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Melbourne to Adelaide in a Jucy Camper – day 5: The end is near

You’d think that falling asleep before 7pm would have seen the pair of us wide awake before the dawn, but the sun was struggling through thick white clouds by the time either of us stirred. Obviously nights of mosquitos and Blair Witch woodlands coupled with so much fun and excitement was taking its toll…either that or we’re getting old. Eek!!

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Baby magpies making a racket!

Thursday was the last day with dear Cheapy as she had to returned to Jucy HQ by 5pm. The planned route included a tour of the Mclaren Vale wine region, remaining inland and approaching Adelaide from the East. As we packed up Rowdy came over to wish us good morning, and offer a few tips for the day, including a route which involved a free punt across the Wellington river…now doesn’t that sound fun! Breakfast complete and camper packed for the final time we hit the road, plowing through the mists towards Kingston in search of coffee and an opportunity shop…basically an Australian charity shop where we could buy cheap jumpers as it was bloody freezing.

 

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We’ve seen many townships along the way in Victoria and South Australia which from the map appear to be rather sizeable, but on arrival turn out to be more like hamlets or small villages. Kingston was a classic example; a tiny beachside town with nothing much more than a cafe, supermarket and collection of houses. A quaint corner cafe drew us in with promises of fresh coffee and free wifi, not to mention the delectable smell of toasted raisin bread from a neighbouring table. Second breakfast? Why not.

The last day really was a case of hitting the road hard with minimal stops, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t still lots to see. Somewhere outside Kingston the roadside gifted us with several random sights, including artistic tractors on top of telegraph poles and a GIGANTIC lobster statue…seriously, you don’t see this everyday.

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Pretty funky huh? It’s for sale, if you’re interested.

Most of the South Ocean Drive consisted of low lying brush scrubland with occasional glimpses of the waters of the Corong on the passenger side, and an overwhelming smell of stagnant salt water. Yum. With little to see other than flocks of pelicans overhead (not that I don’t love a pelican) we were left to devise our own entertainment…

On our search for somewhere sheltered from the wind to cook lunch we past through Meningie on the shores of Lake Albert, the largest town in the area with a whopping population of 940. Having so far seen kangaroos, wallabies, kookaburras, koalas and emu’s on our travels it seemed worth pausing to discover exactly why Meningie was home to a lakeside ostrich statue.

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Legend has it the Coorong was once home to John Francis Peggoty, an Irishman who only grew to the size of a seven year old boy. Peggoty made use of his stature, making his living by climbing down the chimneys of wealthy Londoners robbing them of their gold and jewels. He is reported to have often enjoyed parading around his boarding house, with gold chains draped around his neck…now the mark of a good robber is laying low afterwards, and having failed to do this Peggoty had to keep moving, going onto spend some time in South Africa before migrating to Australia in 1890. Here he continued his scrupulous life of crime by robbing lonely travellers who passed through the Coorong, making daring escapes across the dunes on the back of an ostrich! Eventually of course he crossed the wrong person, and was last seen wounded and escaping into the dunes. His body was never found, leading many to believe it lies out there somewhere still covered in the gold chains he so often wore. An excellent legend, which has apparently done wonders for the Meningie tourist board who had been previously struggling to attract tourists to its lakeside shores.

Time was marching on, and as once again the sun wasn’t on our side we merely waved at the spectacular lake which turns pink due to a concentration of algae common in South Australia.

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Had it been sunny I’m sure we’d have stopped…but just for you, here’s what it should look like on a good day!

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Credit: https://www.experienceoz.com.au/en/10-australian-places-you-havent-been

 

Our next stop was Wellington, and the punt across the mighty Murray river that Rowdy had told us about. Unlike toll ferries these punts are operated by the government to provide 24 hour crossings over the River Murray; the friendly staff wave you on, then the whole kit and caboodle is punted across using a cable which runs from one side of the river to the other. You can just see it coming out of the water below. We waited for three punts before commencing our two minute journey across, but it made a nice change to get out of the car and stretch our legs for 10 minutes before the Fleurieu Peninsula.

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A few more miles through scenery mimicking the lake district, save for the limestone wall rather than dry stone ones and we begun to see signs for several familiar wine regions, including Fleurieu and Mclaren Vale. Our trip to see Emma and Dan included a day of wine touring, so we weren’t too upset to not have the time at this point, especially considering the grey clouds and strong winds. The forecast promised sunny days and blue skies ahead, so we trundled on through the winding roads and hills of the wine country to the outskirts of Adelaide.

