I’m on a foggy highway

I’m on a foggy highway
Mount Gambier, Australia

Mount Gambier, Australia


We had breakfast at the Surf Club on East Beach in Port Fairy. It was a magical view out to sea and the light house. After a final stop in town for some last-minute souvenirs, we began making our way to Mount Gambier.

Slabs had asked the lady at the motel what there was to see or do on the way. She said, “nothing”. It certainly looked that way. There weren’t any tourist brochures overflowing with information on place to stop on this drive, so we figured that she was right.

We did see a wind farm offering tours, and we could have called in to Portland, but we wanted to get to Mount Gambier early enough to see some things. We could see Portland from the highway. It looked like a giant port (strangely enough, given the name) and a mass of huge turbines or towers. What I didn’t get was why the highway goes so far out of its way to go close to Portland but doesn’t actually go to the town. Apparently Portland is the oldest European settlement in Victoria, and is home to a large wind farm project.

Anyway, we didn’t go there.

Driving along the Princes Highway it became very foggy, which was just like being at home. Then we got stuck in roadworks, so tantalisingly close to the South Australian border. I decided that one job I don’t ever want is to be driving the vehicle that leads all the other vehicles through the roadworks, back and forth each way, all day.

Our first stop in Mount Gambier was the tourist centre, which has a free exhibition of local history and geography, including a very cool volcano eruption that Kramstable set off over and over again. We got some ideas of what to do while we’re here, and we set off for the Engelbrecht Cave, which sounded interesting. We thought we’d be just in time for the 1 pm tour. We hadn’t set our clocks back half an hour had we?

I can just imagine the conversation of the people who set time zones, way back in the day:
“So, should South Australia be in the same time zone as the East of Australia or should they be an hour behind?”
“Gosh, that’s a tough one. I don’t know.”
“I don’t know either. It’s all so hard. Screw it. Let’s just shift them half an hour behind and then we don’t have to decide where it should be.”

We went to have lunch instead. Just quietly, my laksa was really really good.

After lunch we headed back to the Engelbrecht Cave, which is a fascinating place. It used to be owned by Johann Karl Engelbrecht, who had opened the first bacon and ham factory in Mount Gambier, as well as a distillery, which he had purchased and had sent out from Europe. Due to public health concerns about the waste from the distillery, he began using the cave as a dump for the by-products (the staining from which you can still see in the cave), as well as allowing local butchers to dump bones and meat offcuts into it. Over the years it was increasingly used as a dump and it wasn’t until the late 1970s when volunteers began to clean up the mess (which was huge by this point) and made it possible for people to go inside.

The cave is in a sinkhole, which is a common feature of the landscape around the Mount Gambier area. On the way down to the entrance, you can see a couple of solution pipes, which are are almost perfectly round holes in the ground. The cave itself really big and spreads a long way underground, including under the highway, but most of it is underwater and can only be accessed by very experienced cave divers (it takes 6 years of training to get to the level where you can go into this cave).

It’s interesting because it’s the opposite to typical limestone caves. It’s dry, not wet, and there are no stalactites and stalagmites. Instead there are holes or domes in the roof of the cave called Avens. (This is an interesting blog post about the cave if you want to know more.)

I found the whole area fascinating and, coming from an area where caves are found in very remote areas, I was blown away by the fact that this cave is under the city itself.

Our next stop was the Blue Lake, just out of town. This is the one I remember being such a vivid blue from my childhood trip here. Unfortunately, the blue colour is at its most intense in summer and about March each year it slowly returns to a grey colour. This is apparently due to the calcium carbonate crystals forming in the warmer weather and scattering blue wavelength light whereas in the colder months, everything is more evenly distributed so colour is a more normal lake colour. Today it was blue, but not brilliantly so.

Blue Lake is one of four crater lakes in the area that I remember seeing when I was here in 1979. Apparently one of them, Browne’s Lake, is now dry. We were a bit disappointed by the views in the late afternoon sun (are you detecting a theme here) but decided to come back in the morning to see if we could get a better look.

On the way back, we called into the Main Corner complex town and had a look at the art gallery and the history displays. There’s a garden in a sinkhole there too, which we’d been told to go and see, but it was all closed, so all we could do is look down into it.

It’s been an interesting day in a fascinating landscape.

