Grampians – Adelaide Roadtrip

We had clocked a fair bit of mileage in our van and we weren’t even half way. On the plus side we have seen some of the most amazing sights and experienced life on the road by ourselves and there would be plenty more to see.
After leaving our campsite we drove in to the Halls Gap town, it is meant to be the biggest town in the Grampians but there just didn’t seem to be much to see or do at the time of our visiting.
We decided to do one of the driving routes to see some of Hall’s Gap lookout points, the route we chose was the Central Grampians Drive.

We drove along Mt Victory Road and took a turning towards the Boroka Lookout, the road being named Mt Difficult Road was a little worrying and it was very windy but Sean did fine driving the van. We parked up and from there it was a short and fairly easy walk to the lookout point. Once we were there we had a really great view of Hall’s Gap and Wonderland Range. In the distance we could see heavy showers from the black clouds and a large lake in between mountains.

Moving onwards we got back on the Mt Victory Road and stopped off at Reed Lookout and walked about half an hour towards the Balconies, a famous rock formation. On the way we saw some strange rock piles which looked like they had been purposely placed there for Aboriginal purposes maybe but the time it must have taken them to do all of that is crazy and it reminded me of a scene from The Blair Witch Project. The Balconies was another picturesque view, the Balconies were rock formations perched on the edge of a mountain side allowing the public to take a step out into them for the best seat in the house. Our friend we had met in Sydney had a photo taken sitting on one of the ledges but I wouldn’t recommend doing it due to the instability of some of these rocks plus there were plenty of warning signs to put me off.

Our next stop was MacKenzie Falls, unfortunately though due to a recent bush fire in the Grampians it was closed off to the public. We had noticed a lot of fire damage along the way and its shocking to see how much and how big they can get, most of the trees were now dead wood and it would take a long time for things to get back to the way they were again.
We passed through a town called Keith before getting to Adelaide and we just had to stop off for a cheeky photo opportunity for our mate back home called Keith, made us giggle. So farewell from Keith and onwards to Adelaide where we were staying at Christies Beach campsite, the site had a nice view of the beach where we watched the sun setting although it was a bit cloudy to really see much and it was pretty cold anyway so we headed back to the van to relax (after doing the van ritual – sorting van, making up the bed, securing all the curtains and trying to get comfy). Next port of call Adelaide CBD.

The Great Ocean Road – Port Campbell-Warrnambool

Day Three:

We saw the Twelve Apostles yesterday but we just wanted to see them again and go quite early to spend a bit longer and enjoy the sunrise peeking over the rock formations. We were so tired that we just missed sunrise but we still got a beautiful view of the Sun pointing west towards the Apostles which saw shadows of the cliffs loom over them and made for some nice photographs.

We had decided the night before we would have to back track towards Cape Otway to check out the Otway Fly Treetop Adventures as it was too late to go when originally planned – no thanks to Jucy. We drove towards the park looking forward to doing some zip line activities as well as the treetops walk and since we had Merlin annual passes it would cost us nothing….wrongo!! We got there and found out it was free for us to do the treetop walk & nature trail but it was around $100 to do the zip line although maybe 25% off, still very pricey so we gave that a miss. The nature trail was ok, a lot of ferns and trees but a few dinosaurs in between, all very old and in need of repair (the raptors had legs missing). We joined the treetops walk which wasn’t amazing but I liked making it move – the older generation did not. Overall we are glad we didn’t have to pay but it we enjoyed being outdoors taking in the natural beauty.

We found a national park close to Otway Fly Treetop Adventures which has a waterfall – Triplet Falls, named apply for its gradient fall. We had a slight incline to walk but we had fun, especially being rewarded with a picturesque view of the waterfall. Some people had took an unofficial detour to get the bottom of the water to have a swim maybe, Sean tried but felt it was a bit steep for me to be comfortable with. However we had some great views from the three levels, it took us about an hour return and was not too strenuous.

We headed forward on the Great Ocean Road, stopping off at a few more monuments near the Twelve Apostles. The coastline between Cape Otway and Port Fairy is a notoriously dangerous stretch of water. In the days of sailing ships more than 80 vessels came to grief on this 120km stretch in just 40 years. The most famous wreck was that of Loch Ard, hence the lookout name; Loch Ard Gorge. This was our favourite lookout on the GOR, it had a beautiful but small beach which was like a cove surrounded by two huge cliffs. These cliffs created some monstrous waves and you could see why people are not allowed to swim these waters, It did not stop some silly women frolicking around like a beached whale though – a local however pulled her out un-amused. I could have stayed here all day but as the tide came in and started washing people’s belongings out to sea (someone lost there iPhone here) we decide to make hast and drive onwards to some more lookout points.

