Monday, 29 December 2014


After three weeks of general solitude we found all the hustle and bustle of Melbourne a bit overwhelming at first! 

We had a great evening out with Chris' old uni mate Jenny-Lee and her husband Rob. We were given a private tour and discovered some of Melbourne’s secret laneways and rooftops, the cultural hub of Federation Square, buzzing pop-up bars and yummy dim-sum hawker eateries. 

The following day we cleaned out our campervan and returned it. After 24 days of crossing Australia some factoids are: we covered 6718 km, stayed in 19 locations, drank 108 litres of water and stopped to get petrol 22 times! 

We did our bit to support the eradication of blowflies

Melbourne has some great street art

And some very quirky bars - with Jen & Rob

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

The Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road is iconic in South Australia. The deeply scalloped headlands, lone rock stacks and arches have been carved by long fetch waves for thousands of years. The scenery was stunning. Cruising along this windy road was a real highlight of our journey. The driving was great (and was just what I imagined touring around the curves of Italy's coast would be like). The open vistas were enthralling. It was a beautiful place and we were very happy to be able to enjoy it. There were so many picture-postcard scenes it's been a hard job to choose just a few for the blog. Here's some of our favourites

Stacks stand in the Bay of Islands

 Sirrus clouds above the London Bridge Arch, which has fallen down

Bay of martyrs 

The Twelve Apostles, our memory only stretched to naming eight though....

On the landward side heavily wooded plantations and natural forest made a striking buffer. There was a sweet smelling breeze. The Great Ocean Road crossed over many steep ravines. Once it went up the side of a wide valley with a flat dry bottom. The buttercups here were grazed by cows and sheep and an abandoned old wooden cart rested on the valley floor whilst white butterflies danced in helixes above the hedgerows.

After one glorious photo seascape stop we continued along a side road and were luckily enough to see Miss Tigglewinkles long lost cousin scurry up a bank. It was an echidna. The spikes were thick and long, and surrounded by course think hair. It's long nose snuffled around in the dirt for ants. They have a backwards facing pouch and lay eggs, just like the duck-billed platypus.

Later as we drove into Lorne we stopped when we noticed a man feeding two kookaburras with slices of steak from the balcony of his house. Loarne was definitely more affluent then further east. We watched the sun go down over the Loarne beach and were joined by a flock of very brave sulphur crested cockatoos.

Little Corellas playing in the park

 Sulphur Crested Cockatoos argue over breadcrumbs

Have you ever, ever felt like this? Strange things happening, are you going round the Twist? - remember this lighthouse anyone?

Who lives here?

Feels a bit like home?

Monday, 22 December 2014

Koalas and Black Swans

We'd clocked up 5600km on the dial as we entered our third state; Victoria. As we traversed further east soft wood forestry plantations draped the coast road obstructing our view of the sea. The road tarmac had been devoured by pine log lorries and the divots made for a bumpy ride. Added to this were strong swirling cold winds which took us by surprise as the sky was clear bright and blue.

We passed three emus grazing by the side of road. We then stopped on the coast at Portland. This large industrial town seemed like it had seen better days as it took us a while until we eventually found an open cafe. Similar to Victorian estates in the UK, large ornamental cedar trees stood proudly against the wind, probably planted as windbreaks some hundred and fifty years ago.

Leaving Portland on the A1 dual carriageway we spotted an animal bounding across the road. It was pretty large and moved in a sort of slow gallop. I shouted loudly 'koala!'. We found a safe place to pull over and searched for the shy marsupial in the red gum trees lining the road. It was adorable with its relatively big head, black button nose, long haired fluffy ears, and short limbs - it looked like a big cuddly teddy bear. It's thick body fur was medium in length and the grey colour matched perfectly into the rough branch of gum tree.

Following this excitement we continued our battled onwards against the winds. We were still recognising the fallen walls of delict farmstead properties. These became less common as the development and facilities increased the further east towards Melborne we travelled. Many houses with admirable rural and sea views were for sale. We speculated that these most of these might be second homes or holiday lets.  

We bridged the Rivers Glenelg, Fitztroy, Eumeralle and Moyne. All were swollen. The grassland is green in Victoria and there's good grazing for dairy cattle and horses. Continuing our journey steadily onwards we noticed road signs for Dartmoor, Sandford and Orford - no doubt named by homesick early pastoral settlers. Lush fields were separated by long regimental lines of conifers braced against the onshore wind. On the recently harvested fields enormous sausages of silage lay, like the exposed worm from the Tremor film laying dormant.

Shaded avenues greeted us in the tweed historic seaside wharf town of Port Fairy. Stone buildings dating from 1852 line the wharf, although the standard construction for the area of tinned walled and roofed was still most common. In this popular location art galleries appeared and we passed on a tempting 'high tea by the high sea'.

The route only gave us fleeting glimpses of the sea. Sheltered from the sea by old dunes Chris pointed out a pair of black swans gliding on a lagoon. Tall grasses filled the lagoons banks.

