After picking up our campervan and shopping for food and drinks we head off to the great ocean road. Man this campervan is big and comfortable. First thing we do is tell ourselves keep left when we're driving but luckily signs on the roads remind us as well. As usual we take a wrong turnoff and it took us some time to get to the great ocean road. But once you're on it you can't go wrong anymore.
Our first stop for the night is in Kenneth River and here we are introduced to just a few of the native animals of Australia. In the trees of the campground koalas are doing their usual thing which is sleep. Sulfur crested cockatoos are playing on the ground and in the trees. Crimson Rosellas and the king parrot are also flying around.
In the morning two kookaburras are sitting on the grass. So much for an introduction to Australian wildlife! If you ever plan to go in this direction make sure you stop here as this is a great place to see koalas. Even if you don't stay at this campground just walk along the road here and koalas and birds are everywhere! Next stop is Cape Otway National park where there are more koalas, cockatoos, kookaburras and rosellas and our first wallybies. We also did a nice hike in the national park with a beautiful beach and views on the great ocean road coastline. After Cape Otway the great ocean road really started with the wolrldwide known rock formations like the Twelfe Apostels, the Arch and London Bridge, which since 1990 is not a bridge anymore but also an arch in the ocean. Maybe they should rename it"Arc the Triomph"! So I guess I (Paul) was one of the last to see it as a bridge as I was here in 1989! The next 3 days we spent in the Grampians National Park. Here we did some great hikes in the mountains with beautiful views on the different mountain ranges and surrounding valleys.
Also the rock formations here are quite spectacular. Also stayed at a campground where corellas (different kind of cockatoo) were doing a display. On another campground we hand fed the crimson rosellas and the sulfur crested cockatoos. It is time to buy a bird guide as we were seeing all these beautiful birds but we aren't able to name them. So now we know we've not seen a bird with a red bellie but that this bird is actually the Scarlett Robin. And not just that, but we've seen the Flamed Robin, the Scarlet Robin, the Rose Robin and the Red Capped Robin!
Still we are not that good at determining the birds because for sure it is a Gerygone but what kind of Gerygone! Well it keeps us busy. At least a lot more interesting than thinking about the global financial crisis. Next stop on this trip is Little Desert National Park. This area is known for the Mallee Fowl. This is a very special bird that doesn't make a nest but instead in makes a mound on the ground. This mound can be 5 meters in diameter and 1 meter high. For 11 months the birds are busy building this mound. The bird is also called "thermometer bird" as it keeps the egg chamber at a constant temperature of 32 degrees. How they do that, just type in Mallee Fowl in google or wikipedia and you will probably get the whole story. We stayed in little desert lodge.
Here they have an aviary where you can actually see the bird. Wimpey the owner of this place has been doing research on them since 1978. He's quite a character and knows I guess everything there is to know about this bird. And yes we did get to see the Mallee Fowl and its mound. We were not just here for the bird but also to do some hiking here. The desert here is mostly covered by low scrubs. On our hike we got a good impression of what it can look like. The top of the bushes were in all kinds of autumn colors. From green to yellow and red. It was a kind of painters' pallet. After this we wanted to go to a nearby lake (Lake Hindmarsh). According to the brochure this lake is rarely dry but Wimpey said it has been dry for the last 3 years. We go anyway. And yes, Wimpey was right. The lake is completely dry. At least at the campground where we stayed the lake is covered with heather and not with water.
The campground was also completely deserted except for the flies that kept bugging us. It felt great to be all alone in this place. Just us and the birds. A beautiful sunset and then the moon and stars joined in. A perfect stop. Being city guys we need a change from all this tramping and nature and we go on to explore the goldfields and its towns. In the middle of the 19th century gold was found in the valleys north west of Melbourne. In the beginning the gold was there to pick up from the fields. As you can imagine this created an influx of people from all over the world. Towns were booming and cities like Ballarat, Bendigo and Castlemain flourished as is still seen in the wealth of the buildings. After the goldrush was over many towns are now not more than little villages. We drove through these little villages stopping at a few of them like Maryborough where there is a huge and beautiful trainstation which now houses a restaurant and an antique market.
Maldon is a pictoresque village with typical 19th century buildings. We really like Bendigo which has quite an atmosphere. Nice historic buildings and an old tram that goes through town. In my opinion the prettiest town I've been to in Australia. The countryside here is also pretty with hills and valleys especially at the Daylesford area. After this village hopping we wanted to go back to nature and as we don't want to stay in a city we go to another lake, Lake Eppalock that as you probably guessed is also dry. This multishaped lake has now only 2% water in it and we stayed at a caravan site which was actually a bit depressing. As this is close to Melbourne a lot of families use this lake as a recreational place. But for ten years now there is no water in the lake for recreation and the boats that these people have here are mostly unused. We decide not to go further east as this area is badly damaged by fires earlier this year and decide to stay on the west side of Melbourne.
I guess we have to come back here to do the east part of Victoria and then we definitely will go to Canberra as well because our friends "the twisted sisters" are probably not happy that we didn't pay them a visit this time! Girls next time we will pay you a visit. So we did some more hiking in a small state park and then it is already time to go back to Melbourne. We had a great time on this first leg. Learned a few new Australian customs like an espresso is called a short black and they can slice your bread either the toast way (thick slices) or the sandwich way (thin slices). Most of the times you order your food and drinks at the bar or counter and pay for it when you order, which is kinda handy as you can leave when you're finished and you don't have to wait for the bill.
I guess that's it for now. Our next stop will be the red centre and you will hear from us soon.Paul and Ton