A Travellerspoint blog

Australia

Driving from one side of Australia to the other!

First leg...Melbourne to Wallaroo - 860km

I think most people thought "those crazy Brits are at it again" when we randomly announced that we wanted to drive from one side of Australia to the other. The initial exclamations of "do you realise how BIG Australia is?" and "haven't you seen Wolf Creek?", were soon followed by "I want to do that too" with the realisation that it would be a road trip of epic proportions.

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We would be driving from Melbourne to Perth, crossing through 3 Australian States (Victoria, SA and WA), taking on the vast expanses of the Nullabor Plain, dodging kamikaze kangaroos and taking in the sights along the way. The next 10 blogs will follow this adventure so bare with us as it may take a while to write up but we do get to Perth eventually :)

The icing on the cake was that we had found out about Transfercar, a vehicle relocation website that puts you in touch with companies looking for drivers to transfer a vehicle from one place to another, essentially making the rental of the vehicle free for us (saving approx $550) and saving the rental companies transportation fees... genius! All we had to do was pay for the petrol and the insurance :) although on a trip of this size the petrol costs were still quite a lot (around $1000)!

As fate would have it when we checked the website they had vehicles that needed to be transported to Perth by December from where we lived, Southbank in Melbourne! It was a sign, and so throwing caution to the wind we secured our vehicle and got down to planning our itinerary. We were given an allowance of 10 days and a maximum of 7000 kms to complete the trip, I think if you wanted to you could make the journey in 3-4 days but this way we could take our time and make detours where we wanted to, and also not go insane from the relentless driving. Having already done the Great Ocean Road we decided to skip that section and head straight up to Adelaide and beyond. This way in the first couple of days we would be able to get a lot of the kms out of the way including the Nullabor Plain. Then we could take our time through WA taking the less direct southern route along the coast and up via Margaret River to Perth. Doing it this way would also give us a time buffer incase we came into any difficulties on the road. Apart from swimming with sea lions in Port Lincoln and a wine tour with the Wine Dudes in Margaret River we had no other activities booked anything else we would discover along the way.

We took the time to plan where our final destination would be each day making sure to check that campsites would be open at our expected arrival time. Some require you to arrive and check in by 6pm but others would be happy to leave a key out to get access after hours so its worthwhile making a few calls to check. It also meant we could give our planned route to concerned friends and family (who had seen Wolf Creek) in case we didn't turn up in Perth when expected they would know where to start looking! We also planned where we would be able to get petrol too as running out in the middle of nowhere wasn't something we wanted to experience. With the vast distances involved being prepared for the worst case scenario is the best thing to do so we got a jerry can for spare fuel incase we had misjudged the distances and 15 litres of water too in case we got stranded in the desert!

The van itself was kitted out with all you needed, and could be transformed from seats in the day to a bed at night so you could sleep in the van. It also had a pull out hob to cook on and a pump action sink (although ours leaked so we tended not to use it). All cooking utensils you could need were provided too, along with an esky, bedding, towels and camping chairs. So you could just turn up with your backpack and go.

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Although with all the stuff we had accumulated since living in Melbourne for the last 5 months it would take a bit of Tetris packing to be able to sleep in there but once we worked out the best way to store things and moved the larger bags onto the front seats at night we could sleep in there comfortably.

Once the van was packed and we had noted down any dents and scratches (she'd been through the wars a bit) and had been reassured that the loose bumper wouldn't fall off we were ready to go!

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Our first destination was Wallaroo which is a couple of hours north of Adelaide!

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It would be a big first day of driving that would end up taking best of 12 hours to complete instead of the 9 hours we had anticipated (we slightly under estimated how long this part would take, woops, take times on google maps with a pinch of salt!). The reason we had made the decision to push on past Adelaide so that we could make the morning ferry from Wallaroo across the Spencer Gulf the following day, rather than driving around it.

We waved goodbye to Broomy and hit the road (remembering to call up City Link to get a toll pass of course!)

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As we left Melbourne behind us we took the now familiar route through Ballarat, Ararat and on passed the Grampians, reliving great memories of our previous road trips . This was where we spotted the Big Koala! One of the many 'BIG things' that they have in Australia, we had already been told about the big Pineapple in Coffs Harbour and a few of the others but this was the first one we had actually seen.

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Our first lunch stop was just in a lay by next to a lake just outside of Horsham, where we had a quick bite and tried to move an injured bat away from the patrolling crows before getting back behind the wheel.

