Preface: I'll be adding more pictures to this post at a later date, once we're able to get some GOOD wifi.
IT’S BEEN A MINUTE!!!!
Hot damn, we should chat. You grab your beverage, I’ll grab mine, it’s story time.
Back on September 15th James and I flew from Honolulu to Melbourne, departing at 7:45am and arriving in Melbourne on September 16th at 2:30pm. From the airport we had to get ourselves into the city and back out the other side to pick up the ol gal … Norma.
We got to her around 5pm and she was lookin’ LEGIT in the evening sunshine. Just look at her, a beauty if I ever saw one. After we got our stuff loaded in and ourselves somewhat organized, our first order of business was: FOOD. We managed to make our way to a grocery store and from there we thought that we should prooooobably find a place to sleep for the night. After hearing for ages the simplicity of camping in Australia, we were a little disappointed when we hit what we thought might be our first overnight spot only to see a “no camping” sign - *insert my best Jim Carrey impression here: aaaaalllriiighty then. With the sun setting on us, we made the decision to park in the industrial site that we picked the van up in. The romance of it all. Also, spring is cold in Australia. Unexpected when touring the land down unda, but we’ve gotten used to a chill in the air and we’re making do.
The next morning we were up early with the tour bus workers that were preparing their busses down the street and decided we needed to 1) get coffee and 2) get wifi to find out where we were going after exploring Melbourne on foot for a couple of hours. We made our way to Macca’s (McDonalds) which solved both of our problems, coffee and wifi, and also allowed us to freshen up a bit. Nothing says backpacking like “freshening up” in a McDonalds bathroom. Feeling refreshed and refuelled, we headed into Melbourne and put our explorer pants on. Camera in hand we wondered the streets and couldn’t help but feel the beat of music working its way through our bones. I thought maybe the city just wanted to get people going early, you know, Sunday morning and all, why not start your morning with a remix of your favourite top 40 hits? Turns out, the club down the street was still open and people were still waiting to get in…IT WAS 8AM. With that news, I knew that Melbourne and I could probably never be friends, as I have never stayed up until 8am for anything (yet alone to get into a club). Despite this news, there was what I could only assume was a “Michael Scott pro am rabies awareness fun run race for the cure” going on just over the bridge and they also had remixes of your favourite top 40 hits on the go, now THAT I can get on board with. With both sides of the bridge being well lit for a Sunday morning, we made our way into the more peaceful garden area of the city for a wander, then back through the downtown core (stopping at a bakery for a NUTELLA CUSTARD CROISSANT - which is just … everything that I’m about), back to the parkade and into Norma’s loving arms.
The day was still young and we were looking to make our way to the town of Seaspray, where beaches sit on beaches and the waves crash for miles. In fact, you could probably watch the waves crash into the next day, that’s how uninterrupted these beaches are. But now for a real fact, this span of beach is actually known as “90 Mile Beach” which is composed of a number of beaches and all together they create one of the worlds largest unpopulated beaches. We found a spot along Golden Beach, nestled between the bush and the beach, free and beautiful. At this point, though, we were getting a little ripe and were happy to see a sign that said “SHOWERS” - even if we had to pay $4 for 5 minutes, when ya ripe - ya ripe.
The next morning we were up with the birds, making coffee and enjoying another crisp morning - destination unknown. Through some pamphlet reading we had discovered a place called Paynesville, which has the worlds second largest area of silt jetties, next to the Mississippi Delta, and Raymond Island was a short cable ferry ride away, home to a number of Koalas. I’ll give you a heads up now, prepare yourself for cuteness overload when you browse the Koala pics! We arrived at the Eagle Point campground with quite a bit of time left in the day, and while we weren’t super keen on paying for a campsite (which is basically a spot in a field within a caravan park), there were hot showers and a nice kitchen to cook in, so we forked out some cash and made it our home for the night. While walking around, a man by the name of Barry (Bazz/Bazza) and his wife Cheryl introduced themselves and had a quick chat, they owned a caravan parked on the lot and were super helpful getting us familiar with the grounds. Near dinner time Bazza and his wife were having a beer on his little porch and asked if we’d like to join, insisted that we have a drink (or three) and shared their potato chips with us over stories and our first Australia campfire, a night we won’t soon forget.
