I left UK on May 19th for 10 months of freedom and exploration with a Round the World ticket. Will I find New Zealand as perfect as it was fifteen years ago? How has Australia changed? Will I learn any Spanish in S America?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Great Ocean Road 2 - Apollo Bay to Grampians

Walked to Shelley's beach - no shells - v high tide!V interesting weathering and eroding of the rocks - like desert landscapes , desert cities - in mircocosm.
V hot day, harsh sun.
Maits Rest - Fabulous place - a boardwalk through rainforest - I went photo crazy - and a prescribed half hour walk took me an hour and half. People streaked through at speed of knots and I wondered what they got out of their experience. Fungi - frogs, birds, light on plants, spiders, smells. Rainforest has got it all going on - most exciting environment bar cloud forest.
Castle Cove - stopped for view
Lavers Hill - lunch at Blackwood Gully tearooms. Signs up everywhere indicating the past presence of backpackers - "We canot serve tapwater" "Toilets for patrons only" "Not drinking water" - sevice was ultra slow but they did a great seafood salad and had rosellas swooping down to eat from a bird table so I was able to take some good shots.
Melba gully - Maits Rest was a lot better.But apparently they have good glow worms here - which would explain the huge car park marked out for coaches! I was only car there at 4pm. Lots of rosellas by the BBQ area.
Princetown - Marshland - walked along boardwalk on marshes as wind got up with a carboard cup of latte- didn't see the Aus bittern as the info board implied I might - and began to scout around subconsiously for a place to park car for a freebie overnight - unidentifiable bird of prey circling over the lake and reed beds. Interesting marshes - black swans and ducks.Couldn't make interesting picture of it though.
12 Apostles - the climax of the Gt Ocean Road! It was about 6.30pm the sun going down,but still loads of people there pouring into the purpose built car park. Beautiful cliff top plants and shrubs, lots of honeyeaters darting about and sea birds nesting on the crumbling pillars the colour of cotswold stone. There are actually only about 9 apostles now as progressively they wear away. It is a beautiful sight though even if it has been photograhed a gazillion times . once the sun went down it went down very quickly and it got quite chilly - I drove further on to Loch Ard Gorge - named after the ship that went aground on rocks nearby. Mutton Bird island is there too , and the birds( shearwaters - which both Maoris in NZ and Aborigines feasted on) fly in in the evening to roost in their burrows after a hard day at sea - but no one was there waiting for them and I had no idea what time it would happen - I waited perhaps half and hour and no show - so gave up and drove on to Port Campbell which is described in the guide books as a sleepy fishing village - it was seething with coaches and vans and people when I drove in - starlings gathering in the ubiquitous towny NOrlolk pines , making a collosal communal noise and peeling off in whirling balls like like schools of anchovies form a ball in reaction to a predator. The one and only backpackers was full- so I tried the campsite for cabins - full! HTere was a hotel out of town which could do me a bed for $90 but I considered that was beyond my budget. SO I considered driving off and parking the car somewhere quiet but I like a shower in the morning and I needed to charge my camera battery so I asked the campsite office if I could sleep in the car on a tent site - $12.50 - which they agreed to - so with the money I saved not staying in a backpackers I headed to the Port Campbell Hotel - rushing as they stop serving at 8pm - and ordered 6 Tasmanian oysters, natural as opposed to Kilpatrick style - $12.50. They were divine!They were huge! They tasted so fresh! I took a picture which I will try to post here when I can find a cafe with some photo software - not many places do. Australian pubs serve the best value for money food and as most of them are coastal if you go for fish you are in for a treat - I also had grilled barramundi - which is just a bit nicer than the snapper that is also always on offer - which came with mash and salad - $18 - splashing out a bit there but the camp site kitchen was a wholly depressing place and it was the pub or sit in the car so I reckoned worth it for a night.At 8pm precisely the shutters came firmly down and even local fishermen who came in in their wellies couldn't persuade the chefs to make and exception. Rules are very much rules in Aus.
THere is a great coastal walk from Port Campbell which takes you from the beach over headland but I couldn't do it because of my foot which is giving me more gip than it was in NZ now.I have my custom made orthotics from Sydney which are permanently in my steel shank boots ( so I cannot flex my foot much) but have since read that custom made orthotics are not terribly effective - but then nothing else is either-.
I slept rather badly - the car seat was brilliant and reclined right back so I was more or less horizontal but a mossie got in around 4am as I had a window slightly open for air. I couldnt see it and swiped ineffectively in the direction of the whine for about 20 minutes before it found my ankle bit me and went silent. I got up early - two men beside their vehicles and tents watching me make my way to the shower block and back as they stood and talked hands in pockets.
There are brown signposts to the various coastal scenic sights - from POrt Campbell to Port Fairy my target for the night. London Bridge has fallen down,Bay of Islands - more exciting in NZ - I stopped at Warranambol for lunch - a big town with a huge carpark in the centre with warnings to lock your car and look out for your valuables.I bought noodles to take away and drove down to Sting Ray Bay - I didn't see any but I did see crested terns. There was a large aboriginal centre on the way through the town down to the sea - with the aboriginal flag, the black earth the red sky or is it the other way round, with the yellow sun bisecting both in hte middle - its a wonderful flag , emblazoned on the corruagated roof. Austalians are now discussing along with ditching the royal family whether they should adopt a new flag - everyone gets confused about which is the NZ flag and which is the AUs one - apparetly the NZ one has the stars of the southern cross outlined in red instead of just pure white - but can't agree on a design - my friend Suzanne suggested a tinnie - a beer can - how very apt but they'd never decide if it should be Fosters, or VB or Coopers........whereas NZers are more or less clear on a silver fern- the emblem of the All BLacks which appears everywhere already.