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From here everything becomes decidedly administrative as we stopped at Woolworths (oddly more like a Sainsbury’s!) to pick up breakfast requests for our housemates in Adelaide and made plans for the Buck and Hen do’s we’d be attending that evening. Cheapy was topped up with fuel, given a good once over with the dustpan and brush and reluctantly handed back to her chums at the Adelaide depot. You can read more about our lovely camper in my Jucy review here, but if you’re ever planning a trip down the GOR I would highly recommend this little gem.

For the next five nights we’d be settling into a more fixed abode on the beachfront in Henly; enjoying the view of pink sunrises, orange sunsets and pods of dolphins swimming back and forth. It’s a tough life, but someone has to do it 🙂

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Thanks to Maddy for the photo 🙂

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Melbourne to Adelaide in a Jucy Camper: day 4 – Say G’day to Sheila, Bruce!

Melbourne to Adelaide in a Jucy Camper: day 4 – Say G’day to Sheila, Bruce!

I loved waking up surrounded by trees, bringing back memories of my time at Camp Blue Bay on Long Island. Sven was also more his merry self in the morning having survived the Blair Witch Project Down Under. We opened the camper door to a scene from an Australian Disney princesses world, with kangaroos, cockatoos and various other brightly coloured birds scampering about. Wonderful.

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There’s a balance between seeing amazing things, and enjoying a restful adventure. This morning we invested some time in the latter, reading kindles and enjoying the peaceful surroundings, meaning it was later than usual by the time Cheapy’s tyres hit the road once more. The weather turned decidedly British as our trio skirted the outskirts of Portland resulting in a very soggy hour at Cape Bridgewater, home to The Petrified Forest and Blowhole Lookout, famed for blue whales and their calves. Unfortunately it was too wet to take the camera out, but here are some pictures from the wonderful world of google.

And one of the view from the car for comparison…

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I had also read about seals here, but this turned out to be an 11km round walk from where we were, and as I was fast discovering my raincoat was showerproof rather than drench proof this did not seem to be the day for it. Soggily returning to the car we set off to the next destination…which was where? The Great Ocean Road was technically over and other than a vague aim to be in Adelaide sometime between 12 and 5 tomorrow we now had no fixed route or destination. How exciting!

Having been advised the next stretch of Coast stayed mainly between sand dunes without the spectacular views of the GOR we elected to follow the northern route through the farms and vineyards of South Australia. One of my favourite games on this drive so far has been “spot the mailbox”. The locals along this route will seemingly use almost anything for the task, from rusting gas canisters to giant milk cartons. There has been the occasional American looking one, or those decorated to look like cows with great dangly legs of rope, but my favourites look like this

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Such a cluster is found at the end of an access road to multiple farms. The likelihood is each farm will be miles from the others, down its own individual lane, so to make the Postys life easier they keep all the boxes together on the main road. Just look at that collection! What do you think the second from the left started life as?

Continuing on down roads like this which seemed to stretch and wind through miles of nothingness, sometimes not seeing another car for 10-15 minutes at a stretch

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These were the last few miles of Victoria, as we were inching our way towards South Australia, the next state on the coast. Approaching the boarder there are huge signs for quarantine bins, as importing fruit, vegetables, soil and grape vines from one state to the other is prohibited. The plan had been to stop for lunch somewhere idyllically beautiful, however quickly realising we had a van full of bananas, apples and juicy tomatoes we pulled up in the quarantine area and had a picnic.

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Along the road so far the clock in the car had solidly been around 30 minutes out, however not long after crossing the boarder into SA it had righted itself. Assuming Sven had fixed it I didn’t think too much of it, but actually it turns out SA is in a different time zone, 30 minutes behind Victoria! Who knew?!

