|Final Statistics: Alex & Maz||Total distance: 93,550km|
|Furthest Point: Rotorua, NZ||Now settled in Sydney, Australia|
|Final Statistics: Martin||Total distance: 79,698km|
|Furthest Point: Hobart, Australia||Now settled in Bristol, UK|
To The End Of The Earth, And The End Of A Great Adventure
To The End Of The Earth, And The End Of A Great Adventure
Australia, Country 26, Diary entry 17th-30th November 2006, Total distance in Australia: 13337km
This is Martin's FINAL diary entry!
After delivering Ant safely to Melbourne airport I returned to the city and tried to catch up on all the admin stuff I'd been happily putting off while enjoying my time with my co-pilot. Aside from a quick drive out to the Dandenong Ranges for a magnificent if hazy view back over the city and to make sure the car battery was nicely topped up to keep the fridge running, I spent the next couple of days in Melbourne planning my final excursion of the expedition over to Tasmania.
The ferry was a real step up from the kind of ferries I'd used in Indonesia. This one even looked seaworthy and the red on the outside of the hull was paint rather than rust. Inside, the upholstery was new and fluffy, there was not a trace of rubbish to be seen and the bars were comfortable and selling Cascade on draught, one of the things I'd been looking forward to about Tasmania. Other than the choice of beer it was very similar to riding from Dover to Calais and back five times (it takes 11 hours), and I only had a reclining seat booked, which didn't recline very much in fact, so I slept on the (clean) floor but it didn't make for a great night's sleep.
The ferry docked at Devonport and I'd decided to head first towards Launceston. About five minutes outside town I passed (and yes, I *passed*) a chocolate factory where you can see how they make the chocolate and more importantly have tastings. I decided at 8:00am it was a little early but as I'd have to return to Devonport for the return ferry I could make the detour then. About another half hour up the road was a small cheese factory, and since 8:30am is a perfectly acceptable time to start eating cheese I pulled in. They had tiny cubes of cheese cut up and laid out with toothpicks but since there were so many different types I must have scoffed a good half a pound of the stuff... Lancashire, Wensleydale, Cheddar (mature, vintage, low-fat), Red Leicester... then there were the ones with stuff mixed in like pepper, wasabi and even "Australian Dust" - to make the cheese taste like the outback. What was in it I don't know, powdered bark or something I think but it did taste strangely like the outback i.e. not very nice. The rest were excellent though, so I went back for seconds :)
I waddled back to the car and drove on again, only to be faced with a raspberry farm another 10km up the road! If this is what Tasmania's going to be like all the way round I'll need an extra week just for the stops at this rate. I sampled some chocolate coated raspberries which were quite nice but the jam was superb - just raspberries, sugar and lemon juice, nothing else added. Knowing that I'd be leaving Australia in about two weeks and not wanting the hassle of taking food products through borders I only bought a small jar. This turned out to be a major miscalculation as it lasted me only until the following afternoon.
Launceston is a pleasant enough small city and I checked into a backpacker hostel and caught up on a little of my lost sleep before heading out to the attraction of the town - Cataract Gorge. It's only a ten minute walk outside town to the start of the gorge, and from there is a choice of rugged hillside trek on one side of the river or flat path the other. I chose to do a loop doing the difficult way first then returning the easy way. The views along the hillside walk are nice, but most of the time trees stop you seeing too much, but on emerging the other end of the path there was a wide open lawn area with a big open-air swimming pool for which I was unprepared having no swimming costume with me and it was a little too public for skinny dipping. To cross the river there are two options - one is the boring way, to walk around the lawn and use a little suspension bridge round where the gorge narrows again, or to take a chair-lift across the lawn and river. As interesting as this may be to people who have never seen a chair-lift before, this seemed easily the more boring option of the two for me with no ski slopes to be seen at the other end. I walked around and enjoyed an ice-cream in the garden of a cafe which had a load of peacocks wandering around (nice to look at but bloody hell do they make a racket) and continued back along the path towards the town, where back at the hostel I made myself a wonderful dish of "tinned food surprise" - since I'd soon be shipping the car back to the UK I wanted to run down my emergency food supplies, of which you won't be surprised to hear I had quite a stock.
