Yanada (South Australia and Victoria - November 8, 2017 to November 23, 2017)
8-November 2017 to 23-November 2017:
On our way back up, we spoke with a couple of the locals who started a conversation with us about our experience here. It turned out that one lady was very old and she actually wanted to go down the steps to get closer to the falls. I wasn't sure if she was going to make it or not since we was walking with a stick to help with her balance.
The elderly lady told us that she was from Kangaroo Island, which she was excited to hear that we had been there earlier on our trip. She also said that a psychic told her that she was a Native American in a past life, and that a hole scar on her neck was because she was shot there in her past life.
Anyways, the conversation ran its course, and so we returned to the car at 2:55pm.
Just when Julie was about to get into the car after using the restrooms here, she smelled something burning. At first, I thought it was something with the car. But she said it was more like a fire smell, and when all of the sudden we saw lots of smoke coming out of a house right across the street...
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- Day 0-2 (November 8-10, 2017 - Adelaide, South Australia, Australia): "Qantas Quandary"
- Day 3 (November 11, 2017 - Adelaide, South Australia, Australia): "Weddings, Festivals, and Anniversaries"
- Day 4 (November 12, 2017 - Kingscote, South Australia, Australia): "Not Feeling It"
- Day 5 (November 13, 2017 - Kingscote, South Australia, Australia): "Wild Timing"
- Day 6 (November 14, 2017 - Halls Gap, Victoria, Australia): "The Long Gap To The Halls Gap"
- Day 7 (November 15, 2017 - Halls Gap, Victoria, Australia): "Hits, Misses, and Roos"
- Day 8 (November 16, 2017 - Hamilton, Victoria, Australia): "24 Hours"
- Day 9 (November 17, 2017 - Port Campbell, Victoria, Australia): "Squall Factors"
- Day 10 (November 18, 2017 - Apollo Bay, Victoria, Australia): "Before And After"
- Day 11 (November 19, 2017 - Melbourne, Victoria, Australia): "How Can You Not Be In A Good Mood?"
- Day 12 (November 20, 2017 - Melbourne, Victoria, Australia): "Triple 0"
- Day 13 (November 21, 2017 - Melbourne, Victoria, Australia): "Lonely Road Of Faith"
- Day 14 (November 22, 2017 - Melbourne, Victoria, Australia): "Bodies"
- Day 15 (November 23, 2017 - Melbourne, Victoria, Australia): "The Prom"
Day 0-2 (November 8-10, 2017 - Adelaide, South Australia, Australia): "Qantas Quandary"
The night started after having a 6pm dinner where we would eat with Tahia, Julie's Mom, and ourselves for the last time for about a month. While we knew that we'd be missing our little girl as we wouldn't be taking her on this latest Australia trip (designed to make up for the drought-stricken trip that took place back in November 2006), I had a feeling that Tahia wouldn't be missing us very much for she'd no longer be subjected to the discipline that we'd impose on her to ensure she stayed caught up on her schooling and her homeworks.
I guess we'll just have to trust that she and the grandparents would do the right thing in bringing her along and not spoiling her to the point of her detriment.
It wouldn't be until almost 7pm when Julie and I were finally on the road. Since there was still traffic as we were headed west to the airport, we were a little worried about having difficulty checking in before the check in cutoff time of a little over an hour before our departure time at 10:05pm.
We were supposed to be flying into Melbourne Airport before catching a connecting flight to the Adelaide Airport. It would be a long night and subsequent day of traveling for sure.
We'd eventually get to the usual Auto Airport Parking shuttle at around 7:30pm but we wouldn't be boarding the shuttle to LAX until another 15-20 minutes later. With the shuttle now going towards some newly built accommodations in addition to the parking structure we were at, I guess that was the primary cause of the longer wait times. And it got Julie and I really thinking about giving Uber a shot next time (though it was too late for this go as we had already paid the $30 for the round-trip shuttle).
When we were dropped off at LAX, we were actually deposited at the arrivals level since the departures level was heavy with traffic. So that meant we had to go upstairs to check in.
After finding the Qantas counter, we were in a long line, where it took about an hour before we were finally at the desk. They were about to put the Melbourne-bound passengers in a different line just as we were at the front, but we didn't have to move over there since we were up next. I guess we were all getting up to the one-hour check-in cutoff thanks to this queue.
It wouldn't be until about 9:10pm when we were finally through the TSA security checkpoint, where we didn't have to take off our shoes and they didn't even have trays.
We still had a bit of a hike before finally getting all the way to Gate 156 where we were then about to board our Qantas flight to Melbourne. Aside from a spill on the bridge to the plane, the boarding was pretty straightforward.
By about the scheduled departure time of 10:05pm, the plane was leaving the gate and headed towards the runway. During this time, I was chatting with a Vietnamese-Chinese lady who was a resident of Melbourne who happened to be seated next to me on the plane. We pretty much did all sorts of small talk and we were kind of oblivious to the bad news that the plane had some technical issues and that they had to go back to the gate, refuel, and troubleshoot what appeared to be some kind of computer glitch.
We were still chatting away doing small talk though it seemed like this lady had quite a few bad experiences with Qantas. She was changing our perception that Qantas was pretty good (at least as of the last times we flew with them back in 2006 and 2008), but it sounded as if they were starting to go the way of our US-based carriers.
By about 12:45am, we were told that the plane was finally starting to leave again. So far, it had been a 2 hour and 40-minute delay and we were really worried about missing our connecting flight from Melbourne to Adelaide, where we had a 3.5-hour layover that was now already getting chewed into.
When we were back on the runway, I heard the captain apologizing again saying that the technical issues popped up again, and that we had to go back to the gate again. With all the groans from other passengers, I had a feeling things would get tense. But we tried to keep our spirits up and we were also trying to go to sleep.
We had heard all sorts of announcements about what they were going to do with us from having us de-plane while they were powering down the plane to recommending that we stay put in our seats. Well, we were still trying to get caught up on sleep so we had no problems if things would get dark on the plane as they were power cycling.
I also heard in the background some knocking and banging sounds so it seemed like some work was being done beneath the plane. One of the announcements said something about the backup brake system had some issues. So I figured the work had something to do with that. But whatever. First and foremost on both Julie's mind and my mind was that we tried to get some rest whenever we can, because an already long travel day was being made even longer!
Who knows if we'll ever get to our destination at this rate!
It wouldn't be until about 3:40am when I heard some announcement about the problem being solved, and after another 30 minutes after that, that was when everyone was finally boarded on the plane again and we were finally off the ground.
The Vietnamese-Chinese lady sitting next to me was saying that there were four police watching over the gate probably in anticipation of some passengers getting really pissed off. She was also saying that the Qantas folks there were saying that people were going to have to spend the night in LA. It was strange how the crew weren't communicating with each other as we had heard nothing of the sort.
Regardless, we were finally on our way.
The flight started off as a bit of a blur as both Julie and I had dozed off. But at around 5:30am (PST), we were woken up by the crew serving up salmon dinner. I also learned from Julie that there was an announcement in there somewhere that we were being diverted to Brisbane instead of Melbourne because the flight crew had been working for over 20 hours. I guess that was the cutoff or the limit before the crew would have to change.
So it sounded like the plan was to land in Brissie, have an alternate crew show up and take over for the rest of the leg going to Melbourne. The whole time I was thinking that this was just adding to the already long delays, and of course Julie and I were really worried about getting to Adelaide even in time to check in as well as to collect our rental car before they would close for the night.
After the dinner, I think I dozed off once again before about 6 hours had passed since the flight took off. At that point, I had probably slept about as much as I possibly could but couldn't fall back asleep again.
So at that point, I had turned my attention to the in-flight entertainment as there were still another 7-8 hours to go.
So I wound up watching in succession - An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power
(the sequel to Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth documentary), A Cure for Wellness
, and Black Swan
. These works kept me engaged (though the Al Gore one was frightening because it seems like we're doomed to suffer the fate of what happens when we screw with Mother Nature with impugnity), and it helped pass the time for the remainder of the flight.
I even heard the Preatures song "Yanada
", which was on the in-flight entertainment rotation, which was probably also a fitting song for this trip. As I had read that Yanada was an aboriginal (Dharug peoples) word meaning "moon". It was a song that I had considered getting ever since I first heard it on Triple J at work one day, and now I was determined to get it when we get home to remember this trip by, even with the massive false start that we were currently dealing with.
It seemed like trip dramas were par for the course as far as Julie and I were concerned. So what's another trip without dramas like this one?
As we were about to land at the Brisbane Airport, we heard from the announcement that we would be catching a direct connecting flight from Brisbane to Adelaide. So that would at least buy us some time back as we wouldn't have to be going all the way to Melbourne and then catch another connecting flight to Adelaide over there.
So that was one situation where if this had been a US-based carrier putting us in this situation, we probably would have been deposited into Melbourne Airport then figure out how to get to Adelaide on our own. But at least with Qantas (as much of a bad experience this flight had been to this point), we at least could look forward to that direct flight to get to Adelaide.
Of course, the announcement was then followed up with something about the plane being overloaded with too much weight so they had to leave some of the luggage behind at LAX! Now, just about everyone aboard was anxious about what they were going to do without their luggage if they were the unlucky ones. In our case, we were worried about not being with our luggage while moving from place to place.
Funny how they broke this news at the very end of the flight.
Anyways, after landing at around 10:50am Brisbane time, we then went from one queue to the next as we got through passport control, then anxiously waited at carousel 4 for our luggage. Luckily, we recovered both of our luggage pieces and got through customs no problem.
So with that bit of drama out of the way, we next picked up a sim card for my smart phone before we had to wait in another queue to get re-ticketed for our direct flight to Brisbane. After that was done (it took nearly another hour for this to occur), we then squeezed our way onto a bus that shuttled us from the international terminal to the domestic terminal getting there at about 12:15pm.
At the domestic terminal, we managed to call Avis at the Adelaide Airport to let them know that we were on a different flight to get there after a 6-hour delay. That way they wouldn't abandon or cancel our booking where we were supposed to pick up at 1:30pm.
Then, we went through another security queue before we had some Vietnamese food at the food court. We had some lemongrass beef spring rolls and salads as well as a barramundi spring roll (though that was breaded and more like fish sticks).
By about 2:55pm, we sat at the gate assigned for our flight to Adelaide, but I could see that the plane was still not at the gate. That was not a good sign since boarding was supposed to be at 3:20pm and the flight was supposed to be at 3:40pm. So it was looking like we were about to face yet another delay!
Indeed, the drama from this trip wouldn't let us go...
Well, at least the plane showed up a little before 4pm and we boarded the plane at 4:20pm. So the delay would only be an hour though that all but ensured that we wouldn't get to see much of Adelaide on the first day and evening.
The plane eventually landed at the Adelaide Airport at 7:25pm, and by 7:45pm, we had collected our bags and headed over to the Avis.
Unfortuately for us, our company rates and insurance inclusions was exempted in Australia so we pretty much had to deal with a $4000 excess as we declined everything else. So I definitely had to be careful with kangaroos and fender benders.
Eventually we drove into the Adelaide CBD and we parked in front of the historic-looking Adina Apartments Treasury
, which was an old treasury building converted into an accommodation. By 8:35pm, we were finally in our spacious apartment, where we were pleasantly greeted with a card reminding us of our wedding anniversary. With such an unpleasant travel ordeal we had to face to even get here, this was a very welcome gesture.
We also had to park the car before really getting settled and then going for dinner.
At 9:15pm, we showed up to the dinner spot within the courtyard at this place called the Treasury 1860 or something like that. We got here after parking the car at $18 per night at a more secure spot than an opposing car park a bit further away at a flat $8 rate.
We wound up having sirloin for one main and barramundi with ceviche for another. Julie also got a side of salad. The dinner was about $70 AUD, but at least no tip was expected.
The beef was a little on the chewy side though it tasted good. Perhaps everything tasted good after the awful airplane food we had been subjected to. However, the barramundi was very soft and fresh. With my unsettled stomach, it might not have been a good idea to eat the ceviche, but I chanced it anyways and that too was good.
The whole time we were powering our way through dinner while trying to stave off travel fatigue, we were also lamenting how Qantas and the delays they caused really screwed up over in terms of getting to experience Adelaide. Now, we had to cram as much sightseeing as we could tomorrow (which also included two waterfalling excursions and a Mt Lofty Summit experience) before returning to the city for the Adelaide Central Market, the Rundle Street Mall, and the River Torrens walking area.
Oh, and we also had to have an anniversary dinner.
I had my doubts about fitting all of this into one Saturday, but we sure had to try.
After the dinner, we walked towards some of the convenience stores because the supermarkets were already closed since 9pm. We eventually walked past the Adelaide Town Hall north towards the third or fourth convenience store that we spotted because the previous one had run out of eggs. That was our brekkie for tomorrow since we couldn't afford to wait until 8am for the one that the apartment had.
Indeed, an early brekkie and early start was imperative.
We eventually returned to our room at 10:35pm. Too exhausted from the traveling and needing to catch up on sleep, we had to punt the anticipated checking out of the apartment cellar for tomorrow as well. Indeed, we were really squeezing everything into that one day...
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Day 3 (November 11, 2017 - Adelaide, South Australia, Australia): "Weddings, Festivals, and Anniversaries"
It was about 5:30am when I awoke to the alarm. It was still dark outside though it didn't take long before the skies started to brighten up.
Neither Julie nor I were able to go back to sleep so it was time to get up and poach the eggs that we had bought last night as our brekkie. During the time that Julie was getting ready, I decided that perhaps we should walk over to the Adelaide Central Market since we still had errands to run in terms of getting groceries and other health foods that we were hoping to find whilst there.
The Adelaide Central Market didn't open until 7am but by the time we had left the apartment, it was already 6:35am. So we opted to go to the Coles next door first, which was open since midnight (strange hours).
The walk towards the Adelaide Central Market was pretty quiet though it appeared that some construction crew was already up and busy setting up a huge Christmas Tree at the north end of Victoria Square, just across the corner from our apartment on Flinders Street.
By about 6:45am, we got to the Coles, where we promptly went in and scoped out the supermarket. To Julie's disappointment, they had little to no organic or paleo options. They also didn't have kefir. But we knew we had to load up on water and some things that we could self cook like rice-based pasta noodles with sauce as well as some Himalayan sea salt. So we'd come back here after seeing what the Adelaide Central Market had to offer since our load would be significantly increased once we made this run.
By 7am, we went right into the Adelaide Central Market, which was an indoor food market with stalls as well as some eateries that was reminiscent of what we had encountered at the Granville Island Market in Vancouver. Except the one in Adelaide was a bit smaller and less busier (though we were here just when they opened).
While scoping out the market, we decided to have a filling breakfast at a stall near the south end of the market. We split the big brekkie special, which had two thick pieces of toast, two fried eggs, two thick bacons, arugula salad, and some mushrooms smothered in some kind of pesto sauce.
As we were waiting for the food, Julie did some more scoping out of some of the stalls and learned that there were a couple shops selling health foods and products. Apparently, there weren't really any Wholefoods or Sprouts in Australia, and they only really had independent stores specializing in this stuff. So that would be a challenge for Julie going forward with this trip.
The brekkie was simple yet satisfying. When we were done eating at 7:50am, we promptly went to a small shop within the Adelaide Central Market where Julie picked up some real expensive Apple Cider Vinegar as well as some gluten free bread. We were still missing kefir, but the guy manning the shop said there was another shop just a few paces away from the main market part in a corridor.
When we got to that other spot, we found some kefir though there were only a few bottles left. Julie also picked up some soap.
So after that, we then went to a "sushi" stand in the marketplace where we got some Korean kimbap thinking that could be our takeaway lunch later in the day. We also made a stop back at the Coles to pick up the things we said we were gonna get as we were just about to head back to the apartment.
By 8:45am, we were back at the apartment. We had put away the stuff that needed refrigeration, and only brought the things we thought we'd be needing for today's excursions.
By 9am, we recovered the car in the car park on Grawler St, where it was sprinkling a bit as we were making our way over there. The overcast skies were threatening rain though it never really did deliver. However, it did feel humid. Anyways, we then proceeded to drive east towards the Morialta Conservation Park.
The streets were still pretty quiet in the CBD though the activity seemed to pick up the further out into the outskirts we went. We saw street names like Magill Rd and Penfolds Rd and that kind of brought back some memories of places we had driven through in the past on our last visit to this part of Australia 11 years ago.
However, as we eventually reached the entrance road to the Morialta Falls, it seemed like this part of the Adelaide Hills suburbs was more developed than we remembered in the past. For I swore there was a little more mountainous driving through pockets of nature, but now it seemed like there were a lot more homes and it appeared that there was even another new community that was about to sprout up.
We eventually parked the car in the Morialta Conservation Park at 9:35am. We actually had to park in one of the lots set back from the end of the road because the closest lots were all filled up. There were lots of people walking the paved trail flanking the road, suggesting to us that this was a very popular weekend hangout spot.
It was a far cry from the last time we were here when it was sparsely populated with people even though we had showed up a few hours before the gates would close for the day.
After getting ready, I was trying to get the etrex GPS
to pick up the signal so we could track our progress on this excursion. Unfortunately after about 10-15 minutes of getting ready, it was still not acquiring the necessary satellites to get started.
Unable to wait any longer for the GPS to cooperate, we went ahead and walked along the footpath while was flanked by wrangly groves of eucalyptus trees as well as a stream that had water this time around. So that was a good sign in terms of seeing the anticipated waterfall flow for the first time since it was dry on our last trip.
After reaching the end of the car park and driving sections, we then briefly checked out the trailhead signs before continuing. There were some spur trails going up steps and appeared to be pretty rugged as they were headed onto the Waterfalls Grand Loop, the Gorge Trail, and the Plateau Trail among others. However, the main trail to the Morialta Falls didn't coincide with any of those trails.
Although the reason why we didn't bother doing the other trails the last time was that the waterfalls were dry. However, now that I saw that we would essentially be doing multiple hiking trails going in different directions, I sensed that we wouldn't have the time nor the energy in the humidity to pursue the secod or third falls.
Anyways, on the main path, it was pretty wide and paved. It was also very popular as there were lots of joggers, families, and just some solo individuals listening to music on an iPhone or something going back and forth. It was similar to the scene we might be seeing at our local waterfalls back in Los Angeles so I suspected that it was mostly Adelaide residents here.
The whole time I was looking up at the gum trees hoping to see koalas in the nooks like the last time. Instead, we saw these very colorful birds looking almost like parrots singing and flying back and forth. There were also evidence of some black-barked eucalypts making us wonder if a fire had gone through here in the 11 years since we were last here.
There were some branch trails going up the gorges along the paved path as well as some other parallel trails on the valley floor. One of the trail spurs went up some steps towards the so-called Giant's Cave. We didn't go up the steps last time, but I figured that we should come back here when we're done seeing the First Falls.
So onwards we continued. My etrex was still not picking anything up so I had to resign myself to the fact that I was probably not going to be able to trace this hike.
As the path went further along the gorge floor, I saw impressive red cliffs with some inaccessible caves high up. The cliffs seemed to close in the further up we went through the gorge remained wide enough to be quite bright.
By about 10:20am, we finally made it to the end of the trail at the end of a short boardwalk section. There was a convenient bench to chill out and look at the falls, which Julie took advantage of in her weakened state. There were also a couple of families that had crawled beneath the barrier and went all the way to the plunge pool at the base of the falls.
We were content to take our pictures of the falls flowing while I was also trying to use the barricade as a steadying instrument for long exposure shots.
There was still no GPS reception so I guess that was pretty much it in terms of trying to document our walking path to get to this point, which was said to be 45 minutes return walk according to the trailhead signage.
When the family had left, we had a few minutes to ourselves, which was nice. The cloudy skies made for even lighting which was great for the long exposure shots. And we even spent a few more minutes just sitting there and soaking in the scenery before a Chinese family showed up.
That was our cue to head out.
On the way back, I was still looking up at the nooks of the gum trees and still saw no koalas. We settled for spotting and photographing the birds as well as the patches of purple wildflowers growing alongside the trail.
We then walked up the steps up to the Giant's Cave, where the path continued going up towards some lookout platform showing how tiny the people on the trails below were as well as some of the surrounding gorge scenery rising above the treeline.
After having our fill of this spot, we returned to the main track and got back to the trailhead where after studying the trailhead map one more time, I saw where Second Falls was and decided not to pursue it (for it would be like starting over while also hiking up on a more rugged path). I wasn't sure if I was going to regret not doing that excursion while there was waterflow, but we still had some more things to do for today.
At 11:05am, we returned to the car park. The etrex GPS
never acquired satellites so I just left it on as we were about to drive to the Mt Lofty Summit, which was the next excursion (something we didn't get a chance to do the last time).
The drive towards the Mt Lofty Summit involved driving some pretty narrow two-lane roads. Coming from the USA where the roads were always wide with shoulders, the mountain roads here lacked shoulders and driving between the lines was difficult with larger vehicles (like the intermediate-sized car we were driving). It was a matter of getting used to these roads again as the roads at home tended to spoil us.
It was difficult to try to stay with the 60km/h or even 80km/h speed limits given the narrowness of the roads. There were also weekend bikers sharing the narrow roads as well as oncoming traffic.
By about 11:40am, we finally made it up to the Mt Lofty Summit. There was a fairly spacious car park though it was pay and display. Just as I was about to get to a ticket dispenser, a lady asked if we wanted her ticket. I guess the duration of the tickets here was pretty much the full day, and so we thanked her and gladly took her ticket to put on the dash. It was good until midnight and it costed her $4 AUD. It wasn't that bad in terms of cost, but I guess every little helps, especially since we didn't expect to be spending that much time up here.
Next, we walked through a cafe and gift shop area before getting out to a terrace where there were sweeing views back towards the city of Adelaide as well as the Southern Ocean in the distance. There was a tall white tower as well though it wasn't one of those things that let up get in and up for an even more commanding view. It was really there as an art piece.
While the views were impressive, it was flat. The buildings looked tiny and the ocean kind of blended in with the gray skies and the surrounding lands. We did see Kangaroo Island in the distance though, and that was where we were headed next starting tomorrow.
After having our fill of the views, we then sat in one of the patio seats and had our kimbap picnic lunch.
Julie used our phone to make a dinner reservation at this place called La Provence. We were feeling in the mood for French even though the Penfolds Winery had a dinner place with good reviews that I swore we had eaten at the last time we were here (and I recalled that it was quite good).
It turned out that the food was a bit on the sweet side as they must have put in some sugar on the beef. We also had a mistaken order of fish cakes in the other kimbap, but Julie preferred that one anyways given how much sugar they had put in the beef. In the end, she was disappointed with the kimbap but I guess we were spoiled with the genuine Korean stuff back at home.
After the lunch, Julie's stomach was unsettled, and perhaps it had to do with the kimbap sitting out for as long as it did.
Julie noted that there were some seats being set up inside the restaurant as apparently there was some kind of function that was about to take place. Given that it was a Saturday, we figured that it was probably going to be a wedding or something.
By 12:35pm, we were back at the car. Next, we were headed down to the base of the Adelaide Hills and Mt Lofty area towards the Waterfall Gully. Even though we could have done the 4km one-way hike to get from the summit down to the Waterfall Gully, we knew that it was better to drive down to the base to check out how much things have changed over the years down there.
The drive back down the mountain was pretty uneventful as I was becoming more acclimated to the narrower roads and being on the left side of the road whilst steering the wheel right handed and keeping the left hand on the stick (even though this was an automatic; just out of habit I guess).
