The Great Ocean Road

They say that the Great Ocean Road is one of the sights not to be missed when you visit Australia, so we decided not to miss it.

Panaoramic

This was the last couple of days of our road trip from Adelaide, to reach Melbourne and they were right, this was an experience not to be missed.  There are many ocean roads around the world that are stunning, and we’ve been on quite a few, but this has to be right up there with the best.

Not because of the white knuckle ride around hair pin bends with steep cliff edges dangerously falling off into the wild ocean waves below.  There was a bit of that, but it was more for the breath-taking rock formations that are visible from designated stops. 

We were lucky that on our days the sky was cloudless, the sun was hot and the sea was a vibrant aquamarine colour.  This then is made even more dramatic as a backdrop when you set it against the sandstone formations jutting up from the sea bed, or stretching out from the shore.

There are so many little coves and hidden beaches that it’s hard to remember them all.  Each stop is even more stunning than the last.

BeachCove

 

The most iconic amongst them is the Twelve apostles and it is the one featured in many of the brochures for the Great Ocean Road. If you try to count them, you will find them coming up short.  Some have already crumbled and broken off and returned to the sea bed.  But for some reason the eight apostles does not have the same ring to it.

Twelve Apostles

 Twelve apostles other side

Talking of things falling down, one of the formations is called London Bridge.  True to the song, London Bridge has fallen down.  What used to be a double arch bridge, is now a little island with a single arch, separate from the mainland. The bridge fell down into the sea in the early 1990’s, but luckily no one was hurt. And although it is still called London Bridge, it is a bridge no longer.

London Bridge.jpg

Our final stop before reaching Melbourne was the lovely city of Geelong.  This is only an hour from Melbourne but still has a distinctive feel of its own.  It was here that we managed to have a fantastic lunch at an all vegan café called Dolly’s sister.  We also went to the waterfront to see the pier.

Geelong pier

 We could go on and on about this country and we have hardly seen any of it yet.  The wildlife and the birdlife is extraordinary and deserves its own blog post, but for now we wanted to share these cheeky chappies, that are wild, numerous and very bold.  Think of them like the seagulls that pinch your icecream at Brighton beach.  They are both a type of cockatoo.  The white one is known as a sulphur crested Cockatoo and the pink one’s are called Galahs.

 

We also saw these birds, always flying in pairs at a great height and we have not seen them in any towns or urban areas.  We think they are Carnabys Black Cockatoos, which are a large bird preferring agriculture or coastal regions.  

Pair of dark b irds

 

 Little man did not come out for the Great Ocean Road.  He said it was too hot. Next stop Melbourne.

 

 

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Our final few adventures on the South Island

We continued to explore the West Coast of the South Island, by driving from Queenstown to Franz Josef Glacier.

We have already used up all of the superlatives in the dictionary, describing this amazing land, but we  really wish we had some more to draw upon.

The drive itself (about 5 hours) has to be one of the most scenic routes in the World.  That’s quite a claim, but we went through so many different landscapes it was hard to believe. We started off through lakelands, mountains, then sea shore and tropical forest, before arriving at the Glacier. It was extraordinary.

As the weather was not with us, you’ll have to take my word for it, for the most part.  Here’s the Arrowtown, a historic town near Queenstown and one of the beaches on our way to Franz Josef.

 ArrowtownBeach on way to Franz Josef

 

We also spotted some of the rarer native birds in their habitats.  The first is the NZ wood pigeon, the Kereru which is about three times the size of our native birds. Honestly, it was a wonder the branch could hold these two up!

Wood pigeon

 

The other cheeky chappy, just walking around the car park is the Kaka, a member of the parrot family. He seemed completely unfazed by the traffic and the people.  Many of the cafe’s nearby have signs saying keep an eye on your food as there will be no replacements if a Kaka steals it.  Sounds very like the Seagulls on Brighton Beach.

 

 

kaka franz josef 

At the end of our 5 hour trip, we arrived at Franz Josef Glacier.  This was a most extraordinary sight, and one that the pictures cannot really convey. It is like a frozen waterfall coming over the top of the mountain.  It’s the cold mountain air and the warm air from the sea meeting on the mountain face that creates this effect.  The perpetual glacier has probably had a presence for thousands of years, but the glacial face has receded at least 30 metres over the last 150 years.  An impact of global warning?  We simply do not know.

 Glacier 1Glacier 2

 

 

We continued our journey through Arthur’s Pass the following day which took us back to Christchurch airport.  It is an epic journey and we are so pleased that we got to enjoy the mountain views.

 Arthurs pass

Next adventures will be on the North Island.    

On the road to Te Anau

We drove from Invercargill to Te Anau today and what a fabulous route it turned out to be. We shunned the easier Route 1, preferring instead to follow the more scenic Route 99.
During the three hour drive, we meandered through forests, mountains, lakes, beaches and even hit upon an Alpaca ranch.

It’s hard to capture the beauty of the place, even with good pictures, but here is a glimpse of some of the sites we have seen.
The Monkey Island bay is as beautiful as it looks.

We drove through the mountain passes, and it was a moody vista with the thick cloud bank and layer upon layer of mountains. Even to our eyes, it looked like you were watching a 3D film without the glasses on.

Close to Te Anau, we happened upon the WildWool Gallery, where we spoke to the owner, a wonderful woman called Jessie Haanen, who was both informative and passionate about her Alpaca’s. They are becoming increasingly popular in New Zealand for their wool (not for eating) and it is becoming another premium product alongside Merino wool. Most of the animals here were bred and reared by Jessie and her husband. Jessie also makes some fine products from their wool, including silk felted scarves, wool scarves, gloves, hats and many other clothing items. Well worth a visit.

In the evening we visited the Bird Sanctuary of Te Anau, where many endangered and rare endemic birds are looked after. It’s difficult to catch these birds when they are in aviaries, but here is the selection we managed to see.

Many of these birds are under threat due to habitat loss, human activities and predators introduced with the European settlers. The last one shown the Takahé is very rare, with only 300 birds surviving.

Being Vegan travellers has had its challenges. Many places still cater very much for mainstream and we have had to pick our way through menu’s, which given the high number of young and independent travellers is a bit of a surprise. We found the Potpourri Vegetarian café in Dunedin where we managed to get a hot breakfast ( a rare treat).This morning we tried the Tuatara Café  in Invercargill, which is a lovely place to hang out, but had limited hot savoury options for us, so no hot breakfast today. In Te Anau we stopped at Habit Foods, which offered a Tofu option which was quite tasty. We won’t starve, but we wish that finding food options didn’t feel like a chore.

Tomorrow we head to Milford Sound, so we’ll have much more to report soon. Little man was feeling a bit shy today, but perhaps he’ll make a show tomorrow.