14.03.2017 - 24.03.2017
My first day back on the mainland was always going to be a Melbourne day - I specifically wanted to visit the amazing cake and tea shop in the Dr Seuss arcade, the National Gallery and then what ever else I could fit in. I did not compute that the ferry docks at 6:30am!! So while Johann went ahead to Werribee to set up the van, I walked the beachfront at dawn, watching the sunrise, moon still bright on the water, joggers, dog walkers, swimmers - as you do when you live on the beach front. Then the classic tram ride into the city and found myself walking the streets and malls at 8:30am. I followed Marie Antointette's advice and had cake for breakfast!! delicious apricot/pistachio cake with lemon, myrtle and ginger tea. Cake heaven!
The National gallery was again a delight; the Bill Henson photography exhibition is sensual, artistic and ethereal. The many other exhibits were thought provoking, especially the 'live photography' scenery. Ceramic decorations through the ages included Wedgewood, other Brittish, Japanese, Chinese, Greek vases etc and my wow moment was in the history of chair manufacturing: shaped like an orca, you would lie in the mouth of a giant whale!!
The largest shopping centre and fashion capitol of the southern hemisphere is supposed to be at Chadstone. They offered a free bus ride to the centre so I went. The centre is big, and the same designers that we find at Robina and Pacific Fair, were there. Alas, I still can't agree that marble tiles and glass ceilings = an aesthetically pleasing shopping centre. I will leave it there - enough said.
We met up with a dear friend in Ballarat and set off to the Grampians National Park, camping at Halls Gap. Once settled in, we celebrated in style with home made rusks (baked in my caravan oven) and good old South African melktert! We were impressed with the amount of wildlife around the park; no doubt humans have interfered, but it does make for a special experience when 'wild' birds eat out of your hands! Crimson rosellas, Sulphur crested cockatoos, kangaroos ate out of our hands, and on the plain were emus and everywhere galahs, choughs, ravens, wagtails and wrens. We climbed the Pinnacle which was quite steep, but the view at the end was magnificent. Once again the rock formations show clear signs of early volcanic eruptions. The forest had burnt extensively in 2006, but the surprising thing about Australian forests are their ability to regrow and looking at the view one could only marvel at mother nature.
Travelling north we headed to Echuca to tick another item off the bucket list. the paddle steamer we travelled on is the one that was used for the film 'All the rivers run ' - it was a special little trip and a walk down history's lane. Echuca once had a thriving port on the Murray river to ship tons of merino wool to Melbourne, and with the collapse of the wool trade the town went backwards pretty quickly. It was the movie that put it back on the map and today it is a large town that is actively protecting its colonial past, with countless renovated old buildings trading modern goods.
We camped right next to the Murray river - it is a huge, brown, wide, twisting and winding river making its way 1800km down to SA.
We are now at Lake Cargelligo, (approximately 600 km west of Sydney), a place recommended by to us by a fellow traveller. Must say, the vast flat and treeless plains from Halls Gap up to Echuca were uninspiring compared to this lovely area - very surprised to see so many trees and greenery. No doubt some rain had reached this area recently. The lake is large and full and once again many birds - galahs, magpie larks etc.
We are so thankful for this opportunity travel and explore small pockets of Australia - such a vast country with incredibly varied landscapes. Long service leave is definitely a huge bonus in Education - may it last a long time yet!!