Road trip – Warrnambool to Grampians

Our adventure along The Great Ocean Road had come to an end but we still had a lot more driving to do. Our first stop of the day was an unplanned one, but seeing a sign for Hopkins Falls we decided to follow it. Turned out to be a great little stop with a nice view of a waterfall. At the lookout we discovered a ‘Fotopol’ a brilliant invention! It was basically a permanent tripod for people to attach their cameras. It allowed me to take some really nice photos of the waterfall using a long shutter speed to make the movement of the water look silky smooth. The sturdiness of the Fotopol and the use of my wireless remote combined to create some great snaps.
Tower Hill Reserve was next on the agenda. The reserve was home to an extinct volcano believed to have erupted 30,000 years ago, but now a new habitat for many animals. We walked some of the many trails. The peak climb took us 30 minutes and led us to the highest point of the reserve with views of the surrounding area. The lava tongue boardwalk took us 30 minutes which led us through swamp areas and we spotted lizards, a snake and emus along the way. Journey to the last volcano took us one hour and lead us to the centre of the volcano but to be honest there was not much to see. We spotted a koala sitting in a eucalyptus tree near the picnic area and ash had a brief encounter with a snake near the information centre.
On returning to our vehicle I unlocked the doors and the key broke in the lock! I couldn’t believe our luck, stuck in a national park in the heat. We called Jucy who told us that even though we paid for the full insurance cover the key wasn’t covered. They gave us a number for a mobile locksmith and informed us that we would have to pay. How very helpful of Jucy rentals! We had to wait 2 hours for the locksmith to turn up so we went into the back of the van and cooked up some soup. There we were sitting in the national park carpark enjoying our soup and an Asian tourist took this opportunity to take a photo of us. Eventually the locksmith turned up and managed to cut us a new key for the hefty price of $100. But don’t worry, we did what we do best and complained to Jucy who later reimbursed us. After this setback we quickly got on the road again and headed for Grampians but a bigger obstacle was about to come into play.
The roads were straight and long heading towards the Grampians and we could see the mountainous landscape in the distance. We spotted smoke ahead and soon realised we were heading straight for it. We passed a Fire Marshall who informed us that it was a controlled fire and we had nothing to worry about. He advised us to slow down from 110kmh to 50kmh, to put our headlights on and he’d radio the other Marshall’s to let them know we were heading in their direction. Smoke was everywhere and even though we shut all the windows and vents we could feel the smoke filling our lungs. We carried on down the road only for the smoke to get thicker and all of a sudden we were in a thick blanket of smoke and could not see a thing. I couldn’t see the bonnet of our own car never mind the road ahead of us. The smoke was making us cough and the heat was unreal, even though visibility was zero, it was safer to keep on going. I was driving at walking pace when all of a sudden I had to hit the brakes hard and we stopped inches away from hitting a bollard. It was a bit of a panic but the car was becoming very hot so all I could do is keep moving and Ash suggested beeping the horn as we crawled along the road. Eventually visibility started to improve and there were flames near the side of the road. We could just make out the shadows of some of the marshalls fighting the fire. As soon as we cleared the smoke I put my foot down and wound down the windows, air never tasted so good. It was a very scary experience and one we will not forget. We were very lucky nothing was coming the other way. Ash did manage to film some of it, so we will try and upload some footage at a later date.
We stopped at Lake Bellfield before spending the night at Lake Fyans holiday park in the Grampians. It was a very eventful day and we enjoyed a relaxed evening star gazing with views of the Milky Way.

Perth to Monkey Mia: Day 3 – Monkey Mia, Hamelin Pool, Eagles Bluff, Kalbarri

Early start for all of us today, we had dolphins to see!! Myself and Sean were excited to actually see one up close as we have never seen a dolphin before. Kelly did tell us that the chances of us being picked were slim as there would be lots of people there and it was school holidays so normally children or elderly people get picked.

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Now we could either watch from the jetty and get good pictures or stand by the shore and try our luck, I decided to try my luck but got trapped at the side and didn’t get much of a view to be fair, Sean found it hard to get pictures of the dolphins and sadly we did not get picked to feed them but a few people from our tour did. During the feed I saw something near the end of the Jetty and I thought it was probably a dolphin but Josie later told me it was a turtle.

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When the feeding had finished we were told there might be another feed around 9:30 but it’s dependent on the dolphins. We lay on the beach and soaked up the rays for a bit enjoying the view if the boats on the water. The time had arrived and lucky for us the dolphins had decided they wanted some more food. Sean and I made our way over with Kelly but this time we took a bit of a seat back not expecting much.

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Feeding time and a dolphin called Surprise, came over by us to get her fish and people started getting picked and one of those people was me!! It was so surreal but I grabbed Sean’s hand and took him to meet our dolphin. We were speechless after and to be truthful a bit shaky (it was our first dolphin encounter after all). Now that’s another thing checked off our bucket list. Me and sean took a dip in the sea but we’re thinking if a dolphin did come and swim by us we’d freak out and think a shark was there so we got out and soaked up some sunshine.

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We had another animal encounter that day too when an Emu came from nowhere, walking along the beach. It came right up to our bags rummaging around in mine and lindseys stuff, cheeky. We got some great pictures though and it was pretty cool being that close to an Emu especially since they are quite dangerous.

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As the day grew on we left Monkey Mia with a whole bunch of new memories, friends and experiences but sadly part of it had to end so we enjoyed the view one last time before we got in to the van for the last time. We drove to a viewpoint called Eagles Bluff next which had an amazing view over the Indian ocean, the sea was crystal clear and even though we were so many feet high on a cliff you could still see the shadows of sea life from turtles, rays, sharks and schools of fish. This place was so beautiful I wish we could have stayed longer and I wanted even more to just jump into the clear waters and swim amongst the fish.

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After our stop off we had one last trip as a group and that was to Hamelin Pool, home to stromatolites. These ancient living rocks provide the oldest record for life itself, pretty interesting. They give us the oxygen we need that make life on earth possible. There was a walkway for people to walk around to view them as they are a protected life form so we had to be careful but I don’t know if it was just me but the air felt so pure and cleansing, I felt glad we had came to view such an amazing site.

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It came that time when we had to say goodbye to an amazing place and not only that but goodbye to a great bunch of people as 5 members were heading on up to Exmouth. We swapped Facebook’s and gave our hugs and sooner then expected we were met by our new guide Mark who was taking us for lunch and then on to our hostel in Kalbarri. We were really envious of the others getting to go up to Ningaloo Reef and snorkelling with all the amazing creatures but the experience would have to wait for us till we visit the great barrier reef.

The journey was long to the hostel and the van was even more smaller for us so when we finally arrived at the hostel, I couldn’t wait to jump in bed but we were given some bad news that evening that our van had broken down (Mark had cut the radiator pipe!) So who knew when we would be able to move on. We hoped it wouldn’t cut in to our last day but for now all I wanted was my head on that pillow.