As you know, there have been quite a bush few fires in South Eastern Australia, the signs above are on all the main roads reminding those who forget for a moment the situation. Later on in the day we came across a guy in a car park at Port Fairy who asked if we’d seen any smoke. He said he could smell smoke in the air and had come out to look. In his car he had a bag of sand and a spade. We struggled to comprehend residents taking it upon themselves to go searching for fires – Trevor, our host at Portland, spoke of people getting panicky and smelling smoke everywhere.
We picked up the hire car which was straight forward (we got a good deal from www.auto-europe.co.uk) & said “Cheerio” to marvellous Melbourne and headed east to Ballarat ~ Victoria’s Goldfields.
From there, we travelled South towards Portland – our first experience away from the city. The road trip down to the coast seem to take an age the landscape was desolate and eerie with a heavy heat haze; names of roads like Devil’s Kitchen, Haunted Gully, Dry Creek along with family names identifying roads to their farms (guessing here).
After being on the road for some time we noticed:
- all the houses were unique – all different and many appear to be self-built. Some really exotic designs that you feel wouldn’t satisfy the planners in the UK. Lots of timber, porches and balconies, ornate wrought iron, roofs that overhang providing a cool shade.
- not much traffic on the road, 30 minutes before you’d pass another car (even on the Great Ocean road it’s quiet compared with the roads we’re used to.
- more independent stores, the big chains were present but in small numbers.
Port Fairy & griffiths Island
200kms down the road and we finally reached the coastal road and stopped off at Port Fairy, which in it’s heyday was one of the busiest ports in Australia; wool, wheat and gold were loaded onto great ships and bound for England; today it has a large fishing fleet including a whaling fleet. Now an up market tourist destination. A walk around Griffiths Island where we nearly trod on a wallaby munching on some stalks of grass ~ quite tame and didn’t seem to be scared at all. Several more, lurking in the undergrowth hopped across our path with no sign of concern.
After burning several litres of fuel we managed to find our airbnb hosts (Trevor and Laima) near to Nelson’s Lighthouse at Portland (the colloquial terms given in directions need re-calibrating for the English).
Our first experience of airbnb and Laima & Trevor were more than welcoming. After a quick drink we were taken off to view Cape Nelson in Trevor’s 4 x 4 – hurtling down a steep sandy track and then on to catch the sunset at Nelson’s Lighthouse, then back for a night cap. (more about our accommodation stops under places we’ve stayed).