Going Down Under….

Day 237, Wed 2nd Oct

Enjoyed Melbourne – a free old fashioned tram around the centre & lots of little alley ways with cool shops. T was desolate that she couldn’t shop properly… god help London shops when she gets home – particularly with her new, improved bartering skills!

Had a lovely day in the intermittent sunshine and showers following the Lonely Planet walk – a bit crappy on the phone as you cannot really page back to see what everything is – and Melinda’s (from the Santiago meeting) suggestions of places to go – it is a real shame that she and Locki do not get back to Melbourne until we leave.

Melbourne, Oz

Day 238, Thurs 3rd Oct

Up early to pick up the car for the Great Ocean Road drive today – I would have liked to spend more time in Melbourne, can see why people like to live there – lots of places to stop en route, but we had to get all the way to Warrnamboul, several hundred kilometres away, and did not have time to fully enjoy the available walks on offer, unfortunately.

We did manage to see a kangaroo with baby (from a distance), a couple of wallabies near Split Point Lighthouse, some vibrantly coloured parrots or lorikeets (not sure) and 2 koalas at Kennet River, a nice mini rainforest walk at Mait’s Rest and just make the 12 Apostles (unusual and beautiful rock formations) around sunset! We had to miss out on a few other sights though due to the night-time drive – with associated animal hazards – to our hostel :(

Back behind a wheel again – after 7 months of being transported everywhere, T has me chained behind a wheel almost permanently now! It was cool initially in NZ, as I like driving… but the vast expanses & perpetually long roads of NZ have worn me down; I do hope the Great Ocean Road drive isn’t the same!

The one that got away...!

The one that got away…!

Well, what do you know, a really enjoyable day. A full smorgasbord of sights & animals – Koalas (v cute – T wants one!), parakeets (the most stunning birds I’ve seen to date), wallabies (by the side of the road) & kangaroos (we had to take evasive actions as it kept hopping back & forth across the road).

Another day in paradise...

Another day in paradise…

 

The scenery changed through-out the day with lots of nice surprises – the rainforest walk was gorgeous – felt like we’d gone back in time 1000’s of years to when Oz was first formed – when Abo’s roamed the country & Australia used to win at rugby & cricket!

Day 239, Fri 4th Oct

We were both so tired and groggy today that despite making it out of the hostel about 10:15, we didn’t actually leave the town until 1; the need for coffee and wifi were pressing!

Another day with not enough time to see everything, but we started with Tower Hill Reserve, a quick peak climb, an emu with 2 week old chicks, and a koala who kindly came down from his tree and then demonstrated climbing over the obstacles put there to deter him from getting into another.

Another little known place, but a great highlight. An old volcano crater with lakes & islands in the centre full of wildlife & fauna – seeing the Koala up close actively climbing trees & obstacles was amazing.

Melbourne to Adelaide - Tower Hill Reserve (11)

Made it to Mount Gambier Lake just as sunset hit and then nipped to Umphaston sinkhole – now with no water, but turned into a beautiful park – for the possums that come out at night. Very cute, though possibly the baby emus just take it!

The blue lake was, funnily enough, still blue at sunset. The late running (T neeeeded coffee! :) ) meant that whilst we missed seeing some things, we arrived at the sinkhole in time for dusk & the possums – a very beautiful memory. Nurse Tracey managed to patch up a poor Aussie (with a very much younger Thai bride (!?) who caught his head on a rock).

Drove another 2 hours to Robe for tonight’s accommodation – Nampara cabins. 2 bed place with kitchen, fabulous.

Another night drive avoiding wildlife, deep joy! The cabins were absolutely lovely; clean, well equipped with plenty of space.

Day 240, Sat 5th Oct

A bit of a lie in & then had to find a café for Coffee & wifi.  The town was fairly pretty, but not as picture perfect as the tourist info suggested.  The drive was long & boring; only made more interesting by the car ferry. We had planned to get a beautiful omnibus horse drawn tram in Victor Harbour, but we arrived late & they finished at 3p.m. on a bank holiday weekend – what are these Aussie’s like?!? Haven’t they ever heard of making money?

