A Travellerspoint blog

Concluding our Big Lap in Hervey Bay

Including some lessons we've learned along the way

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Hervey Bay

(Final posting on our “Big Lap” blog – our Sabbatical has ended on 31 March)

After 25 000km on the road, we made it back home!

Camping in Hervey Bay was a strange experience when you’re not living in your own house (rented out). The great advantage was living right on the beach, allowing us a swim every day (when it wasn’t raining). Hervey Bay is really doing well. There is so much happening, with a lot of construction and development having happened in the year since we left. We are so impresses with the work the council is doing on the Esplanade and the parks and general beautification of the town.

How good it was to catch up with friends. This really is the end of our Sabbatical. We spent a lot of our time preparing for life back in our house (things like buying a fridge and TV etc, for when we move back into a house). We ended up having to finish our trip with a rush due to Cyclone Debbie causing significant rain and approaching with lashing winds. Nothing like a bit of excitement to end with.
I thought I’d end with a few (ad hoc) type comments worth penning down.

If you’re planning to do a Big Lap, here are some things we’ve learned that might be of some help:
• Buy the app “Wikicamps.” It will be the best $8 you’ll ever spend on your trip. The planning tools, info on free camps, attractions etc make a huge difference to your trip. We sold our big Camps 8 book halfway through the trip; unused. Another great app is “Fuel App”
(free) showing you the diesel prices as logged by other users of most service stations.
• Never pass a Visitor Centre without popping in. Apart from free book swaps (I’ve read 100 in a year), the maps, info and local knowledge will truly enhance your travel experience.
• Don’t take too much to begin with. There was stuff we took we didn’t need, and you need so much less than you do at home.
• Think twice about what you buy (even food), you don’t need as much as you think! What a liberty it was to walk into shops, knowing “we can’t buy more stuff!”
• We had no need for a second fridge or second deep cycle battery. One solar panel would allow us enough power to watch TV every night and use all the beautiful Led lights for a week in full shade with no problems. It allows for a lot of free camping.
• I doubt whether I would have bought a satellite dish had I known how little we’d be using it. The best use for it was when you’d like to watch your favourite (late night TV) program. All you do is watch it in another state/time zone, allowing you to watch a 9pm show at 6pm.
• Take a Telstra modem with you for WiFi, it is a bit dearer than Optus, but the coverage is just so much better. Also, all the old payphone boxes scattered around this vast country act as free WiFi spots … very useful to save on data usage. On that topic, don’t forget all the free WiFi in shopping malls, fast food outlets and coffee shops (great place to catch up on free newspapers whilst having a cuppa as well).
• Small tips: Bunnings is the cheapest for 9kg gas swap ($19.85 will last you a long time).
Spend time with fellow campers. You’ll meet amazing people and be enriched more than you can imagine.

I read somewhere that “Gorges are to Australia what Cathedrals are to Europe”. This was a deeply spiritual and enriching experience. If you’re ever able, do this! It was the best!

Great to catch up with friends after a year away

Great to catch up with friends after a year away

Beach front camping in Hervey Bay

Beach front camping in Hervey Bay

Posted by ChrisHenriette 22:37 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Sunshine Coast

Second last blog on our Big Lap

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Maroochydoore on the Sunshine Coast

From Byron Bay we pushed past the Gold Coast and Brisbane, dropping all plans to visit the hinterland after weather warnings about hail and severe storms. At one stage I had the windscreen wipers on full speed and couldn’t do more than 60km/h.

We camped beachfront in Maroochydoore to allow us time to explore the area. It is easy to see the appeal of living in this area. We attended worship in Kawana Waters Uniting Church, drove the hills of Buderim, and started with our logistic chores of getting back to reality soon when we arrive home.

Next we were off to Hervey Bay, planning to camp right on the beach in Torquay for a week (our home is still rented out until the first week in April, making it inaccessible).

Zebra Crossing South African Shop for Beskuit

Zebra Crossing South African Shop for Beskuit

Sunshine Coast

Sunshine Coast

Sea snake on the beach during our walk

Sea snake on the beach during our walk

Part of the Sunshine Coast

Part of the Sunshine Coast

Nature bridge built for Koalas and other native animals to cross

Nature bridge built for Koalas and other native animals to cross

King's Beach with lovely pool in the rocks

King's Beach with lovely pool in the rocks

Great beach in front where we swam every day

Great beach in front where we swam every day

Didn't think I'd ever see a vending machine for live and frozen bait

Didn't think I'd ever see a vending machine for live and frozen bait

Buderim's main street is on the mountain overlooking the Sunshine Coast

Buderim's main street is on the mountain overlooking the Sunshine Coast

Bucketing down in Marochydoore Holiday Park

Bucketing down in Marochydoore Holiday Park

Posted by ChrisHenriette 22:01 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Byron Bay

The most easterly point of the mainland

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Byron Bay (population 7000)

We last visited Byron Bay in 1999 on our first trip to Australia, so we were curious to see what has happened to the “hippie/surfing town” since then. It turns out it hasn’t changed much. The biggest difference we noticed wasn’t infrastructure, but numbers. The town is struggling with the tourist numbers (surfers and backpackers, mostly), and it was easier parking in one sport and making our way around on foot.

