Day 9: To Robe

A lot of driving had to be done today, while we had about 350km to cover in total. Starting off at Halls Gap in Victoria, we had to cross into South Australia to get to where we neded to be that night, which is Robe.

The weather now definitively turned for worse, as there have been gail force winds all night long. When combined with rain, one can imagine the night was quite restless. In the morning however, it lightened a bit, and we were lucky enough to wake up to the Kangaroos feeding on the grass lawn in front of our cabin. That is a sight for sore eyes! Right after we went out for our breakfast (pancakes!) we stumbled upon a field filled with a few hundred Corellas. These are a small white species of Cockatoo with a blueish eye patch and a red cheek, but without the tell tale Mohawk on the tops of their heads. A great start to the day after all.

Leaving the Grampians, the weather again showed its ugly face, as it started raining, and kept on raining for about an hour, after which we continuously had small showers interspersed with the occasional sunshine. When driving on Australian Highways, you have to drive on a two lane narrow road where you are on the left lane, and the right lane is for the oncoming traffic. And yes, you most of the time are allowed to get up to 100 km/h. Even if you do not go that fast, you can bet on the fact that the other traffic is, including the ones driving on the other side of the road. With very high winds, and limited visibility due to the rain, this was not a comfortable drive down to the coast.

Everything went well eventually, and we safely arrived at our destination within the time we had estimated it would take. Because of the fact that we changed States, we also changed time zones. We were in +8, right now we are in +7,5 from the Netherlands. Weird.

The town of Robe is pretty deserted at this time of year, which makes it hard to get something to eat. Most restaurants are closed, or close after lunch, but we managed to find a nice Malaysian restaurant (Don’s), who actually served good food at reasonable prices. And with our stomachs filled, we are preparing for an even longer day of driving tomorrow, going all the way to Cape Jervis to catch the ferry to Kangaroo Island. The rain has let off since this afternoon, and let’s hope it will stay away tomorrow. Even if it only is for the pictures. 🙂

Day 8: Grampians National Park

The neighbours next door told us the night before that they saw the field in front of the cottages was inhabited by a few Kangaroos that morning, but this morning we have no such luck. In order to still see a few animals, we decided the night before that this morning, we were going to walk the Faye’s Creek Loop, a 2.5km leisurely stroll through the forest “with a high chance of spotting wildlife”. That sounds like something for us!

And wildlife we have spotted! A plethora of Kangaroos, and even a flock of Emu crossed our paths! As the sun was still hidden behind one of the two crests, we got really cold during the walk and decided we needed to warm up over breakfast and some nice tea. Now, that is how you start the day well. 

As we intended to do a few walks today, we started off early and drove up the mountain towards a place called Wonderland Carpark. With a name like that, it ought to be good, right? The surroundings were great, but the walk we wanted to do (to the Grand Canyon) was closed. As our second destination would be best accessible from another starting point, we decided to leave Wonderland and head for the Sundial Carpark. The names here are great! From this second Parkin area, we embarked on the trail to The Pinnacle, a really high vantage point over the valley below with the most wonderful track towards it leading though dry Eucalyptus forest and over a lot of rocks. Oh yeah, we have been climbing and scaling rocks for a few hours today! It was awesome! If you ever happen to be in the vicinity of Halls Gap, please go to the Grampians NP and find this trail. 🙂

After returning to our car, we went back to the village and treated ourselves on a nice ice cream, as the temperature had risen to 20+ degrees with virtually no clouds in the sky. Life is good around here!

Tomorrow we have to leave already, and we have a long journey in front of us. The destination: Robe.

Day 7: To the Grampians

We woke up to a very grey sky, and found out it even drizzled with occasional showers. This was not what we had bargained for! As we had a trip planned for this morning, we decided to skip that, and just do everything at a snails pace. Therefore, we had a very long breakfast and even slept in a little!

Leaving Warrnambool for Halls Gap actually proved to be a great idea, as the weather got better and better as our journey progressed further inland. We eventually were tempted to pull out the shorts! Along the way, we have encountered a variety of animals, which all were nice enough to stop doing what they were to pose for our cameras. Among the nices ones were Ibis, various types of parrots in all sizes, a few different species of Cockatoo and even a fox!

After arriving at Halls Gap which lies smack dab in the middle of the Grampians National Park around 1, we went for lunch sitting in the delightful sun, getting our tan on. After filling our stomachs, we went out for a drive into the park to visit the places easily accessible by car. We have visited The Balconies and the Lookouts of both Reed and Boroka, all of which present wonderful vistas of the Gap and the surrounding plains. The Gap itself is a narrow valley in between two crests made of rock being pushed up to about 45 degrees. The town of Halls Gap lies in between these two crests. We have also visited the Mackenzie Falls, where we walked the trail to the base of the waterfall. This is 283 steps down a flight of stairs and quite a tough little walk, but the view of the falls is really rewarding. It however, did end our yearning for some exercise as going back up is strenuous after a long day driving.

