. Getting close to the Capital city, I was amazed how quiet the road was but when we got there, we realised why. Canberra is small, so small, the centre consists of one main road with roads coming off the sides top, middle and bottom, drive further and then you reach a huge roundabout which will take you towards the parliamentary house, National Gallery, Science museum....and that’s about it. We were shocked to be able to drive around the Capital City within about 10 minutes and were a little disappointed. We weren’t staying central, we were staying in an area called Watson in a budget motel, when we made our way there it was maybe about 5-10 minutes from the centre of Canberra by car which was great for us however the motel wasn’t so great, it was grotty, filthy and had a few questionable characters hanging around but it was cheap, ‘only for one night’ (that has become a motto of ours) and something that we will always remember - good or bad. We made our way back to the centre and visited the National Gallery of Australia, the gallery showed exhibits of Aboriginal work which was organised in collections by area. It was really interesting and I was glad to be getting an insight into the Aboriginal culture and understand the importance of Art to Aborigines and how it is used to tell stories. We also saw modern exhibits from Australian artists which broached subjects such as the racism that exists between white Australians and Natives which was a real eye-opener. It was a really spacious and modern gallery and we were glad we had made the visit, apart from our dinner and a quick wander around the centre after that, it would be the only thing we did in Canberra, we were only staying for one night but it was all we needed
The next morning we left the motel to hit the road again for the 8 hour drive to Melbourne, we were really looking forward to getting to Melbourne, we both had a feeling we would really like it. The sky was gloomy and angry and cast a melancholic feeling to the desolate landscape. There had been so many floods in Australia and from chatting to people, they had told us how much cooler their summer had been, it was the reason we were unable to travel up the East coast and then became the reason that we were unable to visit Melbourne. After about two hours of driving the rain started to pour down, we carried on but about half way through the trip (4hrs) and listening to the local radio hearing about all the roads closed and imminent evacuations around Victoria we decided that we better turn back. So we drove back to that grotty motel, it took 8 hours in all, again we told each other it’s ‘only one night’ and we got about changing our plans and wondering what to do.
We had planned to spend two nights in Melbourne before making our way to a place called Lakes Entrance which is right at the bottom of the East Coast. We hadn’t really researched where to stop on our trip; we looked for places that we liked the sound of along the coast and booked a few days here and there
. We decided to get back on the road the next morning and make our way to Lakes Entrance a day early, we weren’t going to let the weather get in the way and the hotel owner assured us they had had only a few inches of rain and the sun was shining so it sounded great. The drive took about 7 hours and was a drive of two halves; the first half we were driving across country with the sun blazing down and the sound of the insects that you get when it’s really hot. We were surrounded by dry hills and fields crying out for a drink, lonesome trees with no leaves but their branches reaching up into the sky looking like they were pleading for just a drop of rain to ease their thirst, I became fascinated by them as you’ll see from the pictures. We made our way across country stopping for lunch at a small town called Cooma along the way, a quaint town with cafe’s, shops, motels and like most we had seen centred around a small roundabout with a crossroads and a statue representing something about the town. It was surprising to find a cafe serving such fresh, healthy and fashionable food in what felt like was the middle of nowhere and to top it off the friendly laidback staff. One thing I have to say about the Aussies is they are probably the friendliest people we’ve ever met; everyone we have met so far has always had time to chat and have been so easy going not like the stressed out Pommes back home. Maybe that’s what a good bit of sun does to you! We continued on with the drive, sometimes going maybe half an hour without seeing another car surrounded by the scorching hot landscape the heat making mirages on the road
