Adelaide to Alice
The second leg of our Aussie trip took us to Adelaide. While Laura and I were traveling in South America we met 2 lovely Adelaide girls both called Jess, I'd kept in touch with one of them and had organised to meet her in Adelaide to catch up. When we arrived in Adelaide it was 35 degrees, such a nice change from Tasmania. There was a Fringe festival on, so we dumped our bags and headed to the free concert in the park.
The next morning we were up at 7am for a wine tour in the renowned Barossa Valley. It was a stinking hot 37 degrees ! The tour was supposed to include a traditional Aussie BBQ, but unfortunately this was cancelled as there was a total fire ban for the Adelaide Hills area on account of the heat and high winds. Can't say I was too impressed with the South Australia wines, they were a little too dry for me. It was a nice day though. After visiting South America and New Zealand in the winter I finally got to see vines with actual grapes ! All the wine got a little too much for Caro and she had to go for a wee snooze when we got back :)
For our 2nd day in Adelaide we decided to go to the beach, the city itself is very small and there isn't a whole lot to do. It was a much cooler day, 30 degrees with a breeze. We spent a leisurely 4 hours on the beach, reading and people watching. That evening we met Jess and her friend Lisa for dinner and drinks. Lisa was actually last year's Adelaide Rose and she was able to give us all the inside goss on the Rose of Tralee and what goes on with the escorts !
Monday rolled around and we checked out of the hostel and went to pick up our rental car. Our plan was to drive from Adelaide to Melbourne in 3 days, its 1,200km. As I don't drive, Caro had to do it all, so I played co-pilot so Caro could just concentrate on driving.
The drive from Adelaide to Halls Gap (centre for the Grampians National Park) was pretty uneventful. Day 2 had us hiking in the National Park, it was a beautiful day, 24 degrees and we spent 3 hours in the park. Our first stop was Mc Kenzie falls, a waterfall that flows all year round, it was really beautiful with the water gushing over a 30ft cliff face. Next stop was Reeds lookout which took in the valley below and the forest and lake, the contrasting colours were beautiful, blues, browns and greens. Next was the Balconies aka the Jaws of Death. The rock has formed like 2 jutting teeth, hence its name. Next was the Boroka lookout, where we could see the small town of Halls Gap nestled between the mountains.
After our lunch, we hit the road to the Great Ocean road (GOR), a road built by returning WW1 service men which links the small villages along South Australia's coast to Melbourne. The GOR is roughly 300km long and ends1 hr outside Melbourne. Our 1st stop on the eve of Day 2 was the Bay of Martyrs and Bay of Islands, the gasp that came out of Caro when she saw the coast line. It really is beautiful, the pink rocks against the blue sea and the white foam is stunning. In our eagerness to take photos I managed to kick our rental car keys over the cliff edge. To say my heart stopped is an understatement. Thankfully, it landed where we could still reach it. We both couldn't help voicing "What would have happened if it had actually gone over" , it doesn't even bear thinking about. Later that eve we arrived at the 12 Apostles, the highlight of the GOR in time for sunset, it was really nice, I think Caro took about 100 photos, she's still a bit snap happy ;)
Next morn we were up bright and early for the 5 hour drive to Melbourne via the GOR, we went back to the 12 Apostles to see them in daylight also and they were every bit as stunning. The rest of the stop off points along the GOR are similar to the Bay of Martys we had seen the first night, all rock formations formed by the crashing waves, we saw caves, arches, london bridge etc... The drive from Apollo Bay to Lorne is called the most scenic drive in the world and we both most certainly agreed. At every corner Caro was gasping, I wasn't sure if it was the scenery that was taking her breath away or the tight corners and on-coming traffic. It was a very windy road and around every corner was a beach with crashing waves and surfers practising their craft.