The plan today, to get to Victor Harbour for the horse-drawn tram, failed. Another 1pm start due to frantic last-minute wifi planning of Ayers Rock – who knew you had to book everything several days in advance, or that it was Labour Day weekend for that matter? – and a fantastic coffee in the town. Too late to book trips now apparently, so had to book a car for Ayers Rock, oh well, it will be probably cheaper anyway :-).

Got to Adelaide about 8, another fabulous hostel, Hostel 109, though it did take about 2 hours to access the free wifi, I guess everyone else was doing that too! Oh, and fortunately found out that the clocks go forward AGAIN tonight – lucky that, we might have missed our flight…

Tracey cooked up another fabulous meal at the Hostel that went down well with a bottle of plonk.  Free internet was a blessing, apart from the fact that you couldn’t access it through wifi – a real pain. Central & South America seem worlds apart from Oz/ NZ in terms of free wifi…

Great Ocean road drive – Melbourne to Adelaide, Oz

Day 241, Sun 6th Oct

Off to Ayers Rock today, where we have to stay in a dorm due to the exorbitant price of a private room in the YHA equivalent – over AU$200??! – but luckily we are in a 4-bed dorm and our roomies are a very nice, young, French couple, Fanny & Renaud.

We decide to try Ayers Rock (Uluru) tonight for the much vaunted sunset, however I have no idea how they pick these sites to drive to, all we got was the rock in shadow and I wanted colours! About halfway through our viewing experience Keir read that the sunset is only good here if there are clouds in the sky. Damn, will have to try again tomorrow…

P1440739Wasn’t looking forward to the dorm experience but T at the last minute mentions that she booked a 4 bed dorm & then the French couple we are sharing with are lovely.

Sunset at Ayers Rock was ok, but we chose the wrong site – needed some clouds in the cloudless sky to make it work – doh!

Day 242, Mon 7th Oct

5 a.m. – what are we doing up at such an ungodly hour… oh yes, sunrise at Ayers rock then off to Kata Tjuta park to do the Valley of Winds walk & then Kampa gorge.

Sunrise was ok at the rock (again, I don’t think we were in the right place) but much more beautiful as we drove towards Kata Tjuta (as we were arriving on the correct side for sunrise).  The supposed 4hr tramp through the valley of the wind was despatched in under 2hrs.  Very pretty, & the flocks of zebra finches around the watering sites were a highlight.

The Kampa gorge was quite a short walk but again nice.  We were then headed back to the hostel before 11:00 where I promptly had a 5hr siesta – now that was nice!

P1440650Finally we got ourselves in the right position for sunset – very beautiful as the light slowly fades & changes. We decide that was enough & knock the idea of getting up at 5 again for sunrise – relief!

Didn’t quite make the planned position to see Kata Tjuta at sunrise, due in part to the queue of motorists trying to access the park just before sunrise and their apparent need to have a conversation about it with the gatekeeper. We saw Uluru, but not a great position again – what are these guys thinking is a good view?

The ‘4 hour’ Valley of the Winds walk was nice, but not spectacular and there was an unfortunate lack of wind, the kind supplied by Keir was not what I had in mind…  we were both struggling to stay awake during the drive back, so after a much needed ice cream stop decided a nap was the only option – an epic nap in Keir’s case – before our last attempt at an Uluru sunset ( this time, a vast improvement).

A nice evening eating dinner and chatting with our French roommates

Day 243, Tue 8th Oct

Up & packed & then a short hour walk around Ayers rock seeing Malia Gorge & another culturally sensitive area. Very beautiful to see it up close, due to the redness of the rock, the wind formed caves & waterformed, now dry, waterfalls. But, boy was it hot & the swarms of flies were hugely annoying.

Another little walk with what seemed like an infinite number of flies – no moisture, so they try to continually fly in your eyes, up your nose, in your mouth – I think I snorted another few  - whenever I stopped waving my map in front of my face, one would make a kamikaze dive for my nostril, lovely.

An afternoon flight to Cairns… now this looks a lot nicer – tropical & green.

