Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Perth to Melbourne... (Part 3)

Saturday 25th - Sunday 26th February 2012

It was late in the afternoon when we arrived in Adelaide and we were feeling a little tired after camping all week, but, we were excited to be meeting our friend Olympia again. She is a beautiful spirited, warm and welcoming. We met her and her two boys in Vietnam way back in October. Her boys Panayioti (19) and Harris (17) as you have probably already guessed are of Greek heritage and are similar to their mum in that they are just quality genuine people. I remember when we bumped into them in Vietnam, we just hit it off and she invited us to stay with them when we arrived in Adelaide. We bumped into them a number of times as we traveled around Vietnam. It was clear when we did as we would hear the familiar humble greetings shouted out to us by the boys...SCOUSERS!!!. She welcomed us into her home and made us feel part of her family. Beautiful aromas filled the Greek styled house as we first entered and we all settled down for a good catch up. Olympia lived only five minutes from the beach and Me and Laura would take walks up to the beach and along the pier. Lot's of people come here to relax, swim, kayak and fish. The first day I was at the pier I was lucky enough to see a young Bull Seal swimming about cunningly robbing the bait from the fisherman's lines and bait boxes. A local woman next to me said its was the first time she had ever seen a Bull Seal in the 27 years she had lived here and I said to her that it was the first time I had seen one and I had only waited 27 minutes. It was a great weekend to be in Adelaide as it was the start of the 'Fringe Festival'. On the Sunday I was in charge of the BBQ...which took me forever to light (I would never make a Aussie) then we all went off to enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of the festival at a place called 'The Garden of  Unearthly Delights'. We had a great time over the weekend filled with so much laughter and fun. It was sad to leave so early, but, us nomads had to get back on the road again.

First hours in Adelaide

Adelaide beach

The pier in Adelaide

The Bull Seal I watched playing in the waters by the pier

The calm waters of the Ocean

Sunset in Adelaide

Enjoying some fish & chips as the sun goes down

Me and a Pelican on Adelaide beach

This BBQ is having me on

With all the gang...Left-right: Emma, Harris, Olympia, Panayioti and Me

Monday 27th February

We said our good byes and left in the afternoon for new pastures further east. It's great to know we have good friends in this part of the world and that we are always welcome; virtue and generosity rewards you in ways that you can not know. We decided on heading up to the Grampians NP, one of Victoria's most outstanding natural features before heading towards the coast. The drive was very scenic and reminded me very much of the English countryside; the landscape of this incredible country was also changing once again. Unfortunately the weather was also changing. In the distance the clouds sagged stormy in the dark bruised sky above and the all to familiar sign of rain hung in the air. However It felt strangely reassuring to feel the familiarity of home and at times I felt like I was driving through parts of the Lake District. It was getting late so we decided to camp at Horsham just outside the Grampians NP and indulged in some home cooked Lasagna in the local pub near by.

Tuesday 28th February

It was a beautifully scenic drive through the Grampians NP surrounded by green lush trees and rolling hills. We visited the spectacular Mackenzie waterfalls and then drove up to the highest viewpoint overlooking the Grampians. We were treated to a magnificent panoramic view of this vast and wonderful range. The whole range has this beautiful blue colour that rises hazily into the air, an effect created by the thousands of eucalyptus trees that grow here. We drove on towards the coast until we reached Warrnambool late in the evening. It was 7:10 pm and we had just reached the start of 'The Great Ocean Road'. I was feeling so tired now, more mentally than physically, but, the world keeps on turning. We set up camp close to the windswept coast and as the sun was setting we visited the 'Bay of Martyrs' about a 10 minute walk from our campsite. With the strong sea wind in our face and the sun going down, we all stood on the edge of the cliffs overlooking the savage and untamed sea smash into the cliffs below. The whole experience is even more magical  at sunset. I just love watching sunset, especially over the ocean: the rich colours and light blend naturally together creating new shades and textures that reflect beautifully onto the ocean and in the sky painting the most dramatic of landscapes. If I was an artist this would  be the type of landscapes that I would paint.

Mackenzie Waterfalls

Laura and Nader at the foot of the waterfall

The stunning view of the Grampians

Notice the hazy blue effect of the landscape

On top of the world again!!!

The Bay of Martyrs

The Bay of Martyrs

Windswept overlooking The Bay of Martyrs

Feeling it now after 12 days on the road
Enchanting landscape at sun set

 The colours of Sunset

Taking it all in.

Wednesday 29th February: The Great Ocean Road

Breathe, breathe in the air.
Don't be afraid to care.
Leave but don't leave me.
Look around and choose your own ground.