We saw many more along the way, Including Thunder Cave – a name referred to by the noise made by the waves crashing inside the cave, London Bridge – a famous rock formation named recently due to two tourists in the 90s being stranded when rocks collapsed separating the stack to the mainland.  Bay of Islands and Bay of Martyrs were pretty amazing too with a vast sight into the distance of yet more rock stacks. We realised that in years to come the very spot we were standing would one day be another apostle, this was a crazy thought.

As the sun started to decent beyond sight we got back in our van and drove to Warrnambool, the last destination on the Great Ocean Road. We found a campsite to stay overnight which was quite small and Sean thought, very Bogeny (Aussie term for redneck). We cooked some camel burgers, which just tasted like beef, and enjoyed the starry skies.

We loved the GOR and would miss the beauty of the coastal drive especially the fun windy roads and the lookout after lookout, but we were only a quarter of the way into our roadtrip as we had plenty more to see towards Port Lincoln and then inland towards Sydney. For now though we had to catch some zzz’s after a long adventure filled day. Night John boy.

The Great Ocean Road – Melbourne – Anglesea

Day one:

Our destination: Port Lincoln Shark Diving!!
Vehicle of choice: Jucy Rentals
Booked through Peterpans Travel
Duration: Booked for 13 days
Cost: $57 + $25 (insurance) a day

Ever since we started talking about travelling Australia we have always had two things on our bucket lists, dive the Great Barrier Reef and Cage Shark diving. It’s something we would never get the chance to do again and we just love marine life especially the mysterious Great White Shark (white shark). We went straight to Peterpans in Melbourne and knew exactly what we wanted and booked! So we decided to do the Great Ocean Road along the way and check out Adelaide, yes it would be cheaper to just fly over but we would miss out on all the glorious views, locations and memories of doing this journey.

Our day started…..no wait….3 hours later our day started. We woke early aiming to get our car around collection time at 10am and arrived not long after to find a bit of a queue but not much, about 5 people. An hour of waiting on the queue we start getting annoyed as we really should be on the road heading straight for The Twelve Apostles not in some stark collection office. We realise that a few of the people haven’t even com  to collect cars but enquire about booking one so the people waiting to collect can’t because Jucy haven’t got a proper queuing system and not only that the only 2 Jucy staff that seem to be working then take each person outside to see the vehicle, which take another 20 minutes and at this point we’re tapping our feet, shaking our heads and watching the clock. The staff were slow, to busy having conversations about “how sweet your trips going to be” and less time organising and handling the customers that want to be on that sweet trip!

We finally get to the front of the queue and its been 3 hours and our plans for going straight to the apostles is not happening, it would be after sunset by the time we got there and we did not want to miss out on seeing places on the way. The assistant smiles and says “sorry about the wait is everything ok?” We remind her how long we have waited and how we are a day behind now which we are paying for as we speak only to then be told ” sorry about that, it does work out that most out that most of the time people do loose a day but that’s just what happens” she wrote it in the notes for us to mention to HR but that was it. Thanks Jucy for your amazing customer service. NOT.

So day one finally starts after getting supplies for the van. The plan today is to aim for Anglesea where we would find accommodation before starting the Great Ocean Road in the morning. We decide to stop off in Torquay home of Rip Curl and Bells beach where surf competitions take place annually. There wasn’t much in terms of surf for us to watch as it was getting late and the weather quite cold and I’m guessing the sea is even colder. The area was beautiful though and coastline amazing to see, I always find staring out in to the ocean very hypnotic and calming.

We moved on towards Anglesea where we found a camp site for the night, it was quite dark at this point but it was a nice, quiet location and there was loads of space. We parked our van and took a little look around. We were close to all facilities and we had privacy with help of the trees surrounding our space and we were right by the beach too.
The walk to and from the toilets was fun, my feet were black and I creeped myself out walking back in the dark but the showers were great, clean and the cost of $– a night per van was good.

