Dreams of down under – NSW – Sydney Friends & Food

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Coastal exploration and culinary delights

Having seen parts of Cronulla when we went diving at Oak Park Linus was curious to see more of the area. We decided to go for a walk along the coast and came across several surf breaks with a few people out playing in the waves. One peak was throwing a beautiful barreling section and we could see some body-boarders charging through the tubes.

As we came close to Oak Park we sat down on a grassy area on top of a small cliff and looked down towards the break. Small waves were rolling in and from the angle we were sitting in the waves looked quite spectacular as the off shore spray glowed with rainbows.

During our time in Sydney we had the pleasure of meeting up with so many old friends of Malin’s that Linus finally got to meet. One day we met up with Marian, one of Malin’s closest friends in Sydney, and she had brought her son Alexander. We had a delicious lunch together in Mortdale, an area quite close to Como where Anna and Bernie lives, and it was really nice to see a bit more of the area. It felt like we could sit and talk forever, but eventually Marian had to head off, and we went in to the city to meet up with Andrew (Malin’s old friend and client) for a few afternoon drinks. As the arvo turned into night we went to Via Napoli, a pizzeria in Surry Hills. The pizza there was truly amazing and came close to the best Neapolitan pizza we’ve ever had that Linus can still dream about which was at Meno Male in Stockholm together with our friends Elin and Mimmi who are connoisseurs in all things Pizza. Surry Hills is overall a very cool area and it was a great day!

Our culinary experiences continued, and as all good things comes in threes, having been in Coogee twice already, first for lunch and then for drinks, we completed our culinary Coogee threesome as we met up with Tony and his fiancé Kirsty for a delicious brunch at Little Jack Horner close to Coogee Beach. Tony is an old diving/dining friend and it was so great to catch up again after 8 years and get to know Kirsty.

Having seen the CBD and explored some of the southern suburbs of Sydney, we felt it was time to head up north and we decided to do the Spit Bridge to Manly walk. Malin had previously seen that James, the Creative Director at the design agency she had worked for in Sydney had decided to chuck the design business, start bread making instead, had turned into a star baker and was now running a very successful bakery called Staples in Seaforth. The bakery was not open the day we were planning to do our walk so we could unfortunately not sample his creations, but as he lives on the northern shores and was free we decided to catch up for a coffee. We met up with him and his wife Kate in Clontarf and bought some coffee and sat down in the park. It was great to hear their story of how the bakery had grown from nothing to now be selling 800 loafs and 1500 pastries every weekend.

After sitting in the park for some time they joined us for parts of the walk that runs through the forest next to the ocean and it was really nice to explore this part of Sydney in their company. At one point we came across some aboriginal art that James and Kate had not seen before and we stopped to look at the etchings before we continued. They had parked their car around the Crater cove lookout, about two thirds of the way, and after saying good bye we began the last leg towards Manly.

The walk is 10km long in total and as we reached Manly we were very hungry and felt that we deserved a nice lunch after the walk and we were delighted to find another Neapolitan pizzeria on a side street. We shared a Margherita and a salad and the pizza was delicious, but we think that Via Napoli in Surry Hills won the battle of the pizza’s in Sydney.

With our bellies full we started to explore the different surf shops in Manly and went down to look at the surfers that were playing in the small and slightly messy waves that were rolling in. We were going to have dinner in Manly with Ulrika, another old friend who also worked for the design agency, so we had a few hours to kill and as our bellies had recovered from the pizza and it had been quite a few months since we had a taste of Sweden we went to “Fika” the Swedish cafe in Manly where we had a coffee and a cinnamon bun. We met up with Ulrika at a dumpling/Poke Bowl place and the food was really delicious and we had an awesome dinner together before we took the ferry from Manly to Circular Quay. As we came past the Opera House we went out on deck to take in the view of this iconic building and the Harbor Bridge from the ocean.

After 3 weeks in Sydney, the day of our departure to Bali had come and after our amazing Australia adventure we decided to finish in style and we went to Cronulla to have a delicious breakfast by the sea. Andrew joined us and as our food came out it was some of the most beautiful plates we’ve ever seen. Everything was delicious and it felt great to have this quiet and beautiful moment together before we head off to the airport.

Our time in Sydney was very emotional for Malin as seeing this precious place again brought back so many great memories of her former home and it was wonderful to get to see so many old friends again. The feeling of being at home was very much emphasized by our amazing hosts Anna and Bernie and their daughter Charlie who opened their home for us, gave us amazing coffee, cooked us so many delicious meals, and made us feel really welcome.

