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I am one blog entry away from catching up with my travel writing. I have only the trip to Tasmania, which was earlier this year, left to write about. First though our trip up north from Melbourne to the middle of the NSW coastline, and back again. It’s now July 2014.
My capacity for creative thought has been compromised. Why or how, I do not know. I have creative thought but it rarely manifests itself into any form. Maybe I am just being lazy.
2013 was an odd year. I was bored a lot at work, my health has been compromised, and the health of my wife Rebecca who at this moment is recovering from surgery continues to be a concern.
We have had some good news so far this year. There has been a request for Rebecca to have Osseo Integration surgery, which should enable her to walk much more freely. Fingers crossed the surgery is approved and all goes well so that our next adventure reflects the type of trip Rebecca and I used to have before her accident five years ago. In the mean time….
I was required to take twelve of my twenty allocated annual leave days at the Christmas break. We did not want to waste those days sitting around Melbourne, so we decided to drive north.
We departed on the thirtieth of December, first heading to Yea for two nights. On the way to Yea we stopped at our friends Angelo and Catharine’s newly acquired property in Taggerty. We had lunch, and Angelo took me for a tour of the property. Along the way we discussed his plans for the land and future building projects. We also discussed energy. They are ‘off the grid’ and are totally reliant on renewable energy supplied by a wind turbine and solar panels, with batteries for storage. A fine example of how you can survive without being plugged into the national electricity grid.
It’s a beautiful location and has a splendid view of the Cathedral Ranges. With some hard work the land has some great potential. I personally would not be able to endure the two hours travel into and out of work four days a week. It is a sacrifice Angelo has made so they can bring their daughter Audrey up in the environment they also enjoyed as children. A sacrifice I admire. I would not mind waking up to that view every day.
That evening we spent at our accommodation in Yea, only leaving to have a decent although a little underwhelming meal at the local pub on the Yea high street. I would not recommend it.
Abekye, our accommodation in Yea was fantastic. A wonderful view of the surrounding hills and everything you could need. The kitchen was very well equip, the shower room large, and the bed and couches comfy. The only problem is the location. There is nothing happening in Yea other than the wonderful countryside.
After having a good sleep in, we met meeting our friends Jason and Melinda with their two children for lunch in Alexandra. I had been to the Commercial Hotel once before. Earlier that month in fact, during a Christmas work outing, so I knew that the food was good, and once again they did not disappoint. We spent the afternoon eating, shopping and playing with the kids in the park. It was a great way to spend New Year’s Eve. Yes I am getting old.
New Year’s Eve night I cooked a tasty meal, and sat down for beers, but not before taking some shots as the sun was descending, attempting to catch Yea as it was drenched in orange and red. It was a placid way to end another eventful year.
New Years day we drove to Australia’s capital, Canberra. It was my first visit. I made it before I turned forty.
The drive to Canberra was around six hours, during which we stopped in Gundagai for lunch. We had stopped at this cafe previously, when it used to be a fish and chip shop. It was good last time we were there four years ago, a little disappointing this time. One thing that did not change was their negative attitude towards non locals, whom you would think they needed for the business to survive. Next time I am stopping elsewhere.
Our host in Canberra at the Rosebud Cottage was Maureen. We could not have asked for a nicer welcome. The cottage is situated on the last working farm in Canberra, which abuts the leafy, winding Canberra suburbs. We once again did not want for anything, and even had fresh bread and jam created by our host.
That night we had a little trouble finding a place to eat. Attempting to find somewhere local and inexpensive proved to be a little daunting. It was New Year’s Day after all. We remained calm, and sat in the car using modern mobile technology to find and ring every place suitable, finally locating a Turkish restaurant not too far from our location. The Turkish Pidehouse purposed to be the best Turkish in Canberra. Most of the staff are Italian, and it would not surprise me if they owned the place as well. The meal was good and the staff friendly. We had an interesting chat with our waitress post meal, who kindly informed us a little about Canberra and its clientele.
It was still early so I decided to drive past Parliament House. It was a waste of time really, as you have to drive up the hill, and I drove around instead. We did not see very much, and then proceeded to get lost. Thanks to satellite navigation, we found our way back to the cottage.
Next morning after chef Adrian cooked breakfast we headed to the National Gallery. We had tickets for the Gold and the Incas exhibition. It was remarkable. The skill and precision that went into creating these artifacts is astounding, considering when they were made. It was quite amazing to see. The gallery itself is worth a visit, with many fine pieces and interesting installations.
A great stop off after a hard day of pushing your wife around in a wheelchair is the Wig & Pen. It boasted real English Ale from traditional taps. And it did not disappoint. It was great to have real ale at room temperature. Absolutely delicious. We had dinner there also, killing the two with the one, and retired for the night.
