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Down UnderAustralia Day

On 27 January 2004 from Melbourne, VIC | comments closed

Yesterday was Australia Day, celebrating the discovery of Australia. In the morning I went to City Hall to hear the Governor’s speech, to see the raising of the flag and to watch the march pass by. In the afternoon Anke (a Dutch girl) and I went to Government House, which is only open on Australia Day, creating a long queue to get in and walk through. But it was pretty interesting to see. Afterwards we watched a few buskers and other activities along the river. In the evening there was music at Federation Square and lots of fireworks above the city, so we watched that before getting a few beers in a pub.

Today I checked out the jobs in Melbourne in the morning, but I could not find anything really interesting. In the afternoon Mark called that he found a job for me in Ballarat, something we talked about when I was there. So the rest of the afternoon I read a book in the park and in the evening I sorted out my photos in an internet cafe. The most interesting photos of Victoria are online now.

Down UnderGold Rush

On 25 January 2004 from Melbourne, VIC | comments closed

On Thursday evening there was a campfire at the hostel. In most places in Australia campfires are restricted because of the high risk of bushfires, so I was glad there was one here. I had a great time chatting with the other guests and just looking at the sky full of stars. Because Halls Gap is in a valley far from any industrial zone there is very little light polution, and it was possible to see a lot of stars. I even saw a shooting star (finally, I am usually just too late to see them).

On Friday I relaxed at the hostel until I was picked up by the tour that was dropping me off in Ballarat, Australia’s largest inland city (about 70.000 inhabitants). During the Port Arthur tour in Tasmania I met Mark and Margy, an Australian couple living in Ballarat. Since I was passing through I took them up on the invitation to drop by. With a few beers we chatted all evening.

On Saturday morning Mark dropped me off at Sovereign Hill: one of Victoria’s most famous tourist attractions. It is an open-air museum with the atmosphere of Ballarat in the 1850’s, according to the same principle as the “Zuiderzee Museum” in the Netherlands. I spent more than half the day there, just wondering around the old gold mining town, viewing live demonstrations, visiting the mine, and panning for gold (no success). Afterwards I shortly visited the Gold Museum, and took the train back to Melbourne.

Today was another typical Sunday: pancakes in the morning, socialising at the hostel, shopping in the afternoon (almost all shops are open on Sundays here), and more socialising at the hostel.

Down UnderGrampians

On 22 January 2004 from Halls Gap, VIC | comments closed

Yesterday was a fairly busy day here in the Grampians. I did my laundry in the morning, and afterwards Theresa and I went for a triathlon: hiking for 4 hours, biking for 1 hour and swimming for 15 minutes (the lake was not very nice). In the evening we cooked some pasta and I finished the ice-cream (great stuff, it is already soft right out of the freezer!).

I am staying at Tim’s Place, a really nice and cosy hostel. I like the smaller hostels better, because of the more homely feeling; it is easier to get to know people here. Today was a day to relax, with a brunch and a short (1,5 hours) hike in the Grampians. Tomorrow I will be heading back to Melbourne to be there for Australia Day on Monday.

Down UnderGreat Ocean Road

On 20 January 2004 from Halls Gap, VIC | comments closed

Early Monday morning I got picked up by Dave for a tour of the Great Ocean Road and the Grampians. I wanted to do a 3-day tour but that one was either booked full or cancelled. He still wanted me to go on his tour though and even offered I could do the tour I wanted for free if I did not like this one. I agreed with that, since the weather forecast was really great and I wanted to get out of Melbourne. After switching bus drivers in Melbourne we headed off to the Great Ocean Road. It is really just a long coastal road with lots of beaches along the way, some viewpoints and some spectacular rock formations at the end. Because so many people rave about it and it is considered one of Australia’s must-have-done’s, my expectations were quite high. It did not manage to live up to those expectations. It is a really nice coastal road, no doubt about that, and the rock formations like the Twelve Apostles, The Arch and London Bridge are quite spectacular. But it really missed the dramatic cliffs, secluded beaches and hairpin bends I had expected. Basically it paled in comparison to some of the coastal roads I have taken in South-West Turkey, in between Olympos and Fethiye.

