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Published: December 17th 2005
Santa's little helpers
Taking a look at the Christmas decorations at Myers in Melbourne
It was 34 degrees when we landed at Avalon airport near Melbourne. From the air Victoria looked quite flat and dry and we had an extremely hot drive into the city. We dumped our bags at our backpackers on Elizabeth Street and set off for a walk to the visitor info kiosks, which we are now regulars at in every town, and picked up some brochures about Melbourne. Dinner was at a noodle bar near our guesthouse before crashing into bed, only to spend most of the night fighting to keep our ear plugs in with some very noisy neighbours in the dorm next door...
Next day we woke to grey skies and torrential rain! Just our luck when Lisa had planned to take Keith walking the length and breadth of the city. So we opted to see the Christmas windows at Myers, the famous department store. We queued in the rain with a few hundred kids, but enjoyed the Christmas story set out in the windows. Coffee was the order of the day and we met up with Anthony Jordan (a Ballantyne family friend from South Africa) for a hot coffee amidst the storm outside. Luckily the bad weather
could not deter a visit to the lovely Victoria Market, where we picked up feta, sun dried tomato pesto, strawberries and home made bread for dinner.
We couldn't miss out on seeing St Kilda, so we bought a day pass and ventured to the beachfront, but couldn't quite brave the water. We then caught a tram to Fitzroy. A very hip part of town with lots of arty shops, cafes and restaurants - Melbourne is full of them - we looked up a place in our guidebook and ended up having coffee at Mario's with some Hummingbird cake - banana, cherry and pineapple! It sounds like all we did in Melbourne is drink coffee and eat cake, but the coffee is so good and with the weather so dull what option did we have!
We spent an evening with the Jordan family at their home in Waverley and had a great home cooked dinner with pudding, prepared by Anthony. It was great to see all the kids, but made Lisa feel really old when she saw how grown up they were.
We didn't have enough time in Melbourne to see all the sights we wanted to, but
Keith giving a helping hand
Geelong Victoria's 2nd largest city
that seems to happen wherever we go in Oz. It is so big and there is so much to do. We will have to come back sometime...
Our Great Ocean Road adventure began on 4th December when we picked up our little hire car and started the drive along the Surfcoast Highway. First stop was Geelong, which has a lovely waterfront setting with the Botancial Gardens along the bay and lots of wooden statues illustrating different Historical characters in the the town's past. The local market was on and the sun was out so we browsed at the wares and then grabbed some groceries and set off for Torquay. The beaches at Torquay were long sandy bays and the sea was a beautiful turquoise colour. We had a great couple of days there, staying in a little cabin of our own, 50 metres from the beach. The sea was freezing though! Keith was upset that the waves weren't up to much so he didn't get to do any surfing. We visited Bells Beach, a famous surf break where major surf champs are held every Easter.
We did some day trips to Anglesea and Airley's Inlet to see the
Over looking Bell's Beach. Keith not up to surfing this famous break
lighthouse. As with the rest of Oz the paths along the coast are well maintained so we managed to do lots of hiking. We are not sure if it is due to all the rain but the flies drove us crazy. We were followed by swarms of flies wherever we went which was annoying to say the least. We soon learnt the Aussie salute which is a constant waving of the arms in front of one's face. Eventually we took a leaf out of the Aborigines book, literally, and broke off a twig of Eucalyptus and used that as our fly swat! Many of the houses along the coast are beautiful and we soon found ourselves planning the house we hope to build some day! We love the style with the wooden slats, huge windows and balconies facing out to the ocean. The rain poured down for a day or so and we thought our cabin was about to be washed in to the nearby river, but luckily the sun came out again and we set off for Lorne.
Lorne is a picturesque town set on a bay. We did a great walk along to the pier and then
Lisa getting artistic
One of the few days we got to spend on the beach in Torquay.
up the steepest road ever to Teddy's Lookout which gives you a bird's eye view of the GOR. Lisa was excited as we saw a echidna (also known as a spiny anteater and the only relative of the platypus) and two koalas in the wild. They even posed for some pics after Keith scaled up the hillside. The sun was out and we were sweating in our jeans, but there were butterflies fluttering around us and the views were spectacular. After lunch, which was an award winning veggie pasty from the village shop, we did a hike to the Erskine falls along a river. Our final destination that day was Apollo, where we checked in to the Surfside Backpackers, with commanding views of the ocean and set against green hills and forests. Apollo is truly pretty with rivers, brooks, waterfalls and the sea all within a few minutes of the town. The countryside reminded us of Devon's western coastline with rolling green hills meeting white sandy beaches. Unfortunately it wasn't beach weather yet again, so we walked to Mariners falls, in the rain, and then to the Otway National Park.
After 2 nights in Apollo we drove on to
Keith needs a bath!
Flies are a big problem at this time of year.
Port Campbell which was our final stop along the GOR. From here we went to Gibson's Steps and the 12 Apostles and marvelled at the spectacular scenery and cliffs. We stayed in a tiny little town called Princetown just outside Port Campbell, with views along a river and called the 13th Apostle! It was a great place, very tranquil and with a pub called "Talk of the Town". Our journey then took us inland via the lakes to Colac, which is set next to the biggest freshwater lake in Victoria. We had lunch in the Botanical Gardens and went to a local village nearby to see the Sunday Market and bought some gifts. That night we stayed with another of Keith's 2nd cousins, Michelle, and her partner Greg in their lovely home in Colac. We had a good old Aussie BBQ in the garden under the cherry tree and tried out all Michelle's gourmet pickles and delicious salads.
We had a long 4 hr drive ahead of us next day as we headed to Shepparton about 2 hours North of Melbourne. Here we stayed with the Argillas, family friends of the Ballantynes from Durban. Shepparton is the "Fruit Bowl
Ag cute man
Keith had to scramble up a hill to get this shot.
of Victoria" and we ate loads of fresh fruit from the surrounding orchards, including fresh cherries. Again we were thoroughly spoilt and were wined and dined in style. We are going to have to hit the gym soon as the rolls are starting to reappear! John and Denise were kind enough to spend a day taking us to the gold mining town of Bendigo before heading up to Echuca on the Murray River which boarders NSW and has a old port where paddle steamers dock. Both towns are very pretty and have a lot of historical value. This is the Australia that you picture when reading books based on small towns in the hot and dusty interior. Our final day was spent doing chores in Shepparton and catching up on emails and blog writing. On our last night the Argillas invited all their neighbours around for a barbie which was great. We spent one last day and night in Melbourne and took in Fitzroy Gardens and the very scenic riverside.
We are now back in Sydney and enjoying the warmer weather. Looking forward to getting to the beach soon, so have planned some day trips over the next week
The Great Ocean Road
Beautiful sights around every corner.
before we head North to Newcastle for Christmas. For those friends and family who are also heading away for Christmas, please travel safe and we will be thinking of you all and wishing you a very special Christmas and festive New Year. XXX
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