The town of Halls Gap is quite famous for the abundance of Western Grey Kangaroos. A story we quickly dismissed as untrue, as we felt it would probably be a exaggerated to be a nice attraction for tourists. It most definitely is not exaggerated. We have encountered dozens of them, all carelessly browsing the green pastures of the town. And not only the publicly accessible greens, but also the lawns and garden of the residents of this town, as the Kangaroos easily scale an 8 foot fence. This is so cool! We even sat down in a field filled with Kangaroos and peacefully watched them feed.

Today is Sunday, and also the last day of the annual Wine Festival in this town. Apparently, it also means that all shops, restaurants and bars of the town are closed, because we had a really hard time getting some food. Luckily, we found a café still open for business, so all ended well tonight. Tomorrow, we have a full day of walking in the National Park planned, so I hope we’ll be able to get a good night of sleep!

Day 6: On the Great Ocean Road

A quick look out the window this morning told us the weather changed overnight from clear skies to overcast and grey. Today, we are driving the second leg of the Great Ocean Road, all the way to Warrnambool. The first stop today for us however was Cape Otway, where the Cape Otway Lighthouse stands. This is the first Lighthouse around there, and it has been in active operation since 1848. Unfortunately, you can only visit the grounds around it by paying an entrance fee and going on the full tour, and we passed on this as the road ahead was quite long still.

We were there for another matter anyway: koalas. The road leading from the B100 to Cape Otway Lighthouse is famous for the number of Koalas living alongside it. We, however, failed to see any on route to the Cape. It might have been due to the weather though, as it started drizzling. Luckily for us, the rain lifted pretty soon after this, and our luck finding animals returned: on a dirt road just off the main road, we got lucky and found not 1 but three sitting in the same giant tree! With another Koala resting in the tree next to it, the tally went up to four right there! We stood by them and watched the closest one perform acrobatic feats while feeding. Awesome!

On the way back, we even spotted more up to a point where we could look left and see one, and look right to see another. All very fluffy and generally ignoring our presence, these animals are just a treat to look at. The rest of our journey took us further down the Great Ocean Road where we visited the well known highlights on it. These are the Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, the Arch, the London Bridge en the Grotto. They all are formations of the limestone rock set out in the sea or right on the shore of the ocean. And they all are really beautiful!

The weather still was acting up, we basically have had all weather types following each other up every 10 minutes. Ranging from drizzle to rain to full on sunshine, it all was there. Tomorrow, we are heading further inland towards Grampians National Park. It’ll be sad to say goodbye to the great views of the ocean, but we imagine it’ll be beautiful up there as well!

Day 5: Getting away from the city

Today is the first day with a car! We had to pick it up in the middle of Melbourne, which was only a few blocks away. This also meant we had to get our large car down from a really narrow multi level parking facility and straight through a multi-million city, all the whilst trying to avoid tickets for speeding and driving on toll roads. We succeeded. 🙂 

The car is a light brown Toyota Camry, which did take some getting used to as it is really wide and has a huge turning circle. Also, it is a right hand drive, but also equipped with an automatic gearbox and cruise control. Only the best is good enough for us! 😉

From Melbourne, we had to head down to Apollo Bay, a small town on The Great Ocean Road. This is a meandering road down the coastline roughly between Torquay and Warrnambool, and is famed for its great views and fantastic scenery. With a day like today, with clear blue skies and temperatures reaching 20 degrees, it is a truly wonderful drive. Great scenic views of the coast present themselves around every corner, and the road even dips a bit further inland sometimes to go straight through thick coastal rainforest.

We have visited Split Point Lighthouse which is in working order ever since it is built in 1891! There also is a short walk in its vicinity where a small brackish inlet offers a variety of birds and other wildlife. After arriving in Apollo Bay a little too early, we decided it was a good time to visit Maits Rest, a location just 10 minutes our from the town, where the first Wildlife Warden of this area rest his horse while patrolling the coastline at the time of the First World War. A boarded walkway has been constructed to let visitors enjoy the coastal rainforest to the fullest as it allows you to walk right between the large trees and many ferns present. At only 45 minutes, it is also nice and short. 😉

On the way over, we even spotted a Swamp Wallaby, which of course posed nicely in front of our camera. Tomorrow, we drive the second part of the Great Ocean Road. The forecast: great weather, even better views and lots of fun!

Day 4: Melbournian wildlife

We are still suffering from our jetlag which means we woke up really early this morning. This was partly a good thing as we were to go out on a tour to find some of the local wildlife, namely Koalas and Kangaroos!
Our guide Paul showed up right on time at the hotel, after which he drove us to the You Yangs Regional Park, where the tour company holds the tours. The guides are allowed not only to walk on the trails, but also to take their groups straight through the undergrowth to get them (us!) to where we need to be to see the wild animals. The tour pretty much guarantees sightings of wild Koalas and wild Kangaroos, so we were in for a great day!