At the pub I did overhear some interesting conversations. I suppose that in a capital city one should expect to overhear political, social and economic discussion. I had to refrain from interrupting. Luckily the beer was great distraction.
We departed the next morning. Before leaving our capital city we had one remaining engagement. The National Library was hosting an exhibition of maps from around the world entitled Mapping Our World. Although cramped, we managed to wrangle our way into seeing all the maps. We achieved this by starting at the end, working backwards, and when the crowd caught up, going back to the start again. Rebecca’s view from the wheelchair was not the best, but she managed. Of particular note and a crowd favorite was Fra Mauro’s Map of the World. North is south, and vice versa. It was also very interesting to see Australia form as you moved from the earliest maps of the northern tip to the present century.
A snack and a few photographs later we were hurling up the highway to Sydney. This is another town where you thank god for the GPS. We found the apartment with only one wrong turn, and after a few trips up and down the elevator I was able to relax in a hot, but soon to be air conditioned apartment. I was exhausted but hungry, and Rebecca’s leg was giving her grief. We looked for somewhere close by to have dinner. Something take away or delivered. After an hour searching with the tablet and phone, ringing places to find they were closed, we finally found Curry on the Rocks, delivery Indian food that you can order over the internet. If you are in central Sydney and cannot be bothered leaving your room, I highly recommend it. Good food, delivered promptly, and at reasonable prices.
Next morning after a breakfast of toast and mini cereal, we were back in the car with the GPS on, attempting a drive over Sydney Harbour Bridge to see our friends Jackie and Tomm. Yes with two m’s. We managed to arrive there with only one wrong turn, again.
We had a great day with our old friends, meeting their new son Sterling, who is right now sapping them both of their remaining life-force. For the first time I can remember, an infant took to me, trusting me unconditionally. Usually babies are very wary, but he thought I was the ant’s pants. I played ball with the little guy, giving mum and dad some welcome relief. I was offered the position of au pair, but it does not pay as well as my current position, so I reluctantly had to turn it down.
Navigating our way out of Sydney the following day, we were having a nice cruise up the Pacific Motorway when the traffic came to a screeching halt. After half an hour of crawling along we were reminded why we should be vigilant when driving during the holiday season. All too easy to have an accident, and Rebecca and I have had enough accidents for one lifetime, thank you very much.
We made it to Koorainghat in one piece, and after a long drive down dirt roads, arrived at Kiwarrak Country Retreat. Greeted kindly by our host Meg, we squeezed the car into the carport, unpacked, and watched the remaining cricket test match between Australia and England, enjoying a moment for the Australian cricket team who for the third time in history had beaten the English in the Ashes series five to zero.
We had dinner that night at what we thought was the only decent place in Taree, The Sicilian Restaurant. A few schnitzels and some schooners of Peroni later, I was back at the retreat having a nice warm bubbly spa to finish off the day.
The following morning we indulged in a couple’s massage and a spa. The afternoon consisted of a drive to Forster for fresh fish and chips for lunch. Moving onto Black Head we sat on a bench by the beach, and I wet my feet in the salty sea water while Beck waited in the shade, reading. We visited Old Bar beach momentarily, before finding out the venue where we had hoped to have dinner in Old Bar, was closed.
Heading into Taree Rebecca and I finally broke down and had a tiff. Hungry and running out of options, we decided on a fish and chip shop. During our drive to said fish and chip shop in the north of town when we came across another fish and chip shop that also sold Thai food called Ticky Thai and Tucker. There was a brewing shop attached to the fish and chip shop. The owner ran both, and he and his Thai wife did the cooking. Some of the best Thai food we have had in Australia. And there are a lot of Thai places in Melbourne. This place is not on Google maps. So make sure you click the link of you want to go. I was thinking about asking him to sell me a few beers of whatever he had just brewed, but decided against it. Seemed very defensive when I asked him what his latest batch was. It was a Pilsner, which I am not a big fan of anyhow, so no loss.
I had another spa that night; use it while you got it I say, which is what I did the next morning as well. I was a little wrinkled from prolonged water submergence, not my age ok?!
After soaking for a sufficient amount of time, we drove north to Port Macquarie. Not intending to do much at all. We stumbled across the Sea Acres Rainforest Centre. Heading into the cafe we missed lunch service by one minute. Yes, ONE minute, and settled on cake and coffee before we borrowed a wheelchair and rolled along the walkway. The weather had been a little cooler that day, and moist. It was the perfect day for a stroll through a rainforest.
