Sunday, 27 February 2011

Christchurch Earthquake

We’ve seen the news report of the terrible tragedy in Christchurch. We had such a wonderful time there - to see pictures of it in ruins is heart-breaking. It’s saddening to know there are so many people dead and thousands more homeless in a country that’s usually so full of life and spirit. Christchurch will recover, the 2011 earthquake will become another event in the history of New Zealand’s violent geology, but right now Kiwis around the world are in mourning and our thoughts are with them.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Animal Magic.

Monday was definitely another strange and exotic animal day. First we went to a beautiful little spot called Gypsy Point for breakfast
and saw a Goanna hanging about in a tree,
plus a family of ‘Roos in a garden.
Next we stopped at Quarantine Bay and were just in time to see a fishing boat crew cleaning their catch. They were throwing all the scraps into the sea where the local pelicans, shags and fur seals were eagerly waiting.
Further up the road we came across the Pambula Nature Reserve, and this little chap.
From Pambula we turned onto Scenic Drive 11 which follows the coast, and drove up to Tathra. While our washing wash going round in circles in the laundrette, we walked down to the Historic Wharf, then while it was drying we tried out our new snorkelling gear at the end of the beach near the rocks. It was a bit hard to see due to all the seaweed, but it all worked ok and we saw some fish.

We carried on following Scenic Drive 9 with the roadside verges full of white lilies,
past the famous Camel Rock Beach before re-joining the A1 up to Batemans Bay where we stopped for a McWifi.

We were heading for a rest stop near Durras Lake but it didn’t materialise, so we followed a sign for Pebbly Beach where there was a camp site. When we got to the end of the very bumpy gravel road it turned out to be a non-starter as well. We retraced our steps back to the highway, by now it was proper dark and we were slightly worried about things running out in front of us. Rightly so; a bit further up the highway a kangaroo bounded across the road just ahead. We finally found a rest stop at about 9.30 at Burrill lake after a long, but full day.
The only animal left on our list to see is a Wombat, but we have seen this.

NSW

Before we left the UK for Europe last year, we bought a very useful gadget for charging electronic devices from a cigarette lighter socket. It steps up 12v DC to whatever you set it to up to 22v, without having to go through a 240v AC inverter. Small, light and doesn’t take much juice; ideal for netbooks, phones etc. We used it in Ken all around France, Spain and Portugal. 2 weeks into NZ the little plug that goes into both our netbooks snapped. Not so much of a problem, as we could still charge them up in libraries and most McDonalds. New Zealand is very wifi friendly, there’s a library in every little town, they all have a laptop area and most have plenty of sockets. In Oz the situation is a bit different; libraries are independent and don’t always do wifi, most McDonalds don’t have sockets anywhere and their wifi is 11mbs rather than 54, so everything takes longer and you don’t have power.

So, as we were in Geelong, which is a fairly big city, we had a look on line and found an electronics shop. On Saturday morning we were their first customers and now have a new power adaptor. It’s even smaller and lighter than the other one, and the plug is a better design. Result! We can charge the netbooks on the move and life is good again.

We went straight up to Melbourne and into the Maui hire depot. Our fridge hasn’t been getting cold enough and we wanted them to have a look at it. While we were there, Jim & Liz, some friends of ours from UK, and fellow members of 2CVGB, arrived to pick their van up, having just flown in from New Zealand.
By a chance comment on Facebook we did know they were going to be there, but it was still quite cool to be on the other side of the world and meet up with friends.

We spent Saturday night in Stratford on Avon and in the morning drove up to Bairnsdale where we came across a massive colony of Flying Foxes on a walk along the riverbank.
There were quite literally hundreds of them in every tree.
We thought they were fabulous - apparently they aren’t that popular with the locals due to the noise and the eating of all the local fruit crops. We’ve seen lots of cockatoos around; we finally managed to get close enough to one.
We stopped again at the lookout above Lakes Entrance.
Then stopped at the town and saw our first pelicans, and this terrific sand sculptures.
A bit further on we came to a sign for the Stony Creek Rail Bridge, so we went to have a look.
Although it looks like something from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in 1964 11 log trucks fell off it and the last train went across it in 1988!
Further up the road we came across a large area where there had been a bush fire, for about 15kms both sides of the road the trees were blackened and the undergrowth was gone.
A few kms after that we stopped at a cafĂ© where we had a cup of tea and some delicious fresh scones; the owner told us the fire only happened about two weeks ago – she’d had the car packed and was waiting for the evacuation order, but thankfully the fire service got it under control just in time.

There was a little rest spot just off the road at Drummer Walk that had toilets and a little fire-place for camp fires
bliss!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Peterborough to Anglesea, OZ style

We finally got to Warnambool and turned onto The Great Ocean Road. The first 35km from Allansford to Peterborough isn’t very exciting, or very oceany, but after we got to the Bay of Islands it got a whole lot better.
There are big, impressive limestone stacks, caves and arches along this coast and they all have names and viewing platforms with car parks signed off the road. You do feel a bit “Off the bus – Click – back on the bus” kind of thing, but it has to be like that or people would either damage themselves or what they came to look at. This is London Bridge.
There used to be another arch joining it to the mainland but it collapsed on the 15th Jan 1990, stranding two people who had to be lifted off by helicopter. Rumour has it that they were very embarrassed as they were having an affair at the time.

