Sunday, 11 August 2013

Cairns to Melbourne

The Great Barrier Reef from the air

After giving away all our extra bits that we bought for the van, toaster, gas cooker, carving knife, cheese grater, caffetiere, wine glasses and all our left over food (including custard!) to the people in the caravan next door to us, we delivered the van back to Travellers Autobarn, still with the carpet that Paul had fitted and the extra internal lights we fitted. Not sure they were particularly impressed, but we felt we’d taken the van back in a better condition than we’d received it!

Fabulous views!
The internal flight from Cairns to Melbourne was a little longer than we thought, 3.5 hours, covering over 3000km, but it had the advantage of giving us a birds eye view of the Great Barrier Reef, spread beneath us in the clear blue ocean under a clear blue sky, which was quite amazing. From a temperature of mid to high twenties we went into mid single figures with a fairly cool stiff breeze and the bustle of Melbourne, got collected by an
The Whitsunday Islands
exuberant expat Scot in his 70’s who left the Clyde 40 years ago when he said ‘Margaret Thatcher closed his shipyard’ (didn’t tell him I’m just reading her book ‘The Downing Street Years’), got our little Hyundai car and drove through Melbourne Friday early evening traffic to arrive at Simon Price’s house in Richmond, very near the CBD of Melbourne and right in amongst restaurants and great night life. Simon’s a great character, very much like his dad Ash, who we know so well from Solihull Mountaineering Club, who has been out here since 1997 and has carved a great career in IT working as a consultant to large companies to construct and integrate massive computer software systems.

Hiring the snow chains
As well as a house in Tasmania he lives in an old church that has been expertly converted into four houses that are each huge, absolutely amazing in design and with every ‘mod-con’ you could want. He showed us to our bedroom with en-suite which has original exposed beams, a stained glass window and a balcony looking down over the large kitchen with its island units in the centre. What a change from our little van, we felt like we had just entered the Ritz!

After a short walk into town for a meal in one of the many local restaurants, we were relatively early to bed to be up very early
Simon and Jackie on the slopes
yesterday (05:30) for a three hour (360km) drive to Mount Buller ski resort, equipped with Simon’s spare skiing clothing (he’s a bit bigger than me so the jacket ‘hung’ on me, but it was warm). We stopped at Mansfield for breakfast and to hire snow chains (its obligatory to carry then) and then on into the National Park and on up through eucalyptus forest, into the snow to the very efficient ski resort. Parking the car, getting a free ski bus, hiring ski gear and getting the lift pass were all an example of efficiency and minimum wastage of time and we were ready to get on our first lift at 10:50 (but less $118 ski and boot hire and $115 each for the day ski pass!).

A brief lunch stop - 10 minutes max!
The weather was perfect, clear blue skies, there had been a fresh dump of snow in the week which meant that 20 of the 22 lifts were open and the crowds weren’t too bad either, meaning very few queue’s at the lifts. In short, perfect! Mount Buller is a relatively small resort, ideal for a day or possibly a weekend, with mainly easier runs and only a few harder blacks and little off-piste, but for our time there, coupled with Simon acting as our guide to all the best runs, we couldn’t have had it better.

It did, however, feel slightly disconcerting having been transported from the tropical north with its rainforests, coral reefs, hot sun and
Eucalyptus trees in snow, that doesn't seem normal!
wearing shorts and tee shirts, to winter skiing - in a day! We have only skied in Europe before, so it was difficult getting our heads round the fact that we are still in Australia, so we were both feeling excited but very disconcerted at the same time. Eucalyptus trees poking out through snow, all signs in English rather than French or German and Aussie lift attendants made it a surreal, but great experience. There were some very good runs, fast and quite steep and some good un-pisted (or should we say un-groomed here!) black’s with moguls, but the snow was good, Simon is a good fast skier and it was just great to get the skis on and blast down the slopes trying to keep up with him –
Jackie on a mogul black run
what a fantastic day, we LOVE skiing! It’s also another tick in the bucket list, skiing in August in the Southern Hemisphere, something I’ve always wanted to do.
Our evening was nothing much, Simon had quickly showered and gone out to meet some of his friends in town (well, he’s young enough to have the energy to do that), we got a Pizza and some beers and came back to Simon’s to watch a film on his massive TV, during which I fell asleep. We gave up at 11:00pm and went to bed, Simon still out.

I’m typing this on Sunday morning sitting in bed still recovering, maybe its time to get up and see what the day brings…

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