Flying Again

Friday night in Melbourne was a bit of a washout – well for my purposes it was. I wanted somewhere where I could site outside and have a beer and a smoke whiling away the hours before my flight – my flight was at 6.25am Saturday morning so I figured I’d head to the airport and sit it out.

I found one place that suited my purposes – the Melbourne Hotel or the such but it closed after 15 minutes because it wasn’t busy enough. Not busy enough – at 9pm on a Friday night. Not many pubs back home have a similar problem of people not wanting to drink in them, but then again I am getting the idea that with 20 million people in a country 1.5 times the size of Europe there is a lot of competition for limited livestock.

So I headed to the airport and waited it out, dining on a breakfast at McDonalds as nothing else was open – I had survived on nothing but fruit and yoghurt on my trip around the great ocean road and was saving myself for a laksha at the airport, but McDonalds it was to be…

The Grampians, Halls Gap and Mckenzie Falls

I slept in the car again last night as it was too dark to find hammock space in Port Fairy, so I reclined in a dark spot off of the highway with a six pack of cold beers and the radio to keep my company. I had a wonderful evening howling along with the songs.

The next day I drove through the heat hoping to find cooler air up in the Grampian Mountains, but it was hot there too – 43 degrees Melbourne and probably the same or hotter inland.

But I did find this to swim in…

Mckenzie falls, for me the reason the Grampians came in to being. There is a big sign saying ‘don’t swim’ as you descend to the falls but it would have been a crime not to on such a hot day. The basin is deep and if I had had anyone to show off to I’d have been leaping off of high things, but as it was I just swam about steaming off the heat of the day until the sun went down.

Then I went and sat here…

Which was a lovely place to ponder for a while.

Later on I managed to find a place to pop my hammock up in a wooded clearing, I paid the $14 camping fee as it was going to a good cause and slept for 12 hours straight.


I parked the car in a parking bay by the side of the road and looked out at the panapoly of stars in the sky, the lack of light pollution here means there is no shortage of stars. I could hear the sea in the distance but had no idea that I would wake to the sunrise that greeted me.

After breakfast of yoghurt and strawberries I headed off into the heat of one of the hottest spells I have experienced so far. The temperature in Melbourne was 43 degrees and it would have been around the same here as just getting out of the car was like walking into an oven.

I stopped off at a few tourist attractions like the 12 Apostles, of which there are fewer now as they are collapsing – these are giant rock stacks in the sea that are impressive and worth a view, the last time I saw geology like this was in Mauritania, another dry place. The string of tourists stopping off at each attraction made me feel a bit like I was on a production line but the views were worth it.

Now I don’t like to complain about the heat as I do have readers in the chilly English winter that would swap their mothers for a day of heat, but I felt the need to find some cooling down. The answer came in the form of a dive shop, I drove past, reversed, hopped in and within an hour I was diving off of a place called Warrnambool amongst the surging swells of the kelp strewn bay.

The dive was fun after I settled in to it and after twenty minutes I found myself reclining as the strong swell threw me backwards and forwards off of the reef. The other divers were searching for Crayfish but I felt happy enough to just bob about in the cool water, when we got out my temperature was cool enough to handle any heat.

After this I drove to a wonderful place called Port Fairy and jumped into the sea in a lagoon that allows for good swimming due to the lack of surf.

Right now I’m in another YHA piggy backing the internet connection, it’s what a Cyber Gypsy has to do to get online around here…

The Great Ocean Road

I think I have gotten the hang of why the Australians use the word awesome so much, it’s because so many things are called great that they need a word that is greater than great. The awesome ocean road perhaps, well it lives up to it’s name. Australia is awesome, the word doesn’t feel out of place here, it would feel out of place in the considered and ancient rambling hills of Sussex, not in the vastness down under.

The road was built as a living monument to the returning soldiers from the first world war and was constructed when blokes still used picks and shovels and went home for big cow pies. It is a great construction that would be great to ride on a motorbike as it clings in serpent fashion to the side of plunging hills, but for me I am cruising it in a hired Nissan and it’s still a lot of fun.