Next morning was a 4am start to get our flight to Alice Springs. We arrived to dark, grey skies not what we had expected in the desert. Our our appraoch to Alice we both remarked that it was a lot greener than we expected for the desert. When we went to the tour office they informed us that the previous day had been the wettest day in Alice in over 10 days. Well that explained the lushness of the area, they also said that it had been an unusually wet summer. The forecast was also giving rain for the next week. As we had 3 days of camping ahead of us we were really wishing they were wrong. We headed off the next morning at 6am for the long 5 hour drive to Kings Canyon. Our guide told us that it almost never rains in the canyon, but we managed to get soaked to the skin when the heavens opened on our climb back down ! You can actually see the rain in the photo of Caro !
The Canyon was really pretty, unfortunately all our photos have a grey sky in the background. The flies in the Canyon were something else, there was at least 30 buzzing around your face at all times. We both had bought the fly nets but the buzzing noise still drives you nuts. When we stopped to have lunch, we actually had to eat our sandwiches underneath our fly nets to prevent chomping into a fly as they had no qualms about landing on your nose or fingers as you bit into your sandwich ! On our tour of the Canyon the guide explained that there is plenty of evidence that the Aboriginals used this area in the past, as there is a permanent fresh waterhole here called the Garden of Eden, normally in summer when its dry people come across the Garden of Eden and are amazed that there is so much water in one place, a small rain forest has also grown up around the waterhole. On our climb out of the Canyon we became part of a small group of people who actually get to see a waterfall running from the cliff face. The guide insisted that we were very lucky, that most people never see this, but at that stage we were wet to the skin and cold and having no shower facilities at camp I'm not sure how enthusiastic people were about this :)
We arrived at our camp site after 8pm and it was already dark. The boys looked after setting the fire and the girls cooked dinner and laid out the swags (our beds). It actually stayed dry all evening so we got to enjoy our dinner around the fire and even had a few drinks :)
We woke next morning at 7am to pissing rain, so we quickly packed up camp and drove 30min to the next camp ground which had shelter and had breakfast and a shower. We started our day at 9am and headed to Kata Tjuta (also called the Olgas) this means "many heads" in the native language. The rock here has been eroded into domes by rain, they resemble bee hives ! Later that afternoon we did a 2 hour base walk of Uluru with our guide. He pointed out wall paintings which are thousands of years old and also some of the sacred places that the Aboriginal people used for initiation ceremonies. Our guide also explained that the Aboriginal people prefer if we don't climb Uluru, to them its a sacred place. The climb is still open however as its a cash cow for the Australian Govt. There are discussions re closing the climb in 10 years but this has nothing to do with the site being sacred, its to do with the problem of pollution. Those who climb the rock tend to relieve themselves at the top and when it rains this all gets washed down the side of the rock and polutes the watering holes at the base of Uluru. Hopefully the climb will be closed soon. We left the base of Uluru to go watch the sunset, but unfortunately it was too cloudy and we couldn't see anything :( So we all headed back to camp to make dinner, the weather took another turn for the worst and it rained all night. I really couldn't face sleeping in the rain again, so most of us wimped out and slept in the laundry room which was part of a nearby hotel resort !
Next morning we were woken at 5am by our guide to go watch the sun rise over Uluru, unfortunately it was still cloudy so couldn't see a thing. It was so disappointing. After breakfast we drove back to the Uluru base walk and the group walked the 9.4km around the sacred rock. The waterhole was my favourite part and I even got to see a small waterfall running off Uluru :)
That night we met our group in the Rock Bar back in Alice for dinner and drinks and danced the night away in Bojangles. Next morning we were supposed to do a day trip to see the West Mc Donnell ranges, but with all the rain the roads were flooded and were impassable. So all in all, Alice was a bit of a wash-out. It was still amazing to see Uluru and while the guide kept ensuring us that we were part of a small % that saw rain in the desert and the river Todd and Finke flooded, I would have preferred to see the stars and the sunset over the rock.
Caro will write to you all next, filling you in on our exploits in Sydney and the east coast.
Lots of love
Mel & Caro xx