The Great Ocean Road & Other Wonders

May 27, 2017| 2 Comments

Sometimes it does pay to wheedle, whine and “whinge” as our friends “down under” would say. The First Mate feels that after 3 trips to Australia by boat, it is time to do some significant land touring. Two weeks of venturing she is given, and an ambitious car trip is planned covering 5000 kilometers from Brisbane to Adelaide. Hours are spent searching the internet for sights to see and places to stay. How far do we travel each day, and what accommodations are available in the general area where we might be stopping? Our departure date is set for Saturday, May 13th, and The Captain assures her that nothing (read that as related to Avante) will defer that. Not totally convinced, The First Mate forges on with fingers crossed.

Tuesday, May 9th –  Before heading off on our trip, Avante is to be pulled out of the water to have her bottom scrubbed and new bottom paint applied. In New Zealand, a year and a half ago, we had had the best antifouling paint applied to her. We then sailed to Fiji and immediately Avante fell victim to crustacean over-growth on her bottom sides. The little suckers were so firmly attached that within half an hour our plastic scrapers were worn to the nub. Did we somehow receive a defective batch of paint? Who knows? If we could have returned to New Zealand to show her disgrace, we would have. A good bottom paint job should last at least 18 months out here in the Pacific, not a few months as in our case. There was nothing to do but continue on knowing that in Australia this May, we were going to have to go through the cost and travail of having her bottom painted earlier than we had planned.

Avante ends up with an audience of curious onlookers as she is pulled from the water. Never had we seen as despicable, disgraceful a bottom as poor Avante presented to the world. With pressure hose and metal scrapers, the men set to work. The First Mate did not envy them the job. It was nasty to say the least.

A few other items were on the work list, but the big one, after the bottom mess, was the need to replace worn rudder bearings. More on that will be covered in the next blog. Suffice it to say, that The Captain and our shipwright jumped through Herculean hoops to get a complicated problem solved, and on Saturday morning, May 13th, as promised, we motored off on the first leg of our trip, an 11-hour drive to Newcastle.

“Why Newcastle?” we are queried. Simply curiosity. Who has not heard of the proverbial phrase: “That’s like sending coal to Newcastle”? On passage between Brisbane and Sydney, we had sailed by this famous coal port several times, seen the warning beacon from Nobby’s Head Lighthouse from far offshore, but because our goal had always been the destination ahead, we had never taken the time to visit. A dusty, busy coal port did not hold much interest, but we had heard differently. It’s an energetic city, a great place to live and the clean-up they have done to the port itself is amazing. All proved true.

We drive down to the coal part of the harbor itself just to confirm. Mountains of coal as well as all the machinery needed to get the black stuff to wherever it is headed are out there.  Conveyors were moving, but no overhanging pall of dust blanketed the air. Further down, the banks of the river have been turned into delightful park areas with meandering pathways, and old buildings have been refurbished. We are impressed.

Our preferred choice of accommodation on this trip is a classic Bed and Breakfast. These establishments are totally different from the small boutique hotel that is called a B&B in the States. In Australia and in New Zealand, a B&B runs the gamut between a spare bedroom in someone’s home to a separate area or small building that has been converted into a bedroom and sitting area. Whatever the set up, it is the experience of staying in these B&B’s that we love. Frequently, the hosts are retired or near retirement. They join us for breakfast. With enough advanced notice, a dinner sometimes can be included.  Sitting around a dining room table talking to these new “friends” has proven to be one of the highlights we most enjoy about our car trips around these countries. Not only do we obtain the best local knowledge, our conversations are invariably wide-ranging and interesting. The First Mate, therefore, put as much effort into finding ideal B&B’s as she did into determining their itinerary. Though not always possible in every locale, wherever one is found, that is her first choice.

Our first B&B is very typical of the genre. With the children grown and out of the home, three bedrooms have been converted into en suite units. The hosts are retired, and the income from this enterprise gives them a little extra toward travel and visiting the kids. In fact, shortly they were going to close their doors and head off on an extensive trip that not only included a visit to a son who lives in the States but a cruise to the Galapagos Islands. Over a delicious breakfast, we enjoy listening to each other’s travels and adventures.