I drove through the heat of the day with the windows open and found myself a beach to run along, when I was hot enough I doused myself in the ocean surf and found a coffee shop to kick back in. At the moment I am in one of the comfy Ozzy YHA’s using the internet connection as I have told a friend I will help him out with some work, the only thing that is missing at the moment is him.

There are lovely little secluded beaches around here that you have to hike to and this is where I spent the sunset, in a tiny bay that you could only get to by descending through a gulley that would have been home to Aboriginal people over 10,000 years ago, they don’t spend much time here now so it seems which is a shame.

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Tomorrow I will head towards the Grampian mountains, but at what speed depends on what I find on the way. Time goes slowly here and will do when we’re gone.

Australia Day

Fireworks, a gig in Melbourne town centre themed around ‘a cow jumping over the moon’ for some reason that remains beyond me – although one of the performances was by a cabaret group that sang about ‘cash cows’, a metaphor for the greed destroying our little planet etc etc, so maybe that had something to do with it.  It was all good fun, but it’s just the way cities promote themselves these days and most large cities seem to have the same script to read from.

What was a far nicer experience for me was cycling around a very sunny Melbourne in the early evening light on a public holiday. The city was virtually deserted so I had the whole place to myself, the often surprising architecture of melbourne University, the gorgeous bright clean light reflecting off of the cluster of tall buildings making up the centre of Melbourne. I had my little moment communing with Australia and whatever that is meant to be as I peddled slowly around it’s deserted streets. We like each other, I’m glad.

St Kilda

St Kilda is a beach resort near Melbourne that reminded me of Brighton in a modest way. I think it’s esplanade is called Brighton so I don’t think it that unfounded. There is a salt water pool here that I popped in to get some ozygen into my brain -the pool was so salty that I found myself wretching after even a little water crept into my mouth, you really needed googles as well as the water felt toxic as it obviously had products in it that the sea did not have. This was supposed to be a ‘spa’ pool and I did feel envigorated after a swim.

The sunset from St Kilda is amazing, but one thing that drew my attention was the vast stream of light coming from the ‘Eureka’ building in Central Melbourne. This beam of light looked almost mythical, as if Indiana Jones would be waiting underneath with an Indian feller and a crock of gold.

Melbourne City centre is as to be expected of a city of it’s size these days. they make use of the river, have lovely trams that circle the city that you can book up as restaurants if you have a bunch of people up for it and some lovely big buildings, but it’s all starting to look a bit like one big city, just choose your location for it.


My daughter Isis and I were having a chat about possible film plots about unlikely pastimes becoming fashionable – I mean if Boules can be a game for youngsters in France why not Bowls, instead of it being the bastion of old age why not make it a game for the hip and trendy.

I told an Aussie guy about our possible film coup and he told me that the film had been made and the film was called crackerjack, not only that the sport of barefoot bowls had taken off big time in Oz amongst the hip and trendy.

Damn, here they are hipply bowling…

Thunder and Lightning

I dropped my lady off at the international airport as she was flying back to the UK and sat watching the plane take off in the early evening light from the domestic terminal where my flight was due. It’s a strange sensation departing to different parts of the globe as I set off to Melbourne on the evening Virgin Blue flight.

We had lightning off of the port wing as we flew through thunder clouds. The pilot was calm as he flew around the piled up clouds as if he was avoiding a puddle in a road, it made for great viewing.

I arrived in Melbourne to be picked up by an old friend from many years back and set up in the nice Melbourne burb of Preston for the weekend.


Australia famously discovered a more varied cuisine well before the British Isles, which leads me to suspect that it was partly the Ozzy influx into London that turned the mother country on to progressive cuisine, but then again it might have been the endless parade of foody TV.

Newtown was the student area of Sydney and still is except for the fact that prices have risen to more affluent levels, but every second shop seems to be a restaurant from a different part of the globe so we obliged by eating Thai the first night of our stay and at an African restaurant the second.

We stayed with an old friend that I met 17 years ago in Manali, in the North of India. When we met Rob was messing about with concepts to do with 3d computer graphics so we talked about the computer revolution and what was to come. It seemed all the more apocryphal seeing as I was now making websites and wandering the globe with a laptop after having investigated the realms of computer video and music. It made such a short period of time seem like a thousand years had passed, which is the mark of the modern age.

