Logo: Lobster cartoon
NOTES FROM A BIG ISLAND (with sincere apologies to author Bill Bryson)
8 October 2004 :
Image: Australian flag
Gday to one and all !
Landed on Australian soil (or, more correctly, tarmac) at 3.35pm local time. Superb flight, courtesy of a comfortable seat on the planes alpha deck. Managed to watch the film Super Size Me, which although didnt totally put me off my lunch, it did re-inforce my dislike of McDonalds. (By the way, about a year ago I read a book called Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser I recommend it to anyone who currently enjoys the taste of Big Macs or Whoppers . I can promise you that you wont want to eat one ever again once you have read the book).
With fairly swift processing through immigration and quarantine, I only had to wait about 20 minutes at the entrance of Perth airport before the hotel transfer bus set off for the city centre. Halfway through the journey, as the minibus was waiting for a set of traffic lights to turn green, there was a sudden urgent knocking on the drivers door. Apparently, the rear door of the baggage trailer had swung open some distance back. The passenger in the car behind had leapt out, and wanted to alert our driver that he could end up losing some of the items in his care. Thankfully, no bags had fallen out, and afterwards the driver just shrugged his shoulders and told me and the other six passengers that this has happened many times before. I suggested he might like to consider getting the problem fixed to which the response was Yeah suppose so. I decided that I wouldnt pursue the discussion any further I had a funny feeling that life in Australia is a bit more laid back than what Im used to.
Got checked in at the YMCA hostel in Goderich Street. A very unimpressive concrete tower block built in the early 1970s. It had definitely seen better days. Decided that I was pleased that I had only paid for three nights rather than the seven originally reserved. Still, its a base whilst Im in the city.
Jumped on one of the CAT (City Area Transit) buses theyre free, and run all day. There are three different routes the Red route took me right to the heart of Perth. Once I got off the bus, and started to walk around, it felt not like a city, but rather more like a town such as Horsham or Bournemouth. Plenty of shops, but not a great deal more. It wasnt until I got to the Northbridge area much later on that I discovered the more lively part.
9 October 2004 :
Woke to the noise of sirens, and then a helicopter landing only to find that I was staying but a stones throw from the local emergency hospital. Oh well, itll be handy if I have an accident.
Decided the best way to get my bearings was on foot, so headed down towards the Swan River, along pavements lined with tropical trees. It was a bright clear day, but with a welcome breeze of the sort I had not encountered over the previous three and a half weeks.
Image: Some tropical trees, Perth
Although I had planned to spend the day on foot in the city, I arrived at the jetty to find boat trips being advertised to Rottnest Island. I had learned about Rottnest from the in-flight magazine it was the home of a little marsupial called a Quokka. Early Dutch explorers had landed on the island at the end of the seventeenth century and mistook the quokkas for large rats, thereby calling the island Rotte-nest (meaning Rats Nest) which is how the island got its name.
The boat journey to Rottnest (or Rotto as the locals call it) took nearly two hours, as this included the trip from Perth along the Swan River to Fremantle (or Freo as the locals call it). We passed the old Swan Brewery, and the tannoy commentary then pointed out all of the properties on either side of the river that belong to the rich and famous. Theres a lot of money floating about the area, especially in all the private yacht marinas.
Once we stopped off at Freo to pick up some extra passengers, it was full throttle to the island.
There are no cars on Rotto, but they do allow a few buses. I hopped onto one of these, and did the tour of the island for just A$7, stopping at a dozen or so places on the way. There is a small museum, displaying old photos and items from the island, from its time as an Aboriginal prison, to its time as an internment camp during both world wars. Nowadays, there is a clear focus on leisure and tourism, underlined with strong environmental values.
Image: Seaview at Rottness Island
The island is teeming with wildlife, including (according to the bus driver) venomous snakes, as well as a wide variety of birds, insects and mammals. I was disappointed that I hadnt spotted a quokka on the way round the island but I did eventually see one on my way back to the boat it was huddled up close to one of the cottages, looking as though it was trying to sleep. It probably would have had no trouble sleeping, but for a certain English tourist making strange noises at it in order to get a better pose for the camera !
10 October 2004 :
Having enjoyed the excursion to Rottnest Island, I decided that today would be a day on dry land. There was a strong breeze, but it was much colder than yesterdays, so I donned a jacket for the first time since leaving the UK.
After a coffee at the boat jetty, I walked west towards the Swan Bell Tower. The bells housed within the tower are those originally from St.Martin-in-the-Fields in London.
I continued walking towards my next planned stop, being Kings Park and the Botanic Gardens.
Picture the scene ahead was a woman on the grass feeding the ducks; joggers were doing their early morning run; cyclists were riding in both directions, which is a clever trick if you can do it; the sound of the waves hitting the edge of the river. Above, the Australian flag was blowing in the wind at the top of a very tall flagpole. The sky was blue, with only a few clouds to be seen. It had a good Sunday morning feel about it.
Then, all this was briefly ruined the woman who I had spotted in the distance, and who I thought had been feeding the ducks, suddenly got up, walked up to me briskly, and screamed at my face to F--- --- (I think you can probably work out the words she used). Charming ! Under the influence of drink and/or drugs (her, not me), and definitely in a great need for help. I however, due to her outburst, was not in any sort of charitable disposition to assist. I walked on doing my best to ignore her, annoyed that she had disturbed both my walk and my train of thought. The sound of further obscenities continued behind.