By 1pm, we made it down to the car park for the Waterfall Gully, which it appeared that the car park itself was a lot more spacious than we remembered from the last time. It was probably because the whole side on the other side of the First Creek was damaged on our last visit 11 years ago. Now, it was seemingly fully restored, and it was a good thing because the car park was quite busy.
Yet, we did score a spot right in front of the restrooms. And with that, Julie and I promptly walked to the base of the First Falls of the Waterfall Gully, which looked pretty much as it did during our drought-stricken trip 11 years ago. I was also able to check out the view from the other side, which was a bit more angled though also a little overgrown.
There was apparently another trail going up above the gorge from here, but that trail was closed.
There were some lawn chairs set up by a shelter beneath the Utopia Cafe at the bottom of the gorge across the creek, as well as a sign by the bridge saying something like Katherine and Andrew 11.11.2017. Obviously this couple was getting married, but the numerology reminded Julie and I of our wedding anniversary in New Zealand.
Anyways, we briefly had a moment of the First Falls to ourselves before Julie headed back to chill out. In the mean time, I took some time to continue hiking up the inclines and head towards the Second Falls, which was around 500-600m beyond the lookout for the First Falls.
With the humidity, the climb was sweat inducing, but it did offer up some interesting alternate views of the First Falls when I made it up to the platformed walk hugging the cliffs. Upstream from the First Falls, the trail flattened out and followed the creek until it eventually made it up to the Second Falls.
The first time I was here, there was a wooden bench looking down at the falls. Now, there were semi-circular barricades made of stone to sit on. There was also a short path leading right down to the cool little cove right at the base of the falls.
After having my fill of this falls, I decided to go up the next steep climb in search of the Third Falls. I found it strange that there was no signage about any more waterfalls. Nonetheless, I wanted to go up there to see what the Third Falls was like since I was already here.
Well, after struggling up a pretty relentlessly steep trail that started off paved then went to conventional dirt again, I'd eventually see the Third Falls but it was way down at the bottom of the gorge and could be barely seen through the foliage in the foreground. I kept going up along the trail thinking that maybe there might be an alternate trail to get close to it, but when I made it to the Chinaman's Hut Ruins another 600m beyond the Second Falls, I knew that this was probably why there was no signage for the Third Falls or any other waterfalls for that matter.
At the Chinaman's Hut ruins, I noticed these fairly big birds with interesting calls. They were perched high up on the surrounding trees and I managed to get a few shots of them against the bright cloudy skies. But other than that, this was my turnaround point, and I promptly trail ran my way back down the declines towards the Utopia Cafe.
When I saw that Julie was sitting next to the restroom area instead of Utopia, I continued my descent to rejoin her at the car park at 2:10pm.
We promptly get back into the car, where my sweaty self needed the AC from the vehicle.
Julie still wasn't feeling very well so she was looking forward to napping back at the Adina Apartment in Adelaide CBD. I figured that I'd probably solo the touring of the Rundle Street Mall and other city things.
By 2:40pm, we were back at the Grawler car park. And 15 minutes later, we were back in the room. We saw that they had finished putting the Christmas Tree in Victoria Square back together at this time. I'm sure that square would be pretty festive the closer to the Christmas holiday it got.
On the way back up to our room, we walked through the cellar of the Adina Treasury area inside our apartment complex. The cellar tunnels were actually creepy as they were narrow and looked like it could've been a prison or something. But it now had this weird mix of party lights on the ceiling and some chairs set up in parts of the more spacious sections in preparation for a private party this evening.
Anyways, with Julie out in bed, I went for a tour of the city at 3:20pm. I used this time to check out that Rundle Street Mall while also scoping out how far of a walk it would be to check out the La Provence Restaurant that we were hoping to celebrate our anniversary for.
By about 3:40pm, I had made it to the bustling Rundle Street Mall, which was basically a pedestrian walking street. It was kind of reminiscent of the Style Mile in Glasgow except this particular mall had street performers, some art pieces (like the pigs and some kind of Chicago-bean-like spheres stacked on each other, and some other random artsy things).
There were also some side arcades that went indoors between streets.
There was definitely a buzz and energy about this place, and I really wished that Julie and I could have strolled through here together. But the solo recon would have to do.
After having my fill of the mall, I then walked further north towards the River Torrens. I was searching for the fancy old buildings from the past that we saw around the river, but I didn't find them this time around.
Instead, I saw a lot of developments as the area seeemed to be much more bustling and modern than I had remembered. So instead, I basically took pictures and soaked in the ambience of the lawn area between the River Torrens and the rotunda with the Adelaide Oval dominating the scene across the river. Behind me was some kind of construction work going on to renovate and facelift the Northern Promenade area.
I didn't linger around here much so it didn't take long before I turned around and headed south on King Williams St then on Pirie St, I went left and looked for Hyde St and the La Provence restaurant we were going to eat at.
I eventually found that place and found out that it was between a 5-10 minute walk so we didn't need to get the car and look for parking. There was some kind of music coming from behind a barricade where the street adjacent to the restaurant was closed (on Hyde). It seemed like the entrance to this festival would be from some other side of the street and they didn't want people coming in this way, I guess.
It was starting to sprinkle again as I was making my way back. It was further evidence that the overcast skies were a bit more tropical in nature though I wasn't expecting to be this much humidity this far from the tropical regions of Australia to the north.
By about 4:35pm, I had made it back to our room. Julie was still asleep and a bit out of it. Meanwhile, I took the time to shower and get cleaned up for our anniversary dinner. Eventually, Julie came around and got cleaned up, and by about 5:40pm, we started walking over to La Provence.
We'd eventually get to the restaurant at 5:50pm, where the interior was quiet as the place had just re-opened its doors. However, there was some music coming from the festival that the proprietor said only happened once a year. He apologized for the "noise", but I personally didn't mind it. It kind of got us curious as to what it might be like there so we figured we could pass by to see what it was about once the dinner was over.
The slow food turned out to be a pleasant southern French style place (after all, they did call themselves La Provence, which was the south of France), and they served up an interesting duck appetizer prepared in many different ways. Julie got a duck confit for her main, while I got an assiette de bouef which was beef prepared in different ways.
We also got a raspberry soufflee with champagne ice cream, which was actually fizzy in my mouth when it melted.
Even though Julie still wasn't feeling well, the food was excellent and it was a nice way to cap off our lone day back in Adelaide.
The place got pretty busy pretty quickly though there appeared to be some kind of birthday party going on upstairs as lots of well-dressed people were entering the restaurant and making their way upstairs.
By about 7:45pm, we were done with the dinner and started walking towards the source of the music. We had to circle around towards the next major street before heading south then west on Flinders Street. Shortly thereafter, we saw a small alleyway to our right, which was apparently where you enter into this rather hidden festival.
Given all the colorful banners, we figured this was some kind of gay pride festival and some of the people parading around the blocks were probably also making their own gay pride parade. Since the festival required payment to get in, we turned back and headed back to the Adina Apartments as we felt more like getting some rest and packing up before tomorrow's drive to Kangaroo Island.
By 8pm, we were back in our room and called it a day. The Christmas Tree at Victoria Square was completed, and there was some more loud music and some dancing going on over there, too, but it also seemed to be related to the gay pride stuff that was going on.
Given Julie's condition, she wasn't up for extending the night. And so she promptly went right to bed while I was busy tending to my dental hygiene and trying to stay awake as I was pretty exhausted from all that had transpired today...
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Day 4 (November 12, 2017 - Kingscote, South Australia, Australia): "Not Feeling It"
It was about 4:15am when I awoke. I didn't need an alarm clock to get up this early as I suspected that jetlag had something to do with this. Nonetheless, I welcomed the early wakeup so I could get caught up on some blogging before wrapping up the packing, checking out, and retrieving the rental car from the car park.
We knew that we had a bit of a drive ahead of us so we were busy getting things all ready for our drive to catch the ferry to Kangaroo Island at Cape Jervis. I eventually managed to recover the car at 6am and by 6:25am, we were finally all checked out and ready to leave the Adelaide CBD.
The driving on Sunday morning was relatively light. I was back to listening to weekend arvos and Triple J and it was bringing back memories of how self-driving in Australia was like in all the previous times we've done extended visits to the country.
The drive going south on the M2 even involved a brief stretch of high-speed highway, but by the time we got well into the suburbs and bushlands of the Fleurieu Peninsula, it was back to the conventional two-lane (one in each direction) country road.
The further south we went, the more the road followed the coastline. With the weather revealing some blue skies, it was a pretty scenic scene. I really wished we could have stopped and taken photos at some of the spots like some kind of Buddhist temple overlooking the ocean as well as some kind of Hobart Memorial Lookout.
I even saw the turnoff leading to the Ingalalla Waterfall, which was what we were going to target on the return from Kangaroo Island but not today.
Eventually at 7:55am, we arrived at the Sea Link Terminal, where the office hadn't quite opened up yet. It wouldn't be until 10 minutes later when the lines started to accumulate and more cars started to pull up onto the ferry terminal waiting area.
By around 8:30am, the cars started moving in. They asked the drivers only to be in the vehicle while all other passengers were to board the ramp and enter the ferry boat through the side. It turned out to be a reasonable request and method because once I pulled into the tight quarters of the car park within the Sea Link, I could see that it was real tight and difficult to open the doors.
I wondered to myself how we were going to get out when we'd reach Kangaroo Island. But I'm sure they've done this many times and have a method to their madness.
Inside the Sea Link boat, I rejoined Julie where a long line was queueing up to get brekkie and coffee. They didn't have any healthy options for Julie so all she got was some hot water and got me some a lamb meat pie.
I'd eventually recover the car at 9:55am, which was after all the rest of the cars left because I was parked in such a tight spot on the side. And then I picked up Julie at the curb as she was waiting for me. And then we were off, finally on our own to tour Kangaroo Island.
Well, first up, we had to get to Kingscote to check into our accommodation, which appeared to be a home all to ourselves. We wouldn't get there until about 10:40am. Luckily, Kylie who was tending to the 9A unit (we were in the 9) unit was there, and we got ahold of Glyn who was overseas.
With that, we were able to check in early and get settled before we pulled into Kingscote centre for a lunch. The town itself was small and there didn't seem to be many eating options. So we settled on this place called Roger's Deli and Cafe at 11:30am.
We got ourselves some kind of Beef Korma (Indian dish even though no one there was Indian) and chicken soup for Julie's congestion. When we got the food, it turned out that it was surprisingly good. We were also entertained by people leaving heaps of leftovers and watching the sea gulls get at them.
It was amazing how much food was being wasted by the patrons. Well, at least we enjoyed our food and didn't leave anything to waste except for most of the baguette, which Julie couldn't have anyways due to her gluten intolerance.
After the lunch, we briefly checked out the waterfront at Kingscote before we then did a grocery run at the Foodland. Surprisingly, then had some kefir though it probably wasn't as healthy or as rich as the self-made ones we'd do with raw milk. But we took what we could since we knew it wasn't realistic to ferment our own while out touring.
It wouldn't be until about 1pm when we were finally done with the grocery run.
After putting the foodstuffs away in the apartment, we then headed south towards either the Seal Bay colony or the Kelly Hill Cave. We couldn't decide which one to do, and Julie had it in her mind that she wasn't into paying money to see the Sea Lions so we went for the Kelly Hill Caves. Little did I realize how much of a drive it would take to get there, and in hindsight, we probably should have done the Seal Bay colony instead.
Eventually, we'd get to our cave at 2:15pm. The timing was bad as the next cave tour wouldn't be until 3pm. The sea lion colony tour on the other hand was at 2:30pm. Yet another indication that we screwed up.
Well, at least it was a good thing the driving was done because I was starting to get drowsy. And with all the kangaroo roadkill we had seen on the 80km drive to get here, that was not a good thing. Triple J reception from Adelaide's station was also not very good this deep into KI.
I managed to kill some of the time by going on the short walks to check out the old cave entrance before completing the loop seeing the entrance to the Show Cave in the process. The whole time, I was looking up at the gum trees hoping to see a koala, but no dice.
Anyways, eventually at 3pm, the tour guide showed up, collected the tour fees, and then we walked back up to the Show Caves entrance, where he met up with our group.
The cave tour was actually a little on the disappointing side as it was a very small cave, and we spent the better part of 45 minutes mostly listening to the tour guide talk. Now we did learn some fascinating things about this cave like how it was young, it was formed in process backwards from most caves, and it was also a very dry cave as it had been about 50 years since a bushfire above ground had come through here to loosen the stranglehold that the trees here on the soil and the moisture.
So the cave lacked any wildlife and lacked any of that signature drip you'd hear from most caves. However, the stalactites were very concentrated.
There were probably about 3 or 4 tiny rooms. It seemed like the current tour was nowhere near as extensive as the old tour, which involved a bit more crawling.
Regardless, we recovered the car at 4:10pm, which by now was a bit too late to be doing anything else. We were ready to head back to Kingscote for dinner.
With 80km to return to Kingscote and half-that distance that would have been driven had we gone to Seal Bay, I kept thinking to myself that we should have done the Seal Bay thing today since it was the #2 activity on TripAdvisor.
Oh well, we'll have to see tomorrow how much we can cover after seeing the obligatory Admiral's Arch and Remarkable Rocks before seeing any of the bays and any of the seal colonies that might be free compared to the famous one on the south of Kangaroo Island.
By 5:05pm, we made it back to Kingscote. It was a little early for the 5:30pm dinner so we spent some of that time scoping out the other eating spots in time.
Eventually as 5:30pm rolled around, we got seated, ate short ribs, rack of lamb, and sticky date pudding. The best thing about our dinner was the sticky date dessert. But the short ribs was not fall off the bone as stated by the cashier. It was actually quite chewy and tough. My lamb rack was ok.
Regardless, by 6:55pm, we were back in our room to call it a day. Julie couldn't wait to take her shower and recover with extra sleep. Unfortunately, there was no hair dryer, which was a big pet peeve of hers.
I'd eventually join her in bed at around 10:30pm just after watching parts of the Star Wars Force Awakens on ABC 7 in Australia. Thus ending a fairly ho hum day that we hope to rectify tomorrow though Julie had already expressed interest in sleeping in...
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Day 5 (November 13, 2017 - Kingscote, South Australia, Australia): "Wild Timing"
It was about 5:50am when I awoke. It wouldn't be until 7:20am when Julie was up and started to make brekkie. I figured that since today was to be focused on the Flinders Chase National Park on the far southwestern side of Kangaroo Island, that we weren't in much of a hurry so we allowed ourselves to sleep in (and hopefully help Julie get over her flu or cold).
It was very overcast outside, and we were worried that the weather would be a bit gray and muggy as it had been during our whole time in Adelaide earlier on in this trip.
So after having a pretty full brekkie of eggs, avocado, bacon, and kefir with bananas, it wouldn't be until 8:35am when I was waiting for Julie to wrap up her errands. So in the mean time, I went into town to pick up some groceries for her since Julie said we were short on water and on getting tomatos.
By about 9am, I returned to the Home on Torrens and dropped off the groceries. Julie was also requesting the owner to contact the person cleaning the units to bring a hair dryer since one wasn't in the house. Hopefully, they would heed her request as I know how particular she was when it came to blow drying her wet hair after taking a shower in which she'd wash her hair. She didn't do it last night for the reason that we didn't have a hair dryer.
Anyways, we were finally out the door shortly thereafter. The drive back the way we visited yesterday (to the Kelly Hill Caves) was seemingly quite long. It really made me appreciate what a miscalculation we made by going out that far only to have a ho hum experience (instead of doing the sea lions at Seal Bay). Even the Triple J reception was fading, and I knew that we were getting a slow start when Ben and Liam were already done with their shift and Zan Rowe was taking over the moment we were leaving Kingscote.
During the drive, I was contemplating whether we should stop along the way for things like Hansen Bay, Hansen Bay Koala Walk, Seal Bay, or even the Platypus Water Hole. But we stuck to the plan (for the Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch) because we knew our late start meant we couldn't linger too long or else risk missing out on the things we really wanted to see and do before running out of daylight and time.
It wouldn't be until about 10:05am when we arrived at the Flinders Chase Visitor Centre. We had to stop by there to pick up a permit to pay and display. Ten minutes later, we were back in the car and headed south towards the Remarkable Rocks, which was the first attraction we were targeting at Flinders Chase National Park.
By about 10:35am, we finally arrived at the car park for the Remarkable Rocks. It was surprisingly subdued as there were plenty of empty parking spots when we pulled up. We then had to go on a short loop walk where it was mostly boardwalk on the way there.
We were able to see psychedelic shapes of the Remarkable Rocks in the distance, which hastened our pace to get there and really get up close and personal with them. Once we got there, we were struck by the orange lichen staining the rocks and providing vivid colors compared against the blue waters of the churning Southern Ocean as well as the shadows of the cave-like depressions and openings that were on the rocks themselves.
Some of the funky shapes of the rocks reminded us of a bird's beak while others looked more like pac-mans and still others were also pseudo arches.
We spent a good deal of time trying to stay cool in the shady side of the Remarkable Rocks, but the urge to keep taking pictures kept us from staying still for too long. The weather turned out to be just right for the time we were there because the sun really brought out the colors of the Southern Ocean as well as amplifying the orange lichen stains on the Remarkable Rocks themselves.
After having our fill of the rocks (when we were nearly by ourselves), we completed the flatter part of the loop hike, and ultimately regained the car at 11:35am.
Next, we drove back towards the west to the Cape du Couetic Road before heading south towards the Cape du Couedic Lighthouse and the Admirals Arch. When we got towards the end of the road, we descended beyond the lighthouse and ultimately got down to the Admirals Arch Car Park at 11:45am.
Right when we showed up, a tour bus also showed up. So I knew that it would be crowded at the arch. So we headed towards the Fur Seals Lookout instead, which led us to an overlook on a bluff looking right down at some New Zealand Fur Seals in the tide pools and rocks down below.
Also from the lookout, we were able to look across the cove towards the Admirals Arch, where we could see a busy boardwalk crossing over the opening where the arch was supposed to be before it descended into that opening. We couldn't see the span of the arch from where we were at, but we already had a sense of what it would be like from this vantage point.
So after having our fill of the Fur Seal Lookout, we then took the more main path that zig-zagged down a couple of switchbacks before descending right down to the boardwalk leading to the Admirals Arch. But along the way, we saw lots of people checking out even closer looks at the New Zealand Fur Seals doing their thing on the neighboring rocks as large waves and swells were crashing around them down below the boardwalk.
When we got towards the end of the boardwalk, there were crusted wooden steps descending to the lowermost level of platform, where we could clearly see through the dark Admirals Arch. Inside the arch's shadowy span, we saw a handful of fur seals moving about.
It was a shame that there was so much lighting contrast (i.e. it was too dark in the shadows and too blown out outside the shadows). Otherwise, we could've gotten these pretty cool shots of the fur seals beneath the span of Admirals Arch.
In any case, Julie and I took a few selfies before the span of the arch, and then we took a few more shots of the arch itself before heading back up towards where the fur seals could easily be spotted again. After a few more minutes of trying to get more photos of the New Zealand Fur Seals, we then retreated back up the steps.
Regardless, we proceeded further back up the boardwalk before returning to the rental car that was baking in the sun at 12:30pm.
Throughout the walk back up, I couldn't help but notice how high the splashes from the crashing waves and swells of the Southern Ocean were when they met the rocks. That kind of attested to how strong and violent the Southern Ocean could be.
At 12:45pm, I got back in the car, and we proceeded to head back north towards the Flinders Chase National Park Visitor Centre. When we finally got there at about 1:05pm, I couldn't help but notice a lot of people gathered around some tree. The fact that just about all of them were taking photos made me realize that there must have been something interesting there.
When I got closer, I could clearly see that there was a koala sleeping on the nook of a dark-barked tree. It wasn't the eucalyptus tree that I would have expected to see it sleeping on like when we saw them at Morialta Conservation Park 11 years ago.
Instead, this one was easily seen and it was lying quite low. One guy tried to get closer to the koala before some other tourist told him that he wasn't supposed to get off the path. Minutes later, there was someone from the park staff bringing a sign over there that said to respect the distance and not move any closer to disturb it.
As we were done trying to compose as many photos of this pretty big sleeping koala, we then started to head closer to the visitor centre building before we noticed yet another koala sleeping higher up on a different tree. This one was harder to photograph because of the presence of more branches getting in the way. Still, it was a pretty cool sight nonetheless.
Once we were inside the visitor centre building, we promptly get one of the inside tables near the cafe so we wouldn't have to contend with the annoying black flies at one of the patio tables. The black flies had been a nuissance ever since we arrived in Adelaide, but they seemed to be next level here on Kangaroo Island.
Anyways, we got ourselves a humble lunch of some KI whiting that were prepared pan fried with chips (fries), and Julie got some kind of Haloumi Chicken Salad, which was also basic but satisfying except she forgot to ask for the dressing to be put on the side.
The meal was still satisfying, and eventually by 2:05pm, we left the cafe and headed back to the rental car.
On the way back, there were many people hanging out beneath that hanging koala that I knew hadn't moved since we had seen it earlier just before we went for lunch. When I rocked up to join them, I was surprised to see that there was a second koala that appeared to be a baby koala. I didn't know where that one was earlier on, but now it was understandable why so many people (more so than earlier) were gathered here.
Meanwhile, the larger koala sitting on a lower nook of a bulkier tree was also still there. Some idiots from a Spanish tour group thought it was a good idea to go past the signage and get right up to that koala. One lady even tried to pet it when even some members of their group said to her, "No toques" (Don't touch). Still, this sense of "the rules don't apply to me" mentality was disturbing, and thankfully, they dispersed as it appeared some other Aussie tourists straight up told them to get away from the koala.
With food in our stomachs, I managed to get a second wind as I was now driving out of Flinders Chase National Park and headed east towards Seal Bay. Julie was conked out as she was having her afternoon siesta.
The drive was pretty uneventful as I eventually made my way towards Seal Bay. After getting to the visitor center parking area at 2:50pm, Julie and I promptly walked to the building, paid some $70 for both of us to do the guided tour, and then killed some time checking out a little bit of the boardwalk as well as the lookout before our 3:15pm tour.
When 3:15pm rolled around, we joined our guide Ashlee (sp?) who guided a group of four that included Julie and I as well as a pair of older Spanish guys.
It was very hot as we made our way down an alternate boardwalk and onto the white-sand beach. As we were on the beach, we could see very clearly many sea lions either resting or moving around. Actually, it was mostly the larger males that were moving around and posturing or threatening to fight since it was now the breeding season, according to our guide.
The guide was actually pretty excited about what we were seeing because she said that this was the first time since she started working on KI about 8-10 months ago that these sea lions were actually moving and posturing in response to breeding season. She said that at other times of the year, the sea lions would pretty much just lay flat and not move like a starfish.
So as we were busy taking photos while also listening to our guide explain some key things about the Australia Sea Lions, we were all sweating bullets as the sun was beating down hard on us while the incident light from the blindingly white sand also conspired to make us uncomfortably hot.
There was another larger tour that was also running a similar type of tour so there were probably on the order of a dozen tourists or so in total enjoying the beach and the sea lion residents.
By about 4pm, I returned to the car, and when Julie rejoined me after her potty break, we headed back to Kingscote. The hope was to find some good food (like the Roger's Deli), but that place had closed their kitchen when we rocked up to town at 4:40pm.
We also saw that the Cactus Cafe was also closed, and that was one place that our tour guide said she had liked a lot.