The landscapes on this road trip have been so varied, from rugged coast to miles of flat farmland and now huge forests darkened the road as giant pines stretched tall either side of us. Forestry is another industry here, so rather than the haphazard woodlands of home these trees stand in uniform lines stretching as far as you can see. It was mesmerising. At the next logger truck stop I pulled off the main road to get a closer look and some pictures of these tree alleys stretching into the distance. Following the log truck pathway however the lines seemed to disappear, as the diagonals were running parallel to the main road whereas the track I had chosen was perpendicularly. Chucking a uwe (ah Australia) then taking a left took us alongside the trees, but closer than the main road so we could stop and explore. After about 20 meters however I got a ‘bad feeling’ the road was a sort of mud/sand track, and I was worried our little camper did not have the wheels to cope with it. Slowly stopping I put Cheapy into reverse to get us back on the main road…but she didn’t move. Switching back into drive I tried forwards…nothing. We were stuck.

I’ve never been stuck before without an adult present, however having seen a fair few vehicles in a similar situation the basics of what to do were at least lodged in the far reaches of my brain. Step 1: dig the wheels out, step 2: put something under the wheels they can grip on to, step 3: create a ramp of sorts with wood or similar if the incline is too step, step 4: keep the wheels straight, step 5: accelerate slowly. We tried all these things, but after half an hour and several attempts to free her Cheapy was looking very sorry for itself, with the back left wheel buried so deep the underside of the car was close to touching the ground. Sven had realised we were on a tree root, causing the wheel to struggle to get a grip. Being the legend that he is he had a pen knife handy and was able to saw the root out from underneath us. It was all too hectic for detailed photography, but the rolling tyres had sanded a deep groove in the otherwise round root. Amazing.

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The realisation that we were in over our heads sunk in, and leaving Sven to keep digging I headed back to the main road to flag help. The first car I waved at stopped, which I had not expected. Stuart, his wife and their teenage son Ben are South African, but they’ve lived all over the world exploring new countries. They were also road-tripping, and happy to help. Phew!

Stuart has a background off roading in 4×4’s and had seen cars in more dire straits than ours. ‘You’ve done a good job (getting stuck)’ he said, before whipping our team into shape, calmly giving directions and making us of items we hadn’t considered like the sturdy cardboard box we’d been transporting food in. With three sets of muscles pushing from the front and this expert advice we tried twice more, still nothing. Lots of scratching heads, some more digging, more advice. “Keep the wheel dead straight, light on the pedal until I give you the nod, then floor it. If you move try and right hand down all the way to avoid the front tire going in that canyon you’ve created and starting this all over again”…this all sounded easier said than done, but I tried to give my most confident nod.

Like runners on an Olympic track the guys locked their feet into the sand and braced their hands on the bonnet. “Try to go forward hard for a second, then quick shift and back” says the boss. Three…two…one… the engine roared “Reverse!! Reverse!!’…automatics are not meant for quick gear changes but we got there, I slammed my foot on the pedal, everyone heaved from the front and with a final lurch then a rumble we were moving. Oh the elation! Moments later Cheapy had reversed all the way back to the safety of the gravel path. Covered in mud, but free!

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Drama over and with a serious appetite we were keen to get to Nelson, which appeared from the map to be quite a good sized town. Upon arrival though we were greeted by emus (that was fabulous!) kangaroos, car dealerships and not much in the way of sustenance.

Beachside Kanga

The first big town of SA was Mount Gambia which offered a multitude of prospective lunch spots, free parking and welcoming public facilities at which to wash the grime of our previous adventure from hands, arms and legs. Freshened and very ready for lunch we followed our noses to a local Mexican, where Sven was soon very interested by a 1kg burrito challenge.

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In case you’re wondering what that would look like, here’s Sven’s burrito compared to my standard sized one.

That's a lot of burrito

The reigning champ completed this mammoth task in just 3.40, having elected for every possible filling and a spicy sauce. Sven was torn between the challenge and actually enjoying his well deserved lunch. I think he managed a very respectful time. Added bonus, for the first time this trip he declared himself full!

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Mount Gambia is home to the lakes which turn from grey to spectacular blue every November. Something told me this ‘spectacular blue’ was rather reliant on the sky not doing an impression of an E.L.James book, but with burritos to burn and adventurous hearts we set off into the biting wind. All this weather would be FINE if I had packed any form of suitable clothing, but ho hum.

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Having deviated from the plan to stick to the coast and spend tonight in Robe we needed a new destination. Heartened by his woodland adventures and other escapades of the day Sven suggested a secondary free campsite by a lake a few hours away. If last nights camp site was Blair Witch, this one was The Road as low cloud obscured the horizon giving the impression there was nothing for miles around.