Reaching Warnambool we found a coastal viewpoint to park for the night. Unfortunately it was the wrong time of year to see female Southern Right whales return to the waters of Warrnambool’s Logans Beach to calve. The view was beautiful. We experienced the biting winds straight from the Antarctica. The coastline here is known for being quite treacherous as prevailing winds from south west push vessels northward towards land. The stars were shining brilliantly that evening, but we ate our banquet of spaghetti and tinned peas inside the van, as it was too cold to dine beneath them.  

State number 3

Azure skies, but strong winds

Who's this?

Well camouflaged .....


If a little shy....

Warrnambool’s Logans Beach

Sunset over the limestone coast

Sausages and Penguins

Do you know your Brockwurst from your Bratwurst? Do you like pretzels, soda bread, Christmas shops and art galleries? The pretty town of Handoff is Australia's oldest German settlement about thirty minutes drive west from Adelaide. Settled in 1839 by Lutherans fleeing religious persecution in Prussia, Hahndorf was named after the ship’s captain who helped them purchase the land. His name was Hahn, while dorf is German for village.

After staying the night in a nearby layby we strolled about the high street marvelling in the shop windows. Some of the buildings are super examples of fachwerk (half-timbered) houses of traditional German design. Being a Monday there were a lot of 'grey crinklies' around (that's what my Dad calls them). Chris brought a hat made of kangaroo skin. We treated ourselves to a brunch in a popular tea shop. Chris devoured his bacon and eggs whilst I was in heaven with my choice of eggs Benedict. Mmmmm's all round!

Some of the oldest buildings in Australia can be found here, many following the German timber-framed designs of the times

"More milk in your coffee sir?" asked fraulein Sarah

Fantastic traditional German breakfast

Habich's Cottage - built by the Habich family in 1890 unusually, for this area, out of brick. Now a charming cafe

A pelican flew past us as we crossed the Murray River at Tailem Bridge. The Murray is the longest river in Australia. We thought we'd see the sea as we got to the south coast, but were instead met by an elongated coastal lagoon system. The sea was hidden behind a long extended spit, behind which lagoons had formed. The stench of salt and dead fish was horrid. We later found out this area was called 'the Coorong'. (We were too cheap-skates to buy a proper map, so had traversed the whole of Australia using a free pamphlet).

We passed vast salt pans with pinkish tones. There were no flamingoes munching the algae here, so the algae released its red pigment (called carotene) in the water. This combined with the salt as the water evaporated to produce an attractive pink tinge.

The wind blew strongly. Bent double pine trees lined the road. Many had fallen or had died, their dead skeletons where baked white by the sun. We were now tripping down the Limestone Coast, which reaches from Coorong to the Victorian boarder.

Reaching Port MacDonnell in the late afternoon we found a windy camp site on the foreshore. The temperature soon dropped to 16c as the evening drew on (which was pretty chilly when only a few days before we'd been in 35c plus!). We took a drive up to the site of the old lighthouse around dusk. In the murky light we saw some Fairy Penguins coming in to nest for the night. From our vantage point on the cliff top they looked like black ducklings! They each wobbled unsteadily up the base of the cliffs flapping their tiny wings, stumbling a few steps forwards, then a step back, until they found their rock crevice burrows.

Thermadore anyone?

We passed a turquoise blue crater as we journeyed south, part of the Mount Gambier volcanic complex which was last active around 4000 years ago

We reach South Australia's most southerly point

Only a few more kilometres to the South Pole - puts our drive from Darwin into perspective!!

Fairy penguins emerge from the sea at dusk and head back to their burrows

Found only n Australia and New Zealand these little guys grow to about 35cm tall, weigh just over a kilo and live for about 7 years. They eat their own body weight in fish every day

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Clare Valley

The endless wheat filled plains began to give way to rolling hills, gum trees and pines. The colour green reappeared in the landscape, a colour we had sorely missed since leaving the swamps of Kakadu.

Suddenly we were driving through vines, rows and terraces of vineyards appeared in glades within the gum trees and pines as we twisted and turned through the narrow Clare Valley. We spent a couple of nights camping in the Clare, hiring bikes and touring the dozens of vineyards that have sprung up in this lush valley over the past hundred or so years.

Most wineries have a “Cellar Door” where you can sample their wares for free. Reisling is a speciality of the Clare, but there are also Pinot Gris, Pinot Noirs, Temprinillos and plenty of full luscious Shirazes!! We sampled many, bought few and cycled even less by the afternoon!

Sevenhill Cellars is the oldest winery in the region. Jesuits built it in 1851 and started making sacramental wine. Now it also produces premium white, red and fortified wines. We found them a bit stuffy however and had much more fun with the smaller boutique style outlets like Jeanneret Wines, where the samples were bigger and the atmosphere much more fun.

The pick of the bunch was The Little Red Grape, a cellar door promoting 12 different wine producers and a bakery. Tony guided us through the fantastic wines and also sold us port straight from the barrel at $4 a litre – bargain!

The cellars of Sevenhill, the oldest winery in the Clare valley

Ready for more Sazzle?

The cosy boutiques Cellar Door of Jeanneret with Tim behind the bar, our gracious, generous host

Looks like even the Wesleyans made it this far - no winery though!