The road from Coffs Harbour was also very busy, with lots of roadworks to complete the project of making it a double highway all the way from Sydney. We loved travelling along broad rivers for large parts of the journey. We really started to feel like we’re nearing home when 130km south of Byron Bay, the sugar cane fields made an appearance.

  • Trivia on Coffs Harbour: It is also the place where Michael Robotham went to school. he is arguably Australia's best crime thriller writer and one of the world's best (and we're both busy reading one of his novels)

In Byron our main destination was the lighthouse with the panoramic views at the most easterly point of the mainland. What a beautiful spot this is to just hike, take in the views, and enjoy watching the dolphins at play.

Tomorrow we might press through to the Sunshine Coast. Rain is forecast at 40-50mm per day for the next three days. No point going into the National Parks if we’re just going to sit in the van watching the rain. Tomorrow it will be exactly 1 year since we left home!

View down from the easterly point

View down from the easterly point

Typical shops are a bit whacky

Typical shops are a bit whacky

Strange people in Byron don't sit under roofs

Strange people in Byron don't sit under roofs

Our neighbour in Coffs with his raised swag and old motorcycle

Our neighbour in Coffs with his raised swag and old motorcycle

Most Easterly point of the Australian Mainland

Most Easterly point of the Australian Mainland

Lighthouse at easterly point

Lighthouse at easterly point

Happy Dolphins at the most easterly point

Happy Dolphins at the most easterly point

Even the streets are alternative

Even the streets are alternative

Byron Bay on the right

Byron Bay on the right

Posted by ChrisHenriette 02:28 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Coffs Harbour

Feeling like Queensland when you're still in NSW

26 °C
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Coffs Harbour (Population 70 000)

How Coffs Harbour has grown since we last saw in in 1999! It is a beautiful sub-tropical city known for Mutton Bird Island (attached with a wall, making it a peninsula really) that houses thousands of breeding pairs, and some lush mountainsides and banana plantations. Oh, and of course because Russel Crowe lives here ;-)The town reminded us of Cairns even though we’re not even in Queensland yet.

We camped near the centre on town and enjoyed exploring both the familiar (nostalgia) and places we’ve not seen before. The beautiful botanic gardens have not changed much, but some areas have just grown beyond recognition.

Our caravan park has lots of tame bunnies and ducks with chicks you could hand feed.

We went to the Friday night food market next to the beach, visited the Big Banana (including the lolly shop, the cheese makers, and the opal shop. The highlight was having the best banana smoothie we’ve ever tasted.

Then it was up to the Forest Sky Pier and Korora Lookout for spectacular views and a great place for a picnic. We visited the Clog Barn (including a Dutch miniature village of famous building replicas) and walked the parks.

On Sunday we made it to the local Uniting Church (the caravan park was within walking distance) before heading north towards Byron Bay.

The viewpoint

The viewpoint

The Big Banama

The Big Banama

Our own zoo in the caravan park

Our own zoo in the caravan park

One of the locals in the Botanic Gargens

One of the locals in the Botanic Gargens

Looking north towards QLD

Looking north towards QLD

Live music at the night music

Live music at the night music

Dutch miniature village

Dutch miniature village

Coffs Harbour from the mountains

Coffs Harbour from the mountains

Posted by ChrisHenriette 13:00 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Port Macquarie

Into the sub tropical lush areas

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Port Macquarie (Population 45 341)

Never having seen this City before, we were very pleasantly surprised. Port Macquarie is a town at the mouth of the Hastings River in New South Wales, Australia. It is just beautiful. It’s known for its beaches, wildlife and as a past penal colony. St. Thomas' Anglican Church was built by convicts in the 19th century. A coastal walk from the town centre to the 19th-century Tacking Point Lighthouse offers views over waters home to whales and dolphins. Billabong Zoo is known for its koala breeding centre.