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Eventually we pulled in alongside three other campers by the lake. It was very basic, with a single toilet unit to one side and not much else. Even out here though there was a bottle of hand soap and toilet roll. Not too shabby! A guy from one of the other campers strolled over to introduce himself as Rowdy, a SA local here to fish for a type of lake lobster with his brother and brothers wife. After chatting to Rowdy for a few minutes the others came to join him and we were introduced to Bruce and Sheila. I kid you not!

Bruce and Sheila!

Has a more Australian thing ever happened?

With intentions of playing games and writing blogs by the Lake at sunset we made up the camper bed early and settled in for the night. However after the adventures of the day it turns out it was more than possible to fall asleep at 6.30 and wake up in the morning. Oops!

Let the last day with the camper begin…

The Great Ocean Road in a Jucy Camper – day 3; Princetown to Port Fairy

As our plans of sunrise at the Apostles had been scuppered by pesky mosquitos, Sven and I enjoyed a leisurely Aussie breakfast in the camper overlooking the valley and reserve. As the temperatures grew we were both more than looking forward to the proposed leisurely beach day as our next overnight stop was only around 60km up the coast. Easy right?

Wrong!

Arriving at the first site we learned there was far more to see here than just the signposted attraction. Setting off into the heat haze we could soon hear the low rumbling crashes of thunder cave, where the ocean has carved a perfect crevice into the limestone to send an echo of thunder reverberating around whenever a wave hits. It sounds almost sinister and must be rather alarming at night. Around the corner from here was a stunning cove which was once again being hammered by gigantic waves, sucking up huge tendrils of brown seaweed as they rolled into shore. At one point a few strands were caught on a rock, flapping and slithering around with such vigour I initially mistook it for an octopus! The next wave hit moments later sweeping everything back under the surface and my seaweed oct chum was gone.

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There was also Broken Head viewing point here, but having left hats and water in the car I was a little afraid we’d be suffering our own broken heads if we stayed out unprotected much longer (it’s only spring time!) A quick drive to the next car park and we were soon descending the steps to Loch Ard Gorge, named for a shipwreck which claimed the lives of all but two. The surviving pair were trapped here by the towering cliff faces until the young man was able to climb out and get help. Seriously those cliffs are basically vertical, and I’m going to assume he wasn’t wearing boots fit for climbing. Kudos! The young lady in the story stayed in the cave at the bottom of the gorge and waited to be rescued, how the world has changed.

Lorch Ard Gorge

It was at this point we realised the beach day wasn’t going to happen. Loch Ard Gorge was point one of six, and we’d spent the best part of two hours here. Even though the next two sights were less than a Kilometer away there still wasn’t going to be much leisure time ahead.

Pulling into the next car park before the AC had even had time to fully kick in it was back out into the sunshine and down more steps to The Arch, a monumental sight. Apparently popular in the afternoon when hit by golden light, from here you can also look back to the 12 Apostles. The Arch

This amazing archway was naturally formed by weather and tides, standing 8 meters high. With the waves still crashing against the base at force I wonder how much longer it will remain standing before it collapses into the sea, much like the next stop; London Bridge.

London Bridge

Originally two archways spanned the distance here, giving the formation its name. The first collapsed in in 1990, leaving two people stranded atop the second until a helicopter came to rescue them. Legend has it this was a well off Melbourne business man and his girlfriend, causing quite a bit of trouble with his wife when the story hit the news. Oops. Here we met two British ex-pats who came to Aus in the 70’s. They were exploring the GOR in reverse and full of tips for the next leg of our journey to Adelaide. We’ve met so many Australians doing similar trips along the way which really stuck with me. The UK is beautiful, but we’re so small. There’s no real concept of a ‘road trip’ like this. Sure we can visit Cornwall, the Lakes, the Peaks etc, but when you speak to a woman who drove down from Western Australia on a trip which took two weeks of driving (only) 5 to 6 hours per day you really gain some perspective!!

The final stop before lunch was The Grotto, by far my favourite spot. This charming arch, with reflecting green waters stirred images of fairy tales and magic glens. Unfortunately due to unstable cliffs and high footfall you can no longer explore the archway like you used to, but I was content enough to sit on the wall and soak it all in. Swallows were nesting in a crag just above the archway, leaving Sven poised for more than 10 minutes hoping to catch mum or dad popping in and out. But alas they were too quick for him!

