Summer Holiday Down South Part 2
(Dec 2010-Feb 2011)
Our return flight to Melbourne (Avalon) was quite uneventful as I had pre-paid for an extra 20kg of luggage to cater for Maria's month long spending spree in Perth.
However, we quickly realised after our arrival back at Bill and Jenny's property, that they had received quite a lot of rain and that the Barwon River was about to flood down stream in Geelong and so it was that all the rowing sheds got their feet wet as did the Geelong golf course. The wet conditions had made it impossible for machinery to venture out onto Bill and Jenny's land and so they had to content themselves with further building projects.
We also took time out to look over Bill's yacht on its mooring at the West Geelong Boat Club.
That's it in the foreground
While in Geelong we did a tour of some wineries around the Bellarine Peninsula (very expensive) but also visited a lovely Asian bric-a-brac emporium in Ocean Grove which sold a plethora of Japanese, Chinese and Indian, statuary, furniture, kitchenware, clothing, swords, toys - a veritable 'Aladdin's Cave'.
It was soon time to move on to Melbourne and this time we took the Western Ring Road right around Melbourne to its Eastern suburbs and into the rabbit warren of streets in Ringwood to Maria's cousin Doug and his wife Bev's home where we had arranged to leave the campervan. Free of our towed encumbrance we drove into the city to catch up with my friends at Telstra and collect the mobile phone I had left there 5 weeks previously. As luck would have it the phone was in fact found but alas found to have been irretrievably corrupted by the people it had been sent to for fixing - up shot was a new phone was given to me......this saga had been going on for 3 weeks prior to leaving Yeppoon!
We then drove over to Hawthorn to our scheduled meet up with sister Stephanie. Alas she was tied up in a meeting for a couple of ours and so we occupied ourselves browsing over her vast collection of cooking books and admiring this striking 'portrait' of her in her veggie patch gumboots.
Nevertheless, the wait was rewarded by a fine steak dinner accompanied by some excellent 'bottles' of red wine. During the evening Stephanie told us about an establishment at 482 Sydney Road Brunswick called the Mediterranean Wholesalers (its street front signage bragged that it was: Australia's Largest Continental Foodstore) and it did not disappoint us. It was a huge emporium of fine Italian food eg Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses, Parma hams, various salamis, pasta, coffee, wines and spirits plus Italian cookware. We went there the following morning and had great fun and spent far too much.
We then visited Cedar Hospitality Equipment showroom in Brunswick Street looking for a pizza shovel. Found both stainless steel and wooden varieties and decided that I could probably make one of similar design far more economically. We then went for a stroll down Lygon Street and popped into Watsons Wine Bar and Restaurant to make a booking the following day for Maria's birthday lunch. When proprietor Alan Watson overheard the booking name he came over and chatted to us about Wilfred and dad and of all things - the old caravan park in Rosebud.
It was then back to Doug and Bev's place. Unfortunately our van had caused some consternation to a passing council inspector who insisted that it be re-parked completely clear of the footpath. This was done after Doug undertook some serious pruning of a shade tree out the front. The next day Doug drove us all into Carlton for our appointed lunch at Watsons. It was a great meal and afternoon. Bev our designated sober Bob then drove us to her brothers place to pick up some boned out frozen chickens (road kill) we had ordered some weeks earlier.
The next day we took a drive down to the Mornington Peninsula to visit Trish and Mark Hansen - some old mates from Darwin now resident in Balnarring Beach. We had a good chat over coffee and then drove over Arthur's Seat lookout and down to Rosebud to see what was left of my parents place which they had vacated in 1969. It is now owned by the Salvation Army and used as a regional headquarters and hostel for staff.......looked very scruffy!
Balnarring Beach looking across to Phillip Island Arthur's Seat lookout looking down to Rosebud & Rye
We then decided to head down to Sorrento for lunch which we had intended to have in one of the very old pubs down there. However, their menus were a little too pricey and so we settled for some excellent fish (Flathead) and chips down on the beach. While there we were able to watch the Queenscliff - Sorrento car ferry arrive and depart.
After a leisurely lunch we headed back up the Peninsula and over to Berwick to pay a visit to Maria's brother Michael and wife Irene. Michael had had to have some major surgery over Xmas and was still recuperating. However, he seemed to be doing remarkably well and was able to share the odd glass of champagne with us before we left to return to Doug and Bev in Ringwood. By now I was getting quite confident about using the new array of motorways and freeways which now criss cross Melbourne's vast sprawling suburbs.
We took our leave of Doug and Bev the next day and decided to try and drive the caravan right through the centre of Melbourne to have a look at the Queen Victoria Markets en route to brother Christopher's new abode in Ararat. We fluked a car park in William Street at 0900 hours and then proceeded to browse the delicatessen and Seafood stalls. It was sheer delight and we managed to buy some bread and duck and pistachio terrine and then some flathead tails....a small offering to Christopher and wife Catherine.
We were a little anxious about travelling to Ararat as in the previous week the whole Western side of Victoria had been inundated with - you guessed it - floods. In particular, there had been major damage to the road and tourism infrastructure in and around the Grampians - where Christopher is employed as the CEO of local tourism. The day after our arrival, Christopher took us for a quick road tour of the Grampians to assess the extent of the damage.
Mt Sturgeon Landslip at Mt Abrupt
Damage at Halls Gap from floods and landslip
Lunch on Settlers Track on swollen Wannon River
Glenelg River at Cherry Pool Catherine & Christopher at home in Ararat
While in Ararat we took time out to take a tour of the infamous J Division for the Criminally Insane of the now decommissioned Pentridge Gaol. This is but one of 4 correctional facilities in and around the town of Ararat - an unusual regional area of specialisation!
