Ringing in the New Year with Red Backs


02/01/2014 by anniewg

Wild animals spotted: Koalas, Carnivorous snail (Otway Black), Yellow footed rock wallabies, Red Back Spiders

The Great Ocean Road took a while to kick in but when it did, struth, it didn’t half kick. Beautiful cliff faces, green green trees with a scar of a road cutting across it looking out over the turquoise, blue sea. The road itself dips and dives and weaves, in and out over the coast making us long for our old soft top car to cruise along the road in the sunshine.

Our animal spotting tally since leaving Melbourne had snakes head and shoulders (or are they all neck?) in front of koalas and wombats, with snakes at 10 and the latter two trailing at 7 all. But since stopping at some recommended roadsides and rest areas the koalas tally has just kept climbing. Currently at 38 wild sightings, including a baby that was trying to climb independently from its mum and working out that upside down is harder. The best road was the Cape Otway Lighthouse road that had a huge colony of Koalas that doubled our sightings total in 5 minutes.

There have been a lot of shipwrecks along this coastline, the coast is harsh, rocky and there seems to be few bays that have calm enough waters for docking. At Wreck beach we saw the remains of the ship Maria Gabrielle, with two anchors and something that looked mechanical with cogs on lying on the rocks at the sea edge. The waves broke fiercely a way off indicating the rocks that would have caused the sinking.

The Great Ocean Road levelled out so we could see the shear, yellow cliff edges and an apostle standing tall out to sea. Clambering down the Gibson steps we could see this one from the beach as well. It turned out to be hiding a smaller one behind it. The rest of the apostles were just around the point, standing patiently for us all to take pictures. Beautiful rock stacks that dip in and out with each layer of rock. We also saw ‘The Arch’ Australia’s version of Durdle Door and ‘London Bridge’ which used to form two archways but has now disconnected from the shore. Our last bit of true ocean road (where we can see sea form the road) was The Bay of Islands, similar to the 12 Apostles but for some reason they were classed as islands and not rock stacks. Maybe it’s the greenery on top.

Took a turn around Tower Hill, an extinct volcano, whose crater is a haven for lots of different wildlife. We saw emus straight away wondering all over, koalas, and flittering about all over the place were Superb Fairy Wrens, tiny little blue birds that fit their name perfectly.

We moved on to the Grampians National Park which has beautiful open horizons with fields of dry golden grasses and then a crease in the ground where the surface has been shunted up creating layers of mountains. We squeezed in a walk before the midday heat really took hold, to the pinnacle which is a look out over Halls Gap. I found the view more stunning from the other direction, looking back over where we had just walked. We could see the distinct layering of the rocks which had been whipped into having smooth rounded edges making them look like natural contour lines. Between 3pm and 6pm it was about 40*C so we headed for the lake. We dashed into the water expecting that sharp chill and all we got was easy warm water. The only way to cool down was to get wet then get out and dry in the shade, that at least cooled us to a point where our brains could function again. In the lake was what felt like a very Aussie sight, a circle of men sat in the water up to their armpits all holding a tinny. The next day was just as hot so we dashed around the aboriginal rock art, white men, children’s hand prints and Bunjils image, then before 3pm we found another lake which this time had some cooling properties. Once our swimmers were dry we drove to our campsite for the night and jumped straight back into the water, this time a very cold river. We dried in the shade of a gum tree and watched a wallaby hop over to us. It sniffed, stared pricked up its ears then bounded off into the bush.

We crossed the border with no ceremony, only when we checked the GPS did we realise we had left Victoria. South Australia held a great belated welcome in a small town/village called Tantanoola. They allowed campers to stay for free on what we might call the village green, we had just finished dinner when a fire engine drove passed with its sirens blaring and a man’s voice shouting something into a megaphone. We couldn’t make out a single word as it disappeared round a corner but stayed aware just encase we were about to be evacuated due to a bush fire. Then people started coming out of their houses with their children and we could hear the voice clearly. It was Father Christmas driving all around the houses giving out sweets and telling the kids to be good. His last stop was the village green where he gave us and other backpackers a handful of sweets each.

