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.

DSCF8256-Adelaide-MorialtaFallsWalk-GiantsCave

Bec and Eliana

DSCF8270-Adelaide-MorialtaFalls

Morialta Falls, Morialta Conservation Park

DSCF8272-Adelaide-MorialtaFalls-RockFace

Rock Face, Morialta Conservation Park

DSCF8252-Adelaide-MorialtaFallsWalk-GiantsCave

Giant’s Cave, Morialta Conservation Park

DSCF8286-Adelaide-MorialtaFallsWalk-Flower

Flower, Morialta Conservation Park

DSCF8273-Adelaide-MorialtaFalls-RockFace

Rock face, Morialta Conservation Park

DSCF8285-Adelaide-MorialtaFallsWalk-Flower

Flower, Morialta Conservation Park

DSCF8277-Adelaide-MorialtaFallsWalk-BlackBoy

“Black Boy” closeup, Morialta Conservation Park

DSCF8274-Adelaide-MorialtaFalls

Morialta Falls, Morialta Conservation Park

DSCF8278-Adelaide-MorialtaFallsWalk-BlackBoy

“Black Boy” trunk, Morialta Conservation Park

DSCF8288-Adelaide-MorialtaFalls

Morailta Falls, Morialta Conservation Park

DSCF8299-Adelaide-MorialtaFallsWalk-TreeEliana

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.

DSCF8308-Adelaide-BlackHillPark-WildflowerGarden

Wildflower Garden, Black Hill Conservation Reserve

DSCF8307-Adelaide-BlackHillPark-WildflowerGarden

Wildflower Garden, Black Hill Conservation Reserve

DSCF8312-Adelaide-BlackHillPark-WildflowerGarden

Wildflower Garden, Black Hill Conservation Reserve

DSCF8309-Adelaide-BlackHillPark-WildflowerGarden

Wildflower Garden, Black Hill Conservation Reserve

DSCF8314-Adelaide-BlackHillPark-WildflowerGarden

Wildflower Garden, Black Hill Conservation Reserve

DSCF8313-Adelaide-BlackHillPark-WildflowerGarden

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…

DSCF8319-Adelaide-WaterFallGullyReserve

Waterfall Gully, Adelaide

DSCF8322-Adelaide-WaterFallGullyReserve

Waterfall Gully, Adelaide

DSCF8321-Adelaide-WaterFallGullyReserve

Waterfall Gully, Adelaide

DSCF8324-Adelaide-WaterFallGullyReserve

Waterfall Gully, Adelaide

DSCF8323-Adelaide-WaterFallGullyReserve

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.

DSCF8326-Adelaide-HoldfastBayGlenelgBeachWalk

Holdfast Bay / Glenelg, South Australia

DSCF8331-Adelaide-HoldfastBayGlenelgBeachWalk

Holdfast Bay / Glenelg, South Australia

DSCF8333-Adelaide-HoldfastBayGlenelgBeachWalk

Holdfast Bay / Glenelg, South Australia

DSCF8338-Adelaide-HoldfastBayGlenelgBeachWalk

Glenelg, South Australia

DSCF8337-Adelaide-HoldfastBayGlenelgBeachWalk

Holdfast Bay / Glenelg, South Australia

DSCF8341-Adelaide-HoldfastBayGlenelgBeachWalk

Historic building, Glenelg, South Australia

DSCF8342-Adelaide-HoldfastBayGlenelgBeachWalk

Glenelg, South Australia

DSCF8345-Adelaide-HoldfastBayGlenelgBeachWalk

Jetty, Glenelg, South Australia

DSCF8357-Adelaide-HoldfastBayGlenelgBeachWalk

Glenelg, South Australia

DSCF8358-Adelaide-HoldfastBayGlenelgBeachWalk

Holdfast Bay / Glenelg, South Australia

DSCF8353-Adelaide-HoldfastBayGlenelgBeachWalk

Historic building, Glenelg, South Australia

DSCF8350-Adelaide-HoldfastBayGlenelgBeachWalk

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.

DSCF8377-HalletCovePark

Hallet Cove Conservation Park

DSCF8378-HalletCovePark

Hallet Cove Conservation Park

DSCF8384-HalletCovePark

Hallet Cove Conservation Park

DSCF8386-HalletCovePark

Hallet Cove Conservation Park

DSCF8388-HalletCovePark

Hallet Cove Conservation Park

DSCF8391-HalletCovePark

Hallet Cove Conservation Park

DSCF8390-HalletCovePark

Hallet Cove Conservation Park

DSCF8385-HalletCovePark

Hallet Cove Conservation Park

DSCF8393-HalletCovePark

Hallet Cove Conservation Park

DSCF8396-HalletCovePark

Hallet Cove Conservation Park

DSCF8392-HalletCovePark

Hallet Cove Conservation Park

DSCF8395-HalletCovePark

Hallet Cove Conservation Park

DSCF8397-HalletCovePark

Hallet Cove Conservation Park

DSCF8399-HalletCovePark

Hallet Cove Conservation Park

DSCF8398-HalletCovePark

Hallet Cove Conservation Park

DSCF8400-HalletCovePark

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.

DSCF8428

Girrafe, Adelaide Zoo

DSCF8430

Cappabarra, Adelaide Zoo

IMAG5712

Tamarind, Adelaide Zoo

IMAG5704_1

Giant Panda, Adelaide Zoo

IMAG5705_1

Giant Panda, Adelaide Zoo

DSCF8432

Lemur, Adelaide Zoo

IMAG5748

Big Tortoise, Adelaide Zoo

IMAG5708

Big Tortoise

IMAG5717

Bird, Adelaide Zoo

IMAG5714

Tamarind,, Adelaide Zoo

IMAG5731

Old zoo manager’s house, Adelaide Zoo

IMAG5746

Storks, Adelaide Zoo

IMAG5706

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.

IMAG5628

Harndorf stone building

IMAG5664

Harndorf stone building

IMAG5637

Harndorf stone building

IMAG5618

Harndorf Lutheran CHurch

IMAG5626

Harndorf building

IMAG5627

Harndorf street art (I hope)

IMAG5634

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.

