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Kenneth (Williams) The Camp Van

December in Oz

sunny 30 °C
View World Tour on Curleys's travel map.

We were up early of dawn on Monday 26th November to pack and catch our flight to Melbourne. Ordinarily we pack the evening before a flight, especially when in a dorm, as it's pretty annoying when someone decides to start packing up all their stuff at the crack of dawn as they haven't been bothered to do it the evening before. However, due to the 'Sunday Session' the previous day we were now that annoying couple packing at the crack of dawn.

We had decided to stay in more of large guest house than a hostel in an up-market suburb of Melbourne called South Yarra. My, oh my, what a great night's sleep we had that night. Bliss. It's such a nice feeling to get into a bed with crisp, clean linen after sleeping in so many grubby rooms. Also, as my Sister, Sylvia, was joining us in Melbourne we thought it would be a good idea to ease her into hostel life in a gentle fashion...and somewhere with clean bedding is a good start!

Images of Melbourne - Parliament & tram, State Library and train & tram
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Yarra River
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Before Sylvia joined us, Gavin and I decided to squeeze in a trip to the Great Ocean Road and well, if you are going to do it, do it properly - we decided to live it up a little and splashed out on a convertible car. I know, we'll be regretting it when we have to get second jobs in McDonald’s when we get home but frankly, bugger it, it was so much fun!

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The Great Ocean Road
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Our first stop off was at Picnic’s B&B in an area called Apollo Bay. The lady that ran the place was so cute and the room was so homely, think Mrs Bucket in Keeping up Appearances. I loved the fact that she brought out the milk jug with a little beaded doily on it.

Apollo Bay
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The lady from the B&B also gave us some great info on things to see and do during our trip along the G.O.R. Heeding her advice our next stop was the Cape Otway National Park to see if we could spot any Koalas and we saw heaps of them!

Otway Lighthouse
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We then drove on to Point Franklin which is a gorgeous, rugged coastline with barely anyone else around......apart from flies. Now, I know I'm going on about the flies now but take a look at this....

Point Franklin
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With our jumpers wrapped around our faces for protection, we stumbled back to the car to get away from the zillions of flies that inhabited the beach.

Next stops were The 12 Apostles (or 11 now that one has fallen over), London Bridge and The Arch.

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On to Warrnambooll and a gorgeous B&B called Herbs Hus which is a beautiful converted Victorian house with huge rooms that are filled with period features. As we were the only guests it actually felt like we had the whole house to our selves although the owner was just a tap on a door away if we needed her. She also has the most gorgeous baby daughter who I am afraid stole my attention whenever she was in the room. We had dinner at a lovely local restaurant called Beach Babylon. The kangaroo fillet was great (yep, I wont eat a dog but I'll eat a kangaroo....the line becomes blurred doesn't it).

The following day, Gavin gave up the controls and allowed me to drive the three hours to Lorne, on the return to Melbourne. It was all going so well until, when pulling in to a lay by to allow the faster drivers that were queuing up behind me to overtake, I managed to drive into a very large, very deep hole. The thing is Gavin had been virtually screaming at me to slow down but I had assumed it was just because he thought I was driving too fast to pull into the lay by when of course I knew I was not. I didn't realise he had seen the hole from some distance away but couldn't get the words out quickly enough to explain why he wanted me to slow down. Fortunately there was very little damage to the car and more fortunately still the hire company failed to notice it and so we were not charged for it. I didn't drive much further after that.

We headed back to the guest house in South Yarra and into a dorm room ready for Sylvie's arrival in a few days time.

On Friday 30th we went off for more of an explore and headed to Brunswick Street in an area of Melbourne called Fitzroy. Brunswick Street is littered with funky shops, cafes and bars and has a cool, edgy feel. Does the fact that I just said cool mean that I am so far from it that I should not have even been allowed onto Brunswick Street? That evening we headed to Chapel Street near to our guesthouse for drinks.

Street art on Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
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On Saturday 1st December we jumped on the tram and headed to the beach in St Kilda. I don't think it's too unfair to say that the beach at St Kilda is not the best that we have seen however it does have some of the best cake shops I have ever seen. Acland Street is home to a number of old fashioned cake shops which are just impossible to walk past, along with shops, bars and restaurants and so of course we had a beer followed by a cake.

St Kilda
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I loooove cake
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Sylvia was due to arrive at the airport at 6.30am on Monday 3rd and so on the previous day, after making our huge "Sylvia McNeish" banner we had an early night. Sylvie's flight was slightly delayed and so by the time she arrived I had been holding the banner in the air for around an hour. The other people in the arrivals lounge were beginning to find it rather amusing and were asking me whether my arms were aching yet. When Sylvie arrived she came through a different door, walked in the opposite direction to where we were standing and therefore did not even see the banner. Oh well.