Sunday, June 14th – Mother’s Day! What a special treat for this mother it is to be off on a car trip! Yes, she loves cruising on Avante, but a car trip heads her list of favorite ways to see the world.

The initial days of this venture are mileage days, for the new sightseeing for us begins in Melbourne. Leaving Newcastle, a dreary day brings rain as we head towards Sydney. Having been to Sydney several times with Avante and done the great city proud, we do not plan to visit. We do, however, have a luncheon date in the northern suburbs with friends from our Louisiades Rally of 2013, Sue and Graeme Baxter and their son, Jaime. How nice to celebrate the day with another mom! Stopping at a local florist, The First Mate buys each of us a great big Shasta Daisy. Catching up with each other’s doings of the last few years makes for a very lengthy and enjoyable lunch.

Onto the seaside town of Wollongong for the night. At the Novotel where we’re staying, our plans to have a simple quiet dinner in house are dashed. It’s Mother’s Day, don’t you know? The first available dinner slot is not until 8:30!

The nearest place to eat is more bar than restaurant and way too noisy for our liking. Thus, it’s back into the car for a rainy drive into town where, happily, we find a very nice Thai restaurant that isn’t too crowded.

Monday, June 15th –Two days on the road already, and we still have two more days before we get to Melbourne. It’s a big country! Leaving Wollongong, we cross the impressive Sea Cliff Bridge whose cantilevered expanse was built just far enough away from the eroding cliff face to not be continually blocked by falling debris.

Leaving the ocean, we head inland to follow the major highway, but never one to stay on a highway for longer than necessary, The First Mate directs us to the restored mining town of Beechworth. It will be a nice lunch stop she tells The Captain, and it is. Maybe a bit touristy, but the old buildings have definitely been beautifully restored.

The deciduous trees are in full autumn color. Reminded of New England of our childhood, we walk along the sidewalk, kicking up the leaves  and filling our lungs with the smell of autumn.  It’s a treat we had not expected.

Stopping at the tourist office, a very informative man recounts for us the history of local legend Ned Kelly. The heroics and escapades of Ned Kelly and his gang resound here like the tales of Butch Cassidy do for us in the Telluride area. Of Irish convict status and caught in the Anglo-Irish hatreds of the late 1800’s, Ned and his gang fought back. According to our guide, too, he almost won and almost had a bit of independent Ireland established around here, but for timing and a quirk of fate, that did not happen. His last stand was made not far from here in the town of Glenrowan, where he and his followers made body armor from plough mold boards. Riddled with bullets on his exposed hands and legs, he is captured. Brought to Melbourne, he is allowed to recover and then, convicted of his crimes, he is hung in 1880, “for what proper Englishman would hang a sick or injured man?” Those last words in quotes are directly from our guide.

Learning that nearby Glenrowan was where it all ended for Ned and that a statue has been constructed in his memory, of course, we must drive over to see. Sure enough. A larger than life statue is there of the man clad in his armor. We read on the engraving that he was only 26 when he was hung. Such a short, sad life!

Other than Ned’s statue, there is nothing to keep one in Glenrowan, for unlike its neighboring town of Beechworth, nothing has been done to reclaim this little hamlet from its present rundown state. Back in the car, it’s on to the little town of Benalla where we have reservations in the Clement House B&B.

What an interesting establishment Clement House turns out to be! Benalla feels like a small backwater town. Clement House is located on an unimposing street behind a high wall. We open the gate and enter an impressive fountained garden. We are welcomed into the house. The two front rooms have been elegantly turned into a bedroom with large, modern marbled bathroom and a sitting room with fireplace. A small table with two chairs is set at one end for breakfast and a counter at the other end holds everything we need for breakfast: French coffee press, toaster, electric kettle and a well-stocked refrigerator. Fresh flowers and a pedestaled bowl of fruit complete the scene. If the weather had been warmer, an inviting patio would have drawn us outside to sit. All this is ours to enjoy. Asked where the nearest restaurant is for dinner, our hostess suggests the pub of the North Eastern Hotel just down the street. Pleasant she is, but not expansive, and with that, she bids us good evening. Exiting by the door to the back of the house, she tells us to place the key on the credenza when we leave in the morning if we don’t see her. This is not the typical B&B we are used to, but for these 2 road-weary travelers, it is a boost to mind and body to find this peaceful oasis of elegant solitude.