We enjoyed sipping a cappuccino, walking the city, visiting the several beaches and the lighthouse, but the highlight was undoubtedly the Koala Hospital. Here are some numbers (and then look at the photos): The hospital is visited by 122000 per year. It receives no government funding and is served by 7 staff and 175 volunteers. And it is a wonderful and heart-warming place. There are some koalas that will never be able to be released in the wild again and other doing well on the road to recovery and release back into the wild.

In town there are 51 different koala statues (all individually, artfully painted) dotted all over the place. We managed to see about half of them (see photos).

Where to find koalas in Australia today

Where to find koalas in Australia today

Two lanes each way and lush forest all the way

Two lanes each way and lush forest all the way

Taking her medicine patiently

Taking her medicine patiently

Peninsula with bush walks along one of the beaches

Peninsula with bush walks along one of the beaches

One of the more active patients

One of the more active patients

One of the 51 koala artworks is at the Koala Hospital

One of the 51 koala artworks is at the Koala Hospital

One of many view points in Port Macquarie

One of many view points in Port Macquarie

Koala statue waiting for new arrivals at the hospital

Koala statue waiting for new arrivals at the hospital

Beaches to the mountains on the horizon

Beaches to the mountains on the horizon

Posted by ChrisHenriette 00:07 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Moss Vale, Fitzroy Falls and the Great Lakes Region

Mountains, rain forests and falls

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Moss Vale (population 7900) 3-7 March
After filling up on political/art and cultural stuff, we headed north and needed to stop somewhere central to allow us some exploring as well as being close enough to Sydney to allow catch up time with rellies in the big City. We passed through Goulburn (see the big Merino photo) and ended up in Moss Vale. With huge amounts of rain predicted for the NSW coastline, we took the opportunity to rest. We spent some time walking the town, attending worship at the local UCA on the Sunday, and driving down to Fitzroy Falls to walk the beautiful forests and check out the falls after the rain (in Morton National Park). Flowing through the national park is Yarrunga Creek, which drops 81 meters to the floor of the valley below and eventually makes its way to the Kangaroo River.

We also caught up with some rellies from Sydney for a great BBQ.

Then it was time to tackle the road past/through Sydney. The M7 was fine (busy but wide) and the road north was good as well. It was only the A28 that was a bit of a nightmare (about 8km, but they are apparently building a tunnel). Towing a caravan for those 8km of Sydney traffic was enough for me. The road north of Sydney was quite a surprise. It has two lanes in each direction all the way to Port Macquarie.

7-8 March. We camped at Hawks Nest (Myall River Camp) at Myall Lakes National Park (in the Great Lakes Region), on the north coast 100km past Newcastle, which features one of New South Wales' largest coastal lake systems. The area makes one wonder if this is what Canada could have looked like if it had gum trees! The main road is brilliant, but we took a detour (scenic route) that took us through twin cities Foster and Tuncurry (pop 18000 between them) all along the coast.

The lakes are beautiful and the mountains and dense forests much more than we expected. At a beautiful picnic spot next to Wallis Lake we had lunch, but I was robbed by a Kookaburra that swept down (despite our vigilance) to steal a piece of my T-Bone leftovers (see photo).

Picnic before the Kookaburra strikes

Picnic before the Kookaburra strikes

Ocean at Great Lakes Region

Ocean at Great Lakes Region

Kookaburras strealing our food

Kookaburras strealing our food

Kookaburra with my T-Bone steak

Kookaburra with my T-Bone steak

Fitzroy Falls

Fitzroy Falls

Fitzroy Falls area

Fitzroy Falls area

Carved skull at auction next to our camp

Carved skull at auction next to our camp

Big Merino at Goulburn

Big Merino at Goulburn

BBQ catchup with Sydneysiders

BBQ catchup with Sydneysiders

Posted by ChrisHenriette 23:32 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Canberra, the Meeting Place

Purposely designed Capital is an attractive place

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Canberra (population 400 000)

It was time to turn inland towards the Capital. Henriette hasn’t seen it yet and I was looking forward to a first visit to Parliament House and a return visit to the National Art Gallery.

We stayed in Queanbeyan, only 16km away from Canberra, but in NSW as opposed to the Australian Capital Territory (Canberra caravan parks got bad reviews on wikicamps). Here I had the chance to catch up with an old friend and Perth colleague, Kevin, for coffee. He welcomed me to the “centre of …not Australia, but maybe… something else. To which I was able to reply “maybe the centre of bureaucracy?” And my explanation was that in 23 000km so far, it was the first time we came across a caravan park that was closed for lunch, forcing us to wait 25 minutes to get a site.

