Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200010 Australia-NSW Vic

Sunday 1 October 2000  A very windy morning causing problems for the rowing events.  Closing Ceremony day and the train is packed, mainly with people going into the city to watch the big screens then the fireworks. It’s quieter at the stadium and with our $105 (44.00) tickets we are again seated high up in the side stand just beyond the finish line.  On each seat is a closing ceremony programme and a small white esky (polystyrene cool box).  In it we find a closing ceremony sticker, official audience pin, paper Olympic ring shaped spectacles, limited edition ceremonies card, fly swatter shaped like Australia (perhaps it’s to swat the bogong months which plague the stadium), a mini torch and a small silver faceted ball hanging on a chain which everyone studies with curiosity.  Before we know it the stadium is almost full and the marathon runners are starting to pour in.  A few have dropped out but the last finisher completes the course to a standing ovation in around 3 hours 9 minutes. Seem to recollect this is about the time Dave Spooner ran his marathon in – perhaps he should defect to an obscure country in order to enjoy his moment of fame!  The programme promises an all Australian cast and following the medal presentation comedians Roy & HG appear and between jokes explain the contents of the esky.  Whilst wearing our Olympic glasses we are instructed to follow strategically placed leaders who will tell us when to do one of the following – the esky wave which is like the Mexican wave but involves us raising our eskies, waving our eskies, shining our torches or shining our torches onto the silver ball to create a twinkling effect all whilst waving our fly swatter.  The pace hots up when groups of children and a band arrive in the arena to be removed by a keystone cops type man on a runaway quad bike careering into everything and being chased.  The ceremony proper begins or to the Australian way of thinking the party starts.  Christine Anu performs "Island Home" prior to the flag bearers and althletes arriving accompanied by Savage Gardens "Affirmation".  Next the serious speech part and handover to the Greeks with handmaidens re-enacting some traditional ceremony which drags on.  Before retiring Juan Antonio Samaranch declares it the best Olympic games ever.  Following Nikki Websters "We’ll Be One" the cauldron is spectacularly extinguished by an F1-11 jet roaring over and sucking up the flame.  The party proper starts with Vanessa Amorosi taking centre stage singing her world-wide hit "Absolutely Everybody" which gets us all up dancing.  "Love is in the Air" by John Paul Young is a spectacle with the stadium filled with colourful Latin American dancers. We perform various moves with our Esky contents and frequently stand to clap or dance to the music.  It proceeds like a huge pop concert with great special effects accompanying "Terra Firma" by Phil & Tommy Emmanuel, "What You Need – INXS, "Working Class Man – Jimmy Barnes, "Beds are Burning – Midnight Oil and the Aboriginal band Yothu Yindi singing "Treaty". The Parade of the Icons is led by Kylie Minogue carried on a huge thong (Aussie for flip flop) before taking the stage to sing "Dancing Queen".  Everything signifies Australia with Greg Norman on top of a shark, Elle McPherson on a huge camera, Paul Hogan on an Akubra Hat, Bananas in Pyjamas on a play slide and the big bus from the film Priscilla: Queen of the Desert.  We’ve now been here long enough to recognise and relate to it all.  "Down Under" by Men at Work must be sung by everyone in the stadium as is Slim Dusty’s rendition of Waltzing Matilda to round things off.  We hear the start of the fireworks and watch on the big screen as they proceed down river for the grand finale at the bridge.  Sneak into the press area on the way out to be amazed by the banks of screens.  Such a fantastic evening that no one minds the long slow queues making their way to the trains with the volunteers encouraging us to do the esky wave down the line!
Monday 2 October  Back on the road after over 3 weeks static in Sydney.  On highway 1 heading south we stop at Sublime point lookout for great views over Wollongong area.  Stop to pick up a newspaper and a hot fresh pie for lunch.  Steve notices that the closing ceremony (which I failed to set the video up correctly for) is on TV again so we park at pretty Minnamurra Beach.  Whilst all the Aussies are outside on the beach or the grassy BBQ area we sit inside the motorhome for 3 hours to re live last night – and I thought it was the mad dog Englishman who went out in the mid-day sun.  Drive a little further to Seven Mile Beach national park to have an evening BBQ and park overnight.
Tuesday 3 October  Jervis Bay is a very pretty area and we are soon flat out nude sunbathing on the recommended Greenfields Beach.  Roll onto our stomachs when the first couple arrive and keep their togs on. Nod off to sleep then wake to find lots of clothed families on the beach. Do a hasty cover up and escape concluding that the "Bare Facts" book must be out of date. Follow our own instincts and find a spot to ourselves on the very long and deserted Wairo Beach just south of Ulladulla.  Bodalla State Forest has a nice rest area suitable for over night with toilets and BBQ’s provided.
