Sense-sational

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.”

and

Travelling leaves you speechless then turns you into a story teller.”

Trestle Bridge

Follow the Trestle Bridge Road

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!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take A Walk On The Wild Side

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!

Park Run Geelong!

No wonder we both achieved PBs in the Geelong Park Run!

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!!!

Koala in the Wild!!!

Koala in its natural setting

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!

Nicol's Paddock

Delicious wine, gorgeous lunch – couldn’t ask of more at Nicol’s Paddock

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!

 

Spring has Sprung!

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!!!

One Month Down Under

We set off in Jura, our new Sunliner Pinto motor home, exactly one month ago to complete the Big Lap of Australia.  So far we have travelled the grand total of 2,104 kms and expect to add another 30,000 kms on top of that before completing our trip.  The attached map shows we have followed the coastline down from Sydney to Melbourne and have then travelled north up through the Yarra Valley before heading back down towards Melbourne.  We are absolutely loving the places we have visited and although too early for favourites we would highly recommend Kiama in NSW and Cobram in Victoria.

Month One's Progress

The tiny segment done so far!

Earlier Blogs have updated the story of our travels and include photographs of some of the many highlights.  This Blog may not be of so much interest to some readers as it is a breakdown of our expenditure.  The reason for including this is because during our preparation phase and as we continue to follow other Nomads, we have benefitted from knowing how much things were likely to cost.  Everyone will have their own priorities and we know that as we travel further north we can expect to pay more for diesel, groceries and some big ticket excursions but accommodation costs are likely to come down as we make more use of free camping sites.

We are two adults travelling in a brand new motorhome with no children and no pets.  Excluded from our costings are the outlay for the motor home with the added bike rack and bull bars, our electric bikes, insurance, phone package and all the extra bits required to kit us out for the road.  On the positive side, this S.K.I. holiday (Spending the Kids Inheritance) should mean less for the tax man in future!!!

Month one may not give the best indication for what lies ahead.  Partly this is because we had the luxury of staying with my cousin Lyn for six nights which saved us money on all fronts (apart from alcohol).  Before casting any aspersions on my poor cousin, I should explain that we have spent the past few weeks sampling gin, wine, port and beer at various boutique wineries and distilleries.  Many of the purchased items have been set aside for Christmas and other special occasions – or at least that is the plan…..  Still it was quite an eye opener to see that we spent on average $1 more on alcohol per week than we did on our grocery shopping.  Included within sundries are things bought from charity shops like books and some kitchen utensils, as well as Mike’s recent haircut, gloves, hot water bottle and fan heater (its been cold!) from local shops and stores along the way.  We have done 3 nights free camping by the side of the road and have also made some savings by using a Top Parks Discount Card at some holiday parks.  We have not skimped on entrance fees to visit tourist attractions that have held our interest and particularly enjoyed our visit to the Ned Kelly Museum, the Healesville Sanctuary and the Paddle Steamer trip down the Murray.  Many of our best days however have been following bush trails, walking along deserted beaches and exploring the many fabulous cycle paths and that just comes with the territory.

The figures don’t quite add up as I’ve rounded figures up, divided by the 31 days in the month and multiplied by 7 to get a weekly average.  Essentially however we have spent $750 a week, divided up as follows:

Weekly Average Expenditure by Category  (Exchange rate £1 = $1.75)

Accommodation                                 $171

Diesel Fuel                                             $95

Groceries                                              $145

Alcohol (!)                                             $146

Eating Out                                             $66

Entrance Fees                                       $35

Laundry                                                  $5

Chemist                                                   $15

Gas Refills                                               $6

Sundries                                                 $50

 

Testing, Testing, Testing

We had originally planned to head off to the Great Ocean Road but cousin Lyn and son Seb suggested a few places north of Melbourne that would whet our appetite for Victoria.  So glad we took their advice on board because we have spent the past week testing, testing, testing!  We started off with Gin at the Four Pillars Gin Distillery, Healesville before moving on to several of the Yarra Valley’s wonderful Wineries (e.g. Giant Steps, Sam Mirandas and Brown Brothers to name a few!), we tested six Craft Beers at the Bridge Road Brewery (favourite was Celtic Red) and Fortified Wine (its not allowed to be called Port) at the local Information Office at Beechworth (never get that in Scotland).  Only thing we weren’t that keen on was Strawberry Wine at the Big Strawberry but we did enjoy our Strawberry filled Pancakes which came topped with strawberry topping, cream and strawberry ice-cream.

Our fridge is groaning with all the local produce including cheese, olives, mustard, pesto, salami and as many free lemons as you want!  With all this testing, and being practical about the need to not put on too much weight or do any drink driving, we have been making great use of our electric bikes.  The cycle paths are brilliant and we have found some truly special picnic spots, especially along the Murray River.  We took advantage of the offer to pay for two nights and get a third night free with our Top Parks Discount Card at Cobram and have really loved it here.  The park is quiet but near to all the local amenities and great cycle tracks.  We move on tomorrow and Mike has planned the route for the next week which includes a trip on an old fashioned paddle steamer and a one day course prospecting for gold!!!

Before signing off this blog though, I do have to say we have visited some interesting historic sites (historic for Australia – not Ancient as in St Andrews) in Ned Kelly land, seen some fabulous artwork and heard about some amazing individuals in Benalla and visited a wildlife sanctuary in Healesville to catch my first sight of koalas and platypus (though not in the wild).  Hopefully that will happen as we continue Pootling Around Australia!