Streuth. I concluded that Perth wasnt really appealing to me yet.
Annoyed but undeterred, I continued my walk under the Freeway, and over a footbridge to the path leading up the hill to Kings Park. Lots of steps, and a detour due to subsidence, but worth the climb the views at the top were fantastic. Not only did you have a birds eye view of the city, but also the Swan River, and the hills of the Darling Range beyond.
Image: View of Perth
The park is the home of Western Australias State war memorial commemorating both the first and the second world wars. Further additions (including an eternal flame) marking more recent conflicts have been made in subsequent years, the latest being dedicated when the Queen last visited the site back in 2000.
Image: State war memorial, Perth
I later found the newest memorial in a different part of the Park, being that marking the terrorist bombing on Bali (12 October 2002) in which 202 people died, of which 88 were Australian, including 16 from Western Australia. The memorial is modern in design, with two axis one directly facing the Swan River and the Australian Flag, the other being positioned to align with the sunrise on 12 October each year, at which time the sun illuminates the memorial plaque. Many of those who died were on their travels, enjoying life and seeing the world. I didnt know any of the individuals involved, but it certainly made me stop and think.
Earlier, I had enjoyed the Botanic Garden many strange plants that I had never seen before, including one called the Black Kangaroo Paw. The garden also now benefits from a new 3km footpath, funded by the Western Australian lottery winding its way through the different plant sections, with amazing viewpoints at various stages.
Image: Botanic Gardens, Perth
Image: Boab trees at Botanic Gardens
Spent the rest of the day, catching up on e-mails, and enjoying the watering holes of Northbridge (including one pub called the Elephant and Wheelbarrow).
Perhaps Perth wasnt that bad, after all.
11 October 2004 :
It looked as though it would be a dull and overcast day. After checking out of the hostel, I went to pick up a hire car, which I would then use for five days, until I was due to fly off from Perth to the Red Centre. Decided I would investigate the south-west corner of Australia for at least the next couple of days. Not much time I know, but it would hopefully give me a flavour of the area.
The roads are well-maintained and thankfully not too full of traffic. The drive south, on Route 1 towards Bunbury, was very easy. According to my copy of the Lonely Planet guide to Australia, there is a motel called Fawlty Towers on the seafront I had half-considered stopping at Bunbury overnight, so had a good excuse to check out the motel. Unfortunately, they had no vacancies even more bizarrely, the receptionist had a German accent . and yes, before you ask, I didnt mention the War !
Just past Bunbury, I saw my first Kangaroo warning roadsign I had read that its not uncommon for them to jump out into the path of vehicles. Still, I suppose if I do hit one while Im driving along, it should bounce off quite nicely.
Following the route south, I entered wine-growing country. I passed many vineyards, or Wineries. Ill try and visit one or two tomorrow. Stopped driving once I got to a place called Margaret River, and checked into a Best Western hotel (Emerald Colonial Lodge) thought it would make a nice change from the last accommodation.
A stormy evening, with torrential rain. Lets hope that it clears by tomorrow.
12 October 2004 :
Took an early drive just down the road to Prevelly Beach - very stormy, so the surf was rough - I think the surfing I'll be doing today will be on the internet.
Then I visited the Tourist Information Centre in Margaret River - lots of useful details, and I managed to get booked onto the Bushtucker Wine Tour (many thanks to Chris Pyrkosz for the recommendation).
CLICK HERE for the official website of Margaret River
The bus arrived at 11am to pick me up - the driver (Mick) had a few stops to make before the tour kicked off at 12pm.
Image: Tour bus at Bettenay's Winery
We started the tour down a forest track, where Mick stopped to explain the itinerary. Then, as we were standing on the dusty red track beneath the trees, we all sampled our first taste of regional wine - courtesy of a cool bag and a supply of glasses that were already in the bus.
We visited a total of 5 wineries, at which we sampled six different wines - normally 3 white, 2 red and then 1 unusual one (eg white port). I think it's fair to say that we learnt more from the earlier visits than we did later on - must have had something to do with the alcohol consumption ! Spitoons were provided but rarely used.
Image: Vines for the wines
The five wineries we visited were :
1. Bettenay's Vineyard
3. Brookwood Estate
4. Evans and Tate
It was a good mix of large producers and smaller family 'boutique' producers.
A 'bushtucker' lunch was provided at Brookwood, once we had done the wine tasting. The lunch was a great spread, with lots of different chutneys and sauces, together with wild boar, turkey and kangaroo (which actually was very nice). Amongst the more unusual items was a pate made with witchetty grubs. Yum !
By lunchtime, most of us had already met and spoken to our fellow tourers (there were 22 of us in total) - and plenty of chance to swap travel tales. A good mix of ages and personalities.
Image: Bushtucker lunch
The tour finished with a trip to a local chocolate factory and a local cheese farm - but only after a 10 minute pause, whilst we tried to get back into the bus after Mick had locked the keys in. Very funny, although I think we would have laughed more if it hadn't started raining.
