Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200401 Australia-Vic Tas

THURSDAY 1 JANUARY 2004 – A nice day with plenty of sunshine.  Garth & Jude arrive back in the evening with just Tom, Ellie & Alex having flown to New Zealand to their grandparents.



FRIDAY 2 JANUARY – When we go into the house the dogs hang around Steve until he asks Jude if she has already fed them.  Jude looks puzzled and tells him they only get fed once a day, in the evening.  Steve’s been feeding them twice which may explain why we ran out of dog food and also why sometimes two of the dogs weren’t very interested in their food. Can’t believe the dogs never said anything to us!  Jude & I have a drive into town then return to do a few jobs.  In the evening Tom heads off to Queensland for 3 weeks with a friend and for the first time in years Garth & Jude have no children at home (except us)



SATURDAY 3 JANUARY – It’s 36C by 10am so a lot of time is spent in the pool.  Steve puts the finishing touches to Billy by using up some old office carpet of Garth’s. 



SUNDAY 4 JANUARY – Garth is moving office today so we lend a hand transporting furniture and boxes.  In the evening we all go round to Kevin & Jane’s where we have a lovely meal and enjoy the conversation.



MONDAY 5 JANUARY – Plan to leave tomorrow so do a last few jobs.  Find out that I am now featured on the opening page of the New Zealand naturist web site –  When Jude unearths some navy blue stretch towelling I’m tempted to recover the seats in Billy to complete the refurbishment.  In the evening we are joined by their friend Steve for a roast dinner.



TUESDAY 6 JANUARY – Jude’s banned from town trips with me, we’re as bad as each other at bargain shopping.  Steve joins me this time as he needs some reading glasses and splashes out $2 (80p) on a pair.  From Tandy we buy a solar and dynamo powered torch and radio for $20 (£8.80).   Not only does it have it’s own solar panel for charging the batteries but it can also run on 3 AA batteries or be connected to the mains, great for camping.  This morning it’s a chilly 22C so most people are wearing trousers!  Return to finish the seat covers and begin packing Billy. 



WEDNESDAY 7 JANUARY – We head east on the NSW side of the border crossing back into Victoria at Robinvale.  Turn in to Belsar Island on the banks of the Murray River.  Once again Billy goes bush bashing along tracks to find us a pleasant spot to camp.  The riverbank is very steep and the water uninviting but then again so is the temperature.  Steve manages a complete AFD (alcohol free day), certainly the first his year and probably the first for quite some time. With the bed made up with the new covers Billy looks years younger.  The temperature drops in the night and we are almost cold for the first time this trip.



THURSDAY 8 JANUARY – Sleep in until 10am.  On the main road heading east we cross the river to follow the road from Tooleybuc to Nyah taking us past the famous “Ring Tree”.  Aborigines tied branches to the main tree until they eventually attached and formed a distinct ring that could be used as a marker.  Better still on the same road we see a huge Santa humping the back of a Cow shaped mailbox at a house called “Utopia”, maybe they were out of sheep!  The festive scene also includes a beer can Christmas tree.  On the radio they tell us today will be a cool 24C with tomorrow getting warm with 29C forecast, now that in England would be called hot!  Back in Victoria we drive into Vinifera, Murray River Reserve.  Again we find a camp spot by the river and settle down for lunch.  The flies are rather friendly but Aerogard keeps them at bay.  I’ve just finished washing up when I feel something in my eye.  I give it a rub but it suddenly gets worse.  Within minutes my eye is swollen with a huge yellow lump spreading across the eyeball.  Hastily pack up and drive to Swan Hill hospital.  I’m seen within minutes and the Doctor says it is a severe allergic reaction to something.  Although I washed my hands after using Aerogard I must have later touches some of my skin and then rubbed it into my eye.  Boy do I know about it.  The Doctor gives me an ice pack and prescribes drops and tablets. Not keen to travel further we take the Pental Island Road on the southern edge of town and camp on the banks of the Marraboor River (a.k.a. The Little Murray).   I can’t read or go out in the sun so spend the rest of the day lying down.  Receive the sad news that Uncle Ken has died.



