Mon April 6 – The Value of Hindsight

True confessions – this campervanning thing has not worked out very well so far.  We probably should have planned this portion of the trip differently, knowing what we now know.

It is incredibly hot and humid here and the temperature does not drop at night.  We are both jet-lagged and we just did not realize how much work this campervan would be, and how much junk there is.  It’s a poor compromise between a 4WD and a machine to sleep in, but it’s all that’s available – but man, is there a steep learning curve.

Plus it’s very small and we have two big suitcase (for our 9-week vacation) to fit in on top of everything else.

Biggest problem with it is that once you’ve put up the top (emptying everything out first, then putting it all back in once it’s up) you can’t drive it anywhere without repeating the whole process!

So after night one, we “packed it in” and escaped to the next town on our itinerary – Derby – and checked into an air-conditioned hotel.

It’s now the next morning and things are looking up.  Good night’s sleep. Peter cooked a lovely breakfast.  We have hotels booked for the next 3 nights, and hopefully after that we’ll have adjusted to the heat, the nighttime temperatures in the desert will start dropping as we proceed inland and we can try camping again.

Derby is a funny little place.  Yesterday was Easter Monday so it was mostly shut down but we didn’t see a single person or car.  It’s almost like a ghost town.  Will be interesting to see if there’s more activity today.

Sat April 4 – Hello to Broome…it’s hot here!

As expected, a long travelling day but uneventful.  We stepped off the plane into 35C temps and bright blue skies.  Have forgotten how hot that can be!

We proceeded to pick up our Britz 4WD Campervan that we’re to be living in for the next 2 weeks but we’re both (well, mostly me) wondering exactly how that is going to work out.  The vehicle is pretty old and pretty tight quarters, given that we’ve got our two big suitcases to fit in somehow.  I confess we wimped out and went to a resort for tonight – and, wow, the AC feels good.

But a good night’s sleep changes everything and tomorrow we’re moving into Roebuck Bay Caravan Park for 2 nights here in Broome before we head out to parts unknown.  First on the agenda is shopping for groceries and supplies.  Next is figuring out how to organize ourselves and our stuff in the van.

I really love Broome – such a cool oceanside town. I love the fact that Cable Beach is so huge and everyone just drives up onto it to have their dinner while watching the sun set. And then they tootle off afterwards – no big deal, no big expedition.

We just got back from a gorgeous Cable Beach evening – it is the first time I have watched the sun go down on a horizon of at least 180 degrees.  With camel trains wandering by, no less!  With all that, I have to confess that it was not the most romantic of sunsets for the two of us.  Getting up at 4:00am and travelling all day with a 3 ½ hour time difference doesn’t do a lot for romance!  Peter charged off down the beach in search of the perfect photos (he was successful, I might add!) and I sat by myself  and watched the big red ball sinking below the horizon.  Absolutely stunning.

We should also have a good view of the lunar eclipse tonight but certainly not from our window and I’m fading fast so doubt I’ll see it.  Plus I’m looking forward to getting up for an early morning skype with the family!  Perhaps Peter will have more staying power….

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IMG_3200    IMG_3209

 

Fri April 3 – In Adelaide, looking ahead to Broome!

Seems we have a bit of a blip in our itinerary since we spent all day driving west to Adelaide, only to get on a plane tomorrow to fly back east to Sydney, where we catch a flight back to Broome on the west coast.  Oh, the things we’ve learned the hard way!

We are prepared for tomorrow to be another challenging travel day.  Hopefully it will end with a lovely romantic evening watching sunset on the famous Cable Beach in Broome, and staying up late enough to catch the red lunar eclipse which is conveniently scheduled for our arrival!

To be truthful though, about the most exciting thing that will happen this weekend is a Skype phone call with all of our family as they celebrate Easter dinner without us.  Can’t wait for that.

Broome marks the beginning of our 2-week caravanning adventure in the Kimberley Desert.  We are both pretty excited about the potential but also still a bit freaked with sorting out the logistics.

A BIG shout out to Philip and Ingrid Schubert of Perth Australia who have given us a ton of incredibly useful information to help with caravanning preparations and itinerary planning.  These 2 weeks would not have been possible without their help.  Philip is a photographer who Peter met through Google Earth.  He and Ingrid are huge fans of The Kimberley.  Check out some of his photographs on the front page of www.australia.com/en#/state/wa as well as www.philipschubert.com.au.

