Saturday, March 16, 2019

Modernity and the great outdoor in 14 days


2017 was the year of change for me. It was tiring, mentally and physically. So much to grasp and swallow. So I was really looking forward to our end of year break.

And we set our hearts to Australia. Starting in Sydney, all the way to Melbourne – a city where I lived for two years and where I believe has imprisoned my heart since then.

There were many routes to choose from. But after some debate and careful search, we settled on a combined route – mountains and small cities in New South Wales, then through the coast line of Victoria to Melbourne (which has always been the most favourite part of Victoria for me).


I will always remember the coastline of Victoria...

and the famous Twelve Apostles
 
Or Loch Ard Gorge and the story

 The general itinerary went like this:

  • Sydney – 3 days
  • The Blue Mountain range – 2 days
  • Halls Gap – 1 day (this was a huge mistake, I’ll tell you why)
  • Cape Otway – 3 days
  • Melbourne – 4 days
It was an easy trip overall though very long. We did not experience any problems that anyone needed to be concerned about. Even for a lady driver, it was easy breezy.

If you want to do the same, then here are some tips: 

Do your homework, map out your whole trip, consider the hours and distance carefully, and plan out where you want to make stops.


Not only will you need to know what you may find, but most importantly if you can take in the distance.

We made a mistake by driving from The Blue Mountain to Halls Gap without planning to break it with a night stay in between. It was a 10 hours drive, which we thought would be fine because we often drive that many hours in Indonesia from town to town, without making a night stay in between. But, we miscalculated the fact that 10 hours drive in Australia, may mean the same distance that you cover by 13 - 14 hours drive in Indonesia due to their very empty roads, and speed limits!. 

So we ended up arriving at Halls Gap very late, ended up losing the afternoon that we were hoping we could enjoy, and was very tired. Luckily, the morning was glorious with so many kangaroos greeting me when I jogged (and very very cold too).  

With miles and miles of empty roads like these, but you cannot really go over the speed limits, it can be very tiring
 
With towns like these.. 


We were greeted by Halls Gap's local residents
And as I jogged in the chilly morning, the sun was glorious

The Balconies, at the Grampians. Halls Gap is the departure point to explore the Grampians, Victoria



Summer is a busy period, so rent your car well ahead of time or you’ll get very limited options.  

And check the rental if they allow you to take the car all over Australia, and if they allow dropping the car anywhere for them to pick it up so you don’t have to go back to the city where you departed from.

We rented ours from Sydney, and dropping it off in Melbourne. We rented it from Avis just to make it easy as they have an office everywhere in Australia. But if you are diligent enough to browse around, you’ll find plenty of options even from individuals from which you can do this too. Price wise, if you are renting it for a long period of time like us, you’ll get better price in general.

And, try to get a 4 wheel drive. Australia has lots of little villages and towns, also wildlife areas with rougher roads. A 4WD will get you a long way.


Always bring a jacket with you. Windproof is best. 

We came in the last week of December and stayed until the first week of January. It was summer. But it was breezy and cool in Sydney, and in the evening the wind can be a bit cold. In general however, New South Wales’s weather is far friendlier than it is in Victoria’s.

Victoria is unique. 4 seasons in a day is no joke. It is worse in winter time, but in summer it is also applicable. So don’t be surprised to get some rains here and there, and suddenly very hot in the mid-morning, to be cool again in the afternoon.

And especially if you are planning to roam around the coastline of Victoria, the wind can be harsh and cold.


The sun can fool you. The wind is chilly, and the sea is cold in Victoria (Loch Ard Gorge)

Bring a pair of good walking shoes. 

Australia is best explored on foot, if you ask me. And there are good signs everywhere so you will not get lost, nor will you get bitten by anything as long as you are careful and pay attention to these signs.

The Blue Mountain. Lots of tracks around and you are crazy if you do not try at least one

They are very generous with the tracks - very safe, with clear signs of where you have to be very careful at

Cape Otway's Lighthouse complex. There are plenty of options here. You can go up to the whale watching point, or the Aboriginal shack to listen to stories, or the little museum. And the complex is huge. Very nice to walk around though the wind is chilly

This sign is everywhere in Cape Otway's Lighthouse complex. I never met one, and I did stay on the designated tracks

You can easily find tracks like these everywhere you stop



Don’t just follow Google Maps blindly. Force it to find other alternative routes for you. Or best, also bring a physical map with you and use Google to find out what you can see and experience along the way, then set your course.

Using Gmaps, helps. But, it can also be a trap. There were once that it gave us a shortcut through the protected forest of Cape Otway on our way to Cape Otway’s lighthouse. We went through a dirt road that did not seem to be passed that often by cars. It was fine if it happened in broad daylight. That time, it was already 8.30pm, the sun was very low, the forest was a bit dark already, and we were very tired after 5 or 6 hours of driving.

The next morning we checked and apparently there was an easier route.

So it was a real learning for us, to force Gmaps via checking with another map for other routes. And as I always believe: technology still needs to be combined with common sense. 

The sun was ready to set, we were quite close to Cape Otway already...
Then we had to go through this kind of road, almost dark, no signs, dirt road. Well...we could only say we were glad when we finally got to the gate of Cape Otway Lighthouse!


Be open minded. Ready to even get lost. 

One thing that we love from doing road trips, is that you can always see and experience the unexpected. So be ready with foods and drinks so you can have a picnic anywhere you can stop. Get that camera ready to capture anything of interest. Make stops – don’t worry too much about getting somewhere on time. Talk to the locals.

Stop anywhere you want to...take in the scenery...feel the sand...the water..

enjoy the view of sheeps grazing in the fields

Take in the hills..

Suddenly there was a submarine! - HMS Otway

Stop by to check out an old theatre that is still used to play modern movies


When we passed Katoomba, we saw a sign that they have a complex of murals..so we decided to see it first before continuing our journey





Sometimes we just stop to take pictures of the seemingly trivial stuff, like this windmill..

...or a koala up the trees..

...or a mailbox out of a milk barrel

..or a hedgehog!..

...and of course kangaroos!

...or took a peek to a nearby small river

...or Christmas decor in the fields..




Find unusual places to stay – don’t just stay in regular hotels.

One of the highlights of this trip for us was our stay at Cape Otway’s Lighthouse complex. We found it accidentally in Booking.com, and did not regret a thing. It gave us access to explore the whole complex every day, which could be quite expensive  for a one-day trip.

So explore the unusual places especially if you are planning to stay outside the big cities. With the unique environment that Australia can offer, I think staying in a regular hotel kinda kills that spirit of adventure that this country is offering you to experience.


You can go up the lighthouse before tourists come in flocks

Explore this complex to your heart's content
Add caption

Enjoying the view at sunset. Also at sunrise
You can see the inside of the lighthouse. It is no longer in use as it becomes too expensive to operate
That little tower is now replacing the old lighthouse. Ironic to see that its replacement is much smaller :)
In certain months, the whales can be seen passing through the waters from the whale watching point in this complex

Lastly, just enjoy. Australia has a lot to offer if you love the combination of modernity, the great outdoor, as well as some vintage touch here and there. 

The horse stone, Blue Mountains

Melbourne tram

Old church, can't remember where this was anymore

I think this was in Geelong

The Three Sisters, Blue Mountains

Sunset at St. Kilda beach, Melbourne


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