DSCF8514-VictorHarbour-theBluff

The Bluff, Victor Harbour

IMAG5857

Horse Tram, Victor Harbour

IMAG5862

Granit Island, Victor Harbour

IMAG5900

Oscar W paddle steamer, Goolwa

DSCF8523

Th Bluff walk, Victor Harbour

IMAG5864

No, it wasn’t cold! Victor Harbour

IMAG5919

Murray River mouth, near Goolwa

IMAG5863

Eliana trying to stay out of the wind, Victor Harbour

IMAG5847

Horse Tram, Victor Harbour

IMAG5898-Goolwa-OscarW-PaddleSteamer

Oscar W paddle steamer, Goolwa

DSCF8532

Top of The Bluff, Victor Harbour

IMAG5972

Goolwa Barrage

IMAG5979

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.

DSCF8563

Cape Jaffa Beach

IMAG6039

Remains of Lighthouse Keepers Housing

IMAG6051-CapeJaffa

Cape Jaffa Memorial

IMAG6056

Cape Jaffa – Light on a Stick

IMAG6065

Cape Jaffa Jetty

IMAG6069

Sunrise over Cape Jaffa

IMAG6072

Sunrise over Cape Jaffa

IMAG6073

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.

DSCF8588-CapeJaffaLighthouse

Kingston SE – Old Cape Jaffa Lighthouse

DSCF8589

Kingston SE – Boat

DSCF8595-KingstonJetty-MuchSeaweed

Kingston SE – Much Seaweed

DSCF8602

Kingston SE – Historic Building

DSCF8604

Kingston SE – Historic Building

DSCF8606

Kingston SE – Old Machinery

DSCF8608

Kingston SE – Historic Building

DSCF8611

Kingston SE – Post Office, Historic Building

DSCF8614

Kingston SE – Historic Building

DSCF8620

Kingston SE – Historic Building

DSCF8632

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.

IMAG6076-WoakwineCutting

Woakwine Cutting

IMAG6078-WoakwineCutting

Woakwine Cutting – Machinery used to build it

IMAG6080-WoakwineCutting

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.

IMAG6084-Beachport-Jetty

Beachport – Jetty

IMAG6085-Beachport-RailsOppositeJetty

Beachport – Rails opposite jetty

IMAG6097-Beachport-ScenicSeasideDrive

Beachport – Scenery on Scenic Drive

IMAG6098-Beachport-ScenicSeasideDrive

Beachport – Scenery on Scenic Drive

IMAG6099-Beachport-ScenicSeasideDrive

Beachport – Scenery on Scenic Drive

IMAG6100-Beachport-ScenicSeasideDrive

Beachport – Scenery on Scenic Drive

IMAG6104-Beachport-ScenicSeasideDrive

Beachport – Scenery on Scenic Drive

IMAG6106-Beachport-ScenicSeasideDrive

Beachport – Scenery on Scenic Drive

IMAG6108-Beachport-ScenicSeasideDrive

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

IMAG6109-Beachport-ScenicSeasideDrive

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.

IMAG6115-BuildingArt

Main Street art, Millicent

IMAG6116-OldVintageCar

Vintage car, Millicent

IMAG6117-OldVintageCar

Vintage car, Millicent

IMAG6118-OldVintageCar

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.

IMAG6154-BlueLake

Blue Lake, Mount Gambier

DSCF8650-CentenaryTower

Centenary Tower, Mount Gambier

DSCF8654-CentenaryTower-CraterWall

Centenary Tower crater rim, Mount Gambier

IMAG6160-BlueLake-PumpingStation

Blue Lake Pumping Station, Mount Gambier

IMAG6166-ValleyLake

Valley Lake, Mount Gambier

DSCF8655-UmpherstonSinkhole

Umpherston Sinkhole, Mount Gambier

DSCF8657-UmpherstonSinkhole

Umpherston Sinkhole, Mount Gambier

DSCF8658-UmpherstonSinkhole

Umpherston Sinkhole, Mount Gambier

DSCF8663-UmpherstonSinkhole

Umpherston Sinkhole, Mount Gambier

DSCF8665-UmpherstonSinkhole

Umpherston Sinkhole, Mount Gambier

DSCF8667-UmpherstonSinkhole

Umpherston Sinkhole, Mount Gambier

DSCF8668-UmpherstonSinkhole

Umpherston Sinkhole, Mount Gambier

DSCF8672-UmpherstonSinkhole

Umpherston Sinkhole, Mount Gambier

IMAG6144-CaveGardensSinkhole

Cave Garden Sinkhole, Mount Gambier

IMAG6147-CaveGardensSinkhole

Cave Garden Sinkhole, Mount Gambier

IMAG6148-CaveGardensSinkhole

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 .

Along the Roads to Gundagai


There’s an old Australian folk song called “Along the Road to Gundagai”, and it lyrics are…

There’s a track winding back
To an old-fashioned shack
Along the road to Gundagai.

Where the blue gums are growing
And the Murrumbidgee’s flowing
Beneath the sunny sky,

Where my daddy and mother are waiting for me
And the pals of my childhood once more I will see.
Then no more will I roam when I’m heading right for home
Along the road to Gundagai.

Apart from the lines “Where my daddy and mother are waiting for me, and the pals of my childhood once more I will see” the rest of lyrics indicated above were my experience over the last week, especially when “home is where the heart is” (ie, anywhere my darling wife happens to be). But Gundagai was the end, the destination, of a cycling adventure.

September 11th, 2017.

The cycling adventure started on the date that has unfortunately etched itself in the Western pysche – September 11th. But the events of many years ago were furthest from my mind as I left Henty bound for Wagga Wagga via Mangoplah in NSW. This was day one which involved a long 70+ km bike ride, with my Topeak rack and bag on the back of the bike and a back pack on my back. Those bag and pack had in them everything I thought I would need for 5 days of cycling, minus sleeping gear as that was provided at the various places I stayed. The weather was good, but I did have a headwind for pretty much the whole ride so it was hard going and by the time I got to Wagga Wagga I was really looking forward to some lunch and a well earned rest. The cycling for day one was over roads I had travelled before on a number of occasions so it was all pretty familiar. I knew where all the hillss and all the major landmarks were. So that was more a re-acquainting that a true adventure, although it was the first time I was kitted out for a multi day ride along those roads. Wagga Wagga is a large town nestled along the banks of the Murrumbidgee River, which is also the river that the township of Gundagai is on.

September 12th.

