Adelaide, South Australia

Hello to all of our subscribers.

We are sorry for having not been in touch for the last two or three weeks; we have been busy exploring Adelaide and the surrounding areas, and spending money on our car!

Adelaide, dubbed ‘The City of Churches’, is the state capital of South Australia (SA), and is situated almost midway between Sydney and Perth on the south coast of Australia. Despite it’s consistently high ranking in the ‘Worlds Most Liveable Cities’ index, and the fact that house prices have tripled in the past decade, Adelaide seems to hold a bad reputation as a place which doesn’t really have that much going for it. Bizarre…

Our first impression of Adelaide was good. We spent two days passing through the city so that Simon could replace his defunct camera, before we headed out to the Barossa Valley and the Flinders Ranges. The weather was good, and we appreciated our time in this relatively small city.

The Barossa Valley, a famous wine region, was beautiful and, in our opinion, more spectacular than the Hunter Valley in NSW. Making the most of the sunshine and our quiet campsite, we kicked back for a few days. Before travelling north to the Flinders, we sampled the local produce and purchased a couple of bottles of Riesling from Yalumba, the oldest family-owned winery in the Barossa, to take with us. We believe that Yalumba export to the UK, so this may be a name that you are familiar with.

The journey north to the Flinders was long, and gave us our first glimpse of the arid “Red Centre”, so called because of the bright red clay soils and sparse greenery amongst it’s landscape. The campsite that we stayed at was our first without any grass, as water is too valuable in these parts to be used for watering the lawn. Having said that, during our stay here the weather was poor, and was generally overcast and wet. Wilpena Pound, a natural amphitheatre of mountains, is one of the most popular sites in the Flinders Ranges. Unfortunately, following our 20 minute hike (yes, Mum, we hiked!) to an excellent lookout, our view of the Pound was obscured by cloud, so we have had to borrow someone else’s photograph to show you what it looks like!

Courtesy of

We have now returned to Adelaide, and have used the time to get some minor repair work done on the van. This, of course, comes at a price, and we are disappointed to hear that the clutch will need replacing shortly as well.

The good news is that the van is now fully kitted up for running our electrical gadgets from our solar panel. However, the installation of this brought to light the terrible, and dangerous, work done by the Auto Electrician when we purchased the van from Kings Cross in Sydney! *Note to any travellers that are considering purchasing a vehicle from these guys – be sure to obtain an independent mechanical AND electrical check (from the NRMA) BEFORE you leave Sydney. We didn’t, and now wish that we had done… How can people like this sleep at night, knowing that they have effectively placed a ticking time-bomb in the back of an ignorant, and unsuspecting, backpacker’s car?! Anyway, all is good now…

Tomorrow morning, we continue our road trip, first heading north and then south around the Spencer Gulf. We have an overnight stop at Port Augusta en route to Port Lincoln, where we will be cage diving with Great White Sharks on Wednesday. Assuming that we make it out alive, we will continue to follow the south coast, heading north west towards Perth.

Between Ceduna and Perth we will sample our first proper taste of the “real” Australia: enormous treeless plains, endless driving, bush camping, and extortionately priced Outback fuel. This is a 1200km journey (nearly 1000 miles) across the Nullarbor Plain, from one point of civilisation to another, with relatively little in-between. Before we leave Ceduna we will stock up on water and imperishable food items, and make the most of our final shower before we arrive in Norseman, Western Australia (WA).

From Norseman we are heading south to Esperance and Cape Le Grand National Park, where the white sandy beaches are reputedly some of the best in the world. We are fast approaching winter in Australia, so we hope to be able to experience this part of the world in all of it’s glory before the snow comes!

So by early-mid May, we will be arriving in Perth, WA, where we will spend at least six months topping up our rapidly depleting funds. Our aim is to continue north, although we must plan our trip around the wet season, which makes the northern part of Australia virtually inaccessible during the summer months of November – April.

We have uploaded some more photographs to our Flickr account, which you can accessing by clicking here, or by clicking the ‘Our Flickr’ button on the homepage.

So, we may be out of reach for the next couple of weeks, but as soon as we’re able to get back online, we’ll be in touch.

Lots of love from us both, xx

Farewell to Melbourne

Hello to everyone in the sunny (!) UK…

Five weeks after our arrival in Melbourne, we are getting ready to hit the road again. We leave town on Wednesday morning, heading for Adelaide, the state capital of South Australia, which is nearly 1000km (700 miles) away. Running from Melbourne towards Adelaide is the Great Ocean Road, which is famous worldwide as being a fantastic and stunning road trip – we can’t wait to see it.

Yesterday we attended the Formula 1 Grand Prix, where the track runs through the streets of the suburbs of Melbourne. As you must know by now, the weather in Melbourne has been dreadful for much of the time that we have been here, and we found ourselves wearing hoodies and Ugg boots again last week! Having pre-purchased tickets for the Grand Prix, we waited [im]patiently for the date of the race – had we not already made this commitment we would have left town weeks ago, leaving in search of sunnier climes. Anyway, in the days leading up to the race, the weather was still crap, but on the big day, the sun came out and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We had a great time, basking in the sunshine and enjoying the activities on the race track. This was Sarah’s first experience of watching F1 cars “in the flesh”, and she loved it!