We headed 5 minutes away from reception to grab some food as we weren’t allowed to use our stove on the camp site. We found a pub that served food and went with the kangaroo roast dinner which was delicious although the cook thought he only had to make one dish, I waited and asked the waitress who had to tell him to make mine but it meant Sean had to eat without me. After the meal we called it a night and walked back to the van to plan day two when we heard something in the shadows. We freaked when we saw a massive kangaroo a few meters away from us, it bounced off eventually into the darkness and we were left aware but delighted. After a bad start to the day it ended pleasant and we hoped nothing else would get in our way that would change this.

Formula 1; The Melbourne Grand Prix – Part 1

We left Sydney to do a road trip along the Great Ocean Road starting from Melbourne. Timing was perfect as it meant we were in Melbourne for the Grand Prix. As much as I love watching formula 1, I’ve never had the opportunity to attend one, so what better excuse than seeing the opening race. We pre-booked a 4 day grandstand ticket. Unfortunately the Schumacher and Clark stand were both sold out so going by the location and reviews the next best option in our price range was the Webber stand $320 each.
We stayed in Nomads hostel which is located in the CBD near Grand Central and the free tram to the Grand Prix was on our doorstep.
Thursday was the first day and free entry to the public. As soon as we arrived at Albert Park we thought we would check out our seat for the weekend. It was a good location on the pit straight, we could see the V8 pits and the end of the F1 pits. We also had a big TV screen opposite which would help us keeping up with the action. There was no shade or shelter from the rain so we would have to make sure we came prepared for anything as Melbourne weather is very unpredictable. We caught a few races including historical cars before we decided to go explore.
As it was a free day we invited Josefine to meet us there. We spent a lot of time in the very impressive Action Zone where there was plenty of entertainment. We watched 3 motorcyclists dice with death in a cage aptly named the globe of death. It’s amazing how little space they have yet the three of them are criss crossing each others path whilst riding upside down and side to side. To add to that during the show we had RAAF Roulettes performing a jaw dropping air display above our heads. There was a massive skateboard vert where Tony hawk and friends performed some rad tricks. I couldnt believe that we got to see a legend of skateboarding twice in the space of a month. We also enjoyed Flair motor trials display where there was 2 dudes on motorbikes along with one guy on a bmx and another dude on a unicycle all getting air and tricking of some crazy ramps. Just when you think it can’t get any crazier there was an awesome high wire stunt with a dude riding a heavy motorcycle along a high-wire whilst a talented lady hung beneath the motorcycle performing trapeze-like stunts.
After our adrenaline kick we walked around other areas of Albert park checking out various sponsors and cars that were competing over the weekend. Near the historic car garages we bumped into David Coulthard surrounded by a mob of people.
Before leaving Albert park for the day we checked out the V8 supercar pits before catching the end of a Porsche Carrera Cup Race and boy were they loud!
That night we met up with Josephine and Elisa for food and drink. We had a good old chat about all our adventures past and present and sadly had to say farewell. Josephine was heading to Thailand and Elisa to Perth. Two great people that I’m sure we will meet again.

4 Merlin Attractions of Sydney

Since we are in Sydney for a while to work and enjoy the festive season we plan to try and enjoy the sights and things sydney has to offer…in other words have FUN!!!
So as well as the Sydney Aquarium here are some of the places we have enjoyed since being here:

Madame Tussauds Sydney

The smallest of all Madame Tussauds but the youngest too, being just over a year since opening. Since we had a merlin annual pass it cost us absolutely nothing to enter and we have not managed to see the London attraction we thought it would be a good first attempt.

You have 9 rooms altogether and 60% off the wax figures are Australian so it’s great for learning about the culture. You have History, World Leaders, Sport, Music, History of Madame Tussauds, Culture & Sciene, TV, Film and A-List.

I have to say apart from Mark Webber and Shane Warne I had no idea who most of the sporting hero’s were as they were immortalised at a younger age but it was good to read up about them. The world leaders room was impressive being surrounded by such influential people. My favourite room has to be the music room and the film room as I loved seeing Sandy from Grease and getting dressed up next to her but in the film room you have beautiful Heath Ledger and E.T.

The wax figures were impressive, some needed looking after a bit more but from first glance the faces are so real and I can only imagine how much work goes in to making just one figure. There is plenty to see and do around the attraction with presentations every hour, wax hand making, personalised trophies and videos to show you how the wax figures are made, so for $40 you get to see all this and keep the children entertained but also educated and the staff at the time were nice and didn’t have any issues.

