Hey, right now its the 17th of march, sorry I fell behind with my blog for a few days, didnt have a chance to go online in a couple of hostels and Ive been so busy.
Me and sarah left sydney on the 14th of march, got up at about 5am, one of our usual early mornings, and walked downtown to get our oz bus. It was one of the smaller buses, not one of the new coaches, but our driver, Hoops, was really nice- she was really friendly and learnt everyones names in about 2 seconds. Sarah from surf camp was on our bus :-) We had a group of 13, including hoops, which was cool. Me and sarah are lucky cus weve never had to put up with any crowds buses on our trip. We hogged the two best seats- right at the front with the best view of the road and we could chat to Hoops.
We drove out of sydney into pastoral areas, complete with loads of cows- different to the ones in the north, the indian ones with the fatty humps at the base of the necks- the cows here were like the ones in england. It actually did look a tiny bit more english around this area of New South Wales. We stoped at lake george- or what used to be the massive lake george- its completely dried up. Has been for 50 yrs- showed just how bad the drought here is.
We drove to Canberra, the capital city of australia, and hoops told us loads about it- one of things was that melbourne and sydney thought they would be the capital city, but the public voted to make Canberra and make it the capital. The whole city looks pretty new, and a little bit american too. There isnt much to do here, its a very chilled out place with some shops, some museums. We picked up one girl who joined our group- she had stayed in canberra for 3 days and had been very bored!
Hoops took us to the houses of parliament, and we had a giuded tour around the new house of parliament- its very new, amazing design- everything about it is very australian, from the colour of the furniture in some rooms (light green of eucalyptus), to the aboriginal paintings. I learnt why the national emblem of australia has the kangaroo and the emu, out of all the animals of oz- its cus neither can walk bkwards, hence australia is a forward moving country. The buildings had 4000 rooms, and is the most expensive building of the southern hemisphere. It is supposed to last 200 yrs, and it looks like it could too.
We got bk on the bus and played some games as we went along- one was to just introduce yourself to the bus, and to give an interesting fact e.g. about animals, something most people wont know. I said that the smallest bird in the world is the bee hummingbird- about the size of your thumbnail, and that it flies bkwards. Sarah used a fact that we learnt at syney aquarium- that pengiuns have dark backs so that when predators are above they can blend in with the dark deep water, and their tummies are white so that when predators are below them they blend in with the lighter sky. One girl mentioned that the quack is the only sound not to make an echo. Wierd facts like that really. About half of the bus couldnt think of one but it was still interesting.
As we got nearer to thredbo I spotted loads of horses and ranches- the horses here are the Brumbies, like a cross between thoroughbreds and wild mountain ponies basically. Theyre the size of horses and they can go up cliff faces with extreme ease. Theyre tough and they look stunning too. I love them! The area we entered was the Snowy mountains, snowy river is here- a horse film was made about this place, about a drover (guy who herds cows about with a whip across country) who caught a brumbie that nobody else could, and he brought it back with others too. If you catch a brumbie here then you keep it :-)
When we got to thredbo we were suprised to find that our accommodation was a four star hotel! Its a ski resort here, very quiet when we came cus theres no snow yet, not cold enough. We had nice dorm rooms, and we all went to use the heated pool and jacuzzi the second we got here lol. It was awesome, esp the jacuzzi! We had the whole place to ourselves, there were no other guests, though there was a posh wedding going on at the hotel (bit wierd when we all arrived- rough looking backpackers mingling with very dressed up wedding guests around the reception area lol). We'd look hilarious if were in any photos in the bkground.
We had dinner next (the accommodation and food for the journey down to mlebourne was all included with oz experience). We had chicken, chips and salad- we were so stuffed after that me and sarah went straight to shower and went to bed at around ten. The internet at the hotel was way too expensive so we didnt bother- about 1.00 for ten mins! We had to be up for brekkie by 6 the next day as we were going to do a walk to the top of mountain Kosciusko, the highest mountain in OZ! We were already pretty high up at thredbo, and we would take a chairlift (never been on one before) and then walk 13km.
