but we weren’t up for it as we imagined it would be costly and packed because of the intermittent showers. At about 4pm we decided to call it a day and make our way back to the city – this time on the bus. Sure enough about ten minutes into the journey it started chucking it down.

Unperturbed by our slightly drizzly Christmas, that night we decided to treat ourselves to a meal. The previous night in Chinatown we had spotted queues of people going to ‘Mamak’s’, a Malaysian restaurant on Goulburn Street and when we walked past it that night it looked like we might get a table. We spotted that they had been awarded the ‘Best Asian’ Award 2009 by the Sydney Morning Herald, which is quite an accolade and turned out to be very well deserved! We had some delicious curries which cheered us up no end!

The next few days were spent sightseeing, relaxing on the beach and being slightly lame and just chilling in the hotel in the evenings and watching CSI! Better than spending all our Asia money on beer though (see, we don’t drink all the time!) One of our favourite days was Boxing Day – still grey and drizzly but we got up early to go and watch the boats set off for the annual Sydney to Hobart (Tasmania’s Capital) boat race. We caught the bus to Milton’s Point where we got there just in time for the starting gun. We watched the boats of all different shapes and sizes set off. There were hundreds and several helicopters buzzing around overhead watching them from the air. When we were all boated out, we caught the bus half way back to try and find our way to somewhere where we could see the Opera House and Harbour Bridge – a bit of a reconnaissance mission for New Year’s Eve. We eventually wandered all the way to the Botanical Gardens and Mrs Macquarie’s Point but it was nice to walk through Darlinghurst and the posher areas of town just to be nosy.


Walking past one newsagent we saw an advert for a fully kitted out camper on sale for $4000 by a German couple. About the same amount we rented ours for plus the fact that you’d probably be able to sell it on for a similar price! Hmmm. It was nice to know the camper we rented had been fully checked over and serviced and that there were people a phone call away who would have helped if we got in any trouble (or sent out a search party to scour the desert if we didn’t return it in time) but I think if we were to do it again we would definitely buy one!

The Botanical Gardens were great to go and see – and are probably one of the few attractions in Sydney that look nicer after a bit of rain! At the end of Mrs Macquarie’s point we were rewarded with excellent views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, so we took the opportunity to get the standard touristy photos. We then walked along to the Opera House to have a gander then back through town to the hotel. The Boxing Day sales were on so it was chaos getting back on the free bus that circles the Central Business District but we eventually made it in one piece and without Joy buying any clothes.


It would bore you to death for us to recount the next 9 days in full detail but here are some highlights.
One day we decided to walk over the Harbour Bridge, just so we could say we’d done it! It was a lovely sunny day and on the other side we decided to have a look at the Luna Park, a smallish theme park a two minute walk from the bridge - free entry but you pay for any rides. It was mostly fun to look at the garish colours everywhere and watch the little shows and things put on by the people who work there – seemingly paid to make idiots of themselves in funny costumes. Not a bad job, really!


On our way back over the bridge we decided to wander through the Rocks, which is always mentioned in tourist guides etc. as it is the spot where the city of Sydney originated. Some of the old buildings are nice to look at as they’re the oldest you’ll see in the country and there are some nice looking restaurants and bars but we didn’t stick around too long as there’s not much to do for free. We decided to wander to Darling Harbour which turned out to be really close to our hotel. We wandered the full circuit, watched some street performers then headed back to the hotel.


One thing we would recommend to see in Sydney before you leave is Paddy’s Market. There are three floors and this is the place to buy anything you might need while you’re here: fruit and veg, sunglasses, hats, takeaway food, clothes, watches etc all for bargain prices. For some reason there are about 8 wig stalls on the ground floor, too, so if you suddenly require a wig on your holiday in Sydney, head to Paddy’s.

For New Year’s Eve we had decided to go to Simmons Point as we checked on GoogleMaps and it had great views of the Harbour Bridge (but not the Opera House) and you could take your own booze! We caught the bus to Balmain and found our way to Mort Park where as we wandered in there appeared a space big enough to fit two people comfortably right in front of the water, with perfect views of the bridge! We plonked ourselves down and waited.... and waited... and eventually the sun started going down and we got excited about the fireworks. They were spectacular! The photos don’t do them justice but the $5million was put to good use ($5million!!) That night we met another English couple called Ellie and Russell who had done Asia and the East Coast of Australia and were heading to Melbourne, so it was good to trade tips and experiences with them and just have some general chitchat. After the countdown Richard, Joy and Russell decided to jump into the harbour as a few people were beginning to do! We think that by enticing Russell to jump in we caused some relationship troubles between him and Ellie. It was good fun to jump in from the 10ft high dock until the Police told Richard he was being naughty and it was dangerous, etc! Luckily our beer jackets kept us nice and warm and even the scramble for the bus, the bus journey itself and the walk back to the hotel were relatively painless! Joy would also like to point out that she was first to jump in because she’s the most daring.


