3 states, 3 people, and lots different experiences


The Plan

A family holiday. It’s been a while since we could say we had one of those. This holiday had been in the planning stages for months, and on the last Friday in September all that planning was put into action. The plan was this: drive from our home approximately 1 hour north of Albury, NSW to Adelaide where we would stay until the next Friday. Then we would travel to Cape Jaffa, near Kingston SE in a region called the “Limestone Coast” because of its abundance of limestone. Then the following Monday we would travel to Mount Gambier and stay there till the Thursday. Then we travel back home via an overnight stay in Bendigo, Victoria, to home.

Off to Adelaide we go…

This was to be by far the longest day of travel on the holiday – approximately 800km. We woke early (about 3:30am) and within 30 minutes or so we were on the road. The plan was to travel as far as we possibly could before breakfast. As it turned out we got to Moulameine before we decided we were hungry enough for breakfast. After a quick change of driver, we were off again – me eating breakfast while Rebecca drove. The drive was really nothing spectacular, through fairly flat terrain and not as much traffic as I thought there would be, until we reached Tailem Bend in South Australia. After some lunch there, we were on the road again for the last stretch into Adelaide. This involved getting over the Adelaide Hills which was steep, and winding in places, but all Freeway (called Motorway or Expressway in other parts of the world). And to make matters more interesting we had a third lane of extra slow truck traffic and some very steep descents from about the last 10km or so into Adelaide. For the steep descents into Adelaide it was not unusual for me to put the car into 3rd gear and let the engine do the braking which generally worked well unless there was extra slow car traffic in front of me (that was more common than what you might think). Then we arrived at the Tourist Park we were going to be staying at while in Adelaide, nestled in a valley about 10km from the centre of Adelaide. Before long we had the tents set up and were thinking of what to do in the days following.

Adelaide’s Natural Proximity

The next day being Sabbath (Saturday, in case you’re wondering), we decided to do some exploring of the many conservation and natural parks around Adelaide. It was quite surprising how close we were to them, and how close they were to central Adelaide. The first one was Morialta Falls and Giants Cave in the Morialta Conservation Park where I was surprised to see dry country vegetation, with steep rocky mountain sides, waterfalls, and lots and lots of walkers and runners. Where I grew up in Melbourne, Victoria, and other places we have visited or lived we never had quite that combination of contrasting elements although the Grampians in Victoria’s west was similar.

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Bec and Eliana

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Morialta Falls, Morialta Conservation Park

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Rock Face, Morialta Conservation Park

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Giant’s Cave, Morialta Conservation Park

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Flower, Morialta Conservation Park

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Rock face, Morialta Conservation Park

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Flower, Morialta Conservation Park

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“Black Boy” closeup, Morialta Conservation Park

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Morialta Falls, Morialta Conservation Park

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“Black Boy” trunk, Morialta Conservation Park

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Morailta Falls, Morialta Conservation Park

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Eliana in a tree, Morialta Conservation Park

The next place we visited was a Wildflower Garden in the Black Hill Conservation Reserve, where there was a large collection of native plants suitable for the sometimes harsh and dry Australian climate. You might be tempted to think that a harsh climate can mean less variety and beauty, but the variety of plants in the Wildflower Garden showed that inspite of the harsh climate often associated with Australiam it can be a place of great floral variety and beauty. From near the Wildflower Garden we could see all the way across to the industrial area in the harbour area, and the sea beyond.

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Wildflower Garden, Black Hill Conservation Reserve

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Wildflower Garden, Black Hill Conservation Reserve

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Wildflower Garden, Black Hill Conservation Reserve

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Wildflower Garden, Black Hill Conservation Reserve

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Wildflower Garden, Black Hill Conservation Reserve

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Wildflower Garden, Black Hill Conservation Reserve

From there we went to Waterfall Gully. A very descriptive place where is is… a waterfall, in a gully. But the name doesn’t adequately describe the beauty of the place. Let me try and describe it in words before you look at the pictures. Approaching the head of the gully, the thin stream of silvery water gently cascades down the jagged rock face into a serene pool surrounded by flowering plants and reeds. Now, here are the pictures…

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Waterfall Gully, Adelaide

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Waterfall Gully, Adelaide

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Waterfall Gully, Adelaide

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Waterfall Gully, Adelaide

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Waterfall Gully, Adelaide

Eliana wanted to go to a beach, so we headed south west from Waterfall Gully to a bit south of the suburb of Glenelg where we had lunch. After lunch, while Rebecca and Eliana relaxed on the beach, I went for a walk and found myself in the rather ritzy and posh looking Glenelg, with it’s Stamford Hotel, pier, old buildings and multi-storey accommodation further along the beachfront. Along the way, I happened upon a number of groynes (no, not groins) which are basically bags of sand strategically placed along the beach to aid beach conservation. There are also some strategically placed large rocks, in similar patterns to the groynes which I assume is for the same reason – to stop sand movement. They apparently slow the movement of sand along a beach, which appears to be a big problem in Adelaide, as there is also a sand pumping system in place to return the beach sand being fed north by the water back to points along the beach further south. So the sand goes in a big “loop”- it moves north, and then is returned to a designated point by the sand pumping system and so it continuously “loops” rather than relentlessly heading north over time.

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Holdfast Bay / Glenelg, South Australia

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Holdfast Bay / Glenelg, South Australia

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Holdfast Bay / Glenelg, South Australia

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Glenelg, South Australia

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Holdfast Bay / Glenelg, South Australia

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Historic building, Glenelg, South Australia

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Glenelg, South Australia

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Jetty, Glenelg, South Australia

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Glenelg, South Australia

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Holdfast Bay / Glenelg, South Australia

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Historic building, Glenelg, South Australia

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Holdfast Bay / Historic building, Glenelg, South Australia

After I returned from my walk, we got in the car and headed further south to Hallet Cove Consevation Park. We had a bit of trouble finding this, but after some going back and forth, following a “bicycle way”, and meeting someone who looked remarkably like Tony Robinson (the English TV personality), we eventually found it. Hallet Cove is a bit like entering another world – the scenery is very “raw” and almost primeval and has the look of being half-finished and unrefined. A very interesting and spectacular place. Apparently it was formed by glacial activity during the Ice Age. I can’t say for sure as I wasn’t there, but some people seem quite sure that’s what it was caused by.