The next day, we had a good brekkie, checked out, and got to the chairlift. It was a little scary for a sec and then it was loads of fun, though freezing cold! It wobbled a bit in the wind, and we went really really high. We started our walk when we got off- the wind was freezing and the air was thin, so we hurried up to keep warm- most of us didnt have gloves or anything, I looked a bit prepared lol as I had ski gloves and a hat (brought them for NZ). I gave my hat to sarah from surf camp, as she was completely frozen. Me n sarah had our windproof jackets on so we werent too bad, though our faces competely froze in about 5 seconds. The sarah from surf camp actually gave up and turned bk after 2km. Me and sarah hurried on to keep warm, it got better after a while as you got used to it. We saw some fantastic views pf the mluntains- including a couple of lakes, clouds around the rocks, and some streams. The boulders here were a really strange- pinky green pale colour, with some lichens on them. They were granite. The plants up here were really unique too- strange bryophytes, mosses, lichens, and lots of different tiny flowers, and snowdrops. The whole walk is set up above the rare plants on a metal boardwalk, to protect the environment. Its such a good idea that you see here all the time, they should have these in england more to stop erosion.
Anyway, we got to the top after a couple of hours- oh and on the way we saw Charlottes Pass- a mountain pass that not many people dp, looked really cool! lol. At the top the wind almost blew you away, took some fab photos. We were at the highest point in australia! We also used the highest toilet in austalia lol, some of the guys got quite excited about that. Almost as bad as me and sarah looking at all the plants while they raced to the top. We still beat most of the group though, even though we took so many photos and took our time. We walked bk fast though- got cold cus we were going downhill not uphill, so ran a bit to keep warm. On the way bk down in the chairlift, me and sarah we alone init and it came to a stop for a bit! So we were swinging in midair for a while, hoping we werent actually stuck! We think that they just paused it cus some guys got on the chairlift complete with their mountain bikes! So they might have got stuck when it came to getting off! It was funny when our chairlift passed theirs. We watched them whizz down the hill on their bikes underneath us, looked incredible.
We all met up at the bottom and had lunch as a group- we lost Coomie, a japanese girl in our group. Turns out her chairlift ticket blew out of her hand and she had to walk all the way down, bless her. We left thredbo to start our drive along the barry way- which Hoops went on about as a really rough road- dirt track actually, drovers used to use it to move the cattle along the snow river and through the mountains. It goes south, across the border into Victoria state, leaving new south wales.
When we got to the barry way it was actually really smooth, according to me anyway (ive seen much worse, some people thought it was very rough). The road was fantastic- it went right along the cliff face with a good view of the mountains, and the snowy river when it follwed it. You could tell that some of the forests were regenerating after a bushfire in 2006- the fir trees were dead, and the eucalyptus trees were covered in new buds of growth. We saw loads of wildlife on the way- a dingo, fatter and less orange looking than the ones on fraser island, and when we stopped at the border between the states, me and sarah went for a wonder and came across two massive wild kangaroos. They were awesome to watch- they bounded up a steep hill no problem through the pine trees. Oh, and there was quite a funny monument to say that youre crossing states- its just a little boulder with writing onit lol.
We passed into victoria, and went to the south coast, no more east coast :-( and we arrived at Lakes Entrance at about 5pm. We had fish and chips in one of the restaurants- the fish we had was called flake, and its so nice! I prefer it to cod so much. We all hung there for a bit as a group and then they went to our hostel on our bus, while me and sarah chose to go and see the well known 90 mile beach, the second beach in the world, which was just over a bridge over the river going out to sea. It was a beautiful area, we got to the beach just before sunset so we hung out for a while and watched the sunset, picked some shells of part of the beach- hadnt seen shells on any other beaches before this one. We couldnt believe that nobody from our group had bothered to see it though, we were leaving early the next morning to travel to melbourne so wouldnt get to see it again.