A massive thank you to you all and we can’t wait to see you again!

Dreams of down under – NSW – Blue Mountains

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Into the wild

The Blue Mountains is a vast mountainous area about 2 hours west of Sydney. Malin had visited the area before, but as Linus had never been there and dramatic, wild and rugged nature is very much right up our alley we decided to leave the city for a day of exploration.

We caught the Blue Mountains Line from Sydney Central early in the morning and after a nice train ride we arrived in Katoomba, the small town where the Three Sisters, the main tourist attraction in the area, are. The main viewpoint, Echo Point, is about a 30 minute walk from the station and as we had spent the last couple of hours sitting on the train we decided to stretch our legs and walk there. We walked through the town centre with lots of cafes and shops and as we left the town behind us we came through a residential area with some pretty houses before we reached the viewpoint.

It is quite breathtaking to look out over the vast area opening up before you with forest clad mountains as far as you can see and the blue haze, that has given the mountains their name, rising from the valleys. The Three Sisters is a rock formation in the shape of 3 spires that stands to the left of the viewpoint. They are very strange looking rocks, and you can easily see why they have become the main attraction. There were quite a few people at the viewpoint already so after a short time taking in the view we decided to try to avoid the crowds and walk towards Katoomba Falls and the Prince Henry Cliff Walk which is in the opposite direction of the Three Sisters, and an area that Malin had not explored on her earlier visits.

The track runs along the cliff and passes through dense woodlands with viewpoints popping up along the way. As we reached the first landing of the Katoomba Falls we sat down and watched the waterfall and the many cockatoos flying among the tree canopies above. It was quite serene to sit there and listen to the flowing water, and the sound of the birds, but after a while, a large group of tourists arrived and we decided it was time for us to continue our walk. The track took us past many beautiful viewpoints where we could look out over the valley and the further we walked the more quiet it got.

As we reached the end of the track we could see another sign pointing towards the Witches Leap and the Furber Steps. After some debating we decided to continue on this next part of the hike as well. The track leads down through the forest and the Witches Leap shows up between the trees quite soon after you start to walk. It is a rock formation with a very clear face sticking out of it. It is quite eerie to see it through the dark dense forest and it is easy to see why this place would be seen as magical.

The Furber Steps continued down the mountain side and as we descended down the steps the thought crossed our minds that for every step down, there would eventually have to be a step up again. As the track took a sharp turn we saw a small sign towards the Katoomba Falls Lookout and after a few minutes and more steps we reached the lookout at the base of the falls. We sat down and had a power bar and some water while watching the vast view of the valley stretching out underneath us and the cockatoos flying across the base of the falls before returning back to the treetops below.

After taking in the view for a while we decided it was time to start our journey back and we were surprised at how easy it was to walk up the stairs again. We came to a t-junction with one track leading back the way we had come and another taking us towards Katoomba, but via a different track. We decided to take the path we had not seen yet and after many more steps and considerably less power in our legs we reached the top of the cliff again and started our walk back to the town centre.

The 3 hour hike had rendered us quite starving, and we sat down at a café to devour some really delicious baked potatoes before we went back to the station to catch our train to Sydney after an awesome day in the wild.

Dreams of down under – NSW – Sydney Coastal Exploration

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Diving and exploring the coast

The morning after our city excursion we went to visit Abyss Scuba Diving, the dive club Malin did all her training with and spent pretty much every other weekend diving with during her years in Sydney. It was really wonderful to see Peter and Rachel again who run Abyss and we learned that they were going to have a 10-year celebration dive and BBQ that coming Saturday for Sam who Malin did her instructor training with in 2009.

It was a no-brainer that we would join them for the dive and as Sam wasn’t in the shop that day we decided to keep it a secret and surprise her. After chatting for some time we went off to the Intersection, a pub close by where Malin spent many post-diving afternoons, to get some lunch before we head back home again.

We felt an urge to get out in nature for a bit and the next morning we decided to do the Bondi to Coogee walk. It was fairly quiet at Bondi beach as it was still “winter” and a somewhat cloudy day. The walk takes about 2 hours and runs along the coastline and after studying some interesting graffiti down at Bondi beach we head over to start the walk. It is a beautiful coastline and the walk takes you past steep rock faces and several nice beaches and rock pools and as we stood watching the ocean from one of the cliffs we saw a pod of dolphins showing off in the distance. As we arrived in Coogee we were quite hungry and we had some delicious pizza at Coogee Pavilion before we went back home. As we got back Malin got hold of Andrew, an old friend from when she lived here, and we got a good laugh as he suggested that we could meet up in Coogee the next day. It turned out that the day really was to repeat itself and we met up with Andrew, went for a nice walk on Coogee beach before we, once again, went to the Coogee Pavilion this time to sample its beers.