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In the afternoon we came to our first border crossing, we were leaving Victoria behind and heading into South Austrlia! Before we crossed the boarder though we had to get rid of any fruit and veg we had so Dan quickly ate some so they didn't go to waste!

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We continued along the Dukes Highway passing through sheep country and corn fields before making a stop at Tailem Bend to stretch our legs and marvel at the huge pelicans flying overhead.

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Here are a few of the classic Australian road signs that made us giggle along the way, straight to the point no messing around!

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Finally we made it to Adelaide around 7pm which was a welcome sight but we still had a way to go before Wallaroo and hoped we would be able to get there before dark.

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As we left Adelaide we started to come across our first road trains, long lorries pulling several containers behind them (I'm not a road, I'm not a train... I'm a ROADTRAIN!) these would be our companions for the rest of our journey and are not to be messed with as they are huge!

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We had been on the road for hours and as the sun began to get lower thought we were losing our minds a bit when we started to see silhouettes of giant rats, spaceships and Ned Kelly of his horse rearing out of the fields. We weren't able to slow down to get photos of them but I found this article where you will see them and find out more about what they are about.

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We had really underestimated how long this journey would take us and with the sun setting and quite a few kms still to go both of us were on high alert of any kangaroos that might decide to jump out from behind the bushes on the roadside.

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It was a draining last leg as we strained our eyes to keep vigilant and slowed right down to be on the safe side. It was a big relief when we finally made it to Wallaroo around 10pm with no kangaroo sightings!

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Day 1 complete!

Sxx

Posted by doyledan 23:05 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Bye Melbourne...

What can I say... the last 6 months living in Melbourne have been amazing.

Definitely lives up to the hype as the most liveable city and it is going to be really hard to move on from here. After we had been so long on the road it was great to be settled somewhere that feels like our home and we have been very lucky make a group of great mates that feel like family too :)

I hope that we'll be back some day but in the meantime here are just a few things we'll miss...

Waking up to hot air balloons outside our window

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Stumbling on amazing street art...

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Yummy brunches...

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Early morning swims and Bikram

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The city at night

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Working with some amazing people :) Lets put reunion in London on 'The List' :)

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The trams

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The silliness

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HUGE thanks to everyone who has made us so welcome.

Broomy, Mel, Mary, Stefano, Claire, Ria, Noreen, Phil, Nelson, Shane, Toots, Robyn, Amy B, Andy, Tom, Lauren, Mike, Pauly, Doush, Khan, Tanya, Jimmy, Abe, Cassie, Peter, Frances, Kathryn, Glen, Carola, Nora, Anjanette, Liz, Chris, Rose, Viv,

Dan would also like to thank the team at Bupa and his fellow temp's Alex, Danielle and Natalie.

We couldn't have had so much fun without you!!

Happy Xmas and New Year to you all

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Sxxx

Posted by doyledan 13:37 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Grampians National Park

sunny

This was it, this was the last of our Victoria adventures and we were lucky enough that we managed to keep some of crew from the Great Ocean Road trip with a few added extras. We knew when we had done GOR that another camping trip was a definite must and one of the best places to do this is the Grampians National Park. Situated 3 hours north west of Melbourne the Grampians is a series of rugged sandstone mountain ranges and forests rich in wildlife that rises abruptly from the surrounding Western Plains. This mini weekend adventure was going to be about exploring the outdoors or "the bush" as the Aussie's like to call it.

Gathering our things in the early morning and heading down to the lobby to wait for Dougo and Erika to pick us up we thought to ourselves, we seem to have packed more than when we did for the 3 day GOR trip. Fortunately, Erika owned a Ford Territory which is a mammoth of a car with a huge boot. It was a squeeze with five of us and all our stuff but we got it in there.

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We planned to have all three cars meet in Ballarat which is about an hour out of Melbourne in order for us all catch up and have breakfast before gunning it down the highway. I chose Beechworth Bakery in the center of town, mainly because it was the only thing that was open at 8:00am, and it turned out to be a good choice as they had plenty of choices and we all chowed down heartily whilst also contemplating a treat.

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Contemplating! What am I saying, it was a done deal. Especially when they were made by John Cleese himself.

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I commented on a particular treat called Snickernoodle with Noreen, because I thought that out of any of us she would be the one to choose it with her bubbly nature. And low an behold she did.

