205. Best Laid Plans ….

For our last week in Melbourne – and in Australia – we moved into Jen and Peter’s comfortable home in Donvale, with the two black labradors Moosh and Marla and a couple of inquisitive chooks.

P1160050Without Westy to worry about any more – as it eventuated it was sold very quickly – attention shifted to Grandy the Jeep. With only a week to go we didn’t really want to go the private advertising route, and after a few enquiries and visits to various dealers, were offered a good price (dealer’s price, that is) by the people we’d bought it from.

But first Dave decided to put Grandy through a car wash – and the windscreen crack, formerly about 3 inches long, suddenly extended enormously! Drastic action was needed. We booked in for a windscreen replacement a long way from Donvale but not too far from the airport, took Grandy in, took a taxi to the airport and picked up a hire car, drove back to the windscreen place and picked up Grandy, then drove both cars to the Jeep dealer. After the long inspection-paperwork-coffee-handshake thing, we farewelled Grandy and drove ‘home’.

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That was the Friday before we were due to leave. The plan was to fly to Brisbane, spend two nights with Nic and Mick, then fly home on the Thursday.

Returning ‘home’ we were feeling peckish so started to look for a cafe. We must have been in the wrong area as the only one we could see was in a block of furniture stores and obviously NOT very well patronised. Dave’s lunch was OK but my cream of mushroom soup tasted horrible so I only had a few spoonfuls. Which were still too many. That evening the symptoms of food poisoning became horribly apparent soon after we sat down in a restaurant with Jen and Peter. It took a while before they could get me outside. The special thank-you dinner never eventuated.

Two days later I was still feeling out of sorts but we took off for Arthur and Joan’s at Moonambel, stopping for lunch at Malmsbury (‘magnificient’ is not an exaggeration says Dave, he loved his huge pie)….

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… then to call in on Bron the daughter of an old Armidale friend at Castlemaine. The country around Castlemaine is very reminscent of Armidale particularly at this time of year with all the beautiful autumn colours.

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P1160057Then on to Moonambel where we stayed soon after our first arrival in Melbourne. At that time the country was in drought and the big dam was empty; it was wonderful to see everything so green and the dam more than half full. Arthur and I caught up on some more Darchy family history.

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Camera-shy ‘Honey’ is about 18 and recently survived major surgery.

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Beautiful gum trees were everywhere – Arthur and Joan have planted several hundred.P1160092

Back to Melbourne and frantic packing and repacking and weighing of cases …. all ready for an early start for the airport next day. I was still feeling off-colour.

Alas, the trip to the airport next morning became a trip to hospital …. poor Dave, trying to negotiate peak hour traffic in a strange city with a ill wife beside him. It’s a sort of hilarious tale in the re-telling but suffice it to say I ended up in the Short Stay Ward but all tests turning out negative, I was discharged that evening. I slept better that night than for several days and woke feeling refreshed although still not very hungry!

Two days later the early morning found us driving the same route through the usual horrendous Melbourne traffic to the airport; this time we made it without incident (you can just hear Dave’s sighs of relief). Then the plane was delayed on the tarmac for half an hour while several head counts were performed; eventually it was concluded that there was a mistake in the paperwork and not a stowaway in the toilet!

The rest of our trip home was without incident, after the usual boring wait in Brisbane. I was surprised to find that although AirNZ has a huge selection of in-flight movies, they now charge $10 to view the best of them. But there were enough subtitled ones left to make a good selection and the flight passed quickly. Quickly? It arrived an hour late, that is around 1 am Christchurch time, and we were so grateful that Dave’s sister Alison waited all the extra time then drove us to her nice warm home where we spent what remained of the night.

Next day we got the Nissan started with the help of a neighbour, shifted T5 from her position at the back of the chestnut orchard to the front where there was power, collected an ecstatic Penny from the dog sitter, and settled down for the next few days. Our home was vacated the day after we arrived but will not be officially inspected and signed off by the Agent until Monday.

I will probably not be posting too much in the coming weeks/months. We are going to be busy doing some renovations to our home after almost 4 years away.

WE ARE BACK HOME

Postscript: I wrote this after leaving Westy at the caravan dealer. 