One thing I did while in Wagga Wagga was I walked some of the Wirajuri Trail which I had never walked before – eventually I hope to walk and / or ride the whole 40lm trail around Wagga Wagga. After a fairly good night’s rest I left Wagga Wagga early in the morning, heading towards Junee about 40km away. This proved to be a very interesting day for me as I am very much interested in railways and trains, and most of the journey is close to the Main South railway line that connects Melbourne (in Victoria) and Sydney (in NSW). I saw a number of railway features and some trains during the day.

It was also the first time I had travelled that route between Wagga Wagga and Junee. But that head wind persisted and after about 30km I was really feeling the fatigue. That might seem strange when I can normally ride around 80km before the fatigue sets in but when I ride 80km or more I try and avoid headwinds on the last half of the ride and I have nowhere as much weight attached to me or the bike. I got to Junee a bit before lunch, and so went to the cafe attached to the railway station and purchased some lunch – a vegetarian club sandwich and something for dessert. As I had about 2 hours before I could book into the Junee Tourist Park I found a seat and had a good rest, watching the world go by. After I checked in to my accommodation for the night I went for a bit of an explore on the bike on the various trails and roads around Junee. Junee is a railway town. If iot wasn’t for the railway the town would probably not be the size it is. There is a 360 degree roundhouse, and it is the junction of the Main South line and a line that branches off to Narrandera and Griffith. In more recent years, the de-regulation of the Australian railway industry and the move to containerised freight has led to the establishment of a transhipment facility at Harefield and so the railway yards at Junee often have railway carriages bound for or moved from Harefield. I heard a number of freight trains rumbling through at various times of the day and night along the Main South line and the Griffith branch. So even today the railwys are busy in and around Junee – that warms the heart of any railways fan.

September 13th.

This day was to prove very different to the previous two.  It was a bit cooler, more overcast. But the best thing about this day’s major bike ride was that it had lots of downhill and a tailwind! My destination was Bethungra. I rode along Old Sydney Road for this ride, which in the days of the Cobb and Co coach service was the route they took between Junee and Bethungra. The road was great to ride on, the hills not beeing too steep, and through beautiful farming country. The reason I decided to take this road was that I don’t like riding on major highways, so to avoid the Olympic Highway, the most direct route between the towns I had to go along Old Sydney Road. This road was entirely unknown to me before I that day but I am glad I decided to ride it. Bethungra is another township very much connected with the railways. Nearby is the Bethungra Spiral, a railway feature built in the 1940’s to minimise the need for double-heading or banking of trains to get them over the mountain range. “Double-heading” means adding an extra locomotive to the front of a train, and “banking” means more or less the same thing – but the extra locomotive is often added to the back of a train to push the train while the locomotive at the front pulls the train. As the name implies, the Bethungra Spiral winds around and goes over itself, using the spiral to gain or lose height meaning gradient is less steep. Bethungra once has as many as 3000 people, but when the railways mechanised and restructured their track work gangs the town almost died, although today it seems to be a small but vibrant village of community minded people.

After checking into the Bethungra Hotel B&B at Bethungra I rode out to the Spiral to take a look, and to the Bethungra Dam / Lake which has a good camping area, and explored the railway features in Bethungra township itself. I also visited the Olde Schoolhouse T-House and had a good chat to one of the operators. It was interesting to find out that they are of the same worldwide faith community as me, and so I chatted for quite some time before going back to the B&B and engaging in some major relaxation – ie, sitting on the balcony outside my room and watching the world go by and hoping for some trains to pass by in easy view of the B&B. But alas the only trains that travelled by were an XPT passenger train (which I saw on the Spiral itself when riding out there) and trains going through at night! Oh well.

September 14th.

Old Sydney Road which I rode the previous day showed on the map as a fairly straight rode. The route for this day’s ride was a very winding one from Bethungra to Cootamundra very much away from the Olympic Highway. When I compared the maps for the two days, I figured that this day’s ride would be much more hilly than the previous days due to the constant changes in direction of the roads on the map. And I was right.From about 15km into the ride until about 10km from Cootamundra it was a fairly constant pattern of ascent followed by descent. Ans so 40 or so kilometres and about 2 and a bit hours later I arrived in Cootamundra. This day was a very cold day, around 8 degrees Celsius. While I was riding that didn’t pose too much of a problem as the effort required to ride up the hills and the 3 layers of clothing I had on tended to keep me warm. But once I stopped at Cootamundra and started to cool down, the wind also seemed to pick up. and so I had to add an extra layer of clothing. Thats’ right – 4 (four) layers of clothing and I still wasn’t feeling particularly warm! I was very thankful for the warmth of the cafe where I had lunch and the wonderfully working heater in the hotel room I had booked for the night. Like Junee, Cootamundra is a very busy railway town. On my exploring around town I saw some locomotives I had never seen before. There is also a foot bridge over the railway lines that gives a good view of the yards and station.

IMAG3788

White Ibis Hotel, Cootamundra. Where I stayed for the night.

September 15th.

This was the last day of my cycling adventure. The previous night I had developed a sneeze or hay fever.  I was hoping that wasn’t a sign that I was getting sick as this days ride was 50+km and I was expecting some major climbs along the ride. As it turned out I needn’t have worried about either as the climbs weren’t that bad and once I was warmed up on the ride the blocked / runny nose stopped being blocked / runny. This ride was in a south easterly direction to Gundagai through the locales of Brawlin and Muttama and for part of the way it followed the now disused Cootamundra – Gundagai – Tumut railway branch line. Spring is a beautiful time to out riding in the south-eastern Australian couttryside as the canola is in bloom and the blossoms of various flowing trees (native and introduced) are also blooming. But then there is the magpies, who also swoop in early Spring. Interestingly, most of the viscious swooping magpies were in the towns (what I call “Town Magpies”). The magpies in the countryside (“Country Magpies”) still swoop but often not as visciously as Town Magpies – another reason to be riding in the countrside in spring rather than in the towns!

I arrived at Gundagai not long after my wife and one of my daughters arrived there and once I Put the bike on the car the cycling adventure was finished. But I had made it. With 284km of riding, mostly through countryside that I had never been or seen before, it was very interesting and enjoyable. And I discovered, or maybe remembered, some things:

  • It is not impossible to find people with whom you have a common interest in the most unlikely of places.
  • Country hospitality really is the BEST!
  • Exploring new places is inherently pleasurable and interesting on a bicycle.
  • While the destination is important, the journey is to be savoured and enjoyed.