In contrast, everyone at the hotel pub is outgoing and friendly. We come to the conclusion that they may not see many US tourists in this neck of the woods. Several come over to greet us. After a delicious meal of lamb shanks, the owner, Jamie Van Der Zalm, comes over and asks if we would mind if he sat awhile to chat. Of course not! He is a relatively new part-owner of the establishment and is pleased to hear that we thought it well run with excellent food. He had moved his young family out here to get away from the bustle of the city. When he learns that we are next headed to Melbourne, he is a wealth of information on things to do and places to see. He loves Melbourne! He approves of The First Mate’s choice of hotels, the Rendezvous, a beautifully remodeled old hotel overlooking the river and kiddie-corner to the train station. Our reservations at MoVida the next night are enthusiastically endorsed. He tells us to first take the free trolley around the city for an overview and suggests a good spot on the river for lunch to be followed by a visit to the museum at Federation Square. What a congenial host! The sad thing about such wonderful encounters is that the possibility of the paths of our lives crossing again is remote, but then, one never knows ……

Tuesday, May 16th –Arrived in Melbourne, we follow Jaime’s instruction to the letter. The trolley ride is interesting. Melbourne is a city like any other mid-sized city, and like any crowded metropolis, the people watching is as fascinating as the sights one sees. We enjoy both.

Lunch in the dabbled shade of the restaurant running along the river’s edge is a treat. The city is bustling behind us and across the river, but here all is quiet. One can even hear the bird’s sing. Thank you, Jaime, for the suggestion, for we probably would not have found this spot on our own.

Wednesday, May 17th –See you down the “Ocean Road,” can often be heard from The First Mate when leaving cruising friends in different watery spots, and it is amazing how many times we do run into each other as we travel our various paths down that Ocean Road. The Great Ocean Road, however, is something totally different.  This paved road runs from Melbourne west along the coast starting at an arch which commemorates the returning veterans of WWI whose government-sponsored toil built the road. Not only did this road finally provide access to remote villages along the coast, it opened up the magnificence of the coastline to all who wish to travail its 243 km.

For those of you in the States, think the Big Sur. The same drama and beauty can be found here as the road winds along the coast revealing one vista after another. The labor to chisel and blast through the rock cliffs to create what in some sections was initially only a one-lane road was extraordinary.

Today, the road is a prime tourist destination, though at this off-season time of year, there really isn’t much traffic. With the sparse population and few towns along this stretch, we wonder if there ever is a lot of traffic on the road. Maybe in the height of the summer tourist season there would be. Most of the vehicles we see are either tour buses or look to be rental cars. Tourists from countries with right-sided driving roads turning the wrong way out here must really be a problem, for at every turnout, cautionary traffic signs are posted. That traffic sign company really hit a bonanza when they won this contract! We understand the need. It’s not driving along with traffic that is a problem. The problem arises when there is no other traffic. Then, upon entering the main thoroughfare from a a parking lot or turnoff, there is no cue, no little hint to say, “better turn this way, dummy”, and that instinct to turn the way one has been turning all one’s life (the wrong way in this case) gets many a good, but temporarily confused, driver in trouble. Yes, we understand. Put up those signs!

The road itself would be draw enough, but it is to the Twelve Apostles and the landscape around them that people really come. Huge limestone monoliths rise out of the sea just off the coast. They used to be called the Sow and Piglets, but somehow that did not seem as tourist-worthy as their re-baptism to the Twelve Apostles did. Of course, the question is, “Are there really 12?” We hear that there are now only 9, maybe 7. Some have gone the way all limestone monoliths eventually go. Eaten away by the ocean, they eventually topple. We never can see far enough into the distance to count 12 Apostles, but given the number we do see, 12 seems like a very plausible number.

