Driving the Great Ocean Road

When you last heard from me, I was preparing to drive the Great Ocean Road.  Driving that road is an incredible experience, but for those who are not used to driving on the “other” side of the road and on the “other” side of the car (notice that I didn’t say the “wrong” side), the Road creates an even greater challenge.

I’d hoped to rent a motorcycle and take the ride of a lifetime, but between the cost of rentals and the fact that I couldn’t find a bike to fit my 5′ tall body, I opted for a rental car.  I have to confess to feeling a bit nervous about driving in Australia.  I wasn’t so much worried about driving the Great Ocean Road, as I was about getting out of Melbourne!  I even told the folks at the rental agency that I’d pay someone to drive me out of the city 🙂  Ultimately, it all turned out perfectly, and while the car was a blast, after driving that road, I sure wish I could have ridden those curves on my Harley.

The Great Ocean Road is included on the Australian National Heritage List and at 243 km (151 mi), stretches along the south-eastern coast of Australia between the cities of Torquay and Allansford.  Construction on the road began in September of 1919 and was built by approximately 3000 returned servicemen as a war memorial for fellow servicemen who had been killed in World War I.  In addition to being dedicated as a memorial, the road also connected isolated settlements on the coast, and become a vital transport link for the timber industry and tourism.

As a visitor to Australia, seeing these signs along my route were welcome, and within minutes of driving out of the city, I stopped at my first Visitor Information Centre.

The incredibly friendly and informative folks at the Centre loaded up a reusable bag full of maps and pamphlets, which suited this map loving woman just fine.  GPS is great, of course, but I like to say that I use MAPS.  The volunteers recommended that I stop in Geelong, and I’m so glad that they did.   Located just southwest of Melbourne, Geelong  boasts a 19th-century carousel, a curved art deco boardwalk , and a several colorful sculptures that chronicle the city’s history.

After a lovely stroll along that curved boardwalk, I took off for Torquay, the surf capital of Australia, and the start of the Great Ocean Road.

On this, my first day on the road, I only managed to drive 90 km (50 mi).  I just couldn’t help myself: I had to keep stopping!

I mean, seriously! I think I pulled over at every possible place!  Including the Cape Otway Lightstation, built in 1848.

What an incredible gift it was to have the time to explore.  I had no plan other than to go, to see, to breathe.

The sound of those waves crashing on the shore were captivating, and in my next post, I’ll share some video.

The curves were fun to drive, and every so often, I was pleased to be the only car on the road.  At times, it seemed I could have been driving the Blue Ridge Parkway, as the road wound through lush, forested areas.  At other times, the road took me along the dramatic coastline.  I could have taken weeks, not days, to visit the many natural and historic wonders of this road, and I could have taken thousands and thousands of photos.

At the end of an amazing day, I stopped at the  Great Ocean Road Brewhouse for fish and chips and a nice, cold beer.  On this particular day, I’d worn one of my Harley t-shirts and as always happens when I travel, people come up and talk to me about motorcycles.  Even in this day and time, a woman who rides her own bike is still a big deal.  We also talked about the bracelets on our arms, representing loved ones gone too soon.

Next Post: Day Two on the Great Ocean Road

Just One

Along the Great Ocean Road

We are 6 days away from Local Elections here in Radford, and I am working hard to help the candidates that I support win the day!  Since I’ve not really got the time right now to share the story of the last 4 days of my trip, I’m leaving this teaser here for you to enjoy.  As I look at it, I can still hear the waves and feel the breeze.  Just incredible!

I’ll be back soon!

Making Friends and Riding the Rails: Sydney to Melbourne

When last I posted, I’d told you about my amazing day in Sydney.  I then took a pause in the storytelling in order to visit all of you.  Somehow, almost a month has passed since I arrived back in the States, after enduring lots of up close and personal attention at the security checks along the way.  Now it’s time to resume the tale!

You may remember that I took the overnight train from Melbourne to Sydney.  Even though the day time train was taking the same route back to Melbourne, for this trip I’d be awake and able to see the countryside.