If you want to check out some of the wineries, just click on the following links (sorry, but I didn't get a web address for Evans & Tate).
Quite a few of us agreed to meet later that evening at the Settlers Tavern for supper and a few drinks - you'd think we would have had enough drink on the tour!
The group included Paul & Clare from Oxford, who had already been travelling for a year (New Zealand briefly, and then Australia), and were now going to return to New Zealand, where Clare has secured a 1-year nursing contract. E-mail addresses swapped and plans afoot to hopefully meet up once I get there myself.
The group also included Rob and Danielle (Danni) from Perth, and her mum Eileen who originally came from Essex, but is now living on the Gold Coast where she has been for many years.
A good sociable evening, followed by a good walk (albeit dark) back to the hotel.
13 October 2004 :
Headed south down the Bussell Highway, to visit Augusta (a small coastal town), and on to Cape Leeuwin and its lighthouse - the most south-westerly point of Australia. This is where the Indian Ocean and Southern Ocean meet.
Image: Cape Leeuwin
It was another windy day, with plenty of clouds in the sky - it wasn't until later in the "arvo" that the sun made a proper appearance.
Returned north, via the Caves Road - stopping at Hamelin Bay and the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park.
Image: Hamelin Bay
Image: Trees in the National Park
Once I got back to Perth, I spent a couple of hours in the Scarborough area (part of the City of Stirling), hunting down the Osborne Park Hospital - and took some photos for my former colleague at Chatham, Linda Hotham - who was born at the hospital, 30+ years ago.
14 October 2004 :
Australia is a BIG country. I drove north today to go and marvel at the Pinnacles in Nambung National Park - but when I looked at a map of Australia, it looked as though it was situated just round the corner from Perth.
It was a long drive (nearly 300kms), but worth it. On the way, I drove through the Swan Valley (another region famous for its wine production), and up the Brand Highway.
There were a few small towns on the way, and these were useful for refuelling - you wouldn't want to get stuck along the highway, especially by lunchtime when the heat was at its maximum. The further north I drove, the longer the gap between seeing other cars and lorries. At times, the roads were very straight - tarmac, sandwiched between two bands of red dust. With the trick of heat haze on the road in the distance, it was important to maintain concentration.
Image: Brand Highway
I was hoping to see my first (un-cooked) kangaroo. No luck, and I didn't see any emus or wombats either !
Image: Keep a lookout for the wildlife
I reached the Pinnacles desert by 11.30 - perfect, as the crowded tourist coaches are known to normally arrive by around midday.
The landscape was truly astounding - the like of which I've never seen before. The pinnacles are formed by the erosion of limestone. There are thousands of them ... all of varying sizes - what is great is that a track has been routed through the site, so you can take the car right round and stop at various places. There's also a lookout where you get a 360-degree perspective of the whole spectacle.
Image: Me at the Pinnacles - a rock star !
Image: More Pinnacles
Afterwards, and still within the Nambung National Park, I drove down towards Hangover Bay (no reflection on Tuesday's wine tour !) - a fabulous beach, with Indian Ocean waves lapping on the sand.
CLICK HERE for more info on Nambung National Park and the Pinnacles
Image: Hangover Bay, Nambung National Park
Unfortunately, still no sign of kangaroos etc on the way back to Perth - but plenty of fields of sheep and cows. In fact, it was sheep that caused the only traffic hold-up during the whole journey south.
Image: Sheep on the Brand Highway
Tomorrow, I fly to the 'Red Centre' - to Ayers Rock, and then a few days later onto Alice Springs, before flying down to Adelaide. I've really enjoyed visiting the south-west corner of Australia, although I know that I've only really scraped the surface.
I'm looking forward to exploring many more places DOWN UNDER.
15 October 2004 :
Looking out of my plane window, the colour of the countryside below progressively got redder and redder as we flew closer and closer to the Ayers Rock airport. Many trees were dotted around, and a few dried out lakes (white in colour) but not much else, apart from the occasional farm building or long straight dusty track.
Still no sign of the famous Australian wildlife, although I suppose at 35,000 feet even a kangaroo would look like a crawling ant.
Five minutes from landing, I was suddenly aware that all the passengers on the opposite side of the plane from where I was sitting were stretching to look out their own windows, marvelling at the site of Uluru (Ayers Rock) below. Typically, I was sitting on the wrong side of the plane.
As we came into land, we were reminded to put our watches forward by one and a half hours, as we were now in the central Australian time zone. I had to get my head round the half-hour bit - and worked out that I was now 9.5 hours ahead of GMT, although with daylight saving still in the UK until the end of October, I would need to allow 8.5 hours difference to British Summer Time.
A short ride in the (free) airport transfer bus, and I found myself at the Ayers Rock Resort Outback Pioneer Hotel and Lodge. The Lodge part of the complex is the actual Youth Hostel, where I was booked to stay for 3 nights - and I was to be sharing the dorm for 2 nights with a couple from London, Jonathan and Alison.
Later on, I went to the Tours desk, and booked up two trips for tomorrow - the Olgas in the morning, and the 'Sounds of Silence' dinner in the evening. The Sounds of Silence event had been recommended to me by Babs, a friend and colleague from East Grinstead - she had been to the same dinner when she visited Oz earlier in the year, and heartily recommended it to me.
