A Travellerspoint blog

February 2014

Australia road trip #3 - getting to the Great Ocean Road!

Leaving Adelaide to drive east...

sunny 32 °C

We picked up our home for the next 8 nights... our wee campervan!

Although road trip number 3 - Adelaide to Melbourne - doesn't compete with the first two in terms of mileage, it does take in one of the world's greatest drives... the Great Ocean Road.

This section was also more about the journey itself than the end destination each day. Because we were campervanning and staying in camping sites, our destination for each day wasn't fixed. This bit was about rocking up somewhere at the end of the day, and this depended entirely on how far we'd managed to get and how much there was to see along the way.

Off we set, soon into the Adelaide Hills from the city centre. We stopped at Hahndorf, an early German settlement, which sounded great in the tourist bumph. It was bloody awful. So touristy and busy. It probably didn't help that it was a Saturday and the day before Australia Day...

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Here we go again!

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We didn't hang about, and back on the road the landscape soon became very barren and flat.

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Ant spotted some pelicans on a lake so we pulled over for a closer look - the first ones we'd seen on our travels.

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We found a great campsite right on Lake Albert in a small place called Meningie, and settled in to our first evening and night in the camper. We cracked open one of the McLaren Vale reds!

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It got quite chilly at night but before hunkering down, we walked to the lake's edge and admired the night sky, spotting a couple of shooting stars.

Australia Day!
Apparently it's an Aussie institution to listen to the radio station 'Triple J' and their hottest 100 which plays for most of the day. When in Rome, we thought... but after not recognising the first 5 songs coupled with bad radio reception, we quickly gave up on that one.

As we were driving we thought there were mini dust storms on the side of the road, until we realised it was clouds of midgies. The fly nets came in handy for our first stop, Jack's Point - a pelican look out and salt flat. It was pretty hot, with loads of flies and the midgies (which sounded like high speed motorbikes when we walked through them!).

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Cape Jaffa was our lunch stop and stroll along the rickety looking jetty.

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A weird large lobster en route

Beachport was another stop, a busier seaside spot which had some live music going on and a bit of a buzz to the place. Tonnes of Australian flags everywhere so I thought I'd get in on the action... and Golden Gaytimes are divine!!

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We didn't get as far down the coast as we would've liked, but the upshot was finding a fantastic campsite in the small town of Millicent.

It was super quiet and we had pick of the sites... I bloody love this big country with its tiny population... so we chose a spot with an amazing view towards distant hills. Out came the chairs and beers to kick back for an hour or two, watching the Galahs (grey and pink parrots) in the trees and enjoying the view.

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Ant cooked up some steaks and veggies on the site's hot plates... we needed a good meal inside us... turned out to be quite a chilly night in the ol' camper...

We'd read about Mount Gambier's Blue Lake but weren't quite prepared for just how blue it really was. Anyone familiar with Dorset's Blue Pool near Corfe will know it doesn't always deliver on its promise... and to be fair neither does Mt Gambier's as it's grey in winter. But, being summer, it was a shimmering brilliant blue and just made us want to dive in as the day was already ramping up to be a hot one.

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Mount Gambier is also home to the Umpherston Sinkhole - a collapsed cave which has become rich ground for all manner of flora. Particularly impressive was a curtain of vines hanging over the edge. There was a warning sign for bees and we spotted a hive so didn't venture too far in... but on the way out were rewarded with a close encounter with a possum... very cute!

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The small estuary hamlet of Nelson made for another great lunch stop and we had a walk along the estuary beach to the ocean. We loved being able to pull over anywhere we fancied for a brew or a quick snack... tonnes of freedom... kings of the road! Ha ha.

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Our first State crossing by road

Ant has done all the driving in Oz so far, he enjoys doing it and I prefer being a passenger, but I took the opportunity to drive the van for a bit to give him a break.

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We ended up in Port Fairy for one night in a decidedly average campsite and there were quite a few kids circling the pitches on their bikes so it wasn't as peaceful. We cracked open the other bottle of red we bought on the wineries tour... the £20 one... to go with our chilli. Who says you can't enjoy the finer things whilst camping?!

We awoke like sausages cooking on gas mark 5. Who turned the temperature up? It had been a much warmer night and by 8am the van - and its contents - were roasting. We've found the Aussie weather to be completely bonkers and it can be hugely changeable. We've been lucky and missed several heatwaves as they've swept around different parts of the country and on the whole it's been quite temperate. But it's amazing how, in the same location, one day it can be 21c and the next 38c.