. During our drive, I had become captivated by the numerous creeks along the way, mostly because of their names, Bad Bill Creek being my favourite so far. As well as the creeks, every time I saw a road sign with a picture of a kangaroo or wombat, I convinced myself that we would see one or both of them so sat attentively with the video camera ready to capture them wandering about the road, sadly the only ones we saw were dead ones, I’d rather had seen none. As we continued to drive the landscape changed and we were now driving through lush mountainous terrain, the contrast between the desert we had come from was remarkable. This part of the drive was beautiful and felt almost tropical, we drove up and up the winding mountain roads, the sun was shining and we loved every second. When we started to see the sea, we knew that we were getting close to Lakes Entrance, we drove along the coastal road looking for our next place to rest our heads for the next few nights; Tambo Lodge West Kalimna. We drove through Lakes Entrance looking out across the huge expanse of water surrounded by yellow sandy beaches, we eventually found our place after a bit of help from another friendly Aussie. We were a bit dubious at first as the place was out of the main part of Lakes Entrance but after meeting Chris the owner who showed us around and to our room, we were glad to be tucked away in our private paradise. Tambo Lodge was surrounded by the countryside, our self contained wooden studio had its own little kitchen which gave it a distinct feeling like we were camping which was fantastic
. There was a games room with videos to take to your room, free internet, pool table, old sofas and even an old Nintendo, there was a pool and Jacuzzi, free laundry room and tennis courts and ping-pong right at the bottom of the massive back gardens tucked away in the forest. It wasn’t particularly modern, some might say even a little run down but it was country and peaceful and idyllic. The whole place reminded me of family holidays to Cornwall or Norfolk when I was little, when the sun seemed to shine all summer and all you wanted to do was be outside and make the most of it.
We decided to spend three nights at Tambo, we didn’t do particularly much when in Lakes Entrance, one day we went to the ‘Ninety Mile’ beach; a beautiful sandy beach stretching out as far as the eye can see with the blue waters lapping against it. We just relaxed and whiled sometime away watching the clouds, people surf and have fun, we started to realise how great it must be to be able to enjoy the outdoors pretty much the whole year. I cooked meals for us and we stayed in on an evening drinking wine and watching old movies we’d already seen. We went down to the tennis courts surrounded by the trees and fields and spent the late afternoon trying to get a rally of over 10 going. We took a walk along the sea front, stopping in souvenir shops or cafes now and again and taking in the views
. That was how we spent our time. You wouldn’t believe it but I really fell in love with that place but it was time to move on again.
After our relaxing few days, it was time to get back on the road heading up the East Coast back to Sydney, our next stop would be 6 hours away; a one night stop over at Bateman’s Bay. The drive took us again though the mountains surrounded by trees and green. We stopped for lunch at a place called Eden and drove down to the beach to have our packed lunch, the beach was beautiful and quiet with a few people relaxing and taking in the sunshine, perfect place for a rest before the next part of the drive. The drive took us through beautiful views across grass covered fields as far as the eye could see; we stopped off at places here and there to take in the vast beauty. When we made it to Batemans Bay, a small port town we found our motel and checked in, the room was like something out of an American film probably exactly like the image you would conjure up when you think of a ‘motel’, it was clean and spacious though and the owner was friendly and enthusiastic. We didn’t get much time to explore Batemans Bay apart from a quick wander around that evening but it seemed to be a sleepy port town where you might spend an afternoon meandering about and then eating fish and chips and ice cream.