Thurs April 2 – A long drive to a worthwhile destination

Today we drove the last section of the Great Ocean Road and I have to say that the Bay of Islands, just past Peterborough, was spectacular.  We actually thought it was more picturesque than the famous Twelve Apostles – more limestone pillars and outcrops, more dramatic shorelines, wonderful colours.  I have only one poor picture of it, as it was incredibly windy while we were there and I was seriously worried my iPhone would blow out of my hand.  I’m waiting for Peter to process his shots which will hopefully include at least one in-focus panorama!

After that, we got onto the Princes Highway which travelled through the interior to Mount Gambier, our destination for the night.  It was pretty mundane territory but thankfully we had the Mercedes sound system to keep us entertained – it is downright awesome!

We had a lot of difficulty getting GPS to find our hotel – neither the Mercedes NAV system nor our Garmin would identify it so we were a little concerned until my iPhone GPS came through (very fortunate it didn’t blow out of my hands a little earlier!)  Then, as we approached the town/city of Mount Gambier and what we thought would be our hotel location, the GPS took us off the main roads into pure farmland – fields, cows, fences, totally rural.  We knew that our hotel was called The Barn Accommodation but we were still getting a little concerned about where we were heading. Finally, some big “The Barn” signs came into sight…and wow.  What a surprise.  In the middle of nowhere, here is this wonderful sprawling boutique resort with gardens to die for and modern urban furnishings and a well-known local Steakhouse!  It was a great surprise at the end of the day.  Kudos to tripadvisor which found it for us!

IMG_3163  A poor representation of my favourite view along the Great Ocean Drive.

Wed April 1 – April Fools on The Great Ocean Road

Today we started to drive the very famous Great Ocean Road, which travels west along the south coast of Australia between Melbourne and Adelaide.  We had anticipated a drive which truly went alongside the ocean but at least half of this road travels inland, I’m sure because the coastline terrain prevents it getting any closer.

One of the best places it turned back to the ocean was in Apollo Bay where there is truly one of the most amazing beaches I’ve seen.  Very few people, enough surfers to be interesting, and probably 5 km of untouched golden sand.

After spending a warm hour there, we continued to the most famous spot on this very famous drive which is the Twelve Apostles.  These are shapely limestone seastacks about 45 m high which have broken away from the shoreline due to erosion caused by the constant surf.  There are no longer 12 (I think only 10 now) and you can see that a few more are likely to topple sometime in the next few decades.

This is the most highly photographed area on the south coast and the bus tours arrive like crazy.  It was teaming with tourists and we just can’t figure out where they came from or went after.  We’re staying in Port Campbell (the “Gateway to the Apostles”) about 10km away. It would appear to be a town that caters almost entirely to tourists – motels, restaurants, etc – but it sure doesn’t seem very busy.

Peter has now gone back to try to get some Apostle shots at sunset but I suspect it’s way too cloudy for anything too dramatic.  Perhaps he can get some good tourist shots!

IMG_3099  Apollo Bay Beach

IMG_3101 Apollo Bay Beach looking in the opposite direction

IMG_3124  Me on the beach.

IMG_3133  Peter on the beach.

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The Apostles (as best as my iPhone could capture)

IMG_3160  The tourists keep rolling on through.

IMG_3157  The  Aussies never mince their words!

Tues March 31 – Working Day

With all this travelling, it becomes clear that some days are working days.

Like today.  Up at 5:45am, drive to airport, sit at airport, fly to Melbourne, pick up car rental and figure out all the new buttons/electronics, figure out GPS settings, find shopping mall to buy extra wifi capacity, drive to new destination.  Today that all took 12 hours (and the flight was only 65 minutes.)

The car rental company gave us a major upgrade to a new Mercedes sedan.  An absolutely amazing vehicle, although it has taken forever to get it all figured out – it is all LED display and electronic sensors (of absolutely everything, including gears!) and for the first time, there is no manual!  Fortunately Peter is totally up for the challenge – looks like he finally has his dream car!