Port Fairy reached 38 degrees and after a walk around the cute town and part of an historical buildings trail, we were struggling with the heat. There was nothing for it but a dip in the sea to cool off... cue steam coming off our skin.

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The video shop is not dead. Even the DVD sign written in a 1950s style.

Tower Hill reserve is set into the crater of a dormant volcano which last errupted 7,000 years ago. It's a lovely spot and great for wildlife spotting... when it's not blowing hot desert winds and feeling like an oven. We did see a couple of emus but nothing else and as we were continuing to melt, we drove around the reserve rather than tackle any walking.

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Driving from the west, Warrnambool is the last main town before the Great Ocean Road. It's best known for whale watching in the winter months. We spotted an inviting cove for a dip... we didn't let its name 'Stingray Bay' put us off. Gulp.

The water was bloomin' freezing! Probably like Bournemouth's in the late spring/early summer but as the air temperature was so hot, it was really refreshing and such a respite from the heat.

With the heat also comes the flies, they'd been a pest for the last couple of days... at breakfast... lunch... dinner... basically any time we got out of the van... grrrrr. It's one major drawback in Australia in the heat.

Next instalment... The Great Ocean Road!

Posted by Galavantie 23:58 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Whoaaaaa we're half way there...

February 10, 2014

semi-overcast

So, we're half way through our travels and thought it would be a good time to reflect on the journey so far, and to look forward to the next four and a half months.

The half way point was our first day in New Zealand, and it was easily the strangest day we've had yet... but we'll save those details for the NZ blogs!

Thinking back to the start of our trip, it seems like a lifetime ago since we locked the door on our storage container. But when we look back on all the places we've been to in the first four and a half months, it really has gone by in a flash.

Annie had two strands of thought at this point. An initial feeling that now we've reached the middle point - like Wednesday being the hump day of the week - we'll be speeding downhill to the end of the trip and back to the UK in no time. But this feeling was quickly followed by elation - knowing that we have the time we've already had, all over again.

Anthony had a different take, viewing a spike for the first three months experiencing Asia with everything it throws at all of your senses... a middle section of Oz and NZ where it's culturally very familiar and travel is easy - english-speaking, driving on the left etc... then with the last 3 months in South America, the biggest 'spike' is yet to come. This being down to what we think will be the most challenging but also the most rewarding of all our travels. In many ways the second half of our trip may feel longer because we'll be stretched more and put out of our comfort zone.

There's no doubt we've definitely got into a 'groove'. Travelling feels like second nature to us now and we almost feel like we could do this forever. Having been in Australia for virtually the whole of their summer, we've been spoilt with sunshine almost every day. No wonder the Aussies are so laid back and chipper. Everyone seems a heck of a lot friendlier, more polite and happier in this part of the world too.

As we write this, we're about to embark on our first tour around NZ - with the South Island first up. Having never heard a bad word against New Zealand, we're so excited to see what this great country has to offer. For starters there's only 4 million people here. We'll probably give counting the sheep a miss...

We are apprehensive about South America. The learning Spanish plan isn't going terribly well and there's more safety concerns than we've had to think about down under. We're having some doubts about being in Brazil at the time of the World Cup due to the ongoing riots, but we have plenty of time to decide on that one.

To anyone who's not travelled but always wanted to, if you get the chance do it! It's the best thing ever... we really are having the time of our lives.

P.S As we're about to live in a campervan in sometimes remote parts of New Zealand, communication and internet connectivity may be sparse or non-existent... blogging may have to go on short holiday ;)

Posted by Galavantie 01:39 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

We've fallen a little bit in love... with Adelaide

sunny 29 °C

Adelaide. Delayed (as some Aussies call it). To some, it may seem like the poor relative or the wallflower of the party compared to Sydney's sparkling lights and harbour, or the perennial appeal of Melbourne. But in case you've never been to Adelaide, or haven't been for a while... Adelaide is growing up. Or 'getting with it' to coin another of my Dad's phrases.

In fact it's got very with it. It's all over it. Whatever 'it' is. Ha ha. In a nutshell the reasons we loved Adelaide... the surburbs we saw were full of character, it's a really manageable city, it's laidback, the food and local produce available is hard to beat, there are world class wineries on its doorstep, it has a surprising cool edge to it being the host city to a fringe festival (2nd only in size to Edinburgh's), it has beautiful university buildings, art galleries, tonnes of festivals... and it goes about all of this quietly and without fuss. It was almost love at first sight, and the deeper we delved the more we fell for it.

