Somnalent Stansbury

In Australia, the Summer holiday season is approaching. Amidst the excitement and bustle of Christmas and the emotion of the school year ending, a corner of our minds steals away to plan an escape.

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This week’s photo challenge, Serene, has taken a lot of people to the water. Australians appreciate that – we are a big island where most people hug the coast. Personally, when I lose my inner calm I head to the beach and watch the water lap at the edges of the sand. Refreshing and dangerous. Ever-changing. Timeless.

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On the Yorke Peninsula of South Australia lies Stansbury, a town of less than 1000 people with excellent seafood, delightful streets and views and a great caravan park where you can get a site right on the shoreline as the photos taken at dawn, above, show. Only an hour from Adelaide, it is excellent for kayaking, fishing, crabbing, swimming or just being silent. As with a lot of this Peninsula, the water can be quite shallow for a long while, but it does make it very safe for small children and families love it.

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The town has all the facilities you need and is part of the Walk the Yorke project, where it is planned to have 500 km of walking trail along the coastline. We took our bikes and ended up in some interesting places, on some death-defying goat tracks and eventually a beach. Still here, though. There are good places to explore the shoreline and the limestone cliffs.

Whatever is going on in my life, the tide will rise and fall, regardless, connecting every continent and every person, with all of our joys and cares. Today, tomorrow and always. And this moment will be forgotten, is small by comparison. Very little really matters in the big scheme of things. .

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Tomorrow will bring another adventure.

Safe travels. Always take water and a hat.

 

Five Chocolaterie facts to lead you astray.

I tried to position this destination at mid-morning, to optimise any sampling opportunities that might arise. Only a few minutes out of Healesville, on the Old Healesville Road, lies the Yarra Glen Chocolaterie. What is that? A place where chocolate is made and sold and you will get more than good chocolate.

  1. Great views.cofsdroznor

    Gorgeous ranges roll around the establishment and splashes of art and gardens delight the eye.

 

2. Colour

Most of it is edible or leads to such.

 

3. Chocolate exhibits

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and samples. People took handfuls and came back for more.

 

4. Hot Chocolate with extra chocolate

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the hot chocolate maker’s accoutrement
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whisk the choc chips
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remove some froth
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pour in the melted chocolate
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whisk again
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ready to be devoured

 

5. Ambiance and other trappings for the chocolate-lover

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Chocolate chai was my ‘poison’ with a complimentary shortbread square
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I could have stayed there for hours

Loads of gifts and produce are available and I defy you not to leave with any. Extraordinary varieties and diversions – we even bought chocolate lip gloss for a dieter. Plenty of staff on hand and we went on a Sunday when there was a constant flow of people of all ages.

Many people walked through the vineyards and orchards that the cafe looks out on to. Families played or set out picnic blankets in the sun, creating a festive mood.

Safe, chocolaty travels. Take a hat, but the shopping bag will be supplied.

122 m of Steavenson Falls

With an unexpected warm breeze blowing through the van and the Yarra Valley touring map spread before us, we chose which walks we could fit into an afternoon, from Healesville. Echoes of Westerns past prepared me for adventure as we headed out on Black Spur Drive, looking for Steavenson Falls.

We stopped at Selovers lookout for a quick gaze over the Maroondah Reservoir and surrounding ranges.

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Then on to Marysville, and the turnoff to one of Victoria’s tallest falls. There is a well-appointed carpark (you have to pay) and then information boards to direct you.

It is an easy track, which could be completed in a wheelchair, or if you have more time and are up for a more difficult walk, you can branch off to the Keppel Lookout which is reported to have stunning views of the ridgeline and forests.

There is access to the stream at the base of the falls, but you have to take the main path to the first bridge,

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from which you can take great shots.

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It is where I experimented with trying to capture running water.

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I thought the last one came close. Onward to the top of the falls, past yellow wattle and fallen tree trunks, hollowed with age.

From the top you can try to capture the length of it, but in this I failed.

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The downhill trek was much faster and before long we were heading for Lake Mountain. In the last rays of the day we made our way back to Healesville, along beautiful, fern tree lined roads, stopping at lookouts when we saw them early enough.

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An excellent resource that I printed before we left home was https://visityarravalley.com.au/

Safe travels. Carry water and a hat.

Yarra Valley, Victoria

When you live in Adelaide, Australia, and you only have a short time for a holiday, you head to Victoria. It is a comfortable 8 hour drive from city to city (Adelaide to Melbourne) along well-maintained roads. We chose the Yarra Valley as our destination and it took a total of 11 hours, not including the overnight stop and lunch at Niko’s Cafe.