Ernest Hemingway once said of cycling “it’s by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and can coast down them”. Bill Emerson said “a bicycle does get you there and more. … And there is always the thin edge of danger to keep you alert and comfortably apprehensive. … And getting there is all the fun”. But for this cycling adventure (and many others), Charlie Cunningham sums up my feelings best: “You’re moving through a wonderful natural environment and working on balance, timing, depth perception, judgement… it forms a kind of ballet”.

Here, there, and everywhere


Over the last few weeks, with 2 weeks of Annual Leave, the family and I did the following…

Friday 28th October
Finishing work at 1pm, Zoe and Eli and I were on the road by 1:30. Destination: Hotel Granya, beside the upper reaches of Lake Hume. By 3pm, I was all booked into my accommodation there, and Zoe and Eli were driving back home. Granya is in a mobile phone black hole – about the only place I had mobile service was way out in the bush, about halfway to the Mt Granya summit. So that basically means no internet until sometime on Sunday. But I’m wasn’t going to let that bother me. There was too much interesting stuff to do.


After I was unpacked, I hopped on the bicycle and headed up. Because that’s what most of the roads at Granya do – they go up. After exploring some side roads in Granya township, I decided to try and get to the top of My Granya. Until Cotton Tree Creek it was fairly easy going despite the steepest section of  asphalt road I encountered today being in the town limits. After Cotton Tree Creek the track went up, and down, and then again, and again, and again. And then there was a 2km section of relentlessly steep and slippery 4×4 track . And that was by far the hardest part of the ride.

Eventually I got past that section and onto Mt Granya Road. But by this time it was about 5:30 and I decided it would be best to head back towards the hotel. As I was soon to find out there was some more up hill, but after the really steep 4×4 section those hills were a breeze! And then there once I got to the asphalt road at Granya Gap it was super easy for the rest of the ride as it was downhill – O the joy of the downhill.

On arrival back at the hotel, I decided it was time to fill the fuel tank, so ordered some Moroccan Pumpkin soup, which was delicious, and some potato wedges with sweet chilli and sour cream. Not long after the Sun had set behind the Granya mountains and so it was Sabbath. So I spent a bit of time listening to some music (Steve McConnell, if your interested), and then mulled over an idea for a sermon I am due to preach on Christmas Eve. And then… bed.

Sabbath 29th October
Sabbath. The very word suggests rest. But rest from what? If one believes in the Judeo-Christian understanding, as I do, it means rest from doing business. That is, employment. And so on this Sabbath, as with every other one, that is what I did. And so today’s main activity was to be a mountain bike ride up to the top of Mt Granya. After riding hills of varying levels of difficulty I found myself at the aforementioned destination. And by that time I was due for a rest. After a bit of a snack to replace the energy I lost on the climb I sat quietly for a while and listened to the serenity. Lyrebirds, kookaburras, and some other unidentified birds could be heard. The silence was punctuated only by the sounds of nature. The view was amazing – down into Georges Creek valley, across to the alpine national park, and Mt Bogong with snow. But I had this feeling of dejavu, like I had been to Mt Granya before. Maybe I have. But it was still a first – the first time I had ridden a bicycle up it. After a decent rest, and because a few cars of people arrived, I decided it was time for a good downhill roll. And a good downhill roll it was, too.


Later in the day, around 6pm, I thought it would be nice to go for a trundle (that’s a ‘slower than usual’) bike ride along River Road and enjoy the views out over Lake Hume. And the views didn’t disappoint. I could have shot a lot more photos than I did, and the temperature had dropped a bit from its warmest temperature a few hours before. The only bad thing was the bugs – I swallowed a few, my beard collected a few, and some almost got in my eyes. By the time I got back to the hotel the sun was dropping over the hills. Sabbath would soon be gone for another week.


Sunday 30th October
I had an idea of what I was getting myself into when I read the weather forecasts for the day, and they all said roughly the same thing – rain probability high, 10+kph winds, possibility of a thunderstorm, low temperatures. Well, all of it happened, except the temperature was a bit higher than forecast. I left Hotel Granya around 6:30am, after a hearty breakfast of muesli with soy milk and an Up-N-Go, and a large banana. I had some snack foods to nibble on during the ride – nut and yoghurt bars, an orange, and some fruit and nut mix. I also had two ’10 Mineral’ drinks – a kind of sports drink without a lot of the nasties.


So there I was, riding into the north westerly wind more or less, for the first 16km. And then a turn southward starting with a grueling ascent to possibly the highest point on the ride. I am thankful that this ascent was early on in the ride as if I had to traverse it later in the ride I might have given up and called Rebecca up on the phone to tell her where to pick me up. As it was I felt decidedly low on energy by the time I got to the top, and took a decent rest before continuing. But then I heard some rather loud thunder rumbles in the hills above where I was, and I decided it would be better to keep moving down into the valley rather than feeling like a sitting duck on the high point I was on. After that high elevation, I had a long descent into Old Tallangatta – a real pleasure, even with the intermittent rain, after the tough climb I had endured not long before. The rain was one of the other variables on this ride that I have not had to experience on rides of similar length – rather than saying there was rain here and there, the ride could be better described as being doused by various intensities of rain. Sometimes it was light drizzle or a few drops here and there, other times it was bucketting down, and other times it was somewhere in between those extremes. I didn’t know whether to wear the raincoat, or not, as if I put it on then I felt too warm but if I didn’t wear it I got wet. In the end, it was just easier to not wear it!

By the time I got to Old Tallangatta, which was roughly the half-way point of the ride, I was feeling a little refreshed by the long downhill stretch through Georges Creek and was looking forward to the Yabba Road section. On Google Maps the Yabba Road seems fairly flat, especially when compared with the first half of the ride. Either Google Maps gradient profiles aren’t that trustworthy or I misread it, or something, because it was tougher than I thought it would be with a number of short but steep climbs, although the climbs weren’t anywhere as bad as the “grueling ascent” mentioned earlier. Yabba Road was a bit over 30km long, and by the time I turned onto the Omeo Highway I was really ready for a rest. It’s funny how when you drive a car over a stretch of road that it is totally different to when you ride a bicycle over the same section. I really don’t remember all those hills on the approach to Eskdale! But eventually I arrived at Eskdale, a beautiful small town nestled on the side of the Mitta Mitta River valley. This was the place where I was to meet Rebecca, Jesse and Eliana. It wasn’t long after I had started feeling human again that they arrived. We had some salad rolls, and a donut (I know, donuts are not exactly healthy food, but after 84km of cycling, well, you know where my logic headed). Then the bike was put on the bike rack on the car, and we drove another 2 hours south to the picturesque town of Omeo and booked into the Omeo Caravan Park which was to be our home for the next few days.