Tonight was our first time couchsurfing – where people offer to put other ‘surfers’ up for the night gratis. A great idea; you then spread the love by doing the same for other people.

Leah had kindly accepted our request & we rolled in to meet her & her dog –Betsey. Leah kindly knocked up a delicious curry & we soon polished off a bottle of vino.

Met Leah and a couple of German couchsurfing boys who hadn’t managed to leave due to car problems. We were very happy when Leah offered us an ad hoc curry :)

Ayers Rock (Uluru), Oz

Day 244, Wed 9th Oct

Bit of a lie in, admin in town & then off to the tablelands around Cairns – looks so remarkably like parts of Britain.

A day for wild life- cute turtles, crayfish, birds & even a platypus. Saw some beautiful waterfalls; saving the best until last – Millaa Milliaa falls where we had a swim at dusk & the place to ourselves. :)

Around Cairns - Milaa Milaa Falls (1)The boys lent us their map to visit Millaa Millaa and the environs – the usual late start meant that we didn’t quite make it all the way to the boulders we were supposed to see, but the falls, and the stops on the way, were beautiful.

Day 245, Thu 10th Oct

We bid adieu to Leah & headed up the coast to the Daintree – a part of Oz where ancient Tropical rainforest meets beautiful beaches.

A quick stop at Mossman gorge & walk – pretty but not worth the stop… call that a gorge…

First thing we see when we enter the Daintree – the famous, but elusive Cassowary bird, just walking across the road.

Day spent exploring forests & beaches. The day was almost ruined when, on the way back, we came across an upturned car with a lady trapped inside – supposedly dead. As we were second on the scene, we rushed off to get help – no mean feat in that unpopulated area.  Fortunately, by the time we got back the emergencies services were there & she was conscious & swearing (being Australian!).  They eventually cut her out & the air ambulance flew her off for a full check-up.  We arrived back to our accommodation very late & very hungry; Tracey saved our culinary bacon by knocking up a lovely bangers & mash.

The Daintree was gorgeous, rainforest meets beach, though sadly the sea was a no go area due to crocodiles!!! It was hot too, a swim would have been nice… The ice cream we had heard rave reviews about, was wonderful; so may flavours to try made it hard to choose! Passion fruit and ginger was definitely a winner.

Our hostel, Crocodylus Village, was not one I was expecting great things of, having seen Leah grimace when we mentioned it, but it was lovely – I suspect it is normally a lot busier though and perhaps that would rather change the vibe… but it was quiet and we loved it! Oh, and we saw a Cassowary (large, dangerous bird that has been known to attack and kill humans) on our first day!

Day 246, Fri 11th Oct

Woken up by the sounds of the rainforest – lots of bird & beasts.  The forest cabin was lovely & we could have easily spent a few more days there; but we had a plan… & Miss T was keeping us on that schedule.  Cool beach walks & jungle treks (with another Cassowary sighting – yes, 2 in 2 days!) made up the rest of the morning before we headed back across the ferry & back towards Cairns. We took the long route via Kurunda & Barron gorge before arriving back in Cairns at our very nice hostel.

The reason why the Cassowary is sooo elusive...?!

The reason why the Cassowary is sooo elusive…?!

Barron’s falls and gorge was a lot more impressive than Mossman strangely. Cow Bay beach also lovely (though not crocodile free apparently), and we got to try one last flavour of ice cream today :). We randomly saw another cassowary too, fortunately it was minding its own business…

Cairns & the Daintree, Oz

Day 247, Sat 12th Oct

Early morning rise for another flight – this time to Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays.  A ferry between the gorgeous islands to our hostel in Airlie Beach; & it felt like we were back in Magaluf! 

The hostel & town were full of drunken people (& stag do’s) of varying nationalities & in various states of clothing.  However, nobody had the imagination (nay stupidity) to be wearing morph suits! :)

Despite the tone of the place, our room is nice & they have a lovely swimming lagoon that everyone chills around.

