George and Richard are, we work out, 3rd cousins through Richard’s Paternal Grandmother and this is the first time we have met, George having “found” us on Genes Reunited a few years ago, ironically just after their return from a visit to his home town of Liverpool and which included a visit to the Isle of Man.
Lovely clear day and after breakfast we are taken off to the nearby Dandenong hills to the William Ricketts Sanctury.
I would never have even contemplated coming here had we been staying in Melbourne itself as it is over 40km from the centre. However, it is a delightful enclave of woods in which clay has been carved by the late William Ricketts onto some of the rock in the area to reflect his love of the original settlers, the Aborigines.
A commentary was provided on little iPod like devices which included some words recorded by him. The carvings were varied, mostly of faces but unique and very quiet, good for reflection, which is what he wanted it to be.
Running water in little streams is in evidence as well which adds to the ambience.
Back out and off to the cafe on the hilltop, the Skyhigh Restaurant for views towards Melbourne, a quick bite to eat, grabbing some Internet access and a walk around the gardens and back down to Sassafras where a lovely afternoon tea is served in the Miss Marple Tea Room.
The Japanese obviously love it here but it was some locals who ordered the Ice Cream!
Returning to Seaford for an hour or so before we venture out again for more food, this time to the Seaford RSL (Returning Servicemen’s League). Supposedly like a British Legion club, this place holds about 200 people at any one time all eating a very large meal, reasonably priced and excellent value for money.
The place was packed!
George has prepared a brief but comprehensive account of the Barklem family and has given me a copy, Barklem was my Grandmother’s maiden name on my father’s side so it fills in a couple of holes in my knowledge.
Puffing Billy day although the weather forecast is not so good.
We start by watching some Rosella birds next door with their colourful plumage, just like a parrot. All four of us then set off by car to a local Motel a few blocks away, park up and get on the coach, we are the last ones on. Roll call complete, we set off towards the Dandenong hills again only this time towards Belgrave. Marree’s tours is on it’s way.
A stop by Lysterfield Park for morning coffee was very welcome only by now we had cloud cover and drizzle. Some school children are on a school outing there and are setting off for mountain biking and a party of handicapped young adults are going out on the lake in, supervised, sailing boats.
With the drizzle continuing, we continue to make our slow way to Belgrave, via one of Melbourne’s drinking water reservoirs. The coach is able to drive around some of the roads around it which enables us to see three kangaroos and a few birds. By the time we reach Belgrave and the Puffing Billy train we have turned the coach around near a cockatoo feeding area.
Puffing Billy is a narrow gauge railway originally built in the early 1900’s to convey fruit to the docks. The fruit no longer goes by train, a landslide put paid to that in the 1950s and is now run as a wholly volunteer tourist railway. See http://www.puffingbilly.com.au for details.
Our party of 40 virtually swamps the dining cars and after a brief wait, we are served a delicious 3 course meal with coffee as we chug along the 8.25 miles to Lakeside through mostly wooded areas full of gum trees and Mountain Ash, stopping at Menzies Creek to let a train pass and Emarald, briefly.
The other carriages have seats facing outwards but the custom is to sit with legs dangling out of the side of the carriage, most un Health and Safety like!
At Lakeside, we cross the tracks, Sally nearly got crushed by the gate, and mill around explaining to various people where the Isle of Man is, feeding the Rosella birds and being asked if we want to volunteer before we return to our coach for our return.
We have already eaten an entree and a big lunch and now we have desert and coffee to look forward to on the way back. Sadly for George, the model railway cabin is not open which seems strange bearing in mind the numbers of people on the train.
Pictures taken on the train do not really do the journey justice as the weather closed in and cloud turned to mist and drizzle. Can’t complain though as the area needs rain.
Back in the coach at Belgrave we head back to the Motel stop, get in George’s car and off to Phillip Island for a dusk penguin watch.
Quite a long drive for poor George but we get there in plenty of time to enable us to eat more food, drink more drinks and venture off to the viewing area. Whilst we wait, download the Phillip Island App for more info on the little things as we are not allowed to take photos. So folks, if you want to see the penguins, I suggest you go to the Phillip Island penguin island website: http://www.penguins.org.au
The sun sets and the penguins start their walk up the beach in clumps of about 7-10, avoiding the pesky seagulls which have congregated to pick up scraps of food dropped by tourists who don’t know any better. As it gets darker, the floodlights are turned on but the wind gets up which seems to annoy the seagulls. Several people obviously do not feel the cold, including a few college girls in their skimpy shorts. Some however shell out money for a wrap which at least keeps the cold off them.
