SOUTH AUSTRALIA and WEST VICTORIA
We arrived in Adelaide, took our motorhome and went to the shopping mall to get organized for our trip. It took so long we were making jokes that we may never leave the parking lot.
After New Zealand, Australia is vast. Even the little driving we've done so far allows you to feel how big it is - tens of kilometers between petrol stations, hours of the same scenery, straight roads that go on for miles and miles. We shall have to plan our trip well - can't just pop over to see something - it could take days!
Our caravan is compact (Oh my
goodness. Look how small it is!) - after the spaciousness of our hosts'
homes in New Zealand it is quite an experience to have cutlery and
crockery for four, and a tiny cubicle with a shower and a toilet in it
- you can sit on the loo and shower at the same time. We have one
seating area that is our work table, eating area and storage space. Our
bed is over the steering wheel so climbing down the ladder at night is
quite an ordeal. Last night Eitan woke me up when he went to the
toilet, meaning I also had to go. By the time I climbed back to bed he
was lying down. Somehow I managed to dive from the ladder over his feet
to my side of the bed. He called me his Ninja wife.
It is just over 700 kilometers from Adelaide to Melbourne. The journey took us 10 days and we felt we were rushing. After leaving Adelaide we drove along the Coorong, a coastal lagoon 100 kms long. We stopped at Meningie and found it enchanting. We immediately went for a long cycle along the shores of Lake Albert. We could hardly keep our eyes on the road, as we looked with delight at the huge white pelicans, majestically sailing along or roosting on frames in the water. After Lake Albert we followed the shoreline and arrived at the Coorong National Park where we met Margaret. (click here for story) .
Cutting inland we overnighted at Mount Gambier, a town built around the caldera of an extinct volcano, and famous for its Blue Water Lake, which turns from gray to blue every November. We cycled the 5 kilometers around the edge of the lake. The water was intensely blue, even though the day was gray and drizzly.
Our next major stop was the Grampians, a mountainous area surrounded by eucalyptus forests. I was very upset by the filthy campsite we had chosen and made Eitan despair until I found a clean though sandy site. The following morning when we woke up and looked out of the window we really knew that we were in Australia. A mob of kangaroos was feeding on the nearby grass, 20 metres from our motorhome. We then realized that the filth on the grass was kangaroo dung not dog turds as I had previously thought. After our encounter with these strange and fascinating marsupials we began to feel that we were living an episode of some TV nature series. A night bushwalk spotlighted many possums. It was strange that here they are protected while in New Zealand they are a destructive pest destroying much natural forest.
A few nights later we went on a night canoe ride on eerily beautiful Lake Elizabeth. It was formed when a mudslide dammed a river and created a new lake. Still 50 years later huge bare tree trunks stand in majestic solitude in the shallow waters of the lake.
We continued along the coast and saw a pot-bellied Harley Davidson motorcyclist at the side of a road looking up at the trees. “What’s there?” we asked, “Koala bears.” We were quite excited to see these cute creatures. He told us he had seen many more a few kilometres on at Kennet River, so we drove there. “Walk up the dirt road and look for them,” said the guy who runs the kiosk there. Koalas sleep most of the day while their bodies process the toxins from the eucalypts leaving little available energy. At last the crummy weather, cold and blowy, was to our advantage. We were well awarded and saw lots of koalas, with a satisfying number that were unusually active at midday. A group of tourists became most excited and they all started to wave back to a friendly koala who they said was waving to them - after he finished scratching his behiind he settled down and went back to sleep. One koala was so close we could have touched him. He was in a tea tree right next to the road. More than that we couldn’t hope for.
One is constantly aware of birds here: huge pelicans, kookaburras who give the first and last call of the day, cockatoos, shrieking corellas who swoop and make a great racket before they settle down at night, lorikeets flashing red as they fly past, sacred ibises and Royal Spoonbills feeding in shallow ponds, black swans, as well as magpies, wrens and other birds we don’t know.
We’ve done a lot of interesting day walks. Here’s a photo of Eitan on the 6-hour Wonderland Loop in the Grampians. I call it ‘The Almost Compleat Hiker’, showing him with Aussie hat, wickaway- moisture pants that zip off to become shorts, walking poles to support his knees, GPS, hiking boots and drinking from his camelback water bottle. Why ‘almost compleat’? He later realized that he had left his sandwiches behind! A tragedy. At my insistence we shared my sandwiches. Eitan makes delicious sandwiches. Mine were so dry that even one was too much.
We drove along the Great Ocean Road, enthralled by the beauty of the coastline. No words are needed.
Because of the rocky nature of the coastline many ships were wrecked
here. The story of the Loch Ard particularly gripped us. As we walked
along the dramatic shore we stopped and read how the story
unfolded. <Click here to read the story of
the Loch Ard>
A few days later we reached Apollo Bay and checked in at a caravan park. Next to us a family was also unpacking. Eitan went off to do the washing when I heard a knock on our door. A young girl, about 12, stood there with a bucket and a small fish inside. “Your husband asked me to catch a fish,” she said as I stood looking at her. Eitan had jokingly told her to catch a fish for him for supper. There were only 3 rods and 4 family members but she insisted that she get a rod and was delighted to be the first to catch a fish. While Eitan was barbecuing the meat and her tiny fish at the communal barbecue there was another knock and she brought another fish, a bigger mullet this time!
Many cafes have signs offering Devonshire Teas (tea and English scones with jam and cream). One, Paradise Cafe, at the end of a shaded gully cut through by a stream intrigued us. We geared up, two pairs of padded cycling pants, cycling shoes, gloves, helmets as well as spare tyres etc and cycled off to Paradise. Arriving at the little tearoom after all that riding, we were horrified to see the “Closed” sign. Undaunted we knocked on the door of the house adjoining the cafe. The owner, a keen cyclist, said “For you I’ll open the cafe!” We rested in the shade of trees and admired the flowers until our date scones, an Australasian specialty arrived. Two nights later, a 100 kilometres along the coast, when we went to an open-air, Australianized adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet (absolutely hilarious, by the way) we were delighted to recognize our hosts from the Devonshire teas. At last some-one we knew!
Our last stop before arriving in Melbourne was at Geelong. The wool museum was, surprisingly, really interesting. Sheep rearing is really the history of much of early Australia. A certain Captain MacArthur understood the need to find an industry that was not labor intensive and whose products could be successfully shipped to England – and thought of sheep rearing. It took many years until they adapted European sheep to the different conditions of Australia. (Remember the long thin French knitting we used to do as kids? – how we wound wool around nails on a wooden spool and a long thin thing used to come out. Well, that is the basis of socks! Seaweed replaces wool in the area between the tube socks. The toe bits are then sewn together with wool, becoming that annoying seam at the toes. When the whole tube is washed, the seaweed thread disintegrates and the socks separate.) We then rode our bikes along the waterfront admiring colourful characters created from discarded bollards (the wooden posts on wharfs) by Jan Mitchell. Amusing and most attractive, they relate the characters and history of the place in a charming way. The ‘Then and Now’ photo of me is taken next to a bollard portraying Nancy Nattyknickers on her velocipede, the first of which was made in Geelong in 1869. Women started wearing trousers some 25 years later to allow for cycling. What would she have thought of me?
From Geelong, we made our way to Melbourne .
Click here to read two stories: about Margaret and about The Wreck of the Loch Ard
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