Hello to everybody!
Sorry for not having blogged for some time now. We have so much to tell you, so brace yourself for a lengthy update…
When we last updated you on our travels, we had just returned to New South Wales (NSW), to Batemans Bay, from a *very* uneventful trip to Canberra in the Australia Capital Territory (ACT). Since we left Sydney three weeks ago, the weather has been poor. Very poor. The further south that we have travelled, the wetter and colder it has become. When I say cold, it’s still 15-18 degrees, so we shouldn’t complain, but this just isn’t what we signed up for.
We were heading for Melbourne, the state capital of Victoria (Vic), which on the map doesn’t look that far away. However, in reality, this is not the case – Melbourne is approximately 750km, and a 10 hour drive (!), away from Batemans Bay. To put this into perspective, it is the same distance as if driving from London to Dundee (466 miles), but there is no M6 to get you there, just a mix of A and B type roads.
Our first stop, en route to the Vic border, was at a place called Pambula Beach. The campsite here was recommended to us by a lady at the Tourist Information Centre in Canberra. Funnily enough, this lady was more enthusiastic about our onward journey (to Vic) than she was about the time that we would be spending in her city. Anyway, moving on… As we arrived at the campsite, we spotted a family of kangaroos roaming around in the grounds. We stopped our van and got very excited! Little did we know, however, that this was just the tip of the iceberg and that we would spend the next few days with kangaroos nibbling the grass around our van. We had such a great time, and this was a new experience for both of us – we had never been this close to wild kangaroos before. On top of this, we were parked up less than 50 metres from the sea for the duration of our stay. What an amazing place! We actually did very little during our stay here, just chilling out and taking it easy.
Crossing into Vic, our route took us through beautiful national park country and onto our quiet little retreat, Lakes Bushland Caravan Park, in the Nicholson hills. The campsite here was very quiet and the personalised service that we received from the family-owners was exceptional. Earlier in the day we had made an off-road diversion to a historic railway bridge where it seems we managed to get a stone (the size and shape of a small spear head) lodged in one of our tyres. Not long after we had arrived at the campsite, the tyre was flat! This was obviously very disappointing, however, we were relieved that this had happened here, and not in the pouring rain, or the middle of nowhere. Anyway, this is where one of the pieces of kit that we had equipped ourselves with in Sydney, called a Plugga II, came into it’s own. Along with my machismo, of course… Long story short, I repaired the tyre (beer in one hand, jack in other, flip flops on) and had it checked out the following day – fortunately all is well and no further work is required. Money very well spent, and next time it happens – probably in the dusty Outback – we’ll be able to fix it again. Soon after repairing the tyre, the heavens opened. Very heavily!
This was not the first bit of “work” that I had done on the car – I have clearly fooled you all for so long with my apparent lack of mechanical know-how! The horn has developed a condition whereby it randomly toots itself, which can be a little embarrassing depending on when and where it does it’s business. Sometimes it would toot continuously, other times it would put out a short sharp burst. Very bizarre… Anyway, I fixed it. Well, it doesn’t toot anymore. At all! With the lid from a bottle of water. Ha! And then there was the soldering I did on our CB radio. I’m not quite sure when the newly acquired soldering iron will come in use again, but hey, you never know…
Anyway, the rain kept pouring, and the wind started howling (and continued to do so for the next few days!). Our journey from Nicholson to Wilsons Promontory National Park was the most difficult and exhausting stretch of driving that I have ever done! The roads that we were driving on were dreadful – lots of bumps and potholes, the wind was literally blowing us from left to right, and the rain was hammering down! Wilsons Prom is the southernmost point of mainland Australia and is one of the most intriguing places that we have ever been to. Simply stunning, with beautiful rainforests, unspoiled beaches and abundant wildlife; the remnants of a controlled bushfire in 2005, however, provide an eery appearance. We spent the night camping at a place called Tidal River where the dreadful weather continued. The wind was so bad that people were losing their tents, and our van was rocking, but not for the reasons you might imagine…
One night was enough for us, so we hit the road early the following morning, heading for Melbourne. As a birthday surprise, Sarah had booked us into a beautiful hotel in the city centre for the weekend, which was absolutely fantastic! Now you know how much we love our luxuries, well now you can imagine how much more we appreciated this after the previous few nights spent in our van. Sarah was very excited by the prospect of using a hairdryer.