Over the next couple of days we finally got round to booking our Greyhound bus passes, which was pretty last minute - we’re not sure why we didn’t think about our onward travel sooner! We also toyed with getting another camper as the prices weren’t too different – until, of course, they plonked a $200 one way fee onto the price just as we were about to pay up. It turned out when we phoned up that they were sold out anyway so Greyhound it would have to be. We booked our next four nights stays at Port Macquarie, Coff’s Harbour and Byron Bay and prepared ourselves for the 5am alarm!

On the day of the journey out of Sydney we miraculously managed to wake up and get out of the hotel by 6.30. Before we made it to Port Macquarie there were a couple of minor issues. Firstly, Richard was told he was on a different bus to Joy so we both prepared for a boring 7.5 hour journey. Then when he’d queued up Richard was told by the other bus driver that he wasn’t on his list! So he went back to the first bus driver who then managed to find him on the list and finally let him on. Not the end of the world, but stressful to contend with at 7 o’clock in the morning. Secondly, when we stopped at Newcastle, Joy noticed her bag sitting on its lonesome outside the bus, so she kept her eye on it to see why it was not being loaded back into the luggage hold. It turned out that it had been labelled incorrectly to be taken off at Newcastle! Luckily, after Joy squared up to the bus driver (she didn’t really square up to him but she felt like it) it was relabelled for Port Macquarie and popped back in the luggage hold. Fair enough, the driver would have hopefully noticed the error before driving off without it but as we both said in pretty much in unison when we sat back in our seats ‘this wouldn’t have happened if we’d got a camper!’

Posted by RichardJoy 08:13 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Canberra and Blue Mountains

sunny 34 °C
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We awoke in Cooma with very sore and achy limbs but eventually managed to drag ourselves out of bed ready to cruise to Canberra to spend the day checking out the capital city! On arriving we decided we would go to see the Australian Parliament Houses as it seemed the proper touristy thing to do. We found some FREE PARKING about 5 minutes walk from Old Parliament House with the help of a super friendly car park security guard who also seemed to act as a tourist information bureau! He did tell us we’d be better off driving closer to it as it was so hot – 34 degrees – but we decided that free parking suited us and we’d have a little wander to stretch our legs. Needless to say we regretted it as it was roasting and our legs were still rickety and achy from the climb the day before!

We had a gander at the Old Parliament House but to be honest it was a bit dull and you had to pay to get in where they had an exhibition about Australia’s economic history or something, which didn’t seem too thrilling. You could see the Anzac Memorial Road from the steps though, which was quite cool so we agreed to go there later in the day. The other interesting thing about the Old Parliament House is that there are caravans and tents pitched up in front of it – the Aboriginal Tent Embassy who have camped there for several years to protest about land rights. We didn’t see anyone manning the area though or we might have chatted and found out what the deal was. Looked like the protest was off on this particular day!


We strolled to the present Parliament House to have a look at it and it was quite striking. A very modern building with a huge silver mast sticking out of the top with a massive Australian flag (size of a double decker bus apparently!) flapping about in the wind. There is also an artsy looking water feature at the front with a circular swirling effect and a 90,000 piece Aboriginal style mosaic. We wandered up closer to the Parliament House and were surprised to find that we could have a look inside, for free! So we wandered in to find x-ray machines and security guards. They eventually let us in although Joy’s hairbrush in her bag seemed to cause a bit of a stir – I guess you can’t be too careful when letting anyone who takes a fancy in to the Parliament House.


We wandered around the inside and found lots going on - there’s an art gallery area, a massive hall with a huge, beautiful tapestry in it with colourful bush-tree shapes on it and halls with paintings of all the Australian presidents and our own Queen Lizzie on the walls. And we didn’t even manage to see half of it! We did go to the roof where the flag mast is where you can look over Canberra and the views were very impressive with the Captain Cook Memorial Water Jet shooting 147metres into the air in the distance. Apparently you can sit in on a parliamentary hearing but we were pressed for time so after some lunch we went over to the Anzac Memorial. We met the super friendly security guard again who said it would take a whole day at least to see it all – we weren’t sure about the accuracy of this though until we got there ourselves.


