Too far, too fast. A little too expensive.
The nation is rushing by at breakneck speed. We did five single night camps in a week and were left exhausted after lots of driving without seeing very much. If we weren’t constrained by the availability of the ferry to Tasmania, we would pace our adventure much better. Over the past couple of days in Melbourne we have been talking a lot about how we would like to attenuate our travel style when we get to Tasmania on Monday.
More on that later.
When last we wrote we were in sunny and hot Barmera. Now it is rainy and cold Melbourne. Here is the map:
From Barmera we spent a long afternoon of southward driving, hoping to make it to a free camp near Bordertown by dark. The town of Berri got a cursory glance, with a quick stop for some roadside apricots and some falsely advertised ‘ripe’ avocados and it was drive drive drive. We didn’t get to see any more of the Murray River or explore the Riverland area in more detail which was a shame. Who knows, we might make it back.
Free camping is a good goal, but requires a bit better timing, exploration and reconnaissance than we have executed thus far. The spot we thought we could stay at ended up being a bust. Would have been fine for a cheeky caravan or motorhome, but not for flipping our roof tent. So it was off to the $27 a night caravan park as the light faded. The proximity (adjacency) to the highway and late night truck air brakes was mildly offset by the hot showers. This was the final one nighter before we had to slow down. Coffin Bay, Lincoln NP, Lipson Cove, Melrose (2 nights, 1 hot HOT day between), Overland Corner, Bordertown.
Our second border crossing was marked by less signage, no biosecurity and a sense that Victorian drivers don’t know what a safe stopping distance to drive behind someone on a highway is. Maybe it was just that we were both tired and irritable, but we saw some stupid people driving very dangerously behind semi trailers, road trains, cars towing caravans, and us, within half an hour of crossing the border. Somewhere in here Ruth baked some super delicious Banana Bread (we weren’t sure of quarantine at the border) and inhaling this tasty slice somehow got us through to The Grampians.
A long and winding lonely road to us from Horsham through Wartook (blink and you miss it) and into The Grampians proper. Barely another vehicle passed us as we criss-crossed along sheer edged cliff-roads with the narrowest of lanes, the tightest of switch-backing hairpins and every few hundred metres a motorcycle blackspot frequent crash area warning sign. We reached the first plateau and after the solitude of the climb were flabbergasted at the density of tourists at Mackenzie Falls. Vehicles and people everywhere. A multinational melting pot of humanity – Lebanese families, Chinese, Japanese and Korean Tourists, a whole busload of Orthodox Jews, replete with traditional garb and long (long!) Payot on otherwise shaven heads, young sunburnt European campervanners, the odd Aussie from any State and a pair of vegan road-trippers.
The Grampians are undoubtedly gorgeous, but the speed of our travel to get there took a bit of the shine off the places we saw on the day we arrived – Mackenzie Falls, the epic views from the Reeds Lookout, the winding roads down to Halls Gap. We found a free camp and decided that here we would stay for two nights – a day off travelling was definitely required.
Cue the free camp late night every night Monday Tuesday bush nightclub. The backdrop of Mount Zero illuminated by the morning sun, lazy mornings and afternoons spent hanging out with the friendly local kangaroos and a day of not actually driving were all great. Pounding bass, loud drunks and neighbours partying till the early hours less so. Felt worse for the number of families about with small children.
Mildly rested we left the campground to explore some more of The Grampians. A rejuvenating bushwalk to the thin cascading line of Silverband falls and a picnic lunch on the quiet, open and sparsely attended Lake Bellfield re-energised us more than the day of moderately restful rest did. Determined to see some more of these mountains, we set off and did some actual off road travel for the first time in quite a while – dirt and gravel tracks, a couple of washed out creek crossings and some great views. The Grampians seem like a truly special place. We will do our best to get back here for some more exploring and a couple of proper hikes later in the year when they will be less populated with tourists and we wont be rushing towards the Ferry.
(Note the picture above is for Jan George - sheep or rocks?)
Through the generosity of our wedding guests Lindsay, Blake (and their there-in-spirit youngling, Hugh) we got to spend a night (which we actually bumped up to two nights) in a gorgeous Bed and Breakfast outside Ballarat, near the town of Beaufort called Forest Haven. Eco-friendly, off grid, all vegan. A menagerie of rescued animals (Ducks, Roosters, a pair of sheep, two very friendly dogs…) With a normal queen sized bed. And an ensuite. Where you don’t have to wear thongs (flip-flops) to shower. And a couch to sit on. Ruth had a bath. Also super delicious vegan food that we didn’t have to shop for, prepare, cook and wash dishes for. Also shower without thongs (flip-flops)!
A day trip to Ballarat resulted in lunch at the Botanical Gardens and a visit to a just opened vegan brunch and dessert restaurant for coffee, caramel slice and banana cream pie. Yum. Some errands in town to get the materials to adjust some things inside Gary for more optimised storage (Big W, Bunnings and Super Cheap Auto) and it was back via the scenic route to our B&B. With the thong (flip-flop) free shower. And the couch. And not setting up the roof tent again. And dinner cooked for us. And no dishes.
Melbourne. ‘Mal-ben’ in the local twang. Home to a quarter of the nations population. The Aussie Mecca of Vegan Food.(TM) First stop – La Panella Bakery for Vegan Vanilla Slice. One of Adams most beloved pre-veganism treats. Seriously. He has/had a special rating system for the different attributes of the snot block and seriously considered theming the nationwide road trip adventure around a search for the best v. slice in Australia. Then he gave up dairy. So, with much excitement and anticipation…. La Panella is closed until the 22nd of January.
No matter (actually, Adam was pretty heartbroken), when a bakery closes a vegan friendly pub door opens and all that. We dropped Gary off at the Caravan Park (no free camping on the city streets), replaced our retro-vintage expired myki cards from four years ago with the current model and hit the trams. To the Cornish Arms for some very delicious craft beer, and VEGAN CHICK’N PARMIGIANA. And then some more tram hopping and rain wandering to have vegan gelato at Girls and Boys (Thanks Lea and Ash).