03.09.2010 9 °C
It has been a long time! We have been willing to pay for internet, but many places here were not able to provide due to weather conditions? (I don’t understand that, but that is a common story we get.) I am sending this from the office computer of the guy we booked our lodging with tonight. He was apologetic about not having the wireless internet available, so we will take advantage of his generosity. So here it goes. Get your cup of coffee, tea, rum, or whatever will keep you comfy for a long time and read till you can’t read anymore. We’ve included photos also, so if you just want to look at the pics by all means do so. Keep the comments coming, we enjoy them as much as you enjoy seeing the blog.
What has happened since the last blog? No, we are not lost out on the ocean, have not been eaten by a crocodile, and have not been seconded to be the next prime minister of Australia. What has happened is that internet in Australia is very sporadic. We are so happy when, as we read in our accommodation guide, that a place that we will be staying at has wireless internet access. These hopes are quickly dashed when we fire up our computer and connect to the internet, to then have the access drop, within seconds. This is typical for internet everywhere in Australia. Indeed, when staying in the town of Angelsea the internet in the whole town was down. When we asked when we could expect the internet to be back up again they thought in maybe a couple of weeks! SO, as a result of this very spotty internet access you are going to be getting a number of days/weeks worth of travel in one posting!!
From Emerald Beach (Our current favourite camping spot) we drove south to a caravan park in Narabeen which is a suburb of Sydney. This will be our jumping off spot for our exploration of Sydney and area. The weather is definitely colder than what we’ve grown accustomed to. We have had to move our shorts to the bottom of our suitcases and shift the long pants and warm shirts to the top. Thank goodness for the heater we bought at Big W! At night when the temperatures drop to around 3 degrees we can warm up the interior of our tent while we get all layered up to go to bed. Yes, our nightwear now includes long underwear, hats, mittens, hoodies etc.
To explore Sydney we bought public transit “Day Trip Passes” to the bus, ferries, trains of Sydney and suburbs. With that pass you can use any form of local transport without having to buy individual passes each time you transfer. This is an excellent option for touring through Sydney for you do not have to worry about where you are driving but instead just sit back and enjoy the sites and sounds of the city. With these passes we hopped on a bus that drove us 13km to Manly where we hoped on a ferry that took half an hour to get us to Circular Quay, (right beside the Sydney Opera House). It was absolutely fantastic to first see Sydney from the water. We were all excited as we rounded the headland and had our first view of the Opera House, Harbour bridge, and the City Scape….what an amazing view! We are so glad that we ‘approached’ the city from this angle. It is truly a magnificent view! As you can imagine our cameras were just a clicking!!!
Once on land, we explored the wharf and then decided to take a guided tour of the SOH. On this tour we were not only able to view some of the theatres in the SOH, but also were able to find out little tidbits of information that truly make you go hmm. For example…..did you know that when the SOH was built they decided to keep the building cool buy piping cold ocean water through channels all through the walls, floors and ceilings of the building? What incredible thinking! As we walked through the SOH we were very impressed with the architecture.
Fact time: Did you know that the theatre was conceived and designed by a Dane architect named Utzen. The Australian government had a ‘contest’ that anyone could enter in order to win the contract for the design of the SOH. Utzen won the contest to design the theatre by submitting drawings that had no scale and in fact his submission was a set of basic and incomplete sketches. While his sketches showed he was an original thinker, they did not show how to build the structure. This winning design was originally ignored and only after one members of the committee, who was late in getting to Sydney to select the winner, said that he wanted to go through all the already discarded submissions, was Utzen’s design selected.
Originally the expected cost of the SOH was $7 million, but it ended up costing $100 million. Originally the expected construction time was 3 years and it actually took 13 years. The new Australian government felt that the SOH was costing too much and they felt it was an embarrassment to pay an architect for ten years, when the job was to be done in three. They then decided that there must be a new architect, (an Australian group) and told Utzen that he could remain on as a consultant if he liked. He didn’t . . . so he resigned. The interiors of the theatre are designed by Australians and the construction was finished 3 years after Utzen left. He was invited back for the grand opening, but he refused to come and put off returning to Sydney until he was unable, physically, to do so. He died recently without every seeing the finished Opera House. His son, also an architect has seen it several times in his stead. Interestingly the SOH was completely paid for within 18 months of its’ completion … how did was this accomplished ... through proceeds from gambling!!