Wednesday 4 October  From the rest area we make the 1km walk to the rather disappointing Mummuga Lake.  After shopping in Narooma we stop at Dignams Creek to visit fellow motorhome travellers John & Maggie friends of Frank & Lisa.  They live on a large property and soon have us parked up on the edge of the dam.  Lots of wildlife around with wombats at the bottom by the creek and a plover nesting by the dam whose partner swoops on us if he thinks we are going to head their way.  After lunch John & Maggie take us for a ride to Mystery Bay where other motorhomers are camped out but we would be too big to get in.  Central Tilba is a pretty village beside Mount Dromedary with wooden heritage listed buildings and excellent cappuccino at the cafe.  Chat about our travels throughout the day and John & Maggie offer us use of their VW Combi van affectionately named the "Bush Basher".  With it we could explore the Sapphire Coast side roads and stay out overnight so we accept.  John produces his Jamieson whisky for happy hour and after this they leave us to it for a spa bath.  They have an enormous bathroom with a garden area surrounded by big glass windows and roof  making it feel like you are outside.  We wallow for a considerable time sipping wine.  By the time we have eaten our meal either the whiskey or the spa have had their effect and Steve heads for bed.
Thursday 5 October   Pack the essentials into the VW (our 6th motorhome) and head off through pretty Bermagui.  Down the coast on gravel road turning onto a narrow bumpy track to reach Armonds Beach declared officially clothes optional on the signs.  After clambering down we reach a pretty sandy bay backed by forest and with only one other visitor.  It’s a scorcher of a day and the chilly sea is most welcome.  A few other people come and go but by late afternoon we have the place to ourselves – wonderful.  It’s such a great spot we park up in nearby bush to enable us to visit tomorrow.  It’s strange setting up the stove and eating outside but we adapt very easily and find it great fun (whilst the weather is good).
Friday 6 October   Down on the beach before 9.00am and as we are alone I get some exercise walking one way along the beach then running the 400m back al la Cathy Freeman – well maybe not,  you can’t expect her to run in the nude can you.  Drag ourselves away mid day to explore nearby Mimosa Rocks where lots of people are camping.  Continuing south back on sealed road Bare Facts says you can strip off on Moon Beach (or was it Moonie beach).  Correct as we have the place to ourselves until a cyclist passes through.  On the same headland we explore Nelson Beach which is longer and has much easier access making it busier.  The beach runs north into a very pretty lagoon with lots of small sandy bays leading into the bright blue clear water.  Back at the top of the hill and the entrance to Moon Bay we walk out to Wajurda Point just before sunset and spot lots of surfers in Nelson Bay.
Saturday 7 October  A hot but cloudy morning so we head into Tathra and enjoy breakfast at the cafe down on the historic wharf.  The visitors book tells that only yesterday morning whales came into the bay but we are unlucky today and have to be content with great views and watching the fishermen.  Wallagoo Lake in Bournda national park is nice and we pause to read the papers.  Merimbula is a large town and very busy.  Beaches abound on all sides of the peninsula offering shelter from wind in any direction but that’s no help when it’s cloudy.  At the airport we spot the Goodyear balloon which flew over the Olympic stadium saying G’Day on one side and Good Luck on the other.  Chat to one of the crew who invites us on board.  Lunch stop at Yellowpinch Dam where the sun is really hot when it breaks through the clouds.  There’s an interesting display at the cheese factory in Bega and for once Steve isn’t tempted by smelly blue cheese – they don’t make it.  Our last detour is 23km on narrow winding bumpy dirt track to Mumbulla Falls.  The water has formed a smooth channel over a rock which makes a great slide to ride down depositing you into the deep and icy cold pool below.  By the time we return we conclude that a rough and ready small motorhome is a definite asset to explore some of the best parts of this coast and that combi’s are very well designed for their size.  John & Maggie join us for a meal in our van and suggest we stay on tomorrow to use the washing machine, computer and whatever else we need and also offer to help plan our route ahead.   Again we are amazed at the hospitality shown to us by people we barely know.
Sunday 8 October  At 9.00pm we hear a voice through a loud hailer announcing the last call  for motorhomers wishing to partake in a cooked breakfast!  Bacon, egg, sausage, tomatoes and toast set us up well for the day.  It’s a dull day with occasional drizzle but fine for our tasks. The last of the 4 plover eggs hatches and it’s interesting watching the parents fuss around the babies.
