25 – 28. December
Road trip from Melbourne to Sydney
Written by Alex
Aaron and Ainsley would spend the next few days with their mom and grand-parents, giving Adrian the opportunity to spend a few days driving us back to Sydney. The idea of a road trip had fascinated all of us and so packed the car and on Christmas Day got on the road and headed to the Prom. Wilson's Promontory is the peninsula that forms the southern most point of the Australian continent. It has been a National Park since the late 1800's and includes the largest coastal wilderness area in the state of Victoria. This area is home to several species of marsupials, including kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, and the Ewok looking wombats. The thought of actually seeing a kangaroo in Australia made Amethyst and I squeal. That would be way too cool.
Our first stop was Squeaky Beach - a stunning expanse of white quartz beach that sings to you as you step. It was actually referred to as "singing beach" because of the noise it makes when your feet brush onto its surface. The sand is pristine and snow white, and though there were a few groups scattered around the edges, we were mostly alone is this vast environment. We had arrived just as the light of the afternoon was shifting and casting a golden glow onto the sand and the surrounding boulders. The tide was out, leaving a slick playground of wet sand and an opportunity to see the artwork of the sand burrowing creatures - little turbans of sand for as wide as the eye could see. We played in the ocean air before heading back to the car and setting out to find a kangaroo. We were determined - all four of us. We had spotted a wallaby by the side of the road on the way, but his foraging meant he kept going deeper and deeper into the grass. And then - there, on the left side, a pair of kangas. Well, maybe they were still wallabies, but they were much bigger. Amethyst got rather close, before they took notice and bounced further into the brush. Happy and content, we were beside ourselves when we actually saw a wombat, awkwardly walking down the side of the road. I couldn't believe it, we were having such luck. Adrian pulled over and we ran down the road, only to catch the little fur ball duck into the camouflage of the bush. However, I saw him enough to be convinced this little creatures must have inspired George Lucas' Ewoks - there was no doubt in my mind. Now totally content, we kept driving and we again blessed with a kangaroo sighting. And this one was real and big. We watched on the right side of the road and somehow in one flash, the guy turned and bounced right in between us, in front of the car and across the road. We could not have been in a better position and now we knew that we had indeed had an increbily lucky day on the Prom.
We spent the first night at his parent's vacation home in Inverloch, a modest town on the water, where time just seemed to move a bit slower. Patrick had already visited here while I was in Byron, so the area was only new to me. Forgetting someone that it was Christmas Day, we arrived in Inverloch hungry and began to worry as we saw one Closed sign after another. There was one Chinese restaurant, and it looked as though it may have just closed, so we sent Amethyst out to investigate. We are not sure what she said, but a few minutes later we were inside ordering and then a few minutes more, leaving with a healthy load of take-out. At the house, we lit some candles, pulled out a bottle of wine and enjoying our Christmas dinner.
The next morning we were up fairly early, and after a breakfast stop at the local bakery, we were on the road again, headed north towards Sydney. We stopped in a little coastal town for lunch and a walk on the beach. It was a coastal town that reminded me of Balboa Island in Southern California - with its decorative flags and garden ornaments. Antique shops lined the street, as did stores selling souvenir sweatshirts and water floaties. The weather was on our side, with sunshine and a slight breeze. It gave us a good opportunity to stretch our legs, before getting back in the car. We would be camping tonight, so we headed to the Eden Camp ground and found the perfect little spot to set up the two tents. We pulled out the gear, hammered in the spikes, rolled out the sleeping pads and once we were satisfied with these necessities, headed into town to the grocery store to buy the necessities for dinner. Loaded and ready to go with salad, chili and breakfast fixins, we headed back to the camp sight for happy hour and dinner. I am not sure what happened first, the drinks or Adrian's hand on fire, but needless to say it was an adventurous start the evening. The fluid from the camping stove had leaked on to his hands and when he then lit the stove, the flammable liquid also caught fire. He was in pain - and it could have been much, much, much worse. We filled his cup with liquor and I pulled a strong pain reliever from my first aid kit and we hoped that would at least get him through the night. We ate, Amethyst entertained us with her guitar and we watched the night sky illuminated its thousands of stars.