As soon as a few groups of penguins have started up the dunes, many of the tourists go but we stay a bit, following the penguins up the dunes. They “run” up for about 20m or so then stop, setting off shortly afterwards but not showing any sign of fatigue despite their long journey feeding in the sea. There were just under 700 on site but we probably only saw about 100 this evening. A coffee followed to keep us, especially George, awake on the journey home and we collapsed into bed exhausted.
A day visit to Melbourne by train. You have to have a Miki card to travel on the trains, buses and trams in Melbourne and today we are venturing into the big city with a Miki card that works like a London Oyster card borrowed from a friend of George and Barbara.
A short walk to a local bus stop and we alight at Kananook station, and after fighting with machine to top up card, all four of us travel the 25 stations stopping train to Flinders Street which is an impressive building.
We opt for a river cruise to see some of the sights including some wonderfully situated new apartments and then opt for Federation Square for lunch with it’s array of deck chairs for people to sit on.
We have to have a ride on the vintage circular tram, No. 35 and this takes us to Central station, now a shopping centre, with the shot tower chimney in the middle.
Shot was dropped down the chimney into sand and it made a circular hole in the sand. Another fine clock chimes 3 for us whilst we are there.
Walk back towards Flinders street Station via the Library, Town Hall and Cathedral. There is a local debate as to whether to knock Flinders Street Station building down and start again.
Personally, I think it is a lovely old colonial building which should be preserved as much as possible. Look what can be done just by going to St Pancras in London.
All in all, 4 – 5 hours in Melbourne really cannot do justice to what there is to see but needs must and we head back to George and Barbara’s house and pack up for the early start tomorrow.
More photos of Melbourne on my Facebook page as this blog cannot do justice to the city.
George has suggested we pick up our car tomorrow earlier than the booked time of 10am and has arranged this through Hertz locally for us to pick it up at about 8:30.
George’s reasoning was sound and we followed him to Sorrento to catch the 10am ferry. How Audley thought we would get up to Arthur’s seat, watch the penguins at Portrush ( a dusk type activity anyway ) and get over to Cape Otway for afternoon tea is anyone’s guess – it would just not be possible in the time allowed.
Ferry crossing smooth although the 1km suggested in our directions after we leave the ferry is actually 10 which really confused us.
Stop in Apollo Bay to grab something to eat for lunch and arrive at Otway Lodge at about 2:30 by which time it is raining quite heavily and as usual we have the smallest room although it is a light room. Directions to get here are spot on, we had just left the trees and the drive was a few hundred feet in front of us.
Views out to fields and woods with no wildlife in sight, but wait, what’s this – loads of kangaroo come bounding into sight, another animal in the wild we have seen.
Afternoon tea is simply a drink and a small piece of cake albeit very welcome. We are told that the visit to the Tiger Quolls is at about 4:30 but by the time we set off it is nearer 5:15 although by now the rain has stopped, well almost!
The Tiger Quoll is a spotted animal whose numbers in the wild are declining rapidly. The centre has a male, a female and two youngsters. Me enter the youngster’s enclosure to watch them hunt down the lumps of meet put out for them. They have no fear of us and scurry around quite happily. These will never be released into the wild and the male and female will only be put in the same enclosure for mating purposes. Spot a Koala chomping away high up in a tree nearby.
On the way back to lodge, see Yellow tailed black cookaburrow and another Koala is spotted. We stop by an enclosure where two Koalas who have been rejected by their mothers are being nurtured but only one seen and it had it’s head in leaves for most of the time.
The rain does not exactly leave the Koala justice in the hair looks though.
Dinner is around a big table with 2 Germans, only one of whom speaks English, two French who speak virtually no English, ourselves and two American girls who are hiking the Great Ocean Road. One of them is from Texas and is employed in the gas extraction industry, fracking, which is a hot topic in the NW of England right now.
Dinner was cooked with produce grown, caught very locally and was well cooked. Out at 9 and into the Potteroo and flying squirrels cage. There are a few flying squirrels whose diet at this time of night is honey.
Most of us take it in turns to dip our fingers in the honey pot the guide (actually also our Cook) has brought with us and let the squirrel lick it clean whilst the Potteroo scurries around the floor. The only time it kept still was when one of us humans managed to massage it’s neck.
Fascinating – and a wonderful day.