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Hallet Cove Conservation Park

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Hallet Cove Conservation Park

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Hallet Cove Conservation Park

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Hallet Cove Conservation Park

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Hallet Cove Conservation Park

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Hallet Cove Conservation Park

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Hallet Cove Conservation Park

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Hallet Cove Conservation Park

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Hallet Cove Conservation Park

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Hallet Cove Conservation Park

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Hallet Cove Conservation Park

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Hallet Cove Conservation Park

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Hallet Cove Conservation Park

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Hallet Cove Conservation Park

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Hallet Cove Conservation Park

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Hallet Cove Conservation Park

The Zoos

Eliana, our youngest daughter, is Panda crazy. That’s the best way to politely describe her. And the Adelaide Zoo has… Pandas. So our stay in Adelaide would not have been complete without visiting that zoo. But there was more than just pandas in the zoo, and it took us the best part of a full day to explore the whole zoo. From tigers, lions and giraffes to the more unusual tapir, capybara and others it was very interesting. To get there we walked to the nearest railway station from the Tourist Park and caught the train to Adelaide then walked to the zoo from there. That meant we also had to do the reverse, which amounted to about 8km of walking, not including the walking around the zoo itself.

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Girrafe, Adelaide Zoo

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Cappabarra, Adelaide Zoo

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Tamarind, Adelaide Zoo

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Giant Panda, Adelaide Zoo

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Giant Panda, Adelaide Zoo

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Lemur, Adelaide Zoo

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Big Tortoise, Adelaide Zoo

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Big Tortoise

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Bird, Adelaide Zoo

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Tamarind,, Adelaide Zoo

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Old zoo manager’s house, Adelaide Zoo

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Storks, Adelaide Zoo

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Giant Panda, Adelaide Zoo

The other zoo we visited was the Monarto Zoological Park, about 40km or so over the Adelaide Hills towards Murray Bridge. This was very different to the Adelaide Zoo, being much more “open range”, and we got to see giraffe, lions, hyenas, zebras, etc, in a more natural setting. It was there that I learned there are actually about 9 different ‘species’ of giraffe, and that the ones at the Monarto zoo were not a purebred of one species but a mixture. I’ll have to take their word for it. It was here too that I got to see a true blue live Tasmanian Devil for the first time, and I didn’t realise they were as big – about the size of a large overweight domestic cat. And, no, the Tasmanian Devil looks nothing like the Warner Brothers version. Sadly, the Tasmanian Devil in the wild is beset with a rather nasty cancerous growth which is still puzzling scientists. The growths are terminal for any devil that gets them, as eventually it makes the creature not able to eat so it starves. But there is some hope – there is an active breeding program in places like Monarto Zoo to preserve the species and hopefully be able to re-introduce “clean” Tasmanian Devils into the wild at some point in the future, I imagine after the cause of the cancerous growths is found.

Also at Monarto Zoo, is the Southern White Rhinocerous – a critically endangered species. The Northern White Rhino is already doomed as a separate sub-species as of Rhino as there are only 2 females and no males known to exist. But the Southern White Rhino’s future as a species is a little more secure as a number of zoos are actively breeding them to keep the species alive. Sadly, those that try to protect the Southern White Rhinos in the while often get killed in the line of duty as much or more so than the rhinos themselves. Kudos to those that put themselves in harm’s way to protect these magnificent creatures, but it also shows that there is a very definite dark side to human nature that greed and selfishness will cause us to hunt and kill any creature to the point of extinction, and kill those that try to protect them.

Things that run on rails

While in Adelaide, I was hoping to do some train trips around the city. I got to do that when we went to the Adelaide Zoo, but I also got to indulge my love of things that run on rails at other times. One of the days we were in Adelaide, we explored the central business district. And we also caught the Glenelg Tram from central Adelaide out to Glenelg and back. I was familiar with the Melbourne (Victoria) trams, and the Sydney Light Rail. And was somewhat surprised by the Glenelg tram. Apart from sections in central Adelaide and Glenelg, it felt much more like a high speed light railway than a tramway, travelling quite fast in places, and on it’s on dedicated right-of-way. We also went our to Outer Harbour on a Deisel Multiple Unit (thats a term than means more than 1 deisel railmotor attached together). It was also somewhat of a surprise, as I imagine railmotors as being somewhat slow to excelerate, but this was not the case. We also went on an electric train journey in Adelaide before heading back to the Tourist Park for some well-earned relaxation and dinner. I must say I was very impressed over all with Adelaide’s railways and tramways.

For photos and information about the train and tram journeys we did in Adelaide, go to my Model Trains Blog

The Adelaide Hills

To those who have never visited the Adelaide Hills, it may be that the TV News paints a picture of the Adelaide Hills being a place of bushfires. And at some times of year that will definitely be the case. But there is also a lot of less dangerous and more interesting things to experience in the Adelaide Hills. We visited Harndorf, a township and surrounds settled by German Lutherans in the 1800s. The plentiful stone buildings, which we discovered are quite common oin Adelaide and the surround hills and towns, mixed with a German Lutheran heritage and some obviously European looking buildings to create an interesting meal for the senses. And Rebecca found a cafe that had a Gluten Free Cheese Cake / Caramel Slice that was about the best cheesecake I’ve ever tasted without exception.