16 October 2004 :
The pick-up time on my ticket for the Olgas tour was 8.30 - found out afterwards that this should've been written down as 8am - as a result, I was the only one picked up at 8.30 and so had my own personal driver, out into the desert to see the Olgas. These are situated about 40kms from Uluru.
Image: Me at the lookout 5kms from the Olgas
Entry to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park (one of UNESCO's world heritage sites) is A$25, and allows you to enter the park as many times you like over 3 days.
My driver, Simon, dropped me off at the entrance to the Gorge - he then disappeared to meet up with people that were dropped off on an earlier trip.
Although it was only 9.30 in the morning, the temperature was already reaching well into the 30's - I was grateful for my hat and the suncream. I was even more grateful for the fly-net that Simon had sold to me ... the one thing that I was to find throughout my time at Ayers Rock was that the flies were everywhere, until it cooled down at around 9pm. The net is certainly not a fashion item, but VERY practical !
It was a pleasant walk through the gorge, although quite windy to start with, as a result of the breeze being funnelled through the two large masses of rock either side. About 2/3rds of the way through, the breeze suddenly stopped and it became totally silent. An eerie feeling, as there was no-one else about... I was also hoping that there weren't any dingoes or other equally wild-life around either.
Image: Olga Gorge
The walk took about an hour in total, after which it was another ride in the bus, back to the Ayers Rock Resort. The whole resort is owned and run by one company (Voyages), and consists of about 6 different types of accommodation, a number of shops round a so-called Town Square, and the ever-essential Petrol Station.
I was back at the Town Square waiting for some photos to be developed - I had time to kill .... I wandered into the Tour office, and started to look at the other tours available ...
Just 45 minutes later, I was on a minibus to the airport ... I had decided to treat myself to a half-hour helicopter trip.
What an experience !
The helicopter was tiny - it was just big enough to take 4 passengers. The minibus driver Andrew (from Sydney) also doubled up as the pilot. I was joined by three ladies who were at the resort whilst their husbands were attending a business conference. It was they who checked about his flying experience ... four years in total, and currently flying 4 to 8 times each day. Everyone was reassured.
I was lucky to sit in the front with the pilot, although the glass-bottomed floor was quite un-nerving on more than a few occasions.
After getting an amazing view of Uluru, we turned and headed towards the Olgas, where I had been walking just three hours previously.
It was one of those occasions where the expression "between a rock and a hard place" was very apt.
Image: Olgas (Kata Tjuta)
Image: Olgas (Kata Tjuta)
As with Uluru, the bird's-eye view of the Olgas was breathtaking.
And the sight of the gorges .... well, simply gorgeous.
The half-hour went all too quickly. During the whole time we were linked up to microphones and headphones. We could also hear the air traffic controller and other pilots in the area. (The four helicopter passengers did glance at each other with slightly worried expressions when we overheard a pilot of a plane leaving Ayers Rock report to Air Traffic Control that he had heard a strange sound at take-off, and wondered if there was anything unusual left on the runway!)
What a day it had been ... it surely couldn't get any better.
Later that evening, I joined a group of about 60 people. We had a 15-minute bus journey, which ended up being completed down a dusty track, where we were greeted by the sight of a uniformed waiter .... who directed us up a path to a clearing where we were to watch the sunset over the Olgas, whilst drinking champagne and beer; all the while, the gentle but haunting sound of a didgeridoo in the background adding to the atmosphere.
Image: Sunset over the Olgas
Image: Uluru - view at sunset
Once the sun had finally set, we were guided to a further clearing where tables had been set out with pristine tablecloths, cutlery and candles.
A wonderful three-course meal followed, the main course being a buffet which included delicacies such as barramundi (a fish), kangaroo and emu.
Just after the main course, we were invited to stop talking, so that we could experience the sounds of silence.
And the desert desserts were out of this world ... which actually was quite appropriate as we then all turned our heads skywards, as a local astronomer guided us through the stars and constellations as seen in the southern hemisphere.
Although there was a bit of cloud in the sky, we all were able to follow his star-pointing and his amusing stories.
Cosmic (as Rodney Trotter would say !)
17 October 2004 :
You had to feel sorry for my room-mates Jonathan and Alison - they got up at 5am to go on the 'Sunrise over Uluru' trip - only to find that they had in fact been erroneously booked on yesterday's one instead. They returned to the dorm totally dejected, but later went over to the Olgas on a free trip as compensation.
From my perspective, I felt I had seen all I needed to see of the various monoliths and rock formations (no stone left unturned?), so I spent Sunday relaxing, writing up my journal notes, writing a load of postcards, and generally "chilling out". It was great.
It was also a day to catch up on the laundry. Not so great.
I also had a special task to undertake today - my young niece Hannah had given me a wrapped lollipop to eat on my holiday, and thought it would be a good idea to eat it at Ayers Rock - the necessary photos were taken as proof, and the mission was duly accomplished.
Late in the afternoon, we had a thunderstorm ... this meant that the 'Sounds of Silence' event out in the desert got cancelled. Thank goodness I booked up to go on the previous night.