FRIDAY 9 JANUARY – My eye is considerably better so we return to Swan Hill for a look around.  The main attraction is the Pioneer Village.  We do the touristy thing and take photos by the huge fibreglass Murray Cod.  Heading east we check out some of the Kerang Lakes, none suitable for free camping.  Reedy Lake is the main breeding ground for Ibis and has a good bird hide.  Turning south we are disappointed to find Lake Meran completely dry.  We have lunch in Leaghur State Park, a lovely spot also appreciated by millions of flies.  They spoil another nice spot on the Loddon River.  I suppose that being in cattle, sheep and wheat farming country it is to be expected.  Eventually find a comparatively fly free spot at the Butts Reserve in Maldon.



SATURDAY 10 JANUARY – We visited Maldon previously when it was pouring down with rain.  Maybe that’s why it took us awhile to recognise the place today in glorious sunshine (either that or we are getting senile).  Jajarawong near Yandoit is a clothing optional retreat.  Ron & Sandie have built it up over the years and now have 5 self contained cottages plus a camping area.  The sites are very basic and without power but do offer natural bush surroundings.  We settle in then take a walk but the hilly terrain makes it hard work.  John & Brenda are day visitors from Ballarat but John originally comes from Preston.  They also have a motorhome so we compare notes.  The only other campers are Kevin & Jane whom we meet at the 5pm Happy Hour.  We follow this up with a nice soak in the hot tub before returning to camp.


$18 first night, $15 second, $13 third and subsequent. Cottages $110 per night.


SUNDAY 11 JANUARY – A cooler and cloudy morning as we head onwards to the spa town of Daylesford.  The town is very busy and we take a stroll around the pleasant streets.  Just south of Spargo Creek we turn off to a picnic area on the Werribee River to camp.



MONDAY 12 JANUARY – It’s Norm’s birthday today and we have been invited to join the family for a party at their bush block.  We rendezvous in Moriac where Bev & Norm arrive with the two Mums.  At the block the fire is soon ablaze and huge joints of pork and lamb are cooking in a camp oven.  Bev’s Mum Joan goes down to the dam to fish for “yabbies”.  The first two are small and when she slides into the dam trying to catch the next one she gives up.   The rest of the guests arrive, Bruce & Wendy, Geoff & Ruby and Brad.  11 of us enjoy a delicious roast dinner.  When the others leave around 10pm we settle down to camp for the night.



TUESDAY 13 JANUARY – Steve’s up at 8am and soon has the billy boiling on the fire.  It’s a lovely hot day so we relax and enjoy the solitude.  It’s late afternoon by the time we reach Ocean Grove and the town is packed with holidaymakers.  Bev & Norm are ready for our arrival and we soon settle in.



WEDNESDAY 14 JANUARY – Drysdale is better for shopping and Internet, it’s a similar size to Ocean Grove but being inland it is not so crowded.  Call round to Bob Swinburns in the evening as Jude from Mildura is there.  We get to meet Jane, Boyd & Adie as well and they are all very friendly.  Get back to find Bev has a children’s book was written by Bob many years ago.  She’s giving it to Daniel & Natasha so now we can tell them about the author.



THURSDAY 15 JANUARY – More time spent on the Internet.  Bev & Norm are going to join us for a tour of Europe this summer culminating in a Nile Cruise to coincided with Steve’s 50th in September.  Steve & Norm go out fishing and return with a catch of 13 flathead and whiting.



FRIDAY 16 JANUARY – Pottering around day for us all except Norm who has to take his Mum to a funeral.