Almost at the end of the Great Ocean Road we switched tour groups, because the first bus was getting back to Melbourne and Theresa (a German girl) and I were going on to the Grampians. We stayed the night at a small hostel, where the owner had made a nice BBQ dinner and taught us how to play the didgeridoo (I have no natural talent for that, as expected). Except for the mozzies (mosquitos) it was a lot of fun.

This morning we visited some sights in the Grampians, making lots of photos with people (me as well of course) standing on the ledge of a cliff. The weather was great (sunny, 30 degrees), and the photos are really cool. We had lunch at McKenzies falls, and afterwards the rest of the tour group switched busses to go to Adelaide. Theresa and I got brought back to Halls Gap in the middle of the Grampians, where I am planning to do some hiking, biking, laundry and eating lots of ice-cream, since there is a freezer here (most hostels do not have one), so I bought a nice 1,2 litre package, which should be enough for 2 days ;-).

Down UnderPhotos of NSW & Tasmania

On 18 January 2004 from Melbourne, VIC | comments closed

Today was a typical Sunday: sleeping in the morning and lazy throughout the rest of the day. However, I did manage to sort out and name all my photos, and I put the ones from New South Wales and Tasmania online.

Down UnderPlanning Work & Travel

On from Melbourne, VIC | comments closed

I have been staying in Melbourne for a week now, enough to see all the main tourist sights. On Thursday I visited Cook’s Cottage (a little building they completely moved from England to Melbourne), the Immigration Museum, and Jacqueline and I went to the Crown Entertainment Complex. On Friday I visited the Melbourne Zoo, basically to have at least some photos of animals in case I do not see them in the wild. In the evening it got pretty crowded because of a summer concert; hundreds of Australians were picknicking on the grass. On Saturday I went back to the Melbourne Museum, because I had not seen the aborigine exhibit yet and a free newspaper is included in the entry (free for students). I also mailed some books home and got a new hat at the Queen Victoria Market. In the late afternoon I went for some more shopping with Jacqueline.

This week I have also been e-mailing and visiting employment agencies, and checking out the classifieds in the newspaper. The problem with most somewhat professional work is the fact that I will only be staying in Melbourne for a few weeks. It almost seems telemarketing is the only thing to do. Also most hostels have raised their prices because of the Australian Open that is starting here in Melbourne next week. I am more and more thinking of spending some time on the countryside (it is fruitpicking season after all).

Another thing about travelling for a few months or more is the fact that travel planning seems to take up a lot of time. When I travelled in Canada and Europe for a short time I had my itinerary completely planned, and I did not spend any time planning during the trip. But with this trip I want to keep things flexible, so I can stay longer in places I like and move on when I do not like a place. This has the downturn that I spend much more time figuring out where to go next and how to go there. Every advantage has its disadvantage (to quote an famous Dutch soccer coach).

For tomorrow I booked a 3-day tour (90 euro) to the Great Ocean Road and the Grampians NP. The weather forecast is sunny and over 30 degrees (it is 20 degrees today), so I reckon Australia is definitely a better place to be right now than cold and rainy Europe.

Down UnderMelbourne, the Neverending Story

On 14 January 2004 from Melbourne, VIC | comments closed

The last three days in Melbourne mainly consisted of looking for work in the morning, and exploring the city in the afternoon. On Monday I met up Jacqueline, a Swiss girl whom I met on New Year’s Eve in Hobart. She is studying here, but has not visited a lot of places in the city, so we’re kinda exploring the sights together. Federation Square and NewQuay on Monday, the Botanical Gardens on Tuesday, and the Melbourne Museum today.

Other than that there is not that much else to write about. Melbourne is a great city, and I would like to stay here for some weeks. But to realise that really need to find some work here as well, otherwise I might be better of reducing expenses by staying on the countryside. Time to browse through the classifieds in the newspaper.

