Weeks 15, 16, 17, 18
We got an overnight Bus from Syd to Melb as we were advised there wasn't much to see between. Nat found the goodbyes to her family really hard but the sun in Melbourne helped lift out spirits. We spent some time exploring the city and catching up with friends we had met earlier on our travels. First impressions of Melbourne were that it is a really cool quirky city and we can see why so many people choose to settle here. One evening our Irish friends Martin and Ciara got us involved with the "12 pubs of Xmas" which involved exactly that, along the famous Fitzroy and Acland streets notorious bars and pubs. Not ideal on a backpacker budget but we gave it a good shot, and about 20 Irish and English people dressed up with Santa hats certainly raised the festive spirit (australia don't get half excited about Xmas as us Brits!)
We were looking forward to coming back here in 2 weeks for Xmas but for now it was just a quick visit before our road trip in the camper began...
The Great Ocean Road:
After just 2 days in, this was definitely going to be one of the biggest highlights of our travels.
We drove along the coast stopping at pretty, small towns and view points that would blow anyone away. We stayed at some pretty cool campsites, most memorable being Bimbi in the Otway National Park. We were deep into woodlands with nature all around us and 2 cheeky koalas actually on a tree directly above us! This is where my passion of making fires began! Instead of paying 12 bucks for fire wood I took advantage of being in the middle of woodlands and collected enough twigs and branches to keep us going... Or so I thought! After about half hr or so, the sun was going down and the fire was going out so back out I went, like a bear in search of dinner and came back with plenty to see us through!
We also came across a few giant pillows at some of the camp sites which are amazing and literally 30foot long bouncy castles surrounded by sand. Whatever next!
The drive along the great ocean road was amazing, long winding roads around the cliffs edge, out of one window we could see the trees and greenery, and the other out to sea for miles. The main attractions on the drive for us were the 12 Apostles and the Grotto!
The drive to Adelaide was around 500km from the end of the Great Ocean Road. We stopped at the beach first which was buzzing with life, full of people and schoolies as term had just ended. I jumped off the end of the pier (around 15 feet high) and was put to shame very quickly by little muscly 16year olds back flipping off an even higher section of it (around 25 feet high!)
We drove back to Melbourne inland, and stopped off for a few days at The Grampians which is a national park, surrounded by mountains and huge hills, perfect for long walks and treks! We let off some energy climbing up to see several view points around the park. 3 Great sights that we visited at the Grampians are:
1) "Reid's Lookout" which was hundreds of feet high and aptly named after ME!
2) "Mackenzie Falls" this is home to the largest waterfall in the Grampians and was quite a sight.
3) "Balconies Lookout" Offered views from 2 large rocks jutting out from the mainland appearing like balconies. I climbed over the barriers for great pictures...although a large gust of wind might have thrown me off the cliff to certain death!
We came across many Australian animals in the wild including an echidna (like a hedgehog with long snout) loads Kangaroos grazing at dusk and dozens of different types of birds and parrots. We also came across some huge emus chilling in a picnic area! After a few energetic days our 2000km road trip came to an end as we headed back to Melbourne.
Back in Melbourne, we met up with our friends who have settled there since we had been away on our trip. We spent some time on the beach and of course had a night out together, then it was time to get in the festive spirit.
We went to stay with my friend from uni, Caroline and her boyfriend Ade, we prepared for our first Ozzie Christmas over the next couple of days, getting our Christmas dinner ingredients from a local fresh fruit and veg market and of course picked up our turkey roll! We all spent Christmas eve at the Yarra Valley wineries, sampling the tasty wine and ignoring our travellers budget for a while buying a few bottles for Christmas day, and of course finished the evening by hitting the town.
Christmas Day, we got up early like excited kids, opened all our pressies that we had bought each other and family had left us, then cooked a brilliant fry up for breakfast. We went down to the beach and celebrated in true Ozzie style with xmas hats and a glass of wine in the sand! Unfortunately a storm approached which cut our trip a little short, but we were back cooking our dinner and it actually felt really Christmasy in the rain. In the evening we went to the end of the pier and watched the little penguins coming out of the sea and onto the rocks to nest, it was the perfect way to end the day and something we never imagined we would see on Xmas day.
Over the next few days the Christmas fun continued, we went out drinking with our friends, had a BBQ at Dan and Jens new place, drinks at Martin and Ciara's and explored more of St Kilda and Melbourne City. We headed into the city on a beautiful sunny day and it was buzzing with life. People were watching the cricket on a huge screen and there were street performers (not like those in Covent garden though, these performers had hundreds of people watching and crowding around)
There was something really special about spending Xmas day with Caroline and Ade and they really made it one to remember. We have both never missed a Xmas with our families so having company was great and and we both embraced this rare occasion. Melbourne was the first place along our travels that really felt homely and we could have quite easily stayed longer!
It was an emotional goodbye as we jumped back on a night bus and prepared for our 12hour journey to Sydney!
Back in Sydney, and thankfully the sun was shining, unlike when we were here a month ago. We met up with Paul's friends who were newly engaged, so spent the next few days staying with them in Bondi and celebrating the news! It was good to be back in Sydney, we explored the city again, we went on a day trip over the Manly, which has stunning scenery and a very chilled vibe. Bondi was one of our favourite places, the beach was cool and we walked along the coast to find several more coves with stunning views, so enjoyed chilling for a few days and topping up the tans!
New Year was brilliant, we were very lucky and had the opportunity to watch the fireworks from the 13th floor of one of our friends offices in the city. The view of the fireworks was amazing, we could see the bridge perfectly and 3 other sets of the fireworks from down the river. Having such an amazing view was really the perfect way to see in 2012, and celebrating with drinks and friends really made it.
After such and an amazing year, we are really excited to see what 2012 will bring! The final part of our adventure is about to begin as we head to New Zealand in a matter of days. While we don't want the adventure to stop, we are both really excited to go home and see all of our friends and families......but there's still lots to see before then!