September - October 2016
  • Day9

    Homeward Bound

    October 2, 2016 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C

    Not much really to report today as we were making our way home. I took a couple of photos as we left of the dam, and Cooma as we drove through it. We actually intended stopping and refuelling in Canberra, but as we were unused to approaching it from this direction, we actually missed all the turnoffs! We ended up refuelling and having lunch in Goulburn at our favourite pit stop, the Goulburn Bakery.

    After passing quite a few dead animals by the side of the road, I started to count them. We passed about 30 large dead kangaroos, two dead wombats, and two dead echidnas. We saw one only live kangaroo (they are pretty well disguised), and of course lots of domesticated animals.

    Before long we were back in Sydney and unpacking the car after a really enjoyable road trip. We are looking forward to more adventures in the next holiday period!
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  • Day8

    A day in the snow

    October 1, 2016 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 1 °C

    Breakfast was included with our deal here, and we were surprised to find that it was a full spread, and not just a bowl of cereal and a piece of toast. While waiting at the toasting machine I happened to look at the person alongside me and recognized him as someone who used to play in our band. After a brief chat and a selfie with Rae, he left with his friends. We were bound for Thredbo, about a half hour away. We stopped first at the Jindabyne information centre where we paid for entry into the National Park (Thredbo is in the middle of it). We could have paid at one of the booths at the entry to park, but we got it out of the way here, Our payment covered us for 24 hours, but we would only be going for the day. We were informed by the assistant in the information centre that it had been snowing overnight and still was a bit, but that visibility was low at the top of the mountains,

    Since Rae had never been in this alpine region of Australia, and I worked out that it had been some 40 years since I had, visiting the ski fields was a must, although neither of us would contemplate actually partaking in any skiing or snowboarding, as it would probably mean going home with a broken ankle or dislocated knee.

    Even from Jindabyne, we could see a tiny bit of snow at the top of the mountains and this became more visible as we approached. Thredbo was really the only driving option for us, as you have to have either a four wheel drive or wheel chains to drive into Perisher or Blue Cow. The road to Thredbo took us alongside a little creek, so it was really quite pretty, especially with the snow on the mountains behind it. The town itself is typically alpine, with steep roofed houses set on the slopes of the valley. Although I say houses, most of the places are small holiday units spaced quite closely to one another.

    We parked the car in the large car park and took with us everything we thought we'd need - which meant all items of warm clothing that we had. I had on a long sleeve top, a jumper and my padded jacket, as well as a beanie and gloves. I hadn't thought to throw in my boots. However, I carried my woolen overcoat as I couldn't actually wear it over my padded jacket.

    We also put on our light hooded rain jackets as it was windy and raining, and I took a light umbrella for good measure. We did put the umbrella up, but I expected it to invert because of the wind. We took refuge first inside the information centre... not really much more useful than the one in Jindabyne, and then made our way to the bottom of the ski lift. As this was near the end of the ski season (the final weekend, in fact), only two lifts were operating. There were plenty of people with skis and other gear in the queue to buy tickets. The only option was to buy a day ticket for $36 pp, which would allow entry to both ski lifts for as many times as we wanted. It would be poor value for us, as we really only wanted to experience the ride up and back once, but hey, you can't come all this way and just stay at the bottom.

    From where we bought the tickets we made our way over to where we got on the lift. We were told to rug up (which we knew anyway), so I wrapped my extra coat around me. Rae bought himself a beanie as he'd left the only one he had back at home. The girl helping us onto the chairs advised us that it would be a good idea to have waterproof pants which we could hire back where we bought the tickets, but not wanting to go back there (it was quite a wait in the first place) we just got on and went up, up and away.

    The trip on the chair was cold, but at the same time we both found it peaceful (quiet), beautiful, and exhilarating. I kept constantly adjusting my layers over exposed parts of my body, especially after trying to take photos! What a buzz! All too soon we were at the top - we had taken the Kosciusko express, and we headed straight for the cafe at the top, boasting that it was the highest restaurant in Australia, at 1937 meters, still a way from the top at 2228 meters.

