19 October 2011

October 2011 - Beachport, Horsham, Daylesford, Ocean Grove

The process of moving from one location to the next is, at first somewhat haphazard. Who does, or should do the jockey wheel? Or the utilities hoses? Or the wheel chocks?
It soon works itself out – Shirl does what she wants, and I do the rest!  I guess I’ll pay dearly for that little comment. 
In truth, Shirl packs and secures the inside stuff, while I do all the outside things which includes installing the towing mirrors and tow ball on the car. At some stage Shirl calls me to close the roof hatches and wind down the TV aerial (she can’t reach ‘em). Once all is ready, I jump in Tom (Cruiser) to reverse onto the ball while Shirl guides me. We then share, and counter-check each other as we do the chains and other connections between the van and tug.
Last thing is for Shirl to disconnect the power cord, and switch the fridge to 12Volt (we leave it as last thing because it (a) draws a fair bit of battery power, (b) 12v is not as efficient as 240v .
All this is completed normally within 30 minutes, or less if we’re in a hurry.
Once we’re on the road, the distance that we cover each day varies quite a bit. Our preferred range is somewhere between 250 and 400 km, but like all rules of thumb, this gets amended as needs be. For instance, when crossing the Barkley Tableland from Qld to/from NT the distances between fuel stops is not ideal, particularly when one of those stops is exorbitantly expensive. Thus 470 km is required. Once we’re on the coast (any coast), we may well reduce our daily range to slip into somewhere we really want to explore.
This distance thing is a nice little transition into where we went after Adelaide. With the rain falling, and the wind blowing we ventured forth from Christies Beach to traverse the suburbs of Adelaide, then up, and up, and up the seemingly never ending climb along the road to Murray Bridge. It was approx 20km in 2nd gear of either climbing, or descending before we got to flat country.  From Tailem Bend the road becomes a little bouncy as you run beside the Coorong (magnificent to see it full to overflowing after so many years of drought). Finally after 420 km we arrived at Beachport which is a quite small lobster village on the Limestone Coast. The village is dominated by its 772 metre jetty and is perhaps most known for its “Pool of Siloam” which is a pool of water 7 times as salty as the ocean.
 Beachport Jetty and Rivoli Bay.

The Jetty
I had two great aims at Beachport – firstly, to sit on the jetty and reel in multiple fish. And, secondly, I really wanted to float in the “Pool of Siloam”.  You see, I must admit that I cannot float. I jump in the water, lift my legs, gently kicking, arms spread wide and waving serenely, and promptly sink.  I feel that should I ever take up SCUBA diving, I would excel at the diving bit, but would perhaps struggle somewhat on the surfacing stage.
I never got to achieve either aim because the weather was atrocious – wind so strong that should I have attempted to cast a line, it would’ve landed in Tasmania, perhaps even Antarctica. Needless to say, the thought of getting my kit off to try for a short float was not too good either. We did enjoy the area as it is very picturesque but it was a pity that the South East of Australia decided to have a cold and windy snap at that particular time.
We did manage to do a little local sightseeing and found what must be one of Australia’s greatest feats of “Up yours”.  Murray McCourt was a farmer who had a large portion of his land rendered useless by swamp. Murray lobbied the local council, the state Government, and even the town drunk to get a channel dug through the mountain that was causing the problem. Everyone told him that it was too hard: it couldn’t be done: and that he was dreamin’. Murray said ‘bugger ya all’ and he and one of his farm hands dug a 1 km long channel, which is 28 metres deep (93 feet for all you old guys) and is 1 metre wide at the bottom, extending to 20 metres at the top. The interesting thing is that he only used a D7 dozer, two earth moving dozer attachments, and a home modified dragline to complete the Woakwine Cutting in 3 years. He showed ‘em.

The Cutting - through rock, not dirt.

 We also go to see a wind farm of 135 units at Millicent. This farm provides 1/8th of South Australia’s power needs and is truly amazing to see all those blades turning at what appears to be a co-ordinated rate. It’s worth noting that they are preparing to install an additional 180 units in the surrounding area.
After 5 nights we pushed on into Victoria – you may think that the transition into daylight saving time is a tad confusing, well think about us as we moved from SA time into Vic time (forward ½ hour), then the next day go forward (or was it backward?) 1 hour for DST. Also consider that we have a part of our family in Qld, which still remains in the dark ages and thus causes us to run a clock on Pre-Columbian time.
As we traversed the Glenelg Highway we marvelled at just how good the country looked. Everywhere we looked we seen sheep and every one of them in prime condition as they fed on awesome pastures.  After a short stop at Hamilton (now on our list of places that we intend to return to), we made our way to Horsham where we set up on the banks of the Wimmera River.  This was to be our base camp as we explored the Western Victorian wheat belt as well as the Grampians.
First exploratory trip was out though Nhill to Jeparit, Warracknabeal, Minyip and back. Nhill was a disappointment because it is in real need of a good lick of paint and a real dose of civic pride – a once great rural town gently fading into the past.  Jeparit was similarly focussed on rotting away without anyone seeming to care.  This is a pity, given its claim to fame. Jeparit was the birthplace of Robert Menzies, our longest serving Prime Minister, and regardless of your politics of choice, we do owe some form of respect for those who have achieved the ultimate leadership of the Country.
The birthplace of Bob Menzies - note the public conveniences in the background.

