|Following the abundance of organised backpackers floating around Sydney over the festive and New Year period the soapdodgers had to do something they thought was not possible....get organised. That care free, easy going lifestyle was in serious jepeordy as we came to terms with having no where to stay post christmas and even less booked for the coming months. With Julia(one of our fantastic hosts post new year)being promoted to travel planner and Mr P. relegated to pack horse and general fluncky, things started to take shape.
On the 04th Jan we embarked on the great Sydney to Adelaide Camper van rally in Remo, suitably named because of the registration plate reading REM 053. The van was suitably adorned with big backpacker stickers, just in case those drivers we carved up on the way didn't have enough reasons to dislike their foriegn visitors. Leaving Sydney much later than we had anticipated, due mainly to hangovers and last minute shopping and packing we headed for our first port of call, Canberra. This was a sharp wake up call for Mr. P. who had under estimated the size of Oz!!
Arrivng late, no campsite booked of course, we slotted right back into that care free easy going existence that we had become so accustomed to in SE Asia. First night in the van went off remarkably well, helped along with some of that fantastic Australian wine we slept like babies. Next day we visited some of the sites around Canberra, the parliament buildings, which was interesting, and seemed to be exactly the same set up as the english parliament. We also indulged ourselves in some of the australian culture with a visit to the National Gallery. Our favourites included Sydney Nolan, who is famous for his 24 paintings of Ned Kelly and a Jackson Pollock. Cultured out we drove into town for some supplies. After eventually finding a parking spot in the pay and display, some things never change even across continents, we ventured off for some supplies. Returning within the designated 1 hour to find we had picked up our first parking ticket. Mrs. P. was not happy and sent Mr. P. off to accost a man in a uniform that looked like a traffic warden. Fortunatley, Mr. P. did ask first whether this man was responsible for the ticket before launching into a tirade of abuse. Needless to say he wasn't responsible for the ticket but did explain why we had recieved it and what to do next. Alledgedly, we had parked in a specially designated parking bay for govenrment officials. Driving down to the government agents office Mr. P. put together a heart rendering story of why we had parked there(medical emergency), that we had no money and were dumb POMS on a world tour. We are still waiting to hear.
From Canberra we made our way to a little place called Jindabyne, in preparation for the great alpine way. Jindabyne sits on the edge of the Snowy mountains National park and the spot we chose to camp in for the night was right next to the lake. Absolutely stunning views from our kitchen, lounge and bedroom all rolled into one. Needless to say the weather hadn't improved, so the cold and rain gave the lake a very homely feel.
After soaking up some of the local sites, the shopping precint and safeways supermarket we ventured out onto what has now been named the gravel & dirt track stage of the rally. Making good progress in the bus we opted for the what seemed to be the short cut across country. Mr. P. Navigating took us off down a very quiet tarmac road. Soaking up the beautiful mountain scenary we noted how good the roads where and how easy it was to drive in Oz. Soon after we were eating our words as we hit the mountain gravel stage. Not having read any of the instructions on off road driving, dust soon filled the cabin. Estimating only 15 KM of this Mr. P. urged Mrs P to carry on, saying we would only have another 15 minutes of this. Two hours later, the 2 wheel drive van was struggling to climb the near vertical dirt tracks. Imagine our joy when we found road works, some kind of life form(in the loosest sense)who seemed to scoff and find great hilarity in a 2 wheel drive camper van coming over the hill. Reassuring as they were that we would find our way back to civilisation they very kindly warned us of the logging trucks that used the "roads". Another danger for the haggered driver to take into consideration. Seven dead roo's later we made it back on to tarmac. After 4 hours of dirt tracks and gravel the poor bus(and Mrs. P.) was about to give up the ghost. Making some strange noises and looking like it had just completed the Paris Dakkhar rally we decided to slow down a bit and take it easy. After escaping a speed trap(which would have been our second fine / ticket in as many days) we soldiered on to find a logging truck had jacknifed across the road.
Reaching Omeo, which was were we planned to stay for the night and looked remarkably like hicks ville we decided to push on. One and a half hours later we arrived in Bairnsdale, this gave us a head start on the following day, although we had spent 8 hours in the bus we were still talking to one another.
