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Feather found alongside the Lodden river, Goldfields VIC
Lateral Science Inverted
Three months in Australia

4th - 6th April '06

Feather found alongside the shopping mall, Narre Warren VIC

Jeez, if that's come oota spider's arse, itsa big'un!
Stunning waterfall & blowhole, extinct megafauna & volcano, friendly roos & golden silk.

Redback in Mazda
In-car entertainment
None of my adventures seem to be complete without a Redback. This time, as I checked the car over, before setting out on a 850 mile round trip from Narre Warren, I found one inside the car. I squashed this blighter into oblivion, but later I'd discover an arachnid so big & beautiful I had to stroke it!

First stop was Newquay on the Surf Coast, a place my mate Dale in North East England dreams of. A huge amount of surf shops, manufacturers like Rip Curl, Quicksilver and Rojo, and the Surfword Australia museum are all here. These places I avoided like a dose of galloping tackle-rot. Instead I went down to the deserted beach for a paddle in the ocean, before driving a few km to Bells Beach.

Bells Beach
Bells Beach

I must admit, the waves and surfing action were impressive. Lads were practicing for one of the coveted international titles, the Bells Beach Surfing Classic, held over easter. However I was itching to get on toward my final destination, via the Great Ocean Road. Onward, with still a certain doubt as to whether the car was Redback free.

Erskine Falls
Erskine Falls
The Great Ocean Road is a sensation. Created after the Great War by ex-servicemen, it provided these survivors of the war with employment. Hacking through the cliffs with picks, shovels and crow bars, it must have been back-breaking work for these 3000 heros. A certain Mr. Calder thought up the scheme, to build a tourist road "of world repute, equalling that of California USA". Well, it's a success. I've driven the Pacific Coast Highway along the Big Sur from LA to San Francisco on a few occasions, and the parallels are obvious. Magnificent views of spectacular cliffs, blue ocean and big surf pounding onto golden beaches; both winding roads cling to the coastline, making one wish to be driving a Lotus or riding a Ducati.

At Lorne I turned off the road to go 10km inland, to see the Erskine Falls. Brilliant! The falls are best viewed from the rain-forest below; well worth the 250 steps involved (after my "training" with the Kokoda steps, I ran back up these to the car park. I'm sure some folk arriving were put off going down, seeing the state I was in at the top!).

I stopped at Apollo Bay for the night. The Apollo Bay Hotel serves a nice Marlin fillet and has a pool table I was unbeaten on. I wandered in the darkness to the beach for a paddle and a look at the night sky. I still can't get over seeing Orion upside down! Up and away at 7am, I headed to Maits Rest for a walk in a lovely pocket of rain forest in the Otway National Park.

Moss in rain-forest
Rain-forest flora
It's a nice short walk in a mossy gully, with land yabby burrows, tree ferns and ancient myrtle beech trees. The weather became a little fractious after this; the views from the road were of an angry ocean thrashing aginst huge limestone rock stacks (the famous Twelve Apostles) and it was pissin down. There's a really nice blowhole, with the swell entering a blue pool. Hanging from a bush one handed over the edge, I urinated into it with abandon, much to the consternation, and then amusement, of a couple who had braved the elements to see the breach thro' the limestone. Danger-Pissin' is a much underrated pastime, I remember well, the horrified groups of tourist cattle at the Grand Canyon, Arizona in '86; I'd arranged for me Mam to take a photo (may scan and up-load it when I get back to UK), then I vaulted over the safety barrier, stood teetering in a strong wind on the very edge, and relieved myself down the millions of years of mile deep strata to enrich the Colorado river.
A blowhole

Volcanic ash strata
Stratified volcanic ash
Just past Warrnambool a turn off leads you to Tower Hill State Game Reserve. Quite an interesting extinct volcano, there are nicely stratified deposits of volcanic ash. Later, crossing the state border into South Australia, I was initially dismayed to see line upon line of tree plantations. However, driving past a break in this monoflora, I was amazed to see three Emus! Doin' a quick youee, I attempted to take foties of these flightless birds. They've come out crap, as you can see.
Blurred Emu
Honest, it's an emu

Arriving in Mount Gambier I had a quick look at the Umpherston Sinkhole, before heading north to my destination. Naracoorte. Stopped the night there and was up at the crack o' dawn. I drove 10km south to the area designated as a World Heritage Area. On the way a fox ran over the road, as foreign to this land as I am. Kangaroos looked at me with disintrest, only loping away as I stopped for their photo calls. The Wonambi Fossil Centre at Naracoorte Caves National Park did not open for an hour and a half, so I set off for a walk.

Wombat Burrow
A wombat burrow
As I made my way along a trail through Brown Stringybark, River Red Gums and Bracken fern, there were several Wombat burrows to be seen and loads of Grey Kangaroos. I came abruptly to a stop when I perceived a golden thread across the track. From a tree on one side, some 10 feet up, to a fern on the other, it supported a beautiful web about 2.5 ft. across. A fantastic spider was on the web, with a collection of insect husks next to it, testimony to it's appetite and web efficiency.
A friendly roo

Golden Orb Web Spider
A rather large spider

Golden Orb Web Spiders (Nephila sp.), are one of the largest of the spiders to build aerial circular, or orb, webs. The silk is a delicate golden colour and is among the strongest of all spider silks. Even birds can become trapped in their webs, which are left up for some time.

A beautiful animal
Golden Orb Web Spider

This animal's body is about 2.5 cm long. It didn't seem to be concerned when I stroked it with my finger, and wouldn't be enticed onto my hand for a photo. Apparently these things will bite, but it's not too serious. I was absolutely delighted to find such a spectacular creature!

Marsupial Lion and Madtoiid Snake
A representation of a madtsoiid snake, Wonambi naracoortensis
getting to grips with a marsupial lion, Thylacoleo carnifex

On to the caves. The Wonambi Fossil Centre was worth a quick look round, with animatronic recreations of the animals which had become entrapped and fossilised within the caves. The Victoria Cave has spectacular cave formations (some good helictites), but not as good as some British and other European caves I've visited. However, the sight of the (once flowstone covered) fossil bed 250 meters in, and the excellent lecture given there, were well worth the long drive from Narre Warren! The fossil beds are only partly excavated, but specimens of megafauna dating back some 300,000 years have been unearthed; giant kangaroos, marsupial lions (Thylacoleo) and Wonambi giant serpents are among the thousands of fossils.




Thylacoleo carnifex
Thylacoleo carnifex

The fossil beds
World Heritage Stuff; Naracoorte Caves Fossil Beds

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