Monday 9 October  A cooler cloudy day and our planned departure doesn’t happen due to the excellent company and facilities here plus the offer of another spa bath.
Tuesday 10 October  Clear skies producing a cold night and a morning temperature of only 9C.  By the time we are ready to leave it’s hot enough for a coffee together out on the lawn in shorts and T-shirts.  Back on highway 1 and if that sounds familiar it’s because it goes the whole way round Australia.  This area is famous for oysters and a small detour down to Pambula Lake brings us to the Oyster sheds with 5 different companies.  Steve returns with a tray of a dozen already open and with lemon and forks provided all for $6 (2.40).  The gravel roads are smooth and wide in Ben Boyd national park allowing us to visit Long Beach at Quondolo.  The only other visitors are a surfer who soon goes and a walker who passes by on his way out leaving us once again with our own private stretch of long sandy beach.  It clouds over late afternoon so we relocate to the next beach called the Pinnacles after the coloured weathered sand formation in the area.  A 1km circular walk gives us a good view and our exercise for the day as with almost all walks near the coast it includes a good number of steps.  Settle in for the night with Steve feasting on oysters grilled with cheese on top and me with beans on toast.
Wednesday 11 October  A lovely sunny morning with clear skies but a slight breeze so it’s down to Pinnacles beach where we find sheltered spot at the end.  Surrounded by multi coloured rocks creating an amphitheatre the sound of the crashing waves reverberates around us.  After lunch we drive to the old whaling town of Eden in Twofold Bay to visit the Killer Whale Museum $5.50 (2.20).  Hone in on a couple of amazing facts.  As a cure for arthritis people used to cut a big hole in the side of a freshly killed whale and then sit in it for an hour.  One man arrived on crutches but after his therapeutic soak he walked many miles back home unaided. (I guess no one would want to get near enough to help him because of the stench).  In 1891 a whaler fell overboard and was swallowed by a whale.  The same whale was caught 15 hours later and when they split it’s stomach the man fell out alive but in a coma.  He recovered but his hair turned white and fell out due to the whale’s digestive juices.   Drive a little further to Scrubby Creek rest area steeped in logging history with interpretative signs explaining the evidence still visible in the forest.
Thursday 12 October  After a cold night we are treated to another lovely day.  Just before 9.00am we cross into the state of VICTORIA to the region of East Gippsland often referred to as Lakes and Wilderness.  Recall that whilst in Queensland the locals referred to Victorians as Mexicans because they came from south of the border!  Detour to Mallacoota on the coast, a lovely holiday area with lots of small lakes and river inlets.  Just out of town at the Betka River inlet we find a small flat car park at the edge of a tidal pool adjacent to the lovely sandy beach.  There are grassy areas with picnic tables and BBQ and a toilet block. Although we are in the Croajingolong National Park we can’t see any no camping or no overnight parking signs which is amazing for such a super spot.  Park up in the corner and although a family arrive shortly after we have the beach round the corner to ourselves for most of the day.  As the tide goes out the lake becomes numerous small shallow pools and streams which soon warm up and make a pertfect spot for young children and Glen to paddle.  As people drift off early evening the tide comes in and it’s fascinating watching the pool fill up from our ringside seat.
Friday 13 October  Woken in the middle of the night by heavy rain then a crack of thunder which echoes all around us.  It’s a rainy morning and calling at the "servo" (petrol station) we hear that rain is forecast for quite a few days.  Steve suggests we abandon our coastal route in favour of cutting inland to visit some friends ahead of schedule.  It’s very hilly terrain but much like England with lush green fields.  By lunch time we are at Lakes Entrance and it stops raining long enough for us to walk over the pedestrian bridge to the strip known as ninety mile beach.  There are so many nice beaches in the area it’s easy to see why it’s a popular tourist resort with over 20 caravan parks in the town.  It’s also the largest fishing port in Victoria and we stock up on "trawler fresh fish" at discount prices.  Two noteworthy features in Bairnsdale. The amazing turreted courthouse building which can only be viewed from outside.  St Mary’s church with it’s ceilings painted by an Italian artist.  In fine weather we would have been happy to spend time just browsing round the town but today we press on to the Highway Park just east of Stratford (short for Stratford on Avon).
