Vesoul – small but nice

Just a quick bit about Vesoul. The tourist information place is really helpful and provides a small map of the town and some directions for walking around it. These are well worth getting and read like an audio tour, pointing out little features of all the things.

Also take a walk up the hill and see la Motte, a little statue / chapel thing erected to Notre Dame (Our Lady) in thanks at only a small number of people being killed in an epidemic in the late 18th century. It offers a nice view of the town and surrounds, and has the coolest map I’ve seen at one of these sights.

While we were up there, we found three teeny kittens. They couldn’t have been more than a couple of weeks old and there was no sign of a mother. Philippe and I played with them for a little while, but when we came to leave they started to cry and chase after us. The only conclusion we could come to is that some ******* had dumped them there.

We were discussing where we could take them (animal shelter, vets…) when small family walked past and we got talking. They decided to take them home and adopt them. I’m just glad that most people are good enough. But if I got my hands on the retard who chucked them up there, I’d find myself running rather than walking out of Vesoul to avoid arrest…

My time in Vesoul was brief but as ever I was made to feel very welcome by my host and his friends. Bizarrely, I met four people besides Philippe – two French women who didn’t speak English and two Romanian women who did!

Also, there’s a video of the view from la Motte on YouTube.

Rocks, capes, arches and seals. And no platypus.

We began our day with a hearty and healthy breakfast then packed our stuff into the trailer and headed for Weir’s Cove. Another great photo-op with some wonderful scenery.

At the end of the cove are the Remarkable Rocks; a series of standing stones of various unusual shapes that have eroded in a way that really doesn’t make sense. Some are larger than others, all are very solid and stable, yet many look like they should just tumble and fall. I’m rather glad they didn’t while I was there.

We were warned several times about walking too close to the edge and slipping down. No guard rails are in place to protect the stupid… as one German tourist found out several years ago. He thought he knew better than the tour guide and went too far to get a photograph. And slipped. And fell. And landed on the rocks below being battered by heavy seas.

And survived.

The tour guide and another tourist who jumped in after him, however, were not so fortunate. Both perished. A plaque to them both is situated near the information point in the car park.

What I regard as the worst part of the story, however, is that the German returned to Australia some months after his ordeal and attempted to sue the tour company for not keeping him safe enough, going so far as to blame the guide who gave his life for not providing enough warning.

Fortunately, every single other member of the tour group stood up in court and said he was full of… lies. His case was dismissed and hopefully it cost him dear financially. It obviously didn’t weigh heavily on his conscience that his own stupidity had cost the lives of two very brave people, one of whom he tried to besmirch.

Anyway.

The rocks are cool. We took a group shot on one of the larger ones. If I can get my photo up here, you can play “spot the Iain” on it.

All rocked out, we were next driven to Cape du Couedic. This part of the coastline features an old – though still operational – lighthouse. Originally it burned kerosene, then acetylene and now runs on electricity and is pretty much unmanned except for maintenance.

A wooden boardwalk zig-zags down towards the Admiral’s Arch – a stunning natural arc decorated with a gazillion knobbly stalactites – past some astounding scenes of saltwater violence. The coastline here is craggy and rocky with a small island maybe 200 metres offshore. Watching the waves batter at both provides a real respect for the power of water.

On the way down and underneath the Arch itself it is possible to see many New Zealand Fur Seals resting up (or growing up). The occasional one even slips into the stormy waters. Rather them than me.

We spent almost an hour around here before David “COOOO-EEE”‘d to round us up and we jumped aboard our Kanga-Coach to the picnic ground near the Flinder’s Chase visitors’ centre. Here we rattled up a lunch of chicken wraps while throwing rocks ate magpies to stop them stealing the food.

Two kangaroos, a mother and a joey, hopped around nearby fairly tamely. Neither was in the best of health as they were used to being fed scraps. The thing is, a lot of food that’s good for us is unhealthy for them in the same way that feeding bread and milk to a hedgehog can kill it. Still, it’s easier for them than foraging and the stuff must taste nice as they keep coming back for more. And people keep ignoring the rules and feeding them.

Humans, eh? Who’d have them?

Bellies full, Dave dropped us off at the start of the Platypus trail. No promises were made, as platypus are usually nocturnal, but daytime sightings had been made in the area.

Not when we were there, they weren’t. Still, you can’t set your watch by mother nature. Real animals don’t act on demand. It was still a lovely walk through some interesting vegetation with some nice birds to spot.

Final stop of the day was back at Little Sahara, this time armed with sandboards! These are more similar to wheel-less skateboards than snowboards. The technique is the same as for the others, though. In the case of our group this involved parking your bum on it and sliding down the hill.

Except me, of course. My bum didn’t touch the board once. OK, it did slam into the ground hard on my third run when I hit a bobble and fell off, but the other three runs were perfect two-footed ones from top to bottom.

