NOTES ON AUSTRALIA – GRAND PACIFIC DRIVE
2 October 2013
Welcome back to these notes on the trip my wife and I made to Australia. Our stay in Sydney is covered in the previous post.
After Sydney we moved south. This meant hiring a car, and we got ourselves a bright red Micra
It’s a snug little car which was just the right size for me, my wife, and three pieces of luggage (which ended up being five after we had bought things in the local supermarkets which we can’t get in Beijing). Initially, we faced the challenge of driving on the left-hand side of the road. This is one of the less useful things which Australia has inherited from the UK. I passed my driving test in Scotland and so started my driving life driving on the left, but the vast majority of my driving since then has been on the right. As for my wife, she’s never really driven on the left. So there was a bit of tension at the beginning, especially as we had to drive out of Sydney during a busy period. But we quickly got the hang of it and thereafter we had no problems – except for two things: we systematically put the windscreen wipers on when we wanted to signal a right or left turn (because the positions of the two levers were the reverse of their positions in “normal” cars); and when we turned right at an intersection we had a tendency of ending up on the right hand side of the road. But no worries! As you can see, we have survived to tell the tale.
Our initial plan was to drive down the coast towards Melbourne, along the Prince’s Highway, and then turn inland whenever it was time to start heading back to Sydney and its airport. I should explain why we chose to do this. Some five years ago, in a lodge located on a tributary to the Amazon River not too far from Manaus
we met an Australian and had one of those conversations you always have when meeting fellow-travellers: swapping notes on places travelled and things to see. The conversation inevitably turned to Australia, and he told us to go to Sydney and then drive along the coast. He wrote it all down on a paper napkin, which we carefully kept – but alas, that paper napkin is in storage in Vienna! When we were planning this trip we were trying to remember if he had told us to drive south or north from Sydney. For reasons which I cannot now remember, we plumped for going south. But this turned out to be not such a good idea. Contrary to what we had expected, we found the coast ho-hum. It was terribly built up, the sea-shores offered the usual sea-related touristy stuff, and most of the towns we passed through were suffering from ugly strip development. There were three bright spots in the gloom. The first was a highly enjoyable drive through Heathcote National Park just south of Sydney, where we saw massed Eucalyptus trees close up for the first time in our lives
After which we landed up on the Grand Pacific Drive. This road hugs the coast for some 20 kilometers, so we got wonderful views of the coast in the dying hours of the day.
The second bright spot was the few hours we spent on Jervis Bay, which has the most amazingly white sand (and very clear water – but bloody cold, at least when we were there).
The third bright spot was our dinner at Batehaven, next to Bateman’s Bay. We had an excellent fish and chips (at a place called Berny’s – pass the word). In contrast to driving on the left, fish-’n-chips is one of the more useful things which Australia has inherited from the UK.
We ate it sitting at a table in the city park with the sea in front of us, lingeringly licked our fingers when it was all wolfed down, and then walked along the beach under a waning moon. Wonderful.
But all this was not enough to keep us from abandoning the coast. We decided on a rapid change of plan: make a brief trip to Canberra to visit a museum and then head for the Snowy Mountains. But before we did that, we went for a little ride through the Benandarah State Forest. This ride, and what we found there, will be the subject of my next post.
Lodge in the Amazon: http://www.jumalodge.com/gallery/2012/2.jpg
Eucalyptus forest: http://www.elrst.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/eucalyptus-forest.jpeg
The coast along the Grand Pacific Drive: my picture