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Harndorf stone building

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Harndorf stone building

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Harndorf stone building

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Harndorf Lutheran CHurch

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Harndorf building

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Harndorf street art (I hope)

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Harndorf mural / art

One of the more interesting and telling quotes I found in the museum was this one in regards to Harndorf: “no policeman was needed” (Johann Christian Liebelt). Another interesting display showsedthe industriousness of the German Lutherans that emigrated to Australia: “Captain Hahn was so impressed with the hard-working nature of his passengers he negotiated on their behalf for newly surveyed land near Mount Barker. As a gesture of thanks the Lutherans named their new town Harndorf” (In Honour of Captain Harn display in Museum).

The Fleurieu Peninsula

To the south of Adelaide’s suburbs lies an area called the Fleurieu Pensinsula, a part of the state that juts out into the Southern Ocean. The name sounds French (and it probably is), but the town names are decidely un-French: Victor Harbour, Goolwa, Hindmarsh Island, to name a few. We visited each of these towns. Victor Harbour was probably the most interesting for me as it had two types of railways – a horse-drawn tramway out to Granite Island, and the Steam Ranger railway that runs on the broad guage railway between Victor Harbour and Mount Barker. The hosre-drawn tram was quite an experience. I don’t think I have ever been on a railway journey that was at such a leisurely pace (the pace of a walking horse), but it was very enjoyable in spite of the howling gale that persisted while we were there. We also got to visit the End of the Murray River – where it meets the sea, which is of interest to us as we live not far from the Murray River but a long way upstream.

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The Bluff, Victor Harbour

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Horse Tram, Victor Harbour

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Granit Island, Victor Harbour

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Oscar W paddle steamer, Goolwa

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Th Bluff walk, Victor Harbour

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No, it wasn’t cold! Victor Harbour

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Murray River mouth, near Goolwa

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Eliana trying to stay out of the wind, Victor Harbour

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Horse Tram, Victor Harbour

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Oscar W paddle steamer, Goolwa

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Top of The Bluff, Victor Harbour

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Goolwa Barrage

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Goolwa Barrage

We also had a look at the Goolwa Barrage, a device that crosses the Murray River near Goolwa to try to regulate the movement of salt water upstream due to the river’s flow in current times not being ample enough to keep the salt water where it belongs (the ocean). Another example of mankind trying to fix a problem we created (irrigation removing to much water and lessening the river’s flow) by using something artificial (barrages to regulate the upward movement of salt water). Of course the barrages are necessary, now, but once upon a time when the natural order of things was not being interfered with by the veracity of mankind barrages and such things weren’t needed.

To Cape Jaffa we Go

At the end of our stay in Adelaide we once again got in the car for a long drive. But the distance was not going to be anywhere near the distance of the first day of our holiday, about 200 or so km. Along the way we saw a Pink Lake, Lake Albert, and parts of the Coorong National Park. We also got to travel on a car ferry across the Murray River – not that we planned for that, but it was pleasant diversion.

After lunch we arrived at Cape Jaffa Caravan Park. As far as Caravan Parks go, Cape Jaffa has one of the best. The amenities were excellent, including a communal fire pit, large camp kitchen with billard table, fridge, stoves, etc, and great hosts. We had a very pleasant Sabbath there, arriving on the Friday afternoon and not leaving until Monday morning. There was something very serene and peaceful about the place, inspite of the rather loud wedding happening in a nearby house on the Saturday and into the night, and Eliana getting bitten on her feet by a number of mosquitos. The lack of traffic, the gentleness of the sea (due to a long reef about 8km off shore), and the general lack of urban-ness made it the perfect place for a Sabbath rest. About the only down sides to Cape Jaffa as a location is that there wasn’t that much of interest to us in the township (we don’t like fishing, or wineries), but over the whole holiday this was the place we enjoyed the most!

One of the more interesting things we found out about Cape Jaffa is that there is a reef about 8km out to sea, and at one time there was a lighthouse, complete with lighthouse keeper, out on the reef. My camera has a reasonable zoom on it so I was able to get a photo of the original structure that the lighthouse was on. There was also some lighthouse keepers cottages on the cape nearest the lighthouse. After a lighthouse was built in Robe, the one at Cape Jaffa was no longer used, and it was eventually moved to Kingston SE and set up as a museum.

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Cape Jaffa Beach

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Remains of Lighthouse Keepers Housing

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Cape Jaffa Memorial

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Cape Jaffa – Light on a Stick

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Cape Jaffa Jetty

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Sunrise over Cape Jaffa

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Sunrise over Cape Jaffa

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Whale Remains, Cape Jaffa Beach

The Limestone Coast

Cape Jaffa is towards the northern end of the Limestone Coast, which has it’s western edge at about Kingston SE (SE = South East) and goes all the way east to the South Australia-Victoria border. On the Sunday while were staying at Cape Jaffa, we explored Kingston SE. When we were there the township seemed tp be having a significant problem with seaweed, with piles of seaweed at least 1 metre or os high along their entire beach. But we didn’t go there for the beach. We explored it’s history by following a township history walk brochure. This revealed to us a rich history, including a narrow guage railway that ran between Kingston SE and Narracorte that has been long since gone, with little more than a commemorative plaque and the odd cutting to indicate that there was ever a railway there. The railway was completed in 1876, but as the locomotives hadn’t arrived by sea at the time the government hired out the rollingstock for use by private operators who hauled the wagons by horse until the locomotives arrived 6 months later. Once they arrived, a daily train service between Kingston SE and Narracorte was introduced.

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Kingston SE – Old Cape Jaffa Lighthouse

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Kingston SE – Boat

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Kingston SE – Much Seaweed

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Kingston SE – Historic Building

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Kingston SE – Historic Building

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Kingston SE – Old Machinery

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Kingston SE – Historic Building

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Kingston SE – Post Office, Historic Building

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Kingston SE – Historic Building

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Kingston SE – Historic Building

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Kingston SE – Historic Church

While we were staying at Cape Jaffa we also visited the township of Robe. Robe is an interesting little town, and we spent the Sabbath afternoon there on the beach near the centre of town. Robe is different to Cape Jaffa and Kingston SE as it has no reef to stop the waves so some of the beaches have more of a surf beach feel, although the beach closest to the town seemed quite sheltered with only fairly small waves.

