Day 8: Southport to Hobart

2298km, 36h, 47min

In the morning we took the short drive to Hastings cave and went on the first tour of the day. The tour guide Laura was very knowledgable explaining about all the different formations and giving us some broken stalagmite out hold. The cave itself was very impressive with lots of different formations including stalagtites with horizontal bits coming out the sides called helictites. I’d not seen these before and scientists don’t agree how they form, maybe capillary action.

Inside Hastings Cave

Inside Hastings Cave

At the visitor centre are also Thermal springs which average 28 degrees, and entry is included in the ticket. We went for a look but rather than natural looking springs the water is pumped into a fairly small swimming pool which was brimming full of families with kids and inflatables, so no chance of any actual swimming. I dunked my toe in and the water didn’t feel especially warm so we decide to give them a miss and head straight into Hobart.

After a bit of parking faff we managed to make it to Hobart in time for the weekly Salamanca market with over 300 stalls. There was lots of jewellery, wooden products, local food and crafts. I managed to escape with just 1 pair of earrings. It had elevated up to a toasty 28 degrees so I was a bit warm for any proper browsing.

Over the Christmas period the Taste of Tasmania festival was also on right next to the market. It was held in one of the giant wharf sheds with stalls outside too and food vans near the entrance. There were loads of local foods and drinks on offer including wine, beer, juices, oysters, berry products, cheeses, ice creams and international foods too. It was incredibly busy being a warm Saturday afternoon so we opted for a bacon and gruyere potato rosti outside, followed by a nice cream sundae dusted with sherbert which Matt wasn’t quite expecting and made him cough!

After a quick trip to Treasure Island camp site to put the tent up and a mince pie, we went back into Hobart for the evening. Mainly by coincidence and a bit of internetting we were lucky to catch the end of the Sydney Hobart annual yacht race. We saw the winner Wild Oats XI come in through the harbour from a prime spot and they then sailed (motored) right past us to moor up for their prizes. Being by the harbour we were obliged to go for some fish and chips after that from one of the floating fish and chip stalls. We pieced the one shaped like a fish! Matts chip box had an unfortunately collapse due to too much vinegar which bought the circling Chip Vultures (seagulls) very close! Out of spite at their incessant annoyance he picked them up and put them in the bin in the end! For pudding we went back to the Taste festival and had ice cream sandwiches – locally produced ice cream sandwiched between two freshly baked warm cookies – yummy!

Wild Oats 2

Wild Oats 2

Day 9: Around Hobart.
2406km, 39 hours 15 mins

From early on on our trip we had two key activities for Hobart planned out – the MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) and Putters mini golf! We picked up a leaflet about Putters on the ferry. Not only did it have an indoor and outdoor course, the leaflet also entitled us to a free fries and soft drink so we really were obliged to go. Of course we signed up for both courses ($22). The first one was outside with lots of water features which were both scenic and hazardous to my playing! Along with the sand traps they caused me a lot of penalty points and I lost by quite a lot. But having won the earlier pirate mini golf, that made it one all.

Inside we played the decider with a lot of friendly banter. This time the course featured a lot of wood and tubes and tunnels to transport the balls up down and around to different parts of the holes. My game was match improved, and I even did some decent putting from longish distances which normally I’m rubbish at. I totally psyched Matt out and won by a massive 12 points in the he mend, which took me to 2-1 up including the Pirate golf! We had our free fries which were massive and tasty with Cajun flavour salt. The frozen raspberry fanta was just weird though so we won’t be having that again!

Mini Golf Round 2

Mini Golf Round 2

As the sun was mainly out we decided to make another trip up Mount Wellington to try and see the views of Hobart. The top was cloud free with excellent views although totally freezing. It was only 4 degrees and with a lot of wind it definitely felt below freezing. There was even a small amount of snow left on some of the big rocks at the top.

Back on top Mount Wellington

Back on top Mount Wellington

After lunch half way down we headed to MONA. Unfortunately it wasn’t free like my book said but the lady took pity on us and let us in for the concession rate of $15 instead of $20. The book was also wrong about the opening times and it was shutting at 6 instead of 7 so we had just over 2 hours to look around. MONA is bit, over 4 levels set into the hillside by the river, so we were a bit rushed looking around. They had a thing called the O Device which you use – its an iPhone with info about all the exhibits loaded on including audio so there are no signs. Matt loved it, I personally found clicking through and all the searching ruined my experience of wandering about looking at art and made it too disjointed. Maybe i’m too old fashioned!