It was very very hot with a bright blue cloudless sky. Windy though. Pairs of Honeyeaters chased each other through the low scrub - zooming right past my ears at speed - I think some mating might have been going on .A family was picnicing on the sand, plagued by seagulls of course.A bridge leads over a sea inlet to another bit of headland- from the bridge you can see fish and stingrays in the sea. As soon as they heard my car door open they were wheeling above looking down with beady eye and the boldest coming down to land on a post about a foot from me. Eyeing the noodles. But I didn't encourage them.
Next stop, Tower Hill Reserve - I had high hopes of seeing wild and bird life here but in the end I didn't see that much - but it is an interesting place - the whole park is inside an old crater .I could only manage a short walk so perhaps if Id gone further afield would have seen more. You drive down the rim and onto a flat plateau which contains a few shallow lakes. I did see a small bush rat - and some emus who hang round the car park scavenging - and one koala - also near the car park high up in a tree - fast asleep - its bum balanced on a branch.
Drove into Port Fairy in the late afternoon and followed signs to the fab YHA hooray! $20 a night. Lovely old building, lovely kitchen with big central island , well equipped, old tiled floors, clean, plants everywhere , very homely - shared a 4 bed dorm with one other. I didn't hang around and went straight out to find Griffin Island which has a mutton bird colony -known locally as the Pea Soup colony- a rare mainland breeding area. Puffinus tenuiroslis the short tailed shearwater . Some very nice locals I met coming towards me , in fact two of them independantly stopped to tell me that they had seen some wallabies dining out just up the track - a man on a mouintain bike , all in lycra with fitting helmet came hurtling towards me as I got nearer the place they talked about and I thought darn it bet you just made them jump away - but no ! They were there oblivious to bikes obviously , chewing mouthfuls with their short forepaws held up , limp at wrist, the occasional twitch of an ear the only other movement unless they moved on to a new patch bending over and taking weight on forepaws and levering themselves forward.they let me take lots of pictures before I moved on to try and take a good picture of the lighthouse with crashing waves - no crashing waves on cue - butthe sunset was jsut strking the lighthouse - but too late I found the best angle so didnt do too well there.Beaut spot though. Also saw white faced heron on the grey rocks.
Made friends with two travelling lady friends in the Y , in their 60s and travelling as much as they can in their retirement.They are off to Turkestan and Iran in a few weeks in a truck.
Decided I couldn't miss out on Grampians as the 2 ladies talked it up so much - there was a big forest fire there in February which has put off a lot of people going there which just encouraged me more. Spelled a big pay out to rental company though - $70 extra a day as I was extending an original contract - they get you every time. I almost had to pay $150 for a dent I didnt make which you could only just see in the right light which the overly thorough mechanic found - thank god I made the people at the melbourne end actually do an inspection - when I returned the car in adelaide the admin person could tell that they hadn't done one themselves and that they had only added on the existing dents and knocks etc after they had hired the car out to me - ie at my insistence. Remember that if you ever hire a car!
I got a late start from Port Fairy as the only place that could burn CDs from my memory cards was the pharmacy - and their machine broke down in the middle of doing mine. They said they could fix it but after 2 hours it was patently untrue. I restorted to buying a new memory card at vast expense in order to be able to take more pictures. It poured with rain all day. I had no raincoat or umbrella. I got a bit wet. Gave money for a raffle held by old lady istting outside behind a card table on the main street who I talked to - asked if I could take her pic and promised to send it to her - she said at first - O No it'll break if you do that ! It didn't though.She said she would like to travel but she never has as her husband never wanted to.
I liked Port Fairy - but so does everyone else - a small fisherman's cottage was selling for $499, 000. There is a famous music festival here every year now which helped put it on the map and lots of smart cafes have sprung up.Had wonderful latte outside under an awning dripping rain and wrote to the property agency who supposedly look after my house. My foot!
I drove to Halls Gap via two Aboriginal art sites. In Dunkeld, which is desperatly trying to attract more tourists, a rather batty voluntary info person gave me a map of the area which gave me an idea where the art sites were. Aboringial sites? Not much to see she said. Weather was still wet and overcast. I checked my emails and found I had messages from Dan and NOme, Holly , Clare, Hanna, and Jenny godmother - what a bumper haul! Fantastic to read and all of them made me feel I really miss my friends and family and would love to be with them - but not homesick. It's people I miss of course and laughter and familiarity.
I veered off the main road to follow unsealed red roads into the bush to the art sites. It had stopped raining by now. AN hour down the road or track I suppose it was I found the first one - no other cars - and made my way up to the site through the bush - very quiet and still. Most of the sites are what is termed shelters , rock overhangs usually high up with view of suuroundings, and archaeology uncovered evidence of habitation. The Manja site was heavily fenced off to protect it from vandalism which it suffered from badly in the 70s-sandstone wall is decorated with ochre stencils of hands - these were childrens hands and always the left hand - of 100 odd sites in the area the local Aboriginal or Koori tribes have agreed that 5 should be made publicly accessible.
Smell of the gum trees and the red earth that turned to yellow sand as I climbed up higher, on way back I thought I heard mens voices, coming from the direction of the car park - but if I stopped they would cease. I kept hearing them as I walked - by the time i got to the car I was convinced I would find other people another car - but there was just me. Was it just my imagination? There was no wind rustling the trees. It was a spooky eerie place , but I didn't feel afraid.
I drove to the next site, Billimina, no one was here either. the vegetation was completley different though only 3k from the other site, lusher with trees and grass, ferns and moss, lichens and I saw a kookaburra who must be used to people as it didnt fly away until I was just a few feet from it.
