Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Politics and travel.

Wednesday, May 18th, 2022

Over the years we have been lucky enough to have visited many countries.

We are about to start travelling again and given the crisis in Ukraine, it’s interesting to reflect on how politics can effect travel. 

Of course these interruptions are minuscule, compared to the suffering and loss of life that has been inflicted on the people of Ukraine.

The war in Ukraine, or as Vladimir Putin describes it a: ‘special military operation’ has altered the face of Europe. Not since the Second World War has there been such an upheaval of the status quo.

With the current instability in Eastern Europe and the tendency of government policies to demonise people who don’t agree with them, we now find our travel options more limited than ever before.

We have always judged a country by its culture and people, not the politics.

Our travels have taken us to places that, under current circumstances, wouldn’t be possible now.

In 2007 we spent two weeks in Russia.

A country that now regards Australia as hostile. This is a result of the sanctions that have been rightly placed on Putin and his cronies.

Also with war comes the inevitable flood of refugees fleeing the conflict. They usually go to neighbouring countries and that swells the population and puts pressure on the infrastructure.

A good example is the number of Ukrainians escaping to Poland. 

Three weeks into the conflict and the population of the Polish capital, Warsaw, had risen by 15%. 

After five weeks over 4 million had left the Ukraine – that’s approximately a quarter of the population.

By the time of publishing this blog, that number had risen to over 6 million. 

There is even a reverse effect with Russians either unable to leave the country, or not wanting to, due to fears of persecution within Europe. 

Those that have managed to escape have taken the train to Finland. That was until the normally neutral Finish government stopped the service and closed its borders with Russia.

Both Finland and Sweden are now looking to join NATO, which might rule those countries out as a destination for Russian tourists.

In 2012 we made a long awaited trip to Egypt.

This was a year after the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 and the fall of the long time president Hosni Mubarak (1981-2011)

After the revolution and the removal of Mubarak, a new president, Mohamed Morsi, was elected by a popular vote. He was then ousted by General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who subsequently became the next head of state in the 2014 presidential election.

The country is still not settled and isn’t recommended for tourism due to fears of terrorist attacks. 

Also in 2012, we spent a month in Turkey.

We travelled by car, boats, planes and busses and had a fabulous time.

Talking to many locals, who are always interested to chat to Australians, we discovered that there was some disquiet about their current Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. 

Since then Erdoğan has taken over as President and Turkey has undergone a radical process of Islamification.

It’s no longer the moderate, secular country that was created by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1923.

In 2014 we travelled from east to west across China, starting in Hong Kong.

These days, with the tensions high between Canberra and Beijing, Australians have been warned about the possibility of arbitrary detention for ‘endangering national security’

This same excuse is now being used by a number of governments trying to stop any descent.

After crossing China we travelled trough Central Asia, visiting a number of ‘The Stans’. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Many of these former Soviet states are still loyal to the Kremlin, so currently they would not be pre-disposed to Australian tourists.

Politics isn’t the only thing to put a break on travelling.

Again in 2014, we had a two week break in Tonga, visiting Nuku’alofa and Fafa Island.

The January 15, 2022 volcanic eruption and the subsequent volcanic plume and tsunami has devastated parts of this tranquil Pacific archipelago.

The clean up and rebuilding, since the disaster, would be putting a huge strain on the infrastructure.

Tourism is a vital part of many economies and not travelling there would also be a disaster.

It therefore all comes down to choosing where to go, so you don’t get in the way – or get arrested.

Let’s try again.

Sunday, January 23rd, 2022

November 22, 2021. Melbourne to Warrnambool. 

Yet again we were heading to Adelaide in an attempt to redeem our paid for accommodation there. 

This was the third time, so hopefully the old adage: ‘Third time lucky’ would be right. 

In Warrnambool we had dinner at the Whalers Hotel, which was the only meal we had out, on our last trip, before lockdown forced us to eat in the room.

That trip we wanted to go to the Warrnambool Hotel, but we missed out as it was full. This night we missed out again, as it was a Monday and they weren’t open.

Would we ever get there? 

 

Lava Tongue Boardwalk

November 23, 2021. Warrnambool. 

South Australia was opening up after months of closed borders. However there was a plethora of online paperwork and then a COVID test to gain entry.

In the morning we went to get our required Covid tests. The public testing station was at capacity for the day and we were directed to go around the corner to a private laboratory. This was only testing for asymptomatic people or those wanting to travel interstate.

There was little wait time and we were in and out in about 20 minutes and, like the public one, it was free.

This trip we weren’t limited to a 5 kilometre travel zone, so decided to visit Tower Hill, which is 15 kilometres out of Warrnambool.

Tower Hill is an inactive volcano with a 3 kilometre wide and 80 metre deep crater. The last eruption was believed to have been about 35,000 years ago. Aboriginal artefacts have been excavated from the volcanic ash, indicating that the area was settled by indigenous people at the time.

There are some interesting walks around the area but the signage is very poor. We did parts of the ‘Last Volcano Walk’ and the ‘Lava Tongue Boardwalk’ and then drove to the caldera viewing point.

This scene was made famous in 1855 by Eugene von Guerard, one of the foremost landscape artists of the Colonial era.

That evening rain came pelting down, just as we were about to head out to dinner. Would we ever get to the Hotel Warrnambool?

Finally we did make it and remained relatively dry.

 

Caledonian Hotel (Oldest licensed hotel in Victoria) 1844

November 24, 2021. Warrnambool.

Continuing our plan to travel further than 5 kilometres from our motel, we made a side trip to Port Fairy, which is about 30 kilometres away.

Port Fairy sits at the entrance of the The Moyne River and is a town of historical significance. It was originally established as a whaling station in 1835 by John Griffiths and in 1843 it was developed as a town by James Atkinson. Atkinson drained the swamps, subdivided and leased the land and built the harbour.

There are many significant historic buildings in Port Fairy. Attached to each one is a blue plaque with their original names, uses and date of build.

I spent most of our time in the town photographing these wonderful of examples of colonial architecture.

We then had a walk around the Moyne River entrance and Battery Hill.

On the way back to Warrnambool we stopped at Hopkins Falls. At 90 metres wide and 11 meters high, this one of the widest waterfalls in Australia.

Thea got her COVID ‘all clear’ Text at 11:30am, however I had heard nothing by 4pm, so we returned to the testing station in Warrnambool to try and find out why.

They suggested that I phone their notification centre and after 57 minutes on hold I finally got through.

Fortunately I was also negative.

That night we went to the Whalers Hotel again for a drink, then had dinner at Images, a restaurant where we got takeaway from on our last trip. The takeaway had been excellent, so we decided to try the sit down menu – it was also very good.

 

Blue Lake Mount Gambia

November 25, 2021. Warrnambool to Robe SA. 

After three nights in Warrnambool we were heading to South Australia, which wasn’t an easy place to get into.

Apart from all the apps and online paperwork, there was a border check at Nelson, just outside Mount Gambia. Things went relatively smoothly there, even though one of the App passwords still had not been texted to us.

The chap at the border check wasn’t surprised – I don’t think they have that part of the process working yet. 

As I said to many people on our return to Melbourne: It was easier getting into East Berlin in 1972 than it was getting into South Australia in 2021.