We all headed back to the hostel with the plan to grab some sleep before the Neighbours Triva night that we were going to that evening. Needless to say none of us slept and so Sylvia attended the Neighbours night in a sort of jet lagged haze. Now, the Neighbours night is not something Gav and I would have gone along to and we were only going to keep Sylvie company but I have to say, what a laugh! Yep it was tacky, and yes I didn't know who any of the 'stars' of the show were, having not watched Neighbours since I was about 13 years old, but it turned out to be a really good night. Sylvia sleepwalked back to the guest house.

Neighbours Trivia Night
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On 4th Dec we took Sylvie on a Melbourne city tour, through the Vietnamese area of Richmond, the city and Federation Square and on to Melbourne's 'Little Italy' Carlton where we stopped for lunch. Following which we headed to Brunswick Street in Fitzroy and after a leisurely coffee jumped on a tram and a train back to our room.

Melbourne alley art
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Wednesday 5th Dec was day two of Sylvie's whistle-stop tour of Melbourne. The day was spent along Chapel Street for a spot of window shopping (Gavin left us to our own devises for this section of the day, probably very relieved that I now had my sister to accompany me with any sort of shopping activities). That evening we all went along to the Queen Victoria Night Market and had dinner from the great food stalls whilst being entertained by the local police band. Mildly odd to see the band in their police uniforms singing a Fat Man Scoop song (the title of which I cannot recall) but they were very good.

Thursday 6th we were off to the Botanical Gardens to meet up with our friends Sally and Teresa who were in Melbourne as part of their month long tour of Australia. We would all be meeting up again at Christmas but as we were all in Melbourne at the same time it was a great opportunity to get together. A picnic in the Botanical gardens was our activity of choice and we picked a great day for it.

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That evening we met up with Sally and Teresa again for drinks at the Transport Hotel in Federation Square.

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Gav and I spent the majority of the following day in the Melbourne Museum whilst Sylvia had a look around the shops in Chapel Street and caught up on some sleep. We were off to Chinatown that evening for dinner and so after a group nana nap, off we went. We stopped off at a bar before dinner and got chatting to two local guys. Unfortunately by the time we had stopped chatting and laughing, the restaurant we had planned to go to was closed and that is why we ended up in the worst restaurant in the world. From the outside it looked fine and if our memory served us correctly it had been fairly busy when we had looked around earlier that evening. Lets just say this, after our starters arrived we decided to simply pay and leave rather than subject ourselves to the rest of the meal. Yep, it was that bad.

Melbourne Museum, Royal Exhibition Centre and War Memorial
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The evening of 8th was spent in Carlton for an excellent Italian meal and the 9th was spent packing as the following day we were flying to Brisbane to pick up our campervan which we then planned to drive back to Sydney in time to join our friends for Christmas and New Year.

Melbourne sunsets
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Is it because I iz black? A stall we came across at a craft market in Melbourne
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Our first night in Brisbane was spent in a hostel as we didn't pick up the camper until the following morning. To occupy ourselves in the meantime we took ourselves on a walking tour of the city which I have to say totally changed our opinion of Brisbane. Gav and I had spent a little time in Brisbane during our honeymoon in 2004 and were less than impressed with it, however, the walking tour showed us how much of the city we hadn't seen before and how much more of an interesting place it was than we'd thought.

Images of Brisbane - Eternal Flame, City Hall, signal box art and City Beach
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On Tuesday 11th Gav collected the campervan first thing and we set off on our road trip.

Our home for the next 12 nights
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Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
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We drove to the Gold Coast on Wednesday 12 and had our first trip to Surfers Paradise.....in the pouring rain.

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We spent a couple of days at Surfers visiting Wet 'n' Wild Water Park and Dream World. Both of which were really good fun but the absolute best attraction was the Giant Drop at Dream World. You sit in a carriage with 7 other people and are slowly lifted up to a height of 120 metres where you are held for 20 seconds. After 20 seconds you are dropped with such speed that you cannot even scream, in fact breathing is almost impossible. Gav and I went on three times.

Giant drop and Sylvie and Gav on the log flume
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On Friday 14th we drove to the Lamington National Park and stayed in a campsite at the Binna Burra Lodge. The drive to the lodge was pretty hairy as it was late and therefore pitch black during the last couple of hours of driving and when you are driving along mountain top, winding roads, with sheer, barrier free drops at your side that isn't too much fun. Thank God that Gav was driving and not me as I suspect we would not be here now to tell the tale if I were at the wheel. The campsite was pretty basic and in the middle of the forest, which left Sylvie far from impressed after the long drive. She was even less impressed after a rabid, crazed possum chased after her during the night. I heard her screaming, "let me in, let me in" but thought it was simply an insect that had frightened her. She managed to blurt out, "one of them things...fluffy tail" as she scrambled back into the camper. We did stop laughing at some point but I have to say the possum did remain outside the camper for some time looking at us all in a menacing fashion. We took bathroom breaks in twos for the rest of the evening.

