Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Few Days In Wagga Wagga

Early in January I travelled to Wagga Wagga with Lucy and Glenda to visit the fourth member of our motley crew, Barb.

Originally we had been planning a weekend away with all four of us together - but Barb's family and  health issues, along Lucy's recent auto accident put paid to that and it was cancelled. Glenda, Lucy and I decided to rent a unit in Wagga for a few days, drive up and surprise her.

To ensure that it all went smoothly we secretly co-ordinated it with her hubby. We should have known better... never involve a man in planning. Barb had a day procedure scheduled for day two of our three day visit - and with the first day taken up largely by travelling our time together was briefer than we would have liked - but that made our time together all the more important. The weather was very kind to us, sunny and warm without being overly hot.

We headed up on the Monday morning - stopped off in Culcairn and had a light lunch at the fabulous bakery there

Plane trees seem to be 'de rigueur' once you hit NSW

While Barb was having her surgery on Tuesday we took a side trip up to Gundagai

Gundagai Railway Station
Gundagai has a lovely old heritage railway station..... you could almost see the travellers of the 1800's stepping off the steam trains........

As well as its heritage bridges...."four bridges spanning the Murrumbidgee flats: the historic Prince Alfred Bridge, the timber Railway Bridge, and now the dual Sheahan bridges of the Hume Highway."

which for 'safety' reasons is barred from walking on  (really? LOL)

and of course, the famous Dog On The Tuckerbox

spotted these vapour trails walking through the park in Wagga.....

and as I had the new Fujifinepix HS50 with me (with its 42x zoom) I was able to track right in and see what was making them

Hampdon Bridge, Wagga
On our last evening we took a drive the Hampdon Bridge in Wagga Wagga itself.. its due for demolition soon.... we were lucky enough to get a fabulous sunset

Too short a visit... am looking forward to Barbs visit here coming up in a couple of months.... when we can really catch up together!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

I Just Lurve A Road Trip Pt 4

Tuesday: Menindee to Mildura

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After the wind and overcast day yesterday we awoke to a gentle breeze and brilliant sunshine, and, as it was our second to last day, and the next morning would be in 'civilisation' of Mildura we decided to cook up the last of our supplies for breakfast... Fried eggs, Tomatoes and toast... I cooked, short person was 'toast girl'.. sister had a rare lie in...

After we had eaten and cleaned up we headed off around 8.30... into the 'town' of Menindee, turn right at the General store with no bread, past the supermarket with no meat... turn right again and head towards Wentworth.

About 10kms out we hit dirt road... and except for the excellently bitumen cattle grids, it stayed like that all the way until we were about 6kms out of Pooncarie - 106 kms of dirt road!  We saw almost no road kill for the first 50kms .. obviously because the speed you needed to drive at ensured you had time to avoid anything!  Saw lots of emu's in scrub beside the road - had to stop a couple of times to allow them to pass...

We were sitting there in the car (in the middle of the road) snapping away for so long they got curious and started walking towards us.

These were the only two roo's we saw (alive) on our entire trip... and thats not a driveway.. thats the road we were travelling on!  They were sitting in the middle of the road and we stopped till they took off. We made it into Pooncarie.. and sealed roads about 10.30 - took nearly two hours to do 120kms... stopped off at the cafe for a coffee.. the road rally people were there again too...this time it was the Bourke Ambo's ...before heading off again to Mildura.. this time on sealed roads all the way.

We arrived in Wentworth around 1pm and decided to detour to the Perry Sandhills for a picnic lunch...

According to geologists, the Perry Sandhills originated after an ice age (40,000 years ago) and are formed by wind erosion over thousands of years. The dunes are located six kilometres outside of Wentworth and are a unique land formation of 400 acres of continuously shifting sand dunes

We sat under this large river red gum... in the shade of the canopy actually, because the trunk of it is buried in the sand dunes

it was just beautiful there.. silent.. quite spiritual with nature vibes... it was very easy to visualise what it would have been like a couple hundred years ago as Burke and Wills came past...

