Hi to everyone from Melbourne, our last stop in Australia.
So when we last left you, we were in Adelaide and about to collect our hire car.
The car was supposed to be a Toyota Yaris with a manual gearbox but on picking it up it had been upgraded to a Kia Cerato which is a medium sized hatchback and had an automatic gearbox which took a bit of getting used to.
We think this car needed to be relocated to Melbourne as it had Victoria state number plates and as we were going that way It was given to us. We drove out of Adelaide just managing to avoid the cycle racing (Tour Down Under) and started our trip towards Melbourne. During the first day of driving we passed tourist attractions that would take your breath away such as "a land rover on a pole". We nearly stopped and took a photograph but thought that would just be encouraging them - what would be next?
We drove just over 300km and arrived at our destination in the middle of the afternoon, a small town situated close to the state border called .... Yes you've guessed it....Border town.
We hired a small cabin for the night and after settling in we got to watch the majority of the Australia v England's fourth One Day cricket International which ended with a long awaited England victory - Hurrah!
The following day we completed our journey crossing the state line from South Australia into Victoria. We drove through miles and miles (if your Australian, Kilometres) of wheat fields that had been harvested and were either filling massive silos or in grain mountains covered by tarpaulin.
We headed into the Grampians National Park and arrived at our YHA hostel in the tiny tourist town of Halls Gap.This was where we planned to spend a couple of days exploring the local mountains in the national park. Unfortunately there had been extensive bush fires a few days prior to our arrival and the northern section of the national park was closed. Do not fear, we didn't see any fires or fire damage whilst there. After a visit to the tourist information centre we managed to purchase a map and plan a couple of walks within the park that were still open.
In the afternoon we had a drive around the roads that were still open and took a short stroll to what turned out to be a very small waterfall. We visited the local grocer or should I say bandit who was charging an extra 50% on top of usual prices. With no completion and a long drive to the nearest supermarket we chose to use them but only for the little bits and pieces we weren't carrying with us.
On Sunday it was "Australia day", this commemorates the British arriving and raising the Union flag at Sydney cove in 1788. The indigenous people (Aborigines) apparently call this "Survival day".
We had previously enquired with our Tasmanian walking guides how they would be celebrating their national day and all three claimed they would spend it dressed only in their underwear, drinking beer and watching TV!
Nigel wants to know why we don't celebrate St George's day in a similar fashion? Maybe it's too cold in April?
We decided to take on the ascent of "The Pinnacle" which was a 2 hour climb to a rocky high point with panoramic views. We started early in the morning as this bush walk is extremely popular and on getting back down we celebrated Australia day with an ice cream. (Photo)
We returned to the hostel, watched some more cricket and despaired as England managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory again. If I was Alistair Cook, the England cricket captain, I would be looking for another job, but at least he gets to go home now.
Each evening, a group of Kangaroos visited a plot of land behind the hostel - we counted 14. They were very relaxed with our being close by and we watched them for some time and got very close up. (photo).
The next day we found the hostel was much quieter partly due to the end of the school holidays and also because people were being advised that the park was closed due to the recent bush fires. We had another half day walk to a scenic viewpoint with a sundial.
On Tuesday morning we left Halls Gap and drove down to the coast. there were lots of fire appliances ready to be deployed as the fire risk had been classed as 'extreme' and as we drove we stayed in the car with the air conditioning on and watched the car thermometer rise as the temperature reached a highpoint of 45 degrees.
We based ourselves at a hostel in small city called Warrnambool for the night.
The temperature plummeted at about 4pm to 28 degrees, this was apparently due to the change in wind direction and as we were leaving the hostel for an evening stroll along the beach, we noticed one of the car tyres was looking very flat. Nigel attempted to change the tyre but as tends to happen these days the wheel nuts were on very tight and the tiny tools that were with the spare tyre just wouldn't move the nuts. After a call to the Avis emergency number a RACV man was with us within 20 minutes and the wheel changed within 30 minutes of our phone call - what service! On inspection there was a screw deeply embedded in the tyre. We were told how to get the tyre repaired which turned out to be a 5 minute drive away the next day. It's safe to say that we are very impressed with Avis.
