|Australia travelogue with Eddy le Couvreur. TravelSource.nl|
11 November - 8 December 1998
Wednesday 11 November 1998
Our journey starts at 4:03pm when our train leaves Rotterdam Central Station for Amsterdam Airport. We arrive in good time for our flight to London Heathrow, that will leave at 6:25pm. Unfortunately British Midland is unable to check us in for our connecting flight with Qantas on to Melbourne. To beat possible jetlag we have a pasta meal, on advise of the Dutch AA, which should provide us with the necessary proteines. The flight to London is uneventful and done with before we know it. In London we have two hours for checking in for Melbourne and getting from Terminal 1 to Terminal 4. Unfortunately for Erik (he's 6'8" or 2.02m tall) all seats with extra leg space are gone.
At 10pm local time our aircraft leaves London for our flight to Oz. The flight is long, very long. After almost 11 hours we can stretch our legs in Singapore, before we can face the final 7 hours to Melbourne. At long last we arrive in Melbourne on Friday morning at 6:15am.
Friday, 13 November 1998
The Skybus takes of from the airport to the Melbourne Youth Hostel. The room has not been cleaned yet and we have to kill some time until at least 12 o' clock. After some breakfast we take a tram into town, have a coffee, take a look at some shops and take a ride on a historic and free circle tram line. All this against the background of incessant rainfall. That is bit of a shock. You travel around half the globe and find yourself in poorer weather than you left behind. We go back to our room (that has been cleaned now) and take a nap. Not too long, because we have to get used to a new rythm. We defy the rain once more and take another look around the Central Business District, complete with Christmas decorations already.
At night we eat Indian in the Fitzroy area, where you can find lots of ethnic restaurants. We have to get used to the fact that it's quite normal to bring your own drinks. Many restaurants sport the letters BYO (= Bring Your Own) on their window. Usually they are unlicensed restaurants, but many licensed places allow you to bring your own wine too. They charge A$ 2.50 for opening the bottle and the use of glasses. We end the evening rather early in a gay bar called Jock's in neighbouring Collingwood. It's still kinda quiet, but we are exhausted and call it a day.
Saturday 14 November 1998
We start the day slowly. We have coffee at the (covered) Queen Victoria market. It's quite busy. Lots of Melbourners come here and buy their groceries, but you can find clothing and lots more too. We continue walking on through the Central Business District to Flinders Street Station. A fine railwaystation (on the outside at least), used mainly by commuter trains. At 1:00pm we meet our guide. Through the Melbourne Experience Centre we have applied (from Holland by e-mail) for the Greeter Service. You can state your areas of interest and your preferred language upon which you're matched with a volunteer who will give you a personal tour of Melbourne. The Greeter Service matched us with Franc. He took us on a tour through downtown Melbourne and showed us all kinds of nice spots and relatively old buildings that have survived the drive for renewal in the 1950s. We go up the Rialto towers, Australia's highest building, from which we have a marvellous view over town and beyond. Unlike yesterday the weather is fine. Sunny and around 25° C. We also have look at the exhibition centre and the cathedral, both late 19th century. Around four we have used up all our energy. Especially Erik is still suffering from jetlag and we find ourselves a nice side walk café in the Italian precinct.
At night we go to South Yarra (taking Franc's advice) where there's a lot going on in terms of gay nightlife. Commercial Road is the main drag. We start off the evening in a Malaysian restaurant and wind up in the Xchange Hotel, where it is pleasantly busy. Tonight's drag show reminds us strongly of "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert".
Sunday, 15 November 1998
Our last day in Melbourne starts with a trip to St. Kilda, Melbourne's sea side resort. We take the tram (typical Melbourne mode of transport) which takes us straight to St Kilda. On Sundays there's a street market with various artists selling their work. St Kilda has lots of eateries and family entertainment. After lunch we take the tram back and alight at the ANZAC war memorial, in memory of the Australian and New Zealand soldiers killed in both World Wars. Almost every Australian city appears to have one. This memorial can be climbed and offers a fine view of the CBD. We carry on towards downtown and alight again at the banks of the Yarra River. Here too we find a Sunday market and lots of people. The banks of the Yarra have recently been redevelloped and along the embankment you'll find lots of (ethnic) restaurants. Late afternoon we take a tram again to Fitzroy. We stroll along Brunswick Street and get caught up in a Latin American festival. Later we eat in a ultra trendy restaurant, called Hide Out.
Our Greyhound bus to Adelaide leaves at 10:30pm. We are so unlucky to travel on an older type of bus. The seats are less than comfortable and there is not much leg room. The driver has acquired a rather typical diction which leaves us in the dark on 90% of what he is saying. We try to sleep as much as we possibly can. In any case until three in the morning, when we stop at Nil at a Road House. Dizzy with sleep we order something to drink and a snack, before we move on into the South Australian night...
