Yarra Valley Wine

What better way to spend my last day in Melbourne than touring the Yarra Valley tasting wines?

It was another early start, catching the bus at 7:45, and heading first to the ‘Gateway Estate’. Here, we were shown around the indoor Capsicum farm (a capsicum is a bell pepper, who knew!), where the owner told us about the growing and farming process, which sounds dull but was actually super interesting! However, the tasting was a lil more exciting! Three types of strawberry liquor, strawberry jam, capsicum chutney – not bad for a first stop!

Throughout the day we visited the Napoleon cider-house and brewery, the Killara winery, Punt Road winery and the Yarra Valley chocolate factory and ice creamery.

At Killara, we had the most delicious provided lunch. Italian tapas to start, which honestly could’ve filled me up by itself! Followed by a choice of Pizza, Pumpkin Salad, Gnocci or Tortoloni for mains. I went for the Gnocci but did a classic switcheroo with one of the people in a little group of 5 of us who were the same age, so he had some of mine and I got some of his pasta. It was all bloody delicious!

The Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road is a famed must-see here on the South coast. Without the time or the means to go and roadtrip it on my own, I visited a Backpackers Travel Shop down the road from my hostel and booked a day trip to go and see the main sites.

Having slept until 8:30/9:00 most mornings since I’ve been here, it was a slight shock to the system having a 6am alarm, but was definitely worth it. The tour I took was actually referred to as the great ocean road ‘in reverse’; most tours start at the Melbourne end, stopping at various places and then making the long trip back in one go. We did the opposite – drove all the way out to the end and then stopped at the sights on the way back. One of the main advantages of this was that it was much less busy everywhere, as we got to places at different times to all the other tours that go out.

The first place we stopped was Port Campbell, a little seaside town where I met a lovely lady who runs a souvenir shop called ‘Spence’. It wasn’t your average tacky souvenirs though, but unique products designed by herself, her daughter, and other local artists.

Port Campbell beach

The main attractions we saw throughout the day were the Loch Ard Gorge, The Twelve Apostles, The Otway Rainforest and Kennett River.

The coast that the GOR runs along is split into two sections; the Shipwreck Coast and the Surf Coast. The latter is named for obvious reasons; the former is named for its notorious history of ships running aground. These ships include the Loch Ard, which was coming in from Scotland in 1878. When a thick fog came down, the captain was unable to see how close they were to land, and they ran aground on a reef. There were only two survivors; a young boy who swam to shore, and a young girl named Eva Carmichael. The boy heard Eva’s cries and went back out to rescue her. They came ashore at what is now known as Loch Ard Gorge, later named to commemorate those who had died in the wreck.

Loch Ard Gorge

Next, we saw the Twelve Apostles… of which only eight are left! There actually was only ever nine apostles, and I don’t think anyone’s quite sure why they’re named the Twelve Apostles. They used to be referred to as Sow and Piglets, but this was changed to something more appealing when the site became more popular with tourists. The Apostles are a collection of sandstone stacks, caused by the erosion of the cliff face. The ninth apostle collapsed in 1990 and eventually, the other will as well, as the sea erodes away the sandstone over time.

The Twelve Apostles. Well, some of them anyway!
The Twelve Apostles feat. Me

After this point, the Great Ocean Road goes slightly inland and cuts through the Otway Rainforest. This was a particularly cool part of the trip, probably because a rainforest just isn’t what you think of when you think of Australia! Our tour guide took us on a walk at a point called Mait’s Rest, and talked about the wildlife and the symbiotic nature of the rainforest, where none of the plants can really survive without the others. His explanation made me nerd out and go ‘argh, nature is so cool!’.

There are two interesting things about this tree. No.1: The hole underneath. Many moons ago, this tree would’ve grown out of an old dead fallen down tree, using that for its nutrients. As the dead tree decomposed, and this one kept growing, this hole underneath formed. No. 2: This was known by the Aboriginals as the fertility tree. It was believed that if a woman walked in one side, when she came out the other she’d be pregnant. Safe to say, I stayed well away!
These ferns can’t survive without the canopy of the tall trees above, protecting them from the harsh direct sunlight. But those tall trees wouldn’t have anything to root themselves in without the soil which is formed of the fallen leaves from the small fern trees. Symbiosis everybody!

In Kennett River, the idea was to see Koalas in the wild, but I only managed to see one, way high up in a tree. Which seems unfair when you find out that someone else in the group saw one on the ground right in front of her! I did get plenty of attention from the wild birds though!

I made a friend (but really he just wanted me for the food I was holding)

We finished the day with pizza and drove back to Melbourne.

The Roadtrip: Day 3

What. A motherfudging day.

I thought yesterday’s rains were exciting – I had no idea what was in store for me!

After going out for a few drinks last night and waking up slightly hungover (sorry Mum!), I checked the weather forecast and decided to get back on the road before the storms got any worse and the roads were closed. It was now or never!

I made it out of Broome and onto the Great Northern Highway in a couple of hours, and tackled a bit more rain and flooding but could certainly see it dissipating.

Fast forward to 3pm and I’d only covered about 300km but it was better than nothing and I was definitely out of the worst weather.

I was only 50km from the next town but I desperately needed a rest, so I pulled into a lay-by to have something to eat and rest my eyes – ended up snoozing for an hour!

I woke up and prepared to make my way into Fitzroy Crossing, where I’d fill the tank and decide whether to call it a day or carry on the next 200km or so to Halls Creek. In the end, my decision was made for me.

