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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Oz - Not Just Kangaroos and Desert

The final leg of our campervan journey was a bit of a mad rush to Sydney, where we'd drop the vehicle off and become car-less once again. It wasn't all long hauls and double-laned highway, we decided to have a peek at the alpine region. Yes, there are ski hills and, more strangely, at least to us, warnings about needing snow chains for your tires and roads possibly closing for snow. This is not how we traditionally think about Australia to be sure.
Part of the "Highway" system. Yikes!
But they do have mountains. And chair lifts and all things alpine. What was truly odd, was the lack of evergreen trees, like pine, fir, cedar etc. The forest is filled with eucalyptus, ferns and vaguely palm tree like plants and it didn't feel like a ski zone, except for the tall mountains.
An eerie lake filled with dead trees
We passed a lake on our way to alpine country that was filled with burnt, dead trees. It was starkly beautiful and strangely eerie. The photos make the water look like snow, but it's not the case. The whole thing was very apocalyptic.
Signs of autumn
The weather was quite lovely and ranged between 13.5 & 25 degrees Celsius, depending on  our altitude and we got to enjoy a bit of a sense of home as we wove through the narrow mountain passes of the Kosciuszko National Park and the Alpine Region (also known as the Australian, I don't know if I'd go quite that far, but they seemed to have some respectable ski runs that actually required chair lifts).

At the base of the National Park was cockatoo heaven. They amassed there in large flocks that amazed us. They were shy, and didn't like when we stopped the car, but we did get some "action" shots of their company. (Yes, that's the collective word for a group of parrots.)
I'd get close and they'd fly away.
Enlarge to find the telltale head crest in the right foreground

We stayed over night in the lakeside town of Jindabyne and then headed for the coast again to check out what New South Wales had to offer in terms of sand and surf.
Lake Jindabyne in the late afternoon
Cute little parrots at our campsite

Our site view, not too shabby.
The drive to Durras, near Bateman's Bay was similar to our drive the day before. We wended through the mountains and finally started getting peeks of the coastline after a couple of hours. We'd been driving fairly long distances over the past days and were looking forward to arriving early and enjoying a bit of the coast. We'd only discovered that we'd have difficulty finding a final campsite, as the Aussies were celebrating Anzac Day. (A WWII day of remembrance.)
Durras Beach
Our first up close sightings of kangaroos.
As we tried to find somewhere that we could get reception for the cell phone, we lucked out and came across a mama kangaroo and her two joeys. She stayed protectively near the one while trying to figure out if we meant the other any harm. He was a bit worried about us, too.
If I don't make eye contact, they won't see me.
 Mama finally felt safe enough to round them both up and hop into the forest.
Once we'd made arrangements for our final campsite, close to Sydney the next night, we walked up to the estuary, were the lake and ocean met. We found this handsome pelican waiting patiently for fishermen to catch something so he might steal it. We also caught a fairly decent sunset.

After that we made our way back to the camper and made plans for the next day. We were in the final stretch of our campervan experience and looking forward to being able to stretch out in a real house again. With only two nights left, we wanted to spend our final night near the beach, but be fairly close to Sydney and chose Kiama as our final destination.

On route we stopped at a highly recommended  sight, called Jervis (strangely called Jarvis here) Bay. It was quite stunning, but definitely more populated that Wine Glass Bay and some of the other places we'd been. (We're getting very good at taking photos with no people in them.)

Then we drove to our final camp site in Kiama. It was right next to the beach and near the town, so we could walk in and enjoy a nice dinner, as well. (The best of both worlds, so to speak.)
Pretty flowers at our campground
Looking back from the point towards our camp ground
There was an interesting feature in Kiama - a natural blow hole near the light house and it was very popular, especially with the kids. The tide was going out, so we only had a few displays of it's power before the show came to a fairly abrupt end.
Getting all artsy with the camera!
We had a nice dinner, even though it was hard to get in to a restaurant on a holiday weekend and then cuddled down in bed, ready to finally turn in our camper the next day. It was all rather bitter sweet. We were glad to be returning to a more "civilized" manner of living, but our trusty camper had gotten us to places that we likely wouldn't have seen otherwise. Where to next? Coffs Harbour for a little R&R and Brisbane.

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