Category Archives: Melbourne

Melbourne to Sydney on Highway 1 and The Blue Mountains


Rain rain go away, come again another day…

It was February 26th but in this camper the day was only referred to as the Carling Cup Final Day! The morning was spent with Hedd driving us to Sale along Highway 1, after leaving a very hot Melbourne, anxious to book us into any type of accommodation with Foxtel Sports so he could watch his team, Liverpool, play Cardiff in the Final. We ended up in the Best Western Motor Lodge, the one and only establishment with the aforementioned TV channel. After checking into our room and double checking once more that it indeed had Foxtel Sports, Hedd relaxed enough to enjoy a bit of exploring. We made our way to the coastal village of Seaspray and then drove the Ninety Mile Beach to Golden Beach. The ninety mile sweeping beach in the shape of a shallow smile was really cool to see and had sand dunes all along it with golden fine sand. And it was sunny so we could actually see, walk along and enjoy this Ninety Mile Beach not like when we were in North Island New Zealand battling against the rain and mist to see Northland’s own Ninety Mile Beach! After paddling in the sea and having a chill out on the beach we made our way back to Sale. Touch and go whether we would make it as the fuel gauge was on empty for a considerable length of time, we were relieved to reach the edge of the town and dive into the nearest petrol station. Take out pizza for tea whilst watching a movie and ticking down the time to the match. As the alarm sounded at 2.15am for Hedd to take his position in front of the telly to watch Liverpool v Cardiff football game. My original intentions of joining him on the sofa was soon forgotten and I stayed in bed and dozed in and out of sleep with Hedd’s cries of delight and sorrow as Liverpool struggled through full-time, extra time and penalties to eventually win at 6 o’clock in the morning! Oh dear, got to love time difference!

Waking up just a couple of hours later, we woke up to rain. We drove through showers, chasing the sun, up the coast to a place called Lakes Entrance where it was still dry. Reliably informed by the tourist information ladies that “the storm was a’ coming”  we whipped around all the lookout points around the town before the rain caught up with us. The best lookout was funnily enough down Lookout Road, where we were afforded a view over Rigby Island, the entrance to the Gippsland Lakes, Reeves Channel, part of the Gippsland Lake Coastal Park and the Bass Straight. It was pretty with turquoise seas, white sandy coves and foliage covered small islands. Like a miniature Fiji! But alas the rain had caught up with us and as we ate our lunch in the shelter of our camper our spirits got lower as the rain got heavier. We set off north up the coast once more, turning off at Orbost to take the scenic coastal drive to Cape Conran. I was driving and it was really nasty driving conditions, 90 km/hr max, with the wipers tirelessly sweeping streams of water off the windscreen. My anxiety wasn’t helped by the fact that a massive lizard dashed

out into the road which I had no choice but to run over. I screamed a lot; this lizard was easily 1 meter long and felt like I was going over a speed bump! We arrived at Cape Conran in a break in the rain and I must say I was pleased to get out of the car. The camper wasn’t damaged but Hedd said he could see lizard guts as he looked under the vehicle; squeamish and irrationally thinking all lizards were now out to get me, I ran away from the camper and onto the sheltered, white sand beach of Cape Conran. It was very pretty and we paddled our feet until we began to feel the rain again. Back in the camper and driving north again to our overnight stop at a town called Eden. However it wasn’t the paradise the name suggests as we creeped into town in the torrential rain and mist which made the 5pm look more like night-time! We found a holiday park next to Eden Beach, parked up, cooked soup for dinner and rooted ourselves on a covered picnic bench with a pack of cards and a bottle of wine to see the rainy evening in the best we could. We fell asleep that night to the sound of rain on the camper roof. Oh Australia, where did your infamous sunshine go?!