Airlie beach was not exactly my first choice of accommodation for our Whitsundays stop, but since we are lacking Bill Gates’s financial resources and the only affordable alternative was in ‘caretaker mode,’ we had little option. My worst fears were raised when I saw that tonight’s hostel entertainment was a wet t-shirt competition, but all the noise and ‘action’ seemed to be restricted to the bar area and the hotel bit was absolutely fine; a couple of drunken lads shouting at about 2am, but I was so knackered that I barely woke up!

Day 248, Sun 13th Oct

A well-deserved lie in today followed by a chilled day catching up on admin & having a swim in the lagoon.

We meant to go for a nice walk in Conway National Park, but as we didn’t get around to leaving the hotel until about 2:30, it ended up a bit late… had a nice swim at the public lagoon – beautiful outdoor pool – and after long deliberation arranged our trip to Whitehaven beach tomorrow, lots of companies to choose from, but we have decided to give Ocean Rafting a go…

Day 249, Mon 14th Oct

A great day trip with Ocean Rafting out to Hook Island for some snorkelling, plus Whitsunday island to chill on the famous white sands of Whitehaven beach.

We saw some nice fish & turtles but the coral was the real deal here – fantastic shapes & colours.  The prevailing wind meant that we were snorkelling in a not often used location, so that may have been why.

Whitehaven beach was absolutely heavenly – even the sand wasn’t hot (don’t ask me why) with the sun beating down on it. The photos are gorgeous but even they don’t do it justice.

Almost paradise...

Almost paradise…

Great trip on a fast raft, and we met a lovely English girl called Claire. The snorkelling was fabulous, the most diverse and undamaged range of coral that I have ever seen – and I thought Roatan was pretty amazing – and Whitehaven beach is definitely up there for best beach I have ever seen. We were trying to decide if San Blas was better… I think the low tide and swirling sands at Whitehaven may just take it.

Made dinner with Claire and snuck a bottle of wine into the hostel – I understand the no alcohol rule after being around for stag party central at the weekend, but we are not 19 for Christ’s sake, I think we can have a bottle of wine with our dinner!

Whitsunday Islands, Oz

Day 250, Tue 15th Oct

A day spent traveling to Sydney.

Said goodbye to The Whitsundays and arrived at our hostel in Sydney a little after 4. After we had settled in there was little to do but shop and cook some dinner – eating out in Australia has long been deemed by us as ruinously expensive and for special occasion only ;)

Day 251, Wed 16th Oct

A day spent sightseeing – saw the obvious ones; the bridge & opera house.  But it was the ‘Rocks’ (old part of town) & the Botanical gardens that were the hits.

Sydney (43)Took a stroll through the Botanical Gardens and around the sights of the CBD whilst trying to evade the local populace on their lunchtime run around the parks – feeling very guilty about lack of exercise – and unsuccessfully trying to find gluten-free cake (as solace).

Sydney is a beautiful city, I can see why people would like to live here, at least at this time of year, not sure about the summer though, it was hot enough today and spring has only just begun!

Day 252, Thu 17th Oct

Headed out to Bondi beach to walk along the coast to Coogee – lovely day made quite eerie by the red sun caused by the smoke from the forest fires. We didn’t manage to get in the water as it was absolutely freezing, but the scenery was lovely… NZ still takes it though (don’t tell the Aussies!).

Sydney - Bondi to Coogee Walk (14)Bondi beach is huge, but the water looked far too choppy (and was far too cold) for the intended swim! Got some fantastically moody pictures of the cemetery  en route to Coogee, we were trying to work out why the sky looked so odd, we only found out on the bus ride home that there were several bush fires burning, it was pretty bad and seems to have got worse since we left.

Day 253, Fri 18th Oct

Headed out to Manly on the ferry to meet our friend Marga (who we met on the boat through the San Blas) & spent a chilled day with her just catching up.

Tracey & Marga, Manly Beach

Tracey & Marga, Manly Beach

Beach number 2 today, as suggested by the lovely Marga – great to see her again and find out about the rest of her travels after Cartagena – had some lovely, albeit Aussie-priced (£17!) gluten free pizza – I am still trying to pin down my food intolerance issue – before ferrying back to the hostel to pack for tomorrow’s flight to China.

Sydney, Oz

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