Exmouth to Carnarvon Coral Reef, Wallabies and The Dish Our last day at Sal Salis started early as we had a 4 hour 38 minute drive from Exmouth to Carnarvon…
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A great coffee is always a good way to start the day and Australia is truly expert at it. The flat white at the Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort is particularly good and the ocean side restaurant is a lovely spot for breakfast. A pod of dolphins pops in reliably
We spent the whole of today driving the 40kms scenic loop that is the Great Ocean Drive, stopping all the way along the route for long walks and lookouts. We have driven along beautiful stretches of coast before in South Africa (The Garden Route) and California (Big Sur Drive), but this was way better than either of those. Maybe because of the intensity of the light here - the sun made the deep blue water sparkle all the way along and the wind gave us really BIG waves - awesome.
The road from Bremer Bay to Esperance (home of Australia's best beaches) was long - very long - and straight. There were hardly any vehicles on it except the odd road train (shortish) which gave you a start as it rushed past. The road took us through interesting sounding places like Jerramingup, Munillinup and Nindilibillup. Up means "place of" around here - I wonder what these places we were passing through were places of ...? They didn't have enough interest to make us stop long enough to find out. We were keen to press on to Esperance and explore all those beautiful beaches. It took us around 4 hours in total to get here.
We woke early on the morning of our drive from Albany to Bremer Bay and enjoyed a hearty breaky (pronounced brekkie) at the Three Anchors in Alby. (Hey - this learning the lingo is a real breeze!). A group of other early risers were lifting weights with big grins on their faces outside the cafe. Middleton Beach has a net line set up for swimmers (large marine animals can’t pass through it, but small fish can) and there were half a dozen of them braving the cool morning to have a dip in the ocean.
A short(ish) drive to the coast brought us to Salmon Bay in the d’Enrecasteaux National Park. The view from the lookout is truly stunning. From the headland, crystal clear deep blue water, rolling surf and miles of deserted, golden sand stretches out before your eyes, beckoning you to discover it at close hand.
Time for another great day in WA! Today, we travelled from Margaret River to Pemberton taking a short detour to the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse en route. This is where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet (although they didn’t make much of a splash in the process today). It is the most southerly point in Australia - it is 5435 kms to the South Pole from here.
The road from Mandurah to Margaret River has one of the best places to see kangaroos in Western Australia - G'Day Skippy! Our journey south continued today via Dunsborough to the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse in Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park. The road from the lighthouse to Ngilgi Cave passes close to the Petra Olive Oil Estate where a quick detour to Sheoak Drive rewards you with easy sightings of kangaroos.
It took us most of the day to drive from Memphis to Nashville. We arrived to discover that the NFL professional draft had just started - Nashville is the base this year. Nashville has a very upmarket feel to it. It is a booming city with a rising population that is growing fast.
The New Orleans School of Cooking was a great place to spend a morning here. The cooking in the Deep South is way different from the rest of the USA. It is Creole - a veritable melting pot of all the nationalities that coalesced in this part of the world (Portugeuse, Spanish, French, Italian) and made it what it is today. Nothing goes to waste - it is "rooter to tooter" as the expression goes - i.e. - everything on the hog is used except it's squeak.
Today, we took a cruise into Milford Sound. It was raining which added to the beauty of this remote region immensely. When it rains, all the non permanent waterfalls really come to life. Within fifteen minutes of a rain shower stopping, many of the temporary waterfalls stop running, When it pours with rain, Milford Sound pumps and roars with appreciation. Fascinating Fact: There are so many Maori words for water. Some of the town names really start to make sense once you understand this:
Punga Cove Resort - Sanctuary in the Sounds It was a day’s drive from Tongariro to Wellington via the twisting, scenic Wanganui River Road. The next day, we boarded the Interislander ferry from Wellington to Picton - a 3 and a half hour journey. From there, we boarded a pre-booked water taxi (operated by Cougar Line firstname.lastname@example.org) and arrived at beautiful Sanctuary in the Sounds of Punga Cove Resort - an hour and a half later.
After a last lovely evening in Kerikeri, we said our goodbyes and started to make our way South back towards Auckland via Orewa. We stopped off at Russell en route - the first capital of New Zealand. Russell has changed a bit since its early days. It was once known as "The Hell Hole of the Pacific" - a magnet for convicts fleeing Australia and whalers and sailors too drunk to return to sea.
A 3 and a half hour drive up Highway 1 today towards KeriKeri will end with a family reunited. I am staying with my great aunt and cousin and their family in KeriKeri and we haven't seen each other for many years. Spending a few days with them is one of the main attractions of this trip for me - probablyway more fun than some of the big tourist sights!
This morning was our last 5am start and our last game drive. It was time for us to say "Goodbye Shamwari - Hallo Knysna". Sicla was on a mission to find me more elephants - not too difficult to track with the large prints their feet make. They are rather like huge marshmallows!
A cheerful chap called Brian drove us all the way up the coast through Port Elizabeth and on to Shamwari Game Reserve. It took 5 hours in all. Bayethe Lodge is tented accommodation (although you would never really know you were actually in a tent!) set in very peaceful surroundings of rich vegetation giving a real feeling of seclusion with spectacular views of the African bush. The inspiration for the name of Bayethe Lodge comes from the Afrikaans "By-ye-thi" - "I salute you".
Oudtshoorn – Cango Caves and Ostriches Cango Caves Oudtshoorn is an interesting place and it is worth spending at least a day here - or better still two, if you…
A city bus hop on hop off 2 day pass is very good value and a great way to see all the sites. A sunset cruise and a trip round the harbour on a boat are both included. We'll save the sunset cruise until tomorrow. The blue route goes to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, which are a must see World Heritage site. The area is famous for its fynbos (fine bush) and there were some stunning examples in these very well kept gardens. Thought for the day - Nelson Mandel's mantra - "Rise Above" - above apartheid, struggle, bad news, loss - whatever has gone wrong, you can overcome it so long as you have the right mindset.
We made an early start on our fist full day in Grand Teton National Park to join a float trip down the Snake River organised through Signal Mountain Lodge. Mountain and lake scenery does it for me every time. I would very much like to come here in Spring (I.e. last week June/1st week July) to see the alpine flowers in bloom. Now though, we have the beautiful fall colours of the cottonwood and aspen trees. It is such a short season here - soon (2 weeks max,) - the trees will be reduced to twigs again and the snow will come - up to 300 inches in Jackson usually and 700 inches in the mountains.
Alaska is such a big state! To get to the heart of it - Anchorage - we took an early taxi yesterday to Sea-Tac airport to catch a 10 am Alaska Airlines flight. The flight took around 3 hours 40 minutes. We are booked into the Embassy Suites, Anchorage for 2 nights. The hotel is in Midtown Anchorage, but there is a free airport shuttle Downtown, so exploring is easy.