There are several paths to the East but we left late on a Friday evening, took the National Highway to  Murray Bridge, staying in Tintinara at a truckies’ overnight stop.

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A glowing sunrise had us off to Bordertown, then along the Western Highway, past Green Lake to Ballarat, admiring the fields of canola with the Grampians as a backdrop.

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The Grampians
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A typical entrance to a farm.
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Fields of canola

Just out of Stawell, we stopped at Niko’s Cafe for the biggest and best mixed kebab and French hamburger ever. Pictured, here,  above the menu items, Niko was happy to have me spread the word, although he assured me that his fame was solid after only three months in the area. He was only disappointed that the chooks were not spinning on the spit and the lamb not sizzling for the yiros.

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Niko, from Egypt

We skirted around Melbourne to the Yarra Valley, taking a rather winding, narrow road, but ok with the caravan. I’d advise avoiding the afternoon rush, although it was a Saturday, but the last weekend for school holidays in Victoria.

The BIG4 Yarra Valley Park Lane Holiday Park was beautiful. Scenic, with large sites and excellent facilities, it really caters for families. There is a jumping pillow, a huge koala with a cut-out tummy into which children poke their heads and have their photo taken, the creek running through the park and Picaninny Lake. Onsite tents are also available and gave many of us an afternoon of inquiry.

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tents up to the creek
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huge bases of fallen trees
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giant koala
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running creek
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picaninny lake
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fishing landing
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good walking path
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easy incline
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onsite tents

The park has a walk that goes around the lake and then through some bush to a hilltop. It is an easy incline and the scenery and views are worth it – even the old wreck.  At the office, you can get a bag of seed for $1 and feed it to the birds. Well worth it, as we were surrounded by birds for the remainder of our days there, even when the seed ran out. I’m not sure where the saying, ‘bird brain’ comes from, as I had a parrot land on my shoulder as I returned from the shop, scuttle down my arm to the bag of seed and try to peck it open. An abundance of wildlife roams the caravan park.

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sulphur crested cockatoos
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swamp hens
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rosella parrot
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swamp hen
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parrots at our van door
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birds will alight on you
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sulphur crested cockatoos – sulphies
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we only had apple at first

Situated in Healesville, this is a great location from which to explore the Valley. We went to the Yarra Valley Dairy,  where the wine tasting was for Alkimi’s owner, pictured. We bought a white and a red. Then on to Four Pillars Gin for a private tasting and information about gin – be warned, it’s hot on the tonsils – and the Chocolatiery. The last deserves a separate blog, but the others were not regretted.

As we were near the Dandenong Ranges and surrounded by hills, the scenery was lush and green, begging to be explored. It is a cool rainforest area, hilly and it snows in Winter. There are excellent walking trails and historic towns. We went to Stevenson Falls, Black Spur Scenic Drive, Lake Mountain, Seville (for the Tesselaar tulip festival), Mt Donna Buang, Marysville and Warburton. An afternoon was spent exploring the township of Healesville.

Other things to do nearby are gardens, stately homes, Puffing Billy (which is a fabulous steam train ride through the rainforest) and wineries.

Travel here safely. Bring your taste buds.

Tesselaar Tulips

While scrolling through my emails a few months ago, the BIG4 site had a beautiful photo that caught my eye. It was of a field of tulips, so I explored further and, before we knew it, we were on our way to Victoria, to see the Tesselaar Tulip Festival.

I’m not sure if thousands or millions is the correct power of ten to express the number of blooms and they are gasp-worthy in colour and formation. I’ll do a collage of pictures, but I really want to show each variety.

And there aren’t just tulips – add daffodils, renunculi, magnolia, camelias, azaleas, rhododendron… I’ve run out of my flower vocabulary. If you are ever in Australia in Spring and near Victoria, then be lured here. There is a fee to enter but it is a oncer.

 

The farm was started by a Dutch couple who came here in 1939, on their wedding day and on one of the last boats to leave Europe before WWII started. The beautiful blooms attracted a good deal of attention and people would stop and jump the fence, until finally the crowd was so large that the owners decided to charge a nominal admission. It is currently run by the grandson of the original owners. There are food stalls, souvenirs, coffee and a band was playing. Of course there are plants, but if you intend to travel interstate, we have strict laws in some Australian states about carrying plant matter – you can’t!

