Oz and the Big Lap travel blog

22 January

Beautiful sunny day, off to visit Jane, John's sister in Queenscliffe, on the coast south of Melbourne. Once clear of the city we were in open coutryside, quite a pleasant drive. We turned off the highway at Geelong along the 'scenic route'. It was indeed very scenic, there was a regatta in the bay, lots of boats, then the road swung through their botanic gardens, very pretty.

Back on the road, great views across Port Phillips until we drove across the narrow spit of land to Queenscliffe. Lovely quiet place even if the car parks were bursting. Great to meet Jane again, her son, Gerard drifted in and out (it was his last day before returning to work on a yacht in the south of France). Jane was keen for a swim, so John and I joined her and we drove the few minutes to the beach. And what a wonderful beach, lovely soft sand and clear blue waters, even if a little chilly, relatively speaking. But we had a good swim and then returned to Janes for lunch. Great views across 'The Heads', and the gap between - its the very narrow entrance to the bay, or Port Phillips.

Very nice 'al fresco' lunch at Janes before heading off. She had to get Gerard ready for his flight to Europe and drive him to the airport. Pretty uninspiring drive back along the freeway and home and dinner, bed.

23 January

Another exciting day ahead, we have to pick up our camping trailer. Its over an hours drive to Pakenham where the trailer dealer is located, just highways, nothing very interesting except for the lovely victorian houses and buildings in the Armadale area.

We found the Camper company and getting out of the car we found it very hot and humid, no aircon in the building. Phew! Anyway we finally met Kellie and she took us through the setting up and breaking down procedures and signing of all the documents. Tow hitch arrangement had to be worked on and there was 'difficulty' over registering the trailer with VicRoads but finally overcame all that. In between, we drove out to nearby stores to start our kitting out. We left about 5.30 having spent all day sorting things out, but there was more to do with the registration. Tomorrow!

Towing the 1.25tonne trailer was easy, it just sat squarely behind us and whilst we knew we had the extra load, the car coped very well.

Back in the city, the heat and humidity was oppressive and it was a hot uncomfortable night.

24 January

We had arranged to meet Wendy at the car dealers to go in person to Vicroads and finally sort out the registration, despite early misgivings about our proof of identity, it was soon sorted; we were legal!

A bit of lunch and then more shopping, Ikea this time, for bedding and odd items, but you know what it is like wandering around Ikea!

Back to Kensington and started to set up the trailer, get the fridge going, load all the pots and pans etc. Dinner, and long chats before bed at 11.30. What a long day. Thinking about folks back home.

25 January

Much cooler night last night, needed extra covers. This morning we had to wait in for the windscreen replacement people, so took the opportunity to do a little more sorting out. We plan to go to a campsite, in Moyhu, near Wangaratta, NE of here, over the Australia Day weekend, to check out our setup and see what else we might need for our fast approaching 'Big Lap'.

So, windscreen people, having said they would be here between 10 and 1, arrived at 1.15, without apology but they were.quick; finished by 2 and off they went. We still had to wait an hour before we could drive the car, so almost a day lost, a bit galling as Ruth was keen to do even more shopping! Anyway eventually we set off succeeded in getting most of what we wanted, trekking round KMart, Target and Bunnings, all huge, vast stores. Finally, all done, back for dinner where Janet and john waited patiently for us.

26 January

Final packing of the car and trailer accomplished, we set off north. It had been a cool, even cold night and still overcast as we packed and set off. It wasn't long before we climbed out of the coastal plain, around the edge of the Great Dividing Ranges to high country, and Ned Kelly country! And the sun came out! We were into 30 degrees again. On across open grasslands, brown and gold, with scattered gum trees, some magnificent specimens.

We arrived at the campsite about 4 in the afternoon, got a site and then the fun began, we had to remember all the instructions on erecting the tent. Took us a while but the tent was now up and we transferred all the kit from the car and there we were, ready for our first night in the trailer.

Pleasant camp site, some cabins and permanent caravans and grassy campsites. Pretty well shaded by lots of trees which did help to keep it a little cooler. Good toilet and shower block, pool and camp kitchen. Not many people in the park, we met them at the camp kitchen where we cooked dinner, all Australian, very friendly, tips and hints about camping, the site and Moyhu and life in general.......Lots of mosquitos as dusk fell, Ruth was covered in bites.

27 January

Despite temperatures in the 30s during the day, yesterday the night turned cooler and cooler, need more bedding!

Today was cloudless and as we headed for Wangaratta the car showed 38 degrees. A warm day up here. Wangaratta was a pleasant town, a rural city, of which Moyhu was part. Picked up some maps and leaflets at the info centre then headed for a winery for a little tasting and some lunch.

Sam Miranda's was a modern cellar door, offering free wine-tastings, which we took up, then lunch. Barbecued shrimps, 'Aussie' lamb cutlets and pavlova, all delicious. Time for a siesta. The temperature started to ease late afternoon, but we still had a dip in the pool to cool down. Time for a sundowner!

28 January

Tried to get away a little earlier today, it promised to be another hot one, the temperature already 30 degrees as we left the campsite at 10.30. Moyhu is in the King Valley, an area of vineyards and cattle country, we wanted to see more so headed south, immediately spotted a farm shop selling home made ice cream, stopped and bought some!

