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MY CARAVAN TRAVEL AROUND AUSTRALIA

 

travel around Australia- Lane Cove National Park near Sydney Australia

Lane Cove National Park near Sydney Australia

MY CARAVAN TRAVEL AROUND AUSTRALIA

On Jan. 12th Denis and I finally packed up our caravan and left Lane Cove National Park near Sydney to begin our much-anticipated caravan travel around Australia. By then we’d already been camping in Lane Cove nearly 3 weeks and were restless to start traveling. It was my first experience packing up a caravan (mobile home/ trailer) which entailed a lot of fussy work: rolling up the attached side awning, closing all the windows, securing the drapes, putting everything loose into cupboards, detaching the gas, electric and water lines and packing them away, jacking up the caravan off its supports and attaching it to the truck, in addition to all the other usual packing of clothes, food, chairs and tables. By Jan. 12th Denis was an ‘old hand’ at that, having traveled by caravan for one month before my arrival. I simply assisted him. Soon enough we were on the road.

travel around Australia- Blue Mountains- Australia

Blue Mountains- Australia

Our first destination was the famous Blue Mountains, just two hours west. The previous few days had become quite cold in Sydney (uggggghhhhh!) Not surprisingly, it was even colder up in the mountains. Freezing to be exact. We were both used to the tropics and hate cold, so we were not happy about the wintery weather, all bundled up in polar jackets, gortex, and layers of cotton pants. Yikes! At least we found a lush caravan park to stay in. We headed out for a hike, only to discover that all hiking trails in the nearest canyon were closed, due to forest fires (called ‘bush fires’ in Australia).

 

3 Sisters in Blue Mountains- Australia

3 Sisters in Blue Mountains- Australia

Luckily, the park’s main canyon was unaffected, so we spent two days hiking along cliff tops, past tall spectacular waterfalls, down into the canyon, through eucalyptus and giant fern-tree forests, and up steep steps. We visited Blue Mountains’ most famous sight: 3 Sisters (3 spires of rock sticking up at the end of a ridge and standing over the canyon) in the daytime and also at night, when they’re illuminated. Blue Mountains’ canyons are similar to those in Utah, except that Blue Mountains’ valleys are full of dense lush foliage, whereas Utah is entirely dry rock. We witnessed a helicopter flying into a canyon then dropping water on a small forest fire on a cliff side. And I finally bought myself a pair of binoculars for nature viewing.

 

echidna hiding

echidna hiding

We enjoyed the Blue Mountains for three days then headed south to Morton National Park, which is also full of canyons, waterfalls and gorgeous lookouts. We spent just one day and one night there enjoying hikes, views, and wild life. That evening we came across a wallaby (small relative of kangaroos). It was the first time for either of us to see a wallaby, so we watched it excitedly for a long time. We also saw two lyrebirds, which are similar to peacocks. Finally, we saw an echidna (like a porcupine) all balled up: a big fuzzy ball. The poor guy was terrified. I desperately wanted to see his face but didn’t want to give him a heart attack nor get a face full of quills. So I prudently left him alone.

The next day we headed further south to the Snowy Mountains, Australia’s premier ski region. There are only a few ski spots in all of Oz, so the Snowy Mountains are a big deal there. We stayed at a lovely caravan park set beside a river in a small town just north of the park border. Denis loves fishing, so rivers were always exciting spots for him. By another stroke of luck the weather suddenly turned roasting hot over night. In one day we switched from winter to high summer. We were happy campers- literally.

Unfortunately, I quickly found out that the entire park was closed because of forest fires. Every hiking trail and every road except for a 40km (25miles) strip of the main road were off limits. So much for exploring the Snowy Mountains. :(

Instead, the following day I went cycling in the countryside, headed to a nearby town famous for fruit orchards. That turned into a nightmare. I pedaled uphill for 2 ½ hours in the roasting midday sun. I hate hills and, while I do love hot sun, it was much too hot for cycling. Even worse, en route I discovered that all the fruit farms were closed. I finally did reach the tiny village, where I promptly called Denis for a rescue pick up. I didn’t feel like much of a cyclist that day. Meanwhile, Denis had become fed up with poor fishing and suggested we leave.