Our stay was in a surburb just a 10 minute tram ride out of the city and was annexe accommodation. Turns out we were our host's first guests so the place was brand new and pretty nice. Our host turned out to be on edge and slightly weird but we think that was more down to nervousness at her first b&b attempt.

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We explored the city and quickly discovered it was playing host to the Tour Down Under (Oz equivalent to the Tour de France), so Ant was pretty made up to check out the Expo in the central square.

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If Ant could choose his perfect seating...

Onto the Central Market which was established in 1869 and is the largest covered market of its kind in the southern hemisphere. Wow! It was such a great place... amazing stalls and cafes selling all manner of produce.

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Victorian arcades are really well preserved in Australia and I remember being wowed by the ones in Melbourne on my first visit to Oz four and a half years ago. Adelaide also has a great example...

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General shots of the city...

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Great colonial pubs and hotels are dotted around the city

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Another city, another art gallery? Oh yeah.... and the Art Gallery of South Australia didn't disappoint with a particularly good exhibition of Jain, Hindu and Muslim art called Paradise on Earth. Each gallery appeared to have been decorated to suit the exhibits in the room and the result was really stunning, with individual pieces set off so well in careful lighting.

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To round off a pretty much perfect day, we took a 5 minute stroll from our home base to go to the Capri Theatre, a lovingly cared for art deco cinema in immaculate condition. There were only about 25 people at the showing and the film, Saving Mr Banks, was easy fayre with a great performance from Emma Thompson.

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A step back in time!

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Poor old Ant has lost out cricket wise. The one day internationals have been played in cities we're not in... wrong time, wrong place sort of thing. We were in Sydney for one of the Ashes days, but were staying quite far from the grounds... plus we were doing so badly, Ant wasn't sure he even wanted to see them get a stuffing!

Instead, he consoled himself with a tour of Adelaide's Oval, which is still going through a multi-million dollar rennovation. It's officially going to be opened in March when The Rolling Stones play here. It was a fascinating insight into a great stadium, which will also host the AFL (Aussie footie) following its refurb.

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The ground's famous original scoreboard

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Inside the scoreboard!

A quick wander through the city's botanical gardens before making our way back to have 'dinner' on the beach with our host and her boyfriend. Bit of an odd night... we were getting fish and chips but everything was shut so we ended up with filled bread rolls and cheese and crackers. We had nothing in common with either of them and I suspect they thought we were just as hard work as we thought they were!

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So we'd already done a winery tour in Margaret River, but it has to be said, the one we were really looking forward to was McLaren Vale. Think punchy reds... particularly shiraz... mmm mmm! We had a brilliant (full!) day visiting a total of 6 wineries and tasting some gorgeous reds, up there with the best we've ever had. We treated ourselves to a couple of bottles to enjoy on our final road trip in Oz...

One of the wineries 'hosts' reminded me of a Paul Whitehouse character... he was dead straight and had an expressionless face but looked the spit of Mr Whitehouse... made me chuckle anyway... or was it just down to the 10th taster...?

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Samuel's Gorge was wonderful, a really understated little place with gorgeous views

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Rosemount

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Our lunch stop, a converted train carriage

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d'Arenburg vines

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A roo sanctuary at Woodstock

Woodstock was our favourite for wines, we couldn't justify the 65 bucks for the wine we really wanted, but did buy one for $38 (around £20) which had such a deep intense smoky flavour, it was like sitting in an old gentleman's club breathing in the old leather and faint cigar smoke. Sounds a bit gross, but trust me, this wine was something else.

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One of the team vans for the Tour Down Under, we didn't spot any recognisable riders

As it was a Friday night and the start of a long celebratory weekend for Australia Day, our host held a seafood party to which we were invited. In fact when we asked what the occasion was, she gave us the impression it was in the main because of our stay and she wanted to put something on for us. It wasn't a massive do, maybe 15 people, and the seafood was very good... platefuls of squid, abalone and crayfish, all caught that day by some of the guys there.