                                                   Breathe-Pink Floyd:

We woke up early and packed our tents away for the last was a poignant moment to think that today was to be the last day of our road trip. Today was also a leap year so I was half expecting Laura to propose to me before we set off on our final day on the road. We were to travel along one of the most scenic roads in the world: The Great Ocean Road, and then on our way to our final destination, Melbourne. The Great Ocean Road is famous world wide and is said by many to equal California's Pacific Coast Highway. The road spans a mammoth 285km all the way from Warrnambool to Torquay and is actually a memorial to all the Soldiers that fought and died during WWI. We headed off towards Cape Otway and along the way stopped off at some stunning view points. This stretch of coastline is better known as shipwreck coast. During the 19th Century it was a notoriously dangerous stretch of water to navigate through due to the numerous hidden reefs and frequent fog...this resulted in over 80 vessels perishing in less than 40 years. This stretch however has some of the most dramatic and fascinating limestone rock formations, some of which tower to a massive 70m over some fierce seas. It's the power of this relentless sea that has created these rock formations: 'The Grotto', 'London Bridge', 'The Arch', 'The Lock and Gorge' and 'The Twelve Apostels'. The latter we missed because I was to busy listening to the album, Dark Side of the Moon; what can I say? I was lost in the moment, the atmosphere...the music of Pink Floyd really lends it's self to these types of drives. Each rock formation has it's own story to tell. One of my favourites was about London Bridge. In 1990 whilst people were on the rock formation, the connecting bridge to the mainland collapsed and fell into the sea leaving two people stranded for up to two hours 70m above the sea...imagine looking behind you and watching the arch collapse and being marooned on the cliffs edge. It was a spectacular drive through some rugged and dangerous coastline. The weather now was as threatening as the sea: untamed and powerful. It creates this wonderful atmosphere, one that makes you feel quite vulnerable as though you at the mercy of some omnipotent being; the force of nature...I loved every moment of it. 

When we arrived at Cape Otway lighthouse it marked the second most southerly point on the mainland of Australia. From here we entered the NP, It was here that I saw my first Koala bear in the wild. It was raining now, very overcast and blustery and I could feel the temperature falling. The road veered away from the coast before heading back towards Apollo Bay and again we were treated to some more stunning views of the turbulent and rough sea. From Apollo Bay the road hugs the coastline all the way to Anglesea and again the views of this stormy sea at times are breathtaking. The landscape to the left was similar to parts of the Lake District, in particular the weathered crags and mountains of Great Langdale and Wasdale. We nexted stopped at a place called Lorne, it was here that I watched surfers in action for the first time in my life...poetry in motion. They are crazy, adrenalin junkies, I mean the conditions were horrendous, but, I suppose that's the lure of surfing, the search for the biggest waves and as they say the key to adventure is risk. The final drive passed through the towns of Angalsea and Torquay; it was getting late now as we got onto the main high way that took us away from the coast and towards the city of Melbourne.

On the horizon I watched the blue city grow as we drove closer and closer until at last we arrived in to the cosmopolitan centre. I was sitting in the back of the car exhausted. We put on the song; 'Somebody I used to Know' by Gotye one last time and sat back reflecting on this amazing road trip. What an adventure, what a journey and what an experience. I remember thinking that that was one of the best 12 day's of my was an aesthetic voyagers dream and I had lived it.

      "...a country such as I firmly believe has no parallel on earths surface"
                                                                           -The Explorer Charles Stuart 1844 

Shipwreck Coast

Rough seas

London Bridge which collapsed in 1990 leaving 2 people stranded on the cliff

The road trip crew

The Gorge

The entrance to the Gorge where 2 people swam to safety after their ship sank in the 19th Century

It's a bit windy

Beautiful fresh it

The untamed sea

Poetry in motion

Surfing Oz style


Saturday, 21 April 2012

Perth to Melbourne (Part 2)....

'The vastness engulfs us all'
Tuesday 21st February:

We woke up early with the sun shinning through onto the train tracks and the flies swarming fiercely around our was going to be another hot day today. The next leg of our road trip was to travel across the remote Nullarbor plain travelling along the Eyre highway; a stretch of road 2700km long spanning all the way to Norseman from Kalgoorlie in Western Australia to Ceduna in South Australia. The nullarbor Plain is a region of so many contrasting geographical features, unspoilt landscapes, breathtaking ocean views and diverse Australian wildlife. The land is one of extremes, but, this is the way to travel. To feel the remoteness of this unremittingly harsh desert is exciting and a feeling of freedom. It really hits you when you are driving for hours on end without seeing another car or truck and when you do you give them a friendly little wave to let them know their not alone.  It felt like we were driving for hours on end covering great distances but getting nowhere; the roads just disappear beautifully into the sky like a mirage on the distant sun baked horizon. 

