Thursday, 4 October 2007

Postscript

Well, now we have been home a few days and had time to take on Vodafone by phone to try to sort out the problem which took a while as we knew it would; we have got a new USB modem to replace our faulty one. Yes, it was faulty and that is why we couldn't connect for so much of our trip.

After waiting a while in the shop where we purchased the modem so the salesman could check that it was OK to just give us a swapover and not send it away for repair, we got a replacement. I plugged it in and within minutes it was connected! I was in total shock and so was Fin. If only they could have replaced it initially and saved us the anguish and time.
Now all we have to do is sort out our bills since we paid for a service that we didn't get for over a month!

Life is certainly busy now that we are back from travelling and we haven't even gone back to work yet!!

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Mount Gambier, Portland, Home

We woke up to a day that was still cold and damp, the ground was wet from heavy rain during the night. We booked out of our motel and headed up to the Crater Lakes Lookout to see the lakes that Mount Gambier are famous for, particularly the Blue Lake which is the biggest. We were not expecting to see a particularly blue colour because we had read that the time of year when it is bluest is between October and March but we were pleasantly surprised since the lake as you can see is still blue but apparently not as bright a blue as at that time of the year. We didn’t spend long up there looking since it was absolutely freezing! The wind was so icy and there was a little rain trying to come down also. The Blue Lake is Mount Gambier’s water supply and has a surface area of 70 hectares, a depth of 70 metres, a circumference of 5 kilometres and a volume of 36,000 million litres. The Blue Lake was formed by a volcanic eruption depositing ash and rock. After the eruptions, the groundwater was restored forming the lake. The other three lakes in descending order of size are the Valley Lake, Brownes Lake and Leg of Mutton Lake. You can drive around to each lookout and view them and there are also walks you can do or organized surface tours but that was definitely not going to happen today! You get quite a good view of the town from the lookout also and realize it is quite a big place.
We headed off next toward Portland on our last day of this big adventure noticing all the pine plantations on the way and the logging trucks and mills; I guess we’ve got to get our toilet paper and tissues from somewhere don’t we? At least these days, it comes from plantations and not old growth forests like it used to. There are huge plantations of varying aged pines and there are trucks constantly loading up with logs of timber to transport to the mills. We stopped at Portland next to have morning tea and have a quick look at the place; my brother-in-law Rod hails from Portland and we had never seen it or had any idea what it was like so it was good to take a look however fleeting. Unfortunately it was wet, cold and windy while we were there too and we were pretty keen to get home so we didn’t spend much time there. It has a Maritime Discovery Centre which informs visitors about Portland’s maritime history; it might have been worth a look if we had more time. There are at least 18 shipwrecks around the Portland area, all of which are documented at the Maritime Discovery Centre. We saw the port from town with what looked like woodchips in big piles waiting to be loaded, a big ship, and storage facilities etc. It seems like a busy port! The coffee shop we chose was busy and as a result took quite a while to get our coffees which was annoying since we really wanted to keep moving today and get home in reasonable time.
This was not to be since shortly after leaving Portland, just past a town called Yambuk which is 20 km from Port Fairy, there was a bad accident involving two cars and a van. When we got there the police had stopped traffic both ways,, there was a fire truck and an ambulance was picking up injured people. It was at a T-intersection with the road going off to our right and we are not sure what happened except that one car had only frontal damage, one was damaged both back an front and the van parked up further had damage all down the driver’s side. It took a while to get the area cleaned up so we could get around; meantime another two CFA units arrived on the scene from neighbouring towns. When we were able to drive around the accident site and past the traffic stopped on the other side of the road, it was quite a line of cars and trucks with drivers wondering what was going on. Hopefully the road was cleared fairly quickly because there was a lot of traffic heading that way from Port Fairy direction. We stopped at Port Fairy for lunch and just as we got out of the car the heavens opened with, first rain and then hail! We leapt the huge puddles at the side of the road and made our way to another slow serving cafe. I suppose there’s no hurry in the country.
Finally back on the road; me still driving since Portland and it rained bucket loads the whole time with a long line of cars driving as fast as they dared but no one over taking – thank goodness! We nearly became a statistic ourselves as a tanker driver decided he didn’t need to give way to me as he entered the highway from the left side but could just plough on through. I braked hard, fearing that the car behind would not be able to match it and be in my boot before I knew it. Looking in the rear vision, I saw that he had managed to slow enough to avoid hitting us. Phew!
When Fin took the wheel later on it had almost stopped raining and did stop for the rest of the trip really but we had been slowed by all the factors mentioned and so sent Tris a message saying 6pm looked more like our ETA at this stage. The run into Melbourne wasn’t too bad with most of the traffic probably trying to get out of town instead of in so that was good. It was a strange feeling, seeing the city and thinking about how we had driven into so many towns and cities and looked compared them to our own and now here we were looking at our city with different eyes. How big it seems after Adelaide and how shiny and tall the buildings were in the early evening light. We were nearly home.
We got home by about 6.30pm and then the big unpack began; this time everything had to come out and the car looked so empty afterwards. The house however, looked rather messy and full of all our luggage but never mind, we are home safe. We did it – travelled around Australia anti-clockwise (or around Australia in 80 nights) without an accident, loss of anything valuable including our laptop which I was very nervous about something happening to, and also without illness or injury. Wow – what an adventure! Not a bad effort even if we do say so ourselves. What do you think?
Now is the time to make a comment all you lurkers out there. We know who most of you are and we’d love to read your comments. We’ll even publish them if they’re not rude or ridiculous! So give it a go. Your comment will not appear until we have read it and published though so be patient.
We would like to thank all our family and friends for their support in keeping in touch with us and making sure we were informed of news at home; it certainly helps keep away the worry when we can hear from you regularly and in some ways make it easier to feel less homesick too when we were away for such a long time.
And if any of you ever want to travel around Australia, I think we may be able to give you the benefit of our experience.