Saturday 14 October  Intermittent rain which is OK as there is little of interest to visit except "possibly the largest open cast mine in the southern hemisphere" which we see from the road.  Highway 1 becomes the M1 motorway which bears little resemblance to the English one.  Few cars, only 2 lanes, it goes through the centre of towns, has traffic lights and roads cutting across it and can only really be described as a dual carriageway.  Getting closer to Melbourne it does get more like a proper motorway and starts to skirt the towns and have less intersections!   Lynn & Tony emigrated from Stafford in 1984 with toddlers Sarah, Kate and Oliver.  They settled in Warragul a small town a good hour east of Melbourne.  When we arrive at 11.00am Tony an estate agent is out at work but Lynn is waiting for us and a rapid question and answer session kicks off.  In Australia when someone is selling a house they have "open for inspection" times.  The vendor leaves their property and the agent shows prospective purchasers around which is why Tony needs to work some weekends.  Lynn has her own physiotherapy practice and works more conventional hours.  After a quick ride out with Lynn to a local market we return and Tony joins us for lunch.  The red wine comes out and Tony reluctantly returns to work.  Shortly after he reappears as his partner knowing he has visitors sends him home – well that’s his story.  Over a few beers we discuss children and families and inspire Lynn and Tony to do something like us in the future.  The rain stops for us to make the 15 minute walk into town for a session of ten pin bowling.  $12 for 2 games (4.80) resulting in Steve scoring 171, 148 and me an abysmal 116, 112 due to lack of concentration!  End up at the Court House – an Italian restaurant for a delicious pasta meal.  Taxi back in the pouring rain then a great night out rounded off with drinks at our place until 1.00am.
Sunday 15 October  Breakfast with Lynn & Tony.  Intermittent rain with my only excursion with Lynn to view the show home Tony is promoting. Tony & Lynn leave late afternoon to collect daughter Kate and boyfriend Jas who are flying back after a weekend in Tasmania.
Monday 16 October   Tony has the day off and takes us out for a drive.  The Yarra valley area is very green and English and the Dandenong ranges provide great views between the mist and clouds.  Near the William Ricketts sanctuary the Churinga Cafe serves teas by Taylors of Harrogate including Yorkshire Tea.  Tony & I opt for the Devonshire Cream Tea but with coffee and receive big fresh warm scones with lashings of home-made jam and cream.  Into the sanctuary $5.60 (2.20) where William a delightfully eccentric sculptor has created the Forest of Love.  Large rocks have been positioned in the forest and clay sculptures carved then moulded onto them.  Aboriginal figures are the theme and we are so taken with it that Steve seems to photograph almost all 92 of them.  A really unique and spiritual place which we love.  Dropping down through the pretty but touristy mountain villages we stop for lunch in Sassafras and appreciate Tony bringing us in the car as the motorhome would have struggled with the winding hilly roads.  Kate and Jas join us for the evening which is rounded off with a game of Scrabble where Jas realises he has met his match.
Tuesday 17 October  Big change to a hot sunny day.  Head off down the Mornington peninsula just South of Melbourne.  Near Mount Eliza we crash on Sunnyside Beach for a few hours.  Pressing on down the coast we pass numerous lovely beaches with fine sand, great views of the Melbourne skyline and most surprisingly colourful beach huts.  We met Chris, Elaine and sons Adam & Tristan in Greece when they were on their 2 year world tour.  Now they live at Mount Martha and as we turn into their street we are stunned by the enormous Dallas style houses.  The $1.5m home opposite theirs is owned by a British businessman who uses it for short visits and has houses in London and Italy also.  Their house used to be someone’s holiday home but is bigger than most English homes, has a huge deck with swimming pool and superb views to the city.  Glad we are in the big American motorhome as all the others would definitely have lowered the tone of the place.  A very interesting evening comparing notes on past trips and future plans as they want to hit the road full time in a couple of years once the boys now 18 and 16 are off their hands.
Wednesday 18 October   Back to cold rainy windy weather.  At the tip of the peninsula you can take a car ferry from Sorento to Queenscliff on the Bellarine peninsula opposite.  Our vehicle shrinks to 7.9m to get us a fare of $59 (24.00) plus $3 (1.00) per person.  Reckon if the weather had been good we could have been delayed a good few more days exploring this area but as it is we take the 10.00am ferry.  Bev & Norm live in nearby Wallington and we arrive in time for lunch.  In the afternoon they take us for an extensive and informative tour of the peninsula which is very different to the Mornington one, quieter and less touristy.  Wind up at the Bowl Club in Ocean Grove for a meal.
Thursday 19 October   A typical British weather day starting nice and sunny then deteriorating to cool with wind and rain.  Fine for catching up and route planning though.
