Reflections

I’m sitting on the banks of a billabong at Corindi Park typing this. It’s almost 4pm and the birds are starting to come in for the night. This is our third (and last) night at this little oasis, and if this evening is the same as the past two evenings, the next two to three hours will see literally thousands of birds descend to the trees in and around the billabong. After the birds quiet down for the night, the stars come out, and if the birds number in the thousands, the visible stars must quadruple that at least.

What a camp spot - and tonight we have it to ourselves.
What a camp spot – and tonight we have it to ourselves.

Corindi Park is a private property of 22 acres. The owners obviously love and care for their property very much, and encourage a multitude of fauna to share their land. There’s several billabongs on the property, some with small water lilies and others with big lily blooms amongst the lily pads. Sitting outside our caravan as the sun goes down, watching the wading birds bobbing on top and around the lily pads, and listening to the evening bird song grow in volume as the visiting birds settle in for the night will make a lasting memory.

Roos sharing our camping space - check out the joey in the pouch.
Roos sharing our camping space – check out the joey in the pouch.

The billabong is so still, allowing reflections in the water to shine clearly.

Silver trunked trees surrounding our billabong.
Silver trunked trees surrounding our billabong.
Like a mirror.
Like a mirror.

The sun rises over the water hole opposite our caravan in the morning. In the afternoon as the sun sinks behind our van, the dying rays light up the trees giving them an orange glow that rivals the prettiest of autumn colours.

The setting sun reflecting on the trees.
The setting sun reflecting on the trees.

Today, we drove from here to Elland near Grafton and visited Abbey. Abbey is the gorgeous red heeler whom we had the pleasure of looking after along with her canine friend Riley, 22 cows, Charlie the rooster and his little harem of chooks, and several wild birds and parrots. For those of you who have been following this blog, you may remember our 6 – 7 weeks on the hobby farm. We remember it well, it was the stand out high-light of our first year on the road. Sadly, only Abbey remains of the two dogs and the chooks. It was around 120km round trip to see Abbey, testament to how special a dog she is. We wondered if she would remember us as clearly as we remember her. I think she did.

Remember Abbey.
Remember Abbey.

Both the hobby farm at Elland with the happiest domesticated animals i’ve ever seen, and this gorgeous property causes one to reflect on life in cities as opposed to life in both the oasis of Corindi Park, and the Nirvana at Elland. What comes to mind are words similar to those in the song by Dianna Ross, ‘Reflections of, the way life used to be’, or in this case, ‘Reflections of, the way life aught to be.’ Cares and worries have no place here, and one can feel their worries drifting away and being replaced by the most amazing feelings of peace.

We are so grateful that the owners of these two properties have allowed us the privilege of having a small taste of their little patches of paradise.

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Lemon Tree Passage – Port Stephens

We’re almost at the end of a week long stay overlooking the beautiful Tilligerry Creek – beautiful some days, but still a bit to far south for great weather at this time of year.

We’ve enjoyed pretty sunsets,

late afternoon over Tilligery Creek.
late afternoon over Tilligery Creek.

and walks along the creek enjoying the tranquility.

Boats anchored on the creek.
Boats anchored on the creek.

We’ve had some lovely happy hours with friends, and shared meals. It’s been lovely to catch up. Paul’s taken on board some of Bruce’s ideas for small improvements to the van, and I’m sure thats visa versa. So, a few minor tweaks to our accommodation are on the horizon.

Pauls given the van a much needed clean, including cut and polishing the roof, and has put a glaze on the rest of the van. The fibreglass tends to get chalky if ignored, particularly on the roof and nose cone, so 6 months in open storage had left it looking worse for wear. All shiny now, looks like a new van. Not all for just cosmetics though. We’re sure when it’s shiny it helps reduce wind drag slightly giving improved mileage, and it definitely reduces dead bug adherence.

When the winds not blowing the water is so calm, like a mirror pond.

Blue skies, blue waters, and check out those mast reflections.
Blue skies, blue waters, and check out those mast reflections.

But, the wind is often up, make it to cold to enjoy sitting out in the evening. We thought we’d caught up to the more pleasant weather, but not quite yet. So, our tentative plans to start meandering up the coast from here are postponed and we’ll again put some miles under the wheels. All the little nooks and crannies of this coast will await our return for exploration at more seasonal time of year. Next stop, just north of Coffs Harbour for a few days, then on towards Queensland. The weather’s looking good north of Brisbane on the Sunshine Coast, so I think we’ll just have to bite the bullet and get there sooner rather than later.

Tonight we share Wendy and Bruce’s hospitality for the last time in this area. We’ve been promised one of Wendy’s famous cheesecakes, albeit an adapted recipe more suited to being made in a caravan. If you haven’t had one of Wendy’s cheesecakes – well, you’re missing something special. She’s up there with the best of cheesecake maker.

I’m sure we’ll catch up again somewhere further up in Queensland but for now, we leave tomorrow.

