Sorry about delay - blog covers coast & Canberra

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Saturday, February 2, 2013



9th January Mallacoota, via Canberra to Blackheath in the Blue Mountains, 22nd January.


We fell in love with Mallacoota and stayed a week. I don't know why but for some reason once we reached Mallacoota and on our journey since, everyone has been very friendly. It was the scenery and setting of Mallacoota which we loved as well as the variety of trails and walks we could amble along. Although it was still busy with the sites full, most people don't venture further than a nearby beach. When we went walking we rarely saw more than one other couple or a family for the duration of our expedition.

At the end of the last blog I said we were going in search of a Superb Lyre Bird. We hunted for a couple of days but resigned ourselves to not seeing it then I was looking along a small creek with my binoculars when one just delicately picked his way across the stream. Jim had walked back to the van to put the kettle on so I ran to call him at top speed but unfortunately he was too late to see it so it is still on his list. Anyway, as we were moving on the next day I suggested stopping at the same spot as we passed by, just in case he was there again. He wasn't, but as we looked there was a woosh and a Southern Boobook Owl passed over our heads and perched on a branch just in front of us. Jim managed to get some good pictures and was so pleased I think he forgot about the Superb Lyre.

As we continued 'around the corner' of South East Victoria and up the east coast, the beautiful scenery stretched for mile after mile. Eventually we stopped in Eden (but we avoided the campsite called 'The Garden of Eden') which is a fishing town with a whaling museum and lovely beaches. As we pulled up at the beach it started to rain so we sat looking out over the sea whilst eating our sandwiches. A couple of dots appeared in the water and we were just commenting how brave the people were to swim in the cold water when we saw more dots and realised they were dolphins. There must have been at least 20 and they came within 20 metres of us.

From Eden we drove on up the coast and it was only when we reached Merimbula that it started to get a little more built up and urbanised. All along the coast are reserves, picnic areas and barbecues and we were fascinated to see people in uniform, police officers, utility workers, ambulance staff etc all stopping and taking their lunches to eat at the picnic tables. It is a much more relaxed lifestyle here.

As we turned in one road I saw a house lifted onto the back of a truck. To Jim's embarrassment I jumped out of the van as a couple of people were standing near the house. They were neighbours and told me that the owner had sold the house and land separately, and the house was being moved to its new location about 200 metres down the road at 6am the next morning. They invited me to come and watch but I thought that was taking nosiness too far, (plus we were driving on). Everything inside such as curtains and light fittings were intact. They said it is unusual to move such a wide house but as it was not going on the main highway that was probably why it was allowed. Traditionally, the side piece would be dismantled and built on again later.

At Bateman's Bay we chatted to a man about birds and he then asked if we had seen the bats in the town water garden. As we said no, he gave us directions. So at dusk we wandered along into a lovely lake area with reed beds etc totally surrounded by trees, and the trees were absolutely covered with bats. We saw bats in Bendigo but the numbers were nothing like this. As we arrived just before dusk they were still roosting in the trees but as we scanned around and saw how many there were we looked at each other with a touch of apprehension. It was quite spectacular when they all started flying.

From BB we turned inland and north towards Canberra. Surprisingly we saw very little traffic during the hundred miles plus journey over difficult terrain, and were awed by the distances between homesteads. They really are isolated.

We camped in Queanbeyan which was the town here before Canberra was planned and only 15 minutes down the road from the Parliamentary centre of the capital. The amazing thing about Queanbeyan is that it has platypuses, (I think that's the plural of platypus but some people here say platypi so not too sure) in the river in the centre of town, opposite the shopping centre. Mind you, they are difficult to spot and almost impossible to get a picture of as they only come out when it gets dark. I managed to capture a blob that I know is a platypus but it takes a good imagination to recognise it. We have asked in national Parks etc and everyone said it was almost impossible to spot one so we were pleased to see them here. Something that has surprised me in Victoria and New South Wales is that it is almost impossible to find guided wild life or birding tours.There are some lead by National Park Rangers but all that I have found so far are at the wrong time of day for serious searching and are really designed for children.

