Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Adventures in Australia

My Christmas 2013, as it should be, was WONDERFUL- I was spoilt rotten at the farm with presents, roast meats and rum galore, and thoroughly enjoyed my last couple of weeks in sunny Australia.

Sunshine over Christmas for a change!

I ended up helping out on the farm a bit more (just can't get enough of those sheep!), frantically making last minute gifts and cleaning out a caravan that I discovered stashed in a field that I was adamant would make it up to Sydney for NYE- and it did!

Winnie the Winchester- Palace on Wheels

I even made it into the Grampian National Park to Halls Gap for a mini break before Xmas, nipped into Canberra on the way back inland from Sydney, and knocked out a short trip to Hobart just before my flight home- which completes my tour of every Australian state and territory!

The road trip was great- we drove from the farm down to Koroit and along the Great Ocean Road, spending the first night in quaint Port Campbell, then got up early to go fishing in a friend's tinny catching sweep and snapper by the Twelve Apostles. We thoroughly enjoyed the fruits of our labour that evening in Torquay after a good scale, gut, clean, stuff and bake- NOM NOM!

We drove through some less-than-noteworthy towns inland like Warragul and Traralgon to holiday-makers haven; Lakes Entrance, where a broken jockey wheel and a last-minute unpowered caravan site led us to drinking on the beach instead of in town and cooking in the dark- both more fun than our original plan!

From there we went up the princes highway to hilly Eden, where we learnt about killer whales at the museum, and on to Merimbula where the local Worker's Club doubled as a Chinese Restaurant, and the Antiques shop over the road was wonderful!

Eden's Killer Whale Museum

We splashed out and stayed in the BIG4 caravan park at Bateman's Bay and had delicious fish and chips from The Boatshed by the waterfront, which was around $15 for a huge portion with a make-it-yourself hot tea or coffee. No frills, just great fish in crispy batter and tea from a polystyrene cup :)

We splashed around in the waves at beautiful Kiama and drove through Wollongong into Sydney, where we ended up parking the caravan in a tyre garage by our friends at the University of NSW, and joining in festivities at a B.Y.O park at Elizabeth Bay for NYE 2014, which was a hoot! We fought off our hangovers with an amazing seafood feast at the Quay building opposite the Opera House, and meandered back to the farm over the next couple of days through Canberra - the most uncharismatic capital I've visited - and Bendigo, which is actually rather great! We even stopped for a spot of metal detecting but only found bottle tops and bullets!

Whole Lobster, oysters, mussels, Moreton bay bugs, smoked salmon and prawns with huge tasty capers, overlooking the Sydney Opera House :)

It was interesting to see how the landscape change across the country: from the touristy southern Victorian coast to the metropolis of Melbourne; the hilly central dairy pastures; the lush green coastal towns in the East; the most glamorous city in Australia and back through to the old gold fields and dry inland farming regions. Australia is so vast compared to England! 

On the home stretch back to the farm

There was one other part I'd been wanting to visit for some time, so soon I was on a budget flight to Hobart on the Australian island of Tasmania :)

My friend and I stayed in Transit Backpackers which is actually pretty good as far as hostels go, with a good outdoor area and quiet rooms. We explored the city on foot the first day, walking around the port and shopping in the boutiques, op shops and markets, sampling Tasmanian wines and ciders (for research purposes) and enjoying delicious meals from the plethora of little cafes and restaurants in the city centre and at Salamanca Place.

We hired a car for Day 2 and drove up the landscape-dominating Mount Wellington which was just breath-taking; 1271 metres above sea level and panoramic views. Photos just don't do it justice!

We tried the beer and cider taster paddle at Cascade Brewery, which is the oldest brewery in Australia if that kind of thing floats your boat, and drove down the Tasman Peninsula through Eagle Hawk Neck towards Port Arthur, stopping off to see the Tessellated Pavement, Tasman Arch and other pretty sights along the way.

A massive highlight of the trip was our visit to the MONA gallery- described by the owner as a 'subversive adult Disneyland', filled with everything from thought-provoking sculptures and titillating videography to interactive exhibits and even a putrid Excrement Machine. We finished off our tour with some wine from the on-site vineyard and listened to live music in the sun-drenched gardens before catching our cool graffiti-covered ferry back to Hobart CBD.

Excrement Machine- oh the stench of blended food and enzymes, and of course the produced waste!

Another fun night out left us craving every edible item at Salamanca Market on the Saturday, and devouring more than was strictly necessary, but not regretting one delicious mouthful. I left Hobart feeling like that wouldn't be the last time I visited Tasmania, and after some swift goodbyes in Melbourne I embarked on my journey home, from 42 degrees to 2 degree Celsius in around 36 hours!

Crowds at Salamanca Market

I've been home almost a month now- I spent a few days in London sleeping off the jet-lag and seeing old friends, marvelling at how cheap groceries are and buying all the things I didn't know I'd missed- like Gregg's and Fudge bars and Robinson's Squash! I got to combine delicious food, drinks and Ping Pong at Bounce, and hit Primark and Urban Outfitters like a woman possessed.

All things British that I hadn't seen in a year!

I'll head back to Victoria when I'm granted my second year visa, but for now I'm spending some QT with family and friends and striving towards that ubiquitous task all 20-somethings are concerned with; "Sorting My Life Out". 

Let's see how we go...

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