Continuing my clockwise circumnavigation of Tasmania, I took a 50km loop detour off the main road onto some gravel through the Mount Victoria National Park to have a look at a couple of waterfalls along the way. The first was Ralphs Falls, which was reached after a ten minute easy walk from the car park to a platform overlooking the extensive green rolling farmland and the falls themselves, a narrow trickle of water falling in a gap in the vertical strata of the rock. It was pretty, but I didn't stay long. I pressed on another fifteen minutes to the much more impressive St. Columba Falls, at 90m height one of the tallest in Tasmania they claim but it seemed to be a series of cascades rather than one single drop, which is cheating in my book. All the same it was very nice there with the water flowing quite nicely - nice to see such quantities of water over a fall after all the dry ones up north in the Kimberley. In addition I met a couple of really nice English people called David and Val who were so impressed by our adventure that they raided their wallets on the spot and gave me some cash to pass to Care - which I subsequently did via the Justgiving webpage of course. Many thanks again for the confidence boost, especially welcome since not five minutes later did some woman accuse me of taking money from people under false pretences and refused to listen to my denials, which upset me at the time but I got over it.
Back onto the main road and into St. Helens to visit the tourist info centre. It seems every town in Australia has one, regardless of whether there's much to see or not, and by and large they're pretty good. Not only do they have plenty of pamphlets and maps to take away but the staff are usually knowledgeable about the local attractions and St. Helens was no exception. The guy there basically chatted for a few minutes to get an idea of what I was interested in and how long I had and then he gave me a list of the places I should definitely see and those I could skip. So if this diary gets boring blame him, but the first on the list (and where I was already heading anyway) was the Bay of Fires, the northern section of the east coast, where the beaches are white, the water is turquoise and the camping is free. What more could you want? Well, for the fog to disappear so I could see it would have been nice as it was just starting to roll in from the sea. What little I could see was beautiful so I set up camp and hoped it'd be clear in the morning.
Well, it was clear in the morning but only after a night of severe winds, and my camping spot was not sheltered at all so I kept getting woken up. At one point I was so worried for the tent that I had to get up and remove the flysheet rather than risk it ripping and after that I didn't properly sleep again. The beach was indeed beautiful but I didn't appreciate it as much as I might have. I packed up the tent and after a quick blustery breakfast made my way back to St. Helens and further south along the coast. Only 15 minutes later I was tempted by the roadside advert for a café at a fruit farm, the idea being that I needed a coffee but when I arrived it was apparent that I also needed a piece of fruit cake. Not only was it delicious but it was huge. The day was looking up.
I stopped in Bicheno for a quick look. It's a very pretty fishing village which turns into a holiday hell in the summer months. The tourism season is definitely kicking in but nothing yet compared to December so it was not too crowded yet, but I'd be glad to be well clear of the place by then. Bicheno's main attraction is its colony of penguins, but since I'd seen them with Anthony on Phillip Island I decided not to hang around and see them again here. I pushed on to the Freycinet National Park, famous for its magnificent beaches including Wineglass Bay, recently voted second best beach in the world (not sure where number 1 is) with its perfect arc of white sand and clear turquoise water, lush green bush-land and huge granite outcrops overlooking them.
After a stop at the visitor centre to pay the entry fee and pick up a map, I decided that enough light remained, and that I was enthusiastic enough, to do the walk to the top of Mount Amos, one of the aforementioned granite outcrops. Actually, "walk" is the wrong word as pretty soon it becomes a "climb". The path leads to some smooth granite faces, pretty steep in places, which you have to find the least slippery way to climb up using cracks in the rock or the occasional useful gum tree. Certainly not a climb for the unadventurous and not something to be attempted in the wet! Fortunately it was bone dry apart from the occasional oozing patch of moss and I had put on a sensible choice of shoes and just over an hour after leaving the car park I was at the top and faced with the most spectacular views over the whole peninsula and Wineglass Bay. I had in front of me the same view as is used in just about every promotional brochure Tasmania has ever issued, it was magnificent.
