Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200602 Australia-Vic

WEDNESDAY 1 FEBRUARY – We race down to the beach to make the most of the sunny morning.  Good job we do as by lunchtime the clouds have built up.  After a few drops of rain in the afternoon we manage to sit out but feel that for the middle of summer it’s poor weather.



THURSDAY 2 FEBRUARY – After rain through the night we’ve had enough and pack up to leave.  Bernie is staying on a bit longer.  As we set off the brake warning light comes on – unbelievable as we had a conversation with Bernie yesterday about brakes and said how good ours were!  It would seem that a minor leak at the back that we intended dealing with back in Geelong would not wait.   In Lakes Entrance we do a quick shop before phoning our friend Rob in Paynesville who suggests we deal with the brake problem when we get there.  Just through Bairnsdale we turn off and follow the river out to Eagle Point to view the famous stilt jetties.  Had we not read the info we would have just thought it another spit of land jutting out in to the lake, but a nice one at that.  In Paynesville we quickly find Rob & Sylvia’s place, are introduced to the aged dog “Digi” shown our room and made very welcome.  Rob gets us booked in to his local garage and Steve takes Billy straight down.  We get a late phone call to say Billy is ready and although only one side was a problem we have had both rear brakes done for $120 (£55). 



FRIDAY 3 FEBRUARY – We make the short walk in to Paynesville with Rob & Sylvia.  It’s a pretty little waterside town now growing larger due to the development of a new marina and canal side homes with their own mooring.  In the afternoon we borrow bikes and take the ferry over to explore Raymond Island.  It’s a small island only a stones throw from Paynesville but vastly different.  Residents think of it as paradise and enjoy the quietness.  There are few cars, hardly any roads but lots of coastal tracks for walking or cycling.  The town is in one corner with the rest of the island mainly bush.  In one section we see lots of koalas in the trees.  Back at Rob & Sylvia’s we all head off down to the Bowls Club to partake in the Friday evening barefoot bowling.  Sylvia has her own bowls and ends up on a team with Rob and another bowler called Judy.  Steve and I are their opponents along with Elizabeth, a lady visiting from Sweden who has never bowled before.  Needless to say we get whitewashed and loose 14 – 0.  On the positive side Sylvia & Rob get the prize of wine glasses for having the largest wining margin.  It should cost $2.50 (£1.10) per person and include food but it’s the first time they have held it and they haven’t got their act together with the food so it becomes a freebie.  Reckon it’s a great and inexpensive way to get to know the locals when you are travelling around. 



SATURDAY 4 FEBRUARY – After getting the washing out I spend time helping Rob on the computer whilst Steve sits out sunbathing.  Spend the rest of the day pottering around and chatting.   We have an evening BBQ then Rob & Sylvia head into town for old time dancing.  Our time is spent watching lots of movies. 



SUNDAY 5 FEBRUARY – Rob is really into sailing so we leap at a chance to go out on the boat with them.  It takes much longer to launch than a motorized boat as the mast has to be erected and the sails prepared.  It’s a beautiful day out on the water and we head out beyond Raymond Island into the network of lakes and canal with a huge dune sheltering us from 90-mile beach.  Steve perches on the front whilst I take the tiller.  We stop for lunch near Steamboat jetty, a popular spot with many other boats moored up.  A walk over the dunes takes us on to the beach where the water is much cooler and the wind really noticeable.  Enjoy a simple picnic lunch with fresh French stick, cheese and other bits and pieces.  I spot a man using a sort of huge bicycle pump in the water.  He’s trying to pull up worms to use as bait.  Rob shows me his home made version of the pump and I practice putting it over a worm hole, sucking up the sand then sprinkling it around to look for worms.  All I pull up are small shellfish and rubble.  With both sails up we make good speed heading along the waterways and have a lovely trip back.  Once we are near Paynesville we go on to motor and Rob takes us on a tour of the canals where we can see the luxury homes with their boats moored outside.  A great day out.