I have loved our time in Westy, exploring this great continent where I was born and catching up with so many of my old friends along the way. One part of me wants to continue, and/or to go back, particularly to outback Queensland where so many of my ancestors lived. But another part wants to return home, to our HOME in Christchurch, to live again with and enjoy our two cats and Penny the foxie before they get too old. Plus I have any number of family history books to complete, and a promised one about my life on “Cornelius”, and somewhere along the way I hope to consolidate this blog into the last one or two of a series of books.

 

204. Final days in Melbourne

Since returning to Melbourne we’ve been busy getting Westy the caravan ready for sale.  Dave managed to develop a cold but soldiered on, then kindly passed it on to me. We sorted out all the things we simply couldn’t bear to leave behind, such as the antique egg-cups bought at Glenrowan near the beginning of our journey a year ago and the left-handed stirring spoon bought quite recently, not to mention a couple – just a couple! – of things acquired in between. We’ve decided to leave most of the pots and pans, cutlery and crockery, camp chairs and table and sundry other items for the lucky new owners, but we took all the bedding and towels to a local vet hospital who advised us that the animal pound would love the sheets etc, which the vet didn’t want. Take note – Vinnies and the Salvos do not accept bedding, but the animal rescue places certainly do.

Westy was scrubbed and polished inside and out – see how she gleams.  Even the  tyres.

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Here’s Dave removing the jockey wheel for the last time, after hooking up for the last time. So many last times (sad face).

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We towed Westy back to where we acquired her just over a year ago, and the same salesman (who still reminds me of my old headmistress!) is going to sell it on our behalf. He seemed confident.

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We will keep the Jeep for a little longer and perhaps get a new windscreeen. The crack which could not be repaired at Lake Macquarie but which was (hopefully) stopped from spreading has most certainly spread.  Also the front wheel bearings have started to play up. Just when we don’t want any more expense.  The Jeep (a Grand Cherokee Laredo) has been almost trouble-free, we even considered for a time to ship it over to NZ.P1150965

During a few days’ hard slog it was lovely to be wined and dined each evening by our wonderful friends Roger and Jay who not only opened their home to us but arranged for Westy’s temporary park two doors down the road.  We tried to reciprocate in a small way with a lunch at the Yabby Lake Vinyard on the Mornington Peninsula.  Set on a hill with wonderful views all round, the gardens are further enhanced by some interesting sculptures.

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The vineyard looked very different to the ones in Blenheim, NZ.  At this stage all the mature vineyards there would have their rather thicker-stemmed vines sporting short tops and sides.  Here they seem much more spindly.  We saw the same difference earlier when touring south-eastern Victoria.

After a prolonged lunch with delicious Yabby Creek wine we returned ‘home’ via Arthur’s Seat, reminscent of the Port Hills in Christchurch, with a northerly view of the eastern Port Phillip coastline. there’s even a restaurant at the top of the cable lift.

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Driving back along the Bay, we spotted some UFOs:

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… and then this lovely copy of an old sailing ship, the ‘Enterprize’, which is a regular feature of the Bay. http://www.enterprize.org.au/  The copying is authentic down to the tarred sisal ropes.

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Dave was able to capture it in more detail another day.

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With Westy finally out of the way, we said goodbye to Roger and Jay and moved on to a cousin’s at Donvale. The two black labs gave us a lovely welcome.

P1160035P1160037We still have eight days before we fly home. I had hoped to change our flight from Brisbane to Christchurch to a flight from Melbourne but apparently I can only change the date and time of the flight, not the departure point! So now we are booked to fly from Melbourne to Brisbane early next week, spend a few days with Nic and Mick, then fly home. We will have to dispose of the Jeep in the next few days but it was too rainy today to do anything.

 

203. The Great Ocean Road

After disembarking at Queenscliff on the SW corner of Port Phillip Bay we were soon on the road heading for a camp at Princetown on the Great Ocean Road which had been recommended by several people. As it was a dark drizzly day we opted for the inland route. It seemed we would never get there! Up and down and around, much of the scenery reminiscent of Otago. We finally reached the camp at dusk and had to dodge lots of kangaroo poo while setting up – they and their deposits were everywhere. (That’s us on the left with the awning). 

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Next day it was off to visit the Apostles at long last. Iconic scenery which I’ve seen in many photos – but you simply have to be THERE to take it all in. (I’m not apologising for the number of photos either). The road does not follow the clifftop exactly but there were designated parking spaces then usually a short walk to viewing places. The first one we went to involved a very steep climb – aargh! – but the view of our first Apostle on the “Shipwreck Coast” was worth it.