We spent most of the evening chatting to a fellow Brit, Lisa, also on her travels and from Manchester, so Ant knew all the places she talked about. Small world eh. Lisa was very endearing and a funny storyteller, but she also had a strange habit of telling a story then paraphrasing it straight after so you got all the main points twice.

The evening was ok but we were probably not in the right mood for a party having been tasting heavy reds all day....the worst thing was we crashed at midnight but the evening carried on right next to our room until the wee small hours. Fine if we were friends but as paying guests, it wasn't that appreciated! But overall, Adelaide has been a real highlight and the city has captured both of us.

Posted by Galavantie 13:41 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Strewwwth, it's a coolie in the red centre!

Uluru, Kata Tjuta and King's Canyon

overcast 26 °C

Mad dogs and Englishmen... book a tour in the centre of Australia at the peak of their summer. But wait, what's this? Cloud, rain?! In the scorched red desert? Who'd've thunk it!

The fringes of a cyclone which had hit Darwin in the north with floods meant Alice Springs was unusually cool at just 26c (just a week earlier it had been 45-47c). So although it was gloomy it was also a bit of a blessing. Quite ironic really, because we considered not going to the centre due to extreme summer temperatures (and the millions of flies that this brings).

Alice Springs didn't make a great first impression. Arriving late afternoon and under grey clouds, it looked like a pretty sad, drab, scruffy place with a large indiginous population, some bogen locals and a tonne of graffitti. Our motel on the edge of town also looked a sorry site. We were only thankful we were here for such a short time before heading off on our camping tour. The 3 day tour covered the three main sights; Uluru, Kata Tjuta and King's Canyon.

Uluru
We were up at 5am, cripes! Our guide, Simon, seemed friendly and the tour (max numbers - 21) only consisted of 7 people, result! There's no getting away from it, we're unsociable insular types who much prefer smaller groups!

Along the way from Alice Springs to Uluru we had a couple of photo stops, one being the imposing Mt Conner, which is actually larger than Uluru. I loved seeing glimpses of the rusty orange-red earth through gaps in the silvery-green grass clumps, as if the land was bleeding.

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You have to jump if you're a backpacker, it's the law

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No photo manipulation, it really is that red

We were excited to see the rock for the first time - there is a calm and serene feel to the area, and Uluru itself does feel pretty special. The cultural centre was interesting and provided information on the Anangu - the western desert people and custodians of this land - and Tjukurpa, their traditional law, which they live their life by.

The Government returned the land to the aboriginees in 1985 with a condition that they leased it back on a 99 year basis to be managed jointly between the Anangu and national park authorities. There was another condition - that was the public contined to be allowed to climb it - the government fearful that tourists would stop coming if they weren't able to. Although you can therefore still officially climb Uluru (via a steep incline with a chain), the wishes of the Anangu are that you do not. So we didn't.

As it wasn't blisteringly hot (at times we even had fleeces on!) we were able to complete a large section of the base walk - about 7 of the total 10k walk. Close up it's quite different to how you might imagine it. The surface is rough and almost flaky in parts. Underneath, the rock is actually grey and gets its red colour from the high iron ore content which oxidises when in contact with the environment. Effectively it's a bit rusty.

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We thought this look a bit like an aboriginal profile!

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Sadly the weather conditions didn't give us those iconic bright reds set off by a brilliant blue sky, so our photos of Uluru are a bit flat in the light we had.

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We also weren't rewarded with a sunset nor a starry night sky to camp under which was a real shame. On the upshot, as it rained throughout the evening, our guide managed to secure us the laundry room in camp for us to sleep in our swags. Other groups tried to come in after we'd all gone to bed but had to sleep in partial cover outside... the early worm...

It wasn't the best night's sleep with noise from lots of other tour groups, and we'd found two redback spiders very close to our sleeping quarters just before we went to bed which set me on edge a bit. They don't kill you, but are considered one of Australia's deadliest spiders and deliver a powerful nerve poison which causes severe pain and some other unsavoury symptoms. Sweet dreams!

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The redbacks were under the sinks... shudder!

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We did, however, make it up for sunrise and although it wasn't a 'wow' one, it was still a pretty sky and a special moment. The photos don't really capture the oranges and purples that we saw.

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Kata Tjuta
Also known as The Olgas, Kata Tjuta is a rocky formation created millions of years ago when two tectonic plates collided. Kata Tjuta means 'many heads' and, like Uluru, is a sacred place. We actually preferred walking around these to Uluru - the views were more far reaching and rewarding. Again, sadly the grey/white skies didn't do it justice but the 3 hour Valley of the Winds walk was really enjoyable. Enough flies to still warrant our fly nets, but with temps still only mid-late 20's they weren't insufferable.

