2006 Australia – From Adelaide to Sydney

After arriving in Adelaide we checked in at the Rendezvous Allegra, the best hotel so far. Just imagine swimming in a pool at the first floor and looking through portholes in the bottom of it and watching people on the street going to work… magic. Our suite was superb and… even cheaper than our “bunk bed accommodation” in Uluru (all right, I promised to stop bitching about this but couldn’t resist)  

The next day we collected our camper and drove northwards to the Barossa valley, another famous wine region in Australia. We rented two bikes and headed of with the plan to visit some wineries in the area though we did not make it further then the first one, Chateau Tanunda. We tasted some great wines over there, got splendid information on the production process and were given a full tour through the cellars and production area. Stunning!!! We ended up having a cheese platter accompanied by some more wine at the terrace, an excellent way to enjoy the end of a fantastic afternoon.

In the evening we received some bad news since the balloon ride we had booked for the next morning was cancelled due to upcoming winds. Bugger!!!! It did not stop us having an excellent meal in the evening though at 1918, a fantastic bistro that was recommended to us at chateau Tanunda, and turned out to be an excellent choice. 

The next day we did a scenic tour of the area and visited the Penfolds and Jacobs Creek wineries, which were far too big for our liking (guess we had been spoiled the day before at Chateau Tanunda). We headed south in order to catch a ferry to Kangaroo Island where we arrived late at night in Kingscote. In spite of the late time of arrival we found a nice campsite and since there was not a lot around we had a quick bite before dozing off.

Kangaroo Island was in one word fantastic. Our first stop was at a eucalyptus factory where all products were made according traditional methods. After that we visited seals bay and you can guess what we saw over there 😉 The seals were having a rest after a 3-day fishing trip and it was a great opportunity for us to see them on a guided ranger walk.

The next stop was the koala walk and we saw plenty of them indeed, resting in the trees. Believe me, they are as cute as on the photo’s and very sleepy indeed during daytime, since they are nocturnal. One was awake however and passed by us making funny noises, fantastic! Even better was when we discovered a group of wallabies under a bush. Nice and very curious animals. It is very easy to spot them once you keep quiet.

We headed further east to visit “the remarkable rocks”, which were remarkable indeed but were mostly delighted to find a koala in superb position for making some photos. After that we headed to a campsite. Once again there was nothing in the area so dinner was a liquid experience, good we had stocked up with wine from the Barossa the day before. The wine tasted even better after we discovered there was a koala sleeping in the tree were we parked under. He woke us up in the middle of the night though as his droppings hit our camper…

The next morning we enjoyed the wildlife in the area, kakatoes, parakeets, more wallabies and koalas, kangaroos, name it and it was all within walking distance from our camper! Wow, wow, wow!

After breakfast we headed north to Paul’s Place, a wildlife park with a difference. The main attraction over there was interaction with the animals. We were allowed to hand fed kangaroos, wallabies, duck, deer, sheep and emus, which was great fun indeed. The best thing however was cuddling a koala. I fell in love straight away and opted to trade Paul in for a koala. Since he did not agree at all I decided to give the koala back but only under great protest… (Well, not really, I wouldn’t trade in Paul for a koala, with two however I would be tempted 😉

There was another emu feeding session and I could not stop laughing when an emu behind a fence picked up seeds, which were placed on Paul’s head… I must admit I was not that pleased with the snake that was put around my neck but holding a possum made up for that in the end. Both of us left the place with a big smile on our faces.

At the end of the tour we headed further west, visited a lavender farm and at the end of the afternoon we witnessed a pelican feeding before we went back to our campsite.

In the evening we went out for dinner and met some very nice Australians in the restaurant. Soon we were invited to their table and were caught in a lively conversation, as if we were yearlong friends. Fantastic. Two left but the others invited us to have a drink at their place. As soon as we were in the car the waitress came out and called us back since the couple who left had ordered another bottle of wine for us! Guess we had to finish that one with the 4 of us before we could visit our new friends. I already mentioned to Paul a couple of times we need to re-import a bunch of ozzies to Europe to regain the friendliness which is so common over here and this evening confirmed it once again!!

The next day we left early to catch the first ferry and decided to cover some ground. We did not expect to end up close to Melbourne but managed to do that anyway. Late afternoon we arrived at the great Ocean Road where we found a campsite to spend the night. We made a short trip to visit the London Bridge,  a magnificent sandstone sculpture, created by nature. The village next to our campsite was not very exiting, nor was the local cuisine (Just try to imagine what fish, ‘deep fried’ in far too cold fat tastes like… yak), so after a couple of beers we decided to have an early night. It was not easy to fall asleep since it was raining cats and dogs and the countless drops hitting our camper made it an extremely noisy event.