And we most certainly weren't going back to the Aurora Restaurant that we had dined at last night.
So in the end, we settled for grocery shopping at Foodlands, where we picked up some chicken, celery, tomatos, onions, and some pepper. And thus, we'd have the ingredients for self-cooking chicken and vegetable soup as well as a garden salad with apple cider vinegar as the dressing.
Julie also picked up a collapsable cooler container as well as a large block of ice. We figured that that would at least help us stave off food spoiling inside the greenhouse of a hot car with a black interior under the over 30C temps that we had been experiencing to this point.
By about 5:45pm, we were back in the room. Julie was very disappointed that she still didn't get the hair dryer like she had requested. Nonetheless, Julie got busy making our humble but much healthier and less expensive chicken soup and salad dinner, and I was busy getting cleaned up while also blogging until it was time for us to eat together as a couple abroad for the first time in quite a while.
And so ended this rather wild day, where we got to see koalas after all and didn't even need to do the Koala Walk at the Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. And even the NZ Fur Seals and AUS Sea Lions were quite a treat for us as well.
After the dinner, Julie quickly conked out. And I would follow suit not long thereafter...
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Day 6 (November 14, 2017 - Halls Gap, Victoria, Australia): "The Long Gap To The Halls Gap"
It was about 5:50am when we awoke. Julie was still coughing a lot, and she even complained that she now had blood in her phlegm. The last time I had something like that was in uni when I refused to miss class and exams but class was a total germ factory.
In Julie's case, it seemed like she could have controlled her cough, but she was intent on letting herself cough whenever she felt like something was in there. I almost felt as if she was trying to force herself to cough. Regardless, I told her that she had to control it because every time she coughed in this state, her throat would wiggle and get really agitated. It might even affect the sacs in her lungs to the point of starting to fill with fluid.
Well, if that was the case, she'd be chain coughing. But she hadn't been doing that so I don't think it was getting as bad as those times when I had a month-long flu-cold combo.
Plus, Julie couldn't even have codine or some kind of cough suppresant since her body still has trouble de-toxing bad stuff in those medicines. It was also why she couldn't do a flu shot since they usually contained mercury, and her body still can't properly filter out mercury.
Anyways, the morning went by fairly smoothly as we had enough time to have ourselves a morning breakfast before we got cleaned up, packed up, and loaded the car by 6:55am.
With the relatively early start, the drive from Kingscote to Penneshaw was pretty uneventful. We were just listening to the Ben and Liam show on Triple J as the signal got a bit stronger the closer to Penneshaw we went.
Eventually at 7:40am, we arrived at the Penneshaw Ferry Terminal, which was still about 50 minutes ahead of the 8:30am departure. Julie got the tickets, but no one said anything about the drivers returning to the car so when I got out there shortly after 8am, it turned out that I was one of the few people left in the lot.
The guy controlling the flow of the vehicles going onto the ferry kind of ignored me, and it wasn't until I just took the initiative and started pulling up towards the ferry did I get close enough to the worker to ask him if it was time to roll onto the ferry.
He then took my ticket, and told me to drive onto lane 1, which was once again on the far left side of the ferry. Again, it was tight parking quarters (so I really relied on the guidance of the worker to tell me when to turn and move forwards and backwards), but unlike the last ferry we took from Cape Jervis, this one seemed to be much wider, and there was even enough room for me to open my car door (even though it was real close to the pole).
Eventually at 8:10am, I finally parked the car. There was one huge container with several rows of sheep all caged up. So the ferry area smelled like livestock, and it was strange to hear the "meh! meh!" from the sheep from within the ferry itself. I guess this was a first for us - sharing a ride with the livestock.
So I rejoined Julie inside the passenger area of the ferry after going all the way up to the outside deck in the rear of the vessel. Whilst up there, I took photos of the surrounding area where there was an attractive beach with calm and clear water. It was too bad that it was overcast because had there been sun, the beach would have been surprisingly colorful.
I also looked down at the loading dock area where some trucks were backing in with more containers full of sheep. When they were done, the vehicle section of the ferry was all packed in with the sheep taking up the middle three or four rows. The smaller vehicles were off to the side and under the roof of the middle part as well as parts of the far rear. So when it came time to land, for sure I'd have to wait for the sheep to get out as well as some other vehicles to clear out enough space to make the tight turns.
Back at the passenger sitting area, Julie had bought me a minced beef meat pie, which I ate. We also killed some time just staring out the window while using our Australian sim card to do a little internetting. Julie also did some local calls concerning our next accommodation (which was the Kiramli Villas in Halls Gap) so we'd know what to do once we arrived at the self-serve home.
I expected to show up late given the long drive that was ahead of us once the ferry landed, and there were also two waterfalls to visit along the way.
Eventually at 9:25am, all the drivers were asked to return to their cars. When I went down there, I had to squeeze my way between another vehicle and one of the sheep containers, but I was still able to open my car door. The trickier part was probably trying not to mind the sheep poo that managed to fall and bounce off the container and onto the ferry vessel floor.
I could hear sounds of dogs barking so there must have been at least one shepherding dog cramped amongst the sheep.
Once I was sitting in my vehicle, the ramp finally started to lower at around 9:30am. And a few minutes later, I picked up Julie off the side of the road and we were off once again.
After following the same trucks carrying sheep (as they were moving pretty slow on the uphills) for a bit, we then turned right to leave the B23 and the caravan of traffic (probably headed north for Adelaide) as we were now on the Range Road bound for Victor Harbour.
It didn't take long before we turned left onto Hay Flat Road, where there was also an assuring sign for the Ingalalla Waterfalls pointing that way to our left. The first 2 kilometres were fairly smooth gravel road, but then the road became paved just as the road was sharply descending for the last of the two kilometres.
At the bottom of the descent, there was the turnoff back into the familiar car park for the Ingalalla Waterfalls. Fortunately, this time there was no fire ban so we could drive the car all the way into the reserve and its fairly large spacious clearing for car parking. Someone left a trio of empty Jack Daniels cans for some reason, and they were all on their sides.
We got here at about 10am. We were the first ones here, and so we took a few moments to lace up our boots and start walking the path towards the waterfall. I didn't remember having to walk for an appreciable distance, but it just goes to show you how fallable memory can be.
It only took us around 5-10 minutes before we finished the short walk (crossing over a couple of bridges where there was definitely water in the creek; a very good sign), and then past a wide open picnic area. The trail ended near a jumble of large rocks that had fallen here in the past.
Now, there were lots of flies over the stagnant pools of water and we looked right at the much more satisfying Ingalalla Falls, which now had much healthier flow than 11 years ago when it was hardly trickling.
It was a little off putting to see that the water had a tinge of brown to it, and that there was an unsavory soapy look about the plunge pool. We suspected that the creek must have been polluted from agricultural runoff or something. It definitely didn't look very natural. And even though we had no desire to do it on this visit, we definitely wouldn't have gone here for a swim even if we were able to.
Indeed, this was reminiscent of the water quality of the Paradise Falls back home in California, where we saw a similar thing going on except that water was polluted with suburban runoff.
Julie and I both documented the falls as per our usual routine. However, I also noticed a steep path going up behind the far right side of the viewing area of the falls. When I noticed that there was an upper tier of the Ingalalla Falls on that side, I decided to make a brief scramble up there to take a look.
Well, after some dirty scrambling, and some moments of doubt as the terrain got real steep real quick, I probably got up to about the half-way point before I could see that the climb continued all the way up to the very top of the cliffs, which was also well above the second waterfall.
That kind of defeated the purpose of going up there in my mind (which was to get a cleaner look at the second falls), and I wound up settling for the unsatisfying obstructed views before carefully making my way back down. During my scramble, there were a couple of more senior ladies that were headed back. Julie was already back at the car when I was slowly making my way down.
Once I was back on terra firma a pretty hot and sweaty mess, I got back to the car at 10:45am. With one drought casualty rectified, it was time to head over to Victor Harbour and the Hindmarsh Falls.
So we resumed the drive, and it didn't take long before we got into the Victor Harbour town at around 11:15am. Julie still hadn't decided where to eat, which was kind of annoying to me because we could have gone straight to the Hindmarsh Falls before showing up to town. But she insisted on eating an early lunch first.
When she decided to eat at this place called Eat at Whaler's Inn, we follow a fairly lengthy path along the Franklin Drive, which hugged the calm and picturesque bay in the direction of this part called Explorer's Bay or something like that. We'd eventually arrive at the desired restaurant, which looked closed. We showed up at around 11:35am.
When we got up to the dining area, a lady there asked if we wanted coffee. When she said that the kitchen wasn't open until noon, we decided that we'd head back to the car and do the Hindmarsh Falls before coming back. So in my mind, we had wasted about a half-hour doing this detour when we were here too early to begin with.
The lady let us keep one of the menus to look over while Julie was looking at the internet on the 4G to see what else were the alternatives. But when she eventually came around and realized that this place we were at was the best of the places that were open (Julie's original choice was The Beach House Cafe, which was only open for dinner), we made up our minds to come back later.
The drive out to the Hindmarsh Falls didn't take long and we finally got to the car park at about 12pm. We were the second car parked here at the little dead-end.
The sun was kind of in between peeking through the clouds and being brightly overcast so it was already pretty hot. Still, we promptly got our gear just as another car showed up, and walked down the easy 200m path, which descended a few steps before we arrived at the pair of overlooks at the end of the official track.
Like I remembered from last time, it looked like there used to be a trail that went all the way to the bottom to access the base of the falls, I reckoned, but we were content to capture the falls from the end of the official track. That was where we could see the inverted-Y shape of the falls backed by colorful moss, which was especially brought out by the bright sun.
There were also a handful of much smaller tiers for this roughly 15m falls or so (I'm just guessing), which we also noticed.
Anyways, just as the next party was showing up, Julie and I headed back up the steps and to the parked car. By about 12:20pm, we recovered the car and started to drive back to the Eat at Whaler's Inn cafe, eventually getting there at about 12:40pm. By this time, we were the third car parked at the restaurant.
Well, the lunch turned out to be pretty decent as we got some kind of local seafood plate as well as some scallops. It took a bit of time for the food to show up, which didn't help our cause in terms of trying to get to Halls Gap before it got real late at night, but that was the price we paid for choosing a nice sit down place to eat lunch.
At least when the sun came out, I had plenty of opportunities to take photos and stare out at the bright blue waters off the coast of the Encounter Bay, which was impressively colorful (almost South Pacific-like in its color and clarity).
It wouldn't be until about 1:40pm when we were back in the car and finally starting to move. However, the GPS predicted that we wouldn't be at the Kiramli Villas until about 8:30pm, which got me worried about driving in the dark on mountain roads.
The drive turned out to be a fairly uneventful affair though we were worried about needing to buy more groceries en route as we were under the impression that we'd be in the country with limited trading hours and supplies. So instead of heading directly east in the direction of Murray Bridge, we actually went north to Mt Barker.
But since we didn't find a convenient supermarket in Mt Barker that didn't cause us to unnecessarily go back and forth in the afternoon rush hour, we just hopped on the M1 and headed east towards Halls Gap from there.
Given this, we probably wasted yet another precious half-hour as we were essentially starting our drive back at the Adelaide Hills. Oh well, what's done was done.
It was now about 2:45pm when we finally were headed east.
At least the drive along the motorway was mostly two lanes on each side so it was pretty smooth going with easy overtaking opportunities. The speed limit was 110 km/h. But it didn't take long before after Murray Bridge that the road became more like country highway with overtaking lanes every 5km or so.
The speed limit was still on the order of 110km/h though, but that started to change when we approached Keith and Bordertown, and then into the state of Victoria, where the speed limits were now 100km/h and we also lost another half-hour due to the time zone difference.
We were still fretting about getting supplies from a grocer along the way, but when Julie made some calls about dinner spots in the Halls Gap area, someone on the phone suggested going to Horsham. And it turned out that Horsham was a very large town so that was the plan - to get to that town to stock up on groceries since it opened until midnight as well as eating dinner there.
Eventually at 7:30pm, we showed up to this place called Thai Basil in the town of Horsham. Julie was sick of steak or beef, and wanted something different. So she was in the mood for Thai. We wound up getting Tom Yum Goong, Pad Thai, and some Green Curry. But she tasted that they had put a lot of sugar in each of the dishes, which was not good for her condition.
So we ate what we could before we left at 8:30pm, and then went across the way to the Woolworth's for our grocery run.
Eventually at 9:05pm, we were done with our grocery run all prepared for spending time in the bush at Halls Gap but now it was time to face the darkness and the possibility of kangaroos. Luckily, there were a couple of trucks that I used as screens as I stayed behind them knowing that if a roo jumped out, it would get plowed over by these big semis.
Eventually, the GPS had us get off of the Western Highway and onto the Mt Drummond Road, which was now the scary country road in the bush though they had colored reflectors flanking the road so I knew which side to stay on. We were pretty much alone on the road and it was pitch black without the high beams. I was also going about 70km/h, which was far slower than the 100km/h that the GPS suggested.
Yet, by 10:15pm, we finally arrived at the Kiramli Villas. Even through all the light-loving insects and darkness, we got settled in the house some twenty minutes later after dropping off all the luggage and supplies.
That said, the place was a bit on the smoky side (someone clearly had been smoking here before we showed up), and there were bugs seemingly everywhere (including a couple of cockroaches inside). I guess that was what was to be expected out in the bush. And for the next two nights, it was back to basics and back to Nature. But at least, there was a laundry machine as well as other decent amenities you'd expect to find in a self-contained home.
So Julie would be allowed to sleep in for the next two nights while I'd be up early going waterfalling early in the morning. At least that was the plan for the next two days though I was a little concerned about rain in the forecast (though that might be a blessing given how it might revive a lot of the temperamental waterfalls in the Grampians)...
And so we called it a very long day as we were getting cleaned up and ready to sleep while watching some ABC News in the background...
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Day 6 (November 15, 2017 - Halls Gap, Victoria, Australia): "Hits, Misses, and Roos"
It was about 5:35am when I awoke to the alarm. It was still dark outside, but I could see that it was getting brighter pretty quickly. Julie was going to use this morning to sleep in a bit then take her time making brekkie. So in the mean time, I was planning on visiting some of the other waterfalls in the Grampians National Park that we didn't get a chance to see the last time we were here.
By about 6:45am, I was in the car and headed out. I didn't have breakfast as I figured that this would be a relatively quick excursion. And based on yesterday's last-minute research, I saw Instagram photos that supposedly showed Beehive Falls in decent shape as of 3 or 4 days ago. So that was the target waterfall for this solo morning mission.
I followed the GPS as it took me onto the Mt Zero Road, which was a gravel road that went on for some 20km or so. That alone limited the speed of my driving to around 50-60 km/h, and that was a good thing since I saw kangaroos on several occasions going across the road.
I even managed to capture on camera one kangaroo that was hopping on the road going the same direction that I was.
Eventually at about 7:10am, I made it to the Beehive Falls Trailhead, which was a short distance on the Rose Gap Road, which was sealed. That gave me the idea that perhaps on the return drive to Halls Gap that I should follow the sealed road back to the Western Highway then return to Halls Gap the way I came last night.
In any case, I quickly geared up and promptly got onto the quiet trail, where the silence was only broken by birdsongs in the distance. The skies were lightly overcast and so far it didn't look like it was going to rain during my hike. Even the morning sun appeared to want to break through the clouds at one point.
The hike was very slightly uphill flanked by yellow flowers and having hints of cliffs that could very well be harboring the Beehive Falls. I went at a pretty quick pace, and eventually by 7:40am, I crossed a bridge and saw right away that the falls was nowhere near the shape that I thought I had seen on Instagram. Instead, I could hear the falls trickling and the wet cliffs with stagnant pools below. But it was pretty much disappointing (I'd give it a 0.5 for scenic rating and making it a 1 would be stretching it).
So I took photos and videos of the trickling waterfall while noticing some fish in the stagnant ponds just downstream of the falls. When I had my fill of the falls and started heading back, I saw that there was a little cave to the right that I hadn't noticed earlier.
The cave was shallow, but it was dark enough to be kind of spooky.
But aside from that and a surprise kangaroo encounter where it hopped away just as I was approaching, I was back at the trailhead at 8:15am.
As I had expected to do earlier, I decided to follow the paved Rose Gap Road towards the Western Highway. Along the way, I managed to surprise an emu and two younglings. And so they ran away before I could try to photograph them from the car.
There was also a deer that dashed across the road as well as a kangaroo that hopped onto a field near a four-way intersection.
Eventually at 8:50am, I made it back to the Kiramli Villas Cottage. So it turned out that the all paved route was not only longer, but it also took around 5-10 minutes longer than the unsealed route.
For the next hour and 40 minutes, Julie and I had breakfast, and Julie spent a lot of time getting ready for the day. We spent so much time dilly dallying that we even witnessed the Same-Sex Marriage Yes Vote announcement, which took place at 10am.
Finally at 10:30am, we got into the car and started the day together.
The first order of business was to visit MacKenzie Falls for the first time in 11 years. I knew it would have reliable flow, and really it was more of a question of how crowded will this place be, and whether we'd beat the incoming rain storms that was being predicted for this part of Victoria.
Eventually at 10:55am, we showed up at the MacKenzie Falls car park, and it was definitely busier than we remembered it from our first visit. We knew that word had gotten out about this falls when we saw a large group of Chinese visitors, which meant the potential for inconsiderate behavior and hijacking of the choice spots to photo or enjoy at the expense of everyone else.
So Julie and I decided to head to Broken Falls first, which was closed the last time we were here. As we went the 150m off the main MacKenzie Falls track towards the lookout for Broken Falls, we could see that this was indeed a pretty impressive waterfall on its own. When added to the MacKenzie Falls experience, I knew that making it a 4 rating was justified, and Broken Falls further added to the experience.
After having our fill of the impressively wide and segmented Broken Falls, we then headed down the remaining 600m or so down a combination of ramps and steps eventually reaching the very bottom. That was where the Chinese group that we had seen earlier started to hijack the area by the familiar rock fronting the falls (that was there 11 years ago), and so we had to get a little creative in capturing photos and videos without them ruining it.
Other visitors were also a little annoyed with them as some of the people in the group thought it was a good idea to hang on the rock and take those cheesy selfie group photos doing silly things.
Eventually, some light rain started to fall and that drove the Chinese visitors (as well as other visitors) away. So there was a brief moment where Julie and I were somewhat alone at the falls. And we seized the opportunity to take some couple shots using the tripod that I had brought.
Unfortunately in one moment, one of the bags strapped around me caught the tripod and the it tipped over and fall taken the camera with it. At first, I thought I dodged a bullet as the camera still took photos and we were able to take couple shots still. However, I then tried the auto zoom when the zoom lens was zoomed in, and that was when I saw that the camera refused to auto-focus.
So now I was kicking myself for not being more careful with the camera and especially with that tripod. This wasn't the first time that I damaged the camera when doing couple shots with it. And now, I was left wondering if I should take some time when we get to Melbourne to try to buy a replacement lens even though we were already low on money going into this trip and expensive replacements like this wasn't helping our cause.
Eventually, we had our fill of the falls and Julie started heading up the seemingly long and steep ascent. In the mean time, I went a short distance further downstream in the direction of the Fish Falls (though I didn't go the full 1.4km to get there), and I was content to capture the lower parts of the MacKenzie Falls encompassing a lower tier with hints of the main tier further upstream.
Then, I climbed up the stairs and ramps, and eventually caught up to Julie around the half-way point of the ascent. I was already a bit of a sweaty mess on the ascent, and it seemed to take a bit more out of both of us than I recalled on our first visit here. Maybe we're just getting old now.
At 12:40pm, we were back in the car. I was still mad at myself for now messing up the camera's usual capability and I could already see that whenever I'd have to take zoomed shots, I'd have to fight the camera's malfunctioning autofocus or just use manual focus and hope that I made the adjustments properly in real time.
Julie wasn't happy about her burning lungs after that steep ascent. So we decided to head back into town in search of lunch and some supplies as we were already getting low on water.
Along the way, we made a stop at Reid's Lookout, but unlike what I remembered before, we didn't get to see the Balconies since that involved another 1km of hiking in each direction. So we just got a load of the panoramic views where it was clear that pockets of rain were falling in the distance in several patches.
Looking in the other direction, we could see Lake Wartook, which remained the sizable lake that fed the creek responsible for the Broken and MacKenzie Falls among others.
By 1:05pm, we were back in the car and headed into Halls Gap just as the rain started to come down pretty hard as we had apparently entered some squall. By about 1:30pm, we parked the car across the street from all the restaurants and shops in the town centre. The brief downpour had let up by this time so it was easier to just get out of the car and go find lunch.
We wound up settling at this place called the Lifestyle Cafe, where they served up a delicious rosemary burger while Julie got some kind of chicken salad made clean (i.e. no dressings). It was actually something that wasn't even on their menu, but Julie was glad that they honored her diet restrictions.
After the fairly satisfying lunch, we then went to the general market where we picked up some pretty cheap yet creatively-packed water that was essentially in a bag constrained by a cube-like box. We went with these because all the plastic bottled waters were all bought out. But one of the workers said that the waters that were left in those bags and boxes were actually a far better buy.
After all, it was like around $5 for 5L of water. The bottled waters of 1.5L refrigerated was $3.5 AUD.
Anyways, by 2:35pm, we were back in the car, then went back to the room to put the products away. We then drove south towards the Silverband Falls Trailhead via the southern approach. As much as I wanted to take the northern approach (which was closed the last time we were here), it seemed to be much easier to get to the falls from the south.
And at 3:15pm, we arrived at the Silverband Falls car park. So my hunch that the way we went was actually the faster and easier way was correct. It also happened to be the very end of where the Silverband Road was two-way as any further progress to the north was prohibited as it would be against the one-way traffic.
During the drive, it seemed like we went through another patch of heavy rain. But the weather calmed down a bit when we were at the car park.
So we promptly headed onto the trail, where a sign said that it was 0.8km to get to the Silverband Falls.
The hike was pretty gentle in terms of elevation change as well as pretty wide. We passed by a very large group of adolescents led by a handful of adults. Then, we eventually reached the familiar Silverband Falls at the end of the trail, where Julie and I briefly had the falls to ourselves.
It didn't take long before another couple showed up, and they asked Julie to take a picture for them in front of the falls. Meanwhile, I was busy documenting the falls.
Somehow, the fellow made small talk with Julie concerning things like the differences between Australia and America (upon learning that we were from the States), and we learned a few things about Victoria since that couple hailed from Melbourne.
We wound up walking and talking with this couple on the return hike, and eventually by around 4pm, we were back at the Silverband Falls car park where the conversation continued as the topic shifted over to political systems.
We pretty much talked about the dysfunctions of Trump, gun control (especially since Australia put a stop to gun violence after the Port Arthur incident), and the whole two-party system that we had compared to the multi-party choices and tiered voting that took place in Australia. The fellow (which we later learned was named Andrew and his girlfriend was named Fiona) was a Green Party supporter, which was amazing considering how much of a stranglehold Dems and Reps have in our government.
Anyways, we parted ways and started to drive out by about 4:10pm. Ten minutes later, we were back at our cottage at Kiramli Villas.
As Julie was getting started with making dinner, I took the opportunity to do the Clematis Falls hike. Even though I kind of suspected that the falls would be trickling (especially given the Beehive Falls experience), I wanted to at least get some exercise and see if I might get lucky with the waterflow since it seemed like Halls Gap got a disproportionate amount of intermittent squalls so far today.