Monday, 16 November 1998
Around 7:30 we arrive in sunny Adelaide. We are being met at the bus station by a mini coach of East Park Lodge where we will spend the night. Upon arival we hit the sack to catch up with some sleep. East Park Lodge's staff is very helpful, be it not too efficient. They rent us a car to drive to the Barossa Valley. The Barossa is one of the main Wine districts of Australia and is about a 90 minute's drive from Adelaide. We're given a vintage Ford Falcon and take the tourist route to the valley. At Peter Lehmann's vineyard we taste a couple of excellent wines. Especially Lehman's Shiraz, Merlot and Chardonnay are very good. Peter Lehmann is also known as an art collector and each year he has his labels designed by young Australian artists. The town of Tanunda is in the centre of the valley and is the most German in character, judging by the number of Wursthäuser we come across. German immigrants introduced the wine industry in this region. Back to Adelaide we take the wider, but busier Sturt Highway. At night we eat Asian and go to bed early, because tomorrow we have an early start .
Tuesday, 17 November 1998
At 7.30 we're being collected for our two day trip to Kangaroo Island. The bus takes us through the Fleurieu peninsula (another wine growing region) to Cape Jervis, where we board the Catamaran ferry to the island. The crossing takes about three quarters of an hour and we're being held company by quite a number of dolphins. We arrive at Penneshaw, from where a mini van takes us to Kingscote, the main village of the island. We have the rest of the day to ourselves. On the island it is rather cool (15° ) and quite windy. The bathing trunks can stay in our suit case. We explore the village and its surroundings, the first European settlement in South Australia. At night we have dinner in our hotel and at nine a ranger takes to see the Little Penguins who come ashore to find a place to sleep. We see a about 15 of them. They're very shy and unfortunately they cannot be photographed with flash, because it would leave them blinded for hours.
Wednesday, 18 November 1998
Today we can have a ly in. We're being collected for our Wildlife Day Tour by 10.30. The programme is quite full and our expectations are high. We start with a visit to a eucalyptus distillery. Here eucalyptus oil is being produced in a rather traditional (or primitive?) fashion. It's also on sale, of course, and the lady showing us around tells us it helps against almost all thinkable ailments and inconveniences. The only thing not to do, is drinking the stuff (deadly!!). Next on our itenerary is Seal Bay, where we get eye to eye with a large group of seals who are taking a rest on the beach. Unbelievable that you can approach these wild animals at such close range! Our next stop is Flinders Chase National Park. Here we have a look at the "Remarkable Rocks", which are indeed quite remarkable, and Admiral's Arch, also a rock formation. Here again we can admire a group of Fur Seals, who seem to have a good time here. Finally it's time to see some Koalas and Kangaroos. The Koalas sleep a good 20 (!) hours a day in gum trees, so if you happen to see one moving you're in real luck (and we are). The Kangaroos we get to see have gotten quite used to humans. A couple hops fearlessly past me at close range. Then we have to hurry a bit to be in time for our flight back to Adelaide. At six we leave with a tiny plane, taking no more than 9 passengers and a pilot. Back in Adelaide we take a taxi back to East Park Lodge, where we left most of our luggage behind.
At night we have a good Chinese dinner and go for some drinks at the Edinburgh Castle Hotel, one of the four gay bars in Adelaide. It's fairly busy.
Thursday, 19 November 1998
Today we explore downton Adelaide (CBD). There are a number of busy shopping streets, few high rise buildings and a couple of stately buildings, among which the museum, the university and the South Australian parliament. Behind the parliament building we find the Festival Hall and a nice park on the borders of the Torrens River. Before we get there we first visit an Internet Café to inform the home front of our adventures. We end up at Ngapartji , a very nice internet café with good equipment and nice styling. Even outside on the side walk terrace you can go on-line.
At three it's time to leave withthe "Legendary Ghan" for Alice Springs. The "Ghan" is a luxourious train ride of more than 1500 km. The train stops only once at Port Augusta and goes on in one go to Alice Springs, where we will arive at 10am the next morning. The train takes its name from the Afghans who serviced this route with their camels before the railroad was built. We have a compartment that seats two, with comfortable seats. The compartment can be converted easily at night into sleeping cabin. It does become a bit cramped that way, it has to be said. The train also has a restaurant and a lounge car, where you can have a reasonably good meal or a drink respectively. The view from your window is the main attraction. The route takes us along mountain ranges and, of course, a lot of desert. The red landscape (rich of iron ore) is impressive. The sunset is amazingly beautiful.
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