Thanks for reading our BLOG everyone!

Thursday, 27 September 2007

German town & pink lake

Our second last day was spent visiting Hahndorf, the German town which is about 26km from Adelaide. It was originally settled by German immigrants and still has many their influence in its pubs, cafes, crafts, food and drinks. It’s a bit like some areas in the Dandenongs in that respect. Take your pick of cafes for a coffee or other beverage, not to mention all kinds of wurst (German sausage), fudge and many other yummy goodies. There are some interesting craft shops and I would have liked to have more time, more money and no Fin watching over my shoulder to enjoy these properly however it was still interesting to look however brief. We picked a cafe to have Devonshire tea then headed off again toward Robe on our way to Mount Gambier. The countryside was very pretty; green and lush hills but apparently strong winds in the area which we could see by the way the trees were being blown and had grown. Not far from Hahndorf is Murray Bridge which I imagine is a popular holiday spot but we didn’t take the turn-off to the actual town but continued on over the Murray River – It’s huge up this far compared to where we often cross it on the NSW – Victoria border.
As we were travelling along, we suddenly saw a pink patch ahead among the paddocks to our left. It would appear that there was a pink lake there which we assumed has been made pink by bacteria like the one that we tried to see in Esperance but it wasn’t pink at that time of year. I am not sure why this one was pink but it seemed to have a heavy salt deposit on its shore. It really looks like someone dumped a dye in the lake. So we got to see a pink lake after all. The sky became cloudier as we went along and when we were nearly at Robe, going through a place called Kingston where, believe it or not they have a big lobster, it started to rain. I got out of the car at Robe and it wasn’t really raining but was incredibly windy – I’d say gale force actually. I could barely walk straight when it was going across and when I tried to walk against it, I could barely move. I took some photos of the beach in the town and just got back to the car when the rain came down in bucket loads! We went into town to the bakery and got some warm food and drinks then set off into the rainy weather to Mt Gambier. Our initial plan was to go to the long beach that you can drive on but in this weather it was not going to be possible unfortunately.
The rest of the drive was done with the wipers going almost non-stop and a bit more concentration was required of course in those wet, slippery conditions. The amount of water on and beside the road was amazing actually and the rain just kept on coming down and so did the temperature. It was 20 degrees when we left Hahndorf then it dropped to 16 at about Kingston then by the time we got to Mount Gambier it was 12 degrees!

Well, tomorrow is our last day and there will be a few more photos no doubt but the other day my camera reset it's numbering system because I have taken 10,000 photos on it! About 7,000 of those were taken on this trip! Eventually I will get some more up onto my webshots albums page but be patient!

