Port Fairy to Beachport, SA

Trip Start Mar 14, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Australia  , South Australia,
Monday, March 16, 2009

Two observations.  Firstly, when you are camping, it is an utter impossibility to get your fingernails clean or to keep them that way.  Secondly, I realised this morning that the end of my nose has not been warm since we left Melbourne.  I pointed this out to Rhiannon and she fired up Doris' heating system - people will never take me seriously again if I lose a nose to frostbite in Australia of all places.

Heading towards Portland, we took what the Lonely Planet promised would be a worth 21km detour to Cape Bridgeport.  As we drove, I noticed signs for 'Wind Farm Tours' and a 'Windfarm Scenic Viewpoint' which struck me as a little strange - with all this amazing coastline, do people really travel for miles to see something which in Britain is almost universally detested by countryside-lovin' folks?  Maybe it's a question of marketing and the British government have missed a trick by going down the 'Sorry they're ugly, but they are very important, global warming, cough cough, ahem' route - they should have been bigging them up as a must-see highlight of a trip to the area.  

In Bridgewater, we saw another beautiful beach - maybe we should start taking that as a given - unless I specifically say there was no beautiful beach, assume I can see, or am standing on, at least one.  We also saw a petrified forest, although it didn't look so scared to me (ba boom... Anyone?  No?  Rhiannon didn't laugh either when I said so at the time, maybe I'll edit this bit out).  The sea was spectacular - a turbulent chaos of aquamarine, pounding against the cliffs.  Dancing in and out of the swell, we saw the tiny black figure of a lithe fur seal, oblivious to the danger those same waters have posed to countless ships.

Portland, a quaint little colonial town overshadowed by a hideous industrial wharf, was the final stop for us in Victoria.   Of course, when we say town in Australia, we aren't necessarily referring to a settlement of comparable size to say, Reading or Wolverhampton.  Two streets and a pub is enough to constitute the title of 'town' in Australia.  We found a café and had a sandwich, just in the nick of time too - at 2.30pm having swallowed our last mouthful, the proprietoress informed us she was closing.  The residents of Portland do not require cappuccinos beyond this hour and right they are too; a cappuccino is traditionally a morning drink, as my learned friend Louise once informed me.

We were in Portland in order to register our car with the Victorian road authorities because there were no free appointments to do this in Melbourne until some time in the next decade.  Buying a car in Australia is the most difficult and complex undertaking I have experienced in the entirety of my travels.  Each state has a different set of requirements designed to confuse everyone and to thwart the unknowing traveller.  The authorities' various websites contain PDF documents to 'explain' (hah!) the process, but their word count is similar to that of the Encyclopaedia Britannica and they are written in Bureaucratese.  Some states test the roadworthiness of cars before they will register a car, but the standard required to pass the test is different in each state so you could buy a car that passed in Western Australian but fails in Victoria and so you can't drive it.

Then, of course, there were all the difficulties in choosing a vehicle that you would expect two girls in their mid-twenties to encounter, when neither has ever owned a car before and one can't even drive.  A couple of weeks ago, I had never even heard of a head gasket; now, not only do I know what a head gasket is, I know where to find it in my car and how to tell if it is about to blow (cottage cheese like deposit under the oil cap - impressive, no?).

The reason for this long and seemingly unnecessary deviation from my story?  No, I can't remember either.  Maybe it was just to introduce the fact that I had to change the license plates myself - health and safety in the workplace, or perhaps the danger that I might sue VicRoads if they scratched my paintwork meant that the guy just handed me a couple of screw drivers and sent me out in the pissing rain (yes, again.  They told me Australia was a sun kissed paradise.  They lied.).  I spent half an hour sitting in a car park in Portland, gouging iron filings out of the rusty screws, before driving up the road and getting a mechanic to do it.  Then I had a strawberry smoothie and we drove to Beachport, SA.

In Beachport, we were couch surfing as a welcome relief from our tent, now christened Mr Bojangles, after we listened to Don McLean's description of a shabby old tramp and were both instantly reminded of our current home.  For the uninitiated, couch surfing (www.couch surfing.com) is not an extreme sport involving soggy upholstery.  It is community of good-hearted people who offer their spare bedroom or couch free of charge to travellers passing through.  Everyone on the website is vouched for by those who stay with them or who they stay with, so travellers and couch-owners alike can be confident that they will be safe.  Members of the website post a profile and so it is possible to find people to stay with whose interests you share and who you feel you could have a good time with.  Couch surfing is a great way to meet people, get inside information about the places you visit and to save the pennies when you're on the road - the cardinal rule is that only good karma and not cash changes hands.

Soooo, we arrived in Beachport at Kirby's house, where we were met by two Californian backpackers who had come for a night and stayed for a month.  Then we got hammered and went to bed.
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Where I stayed
Couchsurfed at Kirby's
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