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?

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.

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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”.

Early Winter Activities


Well, Winter has only just started in the Riverina district of New South Wales (Australia), and we have already had plenty of cold days. But over the last week, I have managed three very un-winter-like nature-based adventure activities – at least to my way of thinking.

Last Sabbath (11th June) I had a hankering for some walking. The sun was shining, and from inside the house it seemed like too good a day to waste it being inside. Outside it was still rather cold, but the sunny sky seemed to be promising a beautiful, albeit coolish, day. My darling wife must have sensed my hankering because she suggested we go for a walk in the Woomargama National Park (WNP), about 40 minutes drive away from where we live. The WNP is bisected by the Hume and Hovell Walking Track (H&HWT), a 400+ km walking track between Yass (NSW) and Albury on the Victorian border, and it was part of that walking track that we decided we would walk. So we packed a picnic lunch and drove towards the WNP. As we drove merrily along we noticed that the closer we got to the park, the more cloudy the sky got. And by the time we reached the Samuel Bollard Camping Ground on the H&HWT it was looking more than a tad threatening. But we started off on our hike anyway. The plan was to hike the part of the H&HWT between the Samuel Bollard Campground and Tunnel Road – not a long hike by any means, but as we had never walked in the WNP or the H&HWT it seemed like a good starter hike. We hiked a total of around 4km, and the photos below tell the visual story of our hike.

On the Sunday (12 June), it was an early start to be in Albury by 7:45am to meet up with the Albury Wodonga Pedal Power group (AWPP). The activity for that day was a group bike ride planned from Tumbarumba to Tintaldra then some lunch and on to Walwa – a distance of around 75km. About 13 riders were going, and 2 support vehicles to attend to any mechanical or other ‘breakdowns’ and to carry all our cycling kit except for water bottles. That was a good test of my new Jamis mountain bike that I purchased about a month ago and my general fitness. Both the mountain bike and I performed fairly well – the bike seemed really at home on the asphalt roads (I was admittedly a bit surprised at that), and my fitness level must have been ok too because I managed the climbs without any real need to stop and rest for any sigificant period of time (I was admittedly a bit surprised by that too) although the fact that I had two really long rests waiting for everyone else to catch up mght have had something to do with that. It was cool (well, it is winter), but the sun was shining with not a cloud in the sky as far as the eye could see, but I did spot some cloud clinging to the sides of some of the higher mountains as I pedalled along. Having ridden the road between Tumbarumba and Tintaldra a few times before I had a reasonable idea of what to expect although it’s always different on a bicycle as there is no motor to help get up the hills. I knew that from about 1/2 way along the ride I would have some more level riding and some downhill into Tooma. There was also the 270 degree vistas across to the Snowy Mountains, towards Tumbarumba, and towards the Murray River valley.

By the time I got to the Southern Cloud Lookout, I decided I had better wait for everyone to catch up. So while I waited (and waited) I stared in wonder at the view across to the Snowy Mountains with their snow capped peaks glistening in the sunlight. Eventually the rest of the group arrived at the lookout and it was decided, rather wisely, to have a late lunch (it was around 1:30pm by this stage) of all the munchies and teas and coffees that everyone had brought along. After some munchies and a chat, and deciding to terminate the ride at Tintaldra due to the time, we got back on our trusty steeds and either barrelled or sedately rode the brakes down the hill, or anywhere on the spectrum between those two extremes, all the way into Tooma. At Tooma there was a sign saying 18km to Tintaldra pointing along a steep dirt road, and one saying 20km via the asphalt and more level road – we took the 20km option. And within about an hour of that turnoff we had started arriving at Tintaldra – by this time it was about 3:30pm, and a bit too late to continue on to Walwa so we made the right decision to stop the ride at Tintaldra – a 55km ride in total.

After a bit of a rest, putting the bikes on the support vehicles for the trip back to Albury, drink and snacks at the pub (tetotaler’s lemonade, packet of chips and Mars bar for me), we all piled in the support vehicles and enjoyed a drive into the sunset…

Then on Monday (13th June) which was the Queens Birthday Holiday, with another uncharacteristically sunny Winter day, and a weather forecast which included a lot of rain later in the week, I decided it was just too good a day to waste it being inside. So this time I decided to ride towards Holbrook and see how I went – remembering that I did a 55km / 900+ total climbs ride the day before and I wasn’t really sure how I would go. I needn’t have worried about being able to make it to Holbrook. I made it there and back with energy to spare although my legs were starting to complain a little by the time I got back home.

I learnt something interesting on the two rides over the weekend. On both I took a mixture of trail mix (nuts, seeds, sultanas), cashews, and dates for some sustenance along the way. I also carried and drank plenty of water. It seems that the combination of those munchies (a nice mix of carbs, proteins and fats) and the amount of water helped keep my energy levels up considerably so I think I will make that munchie mix a standard for future longer distance rides. I also re-discovered the ‘after-ride-glow’ – a sense of persistent euphoria!