Time to do some proper Australian exploring now, our home for the next couple of months is a swanky 2 bedroom tent and we’ll be cruising round in Trav the Toyata. We’re feeling confident after smashing the camping in Uluru, East coast should be a doddle. This time we’re going to be more prepared too, James even has two guide books!! Despite our best intentions though we’d still only got as far as planning the first stop before we hit the road, but who needs to plan when you’ve got google and a four hour drive. First port of call was a quick detour to kmart to pick up the last minute essentials, a sleeping bag and pillows for Soph and James, a football, a tennis racket and a malteaser bunny for me and Rod. Let the road trip begin.
Booked a campsite enroute, first stop Jervis Bay, apparently the home of the whitest sand in the world. We’d sort of underestimated how busy everywhere would be the week after Christmas (the middle of Ozzie summer holidays) so we’d only booked the one night, arrived to find out the site was fully booked for the rest of the week so we’d had to leave by 10 and then it started raining, not the best start. Once the rain had settled Soph and James got their first experience of Ozzie tent building, possibly Soph’s first ever tent building experience, don’t think she’s made for the outdoors. Still she embraced it and we popped the tent up in no time, inflated our airbeds and laid out the sleeping bags, job done. We hadn’t left ourselves much time before sun down but we managed to get a few games of tennis in and a BBQ banquet before we called it a day.
The birds in Australia are worse than any cockerel you can imagine, wild parrots start screaming from about 5 onwards and then the sun comes up and all sleep is over. After breakfast and more tennis we found another camp site about 10 minutes away so we squashed everything back in the car and relocated at the Quiet creek campsite. Definitely a bit more down the basics in this campsite, there were no marked out plots, just gaps in the forest floor where you could squeeze in car and tent. After that was all sorted it was down to the bay to find out what all the fuss was about, Hyams beach for the day, and yep the sand is pretty white, wear your sunglasses white in fact. Had a pretty chilled out day lounging on the beach, playing Frisbee and dipping our toes in the water when we were brave enough, we might be in Australia but the sea is colder than a winter dip on Blackpool beach. Not quite as bad when it’s 30 degrees on land though.
Enjoyed an evening stroll around the campsite in the evening, spotted some wild kangaroos and mooched round by the Lake. An early night needed so we can head down South in the morning in search of Australia’s tallest mountain.
Next on the itinerary we were driving down the Australia’s Snowy mountains, located on the border with Victoria it was quite a drive. Opted for the nice coastal route and stopped off for lunch in Bateman’s Bay then headed inland for the mountains! I’d called ahead to try and book a site on the way down to Jindabyne but the guy on the phone had assured me that we could just turn up no worries, anyways turns out it was actually a devout Christian resort I’d tried to book with a strict alcohol ban so we took one look and carried on driving. Managed to get the last spot in another campsite down the road, we would have to move pitch to the other side of the site for the second day but it was better than nothing. This site was beautiful as well, our pitch was right on the front of Lake Jindabyne surrounded by mountains, perfect. All the campsites in Oz are so well equipped, this one was no different with free wifi, a big camp kitchen with hobs and toasters and plenty of hot showers, makes this camping business easy as. We left Jophie (James + Sophie) to knock up a chilli whilst we went for a run round the lake, such a nice setting for an evening run, it makes me never want to run round Wigan again.
We shuffled the tent to the new site in the morning and then loaded up the water and sarnies ready to conquer the largest mountain in Oz, Mount Kosziosko. Part of the Snowy mountains, the area is a hotspot for skiing in Winter but middle of January the snow is gone and it’s giving 30. The route to the top of the Mountain was a 15 mile, 7 hour round trip with a stop at Blue Lake 3 miles in. My only beef with Australia is the amount of flies here, seriously its an issue. You can’t walk 2 metres without a swarm of flies buzzing round your head and lucky for us it was horse fly season too which means these buggers bite. Took the enjoyment out of the walk a little bit seen as you couldn’t stop still long enough to take a picture without being bitten, but it was still amazing and the views were well worth it. Can’t beat a good walk in the country, me and Rod had raced ahead a little and started our picnic up at the Blue Lake when Soph and James caught up, they didn’t look like they’d had as much fun as us… Apparently Sophie’s Duke of Edinburgh hadn’t prepared her as well as she thought it would so they set off back down the hill to hide from the flies in the car. The blue lake was beautiful but we couldn’t stay long, got a mountain to climb.