We also had a much more pleasant experience touring the underground champagne cellars at Seppelts winery in the neighbouring town of Great Weston. I was not aware that these cellars were originally dug for the Best Bros who sold it to a Melbourne based entrepreneur Hans Irvine before the Seppelt family took it over in the early 20th Century. Of course they are now owned by some subsidiary of Fosters Brewing. The tunnels were dug shortly after the gold rushes in the 1870s and are still used today and are now protected under National Heritage legislation. There are literally miles of tunnels all housing champagne. Even though the traditional methods of making the wine have changed, the wine bottles are only allowed to be moved in and out of these tunnels by hand-pushed barrows - as a consequence, only the best vintages are still stored down here.....their 'vin ordinaire' being handled in bulk by machines in their modern facilities in Magill SA. The floors of the tunnels are all covered with saw dust and the bottles themselves covered in a black furry mould which grows naturally in cool humidity of 14C. Certain local celebrities, including former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, are permitted to store their own special vintages in locked alcoves within the cellars.
We finally bid farewell to Christopher and Catherine after a fine dinner of flathead tails and salad.
Extensive flooding around the Murray River town of Swan hill meant that we had to change our route home and this time we had little choice but the Princess Highway across Gippsland and up the south coast of NSW. So with campervan attached we set out; first negotiating our way through Melbourne and then out along the Eastern and Monash Freeways. It was our intention to utilise national parks as far as practicable but our first night proved a little difficult with our NP guide book telling us we could take a 'caravan' into our chosen park (near Bairnsdale) but on investigation we found all campsites only accessible by 4x4 and suitable only for small hiking tents. Instead we had a bush camp on a logging track out of sight of any official National Park traffic....it was fine.
The next morning we travelled around Lakes Entrance and then into Mallacoota for a quick look. This is a marvellous looking place and the adjacent lakes which would suit us well with our dinghy. I made enquiries at the Council owned Foreshore Holiday Park (www.mallacootaholidaypark.com.au) about bookings and was told that you had to make them 12 months in advance if you wanted to stay prior to the Australia Day weekend. Powered sites cost between $23-$32/night depending on time of year. You can also hire 6 berth houseboats on the lake (www.mallacootawildernesshouseboats.com.au).
We then drove on to the small NSW South coast town of Moruya where on the coast there is Conga Beach within the boundaries of the Eurobodalla NP. This was a lovely spot. Basically a sandy inlet protected from the ocean by a shallow bar. Here there were about 20 camp sites, pit toilets and a camp kitchen.
Oyster shell in the inlet
We stayed two nights here and celebrated Australia Day by visiting the nearby town of Batemans Bay and buying some fresh oysters ($9/dozen for (medium sized) Sydney A Grade). We used to visit this town in Summer when we lived in Canberra. Alas the laid back seaside towns along this coast have now become upmarket holiday and retirement suburbs, overrun with fast food shops and real estate agencies....so what's so different about this?
A little Shucking
We then pushed on early in the morning for Wollongong and our rendezvous with Sydney's traffic via its ring roads. These were handled much more easily than when we last attempted them at night back in 2005. We eventually camped at Port Macquarie so as to ensure we could be at the Queensland border the following day. Had a very ordinary dinner at the nearby bowls club.
The next day we travelled through the flood ravaged Northern Rivers region including the town of Grafton and Lawrence where we stopped for an excellent lunch overlooking the still swollen Clarence River. Our camp that night at Tweed Heads was expensive but strategically well located. However, our GPS, chose that evening to have another 'seniors moment' driving us around in circles....leading to much verbalised exasperation. Next morning we set off for our meeting with some people in Beenleigh who had advertised their Waeco Fridge Slide for sale. It was a deal too good to ignore. Then a far more tricky task had to be negotiated. Maria was placed in the drivers seat for the push into one of Brisbane's inner city suburbs (Annerley) to enable me to purchase a replacement camera for the one that had been stolen in Canberra. I managed to navigate us to a side street some kms from the camera shop and I set off on foot with Maria left in the car ready to move it if required. The mission was accomplished without a hitch and I then managed to navigate us across town to the Gateway Bridge Motorway.
We were quite proud of ourselves having now driven the campervan through the busy traffic in Melbourne, Sydney and now Brisbane. Nerves of steel and blinkers help. Oh yes and I managed to lose one of our camper side mirrors en route plus incur a cracked windscreen from some unruly stone. Throughout our trip the Nissan Navarra has returned a fuel economy of about 11-12 lts / 100 kms or about 24mpg - not bad for towing.
Our last stop was to be in Maryborough with an overnight visit to Dave and Lesley Gerrard who are in throes of renovating a charming old Queenslander house circa 1914.
The entire four bedroom house has beautiful steel pressed ceilings with the one in the main living area having been recently painted to great effect. Dave and Lesley are doing a great job but I do not envy them the myriad of tasks that lie ahead. It was great to catch up with them and to chat over their plans for the future.
Of course, Maryborough is famous for its old Queenslanders and the streets surrounding Dave and Lesley's house are studded with some beautiful examples.
The final drive home to Yeppoon was quite tiring and increased feelings of anxiety about what we might find in our home and gardens. We should not have feared as Lexie had looked after the place well and the only challenges that confronted us was the jungle of weeds and pruning needs of our trees. Yeppoon had received nearly 350mls of rain since we had left.......its annual rainfall for 2010 had more than doubled the average ie more than 1600mls.
Gardening should occupy us well and truly until its time to embark on our next trip to North Qld in a couple of months time.
Stop Press: Cyclone Yasi now bearing down on far north Queensland - just what has Queensland done to deserve this string of natural catastrophes!
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