Sunday 29th May
Flight not till 3.40pm, so hotel recommended 1.30 shuttle bus, giving us lots of time to repack and have breakfast. We packed and left luggage, then went back to the NGV INternational site where there was a very nice craft market. We enjoyed this for a while, had a couple of things for breakfast then back to the hotel. Shuttle to Southern Cross Station then the SkyBus from there at $19 each. Worked fine.
Usual hanging around at airport but actually not that long before boarding. We have window seats on this flight and saw a bit of Australia as the dark didn’t catch up till about Singapore. Was an actual SIngapore Airlines flight and very good as usual.
Two hours stop over in Singapore, again not too long as the walk between the two gates was massive. Usual security actually at the gate here then two seats in the centre, in front of galley. These were good, as on aisle, no one behind, so can recline at will and no problem from galley or toilets. Good position if you don’t want windows.
The flight was OK, no kids, the hostesses are great, enough food. Just hard to sit still for 14 hours! There was brief stop at Munich in daylight 5am, we weren’t allowed off nor did we want to. Probably 3/4 of flight left and not as many got on so fairly empty.
Arrival at Manchester on time. Had time to have breakfast while we waited for the 10 o’clock train we had booked and met Alex Thompson at the ticket machine.
Train home was fine, amusing ex RAF bloke trying to get to Headingley with a comedy of errors. Got a taxi home, it was his second fare of Singapore Airlines from Melbourne people!
Managed to stay awake till about 10pm!
Official end of Holiday!!!!
Sat 28th May
Up earlyish to hand back the van by 11am. Wasn’t a problem, we had breakfast and cleaned the van up a bit then popped next door with it. He was on the phone for a quite a while. Friendly enough but then informed us that as it wasn’t clean enough we would be charged up to $200 for cleaning! We had forgotten to wipe the fridge but everything else was clean as you could expect after a trip and the T and C said something like ‘reasonably clean’
Anyway the two of us were more than a match for him and after a little cleaning, in which we said truthfully we had all day, and we knew he wanted to go, and all was sorted. All in all a reasonable company but nothing special. Camperman.
Got an Uber to the hotel, which was the IBIS, formerly Tune, Hotel on Upper Swanston St. This turned out to be very well situated, very well run and nicely built and furnished. Would recommend it. We could go straight to room despite being very early. We walked to the Melbourne Uni, not far up the road to the Ian Potter Museum of Art, with some very good stuff especially a photography exhibition. http://www.art-museum.unimelb.edu.au/exhibitions/exhib-date/2016-05-31/exhib/max-and-olive-the-photographic-life-of-olive-cotton-and-max-dupain
This coincided with a rain storm but we will still the only patrons! Afterwards had a lunch in a cheap but sophisticated very italian restaurant on a lovely street near the hotel, Lygon St. in Carlton. We walked right through the town to the Anzac Memorial again, this time open and had a better look around. Impressive, especially the underground exhibition but I think Canberra was the best.
Then finally to the NGV international. This was amazing architecture large cuboid, lots of airy spaces, stained glass ceiling on one section of atrium, The glass wall of water etc. Also a fabulous collection of newish stuff. A bit one picasso, one cezanne etc. but really high quality! http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/visit/
We had to rush it a bit and were a bit arted out but would like to spend more time there really.
Tired out by now we wandered back to the hotel with tram and walking. We had a nice ceap meal in a Singaporean restaurant nearby, symmetry for you, then a coffee and expensive chocolate in Lygon St.
Friday 27th May
Had booked into a campsite right next to the campervan place, Big4 Melbourne, for this evening, so had the day to get there. The morning weather was lovely so we decided to have a walk first. There was a nice loop from the campsite, onto a ridge out towards the headland and back up the creek, which took in some good views and environments. Sort of reminiscent of Cornwall or Devon in some ways. Granite, outcrops, small islands, not bracken but looking heath-like in places and all very lovely. Probably the last wild bit of Australia for a while!
The hit the road north following google to the sculpture park of Heide, renowned here but I have to say little known elsewhere. There are three buildings and a park. The buildings are an original homestead bought in the 30s and done up by an arty rich couple who became the centre of Australian modern art at the time, including Sidney Nolan. Then a modern 60s building they moved into, sort of Lloyd Wright in style and finally an exhibition space made later. All in the original parkland which contains sculpture and installations.