Down UnderWild West Escape

On 11 January 2004 from Melbourne, Victoria | comments closed

After having spent about six days in and around Hobart, I had kinda seen the place, but more importantly, the festivals ended, the weather became cloudy (it was like that and worse the last week) and the friends I had met there were also leaving. I felt it was time to move on. I had not seen the west coast of Tasmania yet, so that would be the obvious way to go. The problem was in the mode of transportation: busses were basically not an option for the west side, because they mainly go to the larger towns (once a day) and not to all the interesting national parks in between. And I could not really find anyone who was planning to travel on just the west coast either. Therefore I decided to spend some more money (225 euro) and book a 3-day tour from Hobart to Launceston. Pretty much my entire Sunday consisted of deciding this and just relaxing, except for briefly meeting up with Jennie and Sharon to say goodbye.

On Monday 5 January I was the first to be picked up by Luna (originally German, but emigrated to Tasmania) for the tour. There were 18 more participants, so it took a while before we could head off into the Styx forest to see some huge trees. There it became quite clear that this tour was going to have an environmental focus. We had lunch on a wooden bridge over a stream in the middle of the forest, before we went to see the tallest tree in the forest. A group photo was obligatory and Luna was hassling with some 15 cameras. After the photo we went even deeper into the forest (at that time we had not seen a paved road for 3 hours) to a tree sit. Basically some Greenpeace activists built a tree hut in an 84-metre high tree to protect it from being logged. We spent some time there listening to their reasons and enjoying the pristine rainforest. After seeing all these tall trees we went to Mt Field NP, also famous for its tall trees. We did a short walk to see them and two waterfalls. By the time we got back Luna had already made some BBQ preparations, but with a little help from everyone we could quickly enjoy a great BBQ in the national park. We stayed the night at a nice hostel close to Mt Field.

On Tuesday we had to get up really early because we would be driving quite far that day. The first stop was at Lake St Clair NP. There we made a short aboriginal culture walk in the forests and walked back along the lake, where we had lunch. In the afternoon we drove through the Gordon-Franklin Wild Rivers NP, a protected wilderness area. We did a short hike up to Donaghys Lookout, from where the view was 360 degrees of wilderness, except for the path we walked there was no sign of human activity. We also stopped for another short walk to the Nelson Falls. When we got out of the national park, we entered the Queenstown area, a landscape more similar to the moon than to earth, created by mining activity in the last two centuries. Since Queenstown has not much else going for it, we drove on to Tullah, where our hostel was located at the shore of the lake. The place had a bar and fireplace, and the atmosphere was really great. Needless to say, it got quite late, even though we would have to get up early in the morning.

On Wednesday we managed to depart only half an hour later than planned, but unfortunately it was raining cats and dogs. The plan for the day was doing a 5-hour hike at Cradle Mt, but with the rain pouring down no one really felt like doing that. So we drove on to the Marakoopa Cave, where we could see glowworms at the ceiling of the cave. That was really quite spectacular, the ceiling looked like it had all these stars on them. Other than the glowworms, there were also lots of stalagmites and stalagtites in quite spectacular formations. Best cave I had even seen. Next stop was a Honey Farm, where they were selling lots of different sorts of honey, from vanilla to chili. Luckily they had plastic jars, so I got some honey for in my backpack. Because we did not go hiking the last day, the tour ended relatively early in Launceston. There I showed the Cataract Gorge to a few other participants of the tour, and we had dinner altogether in the evening.

I spent Thursday in Launceston, doing laundry and making travel plans for the last days in Tasmania, as well as booking the ferry back to the mainland. Regardless of the rain, I decided to backtrack to Cradle Mt to go hiking there for two days.

On Friday I got a lift from two English backpackers to Cradle Mt, where I checked in a the expensive, but basic hostel. From there I took the free bus going into the national park, where I set off doing the Face Track that was supposed to take most of the day. Somehow I managed to return within 3,5 hours. Probably because I did not stop very often to look at the views, because there were not any; the mountain was completely covered in clouds. I was also really glad I got a decent raincoat back home, even though it had been at the bottom of my backpack for the first 6 weeks. I really needed it on the mountain, and I even regretted not having rainproof trousers, since my pants got soaked wet, and they were really exposed to heavy winds on the plateau. But even though the weather was bad, it was still great to hike in this wilderness area, and the hot shower in the hostel afterwards was so much more rewarding. Instead of going to sleep at 19.00 like my other roommates, I had some beers and an interesting conversation in the kitchen till late.