On the Monday after we arrived at Cape Jaffa, we were once again travelling, this time to Mount Gambier. Along the way, between Robe and Beachport, we stopped at the Woakwine Cutting, a cutting excavated through solid rock by 2 men, because one of them needed a way to drain a swamp off his farm. Even though the 2 men had some machinery to help them, the cutting is an impressive feat being up to about 34 metres deep at it’s deepest point, and more than 1km long.

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Woakwine Cutting

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Woakwine Cutting – Machinery used to build it

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Woakwine Cutting – Machinery used to build it

Beachport is a pretty place. Although typically beach side villages are. It has it’s share of Norfolk Pines, a jetty, some pretty rugged beaches and some interesting rock and seaside features. While passing through there, we drove a scenic drive out towards one of the headlands and found a lake nestled amongst the sand dunes, a “London Bridge” type headland, a very steep sided surf beach. After a quick toilet stop, we continued on our way.

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Beachport – Jetty

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Beachport – Rails opposite jetty

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Beachport – Scenery on Scenic Drive

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Beachport – Scenery on Scenic Drive

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Beachport – Scenery on Scenic Drive

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Beachport – Scenery on Scenic Drive

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Beachport – Scenery on Scenic Drive

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Beachport – Scenery on Scenic Drive

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Beachport – Scenery on Scenic Drive – A ‘London Bridge’-type formation

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Beachport – Scenery on Scenic Drive

By the time we arrived Millicent, it was about time for lunch and Eliana’s mosquito bites were causing her some grief, so we purchased some “Subway” food and while Rebecca went in search of a pharmacist to get some anti-histamines and other things to each Eliana’s mozzie bites, I went in search of the railway station. The Millicen township centre is perched on top of a rise, with the houses and railway precinct below. It wasn’t hard to find the station and I explored the station, and other infrastructure for a while before heading back to the car to continue our drive. Also at Millicent, we saw a number of old vintage cars, and noticed a rather striking looking building in the town centre.

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Main Street art, Millicent

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Vintage car, Millicent

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Vintage car, Millicent

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Vintage car, Millicent

It wasn’t long after that, that we arrived at Mount Gambier, and set up camp. And then the rains came.

Mount Gambier

I had been to Mount Gambier many years ago, when I was in my early-teens. And had never been back since. But Rebecca and Eliana had never been there. When I went there many years ago, I am pretty sure it was in summer, so the weather would have been somewhat warm. I remember exploring the township, the crater lakes, walking around one of the rims, and visiting the railway station (which was still in use at that time). I also remembered visiting the Cave Gardens in the middle of town and Sinkhole on the outskirts of town, as well as the various volcanic craters and their lakes. I got to acquaint myself with them again, and this time I was able to take photos. On the southern edge of Mount Gambier there are a number of volcanic craters, 2 of which have lakes in them – Blue Lake and Valley Lake. When I visited Mount Gambier many years ago, I remember there also being another lake – Browns Lake, but the only evidence of that lake is a nicely grassed area near Valley Lake. I guess lakes do dry out permanently sometimes.

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Blue Lake, Mount Gambier

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Centenary Tower, Mount Gambier

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Centenary Tower crater rim, Mount Gambier

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Blue Lake Pumping Station, Mount Gambier

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Valley Lake, Mount Gambier

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Umpherston Sinkhole, Mount Gambier

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Umpherston Sinkhole, Mount Gambier

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Umpherston Sinkhole, Mount Gambier

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Umpherston Sinkhole, Mount Gambier

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Umpherston Sinkhole, Mount Gambier

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Umpherston Sinkhole, Mount Gambier

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Umpherston Sinkhole, Mount Gambier

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Umpherston Sinkhole, Mount Gambier

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Cave Garden Sinkhole, Mount Gambier

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Cave Garden Sinkhole, Mount Gambier

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Cave Garden Sinkhole, Mount Gambier

The Cave Gardens and Sinkhole seemed about what I remembered, but the railway station is no longer used as a railway station, and the area around it is now converted to a nature reserve / playground / art precinct / walking and cycling paths. It’s always a bit sad to see a railway station that is no longer used as a railway station, but at least it is still standing unlike some which have been totally demolished. One thing I did notice is that the Tailem Bend and Mount Gambier station buildings had a very similar style to them.

Homeward Bound

On the evening we arrived at Mount Gambier, I developed a cold, and Eliana was still suffering from here mozzie bites. We had planned to stay at Mount Gambier until Thursday morning. But as our options for further things to do due to Eliana’s mozzie bites and my cold seemed somewhat limited, we decided to cut our holiday short by one day and head for Bendigo on the Wednesday instead so we would be home on Thursday.

After we all returned home, I had 2 weeks of holidays left, and so I went on a train holiday. The write up for it can be found on my Jims Model Trains website .

A Month of Alpine Fun


29th Dec 2017 – 1st Jan 2018 – Khancoban and surrounds

The last weekend of 2017 saw me and my Beloved camping at Khancoban, in New South Wales. Part of the reason we went camping was to try out our new 4 man tent. But Rebecca (my Beloved) suggested that I find some things for us to do over the weekend, so being a good husband I did as I was told. Khancoban is the south-western gateway to the Kosciusko National Park, which has plenty of exciting and beautiful places to visit, a lot of them requiring hiking or mountain biking to see. There are also a number of National Parks and State Parks not far away in Victoria. So thats what I happened to find – lots of walking as I didn’t think I would be taking my mountain bike. My Darling is not much of a walker, but she was willing to accommodate my planned activities, at least as far as she was able. When we arrived at Khancoban, the weather was looking a bit threatening, with low clouds. And in the evening and overnight we had a lot of rain. We discovered that our tent leaked, although it required a significant downpour for that to occur, and it’s possible that we didn’t put it up properly in the first place.

