While we have had Christmas in warm places before, this was our first official Christmas in summer. To mark the occasion, we decided that a 3550 Km drive around the south-east coast of Australia was in order. Have a look at the map to see our exact route (more or less).
We started from Sydney (of course) and drove south along the Pacific Highway and the Pacific coastal roads, stopping along the way for photo opportunities and to see the sights (sites?) that were highlighted for us in our various travel books.
Along the way, we stopped at a lighthouse - being from Nova Scotia, we know a thing or two about them - and checked out Perpendicular Point. We did a short walk through an area that had recently been burnt out from a bush fire. As with forests in Canada, the bush needs a bit of a burn now and then to rejuvenate. The Grass tree and the Banksia Tree are two of the first to recover from the fire.
We carried on towards Murramarang National Park and the Pebbly Beach Campground where we spent our first two nights. This park has an amazing Spotted Gum tree (Eucalyptus tree) forest between the highway and the coast. The drive into the park from the highway is spectacular.
The campground is swarming with kangaroos and birds of all sizes and shapes.
Have you ever wondered what kangaroos do all day?
There are other, slightly more scary animals as well including monitor lizards ...
... which can jump up and scratch you to death.
And cute little echidnas, which look something like a porcupine, but in fact are a type of anteater.
We thought they were endangered, but actually they are as common as porcupines back in Nova Scotia.
I must say, the Australians have great park facilities. Every park, even day or picnic parks have these great cooking shelters, usually with rain water for washing and gas BBQs for free use. I think they provide the gas for free so that people are not tempted to start a cooking fire and burn down the forests.
Even still, it is often easier just to set up our own cooking station and open a bottle of wine.
Being in the bush, we often had guests who wandered into the campground for a bite of food.
We continued our drive down under downunder to the very bottom, spending Christmas day itself on the road to Inverloch ...
... where we spent two days exploring and, I believe, got as far south as we could without going to Tasmania. We had a chance to take our pet wombat for a walk.
We were more or less as close to Antartica as we might ever get. So close, in fact, that we had the chance to see penguins!
We paid a visit to the Penguin Parade on Philip Island where we had the chance to watch them coming ashore after a long day at sea fishing for their family.
Onwards then to the Great Ocean Road ...
... where we spent two nights camping and two days exploring some fantastic scenery. We camped at Johanna beach and spent some beach time enjoying the southern skies.
Nearby are the 12 Apostles. Needless to say, there are not 12, and they aren't really apostles, just, as one Aussie behind me commented, "rocks in the ocean - amazin'".
We finally made our way to Warrnambool and the Tower Hill Reserve, which was just about our furthest point from home on our trip. We actually went just a bit past this point to get some great Fish and Chips in Port Fairy, and then turned around. In the reserve, we were able to see quite a bit of wildlife bouncing, swimming, or flying around.
While walking through the forest, or the bush, as they say here, I saw what I thought were bats hanging in a cave, but were in fact bees!
Finally, after capturing a few pictures of the elusive Koala bear, high up in the gum trees...
... we took the back roads and those less travelled on our way back home.
With the help of a few street signs, and our GPS, we finally arrived in Rydalmere, 3550 KM later.
We recently went on a fantastic trip along the Turon River and ended up, by luck and Annette's good tent-spotting, in a great camping spot. Just to give you some perspective on where we were, have a look at the map.
We actually drove a couple KMs past the site before we decided, upon the advice of a local on a 4x4 buggie, to turn around before we got into trouble.
The road was quite rough in places and rather washed out. So, on our return Annette spied a tent through the trees, down a very steep hill.
After a bit of further exploration on foot, we decided that our little 4x4 Mazda was up to the challenge, and over the edge we went, down to the river itself.
The scenery along the river was spectacular.
After surveying the area for a flat space ...
We got our tent set up ...
And established a zone of operations.
We then did some exploring along the river.
We came across a herd of feral goats, who were quite skittish and ran away before we could photograph them. We also saw a lone kangaroo bouncing along. I did not get a shot of him either, although while driving we did spy a wallaby and got a shot of him from the roadside.
We came across yet another spectacular camping spot. There is a trail to the site from where we were camping, but the river crossing seemed just a bit too difficult for our Mazda so we did not make the attempt to drive here.
The area is full of flowers and and so many NOISY birds, you can hardly hear yourself think.
After all that, it was time for refreshments, a turn in the camping chair and a good book to relax for a couple hours before cooking supper.
Our only real concern was that a wombat would come out of one of the wombat holes and run into our tent.
Apparently, they are very single minded and develop trails from their lairs to food supplies. If you happen to set your tent up on one of their trails, they will walk right into the tent.
The next day, we were up, cooked breakfast, and on the road. We were hours and hours from home.
We passed a number of old farms and a few still in operation.
There are still active sheep and cattle farms, and so we had open and close a number of gates.
On the way, there are some fantastic views of other valleys.
On a previous trip to the area, we went up on the ridge of one of the mountains in the distance in our 4x4 to find the glow worm tunnel. Very interesting! The glow worms lure flies in with their glowing wormy tail and the flies then get stuck in the sticky webs they dangle around their bodies.