Friday, January 30, 2009

December 08 Camping Trip - The Final Days

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The penultimate day was also a short travelling one. We had our first bad weather of the trip in Coleraine, with rain and wind and the tent bucking around us. We ended up getting up early and sitting in the caravan park laundry where it was warm and dry. Once we hit the road, though, we more or less followed our noses.

Wannon Falls was our first detour. I can imagine these in wetter months with water gushing over this overhang. We didn't spend over long here - the old legs were starting to be a bit sore from all the walking of the previous week. After a quick explore and a few shots we hit the road again.

Only to leave it again a short distance later to check out Nigretta Falls. Again, these are infinitely more spectacular when in full flood, but what can you expect when you visit in summer? You can walk right down to the water here.

On our way through Ballarat we saw a sign for Sovereign Hill and decided to go have a look. I balked at the prices they charge to get in - it was $67.50 admission for the two of us! And to think people yell and scream and spit at me on weekends over being charged $1... Anyway, we decided that we were there, so we might as well just pay it and go in. I really wish they'd charge a reduced amount for people who arrive within 2-3 hours of closing time. There are so many things to see and do, and demonstrations, that simply aren't on after 3pm, so we missed nearly all of them. We did however see an $80k gold ingot being poured... mmmmm, shiny. Entry to SH includes in the ticket price entry to the gold museum across the road, which is... interesting, I guess. We went just on principle cos of the cost of tickets to SH!

After all that we decided to head to Daylesford. On arrival we tried to get a cabin at the Victoria Caravan Park, but they only had a campsite left. We figured we deserved to spend out last night in a bed, so started ringing around trying to find somewhere reasonably priced to lay our heads for the night. Difficult - it was holiday time, after all.

Enter this place. It's called the Pine Cone Motel (P: 03 5348 5522), and it's about 10km out of Daylesford heading east in a place called Bullarto. We were the only guests, probably because it was out of town. Nevertheless it was a lovely little place, only 6 room, and the lady who runs it was lovely.

The next day I took mum around some of the places I saw on my first visit to Daylesford. We had a quick wander around the Convent Garden, had a look at the botanical gardens, then a long wander through the stuff at the Mill Markets. We thought about staying another night, but decided we'd had enough and wanted familiar surroundings, so headed home. Of course we didn't go the direct way, that would be "normal". Instead we detoured out through Trentham.

It was a great trip, but I was still happy to get home.

The final leg:

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Monday, January 26, 2009

December 08 Camping Trip - Day 6

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Before leaving Naracoorte we decided to check out the local caves. While they were definitely bigger than PMR, I didn't find the formations anywhere near as amazing.

There are a number of tours you can do at the Naracoorte Caves site. We chose to do the Alexandra caves guided tour. The pic above was probably the best I have. It was hard to get the angle right, what with idiot kids running around, getting in the way, and generally being a pain, but in this pic you can just make out the reflection of the stalactites in the water.

Included in the price of the Alexandra guided tour was entrance to the Wet Cave for a self-guided wander around. Maybe we just had cave-and-walking overload by this point... Either way, it was a pleasant little walk around.

Mum had heard about a little lane in Penola where you could wander down and see cottages from ages gone by. After a rather disappointing lunch (I won't mention any more about that) we found our way to Petticoat Lane and ambled along. This field o' lavender was enough to set my temples pounding.

The showpiece of the lane is definitely the two Sharam's cottages. Much of the history behind them now escapes my memory, but check out the link. Those cottages are tiny! So hard to believe people used to bring up entire families in that small amount of space. Reminds me somewhat of the terrace houses that used to be behind my work building. And here I am rattling around a much bigger place all on my own, with almost enough stuff to fill it!

We'd originally intended to stop at Casterton that evening, but ended up pushing on to Coleraine. We had our first dose of bad weather that night... rain, wind, the tent bucking around us... Scary!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

December 08 Camping Trip - Day 5

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As you can see, we took the long way to get to a few places. From Mount Gambier we headed for Naracoorte, but not on the most direct route.

As you can see, the overcast weather followed us a way to Beachport. This jetty used to be something like 4,000 feet long. That's a fraction over 1.2km in the new-fangled metric system. It's not that long now - only about 2,200 feet (670m).