Wildlife Sydney

Wildlife was very interesting, I actually rate it higher then the Aquarium due to the fact I find there is too much to take in at the Aquarium where as in the wildlife attraction there is just enough and the creatures aren’t stuck behind a cage, they gave plenty of space and some even jump/fly around the enclosure quite freely.

The butterfly sanctuary is amazing and if you stand very still you might be lucky enough to have one land on you. The butterflies are kept in a very well heated room to reflect that of their living conditions so it can be quite humid in there but they were amazing to see their size and how beautiful their wings are in colours.

There are many creatures to see here from Cassowarys, Wallaby’s, Birds, Snakes and my favourite Rex the Crocodile. He has a selection of viewing points: one high up looking below, one looking directly in to his enclosure and you even get to see him underwater when he wants to take a dip. We got some great pictures of this and the presentation on him was fascinating as we found out quite a bit about where he came from, why he was here and you can even catch him being fed. Another great presentation was on the Koala rooftop, they tell you all sorts of information about the koalas and what they eat, how the give birth and more, this is another worth while presentation to take part in and at the end you can even pay to get up close to the furry little tree dwellers.

Sydney Tower Eye (Centre Point Tower)

Based in the Westfield shopping center off Pitt Street and found on Level 5, easy to get to and never much of a queue as its open from 9am – 10pm. There is sometimes a slight queue once you enter though which is for the 4D experience in which you get to watch a cinematic view of Sydney and what it has to offer, worth one visit especially with children but you don’t need to see it more then once.

Next you have a security check before entering the lift to get to the high point. You can feel your ears popping as you ride the elevator up to the top floor, gives you an idea of how high you really are. Once we were up we all burst out of the tiny lift eager to see the view, and what an amazing view it was.

You got a 360° view of Sydney and on a very clear day like ours you could see as far as the Blue Mountains as well as Watson’s Bay and Bondi Beach, the people from above looked so small like ants running around the city. The very historical building QVB looked so good from this view and the Bridge in its iconic form nestled in between tall office blocks. You only need to spend 30 mins there to appreciate the view but they do have a cafe and a gift shop so you could spend longer. I recommend seeing the tower both in the day and at night time so maybe visit around 7pm on wards as you will see the sun setting and the lights all turning on to the night so best of both.

Manly Sea Life Sanctuary

The last of the five Merlin Attractions but one to still consider visiting, Manly is just on the note shore adjacent to Watson’s Bay. To get there from the city you are best travelling by Ferry which takes 30 minutes but it is a great journey, very scenic, but is going to be the quickest and cheapest way to get there. Once you are off the ferry you only need to look to your left and it is right on the beach. It is only a small aquarium but it is unique to the Sea Life Aquarium on Darling Harbour.

The sanctuary deals with rescued creatures and ones that need to be nursed back to health for re-releasing back into the ocean. It is a great place to lean about sharks too especially for anyone who has a passion for marine biology, it informs you on the unnecessary harm humans are to Sharks and how killing Sharks will effect the ocean. It really is eye opening to see and I couldn’t recommend it more.

Asides from sharks the Manly Sea Life Sanctuary also has a selection of Lizards, Jellyfish, Sea Horses, Sea Turtles and mini Penguins. The mini Penguin presentation was great to listen to, the lady told us lots of information on the special breed of Penguin, where they live to live and more. While she was doing this the Penguin were being very noisy for such small creatures, trying to get our attention but also to make other Penguins aware what was around them.

I would like to recommend people go visit this attraction as it is always the least visited due to people wanting to go to the bigger aquarium. Being a keen sea life enthusiast I have learnt more from this aquarium and seen more on our impact on the sea life then in the darling harbour site. They had a raft made up of plastic bottles found just on the Manley beach area and it was enough to fit more then a few people on and they apparently tested it and sailed it on the ocean to raise awareness of how much we litter the oceans with. Go check it out and after wards you can enjoy the rest of your day on the beach, visiting the shops and eating good food all before heading back home.

To read our review on the Sea Life Aquarium of Sydney check out our previous posts.

Sydney – life’s a beach. Bondi, Coogee and more

In Sydney there is a yearly event in November called Sculpture by the Sea. YHA central, a hostel we were staying at arranged a free walk featuring the sculptures. We decided to join in for the chance of meeting some new people and to get our bearings. The walk was from Bondi Beach to Bronte beach with plenty of weird and wonderful sculptures to gawp at along the way. Some of our favourites were a big glass orb that was filled with water which turned the landscape behind it upside down. There was a big 8 foot tall ball made of plastic rubbish symbolising the amount of rubbish found washed up upon the shore. During the walk we came across a giant orange wasp that was dragging a big huntsman spider along the rocks. I later found out that the wasp was called a spider wasp and they apparently paralyse the spider and then lay eggs inside the spider! NICE! It was a good day out and a chance to enjoy the sun. The walk would normally take 40 minutes and is about 4km but it obviously took us longer as we were enjoying the views. It’s a great walk to do even when the sculptures aren’t there. There are some great coastal views and nice beaches along the way.

