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ReportsWednesday, 7 August 2002
Littlehampton --> Beachport, South Australia (Waywardbus day 1)
We planned to wake up early this morning, my host Gus Campbell and me, so I could easily pack my bag and he had offered to bake me bacon and eggs for breakfast. Nice guy, that Gus.
But at 7am he woke me up and it seemed we had both overslept in time. At 7.45 I was expected in Adelaide. I skipped a shower and packed my backpack and while eating breakfast in the car. Gus drove me back to Adelaide this morning.
However he was on a holiday break from his work as a morning deejay, this time he made an exception to the sleeping-in-late and he was keen to help me to Adelaide.
In the car we listened to dumb stories on the radio. Just last night every Australian could participate in The National IQ-Test and the results would be known today. Dumb Australians was apparently the topic of that particular radio show…
In Adelaide centre I thanked Gus for his generosity and support. Not only he had invited me to stay for a day, but he also let me stay for another two nights. To retreat, catch up in writing and prepare loads of other things for my upcoming stays-for-a-day in Melbourne.
And the coming 3,5 days I will be on a tour with the famous Waywardbus. It was the web director of the company, Ralph Jackson, who discovered me when I was travelling along the east coast of Australia and he offered me a free tour with his tour company. First it was a 9-days tour from Alice Springs to Adelaide, but I couldn’t make my way to Alice Springs and had also no invites to stay in that place.
So why not jump aboard the tour to Melbourne, he later suggested. And that was great. I did not have many invites in between and heard many stories about the enthralling classic coast and historical Great Ocean Road. Thanks to the support by the Waywardbus tour company I could actually go there and experience those routes. And without any rush, because the company slogan is “Let the others rush”.
After saying goodbye to Gus I immediately boarded the mini-bus that would take me and fifteen other travellers along for a tour towards Melbourne.
It was just 8am. Outside it was rainy, misty and depressing. A cassette tape of Bob Marley wasn’t really improving the morning-bad-mood atmosphere. Most of the passengers had their eyes only half open.
The first stop the bus made was in the historic town Hahndorf, which is German for Rooster Village. But there also was a Captain Hahn, who arrived in Adelaide some 200 years ago with a boat full of Germans, ready to settle here. Hahn travelled around the area and decided to start a town southeast of Adelaide. The name would become Hahndorf.
In the year 2001 Hahndorf was titled the Best Medium Sized Town of Australia, which I found a fascinating strange honour. You are great, big or nothing. Not Medium Sized. It just sounded too much like an order in a fast-food restaurant.
“Do you want veggies with your medium size Hahndorf?” Yes, please.
After a walk through the main street we got back on the bus again. It had been like I had walked through an old German village.
The bus made another stop down the road in the small town Meningie, which is located along the big Lake George on the southwest coast of South Australia. The name means mud in the Aboriginal language, because it used to be a place that got flooded lots of time and the Murray River would leave its mud only when it pulled itself back again.
Slowly everybody on board was waking up as we headed more down south and ended up on the Coorong Peninsula in the Coorong National Park. An Aboriginal local offered everybody a 30-minute bush walk lead, but as 5 dollars were charged I stayed in the bus with a few other travellers. As the bus had stopped at the Coorong Wilderness Lodge, I had a nice walk along the waterside on my own. A blue sky and a bright sun quickly exchanged the enduring rain of this morning.
The Coorong is a ‘Wetland of International Importance’, a brochure about the South East Coast told me. The area contains out of rolling dunes, windswept beaches and secluded inland bays. Wind and erosion created these bays in strange forms as the soil mainly consists out of mostly sandstone. It is also one of the most important waterbird habitats in Australia. The inland sea of shimmering and shallow lagoons (for over miles and miles) is a home to over 200 birds, like pelicans, ducks and the black swans.
Half an hour later I was back at the lodge, run by local Aboriginals from the Ngarrindjeri tribe, where we were all offered a heavy filling lunch. After this lunch we were shown an informative video that taught us about some of the dreamtime stories that Aboriginals pass on from generation to generation.
