Ballarat

We had a pleasant four days in Ballarat, mainly visiting the re-created 1850’s gold mining town, Sovereign Hill. We bought a two day pass, and needed almost every minute of it.

The main street of the re-created 1850's Sovereign Hill.

The main street of the re-created 1850’s Sovereign Hill.

The costumed towns people go a long way to creating a life like atmosphere. Some of them are working in the shops, while some are just wandering around the town, going about their business, much as I’m sure they would have been at the time.

A 'towns woman' wandering in the garden of one of the houses.

A ‘towns woman’ wandering in the garden of one of the houses.

School children visit on school camps staying for a couple of days in the accommodation on site. They swap their clothes for clothing similar to what would have been worn at the time, and apparently attend a replica 1850s school for the duration (no doubt minus ‘the cane’ though i should imagine).

School children having a break from their lessons.

School children having a break from their lessons.

They have a daily parade of Red Coats through the town finished off with musket firing. It’s quite a spectacular.

The Redcoats adding to the atmosphere.

The Redcoats adding to the atmosphere.

There’s gold mines, and a small river for gold panning. Apparently, they even add some gold to the stream for people who want to try their hands at gold panning. Finders/Keepers too, so I imagine it’s very small specks and nuggets.

Visitors panning for gold.

Visitors panning for gold.

The accommodation for the miners was basic and grim, particularly for the Chinese miners.

Miners accommodation.

Miners accommodation.

Crude furnishings.

Crude furnishings.

Re-created entertainment hadn’t been forgotten. We tried our hand at the old time ten pin bowling alley.

Slightly different style required to what we're used to.

Slightly different style required to what we’re used to.

Ball's away!

Ball’s away!

For our last day there we had planned to take a look at the botanical gardens, and finish off with a 6km walk around a pretty lake opposite. Alas it was raining, so we made do with a look at the indoor begonia display in the gardens, then returned to our caravan for a game of cards. However, the gardens and the lake looked very enticing, so we’ve written a note to ourselves for our next visit (perhaps next year, or the year after that, or even the year after that – one day.)

Last days in Tassie for a few years

We managed to get on a wait list for ANZAC day with the Spirit of Tasmania to ferry both us and our rig to the mainland. The booking was confirmed around 11am (at more than $500 extra to a normal price), so we sailed to the mainland last night.

Our last two weeks in Tassie were spent between Huonville in the South, and Ulverstone in the north. We loved both, apart from at night when the temperature was dropping too low for comfort in a caravan.

A pretty old church in the Huon Valley. Loved the yellow door.

A pretty old church in the Huon Valley. Loved the yellow door.

In Huonville we were camped on the banks of an inland river, in a proper caravan park with power and full water supply.

Reflections in the river.

Reflections in the river.

Paul enjoying a cuppa in the afternoon sun.

Paul enjoying a cuppa in the afternoon sun.

Pretty autumn colours and mountains surrounding the Huon Valley

Pretty autumn colours and mountains surrounding the Huon Valley

In Ulverstone we were camped in the grounds of the Blue Wren cafe, directly opposite from Moonlight Bay on Bass Straight. There is no power for the campers at the Blue Wren, and only one water tap. Power’s not much of a problem for us as we have two solar panels, and a generator for back up. We connected our hose to the hose in the grounds and filled our caravan tanks once daily, so water also not really a problem. At only $10 a night, and with an outlook to die for, it was worth forfeiting the convenience of being fully powered and watered up.

Having a drink in front of the fire as the sun sinks over Moonlight Bay.

Having a drink in front of the fire as the sun sinks over Moonlight Bay.

We’ve done lots of unpowered camping in the past, and generally prefer it to being within the smaller confined spaces in caravan parks. However, although we’re well set up for free camping, it’s much easier in places with temperatures conducive to wearing bathers all day and dipping in and out of the ocean regularly throughout the day.

We’re now in Ballarat, an old gold mining town an hours drive inland from Melbourne. After we’ve seen whats to see here we intend to mosey our way up through Victoria then out to the east coast and slowly wind our way up to Queensland. We’ll pick up the warmer weather sometime within the next three to four weeks and then intend to stay with it for the next two – three years, moving north during the winter months, and south during summer months. Lets hope we don’t get side tracked with other things – for a while at least.

All going well, we can now pick up where we left off almost a year ago. Back to living the Life of Riley on wheels.

Paradise, Nowhere Else, and The Promised Land

Tassie has some places with really quaint names.

A couple of days ago we took a drive around a small circuit close to Deloraine. Firstly we drove through Paradise.

Driving through Paradise.

Driving through Paradise.

Then we took the road to Nowhere Else.

Then on the road to Nowhere Else.

Then on the road to Nowhere Else.

And found ourselves in the Promised Land.

And into The Promised Land.

And into The Promised Land.

A not so pretty name on route was the village of Lower Crackpot.

And in the same area - Lower Crackpot.

And in the same area – Lower Crackpot.

The following day we found our way to a Hazelnut orchard for a very enjoyable lunch, followed by a half hour picking our own hazelnuts. Apparently they’re best kept for 6 – 8 months before eating, so we’ve kept most of what we picked. We couldn’t resist trying a few though. They were pretty damned good, so whether or not they last 6 – 8 months remains to be seen.

The hazelnut farm where we picked out own.

The hazelnut farm where we picked out own.

