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East Coast Australia - Sydney to Melbourne

sunny 30 °C

East Coast Australia - Sydney to Melbourne

Saturday 26th January

Taking the most direct route from Sydney to Melbourne would take about nine hours to cover the 881km on the highway inland, going through the capital of Canberra. The alternative is to meander along the Princes Highway, which weaves in and out of the various coastal towns, running along the seafront.

We started in the Blue Mountains and headed south east towards the coast, stopping off at the sleepy towns of Bowral and Bundanoon. Bowral had a quaint little high street set in traditional old buildings with a good selection of book shops and cafés. We stopped for a coffee and a browse around a couple of the shops. Bundanoon was more of a village and we just had a quick drive through it.

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Some of the views we have been forced to endure on our drive

We continued across to the coast and headed down, stopping to look at the gorgeous coastline in Ulladulla, before arriving in Durras North for the night.

Durras North is in the middle of Murramarang National Park. We had planned to stop in Bateman's Bay; however it was recommended we stop here as it was less touristy and kangaroos are guaranteed. You don't need to tell is twice!

We booked a cabin on a holiday park, which assured you you would see kangaroos and as we were checking in, a couple went bouncing past the front of reception. Later that evening, there was one just hanging out down the side of the caravans, looking as though he thought if he didn't move or look at us, we couldn't see him. The following morning, they were just lounging around in the shade on an open area of the campsite.

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Kangaroo!

Our cabin, described as retro was a mix between that and vintage. It was more like a very old mobile home with a Portakabin attached for an awning living room area. The sofa chairs in the living room were vintage dark floral green, the dining chairs and table looked like it was from the 1950s with its part pink leather upholstery. The curtains were all various different dark floral patterns. Fortunately the bed was newer and incredibly comfortable.

Sunday 26th January

The following morning, we walked the discovery trail along the lake and through the woods behind the campsite. Theses woods felt incredibly British, just lacking in heather! The route took a little over an hour and took you along the side of a tranquil blue lake with forest surrounding it on all sides.

After an early lunch, we walked along the deserted beach on the golden sands. The water was a beautiful turquoise and midnight blue mix with waves crashing at various points on the way into the beach. Sadly there were no kangaroos on the beach, preferring to stay at the campsite.

Back on the road again, we were stopping for the night at Merimbula, about an hour north of the border between New South Wales and Victoria. Along the way, we stopped for a cream tea in Central Tilba, which could probably be best described as Australia's answer to the Cotswolds. The buildings were traditional frontier style with timber weatherboard cladding and corrugated tin roofs, painted on earthy hues. The town was set in rolling green hills with a few token black and white cows. We climbed the hill to the water tower, which offered panoramic views of the valleys and mountains.

We stopped for the night at a motel in Merimbula, perched high up on the hill overlooking a picture perfect blue bay. The owner advised us do a driving route around town, which took us to a long stretch of beach, and a fisherman's jetty. The motel was west facing and so we watched the sun go down over the bay from our room.

Monday 27th January

The next morning we crossed the border into Victoria and immediately the weather improved. So far Australia had felt like those first days of spring, with the crispness gone but the sun not quite strong enough to warm through you. In Victoria, it's back to hot summer days, but at least without the humidity of Asia.

We stopped in Mallacoota, a town on the sea, where the river meets the ocean, forming various lakes and inlets which form part of Croajingolang National Park. The best way to explore these waterways is by hiring a motorboat for a couple of hours. Chris was thrilled that he got to be the captain of his own ship, even if at top speed it was passed easily by windsurfers. We passed through a couple of lakes and explored a couple of mangrove lined creeks.

After Mallacoota, we had quite a drive to Bairnsdale, where we were spending the night at another caravan park. Our reason for stopping here is to the East, on the coast there is a town called Paynesville. From here, you can park your car and take the ferry for free to Raymond Island. Raymond Island his home to a colony of koala bears, relocated here from Phillip Island in the 1950s. There is a koala trail around the island leading to a wooded area, where we found 8 little koala bears just chilling in the branches, each with their own tree, making it more of a challenge to spot them. I wonder how many we missed. Some of them watched you as you walked around their tree to get a better look.

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I'm watching you!

In addition to koalas, the island is home to some colourful green birds with red, blue, and yellow chests as well as kookaburras. After about an hour wandering around the island, we caught the ferry back to Paynesville. Now all we need to see are some wallabies and wombats.