We stop at the local tourist office where a young lady with a charming Irish accent and sunny personality tells us about the many shipwrecks that have happened along this treacherous coast. It’s called the Shipwrecked Coast with plenty of reason. She also confirms that the early morning bus out to a junction with The Great Ocean Walk does still run and can be met at the 12 Apostles visitors’s site at 7:30am.  Be there by 7:15.

Thursday, May 18th – 0715 – We meet the bus which is really the local school bus on its way to its first stop where there just happens to be access to the Walk. With enough time, we would have enjoyed doing this multi-day hike, but, admittedly, this access point probably will give us some of the best views of the whole 104 km walk. For 7 km, it will lead us up to the Twelve Apostles with views of coast and monoliths along the way.

We get off the bus with driver, kids and parents wishing us a great hike and walk across wetlands to the trail head. The early morning air is crisp and cool. Does it ever feel good to be out in it after these last few days of sitting in a car!

The trail immediately starts uphill with lush, green foliage overhanging us. Though eager for our first views of the coast, it is pleasant walking through the green.

Our first view of the coast! We are surprised at how far away from the ocean we are, for we had assumed the trail followed the jagged coastline closely.

The trail does wind down to the cliff’s edge where we can see why it would be impossible for it to stick to the edge. There are too many indentations and too many areas of slips and slides for it to safely do so.

Finally, we are given a view of the Twelve Apostles rising up in the distance. Their creamy white limestone sides, highlighted by the morning sun, stand out in sharp contrast.

Winding back in land, a curious kangaroo pokes its head up to watch us as we walk on by. He is fine with us standing there looking at him while he looks at us as long as we don’t make a move to come closer.

On our left is the ocean. On our right, vast stretches of gracing land can be seen extending out to the horizon. All is lush and green. What a great time of year to be traveling here in southern Australia!

We reach the Gibson Steps. Cut into the sides of the cliff, they zigzag across the face down to the beach below. It is now mid morning with the first of the day’s tourists down on the sand. Walking along the beach away from the people, we find ourselves alone to survey the nearby monoliths. Definitely worth a photo, and the camera is propped up to do so.

Retracing our path back to Gibson Steps, The First Mate looks up noting that they certainly look more precarious from down here than they did from up there. “What goes down, must go up,” she says, and on up they march.

Walking out to the prime viewing platform of the Twelve Apostles, the columns can be seen marching up the coast. Looking backward, a few more are following suit. They are certainly impressive, but little did we know, we had even more noteworthy formations to see.

Called the Shipwrecked Coast, many a ship has met a sad demise here. After months at sea and less than 24 hours from the safety of Melbourne’s harbor, navigation errors, storms and wayward winds thrust fragile wooden hulls against the unforgiving rocks. Without any form of communication and along an uninhabited coast, there often was no rescue coming to their aid. Of the few souls who managed to survive to land on the beach, beaten and injured, many died unable to climb the cliffs to get help. Double click on the photo to read the sad words of this poem.

Loch Ard Gorge is named after a ship which lies sunken just off this rocky coast. Immigrant families filled with hope coming to these shores to provide a life and future for their families were completely erased by a whim of nature or a captain’s miscalculation. Silently, The First Mate surveys this peaceful view and shudders to think how the dark of night and gale force winds could change that perspective.

Razorback is the name given to this striking feature. It lies off Lock Ard Gorge.

Looking across Razorback into Lock Ard Gorge.

Stopping at the London Bridge turnoff, we gaze across at the broken span of space and wonder what it must have felt like to be on that isolated piece when the connecting span fell away. Relief, one would guess, not to have been standing on the part that fell, but then, OMG, what do we do know? So close to land, but so far away!

We hike down to the Grotto taking in the massive arch at its base. This would definitely not to be the spot to wash up in from a sunken ship. Strewn with boulders, there are no soft landings here.

The Grotto is the last of the prime spots the tour buses visit, but our little Irish gal in the tourist office had suggested a couple more worth seeing. In the Bay of Islands, we view a pinnacle that makes one wonder if it is not going to be the next one to tumble.

Childers Cove has a pretty beach where it would be wonderful to spend a calm summer afternoon, but more we enjoy following what look like animal tracks to the top of a ridge for a view across the expanse of limestone cliffs.