Matt and his O Device

Matt and his O Device

Some of my favorite bits were a gigantic metallic head with robotic birds and moving bits inside, sculptures by Hubert Duprat and a giant Buddha. It is made using a giant mold with incense from temples in Nepal so it smelt nice too. Unfortunately its head had fallen off (!!) but I thought this made it more interesting.

Incense Buddha

Incense Buddha

That evening we took the main opportunity of the holiday for a meal out and went to a curry house called Annapurna. It’s one of the highly rated places in Hobart and according to their sign also Tasmania’s best curry house 2013 (out of how many we don’t know!) After the tasty meal we went to see some more of the boats that had arrived from the yacht race and ate some more ice cream sandwiches from Taste of Tasmania for desert.

 

 

Russell Falls

Russell Falls

Day 6: Cradle Mountain to Mount Field National Park

1496 km, 22 hours 38min

We left Cradle Mountain in the rain for the bendy scenic drive to Mount Field NP past rainforest, rivers and mountains. We had a quick stop at Lake St Clair for lunch, which is Australia’s deepest lake at 167m. It’s also the end of the Overland Track walk, a 6 day epic across Tassie from Cradle Mountain.

En route in two different places we saw two wild echidnas crossing the road! They didn’t seem bothered by the car at all and luckily we did to hit them or we might have had a nasty puncture!

We camped by the river at a self registration campsite amongst the giant Pencil Pines. Before dinner we went for a short drive and walk through some epic rainforest scenery to Junee cave where a river comes out the cave mouth.

For dinner we invented a new tasty camping meal, kangaroo red pasta splat. This is pasta with tomato sauce, peppers, leftover kangaroo meat from the Summermas BBQ and of course cheese (because every camping meal is better with cheese, except possibly some breakfasts!)

Because we were quite far south it stayed light until gone 9pm. We took the opportunity to do the short walk from the campsite to nearby Russell Falls and on up to Horseshoe Falls for some long exposure photos. Russell Falls is a cool 2 tier waterfall with a giant tree in the middle between the two tiers.

On the walk back there was a glow worm trail but it wasn’t quite dark enough and we were being eaten by the local mozzies. We did see lots of other wildlife though including a lot of brush tailed possums and more pademelons including ones with babies.

Day 7: Mount Field to Southport
1956km, 30 hours 11 mins

British Style Bacon!

British Style Bacon!

We started the day with some exciting ‘British bacon’ sandwiches. Bacon here in Australia is weird and not translucent. It looks like a cooked ham but it isn’t cooked. There must be something different about the way the cure it. It’s still tasty (bacon always is after all), but just looks plain wrong! Over breakfast we were also lucky enough to see a platypus swimming in the river near the tent!

In the morning we drove up to Lake Dobson in Mount Field NP and did a walk around the lake amongst the rainforest and snow gums. We then made our way down the Huon Valley to Southport via the edge of Hobart.

We took a detour up the road to the top of Mount Wellington over Hobart. It was cloudy but the book suggested often there is an inversion you can see from the top so we drove up anyway. From about 1/3 up there was total cloud cover right to the top. In some places visibility was down to about 4m which made for an interesting drive! At the top it was so cloudy I struggled to find the toilet! We stopped on June way back down for a picnic in a shelter amongst the clouds.

We carried on our drive along the Huon trail, past lots of places selling apples and berries and camped at Southport behind Australia’s most southerly pub, where of course we had to go and have a drink. After putting the tent up we took the drive down the southernmost road in Australia (24km of gravel) to Cockle Creek (population: 3!) for a look at the beach.

View of Hobart from Mount Wellington!

View of Hobart from Mount Wellington!

Giant Penguin in Penguin

Giant Penguin in Penguin

Day 4: Devonport to Cradle Mountain
1,459km, 21 hours 4min

After getting woken up by the ferry staff at 5.10am for our 6am arrival, a quick quarantine check and recovering our camping gas from the firearms man, we headed for a swift bacon and egg roll (with cheese, it’s a thing here). Then, still a bit bleary eyed we headed for our first exciting stop – the town on Penguin on the north coast. Not only does it have a cool name, in Penguin is a giant 3m high penguin! And he was all dressed up for Christmas! There was also the Penguin Pharmacy and the slightly concerning Penguin butchers!