The sweets gave us the energy to tackle the very long and straight road to Lake Alexandrina. It had no turn offs, just rest areas which we didn’t want to stop at as all the caravans that we’d taken ages to overtake would pass us while we paused and we’d have to try and overtake them all over again. The road was straight but it had plenty of blind dips and crests so we couldn’t see what was coming towards us. We stopped at Narrung which has a free ferry that crosses the lake, we took this on foot and walked to the lighthouse to watch the sun set at 9pm on the solstice. It was a really stunning sunset, and right before there was a rainbow and kangaroos.

For Xmas we stayed with Gabrielle’s brother and sister in law in Adelaide Hills. Lots of her brothers, sisters and plus ones joined too so there was a full house. We had luxurious meals, a whole fridge full of beer and sparkling wine, a koala up a tree and of course the sun shining. Spending most of the time under their air-con however has now made us soft. They took us on a guided tour of Adelaide which reminded us of Darwin with its lack of towering skyscrapers and wide spacious roads. As the city is so flat we could see the hills beyond the city skyline.

Took the scenic route to Quorn passing golden fields and arid landscape. We love it. It feels complete polar opposite to England. Nothing is soft, the petals on a flower are either sharp or crumble and the grass scratches and is mostly burnt yellow. Quorn is a lovely little town that really took us back in time, shops had irregular opening times, old shop fronts including the candy cane pole, all men wearing cowboy hats and an old classic car parked out front. We stayed a few nights in Warren Gorge, just outside Quorn (which by the way does not sell Quorn) and spent most of our time chasing shadows as it reached 42*C. We had squeezed under bare excuses for trees in the hope that the trunk might cast a shadow over us for a while. We saw huge, tall, male kangaroos, the biggest so far, up close feeding in the (now dry) riverbed. No mistaking these were male (see picture)! Also saw yellow footed rock wallabies hopping over the rocks up the gorge. Other than that and a few Red Back spiders in the long drop, we had the place to ourselves. Here we rang in the New Year under a sky lit by star light.

I’ve added the wildlife pictures but my upload allowance for WordPress has reached it’s limit so I’m now uploading to Flickr. Here is the link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/32262545@N03/sets/72157639300743954/


5 thoughts on “Ringing in the New Year with Red Backs

  1. Dad says:

    Jane was very impressed with your picture of the kangaroo! She wants to know if male roos have a pouch in these liberated times for a bit of paternity work. Plus Annie pardon me if it’s a daft question but what is the difference between a wallaby and a kangaroo? That is a scary face on the Red Back spider, did you have to get very close to it? Happy New Year from us all at 56, we drank a toast to you both……..several times. Dad xxx

    • anniewg says:

      No pouch for the boys but looks like they don’t mind the kid tagging a long. Not a daft question at all. Wallabies are smaller than kangaroos. But female roos are smaller than male roos and different roos are different sizes so we’ve got quite confused. It’s only completely obvious when they are side by side. Had the zoom lens on so didn’t get too close to the red back. Happy new year xx

      • Darren says:

        Also the leg between the ankle and knee in a kangaroo is longer than on a wallaby & more out of proportion with the rest of its body.

  2. Mary Thomas says:

    Love reading your blogs and seeing your photos, I am most impressed with the scenery, the animals and insects etc. everything larger than life out there. Pleased you had a good Christmas, tho surprised you can remember much about it!!!! all that booze!!!!!! A very Happy New Year to you both. Lots of love. Granny xxxxxxxxxxx

    • Darren says:

      It’s lovely to know that you can keep up to date with what we’ve been up to and that you enjoy the blog so much. It’s just as nice for us to be able to share it with people and for me to display and get feedback on my ‘budding’ photography!
      I’m suprised we remembered much as well, there was a lot of alchohol at christmas and I’m sure quite a lot of it ended up being drunk but there was twice as much food to eat and I think that maybe that soaked it all up. Hope you had a lovely christmas and New year as well and can’t wait to see you all when I get back. Lots of love.
      Darren xxxxxx

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