What a full day we have had! Tired and filled with the sights we have seen, we turn inland to drive to our evening stop, another B&B.

Friday, May 19th – Though several towns further on lay claim to being part of the Great Ocean Road, we have seen what there is to see. We stop at Port Fairy, which is one the first ports along this stretch. Then it is on to Mount Gambier where we turn our route north and inland to a World Heritage Site called Naracoorte Caves. It is the fossils they have found here that make these caves so very interesting, and extensive research is still being done. For the casual tourist, however, it was not quite as advertised. Many of the fossil exhibits had fallen into disrepair. Lights were not working, and writing was difficult to read. We came away disappointed.

Back down to the coast we go to the seaside town of Robe. Our accommodation proves lackluster, but while driving around, we spot an interesting stone building that proves to be a restaurant. Gather it is called. Stopping the car, The First Mate dashes in to see if they are open tonight and if we can have dinner there. Yes, to both, but if we can get back there within half an hour, we will beat the 2 tables of 8 they have coming in later. That we do and have a deliciously elegant dinner in a romantic old stone building. Our waitress is a talkative young gal who grew up on a dairy farm not far from Robe. She recounted how as a child, no matter the amount of whinging, she had to be up by 3:00 every morning to help milk the cows. Each cow has a personality she said. Some would not go in to be milked until they received a hug and kind word. Others were just plain ornery, even with bursting milk bags. Not a life for everyone, and obviously not for her.

Saturday, May 20th There is not an interesting way to drive from Robe to Cape Jervis. We choose a coastal route, but still must drive through a long, flat stretch of Coorong National Park where it seems we can see for miles and miles. Yes, miles and miles with nothing much to break the monotony.

The First Mate warns The Captain not to expect much in Cape Jervis. The only reason we are staying here is that it is the port for the ferry to Kangaroo Island, our next venture. No cute B&B here. It is the Cape Jervis Caravan Park for us! No, not in our car. They do have cabins, but it will be pretty basic. However, never fear. We may not be staying in a place of note, but we are having dinner at what is supposed to be a very fine establishment about 15 minutes down the road. That it more than proves to be. Located in an old mill, we have a delicious dinner which more than comforts us as we return to our humble abode for the night.

Sunday, May 21st –  It’s a 45 minute ferry ride across to Kangaroo Island, a place that is noted for its native wild life, vegetation, fine hikes, lighthouses and views. Due to its isolated remoteness and having no natural predators, there is an abundance of native animals. With plenty to do here, The First Mate choses to spend 3 days to enjoy the island to its fullest.

To our pleasure, the kiosk at the ferry terminal makes a decent cappuccino. That and a muffin get us started for the day. Car tucked in the hold and us loaded on board, the ferry departs at 8:00. It’s a beautiful, sunny day, and the little town of Penneshaw looks bright and cheery when we disembark. The eastern coast of Kangaroo Island or KI as it is locally abbreviated is the most populous. Turning north along the coast, we take the turn off to American River. On an off-season Sunday morning, the place is resting cozily. From there, we continue north to Kingscote where the airport is located. It, too, is a sleepy place on this Sunday afternoon. After lunch at a small deli, it is inland and west we are heading, for that is the wild side of the island. Sparsely populated and much of it now dedicated National Park Land or Heritage Site, it is a step back in time from a plant and animal perspective.

Our first stop is the Seal Bay Conservation Park where the endangered Australian Seals have a colony. Years ago when our friend Stephen and his young family lived on KI, they could walkdown on the beach among the seals. Today, that is off limits unless one signs up for a tour with one of the rangers. Having walked among seals in the Galapagos Islands, we are not that eager to be part of a group tour. We find, instead, that the beautifully constructed walkways leading down toward the beach are more than close enough, and the informative signs give us all the information any park ranger could have imparted.

Viewed from a walkway about 8 feet above, this mother and pup are totally unconcerned about our presence.