Some might consider an 11 hour train ride far too long, but I enjoyed the whole trip!  I chatted with those around me and learned a lot from the train Conductor, who after learning of my interest, would come tell me when something interesting was coming up.   I kept my camera on the scenery flying by and while none of these images will win awards, I liked the movement they convey.

I could have taken a plane but I really wanted to see the rural part of Australia.

You really can’t get a feel for the country from a plane, but the train opens the world to your eyes.

We stopped several times and when there was enough time, I’d jump off to look around.  My favorite story from the day was when we were pulling up to Albury .  The Conductor had let me know that the Albury Train Platform, at 455-metre-long (1,493 ft), was the longest in Australia.  As I walked to the door, a woman jumped up and asked me if I was going to get off at the stop, and after indicating that I was, she said she wanted to come, too.

It turns out that Lorraine (nick named Laurie – what a coincidence!) was traveling for the first time out of her home state of New South Wales.  She and her sister were headed for Melbourne and other parts of Victoria, and she was as excited to be traveling as I was.

Laurie asked me if I’d send her the photos that I took and I happily agreed, of course asking if I could take her photo as well.  What a joyful part of the ride!

The ride continued and the other passengers got used to seeing the happy American walking up and down the aisle, camera in hand.

Before I knew it, we were back in Melbourne.  After a slight challenge getting my luggage out of the locker in the station, I walked to my hotel, which while a 1/2 mile away, was all down hill.  Thank goodness for wheels on suitcases! As I crossed over the Yarra river, I was rewarded by this beautiful view.

I checked into my hotel, enjoyed a cold beer and dinner at the Belgian Beer Cafe that Boomdee had recommended, and prepared for the next day: driving the Great Ocean Road!

A Pause in the Story

Some of you have been able to follow along as the Blogger Babes have shared happy stories from New Zealand and Australia.

Photo Credit: Alys’ camera on timer 🙂

Pauline (and her oh so much fun daughters Danella and Joanna, and Joanna’s partner Steve), Alys (and her husband Mike), Boomdee, and I had the most amazing time! Its hard to believe that after all the anticipation and planning, we are back home and blogging about it. I urge you to visit the blogs of these remarkable women and read their posts about the Blogger Babes Trip of a Lifetime. In case you are checking in for the first time, we:

All too soon our holiday came to an end, and some of our group journeyed back home. As for me, and for Alys and Mike, further adventures awaited. While Alys and Mike toured more of New Zealand, I prepared to fly off to Australia to begin my solo adventure. Before that though, I enjoyed hiking and jetboating in Queenstown.

Once in Australia, I spent two days touring Melbourne and one fabulous day in Sydney.

The trip was incredible and after a couple years of anticipation and planning, it is hard to believe that the trip is over, and that we are all back home. Of course, being back home means that the world intrudes and the fullness of life gets in the way of blogging, and visiting blogger friends. So while I have so much more to share from the trip, I’m going to take a short break from writing new posts to visit all of you.

I’ll be back soon to share stories and images from The Great Ocean Road and Grampians National Park.

Cheers!

12 Hours in Sydney

At the end of my second full day of walking around Melbourne, I boarded the train for Sydney.

Even though I knew my time there would be short, I just couldn’t imagine being in Australia and not visiting the capital city of New South Wales.  The train would be a perfect way to accomplish the goal.  I’d sleep on the overnight train, spend a full day exploring, and then head back to Melbourne via the daytime train.  I walked from the hotel to the Southern Cross station and stored most of my luggage in a locker.  With my camera in hand I boarded the XTP for the 960 K (600 mile) ride to Sydney.

Before closing my eyes, I pondered how to spend the few hours that I had.  Friends offered wonderful suggestions and I knew I’d have trouble choosing the best options.  Should I:

Take a tour of the Opera House or do the Bridge Climb?

Go shopping at The Rocks?

Take the ferry to Manly Beach?

Enjoy the Botanical Gardens?