My list of unusual foods tried was added to this evening - CROCODILE - as it seems always with many foods, the best comparison I can come up with is "colour, taste and texture a bit like chicken". Unfortunately, later in the evening I had a stomach upset - perhaps it was purely a coincidence that I had had the crocodile - after all, I only had a small bite.
18 October 2004 :
Today's flight took me from Ayers Rock to Alice Springs - a simple 50-minute journey. (It was good to know that we carried life jackets on the flight - they would really come in handy out here in the arid desert).
I'm afraid to say that Alice Springs is not a place I would choose ever to return to. Whilst I'm sure that I could spend days getting to know the area better, I will be glad when the plane takes off for Adelaide tomorrow.
Yes, there are pockets of modern buildings etc, including the main Todd Mall shopping precinct, and staff in the pubs and shops are (on the whole) very cheerful. There also seems to be plenty of hotels and hostels for visitors.
But a lot of the Alice I've seen is dirty, and somewhat run down.
This is exacerbated by the numbers of Aboriginies who, looking totally lost and forlorn, are either wandering round the town or sitting at the sides of roads and pavements. But compared to Ayers Rock, where the few I saw tended to keep themselves to themselves, I have encountered many who just come up to you and beg for money (invariably to be used to buy 'grog').
I feel really sorry for them - lost in their own land. They have many problems - the biggest one at the moment relating to alcoholism.
(I was also told that there is a major problem in the Northern Territory with teenage aboriginies getting brain damage due to their addiction to petrol sniffing - so much so that the company 'Shell' is having to develop a non-addictive petrol which will be trialled in this part of Australia).
Thinking again back to Ayers Rock, we were told that many of the Aboriginal leaders across Australia had made their communities drink-free to try and bring a halt to the drink problems (a sign by one of the bars at the Resort warns customers not to buy drinks for the aboriginies) ... what is sad is that many people within their communities are choosing not to follow their leaders' wishes, and a lot of the traditional community structure and respect of the family is simply breaking down.
At the Youth Hostel here in Alice Springs, doors will be locked and chained at 8.30pm - access only available via electronic keys and codes. Security is unfortunately very much needed in these parts.
There will of course be people within the community doing their best to try and resolve or at least alleviate some of these problems - I wish them good luck, as it definitely will not be an easy task.
19 October 2004 :
Had a reasonable night's sleep in the 8-person dorm - apart from being woken suddenly at about 2am by someone sleep-talking .... I kept hearing the word Olgas, but this was amongst French words, English words, and what sounded either like Dutch or Flemish. Very strange.
Took an early morning walk around the town - virtually deserted, as apparently nothing opens 'til 8.30. Lots of posters in windows advertising "Alice Springs Masters 2004" - a sports tournament for the more mature competitor (come to think of it, there were a disproportionate number of older people in the town last night!).
The sky is clear, so should be a nice day, and hopefully a non-bumpy flight. If I was to try and describe the actual colour of the sky, I would say it was a nice pale milky blue, probably No.290 on the Pantone scale (hello everyone at Scottish Widows Marketing !)
To be continued ...
Two flights later, and I arrived in Adelaide in the State of South Australia.
The first flight had taken me as far as Sydney - definitely not an "as the crow flies" route to Adelaide - and I literally had only 5 minutes to change from one plane to the other, due to the delay of my "inbound" flight.
There's half an hour time difference between central Australia and the eastern part, but with the second flight from Sydney to Adelaide, this was cancelled out again.
It was very cloudy during the initial flight from Alice, so I couldn't see anything much from the plane - apart from the clouds. This was contrasted by the second flight, which although the view was initially obscured by cloud, cleared so that I could clearly make out the brown and green patchwork of agriculture below.
The second flight was also "enhanced"(?) by the humorous flight supervisor.... with such merry quips as "cabin crew, take your seats for blast-off", "this is strictly a non-smoking flight, so any smokers will need to step outside", and then as we were coming into Adelaide "the time difference between here and Sydney is 30 minutes and about 20 years". I sensed a few locals not being too happy with that last comment.
I was met at the airport by Reg (my mum's cousin) and his wife Katie Jean (known as KJ). It was then a short drive down to where they live, south of Adelaide, at a place called Christies Beach.
20 October 2004 :
A fairly relaxing day in and around Christies Beach. Reg and KJ were looking after their granddaughter Caitlin for the day. We had a trip down the town for lunch, and then spent about 45 minutes on the beach. Nice day. Not-so-nice flies.
In the afternoon, Steve (KJ's nephew) and his wife Di returned from their trip to the Flinders Ranges. Steve and KJ have been in Australia on holiday for about 4 weeks, and would be staying at Reg and KJ's until the weekend, at which time they would have to return back to the UK.
Caitlin was taken back to her own home during the evening, which meant that I was able to meet her parents Paul and Vanessa, and their other daughter Erin.
21 October 2004 :
Reg, KJ and I went for a drive out in the country, and arrived at a lovely little coastal town called Victor Harbor. (Not sre if pblic are pset at athorties missing ot the "u"!)
After a carvery lunch, Reg and I walked across the causway to Granite Island. Very peaceful.
Image: Give way !
We were prepared to 'give way' to penguins, but none were spotted - I expect they only appear in the cool and dark of the evening/night.