This is The Arch.
We spent the night in Port Campbell.

We were up early, the milk had gone off overnight, (there’s something wrong with our fridge, when we get to Melbourne we’ll get Maui to have a look at it) so no morning cuppa. We got to the Loch Ard Gorge before the masses and spent quite a while exploring. We walked down onto the beach, round the cemetery and down the steps into the gorge itself. While we were there we saw an Echidna;
a cross between an ant-eater and a porcupine. They’re supposed to be very shy, although this one was a bit of poser.
Next stop was the Razorback.
Then the Twelve Apostles.
There are penguin colonies along here; we didn’t see a penguin but these are the tracks they made going into the sea that morning.
After the limestone gives way to other rock, the road really starts to impress as it winds round bluffs and into gullies.
We stopped at Sheoak Falls.
Very pretty; imagine what they’re like after heavy rain. We also saw another koala and Dave had a go at landscaping.
We did some shopping in Apollo Bay. (A cup of tea at last!) Then carried on up the coast through Lorne to Anglesea. The road has one last tight bunch of hairpins at Eastern View before it goes under the Memorial Arch and starts to level out. This plaque is beside the arch.
Once we were off the scenic trail we put our foot down and headed for Geelong for the night.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

A short time in a big country

We’ve been in Australia over a week now and the time has just flown by. Our poor reader must be wondering what we’ve been up to.

Well…

After leaving Adelaide we came across this little township,
so we stopped and had a cup of tea in honour of our mate Keith. Further on there was the Mount Monster Conservation park where we climbed to the top of a granite peak and had a look out over South Australia and the way we’d come.
Of course we knew Australia was big before we came, but you can only imagine so much beyond your own experience. Only now we’re here are we getting an idea of just how big. It’s funny that although, just like everywhere else, you can only see to the horizon, it feels like a big country. Maybe it’s the wide straight roads to infinity or something about the sky over an endless landscape, or even the attitude of the people, whatever, there’s something different.

Ann-Marie had a go at driving the van (which is called Victoria, ‘cos that’s what it says on the number plate) and despite not having driven since we sold her car, and despite the van being a big automatic long wheelbase hi-top camper, she got along fine.
We stopped for the night in the little town of Penola. We went or a walk in the evening in shorts and sandals, which was interesting. There are big jumpy flying beetly crickety things that boing about on the pavement. They’re ok once you know they’re there, but they don’t half make you jump.

Our next stop was Mt Gambier. The town is built on the rim of a dormant volcano. (All Australia’s volcanoes are classified as “Dormant”, rather than “Extinct”. Apparently.) At the bottom of the volcano’s crater is this amazing blue lake. We haven’t messed about with the colour, it really is this blue.
With our typical perfect timing we’d walked round the lake, seen several of these,
and were back on the road again just before this happened.
It cleared up just before we crossed into Victoria, having made sure we had no plants, soil, fruit, veg, vines or potatoes on or about our persons. After all the warning signs we were expecting a strip at the state line at the very least, but there was no-one there and apart from the road signage being a bit different, Victoria looked very much like South Australia. Who’d’ve guessed?

Wednesday night saw us parked up in beautiful Port Fairy,
where we had some fab fish & chips, and just as dusk was falling, walked around to the lighthouse on Griffiths Island, watching Swamp Wallabies quietly hopping about and graceful Shearwaters coming home to their burrows. A quiet night on the quayside.

Our first stop on Thursday was Tower Hill Game Reserve; another volcanic crater, this time the bottom is a mix of swamp, scrub and forest, which has been replanted and restored over the last 20 years or so, and had lots of indigenous species re-introduced. As soon as we drove in we saw some emus,
then on the walk to the top of the central peak we were taking photos of a koala in a tree just as a kangaroo hopped across the track in front of us.
A bit further along we found ourselves casually following a couple of emus along the path. We couldn’t see much of the reserve though; low cloud was rolling into the crater.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The Wonder of Oz.

15.02.2011

We’re not going to blog every day in Australia like we did in New Zealand, mainly because it’s so spread out and we’ve got a lot of miles to cover, but also because it’s a lot for our poor reader to have to slog through, and we take his welfare seriously.