Back in the car, we continue on to our accommodations for the next two nights: Kangaroo Island Wilderness Retreat Resort. After all her research, The First Mate is disappointed with the place. It is advertised and priced as a higher end retreat tastefully nestled in the wild where native animals freely roam. Spa and Whirlpool packages are offered, and Massage Therapy with bottles of wine are dispersed throughout some glamorous photos. Though we are not interested in such things, it is the level of service and accommodation that usually accompanies such offerings that we want. We had already been to two other such wilderness retreats in Australia. They had been perfect. This one was not. When the young lad at the desk is asked about hiking trails, all he can mumble is to go to the information office down the road at Flinders Chase National Park and then leading us out the door, points us in the general direction of our room. The room itself is fine, but the dining room which had been advertised as special is not. Well, not everything can be perfect as advertised.  We have hikes to do and things to see.

Monday, May 22nd – After finding out the a continental breakfast in the dining room is a rather high $28.00 per person and not being impressed with either last night’s service or the food, we decline. Having read that the Visitor’s Center at Flinders Chase has a cafe, we decide to try that since we have to go there anyway to obtain our park pass. What a neat little cafe they have! Cappuccinos even! And good ones, too! We order 2 cappuccinos and 2 egg and sausage quiches. Given a number, we take a seat outside in a pleasant courtyard where minutes later our food is brought out to us. Passing rain showers may be tempering the day, but here in the courtyard, things are looking up. The gals at the visitor’s desk are very informative and help us firm up our plans for the day.

Leaving the cafe, we see a family who we had seen at dinner last night looking up into the eucalyptus trees around the carpark. One of The First Mate’s missions out here on KI is to see a real live koala. She’s got a crick in her neck from gazing out the car window into the trees. Could there be one up there somewhere? Yes, they say. The gals at the desk had told them there is at least one hanging around up there. Heads craned upward, there he is! A koala curled up in a eucalyptus tree! Mission accomplished. The First Mate will leave Kangaroo Island happy!

Our destination is the Cape du Couedic Lighthouse. Kangaroo Island has several lighthouses on it, all erected after one too many ships hit the rocks in or around the same place thus showing a great need for a warning light. The road out to the lighthouse is paved and almost as straight as an arrow. Back in the days when these lighthouses were lit by kerosene lamps and maintained by a rotating team of 3 attendants and their families, such was not the case. Supplies and people were brought out to the point by boat. With no great landing places, it was a treacherous business. Life was not easy, and no matter what happened, keeping the light lit was paramount.

We park and walk up to the lighthouse. Wind is a constant out here on the point. Beautiful, calm days are rare, and today is no exception. Wind and threatening rain are our companions. Today, these lighthouses are electric. No one mans them, but eerily, one can feel the voices of the people that once made a living out here.

Following the stakes of a narrow trail through the rough ground cover, we walk down to the waters edge. Several kangaroos show themselves as we approach. Watchful of our presence, they maintain a safe distance.

The First Mate had hoped to see the really big kangaroos of Australia while on KI, but she is informed that they are found much further west in the outback. These guys here aren’t much bigger than the wallabies which we saw throughout Tasmania. “However,” she thinks, “a kangaroo is a kangaroo.” She enjoys watching them. Cute they are, and can they move on out when something tells them to get out of Dodge!

A series of wooden broad walks and stairs leads us down to a geological arrangement of stone called Admiral’s Arch. Double click the photo to see how thoughtfully worked out the descent down the rocky side of the hill was for us bumbling tourists.

On the way, we overlook a colony of both Australian and New Zealand seals. There are distinct differences between the two, but from our distance, we cannot tell. One, for instance, likes to distance itself from its fellow compatriots. The other likes to cuddle up close. Other than the young pups frolicking in a tidal pool, the rest are sleeping bodies so we can’t tell who is who. Adults seals swim out into the ocean and stay out for up to 3 weeks feeding. Upon returning to shore, they are exhausted, and that’s why one tends to see seals just lying around like lumps blending into the rocks. Pups are left to fend for themselves during the 3 weeks Mom is off feeding. That is also why you see pups clumping up and down the beach calling out for Mom. They’re hungry!

Admiral’s Arch is interesting, but more so was the marvelous series of stairs and ramps built for us to get down there. Here again, we see seals who have scampered up on the rocks. We are amazed at how high up the rocks they can haul themselves.