On the way to Cradle Mountain we stopped at the scenic Guide Falls for some long exposure photos. Being 8am there weren’t a lot of people about!

Guide Falls

Guide Falls

We got to the Cradle Mountain visitor centre, and after a quick cup of tea and map purchase went on some of the short walks we got the shuttle bus as entry to the park by car is restricted to avoid traffic jams on the narrow windy roads and small car parks. We did the Enchanted Walk, King Billy track (with tall King Billy pines), Rainforest walk and Pencil Pine falls. We managed to spot a pademelons which looks quite like a wallabee and is only found native in the wild in Tasmania.

Our first two nights in Tasmania (Summermas Eve and Summermas Day) we stayed in Cradle Mountain in the north west. In a rare moment, Matt agreed rather than camping we could get a cabin so we had an actual bed and roof for some comfort in case the weather as bad for the festive season. The cabin was wooden, cute and cozy. The campsite was really well equipped and having checked about the cooking facilities in advance we made ourselves some yummy festive pizzas in the pizza oven and enjoyed then with some nice Tassie Pinot Noir, topped off with a mince pie.

Day 5: Cradle Mountain – Summermas!
No driving.

Last year we had a 30 degree Christmas in Wanaka, New Zealand with the Millis’s with kayaking and a picnic by the lake and dinner in t-shirts in the garden in the evening. This year we were lucky enough to have sunny weather again and temperatures of about 22 degrees. Apparently it’s only sunny in Cradle Mountain about 1 in 5 days.

After some tea and presents we set off fairly early to walk up Cradle Mountain for Christmas Day. Entrance to the park by car is restricted so we made sure to get there early so we could drive to the top car park and not have to faff with the shuttle bus when we were knackered.

The car park is about 900m and Cradle Mountain is 1554m, so it’s over 650m ascent and takes 6 to 8 hours depending on your speed and some route options. It’s made of dolerite and sits in front of Dove Lake and some smaller lakes too. The route we took went around the lake to start, steeply up the side of a hill to Marion’s Lookout after about an hour, along a ridge to Kitchen Hut for another hour and then a final hour up the mountain itself. The views were awesome and we met lots of happy people who we exchanged Christmas wishes with.

Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake

Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake

The last 45 mins of the walk to the top is some full on hands required scrambling over giant boulders which was good fun although seemed to catch some people out. I much prefer this to just trudging up a hill. Near the top we even saw some unmelted remains of winter snow – only about 5 square meters so. Of a lot, but enough to get me and everyone else we mentioned it too excited. White Christmas in Australia!

We did the walk in 7 hours 10 mins with half an hours lunch at the top. When we got back we had some well deserved celebratory ice creams and a Summermas BBQ with wagyu beef burgers and kangaroo kebabs. It did feel mean eating the kanagroo after seeing so many wallabies but it was tasty!

After the BBQ we headed out for some night time wild life spotting. We saw a lotof pademelons and about 12 super cute wombats, some very close up! Here’s a joke (made up by me):

Q: Why did the wombat cross the road? (Answer at the bottom)

At the top of Cradle Mountain

At the top of Cradle Mountain

 

Wild Wombat

Wild Wombat

A: Because Elly was chasing it with a camera*!

*Proven on at least two wombats!

Spirit of Tasmania 1

Spirit of Tasmania 1

Day 3: Wilson’s Promontory and Bass Strait
1276km, 17h 33min (plus 444 km and 9 hours on the ferry)

After surviving the big storm, we woke to a wet and cloudy morning. On the third day of our trip we explored Wilson’s Promontory National Park which is on the coast about 200km east of Melbourne. It’s a popular spot where hills meet the sea with lots if wildlife and cool views. Allegedly there are emus, kangaroos and wombats, but they must have been hiding with the bad weather.

We went to the main centre, Tidal River for a look around. You can camp there in summer if you enter a lottery draw 6 months ahead of time but it was packed out so we decided we wouldn’t have enjoyed it. We took a drive to near the top of Mount Oberon and had a walk on Squeaky Beach with very white squeaky sand and some cool boulders. The area is very scenic with wooded mountains heading down to the sea and a whole lot of wilderness.

