Travelling around Australia in a campervan – Part 4

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Hello everyone, this is the final entry of our roller coaster, coast to coast, cross country trip with our friends Carol and Alan.

We arrived back in Melbourne a couple of days ago, all pretty exhausted but so pleased that we completed the journey. It truly was a lifetime experience and we all feel that it was something we’ll never forget. The country is really huge and living here, you never really think about it. It makes the adventure all the more meaningful because you feel that you’ve really connected with the environment and understand the land you walk on every day in a more intimate, personal way.

Anyway let me quickly take you through the last few destinations we visited. After Gold Coast we headed for Byron Bay, in New South Wales. The town is a favourite hangout for young surfers and was apparently named after the grand father of poet Lord Byron who was a famous navigator in the 17th century.

Next in line were Newcastle and Sydney, the two biggest towns in New South Wales. Newcastle as you can imagine was named after the British city port. Historically, Newcastle was an industrial town and its port remains a vibrant and very active trading centre. Newcastle also has one of the largest universities in the country. After Newcastle, we arrived in Sydney, which of course needs no introduction as a city. It is the most populated city in Australia with almost 5 million people living there and it was the first British colonial settlement in Australia. The city is a very strong economic centre and the richest town in the country dominated by very strong services, banking and technology industries. It is also one of our most culturally diverse cities, both culturally and ethnically, with people coming from places as diverse as Lebanon, the Philippines, China, Vietnam, India and Greece.

Sydney also has iconic architectural structures, which are very much symbolic of Australia all over the world. To name but a couple, the Anzac bridge, across Johnstons Bay is a unique construction built in memory of the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who contributed to the War effort during World War II. And of course, the Sydney Opera House, overlooking Bennelong Point, undoubtedly one of the most famous and instantly recognisable buildings in the world. It was built by a Danish architect and officially opened in 1973.

After Sydney we travelled to the city of Wollongong, an industrial town which has considerably modernised itself over the years, and our last stop before coming back home to Melbourne was the city of Canberra. Canberra is the capital state of Australia and not Sydney as people often think. Most of our political life takes place there and it is a city with its own character, displaying great architectural works like the National Museum of Australia, the Shine Dome and the Australian War Memorial.

That’s it folks, it’s been a blessing for us to undertake and complete this journey, I hope it will inspire to go out there into the great wide open and find out for yourselves what a beautiful country this is.

Travelling around Australia in a campervan – Part 3

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Hello my good readers and welcome to Brisbane on the South East Queensland state.

It’s been a bit of a trek since the last blog so I’ll try to fill you in about what happened. We left our van in Ayers Rock as you might remember and flew over to Cairns as planned. We had a good flight and it was a bit strange to think of how many miles we had covered over the last few weeks. Cairns is a big sunny city, which is the ideal spot to start exploring the Territory of Queensland. One of its most famous attractions is the Great Reef Barrier, which is a breath-taking site.

This part of the country has always had to deal with extreme weather conditions. Cyclones are not unlikely to take the area by storm and it can be a bit overwhelming to live here sometimes I must admit. It is still a very popular tourist destination, not least because it is a good entry point for Chinese businessmen and visitors throughout the year. It is also a town which Australians like to visit during those cross-country trips. A bit like the one we’ve undertaken just because it has that sense of being a part of the journey as one of the country’s major cities.

Before arriving to Brisbane, where we are now, we stopped over by Townsville, on the North east coast of the state of Queensland. The city is known for the crucial part it played during World War II for the Allied soldiers. A lot of the American troops that battled against the Japanese during the Pacific War were stationed in Townsville. They still have many historical sites in memory of the veterans who gave their lives and I think they even have a couple of American military bases stationed there too.

So after Townsville we arrived in Brisbane yesterday. This is about as big as you’re going to get in terms of population for a city in Australia, there’s almost 2 and a half million people living here. It’s a city that has gone from strength to strength economically, it’s one of our most modern cities. There’s a lot of money going into high tech industries and information technology related businesses. Brisbane also has a lot of major cultural events that are renowned internationally. The Royal Queensland Exhibition, the River Festival, as well as the Queensland gallery of Modern Art are very popular and attract a huge turnaround all year long.

After Brisbane we’ll be leaving for the Gold Coast, another “must see” sight for cross-country trekkers like us. It has splendid weather all year long and again very popular with visitors to Australia. We do have the advantage of being a country with great weather almost throughout the year and it certainly helps our economy a great deal. Another thing we will be looking forward to see is the works they might have started doing there for the 2018 Commonwealth Games. We’ve always been a proud participant in the Games and it will be an honour to host the event.