Tuesday 28th Feb and a bout of bad luck struck Hedd. He started the day gently rolling into the car behind him as we left Eden (the gentleman was not bothered at all and was more annoyed that Hedd made him wind his window down whilst it was tipping it down to see if he was okay!); next up was a big rock flying up and hitting the windscreen creating a big chip; and finally as we stopped for lunch at Batesmans Bay for lunch the crockery box fell out of the camper as he opened the side door smashing our 2 glass cups! Needless to say Hedd was not a happy chappy! Still raining we got back on the road and headed towards Jervis Bay and the Booderee National Park- our stop for the night. We stayed in the National Park campsite called Green Patch- pretty basic but fine for just 1 night. We reluctantly left the camper and legged it over to the covered BBQ’s to make dinner- Chorizo sausage salad. Then legged it back to the camper where we hid from the heavy rain until, again reluctantly, we had to get out to brush our teeth before bed.

Happy Leap Year Day! Guess what, it was still raining! We worked out it hadn’t stopped since lunchtime on the 27th and by now our rain coats were drenched and we were both fed up of being constantly damp and not being able to do or see anything. These feelings were heightened especially in Booderee National Park as in the sunshine we could see that the place would be stunning, fantastic white sandy beaches, fun forest walks and cool historic sites to visit. We were determined to see/do something here. So we drove down to Green Patch Beach, where indeed the sand was white and the waters clear. Then we drove to the Cape St George Lighthouse ruins. Putting our soggy coats on, we braved the weather and walked up to it reading the info boards and visiting all the different lookouts. The weather now was truly atrocious- cold as well as wet instead of just being wet. But the lighthouse ruins and its history were quite interesting. The lighthouse had never served its purpose well, being designed all wrong and being in the wrong location; it became a showpiece. However each of the families that lived in it had tragic accidents so it was thought to be a highly unlucky (some may say cursed) place. People drowning in fishing nets, falling off cliffs, catching diseases, getting shot…all sorts of horrendous endings! Reading all about that plus the inclement weather soon saw us leave the place sharpish and driving out of the National Park and up the coast to Wollongong- our last stop on Highway 1 before heading west into the Blue Mountains. Having lunch and stocking up on maps and information on the Blue Mountains from Wollongong information centre, we set off for Katoomba- Blue Mountains main town. Passing familiar place names on our way, we drove through Penrith and Liverpool, before arriving in Katoomba at 5pm in the thick mist and rain. My goodness, the place really did look miserable! As we drove into Katoomba Falls Caravan Park- the only one in town and within a 1 hour radius- we couldn’t believe our eyes when we read the sign saying ‘No Vacancies’! Hedd went into the office anyway and looking so depressed the lady took pity on us and moved a load of bookings around so she could give us a pitch for the 2 nights we needed. Phew, thank goodness for that! We had pitch 13- unlucky for some but at that point in time, for us, our saviour! Nothing else to do but to make dinner, we headed over to the camp kitchen only to be greeted by a big group of 50-year-old + couples who slightly drunk offered us cheese, biscuits and dip. They were all from Newcastle, north of Sydney, here for a golfing holiday. But on account of the rain had done little golfing and a lot of drinking instead! As we proceeded in making our beans on toast the group took great interest in us and were given the title “the young people”. “Give the young people more dip and biscuits”, “give the young people some chairs”. And after our beans on toast one of the wives came over with 2 Aussie Patties (burgers) full with salad, cheese and sauce for us saying “she couldn’t see us going to bed with only beans on toast in our bellies” . Although pleasantly full after our beans on toast we weren’t ones to pass up on free food and enjoyed our burgers tremendously whilst chatting away with the group. Before they could feed us with more food, we retired to the van. For a while I refused to get out of the van on account of the foul weather, cleaning my teeth my putting my head out of the window. But eventually nature called and I legged it to the loo and back. Even though the amenities block was less than 20 meters away, I still managing to get absolutely drenched. I went to sleep hoping, wishing and praying that tomorrow we wouldn’t wake up to rain drops.