Brisbane – Surfers Paradise

We drove to Brisbane after leaving O’Reilly’s and were mightily impressed by this compact little ’boutique’ city. It’s easy to get around, full of parks and even sports an artificial beach on the South Bank so you can swim in clean waters whilst looking at the glittering city centre.

If Sydney is a bit rough around the edges due to over use Brisbane is polished like a new penny, the rivers are charming and the city life spills perfectly over to the laid back leisure culture.

Sooner than I wanted we had to set off again and head south to meet some friends that lived near surfers paradise in a place called Robina.

Surfers paradise didn’t impress me much being Australia’s answer to the South of Spain, but the view from the public gallery of the Q1 building, the tallest residential building in the southern hemisphere, was worth a look. From there you could see the canals that snake their way behind the beaches where many people live.

We enjoyed some incredible seafood with piles of ‘Balmain Bugs’, a kind of slipper lobster, scallops and large prawns.

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O’Reilly’s Rainforest Reserve

At O’Reilly’s you get to spend time in the cool mountain rainforests surrounded by gorgeous tropical birds, a free treetop walk through the jungle hammock and a fine wine produced by the O’Reilly vineyard. This made me chuckle as the idea of a good Irish wine is a little bit of an oxymoron – well kind of. I drank a little too much and manged to fall out of my hammock and keep the neighbours awake.

One O’Reilly relative was kind enough to save some plane crash survivors as they clung to life on one of the remote mountain slopes nearby, there is a statue to commemorate this with ‘a great Aussie Story’ written on it as well as something about mateship. I like the idea of mateship, I think it’s all about keeping your buddies beer glass full or something like that, saving your fellow bod from a lonely demise on a mountain is also included along with anything in between these two bookends.

The top thing for me at O’reilly’s had to be the treetop walk. Cleverly constructed so that you walk out over a slope so that it seems as if you have hardly gone up into the canopy of anything at all, you soon find yourself up there with the birds. And what birds they are…

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Byron Bay

Byron Bay is one of those places that has been eaten up by it’s own success, a bit like the Thai islands, or any little idyll that has suffered the spotlight in fact.

Little more than 30 years ago it was just a quiet spot with green rolling hills a stones throw from a gorgeous beach, these days it has that patina of Americana that would scare the purist hippies into the hills.

I don’t have to lament these changes having not visited before so I loved the walk up to the lighthouse to see the views around the vast curving beaches either side. It was also a grand feeling standing on the most easterly point of such a vast continent.

For the night we slung the jongle hammocks up just back from the beach so we heard the rolling surf all night.

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The Big Banana

The east coast of Oz has so many gorgeous places to see, yet one of the most well know crowd pleasers is The Big Banana that sits glaring over the road just outside Coffs Harbour.

Now the problem with having the moniker ‘Big’ before your name is that you expect it to be nothing less than, well, big. The big banana didn’t really live up to it’s bigness in my books, but let’s not get Freudian about that or we’ll be here all day.

Here is a picture of the big banana, admittedly it would fill up your bowl of muesli should you slice it up for breakfast.

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Work Beach River Eat

Well that’s about it right now. I have to prise myself away from this idyll to take a look up country or I’ll have to take up residency here in Bellingen. Now that’s no bad thing and we are considering it as an option, along with half of the rest of the world too. It’s a nice dichotomy to be in, but for now we are up for a trip to the gold coast and some of those little waterfalls with idyllic little pools we have heard about up country.

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We crossed over the Bellingen river and took a left hand turn through the old caravan site to be met by a forest full of bats hanging in the trees like some mass vampire convention. They were taking little training flights, grooming, walking about the trees upside down whilst making an awesome racket.

When the time is right (sunset) they all take off at once and head off in search of fruit (they are fruit bats, or flying foxes). They seem to know where they are going as it seems each bat has it’s own destination.

At sunrise they all come home and hang out, literally.

If it gets too hot they die as happened a few summers ago, they just roast and fall off of the trees. They have little back legs but can’t stand up, so I am guessing they get most of the moisture they need to survive from the fruit they eat. Damned cute little fellers they are.

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