MONDAY 6 FEBRUARY – Sylvia heads off to her choir practice and I go out with Rob for a ride on his motorbike, as I want to pick up a few things from Bairnsdale.  Although he is 69 Rob neither looks nor acts like it and really enjoys being out on the back, so much so that we do a detour to the silt jetty lookout on the way back.  Late afternoon Rob takes us for a drive out to show us where they are creating new canals for further housing development.  We also drive through a new housing estate in an area that was once way out of town but is now on the outskirts.  Many Aussie men are judged by the size of their shed so the guy with the aircraft hanger sized one must be very proud.  However his neighbours rather than having shed envy must have shed rage as it really spoils the view.  In the evening I cook up a curry for us all.



TUESDAY 7 FEBRUARY – Time to move on and we head back through Bairnsdale stopping for a quick shop.  Sale is the largest town in the area (home of the Roulettes flying group, the Aussie version of The Red Arrows) and we do more shopping, use the free Internet at the library and check out a chip on our windscreen, it’s debatable whether a repair will be sufficient to get it through the road worthy that we need when we sell Billy.  With nothing else to detain us we head out to the coast and find a nice official free camping site at Paradise Beach.  It’s very popular and just over the dunes from 90-mile beach.  There is a good under cover area with tables, lots of sites but no doubt due to over use, very smelly drop toilets.  A walk around the area reveals far more houses than we realised along a network of roads.  We are most surprised to find a corner house with a sign in the garden indicating distances to various places including Leeds 11150 miles.



WEDNESDAY 8 FEBRUARY – Although a nice spot it’s much too busy for us so we return through Golden Beach and stop to use the clean toilets en route.  Along this stretch of coast there are many free camping sites and C7, by Delray Beach takes our fancy.  There is no one else there so we take over a corner spot and by 9.30am we are stripped off and sat out sunbathing.  After lunch we walk west along the beach until we reach the skeleton wreck of the “Trinculo” ship.  It remains hot and sunny for the rest of the day.



THURSDAY 9 FEBRUARY – Another change in the weather and we wake to a cool cloudy day but do manage to sit out reading until lunch time when we get quiet a down pour. During the afternoon dry spell we walk west along the road to check out site C8 but it’s small, close to the road and you can smell the toilet before you see it.   At least there is no toilet on C7.  While away the day reading and playing lots of card games before rain starts again in the evening.



FRIDAY 10 FEBRUARY – Travelling west along the coast we pass campsites up to number 20 before reaching the seaside resort of Seaspray.  The coast road stops here but by detouring inland we reach McGaurens Beach.  We pass a few grassy sites behind shallow dunes before reaching the boat ramp.  Further along the track becomes 4wd so we set up camp behind bushes at the far end well away from the other campers.  It’s much more exposed and blustery but during a sunny spell we enjoy a walk to the end of the track then back along the windswept beach.  Late afternoon we loose our secluded spot as fishermen and other campers pile onto the site, it seems to be a favourite weekend campsite for the locals.



SATURDAY 11 FEBRUARY – Surrounded by vans it’s too busy and noisy for our liking so we head off making another short inland detour to return to the coast at Jack Smith Lake State Game Reserve.  A track takes us almost to the dunes but becomes 4wd and prevents us parking up.  Doubling back we take the next main track on our right and make our way through a small wooded area then out towards the dunes only to be foiled again.  However back in the woods we find a lovely grassy clearing and set up camp. 



SUNDAY 12 FEBRUARY – It’s a very nice day so we walk down to the beach and enjoy a swim.  We can see the area by the dunes where the Gippsland Naturist Group hold rallies but you would need a 4wd to access it.  Still on the 90-mile beach we have a huge stretch to ourselves, the vast majority of people preferring to congregate on small sections of it.  On our way back we walk out over the dried up lake to check out what turns out to be a hide for game shooting, ducks etc being prolific in the area.  Spend the rest of the day sunbathing around the campsite being disturbed very occasionally by a car driving out to the beach.