Warracknabeal was a pleasant surprise because of its size.  A four pub town is one that deserves a degree of respect – although, one of them is for sale for $680,000.  Is anyone in need of a home with lots of bedrooms for guests, plus a really large kitchen and lounge?  It also has a great bar; if you were so inclined, you could entertain what would become many friends.
Pub for Sale

We noted that Kiwis are banned from Warracknabeal. The local council are sick of repairing the statues that they have in the middle of the round-a-bouts on the main street.
Statues in middle of Round-a-bout
Those of you who were of TV viewing age about 20 years ago would have seen many views of Minyip as it was shown as “Coopers Crossing” for the Flying Doctors television series. It still looks the same.
The next day we headed off to Stawell where we stood on the ground where the Stawell Gift foot race is held. The ‘Gift Museum’ is something that can occupy your thoughts for quite some time.  It was fascinating to compare the actual shoes worn by the winners of 80, or even 30 years ago with those worn in current times. What times would the old timers have run if they were availed of the technology of today?
Stawell Town Hall - Figures at base of clock tower do a mining action every hour
After Stawell we headed to Ararat and we delighted by what we found – a thriving town that is clearly doing well. One of the places we toured at Ararat was the old Gaol, now known as “J Ward”.  It only operated as a prison for 20 or so years, and then became the Victorian Prison for the Criminally Insane for the next 100 years.  It is quite horrendous to comprehend that we, as a supposed humane and civilised society treated people like this as recently as the 1990s.  A second institution that Ararat hosted for even longer is “Aradale”, the Victorian Lunatic Asylum. Started in the 1860s, closed in the early 1990s.  The longest serving inmate entered via the gates in 1932, and left in a coffin in 1995 – 63 years in an insane asylum. He was 107 years old!
Ararat Town Hall - ain't it a doozy?

From Horsham we towed the van across to Daylesford which is located about halfway between Castlemaine and Ballarat, and sits right on top of the Great Divide.  The area is known as Australia’s spa capital. 
I’ve oft made the boast that there isn’t a hill that I can’t climb whilst riding my recumbent trike – I now need to eat my words after seeing the roads within Daylesford and Hepburn Springs.  I am of the view that it isn’t the water that keeps the locals healthy: it’s the exercise that they get just going to and from their daily activities.
Again we completed a few day trips. The first was a loop that took in Clunes (something wrong there as they have 1300 citizens, 4 churches, and only 2 pubs), Talbot, Maryborough (Must have the most impressive railway station ever built outside our capital cities), Maldon (sadly going downhill from what it was when we were last there 16 years ago), and finally Castlemaine.
Maryborough Railway Station - It is huge!
Our second day trip took us up to the famous hanging rock of movie fame. I warned Shirl not to go up there: I’m still tossing up whether to start searching for her!  The next stop from the ‘Rock’ was Mount Macedon where a huge cross was built as a memorial to those killed in the Great War. We’ve seen many memorials to our war dead but this one was particularly moving – it just grabs your heart and head and turns them towards why it was built. Given that the Mountain is just on 1000 metres altitude, the memorial is visible for many kilometres.
Just wander up this way to Hanging Rock
I think this is where I lost Shirl

A particularly great memorial

The weather at Daylesford was ..... ..... ....   .... bloody cold. The caravan park reception office has a photo taken Oct 16th 2010 that shows the park under inches of snow. I understand that this year it was way too cold for snow to fall.  One of the oddities of caravan air-conditioners is that they won’t work beyond certain temperatures – think about that, your air conditioner won’t heat if the air is too cold, nor will it cool if it is too hot!  At Daylesford, our unit wouldn’t work each morning so we needed to resort to our little electric fan heater to heat the van enough so that the air con would turn on.
We are now on The Bellarine at Ocean Grove and just across the river from Barwon Heads (Sea Change TV series location).     
The best known town around here is Queenscliff. Almost every tourist brochure or publicity document includes a photo of at least one of the Queenscliff pubs. Many old shops and public buildings dominate the streets, as do a number of magnificent old mansions (mostly converted to B&Bs). Like many places around Oz, there is a tourist steam train that runs to another town called Drysdale. What makes this one special is the range of special trains they operate – each week they do a ‘Jazz’ train that includes a feed and some really good jazz musicians. They also have the best Thomas the Tank engine that we’ve found. Not only Thomas, but Henry and ... ... ... the other ones whose names just escape me! Each weekend they do an entire show with a full PA system and some quite talented kids entertainers. Each kid is made feel very special.

We drove over to Torquay yesterday and were quite amazed to see the huge number of surfers in the water. Of course they all were wearing wet-suits, but their hands and faces must have frozen.

Torquay main beach

The Famous Bells Beach

We then pushed on and drove the Great Ocean Road (well, ya just gotta’, dont’cha?), as far as Lorne. Its 16 years since we’ve been through here and the growth of Lorne just blew us away. What was once a pleasant seaside holiday town is fast becoming an upmarket yuppy-ville with the main street dominated by apartments.  Perhaps one of the best indicators of Lorne’s push upwards was the sculpture exhibition that they held on the beachside – this one is for sale @ nearly $100,000!

And this one is $335,000.  Maybe you should buy a pair so they will offer a balance to your entry (might as well, since your bank account won’t be balanced).

we're now less than 4 weeks from home, and looking forward to seeing the family. After a few more days here, we're heading across on the ferry to Mornington.

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