Temporarily Off-The-Road

After Lakes Entrance we made our way to Inverloch with the main objective being to take part in the Saturday morning 5 km Park Run.  We could not believe how much wet stuff could fall from the sky but that didn’t deter us – we cycled to the starting point in pouring rain.  The inclement weather kept a number of regulars away (apparently) and so we, together with 38 other runners ran up and down the coastline.  I came 20th, first in age category (again) and the real highlight was to be able to help ourselves to a freshly filleted salmon!  Yes – one of the other Park Runners had been fishing the day before and been pulling salmon out like there was no tomorrow.  He’d kindly filleted and bagged them and they were there for Park Runners to help themselves!  Don’t know who was wetter – the fish or me, but what a treat for the BBQ and a first for any Park Run!

We left Inverloch and headed off to visit a local winery – Lucinda’s Estate.  Very civilised to have wine tasting together with freshly baked pizza.  More alcohol tasting the next day at Loch Distillery and tasted the most gorgeous Gin Liqueur ever – a must purchase to take with us to our next stop – a week with my first cousin Lyn on the outskirts of Melbourne.

Melbourne gave us the opportunity to get the much needed bullbars fitted to Jura, see the city and spend time with my cousin and her family.  The family included the local wildlife who ate straight from your hand (kookaburra, magpies and butcher bird), her chooks and her delightful son Seb and his young family.  Although the weather was variable, we enjoyed some wonderful walks in the local  hills called the Dandenong Mountains and climbed the 1,000 Steps at the Kokoda Memorial Walk.  We often heard Puffing Billy in the valley but managed to avoid that and took the train from Belgrave into Melbourne one day for a good ol’ tourist day’s sightseeing.  Enjoyed a ride on the City Circle tram, spent time in Victoria Market and even bought ourselves our kangaroo hide Barmah hats for when we head west.

This week has provided the opportunity to sleep in a very large comfy bed, use fluffy towels, have the most amazing meals cooked for us and christen Lyn’s new sewing machine.  My leftovers have never been presented as colourfully as our dinner plates last night!  The sewing machine was used to turn an old pair of curtains into bags of all shapes and sizes to protect the TV and table when travelling as well as a caddy for plastic bags and a cover for the Weber Barbeque!  Von Trapp Family eat your heart out!

This week has given us the time to sit and plan our next move and we have taken advice to not simply head off round the coast but to travel inland and see more of Victoria.  Snow is forecast but we’re hoping not to run into any next week as we drive through Kings Valley and up the Murray River.

Leftovers

Gorgeous meals every night = leftovers. Leftovers served up again = colourful masterpiece!

Bags Galore!

Von Trapp Family eat your heart out – look what I’ve made from a old curtain!

 

 

Ten Days In …….

So we headed off from the Northern Beaches, Sydney on the 29th July and, as you will see from the accompanying map, we’ve headed a little way south and are about half way between Sydney and Melbourne.  The title of the Blog is “Pootling Around Australia” and that is exactly what we’re doing – travelling in a leisurely manner!

Journey to 08.08.18

Green dot is where we headed off from on 29.07.18. Still a long way to go!!!

So far we have only stayed at one free camp by the side of a busy road – everywhere else has been an off-season Holiday Park with excellent clean facilities and no need to book ahead.  Was amused by the laundry room at the Tathra Beachside Park where they had a dog washing facility right next to the washers and dryers.

We have been making good use of local cycle paths and our favourite ride was through the Jervis Bay National Park up to Green Patch where we were dazzled by the whitest sands in the whole wide world (officially according to the Guinness Book of World Records).  Wild life has been amazing and we have stopped getting animated every time we see kangaroos (although I’ve still to capture them on film) apart from when we almost ran one over!!!  Mike spotted dolphin whilst I was looking the other way and we’ve also seen pelican a-plenty, seals and a poorly stingray.  We spent hours scouring the bay at Tathra which is a popular whale watching spot but unfortunately didn’t see any.  We were amused by the notice put up by the local Council that due to popular demand, people were no longer allowed to fish for shark off the pier – as if!!!

 

Some of you will know I set myself a target of picking up a bag of litter each week as my contribution to the world.  I am pleased to announce I am failing miserably since every beach we have visited has been spotless and I have only managed to find a two foot piece of discarded fishing line to pick up so far!  Moon Bay was particularly beautiful.  We also loved the photo opportunity of visiting Australia Rock at Narooma – spending $50 on the Australia Free Book and App is proving a useful resource.

We are still learning how to operate everything in our motor home by trial and error.  Running out of water at the free campsite wasn’t too smart, nor was using up a whole gas bottle in a week because we left the hot water switch on all the time!  We hope to have a second induction session when we get to Melbourne and the Sunliner Campervan people are proposing billing the cost of this back to the original dealership who did such a poor job.  I am linked up to a number of different FaceBook Groups now though and getting some really helpful advice along the way such as how to wash the outside of the van – consensus is you leave the roof to mother nature!  Indoors we have found it a bit chillier in the evenings and so today invested in a hot water bottle, gloves and a small fan heater – oh for the heatwave back home!!!  That said, the drought here is really affecting the poor farmers and all of New South Wales has been declared a drought zone.

Mike is handling the driving brilliantly and he’s also doing great on the old barbeque too.  I have rustled up a few meals indoors as well and we both know how to help ourselves to the stock of wine and beer that is always available!  In the next few days we will be restocking hopefully from visiting a few local wineries and a distillery en route to Melbourne.