It took just over an hour to get down again, much of the descent being more difficult than the ascent had been, and I drove to the remote edges of the park to a camping area near Bluestone Bay, accessible by 4wd only and found I had the place entirely to myself. Though it was windy again there were plenty of trees around to shelter me and I had a very good night's sleep. It was ideally located also to do the quick walk around the Cape Tourville lighthouse the next morning before pushing on.
Further down the coast on the Tasman Peninsula is Port Arthur, a convict settlement founded in 1833 for serious repeat offenders from the mainland, many of whom had been transported to Australia for crimes in the UK. Port Arthur hit the headlines in 1996 when a local guy, perhaps snapping after hearing The Proclaimers singing 500 Miles once too often, opened fire with automatic rifles on visitors and staff in and around the historical area, killing 35 and injuring many others before escaping, to be captured the following day and locked away in presumably a more modern and luxurious facility than the 19th century convicts faced.
The settlement now has a slightly artificial feel to it with the old penitentiary buildings and governor's residence set in a lush green garden landscape. The admission fee included a 40 minute guided tour which gave an insight into why the area was chosen and some of the stories. Among the more disturbing areas was the Separate Prison, an isolation block for troublemakers where the prisoners were forbidden to talk or interact in any way with their fellow inmates. Everything was designed to keep the prisoners in total isolation. On exiting their cells for their one hour a day exercise (in individual gardens with 8 foot high walls) they had to wear a hood allowing them to see only downwards, and even on a Sunday when visiting the prison chapel the congregation stood in upright booths with dividing walls and doors so designed as to allow the prisoners to see nobody other than the chaplain. Apart from that building, for many of the others all that remains were ruined shells which isn't too impressive after only 150 years or so.
The Broad Arrow Cafe, the site of the 1996 shootings, has been gutted and turned into a memorial to those killed. I visited this last, and as you would expect I left with a combination of shock, sadness and disbelief that such a tragedy could occur at what is now such a peaceful, pleasant garden atmosphere.
Into Hobart, the capital city of Tasmania and home to the staggering total of 125,000 people. I suppose this makes it bigger than Darwin but somehow it felt much, much deader. I booked into a hostel called The Pickled Frog, just because I liked the name, and took a quick wander around the town to establish where everything was. I soon established that everything must be in another town as apart from a single short pedestrianised mall with a couple of side streets coming off it, there's nothing much to see or do in downtown Hobart. This was confirmed later that evening when I tried to find a pub with a few fellow travellers, and found only one with any other people in it and that was spoiled by an open-mic session with participants obviously having a different expectation of talent to me.
Not all is lost however. About 15km outside town is the Cadbury's chocolate factory and I joined a tour of their works the following morning. It was well set up. On arrival there is a small museum of old Cadbury's advertising paraphernalia and where some freebie Caramello Koalas were being handed out and then our tour group was summoned to the neighbouring room for the introductory talk and to have our bags, cameras and watches confiscated, and to be given hair nets and because I hadn't bothered to shave I had to wear a special net over my chin too. Unfortunately for you, cameras were confiscated before the dressing up. The tour took us past production lines churning out and packaging various products like block chocolate, Freddo Frogs and the chocolates for Milk Tray, and the smell of melted chocolate permeated the building. Apparently they used to have samples tasting along the route but that has been stopped for Health and Safety reasons so they gave us each a small box of Favourites at the end of the tour. Unfortunately there had been a big spill in the room where they mix all the chocolate so we couldn't go in there even though I offered to help clean it up for free.
After an explore round the Battery Point and Salamanca areas in town, the areas on the walking tour suggested in Lonely P but again it was hard to get excited about hundred year old buildings. The most picturesque scene, they tell us, is Arthur Circle where a ring of stone cottages surround a circular garden. Well the stone cottages would have been a lot nicer if they hadn't all had ugly corrugated iron roofs but what do I know about classical Tasmanian architecture.
I tried finding life in the town again that night and apart from a few weirdos performing interpretive dance to a live jazz band in one bar (think junior school kids pretending to be a tree) I found nothing worthy of a big night so saved my energy for the next morning.