On the way home from the hazelnut farm we stopped and picked a big bag of apples from a laden roadside tree. Where else can you find apples growing on the sides of a country road – not on someone’s property, just there, on the verge. No one owns them, so no-one sprays them. They’re sweet, crisp and blemish free. Perfect.

Today we left Deloraine and are now camped on the banks of the Mountain River at the Huon caravan park. The caravan park is part of a working farm with a few sheep, chooks, pigs and a couple of house milking cows. The farmer makes a show of the cow milking at 4pm each day for happy hour, and will fill up containers of milk straight from the cow for those who want it. Needless to say, I now have a litre of fresh, unpasturised full cream milk in our fridge. Yum! I’ll find out tomorrow if I can either scrounge or buy some of the eggs from the chooks as well.

I love this place.

Spirit of Tasmania

Media reports have suggested there’s a back log for caravanners wanting to leave Tasmania of ‘up to one month’. Oh, how I wish this was true.

The reality is that we can’t get a confirmed booking until 20th July, more than three months away, and the earliest we can even get on a wait list is 28 June, more than two months away. The wait list is just that – a wait list, not a confirmed sailing date.

The booking office suggested people need to be organised and book their fares in good time. So, I would suggest that unless anyone has a crystal ball that can show them they absolutely will not have any urgent family business to attend to that may require a rapid departure by plane, don’t come to Tasmania with your caravan. To do so could mean you end up with a three month wait to get a booking to return to the mainland.

On the road again.

We arrived back into Tassie on Monday to pleasant weather and blue skies. My big sister, Wendy, picked us from the airport and has been a wonderful host to us for the past five nights. It’s been lovely to catch up, and it never ceases to amaze me how long you can live away from siblings, yet only an hour back in each other’s company and its like you’ve only been apart since yesterday. We’ve had a lovely five days catching up.

We’ve had new shockies fitted to the ute, and today have taken the caravan out of storage. We’re currently staying in Deloraine caravan park where we’ll stay for the next four nights.

It’s been a long time between sleeps in the caravan, not since last June. We had no problems with the hitch up, but it’s clear our communication for backing into sites is a little rusty. I’m sure it’ll come back in no time, but today’s attempt was reminiscent of the very early days. We parked up, then I left Paul to fit all the plumbing while I went to the local supermarket to restock the van.

While I was away Paul opened the fridge to find a colony of ants had taken up residence, so first he dealt with that. Then, he connected the water and a the pipe to our loo had become disconnected. So, after dealing with the ant colony, he had a minor flood to deal with. All good now, and really, considering the time the van has been in storage out in the open, it’s not to bad. Now all we have to do is remember where everything is.

Tomorrow is van wash day. I’ve completed a brief spider web removal from the outside. It was looking like perhaps it belonged to the Adams Family. Paul will wash the entire van tomorrow, and then we’ll polish it up over the next couple of days before we head down to Huon.

Early on Wednesday we’ll take the van in for the wheel bearings to be re-packed, then we’ll head down the middle to Huon, probably staying at Oatlands free camp site over night on the way.

Huon is a good distance between our friends in Middleton, and our friends in Magra, so we’ll catch up with both.

Whats after that, we don’t know. The buyer of Pauls dads house has had the necessary building inspections carried out and some problems have been identified. We believe he’s waiting for the detailed report, and some quotes. We don’t know yet if he’s going to proceed with the purchase or if he’ll look elsewhere. We’ve offered to reduce the sale price by the cost of the repair work. We have everything crossed, as if that falls through, we’ll have to go over there to get the house ready to go back on the market.

That’s our first hurdle to get over before we can resume our road trip. Next is the ferry, The Spirit Of Tasmania, to get us and our van across to the mainland. Currently the first confirmed booking date available is 24 July, and first available wait list date is 16th June. Crazy! They’ve taken off their twice daily sailings way to early leaving hundreds of caravanners stranded and facing at least a couple of months in Tasmania’s cold winter. It’s not going to do a lot to boost Tasmanias tourism once word gets out. It’s currently a hot topic in caravanners forums and in caravan magazines.

For now, though we can’t even contemplate booking our fare until we have a reasonable idea that we’re not going to need to go back to The UK. We just hope the availability on the ferry doesn’t become even harder. Winter will almost be over before we get to start our planned two year figure eight trip around the mainland.

Tonight we’re meeting a couple of friends we’ve made here in Deloraine for dinner at the local pub. Then, a long awaited sleep under our own roof. We’re so looking forward to that – windows slightly open on either side of the bed, a good cross breeze, fresh country air! I feel rejuvenated already just thinking about it.

We’re home

And where is that you may ask. As they say, home is we’re the heart is, and for us that’s anywhere in Australia. Currently, we’re in an hotel overlooking the Yarra in Melbourne.

View from our hotel room

View from our hotel room

We’re still somewhat jet lagged and our sleeping patterns are a bit out of whack, but we’re getting there. Another day or two should see us right. The Sun/rain ratio here seems to be almost the complete opposite of England’s north. Since we awoke to our first day here on Thursday we’ve had approximately 1 1/2 hours of very light showers, not even enough to dampen the ground. That’s about the equivalent of what we were receiving in sunshine in Manchester, approximately 1 1/2 hours every three to four days were you could actually feel some shine from the sun.

It’s great to be home. Today we’re off to the MCG to watch our West Coast Eagles play against Hawthorn, a repeat of last years grand final, just hope the results are reversed for this match.

Tomorrow we leave for Tasmania. Life’s good.