A trip on a paddle steamer

We had a pleasant little paddle steamer trip up the river from Echuca to Morrison’s Winery where we had a lovely lunch.

Our Paddle Steamer
Our Paddle Steamer
Paul and I.
Paul and I.

Amazing to see the workings of the paddle steamer, which brought to mind the saying, ‘running like a well oiled machine’.

The engineer stocking the fire.
The engineer stocking the fire.

I even got to steer the ship.

First mate Chris!
First mate Chris!

After a two day dash we’re now camped at Koala Shores caravan park, in Port Stephens. Our friends Bruce and Wendy are also here, so as well as enjoying the peaceful tranquility of the Tilligery creek, we’re enjoying the company of old friends.

Now camped on the shores of Tilligery creek.
Now camped on the shores of Tilligery creek.

Today, it’s warm and balmy prior to the arrival of some rain tomorrow. Only one day though, then it’ll be a return to more pleasant days we think. I think we’ve finally caught up to the weather we’ve been seeking and can now start to meander slowly up the coast, with time to stop and smell the roses (or to try and spot koalas). So far no luck at Koala spotting, a really pleasant walk though trying.

Echuca/Moama – The mighty Murray

We’ve been staying at the Merool on the Murray, caravan park, in Moama. Echuca and Moama are twin towns joined by the Murray River. The Moama side of the town on the north side of the river is in NSW, the Echuca side is on the southern side of the river and is in Victoria.

The Mighty River, at end of summer low level.
The Mighty River, at end of summer low level.

The caravan park we’re staying at is beautifully located away from the towns and situated on 63 acres with the river forming a horseshoe around the whole park. The park is lovely, and oh so cheap – only $20 for week nights, and a couple of dollars more on the week-end. When parks are this cheap there’s a tendency to wonder, what’s wrong? In this case absolutely nothing.

Theres only a small amount of caravan sites. Most of the park is either privately owned holiday homes, or holiday cottages for rent.

Rental cottages in our caravan park.
Rental cottages in our caravan park.

There’s also a number of house boats to rent. Wow! do they ever get the imagination fired up. Many of them are 4 – 6 bedroomed, each room with it’s own ensuite bathroom. And huge spa baths on the deck for the same amount of occupants. Just imagine, drifting slowly on the Murray, glass of champagne in hand as you sit in a spa bath on the deck of your houseboat. The gum trees drifting by, and surrounded by palms – yes they even have potted palms on deck.

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House boats for rent, or to dream about.

There’s an award winning winery/restaurant, Morrisons, next door. Its all so beautiful.

Echuca/Moama is apparently Australia’s favourite retirement destination, surpassing all coastal destinations. Walking around the caravan park and along the banks of the Murray each morning perhaps provides the answer as to the reason why. The area is full of stunning Red River Gums, beautiful to look at, and the strong Eucalyptus smell……. I always wondered why this area would be so popular as the winters can get quite cold. Now I think I know the answer – it’s in the smell I’m sure. Before the cold sets in, people must become totally addicted and tranquillised by the heady smell of the trees, then they must just chill like koalas. That’s my explanation anyway.

Red River Gums lining the banks of the River.
Red River Gums lining the banks of the River.

The cold is coming though, and although we’re finding the heady scent of the Eucalyptus is quite addictive, it’s not yet had time to tranquillise us. So, we’re upping wheels tomorrow and putting a big dash on to catch up with the warmer weather towards the top of NSW. Today, for our last day here, we’re heading into town to pick up a paddle steamer to bring us to Morrison’s award winning restaurant for lunch. Seems silly when the restaurant is walking distance from our park, but we’ve never been on a paddle steamer before, and that’s a must when in Echuca.

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.)

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.

Wasn’t me who needed luck

We did the Zip Line through the tree tops in the Otway National Park yesterday. In my last post I’d said, ‘wish me luck’, perhaps I should have said, ‘wish us luck’.

It was fun, right up until the last landing station. Paul got carried away and forgot to lift his legs high enough to land safely onto the landing station. I think everyone thought his ankle was going to be broken for sure. Luckily it’s not, but it’s very swollen and bruised, and his calf muscle has also sustained some damage.

Currently we’ve extended a couple more days in the camp ground so as to give it a chance to heal. He was given crutchers but isn’t really using them, so we’ll take them back to the hospital tomorrow.

We’re booked on the boat to Tassie on the 20th so we’re hoping it’s healed enough for him to be able to drive by then. It’s his left leg, but as we have a manual ute it’ll get a big work out to manage to tow our rig up and around all the hills and bends in this area. I have towed the rig, and on normal roads I think I’d manage. I wouldn’t try though on these roads. I drove him to the hospital yesterday without the caravan, and that was nerve wracking enough.

