Adelaide to Melbourne

We arrived in Adelaide quite late on the Sunday evening, and as we left first thing the following day there wasn’t much (any) opportunity to have a look at Adelaide, which was a bit of a shame as I’ve heard it’s quite a nice city. I’ve also missed out on Perth. Nevermind, I’ll just have to come back next time the Ashes are on and take in the Adelaide and Perth tests…

We left Adelaide early to drive to the Grampians national park. We took a short walk to the MacKenzie Falls:    

The Grampians were very scenic, and welcome change following several days of vast nothingness in the outback

We stayed at an eco YHA in Halls Gap, probably one of the nicer places we stayed on the trip.

Another early start the next day – Australia Day (26th January). Australia Day is on the day that Captain Cook arrived in Australia. It seems that it is becoming a bit contentious with it being on that day as it is not very sensitive to the indigenous population. They view Cook as an invader rather than explorer. As it happened, we went to a cultural centre that morning to learn more about the indigenous people. It was a lot more informative than the one we had previously gone to a Uluru.

After that we drove to the coast and the Great Ocean Road. Bit of a hiccup on the drive – as it was Australia Day, very few shops and petrol stations were open. We had to resort to using the emergency fuel at one point…

The Great Ocean Road was one of the things that I was really looking forward to seeing in Australia. The sky was a bit ominous but it stayed fine thankfully. We saw the London Arch (formerly London Bridge until part of it collapsed) in the afternoon before heading to Port Campbell for the evening.

The next day (the final day of the tour) we carried on travelling east along the Great Ocean Road and saw Loch Ard Gorge and the 12 Apostles (apparently there weren’t ever 12 and there are even fewer now as the sea erodes the rock away). I really loved this part of the trip, great scenery and interesting rock formations appealing to my geographic/geological side.

We arrived in Melbourne mid afternoon, and I headed off to the Australian Open. I had decided on a whim in Cairns that as I would be in Melbourne whilst the tennis was on, I might as well go and see some. I bought a ground pass for after 5pm for $30 (about £15) online and the ticket was sent via text message.

It was about a 35 minute walk to tennis from the hostel I was staying at. I managed to luck out on Andy Murray playing his quarter final match so when I got there, I got a glass of vino and headed for the big screens (budget didn’t stretch to tickets in the Rod Laver Arena itself). As I arrived, they were in the process of closing the roof on the arena as a massive rainstorm was heading our way. I got my brolly up and waited it out sat in the open for as long as I could, but eventually I had to retreat indoors. I watched the conclusion of the Murray game on TV from the concourse inside the Rod Laver Arena. Shortly afterwards the weather cleared up and I watched the conclusion of a women’s doubles match before heading back to the hostel. 

My flight to Fiji was the following day but not until 11.50pm so I had a whole day to explore Melbourne. I went to the Old Melbourne Gaol where Ned Kelly was imprisoned, the aquarium (where I finally saw Nemo) and the Melbourne Museum. 

Also sat next to Lleyton Hewitt in Starbucks who was giving some tennis advice (‘you should work on your forehand’) to a bloke who I didn’t recognise but I assume must have been at the Australian Open. First celeb spot of the trip!

I had a great time in Oz. The bits I was looking forward to (Uluru and the Great Ocean Road) were as good as is hoped, and things which I hadn’t given much though to (Fraser Island and the Whitsundays) were excellent. I travelled with a great group of people who really added to the whole experience. Still a few things I’d like to see in Oz but they’ll have to wait until next time!

Uluru and the Outback

We flew from Cairns to Alice Springs – the flight was about a third full. We arrived early afternoon but unfortunately we were then stranded in the airport for 90 minutes as our transfer to the hotel did not arrive.

Not a huge fan of Alice Springs, or maybe I just didn’t have enough time to explore properly. It was certainly a different type of heat to the humidity of Cairns, very hot and dry.

The next morning we left early to drive to Ellery Creek watering hole for an early morning dip:

Then we drove onto Uluru. It was an eventful journey which included driving through a massive sandstorm/thunderstorm and passing something which looked like it was going to develop into a tornado:

At this point we weren’t sure if there was going to be a sunset to witness at Uluru, but thankfully by the time we got there the weather had improved:

The following morning was another early start to see the sunrise over Uluru before a 3 hour walk in increasingly hot temperatures at Kata Tjuta. The heat made it physically demanding but the views were worth it.

 In the afternoon I splurged on a helicopter flight over Uluru and Kata Tjuta. More spectacular scenery, and you start to get an idea of how remarkable both Uluru and Kata Tjuta are because there is literally nothing else for as far as the eye can see.

We visited the cultural centre in the afternoon before doing the ‘mala’ walk around part of Uluru itself in the late afternoon.

In the evening and overnight, there was an almighty thunderstorm. We were meant to be sleeping in ‘swags’ – basically a large sleeping bag with a built-in mattress, which you sleep in outdoors. As it started raining in the early evening and did not stop, we commandeered some semi-permanent tents on an adjacent camping ground. When the occupants of those tents rocked up at 1.30am whilst it was still raining, it’s fair to say they weren’t impressed!

The next day we had an early start and a long driving day to the opal mining town of Coober Pedy. Coober Pedy gets so hot in summer (can be late 40s C) that many of the inhabitants live underground. We actually stayed in a motel that had been burrowed out of rock, and it was surprisingly (and refreshingly) cool in the rooms.

We had a tour of an opal mine the following day, and brief drive around the town before heading to the next overnight stop at William Creek.

William Creek is the smallest town in Australia (population 8), and is truly in the middle of nowhere. It was extremely hot in William Creek (over 40 when we arrived), fortunately there was a swimming pool to cool off in.

In the evening I had a very good meal of goat rogan josh and far too much wine.

The next day was quite hard work on the bus as everyone was feeling a bit delicate, and it was yet another long drive. These few days really gave me the impression of just how vast Australia is. We drove hundreds of miles each day, and there was flat land with very little to see. One horse towns every couple of hours to fill up with fuel, but otherwise just miles and miles of desert. And not the kind of desert that I had imagined – no soft white sand dunes here, it was actually surprisingly green as there has been more rain than normal

We drove to a sheep station at Beltana. This was a really cute place to stay. Very homely with good food, a pool, and various animals including goats, alpacas and camels.

The outback was a really interesting experience. I love how big and expansive it is. How you can see for miles and miles and miles and have an uninterrupted view. I also love how big the sky is here. Even when it has been grey, it has still been so much bigger than it is at home. You really get a sense of how vast Australia is.