Back on top, we follow a path which takes us to the lighthouse’s old storage sheds. Supplies were delivered every 3 months or so. Eat too much, the rats get in, things spoil, you run out and you’re out of luck until the next supply boat arrives. The lighthouse was staffed by 3 men with their families, and each family had a sectioned off part of the storage house. As mentioned, the supply boat did not just pull up on shore or tie up to a dock. There was no accessible shore, and it was too wild for a dock. Here at Cape du Couedic Lighthouse, they built a stone-enclosed chute from the cliff on top to the water below. With a help of a tram called the Flying Fox, they laboriously raised supplies up to the storage house. It is a marvel what these people endured to live out here and how committed they had to be to keeping the light shining.

Remarkable Rocks is our next stop. “How did they come up with what sounds like such an unimaginative, unremarkable name?” wonders The First Mate, but to her surprise as she is scampering over the first grouping, she finds herself saying, “Wow, these are remarkable!” So, there’s the name!

Eroded and eaten away by the action of water and wind, amazing, crazy shapes have been carved and edged out here. Freely open to the public, we can climb and walk all over the place. There are, however, warning signs and markers not to get too near the edge, especially in periods of stormy weather and high surf. People have been suddenly washed over and drowned.

We wander through the maze captivated by what we see. It is as if the boulders had been placed here by giants.

Like children in a fantasy park, we walk from one surrealistic shape to another. The Captain marvels at how these immense boulders have been eroded from underneath. Some appear to almost be hanging in air or standing on tip toes.

Unbelievably, this boulder has been eroded from the inside leaving a hollow big enough for a man to stand.

Tuesday, May 23rd – It’s to the Cape Borda Lighthouse we go this morning. Not nearly as well done as that of the previous day, the windy, desolate, isolated site still makes it impact on us. Thankful that we were never called to do lighthouse duty, we leave the park to drive east more or less down the center of the island stopping at Marron Cafe for the locally grown marrons. These little delicacies are a type of crawfish. Served with a garlicky butter, they are delicious. We order a plateful and enjoy.

Wednesday, May 24th – The morning ferry takes us back to Cape Jervis. It’s an enjoyable drive north up the Fleurieu Peninsula into the Adelaide Hills Wine country. For the next 3 days, we intend to drive through several of the significant wine areas around Adelaide: Adelaide Hills, Claire Valley and Barossa Valley. Not only do we expect to very much enjoy the scenery, we fully intend to taste the bounty of the various regions. Our first stop is Shaw & Smith. Ushered into a private tasting room, a selection of their wines is offered us accompanied by complementary cheeses. It is one of the best wine tastings we have ever experienced. Being one of our favorite Australian wines, we order a few cases to be sent to Stephen’s where we intend to dole the contents out as thank you gifts (with a few being allocated to Avante, of course!).

The vineyards are breathtakingly beautiful at this time of year with their autumn colors out in force. Expecting to be too late in the season to enjoy this beauty, we are delighted to see we have not miss it. Fall colors — how wonderful for these former New Englanders!

We stop at the Lane Winery whose hilltop setting gives us a panoramic view of the valley. We had hoped to have lunch here, but with our meanderings, we arrive after the kitchen is closed for the day. That is fine with The First Mate. We had earlier passed through the village of Hahndorf. Originally settled by German immigrants, it continues to celebrate its beginnings with a classic showing of German/Bavarian flare. She would like to walk around the town and a German lunch sounds really good. The Hahndorf Cafe, located in a refurbished blacksmith’s shop, proves just the place. Bratwurst, sauerkraut and old-fashioned German potato salad – simple fare, but oh, so good!

Following the road over the mountains and down into Adelaide is a mesmerizing, sometimes hair raising, treat. It’s a torturous road with many narrow turns. It would be great to be in our 911 on this one – and driving on the side of the road we know! As we near the outskirts of Adelaide, the number of late afternoon vehicles driving out from the city indicates that many commute from these hills. It is definitely where we would probably live if Adelaide were home.

Adelaide is an interesting small city. Not being city people, it feels to us like a very livable city. From our hotel near the center of town, we walk a wide circuit before dinner to get a feel for the place. Dinner is at an Argentine Grill where, typically, The First Mate has grilled Salmon while The Captain has his fill of prime beef.