Once we got to Naracoorte the weather improved quite a bit. That evening mum had a small tooth incident - would you believe there wasn't a dentist to be had in Naracoorte, Casterton or Hamilton until mid January? Sheesh. Still, she soldiered on. From Naracoorte we could easily have made it back to Melbourne inside a day, but mum decided it wasn't that urgent.

Naracoorte isn't the most thrilling place... There's an interesting museum-type setup at the information centre with plenty of info on the old shearing days. I'll tell you about the caves we saw the next day in another post.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

December 08 Camping Trip - Day 4

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Day 4 of the camping trip didn't involve all that much driving, although as you can see we did take the long way from the Princess Margaret Rose Cave to Mount Gambier.

Because we knew we weren't going far we took our trip through the cave in the morning, first tour of the day. I've always had a fondness for caves and still have happy memories of visiting Jenolan Caves west of Sydney a decade ago.

PMR Cave isn't nearly as extensive as Jenolan, but it still has some amazing formations. This one above they call the cave guardian. Can you see the face peeking out of the wall? Creepy, eh?

And this is probably one of the most famous formations in PMR - it's called the wedding cake. The formation to the left of it is ever so slowly getting closer to becoming a column - can you imagine how long it took to get this close?!

When we finally left the cave we headed for Port Macdonnell on the coast, and I'm so glad we took the detour. In town the waterfront is lovely. The view above was taken out of town, heading along toward a lookout. So much interesting stuff to see in this place, but it was just a fleeting stop. I managed to pick up a couple of Noritake teacups and saucers in mint condition for a couple of dollars at the local op shop, so I was happy!

We also had a bite to eat here at the Breakwater Cafe Take Away. This beast is the steak burger with the lot. Droooooooooooooooool. It was fan-frikkin-tastic. I've had so many steak burgers that were very ho-hum, with limp salads and tough, chewy meat. Not this one. Despite its size it disappeared in short time, so I must have been hungry, and it must have been good.

With our bellies full we set off north to Mount Gambier. On the way in we took the opportunity to pull over and take a few snaps of the blue lake. I can't remember all the bites of info on the boards there, but I hope you can make out the amazing blue of the water.

Once we'd researched things to look at and made camp there was just enough sunlight left in the day to do a little exploring. First stop, the Cave Garden in the town centre.

All the publicity pictures of this show it when there's water gushing down. We were obviously there in the wrong season for that, but these gardens were still wonderful. So peaceful and beautiful. It was a shame to see, though, that some people had used it as a place to throw their rubbish.

And the last stop that day was to the Umpherston Sinkhole. I took so many pictures of this place it was hard to choose just one to include. This place is amazing, and a lot of effort has been expended to make it a really pleasant and peaceful place to visit. There's a BBQ and tables tucked under a ledge hiding behind the ivy where you can have your lunch, and benches dotted around the bottom to sit and take it all in. I went nuts taking pics of the various flowers and things (something I seem to keep doing... I love taking pictures of flowers) and even managed to get mum to pose in a few pictures too.

We slept well that night, to be woken by a light rain the next morning so we packed up the tent in short time (we were getting pretty good at it all by now) and had a great breakfast before heading further into SA.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

December 08 Camping Trip - Day 3

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Day 3 of the camping trip saw mum and I leave Portland and head for Nelson and, from there, Princess Margaret Rose Cave. Such a shame that Google seemed incapable of giving me the ACTUAL location of PMR... ah well.

As we weren't in a hurry, we got to Nelson at about lunchtime. Feeling the siren call of a meal of fish and chips we headed into the Nelson Hotel.

There are a number of different types of fish you can have - we chose the butter fish, grilled. You can get an awfully large serve for a fraction under $20, or for a little under $15 you can get the half-serve. Mum and I elected for the half-serve, with one serving of chips shared between us so we'd have plenty of room for their salads, which the lovely ladies make themselves, fresh every day. They all tasted superb, with my favourite being a pasta salad with the most delectable dressing. Note also the massive amount of tartare sauce I've heaped on my fillet of fish... the fillet was quite a good size, but it got a little covered up.

Across the road from the pub is the boat ramp. I took so many pictures of pointless but relaxing scenery on this trip.

If you look the OTHER way from the pic above you'll see the boat sheds. I love this pic, the sheds look like they were built a damn long time ago and haven't had anything done to them since.