South Australia has a maximum speed limit of 110 kph. on most country roads. It works where the roads can sustain that speed but it’s a bit hairy when they can’t.

We stopped at Mount Gambia for lunch and then visited the Blue Lake, which isn’t far from the city.

The Blue Lake is a large monomictic crater lake located in a dormant volcano. There are conflicting dates to when the volcano last erupted, from 4,300 to 28,000 years ago.

If the most recent date is to be believed, this would make it the most recent volcanic eruption on the Australian mainland.

The lake gets its name from the fact that it turns a vibrant cobalt blue during the summer months.

The Blue Lake supplies Mount Gambia with drinking water and there is a very attractive pumping station on the rim that was built in 1900.

After the Blue Lake we travelled a short distance to see the Valley Lake, another crater lake similar to the Blue Lake and one of the lakes that is part of the Mount Gambia maar.

We arrived at Robe in the late afternoon. 

It was very quiet, compared to Warrnambool. 

 

Robe Obelisk 1855

November 26, 2021. Robe SA. 

In the morning the temperature had dropped, the sky was grey and there was a gale blowing, which apparently isn’t uncommon for Robe.

Breakfast was at the Robe Store, which is in the Robe Industrial Estate. We went there as they featured Mahalia Coffee, which is locally roasted. 

It was a very funky store with an eclectic range of gifts and a strange, old fashioned, style of interior decor.

Robe has two very contrasting districts.

There’s the main town area, with its colonial building and traditional shops, pubs, and restaurants. Then on the outskirts of the town is the industrial estate, with the Robe Craft Brewery, Robe Store and Transmutation.

Transmutation is a plastic recycling workshop and retail outlet, with a deep concern for the environment.

It fits in perfectly to the industrial estate’s alternative approach.

Robe was named after the fourth Governor of South Australia, Major Fredrick Robe, who chose the site as a port in 1845.

Around 1857 over 16,000 Chinese immigrates landed in Robe. They were heading overland to the Victorian goldfields, as the Victorian Government had introduces a £10 landing tax to discourage Chinese migrants.

This tax was more than they had paid for their voyage to Australia.

We did the historic walk around Robe to the Obelisk, covering such sites at the Pai Fang Welcoming Gate, the Chinese Memorial and another to Captain Mathew Flinders and Sub Lieutenant Nicolas Baudin and the Robe Customs House, that operated between 1863 and 1888. 

The Obelisk is the symbol of Robe.

It can be seen from many parts of the area surrounding the town and its image adorns all sorts of businesses and tourist attractions.

The Robe Obelisk was built in 1855 and was used as a landmark to guide ships entering Guichen Bay. It was also used to store rocket fired lifesaving equipment for stricken ships. 

It is 12 metres tall and can be seen for 20 kilometres out at sea.

Near the obelisk are the ruins to the old Robe Gaol. There isn’t much to see as everything is in ruins.

Late in the afternoon we visited the Robe Town Brewery for a taste of craft beer. 

Like all good brew pubs it was in a warehouse, so dogs were allowed and being a Friday night, there was live music and lots of families.

Dinner that night was at the Caledonian Inn, which we were told, was the best of the local pubs.

It was ok.

 

1976. No engine in the Coorong

November 27, 2021. Robe to Wellington SA. 

In the morning the sun was out but the wind still strong, so we decided to revisit a couple of the places we had seen the day before, hoping that the light was better for our snaps.

On the way to Wellington we made a side trip to Kingston SE.

This was where we spent a few days after the engine of our VW Campervan blew up on November 2nd, 1976. 

So it was with a little trepidation that I agreed to make the return trip to Kingston SE.

When our VW blew up on the Coorong, a stretch of windblown coast that starts at the mouth of the Murray and finishes at Kingston SE, we had to be towed into Kingston SE. There we waited to find out that the engine was unrepairable and would need to be replaced.

While we waited for the bad news we stayed at the local caravan park and slept in the engineless van.

This was both strange and uncomfortable.

The engine of the VW was in the back and without it the van stuck up into the air, causing us to slide out of bed during the night on a number of occasions.

The new engine had to come from Adelaide and wouldn’t be available for at least a week.

Due to work commitments we returned to Melbourne by public transport, then came back to Kingston SE a week later to retrieve the van.

As the engine was new and needed running in, it was rather a slow drive back to Melbourne.

All in all it wasn’t an enjoyable time in Kingston SE.

It was a longish drive to Wellington, through the Coorong and I was rather glad when we had left the area without any further drama.

As we were too early to check into our hotel in Wellington we stopped at Wellington East and visited the Pangarinda Botanical Gardens.

These gardens are designed to preserve and propagate Australia’s threatened flora, especially from dryer regions.

It was a sunny afternoon and the gardens were a blaze of colour.

We had to get a punt across the Murray River to our hotel, the Wellington, which is right on the river bank.

The Wellington Punt was established in 1839 and was the first and most important Murray River crossing at the time. It was a vital link between South Australia and Victoria and ultimately the Victorian gold fields.

These days the ferry is free and runs 24/7, so throughout the night it was making the 12 minute crossing.

Dinner was at ‘The Welly’ as there was nowhere else to go, unless we wanted to get the punt back over the river.

 

Newland Memorial Church 1939

November 28, 2021. Wellington to Victor Harbor SA. 

As the Welly didn’t serve breakfast we were on the punt and back over the river, to Wellington East, for breakfast at ‘The Hall’. 

This seemed to be the trendy place to go for the locals and tourists.

The building was originally a church, built by a local indigenous man, who was prohibited from attending the ‘White’ congregation.

Not very Christian of them.

After breakfast, which was fantastic, it was a bit of a drive and then another punt, this one at Talem Bend, to get us on the road to Victor Harbor.

Then a drive through the Langhorne Creek wine region to Milang.

There we took The Milang Flyer, for the shortest rail trip ever – 300 metres and that was there and back. The train driver was young and very enthusiastic and we got all the info about the train line and the engine.

There is a museum associated with the train and everything is run by volunteers and it’s free.

Afternoon coffee was at the mouth of the Murray at the Coorong Cafe. It was a takeaway van but they did accept our KeepCups and the coffee wasn’t that bad.

The Murray’s mouth is constantly being dredged, as there is a massive build up of silt. This is funded jointly by the South Australian, New South Wales and Victorian Governments.

Once we reached Victor Harbor we had quick walk around town, as it isn’t very big. However one of the most impressive businesses appeared to be the Tattoo Parlour.

And it’s not surprising, considering the number of locals with ‘ink’. 

Our accommodation was at the Hotel Victor, where our Covid screening was the most intense we have encountered so far. 

As an aside, the spelling of Victor Harbor, with the lack of a ‘u’ is not an American influence but a return to archaic English.

 

The old and new pier leading to Granite Island

November 29, 2021. Victor Harbor SA. 

Breakfast was a short walk down the beach to Qahwa, a cafe in a pavilion, between the tennis and beach volleyball courts. 

There was no one playing either sport but the young kids were enjoying the sand on the volleyball side.

Granite Island is one of the main attractions of Victor Harbor, as well as the horse drawn tram that ferries people to it.

However the tram wasn’t running, as there is a new pier under construction and there was the associated kaleidoscope of ‘high-vis’ working on the job.

