BootsnAll Travel Network

Two coasts, two routes

Happy Birthday to my sister Kendra…Hope you are having a great time in Vegas!

I took a few days extra before writing again. I’ve just spent 5 days “recuperating” in Melbourne at my friend Jane’s apartment and trying to get things sorted. I managed to upload a fair amount of photos in that time, but even on a home computer it still takes ages. I have posted them on my smugmug, and was going to transfer some on to here, but still haven’t found the time. I also haven’t put captions on any pics yet, so you might not know exactly what you are looking at. But since you all just miss seeing my face, it will do you just fine. Here is my website on smugmug. Smugmughomepage It will be about the first 3-4 weeks in NZ and the first two weeks that I spent in Oz for NYE. Also my going away party is on there as well. I’ll have to try and be more picky about which photos to keep and to upload in the future, as I didn’t delete enough from my camera and some just aren’t that great. But it’s all a learning process so bear with me.

Since I thought I was heading straight to the sheep station, I didn’t do any research or reading at all about Australia really. I thought I would have loads of time for that. However, sheep shearing was pushed back until March 20th, so I had about three weeks of time to play with before I headed out there and I needed to figure out what to do with myself. Since Oz is really big and it takes a long time to get around, I finally decided to fly up to Cairns on the East Coast yesterday. Cairns is in the state of Queensland, and instead of having what we would consider seasons, they have the dry and the wet seasons, as it’s really tropical here. We are still in the wet season, and boy, is it hot and humid here. Cairns reminds me a lot of Florida; palm trees, humidity, bars, restaurants, the beach and strip malls. The town itself is nothing great, but it is the proximity to the Great Barrier Reef and another World Heritage Site, the rainforest and Cape Tribulation, that brings people up here. Since I’m not SCUBA certified, I have booked myself on a day long snorkeling trip for tomorrow. There are really lethal jellyfish out in the waters right now, so you have to wear a special full body stinger suit. I’m sure that will be very attractive.
Aside from uploading photos, I managed to do quite a bit more in Melbourne than I did before. I arrived early on Friday and got myself to Jane’s apartment. She was working, so I called Paul and we went out after he was done with work to the Belgian Beer Cafe. It is a sprawling beer garden and very popular on hot days and for after work drinks. It was a fun Friday night out and we somehow managed to stay out until the wee hours. The next day started off a little fuzzy, but Paul took me to an Aussie Rules Football game during the day. It was opening day for the season, and unfortunately the really popular main stadium the MCG, wasn’t being used for AFL because of the Commonwealth Games. So we saw the match in the Telstra Dome, which is the newer and slightly more bland of the stadiums. AFL is an interesting game, and it’s very easy to pick up what is going on, since the main rule is that there really aren’t any rules. It’s sort of a combination of rugby, soccer, catch, tag and maybe basketball almost. The playing field is huge, much bigger than an American Football field and is oval shaped. The main point of the game is to kick the ball through the uprights, of which there are four. If you kick it though the middle part, it is 6 points, but the outer two only get you one point. The players can move the ball really any way, passing, punching, kicking it etc. You can tackle your opponent, and if you are running with the ball, you have to bounce it once every 15 yards or so, but that is fairly loose rule. The ball is similar to a rugby ball and bounces much easier than an American football. It was a fun game to watch, though I was expecting it to be a little rowdier. But apparently some rival teams really bring out the crowds. While it is an entertaining sport, I think the main reason to go to the game is that the players, aside from being incredibly fit, wear these tiny little shorts and tight tank tops. The big hubaloo right now, is that the Americans are causing grief again. The NFL are starting to recruit AFL players for punting, since their accuracy is astounding. Ben Graham of the Jets was an AFL player before being recruited, and it is very enticing for them to join the NFL, since they don’t make a ton of money playing AFL. At least not what we would consider a ton. So it’s really interesting. They had an exhibition game not too long ago in LA, and apparently the entire stadium was full of college and NFL scouts.

After the match, I met up with Jane and we went to a going away, or leaving, party for a friend of hers from her rowing club. Rowing crew is a big thing in Melbourne, and there are many clubs you can join, and they have competitions and all that. Her friend was going to vet school in Sydney, so they had a big party for her. The theme was to dress as something you wish you were, and while I dressed as a backpacker :), there were some really good costumes. The following day, we went out to a suburb for a housewarming and Aussie BBQ, where I ate kangaroo. I felt slightly strange about eating kangaroo, as I think they are really cute. But they are seen as sort of pests here, and are very abundant, about what we would consider deer at home. In fact, it tasted similar to venison, very rich flavor and it is very good for you too, roo doesn’t have much fat at all for a red meat. We didn’t stay out late because I was booked on two day tour the next day to drive the Great Ocean Road and the Grampians.

The Great Ocean Road starts about at Melbourne and goes along the South coast towards Adelaide. It was started as a work project for men coming home from the war and also tried to fashion after the Pacific Coast highway in CA. The tour I signed up for was really good, we only had 5 people which is always nice, as you don’t feel like a flock of sheep getting on and off the bus. There were 4 Brits and me: Trish and Toby from London on a big trip traveling and working around Oz, Howie from London on just a short holiday and Jonathan from Wales. OUr guide Andrew was really laid back and friendly, like most Aussies, and we all got along really well. Our first stop was the little officall beginning of the Great Ocean Road, and there is a little plaque and rememberance there. Also, something I found hilarious was a street sign stating ” You drive on the left in Australia.” Obviously targeted at North American and European tourists. I wonder how many accidents there have been?

