The city of Melbourne - Day 1...
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
The city of Melbourne - Day 1...
Monday, February 14, 2011
The final day of the tour - Happy Valentine's Day!
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Day Two on the tour of the Great Ocean Road...up early, packed, ate breakfast and spent some time at Brambuk Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Halls Gap. The visit to the cultural centre is the first I've had a chance to learn a little about the Aboriginal people. The Aboriginal people are said to have inhabited Australia dating back approximately 60,000 years. Their existence is and was truly off the land. They adapted and evolved around what the Australian land provided. Their story is one of injustice and sadness. In early days of colonial occupation, Aboriginal children were taken away from their parents "for their own good" and they had no claim to the land. We were able to watch a video on Aboriginal lore regarding creation and the evolution of man. No pictures were allowed to be taken in or of the Cultural Centre. In these "modern" times, they are second class citizens and it is almost as if the problem has gotten so out of hand that Australians would rather ignore than deal with the poverty, alcohol abuse and overall discrimination. In my humble view, the problem parallels that of South Africa and apartheid.
Another long day of driving. We finally made it to the ocean with several stops along the way. The Ocean Road highlights were:
- London Bridge - Now known as London Arch, however, prior to its collapse in 1990, it was know as the London Bridge due to the similarity to its namesake and it formed a complete double span natural bridge. Two tourist were stranded on the outer part of the Arc when the bridge collapsed and they had to be helicoptered off The Arc. The Arc/Former Bridge is a tourist attraction near Port Campbell National Park.
- Loch Ard Gorge - The gorge is named after the shipwreck of the clipper ship Loch Ard, which ran aground on nearby Muttonbird Island on 1 June 1878 approaching the end of a three-month journey from England to Melbourne. Fifty-two people were killed, but two 18-year-old survivors were washed into the gorge and found shelter.
- The Twelve Apostles - The Twelve Apostles are giant rock stacks that rise from the Southern Ocean and are the central feature of the Port Campbell National Park. The Twelve Apostles have been created by constant erosion of the limestone cliffs of the mainland that began 10–20 million years ago. The Southern Ocean and blasting winds gradually eroded the softer limestone, forming caves in the cliffs. The caves eventually became arches and when they collapsed rock stacks up to 45 metres high were left isolated from the shore.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
From Adelaide, I decided to take a tour to see the Great Ocean Road. I was up early the next morning, packed my bag and was picked up at my hostel. After picking up 14 passengers, I was off with the Groovy Grape Getaway tour company. Steve, was our “brilliant” tour guide. The tour was to consist of transport from Adelaide to Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road with an overnight stop at the Grampians National Park and another overnight stop at the town of Princetown which is at the start of the Great Ocean Road.
Where Am I, Who Am I and Why Am I here?
I have had a few bewildered moments while on this transient adventure. There is one moment in particular when I was in a tent camping in the red center of Australia, which basically the middle of absolutely nowhere. I woke up in the middle of the night and I had to remind myself where I was. Once I remembered where I was, I thought…”Oh yeah, and why am I here?”
I have had quite a few introspective moments over the previous few years and especially over the previous few months. One recent exchange stands out in my mind and caused quite a bit of pondering…A friend, with great intentions, sent an email to a friend of theirs who lives just north of Sydney. I was copied in on the email as this was to serve as an email introduction and it went something like this…“My friend from the states is traveling in Australia after a divorce…” etc., etc. Hmmm…I wondered why the divorce part was a necessary addition to the introduction. Is this how I am now defined, viewed or lableled by others, a divorcee before all else? Well, I wasn’t very happy about this label and have concluded that I am many things to many people.
I am called:
- Joannie (that’s my mom’s favorite)
- Tia Jojo
- A Daughter
- A Sister
- An Aunt
- A Godmother
- A Sister-in-law
- A Cousin
- A Friend
- A Niece
- A Comadre
And I value them all!
