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Arrival in Sydney, Australia on Christmas day 2002


In 2003 I toured Australia for several months by caravan with my then German boyfriend, Denis. We splashed off our Australian odyssey with a romantic reunion on Christmas day in Sydney.  I’d flown in from Brazil after completing a stint filming ‘Survivor Amazon.’ Two months later we found ourselves in central Victoria. During the two months since Christmas we’d visited several mountainous national parks and driven thousands of kilometers through yellow rolling fields and flat farmlands. It was time for a change of scenery. We turned south to the Victorian coastline, the bottom of Australia.

We arrived at quaint Portland, one of southern Australia’s pioneer coastal towns. It had a long whaling history, scores of mid-1800s buildings and a large port. Portland was also a famous fishing area, as were all the coastal towns between there and Sydney, some 1500 kms away.

beach- south coast of Australia

We found a great caravan park on top of a cliff overlooking the ocean and a white-sand beach far below. The park was conveniently located on the edge of town.Once we settled in I jaunted off to explore Portland where I enjoyed the historical  buildings and extensive fishing and cargo ports. In the midst of my explorations a funny very non-Lash happening unfolded. Inside Portland’s lovely botanical gardens I discovered a croquet club. Many senior citizens were happily hitting balls around the lawn. I thought, “Oh, how fun to play croquet.” What? Had I really come up with that idea? Apparently so because I promptly visited the clubhouse to inquire whether visitors could play.

south coast of australia -croquet club- australia
Croquet club
Coincidentally a club member arrived at the same moment and she quickly invited me to play. Handy. We grabbed some balls, mallets and hoops and set up our course. Within minutes I found myself playing croquet with senior citizens. All club members were dressed entirely in white which matched their seniorly hair.  In stark contrast I was sporting fuchsia hair and psychedelic trance-party clothes. Nobody seemed the least ruffled. Unfortunately, within 5 minutes I realized croquet was exceedingly boring. But I felt obligated to endure our game. Luckily another member showed up and I quickly ducked out with many thanks and apologies. I should’ve remembered that I take better to vigorous activities like cycling, climbing mountains and dancing until dawn. Lesson learned.

Denis and I stayed in Portland five days. We walked on beaches, visited a seal colony way out at the tip of a windy peninsula, and enjoyed the splendid cliff-top views. Denis tried fishing but had no luck. Finally we headed east along the coast. We visited a charming tourist town full of sail boats then reached the coast’s main attractions: tall cliffs and amazing off-shore rock formations: arches, pillars and islands. Australia’s Great Ocean Road. We spent a whole day visiting the most stunning sections, but by midday Denis was fed up with tourist crowds. He drove ahead to a small town where he waited for me to explore the coastline by bike and foot.

south coast of australia- Great Ocean Road- Australia
 ‘The 12 Apostles’ on Australia’s Great Ocean Road

I happily pedaled around, peering over cliffs and viewing rock pillars from the many outlooks along the coast. “The 12 Apostles” are the most famous rock formations. They live up to their stunning reputation. I lingered a long time, absorbing the majestic pillars.

I finally caught up with Denis that evening. We loaded my bike in the caravan and drove until dark. Surprisingly, the coastal road quickly turned inland and began climbing up, up, up through lovely lush forests. We finally reached the mountain top and discovered a tiny town offering a lone restaurant, bar and campground. It was freezing. We warmed up with a hot shower and steak dinner. The next morning we got the h*ll outa there.

Great Ocean Road- Australia

We cruised downhill through more lush forests to the warm coast. The area was quite different from the famous 12 Apostles coast. This time we found low rolling hills followed by a narrow winding cliff-hugging road poised above the ocean, much like California’s Pacific Highway #1. Stunning. We discovered a lovely national park campground tucked back a narrow valley surrounded by tall cliffs.

By then Denis and I needed a break from traveling together 24/7: driving, eating, sleeping, hiking and living together non-stop. I stayed at the campground in our caravan while he took off in the car for four days. The campground proved to be a naturalist’s paradise. It had everything: ocean, rocky shoreline, beaches, dramatic winding roads, forests, rivers and walking trails. I spent four days hiking along rivers and through lush forests of giant ferns and eucalyptus trees, cycling the winding road, walking on rocks and beaches, suntanning and catching up on my journal.

koala in eucalyptus tree, southern Australia

I also experienced the highlight of my coastal Australian journey: koalas. A nearby info center had informed me that the area was known for the bears and they’d recommended a trail for koala spotting. I was thrilled. Ever since I was a kid koalas were one of my favorite animals.  I had always hoped that one day I could see a real live koala bear. The moment was upon me. I eagerly set out, searching eucalyptus trees for koalas. Guess what? Not only did I see a koala, I saw 10! They appeared as round furry balls tucked in the crooks of trees. Some were sleeping so I saw only their butts. Luckily, I spied several bears moving around, scratching and climbing. Their faces and furry ears were adorable. I was ecstatic. Seeing koalas in the wild was a dream come true.

Denis returned from his four-day jaunt, very happy to see me again. He treated us to a lovely Bed and Breakfast. At a nearby restaurant we played billiards and ate dinner. We had a hilarious time, thanks to Denis’ surprise: ‘bliss balls.’ Nothing remarkable happened, yet everything was immensely hilarious from our dazed fog. Denis had to guide me back to our hotel while I repeatedly asked, ‘Where are we?’ and resisted his efforts to return to our room. We eventually made it and had some serious, but foggy,  talks about the state of our relationship. All was well it seemed.

south coast of Australia- wool museum- Australia
learning about the sheep industry at wool museum
Next morning Denis bought us a wonderful gourmet breakfast. Afterwards we returned to the caravan, packed up and drove to Melbourne. The bliss balls were so potent that I was still stoned half the day. En route to Melbourne I requested a visit to the National Wool Museum, which proved to be immensely informative. I learned the entire history of the Australian sheep industry, famous sheep ranchers, different breeds of sheep, various types of wool and the complex process of preparing wool for clothes and other products. Fascinating to me. Boring as H*ll to Denis. In fact, he was quite exasperated. Hmm… it seemed our reconciliation could be short-lived.

We drove on to Melbourne where more adventures and deep talks awaited us…
(* photo credits from Flickr Creative Commons: Big_ashb  Rina_Dzasta  Aschat  Pescatello  * )

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