Thursday, 16 March 2017

The great ocean road and the grampians

We spent the next few days driving along the south coast, pausing to admire the beautiful beaches, to walk inland up rivers and see waterfalls and to eat local fish (usually battered) and massive salads.

Lorne was a nice seaside town, with a holiday park at one end, and a pretty prominade of shoots and cafes. We are huge ice creams, drive up to viewpoints over the mountains, and jogged into the woods.

After lorne we found a little koala on Lisa's map, so stopped there for coffee.

We walked up a road from the coffee shop, and found some very tame parrots sitting on tourists hands and heads. Further up the track and into the forest every hundred yards or so there was an adorable bump in the tree which was a koala, just sleeping or occasionally eating. A couple had babies with them, although none were close enough for any brilliant photos, it was still a pleasure to see them in the wild.

Port Campbell and port fairy were both nice places to stop, and happened to be where we had found airbnb places, they also had more exquisite beaches, and amazing rock formations, the 12 apostles being the equivalent of old harry rocks done the Aussie way, bigger and brasher and more obvious.

I had my close encounter with a snake on a walkway here, literally about 8 inches from stepping on something huge and brown/black, which was either the eastern brown snake (utterly deadly) or a tiger snake (mostly deadly). I heroically held Lisa back as I stopped sharply. A couple walking the other way jumped a mile and sprinted off like lunatics, and the snake slithered over the path and hid in the bushes.

Forgive me for not going into more detail of the great ocean road, but the photos I will put up eventually should do it more justice.

The end of the road was mount Gambier, which just sneaked us into South Australia, so we had to change our clocks by 30
Minutes (hardly worth it really) where we stopped at a cheap and cheerful motel, ate copious amounts of pizza, and a garlic bread smothered in bolognese sauce and mozzarella (which I had seen advertised 200 times on local tv).

The next morning was the mount Gambier parkrun, 5k around the lake, (although actually the rim of an extinct volcano). We found a little village type fair on a green bit by the town hall and had coffee and cake, and chatted to some locals and listened to folk and admired some old Holdens.

A march up the mountain, and down a sinkhole, in blazing sunshine meant we were ready to spend the early evening in the cinema (the excellent trainspotting 2) before spending the evening in the local pub drinking cheap local reisling, and eating roast pork (me) and veggie stir fry (Lisa)

The next day was a long drive out towards the grampians national park. We stayed in halls gap, at a holiday park surrounded by kangaroos and cockatoos, and drove to all the viewpoints, where crazy rock formations stick out of craggy mountains, and you get 360° vistas over the whole of Victoria.

Again, the pictures I'll eventually share will be far more effective than my gibbering attempts to describe these places

The drive back to Melbourne a couple of days later was lovely, with aboriginal paintings and a walk round a lake, before a final night near the airport, and an early flight to Tasmania!

Tuesday, 7 March 2017


Delays in actually getting (and then finding) our hire car meant we got into Melbourne pretty late, and were thrown into the traffic good and proper. They have a massive bridge with views over the city, and it all goes a bit bladerunner, which is a good look for a place.

Without a working phone (the NZ one didn't roam) we had to beg local bars for wifi to contact the airbnb host and find out where the keys were hidden, which gave us an excuse to sit in a lovely bar and drink some wine while I communicated. There was an r&b covers band playing, who were really good (they made Rihanna's "Diamonds" sound good, and I really hate that song.

We had been fed on the plane so didn't have to worry about that, and we did eventually find a key to the flat, which was tiny, but really nice.

We liked melbourne a lot. The mistakes we made were getting accommodation with cooking and breakfast/coffee making facilities, which meant we didn't have a good reason to utilise the amazing cafes and restaurants right outside out doorstep.

The first morning we went out and had some of the rocket fuel they call coffee (I swear it was doing all the wonderful things that a good wine does, dancing on the tastebuds, and changing the longer you think about it...) and some insane breakfasts. I ordered the breakfast burger, expecting something similar to a mcmuffin, but it was actually a proper massive (and really good) burger with eggs and bacon all over it. Lisa had eggs and spinach or something. I didn't pay a great deal of attention through my morning meat sweats.

We spent the day wandering in the Nelson street area, lots of cool independent clothing shops, a Marimekko store, a Vodafone shop (yay!) and a vibe similar to Park Street in bristol, but three miles long. Lisa bought some socks, and I very nearly bought the most beautiful shirt I had ever seen, but then looked at the price and remembered I don't have a job.

Knowing we had an early start the next morning, early and headed back and prepared for the big race.

Saturday morning we had the alarm set for 4am (fortunately we were still on NZ time, so it only felt like 6am) and it was up and in the car to drive off to the Rollercoaster run. Even though this hire car was brand new, and huge and didn't smell of fire and death (the NZ one did, I might not have mentioned that, it was a Nissan Bluebird and it had 330,000kms on it by the time we gave it back, 2733 of which were ours) I still worried about some of the hills we were making it climb, and also worried that they same hills might be even less kind to our legs.

My fears were completely founded. Starting at the top of a mountain, it was basically a run down the mountain, back up a bit, down again, and then all the way back up. For a 21km race to have almost a Km of vertical ascent is insane, and it finished with about 4km up a dusty track.

I only fell over once, and a rolled, so didn't damage anything. My legs were better going up the hills than Lisa's although she is better than me going down. Finishing on a hill meant I beat Lisa in a distance event for the first time since the Budapest marathon.

The medal was beautiful, and the kudos was great. The times were hopeless (about an hour and a quarter slower than a normal half marathon!) but I'd class it as one of my favourite races ever. The slices of orange at the finish line was the best thing I've ever tasted!

After a shower and a rest (and a massive lunch by the beach) we met up with Duncan, (Lisa's second cousin,) and drank and ate and admired the beautiful people in the bar we'd found on our first night.

On Sunday we met up with Duncan again (a little later than planned, as we were both very tired, and not moving especially effectively - I've never known aches like it) and we took the tram to the national gallery of Victoria, a lovely space, crammed with are from Europe and Asia. Very impressive stuff. A light lunch in the sunshine, and a tram ride back to st Kilda, and we spent the rest of the afternoon/evening (finally) booking up all the flights around south east Asia, and most of the accommodation too.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

How could I forget Dunedin?

It was so long ago I forgot a whole two days in lovely Dunedin.

We found on airbnb a family who had a converted bus, which they used when they went on holidays, but was parked up on the small holding behind their house the rest of the time, so for a very reasonable rate, they let us use it, and fed us eggs from their chickens, home made bread and jam and generally were wonderful (they even let me cuddle their baby!)

On the full day we had in Dunedin we drove to the peninsular and did a few walks, and at the far end of a beach so secret my grandma would be proud (it was a 45 minute walk to get to it) I decided to go all the way to the rocks in the shade, only to discover they were seals, including some really tiny baby ones. We ate at a hotel with the most amazing food (I followed up the most amazing tomato soup, with an incredible piece of Gurnard) and it was all totally brilliant.

If it is any consolation my personal diary is even further behind this one.