We did an anti clockwise walk around Granite Island with amazing rock formations and wildflowers along the route.

After circumnavigating the island we retuned to walk back over the bridge, there I found a mobile phone just sitting on a rock and looking very lonely.

I took it to the Causeway Cafe, that’s at the start of the bridge, and left it with the the staff there.

The teamwork involved in getting it back to its owner, who was a student, was amazing.

When I found the phone I mentioned to one of the ‘hi-vis’ there that I had it and would take it to the cafe. A teacher came looking for it, spoke to the worker and then phoned the lost phone’s number. A cafe staff member answered the phone and told the teacher that It was there.

Both the student of the lost phone and their parents would have been very relieved that night – that’s if the student ever fessed up to loosing it.

In the afternoon we drove to The Bluff, Fleurieu Peninsula and then back to Victor Harbor. It was a relaxing drive with iconic Australian rural views along the route.

That night we dined in at the Hotel Victor.

It had been a long day and we didn’t feel like venturing too far from our room.

 

Truffles, Horatio, Oliver and Augusta in Rundle Mal

November 30, 2021. Victor Harbor to Adelaide SA. 

Breakfast was back at Qahwa, as the temperature started to rise.

It seems to be a popular spot, with many of the same people having breakfast as were there the previous morning.

It was a relatively short drive to Adelaide, however we did make a diversion to Hahndorf. 

This iconic town, with its strong German influence, was setting up for Christmas and the evidence of the European celebrations could be seen everywhere.

We checked into the Frome Street Apartments in the middle of the afternoon.

Using the credit from an earlier trip, that was abandoned due to a lockdown, was the reason for coming to South Australia in the first place.

It was great to be able to finally get a return for the money spent.

It was very hot in Adelaide when we arrived, with the temperature up around 39°C. 

We had a brief walk along Rundle Mall before buying some provisions for breakfast. 

We figured that the money we saved on getting our own breakfasts for the next three mornings, might go towards paying for the parking, which was in a multi-story carpark just down the road.

After trying to get into a number of restaurants that were booked out (well it was a Tuesday and most places were closed) we settled on ‘The Original Coopers Ale house’. This was situated in  The Earl Aberdeen Hotel. 

Originally built in 1879, it was a part of a network of Adelaide’s corner pubs. An addition was made in 1924 and in 1987 it was refurbished and officially opened by Dame Edna Everage, AKA Barry Humphries, as the ‘Coopers Alehouse’ the home to South Australia’s last remaining major brewery.

 

Skyline Wheel

December 1, 2021. Adelaide SA. 

It wasn’t a good start to the day when we discovered that the hot tap in the shower was caput. 

After a few phone calls a plumber turned up and changed a washer. 

So it was a late morning shower and a late start to the day. 

As we self catered for breakfast we weren’t forced to go onto the streets ‘unwashed’

The temperatures were high again as we went for coffee at Roxie’s Garden Cafe. It was a pleasant environment but the coffee was very disappointing, even after we gave specific instructions on how we wanted it. 

We caught the Tram to Glenelg, which is on the beach and if you have a Seniors Card, it’s a free ride.

Another benefit of getting old. 

At the beach it was much cooler and we enjoyed a walk around the area and also along the pier.

The vast majority of people in the water and on the sand were school leavers and university students – all on holiday now. 

On the pier there were lots of these young people, both boys and girls. These I divided into ‘jumpers’ and ‘non-jumpers’, as there was a group who just jumped off the pier and another lot that talked about it but never committed.

It was a coffee for me and lunch for Thea in Moseley Square at Cibo Espresso. 

The coffee this time was excellent. 

Then it was another free tram ride back into Adelaide.

There were parts of the track running in a fenced off area, here the tram went flat out. 

It was the Glenelg ‘Bullet Train’

When you are on foot, waiting for traffic lights in Adelaide takes up half your journey.

This is a city for drivers, not pedestrians and the traffic light cycle takes forever as cars from all directions get right of way ahead of the poor old peds.

We walked, all be it slowly, to Soi 38 for Dinner.

This was a Thai restaurant with great food but there was a winging old fart at the table next to us who complained about everything. 

He left well before us, greatly improving the atmosphere and the night’s experience.

 

Grand Lodge of Freemasons 1925

December 2, 2021. Adelaide SA. 

It was a better start to the day, with everything working. 

The temperature was still warm but not as hot as the previous two days. 

Morning coffee was at Cibo Espresso on Pirie Street. This was one in a group of cafes that we found at the beach in Glenelg. 

Again the coffee was great. 

We walked to the Himeji Japanese-style gardens, built to celebrate the Sister City relationship of Adelaide with the Japanese city of Himeji. 

We then continued our tour through a number of Adelaide’s beautiful parks back into the city.

In King Rodney Park / Ityamai-Itpina we met a chap practicing Frisbee or Disc Golf. This, as the name suggests, uses frisbees, not golf clubs and ball to play a round.

The interesting thing was that he was practicing with a range of different frisbees. As he explained you choose the frisbee that best suits the ‘shot’ you want to make.

Much like choosing the right golf club I guess.

In walking through the parks we discovered that each one has an anglicised name as well as an indigenous one. This is a great way to recognise the original inhabitants of the area.

Lunch and coffee at The Rose East End. Then it was a short walk up the bottom end of Rundle Street. Here we discovered all the interesting places to eat in the old market area close to our apartment – pity we hadn’t known about this earlier.

We then walked down to and around the main train station and back to our apartment.

Late in the afternoon we did return to the old market area and had a quick drink before dinner. 

At least we can now say, we didn’t miss it. 

Dinner was at Nazz, a Persian restaurant we discovered on our first night, while walking to the pub. 

The food was good and much more ‘fancy’ than we had experienced in Iran. Plus there was alcohol, which we never got on that trip.

 

Coonalpyn Silos (Built in 1965 painted by Guido in 2017)

December 3, 2021. Adelaide SA to Horsham Vic. 

After breakfast in the room we went and picked up the car from the car park. 

The cost was about equivalent to staying another night. We are certainly glad that we decided to save some money and self cater our breakfasts.

The joys of staying in the city. 

The Frome Street Apartments were in a great location and walking distance from most of the attractions in Adelaide, apart from Glenelg Beach.

We had coffee on the road in Murray Bridge and then it was back on the road to Horsham, with a sightseeing stop to see the Coonalpyn Silos. These were built in 1965 and painted by Guido in 2017.

Then it was lunch and a coffee in the Morning Loaf Bakery in Bordertown. 

It was a barn if a place where the staff were more interested in chatting among themselves, rather than serving their customers. 

We then visited the Kaniva Silos for another photo opportunity. These were painted by David Lee Pereira in 2020 and pay tribute to the nearby Little Desert and its diverse flora and fauna.

We were staying at the Horsham Country City Motor Inn and had dinner at the nearby Exchange Hotel.

December 4, 2021. Horsham Vic. to Sorrento. 

Breakfast was again in the room, as we wanted to give ourselves enough time to catch an early afternoon ferry from Queenscliff to Sorrento. 

Our coffee stop was in Ararat. 

The drive from Horsham to Queenscliff was a pleasant cross country event as the Subaru’s GPS, ‘Sue’ we call her, decided that this rather round-about route was the way to go. 