What Is It?
This is a bit of a deviation this time. I will tell you the what, but am asking you for a detail. I know that a couple of you reading this have been to Sydney, but most of you haven’t, so here is the what . . . The Sidney Opera House. The detail I want you to guess at is the colour of the outside shell of the SOH. You may have to take a look at some pictures of this incredible building on the internet. Look closely before you guess.
After our little ‘jaunt’ in Sydney, we headed further south to the even cooler climates of the Capital City of Canberra, (skipping the Blue Mountains and colder weather to ensure that we’ll have time for Uluru). We were the only tent campers in a caravan park that is a 10min drive from the city centre. At this campground we were VERY thankful that the camp kitchen had a couple of very large space heaters. We, along with 3 groups of school children, enjoyed the warmth of these heaters! As you can imagine, morning showers were very quick and also VERY cold!
Although many people had suggested skipping Camberra, we are very glad that we did visit! Through visits to the War Memorial, The National Australia Museum, The Australian National Art Gallery, The Mint, The NASA Deep Space Communication Complex, we were able to get a much more complete and in depth understanding of the people and history of Australia. In particular the spirituality of the indigenous people of Australia, and also how they were involved in cattle droving. It was also very interesting to be in the Capital city just after a national election that left a hung parliament. In fact, 5 days after the vote, they still do not know who is actually going to lead the country. It is a requirement for all Australians to vote … get a $20 fine if they do not. As we travel around and chat to people about the election and the results of the election our overall impression is that many people are very dissatisfied with their options for leadership in this country.
One of the things that we were stunned and also very pleased with is that all of these government owned attractions in the capital city are free of charge to guests all the time!
Nasa Australia, War Memorial
Our next stop in our travels is on the southern coast of Australia in a place called Lakes Entrance. We stopped here for two reasons….1) it was about a days drive from our last camping spot, 2) it is very close to the Buchan Caves. We are staying here for only 2 nights … in a cabin (the cold got the better of us!!)
In Buchan National Park we were able to take a guided tour of the Royal Cave, one of just 400 caves in the park that had excellent examples of stalactites and stalagmites. For those of you not familiar with what stalactites and stalagmites are, they are geological formation that hang from the top of a cave (stalagmites) or protrude from the bottom of caves (stalagmites).
After a picnic lunch and a hike in the park, we headed back to our cabin to plan our last 5 weeks in Australia. It is hard to believe that our time in Australia is now half over!!! Time does fly when you are having fun!!
Philip Island is famous for the Little Penguins that come ashore every night. We rented a camp cabin on the Island and then headed out at about 5:00pm to see the little wonders emerge from the ocean and cross the beach to their burrows on land. The Little Penguins (actually named this) are the smallest of the 17 species of penguins in the world and they swim a 50 km circuit every day. They form “rafts” to come ashore. Rafts are large groups of penguins travelling together to approach the beach and cross the beach. Travelling in rafts helps them feel safe for the journey across the beach where their worst nightmare may be waiting for them, large sea birds. They are only 33cm long at adulthood and 1kg in mass. Running across the beach can be interrupted by quick dashes back to the surf because of any kind of perceived danger. Shouting from people, flashes from cameras (thus we have no pictures of the penguins), lightning, anything that is sudden will send them scurrying back to the water. But they eventually have to pluck up the courage to make it across the beach where they know they can be scooped up by large birds. What a test of bravery at the end of a long day.
We took a break from driving, the setting up and taking down of camp and exploring the country side, and booked 3 days in a cottage in Anglesea, Victoria. We did nothing but walk on the beach, the kids watched tv, a lot, and we all read novels. It was a break from the hard tourist stuff we have been getting used to doing.
