South We Go

Week 14 The Best of Victoria

This post in Francais

This week we discovered the best the state of Victoria had to offer. We travelled to French Island, where we saw Koala's in the wild and enjoyed riding around on bicycles. We visited the Yarra valley, where black Saturday took place almost two years ago, and saw the strength of an Australian community that lost everything overnight and are now rebuilding there lives.
We camped in Cathedral national park, in the heart of where the fires took places and were amazed by natures rebirth. We climbed Mount Buller and relaxed by lake Eildon.

Day 91 (01/12/10) The Mornington Peninsula

I have to start writing today about telling you what happened to us at 4:30am, we were sleeping in our van in an official rest area when there was a knock on the window. After a second of panic we saw it was the police, so now what we wanted to know was why they were knocking on our window at this time of the morning. I guess our van may have looked strange parked in a rest area on the side of the Melbourne highway. We had to hand over our passports and car registration; they checked us out on their computer and chatted with us while they were waiting to find out about us. Everything was fine and they let us go back to sleep, it was just annoying.

In the morning we drove to Stoney Point which is where the ferry departs to French Island, but when we got there it was raining so we decided to go over to French Island tomorrow instead. We then drove into the main town in the area to get information about the region; the lady in the tourism office was very nice and told us where to go. We drove up to Arthur Seat which is on top of a hill from where you can see the entire town below and the ocean. We went back to sleep for a while as we did not get enough sleep last night because of the police. We then had a quick lunch and went to visit Point Nepean. Point Nepean was a quarantine station that operated between 1850 and 1920; it was used as a docking station for all the incoming migrant ships to Victoria coming from Europe. As the ships arrived all the passengers would be quarantined and disinfected to make sure that infections would not spread into Australia. It must have been horrible to finally arrive in Australia, after months on a ship to be then be quarantine and have most of your belongings burnt, before being allowed into the country.

We saw dolphins play in the waters just off the shore and we also had the chance to see some very shy and cute echidnas, which bury themselves when they see you coming, they are covered in spikes and turn themselves into a ball of spikes to defend themselves. It was a very nice day.

In the evening we went to stay at the caravan park at Stoney Point so that we would not need to drive early in the morning to catch the ferry over the French Island.

Day 92 (02/12/10) French Island

For the second day in a row we woke up early, but at least today we woke up out of choice and not force. We were happy that we waited to go to French Island today, as this morning we are blessed with a blue sky. We packed our bags for the day, water, sunscreen, lunch, cameras, hats, sunglasses, raincoats, and a sweater. At 8am we were waiting on the jetty for the ferry. The journey to French Island is very short.

We were there is less than 15 minutes. Once on the island we called the general store, to ask them if we could rent some bikes from them for the day. The lady came down to the jetty and gave us two bikes and explained to us where we had the best chance of seeing Koalas. We headed off on our bikes, it was a very relaxing place to ride a bike, there are hardly any cars so you can ride in the middle of the road if you like. After biking for about 9 kms we reached the area where we could start Koala spotting.

Koalas like to ‘hide’ at the top of eucalyptus trees, so we left our bikes and started walking around staring up into the trees. We were so excited when we saw our first Koala, in fact we were excited each time we saw a Koala. They are so hard to find some times its like looking for a needle in a hay stack. When we looked at a tree and did not see a Koala we were disappointed, but then when we saw one we were overjoyed. We saw a few Koalas’s and were eaten by killer mosquitoes attacked us, they even tried to bite us through our clothes!

We ventured on to Mcleod’s farm, they had a shed that have converted into a small museum which explained the history of the Island. We then found the yellow signs that pointed to which trees the Koala’s were hiding in today. We got to see lots of them in the trees, each time we saw one we had the same reaction awwww….

We hopped back onto our bikes and started to ride back to the jetty, we were stopped on the way by a sheep crossing. About 100 sheep were being herded to another field by a farmer on a quad bike. We stopped at the general store to have a nice ice cold beer, then rode back to the jetty. While we waiting for the ferry to take us back to the main land a storm came in from out of nowhere, the sky became black, the wind picked up and the rain started to fall down in buckets. It was a great day all in all.

