Adelaide to (New) Zealand via Melbourne

Adelaide is a cute little city. The Central Business District (CBD) is much smaller than those in Melbourne and Sydney. It’s very green but then so are a lot of towns and cities in Australia; it’s a stone’s throw from National Parks, but then so are a lot of towns and cities in Australia; it’s right on the beach, but you guessed it… so are most of the towns along the coastline in Australia. Are you noticing a pattern here? It’s not that I want to take anything away from Adelaide, it really is a lovely place to set up a life, but after visiting so many places and living in Melbourne, I didn’t really find anything unique and endearing about it as a visitor myself. No doubt lots of people would say the same of Melbourne and other places too, but each to their own and more of that later. We went to the Central Markets and for a wander around the Botanical Gardens that are a staple of any major town down under. There was a cool wine museum that we visited, but we didn’t time it very well and it was closing as we arrived. To be honest, our time in Adelaide was spent chilling out and recovering from a week in incredibly dry heat in the outback. At that time of year, Adelaide was coming in to the end of summer, the evenings were getting a little chilly, especially by the sea and it was welcome relief.

We had pestered our tour guide about who we could expect to be running our next trip which would take us through to Melbourne, across the Grampian Mountain Range and down the world famous Great Ocean Road. We were so happy to find that her personal favourite was to be our guide! He was an entertaining fellow, well-travelled himself and definitely up for a laugh and joke. He took us to a few places that weren’t strictly on the tour, but definitely along the way, like this spectacular salt lake.

img_4879img_4874For fear of stating the obvious, it’s pink. It’s pink due to some algae or other, but that’s not particularly interesting. Have you even walked into a salt lake? It’s got that texture of the top of a crème brulée, you know that crispy bit that you poke your spoon through, then you’ve got a clear inch or so of water, and under that I think it is solid salt. Of course, it depends how far in you go, I imagine they can get pretty deep, and though a salt scrub is very good for your skin, it’s a pain in the proverbial to wash off, so we only went ankle deep. And Thierry went in one-ankle-deep, since he’s now an amputee.

We went to Zumsteins which is a cool name if I ever heard one! Even Google has no idea what it’s named after, if anything or anyone, but the actual place is as quirky as its name… I guess it is officially part of the Grampians. We did a bit of a climb down to a Mackenzie Falls which has a small body of water at the bottom. It was still and secluded and we met a friend of ours from a different trip so took some candid shots with the sun breaking over the top of the mountains, posting them to our Facebook group. There was no rain, but the angle of the sunlight through the waterfall gave us a great rainbow, even if it was closer to eye-level than in the sky. Natural wonders will never cease to amaze me.img_4943img_4962

The next morning we went to the open area at the base of the mountains we were due to hike up from Halls Gap to see if we could spot some wild kangaroos. There were so many of them! Hopping about as they do, mums and babies, but they were very camouflaged so my camera couldn’t pick them up very well at all. There were a lot of animals about on this trip though. There was a wild fox that wasn’t fussed about a drink of water but lapped up the salt and vinegar crisps our tour guide offered him! I know practically nothing about how to care for any furry animal due partly to my allergies but mainly through my general dislike for them. We went to go see some wild birds that were quite happy to eat the birdseed we offered them. There were emus about. Like, just hanging about in the park.

Then we went hiking up this mountain and our aim was the Pinnacle. Thierry didn’t make it to the actual Pinnacle, something about being scared of heights and falling to his death… but I did. The picture doesn’t really do it justice, but a fair few people have refused to look at this photo again as it makes them feel queasy. It was definitely high, but I’m blessed that heights don’t scare me in the same way they affect others. pinnacle.JPG

We started our journey along the Great Ocean Road just as the weather turned. The idea was to be at The Twelve Apostles for the sunset, but all day, hardly saw the sun, so we made alternative plans. The weather was changeable – wet and disgusting, bright and crisp, grey and cold, but as we were leaving Port Campbell National Park, the sun decided it would make an appearance, casting bizarrely shaped shadows on the glittering ocean. I believe the phrase I’m looking for here is Sod’s Law.

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Apostles are just another name for disciples, as in those 12 dudes who followed Jesus around, spreading his message of peace and kindness and all the rest of it. It’s funny – I asked Google to define apostle, and I got the word disciple, do you want to take a wild guess as to what happens when you try it the other way around? Anyway, Google’s definitions aside, I made the fairly logical assumption that once upon a time, there were 12 little islets at the Port Campbell National Park. Our guide told us how one of them used to be much taller, and now you can barely see it when the tide is out, after a dramatic collapse about 10 years ago, but counting that one, there were only ever nine of them. Apparently, it is much more marketable as a tourist attraction if you use something recognisable, even better if it comes from the bible. Who knew?

Other names for other natural wonders that we visited in this part of the world include London Arch (formerly London Bridge) due to the resemblance to its namesake, Loch Ard Gorge which was named after a Scottish ship of the same name crashed into the cliffs. In fact, in keeping with the way that the lovely Aussies name things in a blatantly obvious fashion (see brown headed snake from earlier in my travels), this part of the Victorian coastline is named Shipwreck Coast, due to the fact there have been over 50 ship wrecks in a stretch of coastline only 130km long.

As our Great Ocean Road trip was coming to a close, we approached Melbourne and I had the weirdest homecoming kind of feeling as we drove over West Gate Bridge, the sun was going down and the lights were beginning to twinkle. The seat that I had in our little van was directly behind the driver, which is the seat I used to have driving back from whichever neighbourhood we were door-knocking in whilst I was living there. I could almost hear one of the guys I used to work with saying “look at that Melbourne skyline” just as he did every single time we drove back to the office that way.