After a lot of queuing, we sailed at 9pm on the ferry for a 6am arrival at Devonport in Tasmania. The ferry leaves from central Melbourne. If you go overnight you have to have a cabin or a reclining seat which is super expensive over Christmas. The cheap days and rooms sold out quicker than we got around to booking, but in the end we ended up with a 4 berth cabin for the 2 of us which was good. Unfortunately due to the quarantine rules we had to hastily eat some apples and dispose of the peppers and cucumbers we bought about an hour before, so I’ll remember that if we come back! We adopted the newest addition to the Short family on the trip, Derek the Tasmanian Devil – awwww!

Derek the Tazzie Devil

Derek the Tazzie Devil

It was ages since I’d been on a ferry (to France mainly) and I’d never had a cabin before. It started well enough and we even had our own en suite but it was pretty bumpy during the night and really hard to sleep with all the rocking about. I’m scared by the sea and drowning anyway so irrational terror of sinking kept me awake too! If we sail at night again I think I’ll take drugs or some medicinal alcohol!

We did survive though, check out the next post for more details of our first stop – a town called Penguin!

Summermas

First up, as Christmas here is weird in the heat and I struggled to get in the festive mood, I renamed it Summer-mas! Summermas has decorations, presents and holidays in the heat.

This Christmas Matts’ work had a two week compulsory shut down, and mine had three! We figured it was a good excuse for a holiday and decided on driving down the coast to Melbourne and catching the ferry to Tasmania and then travelling round there before heading back again. The Barrier Reef and Kakadu in Darwin are also high on the list, but as I’m still getting used to the summer heat and they’re both up north it didn’t seem like a good plan to head there.

As we’re had a big trip I’ve broken it over a whopping 9 posts so get ready for a bumper special with posts every other day!

After looking at options for flying and hiring a car or driving we decide to drive, so we could take lots of camping gear and do the drive down the coast too. Price wise it was pretty similar and Jeffrey (the car) also wanted an adventure!

Day 1: Sydney to Eden
481km, 6 hours 26 mins 

After horror reports on the Sydney Christmas traffic I dragged myself out of bed and we left by 7.30am on Saturday morning. The drive done to Eden was one of the longest on the trip but we made it in good time and hardly saw any traffic issues. In fact one we got out of Sydney there weren’t a lot of cars about at all. The drive was scenic with lots if trees and we stopped off regularly to swap over and grabbed some lunch in Batemans Bay.

We also dropped into the cheese factory in Bega, where Bega cheese comes from. We had some samples, watched a film and I ate a toastie! They also make tinned cheese which looks pretty nasty, mainly for export apparently. Matt was brave enough to sample it and decided it was rubbery.

In Eden we camped right on the edge if Lake Curalo and a couple of minutes walk from the choppy sea. We went to a couple of lookouts and last the Whale Museum which has the skeleton of Old Tom the giant killer whale, but it was shut so we didn’t go in. The town has a long whaling history – the killer whales used to help drive the other whales into the bay for the fishermen to hunt them in return for a share of the meat. After a few games, including our latest game, Ingenious (travel version) we went to bed pretty early after the long drive.

Pirate golf - yaaaar!

Pirate golf – yaaaar!

Day 2: Eden to Yanakie
995 km, 13 hours 3 mins (cumulative total, not in one day!)

Day two was another long drive down the coast to Yanakie on the edge of Wilson’s Promontary National Park. After about half an hour we crossed the border into Victoria and drove through lots of trees and then lots of fields. Again we made good progress, overtaking various caravans and campers on the way.

We stopped for lunch in Lakes Entrance on the edge of the big Gippsland lakes. Lakes Entrance is also on the edge of 90 Mile Beach which we cheeked out quickly although because of the angle you couldn’t see very far. There were some rock and roll (or evil) black swans chilling out in the river. The guide book mentioned mini golf, a Short favourite so we set of in search of the courses. We found two next to each other, one pirate themed and the other unthemed, so it was a bit of a no brainier. The course had boats, a whirlpool, light house, beach hut, mermaid and of course pirates! Surprisingly I actually won, and by a whole 5 points, woo! I reckon I must be better with the upside down gravity down under!

At the camp site I practiced putting up the tent myself successfully and we had a BBQ dinner. We camped right on the edge of the bay, near the beach again. About 15 mins from the end of a walk along the bay thunder started. My tent construction was tested to the limit with a big thunder and lightning storm and some serious rain, and proved good – woo! No leaks or collapses and we both had a good nights sleep!

Exciting news – we have a new page on our website!