We were not allowed to use our cameras at Penguin Parade, so this is NOT our photo. Thank you to

You will recall that we had a date with the little penguins at Penguin Parade a couple of weeks ago. Penguin Parade is probably the biggest tourist attraction in Melbourne and entertains about 2000 people every night, on one of Phillips Island’s beaches, where the audience watch the penguins making their nightly journey from the ocean back to their burrows in the sand dunes. We had opted to pay for Penguin Parade’s ‘Ultimate’ tour, which, despite costing about three times as much as the standard package, was well worth every cent. We were to join a group of no more than 10 people on one of the more remote beaches on the island, where we would sit on the sand with night vision goggles and watch the penguins without the bright lights or commentary service. When we arrived and were told that we would be joined by just one other couple, we could not believe our luck – just us 4 and the tour leader. Result! During our half hour on the beach, we watched more than 80 penguins waddling across the sand, with some coming within inches of where we were sitting. On top of this, the weather was on our side as, again, after several days of misery, the sun came out and the rain stayed away. Without doubt, this was our favourite part of our trip so far, but with the Grand Prix yesterday, and a cage dive with Great White Sharks planned for when we leave Adelaide, we are getting new favourites all the time!

We did have some sad news this week when Simon’s camera was confined to the rubbish dump after it died on the way to the Grand Prix. With repairs costing more than the value of the camera, it is time for a replacement. So, with that, a few minor repairs to the van, and, now that we have had a roof rack fitted, the imminent purchase of a surfboard, we need to find jobs to pay for all of this. That sucks, but hey… We will probably wait until we get to Perth, as we are planning to spend at least a couple of months there before we start the long trek up the west coast of Australia.

In other news, Simon “got sporty” when he took up a new hobby – fishing, something he hasn’t done for 20 years or more; and Sarah got a new hair-do! Keep an eye on our Flickr account for photographic evidence.

Lots of love to you all, xx

PS – happy wedding anniversary to Jacq & Nick. We hope that you have a lovely day. x

Japanese earthquake and tsunami

Good morning to you all.

It would seem that Mother Nature is still very angry about something, as she continues to unleash further natural disasters around the world!

We woke up to news this morning that Japan had been devastated by one of the strongest earthquakes in recent times, and that tsunami warnings had been issued for large parts of the Pacific basin. At some point yesterday, a tsunami alert was raised for Australia, although we are relieved to say that this alert has now been withdrawn.

We have had a good couple of days in the sunshine, and have attended the Caravan & Camping Show (my, how times change!), and had the oil and oil filter changed in the van, which is a regular requirement in order for us to maintain the validity of the warranty. At the caravan show we purchased a solar panel so that we can power our electrical items (fridge, laptop, etc) for free whilst we are on our travels. We are having it fitted by a nice English guy when we arrive in Adelaide in mid-April.

Today we are off to explore the Mornington Peninsula, and to look into the possibility of doing some fishing lessons and a PADI scuba diving course over the next few days. We are also planning a trip up to Arthur’s Seat this evening, to enjoy the views and watch the sunset.

We have had a technical issue with the photo library on our computer, and this has caused a delay in us uploading more photos to Flickr and producing the next release from Pickle Productions. We hope to have this fixed shortly.

Lots of love to everyone back home, and our thoughts go out to everyone that have been affected by the dreadful earthquake. At times like these you realise just how lucky you are to be alive and well…


NSW to Vic.

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.

Just a very quick one.


We just wanted to confirm that we have not been involved in the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, where over 60 people have already been confirmed dead! Our thoughts are with those people that have been caught up in this terrible disaster.

We are in Melbourne, where we expect to be until the beginning of April, although we may make a trip to Tasmania over the next couple of weeks.

Love to you all xx

PS – thanks for all of your birthday wishes. I had a great birthday, and was spoilt rotten by Sarah x

Canberra… *yawn*

One day, long, long ago, there was a huge debate as to whether Sydney or Melbourne would be chosen as the capital city of Australia. Some bright spark decided that, due to the rivalry between these two cities, a new city, Canberra, would be born.

It would be fair to say that our expectations of Canberra were fairly low, as everything that we had previously heard was negative. For instance, we had been told that the city had no character, there was not much to do there, and that restaurants and bars closed early most days. Great! Despite finding it difficult to suppress these preconceptions, we made our way into the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) with our minds wide open.

Our first experience of this wonderful city was trying to find somewhere to stay. Bizarrely, for a capital city, we could only really find one place, in an outer suburb, that seemed to be (a) half decent and (b) located on a bus route into the city. The campsite that we found was nice enough – our site even had an en suite bathroom – and there was a bus stop right outside the campsite. Unfortunately, the bus only ran until 8.30am every day! Given our semi-retirement these days, we now only know of one 8.30 in a day, so we had to explore different options. This resulted in a 2km walk into the village, finding the bus interchange, and waiting for the *hourly* bus into the capital city of Australia – HELLO?!

