Kangaroo Island, Melbourne, Canberra and Uluru

Yulara Travel Blog

 › entry 5 of 8 › view all entries
It's interesting how we started out by sending emails every week, and now we are struggling to manage one per fortnight! Such is the life of a traveller...

Since last writing, we have been to Kangaroo Island, Melbourne, Canberra and Uluru. We are now in New Zealand, and are trying to catch our breaths.

The Aussies are notably direct. There was the time in Perth Tourist Information Office when we were told that we couldn't spend one night in the Margaret River as it wasn't long enough. Rather than disagree (he was very big and forceful), we were incredibly British and walked to the nearest payphone to ring the advisor's colleague and got them to book something for us. There was also the caller-in to the radio show who wanted to turn Iran into a "car park that glows in the night". But the least welcome episode of directness was the quote in the title of this email, which came at about 9pm at night, when we were almost out of fuel, in a place called Meningie. Fortunately, even sleepy little lizard holes have Motels. We had a choice between two rooms, so we chose the one that didn't have a flickering light by the door. We were already slightly concerned, as the man who ran the place seemed to be on his own, but kept referring to his mother. We needn't have worried, as we had a good night's sleep, and decided not to eat Mother's Cooked Breakfast, for fear of a Bates-esque moment.

Meningie is on the way to Melbourne from Kangaroo Island, our first destination since Adelaide. KI is a bit like England in the 1950s. Not that I was alive then, but I've been to enough places that people describe as being like England in the 1950s to know that KI fits the bill. It's the sort of place where everything shuts at 5pm, nothing opens on Sunday, and you expect the locals (both of them) to doff their hats to you when they pass you in the street. Anyway, KI is also a wild nature reserve. We ate honey from the only remaining pure-bred Ligurian Honey Bees (why and how did someone transport Italian bees to Australia?), walked amongst Koala-laden trees, ambled on a beach full of Sea-Lions and climbed near rocks covered by seals (similar to sea-lions, but they have internal ears and smell lots). The landscape is breathtaking, and there are beautiful abandoned beaches with white sand and turquoise sea.

As you will probably have gathered, the scenic route from KI to Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road takes A Long Time to drive. We'd completely underestimated, and were glad to leave Meningie. We spent a full day driving on a pretty boring road to Port Fairie, before driving on the interesting stretch of the Great Ocean Road the next day. The GRO is supposed to rival California's Highway 1. We prefer the latter, mainly because the views are consistently stunning. However, California doesn't have the rock formations that the Australian road has - eroded arches and stranded rocks litter the ocean. The 12 Apostles is the best known, but was the most touristy - we preferred Loch Ard.

Our first day in Melbourne was probably the zenith of our trip so far, although some of you might consider it to be the nadir. Yes, we went on the Neighbours tour. After a pointless trip to Erinsborough High, we went to Pin Oak Court, aka Ramsey Street, and had our pictures taken outside of Madge and Harold's pad. It's quite scary how popular this street has become - they have had to employ a 24/7 security service to stop tourists repeating the adventures of one couple who copulated on Harold's lawn one afternoon. The tour also included the chance to meet one of the stars. Given that neither of us have watched Neighbours for about 8 years, we weren't surprised to discover that we had no idea who the star ("Darcy") was. That didn't put him off, though, as he was sure that the world loved him. After giving us a speech about how hard it is to work on Neighbours, and how hurt the cast were when Cate Blanchett said "no, I'm an actor" in reply to the question "did you want to appear on Neighbours?", he started shaking hands, kissing babies and posing for photos. Suze and I hid at the rear of the group, not particularly wanting a photo of someone we didn't know. However, Darcy had different ideas, and beckoned us over. So, we now have a picture of the two of us flanking Mr Perfect.

The tour was fun, but you didn't get much for your money. However, the Neighbours Trivia Night was brilliant, even if it did make us frightfully old. We met Toadie, Paul Robinson and Stephanie Scully, all of whom we had seen. I asked Paul Robinson (Stefan Dennis) whether he still sang his 80s hit (or flop) "Don't It Make You Feel Good" in the shower. He was very candid, and said that he had always hated it but had only sung it because he was paid a lot of money to do so. I also managed to win a free trip to Sydney by singing God Save the Queen. Sadly, we were unable to use it. Not that Suze was that upset, as it was an 18-30-type coach tour!

Speaking of feeling frightfully old, Suzanne has managed to get me to "run" (or rather pant, wheeze and fall) on three occasions now. If it is this hard at 28, what on earth will it be like when I'm 30?

Melbourne passed in a blur. We based ourselves 4km out of the centre in St Kilda, a sort of Shoreditch-by-Sea, which has a pier, penguins, and lots of very good cake shops. We noticed that the "Barry White on Helium" birds were a West Australia phenomenon, but that Victoria has "Iron Glove Scraped Down a Blackboard" birds, which congregate in trees every evening. We loved Melbourne for the ease of getting around, its Victorian architecture, and brilliant facilities. We even cycled around the Grand Prix track, which they had prepared three weeks in advance. The centre is very lively with good restaurants and bars. We will certainly go back sometime.

Canberra is one of those places that no-one seems to like. Well I didn't mind it. The Old and New Parliaments were interesting to tour, and the Governor's House was very pretty. We didn't have long enough in the War Memorial, so could have spent more (but not much more) than one day there. Despite being very unwelcoming for pedestrians, the layout works well - no traffic jams and it looks good from the top of Mount Ainsley.

The next day was spent trekking in the Blue Mountains, named after the lavender-coloured mist which hangs above the eucalyptus forest. We were quite ambitious with our route, and manged to get lost at one stage. I was envisaging cutting off branches to make a bivouac while Suze went foraging for mushrooms, when we came upon a couple walking the other way, who told us that we had taken the long-cut and would be at the mountain railway in a couple of minutes. The railway itself is the steepest in the world (52 degrees at its steepest), and was a hair-raising 30 second ride.

We decided to dart over to Uluru, which is a surprisingly long distance from anywhere (2.5 hour flight from Sydney). There used to be six hotels nearby, but some genious let "Voyages" buy all of them and turn the area into a resort. I don't like Voyages very much. They exploit their monopoly, which even includes the airport, over-charge for everything, then have the gall to charge a 1% credit card surcharge on every bill. It applies to debit cards, too, so there is no realistic option than to pay it. I was considering auctioning a kidney on ebay to pay for an internet session, but realised that they had probably both been stolen from me in Bangkok, so didn't bother, hence the email being written now. Despite Voyages' best attempts to ruin our experience, we loved our tours of Kata-Tjuta (the Olgas) and Uluru (Ayers' Rock). At first, I was very proud when I thought that the plasticine masterpiece I constructed when I was aged 5 had been turned into a full-size working model. But then I realised that Kata-Tjuta was really several large chunks of oxidised rock. It is impossible to appreciate the scale of these formations from photographs. It took us 4 hours to walk around the base of Uluru.

I'll save New Zealand for the next email, but suffice ut to sey thet wi've errived sefe end sound, end ere looking forwerd to luts of fush end chups!

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photo by: siri