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Other Wanderers and City Pigs

This morning we took a walk down what is effectively the main street in Adelaide; Hindle Street which then becomes Rundle Mall then went off around the block a bit to the museum. I wanted to see the Bringing Back the Butterflies exhibit that started recently there which we did. It was great and I was surprised and pleased to see my photos are still being used in this exhibit but only in a smaller form on a big information board. Lois has several things on display since they have borrowed butterfly paraphernalia such as clothing, crockery, etc with butterflies on from various people. The exhibit was aimed at educating South Australians in butterfly gardening and understanding and identifying their local butterfly species which it did very effectively. I heard people discussing the plants they have at home and whether they think they have seen certain butterflies in their garden. There were school groups being brought in to learn about them also since SA hasn’t started holidays yet. Following this we got on the free city bus just to get a look around the city then we had lunch before going back to our motel. There are some interesting sculptures around the place including a set of four pigs in Rundle Mall, one of which is up on it's back legs with its front feet on the rubbish bin. They each have a name like Horatio, Truffles etc and get a lot of attention, so much so that we went back in the evening to get a good photo without people all around and children climbing on them. By the way, there are some lovely old churches and other buildings in Adelaide too! Fin and I felt that Adelaide is more like Melbourne than any other place we have been to. The city malls, shops, cafes, restaurants and even the old buildings seem almost familiar.
Next we went for a drive to Brown Hill Creek which is a place that Lois told us about that is a habitat for the wanderer or Monarch butterfly so I was keen to see if we could find any sign of them. It is quite a pretty spot with a little creek running along beneath some hills. It seems that it is being rejuvenated with removal of weeds and planting of native plants which are endemic to the area. We spent ages wandering around along the creek banks and surrounds and there is a lot of wildlife including birds, frogs and lizards. We saw a monarch flit by a couple of times but couldn’t find their host plant (caterpillar food plant) which is a milkweed called cotton bush, anywhere. Eventually, I rang my friend Helen (Lois’s mum) since I still didn’t have Lois’s number and I knew Helen had been there and would know where to go to find the plants we were looking for. Helen was able to give me directions to where we should look and once in the right place, a little more walking and hill climbing and we found some plants complete with caterpillars. Hooray!
I got this picture of a Kookaburra just taking off from the wires there too.
Only two more sleeps and our wonderful around Australia adventure will be over. Wow – doesn’t 12 weeks go quickly!?

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Adelaide - more than just churches

Last night’s dinner was made more interesting to say the least by the constant rocking from side to side that the train was doing; even the staff were having problems serving the drinks and soups. The meal was very good as usual but you just had to drink up quick once you got a full glass of anything and as you can imagine the tablecloths got their share of spills. After dessert we were informed thanked for travelling on the Indian Pacific and informed that we should turn our watches and clocks forward by 1 ½ hours to match Adelaide time and that we would be delivered breakfast packs at 6.30am since the train was due to arrive in Adelaide at about 7.30am. So suddenly it was nearly 10.30pm and we had just finished our meal but we weaved along the corridor back to our carriage and got ourselves ready for bed hoping to get a good night’s sleep before our wake up call. Unfortunately the rocking on the train was not of the ‘gently to sleep’ type and, coupled with the fact that the cabin was remaining a warm 21 degrees, it took a while to get to sleep after finally deciding that the sheet alone was a better option than with the doona. It took me ages to get to sleep and then it was fitful and disturbed by the train stopping in what seemed a sudden manner but probably wasn’t really, just my impression as I woke up to it coming to a full-stop. It stayed in the one place for ages, obviously loading and/or unloading things then moved on after a while then stopped again. I got up and unwound the blind to see where we were and could see lots of city lights and a siding with rail stuff there. I couldn’t get back to sleep so brought Harry in with me (read my Harry Potter book for a while)then Fin woke up wondering what was going on & I told him & he looked out etc. then returned to bed and sleep, lucky thing but I still could not sleep and had to read for while longer. I think I may have had about 3 or 4 hours sleep so was feeling a bit seedy next morning when we finally got our car from the train and headed off to Mount Lofty.
Mount Lofty Summit is a mountain about 15 kilometres from Adelaide, is 710 metres above sea level and offers great views of Adelaide and its coastline. Unfortunately the air was a little hazy this morning, I am not sure if it was smog or what but it did spoil the views a bit. It was still worth going up there to see the views and we took a little nature walk too which was quite nice with several different native flowers growing including Victoria’s floral emblem the Common Heath. Both the lookout and the walk had information boards for visitors to gain an understanding of what they were looking at too.
Next we headed off following Tom’s instructions to the McLaren Vale area but had some major problems because the freeway we were meant to go on is closed to one direction between certain times of the day and then to the other the rest of the time and Tom just wouldn’t find another route until we got well clear of it but kept trying to make us double back to the freeway entrance – another flaw in the GPS systems unless I guess if we could subscribe to traffic information but I don’t think that is available in Australia yet. We finally got to our destination, had some lunch in a bakery then headed off to look at the wine producing area. I have never seen so many grapevines all in one mass; they looked really amazing with the rolling green hills behind them. Since we are not wine drinkers the cellar doors that were open were not much enticement to us but it was interesting to see a wine growing district such as this.
Next we headed to Glenelg to check out the famous beach district. I was amazed how much it reminded me of our St Kilda with its tall palm trees, cafes, beach etc and the next few suburbs one way are North Brighton, Brighton and South Brighton! The place was buzzing with people sitting at cafe tables, walking along the pier, swimming and lazing on the beach, or getting on\off the tram. There were a lot of young people; I think they are on school holidays too so a 30 degree day was perfect to go to the beach. Once we had looked around we were going to go to our motel and book in there but I noticed that we had to virtually pass the door of a friend of mine so we looked up her address and decided to pop in on the way past. We were in luck and Lois was at home having just come back from a walk. I was thrilled to see her and I think she was happy to see me too and showed us lots of her wonderful craft, drawing and costume work that she does. She is an amazingly talented lady and is still very creative and active in her senior years. If I am like that at her age, I will be a happy old lady! Lois and I share a keen interest in butterflies and we say we have a “Flutterby Connection” even though we live in separate states over 700 km apart. It was great to catch up with her!
Following our visit we went to the motel and booked in; 4th floor – bummer! Well, we rarely have done that to ourselves, usually we get places that are ground level and have parking almost right at the door. Only 3 sleeps left now till we come home – it will be strange after all this time but wonderful to see everyone again! Hooray!