Naturally waking up at 7am, the first thing I notice was the silence…halleluiah it wasn’t raining! We both looked at each other and without speaking raced to get dressed to head out and actually do some sightseeing. We were walking out of our campsite and towards Katoomba Falls by 7.30am, picking up the Prince Henry Cliff Trail which wraps itself along the mountain side with views of the Blue Mountains and the valley below culminating at the 3 Sisters rock formation at Echo Point. We were so excited to be outside doing something we almost skipped along the trail. But we soon came to an obstacle- “Path closed due to recent bush fire activity”. We weighed up our options- turn back and go along the boring road with no views or push back the very flimsy gate, think blow it and proceed. We went with the later option and continued to enjoyed the spectacular view as we made our way to Echo Point. We were going along quite happily when we turned a corner and faced our “ah, this is what they were talking about” moment. A whole staircase of wood obliterated into charcoal! We clambered along and quickened up the pace in the fear of getting caught! Eventually we came to Queen Elizabeth Lookout and bent around the sister “closed path sign” and we were back on the path of legitimate walking! As we approached Echo Point we got our first sight of the rock formation called the 3 Sisters. Hedd was so chuft if was seeing them as he had convinced himself he would be confined to the camper until we got to Sydney. I had again some deja vu moments as I stood taking very similar photographs to the ones I took back in 2004 but I still took them! So the legend of the 3 Sisters goes that 3 beautiful sisters from the Gundungurra people were in love with 3 brothers from the neighbouring nation of Dhuarruk people, but marriage was forbidden by tribal law. The brothers were warriors and decided to take the maidens by force. Tribal war forced the Kuradjuri (clever man) of the Gundungurra people to turn the sisters into stone. He intended to restore them after the danger had passed but he was unfortunately killed in the battle and to this day nobody has been able to break the spell and turn the 3 sisters back to their natural form. Hmmm not such a clever plan after all! We then walked further along the track and down part of the Giant Staircase until we hit another ‘danger do not pass’ sign. We decided not to push our luck and turned back towards our camp site really pleased we’d had the break in weather to see the key sights in the Blue Mountains. After a well deserved breakfast and showers we headed out again but this time in our camper to drive Cliff Drive, culminating at Sublime Point, and stopping off at all the various lookouts on the way. As we checked out Honeymoon lookout, Kiah lookout, Leura Falls, Gordon Falls lookout and eventually getting to Sublime Point lookout we had seen the Blue Mountains in the now clear, cloud free weather from many different perspectives and, as the sun started to shine, saw why they were called ‘Blue’ Mountains. A blue haze appeared before our eyes in the valley as the sun hit the oily atmosphere created by the eucalyptus trees, gets scattered with only the blue being absorbed by the canopy giving its blue appearance. An optical phenomenon called ‘Rayleigh Scattering’. As we made the walk back to our camper from Sublime Point Lookout the spits of rain began once again and we smiled at our timing. Arriving back at the campsite we resume our hermit lifestyle as the rain lashed down on us once more. We were just pleased we had got our morning of sightseeing and whiled away the afternoon playing cards and listening to music. As it was St Davids Day we celebrated with a dinner of Lamb Burgers!

So the 2nd March marked our last day with the camper and we reflected upon what a vastly different 2 weeks we had had in terms of weather since picking it up in Melbourne, as we made our way past Penrith and Liverpool again and onto Sydney. Navigating ourselves into the big city wasn’t as bad as we had originally feared and we arrived at the Hippie Camper drop off by the airport our stress levels surprisingly low. We now just had to see that we got our bond refunded and hope they didn’t charge us anything for the chip in the windscreen. Hoorah everything was fine! As we waited for our taxi to take us to our first cheeky freebie place to stay, we wondered what mayhem would proceed that weekend when Royal Chester Rowing Club members regrouped and descended on the unaware Sydney suburb of Narrabean…

Highway 1 to Sydney and The Blue Mountains in a snapshot:

  • Weather= Cold, wet and miserable!
  • Food= Anything quick to cook in the rain (soup, salad, beans on toast)
  • Drink= Wine and plenty of it!
  • The area flooded in New South Wales= The size of France
  • Items thrown out due to saturation= Both our trekking sandals
  • Shouldn’t have done it but pleased we did moment= Walking along the closed, due to forest fire, Prince Henry Cliff Walk in Katoomba!