We’ve just had an amazing weekend with Dave’s Uncle Michael, and his Adelaide Cousins and their families. In 1960 Michael joined his sister Ann and two of his brothers, John and David, by buying a ticket and joining the ranks of £10 Poms; a subsidised mass migration program to the other side of the world to help populate Australia. They, and their offspring, have spread far and wide in this land of opportunity and are now everywhere from Adelaide in the south to Darwin in the north to Alice Springs in the middle. And Tasmania. Our main reason for coming to Oz is to visit as many of them as we can, as well as seeing as much of the country as possible. Julie and Ian made us feel perfectly at home and very welcome, first in their beautiful house in Adelaide while we picked up our van and abused their washing machine, then in their “Shack” in Second Valley.
(For “shack” read “Gorgeous 3 bedroomed holiday cabin with a view to die for.”) While we were there we had our first sight of kangaroos at Deep Creek,
were woken up in the morning by flocks of parrots in the trees and went snorkelling in the bay. On Sunday morning they drove us back along the coast road to Michael’s house in Christies Beach
where Julie, Mick, Chris, Mary, Cathy and Nick grew up. Dave couldn’t quite get his head round the fact that he was actually in Christies Beach. He’s known of this magical seaside wonderland where his cousins lived since childhood, and now at 53, here he was! We went off with Michael to meet Chris and Sandy and to borrow some wetsuits and snorkelling gear, then armed with half a loaf of bread, we went out to the end of the jetty and joined about a million fish swimming around the reef. When you are snorkelling with a slice of bread squashed up in your fist you have no trouble attracting them. Chris reckoned that in all the time he’d been diving there he’d never seen so many. We went back to Michael’s house and dried off, then were joined by Chris, Sandy, Cath, Jason, Mick, Ruth and all their kids and Margaret for a big family barbeque.
We stayed at Michael’s that night, then on Monday we followed him into Adelaide where we had a picnic lunch in the park surrounded by unfamiliar and exotic birds (To us, anyway.) In the afternoon we drove out towards the Adelaide hills to Cath & Jason’s fabulous house overlooking the city.
Another delicious meal was followed by another happy evening, and on Tuesday morning we started our big road trip, heading out of the city towards Mount Gambier and the start of the Great Ocean Road. We’ve got 5 weeks to get to Cairns where we hand the van back before flying to Alice Springs and Darwin.

If this last weekend is anything to go by, this trip is going to be full of laughing, hugging, talking and eating. (And playing Skip-bo.) Blood really is thicker than anything; although we’ve never met half of these people we feel we’ve known them for ever. Far from becoming any more listless, we’ve acquired a whole new list of family names and addresses. That will be so much more precious than all the photos and souvenirs put together.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Auckland to Adelaide

Thursday 10.02.2011
Like a well-oiled machine, today went perfectly to plan. Maui took their van back with friendly efficiency and returned our security deposit. Would we recommend them? Certainly. We took Kiwi Ken on a 7500km trek up mountains, down gorges, along gravel roads in the middle of nowhere, stopping wherever we felt like it for tea, food, a look at the view or the night, and he behaved impeccably. The staff couldn’t have been more helpful and even though we had the smallest van in their range he was quite big enough for the two of us. After handing the keys back we were once again homeless with all our worldly possesions on a trolley.
The flights were almost un-eventful; there was a bit of a drama when the cabin crew called for anyone with medical training, but happily it was nothing serious, although for a while we were in a scene from the film “Airplane” with a line of people almost falling over each other in their eagerness to offer assistance. “Surely there’s something we can do.” “Don’t call me Shirley.”
This is our luggage being loaded onto White Knuckle Airways bound for Cairo.
Then, when we landed at Melbourne, two men from the Quarantine section came on board and whisked one of the passengers away before we were allowed to disembark. We reckon it was the squawking noise coming from his enormous hat that gave him away.

We touched down in Adelaide bang on schedule at 5.10pm, but by the time we’d taxied to the gate and made our way to the carousel, Dave’s Uncle Michael - who was waiting to pick us up - had searched the airport twice and was having a third look behind the vending machines. Happy hugs and hellos, then all our stuff in the back of Michael’s van and off we went to Julie and Ian’s beautiful home in Adelaide.
We’re staying around Adelaide and Christies Beach for the next few days while we pick up our next van and meet all Dave’s cousins who live round here.

Auckland to Manukau (which is just another bit of Auckland, really.)

Wednesday 09.02.2011

We’re not going to fill up this space with too many words, the pictures tell the story. This is Auckland’s Sky Tower from the bottom.
And the top.
And through the floor.
The bridge and marina.
Some more bits of the city.
Tonight we’re in a proper camp-site and we’ve managed to pack up all our stuff again. Tomorrow morning we hand Kiwi Ken back to Maui and fly to Adelaide via Melbourne. We’re going to miss New Zealand like crazy, we’ve loved this beautiful, friendly, easy country from the day we set foot in it. We could’ve spent a week exploring everywhere we’ve been for a day, plus all the places in-between. Five weeks was never going to be enough, but a lifetime wouldn’t have been either. We’ve seen and done more than we ever imagined we could, and that’ll do.

Sweet as.

Gloucester and Sharpness. River Severn. Saul Junction to Stourbridge.

Bake Off is back on the telly! We haven ’t go a telly, but we do like to keep one or two things downloaded on the ipad. We also like to hav...