Having walked across the top of the island, we took the horse-drawn tram back. Very civilised.
Image: Horse-Drawn Tram at Victor Harbor
Back at Victor Harbor, I found the local RAA (Royal Automobile Association) travel shop - I wanted to get more info on Tasmania. The manager has family over on Tassie (as the locals call it), so was pleased to give me some ideas and suggestions. Something to consider further, but will mean changing some of my subsequent flights to fit the trip in.
In my Lonely Planet guide to Australia, I had read about a "Star of Greece" cafe up on the cliffs, named after one of the numerous shipwrecks that have taken place along this stretch of coastline. The cafe was given a glowing report.
Well, thirsty for a coffee on the way home, we called in at the establishment - and even though there were still 20 minutes 'til closing time, we were told we couldn't be served, as they had already started setting the tables for tomorrow.
Updated feedback given to Lonely Planet !
22 October 2004 :
Decided that I would go into the city of Adelaide to have a good look round. The train ride wasn't bad, and took me through Brighton, Hove, Ascot Park and Goodwood ... felt just like home.
The other decision I had made was that I was definitely going to go to Tasmania as part of my trip - this would happen after my time at Sydney, for 10 days from 9 November - so a visit to the local QANTAS office was in order, so that I could amend the dates of my later flights.
I had a good walk round the central part of Adelaide, which certainly doen't have the same sort of hustle and bustle of other cities I've already visited. In fact, it has quite a genteel air about it - with comparatively little traffic, and many areas of parkland.
Image: Old street in Adelaide
Image: One of the glass houses in Adelaide's Botanic Garden
After a walk round the Botanic Garden, I managed to get a tour of Ayers House, which was once the residence of Sir Henry Ayers (the same man who had the big rock named after him). He lived at the house with his family between 1855 and 1897. It was interesting to learn about some of the early colonisation history of Australia.
Quick history lesson about ol' Henry :
"Henry Ayers emigrated to Adelaide with his wife Elizabeth in 1841. Young, ambitious, and determined, he quickly gained work as a law clerk and, in 1845, was appointed secretary of the South Australia Mining Association. His shrewd business sense and growing control over the finances and votes of outside investors saw him rise to the position of Managing Director of the organisation in 1850. By the time he was elected to the Legislative Council of the first Parliament in 1857 he had amassed a significant personal fortune, primarily from his interests in the lucrative Burra Burra copper mine. From his position in the Upper house, Ayers became Premier in no less than seven different administrations in the decade from 1863. His various ministerial permutations ranged in duration from 13 days in 1864 to just under a year and a half in 1867-68. Perhaps more than any other nineteenth century South Australian Premier, Ayers' political career reflected what his contemporary A. Forster called the period's 'chronic ministerial instability' - the result of the fragmentation and ideological incoherence of the young Parliament. Ayers' last ministry fell in 1873, but he remained a powerful member of the Legislative Council until 1893. Knighted in the 1870's, Ayers died in 1897 wealthy, influential, and respected."
Just along the road from Ayers House is the Museum of South Australia, which I also visited. Some good displays, including one about cannibalism on the (not-so-near) pacific islands.
Finished my educational tour at the State Library - its family research section being of particular interest to me.
Still have a few historic buildings and other tourist attractions to see, so I will probably pop into the city again tomorrow.
In the evening, the five of us (Reg, KJ, Steve, Di and me) went 20kms down the coast for a meal at the Historic Victory Hotel, established in 1858. It was warm enough (at least initially) to sit outside, so we had an excellent view of the sunset.
Image: Me, Steve, Di, KJ and Reg at the Victory Hotel
23 October 2004 :
Spent a second day in the city, and being Saturday I was expecting it to be really crowded. It wasn't, which apparently isn't unusual for Adelaide.
Amongst the places visited today was the Migration Museum in Kintore Avenue. It gave me a good background into the history behind the 100 or so nationalities that have arrived in Australia since the early 1800s. Australia certainly isn't just about £10-poms. Paradoxically, the admission was Free, and I got in without anyone batting an eyelid.
CLICK HERE if you want to find out more information (www.history.sa.gov.au)
24 October 2004 :
Happy Birthday Reg - 75 today !
Steve and Di had to go back to the UK today after their enjoyable stay in Australia. I expect the longest bit of the journey will be their coach ride from Heathrow to Exeter, before finally ending up home in Cornwall.
After lunch, Reg, KJ and I went to the pallendromic town of Glenelg, just along the coast. Traffic was bad, as we seemed to get mixed in with a bike and car rally. Never mind.
Glenelg is a popular place at the weekend - you could even get camel rides along the front.
Image: View at Glenelg
We had a good walk around the town (Sussex Street included), and finished off with an ice cream each. Well, it is summer here you know !
25 October 2004 :
Today was the day I was to go on a coach trip, and within an hour I was (at last) able to spot my first live un-cooked kangaroo. And that was even before I got to the actual place I would be touring.
"Where were you off to ?!" ... I hear you cry -
Kangaroo Island of course !
At 155km long and 55km wide, it is the third largest island off the Australian mainland.