Saturday had arrived and we set off with our dive gear to Abyss Scuba Diving. Sam was really happy to see us. She had seen that we were in Sydney and had been hoping that we would show up for the dive. We got a ride to Oak Park, the dive site for the day, with Jarrad, one of the dive masters at Abyss, and after Peter and Rachel gave a very nice speech in Sams honour we geared up and head down towards the entry point at Oak Park.

The visibility was about 12 meters in the water and after we descended we swam towards what Malin thought looked like a familiar area of the dive site. The bottom floor is built up of a mix of sand and rocks with yellow and burgundy coloured weeds and purple maracas-looking sponges about 15cm tall growing out of the rocks. Winter is the season for Port Jackson sharks in Sydney and after just a few minutes we saw our first PJ and during the dive we saw 14 PJs in total, a big ray, a nice and colourful nudibranch and a grey nurse shark which was very cool as they are very rare in the area. The dive had its hiccups though and it turned out to be one of those dives where things don’t really go to plan.

Malin’s BCD was constantly leaking, Linus computer stopped working, our GoPro got flooded (hence the lack of diving photos) and to top it off Malin managed to get lost despite her 100 dives at Oak Park and we popped up quite far from the exit point. Malin was struggling slightly to swim back to the exit with her malfunctioning BCD, but to finish in style a seal popped up on the surface close to us as we were swimming back to the exit point. Despite its hick ups we had a really nice dive and Linus was impressed with the quality of diving and particularly liked the forests of purple maracas sponges and for Malin it was really nice to be back in these familiar waters once again.

As we were quite cold after the dive we decided to skip the second dive and dig into the BBQ instead. You can find these BBQ areas in many public areas in Australia and they are awesome! Our bellies filled with sausages and beer we got a lift with Jarrad to the train station in Cronulla where we met up with Anna, Bernie and Charlie before we head home. It was such an awesome day and so great to get to hang out with the people at Abyss again.

The following weekend Peter and Rachel gave us an amazing gift as they let us come along on their whale watching/seal dive around Martin Island. We took the train down to Port Kembla where the boat would depart. We suddenly realised that we had forgotten the camera in Como. Bummer! Our Sydney – diving – camera – curse continued!  The ocean was quite choppy as we started to head out towards the island and we thought it would be very difficult to spot any whales, but we were very much mistaken. At the end of the whale watching part of the trip we had seen about 6 whales blowing and breaching on the surface and it was time to head over to Martin Island and the seal colony. As we arrived the seals were pretty lazy and just looked at us without much interest. But after some shouting and banging we managed to awaken their curiosity and about 5-10 of the puppies of the sea jumped in the water to play. We quickly geared up (including a shark shield strapped around the ankle) and descended next to the boat and soon afterwards our first seals arrived and they are so incredibly playful. The more spins and flips you do the longer they stay and it feels awesome and slightly intimidating to get up close to these large beautiful animals. During the dive we saw about 7 different seals and also some huge rays. It was an awesome dive, but it was quite chilly in the water so after about 20 minutes we decided to wave good bye to the seals and go up to get dry and toasty.

A massive thank you to Abyss for this great experience. 

Photos from the seal dive taken by Patty Minton at Abyss

Dreams of down under – NSW – Sydney CBD

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A trip down memory lane and an introduction to an icon

We arrived in Sydney in the afternoon and as we were flying over the city looking down on Harbour Bridge and the Opera House Malin felt a very strong sense of nostalgia seeing her old home once more. We were going to stay with Anna and Bernie whom Malin lived with during her last two years in Sydney, and as we arrived in rush hour Anna had suggested that we should take the train rather than a taxi as the rush hour traffic is usually quite hectic.

We got our bags and head off to the train station and once again a wave of nostalgia rushed over Malin as she heard the familiar noises of the train she had taken every morning heading to work. Anna and Bernies house is only a 30min train ride from the airport and for Malin it was such a bizarre feeling to get off the train and walk down the road to their house. Bernie and their daughter Charlie were at home when we arrived and soon Anna came home as well and we enjoyed a lovely dinner and some delicious Champagne. We were quite tired after the trip and it being a Monday Anna and Bernie were working the next day so we all went to bed quite early and as we lay down in Malin’s old room she really felt that she had travelled through a time warp.