On Sabbath, with the bad weather having cleared away and the weather looking promisingly sunny, we drove to the Burrowa-Pine Mountain National Park on the Victorian side of the Murray River near Cudgewa. We had only been there once before, and due to flood damage many of the tracks were closed at that time. This time the tracks were open. So we started by hiking to Bluff Falls and having look at them. Then it was up, up, up to Campbells Lookout. This track really wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. Although to be honest I didn’t really know what to expect. The track had lots of stairs, lots of scrambling over rocks, it even had a 5 metre or so vertical ladder to get up one particular section. Quite an adventure. But the scenery was magnificent, with great views, dramatic rock faces and formations, and fern gullys punctuated by the creek which runs down the middle of the valley.

Following the Campbells Lookout walk, we had some lunch then engaged in the much more leisurely pursuit – going for a drive through the countryside. And then we returned to Khancoban Caravan Park. While my Darling had a rest (ie, sleep), I went for a bit of a walk over the Khancoban Lake wall and into Khancoban itself, just to see what was around. There were boats and water-skiers in abundance on the lake. The Rose Garden in town looked like it had seen better days, but maybe that’s because it was being prepared for the next Rose season. In any case, the walk was interesting. And by the time I got back to the caravan park it was approaching dinner time.

On Sunday, New Years Eve 2017, the plan was to drive up the trail head near Tooma Dam, and then walk out to Paton’s Hut. But as is often the case, plans don’t always eventuate. We got to the trail head ok, and hiked most of the way, probably to within about 400 metres of the Hut, then Rebecca got bitten by something (no, not a snake!), and rather than complete the walk it seemed best to return to the car. It was a case of so close, yet so far. Rebecca suggested I go on another walk while she sat in the car and read a book, but I didn’t particularly like that idea, just case she had some sort of alergic reaction to the bite. So we drove back towards civilisation. At Corryong we had some lunch, and then we went and had a look at the Man From Snowy River Museum in the town.

Then it was back to Khancoban, where we found a nice shady spot and watched the boats, jet skis and water skiers enjoying themselves on the lake while we indulged in an ice cream and sat in the shade, at least for a while. Then we went back to the caravan park. At the caravan park, they had a Pizza night as a way of celebrating New Years Eve. And it seems that New Years Eve celebrations went on for a lot longer as every time we woke up during the night it seemed that there was loud music playing somewhere. Until the wee hours of the morning.

6th – 7th January – Bogong High Plains / Dinner Plain.

On the weekend of the 6th and 7th January, 2018, it was going to be hot. At least down on the plains where we live in Culcairn. On Sabbath I decided I wanted to go for a walk, and my Darling wife suggested I camp somewhere overnight to try out my new hiking tent. I didn’t take much convincing! Within about an hour I had enough food for an overnight camp, all my camping stuff and clothes suitable for hiking. And so I headed for the mountains. The plan was to drive to Dinner Plain, just downhill a ways from Mt Hotham, and do some hiking there then find a place to camp overnight. After looking at maps I decided I would walk the Carmichael Falls walk and then depending on how I felt and how hot it was I would consider another walk. The Carmichael Falls walk from Dinner Plain isn’t that long, but it turned out to be quite steep. It was like walking through a well tended rock garden with beautiful flowers, ferns and other types of plants everywhere. And then there was the falls themselves. They weren’t overly spectacular as it was the middle of Summer. But the rocks from which they fall was definitely worth the walk. Then on the way back I took a short detour to another cascade that looked distinctly man-made with the creek cascading over very symetrical rock steps. Although I’m pretty sure it was completely natural.

After completing the Carmichael Falls walk, I decided I would walk to Precipice Plains lookout. By comparing the distance on the map for the Carmichael Falls walk I figured it would be about 10km return from the Carmichael Falls track. And as it turns out I was pretty close. By this time of the day it was getting warm-ish, but still nowhere near as hot as it would have been at home. Precipice Plains is a geological feature where the Dargo River valley is surrounded by high cliffs. I guess thats where the “Precipice Plains” name comes from. The walk itself was along a 4WD track with alpine forest on both sides. It was quite a pleasant walk, with a breeze blowing across the track most of the time and shady sections where the trees overhung the track. As the wind was quite strong at the lookout I stayed well clear of the edge of the precipice. But even so, the views across to the cliffs north and west of the lookout were quite spectacular.

After I returned to the car, I decided I would check out the JB Plain camping area. It was rather pleasant, and it would have been even more pleasant and quiet as there was no-one else there. But I decided I would drive to Anglers Rest, on the Cobungra River, and camp there instead. This meant driving down to Omeo from Dinner Plain and then driving along the Omeo “Highway” north to Anglers Rest. I knew there were a number of camping spots there. I didn’t realise how busy the camping area just down the road from the Blue Duck Inn would be, but I managed to find a spot for my small hiking tent.

The name “Anglers Rest” is very descriptive of the area, and is a popular fishing spot as it is near the junctions of 4 rivers – Mitta Mitta, Cobungra, Bundarra and Big Rivers. People travel from some very long distances just to fish in the area. The area is also popular for horse riding, mountain biking, white water rafting, camping and hiking.  It is nestled near the bottom of the valley, and is very picturesque. But the Omeo “Highway” is not for the faint hearted. It was even more of an adventure in the Gold Rush days as it was only a walking track then between Omeo and the Mt Wills goldfields. Even though it’s all asphalted now, it’s still quite an adventure as it is narrow and winds it’s way around the mountains to connect Omeo in the south and Mitta Mitta in the north.