Friday 20 October  Bev lends us her car to traverse the aptly named Great Ocean Road which stretches for over 300km west from Torquay.  It’s a warm but dull day with occasional sunshine.  For most of the distance the road hugs the rugged coast.  In Lorne we do a small detour to the pretty Erskine Falls.  Back on track we are stopped by Police and informed that ahead of us cameras are filming.  An escort car arrives to take our procession through the filming area and beyond.  We spot a new car and on this very winding steep and dramatic section of the highway we visualise a car commercial or car chase being shot.  Definitely not the sort of road we would have wanted to bring the motorhome on even though it would have been possible.  Apollo Bay is a pretty town with lovely beaches and a real holiday feel.  Something for everyone in this area with rough surf beaches, calm inlets, good fishing spots and interesting scenery.  Climbing away from the ocean into the Otway ranges we spot a number of cars pulled up by the side of the road.  Closer inspection provides our first completely natural sighting of koalas in the wild.  The road rejoins the coast proper at Princetown which is where it gets really interesting.  Climb down Gibson steps to Gibson Beach for our first view of one of the Twelve Apostles.  Erosion has created 12 huge stone pillars which soar out of the pounding surf.  Here we can only see the first one but a short drive takes us to the main Apostles lookout where a huge new visitor centre is being built to cater for the vast number of tourists.  We still can’t see all 12 at once and have to drive a little further to the western end to complete the count gaining even more superb views of this magnificent colourful area. Nearby Loch Ard Gorge is even more dramatic but has a sad tale to tell.  In 1878 the clipper Loch Ard was driven onto the rocks here.  Of over 50 on board only 2 survived and were swept into this gorge, incredible when you see the rugged rocks and pounding surf here.  There are lots of walks and lookouts with plaques telling the full tale finishing at the graveyard.  Easy to spend a few hours here as it is so interesting.  There’s more beyond Port Campbell starting with The Arch.  Then at London Bridge in 1990 a collapse of one of the arches caused people to be stranded at the far end.  Next the little visited Grotto which is a completely different thing with holes and arches formed by sink wells. Here still pools of clear green water make a pretty scene. Continue just beyond Peterborough where the Bay of Islands looks like another version of the Twelve Apostles.  This must be the most spectacular stretch of eroded sandstone coastline we have ever seen and there is more beyond but the best was definitely the last 30km.  Return on the main highway in only 2 hours having taken 8 hours on the outward stretch. Bev & Norm light the wood fire in the sauna and we join them relaxing.
Saturday 21 October  Off to Melbourne together on the train using the group special ticket at $16 (6.40) return for up to 4 people.  Brilliant value as having caught the train in Geelong we have a 70km, 1 hour journey.  Beautiful sunshine when we emerge at Spencer Street station and begin walking.  Cross the Yarra River to Southbank with the Crown Casino and Entertainment Complex.  It’s undoubtedly the biggest casino in the southern hemisphere and we enjoy exploring the casino and the highly salubrious hotel and restaurant area.  Australia is probably one of the few countries in the world where togged out in T-shirt and shorts we don’t look out of place in these surroundings. Emerge to cross the river and hop on one of the free city loop trams.  The conductor is giving such a good commentary between chatting up the girls that we complete the full loop, more to chuckle at his (unsuccessful) chat up lines than anything.  Carlton gardens are laid out like the Union Jack and dominated by the magnificent Royal Exhibition Building fronted by an imposing fountain.  The attraction today is behind here where the new Melbourne Museum is being opened for the first time.  Catch part of the speech by Victoria’s premier Steve Brax but the crowds are huge so we press on to Lygon Street – Little Italy.  It’s just like being in Europe with people trying to entice you into their restaurants.  Select "Il Gusto" which has no tout but an offer of garlic bread, any pasta or risotto plus a glass of wine for $12.95 (5.20).  Our Indian waiter upgrades us to a bottle of wine for 4 and we grab a kerbside seat and enjoy.  After a short stroll admiring the old traditional buildings and ducking into the new museum we hop on a tram to the Treasury Gardens.  Grab the camera when a possum runs in front of us then up a tree just like a squirrel.  Pause in adjoining Fitzroy Gardens to glance at the original Captain Cook’s cottage which in 1934 was uprooted from Yorkshire and rebuilt here.  Spot a number of brides posing for photos in the gardens before we reach the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) home of the MCC (Melbourne Cricket Club).  Admission $17 (6.80) but we have a leaflet with old prices and pay $13.20 (5.50) to view the Cricket and Olympic museum and take a 1 hour tour.  It takes awhile for the penny to drop and me to realise the significance of the Olympic museum.  In 1956 this was used as the main stadium for the Olympic Games and immediately increases my interest.  One of the biggest sporting stadiums in the world it is also used for Australian Rules football.  Concerts have been held here featuring Michael Jackson, Madonna, The Rolling Stones, U2 and the Three Tenors.  It’s still a private club with prestigious membership and a huge waiting list.  The club rooms befits its status but the changing rooms for the football clubs most certainly do not being basic in the extreme.  Another long walk back to the tram with the new skin formed under our Sydney blisters taking a hammering.  Alight to walk to the Rialto Tower $9.90 (4.00) for a 20 minute film then a lift to 253 metres making it the tallest office block in the southern hemisphere.  In addition to superb views they have Zoom City interactive live cameras for you to operate which are great fun. Hobble back to the station and Norm calculates we have pounded about 9km of pavement which explains our sore feet.  Catch on the news that a protester jumped out and landed a custard pie in Steve Brax’s face just after his speech, shucks we missed that.