Leaving Bairnsdale early we drove down the coast to Wilsons Promontory. After a 3 hour drive out onto the peninsula we arrived at this national park.....only to find a sign saying no camping available. Pulling up to rangers station and playing that foreingers card once more we secured the last pitch. Apparently they have a "special" area for overseas visitors. Settling in nicely we ventured off on a "short" walk (as Mr. P. always describes them...must be that sales background) to squeaky beach, so named because the sand actually squeaks when you walk on it. Walking up over the mountain the views were phenomenal, even Mrs. P. enjoyed the walk, high accolade indeed. To think we were going to by pass this place completley was insane!
Up early the following day we made our way down to Phillp Island, another national park further down the coast. Arriving and checking into our peaceful idyllic campsite we ventured out to a wildlife sanctuary to see what a live kangaroo looked like. Seeing all the other critters that roam the australian plains (koala's, snakes, wombats, cassowary's) would at least give us a fighting chance of recognising some of the more decaying road kills to come. After seeing more of the local sites, the nobbies? and the penguins rip off experience(sadly we chose not to pay $24 to watch a load of fat penguins walk up the baech, although we did consider getting up at the crack of dawn and paying $50 to watch the same penguins disappear out to sea...not) we made it back to our campsite.
Later that evening our neighbours returned. On exiting their hotrod we were greeted with "Do you like to PARTY?" to which a very tired Mrs P. responded "Occaisionally". Needless to say Horrible Hagis wasn't going to be deterred. Plying Mr. P. with Tequilla, after he had already consumed the obligatroy bottle of wine with dinner was not a smart move. Introducing us to his friends, who also looked like ex-members of the 80's band ZZ Top, he continued to bore us with tales of rock n roll. In fact he even introduced his friends as being part of the biggest band in oz not to be signed to a record label!! Wondering why these rock n roll legends where camping in a field and not staying at the Hilton we were both a little sceptical. That is until 10 minutes later when word got out and the van was swarmed with teenage autograph hunters wanting pictures with the band. Who were our neighbours we hear you ask...we don't know as we were to embarrased to ask at that stage.
Waking with hangovers next morning we drove the short distance to Melbourne. Mrs. P. indulged in more shopping, and is sure her rucksack is shrinking, and took in some more of the sites. The following day saw us embark on the Great Ocean road. More shopping, this time for surf gear, we eventually made it to Lorne for the night. After a blissful afternoon on the beach and a 10m stroll back to the van we settled into beach life once more.
Up early next moring we embarked on possibly the most spectacular drive of the rally. The scenary was amazing and we enjoyed the drive down to Mount Gambier. Why we decided to stay here we don't know, but it sufficed for the evening.
Heading out next morining very early(it was even earlier when we realised at 3pm that we had gained half an hour crossing a time line) we drove through the first of the winneries. Unfortunately it was too early to partake as all were closed. Eventually reaching the Florieu peninsula just south of Adelaide we camped out on the beach once more staying at Port Elliot for the night. This was a beautiful bay with aquamarine seas, seals, surfers and needless to say sharks.
Waking early next day we drove out to the McClaren vale wine region. Starting off at d'Arenburg, which was stunning set up on the hill over looking all the other vineyards we made our first purchase!(after several tastings I might add). Next stop was Rosemount, very commercial, then onto Chapel Hill which produced a nice drop. Working down the vale we made it to Wirra Wirra which inspired us to make our second purchase of the day. Bearing in mind we only the van for another couple of days we did have to be very disciplined!! Finishing the day on a high we reached Petaluma at Bridge Water and then kept on trucking to the Barrosa Valley. How overjoyed were we when just after checking in the guy asked us whether we liked Hotrods as the follwing night there was going to be a massive convention. Could we stand another encounter with Horrible Hagis??
Not deterred by the oncoming invasion of the hotrods we ventured out to sample some of the Barrossa valley's finer wines. Starting at Wolf Blass(we can thoroughly recommend the 2004 Gold label Reisling), Penfolds, Peter Lehman, where the soapdodgers sat on the front lawn with their own picnic(not Peters at $30 a throw) Charles Melton, St. Halletts, and Rockford to finish.
Returning to the campsite we listened to the dulcit tones of revving engines and the out of tune rock and roll band for the remainder of the evening.
After some dusting down of the old bus and some 3002km we arrived back in Adelaide sad to be saying a fond fairwell to Remo, our trusty steed for the last eleven days. After upsetting more road users on the way back to Adelaide we arrived safely, feeling smug with ourselves for not taking the extra $16 / day insurance policy. Jaded and exhausted from all the driving we checked into the hostel for a sound nights sleep.
We are now in Alice Springs, with lots of drunk aboriginals holding up tress, and are off the Uluru tomorrow on a three day safari.