When coming to mainland Australia, we had three major attractions to look forward to: Catching up with an old school friend, cruising on the Great Ocean Road and tramping in the Grampians. But first, we had to get over our initial cultural shock. After four month traveling in Asia, we seemed to have forgotten about the things most familiar to us. The prices for pretty much everything seemed to be ridiculously high and the roads exceptionally quiet and organised. Initially, we were honestly missing the charming chaos and craziness which Asia offers. But not for too long. In particular the girls got excited quite quickly about the fact that lots of things in the Melbourne area looked and worked pretty much like home. And quite quickly, we also realised that it was pretty ambitious to only plan two weeks in this attractive neck of the woods.
Some of our highlights:
- Enjoying the hospitality of Esther, Rob (who went to primary school with John an eternity ago) and their kids Will and Isla. They made us feel very welcome in their house, showed us the tastiest spots in the Yarra Valley (chocolate factory, blueberry field and winery) and introduced us to their friends by setting up a proper Aussie barbie.
- The Great Ocean Road: We especially loved the beaches with the white sand and turquoise water and the impressive rock formations.
- Watching the massive waves hitting the rocks at Broken Head like a giant geyser. We must have watched the spectacle for over an hour.
- Three of us thought it to be a highlight to pass by a venomous snake. Not hard to guess who was horrified by this face-to-face encounter.
- Feeding the birds and spotting some koalas at Kenneth River. More koalas we found on the plot of our backpackers in Apollo Bay and on the Otway peninsula. They look so cute, all you want is cuddle them.
- Coming across “dead” white trees along the Cape Otway road. They looked quite surreal.
- Playground hopping around Lake Pertobe in Warnambool. The flying fox was the jewel in the crown.
- Searching for kangaroos and koalas in the Tower Hill reserve. We found one kangaroo, two koalas, a handful of emus, a wallaby and lots of black swans.
- Staying at the Halls Gap YHA. Probably the best hostel we have ever stayed at with some wild kangaroos grassing in the back garden.
- Observing a baby kangaroo feeding and an echidna trying to hide from us on the loop around the Brambuk Cultural Center (Halls Gap).
- Sunset at the balconies (Grampians). Breathtaking!
- Sunrise at Boroka lookout (Grampians). Well, John witnessed a stunning sunset. The rest of us got up early the day before to see nothing but thick fog. Which was so absurd, it was kind of a highlight, too.
The learning curve:
- Parking in Melbourne can cost AU$85 for just three hours!!!
- Not every recommendation is worth the detour. Two traveling girls convinced John to drive to the “pink lake” which added an extra three hours to the trip. When we got there at lunchtime, it was so hot that we didn’t even want to leave the car. And standing on the slushy pink-looking salt didn’t feel very special after all.
- Even Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars get on your nerves after a while when that’s all you have on your phone!
- Every Aussie asks “ how’s it goin’…?” Still not sure how to reply.