Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Australiogue - Chapter Two (30/12/2009 - 31/12/2009)

Before I start blogging about the trip, just a small side note/trivia I noticed in Australia. Nothing extremely WOW or outa the world, juz a small observation. Parking! Haha

1) Australians are extremely good at Parallel Parking. By extremely good, I mean EXTREMELY good. No doubt about that. Head in, boot in, whatever way, they can juz park in 1 try! No reversing in and out to get the alignment right or straighten the car, juz 'ZOOP' and in the car goes! Amazing! We have witnessed it countless times, and still are amazed at their efficiency and prowess at parallel parking! Practice and necessity make perfection i guess!

2) They're more fixated with parking the car in as their objective rather then trying to straighten the car, being parallel to the parking lines and such. Yes, i know Singaporeans are rather concientious when parking, always wanting to make sure the car is damn straight and parallel to the parking lines, and perfectly 'sitting' in the box, not 1 inch out of line. Australians, they don't really care! As long as they can get their cars somewhat parked in the lot, even if the wheels touched the line! Their cars can be as slanted as imaginable, and sometimes parking lines are non-existent to their eyes. Case in point:

Notice how crooked the cars are parked! WE sorta got a shock after we parked ours to witness how the cars are parked! Lines are there, but apparently, the cars don care! Haha, it actually is uch more crooked than the picture tells! Amazing! I don't think i'll ever see such a sight in Singapore!

3) They, like the US, love head in parking. Heck, they don't even get tested for reverse parking! Heck, i think they don't even get tested for head-in parking. Like their driving test seems very easy! No circuit, no reverse parking, just driving on the roads, do parallel parking, that's it! Haha. But then again, driving in Australia is quite enjoyablde cos the drivers there are quite nice! At least during my time there, they've all been very nice! SLow down to let me change lane or let me pass... Good driving etiquette!

Ok, back to the point - Chapter 2

Chapter 2 started on 30 Dec 2009, with the longest drive ever during the entire holiday from Adelaide to Mt Gambier, a total of 450km, approximately 6hrs via Highway. It also thus began my 1st drive in Australia! After a hiatus of abt 10mths (the last being CNY in 2009), i once again drove the roads! & U just get the hang of it after a couple of mins! It was a nice drive, if not a really really long drive along highways with few cars in sight, and through suburbs or even juz forests. This is rather dangerous cos with no cars, u tend to juz speed up & go! With nth in sight but juz trees & bushes, u sometimes will drift off & get distracted. I admit, it happened a couple of times, nth serious, juz gentle drifting of the car but i managed! Of cos, i did not drive the whole way! Too long a distance, need to change driver.

We departed Ade at 08:00hrs and FINALLY reached Mt Gambier under the sorching hot sun (NO CLOUDS AT ALL) around 14:00hrs. Yes, damn long drive! But the roads are easy to drive, and directions are easy to follow! I can read a map ok! We had no GPS to guide us, juz plain old paper maps & recognition of roadsigns.

After checking into Avalon motel (nice motel with aircon which is badly needed given the damn hot weather), we ventured out to explore Mt Gambier. Thinking that the places of interests are far away, we were initially rushed for time, but we were proven wrong with the 1st place - Umpherston Sinkhole. It looked to be far on the map but we reached in like <10mins.>

The magnificent Sinkhole!

Doesnt it look like some beach getaway or forgotten island?

Lotsa flowers!

ANyway, the Sinkhole is magnificient! It was created when the earth crumbled and sank to the ground, thus SINKHOLE!! It has grown into a little garden with lotsa flowers & greeneries and 2 damn tall trees. It would have been pretty nice to juz laze ard there for a while if NOT for the bloody hot weather. & I thought Mt Gambier, being slightly elevated, was s'posed to be slight cooler, thus the 3/4 pants! If i had known, I would have changed to shorts!!! FYI, that day was the 1st day when temperatures soared up to 40 degrees!!!

How blue is that!!

After sinkhole, we proceeded to the bluest lakes in the world!! Ok, i think so la, not for sure. It's just called 'The Blue Lake'! Damn blue i tell u! Like blue until can reflect light lo! Haha... We wanted to take a walk around the lake but due to the terrible weather, we surrended to the heat & proceeded to drive around the lake instead. We also visited the Valley Lake, then to the Cave Gardens. I must say Cave gardens nothing much, esp after we had been to the SInkhole.