On our fridge, and in more detail in my head, we have a To Do List. It’s not one of those boring ones about hoovering and chores though, but about all the places to go and things to do while we’re over here in Australia. We’ve added the new page to share it with you and you’re more than welcome to give us ideas too! I’ve also summarised what we have done so far with handy links in case you want to know about something in particular.

You can get to it by clicking the button under the main picture called To Do List (to the right of Home) or by clicking HERE.

 

Wineglass Bay, TAS on New Years Day

Wineglass Bay, TAS on New Years Day

Here’s the first monthly update for 2014.

Liking: Annoying as it was having to take most of my annual leave over Christmas due to the work shutdown, having three whole weeks off until Jan 13th was great!

Disliking: I called our mortgage company (Virgin Money) to renew our permission to let our house out with them, only to find out they wont allow this. We need to switch to a Buy to Let mortgage which they wont offer us! Changing is going to be a right old pain, not to mention expensive as we have a big early repayment fee. The only upside is we can probably switch to a lower rate and hopefully save money in the long run if we use all our money we saved here to pay off a chunk. Grumble grumble.

Watching: As the first half of the month was a holiday we didn’t watch much at all! I’m keen to see the Hobbit 2 at the cinema soon although I have a feeling the experience won’t be as good as watching Hobbit 1 in Wanaka at the cinema where you sit on sofas and get hot freshly baked cookies in the interval!

Consuming: Camping food including red pasta splat in various forms, cheese, ham and pepper wraps for lunch and a tin of Quality Street we picked up for $10 after Christmas – win!

Buying: I bought a mallet when I went camping by myself to help bash tent pegs. Apart from that, not too much.

Working on: Nothing until the 13th Jan. I even stopped work emails getting pushed too my phone and it’s been excellent. I’m the sort of person who can’t help but check them if they come in so I don’t have a big red number annoying me!

Thinking about: Relaxing mainly. We’ve been plotting about some plans for next year, including moving to a different place where we can swap a bedroom for a better view.

Visiting: We were in Tasmania until the 3rd and then we visited Melbourne again. After Matt went home I went in to Philip Island, Lake Hume and the Snowy mountains. I’ve been writing up about them on my iPad to stay tuned for more details.

Missing (new feature!): As we’ve been camping a long time I’ll admit I do miss the convenience of living in a house. You don’t have to put the flat up every time you want to go to sleep, all your things you need are by here in your kitchen and bathroom without you having to get them out the boot or your bag and there is a table whenever you want it! I enjoy camping but home comforts will be nice too.

Looking forward to: Continuing our adventure down under in 2014! We are planning a cheese and wine based celebration for being here a year which should also be good.

View from top of the National Pass

View from top of the National Pass

We went with our UK friends Phil and Rhiannon recently to do the National Pass walk in the Blue Mountains. Its a 4.8km circuit, graded hard with 210m ascent and descent, timed at about 3 hours.

Our Best Blue Mountains Bushwalks book says: “Distant views, stone steps hewn into the side of sandstone cliffs, waterfalls, ferny grottos and swimming holes all combine to justify the reputation of the National Pass as one of the Blue mountain’s classic walks’. The walk is very popular, but as we went on a weekday it was nice and quiet.

We modified the walk slightly and did it in reverse to make sure we got to the cafe before it shut and we couldn’t get an ice cream. As it was over 30 degrees this was an important consideration! Luckily the walk is mainly in the valley so its nice and shady.

The views were great with a number of waterfalls including Wentworth Falls. The steps up the end were a killer though, I counted over 800 and could still feel my legs hurting 2 days later! We didn’t stop for a swim, although that was definitely an option if you don’t mind chilly water.

A few signs give information about how the walk was built in the early 1900’s with dynamite blasting and a lot of elbow grease – much more impressive than me walking up 800 steps! There are also little lizards and cool birds to be seen along the route, as well as metal sculptures of them too.

It was an excellent walk and I’d definitely do it again – once we’ve done the 100’s of others in the book!

City Circle Tram

City Circle Tram

At the end of our trip along the Great Ocean Road we spent two nights in Melbourne with Phil and Rhiannon.

Melbourne is just over an hour south of Sydney on the plane, so a bit cooler and more temperate weather wise. It has a lot of culture going on, being a UNESCO City of Literature, the Australian capital of coffee and chocolate and a foodie and shopping lovers dream. Quite often we’ll meet people and discuss being from the UK, and they’ll say we would like Melbourne becasue its very European. It definitely has more of a European city vibe than Sydney in the main city center, maybe becasue of more historic buildings, dodgy weather (yes I know some of Europe is hot) and lack of beaches.