On Wednesday we got away from the hostel early and got the tyre repaired while we had breakfast. We then drove to a small national park called Tower hill that is situated inside an extinct volcano crater. The crater had a number of wetland areas and small lakes where we saw several Emu.(photo)
We then began the main event - our 3 day drive along The Great Ocean Road, having managed to resist the temptation of stopping at "The world of cheese" just before we started. The very beginning of the drive was quite boring with the road starting inland. After a few kilometres the road arrived at the coastal cliffs and the show began.
The sea cliffs are formed from limestone that had worn away in unusual formations creating some really dramatic scenery. It's pointless trying to describe what you can see in pictures so we have attached a few. Amazing!
The first scenic view was The Bay of Islands, the second was The Bay of Martyrs, then it was Worm bay. We stopped at a small hamlet called Peterborough for lunch then carried on visiting other scenic viewpoints called The Grotto and then London bridge.
London bridge had originally consisted of a double archway projecting from the cliff but in 1990 the arch nearest the cliff collapsed so London bridge had actually fallen down. (Photo) The last was a rock formation called The Arch for fairly obvious reasons. We then arrived at Port Campbell, a small tourist town where we spent the night.
After resting for a couple of hours we drove to the main attraction of the journey, The Twelve Apostles for sunset. This viewpoint was very popular with half of Japan and Germany there waiting for the sun to go down. (Photos)
These rocks were originally known as The Sow and Piglets until 1922 when they changed it for tourism. Now everything in the area is Twelve Apostles this or that.
We were considering getting up early for the sunrise but as we had a close encounter with a Kangaroo jumping out into the road about 20 meters in front of the car the previous evening, we decided it was best not to drive at dawn which is their most active period.
The following day, we started our last week in Australia and on leaving the hostel in Port Campbell we drove to another series of rock formations known as the Loch Ard Gorge. The gorge is named after a clipper called the Loch Ard that was built in Glasgow and had sailed all the way from Gravesend, England and was wrecked off the coast in 1878. The ships company were apparently having a party to celebrate their arrival in Australia when the captain made a navigational error and ran the ship onto a reef. We had the chance to walk around the cliffs reading information boards, visiting the cemetery and reaching the various viewpoints. We both agreed that this area of the coastline was our favourite, it was much quieter, the history was more interesting and you could get much closer to the rock formations. We had another quick look at The Twelve Apostles as they were on the way and then started heading towards our next overnight stay in a town called Apollo Bay. On route we took a diversion towards a lighthouse and as we were driving down the road we found a family of wild Koala bears in the Eucalyptus trees - around 12 in total (Photo). On our arrival at Apollo Bay, we took a well earned paddle at the beach.
On our last day on The Great Ocean Road we took in some more viewpoints, had another Koala sighting, visited a 38 meter waterfall at Erskine falls and Split point lighthouse. We finished the day stopping at The Great Ocean Road arch which explains how and why the road was built by returning veterans of the First World War. (Photo)
Our last attraction was a visit to Bells Beach to watch some surfers and then we arrived at our hostel at the very end of the Great Ocean Road in Torquay.
Today is Saturday 1st February and we had an early start from Torquay and headed into Melbourne. It was just over an hour on the motorway. We dropped the hire car off, we are now based at the Melbourne YHA hostel and have a couple of days in Melbourne sightseeing.
Our final observations on Australia
It's very very big - there's still so much to see and do.
The Australian team are very good at cricket.
Vegemite isn't as nice as Marmite
Australian's (not Tasmanian's) like to drink ice cold tasteless fizzy beer and you can't buy Fosters lager here, which is no great loss.
Their summers are very very hot often reaching in excess of 40 degrees.
There are lots of animals that are dangerous and can either hurt you or eat you.
We have had a great 3 months in Australia and will be flying out of Melbourne on Wednesday 5th February.
Our next instalment will be from Auckland in New Zealand.