It was reaching about 40 degrees as we passed through the small town of Ballodonia, 193km east of Noresman. There were warning signs along the way indicating the risk of bushfire as severe. We stopped off at a petrol station to fill up and I noticed the remains of a satellite on the roof. It turned out to be the remains of a 78 tonne NASA space station that crashed here in 1979. NASA said that they would give $1,000 for every piece of satellite found and sent back to the USA. This sparked a frenzy with thousands of people converging on to this part of Western Australia's outback taking part in a mass search that lasted over 2 weeks putting this small town on the international front pages. I found it funny to find that the Shire of Esperance slapped the US Government with a $400 fine for littering...Quality touch.  It was my turn to drive when unbeknown to me I found myself driving on the longest straight road in Australia, a massive 146.6km better known as the the 90 mile straight. I put the car on to cruise control sat back not even having to steer the whole was hard to stay awake believe me. Dotted along the highway are signs that read 'Emergency Airstrip'...that's how big and straight this road is. Along the way on this arid desert we saw a lone Emu foraging about in the shrubs and up in the sky a couple of eagles soaring high with that graceful beauty that they possess. The wildlife is amazing. We stopped off at a little town called Cocklebiddy for lunch and outside was a sign that read 'population 8 + 1 dog'. These folk are little strange too...the best way I can describe it is....'League of Gengleman' sketch "Are you local"?-enough said. After a long drive we came across the town of Madura, 83km east of Cocklebiddy. We set up camp and had a well deserved beer. We were exactly halfway between Perth and Adelaide.

The start of the remote Nullarbor

The road disappears beautifully into the sky

The straightest road in Australia-better known as the 90 mile straight

Part of the 1979 space station that fell on WA

I managed to snap a photo of a wild Emu

The graceful flight of the Eagle soaring high over the nullarbor

The barren landscape of the Nullarbor

A great shot of the vast nullarbor at a high viewpoint

Just before heading into the town of Madura

Wednesday 22nd February:

We woke early with the sun shining through our tent it was going to be another great day on the road again. I remember getting into the car and as we drove off the song; 'Sombody I Used to Know' by Gotye came on...this was to become our road trip song. The landscape was slowly changing now the further east we travelled. We were leaving the flat red arid outback behind for more greenery with lots of small windswept blue bush shrubby and small tress. Ancient mountains and the ocean could be seen in the distance as the road veered closer to the coast, but, the sheer vastness and nakedness remained the same. We passed through Eucla just before we crossed the South Australian boarder scoffing all our fruit first as strict quarantine restrictions when crossing the boarder apply. As the road veered towards the coast of South Australia we were greeted by the majestic cliffs soaring high over the Great Australian Bight. This coastal drive was simply stunning. We stopped off along the way to take in the beauty. This is prime real think that I am not the first person to observe such natural beauty; aboriginals have came to these spots for thousands of years to look out in wonder. Sitting on one of the biggest slabs of limestone in Australia looking out over the ocean in total calm and peace, thousands of miles from anywhere and from anyone, only us three in this remote country was special. I looked out over the ocean and to my amazement I spotted a dolphin swimming in the current enjoying the simple tranquillity of solitude unaware of me watching him. It was so good we decided to camp next to the soaring cliffs, the best camp spot one can imagine. We had our tea and watched the best sun set- all mesmerised as this big orange ball disappeared into the ocean. As the day turned to night the stars came out to bless us with their beauty and you cant help but star gaze looking for a chance glimpse of a shooting star. To think that the nearest star is 100,000 light years away from us and the light travels 300,000 km/s...mind blowing. 

Sign post at Eucla...we had traveled 1435km in 4 days

First look at the ocean

Over looking the Great Australian Bight

To think the Great white shark's hunting ground is behind me

The deep blue colour of the sea is beautiful

In need of a hair cut

The foot of these majestic cliffs where I saw a dolphin swimming in the current

On the edge of these 100m cliffs

lost in thought and contemplation

The Subaru on the edge of the cliffs

The air is so fresh up on the edge of these soaring cliffs

Windswept on the cliffs

An aesthetic voyagers dream...stunning scenery

The best campsite of my life...