Just as I was about to get going on the trail, Julie noticed a large group of kangaroos on the oval of the Halls Gap Recreation Centre. A couple of the kangaroos were even boxing each other, which was something we had never seen live before.
I tried to take what photos I could with my semi-functioning zoom lens, which was a real bummer. Plus, I couldn't help but notice some idiots getting real close to the roos so they could take that narcissistic and vain selfie next to it.
I secretly hoped that the roos would attack those folks, but the roos just moved and stayed pretty chill about the whole thing. I couldn't imagine what would happen if they were to pull the same stunt on a grizzly bear or something.
Regardless, I promptly got onto the trail at about 4:40pm. The path went uphill before reaching a signed fork, where I had to keep left to continue the ascent up towards Clematis Falls.
By about 5pm, I made it to the base of the Clematis Falls, and not surprisingly, it was trickling. So I took some time to document the trickle and the wet walls. And it was too bad that the falls was in this state because the cliffs were tall and I'm sure a healthy flowing waterfall here would be a sight to behold.
Nevertheless, I quickly got my fill and headed back down towards our cottage. Along the way, I managed to surprise a dark kangaroo (not amongst the group we saw earlier at the rugby oval), and when I returned to the rec centre area, I saw on the far side was a group of three kangaroos just as the rain started to fall again.
I managed to capture a few more candid photos of these roos before returning to the house at 5:35pm. That pretty much concluded my day of waterfalling and sightseeing, and eventually when it was dinner time, Julie and I shared a clean salad as well as some kind of beef stew.
Indeed by eating in, we saved at least a couple of hours and some money as well as knowing what was being put in the food. I also managed to get some time to write up this blog entry while also transferring photos from my camera's memory to the computer.
At some point, Julie noticed that the same three roos that I had seen just before returning to the villa was now in our backyard!
They seemed oblivious to us looking out our window, and they seemed to be more wary of some dude staying next door looking right at them. It was fun watching the roos in their element, and I was even amused watching the mum scratching her belly as well as the dad doing the same thing.
Anyways, when those roos left the backyard after what seemed like another hour or so, that pretty much concluded all the picture-taking that I'd do on this day. The weather was also such that it was dumping fairly heavy rain and this time it was persisting!
Given this development, I now had it in my mind to try Clematis Falls once again first thing in the morning tomorrow. And given how that falls might turn out tomorrow, I might give Beehive Falls another go before driving south to Hamilton as well as Wannon and Nigretta Falls (both of which could use the extra help from the rain to keep flowing).
And with that, I now mentally had that plan ready to execute first thing tomorrow...
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Day 8 (November 16, 2017 - Hamilton, Victoria, Australia): "24 Hours"
It was about 5:45am when I awoke to my alarm. It appeared that it had rained all last night so it was a little on the chilly side this morning. Apparently, the rain had let up as I didn't hear the sounds of water droplets hitting the roof as of this time so any hiking I'd be doing under such conditions wouldn't be as dangerous.
And with Julie still trying to shake off her cough and whatever flu she had contracted that seemed to refuse to go away, she slept in a bit.
We just had to be out of the unit by 10am so time was on her side to recover, pack, and have brekkie.
In the mean time, I was determined to hike to Clematis Falls and see if last night's rain made any difference as far as waterflow was concerned. Based on this morning's observations, that would also mean that I could even fit in a visit back at the Beehive Falls again as well.
Anyways, by about 6:15am, I had already put on my waterproof pants (just in case another downpour would happen) as well as carried my rain poncho in my pocket while also changing into my hiking boots. And so I was ready to go and out the door just as daylight was rapidly taking over from the darkness.
As I was walking towards the end of Warren Street towards the recreation centre oval, I saw the familiar herd of kangaroos grazing out there. They were already sensing my presence well before I even got towards the far end of the fence of the oval. So I quietly tried to walk towards the Clematis Falls Trail while most of the roos were on their hind legs watching my every move.
Once I was on the trail, I could see straight away that the path had a lot of mud flows on them from all the storm runoff. Other than that, the somewhat uphill hike continued just like it had yesterday afternoon except now there was only the silence of the morning broken by birdsongs and the odd kangaroo that I scampered away upon my approach.
Eventually, as I approached the familiar cove containing the waterfall, I could hear the unmistakable splashing sounds of falling water. And when I rocked up to the slippery rocky area at the apex of the hike, I could see the Clematis Falls making its presence known to me!
I promptly took photos in the somewhat low lighting as well as a video or two. However, it was then that I realized that I haf forgotten to bring my iPhone so there'd be no sharing of this waterfall in real time.
Nonetheless, I tried to capture this falls and examine it from as many different angles as I could before I had my fill and headed back down the trail back to our cottage. As I was making my descent, I heard a loud crack and rumble in the distance, and I concluded that it had to have been a rockfall or something, but I knew not where it was. I certainly didn't think it was the rubbish truck or something though I could be mistaken.
When I got back to the recreational centre oval, the group of kangaroos were now on the side of the field nearest to me. Again, they were watching my every move as I was slowly and quietly trying to get around the field while respecting their space. Some of them were still close enough to me that I could clearly see that quite a few of these roos had pouches with little joeys in them.
By about 7:20am, I returned to the cottage where Julie was already awake and in the process of both packing and preparing breakfast. At that time, I asked if she was close enough to being done to come do Beehive Falls with me, but she said that I ought to go out there alone.
So I grabbed my iPhone, got the car keys, and promptly got into the rental car at 7:25am. And then I headed out towards the familiar Beehive Falls though given yesterday's experience, I was only going to take the unsealed Mt Zero Road back and forth since the Roses Gap Road and Western Highway approach wasn't any faster and was definitely longer in distance.
Eventually at 7:45am, I was back at the familiar Beehive Falls car park. There were a couple of kangaroos on the road near the car park and they hopped away the moment I got near the parking spots on the left.
The clouds in the sky were definitely obscuring the mountains that I knew contained the Beehive Falls, and with not much time to waste, I promptly walked with both the rain poncho and waterproof pants again onto the trail.
Aside from startling another pair of kangaroos right off the trail (which I didn't see until they hopped away), I was making quick progress. As the trail followed along the creek, I was encouraged by the sounds of rushing water. Boy, what a difference 24 hours made!
Indeed, I was able to see the Beehive Falls in the distance as well as an upper tier. This hastened my steps as I was quickly getting towards the bridge then right up to the near side of the base of Beehive Falls making its impressive drop.
I then took the next few minutes trying to capture as much of this Beehive Falls experience as I could, and I also made sure that the iPhone footage was being captured so it was ready to share when we were idling or something.
I saw that there were rock steps leading past the falls and further up the cliff away from the falls. I briefly followed this path until it reached a bit of a mini-switchback. That was my stopping point as it appeared that the trail kept going on, and it probably would make it up to the Briggs Bluff, which the signs had indicated was another 4km or so beyond the Beehive Falls.
After capturing more of the falls from this vantage point and back down near the cave again, I then quickly made my way back to the parked car. By about 8:45am, I was finally back in the car and started driving back to the cottage via the Mt Zero Road.
As I was driving on the fairly long unpaved road, there were at least 4 or 5 cars going north as I was going south. One of the vehicles was even a police car going really really slow. Even though I was going about 50-60km/h on the unsealed road, it wasn't clear to me if I was speeding or not.
Well, he didn't turn around or anything though I also wondered if he does one of the speed camera things and then inform the rental car company upon arrival of an infraction that would be imposed on me after the fact. Let's hope that wasn't the case.
Eventually at 9:10am, I made it back to the cottage. Now, there were a few kangaroos grazing in the yards of some neighboring properties on Warren Rd.
Regardless, I ate whatever was left of Julie's brekkie, and then promptly loaded up the car. And by about 9:30am, we were all loaded up and ready to leave the cottage.
Since we were headed to Hamilton while also targeting Nigretta and Wannon Falls, I figured that we had a choice of visiting Turret Falls or Kalymna Falls given all the rain we had gotten last night. I had originally planned to do both but with the redo of Clematis and Beehive Falls, I concluded that we probably only had time to do just one of the lesser Grampians Waterfalls (at least lesser in the sense that they weren't as reliable as neither MacKenzie Falls nor Silverband Falls).
So Julie suggested that we go back to the town centre and pick up a few more supplies, fill up on gas, and talk to the visitor centre.
And we did promptly that at 9:45am. Julie was busy doing the groceries, while I filled up gas on then stopped by the visitor centre. Inside the visitor centre, I came after a German couple who were asking about waterfalls. So when it came my turn, I asked the receptionist whether I should do Turret Falls or Kalymna Falls if given a choice.
Well, she assumed that I was after waterfalls in general and she pretty much gave me info I had already known about MacKenzie Falls and the attractions along the way. With a queue building up behind me, I didn't want to belabor the point that I had already been there yesterday and had no interest in going back there today.
So I politely thanked her for the info and the free map (though I didn't buy any of the more detailed brochures and pamphlets), and then rejoined Julie to pick up a few more of those Pureau containers at 5L a pop for nearly $6 AUD each.
When that was done, we got back in the car at 9:50am, and ultimately decided that we were going to do the Kalymna Falls since we missed it last time (due to the total fire ban closure). Besides, it was on my original plan whereas Turret Falls wasn't really. I wasn't sure if I'd regret my decision not to do both, but in any case, I didn't think Julie would be up for doing both.
So Kalymna Falls it was, and it was kind of on the way to Hamilton anyways (in a rather roundabout manner as it was closer to Moyston than Halls Gap).
As I drove out of Halls Gap to the east towards Ararat, the GPS then took me on some side roads that looked pretty sketchy. It eventually led me onto some closed off road, and I knew at that point that we were taken on another one of those GPS joyrides to who knows where.
After seeing on the map printout (which I should have consulted before listening to the GPS), I saw that we were supposed to get to Spears Rd from where we were at. And as we pursued that road, it turned out to have some rough spots where rocks were put in to prevent the road from getting too muddy where creeks or temporary streams could cross the road.
In hindsight, I should have stayed on the C222 towards Ararat before heading to the town of Moyston. Then from Moyston, follow the Moyston-Dunkeld Road before seeing the Kalymna Falls sign pointing west for 6km.
Anyways, we'd eventually make it the familiar road that would lead west towards the Kalymna Campground. The last time we were here, there was a gate blocking further progress due to the fire ban at the time (especially since the Grampians had a big fire there as well as the drought not helping matters).
Now, there was no such gate, and we proceeded west along more unsealed roads before reaching the dead-end where there were about 3 or 4 other cars there already. It appeared that there were campsites there, too.
Anyways, we mercifully got there at around 10:35am, which was a bit later than I had hoped since I wanted to be done with the Kalymna Falls hike just in time to listen to Dr Karl. But now it seemed like we'd be lucky to catch any of Dr Karl by the end of this hike.
There was already the sound of rushing water as this campsite was near some kind of creek. I wasn't sure if it was the same creek that was responsible for the Kalymna Falls. For if it was, then that waterfall would be in great shape (I didn't remember what the falls looked like in my research).
After crossing some rocky ford (which was a fairly trivial crossing), we pretty much followed along a rough 4wd track. A gate saying something about a seasonal closure ensured no vehicles would be on this road anyways. But the wide track made it easy to follow. The only thing that I was a little worried about was the lack of signs indicating anything that had to do with the Kalymna Falls.
Well after around 100-200m or so, I finally saw a sign saying Kalymna Falls was another 750m further. It was just as the road was starting to go uphill. And as the differing paces of Julie and I were more amplified on the hills, we wound up getting really separated by the time I made it up past the next 4 or 5 sections of uphill along the way.
Given all the uphill hiking, I had a feeling that Julie's lungs would be burning her though I was wondering if the fresh air out in the bush was helping her rather than hurting her (as much as she wanted not to do any physical exertion in her state).
Eventually, I got to a signed spur saying that the falls was about 0.1km away. And sure enough, I walked through the narrower bush path that was a branch off the 4wd road. When I got to the falls, I could see that it had a fairly healthy flow as the falls had split into a pair of segments towards the bottom.
What this falls had going for it, however, was the reddish color of the underlying cliffs. That kind of made this falls stand out against Clematis and Beehive Falls. But I also knew that if not for last night's prolonged rain, there'd be no way that the Kalymna Falls would be flowing.
As Julie joined me in taking pictures and videos some 5-10 minutes after I had first arrived, we took the new few minutes documenting the experience before heading back to the car.
Again, on the return hike, Julie went at a slower pace while I let the downhill momentum from the now-mostly-downhill hike do more of the work for me. So that helped to speed things up on the return hike, and even during this time, there was a bit of sun peeking through the clouds.
After startling another kangaroo by the trail as we were getting back to the car park, we'd finally recover the car by 11:50am. It was just in time to listen to the last 10 minutes of Dr Karl, and I resigned myself to listen to the podcast at first chance when I get back home.
So we drove off by heading east towards the Moyston-Dunkeld Road. Once we got there, we saw a brown sign pointing the way we came saying that the Kalymna Falls was 6km back the way we came. It was further evidence that we should have driven to Moyston first then took this road. Anyways, we headed south in the direction of Moyston on the still gravel road, but at least it was wider and smoother.
The road became paved once we got to an intersection with Yarram Gap Road. Then, we cut back west between some cow pastures before re-entering the Grampians and the Grampians Road. Then, we continued south along the Grampians Road as we entered the town of Dunkeld.
As we were leaving Dunkeld and heading towards Hamilton, I couldn't help but notice some interesting mountains. There was a scenic lookout that we took advantage of, where signs pointed towards Mt Sturgeon and Mt Abrupt. So I made a brief stop there before continuing towards Hamilton. There happened to be a lot of big ants where we stopped the car though and that kept Julie inside the car.
Eventually at 1:15pm, we made it to the Lake Hamilton Village Motor Inn and Caravan Park. We promptly checked in to a pretty humble accommodation that was tiny but self-contained. Even though we were only here for the night, it had a kitchen, and we were intending to eat in again by self-cooking soups to help with Julie's persistent cough.
Upon checking in, the proprietor suggested to Julie that we stock up on supplies in town since everything was much cheaper here than the Great Ocean Road. It was sound advice that we would capitalize on once we dropped off our belongings in our room.
By about 1:40pm, we were back in the car, and 15 minutes later, after wavering between a couple of restaurants, we finally settled in on this spot called Tosca Browns. That was where we had ourselves some kind of pulled pork brisket tacos and a duck salad.
Everything was wet in town, which suggested that this area also got a pretty decent dose of rain like we did back at Halls Gap. There were still clouds around us with some sun trying to break through.
The lunch was pretty decent and simple, and by 2:30pm, we recovered the car, then went to a nearby Coles for the grocery run.
At the Coles, we stocked up on a lot of stuff from kefir to bacon to chicken drums to fruits and more. At the end of the run, we wound up spending over $80 AUD on groceries, but Julie said that we were buying food for multiple meals so it was still far cheaper than eating out which can easily match or exceed this amount on just one meal for two.
We also considered picking up more of the Pureau water, where they were selling 10L packages at around $9 AUD, which in hindsight, we should've waited to buy here instead of Halls Gap, where they were selling 5L packages for about $6 AUD.
I started to worry that we might not run through all of these things by the time we'd get to Melbourne, where we wouldn't have a kitchen as we were staying there on points. So that meant we'd only have tonight, Port Campbell, and Apollo Bay as the only remaining opportunities to finish consuming our groceries, but tomorrow was Julie's birthday so we'd likely be going out to eat something fancy.
By about 3:15pm, we were back in the car. Then, we briefly stopped at Harvey Norman's to see if they carried any Cannon lenses to replace my somewhat malfunctioning one. But it turned out that they didn't have my general purpose 18-200mm lens. They only had limited zoom ones of 55-250mm and 18-55mm.
So I resigned myself to sticking with what I had until we could find a camera shop in Melbourne since we'd have four nights over there.
By about 3:30pm, we were done dropping off our groceries in the fridge of our unit, and then we headed west towards the Nigretta and Wannon Falls, which were two casualties of the drought-plagued trip 11 years ago. I was anxiously wondering if all the rains that we had experienced in the last 24 hours would have revived the Wannon River and hence these waterfalls.
So as we took the Glenelg Highway west, it didn't take long before we saw a sign pointing the way to Nigretta Falls. So we went there first, and eventually pulled up to the large parking circle and observation deck area at 3:55pm. There was one other van here and a lady already staring at the falls on the observation deck.
When Julie and I joined her on the lookout deck, we could clearly see that the Nigretta Falls was flowing nicely. Sure there were a lot of bare rocks flanking the falls, suggesting that in even higher flows, the falls could be wider. But after the trickling experience from 11 years ago, I was glad to finally see this falls the way it was supposed to be seen.
Now, it was worth going down the steps closer to its base, where we saw another couple down there. However, we also noticed that there were dark menacing clouds appearing to head our way so we had to make haste to experience this falls (as well as the Wannon Falls later on) before we'd get dumped on.
So after experiencing the observation deck, we went back to the car to pick up rain ponchos. But the sun was still out so after donning it just as it was starting to sprinkle, it was also getting a little hot in there.
Next, we went down the steps and experienced the bottom of the falls. There was a bit of that familiar foul smell to the water, and we suspected that it must be agricultural runoff. Even the water itself had a bit of a brownish look to it, and the giant plunge pool had a bit of that brownish foam as well. Julie said it reminded her of the smelly water back at Paradise Falls and I could see where she was coming from. In fact, it was similar to our Ingalalla Falls experience just a few days ago, where we also suspected agricultural runoff pollution.
I think you'd have to be nuts to even consider going in the water even if it was hot. And that was a shame.
So we documented the falls, then promptly went back up the steps to the car park. I made one last look from the observation deck where the dark clouds were now seemingly right above the falls through my view finder.
We were back in the car at 4:20pm, and it seemed like the dark clouds didn't quite dump their load on us during our visit to Nigretta Falls. But now we had to drive a little further west towards Wannon Falls and deeper into the apparent mean-looking squalls.
By about 4:30pm, we stopped by the alternate view of Wannon Falls (there was a sign saying something about the Thomas Clark View Park), and from there, I could see in the distance that the falls definitely had a healthy flow on this day.
So we hastily made our way over to the main picnic area and wound up at the Wannon Falls Picnic Area at 4:40pm. At first, we were the only people here. And so we made our way down the twisty gravel path before reaching the observation deck with an angled look right down at the gorge and the angled view of the multi-segmented Wannon Falls.
This falls was also trickling and disappointing the last time we were here, but now it really looked like it had a healthy flow. So clearly the rain helped. Like the other Grampians waterfalls, I wondered if this falls would have been disappointing or dry had it not been for the rains. But whatever. We took what we could get.
There was a sign saying there was no access from this area, which I supposed they meant there was no way to the base of the falls from here. I wondered where it would be possible to get down to the bottom or even to the apparent lookout on the other side of the river.
And since it was starting to rain again just as we were taking pictures and videos, we had to cut our visit short as we didn't come as prepared with rain ponchos on this visit as we did for Nigretta Falls. We did manage to fit in one selfie of the two of us as the rain was coming down.
Thus, we wound up only spending around 15 minutes away from the car, and by 4:55pm, we were back in it just as the rain really started coming down. It was especially the case when I drove across the Wannon River back on the Glenelg Highway and tried to see if it was possible to drive towards the other lookout across the river.
But seeing that there was no signage and there were lots of signs saying there was no thru road, I turned around and headed back towards Hamilton through the squalls and then through the momentarily calmer weather when we made it back into town.
By about 5:30pm, we made it back to the cabin, where Julie went in first just as the rain started to fall again. Since I had to bring stuff like my camera and notepad and stuff, I decided to wait it out a little bit while listening to Hack (about speaking with an arsonist) as the rain was coming down harder and harder. In fact, this squall seemed persistent and it wouldn't be until 20 minutes later when I'd finally rejoin Julie in the room.
The rest of the evening was spent cooking, watching cooking shows, and blogging. This was amongst the advantages of eating in, where we not only saved time by doing stuff we had to do every evening in terms of blogging and getting settled (as we wouldn't be losing 1-2 hours sitting and waiting for service at a sit down restaurant), but Julie could also control the meal as she knew what she was putting into the food (which was going to be chicken soup with lots of veggies).
It was simple yet it was also satisfying in its own little way. Not every night had to be an eating out night (like how we used to do it), and I guess over the years as we became more aware of the crap we were putting in our bodies (especially when eating out), we didn't mind not having to spend lots of money and time eating out all the time.
As we were doing this, there were more moments where the skies really dumped its load, and we could hear the thuds of water raining down on our unit (and other units). Boy were we glad we were out of the these elements, but tomorrow we were heading to the Great Ocean Road, where we were concerned about rain in the forecast for the next few days.
We'll just have to play it be ear as usual and see what Nature throws at us...
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Day 9 (November 17, 2017 - Port Campbell, Victoria, Australia): "Squall Factors"
It was about 5:45am when we awoke. When I looked out the window, I thought I saw a big patch of blue skies. Julie was still hacking, which was not good considering it was her birthday (and considering that she has had this thing since Halloween).
So we spent the next 2.5 hours or so preparing breakfast while also loading up the car. With all the groceries that we had bought yesterday, this morning's brekkie was another opportunity to consume the bacons, fruits, and kefirs that we had bought at Coles yesterday.
After the very filling breakfast, we also had to clean the dishes (there was no dishwasher so we had to do it the old fashioned way - by hand) then take out the trash.
So it wasn't until about 8:15am when we finally left the Lake Hamilton Village Motor Inn and then headed towards Warrnambool (a town I'd always associate with Tom and Alex from Triple J). However, in this instance, we wouldn't be lingering in the town. Instead, we'd be using that town as a launching point to get to Hopkins Falls again.
The last time we went there, the falls was flowing, but it wasn't flowing well. This time, however, figured to do a bit better given all the rain that we had received the last couple of days.
As we were driving south from Hamilton, we could see that we were in a big patch of blue skies, but we were headed towards sections where the clouds looked menacingly dark. I had a feeling that we might have to contend with foul weather once we got to the Great Ocean Road, which was non-ideal.
We had to stop on one occasion where we pulled off the side of the road and let Julie go pee since there were no restroom facilities and she had to go really bad.
Once we got to the A1 and followed it into Warrnambool, we then continued on that highway (aka the Princes Highway) and eventually turned left when we spotted Hopkins Falls signs indicating that it was 11km inland. We then followed that path towards the Hopkins Falls Road, and followed that road for a few more minutes before reaching the familiar car park for the Hopkins Falls.
We got there at about 9:50am, where there were a handful of cars parked here though it wasn't at all busy.
It was actually a bit on the bright a sunny side here, even though this was one place where I didn't mind the clouds blocking the sun. It was the Great Ocean Road where we wanted it to be sunny. But alas, Nature often doesn't work based on our desires. We take our opportunities where we can and play the hand that we're dealt the best way we can.
Anyways, we wound up experiencing the falls from three different viewing areas. The one nearest to the car park was actually above the Hopkins Falls. The next viewing deck gave us a top down profile view of the falls. The last viewing deck was near the base of the falls. Two of the three viewing decks had these interesting Fotopols, which were basically poles built as part of the infrastructure here to act as tripods for those selfies or long exposure photos using cameras that could take advantage of it like DSLRs.
As for the falls itself, it definitely had more satisfying flow than the low segmented flows that we had seen 11 years ago. It had enough flow that I would consider giving it a 2 or 2.5. It was also a lot warmer on this day than it was 11 years ago when it was very cold and windy.
