A Travellerspoint blog

August 2015

Our Much Awaited Arrival in Sydney

Thursday 27th August 2015

sunny 16 °C

Today we flew from Melbourne to Sydney and I met up with my cousin Carrie for the first time in over 20 years. We were up fairly early so that we could finish our packing and have time for a light breakfast before our taxi arrived at 8:30am in order to take us to the airport. The distance was only a few miles and so were arrived with plenty of time to spare. Check in seemed pretty straightforward and just as our research had indicated we were able to take our remaining few bottles of wine on the plane without any problem. We had a bit of time to read and relax before boarding, and although take off was delayed slightly, we made good time and arrived in Sydney at just after midday. I am not sure how Carrie had pulled this off but she had managed to get almost to the arrival gate to meet us. We had a hug and Nigel recorded the event on camera. We then made our way to the station to get our Opal cards and get the train to Circular Quay near Sydney harbour. We were a little unsure as to exactly where our hotel was and in the event we probably should have got off one station earlier at Winyard, because the walk with all of our bags was a bit of an effort, even with Carrie's help. We checked in and went and had a look at our room. We had gone for a club room which guaranteed us a room on a high floor, so we were pleased to be up on level 33 with a great view of the buildings and streets of the CBD.

Once we had dropped off all of our stuff, we went back out with Carrie to have our first sight of the harbour area, including the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.

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Pictures of the area can be quite misleading in that the two often look further apart than they actually are. Once we had taken in our first views of these iconic landmarks we found a restaurant on the Quay and had some lunch and shared a bottle of wine. Once finished we carried on exploring the harbour area and agreed where we would meet up with Carrie in the morning.

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She also really helpfully pointed out lots of landmarks and made loads of suggestions of places to eat whilst we were in the city. By late afternoon Carrie really needed to get her train back home, and so after coming back to the hotel with us to get her things, we were sadly soon saying goodbye again. Once Carrie had gone we went back to our room and did some unpacking before going out to have a meal at a restaurant called City Extra down in the Quay that had been recommended to us by Carrie. We both had a variation on fish and chips, and the food was delicious. Once we had eaten we were pretty tired out so we made our way back to the hotel. I took a few more photographs of the nighttime view from our hotel before getting ready for an anticipated good nights sleep.

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Posted by Gill's Travels 06:33 Archived in Australia Tagged bridges buildings boats sydney australia Comments (0)

North of the Yarra

Wednesday 26th August 2015

semi-overcast 13 °C

We only had one full day in Melbourne and so straight after breakfast we caught the tram from South Yarra into the city centre.

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We had brought our Myki cards and put enough credit on them to pay for the days public transport. Getting off at the Arts Centre we then made the short walk to the Eureka Tower.

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The Skydeck is 297 metres above street level and is the highest public observation deck in the Southern Hemisphere. It was surprisingly quiet when we got there. Had we been there an hour or two earlier we would have been caught up in a party of 150 school children! We went straight into the lift and were amazingly quickly taken up to the 88th floor. One of the attractions at the Skydeck is The Edge. This is a cube which is pushed out beyond the walls of the tower on hydraulic rams, 300 metres above the street. If this wasn't scary enough, the cube starts out as opaque glass including the floor, only to become transparent after it has been pushed out.

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This was too scary for us (although Nigel might dispute this) so we just watched from an external viewing platform that had a nice solid floor, safety rail and mesh walls. We spent loads of time looking at the view from the tower and taking photographs.

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We then had a coffee and continued to enjoy the view. We got chatting to an English guy who now lives and works in Melbourne who likes the tower so much that he has bought an annual season ticket. He gave us loads of ideas of things we could do while we were in the city, most of which sadly we didn't have time to do.

Once we left the Eureka tower we walked the short distance to Hosier Lane which is Melbourne's famous graffiti spot. Every available surface was covered, and the place had a strange feeling of edginess despite being a tourist location.

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There was a group of police officers dealing with someone whilst tourists young and old were wandering up and down taking photographs. From there we went to the stunning Block Arcade where we did a little bit of shopping. Nigel was hoping to buy himself a new radio whilst I was quite keen to go to the historic Old Melbourne Gaol, one time home to the notorious Ned Kelly. We both got on the free circular city tram and I got off near the city library whilst Nigel stayed on. Initially I got a bit confused as to where the Gaol was but eventually found it. They seem very hot in Melbourne on ensuring people get any concessionary rates they are entitled to and as a 60+ person was eligible for a discount even though I'm not Australian. On the off chance the guy asked if I was a member of the National Trust in the UK and even though I didn't have an international card (or even my UK one) he let me in for free.