Fairy dust and wormwood

Fairy dust and wormwood
Port Fairy, Australia

Port Fairy, Australia


Today was a short distance to travel – only about 100 km from the Twelve Apostles to Port Fairy, but it took several hours because there’s so much to see on the way.

After yesterday’s disappointing viewing of the Twelve Apostles, we decided to go back early in the morning to see if we could get a better look. It was a good decision. We arrived just after 8am and, while there were a few people there, it was nothing like yesterday, the light was better and it was a completely different experience.

According to the brochure from the tourist centre, it is a “common misconception” that the view here is ancient. While the limestone around Port Campbell is dated at 15-20 million years old, the formations here were apparently only formed in the last 6000 years – and it is possible that “the evolution of a rock stack from headland to arch to stack and eventual collapse can occur in just 600 years”. And the limstone here is harder in the top than it is in the bottom layers, which is where the overhangs, aches and, eventually, stacks form.

The 12 Apostles were originally called the “Sow and Piglets”, but the locals called them the 12 Apostles and that’s the name that has stuck.

After we’d seen enough, we went into Port Campbell for breakfast. It’s a small town, breakfast was ok, and we headed off to explore the rest of the Great Ocean Road. It seems like a lot of the scenic coastline is in this area and there are several roads leading off to various lookouts along the way. The main ones we saw were The Arch, London Bridge and The Grotto. The first two were especially spectacular with the waves rushing up and over the rocks. At London Bridge we read the story of how in 1990 the main arch connecting the formation to the mainland had cracked and fallen into the sea. Luckily no one had been on that bit at the time, but two people had been stuck on the marooned part and were lifted off by helicopter. I guess it just shows how quickly the coastal landscape can change!

Our final stop before heading inland was Boat Bay, which for me was perhaps the most stunning part of the whole coast and I’m glad we made the last minute decision to call in there.

We went to the Warrnambool Cheese Factory expecting great tastings and were disappointed to find all that was on offer was the same cheese we could get at home, so that was a very short stop.

We also called in to the Tower Hill Reserve outside Warrnambool, which is in the crater of a dormant volcano. This is what the website says about it:

“Tower Hill is a volcanic formation believed to have erupted about 32,000 years ago. Its formation is known as a “nested maar” and it’s the largest example of its type in Victoria. During formation, molten lava pushed its way up through the Earth’s crust and encountered a layer of water-bearing rock. Violent explosions followed creating a shallow crater which later filled with water to form the lake. Further eruptions occurred in the centre of this crater, creating the islands and cone shaped hills.”

There were some pretty cool rock formations there.

After a very brief stop, we hit the highway for Port Fairy, where we had lunch and spend an enjoyable afternoon wandering around the town and walking out to Griffiths Island where the lighthouse is. Some tradies were working in the glass, so photo opportunities were limited. All the same it was a nice walk.

We stopped for a beer at Merrijig, which is a gorgeous bar and restaurant that focuses on local produce. We were lucky enough to be able to get dinner reservation, only because we were prepared to come at 6pm. It’s a popular place! It’s fantastic that the menu changes daily according to what they can source on the day. Today the walnuts in the cheese platter came from the chef’s mum’s garden. We all had glorious meals, and loved their little quirk of selecting wines of the day from the area where the Tour de France travelled through that day.

It has been a very full day and I’ve enjoyed every moment. I feel so lucky to have been able to do this trip and am enjoying kicking back with an Otway Estate Chardonnay right now.

Cheers!

The most significant lighthouse in Australia

The most significant lighthouse in Australia
Twelve Apostles, Australia

Twelve Apostles, Australia


This morning we had breakfast at the villa, which was included in the room rate. A step (or several steps) up from the standard continental breakfast, the choices included home made muesli, porridge with stewed fruit, croissants, greek yogurt with honey and walnuts, and fruit and nut toast. It was a tough choice and even tougher to have to look out the window at the glorious views while we were eating. I could have stayed here for a week if I’d been cashed up!

After we checked out, we went for a drive up the hill to the start of Turtons Track. We decided not to do the whole loop through the forest because we wanted to check out Apollo Bay on our way to Cape Otway, so we turned back towards the Great Ocean Road.