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After visiting a few more viewing places we reached the main Apostles viewing base, with plenty of off-road parking, an information centre, a helicopter base, hundreds of  tourists even in this off-season and a tunnel under the main road ….  emerging onto the headland it was amazing to see so many of the monoliths, lit by a watery sun. It was blowing hard and yes really rather cold!

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Here’s another set:

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Further on we came to Loch Ard Gorge near where the clipper “Loch Ard” was shipwrecked in 1878. Only two of the 54 people on board survived.

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The “Loch Ard” is another sailing boat which features in my Johnston family history.

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My Great Uncle George Johnston was a crewman on the “Loch Ard” on one or more earlier voyages. His story is at https://nancyvada.me/sailing/george-johnston-sailor-boy/   He wrote home from London in January 1877, mentioning a walk to the dock with Maggie his cousin and how he secured a fortuitous late berth on the three-masted Loch Ard. He wrote again in November 1877 saying they were in Shanghai en route to Sydney then going on to Twatow and Amoy. He mentioned evading a typhoon:

“I am now in China sound and hearty after a very fine passage of forty six days to the anchorage of Woosong. We had to lie there a week for the high spring tides and have been in Shanghai another week. The other ship I at one time thought of shipping in came up four days ago with her topgallant masts gone. She lost them in a typhoon, one of those fearful blows known only to the China Seas.”

Luckily he did not remain on the Loch Ard much longer, as seven months later she was wrecked on 1st June 1878 on a voyage from London to Melbourne, with the  loss of 52 lives of the 54 passengers and crew aboard. In a later letter George mentioned having “run away” from this ship in Melbourne – more likely he signed off, or he would not have been able to claim sea time towards his mate’s ticket.

But fate dogged him – he was drowned in the shipwreck of the “Cahors” off Evans Head (NSW) in 1885.

We investigated the London Bridge – what an experience for the two people marooned on the new island.

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Dave leapt up and down the steps to the Grotto – he’s still half mountain goat of course – I stayed sedately fairly near the top.

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Having investigated most of the Apostles area we decided to venture inland to Timboon (lovely name!) where we had lunch at a whisky distillery after sampling several of their rather high priced whiskies. Very nice, but ….. !

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Then back towards Princetown via the Cheesery (!?) where a lovely Kiwi lady was overjoyed to meet some fellow Kiwis (apparently I qualify now) and served us some delicious local cheeses.

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That evening we thought we might try and catch the apostles in the evening light, and although we were really a little late reaching the area we still managed some stunning shots.

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Early next morning we thought we’d try again for those special shots, but apart from us not waking as early as planned, the weather wasn’t really helpful. Rain squalls could be seen in the distance. The sea had got up a little too, which actually made for better shots I thought.

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We headed back towards Queenscliff on the Great Ocean Road in constant rain, stopping at Apollo Bay for a rather nice little lunch at a tapas-style bar off the main tourist drag, surprisingly thronged with tourists even at that time of year and in such weather.

Thus fortified we continued but soon decided we’d had enough of the Great Ocean Road in the rain and headed inland – more twisty roads but at least the weather improved a little. We spent that night, the last in Westy, at the Geelong Showgrounds.  It was a funny feeling to cook for the last time with all the cooking implements and crockery and cutlery which we had so painstakingly acquired from a variety of sources just one year ago. Sad too. And to sleep in the bed for the last time.

Next morning we caught the vehicular ferry again and arrived at Mornington in good time. Our friends Jay and Roger have again arranged for us to park Westy in their neighbours’ front yard while we clean her up and get her ready for sale. So there we were settling back in the same place almost exactly one year since we first squeezed Westy in and started to get her ready for our Australian tour.

202. Wilson’s Promontory

The Prom as it is locally known, was not to be missed even though the weather was not very promising. We booked into a camp at Foster (I have great difficulty not typing Forster, which is in NSW) and next morning set off for the Prom in drizzling rain.  It was about 37 km to the furthest south the road could take us, but it took a long time (!).

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On the way to Forster the previous day we saw this monument to the intrepid Paul Strzelecki, who explored SE Australia in 1840. P1150754

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Finally we entered the Wilson’s Promontory National Park, which was first nominated as a National Park in 1898. Signs everywhere warned us to watch out for “animals” (presumably more understandable to overseas visitors than “wildlife”) and to remember to drive on the left hand side of the road.