On down the road to Cheshunt where we saw a sign for Paradise Falls and thought we should investigate. Our first real gravel road experience, apart from a short road near Queenscliffe, and the car got caked in dust even though we only drove at 40/50 kph. The falls eventually arrived, it was a lot further than anticipated, but 200 metres down a well trodden track and there they were. A bit feeble as it was midsummer, but pretty enough.

By now the temperature had climbed to 35degrees, but little humidity so it was bearable. We now headed east to Myrtleford on the Buffalo River, within 500 metres we were on gravel roads again and this continued for the next 35km, but it was beautiful countryside, rolling hills and valleys, open fields and forest, through part of the Alpine National Park. We saw roadsigns warning of slippery conditions when frosty and found it hard to imagine it could ever be frosty here. Lots of signs warning of kangaroos and koalas, but no sightings today, well it was in the middle of a very hot day.

As we joined the course of the Buffalo River tarmac returned - peace at last. A lovely drive along the river, past Lake Buffalo, a large man-made lake, it all looked beautiful, the sky was blue and it was hot, great. Myrtleford arrived, it was also lunchtime and we found a little cafe and grabbed a bite to eat. Good food, very friendly people.

We had spotted a route into town signposted 'Town Centre via 'The Big Tree'. Curious to see this tree, we backtracked a little and there it was, a huge red gum, estimated to be more than 200 years old and in the past a meeting point for the indigenous peoples.

Back on the road, now heading for Beechworth, a historic town of the area, Indigo Shire. Along the road we noticed a number of tall sheds, beside one of which was 'The Kiln Cafe', a bit of a clue, especially as we remembered John had told us they used to grow tobacco in this region, these sheds must have been used to dry the tobacco leaves (as we saw in Cuba, no name dropping intended!). A little further along the road we saw what they had replaced the tobacco with - grapes, specifically wine grapes and just then Gapsted Winery appeared, announcing a wine sale. Well what were we to do? Pass on by or check out the sale. Some tastings, three cases and a few odd bottles later, we were back on the road again.

Very pleasant driving, even with the,by now, 38degrees temperatures, we arrived at Beechworth. The roads around the central crossroads were a real throwback in time, mostly built in the late 1800s, the frontages remained, very pretty. Ruth saw a gelateria, so as it was so hot, we had to call in and sample their excellent sorbets, and wow, they were so cold, delicious.

Ok, time to make our way back, We wanted a fan and a washing up bowl so we called in to Wangaratta again, to Big W. Got what we wanted and made the final drive home, a lovely day despite the temperature, maybe we're acclimatised? But it is so much nicer than Melbourne (or any city), its great to be out in the bush. Sitting here at dusk, as the light fades, enjoying a glass of Bunderberg and listening to the last calls of the birds, particularly the kookaburras, priceless.

29 January

Today was going to be a day of rest. All the other campers departed, we were on our own and it promised to be a very hot day; 41degrees. Leisurely breakfast, a bit of tweaking to the trailer/tent and then just relaxing. Carolyn joined us at midday we had lunch, a dip in the pool, more relaxing, more dips in the pool and then it was dinner-time, where did the day go?

The stars came out and they were just wow.

30 January

Another cool night but in the morning, shock horror, there were clouds in the sky, all very high but they were still clouds. It was still very warm as we set off on the Milawa Gourmet Trail that started just north of here. First stop the Milawa Cheese Factory where we were givem tastings of all their cheesse, about a dozen, ranging from a goats curd cheese to the Milawa Blue. All very tasty and so we bought a few to take for lunch.

On past, yes, past many wineries, across the Owens River to Everton and on to Beechworth again, as Carolyn hadn't been there. The town is a relic of the gold-rush days with many buildings dating from the mid 1800s. It is also the town where Ned Kelly was charged and detained for later trial for the killing of three policemen. We followed the Beechworth Historic Trail, a single track road which wound its way around a gorge, many former goldmines.

Just down the road we drove to the Woolshed Falls, a picturesque cascade. It was now over 40degrees with a hot wind blowing. Now to find some aboriginal rock art. We had spotted the Yeddonda site on the map. It was on the slopes of Mount Pilot, but with no obvious route to the site on our map. We reached the summit of Mount Pilot (well I did, Ruth and Carolyn sat in the car in the carpark) Carolyn had a brain-wave in my absence and googled it. Back down from the summit and round the base of the cliffs along forest tracks, eventually we came to the rock art site. A lovely drive through open woodland with views out across the plain. The walking trail climbed gently up to the bouldery slopes and there were the paintings, very faint now as they had been painted with red ochre many years ago, but I could just make out the outline of what was thought to be a Tasmanian Devil. There were other faint red lines and squiggles.

It was a lovely walk with occasional info boards about the meaning of the site and how it is still sacred and important to the local aborigines. It was now 43degrees.

Back to the main road and on to Chiltern, a smaller version of Beechworth and probably prettier, apparently often used as a film set for period pieces. On again, to Rutherglen, another historic town, this one very spread out but the central crossroads, again had mid to late 1800s buildings. On to Corowa to see the mighty Murray River. Across the Federation Bridge and into Corowa, NSW, where we found the earlier river crossing to get back into Victoria. Corowa is the headquarters of Lindeman's Winery, since 1860.

Now the wind was getting stronger and dark clouds were approaching from the west so we decided to return home. Arriving back at the campsite the temperature had dropped to a comfortable 32degrees and the wind had moderated, still overcast with the occasional flurry of rain.

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