One year honeymoon around the world...17th April 2007 to 9th March 2008! Yes we're home!!

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Australia Week Two – Grand Pacific Drive to…Melbourne

Friday 26 October – Got up at 7.10am. The plus side of Camping is you get up early: firstly because it gets light and secondly because you likely went to bed early as there is little to do once it gets dark, and even less in a tiny two man tent. We’re on Day 3 of our new health kick and went for a brisk walk/mini jog along track between our camp and the beach. Lovely sunny morning after recent rain. When we reached Huskisson harbour we saw two boats for dolphin & whale watching cruises.... we went to find the shops and really liked the sound of it. The YHA discount clinched it. $10 each off adult price.

Whale watching cruise left at 9am. Ran back to camp, quick showers, packed up tent, drove round to harbour, bought brekkie and jumped on boat. Cool day but the sun made a half decent appearance, enough so Ben got panda eyes and a red neck.

The first two sightings, the whales backs were barely out of the water but we could make out the huge size of the humpback whales. Then it got goodJ. We must have seen 15 to 20 whales in the 3 hours on the water in Jervis Bay. They come to rest in the sheltered bay on their way back to the Antarctic after giving birth to their calves further north. Several of the whales fully breached the water and I got some great pics! V. excited about that. I love our new camera! Lots of tail action too with the whales slamming their tails down on the water. Saw couple of dolphins on way back to harbour.

Next stop Pebbly Beach: meant to be THE place to see wild Kangaroos. They come down to the beach to cool off and to feed. Pebbly Beach was 8km off the main road down an unsealed road – for which we weren’t insured – and Ben asked me twice if I really wanted to go there... yes! I was very disappointed when we got there as could only see 3 Kangaroos sitting in a private garden several hundred metres from us.

We went for a stroll along the beach and as we were about to return to the car a dozen or so Kangaroo’s came hopping out of the bush to the grass above the beach and happily started chewing the grass not in the least bit interested in us. I stood right next to one for a photo and stroked another (bit naughty but when will I have chance again!). Saw one with a baby in its pouch and the baby was munching away on the grass at the same time as its mum without leaving the pouch. I was happy. Humpback whales and Kangaroos in one day!!

Aimed to drive to Thredbo in Kosciuszko National Park but made it as far as Jindabyne (also in NP). Stayed in a shabby hotel, had an average dinner and went to bed. We must stop arriving places in the dark as it’s no fun trying to find somewhere to stay when you’re tired and can’t see anything!!
Sat 27 Oct – 7am is our new getting up time. Breakfast was included in hotel price then hit the road to Thredbo – got there just after 9am. Weather was reasonable, but pretty overcast.

Took chairlift up to 2037m and walked rest of way to top of Mount Kosciuszko 2228m – highest point in Australia. Just bought one way ticket thinking we’d walk all way down. Man in info centre said there were “a few snowdrifts” – more like huge snowfields!! We had our gortex (waterproof) Salomon trainers which were just about okay in the snow; most of it was pretty firm. The rest was an easy walk on a raised metal track to protect the ground plants due to the limited summer growing season they have here. Up on top took piccies and made cuppa tea and ate our lunch and the skies cleared!!! Yeah! Good views across the valley.

Back down and reasonably tired and we had had a nice day so paid another $6.50 each and took lift down. Only 2pm so decided to drive to Aldbury-Wodonga, part way to Ballarat our next stop. As we drove over the mountain roads a Kangaroo ran out in front of the car and Ben had to brake hard to miss it. Cool to see one hopping along though. Got to Aldbury and the YHA was awful! Found another camp, pitched the tent and had dinner in town. Very hick town.

Sun 28 Oct – Dreadful night’s sleep as a party in the park next door played rock music/partied all night until 5am! I slept okay as noise doesn’t bother me too much but Ben had a shocker and ended up attempting to sleep in the car! Alarm was set for 7am, and that was with Daylight Savings – Clocks forward here. Bad night to miss an hour’s sleep! Bought brekkie in Safeway and hit the highway.
Arrived in Ballarat 12.30, put up tent, got lunch and went to Sovereign Hill. Ben was shattered poor thing. Sovereign Hill is a great place for kids. I was a bit disappointed as it has great potential; maybe the staff are more enthusiastic in the morning or with kids. Plus we had to pay extra for the Gold Mine Tour – which we still did and was very good. Had a go at panning for gold – but neither of us had the patience J Cooked dinner in camp kitchen – extremely yummy lamb chops and salad.

Mon 29 Oct – Cold night in Ballarat – just like the guide on the Gold Tour had said re 1800’s! Headed south to Warrnambool where we were joining the “Great Ocean Road” – the south coast just to the west of Melbourne.

Lady at Information Centre told us about Tower Hill Reserve where we could see Koala’s & Emu’s and maybe Kangaroos, about 15 mins west of Warrnambool. Not direction we were going but wanted to see wild Koalas! Was a bit of rain but we donned our rain-jackets and went for a short walk and spotted 4 Koalas! Turned out that was a good effort as they recently relocated 200 bears from the Reserve as their population doubles every 3 years and they were damaging the trees and they left approximately 30 koalas behind! And it was a pretty big reserve. It’s in a volcanic crater surrounded by fields so there is nowhere for the bears to naturally relocate. One Koala was right above the track sleeping whilst clinging onto tree branches: could see his face really clearly. Another two were a bit obscured but another was awake and eating tree leaves. Ben climbed up into the bushes to get a good piccie.