MONDAY 13 FEBRUARY – Well we’ve had our couple of days of sun so it’s back to clouds as seems to be the trend in this part of Victoria.  Rejoining the main highway we reach the country town of Yarram with good facilities including free Internet at the library.  The visitor centre is inside the historic courthouse and has a free art exhibition with pictures of the area.  Make a lunch stop by the river in Alberton before turning off the highway at Welshpool to head up into the rolling inland countryside.  Agnes Falls are the highest single span falls in Victoria and really pretty but would be even more impressive after rain.  Heading back down towards the coastal town of Toora we pass a wind farm before the area opens out to give superb views along the coast and round to Wilson Promontory.  Foster is another nice country town and we do a last minute shop before heading out to Yanakie where you can free camp by the village hall.  There are toilets and a BBQ area but evening rain drizzle drives us inside.



TUESDAY 14 FEBRUARY – We make an early, 7am, start to drive in to the “Prom”, so early that the kiosk where they collect the $9.60 (£4.20) daily car admission fee is closed.  A sign tells us to pay at the Tidal River visitor centre.  The drizzle becomes heavy rain making visibility difficult and driving slow as we watch out for the many kangaroos lining the roadside.  Give the first few attractions a miss but it has dried up when we reach Whisky Beach.  A 300m walk takes us over a boardwalk and out to an attractive beach with great rock formations at either end.  Next stop is the Glennie Lookout with fine views out towards Norman Island.  Park up at Picnic Beach but by the time we have had breakfast the heavens have opened up again and this intermittent rains seems to be the weather pattern for the day.  Further along we manage to hit a dry spell to tackle the Lilly Pilly Gully Circuit, a combination of 2 walks totalling 5.8km.  Initially we climb through forest getting glimpses of the bay area of Tidal River.  The track drops down to join the nature trail back out where we find little of interest, as the flora is much the same as we have seen elsewhere.   At least we knock of the walk in just over 1 hour rather than the 2-3 hours suggested!  Tidal River is the only resort on Wilsons Prom and has almost 500 campsites, all very cosy and not our thing at all.  It’s very busy with lots of school groups camped up.  Pretty coloured parrots are so friendly they sit on the guy ropes.  We stop for a shower and go to the visitor centre before deciding that rather than camp and stay overnight we will press on and do as much as we can, weather permitting, in the one day.  Drive up to Telegraph Saddle car park where we get some idea of the devastation caused by the fires last year.  Mount Oberon is quite badly scarred but the burning of the forest has revealed the interesting rock underneath and down at ground level there are lots of new plants coming through.  We’re still getting lots of downpours and it’s quite misty so long walks or walks with views are not tempting us.  Heading out we stop at the Squeaky Beach car park where the Crimson Rosella’s pose for photographs.  An easy 300m walk takes us to the beach, so named because the sand squeaks as you walk on it.  It’s a wider but similar pretty beach to Whisky with interesting rocks to explore.  A few children brave the water but like us they head back to the car park when the rain starts once again.  Return to make the harder 400m walk down to Picnic Bay but it’s nothing special.  Turn off down a rough dirt track to park up and make the 1.2km walk over dried up Cotters Lake to the beach.  It’s really windswept and on a nice day and with less march flies it would be nice for a swim, but certainly not today.  It’s only 1pm but we’re a little disenchanted with the park, a combination of the weather plus we have already seen many very similar and equally spectacular places elsewhere within Australia.  The views whilst driving along have been excellent and had we stopped and done a few of the longer walks we may have seen it in a different light but we’ve had enough and head out of the park.   A turning on the right to Red Bluff leads us towards the coast and then down a very rough, narrow track to sea level.  We emerge into a large grassy clearing with a few boat sheds.  It’s high tide and there’s a narrow beach but it’s obviously an area of mangroves and mud flats and the water is not at all tempting, however we reckon we could easily camp here and have the place to ourselves.  Settle in and feel very pleased when the sun finally breaks through.  Hidden in the trees are various individual toilets and one has a sign saying “Danny’s Dunny”.  At high tide (around 4pm) a car towing a boat arrives and the 2 guys set about launching it for a fishing expedition.  They own one of the boat sheds a bit further along the beach.  Once the boat is launched they motor round to their jetty and deposit the camping gear in their shed before heading out to sea.  They return around 8pm but have to leave the boat anchored out at sea and wade ashore through the mud flats.  Their intention is to stay the night in the shed, (complete with generator, TV, fridge, cooker and other creature comforts) before going out fishing again in the morning.  Being Valentines day we enjoy a special evening meal at the waterfront.