SATURDAY 17 JANUARY – Steve & I join Norm on a fishing trip.  As we arrive at Clifton Springs boat ramp most of the other boats are coming in, not a good sign.  We’ve not been out too long before we get showers.  Norms catch, a toadfish, has an impressive defence mechanism.  Once hooked it inflates its main body.  By the time Norm throws it back in the water it looks like a small white balloon.  Apparently the Japanese eat the intestines but they have to be careful which part they select and how it’s cooked otherwise they can die.   My catch is a tiny 6” long specimen and that’s the sum total for the morning.  By afternoon the weather has faired up and we sit out sunbathing.  Bev & Norm’s niece Sharon and husband Ajit have visited Egypt so call round to offer help and advice.  After a delicious roast dinner (for which Brad appears) we settle down to see the photos and pick their brains.  Having already established that the Pyramids are at Cairo and not part of the Nile Cruise we can at least ask some sensible questions.



SUNDAY 18 JANUARY – Steve’s friend Dave Boxx has suggested we look up some friends of his whilst in Melbourne.  Kaz & Barbara live at Werribee about 100km away and we have been invited for lunchtime BBQ.  They are a similar age to us and we enjoy getting to know them.  Kaz cooks a huge BBQ with kangaroo, pork and porterhouse steaks, sausages and potatoes.  Served with salad and bread it makes a veritable feast.  After baked cheesecake and coffee we leave at 6pm.



MONDAY 19 JANUARY – Claire phones to pass on the news that our brother in law Alan has had a heart attack and is in hospital. We phone Netty and find out that he is OK but staying in for a few days whilst they keep and eye on him.  It’s a beautiful hot day so we make our way to Torquay to visit Point Impossible naturist beach.  No doubt naturists are not what you would expect to see from a Torquay Hotel window!  Steve & Norm frolic in the water like kids on the boogie boards, Bev & I remain sedate apart from a beach stroll.  Round the day off in Ocean Grove for an evening meal at “The Mex”.  The early bird 2 course specials $15 (£6.60) can be recommended.



TUESDAY 20 JANUARY – A change in the weather brings a warm muggy day with a late breeze.  For the middle of summer the weather here is as changeable as England. 



WEDNESDAY 21 JANUARY – Steve and Norm set out before 5am to fish off the coast near the Barwon River.  We get a phone call at 10am asking us to collect Steve; they have caught more than their bag limit and need to off load.  The days catch totals 24 snapper and 3 blue wrasse.  The most difficult haul of the day is Norm hauling Steve in as he was really enjoying himself.  Tragic news is of a 15-year-old boy dying on Ocean Grove beach when a tunnel he was digging collapsed on top of him. 



THURSDAY 22 JANUARY – I visit nearby Drysdale to shop and use the library.  On return Steve does an oil change on Billy.



FRIDAY 23 JANUARY – We all take a brisk walk along the beach from Ocean Grove to Barwon Heads.  Norm is the only one game to round it off with a swim.  He’s an ex lifeguard and pretty hardy.  Jeff & Ruby are at their beach house so we call in for coffee.  It’s a lovely property with superb views over the bay. 



SATURDAY 24 JANUARY – Both get up at 4.30am to go fishing with Norm.  We launch the boat on the Barwon River then sail out to sea whilst enjoying the spectacle of the town lights.  By now it is just about light and we pick a spot to fish.  My first catch is an undersized snapper.  Norm then catches a couple of legal size before I reel in a juvenile blue wrasse (again too small).  Move to a few other locations but the fish aren’t biting like the other day.  In fact by the time we quit at 9.30am our catch totals 9 legal snapper and 3 just on size (one of each caught by me).  I’ve caught 4 fish (beginners luck) but sadly Steve hasn’t caught anything (because I’m a bad omen!). 



