Our apologies to our readers, especially those that only look at the pictures, that the rate of photo posting has not kept up with the flow of words. At present it is all we can do to write the blog, pictures will follow when we have more time for photo management (blame Eric who is taking hundreds of the things!).
Thursday 16th October 2014. Day 38
The weather has turned distinctly homelike, with plunging temperatures and heavy rain over night. We awoke to even more rain, but it dried up as we left, just after 9.00am. The first objective was to visit the tourist sights of Robe, starting with the Little Dip conservation Park and a visit to Little Dip beach. This involved a ten kilometre drive, much of it on unsealed road, but the secluded beach with the rocks, pounding surf and a backdrop of bush vegetation made it very worthwhile. We then motored around the town admiring the churches, the ruins of the old jail and the obelisk, built on the headland as a warning to hapless mariners to avoid the nearby rocks. The views from the headland were impressive, with islands, arches and stacks enough to delight any coastal geomorphologist. The response of the calcified sands to weathering and erosion produced some dramatic landforms.
After visiting the local supermarket to buy lunch we headed for Narracoorte. Trust in the gps led to us retracing our steps to Kingston before we broke onto new ground. The road passed through a pastoral landscape, almost English parkland in places, with herds of cattle and flocks of sheep producing the image of a rural idyll. The sight of emus and llamas among the stock underlined that we were not in England.
At Narracoorte we visited the cave national park, now a world heritage site for the continuity of the fossil evidence from a number of caves. Time did not permit a visit to the Victoria fossil cave, but we did have a tour of the Alexandra cave, with fascinating examples of cave depositional processes in action, controlled by the rate at which water drips from the ceiling. We also visited the self-guided ‘wet’ cave, which had a tiny pond at the very end of its cavern and the fossil centre a very interesting animatronics reconstruction of the megfaauna whose fossils had been discovered here.
Leaving the caves behind we next visited Mount Gambier and much enjoyed the views over the blue lake, a crater lake. Although impressive this was not as awesome as the one in Oregon according to Joyce. We also drove to look at the leg of mutton and valley lakes, two neighbouring crater lakes in the same erosive chain. Eric climbed to look at the centenary tower, built in 1900 at the crest of the crater rim to celebrate 100 years since the discovery and naming of the area.
Our path then took us back to the coast, travelling through Nelson at the mouth of the Genelg river and then the port of Portland with its marina and examples of early buildings. We finally turned inland to Hamilton and the Bandicoot Motel. We arrived after 8.00 pm, having lost half an hour as we crossed the border from South Australia into Victoria. At this time most restaurants have closed, so we were forced into the fast food fraternity for our sustenance. We ended up in, we hate to admit, those of you with a nervous disposition please stop reading now, MacDonalds and enjoyed the take away in the comfort of our motel room.
Friday 17th October 2014. Day 39 A Grampian gallimaufry
The first experience of driving in Australia has been, on the whole, a pleasurable one. Driving on the right side of the road ie the left is a definite plus and the low traffic volumes, especially in the countryside means that driving is remarkably stress free, apart from self imposed time limits, the result of trying to squeeze in perhaps a little too much sight seeing. The roads are generally straight and while only one lane in both directions the lack of traffic generally means that a high average speed can be maintained, keeping to the speed limit of course (no laughing at the back please). The only distractions are the occasional glimpses of wildlife, dingoes, wallabies, emus, echidna, kangaroo, which on occasions can challenge for road space as evidenced by the carcasses, sadly including two koalas, which intermittently decorate the road, attended by carrion birds.
Today was supposed to be a relatively light day, a foray into the Grampians National Park, before heading back to the coast for the last push into Melbourne. In practice it stretched a little as we found places of interest and the original itinerary, which included some rock art sites had to be curtailed.
We left Hamilton at 9.00am and drove through Dunkeld before entering the National Park. The imposing peaks and steep ridges of the Grampians made for beautiful vistas as we drove into the mountains. We stopped for a stroll to Silverband waterfall, a mere trickle at the moment but still an attractive site and Lake Bellfield, where a friendly parrot came to visit. Driving through Hall’s Gap we found the zoo which advertised a display of local fauna, many of which could be hand fed. As this was our best chance to see these animals we decided to spend some time there. It has been something of a disappointment that having now driven a few thousand kilometres through Australia our wildlife sightings have been few, fleeting and far between.
The zoo was well worth the entrance fee and while we did not see the quoll nor the quokka nor some of the rarer wallabies nor possums and the wombat was comatose we were able to see and feed wallabies and kangaroos, including an albino one, and saw the koalas close up as well as dingoes and a Tasmanian devil. A variety of other animals, including a fine pair of cheetahs, made this a fascinating way to spend a couple of hours.
We probably stayed a little too long as time slipped away and we felt a little under pressure as we explored some more of the park. Taking the tourist road through the mountains we stopped at the Wonderland car park and walked to look at the Grand Canyon, the only sight within easy reach of the car ar. We then drove to the Boroka lookout, which gave superb views over the surrounding lowlands from a viewpoint perched at the top of the cliff. This was followed by the Reed lookout which gave views over the Victoria Valley. Unfortunately the balconies, an even more spectacular viewpoint, were too far to walk to in the time available.
Our route then took us north towards Haworth, a little too far north as Eric attempted to exercise his sense of direction. Finally realising that we had not reached the road we needed Eric switched on the gps and found the road to Port Fairy. This proved an interesting drive as the route went direct, along some very narrow country roads.
Once checked in at the caravan park we drove to explore the town. Built at the mouth of the river it maintains a number of older buildings in a very attractive small town setting. As many Australian towns the streets, especially in the centre, ad very wide, giving space for ample on street parking as well as allowing traffic to flow easily. After a good meal in a restaurant we headed back along the river road, past the moorings used now by pleasure boats, to the causeway for Griffith Island to visit the shearwater colony which breeds there. Advised that they return to their burrows at dusk we braved the chill wind, first to visit the beach then the viewing platform where a group of other visitors suggested that we needed to wait until dark. This we did and were rewarded by the spellbinding sight of hundreds of birds wheeling and darting over our heads, silhouetted against the violet, blue, orange and red tinted sky and the emerging stars. They fly overhead until they feel it safe enough to drop to the ground and enter their nests. It was truly a spellbinding sight and it is good to know that some Australian wildlife can stick to the script. We returned cold, tired but happy to the warmth of our cabin.