 

Bush Fire

Bush Fire

We headed west. Our long term destination was the Rainbow Serpent Festival, a 3-day trance music/dance party out in the middle of nowhere, west of Melbourne. Our drive initially took us parallel to the Snowy Mountains. We could see huge, dense grayish-brown smoke clouds billowing up from the mountain ridge. The smoke was so abundant that it spread out horizontally, covering half the entire mountain range We couldn’t help but think about the total hell inside: trees burning and falling, hot flames flying around, hot wind racing it on, all the poor animals and birds terrified, fleeing for their lives. No wonder the park was closed! Good thing we hadn’t tried to hike despite the warnings, as we’d been tempted to do. I later read that the fires had crept down into the suburbs of Canberra, destroying many homes.

 

Bush Fire on plains- Australia

Bush Fire on open plains

As we headed west that day, we saw many other billowing smoke clouds at various mountains not far from us. Sometimes the road turned and headed directly towards a huge smoke cloud, just beyond the next hill. Seemingly at the last minute the road would turn away again. We wondered several times if the road would be closed ahead as we proceeded westward. Luckily it wasn’t.

 

Victoria Australia

Victoria Australia

All day we were surrounding by big wide, dry yellow fields- sometimes wide flat plains and sometimes low rolling hills. It reminded me of Pennsylvania or Wyoming, but much drier. Apparently it’s not always so dry there. Apparently, sometimes those fields are actually green meadows. From what we saw, that was exceedingly hard to believe. At that time Australia hadn’t had rain for 2-3 years. Generally, in summer it’s common for that area to suffer from bush fires, much like southern California, but that year was especially bad. Somehow Denis and I managed to stay just one valley away from fires and smoke.

 

helicopter scooping water to fight bush fire- Australia

helicopter scooping water to fight bush fire- Australia

That night we stayed at an extremely bizarre-looking lake set in a wide shallow valley. It was a dammed lake which was nearly empty of water. Instead, it was full of mud and huge, standing, dead trees. The place was very eerie! While taking a walk, I witnessed a helicopter swoop down to a nearby stream, suck water out with a big hose, and fly off over the hill where yet another huge cloud of smoke was billowing up in the air. Just before sunset the entire valley filled up with dense smoke, which caused a very bizarre sunset with amazing colors. But soon we couldn’t see anything at all. The air smelled like a camp fire. Ashes landed on everything. We went to bed a bit apprehensive about our safety…

The following morning our caravan was covered in a thick layer of ash. Dense smoke still completely filled the valley. The world was damp, musty, gray, and silent. It was an exceedingly strange atmosphere that I’ve never experienced before nor since. The sun rose as a bright red ball that we could look at directly: gorgeous.

 

river side caravan park in Victoria- Australia

river side caravan park in Victoria

We headed further west until we found another scenic caravan park beside a river, just outside a cute town. We had finally escaped the smoke and regained Australia’s wonderful hot sun. Denis went fishing. I went cycling on a country bicycling trail past yellow fields, cows and sheep, while listening to energetic trance music. A splendid ride.

 

cycling- hiking trail in Victoria Australia

cycling- hiking trail in Victoria

We also celebrated my birthday. That morning Denis set out a table full of presents, flowers, chocolate cake, and a luxurious breakfast. We had tried finding some adventurous activity for the day, like horseback riding, para-gliding or an airplane flight, but everything had been canceled due to the forest fires and smoke throughout the region. Instead, we picnic-ed beside another lake that was full of big dead trees. That evening we went to the cinema and ate fish stew that Denis made from a huge carp he caught in the river.

 

Victoria Australia

Victoria Australia

Next day we headed further west towards the upcoming Rainbow Serpent Festival, driving all day through more rolling yellow fields and small country towns. I’d read about the festival on the internet while still working in Brazil and had already bought my ticket back in Sydney. I was quite excited to finally arrive.

 

Lash with Denis in Sydney- Australia

Lash with Denis in Sydney before starting our caravan journey

The following morning we stocked up on food, gas, water, and other supplies before driving to the festival site. We arrived in mid-afternoon. Music started up that evening and continued for 4 days… Read my next installment about the spectacular Rainbow Serpent Festival. 

Qs: Have you ever traveled by caravan? If so, where and how was it?

Have you ever been to Australia? If so, what places did you like best? 

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(* photo credits from Flickr Creative Commons: Paul Mannix /Phillip C  / John Tann / Nick Hewson / Shek Graham / thinboyfatter / DLR_de / lawmurray / terrazzo / hasitha tudugalle  )

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