Tuesday 28th January

Today is our penultimate stint along the coast before we arrive in Melbourne tomorrow.

We headed inland to Walhalla, a former gold mining town, which thrived during the 19th century. The town is set in the hills about 40km from the main highway. This town is very traditional, with its original post office, which avoided renovation or conversion and therefore looks just as it would have done 100 years ago. There is also the original wooden firehouse set over the river and an elevated bandstand in the centre of a very pretty garden alongside the stream. There are a couple of cafés, a hotel and a general store, but the main attraction is a trip down the disused gold mine.

The mine entrance is located 500m up the hill out of town, and offer tours at various times of the day during the weekends with one a day on weekdays. We joined the half one tour and donned our hardhats. The tunnel into the mine was quite high and we were able to stand most of the way through the 500m tunnel into the mountain. The edges of the tunnel were jagged from where they had exploded their way through. Along the floor lay the original tram lines used for removing the gold. The mine had a couple of lower tunnels, but even they were 5ft. One area opened out, which used to be home to the boilers and is sat next to the former lift shafts.

After looking around the old post office and the town museum, we did the final couple of hours to Phillip Island, home of the Little Blue Penguins, which tend to be referred to as just 'Little Penguins'.

We arrived at Phillip Island at 6pm, had some dinner before heading to the beach where the Little Penguins nest. The penguins come ashore at dusk, which is currently 21.15. We arrived shortly after 7pm to guarantee front row seats on the sand.

Walking along the boardwalks to the beach, there was a wallaby posing for photos up on the sand dunes. Another Australian animal ticked off the list!

Shortly after 9pm, the first few penguins began to come out of the sea and waddle up the beach. They were so cute as they came out of the water, being knocked over by the waves and pulled back in again. Some of them were more skilled than others at getting out; one took nearly five minutes. Once they made it out of the water, they had to scurry up the beach past all the seagulls, who were not too much smaller than the penguins who are only just over 30cm high. They tended to leave the water either alone or in groups of about four or five. On the beach, they would congregate at the bottom of the sand dune before heading up in a line to find their waiting chicks.

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Nesting penguins

As it's towards the end of the breeding season, the chicks are now about six weeks old and are nearly ready to leave the nest. As we walked along the boardwalks, which overlook the nesting sites, we saw an adorable little chick, who was just beginning to lose his brown fluffy baby feathers, so he looked like he had a fur gilet on with his flippers coming out the side.

We were finally kicked out at 10.30pm to find one in the car park all on his own.

We returned to our cabin for the night, ready for our final drive to Melbourne the following day.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 03:03 Archived in Australia Tagged koala penguin coast kangaroo wallaby Comments (0)

Colonia, Uruguay

A colonial port with the water on three sides

sunny 23 °C

Wednesday 16th October

We arrived in Colonia at about 6pm after a 3 hour bus ride from Montevideo. We arrived at our hostel to find it was swarming with teenagers. It turned out all but a couple of the rooms had been set aside for a school trip. We headed back out pretty quickly and wandered around the historical old town. We watched our first sunset over the water from a fairly deserted sandy beach. Colonia is a colonial town with plenty of character, with interesting buildings and cobbled streets. In the old town, you can't walk much more than 100 metres in any directiom before finding yourself back at the water's edge. Around the town are several old fashioned antique cars which are privately owned and well maintained. (Well, the exteriors have been at least.).

Thursday 17th October

Today we visited the town museum. It is split across about 7 different buildings. As we bought the tickets from the main building, the lady explained that was shut for now and to do 2 others first, then come back and it should be open. 3 of the museums were having their 'rest day' today so we couldn't see those. The museums told you a little bit about Colonia's Portuguese history prior to the Spaniards conquering it.

Afterwards we went up the lighthouse which was great fun with my gammy leg. The people in Colonia either discuss my leg amongst themselves in Spanish and assume I won't understand or they'll just ask what happened. Maybe they're just more used to seeing people with manhole related injuries inn Montevideo and therefore just don't bother asking? The lady at the hostel took particular interest in my leg and said she'd get me some plant leaves to treat it. On returning to the hostel in the evening, she gave me 3 really big aloe vera leaves to cut open and wipe the pulp on my graze.

For dinner, we went to a pizzeria, which has made the best pizzas we have had in South America, all for the princely sum of £3 each. We asked them to make us some cheesy garlic bread; however they refused to do this without putting on a lot of parsley as well. Nevermind, still tasted pretty good. This was all washed down with a jug of sangria, which we suspect was just chilled red wine with ice and lemon slices.

