Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road , the Grampians, Tasmania and the Blue Mountains
Thu 13 Dec 2007
This is just the most recent post. The TABLE OF CONTENTS on the right provides access to previous posts. They include:
• 16 Sep 2007 Sydney and South Australia
• 30 Jul 2007 The East Cape
• 22 Jun 2007 Aside from the Scenery
• 12 Jun 2007 On a sheep farm in the Catlins
• 10 Jun 2007 Sumner and Akaroa
• 10 Jun 2007 Day to day life on the road
• 28 May 2007 Milford, Te Anau, Riverton
• 6 May 2007 Fiji, Auckland to Havelock
All but the earliest one have an associated photo album.
We went from Australia to Thailand. We had been scheduled to go to Bali, and were thinking of staying there a month or two but we believed strong State Department terrorism warnings for Indonesia effectively canceled our travel health insurance in the country. The warning to take 'extreme caution' and to reconsider the need to travel there sort of put a damper on the relaxation spirit.
We’ve been staying for a couple of months in Chiang Mai and are enjoying it. It's good to be relatively stable after doing so much hopping around in New Zealand and Australia. Our guest house has a website at http://www.pachkit.com/ . For our first visa run to get another 30-day visa we went to Myanmar. After taking a bus to Mae Sai on the border, all we did was walk into Myanmar, have lunch, and walk back. Now we’re in Luang Prabang in Laos, a World Heritage site. On this visa run we’ll have ten days here so we’re seeing more.
There will be pictures of Thailand and Laos in a subsequent post, but for now let's finish our stay in Australia. There are way too many pictures to view all at once since we're combining in a single post what should have been several posts. You may want to visit the albums in separate sessions.
We flew from Glenelg at the beach in Adelaide to metropolitan Melbourne. Just the air at the airport was exciting. We joined a library and got great maps and books for the road. After a couple of days with a Hyundai Getz to help us get around and look for a camper van, we rented an old Britz camper and moved in.
On two days we went in to the Writer's Festival. All the rich conversations and interesting people made a wonderful time in Melbourne.
Melbourne has done a great job of renewal on the Yarra River. The riverfront made for fun getting around. It seemed the innovative architecture was a special expression of cultural differences. It is amazing what Australia has done with corrugated iron especially towards the Outback.
Driving south out of Melbourne, we had stopped for the view at the Bluff Lookout at Barwon Heads, when the van failed to start. So we had a great place to wait and hour or so for a battery replacement before getting out onto the Great Ocean Road.
Our first campground right on the water was bliss.
Visit http://dianeanddave.net/albums/Melbourne/index.html for more Melbourne photos.
The Great Ocean Road or The world's greatest war memorial
From internet sources:
The Great Ocean Road stretches along the South Eastern coast of Australia between the Victorian cities of Geelong & Warrnambool. It was built during the Great Depression, between World War I and World War II by returned servicemen.
It took thousands of years to shape the wondrous western coast of Victoria - and thousands of 'man - years' to build the road that brings it's glory to tourists from all over the world. The Great Ocean Road is beginning a year of celebrations that will culiminate in it's 75 birthday in November 2007.
For all of its spectacle, The Great Ocean Road is, first and foremost, a war memorial dedicated, to servicemen killed in World War One and built by those who came home from the war fronts. Some 3000 returned "Diggers" had a hand in its creation between 1918 and 1932.
This scenic road is one of the world's most spectacular coastal drives as it winds around golden beaches, spectacular cliff tops, eucalypt rainforests, fern lined gullies, picturesque townships and fast flowing mountain streams. The road passes through some iconic surf beaches including Bells Beach revered by surfers throughout the world. Further along is the 'Shipwreck Coast' with its awesome limestone cliffs and where the spectacular Twelve Apostles stand like sentinels rising majestically from the sea.
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.
Saw wild koalas with baby.
Camped right on the ocean. So happy in our little camper. As Kurt Vonnegut has his characters say, 'If this isn't nice, what is?'
We left the coast to go north to the Otway Fly Tree Top Walk at Beech Forest where there were great views from a 25-meter walkway in the rain forest and from a 49-meter tower.
We looked for but didn't see a platypus in the creek and met a woman who has one in her back yard creek.
On the way back down to the coast, we stopped at Ferguson, which seems to be entirely constituted by a produce market with an adjoining old time display. The couches and chairs next to the pot belly stove were where people sat to drink their coffee and read a paper, becoming part of the display.
