Our Wheels for this journey.
We had an appointment in Adelaide that we needed to make. We had three days to get there. Harmonie had found us a possible method of transportation that I hadn't considered yet, but as it turned out was perfect for our needs. We would be leaving Melbourne the next morning. We had made arrangements with a local RV company to relocate one of their vans for them. We would drive one of their 4 berth campers to Adelaide for them, and they would let us rent it for free, minus the cost of gas. This solved a few problems for us at once. For one, we would be able to drive our way to Adelaide, for another we would be able to sleep in the camper, and finally we would be able to see one of the great attractions of the country, The Great Ocean Road!
On driving in Australia: It's English rules over here, so we use the left side of the road as opposed to the right. Back home I worked as a driver for a delivery company and spent tons of time driving around Toronto in a somewhat mangled van, so I am a pretty confident driver
back home. I will admit that I was a little worried when I came here. I hadn't driven on the left anywhere yet. Luckily our first house sit included a 4x4 that we could use. Our initial plan was to take it easy and take the car out for a few short trips around the neighborhood just to get used to the system over here, but our host had other plans. The morning we arrived our host announced that he would be showing us around the city, and that I would be driving. Gulp. It was awkward to get used to the other side of the road at first, but as we drove around my brain started getting used to the reversed flow of traffic. Our host guided my on a 2 hour drive around the region. I had flashbacks of my younger years when I was learning to drive for the first time with my parents teaching me. I managed to hold my own during the drive, and by the end of the day I was markedly more comfortable behind the wheel. It was actually very lucky that a local was willing to show me the ropes. I suppose
Harmonie in front of Loch Ard George
it isn't surprising that he wanted to see me drive before he left me his vehicle, I think I would do the same if I were trusting someone who was practically a stranger with my wheels. By the end of our first house sit I was feeling rather confident driving over here. Aside from the left hand driving, one difference I noticed is that Australian roads make liberal use of traffic circles in most neighborhoods. Where you would find a 4-way stop in Canada you will encounter a traffic circle in Australia. I have found that I actually prefer the circle over the stop. Once you learn the rules, that the car approaching from the right has the right of way, you see how the traffic circle moves cars through the intersection more efficiently. As long as you don't have a bunch of pedestrians crossing the street you will find that you hardly ever have to stop the car because of lights unless you are driving downtown.
But driving a 4x4 is a bit different than driving a camper. But I spend a few years at another job in Toronto driving a tall Sprinter van for deliveries, and I
figured that if I could handle that I would be able to handle a Camper. So we picked up the 4-berth from the company in the morning and by noon we were ready to set off!
The Great Ocean Road covers the distance from Melbourne to Adelaide, running along the coast of the country. Our first day of driving took us from Melbourne to the town of Port Campbell, home of the world famous 12 Apostles. The drive was pretty amazing. 5 hours in all along the coast. It was a very engaging drive, because you you have some of the most amazing views of the ocean you can imagine as well as a road that twists and turns along the coast the whole way long. There were stretches that wound through the coastal valleys, where the climate seemed almost sub tropical and the greenery comes in right on top of you. Lots of twists mean you have to pay pretty close attention to the drive, but because of that I found the drive went by quickly. We made a stop in a small town called Kennett River, because the town was rumored to be a good place to
spot a Koala in the wild. We were not dissapointed as we saw three of the little bears within our first five minutes in the town.
We also drove through a few national parks on the first day, and they were stunning. Thick forests flank both sides of the road. When we went through one at the end of the day it was during a heavy rain and it gave the whole thing a very surreal, magical feeling. With no one else on the road and the forest completely surrounding you it could feel like you were the last people on earth. By the time we arrived at our first camp site it was dark. The area was desert like and very rocky, with grass and shrubs replacing evergreen trees. We were hoping to arrive early enough to see The Twelve Apostles, but alas it was not to be. It was pitch black out there. We would spend the night at our campsite and check them out in the morning before we start the second leg of the road trip.
The Twelve Apostles are a must see for anyone travelling through the region. The morning we set off
to see them it was rainy and the wind was high, not exactly ideal conditions you would think, but in reality the weather kicked the sea into a fury which added to the power of the sight. 20 foot waves crashing into the towers give a clear sense of the power of nature, and a respect for the forces that carved the pillars out of the coast. We did end up getting soaked through of course. It was worth it. We also saw the equally impressive Loch Ard George and The Razorback, both were ridiculously impressive in their sheer size and power. If it is possible later in our trip we will try and return to see them again during the summer. As it is it was nice to see them in the off season, as we didn't have to contend with any crowds.
After the Apostles we were back on the road for another five hours. Todays drive was less relaxing than the last. The wind was blowing hard from dawn till late night, and our vehicle caught the wind like a sail. Most of the drive I was fighting against the winds to keep the RV on the road. Not that it ever became dangerous, just that it was a constant struggle to keep the vehicle on the straight and narrow, and by the time we arrived at our destination I was ready for a rest. The landscape here changes dramatically as you go. The rocky coastline shifted to thick forests and then to flat desert by the time we arrived in our second spot for the night, the popular resort town of Robe, some 500 km south of Adelaide. We were able to find a campsite on the coast, overlooking the ocean. Robe is not very large, and the light pollution that I am used to in the city is not as pronounced here, so we were able to get a look at the clear night sky full of stars.
Finally we set out on our last leg of the journey. We had to deliver the RV to Adelaide by 3pm, so today would be a straight shot up the coast. The landscape was as impressive as it had been up till this point, with this leg dominated by huge forests planted just off the roadside. Thick and dark and somewhat spooky. I didn't expect that out here. There were also vast swaths of salt flats, where nothing bigger than a shrub would grow on the sunbleached land. You get the impression that if you were to run out of gas at the wrong time you would be in serious trouble pretty fast, as the Highway was often devoid of traffic aside from ourselves and the occasional big rig.
Our only pit stop of the day was at Mount Gambier, where the Umpherston Sinkhole lies. It was a beautiful and strange piece of scenery, a massive pit
Soon enough the forests and the flats morphed into rolling hills and vineyards and we were near Adelaide. You can see why this region was settled by Italians and Germans, the rolling hillside must have reminded them of home. Agriculture in this area is big business, and as we drove in we saw miles and miles of vineyards and orchards all along the countryside. Eventually we ended up on the major highway leading into the city, where we descended in elevation so dramatically that we could feel the pressure change as we went. Adelaide itself is a sprawling coastal city stretched out for miles north and south near the water. It's core is smaller than Melbourne and Sydney and there are many students who study here. In the end we were able to get our vehicle safely to the depot without any new dents, luckily, and we were soon on our way to our next house sit in the suburb of Onkaparinga Hills.
Till next time...
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