Or just walk around Darling Harbour.

Ultimately, I chose a 5 mile walking tour.  I’d miss the interior details of the Opera House and the thrill of the Bridge Climb, but I’d experience the big picture and get an overall taste of this vibrant city.  After leaving my overnight luggage at my hotel, I walked by the Queen Victoria Building, completed in 1898, and through Hyde Park, Sydney’s Central Park.  Aren’t those trees stunning?

The Sydney Harbour Walk officially starts at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and when I stopped by, a ceremony celebrating the 21st Biennale of Sydney was in process.  An aboriginal native walked through the crowd with a smudge stick, which I learned was used to promote healing and clear energy fields.

I walked through the Royal Botanic Gardens and along the harbour pathway towards Mrs. Macquarie’s Point.  Lady Macquarie’s Chair is an exposed standstone rock cut into the shape of a bench which was hand carved by convicts in 1810 for Governor Macquarie’s wife Elizabeth.  Folklore has it that she used to sit on the rock and watch for ships from Great Britain sailing into the harbour.

As I turned from viewing Elizabeth’s chair, I caught my first views of the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  My breath caught at the site of these iconic images, and I couldn’t believe I was there!

Can you see the folks doing the bridge climb in these next images?  I have to admit to feeling some regret about missing it.

I continued my walk to Circular Quay and found an outside cafe for a cold beer and some calamari.

I watched a variety of ferries coming and going and made the decision to take the Fast Ferry to Manley Beach.

The Fast Ferry was really fast, taking just 18 minutes to get from Sydney Harbour to Manley Beach, and I had great difficulty holding the camera steady to get these views of the cliffs.  Even still, the ride was so much fun and I loved feeling the wind in my face.  I almost like I was riding the motorcycle!

After the ferry docked, I walked around to Dawes Point, passed Observatory Hill and towards the area known as The Rocks, the historic district of Sydney.  Established in 1788, and once under threat of demolition, the area now hosts open air markets, boutique shops, and pubs and restaurants.  Of course, I was forced to enjoy another australian beer. Poor me!

After hours of exploring, and thoroughly enjoying myself, I walked back to the hotel to get cleaned up for dinner.  My final walk for the evening was to the King Street Wharf where I devoured a delicious meal and lovely glass of wine (or two).  Then it was time for sleep.  The train back to Melbourne would pull out of the Sydney Central Station at 7am the next morning.

What would you do if you only had 12 hours in Sydney?

Melbourne in 2 Days: The Solo Adventure Continues

With not even two full days to spend in Melbourne, I was up and out early, ready to explore.

The first thing that I did was find new accomodations.  Since my Air BnB experience proved to be less than satisfactory, I walked right next door to the Holiday Inn and booked a room.  Perhaps my assumptions were too high and I expected a bit more of a welcome rather than 3 changes in my contact person prior to arrival.  Perhaps as a newbie to the city, I needed a bit more guidance and information.  Perhaps I just needed a bit more cleanliness. Whatever the reason, my instincts had me moving on.  After booking a room and feeling much better about the situation, I eagerly set out to learn a bit about Melbourne.  I truly have no idea how many miles I walked (more than 5, less than 10), but I do know that I walked the city for hours.

What better way to start my tour than by taking a view of the city from the 88th floor of the Skydeck.

Next up was a walk through the National Gallery of Victoria,

and by the Victoria Barracks.

From the Skydeck I had seen the Shrine of Remembrance and knew that I needed to visit this solumn place.

During my two days of exploring this great city, I was so pleased to see all the green!  Melbourne boasts many parks full of gorgeous, mature trees, and the streets are adorned similarly.

Initially I wondered why so many of the abundant sidewalk cafes were not full (I never waited long for a table!).  Then I realized that the parks were full of people enjoying a picnic lunch.

The public art and celebration of the aboriginal culture were quite evident, as were the signs of activism and efforts to protect the environment. Aren’t you glad I didn’t take a photo of one of the many, many recycling bins?  Well, to be honest, I did! I just didn’t share it 🙂

The city of Melbourne has an annual cultural festival called Moomba, an Aboriginal term which means ‘lets get together and have fun.’
What a crowd!