Hedd’s words of wisdom:

Rain, rain, rain…the heaviest rain in that region in 12 years! Great, well we could at least be grateful for two things. Firstly we were mainly traveling via the coast and were not in the areas effected worst by the flooding. Secondly, we were traveling in a camper van, and camper vans are so much better than a tent in the rain! Despite the rain, we still managed to have a great time and saw some cool things. Sometime you just have to make the most of a bad situation, which we certainly did. We went to all the places we were going to and although I’m sure that Jervis Bay and the Blue Mountains would have been so much more spectacular in the sun, we got to see them. We were even lucky enough to get 4 hours of no rain and no fog in the Blue Mountains, so glad we got up straight away and just went out to see what we could do. So there’s the lesson, when the weather is good make the most of it, and when it’s not make the most of that too!!

A Weekend in Melbourne, Australia


I still don’t get cricket!

After pondering how my rucksack had gained 2 kilo’s, enjoying a reasonable 3 1/2 hour flight to Sydney with Meryl Streep as the Iron Lady for company, and then a quick commuter flight to Melbourne we arrived at our first port of call in Australia. We were staying in West Melbourne in Miami Hotel and a bargain $17 SkyBus took us there where we crashed into bed after a long day travelling.

Saturday 18th Feb and our first day of exploring the city. We picked up some supplies and made, what has now become customary, cheese and relish sandwiches and then headed down Spencer Street to pick up the River Yarra for a leisurely stroll to Federation Square- the cities main plaza. Being a weekend there were plenty of rowers out on the water which I took great pleasure at watching (/scrutinising…they were novice crews!) Federation Square is known as ‘the place to meet’ but really its just a big square! They did have a Sustainable Living Exhibition on though so there was lots of stalls pushing all things ethical and green which was interesting to browse through. Plus there were nice deck chairs in the sun to eat our sandwiches for lunch. But my goodness was it hot!

We continued the fight against desiccation during a stride to the MCG- Melbourne Cricket Ground. And it is within this massive oval structure where we attempted to  educate ourselves in the sport of cricket, buying a bargain $10 Domestic One Day Cup Match ticket, Victoria vs South Australia. We didn’t get off to a great start, choosing to sit in level 1 (padded seats you see) and in the shade. The atmosphere up there was nill and it was cold and we found ourselves dozing off with just a big cold gust of wind waking us up each time! So we decided to head downstairs to ground level to sit in the sun with more people around us. Still not a huge amount of atmosphere, just not enough of a crowd, but the pints of cider and snacks helped us get into the game more. This sustained us for 12 overs, 1 1/2 hours of play. And then we just lost the enthusiasm to live again, but agreed to stick it out to 25 overs- 1/4 of the game. We were rewarded with 1 catch out! So 25 overs came and we made a quick exit, agreeing that we were more 20-20 people than the die-hard fans that are able to endure 100 overs. 100 overs! Goodness me, they are blessed with more patience than me!

We walked from the MCG over the river to the very lovely looking boathouse’s that line the Yarra River. This also gave me a chance to sneak a look into see what boats they had- all top of the range Filippi and Empachers, very nice. Before I got caught for snooping we continued our stroll along the river to Southbank- a fancy area full of bars and restaurants. As we mooched about with our ice creams we had just purchased, it struck us both that Melbourne would be an ace city to live in in your 20’s and 30’s if you earned enough to enjoy its cosmopolitan chilled hide aways. It had a very compelling chilled out yet lively vibe which we liked. Crossing the river again at Kings Street we hopped onto the City Circle Tram which is a vintage style tram which goes right around the city with a little commentary pointing out the key sites you are passing along the way…and its free-woop! We went along Harbour Esplanade, past the Etihad Stadium to New Quay and the Waterfront City Docklands and then back into the City to Spencer Street where we hopped off to walk back to our hotel. Sausage salad for tea which we cooked in the hotels little kitchen then bed; pleased with ourselves that we’d done a lot with our first day in the city.