On day one it took the whole day to visit the National Art Gallery, the Portrait Gallery, and Parliament House. What a wonderful day it was. The art gallery was less impressive than I expected (I thought the ones in Melbourne and Adelaide were better better).

Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles was a highlight in the art gallery. Bought during the previous century for the controversial sum of $1.3m, it is today worth in excess of $350m. It is abstract art helping us understand that the process of creating art is as important as the final product itself (the artist was a jazz musician and played loud jazz music whilst dancing and painting – the 8 blue poles are thought to be bass instruments). Clearly one of the better investments made with tax payer’s money. I also loved Claude Monet’s Waterlilies but (please don’t take away my Australian Passport) I have no appreciation for Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly series.

We both thought that the Portrait Gallery across the road was better overall. It was a really good place to visit.

The highlight of the day was Parliament House. We didn’t expect to spend 4 hours there! We even attended question time (the debate about penalty rates) and I was surprised that Henriette wanted to stay longer to hear more (she’s not known for having much interest in politicians shouting at each other). The art, the architecture and the stories told by our volunteer guide had us glued to every word. E.g. did you know that the building was designed so a number of doors and wall partitions could be opened to allow the Prime Minister a direct line of sight to the War Memorial across the lake (a few km away) so he/she could contemplate that when considering declaring war? Or, that the flag is the size of a double decker bus? Or, that there is a fossil of a prawn in the marble floor (in the entrance) that dates back 345mil years? We saw a part of the 250 000 sq m building. For a 100 more fascinating facts, you will have to visit there next time you’re in Canberra (“the meeting place”).

On our next last day we visited Old Parliament House and the National War Memorial. The Old Parliament building included offices of the Prime Minister and all levels of staff exactly as they looked in 1980 (even the packets of cigarettes and Tippex for typos). We found a large exhibit on South Africa and its democratic process very interesting. The War Memorial is one of the three most visited sites in Australia. And after seeing it, we understand why. It took us more than 4 hours to walk through three amazing levels of exhibits. Everything inside is real, including Victoria Cross medals (made from Russian gun metal) to full sized WWII aeroplanes and interactive experiences of being in a war plane or in Vietnam. It is a sobering but very touching experience and would have to rate among the best museums we have ever visited.

On our last day it was time to change 4 tyres and then on to the botanical gardens and Telstra Tower for 360 degree views. Finally Canberra started to get some rain as we were preparing to leave (they only had 100 this summer).

We saw that but were not allowed to take cameras inside

We saw that but were not allowed to take cameras inside

View from Nat War Mem to old and new Parliament House

View from Nat War Mem to old and new Parliament House

Skyspace Within Without

Skyspace Within Without

Prawn fossil 345mil years old

Prawn fossil 345mil years old

Painting of every Prime Minister

Painting of every Prime Minister

One part of the wall remembering 102000 deaths in war

One part of the wall remembering 102000 deaths in war

One of 3 Japanese Midget Submarines in Sydney habour in WWII

One of 3 Japanese Midget Submarines in Sydney habour in WWII

On top of Parliament House

On top of Parliament House

National War Memorial WWII exhibit

National War Memorial WWII exhibit

Huge Arthur Boyd  gum tree painting spot the Cockatoo

Huge Arthur Boyd gum tree painting spot the Cockatoo

Explosive Detection Dogs monument

Explosive Detection Dogs monument

Entrance to Parliament House resembling gum trees

Entrance to Parliament House resembling gum trees

Canberra from the Telstra tower

Canberra from the Telstra tower

Blue Poles is not for sale even you have $350m

Blue Poles is not for sale even you have $350m

Biggest exhibit on the Boer War I've ever seen

Biggest exhibit on the Boer War I've ever seen

Posted by ChrisHenriette 22:15 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Travelling up the east coast of New South Wales

Mountainous roads and deep forests


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Eden and Bega to Batemans Bay

We camped 5km East of Eden (South-West actually, but I couldn’t resist the pun). It is a beautiful little bay on a river mouth, with mountains, beach and beach. I BBQ’d right on the beach looking at an ocean liner anchored just out (see photo). It was nice to have access to a high pressure water cleaner (at $2 a pop) to clean the Prado and the Jayco.

Next we took the winding road north. Up and down, it is a mountainous area that tests our towing skills. A stop in Bega (synonymous with cheese for non-Aussies) for a good tasting and then through Narooma (one of the most beautiful towns you can hope to see).

The plan was to camp in Batemans Bay, but a beautiful free camp 50km prior enticed us to camp in the bush once again. Great facilities meant we could relax and do the 2km circular route through the forest between the lakes.