There is a lot to do, but we weren’t there long, so we picked out some of the key stuff:

On Monday night we arrived, had some yummy Laksa noddles near our hotel and went for a wander around the city. We were lucky to see some Christmas projection onto the Town Hall  a bit like the Vivid festival.  We also found Federation Square and the Yarra River.

On Tuesday morning we decided the best way to pack in a lot was with a free city tour from I’m Free. After a quick coffee in the library coffee shop we headed out on the tour with our excellent guide, Dan. Dan was friendly, knowledgeable, had a good style and pace, kept things interesting and got in a lot of jibes about Melbourne being better than Sydney – most of which were pretty dubious. There is a big rivalry between the cities dating right back to when they were first founded. The tour covered the historic and modern bits of the city including the Parliament, parks, Gaol (where Ned Kelly was hung), Street Art and lane ways with fab cafes. We learnt a lot about the history of the city in an interesting way, and the 3 hours went by very quickly. We did pay Dan a good tip but it was still excellent value.

Expo building

Expo building

After a yummy pancake lunch in the lanes we headed to the Immigration Museum as in the words of Dan ‘ the story of immigration is the story of Australia.’ Its also the story of the Shorts  now, so I found it really interesting from that perspective too. They museum had a timeline of immigration over the last 100 years and a replica boat with different cabins dating back to the late 1800’s. It was good to learn more about the history including the £10 Poms and made me feel better about our 24 hour plane trip – better than 30 days on a boat! There was a good exhibit on Identity and racism and we got to to the Citizenship test and passed with a score of 18/20. We also got to interview prospective immigrants and decide whether to let them in or not which proved entertaining!

Tuesday night we had a nice meal at the Hairy Canary and went to see King Long at the theater. More about that here.

On Wednesday the weather was a bit dodgy and wet. We started off with a very intellectual middle class trip around the library which is also a museum. As well as lots of old books and maps and a very cool octagonal reading room we got to see Ned Kellys armor and learn more about him.

Library Reading Room

Library Reading Room

Melbourne has a free tram which runs around most of the city, so we caught that after the library to check out the Harbor area. Its not as good as Sydney! We skipped the Glow Golf in the end as the reviews were dodgy and we didn’t have too long to spare. After another tasty lunch of burgers it was time to head back to the airport and fly back to Sydney. Leaving Phil and Rhiannon at the airport for them to go to Singapore and us to Sydney was pretty weird, but I was very brave and didn’t cry!

There is plenty more to see in Melbourne, and luckily for me i’m spending some more time there in January. Also on the list are:

  • St Kilda area and its fab cake shops
  • The zoo
  • The Eureka Tower and lookout
  • Botanic Gardens
  • The James Bond exhibition (maybe more for Matt)
  • Vampire cabaret (intriguing)
  • Art galleries and of course
  • Shopping!
Street Art

Street Art

 

koalawild

I was so excited recently by seeing wild koalas, I thought they really deserved their own post!

We went on holiday with Phil and Rhiannon from the UK along the Great Ocean Road which is west of Melbourne in Victoria. You can read more about that here. On our first night we stayed in a cabin in the Great Otway National Park at a place balled ‘Bimbi Park – Camping Under Koalas’. For me, the name was a give away that there might be some exciting wildlife around!

On the drive we stopped near the Kennet River for some initial koala spotting. After a few minutes Matt won with the first sighting.

Now, koalas sleep for over 20 hours a day, so generally they’re spotted as round balls of cute fur nestled in the joins of branches in Eucalyptus (Gum) trees. They blend in well with the tree colour. Seeing them awake is fairly unusual, even at the zoo. In the Kennet area we managed to spot 9 koalas, including a few awake ones and one going for a walk along the forest floor – I did have to be restrained (= warned about snakes and spiders) as I excitingly bush bashed my way through the undergrowth for a closer look!

That morning the friendly checkout lady at the supermarket where we got our obligatory road trip supplies (including TimTams) informed us that koalas are actually really noisy, especially at night and make a very deep noise. In the Kennet area we got our first proof of this, and the noise was terrible. Its a low grunting / neighing noise, that you might expect to come from something like a big bear, gorilla or distressed horse. At first it sounded like they were deeply unhappy, but it seemed to be their normal call.

