“Ah, the “potato state,” I instantly said.
“That’s what everyone says. We were a part of a group in Idaho who pushed the idea to remove the “potato state” from Idaho car number plates. The rest of the United States and the whole world thought that the whole state of Idaho was just one great big potato farm. There’s a lot more there than just potatoes!”
They went on to tell me about their trip. They’d started in Melbourne and were planning to ride over to Perth before returning to the U.S. They were very impressed with the camp ground and caravan park being so close to the ocean. “This is a luxury. Campers didn’t get close to the ocean as the land near the sea was too valuable to have it as a camp ground,” Jim said.
We sat around into the night, sipping on a couple of bottles of local red from a Clare Valley winery and discussing the virtues of travel as compared to sitting in an office all day.
Next day I drove in to Adelaide and met them, Tim Nicholson and Joanne Bowlit both from the U.K. and as of course was their 1954 Morris Oxford they introduced to me as Florence. I parked Hewie alongside Florence. We all stood back and fired away with our cameras before comparing notes, breakdowns, where we’d been and where we were planning to go. Like myself they’d had a good trip with nothing really major going wrong. So, as you can imagine, there was a lot of talk about what a great cars Morrises were. Their trip had taken them from Oxford in the U.K. to Europe then across North Africa to Egypt, India, Singapore and then down to Perth. They were running a diary on the internet. In fact most of their technical problems were keeping their notebook computer running and connecting to the internet to upload their recent stories and pictures. I told them how I was trying to live a life on the road and in cyberspace also. I was having the same problems and had already had one computer burn out on me in Broome. We laughed when we told each other how worried we were about breakdowns before leaving on our respective trips. But the only serious breakdowns we’d all had were with the latest technology – bloody computers! I’d assumed that their car would be all nicely restored and in tip top almost new condition. I’d given Hewie a good cleanup and I’d even got some polish out. But when I met them, I found Florence was in about the same condition as Hewie. I’d imagined that Tim and Joanne had a sponsor behind them and they were doing it all in luxury. But not so! They were doing it the same as me and Hewie, but working harder, as they were collecting for the Red Cross. We continued our rave down the street in a little cafe over cappuccinos and cakes before wishing each other a safe trip. Full details of their trip and pictures of Florence can be found at their website http://www.oxford2oxford.co.uk
It was now Monday morning. The cricket was over and tourist wise it was shoulder season, those few weeks just before Christmas when most people are still hard at work. Finding a motel was now easy. The FULL signs had all been changed to “Standby Rates Now Available.”
I checked into the Buffalo Inn, just a street away from the main drag in Glenelg. In holiday times you can hardly move in this part of Adelaide, but now it was just the locals and me. I connected my PC to the internet and got down to answering some emails and updating my web pages for a few days. I varied all this with walks over to the main street for a coffee or a meal in one of the many cafés in the area. Here I could sit and watch the people and the old Glenelg tram rattle back and forth to the city. Adelaide like most of the other cities in Australia (except Melbourne) got rid of their trams back in the 60s. Adelaide got rid of theirs but kept one line, the City to Glenelg run. Now, not only does it still take the locals to work and back and bring loads of people out to Glenelg for the beach and cafés, it’s also a tourist attraction as the trams are the originals. Early one morning I brought Hewie around and found a parking spot on the main street and took a picture of him parked on the side of the road with the old vintage tram rattling along behind. It wasn’t long after I arrived home that I heard that the old trams were to be replaced with new ones.
I departed Adelaide on the 12th December 2004, heading out towards Melbourne with a view to keep to the coast and travel along the Great Ocean Road. I stopped at a service station, topped up with fuel and got out the small ignition points file that I carry. I took the top off the distributor and found that the small carbon brush which connects the rotor arm to the rest of the distributor was wearing. There was fine carbon powder covering the top of the rotor arm and down in the distributor. I blew as much out as my breath would allow and slid the file in between the points and cleaned them up. What I really needed was a new distributor cap. The 18 or so thou gap hadn’t changed. I took a spark plug out for inspection - it was clean - with a slight touch of white around the rim of the plug. The steering had also started pulling to the left. I checked the tire and found one a little more deflated than the other. Hoping this was the cause of the problem I carefully made sure each tyre all round had equal pressure. Back on the road the pull to the left was less but still there.
I followed Highway One eastwards out of the city and soon was climbing the Mount Lofty Ranges. I moved over to the left lane and was soon down to third gear while all the other cars, and I hate to say it - fully loaded trucks - flew past as if I were standing still. Hewie pulled well, considering. We eventually reached the top without having to drop back to second. Coming down the other side of the range Hewie gave that nice smooth Morrie back pressure sound from the exhaust pipe.
