Published: January 20th 2013January 20th 2013
The Birds are attacking
Edenhope birds everywhere
I was frightened when I first saw Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”. When we arrived at the caravan park in Edenhope, S.A. and the proprietors told us the conservation officer would be coming by in the evening to shoot at the Corrillas (white parrots with the red slash across their throats). We didn’t understand, thinking this was just more Australian slang. When we turned into the park we noticed an abnormal amount of guano on the cars and the caravans were protected by guano-covered tarps. Usually we try to find some shade but this time we parked away from the trees. Just as we were sitting down to our five o’clock happy hour a dark cloud appeared coming down the lake accompanied by voices of thousands of happy parrots returning from the wheat fields. The parrots landed in the gum trees around the park bringing up the decibel level until it was impossible to talk without shouting. The gum trees quickly filled until I thought they would fall over. The pine tree beside us looked like a Christmas tree with Parrots hanging at impossible angles while they squawked and simultaneously pulled the pine needles off the branches making a more comfortable roost.
Corillas in Gum Tree
Parrots all squawking at same time getting ready for bed
We left the park to the birds and rode around the lake on our bicycles. There were a few parrots in the gum trees on the other side of the lake but nowhere near the concentration in the caravan park. Just like the patrons in the caravan park the birds were quiet when we got back just before dark. The conservation officer hadn’t come by because it was New Year’s Day.
If someone wanted cheap real-estate this would be the place to come. There were houses advertised for as low as $80,000 and if you wanted to get away from it all there were 250 acre parcels with three bedroom houses for a thousand dollars an acre.
Everyday the temp went up as we made our way towards Grampians National Park. On the way we passed some unbelievable escarpments with challenging rock faces, which attract thousands of international rock climbers. We drove through the Grampian mountain range from west to east following a very frightening narrow road. I’m glad I was driving and close to the middle of the road because Rolande, who doesn’t have a fear of heights, kept telling me to steer away from the steep
edge. The Grampians compare to some of Canada’s most rugged terrain with beautiful waterfalls falling over sheer cliffs. We were pleased to visit an air-conditioned, well-appointed Aboriginal display in the park and paid to see a recorded dance of the local peoples’ creation story.
We like to get off the main roads and drive through the countryside unhindered by the big trucks, which populate the major highways. It is a lot of fun but you must remember the Australian road builders in the past didn’t like to put much of a roadbed down and so the driver must put up with the “undulations” of the roads. Sometimes, after driving on undulating roads for hundreds of kilometers you will see a sign saying "undulations for the next five kilometers". I remember in 1988 the kids loving it, wanting us to go faster so they could have a better “boat ride”.
We stayed for two nights at Maryborough where the temp went to a top of 42. I spent most of the day at the public pool next to the caravan park enjoying the sun, the cool water and the interactions of the people. Except for a trio of teens
the well utilized pool was filled with all ages of well-behaved happy swimmers. I was entertained when a large man with a big gut held a foul-mouthed, racist teen up against a concrete wall with his stomach. He obviously knew exactly what he was doing because he held his hands behind his back, stuck his face in the young lads face and calmly told the young man he should not bully or verbally abuse these exchange students. This was all going on as the kid used very bad language and tried to wale on the man while his friend tried to slug him. The kid’s friend got the worst of it when the man’s arm suddenly came up in a defensive posture hitting the young man in the jaw knocking him backwards on the concrete. The air was blue with foul language from the teens as three young lifeguards hovered around the periphery. Finally the manager who was also a large older man arrived and diffused the situation. I was worried the host father was going to have a heart attack. I had watched the four Asian boys being mercilessly tormented by the young Australians and was pleased to see
the manager ceremoniously escort the misbehaving teens out of the pool area. For the next hour the pool was abuzz with talk of the incident.
Ther's gold in them thar hills.That evening we were entertained by an amazing Australian couple who hadn’t lived in one spot for twenty years. They towed a top of the line dual air-conditioned caravan with a Toyota 4x4 ute with a multiple doored accessory deck. They wondered if we would like to see some treasures they had found with their very sophisticated metal detectors. He pulled out some jewelry boxes filled with gold nuggets on chains. He had mounted them himself and some he had inlaid Australian gems. I think he saw the gold fever in my eyes when I told him I had never held an actual gold nugget in my hands. Before long he brought out working dice made of pure gold with diamonds as the markers for only $2400 and buckets of gold nuggets some, which had quarts bits in them, were the size of my fist. He also had lots of antique coins like square Australian pennies from 1903 worth a lot more than gold. Life for them consisted of
treasure hunting in The Northern Territory in the winter, sometimes selling a few kilograms of gold before returning to the beaches of South Australia in the summer to fish and treasure hunt around the old gold fields of Maryborough. I felt honored they would trust us around so much wealth. In retrospect I should have bought some of his treasures because he was selling the gold for less than current bullion prices.
