Saturday, 23 April 2011

On the road...part 4

We have come to the end of our journey in Australia! We finally made it to Sydney on Thursday having driven 7500 km across the South coast, through desert, rainforest, beaches, pouring rain, blazing sun and maddening distances. When we arrived in Perth at the beginning of Feb, Sydney seemed very far away, so it was a proud moment for us when we left our beloved van a few days ago. Despite being old and shabby, she got us here in one piece!
After leaving Melbourne a few weeks ago, we drove through Victoria to New South Wales, which is a breathtakingly beautiful place. We passed through Australia's version of Stratford Upon Avon (ours is better!), their Lake District (theirs is better!) and then into and up the coastline of NSW. We spent every day at a different seaside village or town and were awarded with stunning scenery of mountains, forests, beaches, lakes and, quite often, kangaroos. My favourite place was a spot called South Durras, as we stayed in a campsite that had the beach on one side and the lake on the other. We loved it so much that we got up before dawn to watch the sun rise so that Phil could get a good picture. That's dedication to photography!
About a week ago we went inland to a gorgeous valley called 'Kangaroo Valley'. It was a quaint and quiet little village nestled into a thick forest on the valley floor. There weren't any roo's there but there was the most stunning waterfall that I have ever seen. The Fitzroy Falls fell against a dramatic limestone cliff and into the valley far below. Check the photos out! After KV, we made the mistake of going to Canberra. God knows why it is the capital of this great country! There is nothing to do there other than see the parliament buildings and art galleries. Boring....
Our next stop was the Blue Mountains. Wow! The views there were amazing. I have never seen anything like the vast space and lush green vista's that can be photographed from the 3 sisters lookout in Katoomba. A must for anyone coming to Oz.
....And now we are in Sydney! Sydney is a lovely city and hasn't changed at all since I was here 4 years ago. We are a bit 'museumed out' so we have enjoyed just walking around and sampling the Sydney life over the past few days. Yesterday we took the ferry out to Manly and today we walked across the harbour bridge and ate in Darling Harbour. Just lovely!

And so I conclude our 2.5 months in Australia. The things that stand out as the best, or most enjoyable, moments are:
Seeing dolphins in Bunbury
Working in the kangaroo sanctuary
Becoming ace surfers (even if I say so myself!)
Sampling the delicious Australian wine on tours and tastings
Our stay in Melbourne
Walking in the Blue Mountains

However, what has made Australia so enjoyable for us has been meeting such honest, friendly and kind people. The Australians are in a class of their own when it comes to confidence and generosity. Those we have met have really made our time here so special and memorable. Despite the views I mentioned above, I don't think Oz is the prettiest country and it certainly doesn't have affordable activities on offer, nor does it have the weather that it is for some reason famous for...but what it does have is a terrific sense of adventure, great open space and the nicest people one could ever hope to meet. I will be sad to leave tomorrow, but I will be doing so with a smile on my face because a great time has been had here.

Australia rating: 8.5

Finally some photos of Oz! (Part 2)

Finally some photos of Oz!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

On the road...part 3


Despite Alys informing me that nobody is reading the blog, I am going to persevere with it and hope that somebody is still reading! If you are that one person, I hope you are well.
So, we have had a wonderful few weeks of driving around and seeing spectacular places and meeting incredible people. We really loved Robe in South Australia, which is where I left off last time. It has a pretty coastline, Norfolk pines lining the streets and old sandy buildings. We spent our two days there walking on the beach and over the cliffs. We were lucky enough to see a sea turtle scurrying into the sea whilst watching the sun go down. Idyllic. On our first night in Robe, we met 6 Australian travellers in the caravan park. They were in very posh caravans and invited us to have a drink with them and play cards. We had a lovely night with our new friends and they kindly invited us to stay with them at their house in Melbourne. Therefore, I am now writing this blog from Graeme and Jeanette's garden, in sunny suburban Melbourne.
After leaving Robe we spent a few days driving across the South Australian coast and into Victoria. On the way we stopped at Beachport, Mount Gambier, Nelson and Cape Bridgewater, amusing ourselves with swimming in salt lakes (7 times saltier than the sea!) looking at petrified forests, admiring the big blue lake, walking along never-ending jetty's and being sprayed by giant blow-holes. The weather improved slightly and we had a wonderful time roaming around the coastline and being met with a new and enjoyable experience every day.
Last Saturday we left the pretty town of Port Fairy and started driving along the Great Ocean Road. You have probably seen pictures of it, as it is one of Australia's most iconic scenes and popular with travellers and tourists. The road isn't long but it is very windy and narrow and there is so much to stop off and see en-route. We saw the Bay of Islands, the fallen London bridge, Loch Ard Gorge and the twelve apostles. These things are all limestone cliffs, caves and stacks that have been carved away from the rock due to wind and sea erosion. The result is a beautifully dramatic coastline. The East part of the road took in gorgeous towns such as Angelsea and Torquay (everything here has a British name!) which we loved. Torquay is where surfing was invented and is the home of Rip Curl, so we felt that it was only right to treat ourselves to a day of surfing. We had a lesson in the morning and then were left to our own devices in the afternoon. We both had a ball and improved our surfing a lot that day.
On Tuesday we left the Great Ocean Road and drove to Melbourne. Graeme and Jeanette live 40kms East of the CBD but their house is near the train line so it has been easy to nip in and out of town. Needless to say, we have spent every day in the city exploring a different area. Melbourne is an attractive place with lots going on and it has an excitable vibe to it. As it is much bigger than Perth and Adelaide, some areas have a more edgy feel and geographically, it sprawls in all directions. However, the centre is quite compact and we managed to see all the main sights, including Federation square, the centre for moving images, Melbourne museum, the old treasury, parliament house, the war memorial (which had stunning views over the city), the Botanical gardens, Captain Cook's cottage in Fitzroy gardens, St Paul's cathedral, the MCG stadium and much more. We certainly packed a lot in!
It has been amazing having a proper bed and shower and lovely home cooked meals this week. Jeanette has been so kind to us and we are forever stunned at how friendly and helpful all Australians are. They seem to be  happy all the time and they never moan about anything. Aussie's are also very proud of their country, people and culture, which I think is so refreshing. Britain needs to become more like that!
Last night we had a fab night out in the city with Jeanette's daughter, Leah, her husband and their friends. It was great to meet some young working professionals living the city life. They took us for drinks on the river and for a meal in Chinatown which they all insisted on paying for. You see? Aussies are great people! Tonight we have managed to get incredible tickets at the MCG to see an 'Aussie Rules' football game. The stadium seats 100,000 people so the atmosphere should be electric. We need to spend this afternoon learning the rules of the game so we know what's going on! Leah bought us opposing team scarves so the competition is on between us!
Sadly we will be leaving Melbourne tomorrow, but on to new places. We have 11 nights to get to Sydney so we are going to take the coastal route into New South Wales. I will update you once we have reached Sydney on the 21st (if anyone is still reading!)

Well, that is it for now. We have some pictures on facebook so check them out if you're interested. I hope all is good back home. Remember to be proud to be British!!

Lots of love,
H xx