The first major town was Murray Bridge. Here I pulled over for a while due to a hail storm. It was good to see water on the ground again. As I sat in Hewie waiting for the hail storm to abate I could smell petrol. When the hail stopped I turned the ignition on and opened the bonnet. Petrol was pouring out of the end of the petrol pump. The small screws that held the end cap on were loose. I got out a screwdriver and tightened them up and the leak stopped. That was easily fixed.
The next stop was Tailem Bend, here I spent an hour at the museum at the old railway station. Passenger trains have not stopped there for many years. The only passenger train that passes through now is the overnight train, The Overlander that runs between Melbourne to Adelaide, but it doesn’t stop. With nothing else to do with the station, the local historians grabbed it and turned it into an excellent little museum.
I continued on Highway One which is now the Princess Highway which I’d follow right through along the coast to Sydney. My next stop an hour’s drive from Tailem Bend was Meningie where I picked up some petrol and fruit. As I pulled out of the service station, I checked both ways as I went to cross the road to make a right hand turn. I had a clear path with no cars approaching form the right or left. I put my foot down on the accelerator. I was half way across the road when a motor cycle came flying around the corner and nearly ran into me. If he had have been doing the right speed, that is 60 K.P.H. and I had have been driving a normal car and not a slow old Morrie, we would have been OK. Fortunately it wasn’t raining with low visibility; we would’ve certainly collided.
I stopped the night at a hotel in Kingston SE after a two hour drive from Meningie, then on to the popular seaside holiday destinations of Robe and Beachport. There’s a jetty running out at Beachport, surrounded by cray and fishing boats. I stopped at the end of the jetty made a cup of tea and watched the local fishermen work on their boats for a while. Across the road some of the fishermen’s wives were selling “fresh fish” as the sign said. I went over to have a look, their prize catch sat frozen at the bottom of a cooler. “Your sign says fresh fish,” I said.
I didn’t argue. As I headed out of town I passed another Morris on his way into town. It looked in good condition and was painted in English Grey. We waved and tooted each other as we passed. I could hear the distinct Morrie sound of his exhaust pipe as he went by. A short run of twenty minutes brought myself and Hewie into the timber milling town of Millicent. There was a sweet smell of pine in the air, the paper mill was a big manufacturer of paper pulp for such items as toilet paper and tissues. I passed the paper mill as I drove out of town where then the scenery changed to kilometre after kilometre of neatly planted pine forests before arriving at the city of Mount Gambier that afternoon.
The biggest attraction for any tourist visiting Mount Gambier is of course the famous Blue Lake. The lake was once a volcano that last erupted over 5000 years ago. It is not known why the lake turns a brilliant dark blue from November through to March each year. It’s hard to describe the intensity of the blue. The lake was the first place that I visited as I drove into town. I saw a sign “Blue Lake” and just turned Hewie in that direction. I was skeptical that it would be blue because things like this often tend to be a “you should have been here yesterday” scenario. But when I got to the top of the hill or old volcano and walked over and looked down into the crater, there it was - bluer than I could have ever imagined. I stood there for a few minutes and marvelled at how blue it really was.
Back down in town again I checked into the old gaol which had been converted into a backpackers’ accommodation. Mount Gambier and the area around it is “Limestone Country” and many of the houses and historical buildings are built from this soft pliable building material. As I stepped into the gaol and booked in, I asked the “warden” what material the gaol built from. It couldn’t be limestone as the prisoners could easily carve their way out. He assured me that it was built from a hard volcanic material, not easily carved with a knife or spoon. But this still didn’t stop the prisoners from escaping. He told me how they removed a large stone from a wall within one of the cells. Once they had that stone removed, this allowed them entry into the chapel. Once in the chapel they had to find another way out. It was easy, because the chapel had been built with limestone so they just carved their way out. But it seems that carving your way out was the hard way to escape. When the gaol was first built, many of the prisoners escaped by just getting their fellow inmates to give them a leg up and they’d jump over the wall surrounding the exercise yard. I looked out to the exercise yard, I could easily see where they’d added another metre in height to the wall. But it seems this still didn’t stop them escaping. Some had been known to jump the wall, go into town and get some beer and then jump back in.
Next morning before setting off, I went for a run into town before the shops opened. I stopped by an Italian restaurant and ordered a cappuccino, assuming that since it was an Italian running the show there’d be a good chance that he’d know how to make a good coffee. Not so. It tasted like he’d ground the beans a week before and left them sitting in the open air. Furthermore, instead of the nice white creamy froth on top which is the joy of a cappuccino there was just light froth. I tasted it and it tasted as bad as it looked. I queried him about the right way to make a cappuccino.
“I'ma Italian, ida know how to maka a cappuccino! That is the way we do it here!”