The Grotto

We’d been lucky to have the Grotto to ourselves initially, but after a while a lady descended the steps to join us, stating her husband was also on his way. Lille is from further up the coast in Perth, whilst John hails from Lincolnshire. They met 5 years ago and 2 years ago decided to marry, travelling all the way back to England for a blessing in Johns local quintessentially English church. John spoke about his time in the navy, visiting all the continents including Antarctica twice. With a forces family background I knew enough to ask what his role on the ship had been, however I’ve always wondered what the purpose of these naval ships was outside of a war scenario. Why was that boat traversing the globe and visiting all these continents? Well in this instance John worked on the Royal Yacht, ferrying the Royal Family between their commonwealth states and taking Prince Philip on expeditions to see (and hunt, back in the day) the wildlife of Africa and Antarctica. Wow. What a life!! (Any fans of The Crown will have seen an insight into these expeditions with the Duke of Edinburgh during season 2…!) Had there been a cafe nearby I would have suggested lunch with these two, so easy to talk to and full of stories. His favourite involved Prince Charles and Princess Anne who needed their life jackets on for a shore visit; the young princess put hers on without drama, but Charles pouted and cried ‘do I have to wear this beastly thing?’ Bless.

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Having heard lovely things about Port Fairy I was keen to get there in good time, however even with the best of intentions we arrived with the sun low in the sky and shop keepers packing up for the day. Adjacent to this little town is Griffiths Island, a nature reserve home to hundreds of nesting Shearwater, black wallabies and other animals. Following a moody sky with sheets of rain falling in the distance we set off to circumnavigate the sands on a walk which should take around an hour if you’re not constantly stopping to frame photographs and wet your feet.

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Information points dot the route, telling the story of the island in first person prose from the point of view of the light house keeper, forum and aboriginal tribes who lived in the area for 40,000 years before the white man turned up and changed everything. These boards spoke of a different world, where bored boys built row boats in search of occupation and dinner. Some weeks the family wouldn’t leave the island, despite Port Fairy being only a stones throw away. They were completely self sufficient, growing food, keeping live stock and requiring permission to visit the mainland.

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The plan had been to camp in Port Fairy, but at some point along the route there had also been discussion around free camp sites. As all the options in the vicinity of this little town were some of the most expensive we’d come across this seemed as good a time as any to broaden those horizons. Using camper mate (a fantastic app for camp sites, petrol stations, picnic spots, toilets, ATM’s and more which for the most part works without Internet as long as you’ve checked the general area (i.e. The entire great Ocean Road) with a connection beforehand) we selected Sawpit camp ground near the Narrawong Flora Reserve. Suitable for all vehicle types, with basic facilities and promising sights of kangaroos in the morning this sounded perfect. 30 minutes later dusk was truly upon us as we turned off the main road and into the woods. If these roads are quiet during the day, they’re truly desolate at night and trundling along the final 15 minutes of the journey in the dark woods both Sven and I were quietly hoping the app was up to date and all would be well with the camp site. Soon enough campers begun appearing through the trees and we came across a clearing with BBQ pits and a sign welcoming us to the camp ground. Phew.

After a long day of adventures, driving and a lot of heat on next to no sleep we were both more than happy to crawl under the dooner for a quick game of Monopoly Deal and kindle time. A bottle of wine would have been the perfect final point to the pyramid, however within moments we were both fast asleep, games and reading devices abandoned, completely comatose until the sun reminded us we hadn’t even closed the blinds in the camper!!

And so we were onto day 4, but that’s another blog…

Jucy “El Cheapo” camper: A review

With their reasonably priced campers and hire cars, Jucy is a popular choice for an Australian road trip. They offer a variety of sizes from compact four seaters to portable hotels, and what I particularly liked is that their initial quote includes all inclusive insurance, so you know the total cost before you begin rather than it being an add on later. Psychologically this seems better to me, I feel like I’m getting a deal!

We’d chosen the smallest and cheapest model “El Cheapo” (here after known as Cheapy McCheapFace) as the road trip was only a few days, but there are some you could spend weeks in with a couple of mates. During the day our little Cheapy sits two up front with belts for three more in the back.

6241739200_img_4772-minUnder the bench there is storage which holds the bedding and towels, and the top to this becomes a table which screws into the middle of the van for lunch and games.