We managed to arrive in time to get the 2pm boat, which was perfect, giving us enough time to shop in Sorrento for our weekend stay. 

The trip was complete and it had been a case of ‘Third time lucky’

Hierarchy.

Sunday, October 31st, 2021

I have been trained in typography and that can sometimes lead to a lot of frustrations.

Badly kerned type (the space between letters) is one of my pet gripes, as is over leading (the space between lines of type) and an incessant use of capital letters in headlines.

Just look at any American newspaper and you’ll get my drift regarding the last complaint.

There are many more that annoy me but these are a hinderance to legibility and therefore communication, and that pisses me off.

All this training has its downfalls.

I am so used to reading a page, according to the rule of hierarchy. And when it’s not applied properly I misread things.

Hierarchy is the order in which elements are placed on a page. It’s another technique typographers and designers use to aid comprehension.

When pages of type are designed by people who have English as a second language it becomes even more frustrating for me.

By not fully understanding the language, the designers place the elements in the wrong order and that disrupts my comprehension.

I spent five minutes looking for a particular item on a menu, until I discovered it was there right under my nose.

This isn’t their fault, it’s mine.

The problem is that it doesn’t follow my rules and I was blind to it being done another way.

It’s time to throw the rule book out and start to see things for what they are, not what I expect them to be.

Plan Z.

Thursday, September 30th, 2021

August 5, 2021. Melbourne to Warrnambool. 

This trip was yet another attempt to escape the city and do a bit of travelling.

Just prior to the last lockdown, number five, we had planned, and booked to go to South Australia. It was called off at the last moment, leaving us with paid-for accommodation in Adelaide.

This was going to be an opportunity to try and redeem that expense.

Rain started on the way from Melbourne. Well we were driving, so it didn’t matter that much

Rumours of another lockdown started coming through Thea’s grapevine.

We met Jenny and Neil, Steph’s parents, in Inverleigh for a coffee. They had the same idea; to escape for a few days.

After checking into our motel, Eight Spence, we went for a walk around Warrnambool. It was still wet but we managed to dodge the heavier showers.

We found what looked like a good pub for dinner and decided to book a table. Unfortunately they were full. I then went back in again to try and book for the next night and discovered that there was to be another lockdown, number six for the state.

It was starting at 8pm that night, which meant we needed to organise an early dinner quickly.

We desperately searched for a new venue and found The Whaler, another of Warrnambool’s iconic pubs. After making a booking we hurriedly returned to our room so Thea could quickly charge her phone. 

It was then back to the pub.

I think the the last time I had dinner at 5.30pm, I was still living at home with my parents.

By now the pub was filling up and we noticed that one of the other tables was occupied by a couple we had seen at our motel. 

Word about the new lockdown had spread quickly.

After dinner, which ended at 7.45, we popped into the local supermarket to get supplies for breakfast.

The motel room was going to be our home and restaurant for the next few days.

 

August 6, 2021. Warrnambool. 

It rained overnight and there was more rain in the morning.

We had been told that the coffee was good at the Foreshore Pavilion, so after breakfast we headed there.

I met, what turned out to be the owner of the cafe, on the way to get our coffees. John showed me where to go and ordered our coffees from his barista.

I think John appreciated that we had brought our reusable ‘ThinkCups’ and he was also glad to see tourists back in town.

It was then back to the car to drink our brews, which weren’t too bad. The front seats of the Subaru was to be our new morning coffee spot for the foreseeable future.

At least we could move around in the car and the front console does have good cup holders.

Unfortunately the rain was blowing in and the view from the ‘cafe’ wasn’t much.

The walk along the breakwater looked good, but it was far too wet to attempt it today.

It would have to wait.

We wanted to get a feeling for Warrnambool, so went for a drive around town. It’s not a big place and we discovered that we were very close to the centre of any action – not that there was any now.

It was then a drive to the Logan’s Beach Whale Nursery, sadly no whales but lots of orange foam. We were told that this was caused by storm water flowing from the mouth of the Hopkins River,  which is very sandy and close by.

In the afternoon we had a strange walk around Lake Pertobe.

The area was once part of the sea and then became a swamp. Ever since Warrnambool was first settled in 1847, there have been plans to turn it into something useful.

In 1974 a project was started by the City Engineer, Edward ‘Johnny’ Johnson to preserve the bird-life and turn the area it into recreational lake and parkland.

It was largely completed by 1980.

However, with all the rain that had fallen over the last few days we found it hard to negotiate some of the grassy paths around the lake and we had to turn back.

It had reverted to the swamp. 

Takeaway food isn’t something we are used to buying, so we were on a steep learning curve. Especially considering that this was how things were going to be over the next few days.

Images Restaurant, was another place we had been told about, apparently their takeaway was good.

We figured that a pasta meal would be the easiest to reheat and consume, especially with the limited equipment and utensils we had in the room. Fortunately we did have some extra bowls, cutlery and condiments in the car.

Outside it was still raining.

 

August 7,, 2021. Warrnambool. 

We were back to the Pavilion Cafe to get our morning coffee. The weather was a bit clearer, so we could actually see the breakwater from the car. Then afterwards we walked along it, desperately trying to avoid the waves crashing over the sea wall.

Adjacent to the pavilion, is the Merri Marine Sanctuary, with Merri and Middle Island.

Warrnambool has been made famous by the Middle Island Maremma Project. The operation was started in 2006 when foxes invaded the island during the breeding season, and decimated the Little Penguin population. 

Allan ‘Swampy’ Marsh, a local chicken farmer, suggested that Maremma guardian dogs be used to protect the penguins. Swampy had successfully used the dogs to protect his chickens. This was a world first and became known as ‘The Warrnambool Method’.

Maremma is an Italian breed of livestock guardian dogs, indigenous to the central part of Italy.

In the afternoon we went for a walk along Granny’s Grave Track. Granny was actually Agnes Ruttleton, the first European woman buried in the area in 1848.

There was some confusion over her name, as she was originally thought to be Mrs James Raddlestone, the wife of a local crayfish farmer. In 2014 the Warrnambool City Council corrected the mistake.

That evening we had a dusk walk around the Warrnambool Botanical Gardens, which were only about a ten minute stroll from the motel.

The gardens were designed in 1877 by William Guilfoyle, who was at the time the Director of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens. 

The gardens are set on a gently sloping area of land, encircled by pathways. Visitors to the park were far outnumbered by the birds and bats in the surrounding trees.

This is certainly the upmarket area of Warrnambool, as the streets around the gardens are lined with  well maintained Victorian and Edwardian mansions.

It was then time to organise another takeaway dinner.

We had planned to have Thai from Cattleya, but ended up getting Mexican from Cactus Jam. This was just next door, and also on Timor Street, which was very easy to get to and park when we picked up or meal.

The reason we didn’t have Thai was that when we phoned to order our meal we were told the wait would be an hour and a half – well it was a Saturday night in lockdown.

After dinner and before we settled in to watching TV from the comfort of our king size bed, we went for a walk around town.

The hoons in Warrnambool are a lot more upmarket than in many Victorian country towns. Here they drive hotted up BMWs, as well as the customary Commodores and Ford or Holden Utes.