Set off at about 10 for the lighthouse at Cape Otway although don’t go in due to the possible steps. Instead head for a 1km walk which is described as Easy, back on the main road. In fact the track is up and down quite a bit but there are no steps with lots of interesting tree roots and we even see a Cape Otway black snail, another endangered species.
Now head for 12 Apostles which is arrived at via the gateway which tells some of the history of building of the road.
Lots of twisting roads that undulate and often have overhangs of the ubiquitous Mountain Ash tree which is unique in shedding bark regularly, grows to enormous heights and widths.
Lots of people at all the stops on the sea side of the road to try to get a glimpse of the stacks but it is not the best of weather, at least it is not raining though.
At main car park make an impulse purchase of a helicopter ride over the stacks and down to London Bridge.
The journey is over too quickly but we do get a fair number of pictures despite the poor weather. So many people in the area and a very small gift shop which consequently is much too crowded.
Try to get lunch in nearby Peterborough village but this really does not have anything going for it at all, despite the Audley brochure telling us otherwise. An historic pub a couple of km is signposted but the chef has gone home due to lack of custom! On towards Port Fairy our next overnight and stop by the Cheese factory for a very good ploughman’s lunch.
Drive through Warrnambool and arrive at Port Fairy.
We had been told at Cape Otway lodge on check out that the music festival was on in Port Fairy and whilst our brochure had said it took place in March, it did not say exactly when so it was somewhat annoying to say the least that the road to the hotel was shut and that market stalls were outside the hotel, itself in the middle of town. Have to abandon car and walk to hotel to check in, walk back to car armed with a permit before police will lift barrier to let us in to the restricted area that surrounds the hotel. What’s more, there is no parking at the hotel until we move a bollard. Manager helpful but we have to move car to outside someone else’s cottage. Manager also says he has lots of trouble with the agent Audley use, ATS, and that they shouldn’t have booked us in there as non festival goers. Manager reckons he could get A$500 a night over festival time – I hope we didn’t pay that. A somewhat rude comment I thought especially as he said there was no available accommodation for 100km when I suggested he found us alternative accommodation. No lift to first floor room which doesn’t help the situation.
We will not be able to get out by car and guarantee getting back so are trapped in the hotel and town which itself is populated mainly by teenagers. It is like sending us to Glastonbury when the festival is on when we don’t want to go to the music.
Room however is quite comfortable and we manage to do the washing (free service) whilst Sal has a rest. Wander out at about 6:30 and have a meal in a Chinese Restaurant without any difficulties by not booking. Not sure what Audley meant when they said the eating facilities were limited.
Back to hotel via supermarket for yogurts and a general catch up on paperwork.
A remarkably good night in the circumstances and after trying to buy croissants from the local bakers without success. Leave hotel and get Police to open barrier for our exit and drive to river park for a few photos of river. Loads of people heading for nearby stage which slows all progress so we head for our next night’s stay in the Grampians.
On way, fill up with fuel in Hamilton and Cafe 109 in Dunkeld before heading up to Hall’s Gap. Road signage not good so check route prior to ascent on a twisting road up and up into the mountains but still manage to take the back road rather than the direct route. Close to top, evidence is first noticed of the devastating fire that occurred 7 weeks ago.
We now drive for probably 15k with no noticeable intact tree in sight although some are now re sprouting which is a good sign.
At Meringa Springs we check-in once we have found the owner; we have arrive at 2:15 and check-in is supposed to be at 3.
This a fantastic hotel, only saved from the fire by Australian Fire Service’s helicopters dousing the property with water with the hotel only re opening a week ago.
It has got to be the best hotel we have stayed in on this trip.
Temperatures too hot (31C) to go outside and with everywhere burnt in the vicinity, not a lot to see and little shade, so after an hour relaxing in the cool bedroom overlooking the Grampian mountains, head for the Infiniti pool for a good swim followed by a good meal and a weekly dose of Rake on the TV.
No noise outside when we stepped out just after midnight, absolutely lovely.
We awoke to kangaroos in the field around us this morning and after breakfast head for Horsham, the A8 and Adelaide.
Horsham is about 40k away and is where the local children go to school. Some journey!
By the time we get to Horsham, it is cloudy, muggy and very hot, up to 36C. This is now a long slog on an uninteresting road a bit like the roads around Ely in Cambridgeshire.
The road follows the main railway line for most of the way but no trains seen and very few places to stop for lunch as today is a public holiday.
Stop at the Windmill cafe at Kaniva for lunch which seems to be the only place open on our journey, even the recommended cafe at Keith is closed for the holiday.
A few interesting pieces of artwork in Kaniva adorn the walkways.