Returning to Old Bar to the Sai Thai Table and Tea we had a nice dinner and some take away frozen ice cream.
Leaving early the next morning we bid Meg farewell and headed to Orange. This was going to be the longest drive so far on our road trip. Yet by the time we reached Orange nearly eight hours later I was not tired. After we left the motorway, there was hardly a straight road along the journey, keeping me alert and aware.
From Newcastle we headed west down the Golden Highway, taking the only road off the highway between the Goulburn River and Wollemi National Parks down to Bathurst and over to Orange. We had some spectacular views along the way but unfortunately I was limited in the places that were safe to stop and take photographs.
It was great to see there were a lot of signs up opposing CSG and the use of fracking along the road. Only once we saw drilling for CSG. I hope for the locals and the lands future they succeed in their fight against the mining companies. The mining companies are also trying to dig underneath their land to extract coal. Several signs against the practice were also visible. As we past Branxton we saw several open cut mines. Very unsightly, unless you are making money from it I suppose. Also along this stretch of highway it was the only place we experienced reckless driving. Go figure.
Our accommodation in Orange was right in the middle of town on the high street at No.52. The building is very beautiful, old and has a great soft bed and large clean bathroom. I really enjoyed the shower after the long drive. Dinner was had at a local wood fire pizza restaurant which was ok, but nothing to write home about.
Our only day in Orange was rained out. The rain came and stayed around until late afternoon. Regardless of the wet we went for a wander in Cook Park which was a short walk from our accommodation, where we purchased a toilet roll holder in the local craft shop. Yes we did. It was a nice toilet roll holder ok, and we needed one.
That night we had one of the best Japanese meals we have had in Australia at Mr. Sushi King. Which is a very cheesy name but very good meal. Some sake and beers later we retired back to No.52.
I was supposed to drive eight hours home to Melbourne the following day, but decided against it. While looking for accommodation in Beechworth, we came across a cheap cottage in Yackandandah.
We drove out of the rain of NSW back into Victoria stopping at the National Museum of Australian Pottery in Holbrook at Rebecca’s request. I found it mildly interesting even though I am not a huge fan of pottery. We had a very average lunch at the Holbrook bakery. Nothing else was open. The milk shake was good though.
Making our way down more dirt roads we found our cottage and were very warmly greeted by Ali, her husband and daughter. Twisted Willow Cottage is on a working farm, with horses, sheep, chickens and plenty of birds around. I fed and pet the horse, something I have not done for twenty years.
That night we dined well at Graces place, No.13 High Street in Yackandandah. I had one of the biggest t-bone steaks I have ever had for $25. Not to mention the softest. We highly recommend this place. I recommend booking as although it was not busy, they need to know you are coming. They only just re-opened and are getting back on their feet, so the menu is whatever is in the fridge that night.
After a long conversation with Ali at Twisted Willow Cottage and dining on her chooks eggs we drove home to Melbourne in some very oppressive heat. It was a nice uneventful drive home, stopping in Beechworth for lunch, and at Kirby Flat Pottery for a look at some pieces from a master potter, and purchasing some plates, bowls and ramekins. I had a good chat to John at the master potter about the dangers of fire in the country areas. He agreed they should shut the power off on high wind, high heat days. Seems logical considering that power lines cause more fires than anything else.
That brings us to the end of our road trip. Not a spectacular trip but enjoyable none the less. I have grown up with the rolling hills flowing into dense bush backing onto sandy beaches. So I suppose to me it’s nothing new and not that interesting. I suppose you could say I am a little spoilt. Maybe my images tell a different story.
For the first time after her motorcycle accident Beck was to leave the safety of our home. With the wheelchair in the back seat, all the medical supplies that were required for the two weeks and the luggage, we set off from Melbourne and headed to Port Fairy.
We decided to start our tour of the Great Ocean Road at Lorne. This route takes you through the mountains instead of around the coast. I mention this because on the mountainous, windy roads we encountered cyclists, racing. There were no signs about this race, no trailing car warning us of their presence. It seemed an unofficial race. But none the less, they like to take up the road, and not care about the traffic. As we passed them, Beck became uneasy, which resulted in a panic attack. She was having flashbacks about her accident.
Here our journey almost ended before it had started. Beck wanted to go home, NOW! She was worried about her ability to handle the lengthy drive we had embarked on. I held firm and we made it to Apollo Bay were we stopped for lunch. If you stop in Apollo Bay for lunch, and like seafood, Buff’s Bistro has great seafood chowder. I love my fishy dishes and this hit the spot.
This also gave Beck time to settle and reaffirm her confidence in my driving, and in her own ability to cope with this long journey. With a full tummy and a relaxed wife we proceeded with our journey down the Great Ocean Road.