Saturday morning I got up fairly early to do another short hike in the national park, before the bus would pick me up in the afternoon. I did the Dove Lake track there, probably one of the nicest short tracks to do. It only took a little bit more than an hour to go around the lake, so no worries about catching the bus in time. I got to Devonport in the early evening and somehow ended up watching movies until 2.00, not very wise since I had to get up at 6.00 to catch the ferry to Melbourne.

Early Sunday morning I got a ride to the ferry terminal with a couple from Melbourne, and still had to wait for another 1,5 hours to board. I did get a decent seat on board, since I heard that there were barely enough seats for everyone. The 10-hours Bass Strait crossing mainly consisted of reading, listening to music and watching Harry Potter (I almost fell asleep during that activity). But at least it was sunny in Melbourne when I arrived!

Down UnderA Mountain & Ghostly Criminals

On 4 January 2004 from Hobart, TAS | comments closed

Mt Wellington offers magnificent views looking out over Hobart and I took up the plan to hike to the top of this mountain. So on Friday Sharon, Jennie and I went by bus to the mountain and hitch-hiked to the top, since this is one of these mountains where you can drive all the way to the top, and hiking down is more fun than hiking up. From the top it took us about 5 hours to hike down, mainly because we missed the crossing to the organ pipes, and we got lost in the woods, causing us to hike down a small stream. In the evening we made pancakes at my hostel (I really missed those) and went out to the Irish pub.

On Saturday morning I met up with Sharon and Jennie to go to Salamanka market, a weekly market with lots of local things, touristy stuff, food and a great atmosphere. And it was listed as one of the highlights of Tasmania, so not to be missed anyway. After a currywurst lunch I got picked up by Christina for the tour to Port Arthur. There were only 7 others in the tour, so it was quite personal. In the afternoon we visited some sites on the Tasman peninsula, like pavement that was not manmade, a blowhole and a few natural arches. We also did some short hikes along the beach and along the rocky coastline. In the early evening we got to the Port Arthur Historic Site, where very few tourists were left. Considering that this is Tasmania’s main tourist attraction, that was pretty good. The entire site was really pretty and peaceful, especially in the light of a setting sun. That made it quite hard to imagine that this used to be the most brutal prison in Australia, where the worst criminals were sent. After checking out the site for a few hours, we had some dinner and went on the Ghost Tour. It was pretty dark by now and the guide was telling all these scary stories about ghost sightings at Port Arthur. It was interesting to hear and cool to walk around the site at night, but unfortunately (be careful what you wish for) we did not see any ghosts. Back in Hobart I met Sharon, Jennie and Jack at the Irish pub, which is starting to become a habit.

Down UnderTales from a Small Island

On 1 January 2004 from Hobart, TAS | comments closed

Although Tasmania is about the size of the Benelux, it is amazing how often I have run into the same people here. Some examples: I met the French girl I sat next to in the plane in the hostel in Coles Bay and again in the hostel in Triabunna. In Hobart I met the Israeli girl that I met the first day hiking in Freycinet NP. I also met a Swiss girl part of the tour group I met on the second day hiking in Freycinet NP. And on New Year’s Eve I met the German couple I drove to Coles Bay with. It is a small island after all.

On 31 December I did not want to do anything too exhausting, so I went to Cadbury’s Chocolate Factory to learn how chocolate is made, to taste some and to buy it at factory prices. I got almost 2 kg for 6 euro. So I have been living on mostly chocolate for the last few days 😉

On New Year’s Eve I went out with Sharon (Israeli), Jennie (English), Jacqueline (Swiss), Jack (Dutch), Silke (Dutch) and Mette (Dutch). We had drinks in the park, went to a few pubs and watched the fireworks at the waterfront. For the first time I have been celebrating New Year in a T-shirt, although it got a bit chilly at night. But I had a great time and only went to sleep after 5 AM.

New Year’s Day I spent quite relaxed, getting some Vietnamese food at The Taste down at the waterfront, and watching ‘Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King’ in the cinema. In the evening I played cards with Sharon and Jennie.