I was really looking forward to showing Helen my temporary home from earlier in my travels. I’d managed to get a friend of mine to put us up for a couple nights, I had a few eateries and places that I wanted to take her to, but by this point in our trip, we were so caught up in the backpacker budget that we didn’t want to spend large sums of money on eating out. This is where I feel like Melbourne is a wonderful city to live, to make friends and have a job so you can enjoy the events that get put on at the weekends in Fed Square, but unless you have a whole lot of cash to spend, there isn’t a whole lot to see.

Of course, we went to the usual haunts; we went to Hozier Lane, I found this new piece that Thierry was thrilled to see; I took Helen to see the little penguins after sundown at the breakwater pier at St Kilda Beach; we found some new art of the likes that I’d never seen before and will probably never see anything similar in the whole wide world. I actually went into work and saw a few familiar faces and was subject to a few bone-crushing hugs! img_5223img_5228

And then our Australian journey was finally coming to an end. The best six months I could have had, made by the people who I shared it with was over, but we were hopping on the plane to Auckland, New Zealand, another adventure just around the corner.

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So much more than a Big Red Rock

Head on along the East Coast of Australia and you’ll meet a lot of 18-year-old Brits and Germans. They love the carefree style of the surfer towns and glorious beaches and don’t get me wrong, I loved my time there too! Just have a read of any of my previous posts and you’ll see that I absolutely enjoyed myself, despite being a little older than the average. The thing is, when it comes to Travelling with a capital T, you expect a bit of culture and a bit of a language barrier and to learn some stuff. Maybe that’s not for everyone, because I’ve lost count of how many people who’ve asked about my travel plans and questioned why I’d want to go to Ayers Rock because “it’s just a big red rock, isn’t it… but each to their own, I guess…”

Ayers Rock is the new/old name for Uluu. The land was forcibly taken from the Aboriginal people and renamed after some Chief Governor dude called “Ayer” and then, as recently as the last 40 years, the land was finally given back to its rightful owners and the name restored. Though the land has officially been reclaimed, the governance of it is questionable. Since this is a very contentious political subject, I’m not going to weigh in too heavily, all I am going to say is that something about it doesn’t quite sit right with me, and I will be using the proper name from here on out.

Uluu is as amazing as you would imagine. It is vast. It has every shade from deepest purple through red and orange to salmon pink. It has the profile that we all know from every single picture ever taken from the front, but walking around it there are bits that protrude and there are sections that are indented. There are marks across it that might be geologically explained, but each one has a story attached to it. There are sheltered areas and some parts that you’re not allowed to take pictures of because according to the Aboriginal people to take a photograph is to capture a part of the soul of a place, and if too many pictures are taken, too much of the soul is taken away. As a whole, Uluu is wonderful but as much as I can describe it, words and pictures don’t do it justice. I, as a human being will never do it justice because I am not Aboriginal and I can’t share those incredible stories that make the site as remarkable as it is.

So, back-tracking ever so slightly, from Cairns, we flew to Alice Springs and from there it was a considerable drive through to Uluu. We visited the Cultural Centre there, or rather, we were given a meagre 45 minutes to explore the most fascinating place I’d been to in quite a long time. I was the annoying person who had to be retrieved as everyone else waited on the sweltering hot bus. Sorry guys! Then we headed to a sunset spot to see what the fuss was all about. Now, if you were to go see a sunset, wouldn’t you imagine you could see the sun setting? No, not here. Here, the sun set behind us, lighting up the rock at every angle as it dipped away. In hindsight, and with enough data storage on my trusty iPhone, a timelapse video here would have been beautiful. David Attenborough, eat your heart out!img_4604

Before I left home, I hadn’t even camped before and now, I could definitely go camping and not complain about it. Whilst I’ve “camped” before on Fraser Island, that night in the Outback was my first experience with a swag. A swag is like a giant water-proof canvas sleeping bag with a built-in mattress. That first night, as I lay there looking up at the stars, I was struck with a light drizzle of rain in my face. Luckily it only lasted a minute or two, otherwise I might have sworn off camping for life. And then I was back to staring up at the Milky Way, where it struck me that the night sky is a beautiful thing when there are no clouds and nothing to obscure a view of the stars, until I drifted off to sleep. It was going to be an early morning to see the sun rise over Uluu.img_4657

Instead of going to the designated spot from the night before where it was crazy busy, we collectively decided to pull up on the side of the road and watch from our own little lookout point. It was a magical moment for a myriad of reasons. The road was beautifully sparse. A true representation of the outback. The clouds were thick and fluffy but definitely threatening rain if not a full-on storm, but they gave us the most glorious oranges and deep crimsons against a bright blue backdrop.

img_4662And the best bit? There was no rain, but a rainbow. It turned into a double rainbow and then we willed it into a full arc. Have you ever seen a complete rainbow? It is super difficult to get it into one wide angle shot, and you can’t use the panorama function on your iPhone, because the perspective gets all out of sync. It ends up having a lump in the middle of it. Did manage to get this one though!

img_4668-1I know that this blog has predominantly been Thierry and how he can pose in different angles and in different places, but just this once, I’m going to share a fair amount of my photos that don’t have him in them. My main reason for not taking or sharing my own landscape pictures is that even though I joke about my prowess with a camera, I don’t profess to be a fantastic photographer and I definitely don’t have a good camera with me on my travels, so if I want an awesome shot of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, or Halong Bay in northern Vietnam, or the Sydney Opera House, I can get one off Google Images by a professional. But just this once, I’m going to share some of what I have. Mostly to prove that I can take picture without the minion, and also because I feel like can’t share the few Aboriginal stories that I was told, as they’re not mine to tell, so I have to share something. Photos are all well and good, but I recommend you come to this incredible place and see it for yourself. See what this place means to people and feel the spirit in the air. img_4734

Then tell me it’s just a big red rock and it’s not your thing.

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