The Anzac Memorial was a pleasant (as it can be given the subject matter) surprise on our visit to Canberra, the road leading towards it has several different sculptures and monuments dotted along it, each depicting a different conflict. There are also many sculptures surrounding the main building which have been commissioned as tributes to the ANZAC forces who lost their lives in battle. When you enter the memorial building there is a massive museum and downstairs there is an area which supposedly holds different exhibitions throughout the year (we didn’t manage to get that far!)


Each room was crammed with war memorabilia, stories, interactive displays, dioramas and lots more. There is so much on display here you could come two days in a row I imagine and not have seen it all. It was truly fascinating stuff. The interactive displays were brilliant – one in particular was a darkened room with a big screen in it made to seem as if it were a fighter plane from WWI. The video played the take off and the whole room began to shake, then when the bomb was being ‘dropped’, panels opened up in the floor of the room and another screen showed the ‘view’ below, before the plane came in to land. It was great! Other displays were reworkings of prisoner of war camps in various places around the globe and on pressing a button you would hear the stories of Australian ex-POWs. It was really moving stuff, we could have spent a lot longer here but by the time we’d got half way through the WWII area we were shuffled out as they were due to close.


Before the place shut there was a closing ceremony, we presume they do one every day. This consisted of a lone-bagpiper, which may seem strange to some but the figure of the ‘lone bagpiper’ comes from a time when there were many Scottish expats in Australia and it has sort of developed into an emblem of loss or goodbye, which is why they often have them at Australian funerals.


We left the ANZAC memorial very impressed. Nonetheless our time in Canberra had to come to an end as we were on a strict schedule if we wanted to get the camper back in time for Christmas! We started our drive towards the Blue Mountains with an intended free night camping before we arrived. On getting lost we stumbled upon a small town which was having its annual Christmas Carols in the Park! We stopped as the monotony of the journey made this seem fun and exciting! We wandered for a bit then realised it was full of children and was probably not going to help us get to our campsite before midnight. So we cruised along and finally found a place to camp not far from the Blue Mountains area, amusingly (to us) titled ‘Bummaroo’ Campground.


When we awoke bright and early we moved on to a town called Katoomba in the Blue Mountains and camped up. As we were giving the camper back the next day unfortunately a lot of this day was spent cleaning and tidying the camper and doing all our last washing. Fascinating, I know. We did manage to wander down to the Three Sisters lookout point and see the views over the Blue Mountains – very misty after the baking hot day we’d had, we can see why they got their name. We spent the rest of the day reading in the sunshine, aware that we’d have a stressful day ahead of us driving to Sydney and moving all our stuff into the hotel from the camper! We had a small nightcap (hehe) and set our alarm (boooo).


Posted by RichardJoy 08:32 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

Philip Island, Gippsland and Mount Kosciuszko

sunny 30 °C
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We parked up for the night just outside of Phillip Island at a reasonably priced caravan park in a little town called San Remo just before the bridge crossing. We headed off in the morning to Woolamai Beach on the island as it was a scorching day and we thought it best to get some sun in before it started raining again! We spent nearly all day on the beach swimming and messing around in the powerful waves, watching the surfers and body boarders and getting sunburnt. In the early evening we headed to the Nobbies Centre, a tat peddling institute that looks out over Seal Island . We couldn’t spot any seals here sadly even though we’d been told there were thousands of them around at this time of year. We settled instead for some ‘Little Penguins’ the other wildlife Phillip Island is renowned for, poking their beaks out of their burrows in the side of the cliff a few feet from us. As it was getting late we decided to hotfoot it back to the mainland to find somewhere to stay and ended up parking up at a little town called Yanakie which had a free camping area.


We set off the next morning and found a pleasant little town called Foster where we parked up and wandered round before having a chat with the friendly visitor information centre volunteer who gave us lots of good tips for places to go in the Gippsland area. Unfortunately it started thundering and raining so we had a brew and a slice of cake in the camper and caught up with some postcard writing. When the thunder had died down we headed for the Ninety Mile Beach and spotted an Echidna wandering on the road after the rain! We decided to stop the camper and take some photos of it but it got a little perturbed when we got too close to it and it started burrowing in the ground. We’re not sure whether it was looking for grubs and things or just hiding from us so we left it alone and went to find somewhere to camp.