By about 10:35am, we were back in the car. We indulged a little bit for a fruit break of some ripe nectarines and cherries that we had bought on separate grocery runs up until this point. Though with the warmer day, we were concerned about the heat causing the food to spoil sooner and the plastic to leach into the water.
Anyways, at 10:40am, we headed out towards Port Campbell while looking for Great Ocean Road stops along the way.
The first stop was at The Grotto, which was a signposted turnoff. We got to the car park at 11:30am, and then proceeded to walk on the trail and boardwalk that led down some steps towards an impressive arch with nice blue green water in the ocean when the sun was out.
The last time Julie and I were here, it was bitterly cold and windy, and the arch area was being blasted by sea spray so it was hard to take photos from down there. This time around though, the weather was a lot calmer even though storm clouds were threatening.
There were quite a few people on this excursion, and it had that feel that all along the Great Ocean Road, it was going to be like this or worse. Still, we got our shots when we did, and then returned to the car at 12pm.
Next, we drove to the next stop which was The Arch. At first, I didn't remember whether we did this one before, but when we walked down the ramping trail and boardwalk to the overlook, we saw the namesake arch, and it looked like something we definitely did before.
This time around, however, the sun was hidden behind the clouds and there were too many people at the viewing deck to seize the opportunity when the sun did make its brief appearance.
So by 12:15pm, we were back at the car, and then proceeded to drive into Port Campbell where we were hoping to get an early check-in as well as an early lunch.
Julie was also hoping that she could pick up some manuka honey to help fend off this persistent cough and flu. Unfortunately, this was something we could have nipped in the bud back at home when Julie first came down with the symptoms.
But it was only during this drive along the Great Ocean Road that she realized that she should have taken some manuka honey at the outset.
Well, when we found the centrally-located Sea Foam Villas, the proprietor said that checkin wasn't until 2pm. However, he did mention that it was possible to buy the manuka honey in Timboon, where there was a pharmacy as well as a supermarket.
So since we couldn't check in, we first checked out Port Campbell's Foreshore area and then found this place called Forage for lunch. It had a nice view towards the Foreshore, and we also ordered some fresh grilled local fish (skate) as well as an abalone salad.
It was a simple brekkie though we did spend around $50 AUD for the meal.
When we were done at 1:20pm, we then drove north towards Timboon. It turned out that we went into the dark clouds and it was raining somewhat in the Timboon area.
At 1:40pm, Julie went into the IGA over there and picked up the manuka honey. With the mission accomplished, we then promptly drove back to Port Campbell five minutes later. As much as I wanted to have the Timbook Ice Cream, I refrained and didn't want to torture Julie on her birthday like that since she couldn't have anything with sugar, which would feed both the virus as well as her SIBO.
Eventually at 2pm, we finally made it back to the Sea Foam Villas, and we then promptly checked in and put our stuff in the room. Twenty minutes later, we were all settled.
The unit was long and spacious. The entrance door was actually facing the hidden car park area while the sliding door faced the inlet or "Foreshore" for Port Campbell. We knew that this unit wasn't cheap, but the upstairs ones were probably even more expensive as they probably had more elevated views of the inlet as well as parts of the town.
By about 2:20pm, we were back in the car ready to go do some touring of both the Twelve Apostles and the Loch Ard Gorge. Unfortunately, the skies looked menacingly dark as we were continuing east. The rain didn't seem to fall just yet but the further we went, the deeper into the darkness we were going.
At 2:35pm, we entered the very busy car park for the Twelve Apostles. We had skipped the Loch Ard Gorge thinking that we'd come back there later. And just as we started to get out of the car, we could see in the distance flashes of lightning and the roar of thunder.
Luckily for us, the gap between the lightning and the thunder meant that the strikes weren't close to us. Still, the moody and ominous clouds didn't help our piece of mind. And even more amazing, the crowd at the visitor centre and car park weren't deterred by the threat of the weather.
As we walked around the visitor centre and onto the paved walkway leading towards the Twelve Apostle lookouts, there were still more people. It got even crazier when we got to the first of the lookouts along a boardwalk that showed that classic view of the sea stacks. Even with the cloudy skies, the moody and threatening weather still didn't take from the beauty of this place.
Of course, trying to get the shots where you can even though there were lots of space along the boardwalk was difficult in itself. There were several busloads of Chinese tour groups as well as lots of individual parties. It certainly wasn't a relaxing and peaceful experience at this time. And we could see large cloudbursts not far from away that threatened to dump onto us as well.
Once we had our fill of the initial views, we then followed the boardwalk towards the most distant one atop the so-called Castle Rock. The rain was starting to fall in large droplets, and it was enough for Julie and I to bring out the rain ponchos, but just as soon as we were in the unflattering rain gear, the rain appeared to let up.
Anyways, like with the initial views, the views at Castle Rock looked just as crowded. Even the whole walkway had lots of people. Indeed, the tourist crush was on, and perhaps we were reminded of just how chaotic and tense the experience had to have been last time except now was even more amped up and crowded than before.
And what was even more annoying was the behavior for the sake of social media as now you had lots of people hijacking the choicest spots so they could try to make that perfect shot to share or whatever in that vain act of narcissism and self-absorption. Sure, we got in the act when we tried to take our awkward couple shots, and I guess that temptation of showing off to friends and family was ever more prevalent now than we had recalled in when we were last here 11 years ago, which was before Facebook was even popular in the public.
In fact, the more Julie and I thought about it, most of our heavy traveling occurred in the time period between 2006 and 2010 (basically before Tahia was born), and most of that time was before Facebook. So even though the popular spots like this one were crowded and busy with tour buses, it didn't seem as amped up as post social media onset.
Regardless, when we rocked up to the Castle Rock, we basically had to squeeze our way onto the limited circular real-estate. Along the way, we took a few more views in both directions of the peninsula where a couple more sea stacks could be seen looking east as well as a few more awkward views of a large sea stack fronting the rest of the familiar "apostles" could be seen looking west.
Eventually, with a little patience, we managed to get our awkward selfie shots and even perused the platform given how high the wooden fencing was at this spot.
After having our fill of this spot, we then made our way back to the car park and recovered the car at 3:30pm. Amazingly, the bad-looking storm cell happened to go around us and it appeared like it was starting to break up (though you never really know what was happen next). I had a gut feeling that perhaps this spot might be worth coming back to at sunset for an amazing money shot experience.
About 10 minutes later, we then showed up to the busy Loch Ard Gorge car park. Like with the Twelve Apostles, there were tour bus crowds here. But unlike the Twelve Apostles, the crowd seemed to be a little more dispersed as there were more places to walk.
Given that our focus now was on rekindling the experiences from before (Julie didn't remember much of the first visit) before going back to Port Campbell for an early dinner, we decided to visit the walkways to the left instead of going to the Thunder Cave section to see what was going on over there.
In my memory, that Thunder Cave area had a narrow sea channel as well as some more hard-to-photo arches and interior caves, so perhaps that could be skipped.
Regardless, we did the lollipop loop walk in an anticlockwise direction. The first lookout on the stem was towards a pair of sea stacks in a larger inlet. It turned out (after looking at the post cards later in the afternoon) that those sea stacks were what was left of the so-called Island Arch. In fact, I swore that in the past, we managed to take photos of that arch before its apparent collapse.
Indeed, we were seeing the processes that formed the sea stacks over the years and that would continue to make the sea stacks disappear. Who knows how much longer the rest of the sea arches in this area will last?
We'd eventually get to a couple more lookouts looking east towards the so-called Razorback, which was an elongated sea stack with mini arches or peep holes up top and an imposing sea wall down below. Then, we got to a busier spot with a view to the left of the Razorback where there was a large calmer body of water and a cave beneath the cliffs.
Eventually by about 4:05pm, we were back in the car just as the weather appeared to have broken up even more. In fact, as we were headed back to town, we made a brief stop at an unsigned scenic lookout near the outskirts of Port Campbell at 4:15pm. We were kind of looking against the sun and it was along the coastline (instead of looking down at the town itself, which was disappointing), but it wasn't what we thought it would be so we didn't linger for long.
At 4:20pm, we were back at the room to get dressed in more city attire, and then go dinner at the 12 Rocks Restaurant, which was on the opposite corner of the roundabout where the Sea Foam was.
It turned out that the restaurant didn't open for dinner until 5:30pm (we had rocked up at 4:35pm) so we killed some time by buying a few more things at the grocery store next door (mainly strawberries and snacks for Julie) before returning to our room just to chill out some more.
By around 5:25pm, we went back to the restaurant to claim one of the unreserved window seats, and pretty much be one of the first (if not the first) people to place our order at the counter.
We wound up getting some kind of eye fillet with chips and steamed veggies as well as a lamb cutlet (basically a rack of lamb) over Greek salad. When the food showed up, we had a much better experience as well as taste in this spot than at Aurora restaurant at Kingscote in Kangaroo Island. That kind of restored our faith in choice dining spots (not that there was that much of a choice in town to begin with), and gave us the confidence that the sticky date dessert was worth it.
Well, after the dinner was over at 6:55pm, Julie went back in the room while I was racing the next dark ominous storm cell that was headed over town. I was a little disappointed that none of the cheaper options of trying to score some Timboon Ice Cream was available, and I couldn't justify spending another $12 on 3 scoops of ice cream at the 12 Rocks restaurant for essentially a second dessert.
Anyways, I was headed towards the jetty where the bright afternoon sun was out in full force, but the dark clouds were closing in rapidly. Just as I made it to the jetty, I could already feel some droplets falling around me as well as the roar of thunder.
But that didn't stop me from taking scenic shots of the waves on one side and the scenic foreshore inlet looking back towards town with the dark clouds brooding overhead. As the rain was starting to fall a little harder, the folks that were fishing here started to move from their spots. One dude thought it was amusing to try to scare me just as I was busy taking photos much to the amusement of his friends.
I smiled along and just let it roll off me as it was an obvious dickhead move, but I wasn't interested in being an equal smart ass nor in a violent mood either (not that that would have been a smart move as it would have been a dozen or so blokes to just my lone self).
As the rain was coming down a bit more, a rainbow was arcing over Port Campbell and I tried to stick around as long as I could before my street clothes were starting to get a little wet from the rain. So I hastily made my way back up to our room just as the downpour was about to happen, but when I got back to the room at 6:55pm, the downpour wasn't as bad nor as long as I had anticipated.
So with Julie trying to rest on the couch and conk out, we then spent the next hour or so chilling out in our room some more. Eventually by about 8:30pm, Julie noticed when we came around that there were nice sunset colors as the clouds were now exhibiting purples and pinks.
When I noticed what she was noticing, I sensed that the opportunity to really capitalize on the colorful scene had mostly passed, but that didn't stop us from walking out to the jetty anyways. It was a little on the chilly side when I came out there unprepared, but we at least shared a few more moments of the much quieter and more romantic scene making us glad that we chose to stay at Port Campbell for the night and not try to push it by staying at say Apollo Bay for two nights.
The only regret I had upon seeing the beauty of the moment was that we weren't back at the Twelve Apostles at this time, where the sunset would have been real magical there (assuming there wasn't some other storm cell in that direction though I didn't see clouds that way from what I could tell). In my younger days, I'm sure I would have found a way to get out there (and Julie would have come along), but in her condition, she wasn't feeling up to it. So that kind of made it harder to be in the moment.
Regardless, when we returned to our room, we were channel surfing a bit as we watched Passengers on TV and just enjoyed each others' company, and I guess it was a relaxing and low-key way to spending Julie's b-day together. It was too bad she was still struggling with the cough, and sure hoped that her body could fight off this bug as she was now going on almost three weeks since she first had symptoms on the day after Halloween.
And with that, we wound down the night and slept a little bit late. Tomorrow, we would go back to waterfalling in the Otways. So hopefully, we could still have a decent brekkie, but we'd have to get up and out of here to ensure we wouldn't be missing out on the planned excursions. We'll just have to see based on Julie's mood and condition though...
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Day 10 (November 18, 2017 - Apollo Bay, Victoria, Australia): "Before And After"
It was 4:55am when I awoke as Julie got up and started hacking with her seemingly worsening (or at least not improving) cough. She was now wearing shoes inside the Sea Form unit since the floor was a bit too dirty to be going barefoot. And since she was wearing them inside, I had to wear my sandals inside as well.
After Julie made another brew to break up her congestion while also spitting out more phlegm, she eventually went back to sleep at 5:15am to try to get caught up on more rest. In the mean time, I was already up and writing more on the trip journals from yesterday's happenings.
Eventually by about 6:15am, I was done. But I also figured that she needed the time to rest more before making brekky. So I decided to drive out to the Twelve Apostles on my own. With the sun already breaching the blue skies on the horizon, I knew that it was too little too late to see the sunrise colors on the Twelve Apostles themselves.
However, they were still promising to get good lighting in the morning so I figured I could use this idle time to do that.
The drive going east on the Great Ocean Road was challenging because I was driving totally against the sun. It was good that no kangaroos were around to jump in front of the traffic because the blinding sun meant that the reaction time would be much slower (if at all).
At about 6:25am, I arrived at the Twelve Apostles car park, where I was surprised to see that there were quite a few cars already parked here. Clearly, the allure of sunrise at this scenic lookout promised to be too good to pass up accordingly to lots of people. Of course, I was too late for the sunrise as that had already happened prior to me getting out on the road.
Regardless, I promptly got the camera and jacket and headed out towards the overlooks again. At least it wasn't quite the zoo that it was yesterday arvo. And I managed to get quite a few morning shots while experimenting with the lighting. The lighting was a bit too harsh to show the sea stacks with the kind of reds that would really jump out at you in photos. However, the sun was also too far north on the horizon as the shadows were pretty long coming from the cliffs to the right.
I guess this would have been a better Winter sunrise spot under agreeable weather, but the lack of clouds also meant that it wasn't a particularly dramatic scene for photos.
I then walked all the way to the Castle Rock area, which was where most of the tourists out and about this morning were trying to get their early morning photos. One couple hopped the fence and went all the way out to the edge of the ridge on the Castle Rock.
I was merely content to stand on the main area and look back towards the sea stacks though the backing fence reduced the contrast. Meanwhile, looking east, I could see against the sun the sea spray backing a couple more of the sea stacks.
Most of the people out and about were Chinese, but there were also a few Germans that were out and about (I could tell because I overheard German words being used in casual conversation).
Anyways, after getting my shots, I returned to the car at 6:55am. And fifteen minutes later, I was back at our room at the Sea Foam, where Julie was already up preparing breaky.
As she was doing her thing, I walked around town to see if I could pick up more supplies but the grocery store wasn't open until 8am. That said, the ice cream shop appeared to be open (since they also served breaky there), but when I showed up and asked to see if it was possible to have the Timboon Ice Cream that I had been craving this early in the morning, one of the workers said that the machine was busy defrosting and wouldn't be ready until 11am. Bummer...
Eventually when 8am rolled around, I picked up a few more things for Julie, including ginger, lemon, strawberries, and a tomato. She still couldn't shake her cough and that was the motivation for the ginger and lemon.
It wouldn't be until about 8:30am when we were finally leaving Port Campbell and headed east towards the Otways and then towards Apollo Bay, where we were staying next.
The drive out east was for the most part uneventful except when we were stopped at a road construction stretch (road work on a Saturday?) at 8:50am and didn't start moving again until around 9:05am. That was quite a delay.
We'd eventually show up to the Triplet Falls Trailhead at 9:45am, where we were the first people there. The last 2km was on unsealed road as the Philips Track Road eventually stopped being paved shortly after the Otway Fly turnoff, which we were going to check out after our first waterfalling excursion of the day.
We then promptly got out and did the 2km loop track that was said to take an hour. Something that we didn't really appreciate until re-doing this track was that it was a long downhill and I knew that we'd have to get back all this elevation loss.
The arrows pointed such that we had to do this hike in a clockwise direction. I suspected that the reason they did that was so the climb on the return would be shorter in distance but steeper, and it wouldn't be recommended to go down that way. So instead, we had a longer downhill stretch on steps then eventually on slippery metal grating on the forest floor amongst ferns and the wide girth of tall trees.
Eventually at the third viewing deck since the Triple Treat sign, we finally got to see the familiar Triplet Falls at 10:25am. The most thick segment of the three-segment falls was under shadow while the other two segments were under sunlight. So it wasn't the best for photos, and the middle segment seemed to have less flow than how we remembered it the last time we were here when it was raining.
While the signage wasn't explicit about it, this falls was on Youngs Creek (because I could see from the road signage to get here that there was a 4wd track before the car park that was for Youngs Creek Road).
As we were enjoying the falls, we were joined by another couple so clearly we wouldn't be totally alone on this hike. But they did help us take a couple shot before the falls, which was nice of them.
After the falls, we then hiked up the steep series of steps, which Julie wasn't looking forward to given the state of her lungs. After getting past some historic relics, we eventually returned to the car park at 10:50am where there was now 6 cars.
Five minutes later, we then made it to the Otway Fly car park, where there were a lot more cars and we managed to score a somewhat shady spot, where most of the cars were parked. Just as we were about to leave the car and head towards the Visitor Centre some 600m away from the car park, a tour bus group was just getting out of their vehicle, and so we determined to beat that crowd by making a beeline for the cashier within the visitor centre to pay for our admission to get into the tree top walk.
After paying some $50 AUD for two adults, we then continued hiking what seemed like forever to get all the way to the metal walkways amongst the height of the forest. There was a buggy that offered rides to people of limited mobility, but we certainly didn't qualify.
It took around 800m or so to get from the visitor centre to the start of the tree top walk. There was another tower for the Fern Tree, but we opted not to do that one. We could also hear the zip of ziplines as I'm sure it would be a rush to zip amongst the tree tops from station to station.
Once on the tree top walk, the swaying but sturdy walkway eventually led us to some spiral tower where we could try our best at conveying that we were indeed high up on the forest canopy. With the bright blue skies, it was nice to get this vantage point.
After going back down the tower, we then went onto the cantilever, which was a dead end where we could get that sense of vertigo as the walkway was high up above the forest floor above Youngs Creek. We could also look across at the walkway leading back to the Visitor Centre.
Just as we were done with the cantilever part, the big Chinese tour group showed up to the tower. Good thing we finished when we did.
Next, we walked back towards the end of the tree top walk, which I swore might have been more extensive than the one we did in WA 11 years ago. Then, we started to walk along the forest floor looking up at the tree top walk before beginning the hot ascent back up to the visitor centre.
When we got past the turnoff to get onto the Tree Top Walk, there was another tour group that sounded like they were Korean just about to start their tree top walk. And eventually at about 12:15pm, we were back at the visitor centre where we decided to pick up a lunch from the Otway Fly Cafe since I had a feeling that we wouldn't be in Apollo Bay until much later in the afternoon (where I was afraid Julie might get hangry if she didn't eat right now).
We ultimately got a couple of burgers to go since they didn't really have a healthy eating option for Julie as they had ran out of chicken. So it wouldn't be until about 12:45pm when we were finally back at the car to finally eat our takeaway lunch in the car, which was no longer in the shade. The food was filling, but it wasn't as good as the burger we had at Kangaroo Island's Flinders Chase Visitor Centre.
Once we were done with the lunch at 1pm, we then drove out towards unpaved Binns Rd, and eventually down the Beauchamp Falls Road to the familiar Beauchamp Falls car park at 1:15pm. There were a handful of cars already here as well as someone camped in the main picnic area. Julie opted to take a siesta while I was going to do this hike solo this time around.
So I promptly got out with the etrex ready plus the iPhone in my pant pocket, and I partially trail ran my way down the long gradual downhill track. I knew that it was going to be a bit of a brutal climb back up to the trail as this was clearly an upside down hike like I had remembered it from the last time. But at least it wasn't rainy and muddy like the last time.
It was getting to be a little on the steamy side as I descended deeper into the rainforest as there were ferns all around and the vegetation (like with the Triplet Falls) was kind of reminiscent of what I might find in New Zealand.
Eventually, I made my way down to the falls where there appeared to be an elevated walkway leading to a lookout platform. I didn't recall that this was here before.
I also noticed that there were people at the bottom on Deppeler Creek, which was where I remembered was the last place we checked out the falls from before. I guess the authorities didn't want people to go down there anymore as the path was railed off. But that didn't stop people in the know from hopping the railing to go all the way down the muddy path to get there.
Once I was down there, I was kind of looking against the sun. But at least there were enough moments where the sun was hiding behind some of the clouds to get a better long exposure shot.
Eventually, I had my fill of the falls shortly after a trio of guys joined me at the bottom. And then I started the long uphill hike back up to the car park. But just as I was already about a third of the way up, I realized that I had forgotten to take a video with the iPhone. Damn, I did it again!
Well, back at the car park at 2:15pm, I was a bit of a sweaty mess. Julie said there were mozzies around the car park so she didn't sleep very well.
Next, we drove further along the unsealed Binns Road towards the familiar car park for Hopetoun Falls. Once we got there at about 2:30pm, we saw that there wasn't much space to park as we settled on a somewhat muddy spot near some fence. I swore in the past that this was a through road, but now, it appeared that this was now a dead-end.
Just as we were trying to figure out how to park in such tight spaces, some kind of emergency vehicle showed up. Apparently, someone got injured on this track.
So Julie and I promptly went down the familiar upside down track where after seeing the obstructed view of Hopetoun Falls, we then went down the steps before we were stopped as the medics were tending to a lady who apparently slipped and fell on one of these steps.
The medics let the remaining hikers through going up and they let us continue to the bottom whilst squeezing past the commotion. However, they weren't going to let anyone else down. So we were lucky that we had gotten started when we did, I guess, though I suspected that there was going to be a bit of a delay when we'd come back up.
Once we made it back down to the Hopetoun Falls and the familiar lookout, we could see that this classic falls had a healthy flow just like before. The difference was that this falls was under the warm sun, where the last time we were here, it was very overcast and rainy.
After having our fill of the falls, we headed back up the track, but then we were stopped before the injury site as more medics showed up with a stretcher. So we had to wait before we were given the OK by the medics to let us pass. It was clear that this lady must have broken something, and one of the medics confirmed that she had broken her ankle.
Man, that was a tough break. I could only imagine how debilitating that could be, and we could easily see how this can happen given how slippery the steps were.
Finally at 3:10pm, we were back at the car, where we hastily unslung our stuff and got back in the car before more mozzies would come in. And as we drove past the medic vehicles, the GPS then had us turn right on Binns Rd and keep going down this unsealed path for another 10+ kilometres towards the Great Ocean Road.
I didn't recall going this way last time, and in hindsight, I wish we had backtracked to the Beech Forest Rd and then head to Appollo Bay that way on paved roads.
Oh well, eventually after a little indecision to see if we could squeeze in an excursion to the Cape Otway Lighthouse (which we opted not to do), we then arrived at the bustling beach town of Apollo Bay at 3:55pm. We made a brief grocery run before getting back in the car 10 minutes later.
And then we continued driving further east of town, where the Seafarer's Getaway was located. Julie picked this secluded location for the views, but after seeing how busy it was in Apollo Bay, it was a wise decision that she made. While it was certainly no Port Campbell in the serene department, it did have lots of beach access.
Eventually at about 4:15pm, we checked into the Seafarer's where the reception was scenically located as it was elevated on some hillsides. And after getting our keys for our unit even higher up on the hillside, we promptly got into our room at 4:20pm.
