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L&L On the Road Lars & Louise on a world-sampling tour

Australia in a spaceship - freedom to sleep around

AUSTRALIA | Tuesday, 4 May 2010 | Views [1645]

So, it has been a while since our last update (again).  The main reason for this is that we have been busy traveling right across the Australian continent.  For the most part, we have been doing that in a Spaceship. What? And, apparently, wireless internet has yet to reach outer space. What?  A word of caution, this one is a little longer and will probably take a few minutes to read.  There is a lot of road to cover…

 

Darwin and Kakadu National Park: Waterfalls and Crocs!

After leaving Bali and the Gili islands, we landed in Darwin in the Northern Territory at the end of March.  What first struck us was the heat.  It was very humid and felt a bit like a Swedish sauna.  Not quite as pleasant as Gili Air.  To conquer the climate we went on a tour of the best waterfalls in Kakadu national park.  The tour, which was of the organized variety, was not quite marketed as such, but the majority of the time was basically spent in different sweet water holes, checking out waterfalls and worrying about sweet water crocodiles.  Our guide kept on saying that they don’t attack humans - but who knows.  Check out the Salt water ones below… Having seen these, we would rather not risk too much interaction with any crocodiles.

 

Alice Springs and Uluru: Camping under the stars!

After Darwin, we boarded the Ghan (Australian interstate train), made our way to the red center where we rented a car and some camping gear and headed out to see Uluru (a.k.a. Ayer’s rock).  It is quite majestic, but we saw a rock we liked better on the way down and which we, thinking it was Ayer’s rock, spent almost half an hour photographing.  In terms of accommodation, we got some swags (sturdy Australian camping mattresses) with the car which we used to camp under the stars.  We liked this although there are quite a few creepy crawlies that make the experience a bit less tempting.  Good thing then that the car could fit campers in the boot as well…

Cairns: Diving the Great Barrier Reef and Flying Saucers. What?

Having explored the red center, we flew up to Cairns to get away from the flies and to cool off a bit.  In Cairns, we went on a day-tour scuba diving the outer Barrier reef.  This was a fantastic experience.  It was the first time Louise ever tried diving, and I had not done it in 15 years either.  I could not imagine a better place for an introductory scuba dive, and what a place to get going again!  All the corals and marine wildlife was simply sublime.

This is also where we stumbled upon our flying saucer. What?

 

A Spaceship™ is basically a Toyota van that has been taken through the equivalent of MTV’s pimp my ride for campers.  All of the back seats have been ripped out and replaced with a bed, fridge, some camping equipment and a DVD.  Basically, all you need to be able to roam around the countryside at ease.  This little puppy became our humble living quarters for the next month.  Cheap?  At AU$ 40 a day and another $50 a day for fuel (basically a full tank a day – we did a lot of driving around) we would have to say yes, very.  Comfortable?  Well, not really, but very convenient and a fun way to travel Australia.

 

Sunshine and Gold Coast

Our first destination was the coast.  Louise, initially in charge of the map and guidebook, kept on telling me that there was nothing much to see between Cairns and Brisbane and that only on the other side (i.e. on the Gold Coast), would we find a decent place to dip our toes in the sea.  Luckily enough for us, we listened to some locals and endeavored onto the seaside of the Sunshine coast (which is the East coast north of Brisbane) and were rewarded with long stretches of beach with hardly any people at all and without the tourist hype.  Having realized we had struck gold on the sunshine coast, we kept on taking local advice for the Gold Coast as well, bypassing such places as Surfers Paradise, instead opting to go to smaller towns such as Burleigh Heads and Sawtell that do not seem to get a lot of travelers, but still have fantastic beaches and cheery locals.

 

In the washing machine…

In Sawtell, Louise convinced me that we could not leave Australia without having tried our hands at surfing.  I had been quite reluctant as my shoulder has been a little f-cked up from swimming in the waves in Vietnam – worth it, but it seems to heal slowly, probably due to inadequate rest and lugging around a 15kg backpack all the time – got to get rid of some of those books…

 

Anyway, we had a go and lived to tell the tale although we were both humbled by the experience.  Basically, we were a little too confident at the start out and paid the price a few times.  Falling in the midst of a big one feels a bit like one would imagine it feeling being stuck in a washing machine.  The locals told us that this was normal though.  All part of the fun apparently.  Or as one of them put it, during the post surfing chat at the lookout point: “If you haven’t had a proper drilling, you haven’t been surfing”.  All in all, a fun day out though.

Sydney and Hunter Valley

After our adventures on the seaside, we needed a bit of relaxation.  After some time on the Gold Coast, we pressed the pedal to the metal and headed up to Hunter Valley, just outside of Sydney.  This is one of Australia’s most well known wine regions, home to such names as Lindemann’s and Mount Pleasant.  We had a day and a half of wine tasting (mainly Shiraz and Merlot, but also some Verdelho) and enjoyed a memorable dinner at a local restaurant (Muse), which turned out to be simply magnificent.  Excellent food, wine and service.  A real winner.

 

Adelaide and the Barossa Wine region

Realizing that wine tasting is quite a pleasant pastime, we opted to just go in quickly to Sydney to then cut straight across the country and head for the Barossa valley, just outside of Adelaide.  This is arguably where you will find some of Australia’s best Shiraz and it is home to names such as Penfold’s and Jacob’s Creek, that make it right across the globe to retailers in the UK and Sweden.  On our tour, we opted to stay away from the big producers though (where the service tends to be a little less enthusiastic and the prices of the wines at the cellar door still do not match what you get in the retail stores).  We had a good time and again enjoyed a nice meal to top things off.

Oh, we have to let you in on the best joke we have seen from the local Police.  In wine country you go past signs everywhere saying “Cellar door open”.  This basically means, welcome to come in to try our wines.  In Barossa, the police had put out a sign of their own stating “Cell door open”, which we guess was to remind punters of the consequences of drink driving.  Good sense of humor we thought and it certainly hit the mark with us!

 

Great Ocean Road, Melbourne and a homely end to our Australia trip

After a quick in and out in Adelaide, we went on the Ocean Road to Melbourne where the Mother ship was located and we needed to dock our Spaceship before heading off to the next Galaxy (New Zealand).  The Great Ocean Road goes just along the Southern coast of Australia and is a scenic drive with a number of nice lookouts over the sandstone formations along the shoreline.  It was very enjoyable and we found some nice spots to camp along the way, in particular “the Sawpit”, a camping area in the middle of the gum tree forest, complete with fire places.  We stayed a whole day enjoying the surroundings and spotting Kangaroos. 

Reaching Melbourne, we were exhausted from some 30 days of sleeping in the car and decided that enough was enough.  Luckily for us, we found a mom-and-pop style motel outside of Melbourne where we stayed for two nights, enjoying the company of the owner operators which we guess were in their late sixties or seventies.  They made us home cooked meals by the fireplace and chatted with us all night long about our travels and Swedish customs etc.  When we left, we each got a warm hug from the nice lady who ran the place.  A worthy ending to an exciting month and a half in Australia!

 

 

 

Qapla’ (Goodbye in Klingon)

Lars

 

 

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