Back in Warnambool quickly checked out the “Whale Nursery” but it’s the wrong season here for Southern Right Whales but would be a great viewing platform and lovely views. On to the Great Ocean Road! First stop Bay of Islands – lots of stacks off the coast, then Bay of Martyrs, Arch, London Bridge and 12 Apostles. Rained on and off but as we arrived at 12 Apostles (a 5min walk from the car) the torrential rain started!!! Absolutely soaked the bits of me that weren’t under my raincoat. Get me somewhere warm!! Australia has been in drought for years but I’ve seen plenty of rain in last week!!!

We drove another hour to Apollo Bay....and sunshine!! Stayed at Apollo Bay YHA – absolutely lovely hostel! Went for walk to supermarket and saw huge rainbow over the bay. Much happier now. Also Hostel owner said the South-East corner was the wettest part of Oz and provided water for some of the drier parts. Makes me feel better and I haven’t given up hope of reviving my South America/USA tan.

Tues 30 Oct – Left Apollo Bay and continued along the Great Ocean Road. A Koala crossed the road in front of the car, luckily we had plenty of time to stop; then Ben chased him off the road into a tree as he was happily strolling along the road and we didn’t want him to get run over. Stopped in Lorne, one of the bigger settlements. We posted NZ leaflets to Kathy & Ben and had a coffee. Next stop Aireys Inlet – short walk to see lighthouse. Anglesea: we headed to the Golf Course where we expected to see LOTS of Kangaroos (aka Lonely Planet & Ben). Rather disappointed as they have fenced it since Ben was last here so maybe that was why there were so few, or maybe they were all resting under the trees. Weren’t allowed to walk onto the course in case hit by a ball or attacked by a kangaroo. Saw 3 in the trees through the binoculars and found another two in the bush by the road – these were much more nervous than the Kangaroos we encountered on Pebbly Beach.

Next stop Bells Bay on edge of Torquay. Ate our lunch while we watched surfers taking on the HUGE waves. Drove on to Queenscliff and took ferry over to Sorrento. Another 2 hours to get to Phillip Island but now we’re just 90 minutes from Melbourne. Checked into YHA, it’s more a caravan park but we have a nice new cabin with ensuite, kitchen & TV! For 75 AUD! Went to supermarket to buy dinner and spending evening chilling watching telly and writing blog! Off to see Penguin Parade & more Koalas tomorrow!

Wed 31 OctPhillip Island. Enjoyed our morning in the cabin and headed first for the Koala Sanctuary. They had two raised boardwalks which you could walk on and be at the same height as the Koalas. We saw two babies both hugged tight to their mothers. Lots of photos on flickr.

The Penguin Parade happens every night at dusk – as the sun goes down hundreds of “Little Penguins” come out of the sea after a day’s fishing and totter up the beach back to their burrows in the surrounding grass and hills. The species is called Little Penguins as they are, you guessed it, small! We bought tickets for “Penguin Plus” as we got preferential seating with 148 other people closer to the Penguins route. The other 1000+ people sat in centre of beach and saw far fewer penguins.

Went to Penguin Parade Centre during the day to check out the Visitor Centre and see the beach by daylight. Then we went to The Nobbies – an outcrop of rocks that are inhabited by Australian Fur Seals. Rocks a bit far out to see the seals without very good binoculars. Thousands of seagulls with their babies all over the rocks and land outside the Nobbies visitor centre as its breeding season.

We were at Penguin Parade at 7pm to get a good seat and the sun went down about 8.15pm. Immediately as it got dark we could see the penguins tentatively creeping out and if a seagull scared them they would run back into the sea. They came out in groups of about 20 and there were in excess of 400 (a park guide counts them every night!) The penguins walked within a metre of us as they waddled up the sand. Was so fantastic! We were there till they chucked us out at about 9.30pm. We couldn’t take any photos as the flashes scare the penguins but I bought a photo and took photos of the visitor centre boards which are identical to what we saw...
Thur 1 NovMelbourne – Got up early as we needed to get car back for 10am. Traffic reasonable but took a fair bit longer than the guidebook 90mins. Ben dropped me at the hostel and took back car. We checked in and went for a stroll to Queen Victoria Markets and got coffees. I was shattered after the last week of travel and not the best of company that day. Ben showed me the office where he had worked and took me to St Kilda too where he had lived. We did some research into Ayers Rock and how to get from Alice Springs to Cairns. Booked a 3 day trip from Ayers Rock to Alice Springs taking in the Rock, the Olgas and Kings Canyon. Then we’ve booked a 3-day bus trip from Alice to Cairns... it’s about 100 AUD each cheaper than flying – and we think we ought to see some real outback and do a long bus journey. Had a yummy pizza on Lygon Street – our first in ages. Pizza is one thing you can’t cook in a campervan or a hostel kitchen.

End of Australia Week 2!
Sam (and Ben) x

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