Sunday 22 October  Bev & Norm take us for a tourist drive which includes the world famous Bells surfing Beach.  Norm explains enough about the sport to enable us to have a conversation with a wax head without appearing complete gonks.  Fit in a couple of hours sunbathing on Point Impossible beach including lunch and bubbly.  Use Bev’s car to drive to Newport in the western suburbs of Melbourne.  Sue (daughter of one of our PO customers) and partner Bob live here and we met them when they were visiting Keighley.  They live in a quaint old (we old for Australia as in nearly 100 years) federation style cottage and have invited us to stay overnight.  They take us for a drive to nearby Williamstown Beach area from where we get great views of the Melbourne skyline.  There’s an interesting restaurant near here called The Titanic.  Long before the film was re made the man set this up and created a dining experience where for $100 (40.00) you are togged up in period clothes, driven in a horse drawn carriage and piped aboard the replica ship.  The "last meal" follows (price includes drinks) and eventually the ship hits the ice berg and begins to sink accompanied by special effects including the "ship" moving.  Shame we don’t have time to fit it into our itinerary.  They also take us to the ex rifle range where big new houses have been built on tiny blocks of land and amazingly made to look like old ones.  Return for a BBQ and much travel talk where they inspire us to add Alaska to our every growing list.
Monday 23 October  At Newport station we buy a $4.60 (1.85) ticket giving us all day use of buses, trains and trams in zone 1.  By the time we reach Melbourne Central the drizzle is rain so we look in the undercover mall where the old Coop’s Shot Tower is preserved under an impressive glass cone with a hot air balloon, plane and clock completing the scene. Melbourne has one of the largest tram and light-rail networks in the world.  Using two trams we go to St Kilda beach the nearest one to the City. It’s like an English seaside with an esplanade, theatre and amusement park.  Luna Park is like the Sydney amusement park which is so pathetic it’s often know by it’s reverse name (anul krap).  Stroll the main street dodging the rain and grabbing a coffee and cake before returning to the city.  Check out some of the attractive old arcades and the interesting and impressive Flinders Street station then drop into the library for a couple of hours browsing and using the free Internet available on over 200 computers.  Hard Rock cafe for lunch then the 3.00pm free tour of Parliament which is poor.  It’s ironic that today our feet are fine but the heavy rain prevents us walking so we head on home.  Belmont is a suburb of Geelong and Sue tells us the Sita is the best Indian restaurant around and all the Indian cricket team visit when in Melbourne. We find it in the High Street but see it is closed on Mondays.
Tuesday 24 October  Heavy rain throughout the night making sleeping difficult so I get up before 7.00am to bring the diary up to date.  Bev tells us they were desperate for rain and much appreciate it, we don’t and may have to revise our travel plans. En route to Ocean Grove with Bev we spot lots of overflowing dams and flooded areas.  Mid afternoon the rain eases to be replaced by strong winds.  I crawl into bed to catch up on some sleep and I’m just settling down when there’s a crash and van shudders.  We explore outside to find an uprooted tree sprawled behind the van with the trunk resting on Norm’s garage roof and luckily for us only the soft branches on the motorhome.  The tree stump is rotten and the combination of that and the sodden earth have made it easy for the wind to blow it down.  It is part of a twin trunk tree and the other section could easily go.  Bev & Norm are out so Steve moves the motorhome forwards whilst I entangle the branches.  Norm’s caravan is inside the garage but the roof looks strong, is only slightly dented and seems to be supporting the trunk easily.  Phone Norm who is most concerned that our motorhome is OK and now well clear.  He adopts the usual "She’ll be right" Aussie approach and says he expects the rest of the tree to fall but it will save him a job if it does!  Stoke up the wood burning stove in the lounge and sauna for a relaxing evening.
