In the last 12 months, our departure point was a constant source of confusion for people all over the world, who couldn’t understand why the famous homeland of kangaroos is lying in the heart of Europe. Only a stone’s throw from New Zealand, it was clear that we can’t miss out on this vast and diverse country. And the fact, that we already had to pay an outrageous amount for an Australian visa for our flight to New Zealand, also did its bit 😉
Following our approved “maximize luggage allowance” strategy that includes wearing all our clothes in endless layers, filling all our pockets with the heaviest spare parts and passing by securities in such an innocent and easy-going way that it hides the fact that the dammed-up heat is close to kill you, we had a smooth flight to Sydney. Before even entering the streets of Sydney, it became apparent to us why Aussies are known for their outgoing nature as two friendly railroad workers guided us and our enormous bicycle boxes to the right exit (no doubts that they were also happy to quickly get rid of two giant potential security threats ^^).
Unfortunately, the locusts swarm of young German tourists that we had encountered in New Zealand was also invading Australia’s unofficial capital so that our cheap hostel’s kitchen showed unpleasant resemblance to the annual Oktoberfest, in terms of alcohol level as well as fragrance. Anyway, no time to waste in the musty hostel, an iconic cityscape was waiting to be discovered in front of the door!
On a tight scheduled guided city tour we were wandering through Sydney’s glamorous mixture of ancient sandstone churches and cosmopolitan skyscrapers. Our lovely and hyper motivated guide did her best to make up for the untypical, everything but sun-kissed weather and lead us to the famous landmarks, including the Rocks, Sydney’s birthplace that nowadays charmingly combines historic cobblestone alleys with exuberantly modern markets, the much-adored Harbour Bridge that majestically spans the dazzling harbour at its narrowest point, and last but not least the Circular Quay with Sydney’s emblem, the Opera House. The whole tour was spiced up with amusing insider stories, like the one about the poor Danish architect who never got paid for building one of the world’s most known landmarks, meant to reference the billowing white sails of a seagoing vessel, whereas locals chuckle about the more accurate resemblance to a bunch of copulating albino turtles 🙂
Although Sydney impresses with a surfeit of cultural riches, first-rate museums and a variety of native critters that turn up in the most surprising places – as well as a shocking density of homeless people – after some days the vastness of the countryside was calling us and we’re heading out of town in our upgraded deluxe motorhome just to bump into the next tourist crowd at the famous Blue Mountains.
But as usual, if you are willing to invest some sweat to leave the beaten track, you get rewarded with imposing views on the chiselled sandstone outcrops and deep valleys with the slate-coloured haze hovering above the dense canopy, a fine mist of oil exuded by the huge eucalyptus trees that gives the mountains their name. And when you then have the possibility to easily grab a bottle of exquisite wine out of your camper’s huge storage room and enjoy the sunset over the Australian bush, it feels like priceless luxury 🙂
From New Sout Wales to Victoria
From the Blue Mountains, we were setting out for our road trip through New South Wales and Victoria. We followed the coastal road until the beautiful, sheltered Jervis Bay that offered us a last chance to stroll under the warm autumn sunrays along the snow-white sand beach and the surreal saltmarsh and mangrove forests, that are covered in oysters all over. Just the right spot for Martina to try fresh and delicious oysters right at one of the little stalls along the coast, that literally harvest the precious shells in their backyard.
Our next stop on our way further south was Canberra. In the middle of nowhere and surrounded by forest, farmland and nature reserves, Australia’s official – but rather unknown – capital earns its nickname, the “Bush Capital.” Built in 1913 as a (*cough* lousy *cough*) compromise between rivals Sydney and Melbourne, Canberra was designed by American architects Walter and Marion Griffin whose blueprint focused on clear geometrical shapes. As an entirely planned city, we felt the signature of the meticulous planning at every exact rectangular corner and in every precisely manicured park. In compliance with the original design, it features expansive open spaces, all well aligned with the dead straight main avenues, and centred around a massive artificial lake. Together with the large-scaled concrete buildings that invariably follow the strict aesthetic guidelines, the entire city creates the impression of a future alien city as imagined by a person from the early 20th century. The only thing that clearly breaks with this collection of design prize winning architecture, is the colourful and chaotic agglomeration of tents, umbrellas and garden chairs on the lawn in front of the Parliament House that form the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. Established in the 70s as a response to the government’s refusal to recognise Aboriginal land rights, it has become a heritage-listed landmark for Aboriginal protest. Despite being a continual source of controversy, with many calls for its removal, it has existed on the site since that time.
As a real Tyrolean, we couldn’t miss out to pay a visit to the “Snowy Mountains”, Australia’s Alps. Following the winding Alpine Way through tall mountain forests and past the dramatic western fall of the main range, we got rewarded with sweeping views on vast areas devastated by bushfire, the REAL red earth of the outback, countless kangaroo roadkill – as well as some alive ones – and an excursion to Siberia and an original Tyrolean village at the same day!
Crossing the state border to Victoria, our Australian trip was coming to an end. Melbourne was the last highlight on our itinerary and thanks to Paul and Leiset we spent some amazing last days there. We had met Paul and Leiset in Tajikistan, literally at the other side of the world, and we have quickly taken them into our hearts, not least because of their warm and open character but as well for their marvellous cooking and creative bicycle reparation skills that brought us some delicious meals and an almost brand new back wheel. Precisely nine month ago we had seen them for the last time and it was obvious that the newly married couple hadn’t been idle in the meantime when nearly three persons welcomed us at their doorstep 🙂 As passionate cooks and vegetable enthusiasts – not least for barley and hop – we had lots of chances to celebrate our last days of this incredible journey appropriately and we directly felt this connection again that gave us the feeling to know each other since years. So at this point, a big thank you to both of you and all the best for your growing family!