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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!!

In transit…

There’s something rather noteworthy about time in transit. This period of semi-existence where you are neither here nor there, but rather somewhere in between. The strangest example of this for me will always be crossing the international date line. When you board a 14 hour flight on a Friday morning and arrive on Sunday afternoon. Discombobulating indeed! That magic didn’t happen on this trip however, as we flew first to Abu Dhabi and then 14 more hours to sunny Melbourne and our initial destination.

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The journey is worthy of a blog in itself. The first plane was so gigantic I failed to realise it had taken off as I sat in my centre of it, learning a valuable lesson about the pitfalls of selecting a seat next to the toilets. Sometimes guilt free reclining is not worth it folks! It was a double decker A380; the lower floor like that of any other plane, and the upper reserved for business and first class. Upstairs was also home to The Residence, where for the cost of average annual salary you can enjoy your own private butler, living room and bathroom, before taking breakfast in a luxury double bed. If you haven’t seen it I recommend this YouTube video. How the other half live!

The window seat on the second leg however was worth every seat reservation penny. Firstly to witness the miles of middle eastern dessert, with its miles of rolling sand dunes interrupted by groups of buildings in uniform grids. Symmetrical sand coloured settlements dotted around in the otherwise seemingly desolate landscape; some joined by perfectly straight highways which stretched from horizon to horizon without any hint of a curve, but others with no discernible entrance or exit at all, which makes you wonder how on Earth people ended up living there with no obvious access to water, or other civilisation.

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Majestic mountains followed, ragged and comprehensible at first, with tracks climbing to yet more towns and villages perched high in the summits; but then escalating so dramatically the peaks seemed in danger of clipping the aircraft wings. Despite my drooping eyes I was glued to the window, as the sun occasionally glinted off roofs and windows suggest that even in this isolated and apparently barren landscape was home to somebody.

The next treat came in the form azure blues and white sandy beaches of Male; which again appeared so suddenly in an otherwise endless sea that I spend a long while wondering how islands like that form out of the abyss. I understand when they’re nestled next to a continent, but Male is in the middle of the ocean! There were more tropical islands than I could count, some with obvious signs of inhabitants even from 39,000ft, others no more than a stretch of white surrounded by turquoise before dropping off again into deep blue sea. Straight white lines forming in between them gave the suggestion of tours and fishing boats. I’d love to see it for myself one day.

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As darkness fell you’d think the show was over, but no, the final treat was a thunderstorm raging over Perth. Huge clouds illuminated by great bolts of lightning as they sat under an inky sky pinpricked by stars above and lights from the city below. Incredible.

All this and the holiday hadn’t even really started. What an adventure!

My 29th country!

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My 29th country!

I’m definitely getting too old for hostels. I swear I either used to be able to sleep through more, or function on less sleep, but either way something has definitely changed. Last night we had two girls in our dorm who were on their way to Bosnia with school. They were chatting at the top of their lungs as they prepared for bed at around midnight, which was ok because…at least they were going to bed. But nope, showered, pj’d and teeth brushed they grabbed a bottle of vodka, two cartons of juice and headed out the door. Some hours later they returned – cue more door slamming and loud chatter, then they were up and about at 6 preparing for the next leg of their journey! Luci is far more cool, calm and collected than me, so when she snapped at them to please be quiet you know they were annoying!!
Having learned that Vienna is a mere hop skip and jump from Bratislava, Luci and I made our way to the station and were soon whizzing our way along the Danube towards the Austrian boarder. Hello country 29! I’m on track, woop!! Feeling incredibly cosmopolitan, and incredibly hungry, our first port of call was lunch, soaking up the sun on a bustling city street for a couple of huge pizzas and pressΓ¨s. 

Central Vienna is far more akin to what I’d expect from a western capital, and markedly different to what we had become accustomed to since leaving Berlin almost two weeks ago. Familiar shops and brand names surrounded us, and I began to switch out of tourist mode and into city – aka, it was shopping time! Anyone who has been to Europe with me will know I have a soft spot for Bijou Brigette. For 4 cities now Luci has calmly put up with me gazing wistfully through shop windows as we walked by to see historical sites and catch tourist groups. But today, finally, we got to go in, yay!! 20 minutes later I came out with a lovely new pair of earrings costing €5…Lucinda came out with 3 necklaces and 3 bracelets at a total of €120. This is why we’re friends πŸ˜›

The hours sped by in the sunshine and it was soon time to meet our 3.45 free walking tour of Vienna by the miniature of St Stephens church. The first port of call was the guides collecting a €1 euro registration fee…on a free walking tour? I call shenanigans. No sooner had the last euro been pocketed and last hand stamped the guy who had been collecting disappeared. Really weird. 

The tour was underwhelming to be honest. The group was far too big for one guide (around 60 people) and the woman leading us struggled to make herself heard over the various city noises in the background. To start with I rushed to try and get to the front of the crowd to hear her stories and tales of what we were looking at, but there was little to no personality behind her patter so I soon lost interest. Perhaps with a smaller group this would have travelled better, but with 60 it just didn’t work. 

However, she did lead us around the centre showing us monuments and areas we were unlikely to have found alone, especially without a map as we were, and we saw some stunning architecture. Any stories we did catch focused on Sisi, and Marie Teresa, who we sort of feel like were stalking as they spent most of their time in Budapest, Vienna and Bratislava!! 


Around 2/3rds of the way around the tour we gave up. Too full of energy to be traipsing around standing in the shade and straining to hear we instead elected to treat ourselves to wine and radlers and sit in the sun. 

