I woke up at 6 o clock, the sun was up as well as most of my friends (Later that day I found out that I was supposed to have waken up at 5.30). There was breakfast of eggs, sausage and fried potatoes in the making over at the picnic table. At 8 o’clock we set out for another long day of driving. First stop was Big Mango in Bowen, one of many “Big Thing” roadside attractions in Australia (we also visited the Big Winch in Coober Pedy). There was some confusion when we were unable to spot any gigantic fruits or vegetables anywhere in the town of Bowen. Nobody had bothered to check more precisely where the thing was located. It turned out the mango was actually located next to the highway, 4 km south of town.
I can’t remember eating lunch. We may have made some sandwiches in the car. There was some nice views of the ocean. Roadworks and more roadworks. There was no way we could reach Brisbane before midnight. Instead we raced (without speeding) towards Capricorn Caves and arrived just in time to catch the last tour of the day. The guys went spelunking, the girls stayed at the visitors center. The limestone caves were impressive. At the cave entrance we saw a rock-wallaby. The hall called “Cathedral Cave” is sometimes used for weddings and concerts and the acoustics is supposed to be nearly perfect. Emīls sang a song for us! On the way out we went through a very narrow winding passage, naturally created by the erosion of water.
Just before we arrived at our campsite for the night we stopped to look at and take some pictures of the new moon – it was possible to see “earthshine” on the darker portion.
For dinner we had all kinds of leftovers. I got a beer from Rūdolfs but Agnese had convinced him that he shouldn’t drink any beer himself, or his sunburnt legs wouldn’t heal as good. I thought it sounded like nonsense and tried to get him to change his mind but with no success. Reason 1 – Beer 0.
The roadtrip started! A few hours later than expected, mostly because the process of collecting the cars was very slow. If we had not already visited the city office the day before we would probably have been there the whole day. Anders, Agnese and Evija collected the Cars: “Optimus Prime” for the women and “Hawk” for the men. At the Latvian house the others were waiting with all the groceries.
Next we headed for the blue mountains. The blue colour is believed to come from particles emitted by the many eucalyptus trees. The bedrock consists mostly of orange/yellow sandstone however. In Katoomba we had some very nice views of these mountains. We also counted dead kangaroos by the roadside, final count was 13, none of those killed by Optimus Prime or Hawk.
We found a gorgeous free campsite for the night and feasted on sausages with gravy, potatoes and salad. Those who stayed up late were treated to a fantastic red Moon rising fast on the clear night sky, over the nearby lake.
I had decided to start off a week earlier than the others because I wanted to see as much as possible of the country. I arrived in Melbourne in the morning and used the first two days to walk around the city and arranging for the coming days. Melbourne was a nice city I guess but I wasn’t in the mood for the big city life, instead I wanted to get to the outback.
I got to sample a few beers at least and also found out there was going to be a beer festival in Federation square in a few days, with all local microbreweries participating. I almost decided to come back to that.
My first goal was Wilsons Promontory on the southern tip of the mainland, where there are some very good trails to hike and lots of wildlife and interesting nature. Unfortunately large areas of the park was damaged by bushfires some years ago but there is still plenty to see. I saw a lot of birds and also wombats, wallabys, a Brown snake (one of the most poisonous in the world) and a skink. Lots of nice views of the sea and the beaches also.
Next I wanted to go to the “australian alps” but decided against it because of the weather predictions (snow). Instead i did a long drive along the coast to Mallacoota. I did a cruise on the nearby coastal lakes to watch sea-eagles up close and went for some short hikes. After that I headed for Canberra. Not my first choice of destination but placed not too far from Sydney where I was going too meet the rest of the Eclipse Tour people in just a few days. Also I thought it would be nice to visit the Canberra Deep Space Communication Center.
I found a good campsite in the mountains, had some time to go and visit a nature reserve with lots of kangaroos and headed for the CDSCC and central Canberra the next day. Central Canberra was a strange place with wide streets an no traffic. Visited some interesting exhibitions at the national library.
The day after I went to Honeysuckle creek where the the first television images from the moon landing were received. Did some hiking in the Namagdi NP as well. The surrounding areas of Canberra was beautiful to drive around in, you just had to look out for wildlife and cyclists. I drove to Sydney in the morning the 29th.