Monday 31st October
While snoring and generally drowsiness was the condition of the family, I was up early at about 6am, had some breakfast (again, healthy muesli and a banana), and a little later I went for a bike ride. No long bike ride – at about an hour in duration and about 13km long it was a lot less exhausting that the one the day before. But Omeo being in a valley, if I wanted to go anywhere I had to climb hills. So not long after I started the ride I found myself climbing up towards Mt Hotham but I soon decided that was not what I wanted to do, and took a turn to the left along lane called Cousins Lane. It climbed up pretty high too, but I knew it wouldn’t climb anywhere as high as the Mt Hotham road did, and besides when I turned onto Cousins Lane the Hotham road was starting to descend I didn’t really want to have to ride up that descent later.

Cousins Lane didn’t disappoint. The views across to the mountains was spectacular, and once the lane levelled off I enjoyed riding along it. Then there was a steep descent and ascent before it turned sharply to the left, then over one more hill, and then it was downhill as far as the eye could see all the way into Omeo. Well, almost. That’s how I like my rides to be – all the tough stuff in the first half, and then the ‘reward’. When I am riding around home and the wind is strong I always try and ride into the wind for the first half so that I can have an easier return back home. Riding into strong winds is just like riding up hills, except that they don’t show up on the gradient profile. But the effect on the rider is roughly the same.

After I returned back to the caravan park the family was up and we decided to walk into the township and do some exploring. There are an abundance of historically interesting buildings in the town and we saw a number of them – the courthouse (inside and out), the justice precinct with it’s Log Lockup, the Post Office, an old bank building, and some others.

Then after lunch we went driving. First it was out to have a look at the Hinnomungie Bridge in the Omeo Valley. This bridge is the only surviving wooden multi-truss hand hewn bridge in the state. It was particularly interesting to see ripped steel in structure of the bridge. That might be partly why the bridge was replaced by a more modern concrete structure. Then we drove along the Hinnomungie Connector road which goes up and over the Blowhard Lookout, a very aptly named locale that gives great 360 degree views of the surrounding area. But it was too cold to stay there, as the wind was blowing hard (surprise, surprise). In the distance we could see Lake Benambra, and so we headed towards it and skirted around in before arriving at the quaint and peaceful village of Benambra.

From there we headed north, and after missing a turn-off we finally arrived at our next stop – Taylors Crossing. This is a crossing of the Mitta Mitta River. It’s main point of interest is a sturdy looking steel suspension bridge for walkers to cross the river. This crossing is part of the Australian Alpine Walking Track, a long distance walking trail that traverses the Australian Alps between Walhalla and the Australian Capital Territory. After having a look around there, we drove back to Benambra and then headed north east towards the McFarlane Lookout NFSR locality on the map (don’t ask me what NFSR means, as I don’t know). I didn’t know what we would find there, but there were signs to a “Historic Marker” so we followed those signs, and found the remains of the Pendergast family home erected in the 1860s. All that remains today are 2 stone chimneys, but one of them had a hearthstone so big that they had to excavate a substantial hole underneath it from it’s locale in the neasrby hills, and then back the bullock wagon under it before toppling the hearthstone into the wagon to transport it to the site of the homestead. All the stones for the fireplaces for the building were granite brought down from the Bulgaback Range.

From there, we went back to the Caravan Park, where it was time for dinner and some evening relaxing.

Tuesday 1st November
Up early, again. Same reason – an early morning bike ride. This time the ride was from Omeo to Cobungra and the Victoria Falls. I jettisoned as much of the extra weight as possible from my bike touring kit. And then I was off on a bike ride that I knew was going to involve some climbing. The ride was uneventful, as is often the case. But the road was one of the steeper ones I have ridden, and the higher I got or the more exposed the road was, the stronger the headwinds. And it was a cold wind too. But I was prepared. I had 3 layers on – the cycling jersey, a polar fleece jumper, and an almost-wind-proof rain coat. I could feel the cold of the wind a bit, but not so much that I was worried about getting a chill or anything worse.

Pretty soon after leaving Omeo the main climbing started, and for approximately the next 8km I pedalled slowly up the hill. Near the top of the climb I arrived at Kosciosko Lookout, which was a bit under half way along the ride. And had a bit of a rest. But I felt the road calling me on. And I was on a bit of a timetable. I had told Rebecca that the ride would take me 2 hours to reach the Victoria Falls Historic Area, and so I couldn’t linger in any particular place for too long. So on I pedalled. Then I reached the top of the main climb and there was some downhill. But the downhill didn’t last as long as I thought it would. It teased me into thinking there would be a lot of downhill, but before I knew it I was climbing again! Then there was some more downhill, then some more climbing. And then the wind… This was the most exposed part of the ride, along the sides or tops of hills, and the wind made even some of the flat and downhill sections seem like climbs.

Eventually I made it to Cobungra, and the Victoria Falls Road. At Cobungra I had mobile reception, and so I sent an SMS to the family to let them know where I was and where I was going. After a little more downhill I found the picnic area, rode on a little further to see what was further a long the road, then after a while I turned back to the picnic area to wait for the family.

The Victoria Falls Historic Area is the location where the first hydro-electric power scheme in Victoria was built. Not to serve residential or commercial customers, but to provide power to one industry – a large, power hungry mine which was finding it increasingly difficult to source firewood for it’s boilers. So it was decided to convert the mine from steam powered to electric powered. Quite innovative for it’s day. There is not much left there today – we saw a dam wall that was destroyed in a flood, and another old dam further along at the end of the road. There are apparently more things to see, but some ambiguous signage that said “private property”, and then had a “walkers and management vehicles only” (which suggests state / public land) sign a bit further on made me wonder whether it was a good idea to explore further. In the same area is the Victoria Falls, a fairly spectacular set of cascades, made more so by the over-abundance of rain over the preceding months. We stopped at the lookout overlooking the falls and enjoyed the sight and sound of the falls roaring down the canyon.