I had a chat to one of the guides about prison building styles (the good old Bentham's Panopticon) and Victorian verses modern regimes. We talked for quite a while before I decided I ought to leave the poor man to get on with his other work. I had a good look round and read some of the displays in the cells spread over three floors.

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I was particularly interested in some if the information about women incarcerated as a result of being involved in the baby farming trade. There was also information about Ned Kelly, his early life and his eventual demise. There were lots of school children visiting the gaol and it was interesting seeing their reaction to some of the exhibits, but I wondered as to whether they were a bit young to know about some of the more brutal aspects of the prison's history. It was then time for me to go back to the State Library of Victoria to meet Nigel.

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There was just time for me to have a quick look at the 1993 Sinking Building sculpture by Dutch-born Petrus Spronk. It would appear there is some dispute as to whether it is a sinking building or a representation of knowledge and learning rising up out of the ground. Either way it was good to see it. Nigel and I soon found each other, and as we hadn't eaten since breakfast decided to get some food. There were lots of fast food restaurants nearby due to the proximity to the city's University of Technology. We saw a Nando's and both agreed that this was our favoured option. After eating we decided we were both feeling tired so went to get the tram back to South Yarra. I had decided that my hair needed some maintenance so the evening was spent touching up my roots and packing for our flight to Sydney!

Posted by Gill's Travels 06:09 Archived in Australia Tagged melbourne australia yarra Comments (0)

Leaving the Sea for the City

Tuesday 25th August 2015

sunny 14 °C

Today we would be driving the last bit of the Great Ocean Road and making our way to Melbourne for a two night stay. We had been really grateful for a warm and restful night's sleep and had no regrets at changing our booking. Once we had checked out we retraced our steps eastward driving past the Pebble Point glamping sight as we went. The road then turned inland and up through the start of the Otway National Park. There were lots of sharp bends and steep climbs as I drove the car up to the top if the ridge. Although the scenery was lovely I was hoping for some viewpoints but there were very few until we started to drop back southwards and towards the ocean.

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Our first break was at a lovely place called Castle Cove. The biggest challenge was getting into the lay-by which involved me going in the wrong way and then doing what was a probably an illegal manoeuvre to pull back in the right way (thank goodness for quiet Australian roads). It was a short walk to the viewing point overlooking the bay, which was clearly a popular place to stop as several other cars pulled in while we were there. Looking away from the coast the scenery was also very beautiful and looked to me a little like the lowlands of Scotland, which made me wonder whether this had contributed to the naming of the local area as Glenaire.

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There was nowhere to stop for refreshments at Castle Cove, which was probably a good thing as it would have taken away its relative tranquility, so we were soon on our way again.

The road (despite still being called the Great Ocean Road) turned north again and we were soon heading inland, again winding up the hillside. Although this stretch of road was longer, it was less winding and it wasn't long before the coast was in view again.

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Shortly after we reached the town of Apollo Bay, having taken a short detour to look at the harbour and an area known as Marengo.

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It was nearing lunchtime and we managed to find a small (and slightly bohemian) cafe where we both had soup and garlic bread (which was a risky choice for me). We were aware that we still had nearly three hours before we would be at our Melbourne hotel, so we got on our way as soon as we could. We stopped a couple of times to look at the view but generally it was foot down and with the focus on getting to the city.

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We did stop briefly for a comfort break at a place called Lorne and were surprised to see two large red kangaroos, one hopping about in a residential area close to the beach and another standing in the middle of a roundabout! Shortly afterwards the road headed north towards the city. By this time Nigel had taken over the driving and it wasn't long before we joined the motorway. We needed to fill up with fuel before we returned the car, although it was a bit stressful I eventually managed to navigate us to a filling station. Once we had done this it was only a short drive to South Yarra where we were staying and also where we needed to deliver the car. We had just enough time to check in and drop off our luggage.

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Once we had done this we relaxed for a couple of hours before going out to eat at a local Italian restaurant. I had pizza and Nigel went for seafood pasta. Unfortunately he thought that the mussels were off and although his meal was replaced without argument, the experience had put him off his food and made him feel a bit queasy. We went back to the hotel and fortunately he very quickly felt alright and there were no lasting ill effects. After all the driving we were ready for a good nights sleep.