Up early again the next day, tossed down some coffee and toast, hugs to Bazza and Cheryl, and we were on our way to Raymond Island in search of Koalas. I must say, I’ve never thought too much of Koalas, and then when you see one cuddled up in a tree sleeping so peacefully, you just want to cuddle them and carry them around. I was really just beside myself with how adorable they were.
Our next stop off of the day was Lakes Entrance. We had heard from a few people that this was a great place to see, and despite the fact that it’s actually destroying some of the ecosystems in the area, it’s quite beautiful. As you may be able to tell from the name, Lakes Entrance is where salt water meets fresh water - and I’m sure that there is likely a whole history lesson that could be taught on the area, but I’ll skip that part and if you’re interested in reading more about the area and how the two came to meet, I’m sure that Wikipedia will be able to explain it better than I ever could.
Our third stop of the day was Genoa Peak. James saw it mentioned in a pamphlet and despite it not having any real description as to what it was or what it all entailed, he was determined to get to it. Onward. I’ll mention now that we are driving a Toyota Previa circa 2003 with something like 450,000km on it, so she’s seen better days to say the least. Aaaaanyhow, we arrive at the entrance to Genoa Peak, a bumpy, lumpy, windy, gravel, sandy 7km road and I was not stoked on this idea INSTANTLY. However, James was able to navigate the road pretty well and once at the top (or what we thought was the top), we found out that we weren’t done! Another 1.5 km on foot through steep forest and boulders and THEN we were at the top. From Genoa Peak you can see 360 degree views into Victoria and New South Wales, pretty incredible.
Once we got back down we realized that we had spent so much time having fun during the day that we didn’t have anywhere to stay that night! We kept driving until we found what looked to be a decent rest area, just off the highway but private enough that we weren’t getting blown over by trucks all night. Oh, and it was free, which is important.
The next day was just one of those days where nothing seemed to go right, not that we even have a “right” these days because we’re always flying by the seat of our pants, but it just wasn’t sitting well with us. We stopped at a Macca’s to get some wifi and find an Aldi (cheapest grocery store), and possibly somewhere to stay, but there were just kids screaming everywhere and banging chairs around, spilling drinks, and ohhhhh myyy I was crying inside. Our next stop was the information booth where the lady told us that the national park near by had free camping - she’s a liar. There was no free camping and we would have had to pay the national park entrance fee, making a one night stay almost $40! They didn’t even have warm showers - robbery. We kept driving and eventually made it to the town of Ulladulla, which is a cute town with plenty of cafes and a bustling harbour area, but no cheap camping options to speak of, the only one nearby was the Milton show grounds which double as a camp ground in the off season; $20 for an unpowered site in a field BUT - hot showers. We were running out of daylight anyways and still had to set up camp and cook dinner, so we were off to the show grounds. On the upside, we got a decent sunset out of it - life is all about balance.
When we woke the next morning we were filled with a bit more optimism. Coffee on, pancakes on the go, and we were excited about a new day of adventures. We backtracked slightly to head into Ulladulla and see a bit more of what it had to offer, the smell of fresh pastries in the air, harbour water glistening in the sunlight, cafe chatter on each street - the small things in life. From there we made our way to the Grand Pacific Drive and enjoyed a few scenic areas (Jervis Bay and Kiama) along the way to Wollongong, where we had (loosely) planned to spend the night. We were able to find a campsite just outside of Wollongong, and despite being disappointed with the area and the price, we decided to hunker down for the night, cook up a good meal and just relax. Over breakfast this morning we did decide, however, that we will be a little bit more daring when it comes to our overnight camping locations from here on out - you’ll just have to stay tuned to see how well (or not) that works out (haha).
This morning was part two of the Grand Pacific Drive and we were looking forward to hitting the road for this exact reason:
Up until this exact moment we had been slightly disappointed in the Grand Pacific Drive, it had taken us through some industrial areas and didn’t seem very … grand or pacificy, you know? When we came around this corner though, we both looked at each other and were like “YUP!” and immediately pulled over to make some coffee (above picture) and pancakes. BONUS: we saw whales and dolphins, it was a brilliant morning. Following that little bit of excitement were other stops along the way, mostly at lookout points here and there to take it all in, one specifically being the Sea Cliff Bridge - see below. We have spent the last day and a half exploring Sydney by foot, put a lot of clicks on these sticks. As I said at the beginning of this post, I'll be adding more pictures to this post and talking more about our time in Sydney next time...whenever we get good wifi - stay tuned!