Lamington National Park, Gold Coast Hinterland
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We were lucky enough to see heaps of wildlife whilst we were there including Pademelons, which are small, nocturnal, marsupials that are similar in appearance to kangaroos.

The following day after checking out the views from the lodge we headed off on a trek to the Gwongoorool Pool. Which was a pretty steep 3km down to the pool and of course 3km climb back up. Sylvia splashed her face with lovely cool water from one of the waterfalls during our ascent back to the van to cool down a little only then to have her next brush with nature when she realised a leech had managed to grab a hold of her. Gav to the rescue!

We then drove on to Ninbin which is a surreal little place. In 1973 a bunch of university students held the Aquarius Festival in Nimbin which was a "total cultural experience through lifestyle and participation". Following the festival a number of people stayed around to continue living the dream with other like minded people. The result is an 'alternative' sort of town where, although still illegal, cannabis can be bought and smoked in local cafes etc. Taking a look at some of the people in the town, I suspect cannabis is not the only substance that is readily available in Nimbin!

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Onwards to Byron Bay where I subjected myself to the hottest Thai salad I have ever had. I do like spicy food but I think someone in the kitchen was having a laugh with this one! We followed dinner with a few cocktails - well I needed something to put out the raging fire that was happening on my tongue! My lips felt swollen and were burning and without going into any detail I was slightly concerned about the after effect of eating so much chilli.

Byron Bay
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Gav and Sylv had booked surfing lessons for the following day. I have had surfing lessons previously and, though it was tonnes of fun, I knew I was useless and did not need further proof of the fact. I instead spent the day strolling around the pretty town of Byron Bay, reading the papers on the beach and generally enjoyed doing nothing. Knowing that the others would be starving when they had finished I nipped to the local supermarket to pick up supplies for Gavin's famous McCurleys which we were to have for lunch. Two things went a little wrong that day, firstly we got a parking ticket for not being parked at a 90 degree angle....... I kid you not. Secondly, the surf lessons were cut short as the current was became too strong for the instructor to continue. However, on the upside Gav and Sylv did get half of the money they had paid for the lesson back and those McCurleys, barbecued on the beachside and eaten whilst sat by the sand, watching the world go by, tasted pretty damned good.

For those that are curious a McCurley is Gavin's take on a McDonalds bacon & egg McMuffin and it's delicious. Ask him to knock you one up next time you see him. Although Sylvie did knock up a 'McNeish' recently which is her version and is up there with the McCurley I have to say.

Next stop was Coffs Harbour. Our campsite was right by Park Beach so first thing the following morning Gav and I took our pre-brekkie walk along the beach which was followed by a swim and the invention of a game we have called Sea Stunts. Sea Stunts involves flinging yourself into the waves in a position suggested by the other players, for example I might shout "scissor kick" and we would both have to jump into the next large wave whilst doing a scissor kick. Backwards flip, gambole, belly flop etc are other suggestions. All I will say is don't knock it 'till you've tried it because we have had no end of fun with this game.

Coffs Harbour
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Later we all took a walk along Coffs' Historic Jetty and were lucky enough to see a couple of turtles swimming around. A mooch around town followed by a couple of hours at the beach and then back on the road for our 2 hour drive to Port Macquarie.

Historic Jetty at Coffs Harbour
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It rained that evening, in fact it rained quite a lot. We had planned to treat ourselves to fish and chips at a local chippie we had read about and were not going to let the rain put us off so off we trundled. It was a little further than we anticipated but they were excellent fish and chips. The owner of the restaurant, a fellow Pom, was even kind enough to drop us off at the local pub and let us devour our fish and chips in his car during the journey.

Port Macquarie
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On Tuesday 18th we nipped to Port Macquarie's Town Beach for our morning walk and sea stunts session before heading on to Nelson Bay, Port Stephens. As well as visiting the lighthouse and One Mile Beach, we of course sampled the famous pies from Ned's Pie Shop.

Nelson's Bay and sea stunts at One Mile Beach
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Stockton Bight sand dunes, en-route to the Central Coast
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We then travelled through the Central Coast area and stayed at an eerie campsite at The Entrance and the following day drove through the Northern Beaches, en-route to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains.

Gav and I had visited the Blue Mountains previously but as Sylvie had not we were more than happy to go again. It's such a beautiful area and we were able to combine the visit with a trip to the Jenolan Caves.

Jenolan Caves

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After spending a couple of days enjoying the Blue Mountains area we continued on to Sydney where we were to drop off the campervan and check into our luxurious apartment with all of our friends................hmmmm more to follow on that saga on the next entry!

Until then ta-ta xxx

Posted by Curleys 17:02 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking

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