We got fresh local kiwis, beets, pumpkin. Diane drove the van for the first time, doing an excellent job. Stopped for photos at the Twelve Apostles, a set of shoreside rock towers left after erosion.
Finally got our Blackberry working in Warrnambool and got through to Diane's mom and then to Sara and Guillermo. Sara and Memo are enjoying Claire Alicia and told the exciting story of being stopped by police on Highway 400 on the way to the hospital, taking a while to check the license and then quickly waving them on when they saw Sara already in labor.
Visit http://dianeanddave.net/albums/GreatOceanRoad/index.html for more photos of the Great Ocean Road.
We stayed a night in Dunkeld, the gateway to the Grampians and in the morning climbed Pickaninny Peak, a great climb in spite of the name. There was a roo at the top who seemed oblivious of us and we watched it for a long time, finally wondering if it perhaps was blind.
In Halls Gap we checked into Caravan Park where the lawns are thick with kangaroos
It rained during the night and the farmers were very grateful. It was a pleasant walk to Brambuk, the excellently designed aboriginal cultural center, where we saw many displays and watched two films. Just imagining the aboriginal pace of life is relaxing. One film was a telling of the creation story of Gariwerd, the aboriginal name for the Grampians.
The second told of the geological history of the area. We had a bush platter at the restaurant, which included kangaroo steak, emu sausages, crocodile on a skewer, and prawn and crocodile ravioli with two different 'bush' chutneys.
There were lots of roos on the walk and again back at the caravan park.
Visit http://dianeanddave.net/albums/Grampians/index.html for more photos of the Grampians.
Back into Melbourne
Dave had a urology appointment and while in the waiting room was surreally entertained, or at least distracted from his novel, by a Simpsons episode in Japan that had Homer crashing through shoji panels. Damien Bolton, who we were referred to by Dave's California urologist, was a fine, alert and personable fellow who welcomed us. He pronounced Dave's bladder fine and said they had done a good job. We celebrated good health with shiraz and sausages.
Back in Melbourne, we met our old friends Fred and Nicole who we had first met in New Zealand. We had fine breakfast conversation and then a walk out on the pier.
Navigated our way to the ferry terminal for Tasmania, where we arrived early and parked on the esplanade. We were in line with our van by 6:00pm for the 8:00pm ferry. The long line of trucks, campers and cars snaked all the way down the pier past the end of the ship, then back up to the other end of the ship where we drove on. We dragged our sleeping bags stuffed with pillows, food and carryon bags up to the 'ocean view recliners.' Much cheaper than a cabin, and more comfortable than we expected. Each seat had a reading light. We had supper and read in the lounge, until it was time to recline.
Coming off the ferry early in the morning, we checked in at the caravan park at Mersey Bluff, where we met Ray, a charming Englishman who worked for years in the tourist industry in London and had a lot to say about the joys of Tasmania.
At the cheese store in Burnie we bought Camembert, Brie, bread and a blackberry, fig and balsamic paste. We visited Creative Paper, where Diane took the tour and enjoyed the hands-on aspect, getting to make a sheet of paper herself. In Stanley we found the Stanley Caravan Park which had sites in a great location, was clean and had laptop internet. It was situated at the base of The Nut, an old volcanic plug that forms a huge 150-meter flat-topped circular headland.
At Mt. Cradle we had a beautiful 6.6 km walk around Dove Lake on a well designed trail that was a joy.
We were on our knees exclaiming about something mysteriously pink on a branch below the boardwalk and two lark magpies flew closer, sat closer, walked near and as soon as we stood and walked away they were in our exact spot peering down curiously below the boardwalk. Wanting to see whatever we were looking at. Turned out to be thread.
In Strahan we woke to cold gray rain. We were thankful we were at a powered site with our heater going. We stopped at a book exchange out of a woman's front rooms. Good books and great friendly cats and dogs.
We went into the high country around Queenstown through scorched earth mining country and beautiful rainforests and stopped in Terraleah near a hydroelectric plant. We understand better how they work now. Every time we left the camper we scared wallabies that were grazing around us.