There was yet more rain overnight, which did add to the gloominess of our forced retreat.

 

August 8, 2021. Warrnambool.

We were told that the weather was going to improve, so we decided to stay an extra night, putting off the inevitability of returning home.

And sure enough, in the morning, the rain had finally cleared.

Our first adventure for the day, after breakfast in the room that is, was to get a coffee. 

Today it was coffee from The Beach Kiosk Cafe, near Lake Pertobe, and then a short drive to drink it overlooking Thunder Point. 

The clientele at Beach Kiosk were very different to the those at the Pavilion Cafe. It was a younger group with lots of teenagers, children and dogs.

However the coffee wasn’t as good.

The sun was shining, so after coffee in the car we did the walk from Thunder Point to Breakwater Point. This was another wonderful walk, mainly on a raised boardwalk. We ended up at the Merri River, overlooking Merri and Middle Islands. 

Later on Thea got some lunch and I an espresso from 2 Tarts Baking. Again we were sitting in the car. 

‘2 Tarts Baking’ are they two local ladies with dubious morals, or just country humour?

We then returned to Logan’s Beach Whale Nursery, still no sightings.

Before dinner we went for a brief walk around James Swan Reserve, which was just over the road from the motel.

The reserve is a dedicated native garden that was established in 1970. Unfortunately it’s a picnicking spot for the locals, who clearly don’t understand the concept of a rubbish bin.

There were at least two huge piles of rubbish, from the nearby Maccas and KFC.

We did do our civic duty and cleaned up.

Dinner was in the room again, this time we had the Thai we were going to get the previous night.

Then another evening in front of the box – at least the Olympics have given us something interesting to watch.

 

August 9, 2021. Warrnambool to Sorrento, oh no, Ballarat now. 

Time to return back to Melbourne, well we were planning on going back to Sorrento and had booked the ferry from Queenscliff.

First we drove to Cobden for coffee and then on to Lorne for lunch. In Lorne we found out that regional Victoria would be coming out of lockdown at midnight.

We figured that as we were in regional Victoria already and had been since before the Melbourne lockdown started, we could continue to travel in the country.

We briefly considered staying put in Lorne, but it was so quiet and half the places were shut, so we decided to move on.

The most lively part of the town was the cockatoos squawking on the beach.

So another change of plan and we were now off to Ballarat for two nights.

There were a number of restaurants that looked promising for our evening ‘takeaway’ However the best looking ones were shut, so we had to settle for Nandos. The other choice was Maccas and that really wasn’t an option.

On our after dinner walk, we discovered that the Ballarat hoons were out. They were not nearly as well off as the ones from Warrnambool, as they were driving the more common hotted up Commodores and Utes

The nightly Ballarat news was asking the local shop and cafe owners to check everyone’s ID, especially if they didn’t recognise them. This was to make sure that there were no people sneaking in from locked-down Melbourne.

This was cause for concern.

August 10, 2021. Ballarat to Melbourne. 

Yet another change of plan.

That morning, after careful consideration, we decided to do the right thing and return to Melbourne. An added incentive for us to return home, was that if we were breaking the law we could incur a $5,000 fine – each.

However, before we left, we did have an excellent breakfast from Yellow Espresso, on Sturt Street.

We actually got to sit down and our Avocado on Toast and a great coffee was served on proper crockery and cutlery – the simple joys travelling.

Interestingly no one in the cafe asked where we were from, they were just happy that people were out again and spending.

Then it was into the car and back to Melbourne.

Over the last few months we have had so many plans to escape, that the alphabet isn’t long enough to label them.

I am now going designate our plans numerically, as it is infinite. 

The marketing of a road.

Wednesday, May 26th, 2021

 

 

The day we returned from our Back to Yack adventure we took, what’s now known as, The Great River Road. 

The website describes the road as:

‘Set between two of Australia’s most beloved landscape icons, the Murray River and the Snowy Mountains, the Great River Road showcases 155 kilometres of beautiful high-country in Victoria’s North East – perfect for exploring at any pace.’

We started at Corryong, in the east, and then drove westward to the edge of the Hume Weir. The scenery was spectacular and there were many points of interest along the way. These included lookouts, odd bits of sculpture and historic markers.

The road was originally not one designated drive but a number of different routes.

The logo that has been recently developed is used for both The Great River Road and the Upper Murray region.

Although there isn’t much information about the development of the Upper Murray marketing program, it seems to be a joint venture between the local councils, community groups and even Upper Murray Health and Community Services.

It’s clever marketing that can take something, that many people already know about, and turn it into a new adventure and experience.

However, the idea isn’t original.

The Great River Road was first created in the United States in 1938 and was used to market the Mississippi River.

The US website describes it as:

‘The Great River Road is a collection of state and local roads that follow the course of the Mississippi River through ten states of the United States.’

The US road also has a logo, which is a little outdated. I much prefer the Australian one, as it actually has an idea.

Nonetheless, I do think that a trip up, or down, the Mississippi River road would be great – especially considering they have a craft beer trail already mapped out for me. 

It’s an epic craft beer experience that takes you to 43 breweries in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana.

It does seem an odd combination of drinking and driving. 

Back to Yack.

Friday, April 30th, 2021

April 22, 2021. Melbourne to Milawa. 

This short break was very much a family affair and built around another return trip to Yackandandah or Yack, as it is affectionately known.

Yack holds a very special place in the hearts of Thea’s family.

Her father, although born in Melbourne, spent much of his early childhood in Yack after his mother died when he was only 8 months old. He was then raised by his grandparents in this quaint country town.

Yackandandah was a former gold mining centre and has its origins in the 1850s. Immigrants from around the world flocked to this area when gold was discovered.

We had visited Yack at this time of year in the past and were taken by the spectacular display of Autumn colours.

We were certainly not disappointed this time as well.

Our first night’s stop on the way to Yack, was at Milawa, an area is known for its wineries and food. 

We had booked into the Gamze Smokehouse and Restaurant for dinner, which was just 200 metres from our motel. 

As the restaurant name suggests, there were lots of local cured meat on offer. We therefore started with the Charcuterie board. 

We should have stopped there, as it was huge. 

They even had Bridge Road Brewery Pale Ale, from Beechworth, on tap as well as many local wines.

 

Brown Brothers of Milawa (1889)

April 23, 2021. Milawa to Yackandandah.

It was only a short 50km drive to Yack, so we decided to visit some of the famous gourmet food manufacturers that are in the region.

After breakfast at the motel we went looking for a coffee and popped into Brown Brothers.

This celebrated winery, dating back to 1896, was at the forefront in the creation of the Milawa Gourmet Region.

Established in 1994, this food and wine area was the first to be developed in Australia.

As well as wine there are many other culinary delights manufactured in the region, such as mustards, cheeses, breads, olives and, as we discovered, smoked meats.

We did manage to do a bit of shopping before continuing our journey.

Another side trip on the road to Yack, was a stop in Myrtleford. There we walked through the Rotary Park, where we discovered the historic Log Tobacco Kiln that was built in 1957. 

From the 1930s to the 1960s tobacco growing and curing was a major industry in this region. Much of the land was owned and worked by Italian immigrants.

It was then time for a walk and along the Ovens River.

