Tuesday, May 31, 2016

First View Australian Alps

The day I finally got to see some mountains again. As in mountains that are similar to the Alps, appropriately named the “Australian” Alps. But first of I had to leave Melbourne.
Getting out of bed was difficult enough, as the air temperature was somewhere around the 2°C and the bed was so warm. Mid-morning I got myself out and packed up all the stuff I had and took it to the car, after which I returned the parking permit and door keys. Said goodbye to everyone and met an American guy, Jeff, in the doorway. Ended up giving him a lift down a couple of streets to his new logging and then left Melbourne for now. Getting out proofed hairy enough again (spaghetti) but I got out in the end. Had some pies in the outskirts and was then already in hilly country. Stopped a few times to get pictures and at one point I decided to do a timelapse. I haven't touched my DSLR in nearly six months, so I was all up for it again. Travelling seems to give me more opportunities to photograph, too. Got the camera all set up, inserted the intervalometre and then noticed the battery on that was flat (arrrgg², what have battery's got against me recently?).
The next town wasn't to far away, being Healesville, a town on the border of the Australian Alps. Got my battery's there and then set of in to the mountains. 
Being in “civilised” Australia, I thought all the mayor roads would be sealed. Nope, got on to the C505 and it turned to dirt road rather fast again. It was nice, though. Small, windy road through the mountains. Trees and streams all around you and the autumn coldness just reminded me of home again. In that moment I had really wanted to get on a mountain bike again and just bike up the mountain instead of driving. Met a few cars coming the other way, but you could count the amount of cars I met on the “official” dirt road on one hand. At one point I put in an hours stop for a timelapse I was looking forward to doing and had a play around with the GoPro whilst that was going on.
Completing the timelapse, I then continued on to the top of Mount Donna Buang. Had far views of where I am heading and where I had come from. The skyline of Melbourne was just distinguishable in the distance. Shortly after I hopped back in to the car and drove to the nearby town of Warburton. I had just missed the tourist info closing and Google Maps didn't spit any backpacker hostels out, so in the end I crashed in a cheap hotel and got to editing all the days worth of data. Slipped in a shower and froze. Nice hot water, but cold autumn climate and concrete floor don't mix well.

In the evening I went down to see if anybody way about and have a beer. Only two locals playing pool, so I ended up having a chat to the barman. According to him the season for them had just finished, so it was to be forgiven that the area looked a bit like a ghost town. Just before bed I then enjoyed my first time YouTubable internet in a while.  

Monday, May 30, 2016

Shopping in Melbourne

Awoke in the morning with another cold head and warm body. Can't wait to get to warmer climate, but I was in the hostel for another night, as I had a few things to get in Melbourne.
As it turned out I had been pretty lucky. I'm in a ten bed dorm and the door is left unlocked most of the time as we are so many in here. The housekeeper said that sometime around two a clock in the night a guy had broken open the front door and proceeded to a room with two people sleeping in it and stolen their laptops. All my gear was under my bed, but luckily our room door was locked and he didn't come in to our room.
Shortly after I looked up all my stuff in a heavily paddlocked locker and went to buy a couple of things. Drove around and didn't have a clue where I was going. I gave up after a while and just went on a road leading me out of the city. Somewhere where the shopping centres at least have parking spots is what I was locking for. Found one in Heidelberg. No, I didn't drive to Germany. Apparently there are quite a few German named settlements throughout Australia, as a lot of Germans came here at one stage.
Got all my gear and just had a drive around to look at things, after which I headed back to the hostel to get all the pictures, videos and blogs sorted out of the last couple of days.
In the evening I got talking to all the more permanent resident of the hostel. Rather a lot of English people and all were working in Melbourne somewhere. No one believed me that I was German, but up until now everybody thinks I'm from the UK. Sometimes it's fun messing with people, especially Germans, when I say I'm from England and then speak fluent German. Perks of being bilingual.
We watched a few episodes of American Horror Story until the TV automatically switched of at 10.30PM. Then we watched CCTV footage of the robber from the night before sneaking around the place and stealing two laptops. The crass thing, one of us backpackers got up and had something to eat whilst he was in another room.

Subsequently, the security has been tightened (a bigger door) and everyone is a bit more careful about their stuff. Slept alright, though.  