That was where we were immediately enjoying the commanding views towards the Southern Ocean as well as towards Apollo Bay. There were those annoying black flies again so we suspected that we couldn't eat outside like we were hoping to for dinner later on. But I could see now why Julie picked this accommodation.
At about 4:40pm, I was back in the car to do the Stevenson Falls excursion on my own. Meanwhile, Julie would prepare a chicken soup dinner as we opted not to eat out on this evening despite all the options. But at least she could get to enjoy the views as she was cooking.
Meanwhile, I drove down towards Skenes Creek, where the C119 led back north towards Beech Forest, and in hindsight, I probably could have gone to Stevenson Falls first before going to Apollo Bay. In any case, I went up the twisty road and eventully turned off at the Upper Gellibrand Road near Barramunga.
The Upper Gellibrand Road was unpaved as I remembered, and it was also narrow though not seemingly as single-lane as I thought I had remembered.
It also seemed a bit more developed than I remembered.
Eventually, I reached a busy campground, but the signs said it was still another 1.2km further to the Stevenson Falls and day use car park. So I went past a bridge and onto a narrower and more rougher unpaved road before finally arriving at the day use car park at 5:20pm.
I didn't see the scary concrete ford (it looked bridged now) nor the other trail approach from the campsite as I had recalled from 11 years back. Either they made changes to this area, or my memory was quite dodgy so many years on.
I was the only person at the day use car park, but just as I was getting onto the trail, there was another car that was pulling up. And as I got further on the trail, I heard music from a third car that was pulling in. Even this late in the afternoon, it seemed like this falls was surprisingly popular.
Anyways, I took the short 500m track that went through a large clearing and then followed the Gellibrand River up to the familiar Stevenson Falls. It didn't quite have the brown tinge in the water nor the volume from last time, but it was still pretty nice.
So I took my photos and videos, then jet. When I returned to the car park at 5:50pm, there was all of the sudden some 5 other cars! I guess my parking job was terrible since I had no reference, but now with the other cars, it was obvious that I was the outlier.
Anyways, with it getting late in the day, I decided not to go out and do the Carisbrook Falls today, and instead punt that for tomorrow.
Ultimately, I'd return to the Seafarer's Getaway at 6:35pm which was just in time for Julie's home made chicken soup dinner. Both of us had a low key dinner while looking out towards the Southern Ocean from the lofty vantage point of our unit.
Even though Julie was still getting over her flu, it was nice to have this moment together while not subjecting ourselves to eating out and worrying about what they put in the food. Still, after the dinner, we then caught some views around the property before driving back into town for a little stroll in Apollo Bay just to get a feel for the town while also checking out the beach.
We got there at a little before 8pm, and just killed time just as the clouds were turning pink from the setting sun. I got to splurge on some Dooley's Ice Cream in town, but it wasn't all that impressive in my mind. I was still paying for my regret for not trying to Timboon's Ice Cream when I had the chance back at Port Campbell.
After having our fill of Apollo Bay, we returned to the Seafarer's Getaway at 8:55pm where it was just becoming twilight. We enjoyed the views once more before it got too dark to take photos. And from that point on, we just wound down the otherwise very busy day and just enjoying the accommodation.
It wouldn't be until after 11:30pm when I went to bed after cleaning up. With an early wake-up for tomorrow to squeeze in an excursion before Julie wakes up and does breaky, I'm sure I wouldn't be having a very deep sleep...
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Day 11 (November 19, 2017 - Melbourne, Victoria, Australia): "How Can You Not Be In A Good Mood?"
It was about 5am when I awoke. Even with the pre-dawn low light, it was still a pretty view looking out towards the direction of the sunrise from our bedroom window as well as the living room window. Indeed, you can't beat views like this, and it would cost an arm and a leg back home in the States. But here along the Great Ocean Road, it seemed like such views were a bit more reachable for common folk like us.
With Julie sleeping in still trying to shake off her ailments, I did some catching up on the blogging until the sun started to rise. So I took some photos before I got into the car at 6:15am to pursue a couple of waterfalls while Julie took her time to get ready for the day.
The target waterfalls were Marriners Falls and Carisbrook Falls. I figured that I could probably visit those waterfalls before we get ready to leave Apollo Bay. Julie also left me with a honey do list regarding some groceries. I also thought I could pick up some of those scallop pies that this one bakery sold in the Apollo Bay centre as well.
So with that, I first went to Marriners Falls. I made a brief stop at the bakery, but the scallop pies weren't ready for another 20 minutes. So I figured that I could come back after Marriners Falls.
So back in the car, the GPS had me take Nelson Street towards the back of Apollo Bay, and then onto the Barnham River Road, which eventually became unpaved after the first single lane bridge, and then became a narrower dirt road the further I went.
After driving around 12km on the Barnham River Rd, I eventually got to the dead-end near the Ubuntu Wildlife Centre or something like that, where the Marriners car park was located just to the right of it. I managed to get there at about 6:45am, but when I saw that the track was closed due to storm damage, I knew that this waterfall couldn't be done on this trip.
So with that detour, I went back in the car and headed back into town at Apollo Bay. It was about 7:05am when I returned to town. I saw that the IGA was closed until 8am so I figured that I could go all the way to Carisbrook Falls then come back to do the honey do list. In the mean time, I returned to the bakery to pick up some curried scallop pie.
The other stuff in the bakery was real tempting like the chocolate chip cookies and the death by chocolate brownies, but I refrained on that visit.
The drive out to Carisbrook Falls was very scenic as the skies were very clear except for one stretch where the fog was rolling in. Eventually, I saw the easy-to-miss turnoff (it was right before a koala sign), where I then turned in and parked at the familiar trailhead at 7:25am.
I was holding off on eating the scallop pie until I parked the car, and it was still very hot even after 15 minutes of driving.
So after having the pie, I promptly hiked past the sign that said it was "15 minutes one-way" to get up to the falls and promptly went on the uphill narrow hillside hugging trail. The whole trail was still in shadow, but across the ravine, I could see sunlight already hitting that side.
It didn't take long before I got up to the dead-end and lookout where I could see the Carisbrook Falls very much looking like it did 11 years ago. This time though, the falls was in shade while the hillside to its topleft was starting to get some sun.
It was still a bit of a distant look at the falls, but now that I could see that it was very tall, I might have been a bit on the harsh side in rating this falls only a 1.5 in the past.
Anyways, after capturing the falls, I raced back down the narrow track before returning to the car at 7:50am. So it took me about 25 minutes to complete this excursion even with the photos and videos, and I guess that 15-minute estimation by the trail sign was a bit of an overestimate. In my mind, it was more like between 15-30 minutes round trip.
During the drive back to town, I was making spontaneous stops whenever something caught my eye and there was a safe pullout to take snaps. With the early morning sun behind me and the signature coastline that made the Great Ocean Road as famous as it was, I could've spent all morning doing this. In fact, I had to really be willing to not stop for some choice stops and really cross my fingers and hope that of the stops I do end up skipping that I wouldn't regret it.
When I got back to Apollo Bay at 8:15am, I did the grocery run, where I went down Julie's list. I thought it was strange that she wanted garlic and tomatos and celery among others when we wouldn't be having a kitchen in Melbourne.
When I checked out, I was a worried that I had lost my credit card because I didn't see it in my wallet. Luckily, the cashier found it in the grocery basket I was carrying. Whew! But I did manage to buy the groceries with an alternate credit card so I expected to get hit with a foreign transaction fee.
After the grocery run, I went back to the bakery to pick up a scallop pie mornay (the other flavor of the scallop pies). I liked the curried one so I thought I'd give the other flavor a try. This time, I was too tempted with the chocolate chip cookies and the death by chocolate brownies that I finally caved in and picked them up too.
By 8:35am, I returned to the Seafarer's Getaway where Julie was done with breaky. When she saw what I had picked up for groceries, she was mad because she showed me the other side of the grocery list, which had lemons and other things. No wonder why the list didn't make any sense!
Anyways, I finished the breaky as well as the other pie. I also finished kefir with some fruits. So I was pretty stuffed by the time I was done with the breaky and started washing the dishes.
It wouldn't be until about 9:45am when we loaded up the car and started to leave. It was now definitely much later than I had hoped, and I was afraid that we wouldn't be in Melbourne until very late as well. After all, we still had some excursions to do as we made the drive from Apollo Bay to the city.
But before we made the drive in earnest, we went back to the IGA at Apollo Bay one more time so we could return the mistaken groceries that Julie wanted me to return. So it wouldn't be until about 10:05am when we finally took off for good.
At about 10:30am, we pulled into some miscellaneous side road near Kennett River, where there was a tour bus and some people parked with lots of people looking up at trees. We figured that this must be the place to see the koalas.
So we did the same and pulled off some unsealed road. Then, when we got out, we looked up at one of the trees that other people were looking at, and sure enough, there was a koala high up on a tree.
This one was hard to photograph given the presence of branches in the way as well as the koala looking the other way. But it was cool to see it.
Regardless, we weren't going to linger any longer since we had already gotten a real quality sighting by the Flinders Chase Visitor Centre on Kangaroo Island.
There were also lots of those parrot-like birds pecking around as apparently lots of tourists were feeding them. I wasn't sure if this was a wise thing to do or not, but plenty of people got their iPhone shots closeup with cooperative birds after they got their bribe.
At 10:45am, we got back in the car and continued our beautiful drive along the Great Ocean Road. With so many opportunities to pull over and take photos or chill out at a beach, we really had to stay focused and keep driving. Both Julie and I thought there were several protected beaches that Tahia would have really loved to play at.
At 11:15am, we made it to the Sheoak Falls car park, but the parking lot was full. So we had to drive across the road and park at a large pullout over there. It was going to be roasting hot in the car as it was all exposed to the sun.
But as we walked across the Great Ocean Road and into the car park, I saw that two cars had pulled out and vacated parking spots. One of the spots was shaded! So I dropped the pack and Julie looked after my stuff. Then, I ran back to the car, then drove across the way to park in the lone shaded spot at the time. I had mistakenly pulled into a private driveway adjacent to the car park so I actually had to back out into the Great Ocean Road before turning left into the correct turnoff.
At 11:25am, we finally started the hike. It was already hot and we had to go up some steps immediately. So we knew it would be a sweat fest.
That said, the reward for such sunny conditions was the bright blue water, which we could see from the trail. And speaking of the trail, it seemed like this official track was slightly longer than the path we took from a hairpin pullout 11 years ago. That one didn't require going up and down, but perhaps we took an unsanctioned track that last time around.
This time, there was a lot of infrastructure to re-vegetate and conceal that old track though I could still see it.
After descending into the wetland, we then hiked along its edge before going up another set of steps. Then, the track gradually led to the base of the familiar Sheoak Falls.
Unlike the last time we were here, we weren't alone as it wasn't early in the morning. So the falls was in half shadow as the cool cove to the right of it was dark while the sun-exposed cliff to the left was very bright. Lots of people were rocking up to the falls to get their photos while a family was further downstream to let the kids play around the water.
However, the last time we were here, we saw that some foaming in the water at the plunge pool, and that foaming was still there this time around. We suspected that there could be some pollution in this creek, which gave rise to that foaminess. And despite the hot day, we could clearly see that no one was swimming.
At 12:15pm, we returned to the car a hot and sweaty mess as expected. We then drove into the very bustling beach town of Lorne, where we managed to score a parking spot at 12:30pm. I had originally wanted to go to Erskine Falls first before going to town, but Julie wanted to have lunch now. I was still stuffed from the big breaky, but I figured this would be an opportunity to join in on the bustling activities of the town.
While Julie was busy looking for suitable "clean" places to eat, she settled on this joint called Andrew's Chicken, where they had rotisserie chicken. She also picked up some kind of chicken salad.
She even managed to Facetime Tahia to show her what we were seeing at this time. Meanwhile, I went down to the beach to just soak in the activity and the weather. I told Julie that with all this activity and beautiful weather, how can you not be in a good mood?
Tahia definitely wished that she could be here, but she was back home with the grandparents doing homework and trying to keep up while Julie was spending some time not stressing about her. We were missing her, but despite Julie's flu, it was still what she needed.
While looking around and soaking in the ambience of Lorne on a Sunday afternoon, we realized that it appeared the closer to the city we were getting, the busier it got. Now while that may seem very obvious, what was telling was just how crowded it got the closer to the city we got. It was definitely no Apollo Bay, and it was certainly no Port Campbell.
By about 1:35pm, we were back in the car. Now, we could pursue the well-signed Erskine Falls, which I knew was one of the more popular waterfalling excursions in the Angahook-Lorne reserve.
We'd eventually get there by 1:55pm, where the car park was busy, but we still managed to score one of the shady spots.
Julie decided to join me on this excursion despite the presence of steps leading down to the base of the falls (similar to the Hopetoun Falls experience that she complained about yesterday). There were some mozzies in the area so that meant it was unwise to stay still and let them get pot shots at you.
Then, we promptly went down to the upper lookout, which was obstructed (but not as bad as Hopetoun Falls) like before before going down all the way to the bottom where we saw the tall falls from the bottom. There were lots of people who managed to scramble all the way to the shady base so photographing the falls was a bit tricky given all the high contrast.
After having our fill of the falls (we didn't scramble all the way to the very base), I then crossed the creek and followed the rougher and more slippery track to the Straw Falls.
I went there alone, where after going by some girls who had already made their visit, I was pretty much alone at the falls. This waterfall was actually not on the same creek as that for Erskine Falls. It was on a thinner side stream so the falls took on a more light appearance as well as facing somewhat against the sun.
On our first visit to Erskine Falls, Julie didn't want to do the Straw Falls as there used to be a sign warning about snakes in the area. But this time, I wasn't to be denied.
We were back up at the car park at 2:45pm, and at this point, I still had one last bit of unfinished business to do - Phantom Falls.
The first time around 11 years ago, we visited this falls, which actually flowed fairly well. I also had visited the Lower and Upper Kalimna Falls, but given the length of those hikes, there was no way I'd be doing that today.
I didn't recall the exact road to go on to get to the trailhead, and it didn't appear that there was reliable signage noting the Phantom Falls. But I wound up taking a roundabout that led to the Allenvale Road. And once on that unsealed road, I knew I was going the right way because it seemed to have the kind of length and reach that I had recalled from the past.
By about 3:15pm, I arrived at the Allenvale Campground car park, which had quite a few cars. There was the familiar signage saying that Phantom Falls was another 2.5km away. I wasn't sure if this was the round trip distance or just the one-way distance. Regardless, Julie stayed in the car to have her siesta while I would do this hike solo.
At first, the hike meandered alongside then crossed some farm or private property. It seemed kind of weird to be walking through this as part of the trail, but there was signage that pointed the way for walkers.
I did recall having to walk through private property in the past, but I didn't recall this property being nearly as developed nor as awkward of a traverse back then as it seemed like it was now.
The track then went pretty steeply uphill as it rose above some ravine with the stream that I supposed the Phantom Falls was on the way down below.
After the apex of the fairly long climb, the trail leveled out and remained somewhat in the shade before reaching a trail junction. I got there at about 3:50pm, which was sooner than I had anticipated. Another sign here also said that the Allenvale Road was only 1.6km back the way I came so clearly it wasn't 2.5km in one direction.
The signage here also claimed that going across the ford above the Phantom Falls and towards the Cora Lynn Car Park was only 1.2km. I never made it to that car park before so I guess I'll have to look up to see if that was the preferred route or if the Allenvale Campground approach via private property was the way to go.
Regardless, five minutes later, I descended the steep path to the base of the Phantom Falls. There was a pipe along the vertical cliff here, which I wasn't sure what it was for other than water diversion (probably for the private property down below).
Still, the falls had a decent flow and there was a pair of young women on the way up (as I was heading down) as well as a family already down there frolicking and just enjoying this spot.
The falls was in mostly shade and the wall to the left of it still had some light. So the high contrast made for difficult photo conditions. I made do what I could at the time, and then after having my fill, I went back up and headed back to the Allenvale Campground.
I was making quick pace especially using my momentum going down the steep hill. I even caught up to the pair of ladies I saw during my descent to the base of the falls.
Back at the campground car park at 4:25pm, I then drove over to the Sheoak Picnic Area to see if that was where the Lower and Upper Kalimna Falls trailhead was.
Five minutes later, after more unsealed driving, my suspiscions were confirmed. It seemed like this picnic area was more developed than I remembered from the past.
Anyways, with that, I drove back to Lorne, where Julie decided that we should have an early dinner here before making the drive all the way to Melbourne. It was about 4:45pm when we returned to town, which now seemed much quieter than it did earlier in the day.
I guess most of the visitors here were weekenders from the city, and it was time to return to the rat race.
We wound up eating dinner at this Asian fusion place called Chopstix. Julie got some fried fish while I got some kind of green curry chicken. It wasn't anything ordinary, but it was a relatively cheap and quick eat. However, our decision to eat outside was probably not a great one as lots of flies were buzzing around us and not leaving us alone.
By about 5:35pm, we were back in the car, where we finally started to final leg of the drive towards Melbourne. At first we considered grocery shopping at the Foodland in Lorne, but when we saw how expensive things were there, we passed and decided to do our shopping either in Geelong or Melbourne.
And so the drive resumed as we made our way along the Great Ocean Road towards Angelsea and more coastal towns until we got near Geelong where we left the coastal road and went inland. We originally thought that a grocery run in Geelong would be a cinch, but it turned out that it was a full blown city and we didn't feel like dealing with traffic there.
So we got onto the M1 and drove the rest of the way to Melbourne. Eventually, the GPS got us onto some surface streets within the CBD area (and we managed to avoid paying any tolls via City Link paths), but then our progress really crawled as we were in long traffic lights, confusing hook turns, and a fruitless detour towards a Coles where it didn't look like they had a convenient parking structure or garage.
Julie was mad that we didn't bother getting groceries in Lorne, but I figured we could still check into our hotel, get settled, and then get groceries using a combination of walking and mass transit.
I guess the stressful city driving kind of drove that decision, and after a bit of a struggle figuring out where to park near the Grand Hyatt in the Melbourne CBD, we eventually entered the Wilson Parking garage right by the valet area, and parked the car at 8pm.
Once we checked in, where a friendly guy at the World of Hyatt desk told us everything we wanted to know about parking, groceries, Julie getting over her cough, things to do in Melbourne, etc., we were finally settled into our room at 8:30pm, and a few minutes later, we went downstairs, to drop off the keys with the valet, who then converted our Wilson Parking ($156 per night? seriously?) to the $55 valet with in-and-out priviledges.
I guess when you're centrally located in a metropolitan city like this, high parking fees were to be expected. So our 5 free nights using points was definitely chewed into with the parking fees, and probably the breakfast from the hotel since we no longer have a kitchen during our stay in the Melbourne CBD.
In any case, we made our grocery run at 8:45pm, we picked up 2 10L boxes of the Pureau water as well as some more fruits and veggies. And then by 9pm, we were finally in our room for good to unwind the night and try to rest up for tomorrow.
I was busy trying to figure out what to do tomorrow since I expected at least 1 or 2 of the 4 full days we're here to be solo touring. Eventually as I finally went to bed after midnight, I figured that tomorrow would have to be an "easier" day with an expected late start. I couldn't get too ambitious with an early morning wakeup and self-tour without getting a real feel for how things work in and around the Melbourne area.
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Day 12 (November 20, 2017 - Melbourne, Victoria, Australia): "Triple 0"
I had woken up at about 4:50am, but my throat felt like it was scratchy and I was coming down with something.
Julie sensed that something wasn't right and she got up to both cough as well as make some brew. This time, she was making her concotion not only for herself, but she was making it for me too. She was also making sure that I ate some manuka honey in addition to the lemon ginger water to try to nip this thing in the bud before it would be come a full blown flu or cold like what she was still going through.
So we both went back to sleep to try to maximize the rest that we needed. Clearly, today wasn't going to be an early start day. Instead, I resigned myself to going for something shorter like an excursion to the Macedon Ranges to see both Trentham Falls and Sailors Falls. And maybe with the rest of whatever daylight we have left, go for perhaps Strath Creek Falls.
All of these waterfalls would be do over waterfalls since they were either bone dry or trickling when we were last here in November 2006.
Well, I was up for good and busy blogging and checking on Triple J songs that I couldn't get out of my head during this week-and-a-half of driving through the southern parts of Australia. Meanwhile, Julie would continue to sleep in until after 8am.
So it wouldn't be until about 9:15am when we went downstairs for the Hyatt breaky. Indeed, we were getting a late start, and I was a bit worried about what I was sacrificing in terms of things that needed to get done on this trip while we were here.
The original plan was to visit the Macedon Ranges then spent the afternoon city touring in Melbourne, but clearly that wasn't happening today.
When we finally got back to our room at 10am and got our stuff, we then recovered the car from the valet at 10:10am. It was funny to see how we had the dirtiest car in the lot.
At that point, we were finally on our way out of Melbourne and out into the bush again.
Well, at first, it still took us some time (like at least 30 minutes) to get out of the Melbourne City as we were driving what seemed like forever on Elizabeth Street after not taking the City Link Toll Road onto the M1. In hindsight, maybe I should have spend one less night in Melbourne and spent that night in the Wine and Spa Country of the Macedon Ranges like Ballarat and Daylesford before making our way into Melbourne.
Things were starting to ring a bell with me when we finally got out of the city and we passed by the Organ Pipes. That was something that we did on the last trip so I didn't feel the need to go make another stop back there again. The Organ Pipes was basically like a less geometric version of the Devil's Postpile as they were old basalt formations.
At 11am, just as we were getting momentum, we had to make a stop at a service station shortly after the Organ Pipes exit, where Julie needed to potty (she was going very frequently due to the amount of water she was drinking to try to shake off her cough). In the mean time, I could clearly see that the gas prices were very high (like $1.49 AUD per litre as opposed to $1.29 AUD per litre in Hamilton or $1.34 AUD per litre in Lorne). I couldn't figure out why the gas was so expensive here as compared to the more touristed Great Ocean Road. So that was something to keep in mind.
We then kept driving until we got towards the vicinity of Woodend, where we then drove west towards Trentham. There was a police barricade on the last 10km of road leading to the turnoff for Daylesford from Woodend so they made us take a detour through some farm roads before regaining the way to Daylesford.
Eventually, after recovering the correct route, we then arrived at the Trentham Falls car park at 11:55am, where there were already some 7 cars here! That was a bit of a surprise considering this was a weekday. Plus, we didn't have high expectations for this falls given that it was trickling the last time we were here.
But with the amount of cars that were already here, this was a good sign!
As we got out of the car, we could hear the sounds of rushing water!
Shortly after going down a ramp and some steps, we got to the official lookout, where some fencing and signs said that the trail going any further was closed. But as we took photos of the falls from this lookout, we could clearly hear voices coming from down below. We could also see some other people just arriving go past the barricade without problems and make their way to the base.
While we were busy enjoying the falls from the official vantage point, Julie struck up a conversation with a pair of Asian photographers (maybe Cantonese Australian) who were really into photography. They had some serious equipment, and when Julie asked one of them to take a couple shot of us with our iPhone, I could tell by the way she composed the shot that she really knew what she was doing.
We learned that they were locals from Melbourne who were on an extended weekend. They asked if we had been to Daylesford yet, and I told them we hadn't but we were planning to eat lunch there (actually I had just thought of it seeing how late in the morning or early afternoon it was already becoming). This was when I realized that perhaps we should have spent a night in Daylesford instead of Melbourne so we wouldn't have had to drive as far.