After that it was time for a stop in Batemans Bay and then inland through dense rainforests and uphill towards the Capital. We were very surprised how steep and winding this journey was. The Prado’s diesel consumption (towing) was up to 12.6 l/100km since entering the highlands as opposed to our “normal” 11.5 overall.

The walk along the lake at the free camp

The walk along the lake at the free camp

The view from my BBQ at Eden

The view from my BBQ at Eden

The road was up and down and misty but beautiful

The road was up and down and misty but beautiful

Our neighbour at the free camp

Our neighbour at the free camp

Narooma is beautiful in every direction

Narooma is beautiful in every direction

Posted by ChrisHenriette 01:28 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

90 Mile Beach and Lakes Entrance

Water everywhere, endless beaches and then mountains

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90 mile beach (22-23 Feb)
We started heading north (not much choice when you’re at the southernmost point) and ended up at ninety mile beach. Gippsland Lakes are a system of coastal lagoons separated from the Tasman Sea by the coastal dunes of Ninety Mile Beach. The area covers over 400 square kilometres of waterways. We found a free camp at between Seaspray and Golden Beach behind the dunes on Ninety Mile Beach. This magnificent beach is really ninety miles (145 kilometres) long and has endless waves and pristine sand. How good is it to light a fire for a BBQ and to listen to the crashing sound of the waves a few metres away.

We walked about 800m to the rusty wreck of the Trinculo on Ninety Mile Beach (see photo). The Trinculo ran ashore here in 1879 on the way from Albany to Newcastle. On the way there an Australian fur seal exited the ocean right in front of us and crawled up to higher ground. Within one minute of finding a comfortable spot, he/she was asleep (apart from the occasional scratch or wave that then followed). The seal couldn’t be less interested in us (we suspect it was exhausted from hunting fish) which allowed us time to study it up close. Just another perfect day along this coastline.

Lakes Entrance (23-24 Feb)
What a surprise this area was. We knew very little about the area, and soon discovered that Bairnsdale (a little inland from Lakes Entrance) had a population size of 15000 plus. In Lakes Entrance there are 22 caravan parks (!) and more boats than you can count.

In Bairnsdale we had a unique experience of visiting St Mary’s (Catholic) church, with painted walls and ceilings (like those in Europe.) The stories told by the volunteer guide held us mesmerised for over an hour. These included that the paintings were done by an Italian artist that arrived in 1932 (during the Great Depression) looking for work in exchange for lodgings and food. So the priest employed him to paint the ceilings. Two anecdotes: He painted little angels (cherubs) all over the ceilings. When the bishop discovered (upon his inspection) that they were all naked, he insisted that ribbons be panted in strategic places… when you look closely, you’ll find that one doesn’t have a strategic ribbon… an act of defiance by the artist! Also, in the one front wall scene (depiction of hell), there is a painting of a half-naked lady with (devil’s) horns. It turns out the church housekeeper and the artist didn’t get along (she believed him to be a free-loader), so she ended up in the painting (see my photo).

Then it was off to cross the Snowy River (stopped at the mouth for morning tea) and (after an amazing rainforest walk of 1km) into New South Wales. See the amazing little cottage that was refurbished to be the Visitor Information Centre.

Visitor Information Centre in Orbost next to Snowy River

Visitor Information Centre in Orbost next to Snowy River

The high country is beautiful but tough for towing

The high country is beautiful but tough for towing

Scene from heel in the church in Bairnsdale

Scene from heel in the church in Bairnsdale

Remains of the Trinculo shipwreck from 1879

Remains of the Trinculo shipwreck from 1879

Not so alone as a fur seal joins us and then goes to sleep

Not so alone as a fur seal joins us and then goes to sleep

Man made Lakes Entrance to all the lakes

Man made Lakes Entrance to all the lakes

Lots of Oil and gas platforms in harmony with a beautiful area

Lots of Oil and gas platforms in harmony with a beautiful area

Every farm has a special letter box

Every farm has a special letter box

BBQ and new $5 Bunnings hat. Now a 3 hat trip

BBQ and new $5 Bunnings hat. Now a 3 hat trip

Banjo Paterson's Man from Snowy River on right in visitor centre

Banjo Paterson's Man from Snowy River on right in visitor centre

Alone on 90 mile beach

Alone on 90 mile beach

Posted by ChrisHenriette 21:06 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Wilson's Promontory

The bottom end of our continent

22 °C
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Wilson’s Promontory National Park (most southern point on Australian mainland)

After 22 000km on the road, we camped at Shallow Inlet Campground, just outside the National Park. What a great spot at half the price of the caravan park next door. It was right next to the ocean, but inside a dense forest with abundant bird life and our third daylight Echidna sighting! Thus offered us the opportunity to explore the National Park next door and do a number of walks. And we came across a Wombat! It was tagged and clearly unfussed by us, letting us pat it at leisure. Having as much time as you like with both an Echidna and a Wombat up close was a true highlight for us.