The next day we set out to explore down town and Sydneys most iconic building – the Opera House. In order to see a bit more of CBD we went off at Town Hall and walked down towards the Opera House via Hyde Park and the Botanical Gardens. It is such a spectacular sight as you come out of the garden and see the building standing by the water. We walked around the different parts of the building and Linus was really impressed by the very cool architecture and the detail of the tiled facade that usually doesn’t appear in photos. We continued our walk and as it was getting close to lunch time we decided to look for some place to eat. There are many restaurants along the water in Circular Quay, but we decided to try our luck in the Rocks instead. We found a pub called Phillip’s Foote where they offered a set lunch meal and as the guy behind the bar asked us if we wanted two portions or share one we realised that the portions were very likely quite massive and we decided to share one to start with and we were very happy we did.

After a delicious lunch and some beer we walked back towards Town Hall and into the Queen Victoria Building which is a very beautiful old building that has been turned into a shopping mall. On the middle floor they have a grand piano that people are allowed to play on and as we entered a really great pianist was playing and we stood and listened for some time. We were on the hunt for some chocolate and an orange toy monkey to bring home to our lovely hosts. Unfortunately QVB could only sort out the chocolate for us so we had to continue our monkey hunt elsewhere.

As we walked past Town Hall we saw a man standing with a speaker and microphone and lots of printed signs around him declaring the same message as he was preaching – In 9 days time Sydney would be hit by an enormous tsunami and only people who would dedicate their life to Jesus would survive it. It was really quite impressive in a very creepy weird kind of way to see his dedication to his cause.

Before walking down to the subway we made a final monkey attempt and went into another small shopping center close to Town Hall and this time we succeeded and with an orange monkey and nice chocolate in hand we head home after our first day in Sydney.

Dreams of down under – VIC – Yambuc Lake to Bells Beach

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The true colours of Bells and the end of our Great Ocean Road adventure

We were coming towards the end of our trip along the Great Ocean Road and our plan for the day was to get as close as possible to Torquay to give us time to get a final peek at Bells Beach the next morning before heading up to Melbourne again and our flight to Sydney.

It was fairly grey and rainy as we drove out from our campsite at Yambuk Lake and we decided to once again take the drive along the beautiful Beech Forest Drive that we had travelled on a couple of days before. As we were driving we all of a sudden saw something that looked very much like a fox scurrying over the road. And sure enough a fox it was. We were surprised to see one here as we didn’t think they existed in Australia, but after some Googling we learnt that the English had brought them over in the 1830s to be able to enjoy their fox hunting. Not the smartest move it turned out as the foxes spread and are responsible for several native species going extinct.

The rain continued and even though it had its own beauty driving among the green hills in the rainy mist we were happy to turn off the coast and head into the shelter of the forrest. It was as beautiful as the first time we drove it and we once again marvelled at the massive trees and leaves along the side of the road. After many sharp turns the forrest opened up and we turned off towards the Great Ocean Road again. We still had a few hours to Torquay and we were debating wether to stay at Kennet River again or power on, but as it was still early in the afternoon we decided to continue our drive towards a camp site call Jan Yuk which was very close to Bells Beach. We arrived – you guessed it – just before sunset and we watched the sun set over the field next to our camp site before we spent a few hours packing our bags as we were flying the next day. As Linus walked back from the bathroom he heard something in a near by tree. Two eyes looked back at him as he got closer and it he saw that it was a relative of the thief we had met the night before – another possum. They really are super cute especially if they are not busy stealing your food.

The next morning we woke up early and drove down to Bells, and this time this famous break was really showing off its true glorious colours. Clean 5-8ft waves with steep walls and barrelling sections were rolling in both on Bells and Winky Pop. About 30 surfers where out on each break and as we were flying later that day Linus didn’t want to have to pack a wet wetsuit and more over he felt a bit intimidated by the number and skill of the surfers out there, so he decided to just stand and watch the spectacle instead. It was really cool to see how well the surfers tackled the waves and after half an our or so standing at the viewpoint above Winky Pop we were pleased to see Gareth, whom we had met at Johannas Beach, coming up from the surf. We also met the guy (Mark we think) we met first at Johannes who tipped us off that Linus could perhaps borrow a board from his friend. It was really nice to be able to thank him for the tip and tell him of the awesome morning we had had thanks to him and Matt.

