Sunday, 18 May 2014

Outback Road Trip - Homeward Bound

Ok, so it has taken a while to get the last holiday post up, but it's been a busy couple of weeks... enjoy it though now that it's done!

Wind farms on the coast of Victoria.
The time comes in all trips, whether they be a weekend getaway or a one year round the world extravaganza, to start heading home. Usually it is too soon, and you're not ready to leave your holiday fun and sun yet, and face the real world of work. For others it's the final end to a great time, and they need the routine that a 9 till 5 offers... phaw to that! GIve me eternal holidays!

The 12 Apostles at sunset on the Great Ocean Road.
I left Adelaide and aimed to get to, and see, the Great Ocean Road on the same day. This is no mean feat - a good 700kms and about 9 hours of driving. Not the longest I've ever done (this would be the 1600kms from Adelaide to Sydney I did in one go back in 2002), but still a tough old drive. I left at 6am, bright (sort of) and early with high hopes. I did make it, my right foot slightly stiff and sore, but just in time to catch the sunset, and the multitude of tourists with iPhones and iPads trying to photograph the sunset.

The 12 Apostles.
Some of the remaining Apostles.
The Great Ocean Road is the most famous road in Australia, apart from maybe Ramsay Street. It's home to the 12 Apostles and a beautiful winding coastline that really does just represent Australia. The 12 Apostles are limestone stacks on the coast, and were originally part of the cliff face, but have become separate due to wind and water erosion. The Southern Ocean is a harsh neighbour, and there are now only 8 remaining Apostles - the last collapse was in 2005. Eventually new 'stacks' will be formed from the coastline as these one disappear all together.


The harsh wind and waves of the Southern Ocean on the Great Ocean Road.
Loch Ard Gorge is a 3 minute drive from the Apostles, and apart from being beautiful, it has a horrible tale. In 1878, The Clipper "Loch Ard" was just about to complete it's 3 month journey from England to Melbourne. Sadly, not far from it's destination, it ran aground - and all but 2 of it's 54 passengers drowned. The two survivors were a 17 year old Irish woman, Eva Carmichael, and 15 year old Ship's Apprentice Tom Pearce. Tom actually saved Eva from drowning, and was hailed a hero. It really is a beautiful but deadly strip of coast.

The Great Ocean Road - absolutely stunning!
Crazy hook-turns!
A real risk...
After the Great Ocean Road, I hit Melbourne in the morning. I've been to Melbourne a few times, and enjoy it every time! It's clean, lovely to look at, and there is always something happening. I must mention a few things about Melbourne that I don't think I will ever get used to. Firstly, there are the trams - cool to look at and ride, a novelty almost I think, but they are fairly silent, and sneak up on you if you're not careful - death on tracks... maybe I do have a slightly irrational fear of them for some reason. Apart from this risk (in my head), the trams force drivers to do very bizarre "hook" turns. Nowhere else in the world does this happen - and the Melbournians love to be the only ones that have something that no one else does. To turn right, you must go in the far left lane, wait in the middle of intersection until your "hook turn" light says it's OK to go, then you swing around in front of everyone from the far left, and pray you don't hit a tram! I will never get used to it!

Banksy-esk street art in Melbourne that could very well be Banksy!
I have 2 friends that I would like to mention - my friend Syd and Mel. Now, both of these ladies are beautiful, intelligent, and love a party at night, but do they get along? Unfortunately they don't - they are always trying to be in the spotlight, down-playing each other at every turn. In my opinion, Syd is naturally more beautiful, yet slightly older, but Mel, not to be outdone, has gone a little over the top with glitz and glamour, and never fails to talk herself up and gatherings - no one likes too much make up or a big mouth! She believes she makes better coffee, has more style, and also looks European, as well as just being cooler. I like both of them to be honest, even though I was friends with Syd first. I also can't tell one that I like the other - that is just asking for trouble!

Cafe in Melboune.
Old-School Barber's - note the foot marks.
Confused? Let's get back to talking about Melbourne then... When you walk around Melbourne, you know it's clean and organised, very much an Australia city, with the usual CBD and sprawling suburbs. There is the Yarra river, the busy port, and of course it's towering buildings, but there another side to Melbourne. It has a artistic feel to it - from Victoria Markerts, where you can get more than 20 kinds of sausages from one store, Greek food, Asian food, to it's small backstreets and cafes. Streets that in most other cities would be where the rubbish bins are kept, and no one goes (except the odd kitchen worker for a ciggy break), in Melbourne they are busy, filled with coffee and cake smells, and some great street art. There are tall buildings in abundance in Melbourne, just like Sydney, but they seems to be taller, every stretching up, trying to out do everyone else in some kind of architectural competition. The Casino is a popular attraction, and it's worth a walk inside as well - just be careful after 8pm if you're walking in front of the building - huge jets of flame shoot out from pylons on the waterfront (right near where people walk) as part of a fire show that goes every hour till midnight. Great way to get a suntan in winter!

The Sky's the limit in Melbourne.

The great Phar Lap.
National Gallery of Victoria.
One more thing of note. There are a few museums in Melbourne, and though it was a very pleasant, sunny say, I did pop into 2 of them. I was slightly disappointed with the Melbourne Museum, as it cost $10 and nothing really interested me - apart from Phar Lap. Phar Lap was Australia's (and possibly the world's) greatest racing horse, until he died in 1932. NO one knows if it was poison or not, but arsenic has always been suspected - all sorts of stories and conspiracies are told about his death, included death by Mafia in the US. His body is here at the museum, but his heart is kept in Canberra - and get this, his heart weighed 6.2kg, compared to a normal horse's heart which weighs 3.2kg  - no wonder he was quick!

The Thinker - Ancient and Modern.
The National Gallery of Victora is a great museum, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Not having much time, I jumped in on a 1 hour (free, just like the entrance price!) guided tour of the most popular bits. From the history of forks (which to be honest, really didn't do it for me...), to Roman and Greek busts, to landscapes and the Masters, to modern stuff like Picasso. Although there was no Dali or Freida Carlo (anyone who paints a self portrait and over-does the 'monobrow' with pride is great in my books!), there was something from every era and style. You can't beat free culture really, so it is a must if you're visiting - they also have a cool water-wall outside (which I had to touch), and if you look from the outside in, it turns the city street into a classic Monet!

Instant Monet! The National Gallery of Victoria.
So, back in Sydney, and back to reality. As much as I love travelling and getting about, I love that feeling of getting home from a trip, chilling out, and just relaxing. Home is a wonderful thing, and 'home is where the heart is,' but home needs a sofa to really feel like home!

A sunset farewell from the city of Melbourne - Love ya Mel!


Castells in Tarragona

It's Castell Time! The Concurs de Castells, held every 2 years in Tarragona. The 'pack' - forming the pinya for a Huma...