 

On another sun filled day we headed to Bondi Beach for a relaxing beach day. To our suprise there was a surf competition happening at the time which added to our entertainment. Whilst the competitors were catching some waves there was music, funny australian comentators, charity BBQ and even a little stage area where some of the surfers were sharing their dancing skills with us. The grass bank was very busy, full of people enjoying the entertainment whilst sipping on an ice cold brewsky. There was a dude surfing who had a traffic cone gaffa taped to the front of his board, I don’t know if it helped but he was pretty good. After enjoying a hot dog and an ice cream we checked out the bondi shops and then walked to Bronte beach enjoying the coastal walk once again.

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If you are feeling energetic, you can do the same coastal walk from Bondi but go further than Bronte and end up on Coogee beach. This walk is roughly 7km and takes 1 hour and 40 minutes to walk. On this route you also get to see Clovelly and Gordon’s Bay.

Clovelly has a small beach and a large concrete area either side of the bay. It’s not the prettiest of beaches but a great place to sunbath on the concrete, if you’re not a fan of sand. It’s also a good spot for swimming and snorkelling due to protection from the waves the water is pretty calm. We have seen various fish and marine life whilst snorkelling and they seem very friendly as they are used to people. There is also a local big blue groper fish that is often seen but so far me and Ash have had no luck.

Gordon’s Bay is a beautiful quaint and rocky bay. It tends to be very quiet compared to the surrounding beaches. It’s also another great spot for snorkelling.

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Coogee is our current local beach seeing as we only live a short walk away. It’s similar to Bondi but tends to be less busy and you don’t see many surfers, It’s a great place to chill on the sand and then go for a swim to cool down. Last week i managed to catch the biggest wave I’ve ever body surfed and the wave after that was even bigger and took me out. There’s plenty of places to eat and drink around Coogee and we both enjoy living here.

A 45 minute walk south of Coogee is another lovely beach called Maroubra. It’s popular with surfers and has a great sandy beach to chill out on, It doesn’t get anywhere near as busy as Bondi and Coogee and you’ll find that most of the people there are locals.

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Melbourne Sea Life Aquarium

What to do on a rainy day? Me and Ash decided to pay Melbourne Sea Life Aquarium a visit. Before paying the admission fee we did a bit of research and seeing as we were probably going to visit some of the other Merlin attractions we purchased a Merlin annual pass.

Melbourne aquarium is the best aquarium I have been to. There is a large variety of things to see. Each enclosure/tank was very clean and well looked after. You could easily spend a full day there, as we did.

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The highlight for me was a massive saltwater crocodile called Pinjarra. This 50 year old MEGA croc measures over 5 metres long and weighs approx 750kg. He was originally found stranded in Queensland so was looked after and used for breeding purposes at Koorana crocodile farm. Now that he’s too old to breed with younger females the guys at Melbourne aquarium decided to look after the giant salty. He now has his own enclosure at the aquarium which is pretty impressive. You can view him from behind glass underwater and also above his enclosure. Crocodiles spend a lot of time submerged under water and very still. The first time we saw Pinjarra he didn’t move much at all apart from floating up to get some air. On one occasion he opened his mouth which is usually a sign of them cooling down. On another occasion he had a big scratch with his hind legs which I’ve never seen a croc do before. He was very impressive and one of the reasons we ended up visiting the aquarium 3-4 times.

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There was plenty of the usual marine life found in an aquarium fish, sharks, rays, octopus to name a few. The walk in aquarium was huge, the biggest I’ve seen. They also had a penguin enclosure with King and Gentoo Penguins. They were very playful swimming very fast chasing each other one minute, then flying out of the water and running along the snow the next.

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It was a fun day and we took plenty of photos. I liked the way throughout the aquarium they are trying to educate people how they can conserve the marine life. It seems that the Sea Life centres do a lot themselves to help conserve marine life and have various breeding, rescue and rehabilitation programmes which is always good to see.