    We spent some time here, chatting to the waiters, having a hot chocolate, taking photos, and drying our soaking wet jeans. We managed to get dry-ish,but there wasn't much else to do up here - it was not suitable for walking around as there were people skiing, and it was sort of raining, sleeting, snowing and windy the whole time. A couple of people who did come to ski today said it wasn't really pleasant conditions for skiing.

    We braced ourselves and went back to catch the chair down. The attendant said it was much better going down as the wind was at our backs rather than in our faces. He was right, but it was still very cold and again we were soaked by the time we reached the bottom. Having had the experience, we didn't really feel like more soaking, so made our way into the pub to have a drink, some lunch and warm up again before making our way back to the car and having a short driving exploration of the town.

    On our way out of Thredbo we both saw a sign to the Ski tube. Not knowing what it was, we drove in there. It was a large building with a large car park with lots of cars there. When entering we found it was a train station for transporting skiiers through the mountain and up to Perisher Valley. we know we wouldn't be able to drive up there, so we asked how much to get the train up and back. It appeared that the tickets were for train as well as chair lifts up there, so he looked at us and just said it would be OK for us to just get on the train to have a ride up and back for nothing.

    We were both staggered by the length of the tunnel - the trip took about 10 minutes to get there. We were a bit disappointed that we couldn't see anything from the Perisher train station as it was underground, and we didn't want to push our luck by getting out to have a look then explaining to someone that we didn't have a ticket so we just stayed on the train and watched all the weary skiers hop on and fall asleep on the trip down. Anyway, we certainly found out what it was, so we were glad we made the detour.

    We thought we might try the road to Perisher for a while - we had to basically go back to Jindabyne to do this, but after about the 3rd warning sign about 'no chains, no entry' we just turned around and went back to Jindy. We were both a bit goosed after the day, so had a rest for the remainder of the day before heading out to look for a restaurant for dinner. I was mightily sick of being cold, and my knee was playing up, but we eventually found a cosy pub with a bistro and was happy to order a plate of lamb shanks and a glass of wine.

    All in all, we had been successful with our trip to this area, and the fact that it had snowed we considered to be a bonus!
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  • Day7

    Road to Jindabyne

    September 30, 2016 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 5 °C

    Packed the car and bid our cabin farewell. It wasn't the best place we'd ever stayed in, but it was adequate and a bit of variety is part of the adventure. Dropping in the key, Jade, the manager said we hadn't actually paid - we had pre authorized through with a card they don't take, so I handed over my other credit card.... machine didn't work. So then I tried a debit card... didn't work either. In the end I took their direct debit details and said I'd pay when I got home! Apparently a problem with their machine and not any of my cards, thankfully.

    We headed back toward Orbost and Cann Riiver, back tracking a hundred or so kms in the direction we had come in four days before. There is a shorter way to get to Jindabyne but as it goes through the mountains it definitely isn't quicker and could involve unsealed roads which we weren't keen on. We had a coffee stop in Cann River, where I took yet another photo of lavender. The variety down here is quite different from the one I'm used to, with a much deeper base to the flower. From here we turned north along the Monaro Highway. There wasn't a lot to report about along this route, and we eventually stopped for lunch in Bombala, another quaint country town with several old heritage buildings in the main street, a pub, RSL, petrol station and a couple of cafes. Not a great deal more. Another petrol stop and the gauge is still OK. Looking at the map, the road along the Snowy River highway looked like a good one, and this was confirmed by a local. We originally thought we might have to go all the way up to Cooma. We were glad we made the decision to take this way - the scenery was very pretty, with the country still very green and not a lot of traffic. We drove past a huge wind farm - I thought I was back in Europe. Ridiculous opposition to often here to what seems like a great source of power. At one point we encountered a guy hearding his cattle along the road, not long after seeing a 'stock crossing' sign. I asked, 'Ok to just drive through?' 'Yup, straight through' (man of few words)

    Eventually we arrived in Jindabyne, nestled on the side of a beautiful man-made lake which was created in construction of the snowy mountains hydro electric scheme when the snowy river was dammed. We were very pleased with our accommodation here, right on the lake, and a level above our digs in Lakes Entrance. Breakfast was included which was even better!