 

A clearing with some local inhabitants soon appeared:

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We reached the Darby River, where the bridge approach was washed away during the floods of March 2011, effectively isolating the rest of the Prom. People had to be airlifted out.

 

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Further on round a bend in the twisty road there was a great view of the Glennie  islands.

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We decided to leave all the interesting little bays on the right hand side for our return trip. Arriving at Tidal River, we stopped for a rather indifferent lunch then walked around admiring the incredibly twisted coastal melaleuca trees.

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This pigeon toed parrot kept us entertained for a while….

The information centre is well equipped in more ways than one – there are special children’s beach wheelchairs, etc.

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An interesting monument. We seem to have a knack for ending up in remote places where various types of war-time training occurred – the last time was the Catalina flying base at Lake Macquarie.

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Although late in the season there were still plenty of wildflowers to be found:

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… and even some wicked banksia men!P1150772

Before starting the return trip we investigated the Telegraph Saddle. The long road north is in the distance. Judging from the number of empty cars in the carpark, this area is especially favoured by trampers/hikers.

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On the return trip we stopped at various Bays….

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Some Bays offered views of the offshore islands:

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Squeaky Bay – so-named because the fine sand squeaks when walked upon – was especially interesting. Dominated by huge boulders covered with red lichen, the low tide had left behind some fabulous sand sculptures (yes I was a little carried away).

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There were also plenty of birds at Squeaky Bay although we didn’t spot this very special one.

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Returning to Foster, a roadside sign warned of the imminent appearance of a “historical monument”…

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We planned to “do” the Great Ocean Road as a swansong before ending our Australian caravanning adventure in Melbourne, so next day we set off down the Peninsula for the ferry across to Queenscliff, thus avoiding all the horrendous Melbourne traffic.

Here we are waiting at Swansea:

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The ferry approaches…

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Will it fit in?

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A very uneventful journey apart from admiring this beautiful old sailing ship.

Sorrento Ferry01 After a little searching I have discovered she is the “Tenacious”. This is from the website http://websites.sportstg.com/assoc_page.cgi?c=0-9917-0-0-0&sID=305347&&news_task=DETAIL&articleID=46387861

Tenacious, one of two special purpose ships designed and built by the Jubilee Sailing Trust (JST), includes features not seen on other vessels – the entire ship is wheelchair accessible including the crow’s nests; there are aids for the visually impaired like a speaking compass and Braille signage; people with limited dexterity can even helm the ship with a joystick.

Tenacious at 65 metres (213’) bowsprit to stern, 42 metres to the tip of the mast, 586 gross tonnes and built of Siberian larch, is the world’s largest wooden hulled, three masted barque. She was built by 1,500 volunteers over four years, almost half of whom were living with some form of disability. Tenacious was launched from Southampton in 2000.

Following an epic nine-month voyage visiting Spain, the Azores, the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal, Costa Rica, Tahiti, Bora Bora and Fiji, Tenacious will arrive to much fanfare, at Seaworks Maritime Precinct, Williamstown on 14th August. She will conduct a nine month program of voyages, day sails, corporate and charitable partnership work through to May 2017. During this period she will visit Adelaide, Hobart, Sydney and Geelong.

Tenacious carries a permanent crew of 10, supplemented by trainee voyage crew. Volunteers are sought to train as offshore volunteer crew to assist on day and passage sails whilst in Australia.

 

 

201. Orbost & Lakes Entrance

We only stayed beside the Snowy one night, as we want to get to Melbourne with plenty of time to clean up and sell the caravan before we fly home in three weeks’ time.

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The banks on the lower reaches of the river are being restored by an enthusiastic local group – the full title of the project is “Snowy River Warm Temperate Rainforest Restoration” .  About six cleared areas have been left for overnight caravan/motorhome parking, which I’m sure many people including us appreciate. This sign tells the story.

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 The Snowy finally empties into the sea just a little further on from our camp …. it was amazing to think that a year ago we were high up in the Snowy Mountains near where the river has its source, and also how this mighty river helped shape post-war Australia.

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Driving back towards Marlo and Orbost, along roads lined with flowering wattle ….

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…we spotted quite a few black plastic-wrapped hay bales (“liquorice marshmallows for baby dinosaurs”?) and then came upon these:

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P1150708P1150707Orbost is only a little town but it was a proud history. Naturally that includes some severe flooding! This is the main flood monument.  

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There is also a rather nice and warm little information centre, a reconstruction of an early settler’s stringy bark hut. With two resident geese.