Only 20 minute walk uphill to a spectacular rock formation which looked like a big wave about to break or a shell on end, a natural sound shell. The paintings weren't as impresseive - tally marks - the knowledge of what they were has been lost now - thanks to the massacres in the area and the spread of disease.
I returned to the car and promptl;y got lost - glen Isla road should ahve been Asses Ears Road according to my map but it wasnt - so I erred on side of caution as it was getting late and headed back to the highway - passing fields where huge herds of kangaroos grazed and when they saw me standing by the fence with camera ,looked as one towards me , almost looking like humans, then turned and hopped off one by one in huge bounds along the horizon - an amazing and almost surreal sight - Up and over the burned out Grampians which were on fire in late Jan/Feb of 06. The smell of fresh rain on the grey ash forest floor. Blackened trunks on either side of the road and leaves withered brown by the heat. But green shoots already sprouting on the charred trunks as if spring were already taking hold ( its not until September) . Forest fires are natural and only now are govt agencies starting to realise that they should manage burn offs htat need to take place to prevent wild unamangeable fires taking place.
I stopped to take photos of a vivid green of ferns beside sizzled charcoal trunks. Raining again. Misty gloom. No other cars and many roads closed off to traffic.Finally I reached Halls Gap and headed to the new Eco YHA - opened in 2000 to showcase the YHA's commitement to sustainable buildings and lifestyles. Grey water recycling, compost, herb garden, passsive solar gain. Lovely lounge with wood buring stove, big sofas, new coffee tables , it felt more like a hotel. Spacious. $25 a night for 4 bed dorm ( only 2 of us - hooray!)
Had a pub dinner - steak the size of a dinner plate - not very good. I should have tried the kangaroo which is apparetly very good but very rich. Foot was fine today until late afternoon - sharp stab of pain. Damn it.
Halls Gap in the morning sun reminded me a bit of the lake district but with squawking of corellas it could only be Australia and the buildings are not much to get excited about.
I Went a few k's down the road just before 9am to the aclaimed Brambuk Aboriginal Centre and National Park Centre but was very underwhelmed by Brambuk which the 2 ladies in Port Fairy had also raved about. Mostly shop and loos I thought. You had to pay to see films of Aboriginal Dreaming etc. ONe of the rooms was still locked and I had to ask to see in it and the helpdesk assistant rolled her eyes and unwillingly dragged her feet up the stairs to unlock it.
there were no CDs of bird song for sale in the National Park Centre - just didgeridoo music set to orcestral music and country and western style stuff about the outback - a Perth souvenir shop keeper told me today - no one wants them ( bird songs) any more - we used to stock them but they just want didge music and Australian songs.Boo!
Biggest enjoyment I got was from long tailed corellas in the trees in Halls Gap - screeching in flocks. ALso saw New holland honeyeater, AUs magpies, currawong, silvereye.
Other birds I saw on this trip :
Red wattlebird, galahs - at Queenscliffe, little pied cormorant, eatern yellow robin, either wedge tailed eagle or little eagle, yellow plumed honey eater, superb fairy wren ( blue) .
Headed off to the North Grampians - to Gulgurn Manja shelter first - not much painting to see under the shelter, but again very atmospheric and no one around- amazing rock formations and also honeycombs in a hole in the overhang - I followed a loud noise to another hole in the rock where wild bees were crawling in and out - and there was a terrific din of humming- the flash on the camera revealed it was a swarm of bees in there.The most famous site , Bunjil shelter was closed due to the fire. Also saw Ngamadjidj shelter- shaped like a giant clam shell- after stopping at Mount Zero Olives which has a cafe open on saturdays - good as I was dying for a coffee! Drving there I saw something slowly crossing the sandy track in front of me- it was bigger and thicker than a snake , it had legs I stopped as fast as I could and whipped my camera out of its bag and rushed to take photos - it was the most unwordly thing - a creature with the scales of a croc but a the mouth of a goanna - it saw me and headed for the bush. I later found out it is called a shingle back or bobtail.
The cafe was wonderful - housed in old wooden school building which the owner bought and transported out here after Jeff Kennet had a lot of the country schools closed down. Stillhad old fittings - old cast iron radiators , blackboards old gas light fittings etc.Unfortunately their food although it sounded good wasnt up to much - homemade gnocchi and sage with tomato sauce- but everything is biodynamically produced - the olives and everything else they farm. Also grow grapes and make a decent biodynamic red - franco merlot.
Aborigines prefer being called Koori - their own word for themselves - it was pretty awful contemplating what happened to them once those first ships landed - practically all the coastal tribes were wiped out. The Koori women were press ganged into helping the whalers who set up stations all round the coast, as they could teach the white man how to survive and also of course were useful for sex.Then in the 50's there was a govt programme which took Aboriginal children away from their parents and to schools where they were forbidden to speak their language in an attempt to force assimilation - not suprisingly the Aboriginals you do see are often in alcolholic stupor , bandaged up , hanging around in lost little groups by train stations or round the back of warehouses. They had everything taken away from them. As far as white Australia is concerned they hardly exist - and there has never been a formal apology from the current govt led by John HOward which many AUstralians think is the way forward to reconcilation and making peace with the past. It is weird to think about it - even stranger to see these lost people . THere was a poignant cartoon published during the bicentenial year - which was when I was here last though I really didnt do much thinking about such things then - which shows a big group of white AUssies running about with banners proclaiming 200 years! and underfoot trampled by them a small group of Aboriginals one of whom manages to feebly wave a little flag which reads 40,000 years. That's just how long humans have been traced back so far on the Australian continent.