In Snug we met Peter, 30-ish Kiwi living in Oz. We all sat in our van, shared a beer and he used our laptop to get his email. He has worked as a fruit picker and as an engineer in an abattoir. A friendly, enjoyable NSW couple from Newcastle. Bob and Beverly, are here to visit their daughter and we shared a chat.
In the Hobart area we drove up Mount Wellington and Mount Nelson for sweeping panoramic views.
We were up at 6:30 after 100-km winds during the night. At the Salamanca market, we bought candles, bergamot, oat milk. There was an icy biting rain in the afternoon so we didn't linger in a beautiful town of Ross full of limestone buildings built by convicts. They say you can have four seasons in a day in Tasmania. It can snow in the middle of the summer if something blows in off Antarctica. We kept going to Longford where the caravan park is on the banks of the Macquarie River., which is famous for fly fishing.
We toured Brickenden, a well preserved farming village from the 1830’s-40's. It has been in the same family for seven generations and we met Elisa Archer of the seventh generation. Brickenden is still a working farm and it was beautiful and relaxing to stroll around the grounds and gardens. Gardens that have been tended that long seem to have a life of their own.
In Longford Dave met a bunch of fresh teenagers who said hello and first consented to have their pictures taken, then vied for the chance to be in the photo.
On the ferry we ate pears, Camembert, wine and chocolate while the Aussies happily watched their football finals. The Manly Sea Eagles got clobbered by the Melbourne Storm, 34-8. There was rough water and wonderful rocking on boat.
Off the ferry we went straight to Ashley Gardens and began cleaning up and shedding possessions for turning in the campervan the next day, before our flight to Sydney. Arrived in Sydney on time at 9:05 pm and picked up a Hyundai Getz at Budget. It was stressful trying to navigate late at night after a hard day, but we managed finally to find the Blakehurst Motor Inn.
Visit http://dianeanddave.net/albums/Tasmania/index.html for more photos of Tasmania.
The Blue Mountains and Canberra
In Katoomba in the Blue Mountains we stayed at the YHA, which is a fine structure originally built as a hotel and casino, later used by a church group, then left derelict, and now handsomely restored as a hostel with fine facilities.
At Echo Point the drop off is something like the Grand Canyon. Evans Lookout also had expansive views.
On the road to Canberra, we passed many bicyclists and also vintage cars.
We had a wonder dinner and conversation with Angela and Barney Devlin.
We knew they had met Diane's parents, Don and Lennette, long ago in Arizona, but hadn't realized that they were close friends for most of a year but had later lost touch. The reconnection only came about because Diane's mom was volunteering at an information site when a woman from Canberra came in. Lennette asked if she could get in touch with Angela and Barney but could only provide names, no other contact info. The woman looked up the Devlin name in the phone book and tried Barney who was the first listed. So Angela wrote to Don and Lennette who then told us about them. It's easy to understand how much pleasure Don and Lennette got from their company. They're both interesting people, originally from Country Antrim in Ireland but they emigrated to Canberra in 1973. Anyone who meets Angela should ask her to tell the story of her daughters' weddings.
The next day we visited the Australian National Museum and were very impressed with the innovative and informative displays, including a rotating theater where three four-minute films were shown dealing with land, history and people. Multiple flat screens moving over a large background image were used to great effect. Another couple of films in the Vision Theater made imaginative use of imagery in showing Australian history.
Visit http://dianeanddave.net/albums/BlueMountainsCanberra/index.html for more photos of the Blue Mountains and Canberra.
Back in Sydney we were in a tourist park in Ramsgate Beach where a whole troop of baton twirlers were staying, on their way to a competition.
Ramsgate Beach is across a harbor from the airport. We didn’t find out whether the fishing was good.
At an internet café in Hurstville we spent hours researching tickets, visas and hostels. Because the US State Department's warnings about Indonesia had the effect of canceling our travel insurance, we decided to skip Bali for now and go to Bangkok. We called Garuda to cancel the Bali tickets, canceled our Bali reservations at Pondok Pisces, and booked a YHA hostel in Bangkok.
The flight over Sydney on the way to Bangkok gave us our last views of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.
Visit http://dianeanddave.net/albums/Sydney2/index.html for more photos of Sydney.
As always, we love hearing from you, whether by a comment in the blog or by email (diane [at] dianeanddave.net or dave [at] dianeanddave.net). Even just a few lines would be great. It would be hard to overestimate the pleasure we experience from your messages and if you doubt that just send us your overestimate.