Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third largest island after Tasmania and Melville Island. You could fit two Lewis and Harris’s into it (these are Scotland’s largest islands not children). With KI having only 4,700 residents, it means each resident has almost a square kilometre to themselves.
We did not have the best of weather for two of the days unfortunately but made the most of it adjusting our head gear accordingly!!!
The wild life was as spectacular as we had been led to believe. I decided not to bore you with more photos of kangaroos and koalas (of which we saw plenty) but ringing the changes this time with photos of seals, pelicans and my favourite little bird, the common blue wren. The 85 microchipped platypus managed to allude us at their waterhole though – wrong time of day apparently! Sadly too late to make a difference to this little starfish that was washed up at Emu Bay. [For those of you who do not know the Starfish Story, do please Google it for inspiration.]
The Remarkable Rocks were just that and Admirals Arch even on a bad day was Awesome. We cycled over 50 kilometres (there and back) to get to these iconic sights within the Flinders Chase National Park. So glad we have electric bikes as the terrain was very hilly. During some of the descents we reached speeds of over 50 kms an hour which was exhilarating and scary at the same time. With no bull bars to protect us against kangaroos I decided the best course of action was to scream “yeah ha” at the top of my lungs into the wind – and just go for it.
We did some bush walking and bush camping but the only bush tucker we tried was KI local honey. Coming over to the island we had to throw out our Woolworth’s own label honey but the Organic Stringy Bark Honey we bought as a replacement is pretty good! We would have bought a bigger jar but were told that we’d have to discard it when we cross into Western Australia next month so not much point really. Mike seems pleased with his purchases don’t you think? No wine tasting this week but the island is renowned for its award winning gin and since stocks were getting low I did some gin tasting instead at Kangaroo Island Spirits (KIS). Their Wild Gin is delish and as the label says “You’ll never forget your first KIS”!!!
Last, but by no means least, the beaches here were to die for. If we had gone onto unsealed roads we would have been able to visit many more of the beautiful bays but Browns Beach and Emu Bay were magnificent. Schools are back after the mid term holiday so it meant we had the place to ourselves. Shame though as the “grandies” (as they call grand children out here) would have loved it!
Once upon a time an English man and a Scottish woman travelled to a far off land called Australia to see what this Great Land had to offer. They had heard stories of the Great Sandy Desert, the Great Dividing Range, the Great Barrier Reef and even the Great Ocean Road but nobody had shared the secret of the Grape Wine-Ding Valley!
Why not they wondered, it seemed such a magical place?
It had a Chapel at the top of a Hill and a communion table like nothing they had ever seen before.
Everyone talked the same language about Cellar Doors that had funny names and even funnier staff like Tristan. He loved his job as he got to play his favourite music like Led Zeppelin and drink wine all day with his customers.
The English man and the Scottish woman were given honorary membership of the Black Sheep Club although the woman was sure she’d been a member of this club before when growing up! They were pleased there were no horses heads in evidence at Coriole’s Vineyard where the 2007 Sangiovese scored top marks. Liverpool won hands down at Goodieson Brewery but unfortunately the tourists lost the Battle at Bosworth.
Psst ….. pass it on
Once you’ve tired of The Grape Wine-Ding Valley, you can leg it down to Glenelg where you can almost imagine you are back in Manly.
Turn left, instead of right, and you’ll be hopping over to KI which coincidentally happens to be the title of the next Chapter! Till then, keep smiling and we’ll keep pootling.
This week has been all about the wine, chocolate, flowers and romantic sunsets – what more could a woman want? Adelaide and the surrounding area appears to have so much to offer visitors I just hope we can fit it all into the three weeks we have earmarked!
The 1st October was a public holiday and with schools off for a couple of weeks, we have needed to make reservations at some Caravan Parks and stay longer in some places than we might otherwise. The Barossa Valley was a case in point especially as we still have to visit McLaren Vale and Clare Valley wine regions and our wine cellar is already bursting at the seams! Our palates have become quite discerning as we have sampled our way through various Shiraz, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Granache and Sauvignon Blanc Wines, Prosecco and Tawny Port. Who would have thought we’d be saying “No, I’m not so keen on that” when we’ve been tasting wine costing £75 a bottle!!!
Mike researched which cellar doors we would visit and all of them required us to use our bikes. Our first purchases from Penfolds almost came a cropper when I managed to fall off mine (ouch)!!! Swooping magpies also had it in for me but I managed to stay in the saddle. The general advice regarding magpie attacks is to stay calm and, if cycling, get off and walk. I’m afraid I broke all the rules – I screamed like a banshee, waved my arms around frantically and pedalled like the wind!