Wednesday 25 October  More heavy rain causing our trip to the races to be cancelled.  The racecourse is flooded and the Geelong Cup called off.  A real case of "the cup runneth over". Bev & Norm take us for a drive and we end up at the Sitar Indian restaurant for lunch.  We are the only diners and the Scottish owner Des with Indian wife Joyce make us most welcome.  Des is a little pretentious and insists on explaining about most of the beers he stocks and with almost 50 it gets a bit long winded.  Anyway he’s good entertainment value and we can understand why the Indian cricket team come here.  Stroll along the Geelong waterfront checking out some of the 104 painted bollards.  Nancy Natty Knickers amuses us astride her velocipede.  Smorgy’s at the end of the pier makes a good coffee stop on the way back.  Enjoy our last meal which Bev cooks followed by cards.
Thursday 26 October   Take our leave heading west hopefully to better weather.  Glance at the impressive tower clock as we pass through Camperdown before stopping in Warrnambool to visit the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum $12 (4.80).  Its cool & breezy but dry which is fine for ambling through the re-created Australian port with buildings and ships from 1850 – 1900.  There’s a magnificent life sized china peacock which was salvaged from the Loch Ard.  Fascinating stories tell of the wreckage of the Mahogany ship made from timber only found in Europe.  It was discovered after the "first" Europeans arrived but following over 50 years of sightings it disappeared.   Strolling round the edge of the man made lake Steve calls out from behind me.  I turn to him then hear a rustle and out of the corner of my eye spot a snake slithering into the grass beside me.  I scream and Steve also jumps.  He thought he was going to point a prop out to me.  One of the staff spots it going back across the path and thinks it’s a tiger or a brown snake, both bad news.  Just out of town Tower Hill reserve provides great walks and wildlife viewing within the extinct volcano.  Park on the island in the centre to go on 2 of the many nature walks.  Emu’s stroll all around and we have to shoo them away.  On the lava tongue boardwalk we spot many koalas high up in the gum trees fast asleep. There are over 2000 here and some are being re-located to the Grampians as there are not enough Eucalyptus trees to feed them all.  The first volcano walk is interesting then on return we spot a koala low in a tree right at the edge of the car park. When we close in for a photo it wakes up, eats a leaf, shuffles round the tree for awhile and makes grunting noises, brilliant.  Next near the visitor centre we see an Emu with baby chicks on the lawn.  Whilst Steve cooks tea on the free electric BBQ we also spot kangaroos hopping around.  Neat place.
Friday 27 October   Into Port Fairy to eat our breakfast by the sea.  Must have been very well sheltered last night because here it’s blowing a gale and to cap it all we have a short but heavy rainfall.  Drive the historic walk to see the "old" buildings in Portland.  Nearby Cape Bridgewater proves interesting.  Battling against the wind we fight our way to the cliff top to look at the blowholes whilst being showered with spray.  Although nearby we struggle to stay on the path when walking to the petrified forest.  It is thought the forest was burnt out many years ago then sand blasted from the ocean collected around the trunks and solidified.  Cross into SOUTH AUSTRALIA and hear on the radio they are 1 1/2 hours behind Victoria (8 1/2 ahead of BST). At the side of the road we pass lots of Radiata Pine plantations with specimens of various ages and occasional recently felled areas which explains he logging trucks.  Many people have told us we must visit the blue volcano crater lake at Mount Gambier.  I thought Mount Gambier was a mountain with the lake at the top.  Wrong.  It’s right on the edge of the town of Mount Gambier and not high up at all.  It usually changes colour to bright blue in November but we reckon it’s blue today and looks good.   The town is riddled with underground caves and right in the centre of town at the Caves garden you can walk down into a sink hole and see where a cave with water disappears under the city, amazing.  Umpherston Sinkhole is a larger one which has been landscaped to create a wonderful garden oasis.  Climbing down the steps we emerge to an area of terraced lawns with flower beds which lead down to the cave.  The whole sinkhole is surrounded by ivy making it cool and shady. Picnic tables and BBQ’s are provided and it is floodlit at night which is when the possums come out to play.  Extraordinary.  Yes I rather like Mount Gambier.  Drive back to the coast at Southend to enter Canunda Conservation Reserve.  2km of dirt road later we are at Boozy Gully (named before we arrived) just back from the ocean.  The aboriginals used to eat a lot of seafood and here you can see huge midens which are piles of the cast off shells.  Estimates put them at 5000 years old.  Do a few exploratory walks then settle in for the night.