Taking this surreal sunset in

Thursday 23rd:

We woke up early and was greeted by the spectacular sight of the cliffs again...I could stare out to sea forever; to think that there is nothing but open ocean until you reach Antarctica. This is the driest state of the driest continent, wild and untamed. Surrounded by small shrubs there is a real chance of disturbing a snake here, and remember 18 of the deadliest snakes in the world are right here on our campsite. As we were packing up we watched a car slowly approach. It was the ranger and he told us that we shouldn't be camping here. He said there was a real danger of parts of the cliff collapsing into the sea. With a slap on the wrist we headed off further east. I was aware of passing a number of what I assumed were golf courses since Norseman. It was only when we stopped off at Cocklebiddy a couple of days ago did I realise what it was a very unique 18-hole par 72 course indeed- it was only the longest golf course in the world. The course from hole 1 to 18 spans a whopping 1,365km with one hole in each participating town along the Eyre highway. I wanted to play a least one hole to say I had done it. So we stopped off at Penong, hole 16, a par 4. It was another baking hot day. We hired some dodgy clubs out and played a practise hole in which I hit a 6. We walked back and played it again. I was determined to par it. After a great tea shot and a good second near the green I pitched on 5 ft away from the hole for a par put. I thought yes I am going to par a hole on the longest course in the world. I read the green, looked at all possible angles, took a number of practise puts then putted with a tentative swing. I watched the ball role in slow was going to go in. But then the ball deviated to the left, rolled around the cup and lipped out....NO!!!! I was gutted, but, what a unexpected laugh and it was the first time Laura or Nader had played on a real golf course...and what a first course to play on- only the longest in the world. We passed thought the town of Ceduna, which is 480km from the Western Australian boarder. We had planned to stay at the famous Cactus Beach but decided on making time up and heading towards a more secluded beach at Streaky Bay. We arrived there just before sunset and was greeted to more spectacular scenery. This time rather that camping on the cliffs we camped on the beach. Surrounded by sand dunes and about 20 meters away from the sea this was another unreal campsite, and to top it off we were greeted by yet another surreal sun set.  By now it was very dark when we sat down for tea. It was going so well until I shone the torch onto the beach to be greeted by the sight of thousands of black beetles. Laura freaked out. We got it together based on the fact that they are absolutely harmless. Then, as we settled down again I caught something in the corner of my eye. Shinning the touch I saw right next to my foot not 1 but 4 big Scorpions. We all jumped onto the chairs, now Laura really freaked be honest I did a little. When we got into the tent the noise of all these insects joined by a couple of mice all running around the fly sheet was a little unnerving. But, none was more unnerving that waking up in the middle of the night and right next to my face on the out side of the inner fly sheet the silhouette of big Scorpion. It was the end to a eventful day on the road.   

Hole 16 on the longest course in the world

All them hours playing with the school on a Wednesday paying off with a cracking tee shot 

A Dennis Wise...Missing a nasty 5ft par putt

 Campsite on the beach at Streaky Bay

Simply stunning

View from the front of our tent at sunset

My favourite picture...notice the planets Mars and Jupiter in the twilight sky

Friday 24th:

I woke up with the sound of the tide coming in and was greeted by a beautiful fresh morning on the beach. We went into town for breakfast. I checked my emails and found out that one of my best friends had asked me to be the Godfather of his new baby girl...great stuff. We planned to travel up north to the Flinders National Park before heading to Adelaide were we had planned to stay with a family we had met way back in October in Vietnam.  We passed through Port Augusta and picked up some food and more importantly a few beers. After a couple of hours of driving the procession of glowing red mountains of the Flinders NP, folded and crumpled with age came slowly into focus. It is so hot and dry here, so wild and vast that there must be few areas on this planet that feel quite so isolated or hostile to human habitation. Disused and desolate 19th century farm houses that dot the landscape like ghosts from another age serve only to reinforce this fact. The only Kangaroos I had seen since we had left Perth were dead ones on the side of the road, victims of road kill; now as we entered the NP we were treated to the sight of hundreds...this was well and truly Kangaroo country.

Saturday 25th

This week I had been treated to some spectacular mornings and when it can't get any better it just does. As the sun was coming up I looked out of my tent to see two Kangaroos only 2ft away foraging about...I just sat there thinking you just can't beat this. We explored the NP and visited a cave with some interesting Aboriginal paintings that were thousands of years old. We left in the afternoon for one more big drive to Adelaide, were we could rest before driving to our final destination, Melbourne via the 'Great Ocean Road'. When we arrived in Adelaide we had drove the equivalent distance of Liverpool to Moscow...It was time to take a big breath.

The Flinders NP coming into focus

Two kangaroos greeting me a morning hello 

Can you see the little inquisitive rock Wallaby-he watched us all the way on our walk to the cave

Aboriginal cave paintings that date back over a thousands years old

Outside one of the caves in the Flinders NP

The glowing red mountains of Flinders can be seen on the horizon

In familiar pose...In-front of the Flinders ancient red mountain range