Australia. On to Melbourne

Having collected our third and final van at Adelaide we set off for the next chapter of our Antipodean Odyssey, The Great Ocean Road, which would take us to Victoria and to Melbourne. While the weather continued to be very warm, the landscape morphed into a contrasting character to the arid surroundings of The Outback, becoming more familiar and more in common with many parts of coastlines in Europe and in our own UK.

The wildlife, however was vastly different and we were treated to a multitude of wonderful encounters, such as arrays of brightly coloured parrots and the time we needed to pull up and allow an echidna to meander across the road in front of us.

The Great Ocean Road is famous for ‘The Twelve Apostles’, tall stacks of rock which protrude from the waves like a watery hall of columns, but they are fewer now- eight left, according to Wikipedia. Altogether it is a stunning coast line, although many such rock formations exist around the world.

Once we were into Victoria there was also a more familiar, homely atmosphere, the communities less foreign with their coffee shops, bookshops and so on.

One thing that struck us with both New Zealand and Australia was that other than in large cities such as Sydney, bars and restaurants, where they existed, shut up shop early in the evenings. The vast majority of them existed only for betting purposes and housed screens and machines purely for this purpose. If we were lucky enough to find a bar or a pub open we could sometimes get a drink, only to be told the place would be closing at around 9pm, once the gambling was finished. We’ve visited quite a few countries and have found many areas away from large cities to be lacking in any sort of evening opening, notably the USA and the more rural areas of Europe. This leaves me with an impression that the UK is unique in having pubs and restaurants throughout its shires, although in recent times pubs have been disappearing from many of our villages.

When I was about ten years old I was a bridesmaid at the wedding of my uncle and aunt. I don’t remember much about it but I do remember seeing a photo of myself plus my two cousins, decked out in stiff, knee-length frocks and carrying little posies. A few years [and two babies] later the couple emigrated, like so many, to Australia where my uncle set up a business that was to become very successful, settled into Australian life and had a third child. In the years that followed there was scant contact between our families. We cousins all grew up. My uncle, sadly, passed away. But before we left the UK to embark on this long trip I knew I couldn’t go so far and not meet up with my long, lost aunt and perhaps my cousins.

It was a little tricky getting in touch but we managed it and arranged to meet. My aunt had moved and downsized from their large family home but still lived in Victoria in a small community, whereas the cousin I’d never met, who’d been born in Australia, lived in Melbourne. In a spontaneous gesture of hospitality, she and her partner offered to accommodate us for the remainder of our time, which is a huge step to take for those you’ve never met!

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.

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