It’s all kicking off this morning in Canberra with a potential leadership challenge, Julia Gillard vs Kevin Rudd. We watched the GMTV equivalent news program with interest with our wheetabix and both agreed that the whole thing was ridiculous. She’s no Maggie Thatcher but by the sounds she not doing a bad job. Today we headed to the beach- St Kilda to be precise which in South of the city along the coast. We caught the city circle tram again and completed the loop passing Flagstaff gardens, the State Library of Victoria and Parliament House; hopping off at Federation Square to catch the number 16 tram to St Kilda. (Top tip- buy a Sunday Saver travel card at Finders Station to get unlimited travel for $3.50…bargain!) After around a 20 minute tram ride we arrived in St Kilda- a very bohemian place full of artist and musicians. Every Sunday a market fills the Esplanade selling arts and craft items and I enjoyed browsing the stalls before we headed to St Kilda Pier- the site of many Royal visits apparently back in the day. At dawn and dusk you also may get a sight of the St Kilda Penguins; at 11am all we saw were their droppings!

As we strolled back along the pier we spied a load of coloured tents and flags further down the beach front so we skipped off to check it out. Turns out it was the National Beach Volleyball Series Melbourne Tournament and there was a grand stand and volleyball courts all laid out. The event

was sponsored by Garnier so as we walked through the event we got loads of free samples of shampoo, moisturiser, makeup and deodorant which I loved! Then we sat on a massive Garnier branded bean bag to watch the volleyball tournament in the glorious sunshine. And all for free, we couldn’t believe our luck! First up was the Men’s Semi Finals, then a celebrity match and then came the Women’s Final. It was great fun and the commentators were brilliant and we had a constant supply of ice-cold ice tea for free from the Lipton Stand. It must have shown that we were having an ace time as we got snapped by the Garnier photographer to be uploaded to their website! After whiling away the afternoon we walked back to the Esplanade and caught a crammed number 16 tram back to the city. Picked up a can of baked beans on the way home for a cheapo student dinner and enjoyed it watching Harry Potter on the telly. All in all an ace and inexpensive day in the city.

Monday 20th and time to say bye to Melbourne as we caught a taxi back towards the airport to pick up our Hippie camper van to start our Aussie road trip. The Great Ocean Road here we come…!

Melbourne in a snapshot:

  • Weather=Hot, hot, hot- 30 degrees plus + 20 minute burn time
  • Food=Cheese and relish sandwiches
  • Drink=Freebie Lipton Ice Tea
  • Free internet discovery= Peter Pans Adventure Travel Office on Elizabeth Street
  •  Team Gillard or Team Rudd= Team Gillard
  • Look out for…=…free festivals, sporting events, exhibitions- this cities full of them!

Hedd’s words of wisdom:

I was really looking forward to Melbourne. I’d heard a lot of good things, great food, great nightlife…but unfortunately when you’re a traveller low on funds and eating beans on toast of dinner – Melbourne isn’t that great. On the Saturday we went to a cricket match. This is the first time I’ve ever been to a cricket match and it will probably be my last, it was so, so bloody boring. It was only really enjoyable when we shared our one cider – we left after 25 overs (about half way through the game – couldn’t stand any more!). Now, on the Sunday we went to St Kilda and enjoyed a lovely free day courtesy of the Garnier and Lipton Ice Tea sponsored volley ball tournament. Now this was fun, and before you say it not because it was girls in skimpy outfits (Volley Ball girls are too skinny and have no curves anyway!!). The men’s match that we watched was an enthralling match that went the whole distance to the 3rd set. I had no idea it was such a physically demanding game. Much more entertaining than the cricket and it was free, which as someone who’s been travelling for over 4 months now, you really appreciate the free things in life!