K.I. (as the locals call it) was uninhabited when it was discovered in 1802 by the English explorer Matthew Flinders - the great thing is that almost half the island has never been cleared of native vegitation. It's a great place to see wildlife, as you will discover if you keep reading this (rather than if you were to yawn, close down the screen, and go off and watch the telly or make a cup of tea !)
Having had a good ferry crossing to the island, we were shown to our coaches - I introduced myself to the passenger sitting next to me, to find out that he (who I subsequently discovered was called Neil, and was over in Oz on 3 weeks holiday) worked for IBM and lived in Glasgow. Small world indeed.
Our first scheduled stop was at Seal Bay - the home of the Australian sealion and the second largest breeding colony in Australia. As part of the tour, we were allowed onto the beach to walk amongst the sealions, sticking close (us, not the sealions) to the Park's Interpretive Officer, who gave us all the necessary facts.
Image: At Seal Bay, Kangaroo Island
Image: At Seal Bay, Kangaroo Island
Image: At Seal Bay, Kangaroo Island
Image: At Seal Bay, Kangaroo Island
It's estimated that in the next couple of years, the number of visitors to the island is likely to double, meaning that it just won't be possible to allow people to wander onto the beach as we had done. I felt very privileged to get so close.
After a barbeque lunch at the Kalwarra Cottage, we were then taken to a koala sanctuary, where we could spend about 20 minutes walking along under the trees. Although it took a little time, we did all spot a koala bear ... in fact, we ended up seeing 6 in total.
They're not caged in which is brilliant. Saying that, KI actually has far too many, and there is controversy over how their numbers will be controlled in future. Despite the protests of the animal rights brigade, it is a fact that if the numbers keep rising, they will literally starve themselves to death - eating the eucalyptus far more quickly than it can grow back.
Apologies for the poor picture quality - the koala was hiding a long way up - and it also refused my request to look directly at the camera !
Image: Koala - bearly/barely visible
No time to rest. Straight back onto the coach, for the ride through the Flinders Chase National Park - end destination being the Remarkable Rocks on the south coast.
OK, I'd seen some big rocks at Uluru and the Olgas ... but these were ..... remarkable ! They're a cluster of granite boulders, sculptured by the weather and perched on a granite dome rising steeply from the water below. It's possible to walk round the rocks, of course taking care not to slip - it was a long way down.
Image: Remarkable Rocks on Kangaroo Island
Image: Remarkable Rocks on Kangaroo Island
Image: Remarkable Rocks on Kangaroo Island
Image: Remarkable Rocks on Kangaroo Island
Hard rock, but no cafe.
Fortunately, as I was walking back to the coach, I spotted a little wallaby hiding under a bush. Picture follows ...
Image: Wallaby near the Remarkable Rocks
After a quick hop, we were along the coast at a place called Admirals Arch.
Down a winding path, we found ourselves at a natural Arch formed by erosion by the sea. Quite a sight, especially as the area is also home to a colony of New Zealand Fur Seals. Plenty of them around too.
Image: Admirals Arch
After about half an hour, it was back onto the coach - returning to the visitors centre in the Park. Well, just as we were approaching the car park, we spotted a group of three kangaroos fairly near to the road. The coach parked up, and whilst some of the passengers went to get their cups of tea/coffee, and probably buy their souvenir corked bush hats, a few of us walked back to get a closer look at the Roos.
Image: Kangaroos on Kangaroo Island
Image: Kangaroos on Kangaroo Island
Image: Kangaroos on Kangaroo Island
I was really pleased that I could get so close. One of the kangaroos (for the purpose of this website, we'll predictably call it 'Skippy') had worked its way near towards me ... so near, that I was worried that it would leap up at me with both hind legs straight into my chest (I think I must've watched a certain episode of 'Tom and Jerry' too much when I was little !). I made a slow but proactive retreat, back to a safer distance.
We finally got back to Penneshaw for the ferry ride back to the mainland, with enough time for some delicious fish and chips.
Arrived back in Adelaide at around 9.45pm - so nearly 15 hours in total.
What a great day it had been. It's fair to say that we spent a long time on the coach, inevitable when you're doing a 'highlights' tour on such a large island.
But it was DEFINITELY worth it.
If you ever find yourself in this part of South Australia, I hope you get the chance to get across to K.I.
CLICK HERE for more information about tours around Adelaide, including Kangaroo Island
26 October 2004 :
Happy 47th Anniversary to Reg and KJ !
Returned to Victor Harbor this morning, so that I could finalise my Tasmania arrangements at the travel agency. We then travelled on, to the Goolwa Barrage - the pelicans crossing the water didn't seem to mind the light drizzle.
Image: Pelican crossing
Onwards to Strathalbyn, and then we ended up at the German town (yes, that's correct) of Hahndorf. Many German migrants settled in the area, hence the influence in some of the architecture and in virtually all the shops. Decided though that I didn't want to buy a cuckoo clock, as I expect the cuckoo wouldn't be able to cope with all the time-zone changes. Could I remember how many ? Nein.
27 October 2004 :
Being Wednesday, Reg and KJ's granddaughter Caitlin was with us for the day. Good fun.
28 October 2004 :
My time with Reg and KJ has passed too quickly.
It was time to head off to Sydney to stay with other relatives, this time from my dad's side of the family.