SUNDAY 25 JANUARY – The Skandia Regatta is being held in Geelong so we park at the Botanical Gardens then catch the free tourist bus.  Hop off at Cunningham’s Pier into a thong of people.  Walking along the sea front we are entertained by buskers, groups on stage, a display from The Roulettes (Aussie version of The Red Arrows), sand sculpturing and yacht races.  The area with food stalls and bars is especially popular.  The oldest and biggest regatta in Australia it is well supported and on a beautiful day the atmosphere is very festive.  We walk back to the gardens then hop on the bus again to do the full loop and take in the commentary.  Norm is working is his sister Ruby’s show home so we head over to Highton to look around.  There are two show homes and they are both beautiful and set amongst other equally impressive mansions with superb views over the bay.  At around $600,000 (£265.000) you certainly get a lot for your money compared to England.  Bev & Norm have arranged a party in evening for us to meet their friends.  Just before the first guests arrive they have other friends Jo & Kevin roll up to park their caravan in the garden.  As they are finishing settling them in the phone rings and our friends Margaret & Peter from Hitchin are asking if they can drop in to visit us tonight.  (We first met them in Cyprus, then called in the visit them in Hitchin and also stayed at Hitchin when picking up Bev & Norm last year).  In true Aussie style Bev takes it all in her stride and invites them along.  John & Beth, Carl & Bernice, David & Pam, Bobby & Rhinda arrive along with family members Ruby & Jeff and Brad.  After a lovely meal washed down by copious amounts of wine the jokes, songs and stories flow.  Needless to say all has a good time. 



MONDAY 26 JANUARY – A public holiday here to celebrate Australia Day.  Norm, Steve and Kevin go off fishing at Clifton Springs.  Bev, Peter, Margaret and I go round to John & Beth’s to look at their garden.  They have a foreshore property with massive grounds.  The gardens are fantastic, set out in tropical style.  Thatched huts provide a bar and shade around the swimming pool.  Steps with lookouts take you down to their private beach.  A few years ago they had an open garden day and over 4,500 visitors paid $4 (£1.70) to view with the $18,000 (£7.900) going to charity.  Their house is also amazing and crammed with antiquities from their travels.  Reckon this should be listed as a tourist spot.  No fish are caught so we end up buying meat for the evening BBQ.



TUESDAY 27 JANUARY – David’s 25th birthday.  Smorgy’s on Cunningham’s Pier is the meeting point for us all for lunch.  The buffet at $11.95 (£5.20) leaves us all looking pregnant and the lads complaining of indigestion!



WEDNESDAY 28 JANUARY – Margaret & Peter leave early as they need a van repair doing in Melbourne.  We leave at 4pm but soon have to pull over for me to drive. Steve’s stomach is so distended from yesterday that he can’t sit comfortably in the drivers seat!   Tank up with fuel and as Steve stands in line to pay they reduce the price – but too late for us.  I recently commented that I ought to get more practice driving but going into Melbourne was not what I had in mind.  There are no signs for the ferry terminal so Steve gets a sharp shock in practicing his map reading skills.  Like my driving they are a bit rusty but we eventually get there.  (Coming in from the west you leave the M1 at Todd Road.  Stay on Todd road to the seafront then turn left. R into Beach road then R at the roundabout to the ferry terminal).  Spirit of Tasmania offer free crossings for cars outside peak season so we’ve paid $112 (£49) each to get an aircraft type seat complete with pillow and blanket.  Margaret & Peter are on the same sailing as us but by the time they booked all the cheap seats had gone so they have paid for a 2 berth cabin.  As luck would have it they have been given a 4-berth cabin to themselves and they kindly ask us to make use of the top bunks.  The ship is a refurbished Greek ferry with all the amenities on one deck and the whole ship designated non-smoking.  By the time we sail at 9pm we are all pretty tired and it’s not long before we settle into the bunks. 