WEDNESDAY 15 FEBRUARY – The fishermen go out again at 9am.  The area seems to attracts lots of birds and with binoculars we spend a lot of time observing them.  Each of the boat sheds has a water tank and they are all full to overflowing so Steve taps some off to fill our tank.  I go over to put some in the washing up bowl and immediately spot tiny tadpole type things swimming around in it.  Now I know there was a campaign in England many years ago where the petrol company Esso encouraged you to put a “tiger in your tank” but putting a tadpole in your tank is not quite so good.  We drain off the tank and use the water to give Billy a bit of a clean.  The fishermen return on the high tide after which we have the place to ourselves again.



THURSDAY 16 FEBRUARY – Apart from not being able to go in the water to swim this is a great spot with superb views towards Toora so we will stay longer and do a bit of washing.  The weather pattern now seems to be for a cloudy morning but a hot sunny spell mid afternoon and this works well for us.  



FRIDAY 17 FEBRUARY – Just a short distance away we check out Shallow Inlet on the opposite side of the peninsula.  The area is used for sail racing but is again mud flats and the national park campsites behind the flats are $8 (£3.50).  Just further on we turn down Adams Road and find a small camping area behind the beach but it keeps trying to rain again so we decide to press on.  Following the coast westwards we detour to Sandy Point and are surprised to find a full blown resort with campsite, shops etc.  Continuing around Waratah Bay we park up at Walkerville South to walk to the historic limekilns along the beach.  There are quite substantial remains and information boards telling of the history.  Continue our walk along the beach before scrambling up to the boardwalk to return.  A little further south is Bear Gully free camping area behind Maitland Beach.  It’s a really popular spot but there are plenty of secluded campsites and we find one to suit us with a grassy area and a short track through to the beach.   The afternoon brightens up and we get chance to bare all in our little gully.  We get plenty of sun between the clouds and later on walk south along the beach to explore.  It’s an attractive spot with lots of small bays split up by interesting rocks.  Clamber up at the far end for fine views before returning on a track through the woods.  Just before settling in for the night we see a small fox in the campsite and a kangaroo on the beach.  The site fills up with cars even arriving after dark.



SATURDAY 18 FEBRUARY – A dull morning made worse as I wake with a headache and stomachache.  Steve heads off blackberry picking and leaves me in bed.  He returns almost 2 hours later having had to walk the 5km back to the start of the track to find any bushes, but luckily got a lift back.  I make a sort of lemon sorbet to go with the blackberries and it’s surprisingly good.  The site is full to overflowing with 4 or 5 vans often crammed onto a site meant for 1.  A group of kids seem to have a project in hand building a couple of rafts from water barrels and bamboo canes.  Other sites are full of fishermen who either fish of the beach or sit around drinking.  Needless to say it’s not such a quiet night.



SUNDAY 19 FEBRUARY – The rainy start to the day sees lots of people packing up.  For those who hang around it turns to drizzle then we get a brief sunny spell in the afternoon but it’s not really beach weather.