After a fairly restful night, I rose early and had breakfast, packed up camp and drove to the Bogong High Plains near Falls Creek. My first walk for the day was the Mt Cope walk. It wasn’t very long, being 3km return, but the walk was along a very picturesque trail and the 360 degree views from the summit were well worth the effort. Along the way I chatted with an Army person who had his full combat uniform complete with helmet and what appeared to be a very heavy army-issue backpack. He wasnt hiking very fast, but then you wouldn’t expect him to with all the weight he must have been carrying. He was able to identify most of the mountains around, including Kosciusko many kilometres away. He also told me of some good hikes around Falls Creek and Bogong High Plains, which wet my appetite for some more adventures in the area.

After the Mt Cope hike, I drove a little way towards Falls Creek, and parked the car for a hike to 2 alpine huts. Huts in alpine areas of Australia generally fall into about 3 categories – 1) huts built by cattlemen many years ago to aid in the movement of cattle between the high plains and the valleys (and possibly rebuilt after a bush fire or something else requires it), 2) huts built by government agencies such as the National Park service for the use of visitors (for example, snow skiers), and 3) huts built by other organisations such as schools or clubs. I’ve been very interested in alpine huts ever since I acquired and read a book about the mountain cattlemen and huts of the high plains. Interest in alpine huts also increased in my early adult years due to another book I read about the history of snow skiing in Australia which talked about various huts in it’s narrative, and my own personal interest in and enjoyment of snow skiing (before I met Rebecca I went snow skiing whenever I could, often every Sunday). Movies such as the “Man from Snowy River”, which featured the beauty of Australia’s alpine areas also played a part in my interest. The two huts I visited on the Bogong High Plains that day, Wallaces and Cope Huts, seem to be huts initially built by cattlemen.

Up in the Boging High Plains that Sunday was very pleasant – around 25 degrees Celsius. When I stopped briefly in Mt Beauty on the way home, it was certainly a lot hotter than when I was hiking in the high plains.

A plan not realised

Over the Australia Day weekend in late January I had a plan to head for the hills again, and had sort of set my mind to camping and exploring the Snowy Mountains / Kosciusko National Park near Jindabyne, New South Wales. I had all the camping gear packed, all the food purchased and was all mentally prepared. And then rain, thunderstorms, and the like were forecast for exactly where I planned to go. So I checked other places such as around Falls Creek and Mt Hotham – the same sort of weather was forecast. I checked the forecast for some places outside the mountains, and the forecast there was for 35+ degrees Celsius. I realised that I could either risk getting caught in  electrical storms and being stuck in a hiking tent during the forecast rains, or risk getting severly sunburnt, or stay home. Guess which one I chose?

Batlow Biking


Batlow, not far from of the Snowy Mountains, and somewhat succeptible to snow itself, was the decided destination for a cycling holiday with a difference. Normally I look for rail trails to ride, and often in the state of Victoria – a veritable mecca for rail trails! But on Wednesday 5th April, right after I finished work, the car being packed the night before, I left home and drove 2 and a bit hours to Batlow Caravan Park, my base camp for some days of cycling adventure. The plan was to stay a week and ride as many roads and see as much as possible. As I had never ridden any of the roads or tracks in the region except south of Tumbarumba. So it was really virgin cycling territory for me. I was somewhat aware of the terrain, though, because I had driven through the area on a number of occasions.

Batlow_CaravanPark_2664

My ‘home’ for a few days while exploring the Batlow area

The first bike ride which took 11 hours from start to fnish was quite an adventure. I left the Caravan Park on Thursday morning at arounf 7am, and didn’t get back until around 6pm. It was one of those bike rides that was not necessarily fun at times, but even now a few days later I look back on it with pleasant memories. Here is how the ride went.

I rode from Batlow along Bago Forest Way, and stopped first of all at the Pilot Hill Arboretum. I had been there before, but never ridden there. The ride was uneventful, and quite enjoyable along logging roads and mostly through pine forests with the occasional breathtaking view across to the Snowy Mountains.

From Pilot Hill, the plan was to ride along roads and tracks I had never been along before (driving or riding) through to Talbingo via Snubba Road, and Browns and De Beauzevilles Tracks. Buddong Falls is about 30kms from Batlow, and has a small (very small) camp ground and it quite isolated no matter how you plan to get there. Browns and De Beauzevilles Tracks would be quite slippery and muddy after rain as would the approach from Talbingo. Thankfully there had not been any rain for a while and they were nice and hard to ride on. One thing that I did notice was the large amount of piles of manure – evidence of wild horses. Brumbies marking their territory I was informed. Buddong Falls themselves were quite beautiful, but I suspect there was more falls even more spectacular further along the walking track but as the walk was quite precipitous in places (increasingly more so the further I walked along it) and as I was by myself I decided it would be best to not go too far from where I had left the bike at the Buddong Falls camping area.

From Buddong Falls I headed towards Talbingo, a small ex-Snowy Mountain Scheme town nestled at the foot of the Snowy Mountains, a ride of about 20kms. From the Falls there was a 2 or 3km climb to the Powerline Track which as can be imagined followed the high voltage power lines over the mountains. The Powerline Track itself was mostly downhill, of varying steepness. The disk brakes on the bike really had a workout on this section and I had to stay very focussed on the road surface and my speed to ensure the bike was under control. As I am not a reckless downhill rider this presented no real problem! Although it did take me quite a while to descend to Talbingo. The views on this section were amazing with views right down into Talbingo, and across the mountains, especially where the track was on exposed ridges.

BuddongFalls-Talbingo-Ride-Map

Not long before Talbingo is the Tumut 3 Hydro-Electric Power Station. probably not very big by world standards, but quite impressive with the very large pipes snaking over the mountains from above it to feed water into it.

