Sunday, April 30, 2017

Adelaide and Surrounds

By Jen.
After enjoying several free ferries by the lakes at the base of the Murray River, we thought we would head west into Kangaroo Island. However, on our way to the ferry, we learned that it would cost about $400 one way. With descriptions sounding much like Tasmania, we decided to skip the experience. We did have some interesting views of large waves and dolphins along the way, though.

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Sorry for the shakiness of the video, but thought you might enjoy the movement of the dolphins. 

Next stop on the list was Adelaide. The guidebook was pretty sparse on suggested things to do there, so we decided to only take 1 day there, including a stop to a local hardware store so that we could update the fittings for our water hose. Australia uses two sizes of spigots, 0.75” and 1”. Our hose is 0.75”, so it limited our water-filling options. Additionally, all hoses come with quick disconnects already installed, so many of the outlets have that as well. So, in order to make filling easier, we splurged and bought several fittings; now we can use all types of ends. It is also easier to put the hose on now.

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The orange section is the quick disconnect that connects to any other quick connect, while the blue adapter is removed if the larger 1” thread is needed.

The layout of the city itself is very interesting. The CBD (Central Business District) is encircled by gardens. We drove into the CBD and went to see the South Australian Museum. It is one of many beautiful buildings that line the street, sitting next to the art museum and the University of South Australia. It had impressive collections of aboriginal items all displayed next to each other so that you could compare how different tribes did things.

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I had been craving ramen since the Alpine National Park in Victoria, and so we tried to hit up a ramen place for lunch. However, it seemed that Google had a slightly wrong location listed, and we couldn’t find the place. So, my craving will have to wait until Perth. Hopefully, they will have some ramen shops that we can find.

From Adelaide, we had heard driving through the suburbs in the Adelaide hills was worth it during the autumn (some of the best displays of traditional autumn color in the country), so we started weaving through the hills to find a few treasures (we were still a few weeks too early to see the trees in all their grandeur).

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Heading north, we decided to hit up the historical mining town of Burra. We were finally seeing the terra rossa (red dirt) that is so iconic to Australia. 

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At the time, it was the largest copper mine in the world.

Lastly, we hit up Mount Remarkable National Parks. Coming from the south, it is a single large hill that rises out of the flat plain (from the other directions, you can actually see it is part of a range). It had one of my favorite short walks so far; but probably just because it was so different from what we had previously walked. I loved the red walls of the gorge contrasted against the green eucalyptus trees. And, there were even a few flowers still blooming this late in the season. So, if you are in the vicinity, I highly recommend the Alligator Gorge Circuit track.

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Friday, April 28, 2017

A South Australian Welcome

By Jen.
Almost immediately upon entering South Australia (SA), we noticed the flat lands. We had been in the hills of Victoria and Tasmania since we had arrived in Australia, so it was a different, but welcome (at least on my part, Jonathan may not like the flatness), landscape. In fact, I was surprised at how different it was from Victoria just across the border. On the SA side, they practiced logging, so the towns on the border seemed really prosperous and new. The roads were straight and flat, which was a welcome relief from Victoria’s pitching and curving roads.

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One of the first sites we visited was the Blue Lake in Mount Gambier (pronounced Gam-bee-ya). Mount Gambier is a town located on one of the few hills in the region. The reason for the hill? An extinct volcano. At the top of this hill, the volcano’s crater has filled with water (from both rain and groundwater). What makes it unique is that it develops an unique blue color from calcite crystals that form in the spring (sometime in November). Nearly in one day, it will transform from a steely-gray color to a brilliant blue that lasts all summer, and then it slowly fades back to the gray color. We caught it at the end of the summer. Might be even more blue a month ago.
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The birds at our campsite the night before we visited the cave below.

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The view from our campsite the night before we visited the cave below.

Next, we decided to hit up the Naracoorte Caves National Park. This park has received UNESCO World Heritage status because of the marsupial fossils found in the caves there. These caves had holes in the ceiling that allowed animals to fall into the caves and not be able to get back out. As a result, a large pile of bones were fossilized in the cave when the holes filled back up. They have found the remains of large animals that no longer exist. Such as large koalas and echnidas, as well as leaf-eating kangaroos, a hippo-like marsupial, and a large python. They have even discovered the largest marsupial to have ever lived. Many of these animals died out only after humans first started populating the continent.