We were accompanied by a group of young adults with disabilities. They were having a great outing and delighted in discovering a series of mosaics that had been created along the river walk.

In the heart of Myrtleford, we discovered Coffee Chakra. It was officially closed but they still managed to serve us. 

It was both a coffee roaster and cafe so the brew was excellent. 

Myrtleford seems to have become a haven for Australians of Indian heritage, as we saw many around the town. They were not just visiting but active in local business as well. In fact the barista, owner and coffee roaster at Coffee Chakra was of Indian origin but with a broad Aussie accent.

On the way out of town we visited The Big Tree. This giant Red River Gum is one of the largest of its kind in Victoria and over 200 years old.

That night there was a large group of 12 for dinner, which was at the Star Hotel.

The Star is also known as the Top Pub, being at the top of Yackandandah’s High Street. It was also very close to the motel where most of us were staying.

 

Yackandandah Creek

April 24, 2021. Yackandandah. 

We all had a quiet day in Yack, punctuated by a group walk to Yackandandah Creek.

The main purpose was to visit the spot where the ashes of Thea’s father, mother and brother have been scattered.

That night it was dinner at the Yackandandah Hotel, or the Bottom Pub, which, understandably, is at the bottom of the High Street hill.

 

Lake Hume

April 25, 2021. Yackandandah. 

It was Anzac Day and Yackandandah, like many country towns, had a parade.

High Street was blocked off and the local returned service men and women, as well as others wearing their relative’s medals marched up the hill. After them came the children of the town’s sporting groups, clubs and school.

All this was accompanied by a marching band. 

It was a very short parade that lasted less than 10 minutes. There was then a wreath laying ceremony in the Memorial Park.

In the afternoon we drove to the Huon Reserve car park and did a return walk, along the Lake Hume and High Country Rail Trail to the Sandy Creek Rail Bridge. 

Lake Hume, formerly Hume Reservoir, was constructed between 1919 and 1936 by damming the Murray River downstream of its junction with the Mitta River.

The dam has many purposes, such as flood mitigation, hydro-power, irrigation, water supply and conservation.

There are hundreds of dead trees partly submerged in the lake, giving it the eerie feeling of a tree graveyard. 

That night dinner was back at the Top Pub and being a Sunday night it was much quieter than it had been on Friday.

Friday seems to be the night that country people hit the town.

 

The grave of George Henry Backhaus (50 years) and John Henry Backhaus (42 years) Who died September 23, 1915

April 26, 2021. Yackandandah to Corryong. 

This was our last morning in Yack, before the shortish drive to Corryong, where we would stay for two nights.

It was a day of ghost hunting for Thea as we meandered towards Corryong.

We stopped at Yabba Cemetery where George and John  Backhaus are buried. Tragically these two brothers, great uncles of Thea, died in a house fire on September 23, 1915.

It was the strangest cemetery I have ever visited. Out in the middle of nowhere, we had to go through a farm gate then walk across paddock to get the cemetery entrance.

Once we reached Corryong I had some work to do and the best place was in the bar of the Corryong Hotel, which is where we were staying.

Well it did have good internet and a bench to put my computer on.

In town the Corryong Hotel/Motel is also known as the Bottom Pub. What is it with this top and bottom thing?

The food was ok and they did have Blowhard Pale Ale from Bright Brewery on tap.

As the kitchen closed at 8:30 so it was an early night, made even more interesting by the size of the room we were in.

You could barely swing a possum in there.

We found the best place to get out of each others way was to sit on the bed and watch TV.

 

Blue-tongue lizard on the dam wall

 April 27, 2021. Corryong.

Breakfast at the motel wasn’t great but it was included in the cost of the room.

We then had a coffee at the Cafe Corryong Brew, which is next door to White Owl Coffee Roasters.

The coffee was great, that’s after giving the barista a few instructions as to the size and strength of what we wanted.

Today we were searching for the source of the mighty Murray River and not looking for ghosts. 

That was until we discovered that the spring, which is the source, is in an inaccessible wilderness area 

The weather was beautiful with a high of 23°C+ – time to drag out the shorts from the bottom of the bag. 

We did stop at Bringenbrong, which crosses over the Murray River on the border between NSW and Victoria.

From there we drove into NSW and on to Khancoban Dam, where we walked across the dam wall. Halfway across we found a rather large blue-tongue lizard, sunning itself on the side of the road.

The views from the spillway of the Khancoban Pondage and the Swampy Plain River valley were spectacular.

Being in the heart of the Snowy Mountain Scheme we then drove the short distance to the Murray 1 Power Station.

This is just one of seven power stations, sixteen major dams, 145km of interconnected tunnels and 80 km of aqueducts in the Snowy Scheme.

Completed in 1974, it took 25 years to build and today is regarded as one of the seven engineering wonders of the modern world.

It was then back to Corryong where we did a bit of local sightseeing.

The Man from Snowy River, a poem by Banjo Peterson, (1864-1941) is immortalised in a statue by the artist Brett Garling. The statue sits proudly next to the Corryong tourist information office.

The poem was first published in the Bulletin magazine on April 26, 1890 and is one of Australia’s most famous pieces.

It is believed that the The Man, is the legendary local stockman, Jack Riley, who migrated form Ireland to Australia, as a 13-year-old, in 1850.

Another local hero, this one of the canine variety, is Horrie the Wog Dog. His statue is in the memorial gardens, which is next to our favourite coffee shop, Cafe Corryong Brew. 

It’s no coincidence that Horrie’s statue sits near the war memorial celebrating those locals who lost their lives in times of conflict.

Horrie, an Egyptian Terrier, was the unofficial mascot of the 2/1st Machine Gun Battalion of the Second Australian Imperial Force. He was befriended by an Australian soldier, Private Jim Moody, while they were fighting in Egypt during the Second World War.

He served as an air sentry and was promoted to rank of corporal.

Horrie moved around with the Battalion and was finally smuggled back to Australia when Jim Moody was repatriated in 1942.

Due to Australia’s strict quarantine laws it’s believed that Horrie was put down in 1945. However there is an alternative story, that has become local legend, that Moody substituted another dog for Horrie and he lived on in Corryong.

Dinner was at the Corryong Hotel again as there wasn’t much else open. 

That night it was a Super Moon or Pink Moon as it’s described in the northern hemisphere. This has nothing to do with the moon’s hue but the colour of the spring flowers that are found during this Spring moon event. 

 

Murray Grey cattle in their original habitat

April 28, 2021. Corryong to Melbourne. 

After another good coffee at the Cafe Corryong Brew, we set off on what was to be a long day’s drive home.

The first part was an exploration of the newly named Great River Road. This took us from Corryong through Towong, Walway and Jingellic to Lake Hume.

The scenery was spectacular as we drove west, with the Murray River coming and going on the right hand side.

We even came across the birthplace of the Murray Grey at Thologolong, as well as a small herd grazing on the roadside.

This iconic breed of cattle was discovered by accident in 1905 by the Sutherland family. It can now be found throughout Australia, New Zealand, Asia, North America and Europe.

After the meandering drive along the Murray to Lake Hume it was then onto the Hume Highway and back to Melbourne

Bushfire relief drive: Take 2.