Saturday 28 October    Woken by fishermen coming to set and collect their cray pots (lobster pots).  Drive into Beachport and too early for the shops set out on the scenic drive.  The Pool of Siloam is a salt lake seven times saltier than the sea and reputed to relieve sufferers of arthritis and rheumatism.  10km out of town the Woakwine Cutting is Australia’s biggest one man engineering feat.  From an observation platform you can see where 2 men spent 3 years cutting a canal through the rock.  It’s an awe-inspiring sight similar to the Corinth canal.  Today the swampland behind is continuously drained into it by a series of canals and now used for farming.  Just south of Robe we turn off down dirt track to circle Lake St Clair.  Between the lake and the sea is Sunland Holiday Village where weather permitting we can disrobe and enjoy the sun.  $5 (2.00)  p.p.p.n plus $6 (2.40 for the site and $2 (80p) for power.  Meet everyone at the 10.30am coffee morning.  Hike over dunes and across the dried up lake and more dunes to the beach.  It’s cloudy and warm but with a cool strong breeze.  Just after lunch our friends Lew & Cath arrive from Adelaide and the sun breaks through.  Get together for afternoon G & T’s along with Ron whom we also met last year in Darwin.  Round the day off with an evening sauna.
Sunday 29 October  Because of the Olympics NSW & Victoria went onto daylight saving time at the beginning of September instead of the end of October as normal.  Daylight saving starts today in South Australia so we put our clocks forward by 1 hour making us BST + 9 1/2 hours. However I reckon that UK have now gone onto GMT and lost an hour which would put us at GMT + 10 1/2 hours, I think.  After coffee morning Cath & Lew take us for a ride into nearby Robe. It’s a small fishing village with a population of 600 which swells to 10000 in the holiday season.  At the boathaven Stanke Ociana Seafoods are open and selling fresh fish and seafood.  Surprisingly they also sell freshly cooked fish and chips. $4.95 (2.00) for a large portion of chips plus 3 battered garfish and $3 (1.20) for 5 pieces of battered flake (but not the chocolate type).  Steve also spots the fresh crabs and can’t resist one for $1 (40p). Excellent value and delicious.  An afternoon sunbathing with the tiny wrens getting very friendly.  Steve hand feeds them cheese and we particularly like the males with a bright blue top half. Cath & Lew join us for a curry night, she makes a Prawn Thai curry and I a Glen Beef curry.
Monday 30 October   Bright sunny morning with good temperatures forecast.  Join Cath & Lew for a very long walk in the afternoon.  We are rewarded with great views after climbing to the top of "Big Bertha" sand dune.  Strutting along the beach we come across lots of interesting things including tins with Japanese writing on them containing what looks like fish in black bean sauce, heaps of seaweed, rope, buoys, fishing baskets, bottles in many colours shapes and sizes and sadly a dead seal.  Return exhausted but invigorated.  In the evening Ruby Roo comes to visit and hops around near the van with a Joey in her pouch.
Tuesday 31 October  Bright and breezy start, perfect for drying the washing.    By 3pm it’s clouding over so we set off as storms have been forecast.  There are lots of dragonflies about and we collect quite a number on the windscreen stone guard.  On the highway towards Penola we see a big flash of lightening ahead which looks to reach the road and on nearing the spot we see the roadside grass and scrub ablaze. A couple of people are walking over to deal with it but refuse our offer of help as the rain is starting and will probably do the trick. Approaching Penola we spot the fire trucks heading out but it’s now raining heavily and they shouldn’t be needed.  Petticoat Lane in town has some interesting old houses but it’s too wet for us to venture out.  Back into VICTORIA so clocks forward 1/2 hour (GMT + 11hours).  Between heavy downpours we spot a tortoise crossing the road and unusual grass trees in the forest which look like yellow furry candles.  Through Coleraine where Helena Rubenstein lived as a child and started her cosmetic business with a shop in the main street, now a museum.  Heavy rain comes and goes but it’s fine when we reach Wannon Falls giving us chance for a walk to admire the spectacular curved waterfall which drops dramatically into a pool.  There’s a lovely free camping spot with a canopy over a central fireplace which even has an oven.  Spend a restless night between heavy rain and thunder.  Lonely Planet was certainly right about the climate they say "Victoria, and Melbourne in particular, has a single major drawback – the bloody climate.  The average rainfall is less than Brisbane and Sydney. The trouble with Melbourne’s climate is that it’s totally unpredictable; you can boil one day and shiver the next.  What the hell am I talking about – it’s the next minute, not the next day!  In Melbourne if you don’t like the weather, so they say, just wait a minute.  It’s not that Melbourne has four distinct seasons, it’s just that they often all come in the same day."  Sounds pretty much like England to us.

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