    As expected the temperature was cooler as we are at a higher elevation, right at the foot of the mountains, and with Australia's highest mountain nearby. We decided to go for a walk along the lake, having been in the car most of the day. It was quite blowy, with rain threatening so turned around after about a km. Passed some interesting things along the qay, including a monument to Strzleki, the polish explorer. We retreated out of the cold soon after and had a rest before freshening up for dinner. We were actually staying in a pub with a bistro, so thought that would do us fine for tonight at least. It was pretty busy but didn't take long to find a table and order. They had run out of the fish I wanted, but I enjoyed the steak, which I haven't had for quite a while
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  • Day6

    Bairnsdale, Bruthen and Buchan

    September 29, 2016 in Australia ⋅ 🌧 14 °C

    Up very early this morning to take Rae's car to Bairnsdale to try and get the fuel detector fixed. We left around 7:30 and were in Bairnsdale just after 8. We were a bit far from the main town centre, so the guy loaned us an old dog of a Nissan - no papers or anything to sign, and we left looking for somewhere to have breakfast, which we found. I had actually packaged up some muesli, but Rae of course preferred something hot.

    After a bit of wandering around, (nice bandstand!) we went looking for church someone had told us about the previous day - St Mary's Catholic Church, which we found pretty easily. We were quite staggered when we went inside. We have seen plenty of European churches in our travels, but the frescoes inside took us completely by surprise. They were painted by an Italian, Francesco Floreani who was an immigrant looking for work during the depression, and after a casual conversation with the priest began the job of painting the interior of the church. It took him four years, with stunning results - he depicted himself in one of the frescoes.

    After we left we ducked into the Information centre looking for stuff about the area, and I bought a mug of a robin redbreast - I'd seen several in the area, and thought it would be a good memento. Just as we were leaving the heavens opened. Rae went for the car, and I chatted to Helen who had phoned after just returning from her overseas trip. Also Rae's car was ready for pickup. They couldn't find anything wrong with it, but the 'low fuel' alert was still there. A bit of a wasted trip but at least we got to see Bairnsdale and there wasn't a lot else we had our hearts set on. (Annoyingly, that night Rae filled up with fuel, and the alert magically disappeared!)

    With the afternoon in front of us on our last day here, we decided to head for Bruthen and look for the Bullant Brewery. The township itself was quaint, again with a bandstand, but quite sleepy and not much going on. We had a quick look at the Brewery and a coffee but that was about it.

    Buchan was another 50km to the north east, and we decided that we still had plenty of the afternoon left, so headed that way. We were glad we did, as the valley in which it stood was very pretty. We ended up at Callemondah cafe - next to an historic home which the owners were doing up as a BNB. There were some caves nearby which we ummed and ahhed about visiting, and decided to go. Well, the entire reserve area was really picturesque, green, leafy with a pretty creek running through it, and with lots of wildlife around - kangaroos, wombats, etc. We took a guided tour of the Royal Cave (the only one available as the other was booked out). What an experience! The entrance was down a narrow tunnel with may places where stooping was necessary. This was not a place for claustrophobics, and Rae was a bit sweaty from time to time. It was an extensive and varied system, and I thought probably the best example I had seen - not as cavernous as some of those I'd seen, but quite different with the narrow little passage winding it's way around through the various points of interest. Very worthwhile!

    On exiting the cave, Rae made his way back to the car and I walked along a path for a while expecting to see some promised kangaroos. I did see a few but they were leaping away in the distance so I didn't get a chance to take any photos. However, I spotted a mother and baby wombat ambling along minding their business and sniffing around for food. I watched them for about 10 minutes in wonder and became almost the highlight of my trip. Never seen this before.
    After our cave adventure, we made our way back, both very satisfied with the afternoon. Went back to the club again for dinner as we had enjoyed it so much last night.
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  • Day5

    Wine trip and Cruise on the Lakes

    September 28, 2016 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

    With a two and a half hour cruise on the Lakes booked for the afternoon, we thought we would visit a local winery. We knew about it because one of the cruise boats goes there and drops people there for lunch. It was only about a 20 minute ride out of town, heading to a spot on the North Arm called Wyanga Park Winery. It was a quaint little place, with wines of course, and dotted around with art from the owner as well as her art group. We chatted with the assistant and heard a little about the place and the wines, sampling some of course.