At Talbingo I stopped for some lunch, although I knew I couldn’t stop for too long – by then it was about midday, and I still had (I thought) about 30 kms to get back to Batlow and I knew there was going to be some major climbing to get back with the possibility of that section avergaing about 10kph. At Talbingo the battery on my Polar sports watch went flat as using the GPS and heart rate monitor on it will do that after about 5 hours of riding. So I switched over to the phone for the rest of the ride, and when I did so I found that the phone only had 30% charge on it. Oh well, I still wanted to track the ride as far as I could so I turned on the Strava app. Then after riding along the Snowy Mountains Highway for a few kilometres I go to the turnoff to Batlow along Yellowin Access Road. At this point the climbing started. And it wasn’t just a few percent climbing grade, this was sometimes as much as 16-20% incline (thats 1:5) according to Strava! I certainly felt those climbs.

About 17km from Talbingo there was a nice big yellow sign saying “Detour to Batlow”. So I turned right onto the road indicated. I thought, and hoped, it was the Snubba Road. But as it turned out it was an un-named track that went down to the Lake Blowering foreshore to detour around some areas closed for logging purposes. It was along this road that a kind of panic set in for a while when I realised what the time was, and how muich further I had remaining to get bacl to Batlow. What added to that was the realisation that the looming mountain range on my left had to be climbed before I could get back to Batlow, and I was starting to experience some pretty painful leg cramped and a general lack of energy. I was also not entirely trusting of there being any further detour signs or that I would reach a “dead end” on the road, as when I drove this route in the opposite directions some time ago when trying to get to Talbingo from Batlow we were confronted by a closed road sign which meant we couldn’t get to where we wanted to, and I was a bit concerned the same thing might happen this time.

It was about that time in the day that I checked my phone, which had been happily tracking my ride by GPS, but was now down to 4% battery charge. I decided to stop tracking the ride on the phone to conserve the battery, as I realised that it may have been after dark that I got to Snubba Road and that I might have to “camp” in the bush over night if I ran out of light. And I wanted to inform Rebecca (my wife) of this possibility once I got onto Snubba Road where I was fairly sure there would be mobile phone signal. There certainly wasn’t much signal for at least an hour before I would reach that road.

Along this section by the Lake Blowering foreshore I encountered some kangaraoos on the road, and while I was concentrating on those in front of me I saw out of the corner of my eye another one crouched on the bank, and as soon as I saw it, it jumped OVER the back of my bike! That was scary! A few kilometres further on I heard a single screach / growl / snort kind of sound. Where on earth had I come? And what on earth produced such a sound?I decided the best thing to do was to keep going. Thankfully no other scary sounds or anything like it happened, and it wasn’t long before the climb up to Snubba Road started in earnest. By this time I was walking the bike rather than riding it as the climb was just to steep for my cramping and unenergetic legs. And about every 30 minutes I was taking a 5 minute rest and eating some trail mix to try and build my energy. After about an hour or so of climbing I finally reached Snubba Road. And after one last hill to walk the bike up on Snubba Road, and then I finally was able to hop on the bike and pedal along as the road levelled out. Man, was I thanklful to be on Snubba Road. Not long after I arrived at the turnoff along Yellowin Access Road, which led me down into Batlow. By the time I saw the apple orchards on the outskirts of Batlow and the townhip itself nestled against the opposite hill it was just before sunset. I don’t think I have ever been so happy to see a town before as what I did that evening. By the time I got back to Batlow I had travelled an estimated 100+ kilometres, 80km (and 1800 metres of climbing) of which was tracked by GPS on Strava. The rides on Strava are:

The next day I decided I would drive to Tumut and ride some of the trails there. I found out that Tumut has Mountain Bike (MTB) trails in the state forest on the edge of town and I wanted to experience them. I started with the Mundowie Loop, and then part way along turned onto the Womboyne Loop. This brought me back onto the Mundowie Loop again which completed by riding back to the car park. Then I noticed a loop that wasn’t on the map – the Creek Loop. So I rode that as well. While the previous day’s very long ride was very suited to a mountain bike (mostly dirt roads and vehilcle tracks), most of the trails at Tumut State Forest park are single track – that is, about the width of a walking track. I haven’t done much MTB single track rides, but thoroughly enjoyed the hour or so I enjoyed riding those trails. Then after I had done all the intermediate level trails there, I proceeded down into town and rode the town trails along the riverside, and the wetlands areas next to the Tumut River. After the very long and arduous ride I did the day before, the 20 or so kilometres ridden while exploring Tumut’s state forest and riverside was a welcome change.

The next day was Sabbath. Normally I don’t ride my bike on Sabbath (although occasionaly I do). I decided to explore some of the walking tracks in the state forest around Batlow on foot and contemplate the universe (yes, men can do more than one thing at once). I am still not sure whether I walked all the ones on the signage I saw, as I only saw the two signs – one at the start and one a short way along – so I don’t know whether I got to the destinations mentioned on the first sign. But I did see some good views of orchards (of which there are many around Batlow), and views over to the distant hills. I also explored the Reedy Creek park a short distance from the Caravan Park. It was the site of the first Olymp[ic-sized swimming pool to be built in the entire district. The swiming pool was suggested by Mr Sam Ross, the president of the Batlow Progress Association. This is recognised as the beginning of the “Learn to Swim” campaign. The original pool had wooden board sides, and the concrete construction was completed in 1934. Because the pool was the only Olympic-sized pool in the district many other towns travelled to Batlow by car, bus and train to hold their swimming carnivals at the pool, even from as far away as Wagga Wagga (115km away), Cootamundra (120km away) and Junee (105km away). Today all that remains of the pool is what looks like a section of concrete that might have been part of the sides of the pool and a green expanse of grass.