We carried on climbing for another hour and were rewarded with spectacular views over the Victoria mountain range, this must be the summit we thought, but nah. We were given a reality check by some fellow walkers who told us we were at the top of a mountain, but not the right one, Mount Kosziosko was still another 8km across the mountain ranges. The hills were less steep from here though so we mixed up the walking with a bit of running so the flies couldn’t catch us. The higher we got the more snow we saw, enough to build a small snow man at one point, not cold enough to put a jumper on though. After another hour or so we hit the path for the summit, belting. 20 minutes up and we’d made it! For about 20 seconds I was the highest person in Australia. Got talking to bloke from Cambodia who surprised everyone on the mountain with an impromptu speech on sharing the love and working together as one world, deep stuff. After we’d been inspired we took off on a run down the mountain, 9km to go and all down hill, back at the car park within an hour, boom. 15 miles hiked in 4 and a half hours, job done. Finished off the evening with a dip in the Lake and then an early bed time, hiking takes it out of you.
Canberra is the next stop on the list, the capital of Oz! Left the mountains behind and headed north, we expected it to get busier as we approached the capital but nope, Canberra has to be one of the quietest places around. Perfect city driving conditions though, not a traffic jam in site. Despite it being Saturday afternoon and us parking in the Canberra central shopping centre there was hardly another soul around, seriously weird. Apparently Canberra is a weekday city, people come in to work and then leave for greener pastures at the weekend. The city was made specifically to be the capital because no one could agree whether Sydney or Melbourne should get the title, it’s conveniently located in the middle of the two cities to avoid arguments but only manages a population of 400,000, less than 10% the population of Sydney. Definitely not what I was expecting. We took a walk through the suburbs and up to the war memorial. Think whoever designed Canberra took inspiration from Washington because it’s got a very DC feel to it despite it being a lot smaller and a lot less impressive. The war memorial was quite impressive though, a huge museum dedicated to Australia’s efforts in the wars, dragged into them all just for being mates with England. We spent a couple of hours in the museum before walking down Australia’s answer to the mall, the Anzac parade.
Would you look at that, just like Washington, there’s capital hill in the distance with some water surrounding it, how very original. The gardens were nice to have a walk round but there really wasn’t all that much else to do. We jumped back in the car and enjoyed a traffic free drive right round the centre of Canberra, I’m sure Canberra is lovely really but 5 hours was all we needed, been there done that, next.
We stopped about an hour outside Canberra for the night, a quaint little town called Goulburn, we’d passed through it with Steve and Rach on the way to Sydney, famous for the worlds largest concrete sheep but obviously seeing this once is just not enough for us! Interesting place is Goulburn, looks like it got stuck in the 70’s, the sort of place where everyone knows everything. Heads turned when we walked in to the hotel to check in, it also appeared to be the local watering hole and the locals were fascinated with us. Me and Soph got a few wolf whistles, how flattering, probably because we’re the only people in Goulburn who still had all our own teeth though. We’d made good time from Canberra so me and Rod went for a run to explore. Found out just how hilly Goulburn was but we also discovered the war memorial look out which had some pretty top views of the town and the surrounds.
We took a little walk around the town in the evening, actually Goulburn is classed as a city but in Australia that just means more than 20 people live there. We found a retro diner for tea, complete with old fashioned leather seating booths. Definitely felt like we’d gone back in time but the food was top notch. For once we didn’t have a tent to pack up in the morning but we had planned to meet the Sydney crew in the blue mountains at 9 so it was another early night for us.
Feels like ages since we’d seen the others but in reality it had only been 6 days, been a busy 6 days though! Not that I didn’t have any faith in our old housemates but punctuality has never been their strong suit but they pulled through and were on a train for 7:30, must be a Christmas miracle! We met them in the mountains just after 10, ditched the car and got exploring. Literally as soon as you leave the main town the road drops away into a huge valley filled with a forest. We spent the day walking down into the valley in search of the waterfalls, managed to find a few streams but no swimming holes. Views were fab though and company was good, the steps to get back out the valley were less fun though. Probably the last time we’ll see the gang before we head home so we had our final emotional farewell and bid them goodbye.
We’d planned ahead this time and booked two nights in the same camp site, no packing the tent up for us in the morning, hooray. With nothing planned for the morning we got to go to bed without setting any alarms! Someone must have forgot to tell the birds we were planning a lie in though because they were screaming above the tent yet again at 6am. We planned a slightly more chilled walk today to let the legs recover but our small walk ended up being longer and harder than we’d all planned. Gave us chance to see some cool Ozzie wildlife up close though, like bad ass spiders and huge water lizard/ dragons. Typical for us, the one day we’d finally got round to washing our clothes and pegging out turned out to be the one day the blue mountains had a surprise thunder storm. The rain started at 3 and ruined any afternoon plans we had, it didn’t finish until we were packing up a rather soggy tent the next morning. Blue mountains done, we stopped for a quick one last photo opportunity at Lincolns rock and then we hit the road again. Got a week or so moving up the coast now before we head into Queensland.