A model of how the cave actually look like

Last stop was Englebrecht Caves. We were lucky to be there for the last tour of the day! Apparently, pple go cave diving there & u have to be damn expert in diving to be able to dive in the cave there cos it's extremely dark underwater. Imagine. Sounds quite scary!

After a whole day of walking around under the hot sun, we went back to the comfortable of the aircon to rest & wash up b4 going out to hunt for food or shopping. But as all of u know, in Australia, all shops or rather the town is dead after 5pm. Literally dead! But we managed to find a fish & chips stall & bought a pack for AUD9.80 to share. LUcky we shared cos we would not have been able to finish 1 each! The portions were damn big, & the chips were like FREE lo! They juz dump a whole bunch into each pack! & salt seems free to them cos they literally drown the chips in salt! Damn salty!!! We couldnt finish the fries cos they were beyond edible...

The ultra salty fish & chips, with some onion rings & calamari, everything being salted to the max!
2nd day morning (New Year eve), we set out ard 9+am, toward Mt Schank! Extinct volcano! WE thot it to be a relatively easy climb up, well it was kinda not difficult, but the climb down to the crater hole (now it's full of greenery bushes & trees) was rather difficult! But we managed, me in my slippers somemore! Haha! It was a good 1.5hrs of exercise for us! Been so long since i last exercised!

Mount Schank from afar - Note the presence of clouds? That was on 1 Jan 2010, when the temp suddenly dipped to 18 degrees

Me on top of the crater. It was damn hot, abt 34 degrees on 31 dec

The road down to the bottom, which we took. Looks a lot nearer than it actually is

D&A - Dian Shan & Angeline. We dissolved the intial 'Team G' to put our mark. Wonder if it's still there now....
Artistic shot with the wind blowing...
After Mt Schank, we set out to Naracoorte Caves, World Heritage Site! Where we will be spending our new year's eve. More on that later.
Our accomodation was bunk house, & we were the only occupants in the bunkhouse, which was good cos we get the whole room to ourselves! But there was no one ard, except for the family living there... Lonely, we were so lonely.... All alone in the bunkhouse on new year's eve.
Fossils of some extinct animals. Can't determine whether they'r herbivour/carnivour/ominivour yet. Does it have the Jurassic Park feel to it with the shadows on the walls?

We set out for 2 cave tours - Victoria Fossil Cave and the night Bat Cave tour. Tip from the trip: Always try to be the last group of the day! Haha, u get the priviledge of more personalized tour (cos most pple would be gone by then, less tourist - more personal time) & sometimes, u might just get exclusive tour of the place! Like we did in Victoria Fossil Cave! We were able to venture into the lesser ventured area hen there are more pple in the tour!

Our dinner. It actually looks & taste good!

After a meal of home-cooked pumpkin + pea soup + bread + oranges, we went for the bat cave tour. It wasn't meant to be this way. We had bought the instant cook ingredient, thinking it was risotto, only to discover, upon cooking it, that it is actually the base ingredient for cooking risotto! So there we had, the pumpkin risotto soup, sans risotto. What goons! Hahah, luckily we had bread! But still, a satisfying meal cos we added lotsa peas & carrots (canned vege) with bread & oranges!

3 Kangaroos in action!
Blanche Caves, a limestone cave

The bat cave tour, when at night, includes the view of the bats leaving the cave! It started with a viewing of the bats in their caves through vid cam (obviously we can't go it, too dark), then proceed with a visit to Blanche Cave with stalactities & stalactmites. The cave was amazing! Even better than the Victoria Fossil Cave! Once the sun sets down, bats started to come out! & once again, being in a small group & last tour of the day (only us 2 + a family of 4 with 2 kids, & the guide's family), we stayed much longer in the cave, to view the bats flying in the cave! Quite interesting sight!

After that, we proceeded to the opening of the bat cave to view the bats flying out. Too dark to capture it on camera, but it was nice! Though the night was rather chilling! After that, we went back to our bunkhouse at ard 2200 hrs, didnt even wait for 12midnight to strike b4 we went off to sleep for another early day next! Yes, u guessed it - The Great Ocean Road!!

Stay tuned to Chapter 3, the 1st day of New Year....

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