We walked bk to the hostel, which was Beach and it was pretty big- all our group were in one apartment with two dorms, one for girls and one for boys, and we had a lounge and bathroom. We had some sleep and got up half 5am, had a massive breakfast, and a cup of tea! lol me and sarah hardly ever get to have tea, get quite happy about that!
We left lakes entrance and headed for Philip Island, which is a major attraction near melbourne. OZ experience usually goes to wilsons promitory national park, but this is where the bushfires have been (black saturday, 400 dead, about a month ago), and theres nothing to see but dead animals and burnt forest, possibly worse..theres actually been a fund raising concert recently in melbourne and in sydney, with kings of leon etc, to help aid those whose have lost their homes.
When we were on the oz bus on the way to philip island, me and sarah booked a one day trip of the great ocean road near melbourne, as we dont get to do the whole great ocean road but we can still see the main highlights :-)
We got to the island about half 11, loads of time. Went to the koala sanctuary, this was kinda funny- there was a guy called Josh from our group who had been getting very very excited about seeing koalas- hes actually been all the way down the coast from cairns, like me and sarah, and he hasnt seen one koala! Dont know he missed them lol. It was funny to see a guy get all mushy over them, he practically ran off the bus. Me and sarah werent going to go in as wed seen so many, but it was only 3.50 and its toward their conservation, so we went in. Ive gotten way better at spotting them and pointed them out to people in the group which was fun, they were usually above their heads. Josh loved it, he kept calling them bears though. We were like 'theyre not bears!'.
We then went to the north of the island, a town called Cowes (after somewhere in wales we think?), and had lunch here. This island also seems like a place that would be nice to live in! It had a beautiful, quiet beach, nice pier, nice town, national park.
We then headed for The Nobbies! We went on the boardwalk here along the cliffs edge to spot penguins. The secret is to lie down on the walkway, lean over the edge, hang your head upside down and you'l find loads of them under the planks of wood! Had a bit of a giggle doing this- some people just walked past us and thought we were very strange, and they didnt see any penguins! We saw some baby ones too which were cute. The penquins here are really famous for being the smallest in the world- theyre called fairy, or little penguins.
We watched the massive waves hit the cliffs, and the blowholes, and then headed to the visitor centre, which was a big building with loads of conservation information in there, touchscreens, newspaper articles etc. There was a camera that you could use to watch the seals on seal rocks near the cliffs, and there were literally hundreds of them! It was fun to watch them, the sea was so rough. There are great white sharks around here too but didnt see any of them- they like the colder sea of the south coast.
Driving back from the coast back across the island, me and Hoops spotted a wild wallaby. Everyone took pics and then we spotted another later on, and then I spotted one right by the bus. Pretty good day for wildlife!
Oh and we saw the grand prix circuit here on philip island too. And loads of pelicans, and black swans. Think thats it...we got to melbourne at about 5pm, me and sarah got dropped off and walked to our hostel, Coffe backpackers, at st.kilda. As soon as we got in it smelled of pot, and everyone looked spaced out- reminded me of byron and nimbin! Sarah said she reckoned that they would have messed up our booking here too, and sure enough they had and he tried to put us in separate rooms but we got our way in the end.
We walked round st.kilda to see what it was like, and it was rough lol- lonely planet describes it as a place with druggies and transvestites. Couple of the streets have been redeveloped and look way better, but the pier bit is so old, with a really freaky theme park that looks like something out of a horror film! It seems like a rough part of london, loads of the buildings here are ancient, and would have looked so nice but they look freaky now. We found aclade st, one of the redeveloped ones, and it was really nice- they have loads of cake shops here, literally hundreds of cakes in the windows. We were craving pizza for some reason, so we walked all the way up and down the street and didnt find one, and then the very last shop at the end of the street was a pizza shop lol. They baked them here in a woodfire, and we got one with goats cheese- I reckon it had kilos of goat cheese onit, so strong it was lush. We hung there for a bit and then went bk to our hostel (which looked alike a haunted old school building- woodens staircases and never ending corridors, cool though).