Sometimes life throws you a curve ball. How you handle it is the million-dollar question. It’s been almost 6 years since the event that is called a divorce happened in my life and it seems like a lifetime ago. So many events have happened subsequent and it seems so irrelevant now. It was a small chapter in this life I am leading, an event, and I choose not to be defined by it - "no body puts baby in a corner"! With age, 32 (insert big wink here), I have come to realize that I like where I am and how I choose to approach the curve ball events. I have developed a comfort in my own skin, a confidence in doing most anything on my own and I love life. Does this mean that I wouldn’t want to share life’s experiences with someone? – Absolutely not, but until that day comes (and for that matter - thereafter), I am going to enjoy and love this life I am living as I know it is too short!
Why am I here? It's simple, I want to be here. Yes, maybe the beginning of this journey a few years ago was a little eat, pray, loveish, but the truth of the matter is, I want to be here, exploring new lands and learning about different cultures. I love it, period. I recognize how very blessed I am to be able to be here doing what I love and I truly believe that I am where I should be. I am happy!
Friday, February 11, 2011
I was up early the next morning for a wine tour of the famous Barossa Valley. Dallas, our tour guide, made the rounds picking 6 of us up at our accommodations and we were on our way. The Barossa Valley is located a mere 65 kms to the southwest of Adelaide. It is a compact valley and it produces approximately 20% of Australian wine. With hot, dry summers and cool, moderate winters – big red wines are the favorite. The Barossa Valley is 16 years OLDER than the Napa Valley – interesting!
We made our way through the Adelaide Hills where I saw my first wild Kangaroo! The Adelaide Hills area is on the outskirts of the Barossa Valley and is an up and coming region for vineyards and quality grapes. On the way, we stopped off at the Whispering Wall, which is a damn wall where the acoustics allowed one person to walk all the way to the other side and the sound traveled across the wall as if they were right next to you. It was quite impressive.
Winery Stop #1: Our first stop was Chateau Yaldara and the McGuigan Winery – quite a picturesque building. My favorites were a 2009 Moscato and a 20 year aged Tawny – nutty flavor and so good!
Winery Stop #2: Second up was Peter Lehman Winery where Shiraz is king. The Peter Lehman story is one of bravery and loyalty. As a grape grower, there was an excess amount of grapes in the late 1970s and the wine makers were not going to hold to their agreement of purchasing the grapes from the growers. Peter took it upon himself to buy the excess grapes and became a wine maker. Since then, he has been awarded and recognized as the International Winemaker of the year and Best Australian Producer. The Peter Lehman winery is now 85% owned by the Hess Corporation in the Napa Valley. I enjoyed all the wines and found the Sparkling Shiraz the most unique and interesting. Our group enjoyed a lovely lunch of local meats, cheeses, olives and bread.
Winery Stop #3: After lunch we were off to the family owned Langmeil which is home to the oldest known Shiraz vineyard in the world – this is possible because the old vines were transported here from Europe and the European vineyards have been wiped out by phloxera. They also produce a Sparkling Shiraz. My favorite was an old vine Shiraz.
Winery Stop #4: Murray Street Vineyards is one of the smaller wineries on our tour. The owner and chief winemaker, Andrew Steppelt is a 6th generation Barossa wine maker. At this point in the tour, I had stopped taking notes on the wine – they were all pretty good! The icing on the cake was the chocolate served with the final Shiraz – Wow, delish!
What do I think of the Barossa Valley? It was marvelous! Great wine, great tour and informative guide, great food – what more can you ask for? Better than Napa/Sonoma – no probably not, but I am bias.
After the tour, I wasn’t ready to call it a night. I had wanted to see an Aussie Rules Football game, but it wasn’t the season. So, I decided on football (aka soccer). I went to see the Adelaide United play the Melbourne Victory in a football match at the Adelaide Oval. I walked over to the stadium and along the way, similar to my football experience in Argentina, ended up behind the police escort of the visiting fans. These football fans are a rowdy bunch and they have foul-mouthed chants, no doubt about that! I bought a general seating ticket that had me sitting on an outer grass section. I thought to myself, “I can do better”. I made my way to the “nice seats” where you had to show your ticket to get in. I waited and at the opportune moment, I snuck past the ticket checker. HA – I was sitting at half field (is that a term – like half court?). Nice work! There is an advantage to being alone at these types of events. It was a fun game. Adelaide won, 2-1 and my favorite player is now Carlos Hernandez.
It was a long day of really nice vino, good food and fun sports!