The Saturday morning Salamanca Market completely redeemed Hobart. All along Salamanca Place were rows and rows of market stalls selling good quality local products, including arts and crafts stuff most of which was actually quite nice, and plenty of local produce such as honey, chocolate, mustards and chutneys etc. etc. and many of them with free tasters. I hadn't had breakfast and this turned out to be a good thing as I had plenty of stomach space for all the different bits and pieces on offer. The stall-holders kept asking me if I was a professional photographer, which was weird until finally I realised what was going on. The Crown Prince and Princess of Denmark were in town, Crown Princess Mary actually being some local bird who got lucky with a prince when he was over competing in the Sydney Olympics. The Australians, it would seem from the covers of the gossip magazines in the supermarkets, are totally mad over their having a real princess to write about, but they don't like it too much when you point out that they already have a royal family back in the motherland
After my dismal experiences of Hobart's nightlife the previous two nights I decided not to even bother trying a third night, even though it was a Saturday, and instead stayed back at the Pickled Frog and enjoyed their huge television watching the cricket (Ashes first test - everyone here's going mad over them so I thought I ought to see what the fuss was all about) followed by the rugby league tri-nations final, followed by a Harry Potter film.
The next day the weather was not too great again but I decided to strike out from Hobart and start exploring the things to see along the way to the west coast. The first stop was a very small detour off the main road into the Mount Field National Park where I chose a short walk, mostly because of the skies looking so ominous, so I walked the twenty minutes or so to Russell Falls. The falls themselves are quite pretty, even after having seen more waterfalls than really one needs to see in a single lifetime, with a pleasing curtain of water cascading over a wide expanse of rock face, surrounded by rainforest trees and ferns. The main attraction was the wildlife though, with pademelons hopping around all over the place. These are a kind of wallaby that were once on the mainland but now exist only in Tasmania so I was quite privileged to see one, let alone so many, and even more so that one was a mummy with a little joey in her pouch. Remembering how car-sick I used to get as a child I suppose I shouldn't have complained when I see how these kids travel around... it must have been really shaken up each time its mother moved around. Fortunately they stopped long enough for a reasonable photo and then I left them alone to carry on whatever wallaby things they were doing.
Another drive up the road and I arrived at the entrance to the Lake St Clair end of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, where I wanted to stop and do a walk for a couple or three hours. Lake St. Clair is the end point of the classic Overland Track, an 80-odd km 5 day track which I'd have loved to do had I had more time. I contented myself with a walk through the bush along an easy boardwalk to a point from where it's often possible to see platypuses but the weather had taken a turn for the worse again with the sky quite grey and dark and the wind blowing across the lake made the surface quite rippled. I stood no chance of spotting one, and especially not in the middle of the day, so I walked back to the visitors centre and pushed on sooner than I'd originally planned.
I ended up driving all the way to Strahan that day, right over on the west coast of Tasmania, stopping for a nice view over the mountains from Donaghy's Hill Lookout and then driving straight through the supposedly tourist town of Queenstown where the hills are all denuded of trees thanks to the copper mining activities of the town. With a lunar landscape that is interesting but hardly beautiful, I was amazed that people choose to visit the town on their holidays.
Strahan was closed when I got there, so I found a camping spot overlooking the harbour a few km out of town and spent a quiet evening there sheltering from the cold in my tent. In the morning I woke up and read the guide book again to see if there was anything I'd missed and really did wonder why on earth everyone had said to come here as there's really nothing to see or do. I left town and headed to the last great sight of my circuit of Tasmania - Cradle Mountain.