The next stop was a beach famous for surfers, and was also where they filmed the movie Point Break. It was sort of uneventful though, because there wasn’t anyone surfing while we were there. The next stop was a place that was popular for spotting wild koalas, and we did see quite a few up in the trees. Even though koalas look cute and cuddly, they can actually be really vicious and we had to stay a bit away from them. They were sleeping though, because the eucalyptus leaves they eat put them in sort of a druglike coma. They are as cute as they seem though, and I’d like to go to a sanctuary where you can get up close to some tame ones. After that, we stopped in Apollo Beach for lunch, which is another surfing spot. On to the Twelve Apostels, which is the more famous part of the road. There were once twelve rocky outcrops in the water off the beach, but due to erosion, there are now only 8. One just recently fell about a year ago. I was surprisingly impressed by these rocks, I thought they were much bigger than I thought they would be, and it was a beatiful clear day, so that always helps. Another short drive brought us to London Bridge, another famous rock formation. It used to have two rock bridges which attached to the mainland, but a few years ago, a couple was walking over the bridge when it collapsed behind them into the ocean. Luckily, they weren’t hurt and a helicopter rescued them from the top a few hours later. Of course, the media wanted to interview them about their ordeal, but in a twist that couldn’t be made up, it turns out the couple was actually having an extramarital affair and trying to get away for the weekend. Talk about keeping a low profile!

After we finished the Great Ocean Road, we turned inland and headed for The Grampians, a National Park and mountain area. Unfortunately, the Grampians had been hit by a huge fire only a few weeks ago, and many of the sites we would normally have gone to were closed. It was the largest fire in Australia since 1982, and it took 10 days to put it out. Eucalyptus trees contain a lot of oil, and once lit, burn as hot as diesel fuel, so these fires are very hard to extinguish once they get going. But Andrew assured us we would still have a lot to see and do, and he was right on the money. When we arrived at our hostel in Hall’s Gap, a small town in the middle of the Park, we had a big BBQ and then went outside to see some kangaroos. There are a ton of them in this area, and they come into town to feed after people turn in for the night. So they were all over the place and since they are fairly used to people, we managed to get quite close to them for pictures. But like koalas, kangaroos can be dangerous and if they feel threatened, will punch or kick out, with very sharp claws. These kangaroos were Eastern grey species, so they weren’t that big, but out in the West, they can get up to 7 or 8 feet tall.

The next morning, we headed out for our hike up a rocky mountain, but I can’t remember the name right now. The climb involved a little scary height rock climbing stuff, but it was over quickly and I was okay after that. The views were spectacular from the top, and while this climb isn’t on the normal itinerary, it was really nice. The area is mainly used by rock climbers and we luckily finished our climb down just as a huge school group of climbers arrived. We made our way to see some Aboriginal art painted on a rock face. This area used to be a big area for Aborigines before the settlers came, and their paintings can be found in a lot of places. The ones that we saw were just children’s hand prints in red ochre and some emu tracks. They think it was an initiation site for boys to become men, and once they were initiated, they left their handprint on the wall. After that, we got back on the bus and had lunch, where we all had a kangaroo souvlaki, which is similar to a gyros or kebab. We continued on to the Balconies, a rocky outcrop with spectacular views over the valley. One used to be able to walk out onto these rocks, but they have fenced it off now after sadly a child fell a while ago. The views of the charred forest was truly astounding, and while I don’t remember the exact area, it was something like 160,000 hectares that was burned and it almost reached Hall’s Gap, which would have been devastating. It was just burned out trees as far as the eye could see.

After that sobering reality, we continued on back to Melbourne, and stopped at a very old vineyard called Best Vineyard. It was originally set up for the gold miners to be able to have something to drink, and we had a small tasting there. The vineyard still uses vines from that original plot back from 1862, and the vines are so old, they don’t even know the names of some of the varieties of grapes that are planted there. We had a quick tour of the cellar, where old bottles from the 1960’s and 70’s were stored and covered with dust. That was our last stop before heading back to Melbourne, and I arrived home about 5:30. Jane’s rowing club has a fundraising pasta dinner once a month, and it happened to be that night, we so went there and met Melissa, who I hadn’t seen yet as she was out of town. We met Paul out for drinks again at an old and well known pub called Young and Jackson, which is right across from the main train station called Flinders station, which has now evolved into a big meeting spot for people. At all times of day there are tons of people sitting on the steps waiting for people.

My flight was about noon on Wednesday and I managed to get myself packed the next morning and send a package of souvenirs and other small things home before my flight. I’m off to the Great Barrier Reef tomorrow and hopefully will figure out a few more things to do up here before heading to Sydney to catch my train to the sheep station. It is slightly overwhelming how much there is to do, but you can also just laze around every day and it’s easy to see how people end up staying in Cairns a lot longer than they had planned. My hostel has a big pizza night tonight and my roommates Robert from Ireland and Carina from Germany are planning on going to that. But it will be an early night to prepare for my sailing trip tomorrow. Most people travel up or down the East Coast, eventually making it to Melbourne.  I only have about two weeks, so I won’t be able to do that, but I have no doubt I’ll be able to fill my time here.

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2 responses to “Two coasts, two routes”

  1. Karen Bruns says:

    Kirsten!! Hope you get this my parents will be in Cairns the same time as you until the 13th of March, I am sending their iteniry over and where they will be staying please look them up – I told them you would….I’m writing more in an email over to you but wanted to let you know!! We miss you!! -k & J

  2. david says:

    Cairns is a nice place to visit, but i agree with you that during the wet season ie now it is very hot and humid i visited there in January last year and at times it is unbearable. I enjoyed the nice artificial beach they have built on the sea front. I also visited Townsville just down the coast its nice as well though just as humid. Enjoying reading about your travels

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