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Apollo Bay - Melbourne: Great Ocean Road Part Two

Woke up to a quiet and cold room in Apollo Bay. After lying in bed for a while I got up and went to have some breakfast. Rather challenging when they give you butter and jam, but no one can find the bread (the others and me plundered the fridge in the end, not knowing who it belongs to).
Left Apollo Bay and saw the hilly country surrounding it, so I went on a bit of an exploration tour. Melbourne, my next destination, was close enough, being only a meagre 200km away, so I had time to explore. Drove up the hillside, strangely reminded of twisting paths in the Dolomites, if not as high. Arrived at the top and had good views over Apollo Bay and the Bass-Straight sea. Was still overcast and windy, but I had a nice warm car.
Halfway up a wallaby decided to hop on the road and there where Galahs (parrots) here and there. Getting a bit to far in to the hills I diverted and drove back down to get on to the Great Ocean Road again. Then it was along the twisting roads, being chased by a painted VW bus along a bit of the way and trying not to get squashed by tour buses coming along the opposite side of the road. Last time had been emptier of cars, but then again you could see nothing except the road in the dark. Passed through burnt forests, past rocky and sandy beaches and cliffs and along dead gumtrees. Fact with the gumtrees is that the Otways are known in Australia to have massive problems with Koalas. They breed up and eat the trees so fast they starve themselves after a while and the trees die from not having any leaves. 
Arrived in Lorne where a lot of activity was going on. As it turned out the lifesavers of the surrounding coasts were having a competition with their zodiac boats. When they shot out at sea to drive around some boys and pick someone up, they sometimes hit the waves so fast they just went flying up in to the air. The complete boats just up and left the water with the propellers spinning in the air. Before long my stomach started saying it was hungry, so I left the spectacle and went to a fish and chip shop for some lunch.

Then further along the Road, through Anglesea to Geelong. In Geelong I had a bit of fun getting used to city driving again but after that the highway to Mebourne went nice and smooth. That was until I reached Melbourne itself and crossed the Westgate Bridge. Once you pass the bridge things just go mayhem. Think of a spaghetti plate and then transfer that to the road network in Melbourne city. Subsequently I went around in circles sometimes and got so feed up I went in to a park house and called around the hostels from there. Found one outside the city in Collingwood, in the eastern parts of Melbourne. Turned up and parked my car in the street in front of the hostel, prior to going in and getting a permit for me to stay there. Got fast internet (relatively) and went shopping for some dinner, after which I watched a chess match between a French guy and a German and had a chat.  

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Tahara - Apollo Bay: Cold & Windy

Tahara was as expected wet and cold. The night was spent shivering under three covers and the face freezing of. Got a lot of fresh air, though. Cleaned up my car the day after arriving, said hello to Josy and the dogs, had a look at the stock I'd helped manage over the last year and went to Hamilton for some shopping.
The next day I got rid of my roof-rack, as the coastline is more populated than the centre and I can save a bit of fuel that way. Packed up all my gear in to the car and said goodbye to everyone, before heading of to Queensland. First stop wasn't that far away, ten kilometres down the road actually. As I hadn't visited Bucky since coming back I thought I'd say “hi” before running of again (I also wanted to now what type swag he had, which I had seen a couple of months ago and am interested in getting one).
After that to Hamilton to get a relay for my cars light bar, as it seems to have stuffed up. Turns out it's probably the battery, as it wont switch on for the first quarter of an hour or so and then will. Then the journey went along a route I had taken over a year prior with Katherine. Headed to Port Fairy and then turned of towards Warrnambool and the Great Ocean Road. Last time I had been along that it had been midnight. No other tourist, but you couldn't see a thing (really).
I arrived at the Twelve Apostles at about 6PM after stopping along the coastline here and there on the way. Similar to last time I was journeying along in windy, winter weather with sheets of rain passing through. First stop I got out of the car and was greeted by a heavy salty smell in the air and biting weather. Had a walk along one of the beaches and was all alone with not a soul anywhere else, just a couple of washed out footprints and birds for company. Enjoyed that for a couple of moments after which I craved the warmth that the car gave me and headed back and along the road. Next stop I thought of doing a time laps of the rapidly moving clouds and walked about half a kilometre to the coast from the car park before I realised I had no battery in my camera (argggg). Got a few quick GoPro snaps and left for the Twelve Apostles. Got no pictures there as it was to dark for that, but my eyes finally saw them properly. Monoliths of stone jutting out of the ocean close to the coastline, it's a good view of how the sea eats away at the country (considering there aren't eight Twelve Apostels left (I don't get it either), but only seven, I think, it just shows it more). 
I called the nearest backpackers lodge I could find along my route, which was Apollo Bay and got myself a room set there. Then it was the Otways at night again. Last time here with Katherine I had had to dodge deer everywhere. This time I only saw about three in a field on the side of the road, but a large kangaroo decided it wanted to use the bridge my car was heading for. Not even close, but the size of that animal made me be extra careful. Then the winding road of the Otway National Park and a few other cars where my scenery for the next two hours. They seem to have had a large storm come through recently, as it felt like you where driving through the jungle with all the tree limbs hanging down and branches on the side of the road.
Apollo Bay was the next large settlement that greeted me and I managed to get a room for 30$ all to myself. It is rather empty around this time of year anyway, probably due to the same reason I am running away from here.