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After completely over doing it at breakfast we headed off on the road to the Grampians, this leg would be the longest part and it wasn't particulary taxing because we were having a good time in the car making countless film and tv quotes and watching the scenary wizz by. Sarah and I had done the trip before when we delivered items to the Save the Children store in Ararat, so we knew what to expect.

It didn't feel like it took very long, probably because we were goofing around and just taking in the scenery.

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When we got to Halls Gap, the small town nestled on the edge of the Grampians National Park area the sun was beaming. The plan from here was to collect our permits at Brambuk National Park and Cultural Centre and then choose our camping spot based on the advice we got from them.

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It was decided the best place for us to camp would be Smiths Mill, located by the Mackenzie River and a short driving distance from the Wonderland walk which would take us to the Pinnacle overlooking the park. The campsite was basic but it had all you need and we decided to take the spot furthest away from the other people staying there. As we set up tents we got a chance to feel close to nature as ants were going about their day climbing up the tree and around the purpose built concrete surface that our tent would be pitched on. The tree had this red goo coming out of it which I imagine might have attracted the ants. Our camp bag had this bizarre looking caterpillar which Sarah managed to capture, can you see his claw like mouth and the yellow flower like spikes coming out of its back.

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By the time we had set up the sun was at its hottest and we jumped in our cars with water and suntan lotion to start our adventure to the Pinnacle Wonderland walk. Before we set off on the walk I tried to do a bit of tour guide prep and Broomy made sure he checked the safety notices, staying true to his profession.

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As soon as we started our walk the landscape began to change and we headed through series of rocky rock formations that looked like something out of Star Trek or some film set. It was great just to take our time and enjoy the outdoors, the company and the gorgeous weather

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The further along the track we went the more interesting the rock formations became and we couldn't resist the urge to climb!

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At one point the rocks got a little narrow and it felt like we were in an Indiana Jones film, it might also of felt like that because we were busting out the classic soundtrack as we walked it.

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Broomy and I managed to stop the boulder from ruining the occasion.

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As we got further and further up the trail the coolness of the winds signaled that we were getting higher and higher and it wasn't long before the trail opened out on to a huge plateau with majestic views. It was smiles all round.

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We were all ecstatic especially me and Nelson.

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After some obligatory landscape photos and goofing around we decided time was getting on and headed back the way we came. It was a great walk to really show off what the Grampians has to offer. If you like your outdoors adventures and enjoy a good walk, make your way down to this one.

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On the way down we stopped of at Bridal Veil Falls, well it should be called a Bridal Veil trickle, but despite this it was a refreshing break especially in the heat.

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Feeling good after the walk we were all ready to get some BBQ action on. Broomy had made it his mission to light a fire without the use of modern day devices and so as we brought out the nibbles he set to work at it.

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There was interest at first. But it waivered.

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Sarah took a moment to go and snap some of our neighbour's.

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We have been very lucky to have met some really nice people, all of which are great company, and so the evening unfolded with ease. I love a good BBQ and chill out round the campfire.

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Some of us liked the BBQ a bit too much

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We managed to make an epic fire and sat round it with some drinks and sing a longs. I introduced Dougo, Erika and Mike to the 4 chord Medley to which the GOR crew accompanied at all the correct moments, particularly the 'Come on Barbie, Lets Go Party" part. Good work team!

The next morning we all rose to see our campsite trash had been ransacked by the wildlife. Turned out the buggers had kept everyone up at some point throughout the night! Breakfast was on and everyone except Broomy, Sarah and me had come prepared with varitable feast! . Once packed down it was time for a quick team talk and so I hatched a plan to try out the Mackenzie Falls walk starting from the Zumsteins picnic area. It was described in the guide book as a medium walk with a few rock scrambling moments to endure. Everyone was keen except Tom and Mike as they had hit it hard the night before. A hats off has to go to them though for taking one for the team and dropping off the trash. Effort Lads!.

The nine of us left headed for Zumsteins picnic area and as we did we could see below us the valley we would be walking through. It looked awesome... and it was.

One of the first things we saw on the track was a Blue Tongued Bob tail which Dougo happily picked up to show us all. He looked quite prehistoric.

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The track was well laid out and it was pretty easy going for most part.

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It was another scorcher of a day so when we got to the rivers edge we all had a go at dipping our feet. It was freezing but refreshing.

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Up ahead were the Fish Falls, and this wasn't even the main attraction. Us lads did as all boys do, we climbed it!