To walk off our lunch we went about halfway around the Livingstone Island Nature Walk, where we took in views of the mouth of the Glenelg River. Beautiful, eh? If we'd been wearing better footwear we'd have done the other half!

About mid-afternoon we headed for the cave. Along the way we saw a sign for a lookout at Donovans. Isn't it lovely?

After pitching our tent for the night at Princess Margaret Rose Cave campsite we went for a wander. We were a bit late in the day to catch a tour of the cave, but there are plenty of other things to look at there. This is the view from one of the several lookouts of the Glenelg River. Water skiing is allowed in certain areas of it, and we saw several people taking advantage of that to cut up a wash (wow, did that sound as lame to you as it did to me as I typed it?).

At the bottom of the cliff is a little jetty you can fish from. Uh, that's not it there in the pic, I'm standing on it. We had a great run with weather while we were away.

A little more on the camping at the cave - there are a few powered cabins, and also a few van sites and 8 tent sites (none of these are powered). But there is an awesome camp kitchen behind the toilet and shower block with toaster, kettle, microwave, fridge, hotplates, and a few eating utensils. There are only 2 toilets and 1 shower per gender, but with the number of people to share them so restricted we didn't have any problems. I'd recommend this camping ground without any hesitation, and I'm planning to visit there again.

It's amazing, the few words I've put on here really don't sum up how far we walked each day...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Joys of Travelling with Connex

It seems to me that, in perfect weather conditions, Connex struggles to deliver any form of service, never mind meeting a good standard.

If it's anything OTHER than perfect weather, the whole system collapses. Rain? Many trains cancelled, and the ones that are left usually run late. Cold? Same again. Heat? Yep, you guessed it, mass cancellations and lateness.

I travel on the Werribee line, and get off for work at Parliament. Not sure if you've heard the bullsh-t stuff up they've made of THAT line during peak times - no Werribee line trains go through the loop. To get to work I have to change at either North Melbourne or Southern Cross station to get onto a loop train. To get home I have to catch a train to North Melbourne, then fight along the platform for a Werribee connection, assuming I can squeeze my way into the carriage.

The train I usually catch in the morning is, thankfully, not considered to be part of peak time so it goes direct through the loop. Not so lucky for getting home. This has prompted me to walk the 20 minutes to Flinders St station every afternoon to avoid the mucking around, and also have half a chance of getting a seat (from the crowds on Platform 10 it seems that many other loop-people have had the same idea). I'm sure you can understand, though, that in heat like yesterday and today and, indeed, when summer really gets going, that walking is NOT going to be a palatable option. But getting home by changing trains at North Melbourne adds anything from 10 to 50 minutes to my homeward journey.

From Parliament to my home station used to take about 40-45 minutes. That means that it can now take DOUBLE that, just to get there, never mind actually getting home.

So, with the heat yesterday, I hopped a Sydenham train to North Melbourne like a good girl, to find that the next Werribee train, due in 15 minutes, was cancelled. The next scheduled one, 20 minutes later, was due just before 5pm, but running 10-12 minutes late. The one due 5 minutes after that was cancelled too. All in all, it took me nearly 2 hours just to get to my home station. TWO FRIKKING HOURS! It was like travelling cattle-class, and so packed that many just had to bounce off others to try and stay on their feet.

There have also been a raft of cancellations on train lines this morning. Due to "defective trains" I hear (if they give an explanation at all).

And for this service we had ticket prices increase at the start of the year? For this I pay $50 a week? The sad thing is that, financially, I have no other option. The cheapest parking available near my office would be $50 per week, then add the cost of fuel and wear and tear on the car... I've been so tempted to say "to hell with it" and drive anyway. Maybe I should, one day a week or so, just for a break. But I digress.

I'm curious how other public transport systems compare.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Bloggers BBQ

Duncan, Thanh and Sarah are organising the next Bloggers get-together.

It's going to be held on February 7 from 11am at Batman Park. Visit their blogs (links above) for details of the address, and shoot Duncan a comment to let him know you're coming.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Waddaya Mean It Costs More?!

[begin rant]

Hear ye, hear ye. A new addition has been made to my blacklist.

Olivino (Shop 1, 50 Lonsdale Street) used to be one of the places I quite liked to go for breakfast and lunch.

