A Travellerspoint blog

40 Degrees South

Melbourne to Mornington to Cowes to Melbourne to Tasmania [Devonport, Launceston, St. Helens, Freycinet National Park]

all seasons in one day 70 °F
View New Zealand & Australia 2009 on usroyal's travel map.

Note: It appears that some people did not receive our last blog update from Melbourne. If you didn't receive it, you can view it in the table of contents at www.trevorlawton.travellerspoint.com.

We left Melbourne to spend a couple of days in Mornington with an ex-work colleague and friend. The Mornington Peninsula is a favorite summer and weekend destination for Melbournites. There are beautiful sandy beaches, wineries, and national parks. It was a welcome reprieve after the hustle and bustle of Melbourne.

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We visited Point Nepean, a former quarantine station and defense post, now a national park. Within the park, we saw the point at Cheviot Beach where Prime Minister Harold Holt disappeared while surfing in 1967 [Bill Bryson, in his book "In a Sunburnt Country", makes mention of Harold Holt numerous times amazed that a country can "misplace" a prime minister!].

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We didn't solve the disappearance of Harold Holt but we did spot you know in Melbourne.

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We spent a night on Philip Island, which is home to one of Australia's most popular tourist attractions, the Penguin Parade. Every evening at sunset, hundreds of little penguins come ashore at Summerland Beach and waddle across the sand to their burrows in the grass.

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The following evening we made our way to Port Melbourne to embark on the Spirit of Tasmania and our 11-hour ferry crossing to Devonport, Tasmania. The crossing was thankfully uneventful - numerous people had related horror stories about how rough the crossing can be but at least on the outward bound journey we had calm seas.

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Tasmania

Human habitation of Tasmania dates back 35,000 years when Aborigines first reached the area. At this time Tasmania was linked to continental Australia but waters rose to form the Bass Strait at the end of the Ice Age twelve thousand years ago. Dutch explorer Abel Tasman set foot on the island in 1642 and inspired its modern name. He originally called it Van Diemen's Land, after the governor of the Dutch East Indies.

Did You Know?

Locals affectionately refer to their state as Tassie and to themselves as Taswegians.

Tasmania is about the same size as West Virginia.

One fifth of Tasmania is protected as a World Heritage Area. Australia's largest conservation zone satisfies all four natural criteria for World Heritage listings. Its rocks represent every geological period, the wide array of plants are unique to the area and it is home to some of the oldest trees and the longest caves in the world.

Approximately forty per cent of Tasmanians (total population 482,000) live in the capital city, Hobart

Tasmania is located between 40 and 44 Degrees Latitude.

We spent several hours in Launceston, Tasmania's second largest city [population 67,000]. It is a charming city with old buildings, parks, gardens, riverside walks, galleries and museums.

We walked to Cataract Gorge Reserve, a short walk from the city center, into a gorge with nearly vertical cliffs on the banks of the South Esk River. At the end of the gorge there is a chairlift over the water, a suspension bridge built in 1895 and a municipal swimming pool and park.

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We spent our first night in St. Helens, an old whaling port and one of Tasmania's busiest fishing centers.

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We are now in Freycinet National Park on the east coast of Tasmania. The park has pristine sandy beaches, azure waters, breathtaking ocean views, distinctive pink granite peaks, historic sites and numerous walking tracks. We hiked to the Wineglass Bay lookout, a tough climb but well worth the effort [easy for Rebecca to say!].

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The nearest town, Coles Bay, boasts of being Australia's first plastic bag free town! We have been very impressed, both here and in New Zealand, at the attention to protecting the environment. Most of the National Park areas here are accessible only on foot.

Today we took a 4 wheel drive tour into the park to the Cape Tourville, White Water Wall and Bluestone Bay. We saw several wallaby [small kangaroos], sheer cliffs that drop into the Tasman Sea, a lighthouse and enjoyed a cup of local bush tea called kunzea [we'll stick to Tetley in future!].

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More on our Tassie adventure in a few days.

G'day mates,

Trevor and Rebecca

Posted by usroyal 16:49 Archived in Australia Tagged automotive Comments (1)

This Will Be The Place For A Village

Melbourne, Victoria

semi-overcast 72 °F
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"Marvellous Melbourne" was founded in 1835 by John Batman who traded land from the local Aborigines and uttered the immortal words "This will be the place for a village".

We've been in the second largest city in Australia [pop. 3.8 million], for ten days. We've visited museums, shopped, visited an old fashioned amusement park, watched a parade, ridden many trams, people watched, took a boat trip to historic Williamstown, and walked and walked and walked.

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Some of the highlights of our time here are:

St. Kilda and Luna Park

We stayed in St. Kilda during our stay in Melbourne, commuting back and forth by tram. St. Kilda is one of the most popular seaside suburbs of Melbourne. We've enjoyed the cafes, restaurants and Albert Park which is located directly across Fitzroy street from our apartment. There is a lot of activity in the park in preparation for the Formula One Australian Grand Prix which will be held in St. Kilda in two weeks time. We are leaving just in time. Heaven knows what they will be charging for accommodation and restaurants, not to mention the noise!