The road to the Bimbi Park campsite was full of more koalas. After checking in, we went for a walk and got in a koalas count of over 30 in the end! Seeing them in the wild was awesome. Around the Otway a lot more of them were awake and eating or wandering about, some of them quite close to us and seemingly not too bothered. Some of them had gone quite far out in the trees into some quite small and bendy branches in search of yummy leaves. We saw a mum and baby too – super cute.

Unfortunately the Otway area is actually becoming overpopulated with koalas. While this is good for spotting them its not good for their food supply which is fast running out or for their survival. The locals and the Government are working together on a relocation program and on some bush burning to regenerate the trees and bulk the food supply back up. Hopefully this will be successful. We did see some migrating sitting in the road! Looks like they’re getting the message to move, but hopefully they’ll learn sitting in the road isn’t a good plan!

Awwwwwwwwwwwwwww!

2koalas

In early December we were luck to have our good friends Phil and Rhainnon visit from the UK. They stayed with us for a few nights in Sydney and then we hijacked the next part of their holiday! We flew together from Sydney down to Melbourne and spent 5 excellent days driving along the Great Ocean Road, checking out the Grampian Mountains and spending time in Marvelous Melbourne.

The Great Ocean Road is fantastic. I can easily see why its meant to be one of the best drives in the world. It stretches for about 240km from a place names Torquay in the east to Warrnambool in the west. The road was built by ex-servicemen from World War 1 to help them reintegrate. You can read more about it here. Our new website cover picture is of the road.

Kookaburra

Kookaburra

We drove the road over 2 days, stopping in Cape Otway National Park overnight, which is koala central! (More on that coming soon). The scenery on the drive is spectacular and the windy coastal road makes for an awesome drive. There are masses of viewpoints, places to stop for an ice cream or other refreshment and walks which range from short to multi-day (in fact you can walk  most of the route if you’re that way included).

There are so many things to see and do, taking the trip over two days was certainly a good call, and you could easily spend longer doing it.

Here are some of the many highlights.

Seeing wild koalas and camping with them in Cape Otway National Park. We spotted over 30 in total. I’ll do a whole other post on them!

Many spectacular beaches with rolling hills behind and a nice windy road along the front. The sea was very blue and had good surf in some places too. There were a fair few picturesque lighthouses too, including the one from Going Round the Twist (80s kids TV) which we visited.

12 Apostles

12 Apostles

The 12 Apostles sea stacks (although there are only actually about 9). Not only were the stacks themselves great, the water and sky were both soooo blue it looked really idyllic.

Wild emus, koalas and kangaroos at Tower Hill, a cool ancient volcano. We also saw a Copper Head snake here, although it was far away from us on a board walk.

Wild emu

Wild emu

‘London Bridge’ arch. It used to be a double arch connected to the mainland, but it fell down one stormy day and left two people stranded on it who had to be rescued by helicopter!

Grampian mountains – we walked up Mount William for some awesome views and went to many other lookouts with good walks and equally good views. The B and B we stayed in had complementary port which I was extremely happy about! Sadly the Halls Gap mini-gold was closed on the Monday when we went there – I’ll have to go back to that one!

Climbing at a waterfall in the Grampians

Climbing at a waterfall in the Grampians

I’d totally recommend the Great Ocean Road as a must do on any trip to Australia.

Round the twist lighthouse

Round the twist lighthouse

firework

Happy New Year blog fans!

Hope you’re all having a fab time. We are currently down in Tasmania away from lots of computers at the moment, so I wrote this in advance and scheduled it (like a lot of the posts).

I suppose as well as a big party its natural to reflect at New Year on how the year has gone, what you’ve been up to and what lies in the year ahead.

So last year started with an excellent M themed fancy dress party with our friends The Pauls from round the corner in Horsham. Not only did we have outfits, staying awake till gone midnight was a pretty good achievement as we landed back from New Zealand that day with some serious jetlag. It seems like ages ago now – this year has gone so fast!

Obviously a lot has changed with our move over to Sydney on 11th Feb, both starting new jobs and setting up in a new flat including buying a lot of new furniture and bits and pieces (and new Short family member Jeffrey the car). It’s all going well here which is great and I’m glad we were brave enough to come. Time will tell what happens next.

Instead of New Year Resolutions, here are some wise words to think about (I couldn’t choose one!)

‘Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it…unless is agrees with your own reason and common sense.’

‘We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.’ 

‘You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.’