From there we headed up to Dinner Plains, an alpine town with architecture reminiscent of the cattlemens huts that dot the Victorian alpine area. There was also some interesting pieces of art – a shiny metal emu and horse, and what looked like a giant gear and pedal set for some super huge bicycle. From there, we went even further up to Mount Hotham. There was still a lot of snow around, although I don’t think it would have been very ski-able. It was only just on the right side of zero – 1 degree according to the big clock / weather sign in the Hotham village. And the clouds were rolling in, and so it was possible that more snow could fall. But none of the ski-lifts would be operating if more snow did fall as the ski season finished officially almost a month ago.

We headed for the shelter of the day centre, and heated up some soup, and soon we had forgotten how cold it was outside. But then we had to go out in it again to get to the car. No matter. From that stage it could only get warmer. And the lower down the mountain we got the warmer it got. On the way back we stopped briefly at the Kosciosko Lookout, and then on to the Oriental Claims area to explore it. This area is named after the name of the company that worked the site for about 30 years in the late 1800’s / early 1900’s in search of that elusive yellow precious metal, gold. There are a large number of exposed cliffs towering above the various walking tracks. These cliffs were created by miners pointing high pressure water jets at the cliffs to wash the soil into sluicing areas, from which the gold was then extracted. The whole process would seem to be a good way to get to the gold in the soil, but the problem with the method is that it creates a lot of pollution problems even 100’s of kilometres downstream. A similar mine at Mitta Mitta also created similar water pollution problems during it’s operation.

By the time we had explored the Oriental Claims area, it was around 4pm, and so we decided we to go back to the caravan park, and engaged in less than interesting activities – dishes, cooking, showers, etc.

Wednesday 2nd November
Today’s early morning bike ride was a sedate affair when compared to the ones earlier in the week – about 26km long, and a little over 400 metres of climbing, and the average speed was almost 20kph. The destination and meeting point for me to meet the family was the Cassilis Historic Area in Tongio West, about 25km south of Omeo.

The Cassilis Historic Area was once a gold mining area, similar to many other places in the region around Omeo. And it has a lot of gold mining relics including old machinery and mine adits (the holes in the sides of mountains that the gold bearing rock is extracted through). The Cassilis Historic Area has 3 adits, collectively known as the Mount Hepburn / King Cassilis Mine. Each adit has it’s own name: “House of Horrors”, “Main Adit”, and “Boatmans Mine” – two of those names being very interesting names for a mine, and suggesting a story behind the names. After exploring the various mine remains on the loop trail, and enduring a certain child’s complaints of being tired and sore, we arrived back at the car. Then it was on to the village of Swifts Creek.

I had this picture in my mind of what the town of Swifts Creek would be like based on many other small villages I have visited over the years – very quiet main street with the occasional truck thundering it’s way through town, a sawmill, and a collection of buildings that had seen better days. Apart from the occasional truck thundering through town it was nothing like I envisioned. The school was in the middle of playing a game of “rounders” (I think). There was a cafe (which we had lunch at), another cafe, a pub, and a small supermarket, as well as some other community centered organisations. A quick read through the local noticeboard revealed a community that was very busy with all kinds of things including a community gym, a regular bike riding group, and a karate class. The thing that struck me most, though, was that the buildings we saw were all in very good condition, except for some rusty looking corrugated iron sheets on some roofs. They still had that ‘small country town’ look, but way over towards the ‘well-maintained’ end of the condition spectrum. Swifts Creek appeared to me to be a town whose citizens take pride in it’s appearance. I was only there for about an hour, but that was the impression I had of the town in the short time we were there.

After some lunch at the Creaker Cafe, we headed further south towards Ensay. After a quick stop at the Connor Lookout (I think it was called) we arrived at Ensay and turned east, with a plan to do a big loop through the Moscow Villa area, but about 20km into the loop we came across a large tree that had fallen across the road, and as we didn’t have a car that could get around it (ie, a 4×4 with lots of clearance) we turned around and back-tracked through Ensay. So the idea of doing a big loop fell in a heap. By this time I had about had enough of trying to get to Moscow Villa and the walking tracks in that area, so instead of trying to get there I decided we would just go towards Omeo. Along the way, we took a detour along the Tongio Gap Road just because it looked interesting on the map, and soon we had arrived back in Omeo. Rebecca wanted to have a look at the Cuckoo Clock shop, which has a large range of German-made cuckoo clocks, most of them being on different times. This is probably a good thing – can you imagine 100 cuckoo clocks all going off at once? The various styles and sounds of the clocks was interesting, and the mechanisms and moving pieces of the various clocks was quite amazing.

Thursday 3rd November
Not much of interest happened today. I managed a 20km bike ride before we departed Omeo. Most of the day was spent traveling from Omeo to Bairnsdale, and trying to find a playground for Eliana to burn off some energy. One thing of interest is that I have now driven all of the Great Alpine Road From Wangaratta all the way to Bairnsdale. In Eliana’s and my search for a playground we did find some interesting things.

Friday 4th November
An early start today. Eli and I started a somewhat epic journey from Bairnsdale back to Rutherglen, so we had to be at the Bairnsdale railway station to catch the 6:10am train. The VLine train tickets said we would travel on 2 trains and a bus, but instead we travelled on a train and 2 busses. Not exactly ideal for me and my railfan buddy. But we had to connect with the bus to Rutherglen so we had no ability to change the booking so that we got to ride a second train.

Originally I calculated we would travel about 1/4 of the possibile country passenger routes in Victoria on our journey, but with one train changed to a replacement bus that diminished to about 1/8. Oh well.

Sunday 6th November
Today marked the second week of my Annual Leave. Up until Friday night I couldn’t decide where to stay. So I was browsing the internet, considering options, when I happened upon a webpage describing a venue called Bharatralia Jungle Camp. On the webpage I looked at it said they had “luxury tents, with real beds, camp kitchen, shared shower and toilet”. That looked promising so I sent them an email, and the cost was going to be $40 a night. So I booked one of their “luxury tents” from tonight until Thursday. That was the accommodation taken care of.

So today, with the car packed with all the essentials, some of which I won’t actually need as the venue supplies them, I drove merrily to my booked accommodation. After paying the hosts, I unloaded all my gear and took it to the booked tent. I don’t really know what I was expecting (the words “luxury” and “tent” don’t quite seem to go together in my mind), but I was pleasantly surprised with the standard of accommodation. And not just the tent, but the whole place. It was like a beautifully manicured garden, with tastefully placed trees and gardens, and the sounds of peacocks (I think), the flittering of birds, and the noises of other wildlife abounding. A little slice of heaven.

