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Thursday, April 28, 2016

The GOR (Great Ocean Road)

The crossing from Tasmania to the mainland was uneventful, if you don't count Teddy sleeping off a wine binge. We arrived in Melbourne with an appointment to repair our missing back window. Unfortunately, the appointment wasn't until 3 pm and the ferry landed at 6 am (not my time to shine, as many of you know). That left us in a quandary...what to do in the mean time?

Buildings of Queenscliff

We'd had a lovely tour of the Great Ocean Road planned, but it would have to be amended. At the suggestion of the campervan rental company man, we headed down to a little town called Queenscliff, where we enjoyed the best coffee we'd had in Australia (at least to date) and a nice 2nd breakfast of poached eggs and Moroccan dried fruit salad with yogurt and warm spiced sauce. It was delicious and buoyed us for the return to Melbourne for our appointment. If you have a chance to visit the town, go to the Shelter Shed. It's a haven of respite for the weary traveler.

With the window repaired earlier than anticipated, we headed to our next destination; a small town called Anglesea, at the start of the GOR. We felt better having the camper secured again and parked in our campsite gingerly, minding the trees at the back of the lot. 

He came to say hello when we made camp.
The GOR is primarily known for the Twelve Apostles - sandstone rocks that have been eroded from all sides and stand like pillars in the surf. There are no longer twelve, some being lost to the might of the sea, but it's still an impressive sight, but it's not time for that yet. Let's start at the beginning.
The Gateway
Our first official GOR beach in the early morning light

We didn't get far, when we noticed signs for Erskine Falls and a little spot near and dear to our co-co-pilots heart: Teddy's Lookout.

Teddy...looking out...what else did you expect?

The falls were more of a trickle (dry season)
It was a kilometre hike down to the falls (the road wasn't suitable for campers), and after we stared disappointedly at the bare trickle of water coming down the falls, a nice man offered us a ride back up the VERY steep hill

We stopped in Apollo Bay for lunch and got to watch the tourists flock by from our perch on a raised deck of one the hotels.
They like putting beets on hamburgers
They've pretty well nailed fish and chips
Amazing trees like this abounded.
We then headed off to Otway National Park, where we stood a high likelihood of seeing wild koalas. We weren't disappointed.
Here's some still photos:

I'll even throw in a kookaburra. Ron took the picture...isn't it amazing? (Actually, most of our photos are a mixed effort so kudos all around.)
It was then a race to the Apostles to try and get there before sunset. We keep forgetting that the sun sets earlier here with every passing day.  The coastline is spectacular though.
 Of course, we were also told that sunrise was an amazing time to see the cliffs, so we woke early (yes, it's true!) and went back for a second look.
Looking up the opposite way at sunrise

First blush of day
The cliffs further down

Sunrise through the gorse
We then headed back to camp to have breakfast, break camp and trundle on our way towards Warnnambool. We stopped to check out the beach below the cliffs of the Apostles and the light made it irresistable to not take a couple more photos.
View from our campsite
 Okay, I know, it's a lot of photos of the same subject matter, but you have to be there to understand the incredible beauty of the area. 1,000 photos wouldn't be enough to give you the sense of what it is to stand on the coast and see this. What's more, is that the coast is riddle with lesser examples of this type of erosion. It creates caves, holes and formation that are other worldly.
Shipwreck Bay
London Bridge

Bay of Islands
But enough of that rugged coast with the Bay of Islands, London Bridge and other sights. We made it safely to Warnnabool and bunked down for the night, sun and sanded out. The next day had one of our longer drives, as we turned back towards Melbourne and made the 1150km push to get to Sydney in time to turn in the camper.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Tasmania - the Bold and Beautiful

Hello! I'm back. Did you miss me?

Before I start with more tales from the road, I would be remiss not to mention the horrible earthquake in Ecuador. 654 people (and counting) died in the quake, over 12,000 were injured, 7,000 buildings were destroyed and 58 people are still missing. Please do what you can to help. There are several campaigns running to help the hardest struck areas. This was an event of incredible magnitude, and I cannot stress enough the need for further relief efforts.

I know there are many more options, but any help is gratefully accepted. Or come visit. Your tourist dollars will help with the rebuilding of this amazing and beautiful country and you get to see some incredible places.

Now on with the journey. (Photo heavy blog alert!)

We've had a wild time in Tasmania and beyond. It was our first campervan experience together and like all things new: we laughed, we cried, we broke something.