After lunch we headed into Mildura.. back to the Mildura Motor Inn.. pool was clean and open so short person was straight off for a swim... we all showered a ton of the Perry Sandhills off us...put on our glad rags and headed into town for a last night dinner.. we had spotted a restaurant earlier in the day called Rendezvous and decided to go there.. they had a lovely outdoor dining area and the menu looked was better than good.. food was exceptional.  We started with Warm turkish bread accompanied with house made dukkah, Robinvale Estate olive oil & lemon lebna (knocked the Stefano's bread and dipping sauce out of the park) followed by Veal chops (short person had the childs eye fillet again but requested 'medium rare' when she ordered)  our meals were to die for.... would go back to Mildura again just to eat there lol.  We then ordered two desserts and three spoons to finish the night off... Warm Chocolate berry pudding served with a raspberry ice cream & topped with a hot chocolate fudge sauce and Chocolate Indulgence .. Chocolate cake, choc mousse, choc icecream, chock fairy floss cream... yummmo!!

After that meal we all rolled back to our room... lights out and goodnight....

Wednesday: Mildura to Melbourne

We alarming regularity we were awake early... sister and I read in bed while short person snored away till we woke her at 7.30 - packed the car and out the door by 8am.. breakfast at mc donalds... (hot cakes) then in the car and home... we stopped in Sea Lake for average coffee and cake.. then continued on.. Inglewood we picked up excellent fish and chips which we ate in the car while we drove.. and arrived home safe and sound at 3pm 

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In total (city to city not counting smaller trips to dinner and sightseeting) we did 1820 kms.....
Fabulous holiday... great company... already planning the next one :)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

I Just Lurve A Road Trip Pt3

Monday: Broken Hill to Menindee

Monday we woke to wonder where our sun had gone... it was still warm, but quite overcast and cloudy... as was 'de rigueur' of our days we were up, fed, showered, car packed and on the road by 8.30am (bit of a sleep in today).

We were off to Menindee... we had a van booked at the Menindee Lakes Caravan Park (yes def booked cause I did it direct instead of through booking.crap).  Menindee is 112kms from Broken Hill so it was going to be a easy run.... we filled the tank before we headed out (driveway service too!  havent seen that since 1920!)

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Road was excellent, single lane each way, but not a lot of traffic and what little we did see kept to the 110kms.. not a slow caravan in sight.  We were seeing so much RoadKill that we started counting it... if you're planning a trip from Broken Hill to Menindee - its a 16 RK trip :)  Saw lots of dead roo's.. seriously its not a busy road cant they wait 2 mins till the car passes... or look left?  came around one corner and came across a dead wild mama big and piglet, two roo's and a lizard - talk about dead mans bend... hope it wasn't all one car that collected them!

Loads of flood plain signs along the road as well as depth markers for the water but nary a drop of water in sight....and passed quite a few dry creek beds.  

We arrived around 10am and called in at the general store for bread... "thats delivered after 11am, do you want me to save you a loaf?".. umm ok... then over to the supermarket... "do you have any fresh meat"?  ... "no, thats delivered tomorrow" .... sheesh.. save me from tiny towns!

With directions from the general store with no bread we found our caravan park... unpacked and looked around.. okay.. 5mins that was done....made ourselves lunch with the last of our bread and sliced meat... 

We decided to check out the Kichega National Park.... I had heard lots of good things about it... hmmm no...It is definitely a 4wd place only... dirt roads everywhere..even though they said its 2wd...and they are BAD dirt roads... thought we were going the shake the car apart.  We did stop off at the Kichega Woolshed...

which was interesting......

except for the very friendly flies... .that drove us back to the car pretty quick smart... would have hated it out there in the 1800's

I had been driving that morning - letting sister take it easy as she still wasnt 100%... but she took over as we left as she wanted to get the hell out of there felt I needed a break and while we drove around in circles for a while (no signs) along shuddering bone jarring dirt roads.. we had visions of our whitened bones being found years from now......eventually we found the exit then back to the general store to claim our bread.. (last loaf, lucky she saved it) and bless you she also had roast chickens so that took care of dinner. to the cabin..and chilled out reading for while... which turned into nana naps for all of us..

Towards sundown, with more directions on the best spot to photograph the lakes we headed off up the road..."go up the bitumen, cross over the channel, turn left at the first dirt road, there's no sign... drive to the end.. you cant miss it"  sure.. they don't know us!  we missed it...turned left at the dirt road after the creek, (thinking that was the channel) and took the first dirt road to the end... parked the car, walked across the railway line and to the water... fab spot!  could see where we we meant to be.. but this one was good!

