The Fleurieu Peninsula is one of the most beautiful areas we've been to in Australia. It would be a wonderful place to spend a week's holiday, small enough to travel around easily and there is a coastal view from nearly every road on the Peninsula. On the way we visited Hardy's Reynella Winery, bought a bottle of sparkling wine and walked around the old chateau and wine stores.
Part of the reason we decided to take a detour down the Fleurieu Peninsula was to meet a distant relative of the Harkness' - Ian Henderson who I think is my great grandmother's brother's grandson. My Dad has been investigating the Harkness family tree and has got back to my great great great grandfather, James Harkness and found family in Tacoma, USA and Australia among other places. Ian lives in Cape Jervis which is a beautiful spot with only a few hundred houses most of which must have a coastal view or a view of Kangaroo Island. After a cup of tea, quick run down on family history over the past fifty years and a tour of Cape Jervis we headed off to Victor Harbor (yes, that is how you spell Harbour) where we had decided to take in the evening penguin parade.
Every evening a colony of fairy penguins return from their day's fishing to Granite Island where they live. Granite Island is joined to the mainland by a causeway which you can either walk across or take the historic horse drawn tram. We took the tram with Mac, the 9 year old Clydesdale pulling us along and saw three dolphins swimming in the channel as we clip clopped across the causeway. Walking around the island was invigorating, it seems very wild once you get away from the cafe and interpretive centre and it was a bit cold and windy too.
The penguin interpretive centre had a holographic ranger explaining the nature of the penguins and then we wandered around parts of the island with a real guide to look for returning penguins. It was a little while until we spotted any because they don't come out until after dark but once we did they were tottering all over the place, crossing the roads and climbing the steep hills which lead to their burrows some of which seem to be in the most precarious places at the top of the hills - they must be very good climbers. The penguins were very cute and lovely to watch waddling around but we couldn't take very good pictures because it was too dark and obviously using the camera flash would disturb them. The guide used a red torch to pick them out which she said would not affect their eyes. However, for all this concern not to disturb the penguins there is no way that so many tourists cannot disturb them and we read some research into penguin numbers whose results were that in areas where there were tourists numbers went down whereas when penguins were living on uninhabited islands the numbers were stable. It's not surprising but the whole ecotourism issue is very controversial here. Parts of the Great Barrier Reef seem to be being sacrificed to save other areas and ecotourism sites highlight the money raised which is being put to good use on conservation projects.
After a great brekkie al fresco in Victor Harbor we drove to Mount Gambier. Things of interest on the way were a pulley ferry across the famous Murray River, a big lobster and more pretty countryside. There isn't much to Mount Gambier but it was a convenient place for us to spend the night and a couple of local spots seemed worth a look. There are some big lakes very near the town and one of them is grey in the winter but turns a vivid cobalt blue in the summer. The other place of interest was Umpherston Sinkhole, which was the creation of an obviously slightly eccentric Victorian man who made this hole into a fantastic garden and in the late 19th century it even had a boating lake at the bottom. It fell into disrepair when this chap died in 1901 but has now been restored sans lake and is really fantastic. You could even see some original Victorian pictures of picnic parties being held there, all flounce and parasols. Nowadays the sinkhole is floodlit at night and possums come out to feed there.
Even less to say about this part of the drive. Just near Warrnambool is an extinct volcano called Tower Hill which is a national park and lots of wildlife. It's a pretty spot but the wildlife was elusive when we were there.
Aha - now this is a drive worth talking about - the one that everybody raves about. A monumental drive along the Great Ocean Road (B100), it's only 350 kilometres (just over 200 miles) but it took us seven hours for two reasons, there are so many viewpoints that we would only go a few hundred metres along the road before parking up again and taking a few more photos and also because there is so much traffic. But, it is a fantastic bit of road. The first part going from West to East is where all the well known rock formations are but the end part is where the road is right on the coast and the views as you drive along are incredible, it's very windy though and you have to go really slowly and watch the road not the scenery as it really is quite dangerous with lots of accidents occurring every year.
One of the rock formations, London Bridge, used to be attached to the mainland but part of it collapsed in 1992 leaving two tourists stranded until they were rescued by helicopter. Although there are twelve apostles there is no way of seeing them all at the same time from the ground so all our photos only have five or six apostles in them. Wonderful coastal villages and beaches along the way and it's so close to Melbourne that I can imagine the roads are packed in the holiday's and at weekends as it was busy on the Monday we were driving along it.
One thing whilst we were driving along was the last day of the fifth test match in Sydney - we had the radio on getting the same commentary that was going out on Radio 4 back home - and the best bit was that England finally won a match!
So finally we'd arrived in Australia's second largest city, Melbourne.