I thoroughly enjoyed this street performer while drinking a cold, local  beer at a nearby pub.

Both old and new architecture, often right next to the other, were eye catching.

My friends who enjoy searching for the good deal would have loved the Queen Victoria Market.

This city accomodates and all are welcome.  I loved seeing and took advantage of the free and easy Public Transportation, the easy walkability, the recycling bins, the Free WiFi, and YES, the clean toilets everywhere!

Melbourne is such an easy place to be a tourist, and I could not have been happier with my two days there.

Thanks to Boomdee and Alys for teaching me, after 6 years of blogging, how to use a photo gallery.

Thanks for reaching the end of this very full post.  Next Post:  Sydney!

Hiking and Jetboating in Queenstown

It was with mixed emotions that the Wanaka Crew began to disperse Thursday morning, with all of us checked out of our gorgeous temporary home on Friday.  What an incredible journey blogging has been for all of us!  Who knew that when we all published our first posts, for me back  in June of 2012, we would meet and make such great friends.  The benefits to blogging are many and without a doubt, the best part is the worldwide connections that are made.

This image nipped from Alys’ FB page: Boomdee, Alys, Danella (daughter of Pauline), Pauline, Steve (partner of Joanna), me, Joanna (daughter of Pauline), and Mike (Alys’ husband).

After one last lunch with Pauline, Danella, Boomdee, and Siddy, with this view as the backdrop, I was dropped at my Queenstown Hotel.  It was time to start my solo adventure.

Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of the world, and with just one and a half days to spend there, I had many choices.  Ultimately, I decided to hike Queenstown Hill and, on the advice of Danella, to take a jet boat ride on Lake Wakatipu.

After walking by this gorgeous tree, I began my morning with the now customary Flat White.  I was thrilled to see this Giant Sequoia since I’ve not seen them in California yet.

They Call it a “Hill”

Queenstown Hill is a popular hike for locals and visitors alike despite the moderate to difficult rating.  While only 3k from the trail head and back, it was another 3k on foot to get to the trailhead.  It’s 500m to the summit, straight up hill all the way.  Click on each image in the gallery to get an idea of the steep climb, both on the street and the trail.

Soon enough I entered a magical area of stacked rocks.  I was capitavated and spent a good 15 minutes in peace and quiet, and then added my own rock.  The photography is poor as it was quite dark and I just didn’t capture the stacks well.

I knew that I was near the summit when I arrived at the Basket of Dreams.  Sculptor Caroline Robinson created this piece in 2000 for the Queenstown Millenium project which has  transformed the existing walk into a heritage and art trail.  The ‘Basket’ is near the top of the hill and “is built to lie inside of, eat your sandwich, and imagine. It provides a meeting place, a resting place, a dreaming spaceIts a place to be with others and with the magic of the Wakatipu landscape”.

I began what I thought were the final steps (the basket is right in the middle of this next image).  It is so tiny as seen here.  Then I turned around and saw that I had several more steps to go (see the second image).  Can you see the people on the summit?

Finally! I arrived on the summit and the view is indescribable, at least for me.  I mean, how many more times can a person say “incredible, gorgeous, stunning”?

I sat in complete contentment for a long while.  A woman came up and asked if she could take my photo as I looked so quiet and peaceful.  What a thoughtful gesture as I would not have been able to manage a selfie.

It was difficult to leave this place.  Thankfully, a celebratory beverage and a jetboat ride awaited me.  I enjoyed my Monteith’s Black as I looked back up to the summit.  Can you see it, peaking through the trees?

And then I looked towards the lake.

It was a specatacular day for a jetboat ride!

What a thrill, and even though 60 minutes, not long enough!  My time in New Zealand came to an end all too quickly, despite being there almost 2 weeks.   What a remarkable country!

Now though, it was almost time to get on that plane, and fly to Melbourne.