Wednesday, March 31st, 2021

After the devastating bushfires in south eastern Australia last summer, we decided to visit some of the worst effected areas.

Not to gawk but to spend some money and give back something to these communities that had been so badly hit.

That was not to be.

Once the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic became obvious and we went into lockdown, no travel, even so close to home, was possible.

Now, twelve months on, we decided to deliver on our promise and make our bushfire relief drive.

March 16, 2021. Melbourne to Lakes Entrance. 

Our first day away consisted of a rather longish drive to Lakes Entrance. This was broken with a coffee and lunch stop in Yarragon. This is a cute little ‘Coffee break town’ that’s just off the Princes Highway and set up for passing tourists, truckies and also the Gippsland Railway.

On the first night of our break, at the suggestion of the motel owner, we ate at the Kalimna Hotel. 

We needed to get a taxi there as it was a long walk, up a steep road, heading out of town.

This was a basic pub with a stunning view over the lakes.

Having become used to getting craft beer in many pubs these days, it was rather disappointing to discover that Great Northern Bitter was the most exciting brew they had on offer.

Believe me, this is certainly not a beer to write home about.

 

Stony Creek Trestle Bridge (1916)

March 17, 2021. Lakes Entrance. 

As we had two nights in Lakes Entrance, and the weather was fine, we decided to make this a day of walking.

Our adventure took us from the Log Crossing Picnic Area in Colquhuon State Forest to the Limestone Box Forest Track, then Armstrongs Track to the Gippsland Lakes Discovery Trail and Tramway Walk.

The aftermath of the bushfires was evident, but the regrowth had done a wonderful job of restoring the bush tracks.

The original Mississippi Creek Tramway was developed in the 1900s and used until the 1930s. It transported granite from a quarry in the area to the developing Lakes Entrance township, fishing port and tourist area.

In 1870 the town was originally called Cunninghame but became Lakes Entrance in 1915.

After the walk we then drove along the Uncles and Old Colquhoun Roads to the Stony Creek Trestle Bridge.

Built in 1916, when the rail line from Melbourne to Bairnsdale was extended to Orbost, it is the largest bridge of its type in Victoria and listed as an historic site.

Built from ironbark and grey box timber, it is 247 metres long and 20 metres high and was in service for over 60 years. Badly damaged by bushfires in 1980 it was finally closed in 1987.

That night we had dinner at Sodafish, a floating seafood restaurant right in the middle of the harbour’s fishing fleet.

Again, this restaurant was booked at the suggestion of the owner’s of the Sandbar Motel.

 

Suburu on Wheelers Hill (699m) McKillops Road

March 18, 2021. Lakes Entrance to Marlo via McKillops Road (C611).

Today we decided to drive one of the; ‘Most hazardous and dangerous roads in Australia’ as it has been described by the website ‘dangerousroads.org’

The McKillops Road drive is 80km along a gravel road, in the Snowy River National Park. Yes there are many narrow sections, with blind corners but it certainly isn’t the hairiest drive I have ever encountered.

We would have thought twice about taking the road if it had been wet, as there are many tight corners with steep drop-offs to the side.

The AWD capabilities of the Subaru were very useful and at no time did I feel as though we were in any danger.

In fact our drive from Beacon, in New York State, back to Harlem, in New York City in November 2017 was the the worst drive I have ever done – and that was on a sealed road in the rain.

A man made feature of the McKillop’s Road drive, is McKillop’s Bridge. This is situated about half way along the C611, near the confluence of the Snowy and Deddick Rivers.

The bridge is made of welded-steel trusses with reinforced-concrete piers and was built over the Snowy River between 1931 and 1936.

It is 255 metres in length and originally constructed as a stock bridge.

From there we drove to Marlo where we were booked into the Marlo Hotel.

There isn’t much in Marlo and the hotel seems to be the go-to destination, as that night the restaurant was full.

 

Kookaburra at the Mallacoota Coastal Reserve Caravan Park

March 19, 2021. Marlo to Mallacoota via Cape Conran.

The clouds have increased and the skies are much darker. This is all part of a large weather front that is developing over NSW.

Today we were driving the rather short distance from Marlo to Mallacoota, with a diversion to Cape Conran.

We had a good breakfast and excellent coffee in Marlo at the Snowy River Tackle and Cafe complex. There you can get live worms for your bait and Avo on Toast for your breakfast.

Just out of Marlo we could see, what is described on the map as, the mouth of the Snowy River.

This now appears to be blocked by a sand bar, as no exit was visible.

Steph, Ev’s partner, has spent many holidays camping at Cape Conran with her family, so we decided to visit it ourselves. 

The bushfires have certainly left their mark here and blackened trees can be seen almost reaching down to the water’s edge.

We then drove on to Mallacoota and, by total coincidence, checked into Bruce’s Waterside Units.

We were staying in the Captain’s Cabin, which was in fact an old school house.

The rain was threatening and we decided to go for an afternoon walk to discover the area before it got any worse.

Mallacoota is a haven for campers and fishermen, with much of the town taken up with caravan parks. Many of the campsites had boats parked next to the tents, vans and motorhomes.

It was in the Mallacoota Coastal Reserve Caravan Park that we discovers some wonderful Australian wildlife, in the form of two Kookaburras and a Koala.

They were every cooperative and I managed to get some good snaps.

That night we ate at the Mallacoota Hotel, which was just around the corner from the Captain’s Cabin.

The food was typically pub fair with a huge variety and well presented. I managed to find Balter XPA on tap. This was also available at Lakes Entrance and Marlo and a great improvement on the Great Northern Bitter that I had to endure on the first night. 

 

Bushfire aftermath at Genoa Creek Falls

March 20, 2021. Mallacoota.

The rain has come.

The severe weather warnings for NSW have now moved south over the border into Victoria. 

With the intermittent showers we decided that the best thing was to go for a drive around the Mallacoota area.

We discovered the Genoa River at Gipsy point on the Mallacoota Inlet.

This is an area for kayaks, fishermen and bird watchers.

No sooner had we arrived than a flock of swallows swooped down to where we were standing.

I believe that the swallow is one of the hardest birds to photograph. No sooner do they land than they take off again.

Here it was different, they seemed to want to be photographed. Maybe they had missed the tourists over the last twelve months or they were just tired and needed a break.

Anyway, they did settle long enough for me to change to a telephoto lens and get some shots.

It was then off to Genoa Creek Falls, an area that seems to have been particularly hard hit by the fires.

The falls are just off the Princes Highway, on a small, easy to miss track. After you park the car, there is a short walk and a flight of timber stairs leading down to the falls.

As a result of the bushfires, the stairs have been rebuilt and are now brand new. The bush around the falls is dotted with blackened tree trunks, fallen logs and singed bark hanging from the branches. 

I imagine during the winter, or after heavy rain the falls might be rather spectacular, but the day we visited there was barely a trickle running over the large red boulders.

After our drive we returned to the Captain’s Cabin and then it started to pour down.

That night we returned to the Mallacoota Hotel for dinner, as we hadn’t managed to find anywhere better and the beer, wine and food was ok.

March 21, 2021. Mallacoota to Mirboo North.

There was more heavy rain overnight and now it has spread to Melbourne. It looks like a wet drive to Mirboo North. 