“But it’s wrong, the froth on the top isn’t right. It’s more like foam. Also the coffee tastes old. How long ago did you grind it?”
He became very irate. I could see the steam rising on his forehead.
“Who’da think you is. You cumma in here and a telling me howda make a coffee. I’ma Italian! Finish your coffee and get outa here!” he shouted.
“Hey man, I was only trying to help,”
“Ida donta need a you’ra help, get out!”
“I was just trying to help,” as a parting gesture.
I checked into the Gordon Hotel, located in the middle of town. Just thirty dollars a night bought me nice new, cotton sheets and a cosy room with my own television. I think I was the only person staying there. But this isn’t unusual; in fact I think it’d be the rule since I began the trip. Being in Victoria, where shark is one of the favourite varieties of fish the first thing I was looking forward to was a meal of shark and chips. There was a fish and chip shop next door to the hotel where I placed an order for shark and chips. I looked at the prices, shark was one of the most expensive fish on the list. The cheapest was a local fish called Blue Grenadier.
Next morning, I drove across to Port Fairy, another holiday town on the coast. Apart from a small fishing fleet, there was no other industry apart from tourism. Just the name itself, Port Fairy, gives one the impression that it’s a pretty little town, a place that would attract tourists just by its name. The towns name supposedly comes from the name of an early sealer, Captain James Wishart who came to the area in around 1810 in his ship, The Fairy. The historical town has character. For a start the main street was still original. The developers hadn’t yet arrived here to build new buildings alongside the old. The main street housed a collection of old shop fronts with long overhanging awnings. The old shops were now boutiques, gift shops, restaurants, coffee shops and bakeries. Gone were the haberdasheries and ham and beef shops of yesteryear. But the quiet country feel of years gone by remained. I wandered down the street. A light shower of rain wet the road but the wide awnings kept the footpaths, tourists and locals dry. I stopped at a bakery café and purchased a latte and apple slice and sat down at one of the table and chairs out front on the footpath. I spoke for a while with two gay guys sitting at the table beside me. I thought that it was ironic that I should come to a town called Port Fairy, sit in a café and lo and behold, make friends with a couple of gay guys. They said they were in Port Fairy on holidays from Melbourne and pointed over to Hewie.
“My mother had
one of those.”
“How could you!”
“Broome and Esperance, I
suppose. Simply because of the colours, the brilliant contrast
of the the red soil against the blue sky and sea still lingers
in my mind. Then there was the aqua blue colour of the ocean
contrasting against the clean sand in Esperance. But I’m only
talking about the landscape, it’s really the people who make up
a great town.”
“Without a doubt, Darwin,” I said. .
I finished my morning tea and wandered down to the boat harbour past early beautifully restored stone and wooden cottages. What was once predominately full of fishing vessels is now full of pleasure boats with only a few commercial vessels sitting at the local jetty.
I thought of staying in Port Fairy for the night the town has enough romantic B&Bs to house an army or two but I was by myself. It was still early with a lot more daylight to burn so I decided to move on to the main city in the area, Warrnambool, less than an hour drive from Port Fairy.
Warrnambool has a population of about 28,000
people. The city is known for its rugs and blankets and also the
clothing retailer Fletcher Jones which had their headquarters
there. The wool mill began back in 1874 and is still running
today. Other industries are dairying and of course it’s a
popular place for holiday makers from Melbourne. It’s a large
town but still had that sea side holiday feel to it. It was
early December and the holiday makers hadn’t yet arrived.
After two days in the office I fired Hewie up again and we headed off towards Melbourne. Our first stop was Port Campbell. I was expecting a sleepy little fishing village like Port Fairy. But not so, the developers had beaten me by what seemed like a year or two, probably more. The town appeared like it had just gone through a massive building boom. It was also full of tourists. For myself and Hewie it was the start of The Great Ocean Road. For the many tourists who were sitting around in the restaurants and cafés having their lunch Port Campbell was the end of their tour as they’d arrived from the east.
I continued on along the great Ocean Road about 15 kilometres and stopped at the famous Twelve Apostles. I parked in the parking area full of tourist buses and hire cars. I’d thought that I’d be the only person here because it was still shoulder season, everyone was still at work, or so I thought – actually most of the sightseers were Asians and Europeans. I walked down the well constructed walk way and there they (the Twelve Apostles) stood in front of me, the sea breaking around them, looking just like they do in all the tourist brochures. I took my camera out and asked a couple of Japanese girls to take a picture of me with the scenery in the background. They didn’t speak English and when I first spoke to them they looked a little apprehensive, but as soon as I showed them my camera, big smiles came across their faces and were eager to assist. When finished they handed me my camera back and one by one they handed me theirs for me to take their group photo.