The Ninety Mile Beach is detached from the mainland by an area of wetlands and swamps and the mosquitoes and various other evil looking bugs were rife so we spent all evening in the camper and were gutted when we needed to go to the loo! The next morning we had a wander on the beach, still getting eaten alive by bugs and letting several huge flies get into the camper. Luckily the old cup and leaflet trick worked a treat on these flies as they are slightly slower so we got rid of as many as we could before setting off for Lakes Entrance – the town that borders the ‘Lakes District’. Strangely enough we went past a place called ‘Stratford on the River Avon’ on our way!


We arrived at Lakes Entrance and the weather was lovely, not too baking in the sun but no rain either. We thought that we should again make the most of it by spending most of the afternoon on the beach messing around in the sand banks the tide had created and digging ourselves a tunnel, as you do.


On our way back from the beach we saw a pelican land on one of the lakes, it was huge! So we took some photos of it, as you do.


That evening we were headed towards the Australian Alps as the next thing on our list to do was get to Mt Kosciuzko, so we cruised up the Great Alpine Road past Omeo and stayed at a site called Angler’s Rest. On our way to Angler’s Rest it had become dark so we were not only very concerned about driving round hairpin bends with sheer drops to the left for miles in the dark but also the prospect of running over some wildlife - there wouldn’t exactly be the option of swerving! Sure enough we came across a dozy looking wombat crossing the road but as we were going so slowly it wasn’t too hard to stop. We weren’t about to get out of the car to snap this wombat though so you’ll just have to believe us! Shortly after the Wombat incident a Possum tried to end its life under the wheel as well. Some skilful if slightly dangerous braking by Richard allowed it to live to see another day. It was probably crushed a few minutes later by the next car though!

The next morning we were feeling pretty grim after four nights free camping so we decided to treat ourselves to a campsite where we would be able to shower! We decided to plod on a little further towards the mountain first and headed up the Omeo Highway towards Mitta Mitta. On the map we were given by the rental company this decent-sized highway shows as a proper road. When we were half way up it, however, we learned from an information board at a rest stop that part of the road was infact unsealed. It seemed to be about 25km unsealed road in total so we decided to bite the bullet and go for it, despite this being prohibited by the rentals agency we felt it was better than backtracking for a 100km round trip. It was a fairly hairy drive – 50km took us about two hours! Not only was it rickety gravel but the trademark hairpin bends and sheer drops were still the order of the day. We found it strange that in the middle of the unsealed road there would be about 500 metres of pristine bitumen, painted lines and all! Why not just do the whole thing? We survived it despite having gritted teeth the whole way.

Despite the terrifying roads I think it’s best we point out what a beautiful area this is – the many different landscapes you can find in Australia must top any other country! We were amongst proper Alpine forests and they stretched for miles around. It looked like we imagine a lot of places in Canada to look, minus the snow. The roads mainly followed the Mitta Mitta River which we kept catching glimpses of through the trees below.


We eventually stopped at a caravan park near Colac Colac (‘clack clack’) in the afternoon which advertised its swimming facilities on the board outside – on enquiring we learned this was a creek! The first thing we did, as it was another roasting day, was have a paddle but the water was running quite fast and the bottom looked quite murky with jagged rocks so we didn’t swim. Instead we opted for a much needed shower!

The next day we headed off to Mt Kosciuszko National Park at a leisurely pace (mainly due to the windy roads and sheer drops again) and on the way we passed huge swathes of forest covered mountains which had been devastated by serious bushfires in 2003. We also drove past the Snowy River hyrdo-power station which Richard was fascinated by (Joy, not so much). Apparently in the Australian winter the Park is teeming with skiers and snowboarders as it actually snows here! Madness! There were no facilities at all at Island Bend where we parked up to camp so we just set up on the grass amongst the trees. This was one of the most remote places we’ve camped and the sunset over the forest was beautiful. Again a load of ‘roos started to graze around our camper at dusk so we got about a million more kangaroo pics for your perusal!


In the morning we headed off bright and early to start the Mt Kosciuszko (2229m) summit walk from Charlotte’s Pass, but not before Joy dropped her sunglasses down a long drop. So that’s two pairs of sunglasses and a hat lost so far. Nonetheless, we plodded on. It was a warm but breezy and cloudy day even at the altitude we were at (1780m) so the conditions were perfect. On the way up we could see what either looked like sand or concrete in the higher parts of the mountains. We couldn’t guess what it was until we got there and learned it was snow! Naturally we messed around lobbing snowballs at each other for a little while. These patches of snow melting are what feed the Snowy River (the name of which should have perhaps been our first clue to what the murky white stuff was, the reason for the confusion was because it was a brownish colour from sand/mud). We reached the summit of the mountain in two and a half hours and the 360 degree views from the top were superb.