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Some of our group taking other group shots

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Our small group... 'Simmo' our Aussie guide in the middle, between Ant and Daniel (German) on his left. Tomoni (Japanese), Amanda & Tamara (Dutch), Maya (Welsh) and me

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Ha ha!

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Kata Tjuta and Uluru in the same pic

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Wild camels spotted... did you know Australia is the only country in the world to have a wild camel population?

Our base for the second night was Kings Creek Station. We were treated to a camp fire (after we'd collected the fire wood from the bush!) and a bbq with tender 'roo steaks. The camp was way better than the first night, we had it to ourselves and we all had beds within tents. It also felt like a much more authentic bush camping experience with more nature and dingoes howling in the distance.

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Simon went scorpion spotting and came back with one really quickly. He saw three all within a minute's walk to the camp...! He also mentioned a couple of large centipedes which give a nasty bite, I spotted one on the way to the bathroom. Is there anything in this country not out to get you?!

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Tatty on the outside but fine on the inside

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Eeek

Kings Canyon
Up at 4.30am! Lordy. This is more like boot camp! We were walking by 6am and had completed the entire canyon rim walk by 9.30am. Just in time for... errr... lunch then?

It was pretty good, the strata and colour of the rocks everywhere you looked made for some impressive landscapes. The terrain and rocks undulated all around from weather erosion. There were a couple of hang-over-the-edge opportunities which everyone took up except me due to my fear of heights. And yes, we were having lunch back at camp at 10.30am!

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The people on the other side really give it some perspective

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I could barely look...

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The view they had

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Not too many flies, but still pesky all the same

Then it was a long 5.5hr drive back to Alice Springs.

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We drove through clouds of flying ants... we didn't see them at the time but they made for difficult visibility for Simon

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It's art!

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Despite getting probably the equivalent of one good night's sleep over the two nights and three very early starts, it was a fun trip with an excellent guide and a really nice small group.

And in the sunshine the next morning, the motel didn't look so bad afterall...

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Posted by Galavantie 16:23 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

And so the south west loop of Australia concludes...

Oz road trip #2 - Southwest WA loop: Margaret River to Perth

sunny 26 °C

The last leg to what has already been a fantastic road trip... the last few hours between Margaret River and Perth.

Much of our stops centred around Cape Naturaliste and included the fabulous beaches of Bunker Bay and Eagle Bay. Both were beautiful but the latter was pretty special. Seems other people think so too and all the homes dotted on the headland go for a few million a piece.

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Too bad we didn't have the time to go in for a swim!

We also checked out Busselton's jetty because it holds the acclaim of being the longest wooden-pile jetty the southern hemisphere, stretching just over 1 mile out to sea. We had a leisurely stroll with mahousive icecreams to the end and fleetingly spotted a small pod of dolphins along the way.

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This was shortly after Megan contacted me about the 'work' word....

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Back to my cousin's place which was a very welcome sight along with a friendly slobbery greeting from Otto! It was a treat to have a meal cooked for us again, along with a bottle of Margies red we'd purchased, and we enjoyed a final evening with family before the start of our next adventure.

Queensland gave us a few highlights, but our Western Australia loop has completely blown our first road trip out of the water. So much diversity... quaint unchanged-in-years towns, the golden outback and mining on a huge scale, staggering beaches with sand so white it's blinding, the bluest of seas, endless national parks and dense forests. And not forgetting 'roos on the beach!

So, so glad we put WA on the list, we loved it so much it's likely to be a clear favourite from our time down under. We will be back!

Posted by Galavantie 02:43 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

You've got your merlots, semillons, chardonnays...

Oz road trip #2 - Southwest WA loop: Walpole to Margaret River

sunny 22 °C

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Leaving Walpole

The drive from Walpole to Margaret River was really pretty and in complete contrast to the poker straight roads we'd had in the outback. The road meandered through heavily forested areas and took us to the cute logging town of Pemberton. This was where we stopped off for lunch having found a bakery which I'm guessing hadn't changed since the 1950's.

