Monday, February 4, 2013

Australia- 05FEB13

Somehow we're already in our third week in Australia-- and it's been incredible. Before we arrived, the news was showing massive fires and extreme heat. Yet, when we arrived to Perth (which has been 107 the week before)- it was raining and cool. It's been comfortable temps ever since.

We're now in Melbourne- leaving for Tasmania later today. We'll be there for two weeks with one week to do the Overland Trek. Since arriving in Perth mid-January-- we spent a week and a half on the West coast with Beau, Martha and Maya. After spending a few days exploring Perth, Fremantle (Freo) and their neighborhood in Cottesloe-- we traveled south to the wine region. We rented a very cute house with Beau and Martha in Denmark (picture attached)- where Nate and I saw our first kangaroos gathering in the nearby field at dusk. We wine tasted, explored beautiful beaches and cooked amazing food while catching up about their lives in Australia.

From there we drove north west along the coast towards Margaret River. On the way we stopped for some pictures and snacks at Cape Leewin- the most southwest point in Australia. Attached are a few pics with the Good Luck Bus- given to me by my nephew. He's following the pictures and marking the places on his world map. Nate and I are coming to believe that the bus really is good luck.

We spent a few days in Margaret River (specifically Prevelly, just west of Margaret River) including a perfect 3rd Anniversary spent swimming in the ocean and drinking wine from a vineyard we stopped by on one of our tastings. On our walk from Prevelly back to Margaret River to catch our bus- we saw a large number of kangaroos gathered next to the walkway- cooling themselves in the shade. It was a nice break from the hike to town so we hung out in the shade watching them-- watch us. I don't seem to have any photos on my phone (which is what I'm writing this on) but Nate has some uploaded to his Facebook page.

Next we flew southeast to Adelaide. It was very odd not to be heading back home and to work after two weeks of traveling! Reality is hitting-- and its amazing. My friend Margaret whom I had met years ago in Arcata when working for Stillwater Sciences is now doing her post doc in Adelaide on water resource availability. She and her mate (trying my best to toss in "mate" so that eventually it will come naturally- as it does with the Aussies) Sam picked us up from the airport and gave us a great tour of the area and the hills above town- which is where we saw our first koalas. We both remember clearly Sam saying that we'll look back and laugh at the photos we took since soon enough we'd see so many more- and much closer. He, of course, was right. But, it was a great moment of realizing that we were in a different area and thankfully still in wine country- which is what we explored with them the following day. The following day we wandered for hours around Adelaide. My parents had lived close by in Queenscliff right before I was born and told me how much they loved the city. We did too-- and while we could have spent another day there easily, we found an amazing deal to return a car to Melbourne and grabbed it! We had 5 days to drive the Great Ocean Road before returning the car.

The Great Ocean Road is breathtaking. Between the views and our first experience driving on the "wrong" side of the road-- we felt full of adventure! The scenery is full of stunning limestone formations, gorgeous variations of blue ocean, rainbows, and cute towns. We arrived late to Nelson where we had been told that there was a wonderful park with free camping. I am sure that there was but we never found it. Instead we pulled into an RV park after hours and slept in the car. While it wasn't our best night sleep, we were thankful that we didn't camp- since it rained all night. Next day it was my turn at driving on the wrong side. I drove so far left that I'm surprised that the left side of the car wasn't scraped by trees! Finally I got the hang of it.... and we sped up to keep up with traffic. We drove to Apollo Bay- a cute town with a bizarre hostel that we ended up in-- but it was affordable and we had our own room in a shared house. It really didn't matter where we slept- we were so tired from not sleeping the night before and getting on the road so early as to avoid having to pay. The next day is where we began to see so many of the views that we had read about. It seemed every few hundred kilometers, there was another breathtaking reason to stop and pull out the camera. I've uploaded some of those photos-- including the koala that we met near Apollo Bay.

The following day- we drove to Queenscliff to check out the town which is on the western spit of the Port Phillip Bay. My folks lived there in the mid-70s while my dad attended school at the military base there. We knew that there was camping there--- and I had a rough idea of where my folks house was. We were surprised to find that the town was packed with people- watching an old car show. Maybe 100 or more old cars where parked or driving up and down the Main Street. Needless to say, camping was booked and probably had been or weeks. So, we tracked down their old house- a very dark picture is attached. It is amazing. A multi-story house right on the beach-- with dune trails hidden amongst the trees. I have to say, it wouldn't have been a bad place to have lived. After day-dreaming there for a bit-- we headed out of town to a camping area we had seen in Ocean Grove which seemed to have a good food selection. $40 for a camping spot though! Ouch. But it seemed like our only option unless we wanted to sleep in the car again- which I didn't. It was the last night of "high season" so now camping should be cheaper as Australia starts to move out of their high summer season.

Since then, we've been in Melbourne, taking in the sights of the city and enjoying our own room at the Greenhouse hostel, which is right downtown We haven't had much time to catch up on email or research our next destinations. So, it's nice to have free wifi- which is very hard to find in Australia.

Next up- Tasmania! It seems a bit cheaper there. Beer is bout $10 a pint here and it's hard to find a meal under $10... We knew Australia would be the most expensive place we'd be-- and it will be a sweet relief to spend less money in New Zealand and beyond.

If you're still with me and my rambling update on places we've been - thanks. I guess this is as much for me down the road as for folks who are interested in what we're doing. I'm already starting to get places and accommodations confused!

Thank you to Beau, Martha, Margaret and Sam for hosting us and showing us your lives and cities!

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