Feeling quite cocky at climbing Australia’s highest mountain, we decided not to return back the way we came and instead take the slightly longer ‘Main Range’ walk which incorporates another peak (Mt Carruthers) then returns to Charlotte’s Pass. At 11.5km we estimated this would take us roughly 3 hours as it was sure to be all downhill after Mt Carruthers, right?


We were mistaken. The ‘Main Range’ walk is a relentless slog up and down and up and down and up again, crossing over scree, rocks, rivers and snowy slopes (before sheer drops of probably about 400 metres) and I think is generally intended to knock the wind out of the sails of people who have done the summit walk and think they’re hard. The last 0.5 km was a steep uphill climb back to Charlotte’s Pass and Joy did most of it on all fours as her legs were about to give way.


All in all we walked/climbed 21.5 km that day which is quite a feat! We didn’t drive far out of the park that night, opting to camp at Snowtels Caravan Park in Cooma. When we turned our laptop on we also realised we could get FREE WIRELESS INTERNET! This wasn’t the park’s doing – this was someone’s home connection. We decided anyone who has an unsecured wireless network and lives near a caravan park is pretty much asking for people to ‘borrow’ it for a little while though so we didn’t feel too bad. We just had time to update the blog and send a couple of emails before our battery ran out. We had a very well earned sleep that night.

Posted by RichardJoy 08:25 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

The Great Ocean Road and Melbourne

all seasons in one day 30 °C
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We drove towards Port Cambell, our first stop on the Great Ocean Road, with a few stops on route to take in a few sights. We stopped in the ‘Bay of Islands’ first which is a lookout point with a number of limestone sea stacks where weaker limestone has been eroded away to leave stronger limestone stacks in the sea a few hundred metres from the coast. There were around 10 different stacks of various sizes and were pretty nice to look at as the sea was very rough and crashing around them. Our next stop was the ‘Bay of Martyrs’ a few kilometres along the coast and here we walked down to the beach which had a nice view as the sun was beginning to set. The weather had been hit and miss and it was still quite windy so we didn’t spend to long hanging around. We stopped at a few other look out points with views to other sea stacks before driving onto Port Cambell Holiday Park where we had seen an advert for FREE WIRELESS INTERNET!!! We arrived and enquired about it and were given 3 hours, which was a bonus. That evening we decided to cook some fish and thought we would get some take away chips as a treat but unfortunately of the 2 chip shops neither would serve us as it was past 7pm... These small towns!


We had planned the next day to double back on ourselves as we had missed a couple of important sights but unfortunately it was hammering it down. We staying in Port Cambell that morning just parked up at the sea front drinking brews and eventually about 2 the rain stopped and some sun started to peek through. We drove back to ‘the Arch’ which was, yep you guessed it, another sea stack shaped as an arch. It was quite impressive but we were more ‘excited’ about the ‘London Bridge’ which was a set of 2 adjoined arches, one of which had collapsed in 1994. It was again impressive and as the weather was quite rough the waves smashing up against it were huge. You can see how they erode so quickly and go off to visit Davy Jones’ Locker.


We had had seen a display in the Port Cambell visitors centre about the ‘Loch Ard’, a boat which had sunk after crashing into Mutton Island just off the coast and we decided to head to ‘Loch Ard Gorge’ to see if we could see any remnants. This was a silly idea considering it had sunk about 200 years ago and there was bound to be no sign of it but we walked down into the gorge anyway to find a nice secluded beach set back from main cliff face. There were some eerie looking caves at the back of the gorge with stalagtites but no boat that we could see and sadly no treasure.


Next we moved onto what the sign described as the Blow Hole Thunder Cave and Richard got very excited by the name as it sounded menacing. We arrived to discover that these were in fact two separate sights, the Blow Hole and the Thunder Cave. The blow hole was as a part of the coastline which had been worn away about 100 metres further back than the rest of the coast but still had land covering most of the 100 metres. As the waves entered the hole on the coast side they surge through and create rising and falling waters in the hole of about 10 feet which we imagined would be a lot worse depending on the weather. Apparently several of the victims of the Loch Ard wreck wound up here which would not have been pleasant.


