Sunday, November 22, 2009

Day 156 – 161 Kangaroo Island to Melbourne – 11-16 Nov 200

26,939 kms, 35 degrees C

We had a long day drive on leaving Kangaroo Island, threading our way North up to the freeway that runs into Victoria. Stuart and the restraint (or guilt) to avoid driving thro the Coonawarra wine region – there were probably too many bottles of wine in trucks on their way to Melbourne already, and the credit card was wilting under the strain!

Dunkeld is at the base of the Grampians, one of our favourites spots in Victoria, half way between the SA border and Melbourne. This was our second trip of the year, first we were here in Feb with Liz and Ian. This time we stayed at the campsite, but we overlooked the camp cooker for the spectacular food at the Royal Mail hotel.

Then it was time to drive to Cape Paterson – we could not get access to our house as it is still tenanted, so we headed off to the beach, via the ferry from Queenscliffe to Sorrento. It was a bit surreal re-entering “normal life” after over 5 months on the road but it was good to see Cape. And at the weekend we drove to Melbourne – we saw Albury, but Wodonga was away.

So that is it – the big trip is over. It has been a truly amazing experience for us. Two weeks holiday is great, but to be away for months is a break on a different level. Australia is a wonderful country – we are privileged to be able to live in such an amazing, diverse part of the world. Our memories will stay with us for a long time – and we have the blog plus videos and pictures to take with us.

In some ways it is sad that the trip is over – but the upside is that we can now embark on our next exciting chapter. Nicky has just landed a Professor position at Bristol University – we head North in June 2010. So who knows where future blog entries will be from – Venice, Florence, Cornwall..... this space to find out!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Day 154 – 155 Kangaroo Island – 9-10 Nov 2009

25,695 kms, 41 degrees C

Once again, when we thought we had seen it all, the next spot is right up there with the best. Kangaroo Island is 2 hours South of Adelaide, off the tip of the Fleurieu Peninsula. We were surprised by how big it is – Australia’s third largest island and seven times the size of Singapore. It is a short, but expensive, ferry ride across a narrow throat of water stuffed full of dolphins. It was amusing, if smug, to watch the “tourists” waste lots of digi shots and video footage. Experience tells us not to bother, they are too difficult to capture at a distance.

As we had limited time on the island we headed straight for Flinders Chase, at the South Western corner. On the way we popped into Seal Bay to see the Australian sealions, which Nicky refers to as fur seals incorrectly on the video. You just cant get the quality journos these days!

The mercury hit 41 degrees as we got to Seal Bay. We had to get the thongs and singlets (wife beaters) out of the bag after getting the colder weather clothes for the SW of WA. As it was hot, the sealions were scattered not too far from the beach. Wise move. The beach was littered with them – we did a guided walk where we managed to get within 10m of theses huge, amiable looking creatures. But they were less than friendly with one another – the males were getting “toey” as it is coming up to the mating season, and they were fighting for the best bit of beach to attract the girls. Boys will be boys!!

Next stop was Flinders Chase. We woke to wallabies in the camp site – even after 5 months of roos and wallabies we do not tire of them. The NZ fur seal colony at Admiralty Rocks kept us amused for over and hour. They are smaller, darker and more active than the sealions but their behaviour was similar – boys fighting for the best “real estate”. Remarkable Rocks were aptly named. Then we found a koala colony, our first of the trip. Koalas were introduced to Kangaroo Island to help dwindling numbers. Due to the lack of (mostly introduced) predators like snakes and foxes, they are thriving, so much so that they are being caught and relocated on the mainland. They are very cute, if a bit dozy.

We then took a tour off the island’s emu and eucalyptus oil factory. Several reader of this blog might recognise this paragraph when they open their Xmas pressies! The emu oil is made from fat of the said bird, the eucalypt oil is distilled from leaves.

And there are wineries on the island. OMG – Stuart nearly fainted, as we are sooo short of wine. Not!

KI is stunning in just about every way.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Day 151 – 153 Adelaide and surrounds– 6-8 Nov 2009

25,203 kms, 36 degrees C

After the long dusty Nullabor Plain the lush Clare Valley was very welcome. The Clare is one of the top wine regions in Australia, but often is overlooked in comparison with its higher profile cousins like the Barossa and Coonawarra. This is a shame as the wines are terrific and well priced.

The wine industry has major problems in Australia. Growing the grapes and making the wines are the easy bit – the problem is that there are just too many vines in the ground. Stuart cannot believe he is typing these words! There was a call in the Financial Review (yes, we are reading some hi brow stuff on tour) at the weekend to pull up 20% of vines across the country. Leasingham have closed. There are over 40 wineries for sale in Maclaren Vale and Adelaide Hills. Such bad news for wineries is good news for consumers, like us, as the prices drop.