MONDAY 20 FEBRUARY – We’re ready to leave by 8.30am and back on the main road we spot some blackberry bushes and quickly fill an ice cream tub with ripe juicy berries.  Tarwin Lower is by the river and at the picnic area there is a long table shaped like the river.  We fill up our water bottles and tank ready for another free camping spell.  From Inverloch we pick up the Bunurong Coastal Drive but soon see “road closed from 20th February” signs.  We really want to do this scenic drive and on returning to town ask for information and it’s suggested we try it anyway.  Our first stop is at the caves car park.  When we walk down to the beach we spot a gathering of people and a sign saying “Dinosaur Dreaming”.  We chat to one of the diggers and learn that each year the university group is given a 6-week period to excavate in this ancient riverbed from which they have pulled out thousands of dinosaur bones.  In the opposite direction along the beach we clamber over rocks to inspect the sea caves.  We’ve reached the area of road works but there is nothing to stop us driving through them to the next scenic stop of Eagle’s Nest with fine coastal views and a flat car park where we can cook dinner.  The rest of the drive is also interesting all the way to Cape Paterson.  We hope to find a free camping spot but this idea is blighted when we find 3 caravan parks and no camping signs in the car parks.  Cutting along tracks we reach the next “town” of Harmers Haven, all dirt streets and just a few holiday homes but with lots of development beginning.  At the end of Oleander Street we find a car park with steps down to the beach.  As with the rest of the coast we are down onto a rocky platform with lots of rock pools and interesting rock formations.  Returning for a hot drink we find out the water we have filled up with has a brown tinge, is almost opaque and froths up when you make a cup of tea, still it’s better for drinking that the stuff before with tadpoles in!  Will have to go back to our European policy of putting some in a clear glass before filling up.  We stay to watch the sunset then move back to the other car park in the village so we are not blocking the view from the holiday homes.



TUESDAY 21 FEBRUARY – It’s a short drive to the large town of Wanthaggi where we do a quick shop and fuel top up before heading out to Phillip Island, now connected by a bridge.  At Woolami Beach we park up and walk along the beach then up steps to do a circuit walk around the headland.  We get fine views and see lots of interesting rock formations including The Pinnacles.  The whole area is used for Mutton-bird nesting and we pass thousands of holes and can also smell where they have been.  There is a strict policy against free camping on the island so we are resigned to going on a caravan park.  At The Maze they charge $20 (£9) for a scabby site surrounded by the entrance and exit roads.  Rhyll is marginally better with $22 (£10) sites but no television reception and Steve is of the opinion that if we must pay for a site then he wants to be able to watch his sport.  There are lots of caravan parks in the main resort of Cowes with prices up to $30 (£14) and non very nice so we head out to Anchorage Caravan Park at Ventnor where we take a $25 (11) site but at least can camp with some space around us. 



WEDNESDAY 22 FEBRUARY – I’m spared from Steve’s early morning football viewing as he takes the TV in to the campers kitchen.  Leave the campsite around 9am to drive to The Nobbies, the name given to the off shore rock formation.  There’s a long boardwalk and underneath it we catch glimpses of fairy penguins in their moulting stage.  At the end of the boardwalk the blowhole is quite good but would be even better at high tide.  On the way back we see another couple of penguins, one popping out of its burrow.  Back track to the penguin visitor centre where we learn lots more about them and feel glad we did not pay to go to the evening penguin parade as it attracts hundreds of visitors, all kept at bay by rangers.  A Kitty Miller Bay we walk out to look at the paltry remains of the “Speke” than ran aground in 1906.  A brief stop at the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit and another to look at The Colonnades rock formation and we’re done.  Just north of Bass we pull up at “The Giant Earthworm” where $3 (£1.35) gets us in to the worm and shark parts of the exhibition.  Worms up to 8’ long can be found in the area but are now an endangered species so none are on display but there’s plenty of information and pictures.  The shark exhibition has a superb video and we stand entranced for over 1–hour.  After a quick lunch in the car park we head onwards and turn off to Stony Point where we park up for the night in the car park behind the beach at Reef Island Conservation Reserve.  A couple of locals come down, one to walk the dogs, another to dig up worms.  We expect a quiet night and are surprised to be disturbed in the early hours when a huge articulated lorry arrives and does a full turn before heading back up the road.