We didn’t know what a promontory was, so this is what Wikipedia says: “A raised mass of land that projects into a lowland or a body of water (in which case it is a peninsula)”

So, there we were just hoping to see the most southern point of the Australian mainland, and we discover these beautiful mountains (top class views), a river, bays with beautiful beaches, and amazing views. What a great national park this is.

We enjoyed the views from Mt Oberon, then Squeaky Beach (it has rounded quartz sand that ‘squeaks’ when you walk on it). The lookouts over Tidal River and from Pillar Point are breathtaking and worth the hikes.

Tidal River

Tidal River

Tidal River in Wilson's Promontory

Tidal River in Wilson's Promontory

Furthest point on mainland Aus by road

Furthest point on mainland Aus by road

Friendly Wombat

Friendly Wombat

Forests at the bottom of Aus

Forests at the bottom of Aus

Echidna near our caravan see the back toe nail

Echidna near our caravan see the back toe nail

Bottom of Aus mani land

Bottom of Aus mani land

Beautiful bays in Wilson's Promontory

Beautiful bays in Wilson's Promontory

Antarctica only 2500km away

Antarctica only 2500km away

Posted by ChrisHenriette 22:51 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Melbourne

The most liveable city in the world

24 °C
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Melbourne (population 4.52 million)

Melbourne is the capital and most populous city of the Australian state of Victoria, and the second-most populous city in Australia. Melbourne rates highly in education, entertainment, health care, research and development, tourism and sport, making it the world's most liveable city—for the sixth year in a row in 2016, and ranks among the top 30 cities in the world in the Global Financial Centres Index. Melbourne has more restaurants and diners per capita than any city in the world… it can be argued to be the sporting capital of the world… do I need to say more?

With a brilliant public transport system, it was easy for us to go into the CBD numerous times; to join in worship at (both very different) St Michaels and the Mission Parish in St Kilda. We visited the vibrant Victoria Markets and walked the streets. Eating, and just enjoying this amazing city. In St Kilda we did the “safari dining” thing. We started with calamari (so good Henriette loved it and she doesn’t usually) at a street stall, then cake at two different shops down the famous “cake street”) followed by coffees form another restaurant. Such is this area.

On one of the days we went to the art markets (and of course the Victoria Markets for a food experience), and discovered a huge exhibition about sustainable living. It was amazing what innovative people are doing.

And then there’s the reputation Melbourne has for its changing weather. The old joke goes that if you don’t like Melbourne’s weather, just wait 15 minutes. And we saw that! On our day trip to St Kilda the temperature (according to the TV news that night) went from 17 degrees, to 14 to 17 to 11 all in the space of 4 hours. And we had to hide against the rain (in February!)

We left in pouring rain. Next stop, the southernmost point on the Australian continent.

The sustainabilty exhibit

The sustainabilty exhibit

Statue like buskers in Melbourne CBD

Statue like buskers in Melbourne CBD

Melbourne the vibrant

Melbourne the vibrant

Melbourne and Victoria Markets

Melbourne and Victoria Markets

Huge interest in sustainability exhibit

Huge interest in sustainability exhibit

Funky street artin CBD

Funky street artin CBD

Free trams in Melbourne

Free trams in Melbourne

Famous cake shops in St Kilda

Famous cake shops in St Kilda

Calamari at Victoria Markets

Calamari at Victoria Markets

An unusual coffee shop in St Kilda

An unusual coffee shop in St Kilda

Posted by ChrisHenriette 02:47 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Barwon Heads

Camping in the Seachange caravan park

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Barwon Heads (population 3536)

What a delightful experience to camp at the caravan park where the TV series Seachange was set. If you don’t know the series, you’re just too young! It was, in my humble opinion, the best Aussie TV series ever made. Seachange is credited for a tourist and property boom in this town. So we walked past Laura’s cabin, saw the infamous bridge, and visited the Hotel and other famous settings.

It also gave us the opportunity to explore the whole peninsula, including watching ships go into the bay towards Melbourne. This includes the ferry across to Queenscliff.

