Friday, 21 August 2009

Port Fairy to Nelson - 20th of August


The glorious weather of yesterday had completely deserted us and we woke to grey, overcast skies. By the time we got around to packing the car, it had begun to rain. It seemed we hadn't escaped the packing in the rain curse we'd picked up in Sydney. If there's an old Gypsy woman out there I inadvertently offended, I'm sorry. Can we stop it now please? It's really getting quite tiresome.
We only had two things of interest to see today - Portland (and its cable tram) and Cape Bridgewater. Annoyingly enough, by the time we'd reached Portland, the weather had fined up. Which was just as well I guess as we were taking a ride on the Portland Cable Tram - an old Melbourne-style tram built in 1996 to attract tourists to Portland. The back carriage is actually an original old wooden Melbourne tram which was found in NSW being used as a chook pen. The trip around town is slow but the sun was out and Portland, even though it is a working port town, does have an element of charm. I couldn't for the life of me get a Redgum song out of my head the whole time though:

Said she came from Portland, where the ashen skies and leaden ocean, left her like the local boys - barren of emotion.

The town however decided not to be poetic and the skies were perfect blue and as such the ocean was far from leaden. The long pier that leads out to where the tugboats are moored is accessible by car, so we drove right out the end and had a good close look at the port, the large pile of woodchips and the giant vacuum cleaner thingy which they use to load and unload ships. I was expecting very little from Portland (especially after having known the Redgum song for 20 years) and was very pleasantly surprised. A lot of the original buildings remain and the volunteers who run the tram are wonderful. After a little drive around town, we headed down to Cape Bridgewater to look at The Petrified Forest. Not true petrified wood in the traditional sense, it is a large area of forest (now just stumps) preserved in sandstone-like remains. It is actually quite otherworldly as once you leave the carpark and get into the forest proper, there is no vegetation save for some grey-coloured clumps and just sand like lumps and circles everywhere. There is a large windfarm in the fields behind it and looking back with only orange sand and rock with large white monoliths behind them, it feels like another planet. Add to this the sun had come out and the wind had dropped which meant it had become unseasonably warm and we both felt more than a little odd.
This was the last bit of coastal scenery we'd see for the day as the road to Nelson heads inland. The Great Ocean Road well behind us now, the drive had become much more pedestrian. Just outside of Portland there are massive pine plantations which stretch for kilometres in all directions. Driving along beside these large areas of monoculture is quite dehumanising as the ordered repetitiveness seems more like an industrial wasteland than a forest. It was truly unpleasant, as were the acres and acres of plantation recently felled which looked like the remnants of a nuclear blast. Given the beautiful drives we had done in the last few days, this was truly depressing. As it was, it was a relief to finally reach Nelson and book in to a little ensuite cabin in a caravan park.
We have been trying to keep accommodation costs to an average of $100 a night or less if possible and so now and then we've been going the budget option of which this cabin was. It wasn't awful by any means but compared to our cute little cottage with alpacas the night before, it wasn't much. Still, it was clean and warm (and most importantly, dry) and there was more than enough room to spread all our crap out, cook dinner (stovetop - yay!) and write blogs and diaries and postcards. The best thing was that there was virtually no-one besides us booked into the park that night so it felt like we had the place to ourselves. It also bordered the forest, so it was like camping only with warmth and indoor plumbing. It was made even more special by the appearance of a wallaby who turned up just after we'd unloaded the car. We fed it a couple of pieces of bread which it quickly devoured and then I thought I'd try it on some Weet-Bix Crunch biscuits. It ate two of them before doing this weird little stand-up, scratch tummy thing followed by coughing and hacking. Yvette was filming it but unfortunately stopped before it eventually threw up. Wallaby barf. It would have been a huge hit on YouTube or Funniest Home Videos. I'm not sure if it was the Weet-Bix but Yvette gave it some water which it drank before wolfing (or is that wallabying?) down the rest of the biscuits I'd thrown out.
We managed to cook the food we'd originally planned on making in Port Fairy and it was delicious. Steak sarnies for me, tofu sarnies for Yvette. Our little, moderately-priced cabin was quite homely with the smell of cooking and the warmth from the rather noisy reverse cycle air conditioner in the wall. Life was good.

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