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We decided we had to keep going to Mackenzie Falls as it was only about 1km away and so we headed up stream. And boy were we rewarded.
If you do this walk definitely start at Zumsteins instead of Mackenzie, because the reward of getting to the waterfall and enjoying the cool breeze and water in your face is the business.

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That was the end of our trip as it were, we had to walk back to the cars and by that time we were all pretty shattered and in need of some grub. Deciding to head to Stawell, the nearest town to get some food ended up not being the best plan because on a Sunday after 2pm the chefs have gone home. We decided to split up and said our lasts goodbyes to Ria, Noreen, Nelson and Shane. Sad times... but I'm sure that wont be the last time we see these guys.

I can't thank everyone enough for being great company and helping Sarah and I have a wonderful last adventure in Victoria.

A big, big thank you to Ericka and Dougo for teaming up and getting us back home to Melbourne. We all were asleep at some point whilst one of them drove the 3 hour trip home. Thanks again for providing the carpool.

What a great bunch!

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Stay tuned for more tales.

Dan

Posted by doyledan 05:00 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Ticking things off the list...

Williamstown, Melbourne Cup and Eureka Tower

sunny

One of the bonus' of living in Melbourne is that it gets an additional public holiday all courtesy of the Melbourne Cup, otherwise known as "the race that stops the nation". The rest of Victoria and the country still has to work but if you're in this great city then you re free to enjoy the day :)

The race wasn't until the afternoon so we decided to make the most of a gorgeous sunny day by taking a trip on the river to Williamstown. We'd been talking about doing this since we had arrived but other plans or the weather had got in the way.

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The first ferry would leave at 10.30 so we took the short walk in good time to make sure we got a seat outside...However what we hadn't accounted for was the fact that most of the ferries would have been hired out for the races and were currently moored at Flemington! There was only one ferry operating and that one didn't go until 11.30am. This wasn't a problem though as it meant we could tick off another thing on our check list before leaving Melbourne by having a drink at the PonyFish, which is a bar that wraps around the leg of one of the bridges that spans Yarra River.

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We had a prime position to watch all the brightly coloured races goers posing on the bridge for photos before catching the train to the races. We got swept up in the atmosphere, having a cheeky morning drink too!

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We also had a clear view of where the ferry was going from so we could time perfectly when to go over to secure a seat on the deck. As we waited for the boat to fill up we took in some of the life on the river...

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And on the boat too...this guy has style! And I LOVE this kids backpack!

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It would take about an hour to go down the river to Williamstown and it was great to see the city from the water...

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It was interesting to see how the use of the river changes from the glitz of yachts to huge cargo ships.

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We had a great view back over the city as we approached Williamstown.

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Williamstown is a quaint place and we weren't the only ones making the most of the sunny day off. Steeped in Maritime history this was one of the first places that was settled in the area and was originally intended to be the site of the city over Melbourne, but I understand access to fresh water was the reason this changed. Even the visitors centre is shaped like a boat.

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It was too nice a day to stay inside so we just relaxed and had a great lunch as we watched the world and their dogs go by (including a gorgeous Burmese Mountain Dog puppy).

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We wanted to watch the Melbourne Cup Race on the big screens in Federation Square, so we decided to jump on the train back into the city. It would be quicker and cheaper than the ferry.

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We joined the crowds and found a spot just in time to see the cup paraded round the racecourse and all the jockeys and horses were introduced

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We had placed a small bet on the favourite Fiorente and you could sense the anticipation building in the crowd as the horses took their places. Everyone's focus was on the screen and the cheers started to increase as they approached the finish line.

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Fiorente won!! :)

Needing a break from the sun we headed for a celebratory drink in the shade before trying to check off another iconic Melbourne attraction by visiting the Skydeck of the Eureka Tower. This big building had been our neighbour as it is just the road over from our apartment although a LOT taller.

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The Eureka tower is 300m tall and the Skydeck is on the 88th floor, which is the highest public viewing area in the Southern Hemisphere. The top 10 levels have glass that are plated with 24 carat gold! There are 3,680 stairs but we took the lift which can get to the 88th floor in 40 seconds.

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It was a great way to spend a day off

Sxxx

Posted by doyledan 04:51 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Derby Day Horse Races

Spring Carnival for the Melbourne Cup

sunny

One of largest events to touch down across Melbourne is the Spring Carnival for Horse racing. Spanning across half of October and into November the whole carnival whips up a buzz of excitement as people get ready to witness "the race that stops the nation". The Melbourne Cup is likened to the Grand National in UK, where all walks of life have a bet on the horses and try to catch the action on the TV.