Day 93 (03/12/10) Yarra Valley & Rebirth of a Village

We have left the coast and its splendour to go and discover the beauty of the Victorian High country. Our first stop, without it meaning to be was the town of Marysville, this is one of the villages that got completely burned down on black Saturday in February of 2009. The have rebuilt part of the town and many of the houses and our continuing to do so. I can not even begin to imagine what it must have been to lose your entire village in a night. This shows the strength of the Australian people to help one another in a crisis and help people rebuild their lives. We went to the Campelltown walk, which is a walk 16kms outside Marysville. We started walking just before the rain started, unfortunately we did not know this. So we got completely wet. Still the walk was really nice, we walked in the forest on a path that was rebuild after the fire and passed 2 waterfalls. This is a very pretty region and even though you can see some spots that have not have grown back since the fire, but mostly as nature is, it has rebuilt around the burnt trees and is now alive again.

At the end of the afternoon we went to stay in the Cathedral national Park where we are staying for the night.

Day 94 (04/12/10) Cathedral National Park

After the rain comes the sun! We have entered storm season so, we get thunder storms followed by bright sunny hot days. This is good because it helps us dry our clothes, shoes and air out the van. If it was humid for too long we would get sick, so thankfully the sun has come out. As with everything in Australia, it is all or nothing, so the sun is back and it is hot, really hot. After the last few days of rain we are not use to this heat. In the morning we stayed in the van and let everything dry. After lunch we headed up into the mountains of the national park, we were planning to reach one of the peaks, but the path was very steep and it was hot, I know I have said that a few times already, but it was. We walked as far as we could and then headed back to the van; we then headed to Lake Eildon, which was our campsite for the night. We did our laundry and let it dry in the sun, while we cooled off in the caravan parks swimming pool. It was a very nice site set in the middle of lots of shady trees so we could stay cool.

Day 95 (05/12/10) Lake Eildon

Woken by the heat in the van, we got up early and packed up the van and headed off to the beautiful lake Eildon, which is hidden up here in the valleys and in breath taking. Driving into the national park where the lake is, we went up and down twisty roads that went through the valley. The views were so beautiful that we often stopped to take pictures along the way. We walked along the lake for a while, but the path right next to the lake was not in the shade so we overheated very quickly and decided to leave and head higher up into the mountains. We stopped in a town called Mansfield, which is the gateway to the ski stations of the regions to get information on the mountains, so that we could choose which one we wanted to go and visit. We choose Mount Buller, so we did some shopping and left the town to go to out camp spot for the night. The site we choose to sleep at tonight was a rest stop next to a river, under big shady trees. We spent the end of the afternoon relaxing in the shade trying to spot platypus in the river, until the horrible mosquitoes came out and forced us to take refuge in our Baby Hippo.

Day 96 (06/12/10) Mount Buller

Sleeping next to a river is very relaxing; the sound of the river is peaceful and calming. After taking our time to have breakfast and enjoying the early morning sun, we started to climb up to the top of Mount Buller. This is the closest ski resort to Melbourne, and in the winter it is full with skiers from the city that come here to play in the snow. The prices are expensive to ski here, but that can be understood as it is only 3 hours from Melbourne, so everyone comes to ski here. However, now it is the summer, so thankfully there is no snow in site, just lovely green mountains and the empty village that is very pretty. We talk to the lady at the information office to choose which hike we were going to do. We packed our backpacks and started the walk in the Australian ‘Alps’. We hiked up from the village of mount Buller to the summit. It was a very relaxing walk in the nature, high above the country, with perfect weather conditions 20° and partly cloudy. After spending a great day up in the mountains we came back down and stopped in a recreational park near the village of Oxley.  The park was very big, made up of many fields; it had everything we needed for the night, showers, a bbq, a lonely cow (for fresh milk in the morning), and power to charge our laptops. Most of the campsites we stay in, we are the only ones there when we are staying and it is great, it feels like we have the whole country to ourselves.

Day 97 (07/12/10) Wangaratta

We spent the morning doing things on our laptops and generally being lazy. It feels good to be lazy lately we don’t often spend much time sitting down, which I like, but from time to time it feels good and you enjoy it. Once we were ready we headed to the town of Wangaratta, which we thought was going to be a big town, but in fact was quite small and not very nice. We had a mid morning snack from a bakery then got down to business, we did our shopping, got fuel and spent a large amount of time in Mac D’s trying to use the free WIFI, but it was so slow it took us ages to load a page, so we spent a lot of time wasting time. We did however manage to book a hotel room for the night we will be in Sydney for the U2 concert and do the other important things we had to do. We then left the town and headed north towards Canberra. We stopped half way along the road for the night. Spend the evening debating topics we read about in the paper we got from town, it feels good to know what is going on in the world. For dinner I made a great Thai chill stir fry, I love cooking in the campervan.

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