Posted by Gill's Travels 05:13 Archived in Australia Tagged sea melbourne great_ocean_road australia Comments (0)

Great Ocean Road (Part 2)

Monday 24th August 2015

rain 10 °C

It has been a bit of bleak day today. Eventually we got to sleep last night but it was pretty noisy with the wind battering the tent so hard it made it feel like kangaroos were jumping on the bed. It wasn't too cold once we were snuggled up in bed but it certainly didn't encourage us to venture out at all. This morning we had a bit of a lie in, I think neither of us was that keen to get up and brave the cold. Nigel chivalrously went in the shower first and seemed to survive the experience so I then followed suit. The bathroom pod was so nicely fitted out that it was a shame we couldn't really appreciate it. In the cold light of day (ironic use of metaphor) I wasn't having any change of heart about booking alternative accommodation for tonight, after all we have only ourselves to please and don't need to impress anyone.

We had a breakfast of crumpets cooked and eaten in the open communal kitchen and then went for a short walk up to the cliff top

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before driving back along the Great Ocean Road (GOR). First port of call was a place called Gibson Steps. Previously I think there were steps that took you down onto the beach but these were currently closed for safety reasons. There was a lookout though that gave a great view of the coast with a glimpse towards the rock formations we could expect further west. We then drove the short distance to the Twelve Apostles which are the large sea stacks that the GOR is famous for. Sadly erosion and collapse means that there are only eight of them left, however looking at the way the coast is constantly being battered by the ocean the geography of the place must be changing all the time. The apostles are clearly one of the most popular tourist stops along the GOR and that was evidenced by the number of other tourists there. There is a large car park to cater for all of the vehicles and an underpass so you don't have to cross the busyish road. There are two main viewpoints and with a bit of patience we were able to enjoy the view and take photos without too many selfie sticks getting in the way!

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By this time the weather had deteriorated even further and it was pretty wet. There is a small cafe next to the car park so we each took a coffee back to the car to warm us up.

Once finished we drove the two or three miles to Loch Ard Gorge named after a clipper that was wrecked nearby with the loss of all but two lives. We went to the viewpoint at the head of the gorge from where there was an incredible view. The sea was very rough and it was so easy to see how ships could founder on the rocks.

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We then walked the short distance to some steps which led down to the beach. A large group of schoolchildren had gone down their ahead of us but fortunately by the time we got down there they were on their way back up. The beach was a beautiful place, and it was fascinating watching the large waves funnelling their way through the narrow channel between the cliffs. We stopped a while and again admired the view and I took some more photographs whilst trying to keep my camera out of the rain.

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I had hoped that we would have been able to walk between some of the sights but the weather was getting worse and we were starting to get quite wet. We drove to one more spot and looked at Muttonbird Island, home not surprisingly to the Muttonbird.

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From there we walked about half a kilometre to Thunderous Cave a massive sea cave where the large waves rush in and out.

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By this time we were ready for some warmth. It was gone 3pm and so we decided to make our way to our newly booked accommodation at Daysy Hill Country Cottages. The people there were really friendly and we were quickly directed to our room. It was lovely and comfortable and we were able to warm up and relax a bit. Later on we went out to have a meal at a really busy large cafe called the Twelve Rocks in the nearest town Port Campbell. It was a really buzzy place that seemed to have a mixture of visitors and locals. We saw an elderly couple and the guy had a jacket that said Port of Felixstowe on the back. I presumed this must have been a place in Victoria but Nigel got talking to him and it turned out that he originally came from Suffolk and moved to Australia in 1965. The jacket was given to him by his sister who was a part owner of Felixstowe Docks. It was so nice chatting to them. We both had a very filling Shepherds Pie for dinner and came back to the room full and warmed through.

Posted by Gill's Travels 14:08 Archived in Australia Tagged beaches sea great_ocean_road australia rock Comments (0)

Great Ocean Road (Part 1)

Sunday 23rd August 2015

overcast 11 °C

It is becoming a bit of a theme that we stay places for one or two nights only to wish we could have stayed longer. This is particularly the case with our lovely lighthouse cottage; a bit battered by the elements on the outside but both cosy and luxurious at the same time on the inside. An added bonus was the food that had been left for us to cook our breakfast; bacon and toast for me, with the addition of eggs for Nigel. As check out wasn't until 11am we had a bit of a leisurely start, however reluctantly we had to leave if we were going to continue down onto the Great Ocean Road (GOR) proper. Before we did we had one more look round near the lighthouse and cliffs.

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We were told that a whale had been sighted the previous evening but sadly it was no longer to be seen. Although there are guided tours inside of the lighthouse, this was only possible later in the day and as both Nigel and I have previously visited lighthouses, we gave that a miss.