Thursday, May 25th – A Barossa Valley day for us!  With advice from Stephen and Pamela and from a correspondence between the owner of tonight’s B&B, we have a list of wineries and places to see. Our first stop is Seppeltsfield wines, not for a tasting, but to see the grounds. This place was built on a grandiose scale. It is beautiful, indeed, but since it is a prime tour bus stop, we only plan to spend enough time here to walk the grounds. Vast stretches of date palms line the roads leading into the estate and border the vineyards. What looks like ivy turned a bright fall red covers the old stone walls of many buildings. Generations of Seppeltsfields have been put their mark on this place. Back home in Colorado, we have Centennial Farms which have been in the same family for 100 years or more. Out here in these valleys, many would be called Centennial Wineries, steeped in family history going back many generations. What a privilege it would be to be part of such a clan!

On to Grant Burge where a fun tasting leads The First Mate into buying some sparkling wine.

The porch entrance to Peter Lehman’s winery is overhung with fall red leaves. Another knowledgeable person guides us through an informative tasting.  More cases are ordered.

We stop at Lou Miranda Estate for a delicious lunch in their beautifully appointed dining room. Ah, the decadence of the day! Two tastings and a wine-filled lunch are all we can handle.

On the way to our B&B in Mount Pleasant, we swing by Chateau Tanunda just to get a look at the place.  Chateau it is indeed! The building is so long that it is hard to get a photo of it.

A bit weary from our day of exploration and tasting, we enter the inviting driveway to Namgarina Vineyard owned by Julianne and David Troup, our hosts for the next 2 nights in their B&B. The First Mate feels like she is meeting someone she already knows, for the emails we have had back and forth have been filled with information and friendliness. Hearing of our touring plans, Julianne had already invited  us to join them for dinner that night. What a welcome repast that will be, though The First Mate does ask that it be a very light dinner knowing we were going to have a very full lunch.

Namgarina Vineyard is a small vineyard of several acres of vines which they pretty much manage themselves. Would we like a tour? Of course, we would. As we walk along the rows of vines, Julianne and David answer our many questions and give us quite a compact history of what it takes to run this place. Small as the vineyard is, it is a lot of work. At the moment, they were in the process of cutting back the vines in preparation for next year’s growth. Julianne proved to be quite the horticulturist, and the amount of gardens and plantings she has done around the place is impressive.

Over a simple dinner and some very good local wine, we learn from David more about the chemistry that goes into producing a good bottle of wine. Simply pressing the grape and storing it for a while in a barrel doesn’t get one that fine wine or a consistent wine. We are fascinated to hear what goes into a “tasting” to confirm a wine is meets the standards.

Friday, May 26th – With a promise of another light dinner tonight, we head off to explore Claire Valley. Located north of Barossa Valley and maybe just a little cooler, its colors, while still golden, are not quite as brilliant. Jim Barry vineyard, another favorite, is our destination. Here, again, we have a wonderful, informative tasting with more bottles sent on to Stephen’s. It truly is fun to taste and shop like this!

Another leisurely, decadent lunch ends our final day of this trip. We make our way back to Namgarina Vineyard and an evening with our new friends. This time, though, we’re bringing along some wine for dinner and some for their enjoyment later.

What a special treat these 2 weeks of land cruising have been for The First Mate! Tomorrow, the car gets turned in, and we fly back to Brisbane where Avante waits. Already our minds are running over what needs to be done so we can set off on our next adventure, ocean-based this time, but with memories of the wonderful, interesting Aussies we have met and the fantastic sights we have seen as we toured this very amazing country.

    Comments (2)

  1. Sue and Bill:

    What a fabulous land trip! So glad you finally had the opportunity to visit all of Australia…what a beautiful country!

    Hope Avante did well with her bottom scraping and all is well as you begin the next leg of your adventure!

    Happy hugs to both of you,



  2. Tom and I have been there to see the Great Ocean Road! We saw the penguins and the beautiful coastline. Safe travels!! Hope to meet up with you one day!!


Post a Comment