I had not realised before reading up on Canberra that it is in effect in its own state - ACT - the Australian Capital Territory. Canberra seems to me to be a City for people who hate cities. The centre comprises a huge artificial lake. It is possible to visit all the sites, old and new Parliament buildings, Museums, Galleries etc without ever seeing a shop as these public buildings are spread out around the lake and connected by wide boulevards. The commercial part of the city is hidden away, across the lake and camouflaged by trees. The bush seems to spread through the city and up and over the hills behind.

After a few weeks of beaches and birdwatching it made a change to do something more cultural. We visited the National Portrait Gallery and saw the portrait of the Queen by an Australian artist, which was commissioned in honour of the Jubilee last year. I liked the portrait very much but was surprised to read it was set in the hall where the Queen was 'coronated!' I am not sure whether we do speak the same language. We also visited the National Gallery and viewed indigenous art and Pacific region art.

However the most enjoyable visit was to the National Archive. We went because we had seen an exhibition about Child Immigrants advertised but in fact it was many of the other exhibits that were even more surprising and entertaining. There are lots of drawers to open where various exhibits can be found. For example, there was a letter to the Prime Minister of the time (Harold Holt) from a thirteen year old girl, who was very concerned as she had read that many people were experiencing alien abductions. She was very worried about this and wanted to know what the Government was doing to prevent it. It was a lovely letter, very polite, but she was concerned that her neighbours would find out about her letter and think her strange so she sent a stamped self-addressed envelope for a reply so it would not be recognised. The response was beautifully worded, sensitive but not patronising and reassuring her that there was no evidence of alien abduction but the situation was monitored constantly. It also said that it was not policy to use stamped addressed envelopes but in this case they would make an exception as they understood the reasons for the request.

Another exhibit was correspondence within the Trade Commission (in 1963) about the appointment of a woman to a professional post. The person wanting to make the appointment made it clear that he was offering it to the woman only because she had the exact experience required in the job but that he would never, EVER, consider employing another woman, this was to be the only exception. He was quite clear, women can only work in subordinate roles such as secretarial or clerical, and indeed, spinsters were likely to become battleaxes as they aged so it was not safe to have them in any position of authority! Even with all these reassurances the response he received showed that he had made himself very unpopular with other managers and politicians.

The Child Immigrant exhibition was thought provoking and tried to be unbiased stating that all the children had their own experience and some were good and others bad. In fact many more children went to Canada (100,000) than Australia (7,000), and although a previous Australian Prime Minister made a public apology to those who had been child migrants, (and Gordon Brown apologised on behalf of the British Government), the Canadian government has not.

One of my favourite exhibits was a collection of books and magazines confiscated by the Censors as obscene, including Lolita and Lady Chatterley's Lover. Some had a sheet attached to the front listing the 'offensive' passages and most were well thumbed!

Above Canberra in the hills are the Mount Stromlo Observatory and the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex which made for very interesting visits. The CDSCC mainly tracks satellites under an agency agreement with Nasa.

From Canberra we drove up into the Blue Mountains and visited the small towns along the edge of the rim, Katoomba, Leura, Wentworth Falls and Blackheath where we camped. The scenery crept up on us as we arrived by road without good views, drove through the town, turned left into a car park and there before us was the most amazing vista down rock faces and across the wooded canyons of the Blue Mountains, and yes, they are a hazy blue because of the eucalyptus oil in the atmosphere. Similar views are experienced from numerous lookout points and walks lead down into the bush. We saw our second snake here.

 

Sorry this blog is getting longer - as I have not found anywhere to post it I will keep adding on.