Next we went onto the ‘Thunder Cave’ which was a gorge with a cave at the rear and which the water surged into, much the same as the ‘Blow Hole’, that created funny sounds and the sea foam here was lifting up in whirlwinds and raining down around us. It was quite nice but bloody freezing in the wind!


After this we moved onto the main attraction along this stretch of the Great Ocean Road, the ‘12 Apostles’. As you can imagine these are 12 different sea stacks which are reasonably huge but alas 3 of them have collapsed and now only 9 apostles remain. The lookout area here was protruding right up to the cliff edge and the wind was bitterly cold so unfortunately we didn’t spend too long here. Essentially they are just sea stacks the same as the other 30 or so we had seen over the last couple of days.


After this we decided to move onto Princetown and find a cash machine and a campsite. The name Princetown would suggest a place larger than 4 houses, a post office and a general store and no cash machine but it wasn’t meant to be, we decided to return to Port Cambell and claim another 3 hours FREE WIRELESS INTERNET.

The next day, up bright and early (.. it was neither of those things) we started our journey onto Great Otway National Park to do the ‘Wreck Walk’ where we could hopefully see some wreckage but due to a mixture of poor maps and information leaflets and our incompetence we drove past it 30km and decided it was too far to return. We pushed onto the next turnoff which was again in the ‘Great Otway National Park’ and to visit the Cape Otway Lighthouse which is apparently ‘Australia’s most significant lighthouse’. Alas luck was not on our side today and they have blocked off the path to the lighthouse and are charging $11 to walk up to it. We settled for walking up to the lookout to see it from a distance then headed back through the National Park to where we spotted wild Koalas in the trees! They are amazing things, most of them were just curled up in balls balanced on branches but we eventually found some moving and one with a baby on its back. So in the end this was free and much better than a lighthouse.


From there onwards the Great Ocean Road got more windy and began its journey from Apollo Bay to Lorne as the section which had been cut out of the hillside for miles on end. The road was built/dug/hacked by soldiers returning from The First World War and the Great Depression as the engineering project provided employment. We arrived at Lorne and it was a very pleasant little town and we decided to stay near here for the night for free just parked up at a night fishing spot about 100m from the beach.


We got up early and headed straight to Melbourne to try and see some sights before meeting with Catherine, a native Melbournian and friend of Richard’s parents from France. We had trouble finding any decent parking in the city and when we did, we realised that the time on the parking ticket and the money we had put in the machine wasn’t quite adding up. It turns out that for who knows how long we had been working on it being an hour earlier than it actually was. Apparently there had been daylight savings at some point but we didn’t know! It wouldn’t have made much difference but meant that we only had an hour and a half to spend in Melbourne that day, so we spent it wandering around and just seeing what we could see. As it was a Saturday there were lots of buskers and street performers out which was cool. We just about had time to wander round the main shopping areas and back round to our camper by the time our parking ran out so we decided to call Catherine and see if she was ready for us to come over.

Catherine and her beautiful 16 month old daughter Bonnie live in Lilydale, about 45 minutes from Melbourne city centre and about 5 minutes from the Yarra Valley wine region, which you can see from their balcony. This was where we had our first bona fide Aussie barbecue which was delicious after the rabbit food and noodles we’d been eating all week. After the BBQ when we could move again Cat took us to St Kilda, the posh district of Melbourne right next to the beach. We had some beers and people-watched for a while before Catherine pointed out the good places to go at night and left us to it. We first went to ‘Pony’ where there was live music, at first it was some young emo guy in a trucker hat twiddling knobs on his MacBook and not looking up, which was OK but nothing special. The next guy to play also had his MacBook out but also a nice synthy sounding keyboard and some maracas and played a strange Hot Chip / Prince –esque set which was as good as it sounds! We had a good boogie to this as did everyone else in the crowd (who probably knew him – but still) before moving on to ‘ACDC Lane’ the home of ‘Cherry’ where Melbourne’s greebos go. We were lured in by the sound of Queen and thought it would be worth the £4 entry. Sadly after Bohemian Rhapsody it was pure screamy metal so we never really got to shake our tail feathers. We stayed for a couple of drinks though as we knew a lot of the songs from Guitar Hero and it was very entertaining watching drunk people play air guitar on the stage. We stumbled off to the bus stop and arrived back at Catherine’s at an ungodly hour after a nice sleep on the bus (for Joy) and an uncomfortable journey (for Richard).


