Day 64—Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Yesterday we arrived to intermittent showers. Intermittent means that when we were outside, it was raining; when we were inside, it wasn’t. Not a complaint! We’ve had many weeks of totally blue sky and Adelaide really needs the rain.
We got to the Apollo car rental place and decided that it would be more fun to get another campervan than it would be to keep the car we reserved. Well, yes and no. It is certainly nice to be able to go where and when we want—especially after 19 days of going where Richard told us to go. And it is nice to stop when we want. But it would have been fun to stay at B&Bs or nice hotels. I’m going to keep close track of what we spend on food and caravan parks and compare to what I think we would have spent. But even if it’s close, I would opt for the campervan for its convenience.
But a two-person campervan is a far cry from the six-person campervan that we had out of Perth. Randy and I are falling over each other all the time. We have to make the bed each evening and unmake it in the morning (in the six-person, we left the bed made up all the time because we still had a booth/table to sit at. Now we have a table only if the bed is not made up. And the shower/toilet doesn’t have a sink, you use the kitchen sink.
As a rough guess, we are living in a space a bout 10 feet long by 5 feet 8 inches exactly, or 56+/- square feet. I know how wide it is because if I lie across the van my head touches one side and the bottoms of my feet touch the other side. Well, maybe 5 feet 7 inches; I have shrunk in my dotage.
So, in the rain and at night—by the time we left the car rental place it was 5 o’clock—we found a Big4 campground and we found a supermarket and we fixed rissoles for dinner. Rissoles are a ground meat product unique to Australia. Each butcher makes his own mix to add to ground beef. It’s not exactly a hamburger, but not exactly not a hamburger, either. Sort of a cross between a meatball (a very large meatball) and a hamburger but with a lot of spices thrown in. Very tasty, and when you are camping and they are cooking rissoles, the smell is intoxicating!
Thus ended the first day of the next segment of our Australia adventure, driving from Adelaide to Sydney, to be capped off by a luxurious stay at the Observatory Hotel in Sydney and the wedding of our great friend, Melinda, to our new friend, Ian.
Today we left Adelaide heading for the Barossa Valley, Australia’s premier wine area. Possibly even better than Margaret River, outside Perth.
We went to Turkey Flat Winery and St. Hallet Winery. Of course we bought a wine at each. At Turkey Flat we tasted several (of course!) but bought the one we went there to taste, a 2006 Mourvèdre. We had read about the Mourvèdre in the current Qantas magazine “Top 4 Wines of Australia.” There were several others, notably a Faith Shiraz that we liked but elected to get the Mourvèdre.
At St. Hallet we tasted several reds and got one that has a grape I have never heard of, Touriga. It is a GST—grenache, shiraz, touriga. Very, very nice.
The server at Turkey Flat told us about a wonderful vista point and we drove there after St. Hallet. Up a dirt road to the top of a hill, maybe 100 or 200 meters above the surrounding land, sheep and cows grazing all around us, vineyards stretching to the horizon, the occasional horse in a field beneath us, and a view over it all that was nothing short of stupendous. What a fabulous way to end the day.
Back in the campervan, we were reading The Australian, one of the better national newspapers. By better, I mean it isn’t one of the tabloids that feature scantily clad ingénues on the front page.
But their columnists, like many of the Aussies we have met—in fact, ALL the Aussies we have met—do not like Bush. To quote a very vituperative Phillip Adams,
“The presidential seal—the imperial eagle—is another Roman borrowing. As is George W. Bush. If not quite as mad as Caligula, Bush is certainly dottier than Nero. Resembling the well known fiddler and arsonist in many ways, George will leave his capital as ruined as Nero left Rome. It’s a moot point whether Baghdad or Washington is the worst off as a consequence of Bush’s scorched-earth policies.
“The Middle East blazes merrily, the dead are many and the US economy is a pile of ashes.
“…Although Bush’s praetorian guard got him the job in the first place via a palace coup, he actually won a second term. Yet he’d already launched two doomed wars, trashed his nation’s worldwide reputation, emptied its treasury, approved torture and mass-produced cloned enemies. And he was well on his way to pauperising the bulk of the US population.”
Although Adams is somewhat more frank than most, that pretty much summarizes what we hear from Aussies every time we have a conversation that includes politics. And that is most of the conversations we have. They all want to know why we elected “that clown.”
But at least the Aussies are thrilled at the decline of the American dollar. When we were here about five years ago, our dollar bought at least $1.50 Australian dollars. Now we barely are even with them.