From here it was a question of putting in the hours to reach Adelaide by night.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Writing workshop, Easter, Balingup Bhuddist retreat


Australian fear of terrorism - very strong
Boris in Science Fiction bookshop
Bhudda's birthday, Treasury Gardens Perth

I caught up on some films too in Perth and Fremantle - the l;atter in particular as the Luna SX gave me an adult ticket for just $9 on production of my international YHA card- a reduction of $5!
I saw:
Tsotsi - much better than its unpromising trailer
March of the Penguins - I felt strangely cheated by this offering- perhaps it was the saccharine voice over and lack of Attenborough style attention to detail
V For Vendetta - I am a sucker for this type of film- adaptation of graphic novel of same name by Alan Moore who detests the celluloid version and does not wish to be associated with it. I still loved it.
The Squid and the Whale - very funny
History of Violence - not intentionally I have to say - it was only film I hadn't seen in one cinema- a David Cronenberg film - predictably gory "thriller".


Friday, March 24, 2006

Even More Melbourne Photos

The George, St Kilda
St Kilda, sandcastles


Leigh and Megan

Owners of Earth Canteen, St Kilda

ACDC Alley

Melbourne Arts Festival

Big Rory


Airborne performer at night in Alexandra Gardens

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Arts Festival at the Games, Melbourne

Federation Square
Baraana hut

Part of Makeshift's piece at New 06 at ACCA

Banquet by Jacquelyn Greenbank ( Single Currency Exhibition)
Outside the NGV
Irish dancers
Cone dancers
Born in a taxi

Commonwealth Games - Marathon

Tanzanian Samson Ramadhani Nyoni on his way to victory in the mens marathon

Monday, March 20, 2006

Roast Duck Dinner at Aggies House

Aggie has had six ducks from when they were chicks but never meant them to be pets however he found it very hard to despatch them for the pot. But we all enjoyed eating them immensely - around the table starting fromAggie and going anti clockwise are Aggie, Bavita , Dick, Salila, friend of theirs forogtten name sorry!Tanny, Shirley, John, Daniel.