Training across the Nullarbor 23-24 Sept.

I’m writing this in our cabin on board the Indian Pacific train whilst crossing the Nullarbor Plain in the section that is dead straight for over 460km, the longest straight stretch of train track in the world. We left Perth yesterday bright and early, having our car at the station before 8 am; in fact we were the first arrival. Once we had taken our luggage and signed the paperwork we headed into the station to get some breakfast since we didn’t want to waste time cleaning up and packing anything but the basics in the morning. We had a lot of waiting around after this since we weren’t boarding until 11.30am but the time passed fairly quickly and soon we were being welcomed aboard the train and able to stow our luggage in our cabin; M-7&8, and see the nice little toiletries bags and information about meal sitting times etc. Chris, our conductor, came in and gave us a rundown of where everything was, where we could go to get a cuppa and biscuits any time we wanted at the end of our carriage. We chose the late meal times because that way getting up for breakfast wasn’t so early even though we agreed to have a cuppa brought to us at 6.30am! Ours was the Swagman’s Lunch which was at 2.15pm but before that they made an announcement over the speakers to invite us all to a Gold Service Reception in the Lounge Car. I should add here that we are travelling Gold Kangaroo which is like first class so it’s a bit more special. It was the best option if you want to take your car with you as they discounted the car transporting and then all meals are included as well as having a cabin with an ensuite.
At the Gold Service Reception, all those who chose the late lunch (Blue Card) sat around and were given a glass of either champagne or orange juice then the staff introduced themselves and asked each of us to do the same. It was quite a good way to get to know some of our fellow passengers especially since we ended up staying to chat for a little while after. We were also asked to let the staff know if we wanted to do the night tour while in Kalgoorlie that night and pay for it also. It was $25 a head and we decided that even though we had been to Kalgoorlie it might be worth the effort and it would fill in some of the time between stopping there at 10.20pm and leaving again at 1.40am. After this we went to the dining car to have lunch; well I went back to our cabin to the loo because at that stage I hadn’t realised there are toilets at the end of the corridor as well, and when washing my hands in the fold down basin the water spurted out as though there was an airlock and it was all over my shirt so I had to change shirts. Lucky I was in our cabin as it turned out! The dining room was beautifully set up with white table cloths, an orchid in a vase, silver cutlery and white china and we had a choice of two or three main courses and dessert, tea or coffee. You can buy cold drinks if you would like something other than water or hot beverages. We sat with an young English woman, a teacher, who is here on holidays and chatted to her over lunch.
After lunch, most people went back to their cabins to read ( I bought Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in Fremantle the day before), look out the window at the scenery, sleep, etc but some chose to go to the lounge bar or take a walk up and down the length of the train. Actually, you can’t walk the entire length; some areas are out of bounds to passengers and obviously you can’t get out where the cars are but it is enlightening to see how the other passengers are travelling. There are the Red Kangaroo passengers who don’t have a smaller cabin with no ensuite, the single cabins for one person – very small, and the people who are sitting up the entire journey. YUK! That would be awful; terribly uncomfortable and hard to sleep although some people were doing their level best to do so. The photo shows Fin holding the doors between carriages open. It goes: pull, pull, push, push to get through the four doors between. The photo of the cabin is with the bunks made up ready for bed.
After a long afternoon of rolling along watching the country side go by & reading we finally go to our allotted dinner time of 8pm. This time we had a choice of two entrees, four main courses and either dessert or a cheese plate, tea & coffee. The food was very nice and the servings a good size; not too much like some of the restaurants we have been to lately. We sat this time with a couple from Sydney who have been campervanning around. When we got back to our cabin after dinner, the upper bunk had been pulled down and both lower and upper had been made up ready for bedtime. This made it difficult to sit comfortably as before so I got up on the top bunk and read my book and Fin stayed down underneath on his bunk until we got into Kalgoorlie where we would disembark for our night tour.
We decided to do the tour thinking it would be informative being a guided one and also to see the Super Pit at night but we both felt that it was not really good value ($25 each) and would have not done it had we realized what it would be like. The pit at night is not that spectacular; in fact it is quite dark and difficult to see the real size and contours of the pit itself. I think the people whose only chance to see it was the night tour missed out really. Apart from showing us the street where the bordellos are and pointing out some of the hotels in Hannan Street with a little history that was the whole tour and we would have been better to get to bed earlier instead of being out so late and not getting enough sleep. I slept surprisingly well actually; it must have been the gentle rocking that helped.