6241739200_img_4773-minAt night everything unfolds into a double bed, with the front seats used to store luggage. There is a cavity under the bed if you had soft luggage (as recommended by Jucy) but our larger wheely suitcase was quite happy on the passenger seat, which also meant we had access to stuff at all times. Convenient! Each window has a rolled shade which clips into place offering privacy and protection from the morning sun.

6241739200_img_4770-1-minThere’s also a moon roof that completely opens; perfect for star gazing and ventilation (if you’re brave enough with all the Aussie spiders)! The bed offers plenty of room for 5ft 7 me to stretch out, however Sven’s 6ft 2 had to go slightly diagonally (means he got more of the bed…swings and roundabouts!).

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There’s a stove, sink with pumped water, cool box and storage for all the cooking utensils you’d need for a mini adventure, all packed into a vehicle small enough to fit into the average parking space. Not bad!! Jucy gave us three gas cylinders for the ride and a hose in case the 10l water tank needed refilling.

We brought our own aux cable, but you can buy them for $5 from the Jucy office, as well as a car adapter for charging phones and USB devices. The radio has been pretty fun for roadtrip tunes, and if you were organised enough to bring CD’s then that’s an option too. There’s also AC which proved invaluable on the second day when the weather hit the mid 30’s.

img_8831-minOn the other hand there were days where the heating was useful too!!

Australia drives on the left (as a thousand road signs will tell you), which was great for me hailing from the UK, but the automatic gear box means an easy transition for those who may not be used to it.

Being the cheapest model you do get an element of ‘you get what you pay for’ as El Cheapo is not as shiny and modern as some of the other options. Our sliding door is a tad creeky and stiff, some of the poppers for the blinds have seen better days and the whole ambience of the van says “well used” with its stained ceiling, rusting bumper and non-opening sun roof (the moon roof works like a dream) however despite these few negatives Cheapy has earned a place in my heart as a throughly good adventure home for our trip down the Great Ocean Road ❤

Great Ocean Road in a Jucy camper: Day 2 – Lorne to Princetown

An orange sunrise peeked through the curtains of the camper so temptingly the next morning I was in agony waiting for Sven to wake up so I could get out and see it properly (there is no way to creep out of a camper). Luckily I didn’t have to wait too long and we were soon up, dressed and ready to explore. Our camper was parked within walking distance of the beach across a footbridge at the end of a riverside boardwalk frequented by herons, swifts and swallows.

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A short hop across the dunes from there and the sights, sounds and smells of Lorne beach greeted us, beautiful in the early morning light. We joined the runners, walkers and people with their dogs already out and about despite the early hour. What a joy to live by the sea like this, I’d be there every day. Though maybe not quite swimming like one lady we saw, as the water was freezing and there were more stunning blue jellyfish littered here too.

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An hour or so here was enough to work up an appetite, but with a camper on your team you can take your meals on wheels anywhere you choose! An Aussie breakfast of smashed avo and tomatoes on bread (no one had the patience to fry toast!) with watermelon juice and coffee on the picnic tables in front of the bay followed. It seemed there’s endless places to picnic, or public BBQ sites along this road, all well signposted and used by tourists and locals alike.

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Time was ticking along, so after a quick stop to buy hats (when in Rome) we hit the road again. Having enjoyed the beach this morning we’d used up our waterfall time so decided instead to continue along the coast to Apollo Bay. What a coast! I was so jealous of Sven being able to lean out of the window and enjoy it without concentrating on the road. However with the current ongoing GOR restoration project creating roadworks every few kilometres I had plenty of opportunity to enjoy the view during traffic. Many of the signs were in Chinese as well as English as tourism increases. We later discovered this was also the reason for all the ‘Drive on the left in Australia’ signs we kept seeing around the place.

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Stopping frequently to get out and stretch our legs at places like Sunshine Drive and Petticoat Creek it took most of the morning before we were parked up in the Paradise By the Sea that is Apollo Bay. At each stop we tested the water in the hope that it would be miraculously warmer than the last one and we could swim, but it was icy on the skin even in 30degree weather! Even the water from the creek was more than refreshing as Sven and I added to the piles of stones already standing there. Ours is the tallest, but also the most unstable…hmm.

