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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…

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!!

Everybody needs good Neighbours

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Hello from day 26 and city number 7…Melbourne! Also Happy Easter to everyone, as it’s Good Friday. I arrived here on Wednesday and am staying with another friend from Uni, Karli, so that’s fun!

Wednesday was another early start as my flight left at 8, but it was great to be in Melbourne nice and early to enjoy the day. Karli and I hopped on a train to Werribee, where she lives and spent the day enjoying the sun, doing a bit of shopping and then dinner at the pub. Nice and chilled.

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Yesterday we caught the train into the city so Karli could show me around Melbourne. It has a very San Franciscan feel to it in that it doesn’t feel like a city, more like a town. Maybe it’s just the trams! We caught one to the docklands and heard a little about the history of the places we were passing as there was a VoiceOver tour on the train.

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The docklands were nice and cool so we took a stroll along there for a bit, then saw a small crowd gathered by the water. Intrigued we stepped closer to see the harbour was teeming with jelly fish of all shapes and sizes, as well as shoals of fish. I’ve never seen so many jelly’s in one place, and some of them were gynormous!

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Karli took me to her favourite shop after that where I found some bat wing tops to replace the one I left at home, yay! Then it was a falafel wrap for lunch and off on my afternoon tour ooofff…Ramsey Street!

I have three things on my Aussie to do this, scuba the barrier reef, skydive and go on the Neighbours tour. There’s no way I’m going to get up to Cairns this time but two out of three ain’t bad! Waiting for the bus I met Adam, a scouse barista who’s been travelling the world since September and working in Melbourne since January. He says he hadn’t watched the show in forever and was only there because someone recommended it…but I am unconvinced! Our tour guide Gerry, an Irishman, picked us up at 12:30 and we were off. Gerry was, quite honestly, insane. He talked the whole way up, not only about Neighbours but sharing a whole host of other random stories and saying ‘you do realise’ at least 60 times before I lost count. He was good fun though, full of random facts (you do realise DR Karl isn’t even a doctor? He was on the show as a mechanic for three weeks in 1987, playing Kylies boss!) and fun. Our tour started with some of the outside sets, including Dial a Kyle, Grease Monkeys and the famous bus stop

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We drove round the back of the Lassisters complex but were not allowed in, everyone was off for the Easter holidays so it was so quiet and locked down.

Next it was the street itself. As my old flatmate Jen had been before I was aware that Ramsey Street was a real place (you do realise Erinsborough is called that because it’s an anagram of Or Neighbours?) where people actually live, but it was still funny standing there! All the house numbers are on the right hand side, 1-6 so that during filming extra numbers are added to make them 25, 26, 30 etc! The cul de sac was really small and cute, and with the sun shining (you do realise when it rains they stop filming) it was perfect. Happy days!

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The tour ended with a chance to meet one of the stars, for us it was Stingray

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Then Adam and I enjoyed a cider in the sun, soon joined by Karli. St Kildas is a really boho type place, so there was lots of people watching to do which kept me entertained! One person in particular caught my attention though, there was a guy in the bar who looked just like someone I worked with at atlantic college. How’s this for a doppelgänger

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Spooky huh?

Adam was meeting his friends at a rooftop bar in the city and invited us along so after a while he, Karli and I strolled along the beach to catch the tram back to town. This place really is stunning

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Apparently showing me around has made Karli realise how much she loves it here, I can really see why.

Today we’re off to the beach, yippeee! So it’s time for suncream and bathing suits, till mañana lovelies!

Day 7: Going somewhere?

So today is the 7th day of our Alphathon, the 7th letter of the Alphabet being G, here are our options:

Katy S: Going West – a certain someone’s travel plans!
Peg: Green Space – How much do you wish to have in your life? City or Country?
Katy P: Guilty Pleasures

Honestly I could quite easily have written about any of these topics, but as someone’s was ever so subtly directed at me, it would be rude to ignore.

As you may have heard I’m planning to take a little trip starting in March. I’ve wanted to do this since I was about 16 years old and while through one reason and another, this trip is slightly different to the original plan I’m still really looking forward to it.

I’ll be starting in NY in March, meeting up with some friends from when I worked at a Long Island summer camp in 2007. Then I travel to Las Vegas to meet my old uni flatmate. We’ll have a few days of gambling, ooing and ahhing at the neon lights and visiting the Grand Canyon before flying to San Francisco and working our way down to L.A. From there we fly back to Philadelphia for a few days (it’s the most round about trip round America ever) before Omelia goes home and I fly down under. We’re still looking at trips and accommodation for the States so I don’t have all the information, just a basic outline.

On continent number two I’ll be visiting another uni flatmate, Steph, in Sydney for a few days before travelling down to Melbourne to see a different friend and go on the Neighbours tour (because I’m cool like that!). From there it gets a bit hazy, I’m hoping to fly up and visit Fraser Island and/or the Whitsundays for a few days but honestly I need to do a bit of research. I have three weeks there though, so plenty of time for adventures!

Then I hop on another jet plane for continent number 3 and the final stop, Thailand, where I’ll be setting up shop and teaching English for a while, hopefully travelling round to Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia and beyond when I get the chance. Eventually I want to travel to South America too, to teach there for a bit, and obviously there are plenty of more places to visit one day…South Africa, China, Canada, Mexico and Eastern Europe. But there’s plenty of time for all that, one step at a time eh?

The Plan.

For those of you planning to buy me a birthday or leaving present I would kindly ask that instead you visit this page

xx