The drive to Cape Otway was very pretty and very winding. The lady in the tourist centre at Torquay had told us about the koalas on the way, and how they’d eaten a whole load of trees to death. I was trying to imagine what this might look like. I didn’t have to wait long to find out – there were huge groups of dead trees on the way. This also explained the koala pictures on the collage postcards of the Great Ocean Road – I couldn’t figure out why there would be a random koala picture stuck in the middle of all the landscape photos. Now I know. Koala-spotting count ended up being Me: four; Slabs: two and Kramstable: zero, because he wasn’t looking.

The sign for the Cape Otway Lighthouse said it was “Australia’s most significant lighthouse”. None of us had any idea what this was supposed to mean. We got discounted entry thanks to having the Great Ocean Road app, and headed over to the lighthouse to found out more about it.

It has been operating since 1848, and you can climb up to the top and walk around the deck outside. This did nothing for my fear of heights and I was glad to go back inside again. There’s a guide at the top to make sure people aren’t tying to come up and go down at the same time (it’s more like a ladder than steps), and he asked if we had any questions.

Why yes, I said, I do. Why is it Australia’s most significant lighthouse? I suspect he’d been asked this question more that once, and he produced a map of the shipping route from Europe to Australia. He explained that every boat making the journey to Australia would, after passing through the roaring forties, turn north at this point, so every boat destined for the east coast would see this lighthouse, and for the people on the boats it would be the first time they’d seen land in many months.

There’s lots of other interesting stuff at the lightstation, including the old telegraph station, which was built to house the first submarine cable linking Tasmania and the mainland.

After we’d looked around for a while we drive back to Apollo Bay for a beer tasting and lunch at the Great Ocean Road Brewhouse. For $8 we got a tasting paddle of five different beers by Prickly Moses, some of which we’d seen around the place and others which were totally new. My favourite was the Otway Stout.

Next stop was the Twelve Apostles, which was our overnight destination. The actual park area was absolutely overrun by tourists and the light wasn’t very good for photos, so we decided to come back in the morning. Even if there are heaps of people, we might get some better photos.

Our motel is in the middle of nowhere, so quiet and so unlike where we’d just been.

How’s the serenity!

Jousting with fire

Jousting with fire
Ballarat, Australia

Ballarat, Australia


Our plan for today was to spend the day at Sovereign Hill in Ballarat. I can remember going there on my Grade 4 school trip and really enjoying it, so I imagined that Kramstable would love it. Despite him saying how much he liked History as a subject, he didn’t seem especially keen to go and find out what life was like in the actual olden days (as opposed to what he sees as the olden days – when I was a small kid, because we had black and white TV).

Aunty T had said that Sovereign Hill turned into a bit of a mud bath when it was wet, and the morning forecast was for rain, so we decided that Kryal Castle might be a better option. We told Kramstable that we’d be going to “the castle” instead of the goldfields, and he was so excited that we knew it was the right choice.

I’d been there too on my Grade 4 trip and I can remember thinking it was great. I don’t remember much about it, other than the torture chamber, so it was pretty much like going there for the first time. I think there have been a few new things added since I was there – it was built in the early 1970s and underwent a major upgrade in 2013.

First up was a walk through the Dragon’s Labrynth, which tells the story of the castle, the missing children and the dragon Ushnagh. We then wandered up to the archery range where we all attempted (with varying degrees of success) to fire some arrows. I’m not expecting a call up to the Olympic archery squad any time soon.

One of the highlights was the horse trials, which involved two knights on horseback going through their paces, including jumping over some pretty serious flames. It was pretty impressive stuff.

We also made our way through the maze, and watched one of the Wizard’s gorgeous apprentices concoct some fascinating potions from ingredients such as dragon ash, goblin eyes and pixie wings (the dragon ash comes from dragons who have died naturally and turned to ash and it’s taken with the permission of the dragons, and the pixie wings are shed like snake skins – not removed from living pixies).

It didn’t rain but it was cold. I think the max for the day was 8 degrees, so after a couple of hours we’d had enough ( we decided to give the torture dungeon a miss this time) and we headed into Ballarat for lunch. It’s a pretty town with some beautiful old buildings and apparently quite an interesting arty side, so I’d like to come back and spend some more time there wandering around, because that’s my favourite thing to do in new places. Lunch was ok, apart from having to send my meal back because it was cold in the middle. They fixed it, replaced it and were very apologetic, so I was happy with that.