The next day we hit the road again towards the Blue Mountains; this would be our last stop before the drive back to Sydney. The Blue Mountains are about one hour’s drive from Sydney and are known for the fantastic views over the mountains (which are in fact plateaus) and a place to connect with nature – right up our street. The 6 hour drive again took us past beautiful landscapes, rivers, small towns and gave us lots of time to appreciate the beauty of Australia. We decided to follow one of the ‘tourist drives’ that are signposted all across Oz which took us high up through the mountains, winding roads so high up that the sun was replaced with the fog, we saw natural waterfalls falling right onto the road and a vast drop so far that it took your breath away. When we made it to the Blue Mountains we had booked a studio apartment in Leura next to a larger town called Katoomba. We checked into our room and then decided to take a drive about Leura and Katoomba, Leura is very small, just one street full of places to eat, cafe’s, galleries and small shops selling art and antiques, Katoomba has much the same but is on a larger scale so has the supermarket and of course the liquor store which is a favourite to the Aussies! The next morning we decided to visit scenic world which is in Katoomba, a busy tourist attraction which boasts the steepest railway in the world – who can resist a go on that, even if I am scared of heights! Scenic world had the railway which took you up and down the valley to the rainforest walk and then a cable car and glass bottomed cable that took you over to Echo point which is an amazing lookout over the Three Sisters and the Blue Mountains. It was your choice which ‘transport’ you chose so we decided to take the train down and the cable car back up. As soon as we stepped out to the queue for the train, my palms were sweating and the nerves set in, we were so high up in the mountains and getting on the train was bad enough for me, let alone riding on it
! Rob assured me he would look after me and the kind gentleman who worked there told me that the train only takes you through the valley so I wouldn’t be able to fall. Neither of us knew what to expect but we got on the train with all the other people who wanted to experience the ‘world’s steepest railway’. We weren’t strapped in, the plastic bench seats were at a strange angle that pushed you into them more as the train started to move, as the trip started, we went into darkness at about a 140 degree angle (with Indiana Jones music playing in the background). The train then almost went vertical at about 110 degrees, you couldn’t help but feel you would just fall out but before you knew it, it was over, it was probably about a minute long but at least we can both say we did it, even if it took me about 20 minutes to get over it! After walking through the beautiful rainforest we took the cable car back up the mountain, this was just as scary but not so bad if you close your eyes and the relief of being back on terra firma at the top is enough of an incentive! After that we left Scenic World and drove around to Echo point to take in the immense views of the Three Sisters, the Three Sisters are three huge rocks that sit up into the skyline and the story goes that three sisters were cursed and turned to stone. The views were unbelievable and the drop incredible.
The next day we decided to take a 45 minute drive and visit the Jenolan Caves, the drive again took us off the beaten track and we found ourselves winding up down the side of a mountain on a road just big enough for two cars
. The drop was terrifying for someone like me who is scared of heights but the views were staggering, so much so that at some points you couldn’t believe that we were really there. When we got to the caves we couldn’t believe that the first one we would see would be because we were driving through it, Jenolan boasts 11 caves with regular tour led guides throughout the day. We decided to go out on our own and explore, walking up and down through the caves and stopping to admire the harsh beauty along the way. The caves are 340 MILLION years old and used to be underwater, maybe we were walking about where one day a dinosaur had been, who knows what history those caves hold. We also took the riverside walk which was high up surrounded by nature, the river water was so blue because of the light hitting the limestone, the contrast to the rocks and the trees making it seem almost aluminous, I thought it looked like something from a film, like a place you always wished you could visit but didn’t think really existed.
So that has been our road trip, tomorrow we will make our way back to Sydney – the pace that we didn’t fall in love with - that will still probably ring true but the rest of Oz that we’ve seen over the past 10 days has more than made up for it. All I can say is that if you love nature like we do get out on the open road and go and find it!
We left Sydney bright and early and hit the roads for the beginning of our 10 day road trip. We had planned to drive down to Melbourne via a stopover at the capital city Canberra and then make our way back by the south coast stopping for a few nights here and there along the way. Despite not falling in love with Sydney, we were travelling with an open mind and being out on the open road would give us the chance to explore, take in the scenery and find a bit of Oz that would change our minds. The drive to Canberra took about 4 hours in all, the route was pretty much mostly highway driving but it was the first time that we had the chance to see the vast landscapes of Australia; miles and miles of land as far as the eye can see with nothing more than a few trees, sheep, cows, maybe a farm dotted about here and there. Being away from the coast and driving across county, the sun beamed down and the landscape was sparse and thirsty with no costal breeze to cool everything down. There were services but most consisted of a petrol station with a country diner attached, they were few and far between and when we got to towns which by reading the map I assured Rob would have 'places to stop' they were little more than a few houses, a bakery and maybe a motel or two so we kept on driving