At around 18 degrees and virtually no clouds, this was probably the best day to walk outside and to be actively strolling throuh the woods. The Koalas were very quickly spotted by the spotter, and this information was relayed through to our guide via WhatsApp. Now that is modern technology for you! The tour operator is actively participating in a study on the identification methods of Koalas, and therefore all details about a sighting like location, behaviour and the like are noted and sent to a logbook with data. The study aims to get to a way to identifing individuals based on external features. As it so happens to be, the pattern of light patches on the nose of a Koala matches all the criteria to be used as an identification method, and the operator is getting the research paper published in a journal shortly! We are glad to be helping them to do good work!

Shortly after getting the info on 3 Koalas, we found our own Koala, getting our count up to 4. The first one was most easily visible, and what a sight it is! Even though the animals sleep about 20 hours a day, we were excited to see them in the wild. The best thing is that they don’t seem to mind us being around, and they’ll continue doing what they did before. 
After all that, we went on to the Serendip Sanctuary, a square mile bird sanctuary for Cape Barren Geese now also inhabited by 2 large mobs of Western Grey Kangaroos. We even got to walk right up to them, and peacefully watched them roaming the area.

After all this, we have also encountered rare animals like Swamp Wallaby and Yellow Billed Spoonbill. Among the more common animals were Tawney Frogmouths, Magpie Geese, Galahs and the quintessentially Australian Laughing Kookaburra. It was a great day!

Tomorrow, we’ll pick up our car and will be heading to the Great Ocean Road. I’m looking forward to it!

Day 3: In Melbourne

After a night which was too short and restless to be really beneficial to the both of us, we woke up to a beautiful blue sky and the promise of 18 degrees without rain. That is what one would consider a great day to explore the city!

We started off our daily search for food at a long time favourite of ours: Subway. With a sub and a drink in our stomachs, we are glad to have saved the 50 AUD that the hotel charges for a two person breakfast, and went our merry way in the city. At 4.5 million people, it is what you would call a big town. It is also really big in size. As there is virtually no high rise outside of the town centre, people generally live in single houses and not in apartments. This makes the city really stretched out wide, and it gives interesting views whenever you are high enough to see.

First thing, we tried to go to the famous Queen Victoria Markets. This is a covered marketplace, established in the late 1880’s where one can buy a vast number of things ranging from fresh produce to art. Unfortunately, it is closed on Wednesdays. And today is one. 🙁 We always have bad luck with markets, and today was no difference…

Our next stop was the Eureka Tower, the highest viewing point on the Southern Hemisphere. On the 88th floor, a viewing platform was created, and it gives you an amazing overview of the city. The elevator zooms up in under 40 seconds, and ends at nearly 300 metres altitude. The entire tower is built to resemble to markings on the measuring staff of a surveyor, but the “why” has never become clear to us. The best thing about it, is that it is not nearly as expensive as riding the elevators in the famous New York buildings, and that it is much less crowded up there.

Having safely returned to the ground, we went on to tour the city via the Flinders Train Station and a really cool heritage arcade with etched glass roofs and mosaic floors called The Block Arcade. After all that, our jetlag called and we retreated to our hotel room to get ready for dinner. 

Tomorrow, we hope to encounter some of the local (native) wildlife, as we’ll be on a tour! After the Lorikeets we found today, more is always welcome.

Day 1 and 2: That’s a big plane!

Apparently, it is that time of year again, the time in which we are leaving for a far away destination to go see and experience the way of living somewhere else. This time, it is Australia, and we’ll be there for a nice long time.

We are leaving one Kingsday, and luckily the traffic going to Amsterdam is not as bad as we anticipated. This meant we arrived at Schiphol feeling very relaxed and feeling confident about an issue with the seating in our plane. We don’t know where it went wrong, but somehow our tickets were not marked as travelling together, and we got seats in Two different compartments of the plane altogether. Luckily, we were able to resolve this with the friendly lady at the check-in counter. She got us two adjacent seats right next to an exit. This meant we had loads of space all around us!

The flight with Emirates took place in the biggest plane of them all: the Airbus A380-800. This thing is huge! Up until now, the biggest plane had a 3-3-3 or a 2-4-2 configuration, but here we have 3-4-3 for a total of 10 people per row, and the row numbers go to 88! Naturally, loading and unloading this beast takes time, so boarding starts around an our before flying. The 6,5 hour flight to Dubai was quite uneventful, but the 90 minutes layover was a bit short. We barely made it in time to the other terminal where our second and longest flight would commence. By the time we boarded, it was already Tuesday (local time)

The flight to Melbourne is by Qantas, and took 13,5 hours. Also, this was an Airbus A380-800, but our seats were less spacious as we only had as regular row. We did however not have a third passenger on our row of 3 seats and were able to get at least some sleep on this flight. Waking up after this was quite odd though, as the free left the lights off for the vast majority of the flight only to flick the switch mere hours before landing. And as we would land around 9PM, waking up to the evening is not the best way to get rid of your jetlag quickly. As we did not sleep long, our rhythms were not messed up that badly.

All of our bags made the trip safely, and were available to be picked up at conveyor 6 in Melbourne. The transfer to the hotel went via a thing called Skybus, a dedicated airport shuttle to and from the centre of the city. They even dropped us off at the front door of the hotel. Tired, and feeling well, we tucked in for the night. Tomorrow, we’ll start exploring the city on foot!