    After buying some wine and bits and pieces and having a good look around the place we ordered a coffee and went out onto the verandah. There we were introduced to a couple of four legged residents, one of whom, Stella, jumped up onto the table and started sunning herself. She looked to be a cross between a King Charles Spaniel and something else.

    It was a very relaxing place to spend some time, but mindful that we had to be at the jetty by 1:30, made our way back to Lakes. Rather than go back to the front, we stopped at a little cafe on the North Arm side called The Boathouse where Rae had a rather nice Chicken and Leek pie, and I had a BLAT. It was very relaxing sitting in the sun out of the wind, and was a good choice all round.

    Had a browse around a couple of the shops before boarding the boat.We found a seat inside and the boat motored up toward the heads and around past Bullock Island where most of the commercial fishing boats bring in their catches. From there we passed several islands to our left, one of which has a large population of goats, introduced to cut down on the weeds, with great success. We went past Metung, where we had visited the previous day, and then into King Lake, one of several large lakes in this area of Victoria.

    We then travelled between Paynesville (also visited the previous day) and Raymond Island, also travelling a little way into one of the man made canals there. Lots of large houses with absolute frontages and each with a private jetty - a view of how the other half lives!

    We could see Raymond Island a little better - apparently with lots of koalas, but we didn't spot any of them! That was the half way point and thereafter the boat made its way back along the southern side of the lake, and making a short detour out to the heads where a large colony of seals were sunning themselves. Also, as if on cue, a pod of dolphins appeared. They frequent this area as it's a great fishing place for them.

    It was an interesting and relaxing trip, and afterwards we went home to freshen up before trying one of the local clubs for dinner. It was very busy but competitively priced, with a great range on offer. Apart from that, it was very good quality food. Rae had the Parma and a pot special and I had a lamb roast.
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  • Day4

    Paynesville and Metung

    September 27, 2016 in Australia ⋅ ☁️ 13 °C

    We were planning to stay in the area for a few days, so we decided to do some exploring. First off we booked ourselves onto a two and a half hour cruise for Wednesday afternoon and then took off along the Princes Highway. We stopped briefly at the lookout above the township at Kalimna from which there were good views of the whole lake system, including the actual entrance. From there we made our way to Paynesville on the far side of Lake King, taking the turn off south at Bairnsdale.

    So many boats all over the place around this region, and quite an extensive manmade canal system as well with some magnificent homes and frontages. However we didn't see them until we were on the water the following day. We pulled up along the front at Paynesville and had a walk around, deciding on a pie and a coffee from the bakery. We walked a lkttle further around the point but it was really gusty and madeour way back to the carpretty quickly.

    Across from Paynesville is Raymond Island, accessible via a ferry which traverses the short distance constantly through the day. There are apparently a lot of koalas there, but as we had other things to see we didn't go across there.

    Next we made our way back around the Lake to the little village of Metung, another lovely spot on the lake, with seemingly lots of resort style accomodation - quite an up market area compared with Lakes Entrance. More isolated, but with a beautiful board walk to exercise on and a few shops, cafes and a pub in Metung to spend time at. Stopped in one of the cafes for a drink, but with only 2 staff, had to wait a while. There was plenty of interestin stuff to look at inside and I was watching a little robin red breast flying in and out of its nest. We went for a drive around the point and found an interesting story about the early steamships which used to bring passengers up from Melbourne.

    It was about this time that Rae found that his petrol gauge wasn't working, telling him he was short of petrol when he'd only just filled the tank. Not able to do anything about it we made our way back to Lakes Entrance to look for a garage that might have a mechanic to look at it. We thought we were on candid camera as each place we went to, sent us to another then another then another. Finally, someone in Bairnsdale said he could look at it and agreed to do it on Thursday. We could have done without the unexpected trip back there, but we didn't really want to do any long drives without a working petrol gauge.

