Day 15 - Portland to Port Macdonnell

Trip Start Apr 17, 2012
Trip End May 27, 2012

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Port Macdonnell Foreshore Tourist Park

Flag of Australia  , South Australia,
Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Woke up to yet another cold and rainy day. As a result it was decided that we'd need a hot breakfast so we quickly threw down some weet-bix before packing up camp and heading into town for some cafe hunting. One hot breakfast later we were ready to catch up with Julie's friends who had lived in Sydney for a while back in the 90's. They were extremely nice people and were tried and true Portland-ites. We chatted about life in Portland, life in Sydney, babies and music. As we were determined to get well & truly into South Australia today we didn't want to waste too much time so after an hour or so we said our goodbyes. Due to the fact that we were crossing the VIC/SA border we thought we'd leave our bags of potatoes with our Portland friends.

Soon we were heading west out of town. We had to go to Cape Bridgewater for a 2nd time so that we could have a look at the Petrified Forest and blowholes then we would be able to head west past the Bridgewater Lakes again on our way to Gorae West where we would get onto the Portland - Nelson Rd

The walk to the Petrified Forest was done quickly so that we'd generate some heat and when we got there it was awesome. The petrified structures were great to walk amongst and photograph with the huge wind generators rotating in the background. A little further west along the walking track were the blowholes which were not blowing - obviously this was due to the tide not being at the right height at that moment but this didn't matter too much as the cold wasn't blending too well with the caffeine in my bladder. I had to keep moving as the discomfort was ruining my experience somewhat so after having a good enough look around I bolted back to the carpark and "found comfort" so to speak. 

The drive to Nelson was pretty eventless, it was quite picturesque at times and was also quite rainy. I distinctly remember sitting on 80 km/h in a 100 km/h zone due to the high numbers of small birds darting about on the road and then looking in my rearview mirror and seeing a large semi-trailer riding up my arse. I slowed down even more (to 70 km/h) to demonstrate that being a menacing cockhead doesn't work on me and to encourage him to just pass me already. The fool passed me at 120km/h in a 100 km/h zone with a bend in the road ahead. One day he will kill himself. It's just a shame he has to do it on a public road becuase he'll take an innocent person with him.

Nelson itself had received a fair amount of rain over the past 48 hours and the river had risen enough to submerge a few boatsheds and waterfront parking areas. The local tourist information was quite busy for a cold & rainy day and we made enquiries about the camping areas on the Glenelg River in the Lower Glenelg National Park. The camping areas were flooded out and the roads impassable and the rain didn't look like it was going to end soon. Fine then, Nelson was too cold and dark anyway - plus we wanted to press on further as it was Day 15 (ie: week #3) and we were still facing Bass Strait & the Great Australian Bight which are fantastic - BUT COLD!

I should mention here that since we were no longer on the Great Ocean Rd (which ended back in Warrnambool), we were now trailblazing our own GOR by using the GPS to connect all the coast-hugging roads together. From Nelson the road crossed the border into SA. We veered off the main road which would have taken us to Mt Gambier and followed Eight Mile Creek Rd into Port Macdonnell. Port Macdonnell itself would normally be a nice coastal beachy town but due to the shitty weather coming off the ocean it really looked grey and dead. The wind was dragging sheets of rain through the streets and there was just no-one to be seen anywhere. We had to find some fuel which proved to be almost impossible as the whole place was like a ghost town.

After asking at the general store, we were informed that the service station is rarely staffed and that there was a facility for swiping your credit card and self serving. So we drove into what appeared to be a service station (or a vacant lot with bowsers) and tried to work out WTF was going on. It didn't help that there was no undercover area so I was getting soaked with rain and pummelled by the wind. I finally worked out where to swipe my card and got the pump working. They didn't have premium so had to fill up with plain unleaded. At the other end of town there was a breakwall which you can drive out onto which we had to do. It was a weird feeling because on one side there were huge waves and surges crashing into it. Big chunks of seaweed lined the pathway which had been blown out of the water by the forces. Luckily we didn't get washed off and were soon back on land.

One of the things we had to see whilst here was the Lighthouse and the Little Penguin colony so we drove up the headland at the western end of town and inspected. They have a great little national park area with a network of roads allowing you to access the various vantage points and beaches. We tried to go and take some photos around the Penguin Colony and Australia's Southernmost point of the mainland but could only manage 15 mins out of the car before hypothermia began to kick in. The sign on the point indicated we were only 5500km to the South Pole - it sure felt like it. The lighthouse was a very pretty one, but for some reason the public were not allowed to get close to it so we finished our sight-seeing drive and headed back into town to check out the food options. Most of the food available was stodge - burgers, pies, sausage rolls, fish & chips, chiko rolls or beer (or fish bait). This town mainly caters for surfers and fisherfolk. No cullinary delights here. Looks like we are cooking in the van tonight.

We dropped into the Port MacDonnell Foreshore Tourist Park, we were surprised at how friendly the guy running the place was. He made us feel quite welcome after driving into a deserted, cold, windy and rainy town. He told us we could set up anywhere in the park but added that there were a few spots that were more sheltered from the wind & rain. As the van is quite weatherproof we were more concerned with privacy than weather so we chose a spot away from people. The park was actually really nice, it was right on the beachfront with an amenities block not too far. The best thing about it was that it had power - much needed in this neck of the woods for running the heater in van. As night fell, the weather just deteriorated into gale force winds and pissing rain.

Again, we had the full range of DTV channels and full strength internet so we had plenty of entertainment for the night. 80's internet radio provided us with laughs while we cooked our dinner. Occasionally the van would wobble from side to side as the wind hammered into the side but we were cosy, happy and having a blast inside. The only time we felt cold was when we had to go to the shower block for showers. Lucky for us, the water was scorchingly hot so we were fine walking back to the camper afterwards - even if our feet were getting wet on the grass.

When we decided to go to sleep, we lay there after turning the lights off and were a little distracted by the amount of movement the van was making due to the winds. Also the canvas sides of the poptop were oscillating in & out which was quite noisy so we pulled the poptop down and slept with the van in road-mode. We were amazed at the reduction in wind noise and the increase in temperature. We had another unbelievable sleep - again probably due to the sounds of the huge ocean swells being so close to us.
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