The next morning we surveyed the damage. There was not much to clean up, so we made a group effort and quickly we were on the road again. At one point the weather north was turning rainy and cold, but we still managed to enjoy the rugged coastline. Adrian and Amethyst were excited to stay in hostel, after hearing our adventures through South America, so he had actually found and booked a room for us. We arrived and after waiting for the the owner to return, we greeted by a very quirky middle aged woman. What was most displeasing about this place was the deluge of rules and regulations that we were required to follow - do this, don't do that. In the kitchen, the cabinets and windows were lined with laminated, computer printed signs clarifying the proper way to everything. I was surprised there wasn't a sign about how to brush ones teeth. We settled into our tiny room - the guys picking the top bunks and the girls the bottom and then headed for dinner to the local casino. We arrived, famished and thirsty and Amethyst was turned away because she had arrived without her ID. Unable to drink or enter the casino, and after a solid attempt by all of us to verify her validity, the two of them got back in the car and headed to the hotel , to grab her ID. Patrick and I reserved a table, ordered some drinks and waited patiently for them to return. Dinner was great, though all I can remember is how loud the restaurant was. Patrick and I realized that this would be our last opportunity for a movie and since no one was in a party mood, we dropped the others back at the hostel and headed to the cinema we had seen when we drove into town. We picked National Treasure II and indulged in that fantasy world for a few hours. Back at the hostel, lights were out and the two were fast asleep.
The next morning we arrived in Sydney early enough for Adrien to meet with some business associates. We had reserved two rooms in King Cross - the area of Sydney known for its late night escapes and girly shows. During the day, it seemed more gritty than the other neighborhoods we had visited, but it reminded me of San Francisco and felt a little like home. After setting up our dinner meeting time, Patrick and I finished a few last minute logistical things, since we would be leaving for Bali the next day. The cocktail hour was quickly approaching and before we knew we were sitting at the long bar, enjoying a few drinks. Another added bonus of this extra time in Australia meant that we would get a chance to meet our friend Valerie, who had been travelling for 6 months. Our paths never seemed to cross, but because we had all changed our plans a bit, we were all in Sydney at the same time. Through modern technology, we were able to connect with her and it what such a treat to see her walk through the door. We dined on juicy steaks, sipped local wine and simply shared what it had been like to live on the road.
The nights activities did not end here. We all managed to agree that we were ready to experience Sydney's nightlife but we had no idea it would be so difficult to find a cab willing to take 5 people. Because of the time of year, cops were strict and drivers were paranoid - supposedly the fine was quite heavy. Even with some heavy flirting and coaxing, we had a hard time, until finally one town car driver said he would be willing for a price. It was steep, but we agreed. Amethyst had to squeeze her body onto the floor, between Patrick's legs and the back of the seat in order to stay out of sight. We of course were headed to the bar in Sydney that played 80’s music, though once we got there it was a bit of a sad affair. With strobe lights and a fog machine, the scene was not all that inspiring. I don’t think we lasted that long and soon we were outside again, saying good-bye to Valerie. When we landed back in King’s Cross, the red lights were on, the ladies were out on the streets and the gentleman callers were in high gear. We took it all in, as we headed to our room for a good night’s sleep.
Sydney to Jakarta
Today was our last day in Australia. Adrian and Am-a-fist managed to stay out until the sun came up (we are just too old for that), so we let them get their sleep and focused on getting a bunch of last minute items done. But…oh….no…..Alex realized that she had not gotten her drivers license back from Valerie the night before. She was staying with friends in Sydney’s Newtown neighborhood, so we met her there for a cup of coffee. And boy was that a lovely area of Sydney. If you ever visit Sydney, make sure you plan a few hours in Newtown. It is just nice. Unfortunately we had little time and had to say good bye to Valerie too soon. We got back to the hotel, sort of lunched with Adrian and Am-a-fist, said goodbye and made our way to the airport. Of course, there were yet again issues with our One-world ticket and Quantas wanted to charge us yet another $40 per person because we had changed the date. Fortunately, we were able to avoid the cost, board the plane and several movies later we were in our Jakarta hotel. It was so good to be back in a low-cost country.