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We continued along the coast heading west to Lakes Entrance, where a number of very old trees have been transformed by chainsaw carving.

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The town was very quiet, but it was easy to imagine how packed and bustling it is in summer, with hundreds of boats on the extensive waterways.

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Dave’s panorama gives a better idea:

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Following advice from a friendly local we bought our dinner direct from a fishing boat … possibly the last prawns of the season.

That evening we camped on private land just outside Bairnsdale. After playing ball with the resident dog, who was even more persistent  than our Penny, we feasted on guess what as we watched the sunset.

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200. Mallacoota

I forgot to include this photo of the rocks at north Ulladulla in my last blog, such a pretty colour. There was a seafood restaurant and aquarium just above the rocks but it was late afternoon by the time we found this place, and we were due back at Helen and John’s for another feast. P1150623

After leaving Merimbula, heading for the south-east coast of Victoria, before we knew it we were through Eden (which we’d visited last year) and at Genoa. Turning left the long winding road took us through bushland to magical Mallacoota, a small holiday and fishing town, with its view of distant Gabo Island. (Yes, you are right, there is a spot on my camera lens which can’t be removed #@$#!!). 

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P1150659I wanted to see Gabo Island again, even if only from a distance. When the good ship  ‘Cornelius’ was circumnavigating Australia in 1980, we were stuck in Wineglass Bay on the Freycinet Peninsula of Tasmania for some days, waiting for a strong northerly wind to abate. We finally left the Bay on a beautiful morning in a reasonable southerly which took us to the middle of Bass Strait and then abandoned us to a very blustery northerly. Huge waves, wind and a general inability to make much headway north meant we could either head for Port Phillip Bay, which we didn’t want (right into Bass Strait in fact) or for Gabo Island just off Cape Howe, which marked the most easterly point of the mainland in that area. The Pilot Book told us to anchor in a specific area but after doing so and finding it far from ideal, we were visited by some fishermen who invited us to join the fishing fleet in another, much more sheltered area. Which we did, with many thanks. I don’t remember now if they kept us supplied with seafood during the 2-3 days we were stuck there, but most probably (!)  SO, Gabo Island is in a way an important, memorable part of my personal history.

I had to content myself with admiring Gabo from a distance; if we’d had more time we might have gone on a boat trip or two…?

The view in all directions from Mallacoota headland was simply splendid.

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P1150638P1150662The whole headland overlooking the very narrow boat channel is a huge camping area, with at least 450 camping sites of various sizes all marked with numbered posts. Thankfully at that time of the year, mostly deserted.  We didn’t intend to stay there, but it was still hard to leave such a beautiful peaceful place (although I definitely wouldn’t want to be there at the height of the summer season).

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Before leaving Mallacoota we inspected a jetty with its resident pelicans, and had lunch in one of the innumerable cafes.

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We had no idea what was in store on the road, just that it stayed well inland rather than hugging the coast. Slowly it became clear. Most of the Victorian SE coast is National Park land, and the road winds up and up then down through what must be one of the southernmost parts of the Great Dividing Range, which stretches the length of Australia’s east coast. I started to wonder just how many times we had been up and down that Range. When at Moss Vale/Mittagong alone we must have done it six times! The Range reaches right up into northern Queensland; when we were based at Mareeba we also “did” the Range a number of times including by rail (the Kuranda scenic railway).  Then there was the lovely platypus country west of Mackay ….  and the Blue Mountains ….

That evening, having escaped the Range area, we camped beside the Snowy River between Orbost and Marlo. Another beautiful, peaceful spot.

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199  Bawley Point and Candelo

I first met Helen when we were Botany students at the University of NSW. She was captain of the University hockey team and at some stage when the second team were desperately in need of some extra players, I was dressed in someone’s uniform, given a hockey stick (for the first time ever!) and told to hit the ball ‘that way!!” For most of my school days I’d only played basketball as it was then called. I went on to play for the University for several years and we had some memorable games, not so much for the sport itself but for the weather which was sometimes so bad the hockey ball would get lost in the water covering the grounds.

Time passed on and our lives took very different turns, but converged again quite unexpectedly when ‘Cornelius’ was motoring along the Hawkesbury River heading back for Pittwater and caught up with a little sailing boat motoring in the same direction  …..with a madly waving Helen and John on board. (“My g… It’s Nancy!!”)