I felt very clever retiring for the night into our 24*C air conditioned ambulance. I hadn’t want to spend up to $3000 to install air conditioning in the van but after a 40-degree day at Smoky Bay I started looking around for alternatives and guess what? Bunnings came through with a portable air conditioner on sale for $300. We slept like we were in a deluxe air-conditioned room. The next step is to buy a generator so we can bush camp in the heat and of course Bunnings has one for $780. I would buy it if I were planning to stay.
A long time ago I had a memorable hike from the Comox glacier to Buttle lake with a friend who now lives in Melbourne.
We looked Dan and Lisa White up, they wanted us to visit, and they wanted us to go camping with them. Dan is an extreme athlete, some thirteen years younger than me. When I was young and fit I loved hanging out with Dan but this time I was a bit worried he would run me ragged. I was lucky, (not so for Dan). He is recovering from an injury, and he wouldn’t even go bicycle riding with me. He has a wonderful house in a very quiet area of Melbourne. His daughter Andrea insisted we use her room to give us a break from sleeping in the van and his son Alex lent Dan his car so he could show us around.
Twice we put our bicycles on the train, a five-minute walk from Dan’s house, and traveled into the city. This year Melbourne won the honor of being the most livable city on the planet beating out Vancouver. We rode our bicycles through the city on paths suspended under freeways, though endless parks, residential areas, sharing the river with rowing teams stroking their eight man rowing shells in the river while we rode on floating bicycle paths
Rower's racing bicycles
Rower's on river beside floating bike trail
beside them and into the central plazas without sharing the road with cars. It is a special place with emphasis on courteous sharing of the paths with pedestrians but a bit frightening when packs of mad extreme cyclists ride by you at forty ks on their $10,000 carbon fiber bikes dressed in tight colorful spandex.
Dan and Lisa rented an Apollo campervan for the weekend instructing us to meet them in Port Fairy about three hundred ks west of Melbourne. We took the longer Great Ocean road and they took the shorter high road. The Great Ocean Road is spectacular with narrow roads along cliff faces, wonderful vistas of blue sea crashing against rocky headlands, white beaches covered with people, through gum forests and well laid out paths to the shore to see sights like the Twelve Apostles. We stayed the night camping behind a roadhouse because the caravan parks were full. We had a wonderful time sharing campsites with Dan and Lisa at Port Fairy. We just happened to be there at the same time as the hot-rod convention was on. Yes the parks were full of much loved hot rods with giant turbo charged V8 engines rattling
around with their well behaved older heavily tattooed owners drinking beer and sharing stories of how they had outsmarted the cops. I was horrified to talk to a truck driver who told stories of chasing someone who had pissed him off through town with two trailers, caught him and ran him off the road. The message was clear - don’t mess with the truck drivers because they rule the road. Ninety-nine percent of the trucks we encounter on the roads have been overly courteous and patient but we have had a couple of near death incidents with truck drivers who like to play deadly games on the highways. Now who was worried about us crossing the Pacific Ocean in a small boat??
Port Fairy has a sign as you enter saying it is the most livable town in the world with a population under 20,000. We loved our stay in Port Fairy because it is charming with tree lined streets and bicycle paths that go everywhere. The architecture is beautiful- old blue stone along protected waterways harboring long rows of colorful ships of all descriptions tied to the docks which double as walkways. But it was also because of
the company. It occurred to us the only Canadians we have seen other than Dan and Lisa were a couple of prairie farmers who had come to help with the wheat harvest in Western Australia last November. Sharing time with Canadians was very pleasant. It seemed so easy to talk, to understand, to be understood and we have so much in common. Dan and Lisa are very happy with their move to Australia and plan to retire here.
We departed late Sunday, stopped for a late lunch, had a nap and then did some street camping next to a beach in a lovely parking lot near to the Tasmanian ferry terminal in anticipation of our early morning departure. January 14 we took the 10 hour ferry ride to Tasmania.
There are more photos below