I’ll look forward to catch up soon. Bye from Dave.

Travelling around Australia in a campervan – Part 2

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Hello good readers! Sorry for the lack of updates on the road – the internet connections have been less than reliable until we’ve arrived here in Broome.

We’ve been in Broome for a couple of days now and it’s lovely to be here. Broome is a seaside town famous for its oyster pearl culture. The city has historical ties with Japan, since it was Japanese immigrants that were initially employed in that industry. Broome is a very dry place in the summer apparently and you’d better make sure that you are not overexposed to the reflection of the sun if you don’t want to get burned.

Last night we saw some of the celebrations for one of the festivals that celebrate the Asian influence in the community, “The Festival Of Pearls“, a lovely name for a very nice event. We drove up to Broome from Perth, which is further down on the West Coast of the country. Perth is the 4th most populated city in Australia. It’s a big place with lots of Arts events all throughout the year. A very busy town indeed and a tourist favourite, not least for its great architecture.

The next leg of the trip is going to take us to the Northern territory to the cities of Katherine and Darwin. Katherine is a renowned stop over for people in their 60’s like us, who undertake this kind of journey. It ‘s a little bit like a sort of “rendezvous” point. The town is literally swamped with recreational vehicles and it’s a lovely atmosphere, you meet a lot of nice folks on that part of the journey.

Next is Darwin, which is a few hundred miles North of Katherine at the tip of the country’s Northern Territory. As its name probably indicates, Darwin was named after the famous naturalist Charles Darwin whose ship the Beagle sailed into the town harbour in 1836 on its way to the Galapagos Islands.

Next it will be Alice Springs, which is further down the road but still a part of the Northern Territory. It’s a nice settlement, which is well known for its support to Aboriginal art. From there, on our way down to Ayers Rock. Now I must admit that’s something I’ve been looking to see for a long time. The Aboriginal name of Ayers Rock is Uluru. It’s a very large Earth mound formation, almost right in the middle of the country. The area is so popular that it’s become a National Park that attracts almost half a million visitors on a yearly basis. It is reputed to be a stunning sight. The climbing of the site was allowed until a few years ago but disorderly behaviour in some instances forced the authorities to discontinue the climb. But we’re still very much looking to catch a sight of that unique example of Earth formation. That will also be a bit of a turning point for the journey, as we will be leaving the camper van there. We will be taking a plane to Cairns, which is located on the Eastern tip of the State of Queensland. We’ll carry on the travel blog from there.

Cheerio.

Travelling around Australia in a campervan – Part 1

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Hello there, it’s Dave again.

It’s been a busy weekend looking after the grand children but it looks like we might be in luck. My wife Maggie’s friend Carol and her husband Alan have decided to go on a little cross-country trip next Saturday. They did it last year but we couldn’t make it, we had family come over to visit us. Maggie and Carol had a chat about it, did what girls do, got everything planned and arranged before we could put a word in edgeways and it looks like this show is ready to hit the road. Alan’s a good guy, always liked him. He used to run a construction company, which he passed over, to his sons. Carol’s great too, she used to work with Maggie at the doctor’s practice. We’ve known them for 35 years; saw our kids growing up together, always lived in the same neighbourhood too.

So the idea is to go on a 2-week trip around the country. Each couple will rent a campervan and we’ll have stopovers in different places. It’s very much the done thing for people our age, it’s the perfect way to have a nice holiday and discover the country, which is a huge territory. The idea will be to take the Great Ocean Road all the way to Mount Gambier. From Melbourne, where we all live, it should be a 6 to 6 and a half hours drive. The Great Ocean Road is a little bit like the Highway 61 of Australia. It’s very famous because it was partly built by World War I Australian soldiers upon their return from overseas and it is a bit of a memorial for those who didn’t come back. It’s a beautiful road all across the southeastern part of the country. That’s where kids who are into their surfing go in the summer. Mount Gambier is a lovely town on the South Coast of the country. Maggie and I have never been before. There’s great wild life there and the landscape is apparently breath taking, so we’re definitely looking forward to that.

Then we’ll be headed for Adelaide, which is the biggest city in South Australia and the 5th largest one in the country. We won’t stop there though because we’re supposed to get to Perth before embarking on the next part of the journey. We’ll be driving through Nullarbor Plain, which is quite an unusual sight. It’s right in the middle of what used to be Aboriginal land. It was considered inhospitable for a long time because it is a long stretch of desert. This land is the heart of the Australia Outback and it is a feat to cross it. That in itself, should make the trip to Perth worth our while.