They believe that Australia was once a flat pancake with absolutely nothing. The first holy Aboriginals did things that changed the country forever. Spears in water chased away a fish and the fish created the looping Murray River, an Aboriginal who was killed in a fight ended up as a big rock on the beach; just like to ladies who were chased away from holy land and drowned in the water. They ended up as two islets in the ocean.
The Coorong is someway a place apart. It’s quiet and beautiful, and after the visit to the lodge, I learned it was also full with myths and wonders.
The bus trip continued again and the passengers got to know each other a bit better. I met up with the Canadian girl Caryn, two Germans, Louis ‘from the States’, a Japanese, two Taiwanese travellers and a few British guys. I couldn’t help becoming the one with the open big mouth, as I loved to pull a leg here and there. We had quite some laughs on the bus when the ice was broken.
After 1pm we suddenly had to make a stop. One German guy desperately wanted to take a photo of emus along the road. He had been in Australia for over six months but had never seen an emu before. His day was made and he was happy. When the bus drove on again I satirically asked him what other animals he hasn’t seen yet, so we could be prepared for another few stops, hehe.
Macy Gray was played in the cassette player and the bus drove through the bare and lime stone landscape of the southeast coast.
Ralph Jackson had given me a Waywardbus t-shirt that I was wearing today and my fellow passengers seemed to be very impressed by it. Later I discovered that if you book two tours with the Waywardbus, you get a free t-shirt. So many folks on board probably thought I was a rather rich backpacker, ooh!
Yep, nobody on this bus knew me before or heard about what I was doing. It was actually a very fine experience to just be Ramon from The Netherlands.
Around 3pm we approached a large sand dune and we decided to get out and climb it. On the other side was a captivating blue white ocean and we got an excellent view on the inland flatlands.
It was my idea to just roll down the high dunes again, even after driver and tourguide Bruce H.told us that the bottom soil would be pretty hard. I sat down on my butt and pushed myself up with my hands. Within a few seconds I softly landed down the dune. Without a scratch. The rest of the group was still standing on the top discussing if they should declare me totally insane or something like that. They came down walking carefully and they did not have to scratch away sand off their bottom cheeks like I had to do later…
While still driving down the Princess Highway we passed small towns as Kingston and Robe. We had a few stops around here, to look at the endless stretch of beach, limestone reefs, light towers, and drive around the historical town centres.
Robe has an interesting history. When settlers came to the state Victoria to look for gold in the inland town Ballarat, the custom offices would ask everybody a 10 Pound entrance fee. Unless you would arrive in Robe in the state South Australia, where there was no entrance fee. But if you wanted to find gold in Ballarat you had to walk east some 300km from here.
Those who succeeded in getting there, added a very colourful chapter to both local and wider Australian history, believe me. And those who didn’t… well… were never heard off again.
We arrived in our destination town Beachport just after sunset. Unfortunately we had to miss that spectacular episode of the tour, as the sunset in the ocean is a remarkable thing to experience from Beachport – they say.
We checked in the rooms of the Bompa’s hotel/pub/restaurant, arranged by the Waywardbus Company. I shared a big dorm room with six other guys from our group and the room had the luxury of a television! “The Simpson’s!” I said in excitement, leaving my roommates in disbelief of my fake desire to really want to watch TV on this tour. “Just kidding, guys.”
The Waywardbus was going to take care of my evening meals (that are not included on the tour) and today Bruce had given me 30 dollars to get going for a while. If I needed more I just had to say so, he said. In the downstairs pub I could order myself a chicken pasta for dinner and have a drink with my new mates on my own money.
After a good filling meal the folks were discussing if they were going on a pub-crawl through Beachport or not. As there are two pubs in Beachport, they could go from one pub to the other and back again. More entertainment wasn’t available in this town. “Why don’t you start to dance here?” the American Louis asked me as he had already marked me as the most outgoing person in the group. “Me?” I said, “No, I still have an some sand dune in my pants, you don’t want that here.”
It was a few drinks later that I had to excuse myself from the tables. I told them, honestly, that I had some serious diary writing to do, which was received as a good joke. Whatever, I thought, and got my laptop from my room and started typing in a quiet back room of the hotel. At least this story was written before 10pm.
Hey guys, let’s crawl to the next pub! Good night Beachport!