We arrived at lunch time and managed to get a table in a much reduced cafe due to an event. Two good burgers if a little slow service, all rather sophisticated Melbourne elite feel. Then we walked around. There was a tree which still bore the scars of where aboriginals had removed bark for a canoe, then up to Heide I, nice little house with some good Nolan and other art. Then to HeideII, a very attractive if rather impractical house. All limestone, glass and wood, with a moving exhibition in it. Two levels blending in well and leading out well to the garden. HeideIII a more pedestrian space, with a fairly ordinary display at the moment and the garden similar. Nice parkland, some good and a lot of mundane sculpture. All in all was great as a place to aim for on the journey but glad I hadn’t had to work to hard to get here.
We left at the wrong time, to drive across Melbourne to North Coburg, though actually it wasn’t far, just some traffic. Booked in and walked to a ‘diner’ to have american style food that was bad for us .. Nice friendly service and actually packed later though empty as we walked in. Topped off with too even worse for us Krispy Kreme donuts.
Thursday 26th May
A day of rain .. so we decided to stay an extra day. It is an extremely expensive site at $57 without power, but a nice one and it is the only one in the park. It pretty much rained all day with only brief respites so we didn’t bother to do anything but read and write. We had one small walk to the beach towards evening, and saw a few wombats but that was about it apart from some exciting washing!
Wednesday 25 May
Up and off but first a wander around the local nature reserve. Not a lot of new nature to be honest at the moment but it is an ‘ephemeral’ limestone lake area, so I think important. A good view from the top of the hill near a scout hut though and assorted parrots too.
We then drove up to the A1 at Bairnsdale for food and randomly Peg found a good patchwork shop to buy some fat 1/4 of aboriginal print which she missed out on in Alice Springs. We also bought a couple of second hand books for the journey. Then drove on. Reasonably long stretch down to Wilsons Promontory, or the The Prom as they call it in Melbourne, the most popular national park in Victoria and the most southerly point in mainland Australia. It is a set of granite hills and islands at the end of a peninsula and mostly wild and good for walking. Peg had rebooked the campsite which you are advised to do but it turned out to be well less than 10% full at this time. Expensive but well equipped for a park one at $45 but we’d rather our money went to the parks than commercial enterprises so OK. We were warned about wombats getting into tents and saw some holes on a walk along the river and down to the beach, it’s called Tidal River Camp, but were somewhat flabbergasted to realise that there are loads of them and they just graze and wobble and womble about the place in broad daylight. We say about 6 and they will let you approach up to about 6ft then trot off. They are also really cute with big muscular fore legs, small dainty back legs and a sort of swinging gait. We chose a spot well away from anyone else, easy to do here, and like this campsite
Tuesday 24 May
Time to wander back towards Melbourne along the coast and the obvious point to make for were the lakes around Lakes Entrance. Though before leaving the area we did a short nature walk that included my first encounter with a possum. Admittedly it had shortly before been let out of a cage by someone presumably removing it from his garden, but it is a wild one and Peg had already seen one picking through the rubbish on the campsite. A couple had told us about Paynesville and Raymond Island so we made for there. All low and flat and the island was a 2 minute free ferry from the ‘mainland’, on a chain ferry. It is renowned for koalas and lived up to this. Someone reintroduced them here in the 50s and they have thrived. We saw about a dozen without really trying, all asleep or nearly so, as they are prone to be but very cute!! An eccentric guy got chatting to us, who had been mentioned in a blog, and took us back to his house where he had $70,000 worth of HA gauge model railways. He had been an engineering teacher/lecturer and also, clearly a railway nut. Somewhat bitter about an ex-wife but fun to chat to. We extricated ourselves after a while, we could have stayed for hours, I am sure, got the ferry back and drove to the campsite at Eagle Point, just before the reception closed at 5. One of only two sites occupied that night, again a ‘shire’ run site and fine.
Monday 23 May
Weather tuned out good so we decided on another day on this excellent campsite and did a walk from it. In fact there were a few short lived showers but mostly fine and nice. We did a very nicely organised round walk, through about 6 different biomes, with birds and vegetation to match, starting with half a dozen assorted pelicans looking like something out of Alice .the book not the town. Up through a gully/forest of the usual amazing gum trees, etc. then some she-oaks (Casuarinas?) which are relatively uncommon, then some low heathland and scrub near a creek, and down to the ocean at a lovely beach. Then an amazing couple of miles along a completely deserted lovely beach, with waves crashing, wind causing spindrift, squeaky footprints etc. The whole length of maybe 5 miles and not a person on it, just our two lines of footprints. Actually a highlight of the trip for me and summing up Australia well. At Bastion Point, a rocky point, we turned left to go back into the inlet, with great views across the spit, with one lone surfer. Another biome of Pittaspora (Lilly-Pilly?) and some good bird spots, then finally back into town. A lovely day and well worth lingering here for.