The road we took initially ran quite close to the coast and after about an hour or so we arrived at Port Fairy and decided to have a break and something to eat. We knew that cooking at our next port of call might be difficult so we had a main meal at midday. We both went for chicken on flat bread with salad at a lovely place called Rebecca's Cafe. After lunch we went to have a look at the beach which was clearly a favourite with surfers. There was quite a swell and most of the people going into the water seemed to be teenagers.

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Just watching them paddle out into the surf looked exhausting and potentially quite dangerous. We watched them for a short time before setting off again.

For a while the road turned inland before zigzagging back down towards the coast. We decided as we had time, to stop off at a few of the first beauty spots along the GOR. The first place we parked up was called the Bay of Islands (not to be confused with an area of the same name that we are going to visit in New Zealand). I was expecting gentle grass covered islands, but these were rocky outcrops indicating that we were at the start of the GOR proper.

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We spent a bit of time admiring the view and taking photographs before driving further east to a place called The Grotto. This was equally stunning with steps leading down to an arch with a greenish pool of water, separated for most of the time from the ocean by the rocks. The experience was enhanced by the fact that we had the place pretty much to ourselves, which wouldn't be the case with some if the other viewpoints we were to visit later.

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Another short drive took us to London Bridge; what had been a double arch projecting into the sea until one of them collapsed a few years ago. A few people were stranded and had to be rescued by helicopter but fortunately no one was hurt. Whilst we were walking from the car it started to rain and we were rewarded with a lovely rainbow so close it looked like you could reach out and touch it.

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When we got to the cliff edge we again took in the view and some photographs. It was much busier here and it was a bit of a case of dodging the 'selfie sticks' which was both mildly irritating and amusing at the same time!

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Fortunately there were a couple of other viewpoints that most other people didn't seem bothered to walk to. Nigel thought it would be a good idea to do his own version of a selfie pose at the first.

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The second was a little further away and gave a great view of both the beach and the rock formations with the added bonus of a small waterfall tumbling over the rocks immediately below us. It was a lovely spot and so nice to be able to get away from the crowds.

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From London Bridge we continued on to another rock formation called the Arch, which was exactly as the name suggests. It was just a short walk from the car park, so nothing strenuous or time consuming.

Once we left there we decided to make our way to Pebble Point our 'glamping' camp site. We found it easily enough and when I double checked the paperwork it told us which tent we were in and how the get the key (to the padlock securing the tent and to our shower pod). What I hadn't realised is that there would be no owners/ staff on site, and for that matter no other guests! The view was great and the tent itself was large, with a big comfortable double bed and warm blankets including a heated over blanket.

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We had a kettle and coffee making supplies and the shower pod was really nicely fitted out. There was a partially open sided communal kitchen area, which seemed in pretty good condition considering its availability to the local wildlife. Initially we were pretty happy, but this was short lived. As the sun started to set it got progressively colder dropping from the 11 degrees we had experienced during the day to about 6 or 7 degrees once the sun had gone down. This was significantly warmer that it had been at night time in Uluru but somehow it seemed colder. I think this was because here the temperature dropped earlier and also there was less residual heat in the ground. There is also something about being jollied as part of a group. It got so cold that we didn't feel like venturing outside the tent, and inside it was fairly dark (we did have a couple of lamps that provided very limited light) and decidedly cold. We had a light supper, and ate our remaining supply of chocolate in an attempt to cheer ourselves up, but it didn't really work.

By about 8:30pm I had thoroughly gone off the glamping idea, certainly for a second night. Nigel checked the weather forecast for the next day, and it was going to get colder and windier which did nothing to reassure us. Throwing my last remnants of caution to the wind I switched my phone on (I was past caring about the £5 fixed charge) and researched other places to stay in the area. We found a nice room with good reviews not that far away that would cost us just under £75 for the two of us, so with hardly a second thought we booked it, happy in the knowledge that we would at least be warm tomorrow evening. About 9:30pm we got ready for bed (this involved nothing more than a dash to the loo, and then snuggling under the bedding almost fully clothed). Once the lights were turned off the severity of the wind seemed even more acute and every time there was a strong gust it shunted the whole tent, hard floor and all. This gave the sensation that something about the size of a large kangaroo was jumping on the bed! Initially I had to get Nigel to turn the light back on so I could check all was OK, but after a while I sort of got used to it and eventually fell asleep, not sure if I was too hot under the bedclothes or the bits of me outside of the blankets too cold.

Posted by Gill's Travels 00:58 Archived in Australia Tagged landscapes beaches australia rock lighthouse Comments (0)

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