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We’d been advised by many friends and forums to stop at Apollo Bay, a seaside town with surfing and paddle board lessons and a number of beachy shops. But with so many tourists around it lacked the charm of Lorne so we only stopped long enough to enjoy an award winning ice cream and a stroll along the super soft sandy beach before rolling on into koala country! Dan had prewarned us that if you spy someone parked on the side of the road looking up, there’s probably a koala. So when not long after Apollo Bay we pulled up alongside a beautiful viewpoint on the right, and a couple under a tree on the left, it was worth pulling over. Sure enough there was a chubby fella stuffing his face with eucalyptus leaves. They’re quite spritely compared to the sleepy guys I met in the blue mountains, leaping from branch to branch at speed, but still taking the time to pose for a photo.

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The drive to Otway lighthouse was one of the most fragrant I have ever enjoyed, as the air was filled with the scent of pine and eucalyptus. Sven craned his head left and right as we wound our way through miles of forest looking for more koalas, but as Julie had warned us of the need to be at camp sites prior to 6pm we didn’t have time for further stops.

Otway lighthouse is probably the one part of this tour I wish I’d researched. I’d expected a lighthouse, a stop which would take 30 minutes at most, but instead we found an extensive park with dinosaur fossils, aboriginal walks and historical tours and talks. I could have easily spent half a day speaking to the lighthouse keeper alone, and was more than disappointed to tear myself away from his stories. Sven on the other hand was fascinated by the wind speed, as it was more than blustery at the top. The keeper kindly demonstrated how to measure the wind using a little gauge, 48km…glad we left our hats inside!! However I can tick something else off my bucket list…climb a lighthouse, check!!

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Despite thinking we’d planned a quite leisurely tour there have certainly been parts we’ve had to rush. Otway lighthouse and the Gibson Steps are two examples, and for the latter I also wish I’d thought to check tide times as the sea was rushing in when we arrived leaving little room for exploration. Being that we were pushed for time this was probably blessing in disguise, but I would have loved to have spent a few hours nestled under the towering cliffs, enjoying the first of the Apostles whilst protected from the wind. As sunset at the 12 Apostles is definitely one for the bucket list we found a cute little camp site in Princetown rather than press on to Port Campbell and checked in by 5pm (if only Julie could see our progress!) Visiting the GOR out of season has been fantastic for winging it, as camp sites and tourist spots are next to empty and we’ve had no troubles with crowds. This was particularly fortuitous at the Apostles, where we spent most of the evening meandering back and forth between viewpoints which would no doubt be packed to the rafters in high season. The view was stunning in all directions, I could have done with 3 tripods and eyes in the back of my head!

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As the skies darkened we returned to camp and quickly realised leg of Sven is a mosquito delicacy. They just can’t get enough! Despite not using any lights, and cooking in the kitchenette rather than out the back of the camper we ended up with a van full! Pesky buggers kept us up all night buzzing around our heads and poor Sven was covered in red welts by the morning. First on the list for today is bug spray, yeulch!!

Great Ocean Road in a Jucy camper…let’s go!

Reunions!!! I never realise exactly how much I have missed someone until we’re reunited, and it was a good long while before I let go of Emma this morning. Over breakfast Sven and I were introduced to Patrick, the latest edition to the Wellman clan; those eyes man! Melt your heart. (Hilariously Dan likened him to a White Walker, the things you can get away with when you’re the dad!) Despite a good number of my friends now having babies I’m still never prepared for seeing the inevitable face smash in these new little humans. Patch has Jeffs eyes in a Wellman face, and as Dan said “I know I’m biased, but he’s just not an ugly baby!”

We met at Momma Bear; the breakfasts and coffees were so good, if you’re in the Melbourne area I highly recommend a visit. Svens pulled pork waffle was a little strange for me, but a halloumi stack hit the spot quite nicely. Emma chose the signature breakfast, and I’m amazed it all fit on the plate!

The rest of the morning was a jet lagged blur of traffic and paperwork as we picked up our Jucy Camper and made our way back across the city to Emma and Dans for a quick shower and catch up before starting our adventure down the Great Ocean Road.

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As I had managed to lose Sven’s driving licence in England (well done Katy!) this trip meant me donning my chauffeurs cap for a little “Driving Miss Svenni”. I had been prepared to do my share of the driving on this trip, however fully intended Motor Home Driver extraordinaire Sven to do the scary city parts as I’ve never driven anything that big. Luckily Cheapy McCheapface is a dream boat to handle, and with Welly expertly navigating the first stint I soon got my van legs and we were off down the M1 to Torquay.