The light was amazing... almost naturally monochromatic... it had been such a dusty day the sky was full of it and it added a total haze across the sun

Photo by Carole
Between the side of the channel we were on, and the other side was a weir with water spilling through from the channel into the lakes.. .lined up at the weir was a back row of pelicans....

photo by Carole
....and a front row of Seagulls... all waiting for the channel to spit out dinner

every few mins a little silvery fish would come through and down the spillway and they would all dive on it... went on for ages.. .was hilarious to watch :)

Gradually the light changed as it got darker....and bearing in mind all the road kill we had seen thus far, we packed up and headed back to the cabin before it got totally dark

Cabin beds were comfy... shower was 'ok' (rain tank no water pressure) but we were fed, showered and comfy.. and in bed again lights out by 9.30 .... tomorrow was back to Mildura.... 

Friday, September 27, 2013

I Just Lurve A Road Trip Pt2

Saturday: Mildura to Broken Hill

After our paddlesteamer cruise we were back on the road and off to Broken Hill.. for a bit of history of its the birthplace of BHP Biliton and is an isolated mining city in the far west of outback NSW.

Its almost on the border of South Australia (and goes on SA timezone) and sits in the Barrier Ranges, astride the Barrier Highway to South Australia and Silver City Highway to Victoria and is 844kms from Melbourne, 500kms from Adelaide and 1100 kms from Sydney.  We had chosen spring to visit as its average temperatures in summer are well over 40c (104F)

The road in is good, and had a surprising amount of traffic on it for something that appeared so isolated, not bumper to bumper, but we passed many cars travelling in both directions.  We did stop about half way for a quick cuppa and biscuit (from the thermos and our supplies as there was not ONE town between mildura and broken hill).  Stop was brief as the flies out there will pick you up and carry you away!

Mobile reception is almost non existant once you leave Mildura, and we didnt get service back until we were about 6kms out of town, so the passing cars was very reassuring (however as it felt like Wolf Creek country we we hopeful if we broke down we wouldnt be helped by John Jarret lol)

We made good time and arrived in Broken Hill around 4pm... #1 sister had started feeling ill on the drive so after we met our lovely hostess from Jaden Cottages at our new home, short person and I unloaded the car and settled in while she showered and rested on the couch.

Our new accom was a three bedroom house with lovely little back yard, well set out kitchen with supplies and very comfy beds....however as the couch resting wasnt helping, and all doctors in broken hill seem to close at midday we added Broken Hill Hospital Emergency Dept to our 'must see' places.  We waited about an hour in the waiting room before they took her through to a hospital trolley for treatment (not too bad considering) but they only had one doctor on and were totally slammed with an emergency case wired up like supercomputer that was going via RFDS to a major city.... short person and I left her there and returned home to wait it out.  She was treated via an IV for pain, they ran blood tests and returned home around midnight via a cab (all patients discharged out of hours are sent home via a taxi paid through medicare.. what a fab idea!).  Loaded up with lots of pills she was much better and back to her old self by morning.

Sunday: Silverton and Sculptures in Desert

Sunday was going to be warm - but a bit windy (significant breeze Broken Hill called it).  We were off to Silverton and after a quick brekki we were on our way by 9am.  Silverton is a little 'ghost' town about 25kms outside Broken Hill.  

Silverton sprang up in 1867 with the discovery of silver, but when bigger deposits were found at Broken Hill the population moved there... it now has a permanent population of 89 and is a major tourist drawcard.  Mad Max and many other films were shot in and around Silverton and the Mundi Mundi Plain.

The friendly local here just wanders the town... we came across him again about an hour later on the veranda of one of the cafe's.  (I half expected to see Clint Eastwood step out from behind the building lol)

Silverton is apparently a very popular place.. and according the the publican.. sunday is his busiest day... even though we were there by 9.30 the place was still busy with cars and bikes everywhere (Lightning Ridge Policemen on a fund raising rally) and while it was a bit early for a drink (for us that is, we chose the cafe) the pub was doing a roaring trade. (they open at 6am lol)

5kms past Silverton is the Mundi Mundi Plain.... (Priscilla Queen of the Desert filmed in Silverton, Mundi Mundi and Broken Hill as did Mad Max)

After Silverton, we headed back to Broken Hill for a brief siesta before heading back out the the Sculptures in the Desert.  Amazing place... busy too.. even had a coach bus up there!  would have loved to have been able to see it without the crowd.. one chap had an absolutely humongous video camera setup on a tripod hogging the best spot... everyone trying to shoot around him...