The next morning the weather was not optimal, it was a bit overcast and grey but it was dry!!! (After yesterday evening’s downpour we expected the worst). The twelve apostles were a fantastic sight. It’s amazing how these natural sculptures of sandstone have withstood the force of the ocean over the years. Some of them have already collapsed so the name twelve apostles is a bit misleading. Paul remembered that last time he was here there was one apostle more and also London Bridge, which we visited the day before, was still connected to the mainland. At several stops along the great ocean road we made some fantastic walks and witnessed a spectacular coastline. Of course the main attraction are the sandstone sculptures but the both of us enjoyed the fantastic plant life in the area as well. It was a shame to leave but our next destination, Melbourne, was not far off and a couple of hours later we already found ourselves maneuvering the camper through the city centre. We decided to book a hotel for a couple of nights so we could be much closer to the city centre than staying at a campground on the outskirts of Melbourne.

On Sunday morning we visited Victoria Market (the meat and vegetable collection over there is fantastic) and in the afternoon we visited Melbourne Zoo, which was done stunningly. The animals were kept as much as possible in their natural environment and we saw a lot of Australian wildlife and animals from all over the world we normally would not have seen (although the encounters at kangaroo island were much more spectacular!!)

Back in the hotel we refreshed and dressed up for the evening, we were supposed to come semi smart after all. Since there was still some time we went to the casino, had a drink and then decided to gamble 5 dollar. Well, we won 36, cashed it in and left before we changed our mind. We went to the tram station where we got on the colonial tram restaurant. It was all very beginning, mid 20th century style, lots of brass, velvet curtains, white linen and silver cutlery. Even the two waiters and waitress were dressed in style. While zipping champagne the tram left for a tour through and around Melbourne. The atmosphere was fantastic and the 5-course dinner we had superb. We enjoyed every minute of this very special and atmospheric dinner and yes, the kangaroo steak tasted fantastic!

During the next day we stayed in Melbourne and enjoyed the city. There is an amazing variety in old and new buildings and they really love their art, which can be found everywhere. We enjoyed the skyline, the shops and the vibrant atmosphere. Melbourne is getting ready for the commonwealth games and preparations can be seen everywhere. In the afternoon we visited the botanical gardens, which are fantastic. Since they are much older then the ones in Perth everything is so much more matured. In the evening we had dinner in a more bohemian part of town, which was very nice indeed. Melbourne is Paul’s favorite city and I can see why. Still I love the more provincial atmosphere in Perth.

Time flew by and it was already time again to leave Melbourne, but what next? Heading south for visiting the penguins at Philip island or heading north to the Yarra valley for ehh ??? After a phone call we knew, we would be driving north. First we visited another winery from which I had tasted a wine before which was fantastic. After that we had a nice quiet afternoon and our first BBQ (Meat is amazingly good over here and we can only dream of the prices). Another phone call and… an early night…

5.00, the alarm went off, very early but both Paul and myself had had a very restless night, because of the anticipation for this morning. A quick shower and we headed of to Chateau Yering where we met two guys from Go Wild Ballooning. Some test small balloons were launched It was still dark when we, with 6 other passengers headed off in a 4WD to the launch site. We helped preparing the basket and balloon and once it started filling with air I could only say, gosh, it’s big!!! Well, it was designed to carry 13 people on a fully booked day but we were lucky this morning. The balloon was filled up with hot air and slowly it raised in the air. We were asked to get into the basket and before we knew we were airborne. That almost was an anti-climax as it was so extremely smoothly.

As we went up a spectacular landscape unfolded below us. What can I say, layers of fog between the vineyards, trees, and slowly, very slowly the sun was rising at the horizon. The higher we came, the wobblier Paul’s knees became and I must admit mine were a bit shaky at times too… But what a sight, this is undoubtedly the most fantastic sunrise we have ever experienced and it was definitely worth waiting for. The most amazing is how quiet it is (well, that is when the burners are not on) and how smooth the ride is. Absolutely amazing. We went up to 4700 feet (approx. 1600 meters) and the changing landscape was breathtaking. The both of us still are speechless about this experience and words would not do it any good. I can only say, if you have not done this before… go for it!!!!  It’s worth every penny!

The landing was as smooth as the takeoff and as predicted by our pilot we landed in the fields behind chateau Yering. As a team we packed up the balloon and once that was done we were brought back to the chateau where we were treated on a stunning champagne breakfast with smoked salmon and caviar to celebrate the event. We spend some time chatting with our pilot and the other guests after which we said goodbye and left direction Sydney. But what memories did we leave behind, we kept on talking about it all day with big smiles on our faces.

Back on the road we hoped to cover as much ground as possible that day since Sydney was over 1000km away and things went, once again, better than planned. The roads were in good condition and yesterday evening at 20.00 we checked in at a campsite 120 km south of Sydney. It looked great, had a fantastic pool and was right at the beach so that is when we decided to have a resting day to recover from all our adventures….

The day after we completed the final stretch to Sydney, handed in our car and checked in our hotel. It was now time to explore our last Australian city of this trip.

Finish the journey at Sydney and beyond