We came full circle and drove back into Sydney this morning. It was a drive we were dreading so much that Steve barely slept last night. All that worrying meant we had a piece of cake drive as it was easier coming into Sydney from the south than it was driving out to the north last month. One thing that helped was opting to drive the toll tunnels in central Sydney that brought us to within just 4 blocks of Hertz.
Now that we are back in Sydney we are both saying to each other “why didn’t we just stay here for a month?” That is how much we like cities and this one in particular. It also makes a huge difference knowing we can get around by foot and public transportation easily. However, we just have two nights here and then it is onto the cruise ship Friday. We recently received an offer to upgrade to a window cabin and then this morning to upgrade to a verandah for just $98 each. It took about 30 seconds to take HollandAmerica up on that offer as we got real tired of our interior cabin with no natural lighting and also no sofa on the 23 day cruise from California to Sydney.
The Great Ocean Road was a beautiful drive as we expected it to be. There is a pull off almost every two miles for various views. Some of our favorites:
This is the London Bridge or what is left of it. Until 1990 there was a bridge linking land on the left to the rock formation on the right. One evening the bridge came crashing down and it happened that a couple had walked over the bridge to the other side. A helicopter was brought in to rescue them.
This is Loch Ard, where on the other side of this cove a clipper by the same name crashed onto rocks in 1878. The Loch Ard left Gravesend, England in 1878 with mostly Irish immigrants aboard for the three month trip to Melbourne. This area, also known as Shipwreck Coast, is a particularly treacherous stretch as ships have to negotiate a hazardous straight on their approach to Melbourne. One seaman and one young woman aged 18 managed to get to shore. The young lady lost her parents and 6 siblings and returned to Ireland 3 months later. 52 crew and passengers were lost.
There is a small cemetery and a memorial listing the names of those lost. There was a seaman whose last name was Fincham, same as my husband’s family. I looked up Gravesend and it is not that far from Fincham Village in England so he may have been an ancestor.
The most famous part of the Great Ocean Road is the Twelve Apostles, seen here. Except that there are only eight left and you can’t see them all at one time except from a helicopter ride. The limestone erodes to form caves which then become arches and then collapse. The erosion is occurring at the rate of 2 cm a year and eventually the cliffs on the right will have caves and arches and then haystacks.
These two haystacks are to the left of the Twelves Apostles viewing area and I’m not sure if they are part of the original twelve.
There is a visitor center just for the Twelve Apostles. It is a very busy place with many tourists and helicopters coming and going.
We spent one night in Lorne, still part of the Great Ocean Road but not with the limestone cliffs. This area is forest with a very slow and winding road close to the ocean. The hotel we stayed in had many birds hanging around that seemed pretty tame.
This Kookaburra bird was on the fence next to the office. I had just a 35mm fixed lens on my camera and was able to walk up to him this close for the picture.
I was able to get close to this Cockatoo on our balcony railing also. Two more walked right up to Steve when he was unloading luggage and I think they wanted a handout. Australia is a paradise for bird watchers. There are so many pretty ones and the sounds they make are very different from what we have ever heard before.
Melbourne is a spider web of highways, many of which are toll roads that belong to two different companies. Even Australians don’t want to drive there and so we looked for a way to avoid the city without cutting way north and going around. The answer is the Queenscliff to Sorrento ferry, south of Melbourne. Easy and worth the $73AU we paid.
I still can’t get over how green and pretty the ocean water is and you can see that against the green ferry ramp.
Not too many miles after the Melbourne area the landscape becomes forested for what seemed like a few hundred miles. It went on and on. We finally arrived at the beach town of Merimbula where we stayed three nights. I didn’t take much in the way of pictures because the weather was so ugly but otherwise this a great little town with lakes and the ocean. The day we left we stopped for lunch in Ulladulla and then spent the night in Wollongong at a Surfside Resort with cabins and RV sites. They had an area of about 150 tiny personalized cabins with carports for senior permanent residents along the beach side. Last week I read an article that seniors in Australia are having a hard time making ends meet because of the high prices and many are moving into these holiday parks/resorts. I mentioned it before but the holiday parks are the best value for places to stay if you are traveling by car instead of motor home and they are found everywhere.
Prices here are very high. Food is minimum double what it is in the US. We met a pharmacist who goes to Europe each summer for two months and says it is much cheaper there. We were in Europe in 2011 and agree completely. Occasionally we lucked into a complete meal lunch special for $10-$12 and thought we hit the jackpot. But wages are high too. The minimum wage is $16.87AU and it is $25.00AU for food servers. But when you order from the menu at least you know that is the price you will pay. No tax is added on as it is already included. There is no tipping in Australia.