Before the Melbourne Cup day, there is Derby Day which is part of the same collection of special race days within the Carnival and luckily for us we had got ourselves some tickets to join in the spirit of the occasion. Derby day is considered by many to be the most prestigious day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival and all the ladies dress to impress with a black and white theme whilst the men come suited up.

Sarah and I had done some pre-carnival shopping to try and find an glamorous but affordable dress for Sarah as I was lucky enough to be lent a suit from a friend Abe, meaning I only needed to get some smart shoes. I think you can agree that Sarah done a good job, spending only $70 bucks and looking beautiful with her little fascinator. Especially when some of the ladies going to the races would spend upwards of $500 !!!!

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During the morning of the races we posed for our cover shot.

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We were up early because we had been invited to Dougo and Erika's place for champagne breakfast. They live walking distance from Flemington race course and so were perfectly positioned for us to enjoy breakfast and also make into the grounds to grab a spot amongst the crowds before the chaos unfolded. Broomy had told me about the previous time he went and the story goes that everyone turns up looking their best and as the day goes on, with the drinks flowing people leave not looking their best.

The sun was out at 8am and it we were expecting to hit the high twenties in temperature so the jackets weren't going to be worn for long. We got our stuff together, hailed a cab and made our way to Dougo and Erika's. Their place was really nice and had a fantastic balcony come dining area with standard Aussie BBQ and Dougo was hard at work getting breakfast prepared.

It was a full table as we were expecting others too join, two of Erika's friends Vanessa and Bianca and our friends Mary and Stefano who bizarrely knew Ericka and had planned to come to Derby day with her unbeknown to us. It was only when Sarah was asking Mary about what to wear that Mary mentioned she would ask her friend Ericka who was going and they both realized they were talking about the same person. Small world!

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We cracked open the bubbly before sitting down to eat.

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After a superbly made breakfast we headed out for the short walk to Flemington by the riverside.

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With Picnic rug in a pack, Broomy looked oddly like a door to door salesman

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We made it to the grounds in no time and the crowds were already present.

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Entering the grounds you get the sense that it was a big occasion with ladies dressed head to toe in all types of black and white dresses and everyone having either a drink in their hand or a betting slip.

En-route to the general admission area the girls stopped for photos as we would be splitting up because the others had grandstand tickets.

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Sarah, Broomy and I found a spot near the racetrack to put to the picnic rug and then it was time to get in line for a drink and place our bets for the second race. As with most heavily attended events the queues were long and so Broomy and I picked up enough drinks to tied us over. It did mean that we were double barreled for most of the morning.

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Sarah took it one my level up when she went to the bar

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It was such a gorgeous day and there were so many people in the general admin.

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From that point it was get your bets on and get your drink on! Each of us going up and taking our chances, and for a while it wasn't looking good for any of us...until...Sarah's horse won. Being the slight outsider the odds were in her favor and she bagged a cool $130, which helped her to pay off the cost of the outfit for the day.

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We were all smiles from that point.

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There is always a main event at the races, the one with the biggest winnings and one that everyone wants to get a glimpse of. The Victoria Derby race was no different and as we made our way back from the betting slips we found ourselves by the track edge trying to elbow amongst the crowds as our horses zoomed past.

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After the excitement of the race we decided to get together with the others on the Grandstand so we made our way up to the top and managed to do a shifty ticket switch meaning we could all it together, take in the views and get some much needed break from the heat of the sun.

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The views of the grounds with the back drop of the city were stunning.

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After the last race we all decided we had to go down on the track and get some photos so we made our way down and it was clear that some people had won big on the last race as the winner was 44/1!! Money was falling out the pockets of one guy who passed me! Why wasn't that me !!!! Haha!

On the track we were able to get a great group shot.

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Right at the end I had Sarah on my back and pretended to be a horse but unfortunately for her, her skirt ridded up and the group of lads behind us called out with a big wha hay!!!

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Sarah was a little embarrassed but took it well, I though it was hilarious!

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Broomy was in pieces!

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Despite finding out that his beloved picnic rug had been nicked! No more sales that day!

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We had such a good time that all three of us were shattered by the evening and so the obligatory curry was ordered and we all fell asleep.

Stay tuned for more tales

Dan

Posted by doyledan 00:02 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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