But I will be returning to Adelaide in a few weeks time, as I have arranged to drive along the coast, westwards, from Melbourne to Adelaide, once I've been over to Tassie. That way, I will see the Great Ocean Road, and (hopefully) a rather unusual sight at the small coastal township of Robe ... you'll just have to wait and see what that will be !
So, we said our "au revoirs" at the airport, and two hours later, I arrived at Sydney.
I was met by Ken and Ian Rousell - both "second cousins once removed". (Ken and Ian's dad was the cousin of my paternal grandmother!). As someone who has been researching my Family Tree for many years, I'm delighted that I can at last meet up with this Australian 'branch'. No doubt there'll be lots of faces that I can put to names over the next week or so.
Ken and Ian's dad (Harold Rousell) has just celebrated his 91st birthday, together with his twin brother Roy. Harold and Roy are both "first cousins twice removed" to me!
Hope you're keeping up with this !
I arrived at Roy's house, where I would be staying for the next few days. Later on, Ian drove me (and Roy) into Sydney so that I could start to get my bearings. We stopped at various places, including just beneath the floodlit Harbour Bridge, which looked fantastic. It was also an ideal spot to see across the water towards the Opera House. It was definitely one of those "I can't really believe I'm here" moments.
29 October 2004 :
Took the 20-minute bus ride from Gladesville (where I was staying) into the main city centre, ending up at Circular Quay right by the Opera House. Unfortunately, it was a bit cloudy (and rain followed later), so it wasn't the best chance for photos. Still, here's one of the Harbour Bridge for now ....
Image: Sydney Harbour Bridge
I will be spending a bit of time in the city next week, so I'll have plenty of opportunity to see the sights properly.
To add to my holiday experiences, the evening was full of the trots.
Let me explain.
Harness Racing (aka The Trots) is very popular in Australia - it's like a modern version of Roman chariot racing, but without the blood and gore !
The horses and riders race round a large oval track - there were eight races on the card this evening.
It took me a bit of time to understand the various bet types. Yes, you could have 'to win' or 'a place', but have you heard of a 'Quinella', an 'Exacta', a 'Trifecta', a 'Superfecta', a 'Spinner' or a 'Pak Bet' ? If you have, you're either Australian, or spend too much time betting !
Image: Harold Park Paceway
Image: Harold Park Paceway
Image: The Trots
Ian joined us, together with Roy's daughter Jacqui (another one of my 'second cousins once removed'!)
Each betting ticket included the words 'If you have a problem gambling, please phone XXX etc'. Well, I seemed to understand a few of the betting types, and I was able to get my tickets ok, so didn't ring the number to get help !
Did I enjoy the evening ?
Did I win ?
No comment !
30 October 2004 :
Drove all the way up to Toronto today ... the one at the edge of Lake Macquarie. I had been invited by relatives Carol and Daryl Stewart, and my visit coincided with an Aussie Night being held at Carol's church.
There were about 20 overseas visitors at the event, including me as the solitary 'Pom'. Most of the others were from the USA, stopping at Toronto as part of a 38-day organised tour.
Image: Me with sign at Toronto
I probably came the closest so far on my travels to being an honorary Aussie ... we sang the National Anthem (Advance Australia Fair), and sang Waltzing Matilda, as well as a song which later simply got nicknamed as 'Gumnuts'. The dinner was an Aussie barbecue, with Pavlova as dessert. We then took part in an Aussie Bush Dance - which I can probably best describe like a hoe-down or a Barn Dance. Lots of 'swing your partners' and 'dozey-dotes' etc ! I now also understand what a 'Drongo' is. All good fun.
The only really scary bit was when all the overseas visitors had to stand up and introduce themselves to the assembled crowd. I must remember to pack a prepared speech next time !
It was a great evening. I even met another relative, my 3rd cousin Scott Walton.
Tonight was also the official start of summer, with daylight saving of 1 hour being adjusted on the clocks in this part of Australia. With an opposite change back to G.M.T. in the UK for winter time (shame!), I'm now 11 hours ahead of the UK.
Time flies when you're having fun.
Image: A star performance at Toronto ...
CLICK HERE to hear 'Advance Australia Fair' (don't worry, it's not me singing !)
31 October 2004 :
Last day of October already ...
Daryl took me (together with Roy) for a trip round Lake Macquarie ... beautiful waterside homes dotted all around, with plenty of boats moored at the bottom of gardens.
Image: View of Lake Macquarie from Carol and Daryl's house
Stopped at Rathmines, the site of a RAAF Flying Boat base during WWII. The site is now occupied by a bowling club, and some warehouse stores ... but nearby is a memorial paying tribute to those who were based there.
In the afternoon (with Carol and Ken added to the passenger list), we drove up to Newcastle. I didn't see any coals, but plenty of big waves at the beach. Some great views off the cliff-tops.
Stopped off to meet one of Roy's four new great-grandchildren ... little Callie Lisa, daughter of Bradley and Hayley.
Image: LtoR : Ken, Callie, Bradley, Hayley, Daryl, Roy, Carol
I also met another relative, Robyn, who is Carol's sister (and 3rd cousin Scott's mum).
There's certainly a lot of family in New South Wales ...
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