Snowboarding’s still better as a) the hills are higher and b) you have a lift to get you back to the top. Still, I missed out on sandboarding in Vietnam so I’m glad to have tried it!

Evening, by now, was closing in. We had two drop two people off at the airport as they’d opted for the 26-minute flight back to the mainland. After that, the rest of us were taken back to the dock to catch the ferry, and then the coach into Adelaide.

I snoozed on the coach and woke up as if I’d been on a flight – that is, my contact lenses dried out and uncomfortable.

I was exhausted, but sleep didn’t come as easily as I’d hoped predominantly because of some drunk kids in the room next door. They’re now on a final warning – one more complaint and they’ll be searching for a new hostel at 3am…

More island hopping

I pulled my usual “late to bed, early to rise” routine guaranteeing that I’d snooze on the 2-hour coach journey to the port for the ferry. I remember waking up at certain points to be told about the army barracks and so on, but the rest of the trip was pretty much a blank. Although I’m sure chocolate-flavoured clouds were involved somewhere. That may have been a dream.

After past experiences with boats, I remembered to pop a Travacalm before we boarded the ferry for the 45-minute trip to Penneshaw on Kangaroo Island. I managed to keep my breakfast where it was supposed to be and when we arrived, we met up with Dave who was to be our “excellent” guide for the next two days.

Kangaroo Island is the third-largest Australian island (not including the mainland itself which Aussies seem to forget is also an island) and was first “re”-discovered by Matthew Flinders. A lot of things in south and central Oz are named after this guy, and he named this island in honour of the friendly kangaroos that met them on the beach. Hundreds or thousands of years with no natural predators, let alone humans, made the creatures friendly and curious when these bipedal animals landed. And then shot around thirty of the ‘roos to refill the empty larders on the ship.

Funnily enough, the kangaroos are a little more skittish these days. Go figure.

Kangaroo Island has some of the world’s least spoilt beaches. It’s also the holder of the “best food in Australia” award. And was the first place worldwide to run a “Keep (your place) Beautiful” campaign to encourage the use of bins and recycling. You can’t even bring a potato onto the island from the mainland unless it’s in a foil wrap packet and cut into crispy slices.

As with other Adventure Tour itineraries, this one was to be pretty hectic. Dave was as good as any other guide we’ve had, being a local and full of information he was more than happy to pass on. When we returned to Adelaide, Delphine ended up in a dorm with a girl who’d been on one of the other tours and their guide had hardly told them anything about the island. Not as bad as the other tour we kept bumping into… usually as they were parked at the roadside and the guide checked a map to see where she missed a turning. Erk.

We all boarded the bus and introductions were made. Nationality count on this on: 1 x English (me), 1 x Aussie (Dave), 2 x French, 2 x Swiss, 2 x Greek, 5 x German. These Germans are everywhere in Oz!

Our first stop was Pennington Bay, a large undisturbed beach and one of the cleanest and least spoilt in the world. I guess part of this is because the weather here is not quite the tropical heat you get in, say, Bondi. However, the waves knock the socks off anything on the east coast so it’s still surprising they don’t get too many surfers.

We drove from there to Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery where we were shows a short video about the industry and then let loose on the shop. It’s a small family industry started off not too long ago. Eucalyptus used to be a main source of income on the island, but gave way to more traditional livestock and arable farming. With the drout catching hold, many farmers have recently had to slaughter a huge percentage of their sheep and carry on with a “skeleton” stock until the rains come back. There’s just not enough grass.

However, the Euclyptus sales of this tiny distillery account for 3% of the Australian total. And when you see the size of this place that’s pretty impressive. I picked up a little bottle for use on my pillow at nights when I get a stuffy nose. I could have done with this last week!

We next skipped past Bales Beach – another beauty spot and where we had lunch – before heading for Seal Bay… where we actually saw sealions. Dave’s an accredited guide for the beach here, so is allowed to take his own tour groups down and spend longer than most others’.

At first glance, sealions look a lot like some specied if seal, but there are differences. Older sealions are more likely to be light in colour, and their hunting methods are hugely different. Sealions hunt out at sea for three days straight. They then return to land and sleep for three solid days. Then repeat. Seals go out to sea for around a month at a time, but sleep when they’re out there. When they return to land to rest, they’re a lot more active.

As with so many places, though, numbers of both creatures are lower than they should be courtesy of mankind throwing all his crap into the sea and not caring. The support centre here is full of photos of injured and dead animals resulting from this.

Waving byebye to our furry friends, we headed for a quick walk along Little Sahara. Like some areas of Tasmania, this is a weird chunk of land with a lot of sand on it. Inland. With vegitation. It just doesn’t make sense, but it’s pretty cool and makes for some lovely photos.

We next skimmed past Vivonne Bay and on to Hanson Bay Santuary where we spotted a handful of koala curled up in the treetops. Koala aren’t native to Kangaroo Island, instead being introduced some years ago as they were threatened on the mainland. They have exploded here, though, and now cause a lot of damage as they eat the leaves at the top of trees. This takes away important nesting areas for some species of endemic birds. So a good intention, but nature should still perhaps be left to her own devices at times.