We started in Hobart, the major city of the state. (Yes, they call them states here, despite being part of the Commonwealth.) It's an interesting little city, right on the bay, which provides fresh seafood and pretty nice views.
Random buildings in Hobart
Market items
Market items
Mt. Wellington from a distance
Saturday market - it was crammed with people
We climbed Mount Wellington, strolled the streets, visited the weekend market and sampled some amazing Vietnamese food.
Hobart from halfway up Mt. Wellie
Teddy enjoying the view from our lunch spot
Hobart, the bay and beyond
Steep and slippy (but worth it!)
The "Organ Pipes" - basalt columns
We also went to an amazing museum/gallery know as the MONA. It has a collection of art that amazes, disconcerts and spurs conversation. It's a must if you visit Hobart.
Ferry to the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA)
Art on the ferry
Leaving Hobart

Chairs are passe, why not ride a sheep to
the MONA?
On the bay

The gallery approaches

One of the works in the gallery
This was inspired when the artist witnessed the aftermath
of a suicide bombing. He was struck by the serenity on the
face of the 19 year old who had just given his life.
After cramming in as much as we could we picked up our campervan and headed towards Port Arthur, stocking up on groceries on the way. We went on a ghost tour of the old prison and fort the first night we arrived. There were red chested wallabies and pademelons (smaller cousins to the wallabies and 'roos) as well as fairly tame parrots that would eat out of your hand. (I know...that's bad, but who could resist? Not even Ron!)

The Beast (the vehicle...of course)

Pademelon - crow for scale
Hate to say it, but they're kind of like giant rats
No eerie apparitions on this ghost tour
Bird with a toupee

"Wild" parrot

We'd heard about the largest basalt columns in the country and couldn't resist taking a boat tour to check out the soaring cliffs. We were hoping to hike to them, but realized we wouldn't have time, as they were at the end of a three day trek through Tasman National Park. (Nor were we equipped for such a thing.)
Start of the boat tour

The amazing coastline

Pod of dolphins playing in the wake
Australian fur seal
Seal butt...he was playing in the current.

Say "cheese"!
It's a seal's life!
1000 feet high!
Blue water
Soaring above us.
We were lucky enough to cavort with dolphins, see albatross and gannets, as catch a seal hunting pack at rest in the currents. It was a pretty amazing day.

Then we were off to Freycinet National Park. (Long story, but we did a LOT of backtracking in Tassie.) There we took a hike to a fairly well known beach called Wine Glass Bay. Both the hike and the bay are stunning. There's something about unmolested coastline that speaks to our souls. (Not a hotel or luxury condo in sight!)
A peak of Wine Glass Bay
The trail continues
Getting closer
On the beach
Then we turned back the way we had come and headed for the little town of Triabunna (pronounced Try-bana, in Aussie, but more on that later.) Why that little berg, you might ask? Well, it's the jump off point to Maria (pronounced Mariah) Island. Home of the totally adorable wombat. You're practically guaranteed to see one there and that was on my to-do list.

Triabunna was the place of "the incident" where we smashed the back window of the campervan. It made our Tassie experience a bit more stressful, but that's life, right? Okay, there was a hidden burl in a tree and, in the opinion of the repairman, the windows are so taught that the slightest bit of pressure blows them to smithereens. I don't think you could recreate the incident if you tried, but we had taken the comprehensive insurance, so it was all good. I'm not superstitious, usually, but we were backing into campsite 13, when it happened. (Hmmmm...)

Cape Barren Goose - favourite snack of the Tasmanian Devil

Maria Island Fauna
Baby anemones
The Painted Cliffs


"Yes, I know I'm adorable."

Another wombat - I love them.

The Fossil Cliffs - layer upon layer of fossilized molluscs

Couldn't resist adding one more - so cute!

Wallaby, at least I think

Back to the Tassie mainland
With another little jog back to Hobart, in dashed hopes of getting a new camper, we headed to Launceston - also known as Tasmanian wine country. We went on a wine sampling drive on a gorgeous autumn day.
Well deserved glass of wine
And good company
Wine country

The view
After a good night's sleep we got ready for our long(ish) trip up to Cradle Mountain and then on to the ferry to get back to the mainland.

Lake at Cradle Mountain
A couple insisted that we pose together.
A bit closer up, you can see why it has its name.

Our berth.

Teddy gets a little too "into" wine
Then sleeps it off.
 Twelve days isn't enough to see the wonder that is Tasmania. We missed the Bay of Fires (due to our return trip to Hobart) and some other little stops and we didn't even touch much of the west side of the island.

Up next is the Great Ocean Road, or GOR, for those in the know.