Quirky winery

Quirky winery

Looking across the bay towards Queenscliff

Looking across the bay towards Queenscliff

Light house at entry to 264km long shore of Port Philip Bay

Light house at entry to 264km long shore of Port Philip Bay

Laura's house from Seachange

Laura's house from Seachange

Barwon Heads the caravan park from Seachange

Barwon Heads the caravan park from Seachange

Posted by ChrisHenriette 02:22 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Bimbi Park under the koalas

The eastern end of the Great Ocean Road

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Bimbi Park on the Great Ocean Road

We based ourselves in a park on the edge of the Otway National Park. There were so many koalas in this area that the park has to put barriers on the bottom of most of the taller trees in the park to prevent koalas from climbing them. Why? Because there is such an overpopulation problem of koalas in the National Park that they were killing the trees (once the park owners counted 20 koalas in one tree). We even saw one area in the park where all the trees we killed off (see photo). So, a while ago, the government authorities actually relocated 238 koalas to other areas to alleviate the problem. What a wonderful problem to have. We enjoyed finding them in trees all over, including listening to them roar at night.

Three other interesting (trivia) observations from this camp: Had a good laugh with some Israeli backpackers telling me how they free-camp everywhere (2 person tent and an old Landrover) until they need to pay for camping to have a shower (roughly every 4 days!) Secondly, watching for groups of Asian tourists parking along the narrow roads in this area (sometimes blocking the road)… the reason? They’re all out of their cars spotting koalas up in the trees. No need then for us to strain our necks… we watch for Asian tourists parked in and next to the road and we know we’ve found more koalas. And one final anecdote: We shared the camp with 30 palaeontologists doing a nearby dig for dinosaurs. Students, lecturers and volunteers. It was a treat watching some (clearly first time campers) students erecting their igloo tents. Oh to be young again!

We visited the Cape Otway Lighthouse, the oldest operating lighthouse on the Australian mainland. The lighthouse commenced operating in 1848. The view from the top down to the ocean below the cliff is over 90m. Have a look at the list of shipwrecks on my photo below. The area also included a dinosaur exhibit, a whale viewing platform, an aboriginal exhibition area and, best of all, the Australian bush tucker garden where Dale had us riveted showing, explaining, and letting us taste the plants around us (like native Captain Cook spinach to prevent scurvy). Dale is a rough diamond not to be missed when in this area.

We had a day trip to Apollo Bay (including Saturday markets and much needed cappuccino) and another day to Parker River Beach with exquisite walks and views.

On our last day we went to Triplet Falls (which we missed because a huge shower came down) and Hopetoun Falls. The walk to the falls was truly magic, including a dense forest with tree ferns so abundant they all touch each other. And the falls were beautiful.

The last part of the Great Ocean Road was as good and even better then we remembered. Spectacular views, winding roads up on high and then next to the ocean and beaches. Lorne and Torquay (surfing hotspot) are wonderful coastal towns.

Top growth and undergrowth with nothing in betreen

Top growth and undergrowth with nothing in betreen

The view from the top of the lighthouse

The view from the top of the lighthouse

See the lists of shipwrecks off the 37 reefs

See the lists of shipwrecks off the 37 reefs

Saturday markets at Apollo Bay

Saturday markets at Apollo Bay

Rain forest walk

Rain forest walk

Parker River mouth

Parker River mouth

One of our narrow drives in Great Otway National Park

One of our narrow drives in Great Otway National Park

Native Captain Cook spinach prevents scurvy

Native Captain Cook spinach prevents scurvy

Lighthouse area

Lighthouse area

Koalas everywhere

Koalas everywhere

Hopetoun falls after a steep decline walk

Hopetoun falls after a steep decline walk

Devastation when koalas overgraze

Devastation when koalas overgraze

Cape Otway Lighthouse

Cape Otway Lighthouse

Posted by ChrisHenriette 22:09 Archived in Australia Comments (3)

Port Campbell

Western entry to the Great Ocean Road

24 °C
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Port Campbell (population 599) on the Great Ocean Road

This was a good base from where to explore the western end of the great Ocean Road. When we visited the area over a decade ago, we realised that there is just too much to see to do it in a day trip.

From our base we used one full day to drive the so called 12 Apostles Gourmet Trail. We wanted to see the beautiful hilly inland area and stopped at the Timboon Cheesery (loved the name of the tasting shop – The Mousetrap), Berry World (best fresh strawberry thick shake!), Newtons Ridge Winery (very good wine tastings), Gorge Chocolates (liquorice sticks dipped in dark chocolate was very good) and finally, Simpson Snails. This last stop was a true highlight. A retired couple decided that they needed to settle down and do something new after 7 years on the road in their motorhome. So why not start farming snails? She is of French origin. It was a delight as she spent a whole hour showing us the ins and outs of snail farming; ending with us having a tasting plate. Such and educational and interesting experience!