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We also visited Luna Park, a St. Kilda and Melbourne institution - an amusement park built in 1912 whose roller coaster is the original wooden structure.

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Moomba Riverfest and Parade

We arrived in Melbourne just in time for the Moomba Riverfest, a three day festival during the Australian Labor Day weekend. The festival included a huge carnival situated around the Yarra River which runs through the center of the city, international aquatic events, and a cultural parade through the city center.

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Melbourne Museum

The highlight of the Melbourne Museum was Bunjilaka, the Aboriginal Centre where we learned about some of the history and culture of the Indigenous Australians. We are looking forward to much more in-depth information during our journey through the Red Center of Australia.

Melbourne Cricket Ground [The MCG] - Australia's premier sports stadium and icon for international cricket.

The MCG is the temple in which sports mad Melburnians worship their heroes.

The MCG first game of Australian Rules Football [AFL] was played in 1858 and the first international test cricket match between Australia & England was played here in 1877.

We took a tour of the historic Melbourne Cricket Ground [MCG] which has hosted amongst many other events, the 1956 Olympics and 2006 Commonwealth Games, as well as numerous international cricket matches. The MCG is also the home stadium for four Australian Football League teams and hosts two AFL games each weekend.

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This weekend, the MCG is hosting one of two day-long rock concerts "Sound Relief" [the other concert is being held simultaneously in Sydney] in support of the Victorian Bush Fire Appeal. The Melbourne concert immediately sold out - 100,000 tickets at $AUD 75 each - with all proceeds going to the appeal. We tried to get tickets to the concert which features most of Australia's best bands and artists, but no luck. Incidentally, you get ripped off, for your convenience, over here by TicketTek as opposed to Tickmaster in the United States!

An interesting fact we learned during our MCG tour is that American troops were housed within the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1942 when the ground was known as "Camp Murphy" during that period.

We also learned that there is an 18 year waiting list [over 200,000 and counting] to become a Member of the Melbourne Cricket Club. Better get your name on the list now!

Old Melbourne Gaol - Victoria's oldest prison where 135 people, including Australia's most notorious bushranger Ned Kelly, were hanged.

We toured the Melbourne Gaol where we were treated like prisoners: arrested, locked in a cell, and photographed - not before time some might say!. While incarcerated, we ran into the larrikins pictured below - the streets of Melbourne are much safer with them behind bars!

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The Great Ocean Road Tour

We took a whole day bus tour [12 1/2 hours door to door] to drive stretches of the Great Ocean Road, described as one of the world's great scenic drives [we both thought that the drive we experienced though picturesque, pales in comparison to the "Big Sur" coastal drive down the Northern California coastline] concluding in a visit to the spectacular "12 Apostles" and "London Bridge" - giant eroded monoliths in the Port Campbell National Park. The long journey to Port Campbell was well worth the time invested, as the photos we took testify.

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At the beginning of the tour we stopped in Geelong, where we visited an Aboriginal Cultural Centre and were privileged to meet Norm Stanley who gave a virtuoso didgeridoo [a 3 foot long wind instrument with a deep sound] performance.

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Several people have asked about the state of the economy here in Australia and in New Zealand. Interestingly, Australia does not appear to have been affected nearly as much as the rest of the world. New figures released this week in Australia do show higher unemployment but for the most part the economy seems to be thriving.

On the other hand, New Zealand is struggling as much or more than the US. During our time there government and industry were discussing a four day work week [or nine day fortnight] with the government supporting the tenth day with retraining efforts for workers.

We leave Melbourne on Monday after we pick up our hire car and will spend a couple of days exploring the Mornington Peninsula before we board "The Spirit of Tasmania" for our eleven-hour ferry journey to Tasmania.

G' day mates!

Trevor and Rebecca

Posted by usroyal 13:57 Archived in Australia Comments (3)

Say No To Didymo!

Wellington to Levin to Wanganui to Stratford to New Plymouth

semi-overcast 70 °F
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Didymo [Didymosphenia geminata] known as "rock snot" is an invasive freshwater microscopic alga. It is a native of northern Europe and North America and was first reported in New Zealand in 2004.

Prior to leaving on our windy, wet crossing from Picton to Wellington, the New Zealand Department of Conservation checked to see if we had taken our car near any rivers or streams on the South Island. They are trying to prevent the spread of Didymo to the North Island. Fortunately, after inspection, we were declared clean of rock snot - at least on this visit!!

We drove north from Wellington towards Taranaki. En route, we stopped to visit Wanganui, one of the oldest cities in the country. The clock tower at Cooks Gardens was originally built as a fire lookout tower in 1891. It was at Cooks Gardens that New Zealander Peter Snell, the future Olympic gold medalist, set a world-record time for the mile in 1962.

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We also had a terrifying encounter with our first wild New Zealand Croc on the streets of Wanganui! Fortunately we escaped unscathed!

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New Plymouth is the principal centre of the Taranaki region and is situated around the only deep-water port on New Zealand's west coast. The massive cone of Mount Taranaki towers behind the city.