Regardless, while Julie was staying up top, I went around the barricade and also went down to the bottom. The last time I did this trail, there was a huge and rugged rockslide that made the trail practically impassable (and perhaps was the main reason why this trail was and remained closed). However, when I followed the path down again, I could see that the path was a bit easier and more defined (probably as more people took this path down over the years).
Eventually, I'd get to a nice spot where I could take a comprehensive shot of Trentham Falls flowing nicely and flanked by basalt columns with some people in hijabs sitting on a rock in at the base of the falls. There was also an Aussie trio chilling out a little further downstream.
The trail to the bottom of the falls was actually quite tame. I guess Parks Victoria were being extra cautious since they knew that the vertical cliffs could flake at any moment. But that was a risk that many people here (myself included) were willing to take.
Naturally, I got my shots and movies from as many different perspectives and lighting as I could in the limited amount of time I was giving myself here. I didn't bother going into the mist to go behind the falls, but it seemed like a very doable thing.
After having my fill of this area just as more people were showing up, I then went back up where I saw that Julie and the Cantonese-Australian couple were still chatting.
Upon me joining them, I learned where the photography shops were in the Melbourne CBD (as a possible venue to replace my faulty lens), and we learned a bit more about the mentality of photographers who employ lots of patience in order to get that good shot to work with using Photoshop.
Both Julie and I were amused when upon learning about our waterfalls website that the guy was criticizing the photography of some Chinese guy who authored a book telling you how to get to the waterfalls. I was wondering in the back of my mind if he was talking about me and my work on New Zealand Waterfalls.
He then said that the photography was terrible, and that he didn't get the book since you can get information for free on the web these days.
I wasn't taking any offense to it (if he was talking about me) since I knew that my travel goals were far different than a landscape photographer looking to do this for a living or for additional profit.
Indeed, fine art photography was something that just wasn't my cup of tea though I definitely respect what it took to do it right.
Eventually at 12:55pm, we were back at the car. Now, it was time to head to Daylesford as it was already lunch time. And during the drive to get there from the falls, we passed by more wineries. Again, this reinforced that there must be good eating options here since good wine and good food tend to go hand and hand in Western Culture.
At 1:20pm, we parked the car in the town centre of Daylesford, which had a bit of a historical vibe to it. While Julie was going from place to place in this town centre, I was busy trying to check out some of the fancier building facades as well.
In our brief search for a place to eat, I've come to the realization that with hindsight being 20/20 I probably should have spent a night in Daylesford instead of having the first of five nights in Melbourne. Given the amount of driving it took to even get out here, it probably could have been more enjoyable to stay out in Daylesford, enjoy the food here, do the waterfalling, then slowly work our way to the big city.
Anyways, we'd ultimately settle on this place called Larder, and we wound up getting some kind of Vietnamese chicken salad while I got a pretty good grilled Barramundi dish.
By 2:10pm, we were back in the car clearly sated from the wonderful (albeit expensive) meal we had just had.
As we drove south of Daylesford, we'd eventually spot a signed picnic area for Sailors Falls. There were quite a few cars parked along that road shoulder or clearing. We got out of the car at 2:25pm, where we then managed to score a shady spot.
The last time Julie and I were here, the falls was bone dry. However, we also questioned whether we did see the correct waterfall or not back then. So this do over excursion promised to answer a lot of the unanswered questions and unsatisfying experiences of the past.
So we got out of the car and walked towards the viewing areas. And as we were going down the steps, we could see that this falls had seen better days, but it did have a much more satisfying flow than 11 years earlier.
It turned out that the best views of the falls were from the top of the steps. As we went lower towards the official lookout down there, the views were obstructed by trees. When we went back up to get back the good views to capture the falls in video and in stills, we saw that other people had scrambled off the trail past the bridge over the creek.
Those folks managed to make it all the way to the bottom of the falls. I wondered if I'd regret not doing as they did, but the falls also struggled to flow well so I wasn't exactly that motivated to go all the way back down and go where they went just for another photo or video.
Besides, I still wanted to get in Strath Creek Falls before returning to Melbourne when it might be too late for dinner.
On our way back up, we spoke with a couple of the locals who started a conversation with us about our experience here. It turned out that one lady was very old and she actually wanted to go down the steps to get closer to the falls. I wasn't sure if she was going to make it or not since we was walking with a stick to help with her balance.
The elderly lady told us that she was from Kangaroo Island, which she was excited to hear that we had been there earlier on our trip. She also said that a psychic told her that she was a Native American in a past life, and that a hole scar on her neck was because she was shot there in her past life.
Anyways, the conversation ran its course, and so we returned to the car at 2:55pm.
Just when Julie was about to get into the car after using the restrooms here, she smelled something burning. At first, I thought it was something with the car. But she said it was more like a fire smell, and when all of the sudden we saw lots of smoke coming out of a house right across the street from the Sailors Falls car park, we knew that that home was in trouble.
We weren't quite sure what to do, but apparently other locals started showing up and told us to call Triple 0. So Julie did just that and after struggling a bit with trying to tell the operator the necessary info about the house fire (she was looking for a street address, but all we could say was that it was right by Sailors Falls).
Eventually, Julie was told that a fire brigade was on the way. So with that, we drove off and didn't see any fire brigade until we were right within the 60km/h speed limit of Daylesford.
Next, we were on a long drive to get from Sailors Falls to Strath Creek Falls. I figured that we mind as well give this place another shot since the last time I was here, the falls was bone dry. It was definitely too late to attempt to reach Steavenson Falls nor Snobs Creek Falls before returning to Melbourne.
So it wouldn't be until 5pm when we finally made it to the Strath Creek Falls. We didn't see any falls signage until we were on the Murchison Spur Road, which was reached after taking Short St from Broadford for about 11km or so. We then took the 8km gravel road to the aforementioned signed turnoff for the falls in Mt Disappointment State Forest, and we'd eventually reach that familiar one-way loop.
We actually had to keep right on this loop drive since we knew that the descent was very steep. Last time, we thought it was too steep to bring a 2wd vehicle on. But this time around, the descent didn't seem all that bad.
Once we got to the bottom of the drive, I parked the car next to the trailhead, where a sign said it was 500m or 30 minutes return walk to get to the falls. Somehow I felt like this excursion was supposed to be much shorter than that.
Well, once I got down the trail (Julie stayed in the car), I found a lookout for the Strath Creek Falls along the way. From this vantage point, I could see that the falls was actually flowing although it was flowing thin. At least this meant that the scenic rating for this falls was not a 0.5 anymore, but it was still weak and I'd probably give it a 1.
The trail actually kept going down, which I took, and it eventually stopped at the very top of the Strath Creek Falls.
The long shadows were bad for looking downstream from the falls from its top. But regardless, after having my fill briefly of this spot, I headed back up towards the main lookout, and then I eventually rejoined Julie in the car at 5:20pm.
Next, we made the long drive back to Melbourne CBD, where the GPS said we should be back by about 6:30pm or so, but in reality, we wound up making it back to the Grand Hyatt in Melbourne CBD at 7:10pm. Along the way, we did make one quick stop at some overlook showing the brown pastures beneath the Mt Disappointment Forest Reserve. With such arid scenery, it was probably little wonder that Strath Creek Falls was as light as it was. Then again, it was actually flowing and not totally dry like it was when we were here back in November 2006!
As we got closer to the city centre, we probably spent the last 30+ minutes were at one traffic light after the next along with slow driving in the CBD.
After changing into street clothes, we'd head back down for dinner at 7:45pm. We didn't have any idea where we should go for dinner, but Julie hastily did some research and thought we should do some French Restaurant or this spot called Coda, which was right at the far western end of Flinders Lane.
Upon seeing the favorable reviews of Coda, we went right into that restaurant and sat at the bar.
We'd eventually get dishes like a pork shoulder, a duck larb, a Beijing roast chicken, and side of veggies with pear as well as other greens.
It turned out that each of the dishes we had were extraordinarily good (even though we didn't consume any alcohol to complement the food). Everything was spot on and it was clear that the chef her really knew what he was doing.
Eventually by 9:30pm, we returned to our room after making an after-dinner stop at the IGA again. This time, we picked up some kefir and some smoked salmon as well as Australian beef prosciutto that would serve as my power breaky for tomorrow morning.
Once we were back in our room, we called it a day. With our late arrival at our room, the concern was that we'd be sleeping late again, which was not good as we were now both trying to get over a cold or something.
I guess we'll just have to play it by ear and see what's going to happen tomorrow, especially now that I'll be on my own...
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Day 13 (November 21, 2017 - Melbourne, Victoria, Australia): "Lonely Road Of Faith"
It was 5:25am when I awoke. I took some time to get dressed, brush teeth, and have some breakfast in the room, where my meal was composed of kefir, smoked salmon over old gluten free bread, and some fruits. It appeared that the sore throat that I had yesterday was no longer there. Even still, when Julie momentarily got up to make some brew, she refused to let me have the now-three-day-old brownies and cookies from Apollo Bay until she was convinced that I completely fought off any virus I might have contracted.
So by 6:10am, I headed downstairs with all my gear on me, and I patiently awaited the valet to retrieve the rental car. Five minutes later, I got the car and I was now driving the streets of Melbourne.
It was already a bit on the chaotic side even though it was still early in the morning. This time, the GPS had me take some toll route on the CityLink leading towards the Melbourne Airport. I was wondering why the GPS had me go northwest instead of northeast, but I guess in its wisdom, its algorithm aimed to get me to where I was going the quickest.
Yesterday, I avoided the toll and took the Ferguson Rd until I got to the freeway entrance past the toll. This time, however, I managed to avoid all the traffic lights. There was still traffic even on the toll portions of the freeway though, and I wondered how much time did I really save in doing the CityLink to get out of the city.
Anyways, it didn't take long before I went onto the M31 (Hume Highway) that eventually led me to the northeast in the direction of Sydney. At this point, the speed limits and the speed cameras were kept at about 100km/h with a few road work queueing along the way, but it would eventually get really bush once I got past the Broadford area (which we drove to yesterday for Strath Creek Falls) and the speed limits were then 110km/h.
It was quite smooth going, and eventually I'd get off the freeway in the Wangaratta vicinity and then took the C315 east towards Beechworth. I was amazed that throughout this freeway, the gas prices remained at the exorbitant $1.49 AUD per litre. The worst it got for me at the Great Ocean Road at $1.34 AUD per litre, and I thought that was supposed to be the expensive part.
Anyways, the driving was pretty smooth, and by 9:30am, I made it to the Newtown Falls, which was in the southern end of the town of mining town of Beechworth. And like 11 years ago, I made a three-point turn to pull over near the lookout for the waterfall. There was a one-way road that went the opposite way so I couldn't drive that way though I wondered how to get in at the other end.
As I had anticipated, the best lighting was in the early afternoon, which was when I showed up the last time I was here. Since it was now mid-morning, the sun was kind of on top of the falls so it made the lighting harsh. Still, it wasn't terrible, and I was still able to bring out the colors of the rocks flanking the waterfall, which was flowing much better than the first time.
After having my fill of the falls at 9:45am, I then continued driving towards the town centre. However, before I did that, I was curious to see how to get to the entrance of that one-way road and so I went further up Pritchard Lane, which led me to a separate road that wound up going some other place.
So I knew there had to be another way that I could figure out later.
And so I went back the way I came to the C315 and then I turned left to go through the town centre. I saw that there was a gas station serving up unleaded gas for only $1.29 AUD per litre. So I made a mental note to fill up here before going to the next place once I was done with Woolshed Falls, which I was about to do next.
After driving some 3km north of town, I did notice along the way that there was a Scenic Gorge 5km drive. That must be the road that out eventually exit at the Newtown Falls. So I made a mental note to do that drive after visiting Woolshed Falls.
Eventually at 10am, I pulled up to the furthest part of the road, which had a small car park and a lookout deck just a few paces from the end of the road.
It didn't take long before I got to that lookout deck, where I got that familiar look at the Woolshed Falls. This time, it had very nice flow though the lighting wasn't quite as good as the first time I was here when the reds in the rocks were showing a lot more given the early afternoon light back then. Mid-morning light wasn't best, and the sun was quite hot and intense already.
Still, the lighting wasn't terrible and I managed to get the shots and videos that I was after.
Ten minutes later, I moved the car over to the main car park, which had a toilet facility and some signage as well as some picnic tables. There were lots of choices of tracks, but I opted to go with the short descent leading to the top of the Woolshed Falls.
I could scramble onto the rocks and get as close to the water as I wanted, but I was quite content to get my videos and shots and try not to bake in the intense sun as it was beating down on me.
By about 10:30am, I was back in the car. I didn't do the Reids Creek Track, which I heard you could pan for gold or something like that over there. And besides, just as I returned to the car, there was a ranger-led group of kids that also rocked up to the car park via that track.
As I was driving south back towards Beechworth, I saw signage (actually more for drivers facing north as they were leaving Beechworth) leading to my right towards the Scenic Gorge Drive. So I went ahead and did that drive, which was actually bi-directional at the beginning, but then for the final 4km, it was one-way. So I kind of knew that I was going the right way and that it would eventually output me at the Newtown Falls on Pritchard St.
The narrow road eventually led me down to a bridge over the same creek as that of the falls, and I noticed that there were even more smaller but attractive cascades upstream from that bridge as well as some pipes that were probably for water diversion.
After having my fill of that as well as a view back down towards Beechworth, I then went past the Newtown Falls and went back into town for a few quick shots to get a flavor of the historic gold town of Beechworth. It had a nice Post Office building next to the roundabout in the centre of town, but that was about the extent that I toured the town.
On the way out of town, I then filled up at that cheap gas station, where I had a brief discussion with the proprietor there about the fallacies of the Pay Wave thing we kept getting asked about (basically an RFID mechanism for paying without needing the chip and pin nor the swiping of the card).
By about 11am, I was finally on my way towards the next attraction, which was the Snobs Creek Falls.
Again, it was a pretty long drive to get there (since it was a very long drive to get all the way to Beechworth from Melbourne). I backtracked my way to the M31 then drove for nearly another hour on the high-speed highway before taking one of the C roads in the direction of Alexandra, Yea, and eventually Eildon (though there were intermediate towns along the way but their names escaped me).
Once I got to within 5km of Eildon, that was when I turned right onto Snobs Creek Road, which started off paved, then went unpaved for the last 2km before the waterfall's familiar pullout or trailhead on the side of the gravel road. It was a very dusty road because logging trucks would pass by and throw up so much dust that it had to have taken at least a couple of minutes before the dust settled.
The fine particles thrown up in the air couldn't have been good for the lungs if I was outside the car.
Anyways, at 1:20pm, I went down the first 75m path to a lookout of the cascades on Snobs Creek. There wasn't anything special here other than I could appreciate how much volume was in the creek by its rush. Another logging truck passed by above me so I could see all that dust like clouds back up at the trailhead.
After going up then down the 220m path to the Snobs Creek Falls, I was back at the familiar top of the falls where there was an attractive view looking downstream. However, it looked like they built a new metal staircase that only got you part of the way down and too close to the falls to effectively photograph it. I knew that in the past, I had gotten clean photos of the front of the main part of the falls, but this view seemed to be even worse.
And like I remembered before, there were still more of the falls further downstream, but for all intents and purposes, you couldn't really get to experience those other aspects of the falls. And so this visit was kind of a disappointment (especially when you consider the detour I took to get here).
So I did what I had to in order to capture the experience, then get back up to the car, where it was baking in the hot sun.
By 1:40pm, I drove off. Now, I was headed towards Marysville, which was within the massive Black Saturday bushfires that happened in February 2009. I was very curious to see how the town and the Steavenson Falls had recovered since that time. I can only imagine with Global Warming that more wildfires like this would flatten other mountain communities as changing rainfall distributions and extreme heat become more commonplace.
At least the drive to get to Marysville wasn't that far from Snobs Creek Falls. So by 2:30pm, I got to the familiar car park for the Steavenson Falls. The drive through Marysville wasn't as bustling as I remembered from back in November 2006, where I swore there were tour buses, lots of activity in the town, and even some place that sold award winning meat pies.
Now, the town seemed a bit more subdued on this visit, and I wondered if it had to do with the decimation resulting from the Black Saturday bushfires, and now it was on the slow road to recovery.
At the car park, there was a fee for $3 AUD to park for cars as well as other rates for other categories of vehicles. Unfortunately, the machines there only took coins, and I didn't have coins with me. So I couldn't put any money to feed the machine, and I risked it.
After walking by a shelter (crowded with lots of tour bus folks that appeared to be Aussie elders), I then walked the familiar path towards a junction where I could see the Steavenson Falls in pretty much its entirety.
The paths going closer to the falls reduced the visibility of the upper part of the falls illustrating how much it sloped. It was quite hot on this visit and the lighting was harsh. There were also hints of thunderclouds that were budding near the area.
But it didn't take long before I got my fill of this falls, and then I walked towards the turbine before going up the steps and finally returning to the car, which didn't have a fine.
At 3:05pm, I returned to the car, and I spent 10 minutes to eat the prosciutto and gluten-free bread that Julie bought but wasn't well enough to eat. Ten minutes later, I headed out and back to the Melbourne CBD.
Along the way, I found a cheap gas station at $1.22 AUD per litre (just a block or two before it went to $1.49 AUD per litre for the rest of the way) in Healesville. But for the rest of the drive, I pretty much followed a twisty mountain road eventually leading to the Ringwood suburb, and that was when the GPS took me onto the EastLink toll road, which got me onto the M3 towards the Melbourne CBD.
And by 5:10pm, I finally dropped off the rental car with the Hyatt valet in the Melbourne CBD. I managed to get there sooner than I expected, and now I looked forward to having dinner with Julie and possibly twilight touring the Melbourne CBD.
But it wouldn't be until about 6:20pm when we went to this place called Sezar for dinner. It was some kind of Armenian-Australian fusion place. And we opted to go there in lieu of the French Brasserie, which looked very pricey and a suit-and-tie type of place.
The dinner consisted of some kind of interesting lamb belly appetizer before we got our mains of beef cheek and barramundi along with a side of cabbage noodle salad. It was a satisfying meal, and it was solidifying in our minds that Melbourne was quite the foodie place.
It also reinforced our theory that when you go to countries that are known for having their own cuisines like in Italy, France, Japan, and even India and China, among others, you wouldn't want to have food from other ethnicities. Like you wouldn't want to go have Chinese in Italy, for example.
However, if you visit USA, UK, Australia, and Canada among others, where they aren't known for having their own cuisines, then you wind up with interesting fusion between cultures that's done well. And this was certainly the case here with the Sezar as well as Coda (with more of an Asian fusion) last night.
Anyways, after the dinner, Julie showed off to me the places that she went while I went solo waterfalling. So she took me to the graffiti alleyway on Hooser Lane as well as a different smaller alleyway next door to the Grand Hyatt that we were staying at.
After going through the alleyway (where it was clear that there was some tagging in addition to the artistic graffiti), we then walked towards Federation Square. At that square, we saw the Melbourne Rail Station (though there was lots of scaffolding covering up its otherwise historic-looking exterior) and across the street was the St Pauls Cathedral, where there was some music festival going on right next door to it.
Then, on the way back to the Hyatt, we checked out the Atrium of the ACMI building, which was right across from the very interesting facade of the Forum (with its minarets).
By 8:35pm, we were back at our room to wind down the evening. With so much energy and buzz for a Tuesday night, it would have been nice to stay out later in the night, but I guess we're getting old and we were just looking forward to unwinding on this otherwise very long day.
Tomorrow, I was going to take a break from waterfalling and just spend the whole day touring the Melbourne CBD. This day was earned after fitting in all the waterfalling in the state's northeast today. I was going to punt the Gippsland touring for our last full day in Melbourne before flying over to Tassie.
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Day 14 (November 22, 2017 - Melbourne, Victoria, Australia): "Bodies"
It was about 7am when I awoke, which was like sleeping in for me. Julie was still sleeping in so it wouldn't be until about 9:50am when we finally left the room after having our own quick breaky inside our room. Julie was hoping to have a breaky at the Queen Victoria Market, which was the first sightseeing thing she wanted to do today.
Along the way, we made a call to the Digicel on Elizabeth Street (per the recommendation by the Asians we spoke to at Trentham Falls), and we learned that they had one more of the Canon 18-200mm EF-S lens in stock. It also only costed $650 AUS, which was cheaper than I expected (I expected to pay at least $699 USD per B and H as well as Amazon prices), and we should be able to get back GST when at the airport.
So they held that lens for me (which would replace my faulty one which wouldn't auto-focus when zoomed in), and then we were out the door of our Hyatt and promptly caught the tram in the direction of both the Digicel and the Queen Victoria Market.
It turned out that the trams were free within the CBD so there was no reason not to take it. It was also already pretty hot as Melbourne was to get up to 31C today (said to be the 7th straight day of being 28C and above in November, which apparently set some record for warmest November in Melbourne).
By about 10am, we picked up the replacement lens successfully, and then caught the next tram up to the Queen Victoria Market, which also happened to be within the free zone.
However, when we got out and got up to the market, it looked empty and the doors to the interior were closed. Someone guarding over the area said that the market was closed on Mondays and Wednesdays. So I guess we were screwed with this.
I wasn't sure if we'd ever get to experience the Queen Victoria Market since tomorrow I was going to drive out to Gippsland for pretty much the whole day, and the following day was a fly day, where we had to catch an early morning flight to Launceston, Tasmania.
So after fruitlessly walking around the closed Queen Victoria Market (which was kind of interesting in that the outdoor sheltered area looked quite extensive so this would be quite a large market), we took the tram back towards Flinders Street and Elizabeth Street.
Whilst there, Julie decided that she wanted to have an early lunch and she saw a Nando's Chicken.
By 11am, we came in just when they opened, waited for Julie to get the food as a takeaway, and then we walked down Flinders Lane towards the Roule Galette, which Julie was raving about yesterday.
While I had associated Flinders Lane with the row of fancy fusion restaurants near our accommodation in the block between Russell St and Exhibition St, Flinders Lane actually kept stretching more westerly and we had started our walk from Elizabeth St.
So along the way, we discovered some other interesting alleyways where some of them had outdoor seating cramped in tight side alleyways that very much reminded us of how some places in Europe were. It was a nice ambience that we didn't expect in Australia, but I guess it showed that perhaps in the past, we didn't really give Melbourne a good look and experience as we had been far more focused on natural attractions as opposed to city attractions.
We've learned over the years we had to mix things up between city and non-city things (not just amongst waterfalls and non-waterfall natural attractions), and I guess that was certainly one thing we've noticed that was different about our experiences from our early days of international waterfalling.
By 11:25am, we found the quaint eatery on a side laneway with astroturf. There were other interesting laneways along the way as we walked here.
Since Julie already had Nando's as a takeaway, I bought the chicken and avocado galette as well as the Amoniere dessert (which was supposed to be chocolate, vanilla ice cream, and whipped cream, but I substituted nutella for the chocolate).
The food was very authentic and delicious. Both the workers and the family running the place were from Brittany, and when we told one of the workers that we visited Normandie (mainly Etretat and Mont-St-Michel), she also said that she's a "blue blood" as well.
No wonder why the galette and sweet crepes were so good. It brought me back to that time we had a really good crepe and galette place in Etretat, and it was easily the best since we had really great crepes in Madrid, Spain as the French proprietor there made his dishes.
At 12:20pm, we were done with the lunch and went back up to the room so Julie could make both a potty break as well as drop off some of the excess stuff like the broken camera lens I was carrying around.
Ten minutes later, we headed back down where we then walked towards Federation Square whilst taking photos along the way.