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There's a lot to do around Pemberton but as we had little time, we just took a couple of short trails to see some falls and one of the giant trees. The falls were spectactularly disappointing but then again it is summer here. The tree was impressive with alarming spiral steps leading to the top. The rungs were so thin with the gaps between them easily big enough to fall through. Errrr, think we'll give that one a wide berth.

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We took a diversion to see Cape Leeuwin which is the most south westernly point in Australia. It's also where two oceans - the Indian and Southern - meet. It was very calm but I'm sure it gets pretty wild here at certain times of the year. There was a lighthouse on the cape but as there was an entrance fee we just wandered around the free bit... being the cheapskate backpackers that we are...

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Our Margaret River base was another airbnb choice. We stayed with Jimmy and Amanda, a Kiwi and Canadian over here on a working visa. Our room was beautiful and a step up in comfort from the last few nights. They had a Canadian friend staying and invited us to join the three of them for a bbq on their deck. We chatted about travels and our home countries as they'd not been to Europe, nor us to theirs... nice people and a lovely evening.

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So, Margaret River was all about the wineries. It's a new wine region relative to others in Australia, with the first winery established here in 1967. Today, there are around 200, some as new as the noughties (I hate that term, but hey).

It feels like a very 'well to do' place, the tourist attractions are all centred around wineries, breweries, cheese, chocolate, olive oil... you get the picture.

We booked ourselves on an afternoon tour so we didn't have the worry of driving. We thought wineries might be a bit stuffy and pretentious, but it was brilliant... so much fun, so many tasters... got very tipsy... loved it! We were on the tour with an older couple from Queensland who were a giggle. She was a bit like a female Barry Humphries but not in his Dame Edna guise.

The four wineries were so different which was a surprise to us. The first, Voyager, was the most established and formal - very friendly but definitely upmarket. Good job that was the first one up! It had perfectly manicured grounds influenced by the South African/Dutch style in SA, complete with rose gardens.

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The second, Watershed, was very informal and the woman serving us had a twinkle in her eye and was good fun. Several tastings later we went to Vasse Felix, probably our favourite of the day, a beautiful place and felt a bit like a trendy bar.

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Vasse Felix

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The last one, Moss Brothers, was the most spit and sawdust and the guy who hosted the tastings was quite a character, his humour about as dry as one of their Chardonnays. He was a winemaker himself and gave us a lot of information, but by then I was pretty smashed so I can't tell you about the wines or anything he taught us. ;)

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A really great way to spend an afternoon. Needless to say we didn't do a whole lot after the tour...

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Posted by Galavantie 04:00 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

The wilderness of Walpole

Oz road trip #2 - Southwest WA loop: Albany to Walpole

sunny 21 °C

It was only a short 2hr drive to our next base so we had time for plenty of stop offs along the way.

Our next destination was the town of Denmark. It was tiny with not a lot to see, but is home to a multi-award winning bakery. Oh my... I love the cake and Ant is partial to a good pie. This shop excelled at both, so we filled our boots! We sat and had lunch by the river which runs through the town.

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We also stopped off at Green Pools located within William Bay National Park. Granite boulders have created a natural shallow, calm haven from the roar of the Southern Ocean, resulting in a safe lagoon for swimming. It was pretty cold (Bournemouth sea temperature in the summer) but once in it was really refreshing and a fab spot for a cool off.

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Walpole definitely wins the most remote accommodation award. I thought it seemed a bargain when we booked it - a two bedroom 'cottage' for £54 a night. That was because it was quite out of town, surrounded by forest and seemingly in the middle of nowhere. A 40km round trip to get the essentials, milk and beer (!), 6k of which was on unsealed roads.

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Distant controlled forest fires

But it's remoteness was by no means a negative... we had a large veranda and the most peaceful setting on a farm. There were 4 cottages in total and we didn't hear a peep from our neighbours. All we could hear were kookaburras laughing themselves silly in the trees (they sound like monkeys), frogs croaking in the small lake in front of our cabin and crickets. We sat on the veranda drinking beer, feet up, spotting roos and herons, watching the sky darken and listening to nature's cacophony. It was blissful, a real retreat from modern life. And award-winning pies in the oven - dinner sorted!

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Early morning mist

Before we set out for the day, we were having breakfast on the veranda when a pair of fairy wrens flew onto the fencing in front of us. The male is a brilliant blue and so striking against the parched ground.