According to Maori legend, Mount Taranaki was banished to the West Coast from the Central Plateau, after losing a battle with Tongariro for the heart of pretty Mount Pihanga.

Today the brooding peak offers a spiritual beacon for the Taranaki people, standing in the center of the region and taking a commanding role in the region's geography and weather patterns.

Unfortunately, the weather hasn't cooperated for a decent picture of the volcano, which from the pictures we've seen, is magnificent. For the past two days it has been covered in cloud and mist. Hopefully before we leave here we'll get at least one good picture - otherwise we'll have to take a picture of a tourist brochure to post on the next blog!

We spent some time today visiting Pukekura Park and Brooklands Zoo in New Plymouth. Opened in 1876, the park is only a ten minute walk from the city. As we walked through the park we were struck by the similarity to San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

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Our next blog will be from Melbourne, Australia. We leave New Zealand on Wednesday after a night in Auckland.

So it is "e noho ra" to New Zealand and "haere mai" to Australia.

Kia Ora,

Trevor & Rebecca

Posted by usroyal 20:02 Archived in New Zealand Tagged automotive Comments (3)

A Good Feed of Human Flesh

Kaiteriteri to Mouteka to Murchison to Springs Junction to Hanmer Springs to Kaikoura to Blenheim

semi-overcast
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The Lewis Pass is a wonderfully scenic journey through the mountains and beech forests of the Southern Alps. Rediscovered by Europeans in 1861 and named after surveyor Henry Lewis, the pass was originally used as a route to the West Coast by generations of Ngai Tahu Maori in search of greenstone. Food was scarce on the West coast, so the Maori took slaves captured in battle to carry food and supplies on the long journeys across the mountains.

With food running low on the return trip the slaves were frequently killed and eaten on the pass and their remains flung into Cannibal Gorge. The Maori name for the gorge was Kapai-o-kai-tangata, meaning 'a good feed of human flesh'.

We left Kaiteriteri on the Tasman coast and drove south through the Southern Alps and Lewis Pass to Hanmer Springs, a small alpine village 1,260 feet above sea level. The drive was amazing in many ways. The 250 mile drive revealed beautiful scenery, orchards and vineyards, cattle and sheep stations and we saw only about 12 cars during the 4 plus hour drive. Where are all the people?

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We didn't mind the isolation and enjoyed a couple of nights in Hanmer Springs. We managed to do some tramping (hiking), relaxing, and took advantage of the thermal springs in the center of town. We revived our aching limbs and enjoyed the people watching (why is it that middle aged men insist on wearing Speedos in public?).

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Today we drove from Hanmer Springs to Kaikoura and along the upper east coast of the South Island to Blenheim, New Zealand's Napa Valley. Tomorrow we have a short drive to Picton for our ferry crossing back to the North Island. Guess what - the forecast for Wellington, our landing point, is heavy rain - again!!!

Next report from the North Island!

Kia Ora

Trevor & Rebecca

Posted by usroyal 18:43 Archived in New Zealand Tagged automotive Comments (1)

Marlborough Country

Wellington to Picton to Nelson to Kaiteriteri

semi-overcast
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The Marlborough Sounds region appears as a series of ridges rising above the water but is, in fact, valleys drowned by the ocean (unlike fjords which are formed by glacier erosion). A combination of changing sea levels (due to world climate changes), movement along faults in the region, and tilting of the landmass downwards has caused inundation by the sea, resulting in winding tracts of water that are bordered by narrow slivers of land stretching from the mainland out into the Cook Strait.

Queen Charlotte Sound is the easternmost of the main sounds of the Marlborough Sounds, in New Zealand's South Island. Picton, the northern terminus of the South Island's railway and State Highway networks, lies near the head of the Sound. Other settlements by the sound are small and isolated - often simply individual properties. Due to the rugged nature of the coast, for many of these access is by boat only.

We crossed from the North to the South Island several days ago and had two relatively relaxing days in Picton. The crossing was very calm compared to the gale force winds we experienced on our last trip.

We took a drive along the winding Queen Charlotte drive between Picton and Havelock. The roads became narrower and more winding the further we went. We're having fun driving on the left in an unfamiliar car on roads barely wide enough for one car let alone two.

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We also took a tour, on a mail boat, around Queen Charlotte Sound and visited another Captain Cook monument. The monument in Ship Cove is a commemoration of his first landing on the South Island. Cook revisited the cove five times during his explorations.

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We're now near Abel Tasman National Park in a town called Kaiteriteri which is known for its stunning golden beaches and sandy estuaries.

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Upon our arrival in Kaiteriteri, we were fortunate to come across the Irish kayak team training for the 2012 Olympics. Oops, someone obviously forgot to tell them its a water sport!

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Next stop Hamner Springs!

Kia Ora,

Trevor & Rebecca

Did You Know?

It's a fact: at 41.2o South, Wellington is the most southerly capital city on the planet. Cities on similar latitudes in the Northern hemisphere are Barcelona, Istanbul and Chicago.

Posted by usroyal 17:01 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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