    Satisfied with this solution, we went back to the front and decided to walk across the footbridge to the beach. It's really quite a shock when the whole of the township has this long, protected waterway, and when you go across to the other side you are on a huge ocean beach. Not many swimming though! Cool and windy.

    We went back for a bit of a rest and then decided on Pinnochios for dinner, full of paintings and dolls of pinnochio, a nice creamy garlic seafood pasta for me, and chicken stuffed with ham and cheese for Rae. All in all, another lovely day!
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  • Day3

    Eden to Lakes Entrance

    September 26, 2016 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    Woke with a few aches and pains after our walking yesterday (about 12000 steps as it turned out!). We breakfasted on the basic supplies we had brought with us and decided, since we were here, that the Killer Whale museum would be worth a visit, so headed there first. It was an interesting place to visit with a large skeleton of Old Tom in the entrance way. A couple of stories stood out I think are worth a mention.

    As told by the guide, the original inhabitants of the area had a special relationship with the killer whales (that lasted around 10000 years) and it sounds like they were more or less like pets, but certainly they were something akin to working dogs when the area became a whaling centre. Apparently, the Orcas would splash around and make a racket to alert the humans that there were baleen whales in the area. They would herd them into the bay and trap them, and lead the humans to where they were, even grabbing the boat's tow rope and pulling them along so they could get there faster! The humans were only interested in the larger baleen whales for their oil and blubber, and for their trouble, the tongue, lips and mouth parts were fed to the orcas. Quite a delicacy for them. Anyway, we whiled away a couple of hours here, and even spotted a whale frolicking about near the entrance to the bay.

    Before leaving Eden, we topped up with fuel and grabbed a takeaway coffee. We weren't expecting the views to be as picturesque as yesterday. This part of the coastline is known as the Wilderness coast and there are fewer attractions around here. We headed on down the A1, crossing a very non descript border into Victoria, and thinking we might make a detour to Malacoota. As it happens we missed the turnoff and really didn't want to back track.

    The next obvious place to stop was Cann River, where the Princes Highway meets the Monaro Highway. It seemed a good place to have a spot of lunch. We had a walk up and down the main street. Apart from a petrol station, information centre and toilet block, there were a half dozen places selling food, and that was about it, really. Clearly the only reason for its existence is the intersection of two main highways. On the way out of town I also spotted a huge caravan which there were two customers.

    Nevertheless, we had a lovely bowl of home made pea soup each and took our leave of the town. We didn't stop again, passing the Bemm River and Marlo turn offs (The latter being wherethe Snowy River enters the sea). Drove through the main street of Orbost, a typical country town, and pulled into Lakes Entrance in the late afternoon.

    We found our accommodation, a cabin in the Echo Beach caravan park. It was basic, probably lessmodern than we thought fro the photographs, but comfortable enough and clean. A second room with bunks we used as a walk in wardrobe, and there was a little kitchen area which would do nicely for a couple of days.

    With still some daylight we decided to explore the main drag on foot. It was a couple of hundred metres away, and quite a long frontage. There is a complex lake system here, including of course an opening to the ocean, as implied in the name. The township itself is fronted by a long narrow section of calm water, dotted with lots of boats, jetties and marinas. The other side of that water is what could be described as a long sand dune with a long ocean beach - ninety miles of it, in fact! A footbridge allows pedestrian access over to the beach, quite a contrast with the calmness of the lakeside. We walked for quite a while along the water, past fashion stores, cafes, souvenir shops and so on. A number of wooden carvings appear along the way, carved from some trees that had to be removed. We had a drink in the RSL but decided to look for somewhere else to eat, and ended up in a place called Nick's, not as you might think a Greek restaurant, but one serving a good array of Thai style cuisine. Another curry for Rae, and seafood laksa for me.

    We strolled back to our little cabin and crashed pretty soon after
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  • Day2

    Batemans Bay to Eden

    September 25, 2016 in Australia ⋅ ☁️ 16 °C

    Having been south from Sydney on numerous day trips and weekends, most of yesterday's travelling was familiar. Today heading south we would encounter territory that neither of us had seen for some time. As promised we headed for the Bakery around the corner for breakfast. Fairly young kid serving seemed a bit unsure when we asked about wholemeal bread and soy milk. Reminded us that we were no longer in the city. After a discussion with one of the older wait staff about whether two slices of raisin toast meant one slice cut into two or it in fact meant two slices, a second slice was delivered to me.

