We left New South Wales and headed West to Victoria and its capital city Melbourne, a journey of 700kms which would take a couple of days.
At lunchtime on day one, we diverted off the main road into a small charming, one street village of Central Tilba. It looked out of a different Century, which indeed it was. But not only the buildings, but the village life.
It was chock-a-block with little tea shops, slightly hippy clothes, and the inimitable General Store cum Post Office, with post office boxes built into one wall. Plus the same premises was a bed and breakfast. Why are these places always for sale?
Here the landlady had a penchant for making home made fudge which went down a treat with our coffees. We also found an old fashioned breadshop that sold home made meat pies. There is so much choice in Australia in regards to meat pies. Including things we have not sampled like kangaroo and emu!
We noticed a poster advertising an event In Nimbin, another small village stuck in a time warp, which featured in an earlier blog.
When we pulled in that evening into a roadside parking place in Munro, we spotted our first echidna, in the grassy verge. It is very much like a large hedgehog but with a longer snout. I leapt out of the car to photograph it, but it decided to roll into a ball!
The next day, we still had a long drive ahead of us, but Wilson’s Promontory was also on our way to Melbourne, courtesy of the navigator. It was a bit like driving from London to Sheffield and deciding that it would be fun to visit Wales en route. Really it deserved a week of its own.
This amazing spot is a well deserved remote National Park which is full of wild life, little if any houses, and includes amazing hills, mountain walks and fantastic untouched white sandy beaches, all accessible from the main route and a series of well marked paths.
There is a fine visitor centre at Tidal River, with a useful cafe and gear shop, plus an amazing campsite surrounded by tidal rivers, wetlands, beaches and more marked ways than you could shake a stick at.
We loved it and are committed to telling everyone about it. This is not because we saw Emus and Kangaroos along the roadside, but because everything about it is beautiful. Only for lovers of the great outdoors.
The only small blot was an encounter with an Australian Jack Jumper ant. This humongous ant managed to slip into my sandle and bite the bottom of my foot through socks. I thought at first it was a spider as it was so big, but realised it was an ant. The bite was pretty big and had me hobbling slightly and itching for 5 days!
This did not stop us from finding a white sandy beach which we shared with one woman and two small children making channels in a stream.
We made it to Melbourne and our first night was spent at the home of Joanna and Richard who lived in Yarraville, a suburb of Melbourne.
We had met them on our travels in Laos and had stayed in touch. Coming from London, we had many overlanding experiences in common, indeed getting our overlanding vehicles into Australia, which really deserves its own exclusive club.
Their home was beautifully restored and was built of wood, was single storey and had a large covered verandah and a good sized garden. We left the next day for our campsite, where we could leave Landy and rely on public transport.
The bus took us to the central part of town and within 15 minutes of arriving I was struck by the number of people living and begging on the streets in a dishevelled state. Melbourne is a big city and obviously has big city problems. But I was shocked to see addicts actually smoking heroin or crack cocaine from pipes on the pavements in Swanston Street. Not far away, there were upscale shops such as Gucci and Prada.
Troubling though it was, we struck out and followed a walking tour of this part of Melbourne and saw a few beautiful old historic shopping arcades including the Royal Arcade.. The one below is noted for its Gog and Magog statues which strike the hour. These were designed in Melbourne by Charles Webb in 1892, and are modelled on ones to be found at the Guildhall in the City of London, which date back to 1708.
No wander around is complete without a coffee break and this querky cafe, Chuckle Park hit the spot.
There are many streets with public street Art on display. We took many photos and some of it was really good, although mostly down rather drabby back streets, next to the empty beer barrels.
Our day ended with an Italian meal with Chris and Gaye, friends of the Wintour/Zaks from Geneva. They lived and worked in Melbourne and I guess to really know a place you need to know its people, its culture, its food and feel part of it.
Jim went back to town for a second visit and maybe the sun was shining. He saw the National Gallery of Victoria, with art similar to the street art outside.
He also saw the immigration museum and the play Single Asian Female.
Both funny but critical of aspects of Australia. As with any City, to know it is to love it and Melbourne would need more time for me to warm to it.