After lunch and a flying visit to the tourist centre (my other favourite thing to do in new places), we took as side trip to Red Duck Brewery, a Mecca for craft beer lovers. It was very hard to limit ourselves because many of their beers are limited releases and so only available for a short time. We were very excited to see that the “Amon Ra”, one of their series of Egyptian bread ales, was there. We bought a nice little mixed stash that will see us through the first few days of the road trip.

And then we headed back to Bacchus Marsh to spend some time with the family. They treated us to a nice dinner and some board games, which was a lovely way to end the day.

Back to Bacchus

Back to Bacchus
Bacchus Marsh, Australia

Bacchus Marsh, Australia


I woke up at 3.30 and couldn’t get back to sleep. Even for me this is stupidly early and I didn’t want to get up then. I

ended up going for a walk before getting the last few things I had to do before we left. Coffee, for example. I left getting Kramstable’s suitcase closed to Slabs.

We got to the airport early, and managed to dodge the bomb scans at security. That must be a first.

After a bumpy takeoff and landing, we arrived in Melbourne on time. Zoe had to have rainbow drops because she gets travel sick. There was an interesting “we don’t have the car you booked, have this one instead . . . [after putting our bags in] . . . Oh here we go, this is what you booked” vehicle swap at the rental car office, but we finally got on the road and drove to Bacchus Marsh where we’re staying with Slabs’ family for a couple of days.

We’ll be heading off on the road trip on Tuesday. We stopped for lunch in town, and sat across the road watching in disbelief as a woman gently backed her car into the front of our rental car. Be warned lady: we have your number plate. Luckily there doesn’t appear to be any damage to the vehicle, but still it wasn’t the way we expected our first day to go.

The forecast for the first few days of the week appears to involve sky water. This is what happens when you say you love the ocean when it’s raining. This might change our plans for tomorrow, but we’ll see how the day’s looking before we decide. We have a couple of options, so we are keeping them open. As you do.

Kramstable is making a documentary about the trip, so he’s been running around with the camera commentating on what he’s doing. I’m interested to see how it all turns out.

It is really nice to be on holidays!

Counting and running as I go

Counting and running as I go
New Norfolk, Australia

New Norfolk, Australia


In February 1979, our family packed up my father’s baby-spew green Datsun 180B (apparently the actual name of this shade is Datsun Spring Lime. Who knew.) and embarked on the biggest adventure of my life up to that point.

(Thank you Wikipedia for the image of the car.)

Our destination: Adelaide, where my father would be spending the whole year at university, and we were going with him for a two-week holiday before he packed us on the train to Melbourne (from where we’d catch a plane home) and headed off to campus life.

The trip would take us two days, and all I can remember of the planning stage was that my mother kept telling us how hot it was going to be (the 180B had the classic 480 aircon), and we saved up all our spare change so we could buy ice creams on the way. I seem to recall that Golden Gaytimes were quite the thing back then.

We’d booked a self-contained beachside unit across the road from West Beach near Glenelg. For some reason, I still have some of the paperwork and tickets from this trip, and according to the internet, the units are still there – or if it’s not the same ones, they have the same name, Sea Vista.

We travelled over on the Empress of Australia. I don’t remember much about this, or even the drive. We took the inland route rather than the Great Ocean Road, and we stopped overnight on the first day in Mount Gambier. I can remember the stunning Blue Lake we saw while we were there. I can also remember we went via the Coorong on the second day, which was exciting for me because the movie Storm Boy was filmed there, and I wondered if the kid who had been in the movie would be there and if we’d meet him. (Not surprisingly, he wasn’t and we didn’t.)

My memories are fairly hazy of the trip, but I know we went to the zoo and a marine centre, we took the tram, we went in some pedal boats on the River Torrens, we bought lollies at Darrell Lea, and we spent most mornings on the beach. Lil Sis and I befriended a cat, which inspired us (in our father’s absence) to wear our mother down about getting a cat once we were home. I can also remember quite vividly Lil Sis ‘barking’ back at a dog that barked at us, and it being completely bewildered by this.