Time was running on and we all of a sudden realised that we had to hurry up in order to have time to get back to Melbourne, clean the camper van, return it and head to the airport in time for our flight. Although somewhat stressful we made it in time and were pleased to see that our battery mishap in Torquay wasn’t mentioned as we hand in the car. We got to the airport and sat down with a sigh of relief at our gate but as we stood up to board the plane we realised with annoyance that they were weighing every ones hand luggage and we knew that ours was about 3kg too heavy. Our turn came and we got a lovely 60 dollar surcharge per person to pay before we were allowed to board the plane, and what was even more annoying was that we were the last ones they weighed in as they were short on time. With a bitter taste in our mouths we boarded the plane, but it soon disappeared and considering how many flights we had taken with our heavy hand luggage it wasn’t so bad after all.

Dreams of down under – VIC – Saw Pit to Yambuk Lake

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Exploration, treasures and a hunt

After our excursion around the Saw Pit Campsite we were in the mood for more exploration and decided to check out the coastline around the Cape Bridgewater area ca 20 minutes drive from Portland. As we approached the middle of the bay inside the cape our jaws dropped. The scene we saw was like a mixture of a tropical paradise and Scottish hills. A crystal white sandy beach with the most perfect shade of turquoise and deep blue tones in the water.

The ocean was calm and almost like a lake with perfect small peeling waves rolling in. All this surrounded by a huge granite cliffs covered in grass and bushes it took us completely by surprise and we let out a whoop and a high five for just stumbling upon another completely magical Australian gem.

We drove out to the end of Cape Bridgewater and just across the hill the topography changed and we thought we had arrived on Mars. There was still oxygen and stuff but the rocks were red, and the only vegetation were low growing shrubs. Along the cliffs there was a nice little walk that led to some really interesting rock formations that looked like a petrified forest. It was another great spot to really feel the scale of nature around here. The ocean swell crashed against the rugged cliffs and you could see the coast being battered for miles from the viewpoint. It was quite cool to see the difference in the rawness of the ocean on this side to the cape compared to the perfect sheltered waves on the inside.

Driving back to the bay we were yet again reminded of the benefits of traveling with a surf board as we found out that there were no surf shops in the small town next to the bay where we could rent a board, haha.

We hurried off back to Portland instead to try our luck as we had seen a surf shop there when we had our coffee earlier, but alas, no surf boards there either.
It felt weird as the place obviously had really good surf but maybe Australia just have way too many good surf spots that there’s still so many good spots that are undeveloped. After asking around we heard that there might be a place in the nearby town Port Fairy.

We headed over to Port Fairy, the worlds most liveable town™*, and managed to find the surf shop and get a long board for Linus, Malin decided to skip this session. As it was getting quite late we decided to not head back to the magic little bay at Bridgewater, but to try our luck in Port Fairy instead and we went off to look at what the ocean had in store for us. The town has a huge beach which is angled in a way that it was more or less sheltered against the big swell. Big sand dunes were scattered along the beach and it felt exciting to turn off the main road and drive over one to get our first look at the sea. It wasn’t as picture perfect as Cape Bridgewater but not far off. We saw a calm sea with sets of empty waves rolling in all along the beach with a light off shore breeze, hurrah!

We parked our camper van and a couple of friendly locals showed up and Linus and the local guys head out together to play in the 3-4ft surf. According to Linus it was a super fun session even though the board was a bit heavy to maneuver. He got some really nice rides but after about 2 hours his feet got way to cold and it was time to call it a day. Thankfully we both were completely unaware of that this beach is where they caught one of the biggest Great White Sharks to date, although that was in the 1940’s, that knowledge was better to have after the session to avoid paranoia and there were no active shark alarms along that stretch of coast now.

We had passed a sign for Yambuk Lake on our way from Portland earlier and apparently there was a camp site there. It wasn’t far from Port Fairy so we headed there in our traditional fashion: as the sun was setting over a dramatic Australian countryside. We arrived and checked in and surprisingly the lady running the camp site was British and we immediately bonded over English and Swedish crime series. The camp site was set perfectly on a patch of grass behind a hill with a view over Yambuk Lake. The weather had started to turn and we parked so we wouldn’t catch too much wind at night. The amenities were so nice to have after a night in the forest and it felt good to rinse off the remaining smell of our camp fire smoke and salt water. We tucked in after a hearty pasta meal accompanied with the remaining cheese that had managed to dodge the sneaky Possum.