The sculptures were created by artists from around the world in 1993 and sit atop the hilltop in the Barrier Ranges.

12 Sandstone sculptures were created and all tell a story

Loved this place..highly reccomend if you are in the area.  

After we left the sculptures we headed back into town - enjoyed a lovely dinner at the Demo Hotel and then it was back home and lights out be 9.30pm again... gotta stop getting up so early!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I Just Lurve A Road Trip Pt1

Melbourne to Mildura

I do love road trips... the fun of planning, packing, looking at new things out of the window... the different cuisine or lifestyle when you get there.... and while this one was still a great success.. travelling with a nine yr old does limit your patience 'chi' a tad.. they talk.. constantly... and while we didnt hear one single "are we there yet" or "how much further" (having been pre warned under sentence of dumping by the roadside ah no icecreams for a day) we still had constant fidgeting, rustling of lolly bags (maybe it was the sugar high) and many "I'm thirsty, hungry" on the long legs.. next time.. leave short person at home, or plan shorter hops.

We were all up by 6am and were on the road by 7am  Friday morning in horrible drizzling rain and rugged up in warm clothes....

Our first overnight stop was Mildura which we hoped to make by 1.30pm giving us time to take a paddlesteamer cruise... with stopping every couple of hours for coffee and loo breaks we soon realised that wasnt going to work... the weather got better as we headed further north, but the wind was chilly so the coats never came off until we were almost at Mildura.  

Once we arrived at our accom to encounter the first major hiccup.. our booking wasnt on the books.  I always travel with my accom confirmations and on my paperwork we were def due, on theirs .. no.  However the lovely proprietor did have ONE room left and made us very comfortable and welcome.  Going on the the confuddle with that booking I phoned ahead to Broken Hill and we werent expected there either!  To compound the issue, they were fully booked... however they did accommodate us in another holiday rental owned by a relative so we didnt end up driving all that way and sleeping rough.  Mental note, and word to the wise.. DO NOT use they tried passing the error as the fault of the venues, but 2/2 and the common demominator was I would never book through them again.

Accomodation issues resolved we were soon in sleeveless tops and sipping chilled wine.. short person headed for the pool and came back very quickly later throwing a hissy fit slightly disgruntled that she couldnt swim in it as it needed cleaning after the previous nights storm.  We headed into town that night for dinner and dined at Stefano's near the Mildura Wharf.  Staff were lovely and accommodating (something we found all across our travels was lovely staff and service people).  

My travelling companion on this trip was #1 sister and as she had been ill with the flu and tummy troubles leading up to the trip we decided to play it 'safe' menu wise and had the dipping bread with oil and balsamic, followed by calamari and garden salad, with the obligatory Savignon. Short person ordered the child's eye fillet with salad. Our meal was lovely - but nothing to write home about (yet I write here lol).  Child's steak was cooked well done but we assumed that being a child they figured they wouldn't like it rarer so we gave them a pass on that... calamari was nice and tender...service attentive.  We were well and truly fed, watered and tired out from the long day and were all in bed lights out by 9.30pm

Saturday..... bright, beautiful sunshine and a warm day ahead... body clocks totally off kilter we were all up by 6am again .. had a leisurely  breakfast in our motel room and then headed into town ... checked out a few shops.. including the local oppie.. morning tea at Gloria Jeans and then down to the wharf for our paddle steamer cruise we missed the day before.  

We were cruising on the Rothbury for two hours up river, past loads of other paddlesteamers moored along the banks...  through Lock 11 and back.  Refreshments on board (short person was happy).. souvenirs available (short person very happy)  going through the lock was interesting (but slow lol) had never seen one in operation before and it was quite quirky to see the boat rise and fall with the lock workings.... 

While we enjoyed our cruise two hours on a slow moving boat is as bad as six hours in a car with a short person.. it would have been much more enjoyable at a one hour cruise.. but still fun.. we were back in Mildura by 1pm, in the car and on the road to Broken Hill by 1.01pm lol

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Friday, August 2, 2013

The Great Ocean Road

For some time I had been trying to cajole Lucy to make The Great Ocean Road and Apollo Bay the focus of one of our weekends.  Constantly referred to (by Lucy) as the "Great Scary Great Ocean Road" and a refusal to contemplate the thought, she finally succumed to my begging and tantrums well considered argument and we booked a lovely little two bedroom unit in Apollo Bay with views of the ocean.