Arriving in time to eat a spot of leftover tuna and pasta for lunch in the visitor centre car park, I drove to the Dove Lake car park from where the view of Cradle Mountain is already stunning, but I decided to stick to my original plan: a one hour walk to Marion's Lookout, from where you can see the mountain a bit closer but also views down onto Dove Lake and the other surrounding little lakes positioned at various different altitudes dotted around the mountainside. Well, the sign at the start of the track gave some unambiguous warning saying "Warning: Track Steep and Rocky" or something to that effect. I can confirm that this is so. The track was incredibly steep needing the use of my hands at various points as the surface was quite loose. It would have been a long way to fall. Added to this that more than half of the track was across bare rock with no tree cover, it was a hot and sweaty experience. The breeze that had felt cooling at the car park had dropped and the rocks were starting to radiate off the heat that they'd picked up during the day. It was all worthwhile though as the view from the top was stunning, and the summit of Cradle Mountain seemed attainable from there. I set off towards the peak across a sort of plateau with a trail made up of wooden planks across the soggy marshes, stopping at a little emergency shelter to admire a little eastern quoll which darted into a hole in the woodwork when it saw me. I did catch another glimpse but couldn't get a photo so you'll have to take my word for it that it was very cute (or search Google Images I suppose).
On talking to some walkers who were coming down from the peak it became apparent that I'd really be pushing it for time to get to the peak and then all the way back to the car park before dusk. They told me that from that point it was a good hour and a half each way despite the signs and maps saying one hour, and they looked fairly fit and healthy. I could probably have made it, just, but I'd have been checking my watch every five minutes and would have been the only walker left up there too so I decided instead to do the Face Walk, which crossed the face of the peaks and descended down to Dove Lake via another very steep and loose track (and again totally alone). By the time I got back to the car I was knackered but pleased with a good afternoon's walking.
With the lack of good camping options in the park (i.e. you had to pay for them all) I phoned the ferry company to check I could move my booking forward by a day and drove all the way back to Devonport. I treated myself to a cinema ticket (Borat - quite disappointing) and a Hungry Jack's burger (Burger King) and camped on the outskirts of town. The next day I mooched around the town, had a frighteningly severe haircut which left me looking like a hedgehog and scaring small children and sat in the library for a few hours catching up on diary writing before heading out to the chocolate factory just outside town that I'd driven past on my first day (you knew I wouldn't forget!) and then back to the ferry terminal in the evening for the trip back to the mainland.
The return ferry crossing was worse. Not only was the movement of the boat accompanied by horrific retching noises from my fellow passengers but one of the stewards had taken it upon himself to ruin everyone's night by enforcing the signs saying it's not permitted to sleep on the floors "for your safety and comfort". I was wedged between a row of chairs and a bulkhead so how I could have been a tripping hazard to anyone I wasn't sure, and I was certainly more comfortable there than anywhere else, but the guy was obviously on a power trip and insisted on everyone returning to the uncomfortable seats.
Finally the ferry docked in Melbourne and I returned to The Nunnery and finalised my plans for shipping my Land Cruiser back to the UK. I finally chose a company out at Dandenong who would give me an all-inclusive price for delivery, customs-cleared, to their UK partner's depot in London. This might or might not have been the cheapest option but I'll never know, because most of the other shippers give quotes as a big list of charges, surcharges and extra charges, all in different currencies, and often not all of the charges are even quoted so the chance of being landed with another bill back in the UK for dock fees or customs inspections etc. was pretty high. Also, the company I chose was one of the few who didn't bat an eyelid at the idea of shipping the car with its contents. There are no reasons why this should be a problem, as long as I supplied a detailed list of the personal effects which took me a LONG time to compile, but it seemed just too much like hard work for most of the companies, and this before they'd secured my business. Easy to walk away so I did.
So after a difficult time deciding which 20kg of stuff I'd carry with me on the plane back home and which 3380kg or so to leave in the car, I drove out to the depot in Dandenong, completed the paperwork, paid the money and handed over the car.
This, for me, marked the end of my great Overland-Underwater adventure after 16 months, 79,698km in around 1450 driving hours and 26 countries.
With a flight home booked, leaving Sydney on 6th December, stopping in Tahiti and California for a few days each before landing at Heathrow on 19th December it means that regrettably I will not have the opportunity for a final meeting-up with Alex and Maz who are somewhere across the other side of Australia.