Sunday 22 May
After a leisurely get-up and sort out, we drove down into the town proper and round to the Beckta beach car park. There was a small loop walk but we took lunch and ended up doing a longer walk to the park boundary and back. Yet another example of how impressive this country is. A low clifftop walk, with views over expansive oceans and bays, all empty of people. The vegetation was low scrub and low trees. Not sure what they were but thick, like a very large briar forest or something. There had been an RAAF airport here in the war, to attack Japanese who apparently harried shipping here. At the end we dropped down in Secret Bay and had lunch then decided to try to walk back along the beach. We were just about able to do this with a bit of a clamber over some rocks on one spur. Great having large beaches to ourselves, although the final one was well used by dog walkers it seems. The same squeaky sand here. We climbed some steps back up at the point where the cliffs made it impossible to stay on the beach, then back to a fork in the original loop and a bit more inland. This took us to a very calm creek of freshwater and finally back to the car. Not sure how long but a reasonable walk of about 3 hours with all the stops for photos and birds and plants …
Then we decided to try the beachfront campsite for tonight which turned out to be a good idea. It is potentially enormous in summer, 650 pitches in all, and run by the shire council but at the moment maybe 100 mostly grey nomad types. Lovely situation, close to and overlooking the lake/ inlet with islands dotted around it and low hills beyond, and a spit with the ocean waves crashing beyond it to the right. We were given a plum spot and before we had really settled noticed two pelicans just on the shore. They turn out to be quite common hereabouts but are quite a shock to see outside of a zoo. Enormous and weird with enormous black eyes to match but surprisingly graceful fliers, including take off and landing. People are generally friendly and chatty, especially if you give them a little time to warm to you, and especially in these grey nomad places. A couple told us they had a good meal in the pub here so we walked into the village to try it out. The pub was the first really authentic one we had been in, and I liked it. Mostly locals, three TVs with sport a pool table and no fancy craft beers … I ended up having three beers and we chatted to a Melbourne guy down for the golf. The meal turned out to be unexceptional but fine, with a pint of prawns, big buggers, to start, and lamb to follow. Peg was ill in the night, possibly some shell fish contamination on the prawns?
Sat. 21 May
Made use of the lack of a check out time and the pleasant weather to read books till midday. Then set off south again. Similar countryside with more woods, a lot of it inland, then hit the coast at Eden, to buy some food. Strangely run down feel to the shopping area, didn’t see the front. Drove on and had a look at the free campground at Genoa, which is fine but drove down to the coast at Mallacoota and stayed there, it is renowned for birds and we had a kookaburra 3ft from the car when we arrived plus a red necked wallaby!
Friday 20th May
No great hurry setting off as we feel unrushed for this part of the holiday. We managed to get the gas cylinder filled at a petrol station, 3.5kg has lasted 3 weeks, and cost $18 refill, so pretty good. I know I keep saying it but i like the straighfroward, relaxed uncomplicated Australian way.
We drove on down the coast again mostly very pleasant, very green cow country interspersed with some attractive national forests and parks. We ended up in a National Trust village called central Tilba, as opposed to its neighbour Tilba Tilba, which was a rather twee but nice village kept in the old style, all colonial houses, red tin roof, dolly shops etc. Had a nice light lunch in a organic/vegetarian/whole food dippy women place then decided why bother to go further. There was a well recommended council run wildish campground down at the coast, Mystery Bay and we drove and checked in at 2pm. Cheapish, but only drop loos and cold open showers, great position and large though. Took a while to choose a spot, it seems to be something we have trouble doing together! Then we walked to the beach and right across it to some rocks. Stupendous beach again, very weird in that it squeaks very audibly when you walk on it, the grains squeak like very cold snow does sometimes. We sat or stood or scrambled at the headland all day, mostly birdwatching, seeing some new see birds, including a Sooty Oystercatcher. Went back as the sun dropped and had tea etc. Lovely spot.