*Port Fairy was voted the worlds most liveable town with a population under 20 000 in the UN-recognised LivCom award and the shire’s mayor was presented with the prize at a ceremony in Abu Dhabi.

Dreams of down under – VIC – Mount Gambier to Saw Pit

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Wild life camping and a thief

Our friendly local at the camp site had pointed us in the direction of the coast for our next leg of the trip. As it was already pretty late in the afternoon the one hour drive was perfect to have time to get some supplies in the town of Portland before deciding to do some free camping in a wondrous place called Saw Pit camp site, just 10-15 minutes outside town.

We had our little WikiCamps app to help us find some of these little gems and this was a beauty of a camp site. Driving inland for a short bit we turned up towards a dense forest covered hill. Right as we were going to turn in to the site there was a group of wallabies nibbling at nuts or something at the side of the road. The little road leading in to the site was just a packed mud track and the area itself was snuggled right into the woods. We parked so we didn’t have too far to walk to the rest rooms at night and were glad to find that there was a fire pit near our car. What made us even happier was that there were some small smoldering embers in it. We hadn’t even planed to make a camp fire that night but as this chance presented itself Linus quickly went out in search of some twigs, branches and sticks to get the fire going again.

It was some hassle and careful blowing before the wood finally caught fire and success, our first little camp fire was up and running! Now we needed to get more wood to have enough to cook our hamburger dinner, and as Linus went out hunting for more wood. We noticed two other campers also on the prowl for timber and it became a race to get to the good pieces. Linus finally gave up and went straight into the woods and it dawned on him that he was walking in the forest in Australia, at night, and was very likely surrounded by 48 potentially lethal animals, but hey, we wanted to cook hamburgers and that wood wasn’t going to collect itself. The noise the parrots made as the sun was setting was truly spectacular though and it echoed out in the forest as night arrived.

Our fire crackled, our burgers sizzled and we sat watching the sky through the massive tree canopies above us and it was breathtaking. As we were just starting to dig into our hamburgers Malin heard something, then she saw something, something rather big, over by the bench to the side of us just where we had our avocado creme and delicious brie cheese. Linus thought she was exaggerating but then he also saw it, a fluffy and rather cute brush-tailed possum at the size of a small dog. Ah dang it, we thought it had gotten to our cheese! But to our delight it went for the avocado creme, and as we tried to shoo it away from our food it looked up at us and slowly, slowly walked in to the woods and even stopped to look back as if to make sure that we hadn’t changed our mind about the free treats. It appears we need to work on our possum shooing a bit.

We rose early with the morning sun to enjoy the display of light coming through the trees. We made some coffee to go and headed out for a little look around the woods around us. The forest was waking up with a beautiful cacophony of chirping and squawking and after a short walk the trees gave way to a magnificent panorama view of vast farms and fields that stretched all the way down to the ocean. A skip and a jump to the left of us we spotted a mob of kangaroos chewing on some breakfast grass together with a couple of horses. Australia is awesome, haha. Standing near the fence attracted the horses and they stopped by to say g’day and got a pat on the nose.

We had decided to treat ourselves to a café breakfast after our morning stroll, and the nearby town of Portland is famous for its plentiful cafés. We ended up eating at Lido Larder, one of the best coffees of the trip paired with some avocado toast, it was bloody brilliant. The locals were in full swing getting their morning brew and it felt nice to sip some delicious brew while letting our wild life adventure sink in.

Dreams of down under – SA – Piccaninnie Ponds

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A portal to an alien world

We woke up early at our campsite in Mount Gambier and made some breakfast. The sun was shining and we looked forward to enjoy our breakfast in the sun outside our camper van. But unfortunately we had left the chairs outside and it had rain during the night so they were completely soaked. A very helpful and talkative grounds keeper came up to us however and lent us some chairs so our warm and fuzzy breakfast moment was saved.

Having packed up we drove down to down town Mount Gambier and to a dive shop to pick up a couple of wetsuits for the days activity. The Mount Gambier area is well known for its cave systems and fresh water cave diving, but as our time in Australia had started to eat a hole in our pockets we decided to save some money and skip the diving and go for a snorkel at Piccaninnie Ponds instead.