We did the usual thing down the coastal road. Stopped a few times, took in the sights of the coast, and stopped at the Twelve Apostles with all the other tourists.
In Port Fairy we stayed at Clonmara, in a little cottage. (Their website was down when I attached this link). Clonmara is a bargain. The owner, who I am guessing is an English ex pat, was charming and very friendly. The room was big, clean, and had a nice large bath room for Beck and her wheelchair. In addition, some port and chocolates gratis on arrival. By the end of the holiday I had acquired three bottles of port, due to this kind gesture.
For dinner, we booked what we thought was a table at The Stag, but upon arrival we were told that our booking was not taken. The gent kindly informed us that we had most probably called Saltra Brasserie, as they now posses their old phone number. Indeed we had. No drama. Saltra was not as fancy, but the food was good and there were not as many noses in the air (so to speak), so overall a good night. I had a new beer there too. A very nice Prickly Pear beer. Have a pot if find yourself in the bar. Very tasty and light.
Our next destination was Robe, in South Australia. Right away we came across what was our first lot of wind farms on the journey. I just had to take a few photos. With the cows in the field, it made a good shot.
Shortly after setting off, Beck needed to visit the little girl’s room, and we needed a decent coffee. We took a detour to Portland. Not being on the way to anywhere, Portland seems to be a place forgotten. It was Sunday, and as you might guess, nothing was open. Beck found tea rooms that were open, so we stopped in the hope of finding a decent coffee. Decent coffee we did find, and a coffee table we could not resist either.
The tea room was also a gallery, called The Tea Tree Gallery. It has some very nice artwork, jewellery, tea cups, and ornamental nick knacks, and of course coffee tables. We chatted with Belinda the owner for so long, that Vaughn the artist who made the coffee table appeared. He informed us about the creation of the tables and the significance of the materials used.
If Rebecca had not needed to tinkle, we may not have our special little table. There is no other reason to go through the main street of Portland. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s not on the way to anywhere. If you are on the way to South Australia, via the Great Ocean Road, drop into Portland, just to drop into The Tea Tree Gallery. It’s well worth it. You might find something you can not resist.
At the recommendation of Belinda and Vaughn we went a little further out of the way, to Cape Bridgewater. On the way to the cape, we took a dirt road and found more wind farms, and the walk that Belinda had mentioned. But Rebecca could not manage the walk so we headed to the Cape. It was a beautiful sunny day, and this little out of the way beach was perfect for surfers to exploit. We stopped, sucked in the sea air and I put my feet in the water, and quickly retreated and it was ice cold.
We wasted much time on our detour so from the Cape we headed straight for Robe, only stopping in Mount Gambier for a fish and chip lunch. I have a question. Where is the Mount in Gambier? Ok maybe it is there, but I did not see it.
The nice thing about going from Victoria into South Australia is the speed limit. From 100 to 110kph. I do not know what it is about 110, but the car just seems to like going 110, more than it does 100. Those South Australians have got that right.
In Robe we stayed at the Patsy Ryan Cottages in cottage B. It’s a cottage on the outside but a standard house on the inside. The house was roomy and comfortable. But my one complaint is that we still do not have our bond back. Sarah our host warned us as much, but it is three weeks later and still no sign of it. I will amend this if we get the bond back, but as of now, no bond, so bad review.
We unpacked, and went for a drive. While by no means a large town, Robe was quaint and quiet. It’s a town with a little history and a lot of new boat owning residents. I would guess a lot of the houses are those of the rich, who come down when the weather is good, to go sailing and the like.
As the sun went down I took a few shots, without the tripod, and then to the Caledonian Inn for dinner. For a place by the sea the Oysters Natural were very disappointing, not fresh. The Seafood Special was next, which was nice but nothing to rave about. Service was good and friendly. After dinner I had a few local ports, and we bedded down for the night.
Next morning we headed to Cape Jervis for the ferry ride to Kangaroo Island. A long 400km drive, then a ferry and another 130km to the accommodation. Needless to say it was a long drive. So, when we stopped for a break at Salt Creek, where there was the general store and that was it, I purchased one of those Mother drinks. After consuming most of that, I was well awake, and made it in good time to Cape Jervis. We had so much time on our hands, I stopped several times to take photos.
When we arrived at Cape Jervis, the winds were so strong, that I struggled to open the car door. 75km/h average speed we later found out. You could imagine how strong the gusts were. The wind cone at the port hardly moved. It was virtually locked in the horizontal position.