Our accommodation for the evening was at Flinders Chase Farm, a working farm with some lovely chalets and dorms all of which looked very new indeed. There were a few “couples” in our group who’d upgraded to private rooms which left me sharing a dorm with five European women.

What a crying shame!

Dinner was a generous barbequeue with chicken, steak and sausages plus a load of fresh veg washed down with some Coopers (South Australia’s main brewer) ales. We chatted around a lovely warm camp fire until darkness really descended, then Dave took us round the back of the farm with some torches to spot the local wildlife.

Most of the interesting creatures in Oz are predominantly nocturnal – koala, ‘roos, wallabies, platypus, possum. For this reason as soon as dusk approaches, if you’re near anywhere with kangaroos then drive slowly. It’s a lose/lose situation for you both (or for the ‘roo and your car) if you smack into one.

Amongst the sheep we spotted a handful of large Kangaroo Island ‘roos (they’re quite dark coloured with thicker fur than the mainland species), some wallabies and two or three possum. The kangaroos were bullying the sheep out of the way to use their feeders, and also scooping scraps from the grain silos. We could get surprisingly close to them given how large our group was.

Exhausted, I collapsed in bed with my bevy of Euro-beauties.

OK, that last part with a kind of an exageration, but leave me to my fantasies.

End of the road

I woke at 5am and couldn’t nod off again. Matt popped his head into the dorm at six to get myself and Michael. Gustavo, again, was the only other member of the group up for the walk.

We had a rushed breakfast, packed some fruit and snacks and zipped off in the bus. We got to the base of the trek in about twenty minutes and started off through the forest. Even this early, it was quite light and the trees were alive with birdsong. The sounds, smells and sights were amazing. Just like being in another world.

After an hour or so we reached the first viewing point by a cliff’s edge. It looked like the world ended a few metres from our feet. The cloud cover was so heavy we couldn’t see anything past the edge!

We had a quick discussion and decided to keep on trecking and see if the clou cleared.

It didn’t.

At the next viewpoint, we admired the way we could hear the sea but not see it and then decided to head back to the bus. Not a wasted trip by any means – what we did see was fantastic and I just want to go back sometime when the weather holds out.

The one upside was that it meant we were back in time to do the walk and boat trip in Port Arthur. The boat trip was OK for the twenty minutes we got, but we skipped the guided tour and just walked around by ourselves.

Matt managed to squeeze in a visit to a nearby Tasmanian Devil refuge where we arrived in time to see four of them being fed. Noisy little critters!

And then back to Hobart and various accommodation drops. I was back in the City Backpackers with most of the group. We arranged to meet for dinner around 7:30 and at that time walked up the Mall to find somewhere that would and couls handle 14 backpackers. We settled on the Queens Head where the staff shifted tables, moved chairs and even relocated another punter to squeeze us all in. To top it all they sold Brown Ale in bottles and the food was great!

Finally, on to the Republic Bar with some superb live music where Matt met up with us again. He let me know I’d left my jumper on the bus (d’oh) but that ATA would get it mailed to me if I called them.

Email addresses were exchanged as were hugs and handshakes. As with the Outback tour, I made a lot of friends from the great bunch I travelled with. I have two definite offers of accommodation in Lisbon and in Seoul, should I head in either direction. And I think I will at some point!

Wine and marsupials

 My cold had definitely started to feel better overnight so, armed with only one spare handkerchief, we jumped into the car and drove off in to the wild green yonder. Today’s excursions started with the Yarra Valley wineries. There are more than a handful of these, and Lyn positively insisted that we stop at three of them. This of course meant having to “taste” more then just a few of their products. The sacrifices I put myself through for my reading public. It’s a hard life.

 Amazingly, we managed to come across something I never thought I’d find – a red wine I was actually happy to pay money for. Which I did. Well, I’m off to a barbie on Saturday night so I need to take something. The three places we visited were very different from each other and, frankly, I was impressed with the staff’s knowledge of wines, and what you can eat with them.

 Somewhat enjoying the pre-lunch snifters, I was taken to a local bakery for some great grub before all the alcohol went straight to my easily befuddled brain.

With a few hours to kill, we then drove to the Healesville Sanctuary to look at more animals. Always a good way to spend time! Following an enjoyable birds of prey show (which Jessica almost missed as she ran back to the entrance to sponge a pen from one of the staff), we saw dingoes, echidnae, platypus, roos, owls, koala, possum (various types), wombat… you name it. I got to stroke one of the wombats and a dingo. Well worth the trip.

 Lyn made a rather delicious ravioli in a home-made tomato sauce for dinner. Wonderful on the tongue, but the culinary equivalent of pillarbox red cement when I came to doing the dishes the next morning! Posted by Picasa