After I had unpacked and had some lunch I went for a bike ride. That probably shouldn’t surprise anyone who has read this blog before. Earlier in the day I did a 1 hour 10 minute gym workout, and on the bike ride I noticed a definite lack of energy, which I think was because I was still recovering from the gym workout. But I still enjoyed the 15km ride. Inspite of the plethora of fallen trees across the track I rode. After I got back to the tent, I still had some time until dinner so I went for a walk around the property. Heavenly! The mountains in the background, the rolling hills of the property, and the gardens all fed the senses and along the walk I stopped often to just take in the scenes before me. Even the sounds were soothing and gentle on the ears, when there were any sounds. Back at the tent, after dinner was consumed, I took some time to sit and watch the King Parrots, Crimson Rosellas and other birds feeding not far from where I was sitting. Heavenly! And I managed to get some good photos of the birds too.

Monday 7th November
The plan today was to ride. But it was only after breakfast that I chose a destination – Dartmouth Dam. Having ridden the Mitta Mitta to Dartmouth route before, I knew what I was going to encounter until Dartmouth. And I had driven up to the Dam some time ago, so I knew there would be some up hill after Dartmouth township to get up to the Dam. More than 25 km of pedalling later, sometimes sedately sometimes not, I was at the dam wall. Dartmouth Dam was built back in the 1970s, but even by today’s standards it is impressive. The dam holds 4,000,000 megalitres. To put that into perspective, if every Australian (all 25 million of us) drank 2 litres of water a day it would take more than 200 years to empty it, if it was full. When full it has 150km of shoreline – that’s more than some countries! And the wall itself has 14,000,000 cubic metres of volume. It is the biggest dam on the Murray River catchment.

After reaching Dartmouth Dam and having a look around, I began the return trip to Mitta Mitta. And before too long I was at Banimboola Pondage. After after a quick look around there I continued on to Mitta Mitta. All went well, until I got to the driveway of Bharatralia Jungle Camp, where I had stopped, and then started and the chain slipped and my knee slammed into the handlebars. Ouch! And as if to have a visually sign of the “ouch”-ness, the knee swelled up. Even as I write this entry, in the evening of the day, it is still puffed up and a bit sore. But I figured out how to minimise the soreness – keep it moving. So after lunch I went for a hike nearly 7km long which was a combination of the River Walk and the Deep Gully Walk. While on the Deep Gully Walk I found a “Gnome Home”, and a “Frog Log”. Rather than explaining what they are, just have a look at the photos.

After getting back to the camp, I relaxed for an hour or so and watched the birds feeding, and with a little patience managed to get some good photos once the birds were in a photogenic spot. And I found some more gnomes. This time they were interspersed in the vines that surround the tents at Bharatralia.

Tuesday 8th November
Today I tackled the most difficult ride on the whole holiday – Mitta Mitta to Eskdale Spur Track / Camp Creek Track junction. This ride had approximately 30km of climbing, the most climbing I have ever done on a single ride, with total of around 2440 vertical metres of climbing. According to Google Maps, it should have been around 1500 vertical metres of climbing. Just goes to show how inaccurate Google Maps is once you get away from the main roads. The weather was very suited to a ride with lots of climbing as it was not too cold and not too hot. Real Goldilocks weather. That it wasn’t too cold meant that when I got to the higher altitudes I didn’t need to rug up with extra layers of clothing. Actually, the climbing helped keep me warm, and I found I only really got cold when I took a rest then started riding again.

The original plan was to try and get to Mitchell Hut, which I believe is somewhere on the Eskdale Spur, via Camp Creek Track. But by the time I had reached the Camp Creek Track turnoff, I had already ridden 30km, and I knew that Camp Creek Track would have some climbing on the way back. So at the Camp Creek Track turnoff I turned around. I think if I am going to try and get to Mitchell Hut / Eskdale Spur I will need to do it from the Mountain Creek end, as I think it is only about 10km of climbing from Mountain Creek camp ground, which would give me plenty of reserve energy to climb out of Camp Creek Track.

The last few kilometres of climbing out of the Rodda Creek valley were taxing, and I eagerly looked for the last crest signifying the last of the major climbs. By that time it was time for lunch, so I had the sandwiches I had prepared back at camp, and had some other food to replenish the energy used. And from there it was virtually all downhill all the way to the Omeo Highway turnoff just outside Mitta Mitta. After a short pedal on the Omeo Highway, I turned into the Bharatralia Jungle Camp road, and then there was one last uphill – the last 500 metres of so back to the tent. By that time the legs were really ready for a rest. But I needed to buy some bread from the Mitta Mitta General Store, so I had a bit of a rest, and then rode in to buy what I needed. Then once I returned from the shop I was able to rest the legs properly!

Wednesday 9th November
Compared to yesterday’s high altitude climbing ride, today was more akin to a recovery ride than anything else. It was still around the same distance as yesterday’s ride, but without the large vertical altitude difference. It was mostly flat, following the Mitta Mitta River flats from Mitta Mitta to Eskdale, with some not-to-strenuous (ie, easy) climbs, if you could even call them ‘climbs’. Today’s ride was also along more populated roads, so there was not quite the same level of ‘adventure’ on this ride. But it was still very enjoyable. A few times I saw Mt Bogong poking it’s head above the other mountains, and the contrast of the river flats and the mountains at their extremities made for a pleasant ride. The legs didn’t have to work too hard at all, and most of the time I was cruising along at about 20kph. By the time I got back to the camp, though, I was still pretty tired. After some lunch, I had trouble keeping my eyes open, and so laid down on one of the couches in the camp kitchen, and for about an hour was off in the Land of Nod (or, if you prefer, ‘catching some zzz’s’ or ‘having some shut-eye’). The warmness of the morning and early afternoon also contributed to my sense of drowsiness.

After I awoke from my slumber, I decided to go for a bit of a wander along one of the tracks. I don’t know what the name of the track was, but it followed the southern boundary of the Bharatralia Jungle Camp property. I followed this track for about as far as I could before there was a large number of trees across the path, and the undergrowth at that point of the track suggested it wasn’t used much beyond that point. That point was right up at the opposite end of the property to where the camp’s tents are located, and the vista down the valley was awesome. The property itself was all grassland – not the 6 foot high type, but more like a lawn that hadn’t been mowed in a while. And on each side of the valley were forests of trees as far down the valley as I could see. There were patches of trees in the paddocks, and the grass was a nice verdant green, not the dried out pale-brown color we get at home during Summer.