From the very beginning Australia is distractingly beautiful, even on either side of a city highway however the hour long drive to Torquay is nothing compared to what lay ahead. We picked up a few essentials in this seaside town which hails itself as the start to the Great Ocean Road, then continued South to Bells Beach in search of sun, sand and surfers.

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The goal for the day was to reach Lorne, however we’d been encouraged by many friends to stop whenever you feel like it as on a one way trip you only get one chance to see that particular sight. Sometime after Bells Beach the sky ahead darkened into dramatic cloud ruptured with sunbeams streaming through onto the winding road and ocean. I was transfixed. Soon after we passed the Great Ocean Road sign which gave me the final push I needed to turn around. I stopped the camper at the first opportunity and we adventured down the dunes onto the sand. What an excellent decision this turned out to be, as the next hour was a visual delight of colour and light playing on the waves.

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The beaches here are so clean and looked after with soft golden sands and rumbling waves, however we’d received plenty of warnings about the currents from friends and official signs so didn’t go for more than a paddle at this point, which turned out to be another good decision as after a while we started to take in more of the detail around us and realised the beach was a final resting place for far too many of these fellas.

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Portuguese Man O’War, nasty even when dead. Yeulch! A local told us later that he’d lived on this coast his whole live and never seen so many. Lucky us!

I would have quite happily stayed there till dark had we not wanted a picture of the camper by the GOR sign. How millennial. Photo opportunity complete we continued down the road to Lorne and our camp for the night.

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Very tired and hungry by this point it seemed sensible to find somewhere for dinner before locating the camp we’d booked into. The Restaurant on the Pier was an excellent option for freshly caught local Snapper and a seafood platter with a soundtrack of waves hitting the shoreline and Aussie conversation. I’m always struck with wonder that for some people these places I go on vacation is their every day life. What a dream.

Fed and watered Cheapy, Sven and I trundled back into town to find Foreshore Campsite where silver tongued Sven worked his German magic on Julie who was less than impressed that we’d turned up three hours after the office closed and driven our camper after dark (apparently not okay). Within minutes she was laughing and joking with him as she directed us to our spot down by the river. Crises averted, phew!

Jet-lagged and in the dark it took us slightly longer than necessary to convert the camper from day to night mode, and then in my over tired state it seemed to take forever to actually fall asleep. My mind was too full of the day’s adventures to switch off. How amazing that within a day of leaving home you can be somewhere so incredibly different to home, with a routine completely distanced from your own.

Tomorrow we are aiming for Port Campbell, with Erskine Falls, Apollo Beach and the 12 Apostles on the way. Bring it on!

Saal digital photobooks: A review

I recently received a photobook from Saal Digital, a relatively new company seeking reviews like this one in order to market their products.
Here are my thoughts.
Saal Digital photobooks are created offline using software downloaded from the internet; very useful for someone like me who had an awful upload/download speed at the time. There were a good variety of products, which were easy to browse and select. Promotions and options were well communicated using multiple images as example layouts. Handy!
There was no tutorial on how to use the software, which would have been very useful to understand what all the symbols meant, issues like switching off/on auto layout and adding text to your product (I never found the latter and assumed it wasn’t an option until I was informed otherwise after placing my order). Changing the size and layout of photos on the pages was simple and easy, I also liked the auto layout function. However it did seem to deflect to layouts with photos on one page and the opposite page left blank. More double page spreads with a number of photos on each page would be welcome
There’s a decent variety of backgrounds and cliparts on offer, however with no search function finding the one you want can be tedious.
I was not able to access photos in my download folder or photo library. This may be a Mac issue, however it’s worth noting that it was a bit of a pain to have to re-save them in a new folder in order for the Saal Software to recognise them.
Once completed the product arrived in good time, and is of a nice quality for holiday snaps or as a gift. I’m not sure I would opt for the same product (A4 with photocover) as part of any wedding photography package as it doesn’t feel quite high end enough, however this isn’t to say their larger books wouldn’t be suitable, perhaps with a plainer cover and more space on subsequent pages. I liked that every page could be utilised with images, including the inside front and back covers which seems unusual compared with other companies.
All in all a pleasant transaction, and I’m sure with a little development this will be a successful venture. Thank you Saal Digital. All the best.