We got our wetsuits and drove out to the national park. To be allowed to go snorkeling or diving in the pond you have to book and pay for a one hour time slot before you arrive and we were surprised to see that they had left a one hour gap between all the available time slots. We had booked for 11-12am and as we approached Piccaninnie Ponds we were expecting to pass some sort of ranger who would check our booking. But all of a sudden the road ended in a small empty car park and we saw a wooden board walk leading into a field with a sign for Piccaninnie Ponds. We were early but as there was no-one else there we decided to jump in straight away.

It was such a bizarre feeling to put on our snorkeling gear in the middle of a valley surrounded by rolling hills and walk out to what really looked like a puddle in the middle of a cow pen. The surrealism we felt walking out to the pond was nothing however to what we felt when we stuck our heads underwater and encountered a completely alien world. The water was crystal clear with easily 30-40m visibility and the sides and bottom of the pond was covered in green fluffy slime with different types of plants growing in clusters. After a few moments of pure marvel at this strange and alien world we swam out towards the Chasm, a narrow 100m deep drop in the middle of the pond. It was slightly eerie seeing the light disappear into the deep and know that what we saw was only a fraction of what lay beneath.

We continued our swim and came onto a shallower area with lots of green slime that got stirred up as we swam above it forming strange shapes that floated up into the water column. Not long after reaching this area of the pond Linus found an Eastern long-necked tortoise and we also saw a few schools of tiny fish and an eel. Once in a while we stuck our heads up and as our eyes broke the surface we almost felt like we had travelled through some sort of portal and were suddenly back in the cow pen again.

The water was quite chilly and after 45 minutes in this strange, beautiful alien world we were shivering and it was time to get up. As we swam back across the pond we saw how our movements had stirred up and lowered the visibility dramatically and suddenly the one hour gaps made much more sense.

As we got back to the car we got changed quickly and made a hearty meal of pasta to heat up our cold bodies and we sat down to refuel and digest one of the strangest experiences we’ve ever had.

Dreams of down under – VIC – Johannas Beach to Mount Gambier

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Once there were 12 but only 7 remains

After the amazing morning surf session at Johannas beach it was time for us to continue our journey. Linus had seen on Google maps that we could take an alternative, smaller and potentially more adventurous route towards the Apostles, which was our next destination. As we thought it would be nice to take a different road to the one we had travelled on the previous night we decided to take it.

As we closed in on the turn off we saw that the elderly couple we had met the night before was just in front of us, and they were also choosing this alternative route and as they were in their big camper van we felt safe that it should be fine for us as well. The road was narrow and fairly steep set in green hills scattered with grazing sheep.

After a few minutes of driving we saw that the couple’s camper van had stopped and that the road was blocket because of ongoing roadwork. There was nothing to do but to turn around, but doing just that seemed like an impossible task as the road was hardly wide enough for us to turn around on, and for a moment nervousness caught us at the thought of having to reverse down the hill we had just travelled up. But luckily there was a small area next to the road where they were digging that we could use, and with the help of the road workers we and the couple in their big camper van were able to turn around and happily drive down the hill again.

Our “new-road adventure” having failed we continued our drive towards the Apostles and after an hour drive we came down to the coast and this iconic part of the Great Ocean Road. The Apostles are lime stone rock formations standing in the ocean along the coast. Originally there were 12 apostles, but now only 7 remains as the other 5 have eroded away with the motion of the ocean. As we arrived it was clear that this is a very popular tourist destination and at the visitor center we were met by big busses and large tour groups. Undeterred by this we started the short walk down to the coast and the viewpoint over the Apostles. It is a easy to see why this spot is so popular. It is a spectacular sight with orange colored rocks, white sandy beaches and the strange rock formations rising from the clear blue ocean.

We soaked in the view for some time and then continued our drive along the coast stopping at some of the many view points offering more strange and beautiful rock formations and stunning views of the ocean. Our final destination for the day was Mount Gambier, an area famous for its cave systems, and as the afternoon was approaching we started our drive inland. The road was one of the more plain roads we had driven on so far, but as we got closer to dusk storm clouds appeared in the sky and we got to enjoy a dramatic and beautiful sunset. We reached our campsite for the night, a quite large caravan park in the city of Mount Gambier, just before dark and enjoyed some wraps for dinner before we snuggled in to get some rest and be ready for the bizarre and otherworldly experience that was awaiting us the next day.