Once we were on the bus – which cost about $20 each (you can almost get a 10-trip-ticket for that price in Sydney!) – we explained to the driver which attractions we were looking to see. As promised, he informed us when we were at the nearest bus stop to the first tourist attraction. It was about a 10-minute walk from the bus stop to the place that “runs Australia”, New Parliament House – HELLO?!

We eventually found New Parliament House, more by luck than judgement. There were no tourist signs or maps anywhere! This place is the Australian equivalent of the Houses of Parliament and, it is a very modern looking building. It was free for us to gain entry, we joined a free guided tour of the building, and even observed a press conference with the Leader of the Opposition in a public reception area. How cool is that?! Also, had we timed our visit better, we could have sat in on Question Time in one of the two chambers. Unfortunately Parliament were not sitting on the day that we were there – as it was Friday we assumed that the High Powers must have been “working from home”… We went for a walk on the grass lawn on the roof of the building, took some photos, and then headed off in search of the National Portrait Gallery (NPG).

Rightly or wrongly, we were continually comparing Canberra with London, in more ways that one. Public transport in Canberra was poor in comparison, buses were expensive and did not run as regularly as we expected them to – we actually decided to use our car when we returned the next day to see some other sights of interest. In another comparison we felt that the locations of the tourist sights were really spread out from one another, and there weren’t many other tourists around either. In fact, there wasn’t much of a buzz at all!

En route to the NPG we passed a couple of tourist maps (!!), so we were able to navigate our way there. It was a 15-minute walk or so, in the pouring rain, but we enjoyed viewing the exhibitions when we arrived. From the NPG we walked next door (10-minute walk) to the National Library of Australia, which, again, was absolutely no comparison for the British Library in London. In fact, we have been in small English libraries (think Camberley and Aldershot!) that have more character than this place! In fairness, they are planning a refurb, but what took them so long?!

By this point we were feeling totally underwhelmed, so headed into the city centre to get some dinner. Here we found a shopping mall that was on a par with Festival Place in Basingstoke, and whilst walking around the outdoor streets we felt like we were shopping in Woking. Saying that, there was a multi-cultural festival happening here, which we stumbled across purely by chance, where we got to sample some foreign food and drink. However, when we headed into the shopping mall later, to kill some time before the next bus home, we found many multi cultural people eating their dinner in the food court, which we felt spoke volumes… Incidentally, we were killing time for over an hour before the next bus back to the bus interchange – and last for the night (!) – at 9.15pm?!

We did return to the city the next day, in our car as planned, and we visited the Australian War Memorial and Australian Mint. Unfortunately, the road works along Anzac Parade restricted our view of the war memorial and, as it was Saturday, there was nobody producing any coins at the money factory – other than Sarah, who paid $3 to a vending machine so that she could produce her own $1 coin… So, we were finished by lunchtime and we decided to hit the road and head back to the beach at Batemans Bay, feeling totally confused by the whole experience. Even now we are still asking ourselves, ‘where did we go wrong; what did we miss?’

In general, we were left feeling very disappointed by Canberra, the capital city of this great place down under. We really wanted to like it as much as Sydney, but we didn’t. We couldn’t. On a positive note, the city was modern, and clean, and the attractions that we visited charged no entry fee. However, the overall lack of user friendliness perhaps indicates that the city was designed with architecture in mind, as opposed to the people that would visit.

Perhaps the legalisation of fireworks and hardcore pornography (yes, they are generally illegal in Australia), and the decriminalisation of cannabis screams in desperation, ‘please come and live here!’ However, taking all that, and more, into account, we wont be going back there. Not in a hurry anyway.

When we checked out of the campsite on Saturday morning, the receptionist told us that he was unable to refund the money that we had paid for the other two nights (which we had half expected might be the case anyway). However, when we asked why, he stuttered and spluttered, and gave us a full refund. Brilliant!

We had planned to be in Canberra for four nights, but we left early after only two. Upon arrival at our next destination, Batemans Bay, the first thing that we did was go to the circus. Now what does that say?!


Farewell to Sydney and NSW.

We have now said our goodbyes to Sydney and NSW!

On Tuesday we hit the road, heading south, as we had said we would do in our previous blog. This morning we arrived in Canberra, which is the Australian capital city, and is based within the Australian Capital Territory. We have parked up the van, set the awning out, and we will be using public transport for the next few days to get us in and around the city.

We have loved the time that we spent in Sydney and will definitely return there. As we travel around Australia, we will be looking for the place where we would like to live and work for a while. Obviously, living in, or even remotely near to, a big city means that the price of property is somewhat inflated. This is something that we will have to bear in mind…

As promised, we have uploaded some new photos to our Flickr account, which you can see by clicking here. Enjoy…

Lots of love, the Poms Down Under xx