Not much else to say except that our hotel tonight, in Queenscliff on the ocean south of Melbourne, was built in 1850 and has tons of lovely old character.  Although it has been quite renovated, you can still feel the old “bones” of the place – our room has tall french-doors that open out onto a spacious 2nd storey verandah with arm chairs and tables everywhere.  You can just imagine sitting there with afternoon tea back in the day!

IMG_3096  Appetizer at dinner at the Athelstane Hotel (clearly not “back in the day”

IMG_3098  Pan-fried fish for main course.

Mon March 30 – Peter and The Painted Cliffs

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We got up bright and early to catch the ferry to Maria Island and were rewarded with this gorgeous sunrise from our cottage window!

Maria Island is just off the coast near Swansea.  It has been high on Peter’s list since we first started talking about Tasmania because of its “Painted Cliffs.”  There is one ferry over at 9:00am and one return at 4:30pm.  There is camping on the island so Peter had his heart set on taking enough gear to spend the night there (shooting sunset and sunrise, don’t you know!)  But even basic gear for a one-nighter wasn’t going to fit in the luggage so he reluctantly abandoned that idea for a day-trip instead.

The weather was terrific and we disembarked from the ferry and immediately headed for the Cliffs where Peter lost himself for about 2 hours.  As it turned out, both the sun and the tide were very cooperative and he’s really happy with what he got – see two samples below.  (He couldn’t have shot at sunset or sunrise anyway because the tide would have been too high!)  We spent the rest of the day wandering around the island which was the original prison for English convicts.  However, taking their cues from the local Aborigines, the prisoners built themselves kayaks and were impossible to contain.  So this prison was decommissioned and the one in Port Arthur (where we dined a couple of nights ago!) was built as a replacement.  There’s a fascinating history to Maria (pronounced as in Carey) Island, involving cement production, brickworks, etc. but none of the evidence remains except ruins of the buildings.

It was a really peaceful afternoon roaming the fields and shorelines – although the trees seemed to be channeling the windblown loneliness that the convicts in the past must have felt.

Tomorrow we’re leaving Tasmania for the Australian mainland (Melbourne) and we both feel like we didn’t see anywhere near enough here – I’m particularly sad to have missed the Bay of Fires but the distances combined with twisty roads were just too onerous for a one-day trip.

PS – a final observation on Tasmania:  the sheep here are brown (well, taupe to be precise)  and unsheared, and nowhere near as numerous as NZ.

April 1st # 4  The famous Painted Cliffs

April 1st # 3  And again.

April 1st  # 2  I love this image of a lonely tree with one of the original buildings in the background.

Sun March 29 – Wineglass Bay, Freycinet Peninsula

I’ve been very excited to see Wineglass Bay since I read about it 6 months ago.  It is supposed to be one of the premier beaches on the Tasmanian coast, a perfect semi-circle – like a wineglass (not that I’d know what a wine glass looks like.)

So this morning we set off to see Wineglass Bay, which is in Freycinet National Park on the Freycinet Peninsula. It seemed to take a long time to get there because the roads were so twisty and we were late getting started.  So we decided to nix our planned hike around and across the peninsula and instead concentrate on the hike down to the beach at Wineglass Bay.

Sad to say, I was somewhat disappointed with this Bay.  It was a lovely deserted beach and, as Peter pointed out, the surrounding cliffs were quite spectacular.  But perhaps all the lovely beaches we drove past on the way to the Park seemed just as nice (and free) and that makes me wonder if perhaps all the Wineglass Bay publicity is a way for Tasmania to increase their income from National Park entry fees!  And I would not begrudge them this – they have done a tremendous job on the building and maintenance of the trail down to the beach.  It’s long and steep but there are stairs built of natural rock and tree roots that look like they’ve been there a very long time.  I often found myself wondering if they were set up by aboriginals 12,000 years ago when they first existed in Tasmania.

We noticed on the drive to/from the Park that this area of the Tasmanian east coast has a lot of vineyards and (wait for it, Dad!) a lot of walnut orchards!  The walnut trees are clearly grown to produce walnuts, not wood, so they are all short and bushy.  Over 80 km, we probably passed 6 vineyards, an olive farm and at least 2 walnut orchards.  The climate here clearly supports these crops.

IMG_3035  Wineglass Bay from above.

IMG_3039  Wineglass Bay from eye-level.

IMG_3054  The view from tonight’s hotel room near sunset (taken by Peter with my iPhone.)