Saturday, 11 April 2009


Following our time in the countryside, we've been dazzled by the bright lights of Melbourne. Famed for its food, the city lived up to its reputation. We reminisced about Indonesia, eating some fine suckling pig in one local warung - this time without the sounds of the slaughter haunting us. We've also dined on excellent sushi right in the centre of town.

A walk around the city led us to the extensive Victorian Markets where you could buy just about everything. We were also impressed by the State Library with its huge domed reading room. Another hidden gem inside was the armour warn by the outlaw Ned Kelly. One of the bullets on the body piece was from testing. Another, right on the brow, was made by a police sniper at the time of Kelly's capture.

Other sites we dropped in on included the Grand Prix circuit, used two weeks ago. Andy took the opportunity to stand on pole position. Security was pretty lax so we made it into the pit lane and nearly made it on to the winner's podium before being stopped. We also visited the café mecca of St Kilda on Good Friday. On the fishing pier, one man had caught a very strange fish which puffed up with spikes all over its body.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Wilsons Promontory

Wilsons Prom lies 200km south-east of Melbourne and is home to one of Australia's most visited National Parks. The local government uses the slogan “Healthy parks, healthy people”. However, this doesn't extend to the in-park greasy spoon café. There we had an unhealthy fish and chips/ pie and chips lunch.

The park was affected by the recent bush fires. They destroyed about half of the forest over a five week period. Some of the hill sides were black, whereas others were an autumnal orange from the canopy burn. Still, there was a lot of wildlife to see.

Last night's torch lit walk around the camp site revealed two possums, a fox and at least six wombats – these are large dog-sized rodents that eat the grass. Back at the tent we even saw a couple of kangaroos. We watched a crazy German guy run around after one of the kangaroos, trying to catch it. He was lucky not to get kicked in the face.

The next bay over from the camp site was Squeaky Beach, famous for its fine sands which make a squeaky sound (but only when it's dry). It had rained a bit in the morning, so the sand wasn't as squeaky as normally. There had been at least one disappointed family on the beach; they'd left this message in the sand.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Grampians National Park, Mount Arapiles and Ballarat

The Grampians mountain range is not famed for its height, but for the awe-inspiring sandstone rock formations, deep gullies and chilled out bush walking.

Our trip from the Great Ocean Road to Halls Gap wasn't quite so chilled out. With the windows down and driving at 40 miles an hour, a big spider (at least 5cm long with the legs) began crawling into the car. Gripped with sheer terror, Andy could barely speak and struggled to point out the intruder. Jen came to the rescue and flicked the spider out of the car. We think it might be a Huntsman or a Wolf Spider – both totally harmless. Regardless, we now drive with the windows closed.

The following day, we went on a cool walk to the Pinnacle. It's a rock outcrop superbly positioned on a ridge in the north Grampians. On the way there, we walked through the Grand Canyon and Silent Street. The latter is a very narrow gully that you have to squeeze through on the way to the summit.

Yesterday we drove for a couple of hours to Mount Arapiles, the home of climbing in Australia with over 2,000 routes on this small hill. From the top, the parched bush stretches to the horizon in all directions.

We've spent the last 36 hours in Ballarat, a former gold mining town which looks straight out of a western film. Surprisingly, Lake Wendouree in the centre of the town hosted the rowing events of the 1956 Olympics. The lake has been dry since October 2006.

Our animal count has increased with sightings of kangaroos, emus, kookaburras (one was snatching a pie from an unsuspecting tourist), eastern rosellas and sulphur-crested cockatoos.