THURSDAY 29 JANUARY – The crossing is very smooth and we are woken at 6am as we approach Devonport TASMANIA.  Another bonus of being in the cabin is that we can take a shower.  None are available to people in the seats unless they are wise to the system and sneak down to the cabins where departing passengers have left the door open!  Disembarking it feels like arrival in a foreign country as we queue up for quarantine inspection.  No fruit, vegetables or fish are permitted and sniffer dogs double check.  It’s 8am by the time we clear the port and go our separate ways, Peter & Margaret heading to friends in the south and us taking the coast road west.  It’s dull and raining but as the weather in England is bitterly cold with snow and Queensland has heavy storms we’re not complaining.  Ulverstone Shropshire Park is full of memorials about ships.  The next town is called Penguin after the fairy penguins that visit.  There’s an enormous penguin statue and the rubbish bins have penguins running round the bases.  By the time we get to Burnie we’re both tired so crash out in the car park at Fern Glade.  After a refreshing snooze we explore the attractive riverbank site where at dawn and dusk you should see platypus.  Steve’s lured to the Lactos cheese factory where you get lots of free tastings.  The coastal scenery heading to Wynyard is lovely, craggy rocks and lots of beaches.  After turning off to Boat Harbour beach we spot a sign pointing to “something different”.  An elderly gentleman enjoys showing tourists around his collection of polished wood.  His imagination has run wild and he takes great delight in pointing out the faces and animals that he sees in each piece, often using the term a “jolly old ….”.  We’ve seen enough after a couple of hundred snakes, rabbits, birds and characters but he’s keen to show us every item and what the heck, it’s still raining.  We notice people’s names on signs and they sure seem to have some strange ones such as Efinstone (didn’t know there was one) and Kurt Cow Meadow.  Boat harbour beach is very pretty and as the rain has stopped I do the walk around the headland.  A bit further along Sisters Beach is also nice and this time we both walk along the beach before an afternoon nap.  It’s raining when we wake up so reckon this will do us for an overnight stay.  So first impression of Tassie (as affectionately nicknamed by the Taswegians) is that it’s a cross between New Zealand and Scotland with English weather and friendly people.    



FRIDAY 30 JANUARY – It’s a very pleasant morning and this makes our drive west along the coast even more enjoyable.  The town of Stanley is at the end of an isthmus dominated by “The Nut” a rocky lava outcrop.  It’s a 20-minute steep climb up the nut (or an $8, £3.50 cable car ride) and we need the exercise.  There are fine 360-degree views from the top as you complete the 1-hour walking circuit.  As it’s such a lovely hot sunny day we return to a potential free parking spot at the back of the beach between the iron ore smelting plant at Port Latta and Cray Fish Creek.  The huge sandy bay is almost deserted, as have been most of the beaches we have seen so far.  Manage a couple of hour’s sun bathing before the clouds gather and we move on.  At Wynyard we buy our most expensive petrol this trip at just over $1 (44p) a litre. Our route takes us inland up through farming country towards the mountains.  The fields are full of blue plastic bales with silage.  Goat here have their own small “A” frame huts on the grass verges.  Deforestation is apparent in many areas but we eventually get to some really nice rainforest where for good measure it starts to rain.  Hellyer Gorge State Reserve permits riverside camping and will do us for the night. 



SATURDAY 31 JANUARY – The rain fizzled out late last night and we wake to a reasonable morning.  Cradle Mountain National Park is one of the main attractions in Tasmania admission is $3.50 (£1.55) per person, $10 (4.40) per car including all the passengers or $33 (£15) for the 2-month car pass that we get.  There’s a free shuttle bus and we take it to Dove Lake at the end of the park.  Set off on the 2 hour Dove Lake walk with a sidewalk to Glacier Rock.  The scenery is spectacular and the walk fairly easy over gravel or boardwalk but with a couple of steepish hill climbs.  Next we take the bus to visit Waldheim Hut the original home of an Austrian recluse almost a hundred years ago.  By the time we have caught the bus back to the information centre, watched the movie and read the displays it is starting to rain.  Undeterred we head off on the Enchanted 20 minute walk.  The rain gets heavier so we make use of the mini shelters with windows, provided for children to watch the wildlife.  The walks have been lovely but the only remotely interesting wildlife we have seen are metallic skinks.  After leaving the park we are lucky enough to spot an Echidna (cross between a hedgehog and porcupine) by the roadside.  You can free camp by the boat ramp at Lake Rosebery and by the time we arrive the sun is out.  We really make the most of it by having a swim in the lake (au natural) and doing some washing.  Almost on queue another rainfall begins just after tea. 



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