As this is my final diary entry, I'd like to take the opportunity to thank all those I have met along the way. While the sights, sounds and smells of the different countries have been amazing, meeting locals and other travellers in each place is what will really stick in my mind for the rest of my life. Thanks to those elsewhere for the emails with news from home and dotted around the globe that kept me sane when I wanted to strangle the occasional policeman in Egypt or Indonesia, drug dealer in Bombay or over-officious border guard in, well, nearly every country. I look forward to catching up with you all over a beer soon.
Particular thanks also to all the people who made a special trip to occupy the co-pilot seat for various parts of the trip. In the end there were quite a few: Elena, Richard, Max, The Father, Charbel, Lara and Ant. I'm astonished that so many people would want to jump on a plane and slum it with me in the Land Cruiser as their preferred holiday of choice and it made the experience all the more special for me.
Thanks to the sponsors who have helped us out with equipment or services along the way. We appreciate it very much.
Even more special thanks to Alex and Maz, without whom I'd never have considered doing such a trip and even if I had considered it, it would probably never have happened. I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have.
In the course of our travels our efforts have raised around £15,000 for Care International, which is an impressive sum, but still some way off our original target of £25,000. May I take this opportunity to implore those readers who wish to donate but have just not got round to it, to do so? Having seen first-hand how the money is used to benefit the disadvantaged people in various places along the trip, I know how valuable your contributions are. Donations can be made securely through the Justgiving website (click the link from any page on our website or go directly to http://www.justgiving.com/overland-underwater). For those who have donated before, may I offer sincere thanks from myself and on behalf of Care, and don't let me stop you if you want to donate again
Lastly, if anyone wants to buy a slightly-used Land Cruiser, please get in touch. It needs a bit of work before it's ready to go off around the world again (or even to pass an MoT) and has a few battle scars but the main components such as engine, gearbox, chassis etc. are still in good shape. It should be delivered to the UK around mid-February.
Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, or pick another festive holiday to be merry if Christmas is not your thing.
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|Comment from Pat|
|I have so enjoyed your dairy and have vicariously enjoyed all your experiences over the last 16 months.....and from the comfort of Swallowfield. So at least from me, a huge thank you for the time and commitment that all three of you (plus guest writers) have put into writing up your adventures. From your accounts I can remember some fascinating places that I shall put on the holiday destination list and some which I shall be glad not to visit because you've done it for me, so I can stay warm and dry at home.|
I shall look forward to following Maz and Alex's accounts to the end of their journey and I shall look forward to having Martin back home for Christmas.
Many thanks once again.
|06 Dec 2006 @ 10:40:07|
|Comment from Alex & Maz|
|wow can't believe it's all come to an end for you.... emotional enough for us, never mind you. I love the collage of photos, brings back some great memories to treasure. Enjoy your R&R detour on the way home... we know better than anyone that it's well deserved. I bet you're breathing a sigh of relief no more diaries ;o) Work will seem easy for you after that. I'd suggest to ease back into work easily, you spend your first coffee break each day reading a diary entry from the start to the end.|
We hope you have an excellent (cold wet ;o) christmas with your family, just don't bore them all with a slide show. We'll be thinking of you all when we're sunning ourselves on a beach in WA.
All the best and good luck with the job hunt
Your fellow travellers
|07 Dec 2006 @ 02:20:03|
|Comment from Jean Greatrex|
|I viewed your time with Ant as "I'm a celebrity ---- get me out of here" and hope that he earned lots of stars!! while noting that nothing much changes - the booze, food and rain!! The photos were pretty special too. I just want to say how much I have enjoyed reading your diary entries, as well as Alex's and Maz's. I think you have all done an amazing thing and, as your Mum says, it has opened up the world to a lot more of us through your eyes and experiences. I think you should now publish them all in a book and raise even more money for a worthwhile charity. I hope you have a good journey home (and Alex and Maz too), and if you are ever in the Chelmsford area I would love to buy you a drink and hear more of your tales. No doubt I will hear a few different editions when I meet up with Ant at the weekend. Take care and well done. Jean (Ant's Mum)|
|07 Dec 2006 @ 13:35:10|
|Comment from Elena|
|Dear you, hope you had good way home.. Be happy! :)|
|20 Dec 2006 @ 08:49:57|