Found in Silvan, in the Yarra Ranges of Victoria, it is very near the Dandenong Ranges, whose fern-laden forests and renown gardens are certainly worth a visit. If you are into steam trains, then a ride on Puffing Billy is a must, sweeping you through rain forest, over farmland and past quaint towns.

We came from Healesville via Don Road, Launching Place, Woori Yallock and Seville and saw a variety of scenery, from towering trees to rich, volcanic farmland.

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A very pleasant way to spend a morning, we visited a winery on the way back and were home for lunch.

Safe travels! Take your hat, water and a camera.

Lake Mountain, Victoria

It’s mid-October which is Spring in Australia, and while in shorts we enjoyed 22C at the base, there were remnants of snow on Lake Mountain, Victoria, providing me with my very first view, although it had frozen over to ice.

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The drive here showcased many landscapes and sweeping views of mountain ranges. Traveling from Healesville along the well-maintained and signed Black Spur Scenic Drive, we were awed by the forest trees, reminiscent of Denmark and the tall trees of Western Australia.  The biggest difference was the multitude of towering tree ferns.

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Mountains sweep away to either side of you and in Winter, the Alpine resort is very busy with snow-goers. Several lookouts are provided along the way to enjoy the view.

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I don’t know if you have spotted it, but we saw an odd change in the landscape.  While some hillsides are green and thick with vegetation, others had these strange pelts of white sticks.  We walked to the summit (1433 m) but not the ridge lookout. From here, the sticks were obviously trees. If you enlarge the next picture you can see the ‘bristles’ on the top of other mountains in the distance.

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You can see over the Victorian Alps and the small town of Marysville nestled in the centre of the rolling hills. There was often vegetation at the base of the trunks, or strips of green revegetation along hills, but the ghostly silhouettes led us to inquire.

Gum trees need very high temperature/heat to germinate. The fires, that are not uncommon in Australia in Summer, serve to spread the growth of gum trees. However, in 2009, ferocious fires of an historic magnitude swept the area and Black Saturday was born. Destruction, of humans, environment and buildings, was on a scale never seen before and not since. Marysville was almost completely destroyed. People lost their lives, their homes and their livelihoods.

New solar-operated signs now warn us of the danger of bushfire and we should heed them.

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I am aware that similar devastation has recently occurred in California and it is shocking for a country. People do band together and they rebuild and never forget. Things don’t return to how they were and we have to move with the difference.

The heat was so extreme on Black Saturday that the gum trees will probably never regenerate. Once the centre of Australia was rainforest and 500 000 years later it is desert. Lake Mountain will evolve and we can still enjoy its breathtaking scenery and charming villages.

Safe travels. Take note of bushfire signs.

Jurien Bay and Lesueur National Park

At the start of the Wheatbelt of Western Australia, along the Coral Coast, lies the tranquil town of Jurien Bay. Its lovely sandy shores, pontoon and modern jetty sit close to the Jurien Bay Tourist Park and is an easy drive to Lesueur National Park.

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With a population of around 1500 people, there is a shopping centre and basic resources, with parks and crayfishing (Western rock lobster) industry. Although it was known to the Dutch in the 1600s, it was first surveyed by Frenchman, Louis de Freycinet, in 1801 and settled by the English in 1850.  However, the town was not gazetted until the mid 1950s.

The original jetty was built in the mid 1800s around the growing farming community and a fishing interest developed from then. The new bridge was constructed in 2010/11, 8 years after the original was closed due to storm damage that made it unsafe.

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A short drive from Jurien Bay, along the Brand Highway, then Cockleshell Gully Road, is the Lesueur National Park. The Gully Road is dirt, but suitable for a 2-wheel drive, although be cautious after rain. Lesueur covers nearly 27 000 hectares, is known for its conservation efforts and is home to 10% of Western Australia’s known flora. With over 900 plants, it is also a popular location for wildflowers, for which Western Australia is renown.

We took the 18.5 km scenic drive, which is a ragged circle around the park, taking you along bitumen roads, in your car or on your bike, to the most scenic range in the park. We crossed creek beds, but they were dry, and stopped at lay-bys to take photos, being sure not to disturb any foliage or wildlife and not to leave the trails. Walks are also available and to ensure no contamination there are boot-cleaning stations. The photos are all of the wildflowers,  with a few grasstrees, but just a selection, as I featured many in my blog, Wild and Woolly Flowers. I don’t know the names of them all, so I won’t flaunt my ignorance by tagging some and not others.

 

If you have any questions about this region, let me know.

The area is within an hour of the Pinnacles, so you could fit it in with that visit!

Take a hat, water and your camera.

Safe Travels!