S 34° 31.826 E 138° 57.122 El 241m (Tanunda, SA)
Day 65—Thursday, July 31, 2008
A beautiful day in the neighborhood! Puffy clouds, blue sky, green grass everywhere; SO pretty!
We drove around the Barossa Valley tasting wine and looking at the scenery, talking to the wine people at vineyards, talking to other visitors. Aussies are so friendly! We can strike up a conversation just by saying, “Hi!” to an Australian. They’ll ask where we’re from (occasionally mistaking us for Canadians) and the conversation is off and running.
At Yulumba Winery we had a wonderful time because the proprietor sort of took us under her wing. By the time we were finished tasting we had, conservatively, 10 glasses in front of us. We tasted many many wines and she even brought out the good glasses. Eventually we bought a Yalumba Octavius 2004. We also THOUGHT we bought two single vineyard Yalumba Shirazs from two different vineyards. I am writing this many days later and we opened the box she packed the two bottles in and they are the same vineyard (2005 Hahn Vineyard) rather than the two different vineyards. We’re really disappointed.
After, we went to Hahndorf, a German-settled town, but it was sort of a disappointment but we did go through their migration museum which was interesting. Some guy back in the 1800 built a model house that had 25,432 (or so) joints, none with glue. He entered it in a competition and it (only) got a silver medal!
S 35° 05.370 E 139° 18.481 El 8m (Murray Bridge)
Day 66—Friday, August 1, 2008
Today was driving day, from Murray Bridge to Portland, Victoria. We’ve now been to three Portlands: Oregon, Maine, and Victoria.
Only three days into what we thought would be plenty of time to sight-see from Adelaide to Sydney and we’re behind already! Hence, the driving day.
We have seen sheep. And sheep. And then more sheep. Did I mention we’ve seen many, many sheep? Of course we cannot count them but we’re pretty sure we have seen 367,438 sheep today alone. We also saw a lot of ewes with twin lambs (or are they sheeplets?). We were told months ago (I cannot believe we have been here over two months!) by the sheep farmer (rancher? herder?) where we had the tour that they always take away a twin and raise it by hand because the ewe cannot raise two lambs. Of course you would need lots of manpower to raise lambs. Or, not so much manpower if they become lamb chops.
The weather continues to be sort of crappy—hello! It’s winter!—rain, then a little sun, then rain or hail then a little sun, etc, etc, etc. We see blue sky ahead but it seems ever out of reach. Oh, well, of our 66 days only about 10 have been rainy.
Rainy days, lots of driving, and nearing the end of our trip gives me a chance to reminisce. It’s truly been a magical trip. We will have driven ourselves almost 10,000 kilometers. If I include the 4WD tour, we will have driven almost 15,000 kilometers plus a train trip of 4000 kilometers. That’s a lot of travel on the ground.
Would I do it again? Parts of the trip I would. Driving ourselves in a campervan is fantastic; we can go anywhere we want (that doesn’t need 4WD) any time we want. I would do that again. The 4WD tour took us places we would never have gone by ourselves: behind closed gates to neat places to have lunch, camping in the middle of a road, to the Bungles where you MUST have 4WD (you are not allowed in without 4WD, whether you need it or not) and we met lots of great people, not least our tour leaders. But 19 days was too long. The train? Not the Indian Pacific again, but I would, for instance, take the Ghan from Darwin to Adelaide and the IP from Adelaide to Sydney. I think that would be a really cool trip, perhaps stopping off in Alice for a week or more to again tour around Uluru and Kings Canyon in a 4WD. And I would again get the deluxe cabin on the train; it was fabulous to have that to retreat to. The other cabins are OK, but we loved the big cabin.
I am definitely seeing the difference between the very sparsely populated west and the more populated south. The amount of trash seems to be somewhat roughly correlated to the population. The closer to a city, the more trash; but all in all Australia is a very clean country. And a country that seems dedicated to conserving: water, electricity, the environment. Everywhere I look there are signs exhorting people to conserve.
Today we saw this sign on the jetty in Portland: “Bin it, or fish in it!” In other words, if you throw it in the ocean, it will pollute the ocean and the fish in the ocean. Australians have a way of shortening everything! Relatives are rellies, breakfast is brekky, Fremantle is Freo, barbeque is Barbie, and as I mentioned before, the baobab becomes boab; the list goes on! Including “muso” in the headline of the paper today; even after reading the article, we don’t know what “muso” is short for!
And yet, with all the emphasis on conservation, in one national park—a NATIONAL PARK!—I was shocked to see one of the tour participants (not on our 4WD tour!), who probably should have known better, rip off a sheet of “paper” from a paper bark tree to show me what it was like. There was lots on the ground she could have picked up! It happened so fast I didn’t know what to say.