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This is a life-size statue of the diprotodon, the largest marsupial to have ever lived.

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These are just a small percentage of the fossils found in the cave and how they look before the extracted and assembled.

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The leaf-eating kangaroo (skull is similar to a koalas).

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This is a marsupial lion-like creature, which may have dropped down onto its prey from the trees, which sounds a lot like the drop-bear legends that they use to scar kids and tourists here in Aussie.

From there, we made our way to the coast again. We had heard Robe is lovely. So, I set the GPS to Little Dip Conservation Park and Jonathan turned the van down the road. We found the park easily and started driving down the road. Little did we know that, at the end, there were sand dunes with deep sand. We made it all the way to the end, but when we tried to turn around, we got stuck. We managed to get ourselves unstuck, only to get ourselves stuck again at the top of the hill, where some 4x4ers decided to assist us using their winch to save some time. Beautiful views at least. 

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Towing
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Next on the list was Coorong National Park, which is this long coastal strip of land south of the Murray River outlet. I figured we would just treat it like the Alpine National Park and just follow signs and see what is interesting. Turns out for this park, that is a bad idea. That just leaves you driving very corrugated roads with nothing to see. There were a few interesting turnouts, but most were accessible from the smooth highway, no need to punish oneself. The park ends at the Murray River outlet. The Murray River is the longest river in Australia. Right before its outlet are several large lakes. We tried to take the ferry across through some of the small islands, but it turns out that section was closed. We did end up on a few ferries though when we turned around and went around the long way.

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Great Ocean Road Part 3


We did some kayaking on the Glenelg river on the Victoria-South Australia border. 

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Of course, more birds posing for us.  These are wild Emus.  Basically what Velociraptors evolved into (kinda). 
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This part of Australia sits atop of limestone bedrock formed millions of years ago when this area was below sea level. This means there are lots of caves about (which I will devote another post too).
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Oh look, another empty beautiful beach…  The  water is a bit cold this time of year (18C/64F).
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As we wind to the end of the Great Ocean Road proper, we will continue along the coast on and off on our way to Adelaide. We have crossed into South Australia (SA).  Interestingly, South Australia has a 30min time zone shift, so we are 30 minutes behind Victoria.  SA is much flatter than Victoria.  Being able to drive at 100kph on a non-major highway was a shock. 

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Friday, April 21, 2017

The Great Ocean Road Part 2


The oldest surviving Lighthouse on the Australian mainland is on Cape Otway.  Initially built around 1850, it was constructed using a mortar free interlocking stone method.  40 stoneworkers took over a year to precision cut and quarry the  sandstone.  Which was then carted 6km up to the site. There was no road to the Otway lightstation, and all manpower and supplies had to land miles away, and be carried in.
 
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You can see the precision joints in the stone here.
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It is a bit of a climb up.
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Here is the rotating lamp assembly.  You can see the huge Fresnel lenses which allow this light to be seen over 30 nautical miles at sea. Ships would use this light to guide them on the treacherous approach (threading the needle) between Cape Otway and Flinders island to the south. 
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As always the views are awesome.
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Cape Otway was also home to a WWII radar installation (remains of similar installations and batteries are scattered across the Victoria Coast).

Here is the radar antenna mast and pivot assembly.
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This is the  remains of a German sea mine laid in the Bass Straight (by a captured Norwegian freighter no less).
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The next stretch of coastline is home to a variety of interesting geological formations.  Many with interesting names.  For example the 12 Apostles (there are only 7! used to be named Sow and Piglets), Gog and Magog, Loch Ard Gorge, Bay of Islands, etc.  The 12 Apostles especially had a large tourist crowd, it’s all about marketing I guess?

Ah, the tourist hordes at the 12 Apostles.  Something we did not miss!
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Here is a few photos of some of the formations. 
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Once connected by natural bridge, this formation (London Bridge) was not an island.  In 1990 it collapsed into the sea leaving 2 tourists trapped on Australia’s newest island. 
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