The next day was the 17th of march, and we woke up and were told that we had free breakfast, which turned out to be pancakes! yum. We walked into st.kilda and realised on the way that it was st.patricks day, hence irish people were already in the pubs, at 8am, and some people were dressed up, and hence the pancakes lol. We got a metro ticket and were waiting at the stop we chose when a local businessman guy recommended that we take a different tram (loads of trams here, the main public transport). So we did and it turned out he pounted out the wrong stop cus we ended up goin away from the city not into it! Ended up having a tour of the suburbs around town for like an hour and a half lol, some places were really rough, and others were extremely posh. We got to town for about 12, on the way a metro policeman got on the tram and said he could fine me 167.00 dollars for putting me feet up on one of the seats, which was covered in graffiti anyway. Its a good job we had tickets or we'd have been fined- locals had told us not to bother getting tickets cus the metro police never heck for tickets!
In the centre of melbourne we went to the visitor centre, got a metro map, went round federation square, had lunch in a nice cafe there with a view of finders st station, huge old victorian building, and the highest building in the southern hemisphere- which is gold plated at the top! We'l be going to the top of this building on our last day here.
We walked to the treasury gardens, some of the fountains here had no water init due to the drought restrictions, and then we went to the fitzroy gardens. These were really nice, saw Captain james cook's cottage (the man who found australia and new zealand)- this cottage was so nice, it had a big english flag outside lol, and an old red postbox that everyone was taking photos of. It was dead cheap to go in so we went around it and learnt some more history- I think by now were experts on australias history lol. We got handed a leaflet that was about the gardens, and it said that some of the trees had metal guards because it stops possums overeating them at night, so me and sarah, who hadnt got to see any possums yet, decided to go round the park at night and try to see some. We spent the rest of the day taking the tram round the city, walking miles as usual- went to the city library, house of parliament, museum, all amazing old buildings (I love how the cities here have so much character and history), and we went to victoria market, huge, and then the posh docklands. We walked most of the way and took our old tram for some parts of it (the city tram was a really col old wooden one, been going round since 1936!).
And then came the best part of our day- we went back to the fitzroy gardens at sunset, and hung around til it got dark. Then, about 5 mins after it was dark, we heard some noises around the park. At one point a branch actually broke off one of their old trees, luckily we were a way off lol. Then we were stood on the path, and suddenly I spotted a big possum climb down one of the trees and just stand on the floor, lit by the lamp, and stared at us. I told sarah to slowly turn around, and we both looked at it. We got our camera out and couldnt believe how curious it was- it came running up to our feet and looked at us, then backed off and walked up the path!
We went up to each possum in the trees and they all came down as sniffed us and stood looking at us and then ran bk up the tree. Some were even less shy and followed us along, though they dont let you touch them or anything like that, theyre still wild. I read today that the park actually encourages some people to feed them, cus then they eat less of the plants in the botanical gardens! When we were there though we didnt see anyone else, saw about 3 other people walk through the park and they didnt see them, one person just ignored them, all locals. We didnt see any other travellers in the park, you'd think more people would find out about them and come and see them.
We spent a couple of hours there- saw a baby possum too right at the edge of the park, and then we got on the tram home to st.kilda. lol I just did it again- I call our hostel home!
We got back around ten, I stayed up til about 1am trying to catch up with my blog, and then we got up early for our Autopia day tour of the great ocean road :-) Oh, and by the way- we have two girls in our sanctuary (girls only) dorm...who snore! One of them is under me on my bunkbed, and ones under sarah. So not the best sleep. Fab beds though, and we get towels and shampoo etc, more like a hotel than a hostel when youre in base's sanctuary dorms. You can always hear the music from the bar though, but sometimes thats quite nice.