There are several books I would like to read: Men in Grass Castles by Mary Durack (and some other of her books about early life in Western Australia) and Future Eaters by Tim Flannery, sort of a history of Australia. One of my notes says to watch the film Tracker. The problem with some of my notes is that I don’t say why! I have no clue who recommended Tracker or why. But I wrote it down for a reason, so I’ll try to find it. Also Sarah Henderson’s Strength to Strength and Strength in Us All. So many books, so little time!
I made some other notes about Australianisms: Windy enough to blow a dog off its chain; Kicked between the big toes; Must be male, he can only do one thing at a time; and Richard’s way of making sure everyone was on the bus: The start and scream method of head counting—if he starts and nobody screams, everybody is on the bus!
S 38° 17.949 E 141° 37.316 El 6m (Portland, Henty Bay Beach Front Van & Cabin Park)
Day 67—Saturday, August 2, 2008
Got up late! We didn’t even get on the road until almost 10. Nonetheless, on we drive. The weather seems (big assumption!) to be moving toward Melbourne, the same direction we are travelling.
There is a pretty little lake called Yambuk Lake that we stopped at. Birders were there. Birders are an interesting sort. We got to the lookout and they were all looking to the east. To us the view of the rocks and the lake and everything was to the west. So there we are, us looking to the west with our binoculars and them looking to the east with their binoculars occasionally crying out “kelp gull!” Eventually we left them to their binoculars. The lake was quite pretty.
Victoria, the state, is quite Victorian. They, the state, are constantly exhorting the passersby to do various good deeds. Bin Your Rubbish! And of course the previously mentioned Bin It or Fish In It. Now we are seeing signs exhorting us to not drive tired: Powernap! Microsleep kills!; A 15 minute powernap could save your life!; Open your eyes, fatigue kills; and Tired? Powernap now!
Yes, mother, whatever you say, we’ll do it. And we’d better, if we go 2 kilometers over the speed limit we will have our photo taken and a ticket sent to our home. Big brother is everywhere here in Australia, especially in Victoria where the margin of error on a speeding ticket is 2 kilometers!
S 38° 23.127 E 142° 29.414 El 11m (Warrnambool, Figtree Holiday Village)
Day 68—Sunday, August 3, 2008
What a great decision to stay in Warrnambool last night! The weather today was fabulous; puffy clouds (no rain), blue sky, no wind. Just perfect!
We drove from Warrnambool to Queenscliff, probably too far for one day, but the good news is that we have internet access. We came this far because we were going to take the ferry across and then drive to Melbourne but the ferry cost is exorbitant so we may just drive back to Geelong and then up to Melbourne.
From Warrnambool we meandered through farmland, lots of cows, not so many sheep as in previous day. Today alone we saw 28,439 cows, including a small herd (12) of Oreo cows. I have no idea what their breed is, but each and every cow is black on the butt end, black on the front end, and white in the middle: Oreo cows. But there are still a lot of sheep. Several—well, LOTS—were so pregnant that their bellies looked like chipmunk cheeks just before winter.
Today’s main attraction was The Great Ocean Road. This is the road we have been planning on driving since we were first planning this trip; it is the quintessential ocean road. It is, for those of you from California, the Coast Highway without the traffic. The GOR sinuously winds along the coast, up hill and down dale, sometime close to the water and sometimes high above the crashing waves; sometimes it’s in forests of eucalyptus—yes, we did see koalas in those eucalyptus trees—sometimes it’s in open farmland. The GOR is truly a spectacular road and it lives up to its name, the GREAT Ocean Road.
The GOR includes many turnoffs to spectacular views of cliff and islands eroded by the ocean. That doesn’t begin to describe the formations we saw. Of course we were looking mostly to see the Twelve Apostles. These are the formations that are the foundation of the GOR, great pieces of the mainland that have been eroded to islands over eons of ocean manhandling. I had heard that there were originally 12 Apostles but over time several of the apostles had been eroded away to nothing. Wrong. I had also heard that one of the Apostles had had its connection to the mainland fall into the ocean, stranding two people. Well, partly wrong. It wasn’t the Apostle that fell into the ocean it was a formation called London Bridge. It did strand two people. Unconfirmed is that the two people were a man and a woman who were not married to each other and were having, shall we say, a fling. Needless to say, when the bridge collapsed, stranding them, it was newsworthy. One can only imagine the conversations at those two households about the media coverage of their rescue.
S 38° 16.271 E144° 37.492 El 22m (Queenscliff Big4 Beacon Resort)