Saturday, 28 March 2015

Ceduna to Margaret River

Yellow route: Ceduna to Margaret River – 3480km
Total so far: 12'300km

Before we started the Nullarbour adventure, we spent two days at the wonderful campground at Cactus Beach (near Eucla), a surfers paradise and at least as nice for non-surfers in terms of beach scenery and coastal walks. 

En route to Cactus Beach

Watching the surfers

I called it the Nullarbour „adventure“ because for us, coming from a country which can easily be crossed in one day (220 km North/South and 340 km East/West), driving through the Nullarbour from Ceduna to Norseman (1205km, just one part of the 2700km long Eyre Highway) is somehow unreal. We did this stretch in 2.5 days and enjoyed the vastness and monotony very much. We were surprised by how much bush and how many trees we saw where we had expected a deserted landscape. Of course the lookouts, especially at Great Bight with the impressive cliffs were an absolute highlight.

Nullarbour: flat and deserted

Nullarbour: some vegetation but still flat

Nullarbour: Great Bight

On short notice we decided to detour to Kalgoorlie and even booked the Super Pit tour ahead, a thing we normally try to avoid in order to remain flexible. Luckily we did as the tour was fully booked on Friday and they only could get us in on Saturday morning. The very experienced tour guide made this a very special 2.5 hours. We not only got to see the pit from different lookouts but also the whole process incl. machinery to get the gold out of the rocks. A pretty complex, time and resource-consuming procedure. As we came across the history of the gold rush during our stay in 2010 in places like Ballarat we wanted to explore further and see from different angles what was involved. Hence we also did the brothel tour about the only remaining establishment from the golden age – the Questa Casa. The madame fed our curiosity with glorious and very personal and honest stories about this kind of business which she has run for 23 years.

 Kalgoorlie Hannan Street

 Super Pit

Impressive truck

Questa Casa

The days in Kalgoorlie were pretty hot and we headed back to the coast directly into the highly popular Cape le Grand NP. The camping spots there can’t be booked and normally people line up in the early morning in order to get a spot. We tried our luck at Lucky Bay at 5 pm on a Sunday and got a spot in the already packed tenting area. The next day we made ourselves an upgrade to the campervan area. The picture-perfect beaches with the squeaky white sand and the turquoise water are amazing. We were quite energetic and we walked parts of the coastal trail, did some running along the beach and climbed Frenchman’s peak at sunset! 

 Cape le Grand NP

 Camping in the best spot at Lucky Bay

Frenchman's Peak

 View from Frenchman's Peak

In Esperance we did some grocery shopping for the upcoming national parks. Fitzgerald River NP is one of the largest in Australia and is popular for its botanical diversity. As we like climbing mountains and the rewarding views one normally gets from the top, we climbed East Mount Barren as well as West Mount Barren. Two of the accessible summits of the quartzite ranges. 

Royal Hakea

At the summit of West Mt Barren

Fitzgerald NP was followed by Waychinicup NP before we got to Albany. The weather was windy, cool and cloudy. Perfect weather to see museums. In the brand new ANZAC museum we broadened our knowledge about the impact of the ANZACs in the WWI and the significant losses. They do make the visit quite personal as with the entry ticket you get a small card representing a specific person who served as ANZAC who you then follow through the excellent and very informative exhibition. The other attraction for us was the whaling industry at Discovery Bay, which was operational 1952 - 1978. This outdoor museum on the actual production plant was brilliant although the imagination of this job is very bloody and brutal. One can imagine how it stank there…..

Sceleton of a Blue Whale

As the weather was improving we decided to continue to the Stirling Ranges NP for a few walks. After we climbed to the summit of Bluff Knoll (1095m, highest point in the southwest) we enjoyed Devonshire tea at the Bluff Knoll cafe with exceptionally good scones.

Bluff Knoll summit

Devonshire tea after the lovely walk

The Karri Forest area around Pemberton covers several NPs and State Forests. It is an impressive experience to walk and drive through these forests and this could only be topped by climbing two of the three accessible fire lookout trees. Gloucester tree is 56m high and Dave Evans Bicentennial tree is 68m. Quite a climb and there is only one single warning sign! How refreshing in a country where you normally are warned and hold off to do anything which could be remotely harmful. 
After Oliver and I had a bit of a challenge in the trees we wanted Kasbah to have some too and did the 4WD track in the sand dunes to Yeagarup Beach in the D'Entrecasteaux NP. That was great fun for the three of us.

 Camping in the Karri Forest

 Climbing the big trees

Driving in the sand

We approached Margaret River via Cape Leeuwin and a fascinating coastline as well as another Karri forest. Now we are in for some more wine tasting and most probably will do this by bike again.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Melbourne to Ceduna

During the first two months of our travel, we met so many interesting and helpful people which asked for pictures and updates from our trip around Australia. Thus we have decided to start a blog in English, which is sort of a travel diary, unlike our blogs we maintain in German, which focus on specific topics. We will publish some news fortnightly if possible and the following posts will be shorter than this one, which covers only the last 4 weeks of travel in some detail.

White route: First two months (Melbourne to Melbourne) - 5540 km
Yellow route: Melbourne to Ceduna - 3280 km
Total so far: 8820km

We started travelling in Australia in early December, after the Quarantine officer had released our car Kasbah after his 2 months travel in a container from Switzerland. And after VicRoads and CIL had the car insured and officially accepted it on Australian roads for 12 months … and after we had done all the work to it that we hadn’t get round to doing before shipping it.