The tour finished at 6, and we wanted to be on a train by 7. However, rather than coming back the way we came (where’s the fun in that?) we utilised the handy trip advisor app to cross the city back to the main train station. Easy! Problem was, it wasn’t our train station. Ah. Time for a new chapter in the life of Katy and Tig, where we learn that Luci does not like to be a. Wrong or b. Lost and Katy is quite used to both. At 8.20 we completed the ‘should only take 30 minutes’ walk and to our relief there was a train to Bratislava leaving in 20 minutes. Excellent, that’s even time to pop into a shop for snacks! Feeling very pleased with ourselves and munching on salads and falafels we settled in for the journey. Around 10 minutes in Luci wondered out loud what the word which appeared after ‘Bratislava’ on the destination screen could mean…hmm. I tell you what it means Luci, we’re going to the wrong station! Oops! Cue wide eyed panic from Tig, and giggles from me.

 This is more like the travelling I’ve been used to, everything up until now on this trip has been far too smooth and easy. Trying to reassure Luci that it was fine, and we would get home and this really wasn’t that bad we soon worked out that the station we were heading to was in the residential south of the city, some 11km away from our hostel. However, there was a bus and that would only cost €0.70 euro – easy peasy! 

By 10.30 we were back safe, showered, packed and in bed, yet from the thanks and praise I’ve received from Tig you’d think I’d single handedly negotiated a peace treaty between warring nations. All in a days backpacking!

Tomorrow is our final day, so we’re up early to explore Bratislava! 

Wales – is it the green green grass side or the other?

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It’s so easy to take where you live for granted, especially rural West Wales where not much goes on and it’s often raining. Some times, some days, you are reminded that you live in a beautifully picturesque and peaceful place…others you wonder why you bother!!!

Today Siw and I went out for a stroll which turned in to a 5 mile walk and lunch! We set out from Ferryside and headed up and over to neighbouring Kidwelly, enjoying stunning views of patchwork hills over Llansteffan and the white sandy beaches of Pembrey. It was the perfect way to escape that ‘morning after the party’ feeling and enjoy sunshine, salty sea air and beautiful surroundings. I felt so lucky to be there and honestly wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.

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After our walk we hopped in the car and headed over to the local race course which was hosting an E-Festival. I’d never heard of such a thing! After having such a great time at Beyond the Boarder, a storytelling festival, it sounded worth checking out! Wrong. What a flop!! The Β£15 ‘festival’ consisted of 1 stage, 15-20 craft stalls, and 3 vans offering burgers, sweets and ice cream. There weren’t even any books!!! (It was an e-book festival it turns out, go figure!)

Since we knew ‘the band’ Siw and I did not have to purchase tickets (instead carried equipement and felt very Dirty Dancing) but while we were there we heard more than one comment from punters and stall holders alike expressing their disappointment, “What a waste of money!”. The pair of us made a quick exit when refund discussions between stall holders and the management got heated, but after being promised 20,000 guests you can understand their frustration to see a ‘crowd’ of 20; at least some of whom must have been friends/famuly of those involved, like us. It made me think, people so often moan that there is nothing to do in this county, yet when a new and innovative event (allbeit very over priced) is offered on a warm and sunny day…noone shows up! What can you do hey? At least they tried!

So, Wales…beautiful, wild and infinite but sometimes it just makes you feel a bit…

 

 

Lucky there’s a Family Guy…

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You look like Snoopy and it makes me smile: I hung out with my sister, enjoying the sun and discussing wedding stuff. She has a new puppy too, who is just the cutest tiny ball of fur ever. Fun times πŸ™‚

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You have smelly dog farts: Holly got a little sunburnt, feel really bad for suggesting we sit in the sun for 6 hours. Sorry Hols!

The 23rd dailycoaster

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Rain: my body is not appreciating all the walking/running on sand I’ve been subjecting it to lately. It hurts!

Sunshine: Regardless of the resulting ouch there’s nothing like a visit to the beach in the sunshine with good company. Especially when there’s ice cream afterwards with sauce AND a flake!

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Rainbow: I expected something bad today and instead got something good. Goes to show people really can surprise you! Made my day πŸ™‚

Day 3 – Ola sol!

Hurrah the sun came out!! So we scrapped our sight seeing plans, grabbed the towels and headed for the beach! The beach closest to us is a beautiful long stretch of clean golden sand, just perfect for sunbathing! The sea however is FREEZING! After selecting two sun loungers (with cushions – very posh!) and a handy umbrella it was time to settle down with a good book. Bliss!! I did brave the sea for a swim once (Steve was too chicken) and found it rather refreshing after the initial “OH MY GOD IT’S COLD!!”. But mostly I enjoyed people watching, getting a tan and reading my book. A perfect holiday day!

At around 4 o clock we decided to stroll along the front in search of a cafe for coffee and something to eat. Unfortunately the one we chose offered neither so after a cold drink we headed back home for tea. If ever you’re coming to Valencia and are in search of a friendly hostel with a kitchen, sunny roof terrace and good company I can recommend Beach Home. It’s an easy stroll from the beach and metro stations and Nial (the owner) and his daughter Sophie are lovely! Had a great time singing and dancing to Katy Perry and Lou Reed last night..rock and roll as usual πŸ˜›

It’s another sunny day today so it’s back to the beach for me while Steve takes it easy here as he’s not feeling very well 😦

Till tomorrow!