Good place to charge all my kit. Plug socket is fully booked by myself :D

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Hay Contracting in NT

In the last couple of months I have worked in one of the most remote areas I have found myself in. As mentioned in my last blog I was going up to the NT to start a job working in a tractor and it was brilliant. Flying up to around four hours, which just showed how massive Australia is again. Four hours in Europe? We would have been gone from England to Egypt in that time.
The evening before flying up I spent with Reds nephew Paul and his fiancée in Melbourne, where for once I finally had adequate internet. Even with living so close to the city it is bad, but it IS internet (so “JAJ”).
Flight up was like any old flight. Start/Landing is interesting and fun, flight is meh. Landing in Darwin I stepped out of the terminal and was hit with thick, muggy air that had sweat dripping in minutes. Considering the wet season was “over”, I was surprised. With parrots squawking in the trees I made my way to what lots of (white) Australians dub the “stink”-bus (Google it yourself, I'm not going to explain that) and set of on my journey to Katherine, talking to the bus driver about bitcoins and crocodiles.
After arriving in Katherine I was picked up by Penny and taken to where we were camping. The first night was spent with introductions and the next day I was already sitting in a tractor getting lessons on how to mow. Very nice touch to mowing is that you are scarring up all the locusts and the hawks and falcons just love them. Due to that you have birds of prey dive bombing the grass around the tractor near constantly. The most I ever counted was around two dozen circling around. First lesson with Keith also saw us seeing a dingo but that was it. I was set up for night-shift from then on and for the next two weeks I was on night shift with Stijn, a Dutch guy. Learned a lot about the mowing and how to fix said mower. Very ruff country with rather a lot of stones.
Stones and metal inadvertently at some point cause fires and so it was after some days. We had had a few small ones here and there but after a while with the right wind, we had two mayor ones come through that took half a day to extinguish. After that there was no more hay being cut during the day and Stijn and me where working twelve hour nights in two mowers to stay ahead of three balers chasing us.
Two weeks after my arrival we had finished up at the first place and I was relocated to the second joint of operations, in the Douglas Daly region. No phone, no internet. The most modern thing was a sat-tv connection and UHF. I stayed with an older guy which was the caretaker of one of the grounds there. Rather fortunate actually, as he had a new house with no mayor issues. The others had the power-generators fail for them sometimes at night (no aircon!), no running water the first night, run out of gas, etc. First few days I was busy with mowing, as planned, but it rained on and off for a week after that, which was very unusual. Due to that I was on a rake for the week after that, trying to get the hay to dry so the balers could come through. Around that time is when we saw rather a lot of snakes. Ben found a very vicious thing (black head, sand brown body with brown stripes, 2m long) that attacked his Ute tyre. Myself nearly squashed an Inland Taipan with the tractor (most venomous snake in the world) and most of the other found a massive python on the road whilst shifting gear. I also hit the only buffalo which had been sighted in the close area which resulted in a bashed up Ute. But it was still a really fun time, even when you where working 16 hour days. The mantra to myself was “at least it's not fruit-picking. I'm in air conditioning in the tractor”.

After fours weeks of work there was no hay left to cut or rake, so I and a few others left for Darwin where I spent the next couple of days with two Germans before boarding the plane to Melbourne again. Getting to the Darwin airport was a bit of a workout. Normally I don't break a sweat walking one kilometre somewhere. When you lug close to 30kg around and it's low 30s in the temperature department it does get to you a bit. Arrived at the airport wet and boarded the plane after cooling down in the air conditioning. The flight was uneventful, but arrived in Melbourne at 11PM to rain and 10°C, complete opposite of Darwin. After worrying about accommodation (I had booked zero) I found a backpackers hostel on King Street and spent the night there. Next day the journey went back to Tahara, with Red picking me up in Hamilton, to pick up my car and leave for warmer climates post haste.

(picture belongs to the hay contracters I was working for)