Our favourite winery was probably Two Hands which served some really delicious wines with quirky names. We loved one called Sexy Beast, but Gnarly Dude and Holy Grail were also yummy! Whistlers probably had the best named walks whilst Artisan’s Winery and Jacob’s Creek were really quite swanky affairs. The actual Jacob’s Creek is practically dry!
A new wine is being developed for seniors by vintners who primarily produce Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio using a hybrid grape that acts as an anti-diuretic. It is expected to reduce the number of trips older people make to the bathroom during the night. The new wine will be marketed as Pinot More.
We did take time to stop and smell the roses which are planted at the ends of many of the vines. Nowadays the roses are purely cosmetic but they did act as an early warning signal of mildew. There is also a story around here that the roses helped blind horses know when to turn round when they were ploughing the fields!
Given all the hype about it being the largest, we were a little disappointed that Lyndoch’s Lavender Farm was a mere hillock. It did however have lots of different variety of lavender and a rather nice gift shop. Lavender liqueur was not sampled.
Also smelling quite yummy was the chocolate we got to watch being enrobed. An enrobed chocolate is typically when the centre of the chocolate is made first and then coated in a thin layer of chocolate. Today at the Haigh’s factory lime creams were getting the treatment. Established in 1915, Haigh’s is Australia’s oldest chocolate manufacturer and the recipe used today is the same they have used since the year before my birth – yup that old! Lots of samples given out and fantastic that this was all free!!!
This week we have come across three sculptures that are worthy of sharing. The first depicts the Murray Cod (Pondi) which holds great significance for the Aboriginal communities. Folklore has it that Pondi was the creative force for the Murray River as he was chased through the South Australian countryside. Another bit of folklore was to be found at Hahndorf where this chap appears to have fallen off his Harley Davidson. Meanwhile at Brighton Beach the sign suggests we should just hang loose and enjoy the sunset.
It is really lovely to receive feedback from followers of this blog that you have enjoyed reading our tales as it keeps us feeling connected. Keep those messages coming. Joining in Park Runs when we can has also been good as we have been warmly welcomed everywhere. Today it was a Park Run at Brighton Beach and even without the threat of snakes and all the alcohol in our system, Mike and I still managed to achieve new lifetime personal bests. I am now under 27 minutes by one second!!!
So whilst it seems this week I’ve had it all, we are missing family and friends. It was great to see a familiar face last weekend when I met up with an old work colleague from West Sussex who now lives in Adelaide Hills. Can’t say I miss work at all, especially listening to some of her stories but she does seem to have an excellent quality of life over here.
And so, leaving the best till last, excitement levels hit a new high on learning this week that Ben, Jen and our two gorgeous grandchildren will definitely be joining us in Western Australia for Christmas and New Year after all. Best get visiting those wineries in McLaren Vale next week then!
This week has been all about the rocks. Not the type that one wears on one’s finger (will need to wait for Queensland’s Gemfields for that) nor the type one pours one’s whisky over but the diverse formations that make this such an interesting place to visit.
No apologies for the plethora of photographs taken of Mount Arapiles. It is probably the closest we’ll get to something remotely resembling Uluru as we won’t make it down to Alice this time around. The contrasting colours at Mount Arapiles were quite stunning and we thoroughly enjoyed our 33 km bike ride to get up close and personal to this world renowned rock climbing area. With over 2,000 climbing routes, some of them amongst the hardest in the world, we were quite happy watching all the activity from ground zero.
Once we checked out the natty knitting in Natimuk (some people have way too much spare time), we drove on to Balmoral where we planned to spend our one night a week “Rough Camping”. Spending the night in our fully self contained motor home complete with hot shower, flushing toilet, fridge and cooker is perhaps not quite the same as “Rough Camping” in the Scottish Highlands, but we see it as an opportunity to get closer to the local community and save a little on Caravan Park costs. Any savings we do make goes back into the local community where we shop (if they are open) and partake of food and beverages.
Balmoral had no stately castle, no shops open on Saturday afternoon and the hairdresser is only open on Wednesday and Thursdays by appointment but it did have a bar selling Northern Brewing lager. Here we got chatting to an interesting character at the bar, Neil, who introduced himself as the drummer for the Rock Band, Unruly Mob!!! The band had been hired to play that night in celebration of the landlady’s birthday. Open invitation was extended to all and sundry and so we joined about twenty other locals to rock the night away. The lead vocalist was a bit dodgy (he was a Kiwi), harmonies didn’t always work (!!!) but they did a respectable version of Eric Clapton’s Cocaine.