The next day we weren’t up too bright and early as you can imagine and we never did get to make much of the day but as Catherine let us use her internet we decided to catch up on the blog. We put another BBQ on that night before heading off to the Gem Hotel in Fitzroy, the slightly edgier cooler area of Melbourne, to watch a Rockabilly band called The Rechords. Catherine and Bonnie were both dressed up to the nines in their 50s dresses and we’re gutted we didn’t take a photo of them as they looked great! Catherine had driven us there in her Hillman Minx (see pic below) and we felt like we were in the fifties or at least an 80s Matchbox B-Line Distaster video. The gig was excellent and again we were annoyed we didn’t have our cameras to take pics of the band as they looked very suave. Nonetheless, we had a great time and headed home at a more sensible hour so we could head into Melbourne again the next day to get a better look.


We set off for Melbourne after some breakfast, getting the tram in from Ringwood where parking was free. We managed to get in at a decent hour and wandered down the Yarra River and up through the shops again before heading to the Parliament Gardens and Parliament House where some important looking people were being escorted by about seven motorbikes and two police cars! It wasn’t Obama or anyone we knew so we soon lost interest. We then caught the tram to St Kilda to take a look at the beach in the daylight and as it was another extremely windy day there were about 100 kite surfers in the sea. We sat and watched them for a while before wandering down the pier and taking some photos of the Melbourne cityscape which is quite visible behind the beach. We decided to walk a little further down the beach and saw that a Jewish wedding was going on somewhere as they were having their photos taken with the beach as the backdrop. We went to we sat in a bar for a little while and got very jealous of the people who had ordered their ‘$5 pizzas before 7pm!’ which we had missed by 15 minutes! Eventually the bride and groom came into the bar to a separate room where the guests began parading them around on chairs! We thought we’d leave them to it so we moved on and when it got dark we walked back down the pier to get some night shots before heading back into the city on the tram. We had to leg it for the last train back to Ringwood but just made it in time.


The next morning we woke up at 7 to say bye to Catherine before she went to work and to receive a Skype call from Richard’s parents and grandparents. After some breakfast and a tidy up we said goodbye to Melbourne, driving through the Yarra Valley on our way out towards Philip Island which would be our next stop...

Posted by RichardJoy 11:56 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

South Australia to Victoria

Including Adelaide

all seasons in one day 26 °C
View Asian and Australasian Adventure on RichardJoy's travel map.

We arrived in Adelaide just as the city seemed to be taking its lunch break and after some hairy city driving through the traffic (very unused to seeing other cars on the road more than every half an hour) we parked up by one of Adelaide’s famous city parks. The city is very clean and very spaced out – a luxury British cities don’t have. We took a slow wander round and saw the South Australian parliament house, an ANZAC memorial, the city library and the Museum of South Australia where we went to learn about Pacific Island cultures (running out of time on the parking ticket for the Aboriginal cultures display – fairly silly).


We wandered back to the camper after an ice cream as the temptation to wander into shops and waste money was growing stronger and decided to visit Glenelg, the palindromic sea-side town about twenty minutes from the city. For the first time since Darwin we saw the sea! And this time there was no risk of certain death from randy box jellyfish! Unfortunately it was too cool to swim so we wandered over the sand and down to the end of the jetty before heading onto Glenelg high street. Again it was tempting to spend money here because the smells from different food shops were amazing! After a long wander through the town hoping to find a bookshop to swap our used books at we decided on a beer, Richard forgetting that when Australians advertise a ‘pint’ they actually mean a ‘scooner’. We’re sure that pint is a exact measurement but they seem to overlook this is Australia. Also interesting to note is that all Australian beer (beer, draught, ale) is actually lager, they just call it what they like! Luckily this suits us fine.


When we were done we cruised to the bottle-O to stock up on some cheap wine and headed to Adelaide Shores Holiday Park – a nice but more expensive place with a private beach for residents. We set up home here and wandered to the beach to watch the sunset which was very lovely but we both underestimated how cold and windy it would be on the beach after a mild day. Since Crystal Brook we both have noticed a marked change in the weather – the days tend to still be warm but at evening it actually gets cold! Not to complain – it’s much easier to sleep this way even though we finally have to use a sleeping bag. I imagine it will start warming up in the coming weeks as it will be the height of summer. Woohoo!


