When Nick last wrote we were in Byron Bay and I had just spent a morning learning to surf!!! I was pretty rubbish and it was really hard work but so much fun!!!
The next day I woke with really stiff shoulders and arms from trying to get the board far enough out to actually surf and big bruises on both knees from my very elegant attempts to actually stand up on the board! I did stand a few times though which I was quite proud of.
Anyway, on with the story....
The next day we woke to absolutely beautiful weather. Bright blue skies and bikini warm! We started the day with another walk to the head to look for whales. Unfortunately they were still hiding from us but we did see loads of dolphins playing in the surf and swimming round some kayakers. (I wish I'd been in one of the kayaks). We then walked back to the beach and spent the rest of the day sunbathing!!!! Amazing. I was beginning to think that sunny days in Oz were a myth!
After a long hard day lying on the beach we boarded the night bus to Sydney. Unfortunately, at some point between Byron Bay and Sydney I developed a very bad cold meaning that by the time we got to Sydney I wasn't up for doing anything other than going back to Jarvie and Gemma's flat for some sleep! We did call in to collect our Indian Visa's from the Embassy on the way though. The final section of our trip can now go ahead as planned!
That day and the next were pretty quiet. We ate some lovely food (thanks, Gemma) and just relaxed around the flat while I tried to get rid of my cold. We did spend the time planning however, and on the Sunday we headed out to the Blue Mountains just outside Sydney where we'd been promised some amazing views and lovely walks. Unfortunately, as you'll see on the photo's the fog sort of hid most of the views!!! What we did see was lovely though, really dramatic scenery, and the heavy rain held off until we were back at the train station.
On Monday, we were off again. This time to Canberra, the magnificent capital of Oz! Now, we'd had mixed reports about Canberra. Most people said "I've never actually been there, but I've been told it's crap" but some people said "People say it's crap, but I've been there and I quite liked it." We decided that we'd go and make our own minds up. It's quite a short trip from Sydney to Canberra and on the way to Melbourne so we'd have to pass by anyway.
So, what was it like? Think Milton Keynes with a hint of Washington DC. Very sterile, built entirely around the car with some huge bland buildings and massive boulevards. Very difficult to walk around, pavements just vanish and Lake Burley Griffin constantly makes huge detours necessary! That said, the hostel we had was lovely (it even had a spa!) and the War Memorial Museum was really interesting. I also went to watch the end of PM's Question Time in the new parliament building which was quite interesting. Nick went to the National Museum of Australia while I was watching the PM and was very underwhelmed! So, my opinion of Canberra "If you're passing through you may as well stop, but don't make a special effort."
After our day in Canberra we headed on to Melbourne on yet another night bus. Our last bus journey in Oz! We arrived pretty early in the morning and were given a flyer for a lovely hostel, near the centre, very cheap and very nice. So after dumping our bags we walked along the river to have a look at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) where they also play Aussie Rules Football. A tour was a bit out of our budget so we just looked at the outside before walking into the city. We'd read in the Lonely Planet that you could go up the Sofitel Hotel for an amazing (free) view across the city. It turned out that the only view was actually from the toilets - pretty cool toilets! Anyway, guess what?? We were in Melbourne in time for the State of Origin Rugby League match and we met Andrew Johns (the ex Aussie Captain) in the hotel lift!!!!! No, I didn't know who he was but he was very friendly, quite good looking and meeting him made Nick very happy!!
The rest of the day was spent wandering round the centre of Melbourne sorting a camper van for our drive to Adelaide. I went to the Botanical Gardens for a bit but it started chucking it down so back to the hostel and we watched our mate Andy's team on TV, in the State of Origin match.
The next day we wandered round to St Kilda, the beach area of Melbourne where my friend Porscha used to work!! We visited the pier and were going to eat in the restaurant where she used to work "Beachcombers" but it was too expensive so we just took a photo instead. Sorry Porsch! St Kilda's lovely though. A really nice beach and modern boardwalk area with a little shopping area set a couple of streets back from the sea and a big fairground (which was closed!) A quiet night walking the streets and we were ready to collect our camper van the next morning.
Piece of advice for you. If you ever need to rent a camper van DO NOT RENT A WIKED ONE - THEY ARE COMPLETE RUBBISH, OVERPRICED AND DANGEROUS!!!! The van we hired was painted like an embarassed leopard, it had a dodgy ignition and wouldn't start a lot of the time, when it did start it would often stop again a few minutes later when you were in the middle of a junction, it wouldn't go over 80kmph, the engine made a really loud rattly noise, it stank, the window wouldn't close properly, the heater didn't work and it cost a small fortune ... and that was an upgrade from the basic van!! Unfortunatley, we've also paid a deposit on a Wiked van for our time in Perth so we're currently fighting to get that back.
Anyway, despite the rubbish vehicle we were determined to have a great time on the Great Ocean Road! And we did! The road looks just like something out of a car advert. The first proper stop was at Split Point Lighthouse. Remember the kids TV show "Round the Twist"? This is where it was filmed!!! (It was also in the Mad Max films but Round the Twist is much better). After that we stopped at a few small places, short walks to waterfalls etc. before stopping to camp at Maits Rest where we went for a short walk in the Rainforest, cooked dinner and went to bed.
The next day we started driving along the most popular section of the road. We saw Cape Otway Lighthouse (which was a bit rubbbish) Triple Falls and Melba Gully (which weren't rubbish). Then we carried on to all of the main areas, Gibson Steps, 12 Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, Mutton Bird Island, The Arch, London Bridge and Bay of Islands. A really beautiful and dramatic coastline, huge towers of stone abandoned out at sea. Very impressive! That night we arrived at Warrnambool, another area where you're almost guaranteed to see whales at this time of year. We didn't see any that evening but camped nearby hoping to see some the next morning.
Morning came but the whales didn't. They're probably in Byron Bay now?! So after watching for an hour or so we gave up on whale watching and continued our journey. The area West of the great Ocean Road is DULL!!! Long straight roads and completely flat landscape, just how you imagine outback Australia but with more green. However, we did find a great place to camp that night. Mount Arapiles, a lump of rock in the middle of the plain which is very popular with rock climbers. We drove to the top to look at the view, then watched the sunset and the full moon which was beautiful.
We woke to thick mist but the sight of the sun burning through the mist was an amazing start to the day. The rest of the day just couldn't live up to such a great start! We were back on the long straight roads and monotonous landscape. We stopped for a walk to Chinaman's Well in Coorong National Park but it was just a stone well and not really that interesting. So, after another quick stop at Mount Lofty to see the view over Adelaide we drove on to Henley Beach for the night.
This morning we went for a walk along the beach and saw lots of pelicans then we returned the van, complained bitterly about it to lots of people who "can't do anything, sorry!" and we've got a few more hours in Adelaide before our flight to Perth this evening. It's sunny now so I'm off for a walk round!!
Hope you're all well and see you soon!