Our third encounter of the rock kind was in Mount Gambier where we cycled round the Blue Lake. This is a large volcanic crater lake which turns a vibrant blue each year around November/December. Unfortunately she was still wearing her winter greys when we saw her but still quite an attraction along with the Umpherston Sinkhole where an impressive sunken garden was created in 1886. None of these should be confused with the alternative Blue Sink Holes that can be found dotted right across Australia (lol). For the uninitiated, Dump-Ezy sites are where you empty your toilet waste.
Some places have a great deal going for them, others not so much. Apologies now if I offend anyone from Millicent, but apart from its well signed Dump-Ezy point, it didn’t quite hold the charm we expected. Instead of it being called Milli-cent maybe it should be Milli-absent, Milli-gone or even Milli-wasn’t!
Three rock sensations down – three more to still write about. The 40 foot iconic Obelisk on the Limestone Coast at Robe was good to see before it tumbles into the sea and we were blown away by the beauty of Alexandra Cave at Naracoorte, a World Heritage Site. The caves were uncovered in 1908 and at every turn there were spectacular stalagmites, stalactites, helictites and columns. It is also one of the world’s most important fossil sites preserving the bones of megafauna that became extinct around 40,000 years ago!
Whilst many of these old boys have many thousands of miles on their clock, Jura has now done nearly 5,000 although we’ll have to push on a bit after Christmas if we’re going to complete the lap by June. We are now into our third Australian State having crossed into South Australia and come across our first Quarantine Bins. Never being one to throw food away lightly, we sat by the bin getting our vitamin C fix by gorging ourselves on the remaining mandarins, apples and cherry tomatoes but passed on the onion, garlic and, most regrettably, our limes and lemon!
Our time in the State of Victoria will soon be over and we’d sum it up with the word “Sense-sational” – if such a word existed in the English language! Our senses have again been tickled this week as we moved on from the beautiful Great Ocean Road, to Timboon, Warrambool and then up to the spectacular Grampians.
VISION – Timboon was a really pretty colourful little place with great shops, an ice creamery and distillery and a lovely trail down to a beautifully restored old trestle bridge. The path, aptly named “Snake Path” was the route for our next Park Run. We checked out the route on our bikes on Friday in glorious sunshine and sure enough saw our very first live snake!!! On the morning of the Park Run it was raining cats and dogs and whilst the snakes stayed away we got the surprise of our lives when a wallaby hopped across the path 20 metres in front of us! There were only 14 participants this week, four of them walking the route so Mike and I both got accolades for being in the top ten! Coffee afterwards was served in the distillery!
Apart from the snake we have seen lots of friesian cows (great for the local cheese, ice cream and chocolate manufacturing) as well as kangaroos, emus and even a short beaked echidna (pronounced e-kid-nuh). We had thought this latter animal was a porcupine and rare but apparently they are quite common – just the first time we’d seen one.
SMELL – The smell of wild freesia (not to be confused with friesians) along the Lady Bay shoreline in Warrambool was wonderful. Like my mother, I’ve always loved freesia’s delicate perfume. Although very pretty, the ornamental pear trees that were in full bloom in Hamilton gave off a smell akin to a men’s urinal so not so pleasant. Thankfully the smell of eucalyptus follows us everywhere and lavender also abounds. Frustratingly there are a number of other botanicals around that I can’t quite identify thinking it might be jasmine but seems a bit early. Will have to consult Google!
TASTE – No surprise here that we have again been in taste bud heaven. Mike finally got to taste some Australian whisky at the Railway Shed Distillery in Timboon. Tim, the very gay (in every sense of the word – and the spitting image of Russell Grant) Marketing Manager, spent over an hour with us telling us the most outrageous stories and pouring measures of whisky, limoncello and coffee liqueur for us to sample. We had a hoot and I think we were his best customers that day as the only thing we didn’t buy was the limoncello (but took a photo)!
After the Distillery, and still before midday, we arrived at Timboon’s famous Ice Creamery and were able to sample as many varieties as we liked. I settled on the Passion Fruit and Meringue flavour as my main helping and Mike, surprise surprise, went for Whisky flavour!!! We had lunch at the Fat Cow, a delicious lamb curry, and bought the tastiest ever pork sausages from the Corner Shop.