I went to their wedding …. and then years later they came to Dave’s and mine in NZ. That was 12 years ago. So it was a lovely reunion at their beautiful beach home near Bawley Point. Surrounded by acres of beach-bushland, there were plenty of kangaroos around including an albino which they’d christened Alby, but after close inspection of my photos that was changed to Alberta. (A Vet friend has confirmed: “There’s definitely a Joey there”).

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There are fantastic views from all parts of the house, even from our bedroom at dawn:

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It was only a short walk down to the beach, particularly beautiful in the evening light.

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Bawley Point has a thriving Community spirit. Among other things there is a community garden. Does anyone know what this is?

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A quick visit to nearby Ulladulla gave Dave some awesome surf shots:

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We were wined and dined (including local prawns and oysters of course) for several wonderful days, then it was time to move on, heading for Merimbula and the camp where we stayed almost a year before.

As it is now the off-season I think the owner was very pleased to see us, and on being asked which was the best place in Merimbula for a birthday celebration, offered to be our chauffeur for the night. Here’s the birthday girl, looking a bit worse for wear…  that’s a gigantic affogatto in front of me. 

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Leaving Merimbula next day we stopped at the Bodalla cheese factory for some coffee and bought an interesting Sage & Saltbush cheese….

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…. then on to the heritage-listed little town of Central Tilba with its rows of interesting shops. The ‘Passionfish’ candle shop was fantastic; when I stepped inside the first thing I saw were rows and rows of soaps in rainbow colours, plus art on the wall, then in the next room a huge array of candles and candle-holders. Unfortunately my photos did not turn out well. Across the street was a leather shop where I finally bought a sorely needed belt and resisted with difficulty all the beautiful handbags and also alpaca jumpers. An antique jewellers had an amazing painted floor, somewhat marred …. everywhere were cottage gardens, books, coffee, clothing …..

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We’d hoped to catch up with other friends who were touring with the Aston Martin Car Club, and finally did so in the historical little town of Candelo, about half an hour’s drive inland from Merimbula through beautiful south coast farming country. We’ll see them again in Melbourne.

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During the last few weeks and indeed throughout our Australian touring I’ve been able to catch up with a number of old friends, some of whom I haven’t seen for many years. There are just two remaining, one in Melbourne and the other, sadly, a schoolfriend who sent me a short email saying “Sorry, flat out with grandkids” and that was that, even though we were in her area for six days and would have stayed longer if necessary. I’m very conscious that this may be the last time I see some of my friends. We are all into our seventies; several are over 80. Travel insurance is becoming so expensive that even the healthiest of us have second thoughts about long-distance travel.

198. Canberra

From Moss Vale it was an easy run through Goulburn to Canberra. We headed straight for Julie and Allan’s in Hawker and as before parked Westy in their curved driveway,  moved into their enchanting, colourful home full of eclectic art works, and for the next two days were spoilt rotten.  If, in the future, anyone admires my tiny shortbread custard kisses, they can thank Julie for giving me the recipe.

We wanted to avoid Anzac Day’s attendant traffic and heightened security, so did not stay in Canberra nearly as long as we would have wished. We did however manage to fit in a visit to an amazing craft and food market in the city,. The chocolate coated strawberries were at least 5 cm (2 inches) long.

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Sugar cane, anyone? Just take some home.

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Young Australian Beanball trees.  ‘Castanospermum australe’, also known as the Moreton Bay Chestnut.  I’ve never seen them grown like this before. A quick Google search reveals:

* The leaves and seeds are toxic to livestock.
* Due to its extensive root system, it should not be planted within 10 metres of drainage lines, sewers, house foundations, garages or swimming pools.

The Black Bean has also proved valuable as a timber species, it’s seeds have been utilized – following extensive preparation as a food by Aborigines and it contains alkaloids which have been shown to have anti-HIV and anti -cancer properties.

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In the nearby Glass Centre we watched a master glassblower making an impossibly large and delicate vase, assisted by a very efficient assistant; it was a pleasure to watch two people working so well together.

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Here the assistant is blowing down a pipe as the master keeps the vase in rotation.

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Forming the delicate neck.P1150469

Here the assistant is well rugged up ready to transfer the vase with both asbestos-clad hands to the oven where it will gradually cool down.  I tried to capture the moment the vase was broken off from the rod holding it, but the movement was too quick.

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Heading south for the coast next day, we wondered if we were in Otago.