No more.

I rocked up this morning to have myself a serve of their fruit toast and some tea for a sit-down breakfast. The blackboard claims to provide fruit toast and coffee for $6. Previously that's what I've paid for toast and tea there, so ahead I go and order. "That'll be $6.40" the unsmiling face at the register tells me. I ask "Pardon?". He affirms the price. I ask why the extra. He tells me tea costs more.


So I say I'll have a decaf coffee instead. That costs more too. So I stick with the tea.

I've made mention before of a place that has charged me extra for tea. I was equally unamused this time.

FFS, why is tea more expensive? How is it more expensive to throw a few leaves in a pot and fill it with water? There's less milk involved, less tea per POT than coffee per CUP. Why? Answer me that?

AND, to add further insult, the fruit toast at Olivino is markedly smaller than it used to be. And I think the price has gone up.

I have a few tips for Olivino:

1. Get real.

2. Use half as many leaves in the pot as you currently do(or even less) - you don't need that much in that size pot.

3. I like leaf tea. I prefer leaf tea. And if you're gonna give someone leaf tea, give 'em a strainer too.

Seriously, what the frack am I meant to drink? Gee I can't wait for Espressino to open up again next week. Better tea, better service, just better.


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

December 08 Camping Trip - Days 1 & 2

Mum and I went camping this year for Christmas. Without all the little side-trips and driving around, we travelled over 1,200km in the course of 7 or 8 days. The first day, going from my place to Portland, was one of the longest we spent travelling, at just over 4 hours. I'll post our trip, a day at a time, because I want to share some of what we saw with you. It was a fantastic trip, so stay tuned for more.

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The day after our afternoon tea experience we packed up mum's car and hit the open road - Honda CRV beats modified Pulsar hands down for space and travelling comfort on rough roads! First stop - Portland, to share Christmas with my brother, his partner (M), and her family.

We didn't do too many things while we were here, but M was lovely and drove us around a few of the major sights. The Cape Nelson lighthouse is the first picture, and the next two are views from that headland. It really is a pretty place, I'm sure I'll be back.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Afternoon Tea at The Langham

1 Southgate Avenue
Southbank 3006
P: 03 8696 8888

Last year Mel and I had afternoon tea at The Windsor as a little Christmas thing. This year we went to The Langham for "The Enchanted World of Langham Afternoon Teas". We'd looked at the menu online before going, and decided the Chocolate Indulgence Tiffin for $35 would be the way to go. Mum was in town and she came along with us - they don't have anything quite like this in ol' Woodenbong!

The stand came out much as I'd expected, based on my past experience with The Windsor, with sandwiches on the bottom, scones in the middle, and sweety little things on top... but this was The Langham, and the chocolate indulgence afternoon tea, so... there was more. We'd just finished the sandwiches (oh dear how I love those little sandwiches), and were about to start on our scones when -

- the souffle arrived. Oh. My. God. I've never had a souffle in my life, I don't think, so I followed Mel's lead on how to eat it. First a dip at the top, then pour the hot chocolate sauce into it, then dig in... uuuugggghhhh... drooooooooool. A little taste of passionfruit, if my memory doesn't fail me (which, let's face it, it might. This all happened a couple of weeks ago!), and that chocolate sauce - I was hard-pressed not to lick the little jug it came in!

The scones were great at well - light and yum, and the cream was so thick and tasty. These scones beat the efforts of The Windsor hands down.

There was extra little plate was for the chocolate droolies that wouldn't fit in the tiffin stand... nice, eh? Wonder why I didn't get a picture of that plate... never mind. I recognised a couple of these from when I had dinner here with the girls earlier in the year. The little pots of mouse at the front were a favourite then, just as they were this time - there's something about chilli and chocolate that sends my taste buds into instant orgasmic mode. And the berry thingies behind them were pretty darn tasty too. By the time we got to the brandy snaps at the back, well, I was into chocolate overload, so ended up leaving most of the chocolate custard on the plate.

I enjoyed this so incredibly much, and I'm thinking I'll do it again, even though for at least a week afterwards mum and I couldn't stomach the thought of chocolate, much less the site of it. Maybe next time I'll just have the classic afternoon tea - it still sounds good, but much less chocolate in it.