If you've been living under a rock, you might not know that Cranbourne East, a residential suburb about 50kms south east of Melbourne, is the fastest growing suburb in terms of people, in Australia. The flood of residents has given rise to an influx of bogans (normal in any housing estate), an upswing of crime (new houses are often full of shiny things) and endless cries for public transport infrastructure to cope with the area's growth (trains, anyone??).
But it also has something very different. A mere stone's throw across the South Gippy Highway is the very excellent 'Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria at Cranbourne' where one can easily spend the best part of a day exploring the different gardens, structures and waterways and generally forgetting the rest of the world exists.
Wanna learn something about history and be the envy of your friends at your next pool party? Get a cuppa then.
Lake Mungo is a lake bed that dried up about 15,000 years ago. Aboriginal people inhabited this area at least 50,000 years ago and it’s where Mungo Lady and Mungo Man were discovered (in 1968 and 1974 respectively). It's one of the oldest places outside of Africa to have been occupied by human beings, and Aboriginal people believe that before the Dreaming, there was a ‘land before time’ that was flat and lifeless. A bit like this:
It’s in New South Wales, about an hour and a bit’s drive north of Mildura if you don’t use Google Maps. Imagine my surprise when Google wanted to take me on a 4 hour drive to get there from Mildura. I mean, I know there’s dirt roads and you have to be somewhat careful, but suggesting I go 50km out of my way or that I drive at 20kph? WTF Google??
Let’s cast our collective minds back a few months when the weather was decidedly warmer and butterflies still flapped about like idiots. When the sun wasn’t just for show and actually had some warmth in it. You remember....back when it was a burny bastard and its purpose was to cook us the minute we nipped out for milk? Well, before the temperature plummeted to somewhere between Artic and Baltic, Flashie and I went off to Lake Tyrrell in Northern Victoria for a bit of a look, and we ended up at Lake Mungo.
Yes alright, I’ll tell you how that happened...
Right, well it's officially Winter. Ugh, I can feel my insides getting colder already.
Garden wandering again....this time in Mount Macedon. You'd think by the number of posts on this blog that contain trees, leaves, flowers and other bits of organic-based tat, that I actually enjoy gardening. I don't particularly, and I know stuff-all about it, but I hated the back dirt we used to have so I thought I'd have a crack at growing stuff. I do like the fruits of my labours when I can walk out the back and pick some basil and capsicum, et viola! I'm halfway to dinner! This guy was so perfectly formed, it was almost a crime to eat him so I photographed him for prosperity. Or to show off.
Hidden away on a gravel road a bit past Warburton in the Yarra Ranges is a plantation of California Redwoods that seems so isolated that it supports my theory that nature can either soothe your soul or give you the heebie jeebies. Of course, these things can depend on your state of mind and whether you’re alone or not.
And now for something completely different: some old looking photos that aren't really old at all but are the product of a misguided afternoon spent messing about with software in pursuit of creativity.
I'm playing with a few things lately: my camera remote which had been acting up and which Him On The Couch fixed because he is really quite clever; some camera filters that I purchased a filter bag for, making them easy to access but not scratch); the Nik Collection software and its fancy pants Analog Efex Pro editing presets; and this website and its new ability to resize singular pictures like that one up there, and this one down here:
The Antipodean autumn is in full swing here in Brunswickwestfordshire. The nights are getting cooler, the days are darker, and actual rain has presented itself a couple of times to tease my plants into thinking they might not die of dehydration. I’m quite sure some of them will cark it over winter, but it’ll more likely be of neglect than lack of water. The grapevine that never has any grapes is shedding its leaves and the wind kindly deposits them in a heap at the front door for me to sweep up every few days. I can do with nature, but it really should learn to clean up after itself!
One great thing about winter’s approach is that the devil birds (aka moths) that proliferate the warmer months tend to bugger off, which pleases me greatly because they are evil, kamikaze creatures that serve no purpose but to scare the crapola out of me with their stupid dive bombing antics. They do have a tendency to hang around gardens though. Maybe I should embrace the metal approach:
But I digress….
What's next I hear you ask? Well....it's Victoria Fossil Cave at Naracoorte in SA! Yaaaayyyy!!! [And the crowd are going wild!] Yes, it appears that many moons ago, in the time before The Internet, people actually socialised with each other, and went outdoors and explored stuff. And some guys explored so much that they eventually found a cave with loads of fossils in it, and they got all excited and shouted “Victoria!” instead of “Eureka!” and that’s how the Victoria Fossil Cave was named. Possibly.
I know it’s a bit unfashionable to say it, but I love Radelaide. It’s easily navigable, there’s really good beaches and parks, year round festivals, great buildings, it’s close to wine country, the roads are wide enough to land a plane on, and Rundle Mall’s got balls. What's not to love about all that?
We enjoyed the gig (remember, there was a reason we were here), AND sleeping in an actual house AND not being woken pre-dawn by squawking birds. The morning after the gig suggested a little lie-in and a lazy breakfast, followed by a drive out to Victor Harbor and its environs for a day of sun, exercise and culture.
If you've ever been on the Princes Highway going through the Coorong in South Australia, you'll know that it's not the most exciting of places. Yeah sure, it's an internationally important wetland and it's chokka block full of cultural history and birds, but to just drive though it? That's as boring as bat shit, my friends. You have to be able to stop and have a wander around because staring at road and salt bush for 100kms is enough to kill off what's left of anybody's brain cells. And so it was that we found ourselves at a place called Salt Creek, faffing about on Pipe Clay Lake.
Finally! South Australia!