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P1150493We stopped at Braidwood to see an amazing display of bespoke furniture at what is called simply the Wood Shop/Factory. As you walk in you are confronted by this simply stunning cabinet:

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Crafted by Geoff Hannah, it too six and a half years to make “….. using 34 different Australian and international timbers, 4 species of shell and 17 varieties of precious stone with extensive marquetry inlays on 18 doors and on, and in, 140 drawers. “ Hannah lives in Lismore and by a lucky coincidence the cabinet was due to be returned to him about the time there was severe flooding of the region; if the cabinet had been returned any earlier it would most likely have been severely damaged or lost.

Here are two hall tables which I loved, only about $8,000 each ….

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And other smaller objects including left and right handed bread knives ….P1150498P1150500

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Wimsical ‘feet’ …

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Floor lamps …

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Upstairs there were two special exhibitions:‘Spatial Curvature’ – fine furniture by Darren Oates, and  ‘The language of Light’ paintings by Rick Cochrane and Chan Dissanayake. I especially liked this watercolour by the latter. So simple yet appealing with wonderful technique. I learned watercolour at school but was never an artist, unlike my granddad.

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By then we were hungry so what better than to have lunch in the little cafe next door, in an ivy-draped courtyard. The people at the next table, of course, were Kiwis!

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Then on down the  mountain to Bateman’s Bay and then Bawley Point a little further north where old friends from university days were waiting for us.

197. Trains!!

Dave: We were cruising back to Moss Vale when Nancy happened to mention there was a railway museum at Thirlmere marked on the map. We decided to investigate the next day so we drove 40 K and arrived just in time to get a ride on the steam train. 20 minutes up from the museum station, change the engine around and 20 minutes back to the museum. Coal smoke, cinders, steam whistle. Bliss.

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Version 2

Actually this was a Dave Gibb Photo…   using Nancy’s camera!!

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The ticket collector was loving his job!!

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A brief halt while the engine was changed around.

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Trainspotters (starting them young).

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Beautifully restored engine originally built by The Hunslet Engine Co. Ltd. Leeds in 1913.

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I managed to spend most of the day poring over some awesome steam engines, diesels, and rolling stock including two of the massive Beyer-Garrets articulated Locomotives. Nancy as usual raced around and was waiting impatiently for me by the time I was halfway through. This museum was dedicated to the New South Wales railway system and is a recent addition to the museum scene. With about 3 km of covered track there was room for lots of interesting exhibits as well as a roundhouse where extensive rebuilds and restoration of engines and rolling stock is taking place. Several of the steam and diesel locomotive are in running condition and more being worked on all the time.

Nancy: This is what turned me off – miles and miles of trains …..  but Dave was salivating.

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Here’s something that intrigued me:

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Also this mock-up of a mail delivery van:P1150372P1150373P1150375

Now for a few artistic pics (she said immodestly):

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And a monster to top it all off… The Beyer-GarretP1150392

196. Southern Highlands

After a few days at Mittagong we moved on to the Showgrounds at Moss Vale. The autumn colours are becoming stronger and stronger (Bother traffic lights and tinted windscreens, they spoil the photos!).

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The predominant tall hedge trees here are pencil pines, not the poplars of drier regions.

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Everywhere was so green, including the Showgrounds.

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P1150405The Showgrounds are obviously  rather old; generations of horses must have chewed on these stall railings.

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One of the friendly locals

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With the Easter holiday period over it was safe to venture forth again and (again) visit Fitzroy Falls, at the top of the range. There were several informative signs about the native animals to be found there; I loved this one about the platypus near an area that reminded us of the platypus country around Eungella near Mackay. 

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The Fitzroy Falls:

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More informative signs: wombat, lyrebird, and even one about the Wicked Banksia Men!

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Wonderful views and gnarly old trees …

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The view from various places along Mt. Gibraltar, overlooking Bowral. It was too hazy for good photos.

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Another day we drove down to Wollongong to have lunch with my cousin Eleanor. (More prawns!) Afterwards we visited the headland where in 1880 cannons were placed to defend the port.

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Back to Westy and a nice sunset at the Moss Vale showgrounds. Bother the arc lights.

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I will leave it to Dave to tell about our visit to the magnificent Railways Museum at Thirlmere, some way north of Mittagong, in the next blog.  We have now been up and down the Great Dividing Range at least four times by several different routes, most of them exceedingly steep and twisty.  Without Westy in tow, thankfully.