The following day, my birthday, we went on the Neighbours tour, which we really enjoyed (even though we haven’t watched the TV show for many years – honest!), and the following evening Sarah took me for dinner on one of Melbourne’s historical trams as it took us on a tour of the city. I had a great birthday – thank you all very much for your birthday greetings, cards and gifts.
Last weekend I attended a photography class in Melbourne city centre, which I paid for with my birthday money. I had a great time and learnt a little about the composition of photographs. The class was not as technical as I had hoped, but I really enjoyed it. I intend to put the remainder of the money towards a surf board, which I hope to purchase before we leave Melbourne.
This week we are returning to school. Coffee School on Thursday, where we will become accredited Baristas, and RSA School on Saturday. The Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) certificate is required if you wish to work in a bar or serve alcohol anywhere in Australia, so these certificates will certainly help us to find work on our travels.
When we arrived in Melbourne, we instantly fell in love with the place. It has so much character; lots of beautiful architecture (old and new), interesting little laneways; the people are very fashionable, and, perhaps most importantly, Melbourne is the foodie capital of Australia. By our second day in the city, Sarah had declared that she loved it more than Sydney! However, the weather here sucks! Melbourne summertime is no better than London summertime, and for that reason, we will not be looking to spend any extended period of time here.
You may remember that we were planning a trip to Tasmania (not Tanzania, Jacq!). Anyway, we have put those plans on Ahold for the time being. We had planned on taking our van on the ferry so that we could continue our travels when we got across the water. However, when we found out that a return trip on the ferry would cost approximately $800 (£600!), we changed our minds. The ferry ride is 11 hours and crosses some very rough water, so we made the decision to travel at night and pay for a cabin – hence the inflated cost, I suppose. We then explored the option of flying, which was about a third of the price, but the cost of hiring a van, for a couple of weeks when we arrived there, was about the same as the ferry ride! Tassie is somewhere that we do want to visit, but we will save it for later…
We have tickets to attend the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Melbourne at the end of March; between now and then we are planning to hit the road and see a bit more of the state of Victoria. Highlights will include visiting Bells Beach, the Australian home of surfing, and the Penguin Parade on Phillip Island, where we will watch the daily march of the penguins as they make their way back up the beach to their sand dune burrows at sunset.
The week after the Grand Prix we are heading north west to Adelaide, which is nearly 1000kms / 650miles from Melbourne, and will include a drive along Great Ocean Road, where we will see the Twelve Apostles. To say we are excited about that (and the prospect of more sunshine) is an under statement! A couple of weeks later we will head west to Perth – a journey of more than 2500kms / 1500miles (!), which includes a trip across the Nullabor Plain and along the infamous “90 mile straight”, which is a stretch of road that does as it says on the tin – 90 miles of completely straight road…
We have added some more photos to our Flickr account, and we will continue to do so, so keep checking back there for more updates.
Fortunately we were not caught up in the terrible earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. However, two of our friends were. I think that we mentioned in a previous blog that we met with an old school friend of mine (and his girlfriend) for drinks in Sydney harbour. Chris and Gemma were visiting New Zealand before returning to the UK in March and, by all accounts, were very lucky to escape unscathed. I have attached a video clip from ITN news where they are actually talking about their experience. You may have already seen this on the news…
Lots of love, as ever xx
PS – we are in the process of revamping our travel blog. This should be a smooth transition and you will soon notice a change to the blog layout. Any problems, let us know.