Blue Mountains - Lithgow - Capertee Valley - Bathurst 22nd Jan to 26thJan


We used free camp sites on our travels and a couple were superb, the one in Gunning had hot showers, and in Sofala it was picturesque by a river (but the facilities were a nightmare!). We briefly visited the Capertee Valley as it is meant to be a good birding area. It is astoundingly beautiful, a lost valley which is really a very wide gorge, with not another visitor in sight and very few inhabitants. Unfortunately, the problem is the road only goes a third of the way through the valley before it turns to dust, and then it is 75 k of dirt road before it connects to the surfaced road for the final 75 k out of the valley. I would have loved to stay longer but it just wasn't possible without a 4 wheel drive.

On to Bathurst, which was at one time the largest inland town in Oz and has a number of solidly built civic buildings from the mid and late 1800s. We stayed in town at the Showground camp where facilities are limited but the compensation is that we were close to everything. Jim wore his washable sandals in the shower as they (the showers) were rather muddy. not sure about Jim but his shoes were remarkably clean afterwards.

It is the random occurrences which make travelling interesting. For example, we spent an afternoon and early evening in a bush reserve and drove back to town by a different route. I looked down at the map to see where we were, then looked up, and after a second of stunned silence said, "We're on a racing track". Jim's reply, "Looks like it". Me, "Should we here?" Jim, "not sure really" It was a surreal moment, as I tried to see if any vehicles were wizzing round to meet us. Luckily they weren't, but my heart rate had increased dramatically. It seems Bathurst is famous for its Mount Panorama Racing Circuit where it hosts a 1000 kilometres production car race every October. In between times the circuit is accessed by the small road we had taken and is open for anybody to drive on, but they don't bother to tell you as I suppose everyone knows.

26th January is Australia Day so we went into the town park where there were Citizenship ceremonies being held and then the distribution of annual awards. It was interesting to see how people were passing Australia Day and listening to the speeches. Much emphasis on community spirit, looking out for neighbours and welcoming new people to the area. Late afternoon we had booked to go to the local 'Stately Home', Abercrombie House, or as close as you can get here, for Edwardian High Tea. It was very interesting, the tea excellent, with champagne and Aussie delicacies, meat pie, kangaroo sausages, Lamingtons, Anzac biscuits and Pavlovas as well as English tea nibbles such as scones, profiteroles, smoked salmon and cucumber sandwiches etc. It was sumptuous and we could not eat for the rest of the day. The family of owners joined us for tea (for those of you who know St Bedes school in Eastbourne this was reminiscent of the Pyemonts as Rex Morgan, the owner, was headteacher of his own college and seemed to have the same philosophy as the Pyemonts) and then we recognised someone. A lady who had chatted to us for an hour or so a couple of days previous turned up and it was like meeting an old friend. We had a chuckle to ourselves as we had dressed as well as we can from our limited selection (Jim even polished his shoes) to go to tea, and then we drove to the free parking space by the river in town to spend the night there. Quite a contrast for one day.

As from tomorrow we are making our way back across the north of the Blue Mountains to Sydney Airport, and as I have not yet managed to find somewhere to post this blog I will try and do that in the next couple of days and not add anymore to the blog until we are in New Zealand and hopefully Richard will allow us access to his connection which will make life easier.

 

3rd October Hamilton, New Zealand

Arrived safely in Hamilton but had to add one thing before posting. Some of you might have heard about flooding near Sydney. One morning when we were still in the Blue Mountains the rain started before we were up and it rained and rained solidly until about eleven  o'clock there was so much water on the roads we decided to find a safe spot and park up until the weather improved. We parked in a rest area so we could spend the night there and chose a high, flat space above a football pitch. By dusk the pitch was more like a swimming pool and before going to sleep we moved the van higher still as we had visions of finding ourselves floating around the field at dawn in a 'camper boat'. After that we were fine and the rain stopped the next morning but of course hundreds of people fared less well and Bundaberg was badly affected with people being evacuated from their homes. Sometimes it feels as if the land here is trying to shake people off it! 
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