Twenty kilometres on I turned off the Great Ocean Road and took an unsealed road through to Cape Otway, the scene of many disastrous shipwrecks. It was the lighthouse that I was headed for, but after a 20 minute’s drive I finally arrived at the entrance to the lighthouse to be greeted with a sign on the gate – Closed today. There was a bushwalk heading up behind the lighthouse, so since I’d come all this way I may as well do the bushwalk. After a twenty minute walk, I arrived at the top of a small hill which overlooked the lighthouse, light keeper’s home and the ocean. Not as good as touching the building and going to the top on a tour in an attempt to relive the past, but at least I saw the lighthouse.
Continuing on, the road ahead winded through the Otway National Park, leaving the sea views the road led into forests of satinwood, blackwoods and myrtle beech.
Hewie didn’t seem to be performing all that well. He just wasn’t going up the hills with any gusto. On anything that even looked like a hill, I’d have him down to third gear. Then second – something’s wrong. I pulled over in a clear area and got out ready to open the bonnet but there was something else wrong. Hewie didn’t seem to be sitting right. I walked around the back and found one of the back tires was completely deflated. I got the jack out, which I’d not used since Malanda. I positioned the jack under the spring, moving it around in the dirt to get the best position and started cranking. When I found the jack in the back of the boot, it was lying on its side. It seems that a lot of the hydraulic oil had leaked out as it would only go half way up. The tire wouldn’t clear the ground. I looked around for a strong stick and dug a hole under the tyre. I managed to get the wheel off and the spare on and get going again. As I drove along, I thought about the jack and how I remember many years ago my father had found a ten ton jack (or someone gave him one) that didn’t work. He drilled a hole in the side of it and filled it up with hydraulic oil. He then cut a thread with a tap and tightened a bolt into the hole to stop the oil from leaking out. It was still sitting in his garage and worked!
Apollo Bay was just a few kilometres down the road, I thought I’d stay there the night and take the tyre to a tyre dealer the next morning. Apollo Bay overlooks the ocean with a sandy beach and park running between the road and the sea. There was a pub on the main corner and a few shops I passed as I drove through. I saw a sign pointing to a YHA on the left so I swung Hewie down the street and stopped in and asked the warden for a room. He gave me directions to check out another room he had in a house a few houses down. The room was $40 a night. I went down to the house and knocked on the door and was greeted by a Canadian couple who were eating their dinner beside the warmth of a wood fired stove. The place seemed very comfy and homely. They were the only people staying there, I checked my room, a bit rough but OK. But it was the people staying there who were the attraction. They were cyclists and keen travelers. They poured me a cup of coffee and we sat down for the usual ten page rave. As you do. It was hard to get away, but I was hungry, wanted a shower before relaxing.
”I’ll be back. Just give me a few minutes, I’ll go down and pay the warden and I’ll be back!” I said.
I went out
thinking about the potatoes, an onion and a few tomatoes I had
rolling around in Hewie’s boot and how I could turn them
into dinner. But first I’d go back and pay the warden. I went
back to the main hostel, burst in the front door and handed him
my ever faithful
“They’re $25 dollars a night. The toilet and shower are at the end of the hall.”
I went up the staircase to the second floor
and checked the room. Perfect,. It had nice new clean, white,
pure cotton sheets, a TV and a hand basin. Even the carpet
looked to be new. I rolled onto the bed, the mattress was
perfect. A very good deal for only $25, I thought to myself, as
I went back down to the bar.
I went around. There were cars in their shed, up the driveway and parked out on the street in various states of repair. These guys had a monopoly and I wondered how long I’d have to wait to have my tyre repaired. I pulled into the drive, the only vacant space left and got out the flat tyre and wheeled it in and meekly asked for it to be repaired. The mechanic looked down the drive.
“Is that old
Morrie yours is it?” he asked
“You came all
the way in that thing! OK, wheel the tyre over here, I’ll do it
for you now.”
As I had expected, it wasn’t a nail or some
sharp object that had pierced the tyre but the tube had been
damaged by rust in the rim. This was a typical problem that I’d
experienced before. The mechanic ground the excess rust off the
rim, but it really needed some rust dissolver and a coat of
paint. But that was going to take time, time that he didn’t have
so I let him continue on and replace the tube. While he was
working on the tire I went out and jacked up the front wheels
and greased the front end. In no time he had the new tube fitted
and was pumping up the tyre.
I though about staying in Lorne for the night but there was still more daylight so I decided to drive on. Now that I look back I wish I had have stayed the night and taken in the pleasant seaside town some more. The road continued through to seaside towns of Angelsea and Torquay. I was again tempted to stay at one of these towns but instead, continued on to Geelong and into Melbourne, arriving a little after dark.