Beck was not in a good mood as she knew what we were in for. I was blissfully unaware. I drove the car onto the ferry and met Beck inside. She was close to the front. She informs me this is not good for sea sickness. Oh well, come what may. I was certainly not expecting what came next.
While Beck was throwing up, requesting a new vomit bad every 10 minutes, I was concentrating on my breathing, trying to hold back whatever it was trying to take over my body.
As the ferry rocked and smashed against the waves, Paresthesia appeared in my feet and hands. It then proceeded to invade my body from these two points, creeping all the way through my limbs, and into my stomach, where it had no place to go. So I concentrated on breathing and focused the horizon. 50 minutes later we made it Pennenshaw. We docked, and the call went out to all drivers to go to their cars. Beck told me to go, but I could not move.
It took me at least another 5 minutes to drag myself up and go down to the car. After disembarking and picking Beck up, we sat in the car park to recover. I do not know if it was the Mother energy drink, or just me, but that was one of the most intense experiences I have ever had. The next 3 days I kept an eye on the weather, praying for light winds when for our return journey. I recovered sufficiently to drive and we headed into Kangaroo Island.
Beck once again started to have panic attacks. Once again I pulled over; let her recover for a bit, but to no avail. We had to get going as it was near dusk, and driving in the bush not knowing where I was going, was not my idea of fun.
On our way to the accommodation we had the displeasure of running over the top of a blonde echidna, and I nearly hit a kangaroo. The echidna looked to be fine; he went under the car and bounced a bit after he’d rolled up into a ball. Beck went berserk, yelling ‘you killed an echidna’ over and over; until I told her that I thought it would be fine, just a bit bruised.
Our home for the next three days was the Wilderness Valley Studio. Beck had assumed that there was more than one, but to her surprise we were all alone, 8km down a dirt road, with not another house in sight.
The studio had a great wood fire convection heater, solar and wind power, rain water tanks and the lot. All you needed was provided for. We did not want for anything. Except for some strange reason a sponge to do the dishes and a tea towel to dry them. We settled in, and were very comfortable there. So much so we could have easily spent a week in this place, relaxing in front of the fire.
The next day the wind did not retreat. In fact it gained strength. Nothing stops the tourist, and tour we will.
Day one we went to the Flinders Chase National Park. First stop Admirals Arch to see the New Zealand Fur-seals. I managed to struggle against the wind, and avoid the rain, but not the sea spray. Beck made it out of the car, 10 meters, then back again. With the wind that strong, she could not make it 50m to the viewing platform.
Next we went to see the Remarkable Rocks. This time Beck was able to make it to the viewing platform which was behind a wind break. I went down to the rocks, and like many others, had to brave the wind, trying not to get blown over. Well worth it though, and had it been a better day, it would have been all the more enjoyable. Also I would have gone back with the camera at sunset, had there been one!
After, we dropped into Vivonne Bay general store and purchased dinner and a bottle of wine for the night. As we were leaving, we decided to drive down Vivonne Bay Road to have a look what was there. I was glad we did, as the sun had decided to show itself finally, and I found some rocks that were very unusual, and took a few good shots.
On the second day we were spared the wind, and the sun shone often. First stop Seal Bay to see the Australian Sea-lions. I was able to see the NZ fur-seals at Admirals Arch, even though I was drowned in sea spray, but Beck was yet to see a seal. We headed in without the wheelchair to see how far Beck could walk. It was a long way down, but there were no steps, so I ran back to get the wheelchair, though Beck told me not to bother. In the end she was glad I did.
You cannot see the seals from a distance. You may see a few sprawled on the beach, but when you get down you find that there is many more sunbathing amongst the vegetation.
It was Becks birthday, so I had booked us a late lunch at the Andermel Marron, which consists of the Two Wheeler Creek Wines and The Marron Café. We had some good seafood and very nice wine. The Marron is large freshwater crayfish, much like a yabby. They grow much larger so I was a little disappointed when the marron on the seafood platter was rather small.
I had assumed that was as large as they grew, and the images I had seen on the internet had been misleading. After lunch, we went to the holding shed come cellar door, to buy some wine. Here we discovered the marron do grow very large. These marron are sold to restaurants. Typical! If you ever come across a restaurant that has them, ask about the size, and if they are large, have one. They were delicious.
Regrettably we left the next day, and headed for Adelaide. Not before stopping in Emu bay to go for a drive on the beach. Yes, a drive on the beach.
The gods were with us on the return ferry ride. The winds had died, and our ride back to the mainland was pleasant and warm. I felt so good I went up top to take photos, even if it did smell like sheep shit!
I will leave you here. The trip is so long, so much seen in a short span of time, that it deserves a break. Hope your enjoying the trip and the images so far. See you in the next instalment.