The reason for this wander down memory lane is that in 2002 Slabs and I thought we’d do a similar trip on our honeymoon, but take the Great Ocean Road, as neither of us had been there. For reasons related to the Ansett collapse it never happened, and we did something completely different. But we always wanted to drive the Great Ocean Road, and after we fulfilled our New Zealand dream last year, we decided this would be the year.

We’re doing the trip in July rather than the September school holidays because it’s winter, so we’re hoping it will be less busy because everyone will be in Queensland to escape the cold. (Right?) We’ll have a couple of days in Bacchus Marsh first with Slabs’ family before we set off. This will include a trip to Sovereign Hill, where I vaguely remember going as part of a school trip to Victoria in primary school. (I’m yet to figure out how this happened, because I don’t know anyone before or since who has had a primary school trip to the mainland, and it seems now that school trips, at least in primary school, are pretty much things of the past. Ahhh, Camp Clayton, Port Sorell, you are the stuff dreams are made of.)

Post Great Ocean Road, we’ll go through some of the places we passed through when I was a child, so it will be interesting to see if I remember any of them. I doubt it, and expect they will have changed a lot. I have vivid memories of the Blue Lake in Mount Gambier, but suspect this is because I have one of those old off-centre square photos from the old camera (with the 126 film cartridge) I took with me, rather than an actual memory of the lake.

Today’s packing day. I’m giving my trusty Midori a break and trying out a different travel journal for this trip. That’s the one on the blog title. It’s by Mark’s, and must be the first journal I’ve ever bought that has instructions on how to use it (in Japanese). Kramstable will also be keeping a travel journal, and making a video of our trip. He’s decided not to do a travel blog this trip, so it’s all up to me.

Walk in Her Shoes – Training Update

It’s now less than 3 weeks to the start of the Walk in Her Shoes Challenge on 16 March. I’ve signed up for the “Gold” level, which is 20,000 steps a day – the same as I signed up for last year.

Before I signed up I’d set myself a 15,000-step goal each day, but I wasn’t achieving it very often. I decided to lower my expectations (I know. This is unheard of, right?) and drop it back to 12,000 steps. Not only that, I made it an average daily step count over a week, rather than an absolute goal. So all I really wanted to make sure I did was a minimum of 10,000 steps a day, which seems to be the generally agreed minimum for reasonable health.

I think reducing the target helped, because instead of every day having nothing in the “step goal” box and feeling miserable about that, most days I’d have a tick in there, which then made me feel a whole lot more positive. That encouraged me to increase the target once I’d started achieving it regularly.

Since then I’ve gradually built up my daily step target. This week I’m aiming for 19,000 steps a day, which is just 1,000 fewer steps than my Walk in Her Shoes Challenge goal. So far, 3 days in, I’ve done it reasonably easily (if getting up at 5am to go for a walk is ever easy*), so I’m already looking ahead to my 25,000 step “stretch goal”.

In the mean time . . .

While I was doing walks at lunchtime, when it’s relatively warm and I need to have some water, I got really annoyed by my shoulder bag flapping against me as I was walking.

I thought it would be great to have some kind of holster thing that I could strap to my leg and have easy, non-flappy, access to my water bottle. Most of the solutions I found online seemed excessively expensive and hard-core for what I needed, but after an extensive search of sports shops and outdoor shops in Hobart I found a reasonable compromise without the hefty price tag.

20150216 Water holster

I set a new personal best. Yay.

20150214 Walk data

I saw a beautiful sunrise in Bacchus Marsh.

20150222-02 Sunrise

I did my longest walk since my 12.2 km walk last year.

20150222-08 Longest walk so far this year

I’ve been battling blisters that haven’t been sure whether they are blisters or callouses. It’s been rather painful to walk the last week or so. I got all the anti-blister things to try and sort this out once and for all.

20150223 All the blister things IG

The latest recommendation from the chemist has been these, with paw paw to soften the callouses. Note “actual size”.

IMG_0127

And finally, I was interviewed by our local paper about participating in the challenge, and they sent a photographer out to take some photos of me walking to go with the article. Some of the photos were very silly, so I’m sure one of those will be what they’ll use if they go ahead with the story. Please don’t laugh at me if you see it.

OK. 19,000 steps. Focus. Walk. Try to go to bed a bit earlier.

 

 

* It isn’t.