In December and January we travelled through Gippsland and eastern Victoria, southern New South Wales, enjoyed Canberra as much as Sydney, explored the so far unknown land of central NSW with places like Orange, Dubbo or Mudgee and finally travelled back to Melbourne through the Snowy River Nationalpark and the Alpine Nationalpark, where we did one serious 4WD track, the Deddick-trail. 

  The Zinc house, Lowe winery, Mudgee

McKillops Bridge, Snowy River Nationalpark, starting point of the Deddick-trail

We always enjoy the time in Melbourne very much, especially because our hosts Robyn and David make us feel so welcome at their lovely house, and we appreciate to be part of their family during our stays. Therefore, at the beginning of February, we were spoilt again for more than two weeks, before we left „our“ castle in Templestowe to the West for more adventures. 

It was probably not very smart of us to leave on a Friday 13th. Even though we are both not superstitious, a few things occurred, which might be related to that date. The most unfortunate thing was, that Oliver lost his whole bunch of keys. Realising it about 120km further on, and knowing exactly where it must have happened, even the advised police couldn’t help and the keys remained lost. We do carry two sets of course, but it makes the remaining ones very valuable now … 

We left towards the West and enjoyed the Great Ocean Road once more. The hike at Cumberland River through bush, along the river with cascades and two waterfalls, followed by a fabulous view point, was wonderful. Due to the very changing and moody weather and the new pricing and booking policy of Parks Victoria, we didn’t spend too much time in the area. As of July last year most campgrounds have to be booked in advance (you even have to choose a site without knowing what to expect) and the prices are up to $38 per night for a pit toilet — if there is one at all! Of course we are very happy to pay something for the fabulous network of camping options there are, but $38 is the price for a site at a commercial caravan park where you get hot showers, kitchen and laundry facilities, electricity and water, sometimes even a swimming pool. So far, we couldn’t figure out if VicParks’ goal is to actually keep people away from the Nationalparks.

Great Ocean Road (GOR)

Cumberland River and GOR from the Lookout

12 Apostels

The drive through Mount Gambier with the sinkholes and deep blue lakes was worthwhile and very different to the experience we had in 2010 (drizzle and a basically „dead“ inner city). As we liked the temperatures and the sun so much, we took them with us towards Penola. There we did a fabulous wine-tasting tour through the Coonawarra by bicycle and had  a superb lunch at Coonawarra village. At a place with the somehow fancy name „Eat | Drink Ottilia |Fodder“, situated in the old school building. They offered an exclusive selection of homemade antipasti, wood-fired pizza and salads. Yummie! The best selection of wines we tasted at Majella and found the Sauvignon Blanc of Rymill outstanding.

 Mount Gambier - Blue Lake

The old school, Coonawarra

On the way to the Murray River, in the area of Mannum, we visited the Naracoorte caves and learned about the creatures of the Megafauna. After a very hot weekend by the river and a exclusive private tour around Lucy’s and Brenton’s sheep and crop farm nearby, we went to Adelaide and stayed at a caravan park which was within walking distance from the CBD. We found the city very pleasant and lively, especially because the Fringe Festival was on. Our general impression is that Adelaide is underrated. We find it a very liveable city. 
Adelaide is surrounded by wine regions and in 2010 we visited the Clare Valley and Mac Laren Vale. Hence the Barossa valley was up this time and, not surprisingly, we did it by bike. The region was such lovely bike terrain for us, e.g. the Mengler Hill lookout and the Seppelts Trail, flanked with palm trees. Thus we only got called in at two wineries. But it was a fabulous day for us.

 Marsupial lion - Megafauna creature, Naracoorte caves 

 Camping at the Murray River

 Historic paddelsteamer Murray Princess

Adelaide Arcade

 View from the Mengler Hill lookout, Barossa valley

 This guy made us taste the sickly sweet grape juice

Scenic Seppelts Trail, Barossa valley

The next still unexplored land for us was the Yorke Peninsula with its vast barley and wheat fields, the Viterra silos and in places rough coast line. It was a new landscape for us. The Innes NP offered some lovely beaches and good hikes along with some history about the gypsum production in the area more than 100 years ago. Also in this Nationalpark, we had a car breakdown, which Oliver fixed himself over 20 hours by pouring over the electrical plans and taking half the car apart. It was a broken soldering point in the car’s ignition system. I acted as first assistant and learned a lot. Nevertheless we hope that this will not happen again.

 Innes Nationalpark at the tip of the Yorke's Peninsula

 Kasbah refusing his transport service

Impression from the Yorke Peninsula

Our stop in Iron Knob was not really planned but we were very happy to find out that they offer tours to the iron-ore mines. Mining was discontinued by BHP in 1999 and only recently (2013) OneSteel took over (they run the steel mill in Whyalla) and under the name of Arrium the mining is now running again. Nevertheless we had the impression that there is not much of a chance to prevent this little town from dying. Next stop was the Gawler Ranges Nationalpark: to enjoy a stunning scenery, some quiet camping and visit the Organ Pipes, an impressive granite rock formation. A dusty gravel road led us to Elliston on the West coast of Eyre Peninsula. We were blown away by the scenery we got here. It started with the tourist drive around Elliston, we called it „little Ocean road“, a coastal walk at Venus Bay where we spotted dolphins, Point Labatt with the sea lion colony and finally Dog Point in the Laura Bay Conservation Park where we spent a very peaceful afternoon and evening, before heading back into the designated camping area in the park, which was full with mozzies! In Ceduna we got prepared for the Nullarbour and the crossing to WA, which we did on March 11.

 Iron Princess mine, Iron Knob

 Organ Pipes, Gawler Ranges Nationalpark

 Sunset at Anxious Bay, Elliston

 Woolshed cave, near Venus Bay

Dinner at Dog Point, Laura Bay Conservation Park