For those unfamiliar with the Great Ocean Road it is perfectly explained by Wikipedia as "an Australian National Heritage listed 243-kilometre (151 mi) stretch of road along the south-eastern coast of Australia between the Victorian cities of Torquay and Warrnambool. The road was built by returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932, and is the world's largest war memorial; dedicated to casualties of World War I. It is an important tourist attraction in the region, which winds through varying terrain alongside the coast, and provides access to several prominent landmarks; including the nationally significant Twelve Apostles limestone stack formations."  

Doesn't sound too scary does it.. but it is cut into the side of the cliffs.. is single lane each way, very bendy and twisty and has very little room between the road and a drop to the sea, hence her rampant paranoia understandable concerns.

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There is a short excellent video history of the road HERE  that's well worth a watch

Our trip down started in sunshine on the friday morning.. a tad cold, but beautiful sunny blue skies...We stopped off in Anglesea for an early lunch and continued on......

A brief stop at the Split Point Lighthouse at Aireys Inlet....and back in the car...

on into Lorne and then up into the hills to see Erskine Falls...I had left my glasses in the car - so didnt get the best shot as I could hardly see the settings and was NOT going back to the car to get them!.

  This was classed as a 'moderate' walk according to Parks Victoria...  320 steps down to the falls... means 320 back up... it was touch as go as to whether we would MAKE it back up... took lots of wheezy breaks trying to suck air into burning lungs... legs wobbly and refusing to go up another step...if we had mobile reception we may have been tempted to call in the rescue chopper! LOL

Someone's going to need the bailing bucket!
From Lorne we continued on to Apollo Bay.. .Collected our house keys and went for a walk around the harbour....

Craypots.. ready for next days fishing

After enjoying the sun at the harbour we headed back to our unit, nuked up the heating and settled in to do some art.. working on our journals.. ATCs for a swap etc.,

The road into the Lightstation

Next morning the sun had left us - was very overcast and windy but no rain predicted so we headed to the Cape Otway Lightstation.  Driving along the road the trees suddenly all looked totally stripped bare... was a very odd sight...

Bit further down the road we came across the culprit...apparently there is quite a large koala population.. dont know what they plan to do when the food runs out... cause the shelves are almost empty!

Cape Otway Lightstation is the oldest surviving lighthouse in mainland Australia and has been in continuous operation since 1848.  Life must have been terribly lonely and bleak there a hundred years ago... its perched above huge cliffs where the Southern Ocean and Bass Street collide.. and its no summer picnic.. great view.. but wind swept and bitterly cold.  We took refuge in the cafe for a serve of fresh scones with jam and cream and steaming hot coffee.  After the climb to erskine falls we didn't do the lighthouse climb.. though compared to split point and erskine it would have been a breeze (its not that tall due to the height of the cliffs it sits on) 

From Cape Otway we drove towards Port Campbell... Gibsons Steps was our next stop.  They are just before the Twelve Apostles and were originally a series of steps cut into the side of the cliff by Hugh Gibson (so he could get down to the beach to fish).  They have since been replaced by 84 concrete steps  - down to Gibsons Beach...

from here you can walk along the beach and the limestone cliffs tower above you

From there we were off to the Twelve Apostles (there is seven of them not twelve lol).  It was getting very grey with threatening skies.. sun came out briefly for a mins at a time - but we could see a storm coming - and sunday was predicted to be quite wet

From the Twelve Apostles we went into Port Campbell for lunch... Port Campbell, apart from the the pub, a cafe and servo seemed to be closed ... expected it to be bigger, and for 2pm in the afternoon it was VERY quiet.  We ate at the only cafe open - meals took almost an hour to arrive and I was ready to walk out except that Lucy was chewing the table legs in hunger.  Once we wolfed our meal down we headed back to Apollo Bay, bought dinner provisions and got back to the unit just as the rain started... we had a good thunderstorm that night, and brief sunshine again sunday morning before the heavens opened again and it kept raining, quite heavily all day.  T'was a day for staying in and arting.....


As has been the case everytime we go away - Monday was bright, sunny and very nice in the sun.  We left Apollo Bay a little before nine.. took breakfast in Lorne and went for a walk along the beach and through the rock pools...

before our now customary 'last day' photo... 

All in all a very enjoyable weekend.. our accom was very comfy, weather was kind to us (considering it was winter after all), we made art, ate junk food, talked, laughed and had a wonderful time.....