The main reason we were visiting Mirboo North was to break the long return trip to Melbourne. It was a bonus that within this very small community is situated the Grand Ridge Brewery.

Being established in 1989, Grand Ridge is one of the oldest craft breweries in Australia.

As the website ‘craftypint.com’ puts it:

“The elder statesman of the Victorian microbrewery scene, Grand Ridge began offering full-flavoured ales to a nation of lager drinkers more than 20 years ago.”

This was an old article in Craftypint and in fact the brewery has been in operation since 1989. They therefore have been challenging beer drinker’s taste buds for over 30 years.

I had booked at the restaurant, not knowing how busy it might be on a Sunday night.

I shouldn’t have bothered.

There were only about six tables in a space that could hold far more. We went to the bar for a pre-dinner drink and that was even less crowded, with only on other person drinking there.

We had been told that the restaurant had recently been taken over by new owners. It had previously been run by the management of Grand Ridge. I think that the loss of trade during the pandemic and the lack of available staff since, had forced them to rationalise their business model.

The food was excellent as was the service and the beer that I started with. This was a West City Neipa 7.5%. The ‘Neipa’ stands for New England IPA and it is now made in the Grand Ridge Brewery.

Like so many good brew pubs, Grand Ridge provides their drinkers with a wide range beer styles. There were three sets of taps, each serving six brews.

We were staying at the aptly named 1st T Motel, which was right next to the Mirboo North Golf Club.

According to Google Maps it was meant to be a 20 minute walk from our motel to the brewery, but we took a short cut through the golf course, and did it in ten.

March 22, 2021. Mirboo North to Melbourne.

The motel provided us with breakfast, of sorts. This consisted of four slices of plain white bread with sachets of Vegemite, jam, honey and peanut butter. There was also a choice of Cornflakes, Rice Bubbles or Special K. Which meant that our entire breakfast was totally lacking in any nutritional value.

After a breakfast like that we needed a strong coffee, before the relatively short drive back to Melbourne.

We found that at Lamezleighs Cafe and Bar, which was on the main street of Mirboo North. The coffee was good but they did charge us for a mug when we had only ordered, and been served, a cup.

In a way I guess we were still putting money back into the community, but not the way we had intended.

The weather was still threatening but the rain did hold off.

It was a strange adventure, initiated by the devastating bushfires of 2020, postponed by the world wide COVID-19 pandemic and then interrupted by the ‘One-in-100-years’ floods in NSW.

It does seem that we are lurching from one disaster to another. 

Souvenirs of a different kind.

Monday, December 21st, 2020

In our travels we have visited many brewpubs. 

As the rise in popularity of craft beer increases, they are now scattered all over the world.

Wherever possible I souvenir their beer mats. 

Not every establishment has them but where they do, I try and grab at least two fresh ones for my collection. 

In a year without travel, I have found them to be an enjoyable reflection of our past adventures. 

Here are a few from my collection.

 

Hagia Sophia – what’s good and bad about Turkey.

Sunday, July 12th, 2020

After 85 years the conversion of Hagia Sofia, from a museum back to a mosque, marks a turning point for modern Turkey. 

The basilica of Hagia Sophia, built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian 1, was inaugurated in 537 and apart from a few changes, especially to the dome, is largely intact.

The emperor had building material brought from all over the empire, including Hellenistic columns from the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus.

It held the title for being the world’s largest cathedral for nearly 1,000 years and was a marvel of architecture and engineering.

Following the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople (now Istanbul) in 1453, four minarets were added to the exterior.

As part of the secularising of Turkey by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1935, the basilica was tuned into a museum. 

This UNESCO World Heritage site is the most popular tourist destination in Istanbul. In 2014 over 3.5 million people visited the museum. Since then numbers had dropped off, due to terrorist concerns, but have steadily risen again with 3 million visitors in 2019.

It has been a wonderful example of how Turkey spans both the east and west, faiths and cultures.

This retrograde step is yet another move by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his conservative, popularist government to turn back the clock on history. It’s a rejection of the secularism that has made Turkey such a diverse and interesting country.

Side trips within Berlin. (September 2019)

Friday, December 20th, 2019

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September 2, 2019. Berlin, Germany. 

Having made two side trips out of Berlin we decided to see a bit more of the city itself. Parts that we had never been to in our numerous trips there.

Our first excursion was to visit the Berlin Television Tower or Fernsehturm in German. Surprisingly we had never visited this iconic building in all the times we had been to Berlin, going right back to our first time in 1972.

The tower is situated near Alexanderplatz, in the district of Mitte, an easy stroll from our hotel. This area was in the heart of the the old East German side. The tower was completed in 1969 and is visible from just about anywhere in the city.

Standing 368 metres high, it was a giant middle finger salute to the West. 

These days the main attraction is the viewing tower, with a revolving restaurant, which draws over 1,000,000 visitors per year. The viewing level is 203 metres above Berlin and from there you can get a great view of the city and most of the landmarks.

On the eastern side we could even see the Hotel Ibis, our temporary home for the last six weeks. The tower is such a landmark that the Ibis has a graphic silhouette etched into the glass doors throughout the hotel.

Ironically the tower has now become the most prominent symbol of the united Berlin.

 

P9062574

September 6, 2019. Berlin, Germany. 

It was the centenary of the creation of the modernist Bauhaus school of design in 1919. What better time to visit some of the architecture that became a legacy of their principles.

Siemens City or Siemensstadt was founded in 1913 by Siemens and Halske, the forerunner to today’s Siemens AG. The primary reason for its creation was to provide low-cost housing for the nearby Siemens factory.

The construction took place over many years and is regarded as a model of urban design. So much so that in 2008, together with four other modernist settlements in Berlin, it was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Many architects were involved in the design of Siemensstadt, including Walter Gropius (1883-1969) who designed a very contemporary addition in the 1930s.

Walter Gropius was a founder of the Bauhaus and is regarded as a pioneer of Modernist Architecture.

Gropius studied architecture in Munich and then Berlin, where he joined the office of Peter Behrens, a founding member of the Utilitarian School. Other employees within the practice were Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier both influential in developing Modernist Architecture.

With the rise of Fascism in the 1930s Gropius was forced to leave Nazi Germany. He first went to Britain in 1934 and then the United States in 1937.

He died in Boston, Massachusetts in 1969 aged 86.

 

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September 7, 2019. Berlin, Germany. 

As part of the Bauhaus Centenary, the Berlin Gallery of Modern Art had staged an exhibition celebrating the milestone. 

The ‘Original Bauhaus’ Exhibition (1919-2019) covered the students, teachers and philosophy of arguably the most influential design school of the 20th Century.

The school was only open for 14 years in Germany but its influence has lasted for a century. It is regarded a the pinnacle of thinking in graphic design, architecture, industrial design and teaching.

As Deutsche Welle wrote on September 8, 2019:

“The original Bauhaus design school was opened in Weimar in 1919 by the legendary architect Walter Gropius.

The school moved to Dessau in 1925, and then Berlin in 1932, before being closed by the Nazi regime. The communist East German government was also initially critical of Bauhaus, before embracing its legacy in 1976 and having the original building reconstructed.”

Luck was with us yet again, being in Germany for this historic exhibition.