Ring those bells! 22nd Sept. 2007


We went into the city this morning in order to look at the Swan Bell Tower which we had seen yesterday when we caught the ferry to Rottnest Island. We had read that the eighteen bells were rung by hand but not much more than that. The tower is a most unusual building and doesn’t immediately bring to mind ‘bells’ when you see it; it is a very modern architectural design and is one of the world’s largest instruments with an 82.5 metre tower housing the 12 bells from St Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster and the six new ones. The largest bell called Zachariah (they all have names) is 1,408 kg and is the third largest swinging bell in Australia. Visitors can watch the bell ringers through one-way dark glass but it is not easy to see through especially with murky handprints on the glass but it is stated that the ringers need to concentrate and that is why the glass is not clear. On the fourth floor which you can get to by either stairs or a lift you can see the bells swinging and ringing when being played. When we were there the ringers were apparently beginners who were practising but they were doing a very good job since there were usually eight to ten of them playing together at once and at one stage, the whole eighteen were being played so they have to really concentrate to pull their rope at the right time and with the right amount of gusto I imagine. It was fascinating to watch them and also the bells ringing. The sound from the other side of the glass wall was not too loud as I thought it might be since they are very big bells and being so close you would expect to get bleeding ear drums but the design of the building must prevent this from happening. As well as the bells, the tower affords excellent views of Perth city and the Swan River which can be seen from the balcony on the sixth level. This is a recommended tourist attraction if you are coming to Perth; well worth a look. I am not sure how often the bells are played but the practices are on Saturdays and Sundays so we timed it right. Probably best to aim for the weekend if you go.
From there we took a drive around to Fremantle to check out the markets and take a look around. The markets are near the first permanent building to be built in Western Australia in 1831; the prison. The place was buzzing with shoppers and there were many interesting stalls to browse; crafts and produce as well as the inevitable souvenir shop and junk type shop too. We didn’t buy much but it was interesting to check look. We went out into a courtyard area where there were tables and chairs outside an area of eateries mainly of Asian varieties and went in there for our lunch. After this we had a little time to spare and decided to look in the prison which was near where our car was parked but found that if you didn’t take a tour you couldn’t see much and we didn’t want to spend an hour and fifteen minutes on a tour which didn’t start for another quarter hour because we had things to organize for our train trip tomorrow and wanted to go for a walk just before dusk down on the river.
Our walk down along the river wasn’t as good as last time we were here but the weather has cooled a fair bit since then so that could be the reason. So, not many good bird shots unfortunately. Back to finish packing and have dinner so we can be away early tomorrow for the train ride of a lifetime. Well, a good train ride anyway. I just hope we can find Platform 9 3/4 !
Below is a video of the bells ringing that I took with my mobile phone. It may take a while to download so if you only have a slow connection you might want to avoid it but it does show you what we saw pretty well.

video