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This area is renowned for Tingle Trees, a type of eucalypt, which can grow to 75m high and 20m wide. In the big tree stakes, they're no match for the giant redwoods in California, but what is impressive is that the base is often completely hollow from fire, fungus or insects. They stand almost as a shell, supporting the weight of the tree on just a few thin remains.

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This one auditioned for Lord of the Rings for sure

One of the tourist highlights around here is the Giants Tree Top Walk, an 40m elevated platform providing a different viewpoint of the forest. We thought it was pretty overrated and at 30 bucks between us, overpriced too.

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Conspicuous Cliffs was a lunch stop, a wide beach with southerly winds blowing in so the air was cool and pretty bracing.

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Posted by Galavantie 22:32 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Albany... if it's good enough for the naturists...

Oz road trip #2 - Southwest WA loop: Esperance to Albany

sunny 26 °C

Yet another long drive to our next stop - 5.5 hours and 530km. We didn't stop off anywhere for long and when we did it was just for essentials - loo, fuel and icecream! But we had a few great landscapes along the way...

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If you've been following our blogs, it's a fair cop if you think we're not truly backpacking it... hiring cars, the occasional airbnb room which is a bit fancier and a couple of smart hotel stays in Thailand. T'is true, we are doing it in more comfort than many.

Well our first night in Albany definitely earnt us another backpacker stripe... and it was free of charge. Why? Because we slept in a campervan in someone's back yard with their garage doubling up as our lounge, complete with TV... ha ha!

We'd contacted the owner of a self-contained granny flat but as it wasn't free on our first night, he offered us his camper buckshee. Struggling with the budget in Oz, it was an offer we couldn't refuse...

The guy, Allen, was a bit of a highly strung character - a friendly, chatty (very chatty) type... the sort of person who wants to tell you everything there us to do in his home town. So much so, the information was a bit mind boggling and he did go on a bit. But he was sweet to let us stay for free and had put time in to get the camper ready (including hooking a TV up in there!) and leaving us everything needed for breakfast in the garage. The next morning we moved across to our granny flat, it was pretty dated but had everything to make ourselves at home... I got quite attached to the place.

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Evening walk

We spent a day checking out Torndirrup National Park - full of fabulous coves, crystal waters, rugged coastlines and natural geological formations. We fancied a swim as the waters looked so inviting and Allen had told us they don't get sharks. The sea was free of big surf, but it was a naturist beach... we hadn't brought our bathers with us... and... well it was far too tempting not to go in...

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The scenery just kept on giving around every corner, a really great day and an incredible corner of the world.

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Sigh...

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I should say this wasn't the naturist beach!

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Salmon Holes

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Frenchman's Bay

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The Bridge and The Gap

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The force of the southern ocean on a calm day!

Inland was the Porongurups and Stirling Ranges National Parks, where we headed the next day. The temperature had ramped up to the mid-30's, which made our short 4.5k walk quite challenging. We hiked to the top of Castle Rock, did the obligatory photo trickery with a large balancing rock and then clambered over some boulders to get to the Granite Skywalk.

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Bugger. The final hurdle was a steep metal ladder staircase to get to the impressive viewing platform. I'm not good with heights and after two failed attempts to get my sorry arse up the ladder, I had to admit defeat. Buggeration. Oh well, Ant climbed up and took some pics whilst I enjoyed the views from a slightly lower elevation!

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We sacked off the idea of another walk as the blazing heat was too much to bear in the forests (the eucalypts did smell amazing though) and went for a drive instead. As we were making our return journey to Albany, we'd stopped to take a picture of golden fields with the blue-tinted Stirling Ranges behind when, from nowhere, I saw a herd (?!) of emus crossing the field. Incredible! Ant captured this great shot of them...

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For our last evening in the area we decided to return to Frenchman's Bay, a favourite spot we'd found the day before which had free gas barbeques in a great setting. Steaks bought, we headed out!

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There's no doubt the Aussie outdoor lifestyle is pretty amazing - massively down to having virtually guaranteed summer sunshine. Try and pre-plan a barbie in the UK and, well, we all know the weather can change the best of plans. We felt like one the locals and got chatting to a couple of Aussies cooking on the same bbq. We had a chuckle about 'pink Poms' as they complimented us on our non-frazzled English skin, commenting that we bucked the trend.

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Roos spotted on the way home

Albany was great, the town itself was quite quaint but, as with Esperance, it's the scenery and beaches here that really pack a punch.

Posted by Galavantie 03:49 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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