The next two days we’re going to be staying at home so as he can ice it, and keep it up. After that, we’ll re-assess. It’s blowing a gale and rainy anyway, so not that appealing for travelling, or doing much of anything else really. So, for the next couple of days at least it’s card games and reading. Fortunately, we enjoy both so it’s no hardship for either of us.

Days two and three on Great Ocean Road

Yesterday was mainly a driving day. We drove from Princetown to Torquay where the Great Ocean Road begins. Everyone has told us the drive is better if you start at the Torquay end, as then your car is on the ocean side for the best views. They’re right. We’re actually moving around this section of the country in the wrong direction for the best car window views of the rugged, wind battered coastline. So, rather than miss out, we’ve driven it in both directions.

It’s awesome. Coming from the Torquay end the first section is mainly views of rugged coastline. Then the road moves away from the coast and rises steeply up into the Ottway national park before again returning down to the coastline for the final section. It’s in the final section where the Twelve Apostles etc are. So we’ve completed the road trip in a bit of a higglety, piggelty fashion, which has meant we’ve driven the road at least twice. By the time we leave here on Tuesday we will have travelled some of the roads five or six times.

Today was the best of the days so far. We went up into the Ottway National park and completed a couple of short walk tracks. Both were approximately an hour long, and easy walks to do, but breathtakingly hard to take as far as spectacular goes. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Firstly a windy road up through the clouds to get there.
Firstly a windy road up through the clouds to get there.
Some wood carved sculptures on the way.
Some wood carved sculptures on the way.
A pretty blue headed wren.
A pretty blue headed wren.
The forest track.
The forest track.
And on to Triplet Falls.
And on to Triplet Falls.

We’re staying a fourth night at Princetown as we’ve booked onto the Zip Fly trip through some of the forest in Ottway tomorrow. Two hours of continual flying fox flights through the trees – wish me luck.

Great Ocean Road

What a wonderful day. It started with a quick walk at our free camp where we sighted and watched a mother koala and her baby (or adolescent, as it was quite well grown). The youngster entertained us by jumping between branches and harassing it’s mother. Mum didn’t look impressed and raised her sleepy head to give us a ‘bugger off’ look, and the same to the youngster, who scampered up the tree to sulk in a higher fork in the the tree. They were so gorgeous.

We then moved onto a camp ground at Princetown Reserve. It’s close to mid way along the Great Ocean Road, so from here we should be able to see most of the sights. At $25 for a powered site, it’s good value for this neck of the woods, and there’s plenty of room and space around us. We’ve booked for three nights.

After a quick lunch we set off in the direction of Port Campbell taking in the famous coastal sights. Wow!!!

Firstly, the Twelve Apostles (now only eight due to the power of the ocean). We’ve seen thousands of pictures of these awesome natural wonders, and our photos just like all of the others, are nothing in comparison to the real life experience of actually seeing them. The sound of the ocean, the wind, the size – photos can’t come close to doing justice to the real life experience of actually seeing them.

Some of the twelve apostles.
Some of the twelve apostles.
And two more on the other side of the viewing platform
And two more on the other side of the viewing platform

Then onto Loch Ard Gorge. The Loch Ard was one of many ships wrecked off this coast, leaving only two survivors and drowning more than 50. The two survivors came to shore through this narrow gorge.

Loch Ard Gorge
Loch Ard Gorge

Next was London Bridge. London Bridge used to span all the way across. Then in 1992 the centre of the structure collapsed and fell into the ocean. At the time four people were out on the bridge, but miraculously two ended up on the land side of the gap, and the other two were left stranded on the ocean side. They were eventually winched to safety by a helicopter.

London Bridge
London Bridge

There were so many look outs each showing the most amazing coastal scenery.

The Arch
The Arch

Perhaps my favourite.

The Grotto
The Grotto

This spectacular coastline is shaped by waves that can reach as high as 30 metres during a storm with nothing between these headlands and the Antartica. The land reduces by approximately 2 cms a year and has been doing so for many thousands of years, leaving behind these monuments in the ocean. The limestone structures eventually get eroded away at the sea line causing them to topple into the ocean. I guess as some fall to the sea, more must get created, but I don’t know which, if any, have only appeared in my life time.

This one really showed some amazing erosion lines
This one really showed some amazing erosion lines

For any overseas visitors to this site, one thing that’s worthy of comment. We stopped at all of these look outs, parked in designated car parks, and walked down safe and well maintained paths and boardwalks (some of which were real engineering feats), and none of it cost a cent. No parking costs, no entry costs – nothing. All completely free, except for an ice cream we bought at the Twelve Apostles.

This amazing day still didn’t end there. We came back to our camp ground which overlooks a beautiful landscape, home to a huge mob of kangaroos. As I was preparing tea two of the males had a full on boxing match. It went on for ages before one of them finally resorted to putting the boot in. He obviously won, because the fight then ended and they both went off then to lick their wounds. I’ve seen Roo fights on TV before, but never for real. It was a humourous note on which to end an amazing day.