At Clare we tried to visit a few big names then some smaller brands that we have not heard of. We tried Sevenhills, Jim Barry, Tim Adams, Neagles Rock, and Mintaro. The latter is a sub region, just off the main drag in Clare – beautiful country, architecture and wine, of course.

Having bought too much wine, again, we headed South to the outer suburbs of Adelaide to stay with Stuart’s cousin Linda and Frank at the “zoo” in Lewiston. It is amazing what you can pack (or alpac?) onto a 3 acre block – goats, dogs, birds, sheep and Nicky’s favourite, alpacas. They can be used to ward off foxes – they can be pretty fierce and spit, as demonstrated by Matilda on the video! Nicky loves the fact that they poo in the same spot, making life easy for cleaning up and fertiliser collection. And they look a bit like ET when they have been cropped.

We had a great pub meal with in Two Wells – amazing service in that place!!

Barrie and Judy Newman are good friends of ours from BNI days – the Newmans were the franchisees for Adelaide. We took advantage of their hospitality which was great for many reasons, not least being in an air conditioned house when the mercury was hitting the high 30s.

After lunch at Woodstock in Maclaren Vale, Barrie and Judy took us to meet Val and Trevor Griffin at their vineyard in Kuitpo. The Griffins are doing it tough like the rest of the industry but they must survive as their wines are just wonderful. We were dismayed to here that Trevor had made the hard call to let Chardonnay grapes rot on the vines last year as it was not economically viable to make more wine. And the Chardy we tried was a ripper.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Day 148 – 150 The Nullarbor – 3-5 Nov 2009

25,024 kms, 22 degrees C

The Nullarbor is latin for “no trees” – having spent the last 3 days on it, we see how it got its name! Since leaving Albany on Monday we have driven 2,591km, or the distance from London to Cyprus, at an average of 650km/day. Since Sunday we have put fuel in the car every day, a total of $744. Just think of the wine that could have bought if we had stayed in Margaret River...

Having survived one of the great road trips in Australia we are relieved to be in Clare Valley in SA. It is great to say it is over, but bits of it were wonderful. The sheer cliffs were dramatic, though we couldn’t get to the Head of the Bight as it was closed (quite how a natural phenomenon like this can be closed had us a little baffled!).

The video shows us entertaining ourselves on the longest straight stretch of road in Australia – 90 miles or 146.6km. It is amazing what cruise control and a well placed knee can do.

Nicky is now playing dinnertime end games – having stacked the shelves full of tinned and dried food in the event of us getting bogged in 50 degrees in the Kimberley, we now have to eat all this stuff. So dinners are getting interesting but they are not likely to win too many awards. And it is amazing where chick peas can turn up!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Day 142 – 147 The South West, Yallingup to Esperance – 28 Oct – 2 Nov 2009

22,957 kms, 22 degrees C

From Perth we headed back to Dougie and Beth’s at Yallingup – this time to meet more relos as Hilary and Norman had arrived. Hilary and Dougie are Nicky’s cousins from the Kilpartick side of the family. The Kirsops threw another awesome dinner party – we met some more of Dougie and Beths friends, had great food washed down with Margaret River wines.

Next we headed South East, to Walpole – Dougie, Hilary, Norman, Nicky and Stuart that is as poor Beth had to stay behind to try and sell the house! We moved into Rest Point campsite, a beaut spot right on the water. Steaks and snags were on the menu for dinner, for the humans and the cheeky kookaburras – one took a piece of steak off Dougie’s fork before he had chance to get it to his face. He was probably talking too much...

...which became a bit of a theme for the weekend, check out the video!!! Next was a wonderful morning boat ride with WOW and our wonderful, if slightly mad tour guide Garry. The arvo was spent at the top of the tingle trees in the Valley of the Giants. It was wonderful to spend so much quality time with Hilary and “stormin” for the first time since our wedding 19 years ago.

We then turned “left” to head East – a direction we will be in until we return to Melbourne. But next stop was Emmie and Paulie’s in Albany. And Budga, the dog! We visited our first distillery of the trip and Sunday saw a ripper 4WD trek to Paulie’s favourite surf areas. We gave the car a good work out, which it passed with flying colours.

November already –Nicky’s bottom lip is starting to appear at the thought of going back to Melbourne! Our next stop East was Esperance, yet another Auzzie town with glorious beach location, partially blighted by heavy industry on one of the best beaches you will ever see. Besides that the views were awesome. Twilight beach was voted best beach in Australia in 2006 – there is lot of competition for that particular gong.

The South West has many tree plantations, mostly branded Great Southern or Timbercorp. This was a slightly bitter reminder of a sum of money we put into Great Southern a few years back on the recommendation of our accountant, who is also into the horses. Great Southern and Timbercorp both went to the corporate graveyard this year. If my accountant had a tip for the Melbourne Cup tomorrow, I would not be backing it!!

Tomorrow sees us do battle with the Nullarbor, the long road to Adelaide. We will be spending many hours in the car over the next week, 500-600km per day.