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Published: April 5th 2011
One subtle difference between Oz and Canada is the disticnt and ubiquitous lack of wifi and internet access. Where access exists the price is astoundingly higher than at home and we are currently paying 7$ an hour which is laughable in Hamilton where internet is free with a coffee purchase. The abiltiy to communicate makes the cost negligible anyways but it is annoying to have so little internet available. All in all it is a minor problem and Tasmania is so beautiful that you forget about little things like the internet. Oh yes,we are in Tasmania now and the journeyt here from Adelaide was windy, wet and wonderful.
The great ocean road is about as different a drive from crossing the outback as noodle is to a lightbulb. Starting from Adelaide we crossed southeastern South Australia heading towards the Victoria border. Along the way we drove through several national parks and reserves, namely the Coorong and Naracoorte. Coorong is a long narrow sand dune ridden park that abuts the southern ocean and is populated with flocks of wild pelicans and emus. The park is more of a day trip area and the vegetation is small and scrubby, not lending itself to secluded campsites whatsoever. The coastal highway was my first opportunity to drive for long periods at high speeds ( and with high winds) and was a great learning opportunity for the coming long trips ahead. Coorong is neat because the sand dunes are all covered in shrubs and bushes and birds... not quite what we expected but this has been the rainiest season on record for SA. Further south we entered the Naaracoorte national park which houses several caves filled with foosils from the giant animals that used to roam the land of Oz. There are dozens of KM of snaking tunnels but they are reserved mainly for scientists who are still unearthing mounds of fossils and unreaveling the mysteries contained within. For tourists there are several chambers that have been opened up since the excavations have finsihed and though most of the fossils have been removed it is still a feast for the eyes. Other than old dead things there are crystal chambers and stalactites galore and you can even suit up and go crawling through narrow chambers only a meter wide (or less). We viewed skeletons of giant 3 meter marsupials and elephant sized wombats, weird carnivorous bear-cat type animals and sabre toothed wallbys. Not quite a jurassic park but just as impressive. Naaracoorte is a totally unique experience and the surrounding forest was a perfect place to camp out our first night.
We chose the Grat Ocean road because it is one of the most beautiful drives in Australia and consequently it is one the most dangerous. Dozens of blind hairpin turns and cliff-side crests await any perspective tourists, of which there are heaps, but the most dangerous part of the drive is the other drivers. The speed limit is 80 but most of the drive it is impossible to go that fast and every turn does have the suggested safe speed (which i followed religiously) but many drivers fail to take heed and it makes for a nerve racking time. All along the way there are several instances of a warning sign that states "drive on the left in Australia" to remind all the foreign tourists. As trying as the drive can be there are sweping vistas and beautiful lookouts every 10 Km so we stopped lots to take in the scenery and let speed-cat drivers pass us by. Half way along the windy way we stopped in at a national park to camp out and were rewarded with flocks of cockatoos and the alrgest trees we have seen since Canada. The problem with the road is that many try to do the whole trip in 1 or 2 days but when you slow down and relax and actually look around this is some of the most beautiful land in the world. Day 2 of the GOR was windier and cliffier but with heavier traffic the speeders were largely kept at bay although I nearly killed a motorcyclist who was driving in my lane coming around a blind cliffy hairpin turn but thankfully he got out of the way at the last minute because there was no room to swerve except into a cliff. It was a bit nerve rackign but entirely his fault... not that it matters when death and a car are involved but there was no problem and we drove on. This is the more scenic partof the drive with you always at cliffs edge overlooking the southern ocean. It is jawdroppingly stupendously beautiful here and that i can say without hyperbole. We stopped at waterfalls, cliffside lookouts, rocky gorges, and pristine albeit windy beaches. One awesome liemstone cave we saw consisted of an underground inlet that formed a blowhole and a cave called the Thundercave! Stupifyingly picturesque... we even stopeed at the 12 apostles lookout, the most photographed spotin Oz next to Uluru, that giant red rock in all the outback pictures. Other than stupid drivers the only downside to the drive was how surly and quiet all the european travelers were everywhere. I don't know what they are eating and maybe it was the wind... constant overbearing wind but they were just unhappy looking frowny folks which seems impossible juxtaposed with awe inspiring nature surrounding you in every direction for thousands of miles. Whatever.. it is their loss.
Closing up the GOR we came to a flat, straight freeway that headed for Melbourne. 50k outside town we stopped at a caravan park to feast and rest up after so much driving. I way have jsut driven one of the most challenging paved roads in OZ but i am still new at all this. Heading into Melbourne was a massive shock as it's comparable to Toronro and we have not been in a large city since Kuala Lumpur. Darwin and Adelaide are cities but still have a small town feel- Melbourne is a true metropolis and the traffic rules are all different.. ugh. Friends in Adelaide hooked us up with folks who live in a warehouse just north of the city centre and it was a great place to rest up and refuel before heading to Tassie. We lounged, watched movies, stocked up, and prepped tha car for our next leg. the only hard part was navigating through rush hour traffic to get across town to the Ferry terminal. No accidents or mishaps however and we got lost but only a little. The Spirit of Tasmania was our vessel for the next 14 hours. We had to throw out some fruits and veggies on the boat as you cannot bring any into Tassie. We found out seats and nestled in for the long wavy ride ahead with absolutely no clue what we were going to do once we reached our destination.
Coming up Next.. our first week in Tasmania.
We heat there are stilla few flurries there for you folks but here the nights are brisk and chilly and getting colder. In a funny way its comforting, moreso now that we have long underwear again. Best wishes to you all!
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