Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Great Australian Road Trip (Part 1)

My absence on this blog as of late can be explained in two ways:

1) I am no longer living 27 degrees South of the equator!
2) I totally forgot my password and couldn't remember the recovery options and the phone number they were going to text my information to is no longer my phone number.

Anyway, I probably won't be updating this blog after these posts (one for mainland Australia, one for Tasmania). Though if/when I return to Australia, I will no doubt revisit this blog (now that I remembered the password and changed my recovery options).

Pat and I spent all of February (wow, was it that long ago?) travelling down the East coast of Australia and through Tasmania. It was a wonderful journey. We took a little car (from Wicked Campervans) that converted into a double bed.

One side had a decal of George Bush on it. The other side had George Orwell (with the quote "Freedom is the freedom two say that two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.")

Our first stop was the beautiful town/city of Coffs Harbour.

We stayed at a lovely little caravan park and though we arrived later in the evening, the fellow let us play around in the pool for half an hour, all by ourselves. As far as caravan park pools go, it was pretty sweet:

After Coffs, it was on to Sydney! We stayed with the Garnetts in their cozy little apartment in Lilyfield. Pat, Julia and I went to the Powerhouse Museum, which I'd visited once before (sadly just missed the Harry Potter exhibit) and knew Pat would enjoy.

Sydney is full of amazing buildings and green spots. I've made a Sydney post before, so I'll keep it brief this time.

A courtyard in the Royal Sydney Hospital

 St. Mary's Cathedral

A pond in the Royal Botanical Gardens.

Not sure what this building is... looks pretty neat, though. 
(Haha, I crack myself up)

Pat, Julia and I also took in a FREE performance of La Boheme in the Domain, performed by the Sydney Opera Company. Because it was wet and rainy, a lot of the "premium" ticket holders didn't show, so we got upgraded to proper seats that included a catered dinner. The show was fantastic as well, even though the stage was slick with rain. 

Now, Australia is famous for its "big" things. The Big Banana (which Pat drove right past!), the Big Pineapple, etc. We were driving through Goulbourn, so we picked up some groceries and stopped at the Big Merino (which is a kind of sheep).  

We went inside and learned about the history of the wool trade in Australia. Yep, you could go INSIDE THE GIANT SHEEP. I was pretty excited.

 The next stop was the nation's capital, Canberra. I loved the many museums, science centres and art galleries (especially the Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit!). The city's layout was designed by Walter Burley Griffin, an American architect. It's circular and full of large, open green spaces. It's a little too perfect.

We also visited the Australian War Memorial. It was very well laid out with lots of attention to detail, but it was a very intense and solemn place to visit. 

Australian parliament! We took a tour. Gillard was doing a question time session, but I'm glad we stayed with our awesome tour guide and learned about the history of the building. He really knew his stuff and clearly loved his job (looked like he'd been doing it for a while). 

Nice day for it, on the top of Parliament Hill.

After we left Canberra, we spent a few days going through Mt. Kosciuszko National Park. There were so many wild kangaroos! We found a great little campsite (Tom Groggin) by the Murray River which was right by this huge valley that was full of kangaroos (maybe 50 - 100), including lots of joeys! They came and visited our site but they didn't bother us and we didn't bother them.

On the way to Victoria, we started seeing signs of the flooding and bush fires that had been plaguing Australia of late. Some of the strangest sights to see were burnt, black skeletal trees submerged in a few feet of water. A strange transitional time for the land.

A few more stops on the way (including a less-than-savoury night at a trailer/caravan park in Mansfield, a town where apparently drunks ride around at 8am on Sunday mornings?) and then we were on the famous Great Ocean Road in Victoria! We stopped at Torquay to figure out our trip, grabbed some surprisingly good Chinese food and visited the most beautiful human-sized sundial.

Plenty of tourists drive along the Great Ocean Road (we saw/heard plenty, and hey, technically we were tourists too). For safety's sake, you see these signs everywhere.

We wouldn't want people to get confused.

There was also plenty of wildlife to see along the side streets! This is where tourists would come in handy. You'd see a bunch of poorly parked cars and people gawking up into the treetops - join them, and you'd probably spot some koalas!

The Great Ocean Road is full of amazing sights - beautiful beaches and stunning rock formations, as well as a few nearby forest hikes that we enjoyed as well.

Triplet Falls.

Yes, Australia has a Wreck Beach, too! Named for the shipwrecks, though. No nudists.

The Twelve Apostles are quite magnificent - even though there's only eight left. Photos don't do them justice, but here you go.

 "London Bridge"

As we reached the end, we headed to a volcanic crater called the Tower Hill nature reserve. We had a lovely hike, and even saw a wild echidna!

We doubled back and got to Melbourne, where we spent some time in St. Kilda visiting old school chum Brandyn. He took us took the "St. Kilda" days just outside Luna Park, which was full of hippies and public alcoholic consumption. Good times. We stayed with my "Australian mum" Kaye, who took good care of us while we were there! I've taken/posted many pictures of Melbourne in the past, so I'll leave you with this.

St. Kilda Sunset

Alright, next post will be all about Tasmania! I promise it won't be six months until I post it.