We’ve stopped at Mount Gambier (which should be pronounced ‘Mont Gom-bee-air’ ...from the French for ‘half an hour behind’**), for a squizz at the Blue Lake and the very impressive Umpherston Sinkhole.
**This is probably made up.
No girlie road trip is complete without being a Terry Tourist, so after a quick lunch at Warrnambool, where this groovy painting was on this otherwise non-descript building, we meandered on to the Princess Margaret Rose Cave in Mumbannar near the Victoria/South Australia border.
Oh my gawd, you are going to be so over pictures of the sea by the time this blog is finished! And guess what? There’ll probably be more!
Backtracking a little, yesterday we also visited Loch Ard Gorge, so named for the ship that beached itself on an island close by in the 1870s, tipping out two survivors who found themselves washed up on the beach in the gorge.
What would you do if there was a band you wanted to see, but the gig was interstate? You’d turn it into a week-long girlie road trip, wouldn’t you? Course you would, you’re only human. Unless you’re a bloke, in which case it would be a bloke-y road trip probably involving less loo stops (because, you know...trees). Anyway, so it was that me and Flashie decided we’d have a crack at camping our way to Adelaide via the Great Ocean Road.
There’s something very magical about the dawn before a scorching hot day. It’s the time of the day when you can move without dehydrating in 2.3 nano seconds, the colours in the sky are pretty special, and there’s no-one about. Well, apart from the axe wielding homicidal maniacs that usually just live in my mind but might actually be lurking on the dark streets, probably near bins. No wait...that’s polar bears.
I was a bit stir crazy from spending most of my time indoors and my general apathy towards anything other than sitting on the couch eating popcorn was threatening to take over. So I defied orders: ditched the moon boot, scarpered out at 4am and ran away to the sea!
Dear reader, I meant to post this pre the chrimbo holiday period, but things just got in the way and before I knew it, I had a dodgy foot, a dicky back and dead internet connection. Murder could’ve ensued but I’ve managed to not turn into an axe wielding homicidal maniac with the aid of sufficient drugs and some good books. Oh, and a husband who doth wait on me hand and foot because…well… you know…I’m worth it.
So, before we go any further and in the spirit of the season, have this (you'll need Flash because the mp4 won't work):
Point Nepean is a coastal park containing buildings remaining from Fort Nepean’s use as a defence fort during World Wars 1 and 2, before people realised that Australia was so far away from anywhere, jet lag would stop invaders from bothering to attack.
My companion on this walk was generally fit and healthy, but had the tail end of the dreaded lurgy that had swept like the plague through Melbourne. That she could breathe and talk at the same time was a welcomed return to form. I’m distance challenged (ie: I have no idea how far 2kms really is) and I was getting over a dodgy foot ligament, so we thought it best to tackle a couple of little walks before deciding if the long walk to Fort Nepean was on the cards or not.
Now when I say ‘long’, I mean “this will take longer than half an hour but probably less than 4 hours”. Anything under half an hour is a short walk. Anything over 4 is not worth naming because I’m never going to do one.
Did someone say "chocolate"?
Oh well...best get in the car and drive over an hour to the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery then. This building is situated long and low on the top of a hill with a view of orchards and vines and other hills and it's all just rather marvy. Their devonshire teas are really good (fantastic scones) and the chocolate is amazing. I'd show you pictures, but I didn't take any because I was too busy feeding my face.
I had the opportunity to go to Lake Fyans near the Grampians for a long weekend and it wasn't very busy which was pretty awesome. Each dawn jaunt was calm and quiet, except for the squawking of birds, the quacking of ducks, the buzzing of mosquitoes...
Did you know Halls Gap has a zoo? Well it does, and it's definitely worth a visit. Go now. Well, at least go when it's open. And you have a spare couple of hours. It's got about 150 different species and lots of them are free range (not the ones that will kill you..obviously) and you can hand feed some of them.
I last visited Organ Pipes almost 20 years ago and was pretty keen to see if my knees could manage the trip back up what I recalled was a very steep road. Nah, just kidding. As if my knees dictate what walks I will go on. Pure laziness decides that. I just wanted to see if an escalator had been installed next to that steep road.
The weather forecast predicted another 37°C day. Because another hot day might have actually sent me bonkers and because I’ve never seen them, I decided to head to the Aire Valley redwoods forest in the Otway Ranges. Because a forest has surely got to be cool temperature wise and cool as in groovy, right?
As is my wont, I decided right after dinner to drive out to Batesford near Geelong, to photograph the sunset from Dog Rocks. Theoretically, the journey should take just over an hour. But you know how it is: traffic…roadworks…me faffing about…
85kms and one wrong turn later, I found what I was looking for: an outcropping of rocks apparently named after a bunch of wild dogs, a tree, and the sun getting ready for its final drop. With 20 minutes to spare, I parked the car, braved the paddock which may or may not have been full of snakes, found a spot, set up my gear and waited. Half an hour later, I braved the (now darkening) paddock again and headed back to the car, all the while wondering what nasties were pricking at my feet.
And for the next week, I picked barley grass seed out of my runners.
This is the place where I very nearly died. See that handrail towards the bottom of this picture, winding its way downwards? Well, it's there to aid people walking down all those steps. Now....imagine that many steps times about a million more steps and you're starting to get close to how many freakin' steps there actually are to get to the bottom of MacKenzie Falls.
Once upon a time in a land far, far away there lived a little hill that was known as The Sugarloaf. Why? Did it look like sugar? A loaf? A loaf of sugar? What is a loaf of sugar anyway?
This is The Sugarloaf: