Sydney, Australia
 
 March 27, 2017     |      read entry >














March 27, day 34 of our 80-day walkabout around Australia.






March 27, 2017 (day 3,588)
Quick Fix: Adelaide, South Australia

Entering the Never-Never?
We're entering the gateway into Australia's wild side. So far, since we left Sydney about four weeks ago, we've rolled through a patchwork of endless farmlands, up and over wiggly mountain roads, along surf-battered coastlines and into the bustling and trendy city centers of Canberra and Melbourne. But today we crossed over into South Australia and the landscape is beginning to change - the terrain is flatter, roads are straightening out and seem to stretch to the horizon. It feel like we're heading into the wilderness, the Never-Never, and I guess with almost 90% of Australia's population huddled, relatively speaking, on the east and southern shorelines, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, where we'll soon be disappearing for five weeks in a camper van, is where we'll discover the real Outback. Tomorrow we fly to Perth, which perched on the remote western coastline of Australia, makes it one of the most isolated modern cities in the world.



March 20, 2017     |     Neville focusing on an exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia



March 20, 2017     |     The last of the great 12 Apostles, abandoned by a continent, fighting for survival against the Southern Ocean.


 


   
   
Day 3,581 - Great Ocean Road, Australia
23:19hrs - March 20, 2017
A Great Ocean Road Retreat

We're on a highway that many road trip authorities consider to be the best in all Australia. It's the Great Ocean Road, an inspiring stretch of tarmac that starts just outside of Melbourne in the surfing capital of Torquay, and flows west along a coastline so dramatic, beautiful and impressive that even though it officially runs for a mere 151 miles, you'll be stopping to explore and marvel so frequently, it can take days to complete.

We've been cruising in our little Fiat Punto for over three weeks and trundled 2,643 miles since we left Sydney. We only average four to five hours of driving a day, but the routine of decanting gear to hotel room every evening is getting a tad tiresome, so we've decided to have a three day retreat.

We're staying in the Great Otway National Park in a villa that boasts not only a commanding ocean view, but a eucalyptus forest complete with a snoozing wild koala. It's the perfect refuge to recharge our batteries, and as it's positioned roughly midway along the Great Ocean Road, it makes an ideal base camp to explore the areas highlights.

Without question the most dramatic and impressive of all the Great Ocean Road wonders are the Twelve Apostles, towering limestone stacks that were once part of the coastline, but are now stranded at sea by a retreating continent. We're close to the roaring forties, a latitude where wind and surf dominate. The immense cliffs that soar over two hundred feet from sand to sky, while imposing, are no match for the power of this ocean.

It seems that about every five years another Apostle, or a large chunk of one, succumbs to the sea. A two hundred foot stack collapsed in 2005, and just four years later, London Bridge, a striking limestone archway suddenly crashed into the ocean leaving two terrified tourists stranded on the remaining pillar, and with plenty of time before being rescued to imagine the horrors of all the 'what if' scenarios.

We've walked along rugged cliff edges, as close as we dare, down to golden beaches entombed by sheer cliffs and relentless surf, and yesterday we drove further west to Loch Ard Gorge, named for the sailing vessel wrecked on this coast. We've visited Thunder Cave, massive blow holes and a coastline that, in about a hundred thousand years, give or take, should produce a whole new generation of Apostles.

It's a grand coastline but it's time for us to head further west, out of Victoria and into a new state, South Australia. We're only a week away from Adelaide where we'll wave goodbye to the Punto before flying to Perth to meet our self-contained, fully loaded camper van. We'll be driving 2,700 miles up to Darwin, a road trip that will take us about five weeks. We've never been in a camper van before so we have absolutely no idea what to expect. But at least we won't have to unpack our gear every night.

 

 

 



COVER SHOT: Dream Time anchored with cruising friends in Passe Tumakohua makes the 2017 cover of Ocean Voyager.

 


 


March 20, 2017     |     A new Apostle in the making, Loch Ard Gorge.







March 11, 2017 (day 3,572)
Quick Fix: Paynesville, Victoria

The Wild West of Australia's Southeast
Day 15 and 16 of our walkabout took us from the chilly Australian Alps down into the bush lands of Victoria. In the 1850's gold was discovered in these hills attracting thousands of pioneering prospectors armed with picks and shovels in search of fortune. We stayed a night in Beechworth, a frontier town that has retained its wildwest facade from yesteryear, although apparently more money was exchanged from opium sales and prostitution than precious metals. It's also Ned Kelly country, an infamous six-shooting, armor-clad outlaw, a psychopathic killer to some, an Australian folk hero to others. This is an expansive region of rolling cattle farms and horse ranches that seem to go on forever. It could be Montana, but then we spot a mob of kangaroos lounging in the shade and it reminds us of exactly where we are. We're now in a sleepy seaside town staying in a poky room above an old pub, called The Old Pub. This is wild koala country and we've already sighted 12.






March 7, 2017     |     Standing at the summit of Mount Kosciuszko, it's not every day that you're the highest person on an entire continent.








March 7, 2017 (day 3,568)
Quick Fix: Thredbo, New South Wales

The Summit of Australia
Day 13 of our walkabout found us perched on the highest point of the continent 7,352 feet above sea level. We've taken an uncharacteristic break from the coast to head into the Australian Alps to the picturesque ski village of Thredbo at the base of Mount Kosciuszko. There's no snow on Kozzie this time of year so slopes have been converted to bike trails and only one ski lift is operating, the Kosciuszko Express, which we rode to Australia's highest cafe, Eagle's Nest, in preparation for our summit expedition. Our hike to the top of Australia, which sounds mighty impressive, was more of a scenic stroll along a mesh walkway that meandered and rolled gently up the mountainside like the world's longest treadmill. The view was magnificent and Catherine declared the 8-mile walk her most favorite in the world. At the end of the day, for a little adrenaline fix, we rocketed down 2,000 feet of luge-style track on bobsleds.

 

 

 


   
Day 3,566 - Canberra, Australia
20:57hrs - March 5, 2017
Walkabout - Finally Heading South

We've been on the road for eleven days and I'm well into my groovy road trip state-of-mind. We haven't made it very far out of Sydney but our short northward diversion to Byron Bay was well worth it. One surprise up there was meeting an old Australian sailor (curiously wearing a millennium falcon T-shirt) who has made his landfall deep in the Wollemi and Yengo National Parks. At an old truck stop turned sculpture garden/boat yard he proudly shared some of his stories standing beside his landlocked yacht that he built himself and sailed around the world, but with a dream of someday sailing around all the southern capes in order to call himself a 'true sailor'. His sculptures really were unique and fun and his creativity went in all directions, but my favorite was a mailbox that outshone every crazy Australian mailbox we've seen so far.

That day also added the first wombat to our wildlife counter. We had actually thought it was a koala until we proudly showed the photo to a very nice Australian lady who assured us after our confident assurances to the contrary, that it was in fact a wombat. A bit disappointing as we were convinced we had just had a rare daytime sighting of a wild koala, but wombats are cool too, so yay wombats!

Back towards Sydney again we got some mandatory beach time at Coogee and Bondi. We dropped in at Coogee to retrace some of Neville's carefree backpacking days including the Coogee to Bondi coastal beach walk that we trekked together twenty-three long years ago. And while we are starting to show our age a bit now, it hasn't changed a bit, especially with the very cool and very old Bondi Iceberg Club pools perched on the edge of the rocks overlooking the surf.

We're heading south now and made it all the way to Canberra. There are too many museums, galleries, memorials and government buildings to count and you could spend weeks here and still not see them all, but we only had a day so we decided to pick just two. We chose Parliament House and the Australian War Memorial. Parliament House was interesting with lots of cool architecture and art mixed in with the politics, but the war memorial was a powerful place full of reminders that we need to avoid war at all costs.

At the Last Post Ceremony I had a strong sense that the many lives described in this extensive memorial were passionately cared about and cherished by the people who were making sure their stories and their lives and sacrifices would never be forgotten.

 

 

 



March 5, 2017     |     Canberra - storm clouds gather over the Parliament House



March 2, 2017     |     Bondi