Anyway, in the morning we set off at a leisurely pace through some of the wine regions of the south coast. After our delightful ‘Sunnyvale’ wine box the night before however wine tasting was not on the agenda so we headed straight to Mount Gambier – a really pretty town with lots of cave gardens, sinkholes and volcanic craters. It is also the home of ‘Blue Lake’ thus titled because every year over a few weeks in November the water slowly turns from grey to bright blue and stays blue for a few months. It really is an amazing blue colour at the moment, the funny thing is no-one has figured out why it happens yet. Lazy if you ask me.


We walked around the vicinity and then moved onto Valley Lake which is another crater lake but not quite so striking as Blue Lake. We have now decided to name this lake Brown Lake for ease of remembering. We then climbed up a VERY steep hill to Centenary Tower to get views over Brown Lake and Mt Gambier. We then went to visit the Umpherston Sinkhole which has been turned into gardens about 20m into the ground. This is also the starting point for adventurers who fancy going into caves under Mt Gambier but we decided to leave this to more brave souls.


We then set off on our way to the Grampians, a mountain range, our next scheduled stop which also took us over the border into Victoria! We decided to stop at the Narcoote Caves to have a gander and try to spot some fossils but the cheeky gits make you pay to walk down into a cave and have a look about – even without a tour guide! Just for the pleasure of taking a 5 minute walk down into a cave. They also had a pricy caravan park despite the fact it is a National Park (where allegedly all campsites are supposed to be $6.60 per adult) so we just parked down the road near one of the caves and got a free night’s sleep! Always pleasing, even if there were terrifying howling noises coming from the woods and what sounded like someone playing a woodwind instrument – we thought it was the Australian version of the pied piper trying to lure us down the caves to our death but it turned out it was just a bird. In the morning we set off to get closer to the Grampians, deciding to stop at a free 24hr overnight camping spot at Wannon Falls. We had a wander and a look around, nearly got eaten alive by swarms of massive ants and saw the creek and falls which were really lovely, set against the backdrop of proper farm country. For hours we’d been driving through vineyards and farms – it looks a lot like rural England except you could be driving for an hour before you’d hit a proper town or village. We decided to get our Sunnyvale and sit by the falls where we met a couple from Worthing of all places, the lady was originally from South Africa Joy mistakenly thought she was Australian thus confusing our conversation for a while (not helped by the ‘Sunnyvale’). We stayed ‘til the sun went down and and it got a tad chilly.


In the morning we set off for the Grampians, arriving in good time and setting up home at Takaru Park in Hall’s Gap. We got all our cruddy chores done that we’d been putting off and wandered to the Bellfield Lake to have a look around, spotting lots of Kangaroos – much bigger and browner than in Northern Territory and South Australia. That night we layed off the wine in order to get up early and climb to an area known as the ‘Pinnacle’ – roughly 3hrs return walk to a lookout with panoramic views over Halls Gap and the surrounding area. It was a tough route but very rewarding when we got to the top. We decided to have some lunch at the top even though Joy wanted to actually sit on the ‘Pinnacle’ which made Richard a little queasy! We also had to try to avoid getting robbed of our food by two decidely evil (and fat) Currawongs (big birds with evil yellow eyes, one would squawk something at the other to which is would fly over and try to eat our sandwiches, we guessed it was the others ‘bitch’).


The walk to the bottom took a fraction of the time and so we decided to check out Mackenzie falls which consisted of an easy walk down a few hundred steps then a gruelling climb back up. It was worth it again as the falls are the biggest we’ve seen so far and you can follow the water down quite far. After this we went to the Boroka Lookout for another view over Hall’s Gap – rather pretty but felt like the cheats way out as we’d already seen it from a few hundred metres higher when climbing earlier in the day. We decided to camp on the oustkirts of Hall’s Gap at a basic bush campsite and just managed to eat before the sun started setting. We set up a fire in one of the fire pits – Richard had forgotten where he was and was grabbing dry leaves and logs with bare hands only to find a rather large and angry looking spider legging it from them when he set them down. We haven’t yet identified it but it was a meaty looking shiny black thing about two inches long with legs as thick as safety matches! Urk!


Nonetheless we survived the night and headed off early the next morning to stock up at an Aldi we’d seen in Hamilton on the way in. We found a public facilities area in a place called Dunkeld that had free hot showers so we jumped on the case and remarked on how if they provided the same facilities in England they’d have been torched by scallies within a week! Then off we headed to Port Fairy to see the sea, taking a stroll around the wharf and then had some lunch before heading to the ‘Great Ocean Road’...

Posted by RichardJoy 13:33 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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