Shortly after setting off I noticed that the tiniest bit of added pressure on the gas made the engine rev like mad, but made no difference to my speed. Odd. For 5km or so I crawled along at 50 kmph, and then noticed, when I went to change gear, that there was no pressure under the clutch. Worrying. I optimistically hoped that pulling over, cutting the engine, and restarting it again would solve the problem. But alas, a car is not an iPhone – you can’t just turn it off and turn it back on again! The engine restarted just fine but the car wouldn’t go into gear and the clutch was being about as much use as a Swiss cheese umbrella.

The clutch was burned out. Bollocks.

I called the roadside assistance number provided by the car hire company and the Northern man (yes, Northern English) on the other end gave me some advice and said he’d try and source a towing company in Fitzroy.

As luck would have it, at this point a 4WD drove by and the three guys inside stopped to see if I was okay. Fitzroy is a small town so of course they knew the local tow truck bloke and called him out for me! Then they gave me a lift into Fitzroy and kindly offered to take me to the cheapest accommodation in town so I could find a place to stay the night.

Thomson, one of my rescuers, came into the hotel with me and asked how much the cheapest room was; $189 for one night. That’s £120. I’ve been paying no more than $35 a night for my accommodation since I got to Oz. Up until this point I had been taking the whole situation in my stride and very much keeping my cool. Not any longer; I could feel the waterworks coming on.

Clearly pitying me, Thomson offered to let me stay in his caravan and he would find a mate to stay with. Without stopping to weigh up my options, and blinded by the thought of not having to pay almost 200 bucks for a night’s sleep, I took up his offer. Though later, having spoken to Mother dearest, I decided the hotel was the better option after all. Don’t get me wrong, the guy was lovely, and I don’t think he was planning on cutting me up into pieces and BBQ-ing me, but he was a complete stranger so you can never be sure!

They very kindly bought me dinner and then dropped me back at the hotel. Just as I was about fork out, the lady I’d spoken to earlier on appeared and made an announcement: a businessman from out of town had paid for a room which he wasn’t actually planning on using, (something to do with tax, I wasn’t going to ask questions), and since it was paid for and empty, they were going to give it to me!

So that brings us up to now. I’m tucked up in bed, looking forward to a good night’s sleep, and even a lie in, since I won’t be leaving in a hurry in the morning, and feeling much much calmer than 5 hours ago.

I don’t know what’s going to happen with the car or with my transport to Alice Springs, nor do I know what of this mess I’ll have to pay for, if any. But that, my friends, is a problem for future me.

The Hermione of tomorrow morning will have to deal with those questions; let’s hope she’s got her thinking cap handy!

Goodnight 😴

Edit: After writing this, I discovered a beautiful little green frog living the bathroom of my motel room. His name is Floyd. He is looking after me tonight.

The Roadtrip: Days 1 & 2

Wednesday: Today I set off up North for my big drive to Alice Springs. After filling up the car with petrol, buying some snacks and plugging in some tunes, I was well on my way!

The day was uneventful, but that’s exactly what you want when you’re driving alone across Australia!

I did have an interesting experience with a lady in a service station though… I had decided to buy a jerry can to fill up and keep in the boot, just in case I needed it in an emergency. The first can I picked up had no lid, so I checked the others and sure enough they didn’t either.

When I mentioned this to the lady at the till, she didn’t seem to get what my issue was – her response was along the lines of ‘what’s on the shelf is all we’ve got’. Sigh. “Okay, but I can’t put petrol in something that doesn’t seal,” I countered.

After some backwards and forwards and a bit of sign language, she disappeared into the back room and came back a full ten minutes later with a lid for the Jerry can. I presume they keep the lids out the back to stop people from stealing the cans, and this is fair enough. Just a shame the whole thing took so long!

I covered 550km and ended up in a town called Karratha for the night, where I stayed in a very quirky little Backpackers hostel. My supplies were waning and I was feeling tired so I decided to treat myself to a bought dinner out rather than cobbling together my own. It was only when I got into town and seated myself in a restaurant that I realised it was Valentine’s Day…

But! I stood my ground, sat on my own, and enjoyed my Valentine’s date with myself…because I could!

Thursday: Word of the day – rain. It’s wet season up north so this wasn’t unexpected. I left Karratha around 8:30am and managed about 600km without a hitch. Then I had another interesting petrol station experience – anyone noticing a pattern here?

I stopped at a roadhouse with about a quarter of a tank left, only to discover they were only taking cash…of which I had none. The next service was another 230km away, and even with the contents of the Jerry Can I wasn’t going to make it. Thankfully the cashier finally agreed to let me owe the money – she took my card details and name and said they’d charge the card once their system was back up. The fuel here was also horrendously expensive so I only filled up enough to tide me over and then made a point of driving more economically (aka slower) to the next service.

But alas, I didn’t get that far before another interruption! The rain had already hit by this point and about a kilometre after the roadhouse, I encountered my first bit of flooded road. No matter, it was merely a couple of centimetres and nothing to write home about. There were a few more of these before I eventually found myself facing one which did look a bit more dodgy. I’m pretty sure I could’ve got through it, but since there was a guy and his daughter with a tow truck, literally waiting to give me a ride over (yes, really), I didn’t bother taking the risk. Saved me some fuel too!

I eventually got to Broome around 7pm, having covered 850km, and checked into the YHA. A shower, a cold beer, and some time spent watching the incredible electrical storm unfolding were the next things on my agenda, and since I have achieved all of these, I am satisfied.

There’s a chance that if these rains get worse overnight then I may be stuck in Broome tomorrow if the roads are closed. I can probably spare a day though, it’ll just mean the other two are much more km-heavy. We’ll have to wait and see!