Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Next Up

We'll be in town for a couple months, possibly doing short excursions here and there, fixing up a bunch of minor things on the camper and truck, but mostly enjoying the company of family and friends before our big USA trip starting sometime in February.  For those interested in the full gory photo details of the Australia trip they're on Kodak Gallery:


No need to log in, just go to the slideshow.  A briefer version is in the 4 new blogs below.

East Coast, Canberra and Melbourne

At this point we're back in LA and will unload a backlog of pictures over the last month or so.  After finishing with the scenic Great Ocean road, we stayed one night in Melbourne visiting our friends Blake (yes his name is Blake too) and Helen whom we met in New Zealand on the Milford Track.  They were nice enough to provide us a home base for the various times we were to pass through Melbourne which would eventually amount to 4 separate times.  We feared our stay was a bit overextended but they insisted and made our experience far richer for their local knowledge and friends we met.  They even went so far as to find us elusive tickets to the Melbourne Cup's Derby Day- a huge party in formal dress at the horse races where most of the country stops and treats it essentially as a holiday.

The first time through they took us to the storied Kooyong Tennis Club for dinner and a tour through the halls with pictures of former Australian Open champs when it was played there before the Rod Laver stadium was built.  Only staying for a day, we then began our travel along the coast in the southeast corner of the country.  This is the long but scenic way between Melbourne and Sydney.  Hundreds of scenic beaches are found along the way (1).

Partway up the coast we turned inland to Canberra, the nation's capitol (2).  The city was designed to have huge park spaces and feel wide open.  They succeeded at the expense of people calling it sprawling and boring.  Most Australians will make a "why would you go there" face at you when mentioning you're going to Canberra but it's got some good museums (especially the War Museum) and a good tour of Parliament.

Back in Melbourne a week later, we attended Derby Day (3)(4) with Blake and Helen.  The horseracing has almost taken a back seat to the elaborate tailgate parties.  In fact most people never see a live race, mostly facilitated by the convenient big screens, porta-loos, and betting tents located throughout the parking grounds.  Back home we watched "Kenny" an Australian movie- a mockumentary about a guy who works for a portable toilet company.  A good sampling of Australian humor if you can decipher the accents fast enough.

Next we take the ferry to Tasmania for 12 days.  A picture of Melbourne from the ferry deck (5).

Tasmania part 1

Most Australians Say Tasmania looks a lot like New Zealand.  And it does with the exception of most of the trees being eucalypts.  Lots fewer people, more rural, and greener than the mainland.  The northwest coast has some rugged coastline (1) and "The Nut" (2).  This was our first campsite on Tasmania (3).  Going back inland there are some temperate rainforests (4 & 5) and scenic mountain ranges.

Tasmania part 2

All of Australia is going through a huge drought and they're to the point of building desalination plants.  Tasmania gets more rain than most of the mainland and even its lakes are quite low (1).  Down south there's more nice bays and beaches (2 & 3).  Hobart is Tassie's largest city with a population around 150,000 (4).

Tasmania part 3

The Tasman peninsula was used as a hardcore penal colony for those original convicts who were shipped off to Australia and still repeatedly committed crimes.  This is where the convicts went to church, each in their own little cubicle (1 - where's Betsy?)  Some of the coastline of the Tasman peninsula (2).  The northeast coastline (3) is again amazingly scenic and yielded our best campsite of the whole trip (4 & 5).  After this, we headed back to Devonport and the ferry.  Back on the mainland, we stayed with Blake and Helen again and had a traditional Aussie BBQ (with shrimp).  On Monday we visited the ITG Australia office and they took us to a nice lunch on the South Bank.

Sadly the trip was soon over but we had Thanksgiving and the holidays to look forward to at home.  Over the 2 months we drove over 15,000 kms (9400 miles) and not one oil change.  But we did have to replace the cracked windshield.