Friday 18th October

Today we hired bikes and cycled up the coast next to the empty beaches. We visited the bull ring from the early 1900s, which has begun to fall down in places. There is talk of it being restored in the future which would be good as it is different structure to a lot of the bull rings you see in Spain.

Behind the bullring was a train museum (Chris' favourite type of museum) which had examples of British built carriages they used to use on their railways, a long with an example ticket office. They had restored the dining carriage and used it as a restaurant.

We cycled back along the coast, past the docks in town and long to the picturesque white sand beach of Fernando. We went for a paddle in the sea, but despite walking out some 25-50m, we were only up to our shins.

We caught the catamaran to Buenos Aires at 6pm and set off from the port in search of the metro. It turned out we'd been dropped off at dock 4, considerably further South from where we thought. We headed off looking for the metro when a guy sorting out his truck stopped us and asked where were trying to go. It turned out we were actually in Boca and heading towards the part where it's not at all safe for tourists to go. He sent us towards the main road and told us to be careful as they would rob us if we went any further the other way. Another pair stopped us and confirmed we were heading the right way to leave Boca and reiterated that we didn't want to be there. Once on the main road, we flagged down a taxi who said where wanted to go was quite far from there and would cost £5-6. He was right, the metre stopped at £6.50 some 50 minutes later!

Both times, the men spoke to Chris and only to Chris. Even when I did all the responding, they'd still ask their next question to him as he just stood there. It seems to be the same with virtually everyone here in Buenos Aires, with the doormen at the apartment doing the same. Are women still now allowed to speak here with their partners doing all the talking for you? They don't even look at you when they are addressing your man.

We headed to our apartment, had some dinner before bed, ready for our Argentinian adventure!

Posted by Roaming Rolts 13:19 Archived in Uruguay Tagged bikes coast beach river hostel lighthouse catamaran Comments (1)

Montevideo, Uruguay

A laid back, relaxed colonial capital city.

sunny 25 °C

Monday 14th October

We caught a night flight to Montevideo from Rio, connecting in Buenos Aires. On checking in at Rio, we were informed we would have to go through passport control in Argentina and collect the bags before checking them back in again. Good job we had got our passports back as we would not have been able to do this on temporary passports. We had an hour and 50 minutes to collect, which knowing we had to clear immigration, baggage reclaim and check-in again, this was going to be tight. And then we left 30 minutes late.

There was a massive queue for passport control at Buenos Aires, and the chances of making our connection within the hour were looking slim, particularly if check-in did actually shut an hour before the flight. After about 10 minutes, it appeared a Nicholas Lyndhurst lookalike as whatever his name is in Goodnight Sweetheart, was taking people through that needed to connect. He claimed our bags would make it to Montevideo, so that was fun trying to explain they were sitting on the carousel waiting for us.

After all that, it turned out Montevideo airport was shut due to fog, and so our flight was cancelled and we were transfered on to the flight 90 minutes later.

Once in Montevideo, we wondered around the old town, which is probably the prettiest captial we have visted, with a good mix of colonial and retro style buildings. We visited a carneval museum and headed out for the best steak dinner, where we got about 16oz of steak for a little over a tenner.

Tuesday 15th October

We walked along the coast to the beach, which had a few sunbathers before visiting a pretty park with a lake. We stopped off for lunch at an old-fashioned America diner which had original booths and big red lampshades hanging above them. After lunch, we walked up to another park, had a quick look around the shopping centre, before I managed to fall down a broken manhole cover. The hole was literally the size of my foot, to the point where I struggled to get my leg back out. I now have some pretty impressive grazes all down my leg up to my knee. Everyone around me was commenting how lucky I was to not break my leg! Once cleaned up, we headed out for some burritos for dinner.

Wednesday 16th October

This morning, I limped around town with everyone staring at my leg. We stopped for a coffee in a very posh cafe before going to the market, which was just full of barbeque restataurants selling a lot of steak. We were lured into one for lunch with a lovely drink called ´medio medio´(half and half) which is white wine mixed with Champagne. For lunch here, we had another beautiful steak, which this time must have been easily 24oz of meat each, if not more. I have a photo which I will try and upload at some point.....either here or facebook.

After lunch, we caught the bus along the coast to Colonia.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 11:23 Archived in Uruguay Tagged coast beach leg manhole graze Comments (0)

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