One of Australia’s great ‘Institutions’ is apparently the Vanilla Slice. We had been forewarned that in Halls Gap, up in the Grampians, there was a bakery that had not only won the Inaugural Australian Great Vanilla Slice Competition but had won the title six times!!! The first time we went into the bakery they had sold out completely and so the next morning, prior to doing the Pinnacle Walk, we went in and paid for two slices to be put aside for our return. So glad we did as they’d sold out again by early afternoon! Personal verdict, it was nice, but not as good as my brother’s Dundee cake.
HEARING – The sound of the ocean was amazing along Great Ocean Road but so too has been the sound of the water cascading down the various waterfalls we’ve seen up in the Grampians. Our walk to the Pinnacle Lookout had us climbing through the Grand Canyon, Silent Street and past the Bride’s Veil Falls. We also visited Victoria’s longest waterfall, the McKenzie falls where you couldn’t hear anything above the noise of the water, awesome. The sun decide to come out just after we’d climbed back up the 260 steps and after yesterday’s epic Pinnacle Walk (my watch recorded it as 80 storeys), we weren’t about to head back down again to capture the blue sky photo! Frogs croaking in the creeks is another sound we often hear but so far not seen any of these little critters. The birds can make an awful lot of noise over here and not all of it is tuneful. Poor Mike has almost had his head taken off three times now by different magpies swooping down on him when we’ve been out cycling. It is officially the magpie swooping season with another month or so still to go!
TOUCH – We were greatly touched by the community spirit in Timboon – the people we met were just lovely. We have also been touched by the sheer beauty of the Grampians and would love to come back and spend longer next time.
Despite our stiff calf muscles we hope to be fit enough to do the Park Run in Horsham tomorrow. The inaugural Park Run here was only held on the 25th August 2018 so this will be their 5th Event! After that we’ll be taking a 33 km cycle along the Arapiles Bike Trail. Mount Arapiles is a world renowned rock climbing area with over 2,000 climbing routes but I think we’ll just admire them from the base!
We are starting to learn a lot more about the Aboriginal Culture and spent ages reading stuff at the Brambuk National Park and Cultural Centre which was just along the road from our last Caravan Park in Halls Glen. The Bushtucker Café was unfortunately closed but the shop was open and I bought myself a Aboriginal Design headband to keep my overgrown fringe out of the way. I am sure it will appear in many future photos as I don’t plan on seeking out hairdressers any time soon!
The Aboriginal people believed in six distinct weather periods recognised in their seasonal cycle. The current season is the season of Wildflowers which brings me neatly onto our sixth Sense-sation ……
EXTRA SENSORY PERCEPTION – I hate to disappoint you but I don’t have any real perception to share under this heading unless these various life quotes which can be found dotted around the gorgeous Halls Gap Lakeside Tourist Park count:
“Instead of thinking outside of the box, get rid of the box.”
“Life doesn’t have a remote control. Get up and change it yourself.”
“You can’t buy happiness but you can buy a tent and that is kind of the same thing.”
“Travelling leaves you speechless then turns you into a story teller.”
Tomorrow we will leave Sense-sational Victoria, put our clocks back half an hour (never realised there was such a thing as a half hour time zone) and enter South Australia which is defined by “Extreme Wilderness” and also nicknamed “The Wine State”. Bring it on!!!
We are continuing to get plenty of exercise in with all the walking and cycling we’ve been doing. Where there is an opportunity to take part in a Saturday morning Park Run we’ve also been doing that, especially since we haven’t found the time to do many runs independently. We were a little concerned to see the following sign at the start of the Balyang Park Run and perhaps, unsurprisingly, both Mike and I achieved PBs (Personal Bests) despite not spotting any!
What we have seen this week in the wild are koalas – seven of them. There was mention in one of our tourist guides that you were likely to spot them at Kenneth River on the Great Ocean Road. My heart sunk when we pulled into the nearby car park and it was packed with tourist buses and loads of people milling around. They were all crowded at the start of the Nature Reserve and were taking photos of the king parrots, cockatoos and there was one koala up a tree. We decided to head up the road on foot and walked for about a mile seeing how many we could spot for ourselves. Koalas are well camouflaged and quite sedentary so you need to peer hard but we were rewarded to spot six for ourselves and not another tourist in sight!!!