Saturday night or maybe before dawn Sunday morning the rain started. And the thunder and lightning. I thought maybe it would stop by sunrise. But that only revealed looming dark grey clouds moving quite quickly over the town, and with each new batch of clouds another heavy shower. No riding today! So I spent most of the day driving around the district exploring roads that I might have otherwise ridden the bike along. I tried, in vain, to find the site of the Kunama railway terminus. I think I was in the correct general location (I travelled along Back Kunama Road to try and find it), but if the remains are on provate property, which the nswRail.net states is the case, then that explains why I didn’t actually find it. The nswrail.net site did have some photos of the Kunama station, including this one of the station platform and building.

I also found saw interesting local points of interest, including the “White Gate” at the corner of Tumbarumba – Batlow Road and old Tumbaraumba Road and a poem about a “Fallen Tree Hotel” at the same location.

"On the lonesome line of traffic
Where the Tumbarumba track
Forks for Bago and for Taradale as well
Where the wallabies and wombats
And the kangaroos have combats
I once beheld the Fallen Tree Hotel"
(Will Carter)

I explored the now very disused and somewhat derelict railway infrastructure at Batlow. It’s a pity such railways aren’t still in use and I always find it a bit sad seeing railways that were once an important part of a community being neglected and disused. There is talk of the Batlow railway being converted to a rail trail for use by walkers and cyclists. That would be much much better than letting it rot and rust away, and at least the general community and visitors could enjoy the scenery of what must have been a very scenic railway to travel on in it’s day. But alas some landholders think that turning the old railway into a rail trail on still government-owned land is somehow disrepecting the landholders that border the proposed trail. It’s a pity those landholders don’t have the same progressive spirit that drove Sam Ross to suggest doing something new in the district which led to the building of that Olympic sized swimming pool in Batlow all those years ago! He encouraged the building of the pool, and people came from miles around to use it, and I dare say some of the visitors money got spent in the town, and there was a general community benefit from having such an asset. A rail trail to Batlow is likely to generate the same sort of economic and community benefit. Narrow self-interest too often gets in the way of real community progress.

As the rain was not slowing down, and the forecast was for more the next day, and as my sleeping bags were wet, and the forecast was for near-freezing temperatures overnight I decided to cut my Batlow adventure short and head for home. So after a very fast packing up of gear, I settled in for the drove home and arrived home at about 9pm to cuddle up to my wonderfully warm wife for a good nights sleep.

History is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul


“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” (Thomas Jefferson).
As 2016 slips quietly behind, with little more than a few ticks on the clock (if you have one that ticks), it’s a good time to reflect on the year that has been. Lord Acton once said “History is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul.” And so with that in mind, lets turn on the light that was 2016.
I’m not one to make New Year Resolutions – mostly they are just one more goal to not fulfil. And there can be plenty of them without adding another. Mostly, this year has been an interesting, although at times stressful, year. My oldest daughter, Zoe, left home to embark on a journey of learning as a University Student. That was a little stressful, but no where near as stressful as my son getting his car licence and the subsequent having to compete with him for use of the car – those of you that have sons and have  gone through this will know what I mean (yes, mum and dad, that includes you). And then there was the health conditions that manifested their ugly heads that made it hard to exercise, as mentioned in previously entries in this blog. I have also had ongoing problems with my voice over the last year which has made certain activities and situations very frustrating, with lack of (sometimes no) volume and sometimes a very unreliable voice. Interestingly enough, my preaching hasn’t really suffered and has actually been enhanced somewhat by including my wife in my preaching appointments – it’s a quite unexpected blessing to be able to share the pulpit with my wife!
The year just gone wasn’t all stress, though. Actually there were some great things happen this year. Eliana and I got to travel on a railway that neither of us has travelled on before from Bairnsdale in Victoria’s far east. We had some great times away camping, hiking and exploring Australia’s eastern states with visitis to Griffith, Young, Weddin Mountains National Park near Grenfell, Jindabyne and Kosciousko National Park, Bombala and the South East National Park in New South Wales (NSW), Mitta Mitta, and Omeo (and the surrounding region) in Victoria. There were also a number of day trips. I got to explore some interesting railways that have been converted to rail-trails in the Otways in Victoria’s west, and to explore parts of Victoria’s high country on my bike. And while on the subject of bicycles, I saved up enough money in 2016 to buy a brand new mountain bike this year which has made exercising and exploring heaps more fun. The last time I got a brand new bicycle was about 5 years and around 15000 – 20000 cycling kms ago.
Here are some cycling stats for 2016:
  • Distance travelled: 5615km (more than the distance between the southermost point of Tasmania and the northern most point of Cape York Peninsula, the norhernmost point on the Australian mainland, via the most direct route. And roughly half way between the 2014 and 2015 distances).
  • Amount of time to travel those kms: 262.5 hours.
  • Average speed: 21.4kph.
  • Elevation gain: 23611 metres (2.66 Mt Everests).
  • Rides: 215.
  • Average distance per ride: 26kph.
I also became a member of a Gym in 2016, the plan being to increase my upper body and arm strength –  something my cycling generally doesn’t increase.
On a more intellectual note, I have been learning Biblical Hebrew for the last few years, and this year saw me actually starting to read a Hebrew Bible for myself in the original language, which has really been a very slow but extremely pleasant and mind expanding experience. I have gained a much greater appreciation and love for the Bible, and the God who inspired it, as a result. And I’m looking forward to more of the same as I continue through the dynamic and descriptive world that is the Hebrew Bible in 2017. I also almost finished a Certtificate III in Fitness, which when finished will allow me to be a Gym Instructor / Fitness Trainer, something I have been interested in doing for a while. While I enjoy the “software Enginerring” / Web Programming that I currently do (and will continue to do), I have been feeling a lack of human interaction in recent years since since I started working from home. And while the computer work is helpful and necessary, I want to be able to make a personal impact on peoples lives in the area of Fitness, which is why I embarked on the fitness courses I am doing in my spare time.