This is the last day of my away-from-home adventure. I left on the start of my adventure soon after I finished work around 1pm on the 28th October, and wont be home until after 1pm tomorrow, which means it will have been 2 whole weeks I have been away from home. Some of that I spent with family at various places, and only the last 4 days I have spent away from family. Even though adventures away from home are great fun, it will be good to be back home!

Time for a Weddin


No. I am not getting married (again), or anything like that. Over the weekend just gone, Rebecca, Jesse, Eliana and myself went to the Weddin Mountains National Park, located in the New South Wales central-west region. The purpose of the trip was to camp and hike and generally enjoy nature. Or in other words, get a prescription strength dose of Nature-RX . My wonderfully organised wife had trolled the internet for suitable venues for this outdoor adventure weekend, and many of the places she found were having road closures and/or fuel reduction burns over the weekend, and Weddin Mountains National Park was just about the only one she found within a reasonable distance drive from home, which had some good tracks to walk and things to do. So Friday morn, the car was packed with all the stuff we thought we would need, less some things we should have tried to fit in to our Honda CRV but didn’t due to space. And off we trundled initially at the leasurely pace allowed by Learner drivers in the ever forward-thinking state of New South Wales (Australia), but then after Jesse (our Learner driver) had finished driving I took over and drive at the actual speed limit, where possible.

Weddin Mountain National Park is located about 30 minutes drive west/south west of the town of Grenfell, and rises up to a somewhat impressive height above relatively flat surrounds. It seems somewhat out of place surrounded by flat-ish farming land. The place we were going to be camping was Ben Hall Campground, on the western side of the park. The campground was very dry, the creeks in the area all dried up, but apart from that it was a great place to camp with lots of shade from eucalyptus and kurrajong trees. Ben Hall was one of a not insignificant number of bushrangers (ie, outlaws) who found that stealing, pillaging, and taking other people’s stuff was more lucrative than working hard for a pittance and buying his own, and he had a hideaway in a cave near the campground from the long, but probably not quite long enough, arm of the Law.

BenHallCampground-Kangaroo-7378

Kangaroo at the campground

Sabbath morning dawned with a little cloud, and a forecast top temperature of around 28 degress (Celsius). And so we embarked on what would become the longest hike Rebecca and Eliana have every done to date – more than 10 kilometres. Jesse and I have done longer hikes before. The destination was Eualdrie Lookout. The hike itself initially followed a dry creek ravine, with stunning multi-colored and variously shaped cliffs and rock faces, with layers of tress between various parralel cliffs and rock faces. The creek bed looked like it hadn’t had water in a long time. Along the way we saw a goat, which I think must have been wild, as well as hearing kangaroos and/or wallabies bounding through the bush above and beside us. And hearing the song of birds. Although it seemed that bird life was no apparent as in other places we have visited over the years. Rebecca and Eliana must be commended for the effort on this hike. Following the trail involved a fair bit of scrambling over rocks, negotiating fallen trees, and trying to avoid some pretty nasty spiky plants that we encountered in a number of places. Eliana had a fall, but with a some tears and a little encouragement she was back on her feet again. Rebecca kept referring to the last time we climbed “The Rock”, a towering edifice of a rock that stands sentinel over the township fo the same name about 40 minutes drive from where we live. I tried to re-assure her that this hike would be no where near as bad as “The Rock”, but I really had no idea what the hike would be like. We eventually arrived at the Eualdrie Lookout, and had some lunch while enjoying the views (which were quite stunning), and watching various members of a colony of lizards moving over the rocks.

Near the lookout we met a couple who we had seen at the campground earlier in the morning. They live at Ulladulla, on the NSW south coast. They were heading south to Victoria and visiting various places of interest along the way. At the campground, we met a number of other campers, some staying just one night, some longer – they were either going to or coming from Western Australia, Katoomba, Adelaide, and other places. The campground almost seemd to be some sort of ‘cross roads’ for all points of the compass.

Sunday we decided to go for a hike fairly early, then we had to go into Grenfell to buy some more water as there was absolutely no water at the campground excepot for washing hands in the toilet blocks. The hike we did was the Bertha’s Gully walk, which seemed to be named after the wife of Jim Seaton, who had a farm only a short distance from the campground in the years during and after the Great Depression. On other documentation the walk seemed to be called Black Gin Gully. But as a Black Gin is a racist term for an Aboriginal female, I am guessing that the gully was renamed after a white woman. This hike was described as a ‘pleasant walk’, and so we were thinking ‘easy’. But it wasn’t. This walk involved even more climbing and scrambling over rocks in relation to it’s length than the Eualdrie Lookout walk. But the scenery! There impressive towring rock formations and cliff faces, and some other differently shaped rocks which with that wonder of the post-modern age – the digital camera with impressive zoom capabilities – I was able to get some close up pictures of.

Upon our return back to camp we went for that drive into Grenfell I mentioned earlier. It was basically uninterering, so I won’t bore you with that. And lunch was minestrone soup with bread buns, then biscuits and fruit. After lunch, while Rebecca and Eliana rested after their earlier hikes, me and Jesse decide we would tackle the Lynchs Loop and Lookout hike. The sign at the start of the hike said it would take 2 hours, and was 2.5km in length. So we bounded off like a couple of mountain goats and slahed the required time in half! Including a 10 minute beark enjoying the views at the lookout. This hike had more impressive rocks. Impressive rocks are one thing this park has plenty of. And on the way down we, or I should say Jesse, almost collected a spider’s web. And it was a rather large spider that presided over his food collecting apparatus. After a rather un-manly scream from Jesse we negotiated around it and kept going.

When we got back to camp we all got in the car and drove to nearby Seaton Farm, a historical site featuring various Depression-era innovations and money saving examples. The farm buildings were constructed by Jim Seaton from second hand iron, mill offcuts, mud and earth, and hand cut timber from the surrounding trees. It seems that Jim Seaton would be what we might call a ‘hoarder’ today, as he kept anything and everything including bags of charcoal, tins and bottles, old tyres and car parts, second hand fences, correguated iron and farm machinery. But then when the times were tough all that assortment of thing could make the difference between making a living and not. The various items collected by Jim Seaton is testament to not only the difficult times he encountered, but also to his unique character.