A Tale of Two Cities

Trip Start Unknown
Trip End Mar 08, 2013

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Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Friday, January 25, 2013

It was a beautiful drive to Adelaide through vineyards and then a dramatic gorge – Torens Gorge.    There was the interesting feature of the 'Biggest Rocking Horse in the World' alongside a huge toy factory which seemed to attract millions of Australian families with incredibly noisy children but that was just a hiccup!  We had been warned about the school holidays and this was a taster session…

We got the last spot on the campsite and took that as a good omen.  The site was within walking distance of the centre of Adelaide along the riverbank and as it was late afternoon the commuters were leaving the CBD in their droves – mainly on bikes!  Adelaide isn’t a big city – a population of just over a million – and is very compact and attractive.  We visited the library which had an excellent display of the history of Adelaide, including a story of a migrant from England who wrote a letter to his sister, Elizabeth Ponsford of Minehead, telling her all about his life in Australia!  The Migration Museum also had great displays; some very frank accounts of migration from perspectives of both the migrants and the indigenous population, which was decimated when the Europeans arrived.  They also celebrated the explorer, Stuart, who left from Adelaide.   

Between the two cities we visited some caves, The Grampians and drove the Great Ocean Road! 

Naracoorte caves are typical limestone caves with stalactites and stalagmites but with added extras.  It’s a World Heritage site for fossils of ancient mega-fauna; creatures which fell through holes in the roofs of caves and became fossilised over the last 60,000 to 500,000 years.  Very, very strange creatures! The caves are also home to rare Southern Bentwinged Bats which we watched flying out en masse in the evening.  Oh, and families!  The tour we did was specific – not suitable for under 8’s as there was a lot of standing and listening but we had 2 families who came anyway! 

The Grampians is a rather lovely National Park which was extensively damaged by a storm in 2011 but everything we wanted to do was open – there were great walks and wonderful views.  We stayed at Halls Gap which reminded us of Cheddar – no real reason for it to be there except to service the tourists! (No cheese though) The campsite was huge but there was hardly anyone staying there so where the hordes of people came from I don’t know, but come they did.  Fortunately we were up early in the morning and beat the crowds.

The Great Ocean Road was everything everyone described – stunningly beautiful and absolutely heaving with people!  We need to go back when it’s not school holidays!! 

It’s 655Km (407m) from Adelaide to Melbourne, as the crow flies, but with our detours we drove 1500Km (932m).  The two cities couldn’t be more different.  Melbourne has over three times the population of Adelaide and lacks its relaxed old world charm.  Melbourne has some beautiful architecture but seems to have squashed everything in and buried all its historic buildings behind modern glass and steel. There is a large statue of Burke and Wills; Melbourne’s explorers who really didn’t seem to have a clue and unfortunately died on the expedition, leaving the field clear for Stuart.  It’s all in ‘The Dig Tree’ – we still have your copy Judith!   Melbourne is a very vibrant city and as we were there on Australia Day it was really buzzing.  We watched the formal stuff - affirmation of citizenship and speeches about inclusiveness etc., and the People’s March – a real contrast with the various cultural groups parading in traditional dress alongside some fairly barmy folks.  There were plenty of people in the streets watching but we got the impression that they were mostly tourists – certainly not many spoke English.   I counted 4 people who repeated the Affirmation and only two who sang the Anthem!  However, when we walked to the parks where the entertainment and picnics were happening there were plenty of Aussie accents about and lots of families enjoying the festivities.

Towards the end of the afternoon we wandered over to the ‘alternative’ celebrations in a different park to see the indigenous take on the day.  "Welcome to Survival Day" were the words of greeting.  There were representatives from several local indigenous language groups and we managed to see some dances.  All fairly low key.  

“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.”

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jane Smith on

Australia Day looked fascinating! Must be quite a contrast to find yourselves surrounded by so many people again! Just like Minehead on a sunny Sunday!
The skies look amazing! Looking out over the fields while I type this, no leaves yet but lots of snowdrops poking through the ground. We went to the opening of the "White Hart" just down the road from us last night. A total refurb and conference rooms/ gorgeous restaurant and bedrooms! Somewhere to go for a meal when you stay with us. I'm hoping you will bring the pics and lots of stories from along the way. Just off to make a warming cottage pie!! Love from us both JaneXX

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