After Anglesea we headed along The Great Ocean Road. This is a 217 kilometres section of road that hugs the coastline and encompasses breath taking views of the rugged coast line. Our first camp site along the road was at Wye River. Upon check in we were thrilled to find out that there were 22 koalas living right in the park. After a short walk around the park we were able to spot 6 of them either sleeping or munching in gum trees. We even saw a mother and baby...so very cute!!! Unfortunately the sun was going down and the pictures of the mum and baby didn’t turn out very well.
While on The Great Ocean Road, one of the things that we want to do is explore Otway National Park, a park that stretches almost the length of TGOR. A number of the hikes that we were hoping to do were actually closed due to the excessive amounts of rain that has been received in this area. Our first two hikes were to Erskine and Lower Kalimna Falls. Lower Kalimna falls was actually closed because of wet weather and a recent storm that damaged a bridge. We heard that you could actually walk in behind the falls at Kalimna Falls, and also that if we were careful, we could also probably manage to cross the damaged bridge. So we jumped the “hike closed” fence, puddle-walked three kilometres, traversed a closed bridge and a couple of other suspect bridges to be rewarded with a fantastic final destination. You can indeed walk behind the falls. An interesting thing about the Kalimna Falls hike is that the path was through an area that had been a part of a controlled burn a few years ago. When we had heard this we had thought that the land would look devastated by fire. To the contrary, it was teaming with life. Most of the large trees are not destroyed by the controlled burn so the rainforest is still very evident all around you as you hike. Even though we all had dirty, wet feet and pants, we thought this hike was well was worth it.
Lower Kalimna Falls
Our next hike in Otway National Park was the Otway Fly Tree Top Walk near Apollo Bay, Victoria. Driving up to the hike starting point felt like we were once again driving in the Coromandel Mountains on the North Island NZ. Winding roads that believe it or not, often you had to look out the side window to see the road ahead. Most of this road was considered a ‘narrow road’ that has zero shoulder on either side. The road was however, flanked by beautiful rain forest. The trees were up to 100m tall (no exaggeration). The actual hike was partially on the rain forest floor and partially on elevated walkways in the canopy of the forest. So, we did get a birds-eye view of a rain forest. Stunning! There were times when each of us did feel a little bit sea-sick while on the elevated walk for when the wind blew the walkways would sway back and forth.
Our day was concluded with finding cabin accommodation in Apollo Bay, going for a walk along the beach, and enjoying the thought that, if back at home, we would all be gearing up for another school year. To those of you who are doing exactly that we hope that your year start up goes smoothly.
We spent the day making our way to Port Campbell near the Victoria/South Australia border. Our first stop was Cape Otway where we visited the Cape Otway Lighthouse Station. It was built in 1848 and in 1858 they laid submarine telegraph wire to Tasmania. It is a distance of about 150km, so that seems to be quite the amazing feat to us. On the way to the lighthouse we saw koalas in the trees above and beside the road. This is getting to be a reoccurring experience for us.
Next stop was the “Twelve Apostles” near Port Campbell. This is a fantastic sight and hoped to catch the scale of these amazing structures, but no one is allowed down on the beach where they stand. At the moment, there are less than 12 as some have succumbed to the constant bombardment of the South Ocean and fallen over.
Twelve Apostles; Cape-Otway-Light-House
We moved on to get booked in for our accommodation and came back to Gibsons Steps which are just on the east side of the headland for the Twelve Apostles. Here we were able to walk down to the beach and have some great photo ops. After the “steps” we moved to the other side of the Twelve Apostles and visited Loch Ard Gorge. This is where the Loch Ard sank just off shore after many attempts by crew to save the ship. No one survived but one of the anchors they dropped and later cut loose is still in the sand. It is only visible during low tide but the weather and timing did not allow us to see it. The date the Loch Ard sunk surprisingly is not posted at the site. At least we did not see it, but we suspect that it was around 1850’s as there are a lot of ship wrecks from that time on the Great Ocean Road.