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!!!