    Suitably sated we farewelled Batemans Bay and took to the road again. With no rush to get anywhere in a hurry, we decided to take the coast road rather than the Princes Highway. It meant we would miss Mogo, but we definitely decided we'd made the right decision as the views along the way were beautiful with bay after bay of yellow sand beach, cliffs and shimmering water. After plenty of rain over recent months there is a lot of green around, all in all plenty of lovely scenery. The coast road eventually turned inland and we followed the Moruya river into Moruya, where we topped up the fuel tank and I jumped out to take a few photographs .. most of the photos taken from the moving car not very good. Here we rejoined the main highway and continued along our way. We stopped in Bodalla, sampling some cheese from the region, but with our projected coffee stop in mind, we didn't stay too long.

    And so we arrived in TilbaTilba, a gorgeous little village with quaint little shops and cafes as well as the ABC Cheese shop. Well and truly ready for a drink we sat in the Tilba teapot, and had a good look in several of the shops, bought some produce from the factory and hit the road again, just as the weather turned and the rain started to fall. We decided to once again take the coast road and It rained on and off until we reached Bermagui where we pulled in at the marina and joined a rather large queue at the local fish shop. The estimated half hour wait didn't eventuate and we settled ourselves happily under an umbrella doing the cryptic crossword and looking out at the boats, water, seagulls and hungry families who weren't quite so patient.

    Enjoyed our fish (blue grenadier) and chips when it came and headed off again soon after, the rain still arriving in patches, and despite the weather the scenery all the way along was spectacular. With plenty of ks still in front of us, we eventually entered the area called 'the Saphire Coast', the road turning toward the south west after Tathra and rejoining the highway after Merimbula and Pambula, arriving at our destination of Eden not long after.

    We were booked into the Halfway Motel, so named as it's halfway bewteen Sydney and Melbourne. Reliably informed by the hotel receptionist that there were whales in the bay we dropped our stuff and headed up the street to explore the place. Eden has a considerable history as a whaling town. Still used as a fishing port, it is set on a promontory with the appropriately named Twofold bay on either side of it. Whales frequently come into the bay to take shelter during their migration (south in spring, north in Autumn). We made our way along past the usual string of shops and cafes toward the port, past the Killerwhale museum which was closing for the day. An interesting winding path took us down quite a steep hill, but it was cold and very blustery. It was interesting and certainly added to our step count, but we were glad to get back to our rooms and out of the weather

    After a bit of a rest we ended up back out in the weather and into the pub bistro, lamb cutlets for me and salmon for Rae. Nice food at the end of a nice day.
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  • Day1

    Sydney to Batemans Bay

    September 24, 2016 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

    In true bandsman style, we arose on Saturday morning, put on our band uniforms and headed for Bankstown for a playout. This was after making several trips to the car with our luggage. Because we were to have a couple of one night stops, we both packed 2 smaller bags rather than a single larger one.

    The playout was enjoyable of course, very casual with as always an appreciative audience of shoppers. One elderly gentleman raised his arms and said 'I love this country', although none of us could quite work out why.

    Having packed some sandwiches we offloaded our instruments into Janis' boot and headed south out of Sydney. Rae was keen to test his new car on a decent trip. Soon we were flying past familiar Wollongong, Kiama and Gerringong which we have visited fairly recently. We decided to make for Berry as our first stop, and headed for the courtyard of the bookshop cafe, a favourite spot, a shared Banoffe pie to accompany our tea. A quick visit to the tea shop and we were on our way again. No more stopping until we reached our destination for the night, Batemans Bay. We were actually in Batehaven a little further along the river front. We found a nice little Thai restaurant for dinner, Green curry for Rae and a seafood stir fry for me. We checked out the bakery and decided that would be suitable for breakfast and wandered back to Araluen motor lodge, a smallish but clean and adequate place to stay the night. We crashed pretty early
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