Eventually at 12:30pm, Julie spotted a couple of red hop-on-hop-off (I'll just call them HOHO from now on) buses parked on the side dropping off passengers. She thought that we should just go up to the driver and pay for our tickets.
The first bus driver we spoke to said that the bus driver behind him was heading to St Kilda, which was where we were headed. Once we spoke to that guy, we paid $70 AUD (these HOHO buses are quite pricey but nowhere as pricey as the one in Vancouver), and then hopped onto a lower deck seat as the entire upper deck was filled up.
The bus then proceeded to head out and by 12:55pm, we got off at the first stop which was the Shrine of Rememberance. This war memorial was something that I knew Julie and I had gone to before, but this time, the facility was open so we were able to go up to the balcony as well as the steps to take photos.
It was such a beautiful clear (albeit hot) day so the nice colors in the sky contrasted with the views towards the skyline of the Melbourne CBD as well as towards the Royal Botanical Gardens, and towards the beaches way off in the distance between some other high-rise apartments.
For some reason, our last visit here didn't seem as fulfilling, and I attributed that to the hazy gray skies as well as the facility being shut for the day (or maybe it was shut because we showed up too late in the day?). But this time around, it seemed so much more fulfilling and interesting.
After having our fill of the Shrine of Rememberance, we then went back across the street towards the HOHO bus stop. We weren't quite sure when the next bus would show up until we saw on our map that the next one at this stop wasn't for another 20 minutes or so. Apparently the buses typically show up once every hour.
At 1:50pm, we were finally picked up by the bus and headed towards St Kilda. Again, the upper deck of the bus didn't have any available seats so we were sitting on the lower deck where it was quite stuffy. It caused both of us to want to doze off though I managed to keep myself awake checking out where the driver was going as well as trying to pay attention to the PA recording and the sights along the way.
Eventually, we got off at the Luna Park stop at 2:40pm (it had been a nearly 40-minute bus ride to get here), where we made a mental note of where we got off at because we weren't quite sure where we could find the other bus stops that served the HOHO St Kilda route.
Anyways, Luna Park and the neighboring Palais Theatre were places that cousin Nicole and Max took us to 11 years ago when they were studying at Monash Uni. I remembered the big mouth at the entrance of Luna Park, and I also remembered that this place was really bustling during that day. But for today, Luna Park was closed and so was the Palais Theatre so it was pretty much dead over here.
After taking our obligatory photos before the Coney Island-inspired park, we then walked towards the St Kilda Beach, where it was very crowded and humming with activity. There were also wannabe rappers and people playing boom boxes very loudly, which kind of gave this place a little bit of a ghetto feel even though it was just a handful of people doing the ghetto thing.
All the energy and young sunbathers made for the kind of atmosphere that made us want to find a place to just sit down and relax. At 3:05pm, we'd eventually find a place called Republica, which had patio seating facing the beach though all the seats there were taken up. So we sat indoors by a window so we could both stare out.
We picked up some very light late lunches even though we both had eaten earlier. She picked up some kind of octopus salad while I got a swordfish ceviche. Both dishes were light and quite good.
After finishing our food some 30 minutes later, we then walked towards the St Kilda Pier. Once we were on the pier, we saw that it was quite a walk to get all the way to the end of the pier and we didn't wind up going all the way. It was also a little dead on this pier though there was signage saying that penguins would visit the pier in the mornings.
We also looked further to the west where we saw an even longer and more extensive beach (I thnk it's called the Middle Beach) that had far fewer people than the limited real-estate of the St Kilda Beach. We couldn't see much of a discernable difference between the two beaches besides their sizes. So I concluded that the St Kilda Beach had that lemmings effect where most young people had the urge to either see or be seen in a very narcissistic way, and thus create that Miami Beach-like feel.
The other longer beach seemed to offer the same beach type experience without the crowds and the potential to see bodies.
Anyways, it was getting to the time of the next expected arrival/departure time of the HOHO buses, but instead of trying to figure out where stop 7 would be (which was supposed to be St Kilda Beach), we walked across a bridge and all the way back to stop 5, which was at the Luna Park stop that we knew we had gotten off on earlier.
By 4:05pm, we were waiting for the HOHO bus to show up, and eventually at 4:30pm (ten minutes behind schedule), we boarded the next bus and Julie promptly went up to the upper deck to score one of the few remaining seats left.
For the remainder of the ride back, we were feeling the nice breeze caused by the moving bus. We were also passively checking out the remaining stops from the St Kilda Marina to the wharf where we saw the Spirit of Tasmania ferry docked and ready to leave as well as a massive cruise ship (Julie said it was a Carnival Cruise) docked on the other side of the wharf.
Eventually at 5:10pm, we were told by the bus driver that we were at the last stop even though we were only in front of the ACMI Museum or Art Gallery or something like that. It was still quite a walk from here to Federation Square, which was where we expected to be dropped off since that was where we began the tour.
That surprised everyone, and well, we just hoofed it to get back to the free zone for the city trams back across the Yarra River.
Next, we caught a tram towards Elizabeth Street (though truthfully, we could have walked it), and then we walked from Flinders and Elizabeth towards Colins St, where we then entered the Block Arcade.
The TripAdvisor reviews made this place sound like a must do experience, but after having passed through its short arcade (with lots of staff dressed in black for some reason; were they getting ready for some function?), we then left the place quite underwhelmed.
Next, we caught the tram towards the Russell and Colins stop, where we then got off and walked through the Grand Hyatt building and back down into the Flinders Lane, where we then went to the Oter Restaurant, which was right across a laneway from Coda.
We got to the restaurant at 5:55pm, where the interior of the underground restaurant was quite dead as we were but one of a couple of parties here. Regardless, we wound up getting 4 pieces of the sea urchin over Kolarabi noodles, a foie gras terrine, and a confit of duck as well as a lettuce salad with real Dijon mustard dressing.
The meal was simple albeit pricey. But since we came early, we were also able to get out early. And by 6:50pm, we were done with dinner and headed over to the IGA Express so we could pick up a few more breaky items to eat in the room as well as some fruits to take with us on the road tomorrow.
I think Julie was still on the fence about going with me to Gippsland or not. We'll have to play that by ear.
At 7:15pm, we were back in our room to drop off the groceries in the fridge. We also dilly dallied in the room until about 7:40pm when we saw that the sun had started to sink behind some of the high rise buildings as we looked out our window.
So back down to the streets we went, and as we started to walk back in the direction of Federation Square (where we were expecting to watch the sunset over the Yarra River next to the railway station), we saw that there was a huge line wrapped around the Forum.
When we walked by the Forum entrance, we saw that Vance Joy was performing there. No wonder why this place was so busy!?!
Julie actually forgot who Vance Joy was, but when I reminded her that he was the artist behind the big Top 40 hit Riptide and seeing it on YouTube on our iPhone, then she understood the fuss. Besides, I knew that the only way she'd come across any songs was if it was played on her My FM station back at home, and that's not saying much since they only play a handful of songs every hour on high rotation (so it's easy to get sick of every song), and Riptide was one such song.
Our crappy commercial stations back at home were nothing compared to Triple J's variety and lack of commercials, and getting people oversaturated with very specific songs was one terrible consequence of commercial radio.
When we made it to the bridge over the Yarra River near the train station, we looked west towards the setting sun though the lighting was quite harsh so all the buildings looked dark. So we actually didn't linger for too long there.
We then decided to walk across the busy street towards the Alexandra Garden. Down there, we then walked up to the banks of the Yarra, where we could see the Melbourne CBD skyline reflected in the seemingly still and polluted river.
Once we had our fill of these spots (especially since it seemed like there were some biting insects by the river), we then walked up to the Yarra River Bridge on Swanston Street, and then just before returning to Federation Square, we decided to walk in the direction of all the commotion that was going on in the opposite side of the Yarra to the Alexandra Garden.
It seemed like some kind of festival or something was concluding because heaps of people were walking in the opposite direction that we were going.
Eventually, we'd made it to a queue that was trying to enter through security at one of the entrances to the Noodle Night Market. Some girls told some people standing before us that there was another way in and we didn't have to stand in the long line that we were in.
So we promptly ditched the line, went through a different security entrance point that went up a grassy hilled lawn backed by the Melbourne Skyline, and ultimately walked our way along the hill towards a bridge and another lawn area with food stalls.
By the time we got onto the bridge, the sun had already set and twilight had set in.
There were heaps of people sitting on the lawns as well as a handful of plastic picnic tables. There was a thick aroma of barbeques and other foodstuffs on offer in this Australian take on the Asian Night Market.
It kind of brought me back to the time when Julie and I checked out the Mindil Beach Night Market in Darwin, except this really buzzing night market was going on for only a few weeks from November 9th to the 26th, and we just happened to be in it on the 22nd.
So we spent a pretty good deal of time trying to soak in the ambience of all the people, the twilight settings, the skyline buildings starting to light up, and the artificial neon lights shining brightly within the Noodle Night Market itself.
In addition, we also tried some of the night market food from garlic prawn skewers on one stand to some scallop skewer and fries (they had run out of baby octopus) at another. Most of the other stalls either had long lines or they didn't have gluten free options for Julie. Still, of the two places we did buy something, we were glad to know that this market was cashless.
After having our fill of the Noodle Night Market (just as twilight was over and total night time had taken over), we then walked our way through the Atrium of the ACMI, then walked back towards Russell Street where we could hear through the Forum Entrance part of the Vance Joy performance.
We then walked back to the Grand Hyatt Hotel, where by 9:30pm, we were back in our room to finally call it a day. It was yet another long day of touring that started off balky with the Queen Victoria Market not being open, but then it ended up with the really happening Noodle Night Market.
Indeed, these types of experiences could only be had while traveling, and although we weren't as youthful as most of the travelers these days carrying around and buried in their phones, we were still reminded of the kinds of experiences that made us feel more alive and part of something that you simply can't get in our daily 9 to 5 lives.
Well, tomorrow, we've got one more full day of touring, and whether I'm going solo in Gippsland or Julie's going to join me remains to be seen...
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Day 15 (November 23, 2017 - Melbourne, Victoria, Australia): "The Prom"
I managed to awake to my 5:45am alarm, which meant that I must have not heard the 5:30am alarm. I guess these things happen when you sleep right around midnight the previous night.
Knowing that Julie was going to tour Melbourne CBD again, I was left on my own to go waterfalling in the Gippsland area. I knew that I needed an early start if I was to get to all the target waterfalls while also getting to experience the Wilsons Promontory (also known as Wilson's Prom).
The waterfalls I was targeting were the Toorongo Falls and Agnes Falls, which were two waterfalls that I did the last time we were here. However, I was leaving out Cyathea Falls as that would be too ambitious to fit in as it was even further east than both waterfalls (somewhere south of Traralgon).
This time, I called in for the valet so by the time I went downstairs at 6:25am after having a breaky (and Julie fought me when she got up to prevent me from having my death by chocolate brownie that I picked up at Apollo Bay), I was out the door and driving to the southeast.
Pretty much from the get go, I was following Batman Street, which was already a toll road. And it went right onto the Monash Freeway, which was also a toll highway. So now that I knew that the rental car was equipped with one of these transponders, I heard the beeps that let me know that they were tallying up the tolls as I passed through.
Since I had no idea how much toll I'd be paying, I had a sinking feeling that it would amount to at least $100 AUD. We'll see when I get back what the damage was.
The drive east on the Monash Freeway eventually got me towards Warragul, though the GPS had me exit the freeway where the next road took me in the direction of Mt Baw Baw.
I pretty much followed the road towards Mt Baw Baw until I started to see the Toorongo Falls Scenic Reserve signs. Eventually after taking the Toorongo Falls Road, where the last 1.2km was unsealed, I finally reached the dead-end for the Toorongo Falls car park at 8:05pm.
So far, the shadows were still long and the sun still did not penetrate the car park yet.
The signage here stated that this part of Victoria was one of the state's rainiest parts. That was interesting because I had been following the Bureau of Meteorology before this trip, and they had been saying that Gippsland had been lacking in rain this Winter and Spring season.
I quickly got my stuff together and proceeded on the familiar loop hike that was more of a lollipop loop where the signage had me hike in an anticlockwise manner passing by the Toorongo Falls before making it all the way to the Amphitheatre Falls before turning back to the car park.
The Toorongo River seemed to have a pretty healthy volume this time around (though it was also flowing pretty nicely the last time I was here 11 years ago). But the trail ascended quickly up some switchbacks and steps pretty much right after I reached the bottom of the loop where I started to go anticlockwise.
This trail didn't seem to have a lot of traffic (or at least maybe I was the first one on this trail today) because I found myself running into spider webs and they'd brush against my face whenever the vegetation was close enough together to make such an arrangement feasible for the spiders here. So I ultimately found myself with one hand forward chopping the air with the other hand holding onto the camera. That way, I hoped that the hand would hit the web first before my face would. At least that was the theory.
Even though the forest was cool and crisp at this time of the morning, I was already working up a little bit of a sweat. Eventually at about 8:30am, I reached the familiar viewing deck for the Toorongo Falls, where I got to see the main tier though there were more cascades further downstream (so the falls was actually taller than the viewing would lead you to believe). I was even able to see glimpses of the waterfall on the way up though there was never really a clean view until the viewing deck due to all the overgrowth of ferns and trees.
While I was checking out Toorongo Falls, I was startled when a branch fell from above right onto the viewing deck! Luckily I was standing on the bench to try to get a clean look at the falls without the railing in the foreground. Still, with the size of that branch, it might have hurt but wouldn't have killed me had I been bonked on the head with this branch. But if it was anything bigger, I wouldn't have been so lucky.
After having my fill of the Toorongo Falls, I then decided that I would complete the loop and head over to the Amphitheatre Falls. At least the uphill part was pretty much over as I continued for the next 15 minutes going on a relatively level trail before it descended towards the metal viewing deck for the Amphitheatre Falls. Since the trail leading up to Toorongo Falls pretty much followed its creek, I noticed that Amphitheatre Falls seemed to be on a separate creek. This was further confirmed when I had my fill of the small falls and went to complete the loop, which pretty much skirted the creek.
Eventually at 9am, I got back to the car where the morning sun had penetrated the car park and even was shining right on the parked rental car. I guess I picked a bad spot to keep the car and the stuff inside cool.
Next, I drove off and headed deeper into Gippsland. With the early morning start, I felt like I had some momentum working for me. But now, I had a choice of what to do next - their go straight to Agnes Falls (ETA 11:15am) or to Squeaky Beach in Wilson's Promontory (ETA 11:55am). I ultimately decided to go to Wilson's Prom first as I wanted to listen to Dr Karl and the science hour on Triple J, which had largely eluded us on this trip so far (even though I knew I could stream the podcast back at home though I like the musical interludes that you don't get on the podcast).
So the drive went pretty uneventfully as I went southwards on twisty forest roads eventually briefly hooking up with the South Gippsland Highway. Along the way, a sign saying something about the World's Tallest Tree caught my attention, and when I saw that it was only 1km off the road I was on, I decided to go for a look.
Well, it turned out that there was nothing more than some signage saying that the tree was felled in the late 1800s and that the height of the tree had it fallen would stretch as far as some white post further east down the road. It was kind of a disappointing visit, but then again, if it was genuinely the tallest tree alive, there would have been a lot more tourism infrastructure devoted to it.
Anyways, once I got on the South Gippsland Highway, it didn't take long before I continued heading further south towards Wilson's Prom.
When I eventually got to the entrance gate for Wilson's Prom National Park, the signage said the entry was free but take a visitor guide. So I promptly did that, then heeded the slower speed limits due to the possible presence of wildlife (especially wombats and these lemur-looking things).
By about 11:45am, I stopped the car at the Norman's Lookout. While there were already some really nice views of the blue waters off the coast of the Wilson's Prom's western shores, I couldn't really capture what I was seeing as I was driving.
So the Norman's Lookout would have to do. But once I pulled up and walked right up to the lookout, I could see some offshore islands and some hints of the blue green waters below. However, the beaches and the waters looked kind of flat given the thick vegetation in the foreground.
So I then pulled over at the next lookout, which was called the Glennie Lookout. This lookout was wider but it was also limited and flat looking. So I didn't linger here for too long either.
By about 11:50am, I eventually made it to the fairly busy Squeaky Beach, which was one of the main attractions of the Wilson's Prom. The sun was already out and quite intense at this time of the day, and after taking the 300m walk towards the beach, I then walked onto the blindingly white sands, where each hard step actually produced the namesake squeaks.
Apparently, there was something about the properties of the sand here that made them squeak (upon a hard step), and it was almost as if you had to do a D.D. Dumbo walk to get that sound out of the sand.
This place was simply too surreal and peaceful to be spending only a few minutes here. I really wished that we spent the night at one of the accommodations here (I'm sure they'd be basic) just so we could chillax on the sands of this beach as well as the nearby Norman's Beach.
The blinding white sands contrasting the colors of the Southern Ocean really reminded me of my Whitsundays experience or even the white sand beaches of Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu, especially at Port Olry and Champagne Beach.
At 12:35pm, I made it back to the car. Even though there were probably about two dozen people or so here, the beach was big enough and spaced out enough that it felt divine and relaxing here. It was certainly no St Kilda Beach in the ghetto and superficial factor.
There were even orange tinged rocks that reminded me of the Remarkable Rocks on Kangaroo Island that we had seen barely over a week ago.
The knobby granite mountain backing the beach was apparently Mt Bishop. Looking against the sun, it wasn't easy to photograph satisfactorily, but it was ceratinly an imposing feature.
After driving even further towards Tidal River, I eventually went through the 10km/h stretch eventually leading to the car park for Norman's Beach at 12:45pm. There was actually a tour bus that was here as well as some scattered cars parked about the mostly empty car park.
But when I walked down the sandy footpath towards "Ramp 2", I got to see the mostly protected beach as well as some even calmer parts where freshwater was cutting through the sand and mixing with the sea water around some mini-island, where the water was probably about ankle deep. The kids that were here loved playing there.
Meanwhile, when I walked up to the wet sand portions, I saw those familiar balls of sand accompanied by some holes, where clearly there were some little crabs that lived beneath the surface here.
By 1:10pm, I had had my fill of Norman's Beach and returned to the car. I then had myself a quick lunch of the smoked salmon on leftover gluten free bread. After that picnic meal, I also finished off the chocolate chip cookie though it was not soft and moist since it was several days old since I had purchased it at the bakery in Apollo Bay.
Next, the drive headed back north in the direction of the town of Foster. As I was making my way back to the South Gippsland Highway, I saw that there was one gas station offering a price of $1.34 per litre, which was the cheapest that I had seen this side of Victoria. I started to catch onto the fact that the closer to the city you get, the more expensive the gas (which was opposite what we were used to back at home).
Eventually, I wound up in the town of Toora, where I started to see an Agnes Falls sign. At one turnoff, it said that the drive was about 15km long to get to the reserve. The GPS said there was another turnoff a short distance later than was 11km long, but I wasn't sure if it would be too narrow or unsealed.
It turned out that the first route I chose was all sealed even though it was a little longer than the other options.
At 2:30pm, I finally made it to the Agnes Falls car park, where there was a toilet and a couple of other cars already parked here in the shade. After I pulled in and tried to leave the car in a shady spot, another car also pulled in.
The path to the lookouts for the falls was a mere 200m, but I could see some picnic area that I didn't recall was there before in 2006. Regardless, I kept my focus and documented the trail as well the various angles of viewing Agnes Falls.
It turned out that there was a weir or diversion channel near the top of the Agnes Falls. I wasn't sure if this was open or not, but that explained why there was some kind of grating as well as underlying concrete brink across the very top of the falls.
Like before, the sanctioned views left more to be desired due to the overgrowth, but I was still able to manage the full height of the falls when viewed awkwardly from the more set back lookout. Meanwhile the more falls-focused photos could also very easily have been accommodated.
After having my fill of the Agnes Falls, when I got back to the car park, I could see at least 3 or 4 vintage Porsche cars also parked at the car park. You don't see that everyday!
Anyways, I returned to the car at 3:05pm, where I had completed the 800m round trip walk (400m each way). The skies remained blue and sunny though there were definitely thunderclouds on the horizon and appearing to head in my direction. Luckily for me, I had gotten my fill of this place before the thunderclouds would have a chance to innundate the area.
By about 3:30pm, I made a stop at the Endeavour Gas Station near the town of Foster, which sold their gas for about $1.34 AUD instead of $1.45 and above per litre that I had seen so far.
The drive would continue heading west northwest along the South Gippsland Highway. The drive was otherwise uneventful except for a brief stop at the Coles in Lynwood Village as I was trying to return Julie's stuff that she couldn't take on the plane with her).
So I found myself back within the chaotic streets of Melbourne, where there was actually traffic on the Monash Freeway and leading all the way towards the Melbourne CBD. At least while I was waiting at a light, I couldn't help but notice the Rod Laver Arena off the corner of Olympic and Batman.
So now I could finally put a place to the name whenever the Australian Open World Tennis Tournament (one of the majors of the ATP tour) would be televised. At least I could finally identify the geography of such a world famous sporting venue that I would intermittently see over the years.
Eventually at 6:30pm, I finally returned to the room after making my attempt at cleaning out the rental car so we could re-pack everything back in our room. Given the intense traffic that I had to face, it had costed me another 30-45 minutes.
I knew that the consequence of all these delays would be that we'd have to wait longer to finally get our shot at the Spanish Tapas place instead of getting there early and having a less hectic experience.
Whilst we were back at the room, we couldn't help but notice some kind of commotion with people speaking into microphones addressing other colleagues or something and some clapping. Clearly, something was going on at our accommodation though it was probably none of our business as it was some conference or business function full of well-dressed professionals (as opposed to us sloppy tourists in jeans and T-shirt or something).
By around 6:45pm, we promptly walked to the Movida Spanish Tapas bar, and were told that it might be 30 minutes wait before we'd be seated. So in the mean time, we killed time by taking pictures within the graffiti laneway as well as some of the rif raf outside of this little charming alleyway.
Ultimately, we were seated before 7pm, and we sat at the bar so we figured that the food and service would be pretty straightforward.
We wound up getting three appetizers and two raciones. We got things like the beef tartare, some kind of Wagyu "brisket" in a toasted bun, and cebolla (lettuce with some fancy dressing or sauce). Our raciones consisted of garlic prawns cooked in cidre, broccolini, and a Wagyu with truffle oil and eggs.
It was a very good meal, and we could have easily tried the chocolate con churros except Julie was still not over her condition, and I was wavering still on coming down with something or my body fighting it off.
Amongst the noisy ambience of the confines of Movida, Julie was regaling me with what she was able to accomplish alone in the Melbourne CBD whilst I was out and about alone in Gippsland. She said we wound up going to some kind of civic buildings with some old school royal architecture and stuff.
When we were done eating at Movida, it was raining pretty hard outside. Still, we had to go back to Coles so Julie could return the pasta jug so we wouldn't have to worry about taking it onto the flight to Tassie tomorrow morning.
After successfully returning the pasta bottle (and purchasing yet another bottle of kefir), we'd eventually return to our room at 8:40pm, thereby ending the last of our days in Melbourne. After spending this last night, we'd be off to Tassie for 9 more nights before this trip would end.
We're two-thirds of the way done with this trip, but I was really looking forward to going back to the bush and away from the city. That said, I was concerned about the forecast calling for rain over the weekend in Tassie so we'll have to play it by ear whether that would impact our plans or not...
Have a waterfall travel story you'd like to share?
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