Dreams of down under – VIC – Kennet River to Johannas Beach

2000 1211 Linus Nylund

Gimme hope, Jo’anna
Hope, Jo’anna
Gimme hope, Jo’anna
‘Fore the morning come

Shortly after leaving Kennet River the Great Ocean Road turned up into the hills and our jaws dropped as we saw the views from the road. The forest opened up and dramatically rolling hills extended all the way to the ocean in the far distance. As we were driving a sign for “Beech Forest” came up and feeling spontaneous we took the turn to see these old tree friends. At our local spot Torö in Sweden there is a Beech tree avenue and having driven past them so many times we thought it would be fun to see similar trees in Australia.

It turned out to be one of the greatest road experiences on our trip and the narrow dirt road took us through really dense forest with giant trees and ferns over 3 meters tall. Everything was so massive that we were half expecting to see dinosaurs walking through the trees.

The 22km road took us about an hour as we were driving slowly and we arrived to another even more spectacular view on the other side. At this point we realised we were low on fuel and that we had just driven an hour further away from the nearest gas station, haha. But we made it back, taking the main road instead and stopped at Yatzies, a café and gas station in Lavers Hill.

After refuelling on both gas and coffee we set sail for our next over night stop at Princetown, just a 30 minute drive away. The road continued to take us through beautiful hills and forests and we were happy to arrive just before 4pm so we could have a couple of hours of daylight at our campsite. Alas luck was not on our side and it turned out that both camp sites in the area were closed and we had to try and find another place to stay close by to be able to get there before dark. Malin found “Johanna Beach” about 45 minutes back east. We set off feeling a bit bummed that our camping plans didn’t succeed, but little did we know we were on our way to an absolute treasure.

As we rocked up to this quiet campsite set in rolling hills next to the ocean, perfect waves were rolling in to the setting sun. It was truly magnificent and Linus was itching to jump in the water to catch a few rides, but boardless as he was he soon settled for just watching the spectacle. There were some surfers out in the water and as we were standing at the small viewpoint on top of one of the close by hills one of them joined us to get a final view of the ocean before heading off for the night.

As we started to chat and he learned about Linus board shortage he told us that a friend who usually brought several boards with him was going to camp there that night to catch a surf at sunrise and he would very likely lend Linus one. That sounded almost too good to be true and the possibility of getting a morning surf session made Linus giddy with excitement! There were a few people camping there that night so we decided to wait until the morning to try and suss out which one of them was this potential surf savior friend. A lovely elder couple had parked next to our camp site, and they turned out to be camper van pros in Australia. Over the years they had done 160000km in their van and were still going at it, a true inspiration. That night was spent partaking of some lovely wraps and wine underneath the starry sky.

We woke up as the sun was rising and head down towards the surf break. Short after we arrived at the viewpoint a guy rocked up and as Linus, after a short chat, mentioned his situation the guy said “oh, ok” and went off to suit up and head into the water – hopefully this was not the guy we were hoping for would save the surf! A few minutes later another guy rocked up, and happily this guy really did turn out be a surf hero and learning about Linus needing a board he said those longed for words – “Oh, you want a board? I can lend you one”. What a legend!

Happiness was complete and Linus skipped and jumped back to the camper van, got changed and it felt like he was floating down to the waves. It was a magnificent morning and the swell had picked up and up to 3m waves were rolling in with giant off shore spray coming off them lit by the morning light. Once on the beach Linus had to take a couple of deep breaths as the surf looked pretty full on, but after a short walk his courage came back and he made it out to the lineup faster than expected.

The strong wind made it quite hard to catch the waves, especially since the spray went straight into your eyes so you had to try to drop in blind. After a few attempts Linus got one of the biggest waves of the day and one of the best ones of his life. The speed felt incredible!

It was only Linus and the two guys we had met that morning, Matt (who lent him the board) and Gareth (the first guy we met, who turned out to be a friend of Matt’s) that were out surfing that morning on this massive beach. They were both super friendly and Linus could not believe his luck to get to surf this awesome wave with so few surfers in the line up and all thanks to a very kind stranger. Thank you Matt!

While Linus was out battling the waves, Malin had a relaxing morning photographing the waves on the beach with a coffee in hand, and we were happy to get some good photos of Matt and Gareth as they had very few photos of them surfing and it was nice to able to give them something in return for lending Linus the board.

A few hours and many waves later it was time to head up and leave this beautiful spot that we had just stumbled upon as our original plan didn’t work out. It was such a great reminder of how a small set back can turn into a blessing and you end up finding a stunning secluded beach, meet two super friendly and generous locals and gain a beautiful memory.