We spent the other days stopping at all the viewing points and doing the walks. Some of the walks are a bit longer, meaning we did about 4km of hiking every day, but the views are just spectacular. The roughness of the ocean is a special attraction in its own right. No wonder over 800 shipwrecks line the Victoria coastline!

We were hoping for smaller crowds now that the school holidays were over, but we didn’t factor in the impact of Chinese New Year. Wow, tourism is booming down here. Apparently the biggest numbers growth comes from mainland China and Taiwan. There were 23 million tourists to the region in 2015 (pumping $1.9 billion into the local economy)! We were also surprised at the number of Chinese people camping in tents (something we haven’t seen much of so far). There were 4 helicopters and an old double winged plane doing sight-seeing tours all day.

There are so many highlights to see in this area; The Arch, London Bridge, The Grotto, the 12 Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge (50 000 mutton birds nest on the island opposite)and more. We especially loved Gibson Steps where you’re down on the beach and can truly experience the might of the ocean against these huge cliffs as a backdrop. One tourist decided to have a go at swimming (not recommended, said the signs) and was knocked off his feet and thrown backwards by the first wave.
On our walk to the Sherbrook River mouth we saw another Echidna digging for food in broad daylight and the amazing dancing seagull which we posted on facebook. The seagull does this tap dancing routine to disturb the sand, which brings food up to the surface which makes for easy pickings. Clever guy/gal.

On the last day we found a spot to picnic and have lunch about 6km from Port Campbell (what a blessing our app, wikicamps is) where we sat on top of a cliff (more than 10 storeys high) looking at an amazing view… undisturbed for more than an hour (during this busy season)

So, now we’re off to the next part of the Great Ocean Road …

Twelve Apostles

Twelve Apostles

Twelve Apostles looking east

Twelve Apostles looking east

The Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road

Port Campbell

Port Campbell

London Bridge

London Bridge

Loch Ard Gorge walk

Loch Ard Gorge walk

Gobson steps

Gobson steps

Gibson steps rough waves

Gibson steps rough waves

Everywhere on the  Great Ocean Rd is stunning

Everywhere on the Great Ocean Rd is stunning

Delicious snails

Delicious snails

Posted by ChrisHenriette 01:38 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Port Fairy and Warrnambool

Pretty towns at the western end for the Great Ocean Road

25 °C
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Port Fairy and Warrnambool 26-30 Jan

Our next base was the historical Irish town, Koroit. The small town positioned us well to explore the local Tower Hill Reserves (Crater/Lake) and then to Port Fairy (population 2870) and Warrnambool (population 33 970).

We spent a day in Port fairy, visiting lovely markets, walking the town and especially Griffiths Island.

Griffiths Island is home to a dozen black wallabies and tens of thousands of mutton birds (short tailed shearwaters) with nesting holes (burrows) in the sand everywhere. We also climbed 39 basalt steps in the lighthouse (uniquely, part of the wall structure), listening to stories of the 25 ship wrecks and enjoying the views. The walk around the whole island is 3km and rewarded me with great photos of a black wallaby.

Interesting fact: Mutton birds are so named because they increase in weight before leaving the nest (from 700g to 2kg) making them good eating in the old days.

Warrnambool was founded in the middle of the 19th century and became an important port during the Victorian Gold Rush. Today tourism is the main industry. We went to the local Uniting Church where a lively worship even included a Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo hand puppet commenting on the Trump presidency (“he likes my yellow hair and he tweets as well”).

Lake Pertobe is a lovely picnic area with all kinds of little boats for hire. The beach front area in Warrnambool is quite special, including a river mouth with unique rock formations, rough waves, and lovely beaches. We tried to spot the world's smallest penguins (30cm high) on Middle Island, without success.

It was time to move on to the Great Ocean Road (after watching the Nadal and Federer Australian Open final on TV, of course).

Tower Hill reserve halfway between Darwin and Antarctica

Tower Hill reserve halfway between Darwin and Antarctica

Thousands of eels gather here when the river opens to feed

Thousands of eels gather here when the river opens to feed

Port Fairy

Port Fairy

Middle Island where the small penquins breed

Middle Island where the small penquins breed

Lighthouse on Griffiths Island

Lighthouse on Griffiths Island

Irish hotel in Koroit

Irish hotel in Koroit

Gaga the parrot in conversation with Rev Malcolm Fraser

Gaga the parrot in conversation with Rev Malcolm Fraser

Black Wallaby on Griffiths Island

Black Wallaby on Griffiths Island

Posted by ChrisHenriette 02:33 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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