THURSDAY 23 FEBRUARY – Once Steve has finished watching football we head off around the bay then back along the main highway.  Make a detour to Koo Wee Rup to see the clock feature before hitting the main motorway towards Melbourne.  Not only is there lots of traffic but also the type of vehicle has changed from ute or battered car to expensive modern vehicles.  Brian & Nola live at North Dandenong and we easily find their house where they insist we take the guest bedroom.   It’s a beautiful hot day so we are more than happy to sit around chatting and take cooling dips the swimming pool.  The evening passes quickly once we settle down to play Canasta Five.



FRIDAY 24 FEBRUARY – Market day and we join Brian and Nola for a trip in to Dandenong.  There’s an excellent market with fruit and veg cheaper than anywhere else we have seen in Australia.  I’m pleased to get a $12 (£5.50) haircut until we meet up with Brian and Nola and learn that a new place in the shopping centre is doing them for $7!  In the shopping centre we sit down whilst Brian & Nola grocery shop.  We’re in an area with many ethnic groups and of the people sat by us not one is speaking English, Greek and Italian being the main languages.  We go back for lunch and spend the afternoon relaxing and again dipping in the pool.  Evening entertainment is playing snooker, which takes quite some time due to our overall lack of skills.  By 10.30pm it’s till over 30C and a dip in the pool is needed to cool us down for the night.



SATURDAY 25 FEBRUARY – We’ve had a lovely couple of days but it’s time to move on and we journey through Vermont South and make a minor detour to Pin Oak Court, Ramsey Street in Neighbours.  There’s little to see and it looks much like many other suburban street within Australia.  At Northcote we visit Tatiana who through the Hospitality Club ( has offered accommodation for ourselves and Claire during the Commonwealth Games.  We want to introduce ourselves and make sure that Billy will fit in the car park beneath the apartment.   She’s seems very friendly and shows us the double room and sofa bed in the lounge.  No problem for parking and train and tram stations a 5 minute walk away.  We make a lunch stop bedside the Yarra River at Bellbird Park where the fruit bats have eaten many of the trees and become a tourist attraction as they hang there all day.  Early afternoon we go to Bernie’s and arrive just before the house next door but one goes to auction.  We take a look inside the very modern nearly new home then stand outside to watch the auction but at $960,000 (£420,000) the highest bid is still below the reserve.  No sooner has the auction finished than the heavens open up and it rains heavily for most of the afternoon.   



SUNDAY 26 FEBRUARY – Not a great day so we lounge around.  Bernie cooks up a nice roast pork dinner in the evening before he goes out to swim night leaving us to watch TV.



MONDAY 27 FEBRUARY – Back to nice hot sunny weather so we walk up to Kew to use the Internet at the library.  Spend the afternoon sunbathing but only for short spells as it is very hot, (no complaints though). 



TUESDAY 28 FEBRUARY – It’s another nice day and Bernie suggests a ride out to Warrandyte State Park.  We first stop at Pound Bend where miners dug a long tunnel through rock in order to divert the course of the Yarra River.  It’s quite impressive but comes with a sad story of a group of canoe rowers who died when they tried to pass through it when the water level was too high.  At Melways map reference page 24 D4 theirs is a beach on the banks of the river frequented by naturists.  We park and walk along a track to get to the bend where we find a shady spot to sunbathe.  Access to the water is easy either over rocks or at a sandy spot.  Bernie BBQ’s sausages on a portable stove and leave all the other sunbathers with their tongues hanging out.  Return just in time to have a shower before joining Bernie for his evening visit to the “Positive Living Centre” at Prahan.  Members get a 2-course meal for $3 (£1.30) guests pay $5 (£2.25).  There’s a gym room, free internet and local phone calls, library and food locker where once a fortnight members can fill a bag of groceries from items donated by large companies.  Interesting and definitely not on the tourist track.  



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