Drive into Adelaide, at first a steep drop from the M1 and Adelaide Hills but flat in the city with Rendezvous hotel easy to find.
Check in with our room on the 15th floor, now why couldn’t we have been put in something like this in Sydney albeit it is in the business district and not the shopping area.
Out for a wander for something to eat, but everything closed, presumably for the Public Holiday so eat in bar in hotel.
Tuesday 11 March
A R&R day, so up late and get breakfast at nearby Public 41 cafe.
We have the car today but weather forecast is not good so we head for the seaside at Glenelg for a walk around. We could have taken the tram had we known as it is the terminus and it stops not far from the Rendezvous hotel.
Not a lot going on by the beach as it is windy so head into town for coffee. A lot of shops but not a lot to buy.
Take car back to airport and catch bus back into town just before it starts raining hard and opt for an evening meal from an Italian in the shopping centre. Again, not a lot of choice as most things catering for office workers.
Wednesday 12 March
Early start with a taxi to the airport for a flight to Kangaroo island. A 36 seater for a 20 minute flight that is probably 2/3 full.
Met by Gaynor and Mary at Kingscote airport which is a one hut, two person airfield and along with 6 others, get on board an off roader which takes us to the Sea Lion beach on the South of the Island. Kangaroo island is bigger than we thought with the longest distance between two points being over 100 miles, miles and miles of sheep country with Euclyptus trees bordering most roads. So far, all tarmacademed roads for the 4500 population.
Both Gaynor and Mary tell us about their lives on the island and how they both got into farming. Both have family ties to farms but tourism on the island is now as important as farming for the island’s economy.
The sea lion beach is our first stop and a bit of a tourist attraction with several parties viewing the animals at the same time.
Some of the sea lions had pups with them which were following their mums around all the time. A few big males lazing in the sun.
Back up from beach, Gaynor stays with Sally which is nice to help her up the hill and we head off for a stop for light refreshment including some biscuits made without eggs!
Onwards to the north of the island and a stop for lunch in a field: we just drove off the road, through a field of sheep on no visible track and down to a clearing in the field where a friendly farmer has laid out an awning with seating.
Food, brought by Gaynor and Mary is cooked; fish, lamb’s cheese washed down with some local wine. Fantastic.
Back on the van we go in search of kangaroos, wallaby and other wildlife listening to more tales from the countryside according to Gaynor, how her in-laws started the farm that is now run by her eldest and youngest sons, how they had built the houses of the farm without having any building experience at all.
Stopping at Stokes Bay Area, we see a Koala in a tree; this one had a young one with her but wasn’t going to co-operate in allowing us to photograph the baby.
More refreshments, coffee, tea, biscuits and cake before a walk down to Stokes Bay which is through a very narrow gorge cut in the rock in places but mostly a natural passage which could be claustrophobic for some people.
Wonderful safe beach with school children playing in the sheltered part and others enjoying the surf. Sadly we now have to return towards the airport but do stop at a look out where it is possible to see the black silky cockatoo. Again, not very co-operative birds so no photos of any note.
All too soon we are back at the airport, saying goodbye to some of the other passengers, including some Audley customers from Woodley near Reading who had started their travels a month before us but who have been out up in a different hotel in Adelaide but who were equally not overly happy with certain aspects of the service from ATS / Audley.
A wonderful experience. Flight back to mainland is virtually full and on arrival catch bus back into town rather than a taxi. Dinner in hotel again and Skype Mel who had lost her voice.
Thursday 13 March
Clear warm day so set out for breakfast and then the Central Market.
Others we have met along the we have said it isn’t a particularly good market but we saw nothing wrong, Sally buying a book and some strawberries for desert tonight.
Head off into town and find the shopping arcades before going to the Immigration Museum.
A couple of school classes are being taught what it was like in the 1950s using borrowed smocks and from what we heard, the teachers were making it fun for them.
Certainly it was not always a bed of roses when they got to Australia, mainly from Britain, and there was a lot of hardship along the way. South Australia is a multi cultural city although the Governments of the early 20th Century and before were promoting a British, whites only policy. The state still needs more skilled labour.
Lunch in a food court, a brief look around a shopping mall and back for a rest. Later, Richard ventures out to have his hair cut and (about a 2 mile) walk to the river by the Adelaide Oval, along the river and back through the shopping street.
Out for dinner and choose a rooftop restaurant, Gallery, opposite the modern newspaper office near the hotel before Skyping Sarah. Tomorrow, a flight to Brisbane, so watch this space.