We took a wonderful windswept walk on the wild side of Great Ocean Road and the same day as we saw the koalas, I spotted a whale spouting off. Wish I’d had the binoculars on me for a better view especially since Mike couldn’t see it. Learning my lesson, I did take the binoculars the following day and was able to clearly see a large colony of seals basking out on the rocks but no more whales. No photographs unfortunately of the seals, whale or the kangaroos that played peek-a-boo as we drove through the very picturesque Great Otway National Park – you’ll just have to take my word for it!!!
The weatherman promised us higher temperatures and so we’ve had jumpers off and the barbeque out again. We enjoyed huge garlic prawns from the local fisherman’s Co-op one night and I also had local Portalington mussels another. Before leaving Geelong we rewarded our new PBs with a rather posh lunch and locally produced Shiraz from Nicol’s Vineyard. Tomorrow Mike will finally get to taste some Australian produced whisky when we visit the Timboon Railway Shed Distillery but at over $200 a bottle I don’t think we’ll be adding any to our mini-bar!
The Great Ocean Road provides breath taking scenery at every turn and vantage point. Here are a selection of my favourites with a few selfies thrown in for good measure!
This blog’s selection of photos mainly show bright sunny skies but looks can be deceiving. We’ve had to contend with some pretty cold days but then again we did choose to come in winter and we are almost at the most southerly tip of our Australian adventure. Still Spring is now here and gardens are full of daffodils, hyacinths and cherry blossom making it all very colourful. Next week we will be driving across the Great Ocean Road and the forecast is for sunshine and temperatures between 22 and 26 degrees. It should be stunning and with many other grey nomads up North, we may even continue to get caravan parks almost to ourselves!
We couldn’t leave the Murray River without a trip on an old fashioned paddle steamer. Mike was delighted that the ticket price included tea and scones and to date those scones have been the best he’s tasted. After Echuca we travelled south into gold country to seek our fortune! First we went down a gold mine to a depth of 61 metres. Quite dark down there and not much gold left glinting in our headlamps. We did get the chance to do some panning and I managed to scoop up a genuine nugget – maybe ‘nugget’ is a bit of an exaggeration – my souvenier is the size of a pinhead’s pointy end!
Having got a taste for gold, we then went off for a one day course on how to find it for ourselves! There were five of us in the group and our teacher for the day was a real time gold prospector who is about to appear in the series Aussie Gold Hunters!!! He spent the morning giving us a geology lesson on how to suss out where the gold could be hiding and where it definitely wasn’t! “It is all about the bones and putting meat on them” as he repeated several times. We then got kitted out with metal detectors and had to synchronise them so they cancelled out atmospheric noise before then running them over a test site to see the different tones to look out for. After lunch we got taken to a private plot where gold is still being actively found and got shown a nugget weighing over 4 ozs and worth over $7,000 that had literally just been found. As we all got settled into our rhythm Mike’s metal detector kept going off like billy-oh and he had his shovel out digging up the ground much to the interest of everyone, including our teacher. Sadly his buried treasure turned out to be an old miner’s buckle and a spent .22 cartridge – maybe if they belonged to Ned Kelly they might be worth something, he’s hanging on to them anyway!
After all our gold prospecting excitement it was time for some relaxation up at Hepburn Springs which has the largest concentration of mineral springs in Australia. We took a lovely stroll through the Reserve and I stopped at all the natural springs to take a sip and wash my face. The transformation was amazing, can’t you tell? Mike wanted to do a quick disappearing act when he saw the tree hugging fraternity embrace a gorgeous old specimen!
We have continued travelling back south to the town of Geelong which sits on Port Phillip Bay. We are staying at a really nice Caravan Park close to town and cycle paths and have just increased our stay from four to five nights so we can take part in Saturday morning’s Park Run which starts just along the road from us. We have managed to get a solution worked out for the bike rack being fitted in a place that prevented us opening up the toilet flap when the bikes were in situ. It has meant cutting off a bit of the flap door which detracts from the overall aesthetics but compensation has been offered by Sydney RV in the form of a free service when we return in 11 month’s time!
There is a lot to see in Geelong and we particularly enjoyed its Bollard Trail. These are reclaimed timber pier pylons that have been turned into works of art all around the waterfront. We learnt about the local artist who was commissioned to paint the bollards, and were given a free shopping bag with pictures of them on it at the local Visitor Information Centre. Throughout our time we have always sought out the Information Centres as they have provided a wealth of really useful suggestions of what to see and do, tailored to our particular interests. The staff have always been extremely helpful and it is just a shame we can’t hang on to all the various maps and brochures we’ve been picking up en route. If we did, we’d have to de-stock our bar!!!