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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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!

176 steps to see two oceans divided

Cape Leeuwin is where the Southern Ocean meets the Indian Ocean, in Western Australia. You do not see any discernible line, or join, at the most south westerly point of mainland Australia. But you will see the lighthouse, and if you take the tour you can have some amazing views of the surrounding area, sometimes through the windows on the upward climb. It was one of these that prompted my entry in this week’s  Photo Challenge: Windows.

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With 176 steep steps spiraling upward, each time I got to a window I thought about the lighthouse keepers who had taken this flight, every night and every morning. Between 1895 and 1982 there were three keepers housed nearby.  With electrification, only one was present from then until 1990, when total automation began and no more keepers were needed. It is an impressive tower, 40m tall, with 2m thick walls at the base and 1m thick walls at the top; it stands out on the horizon as you approach. It is the tallest lighthouse in Western Australia.

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Leeuwin, Dutch for ‘lioness’, is the name of the ship from which sailors charted the coastline as early as 1622. After Australia had been claimed for Great Britain and Matthew Flinders was charting the island, he named the cape Leeuwin, acknowledging the early map makers whose work assisted him. I often ponder those early Dutch explorers and the opportunity lost to them, of colonising Australia.

Well-maintained boardwalks and trails enable you to look around the area and explore.

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Many have taken photos of the ‘divide’ of the two oceans, trying to see some line or separation. Certainly, the Southern Ocean, also known as the Antarctic Ocean, is very cold and has northward currents. The Indian Ocean is warmer and has different currents, so you’d expect something to be visible at, or near, their joining and I have seen photos where the taker captures some turbulence. The following photo does not suggest anything out of the ordinary. In fact, rocks are sometimes blamed for any odd movement in the water.

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Margaret River forms the background region and there are other lighthouses – Hamelin and Cape Naturaliste being quite famous.  At least 12 ships were wrecked near Hamelin Bay. There are many walks, including a cape-to-cape walk that takes 6-7 days, walking 20-25km per day, which I am told has some stunning scenery and only a short spell of steep track. The region is renown for its wine and surf and is a great place to spend some time. We spent the remainder of the afternoon on nearby beaches, in forests and walking the coastline at Hamelin Bay.

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Mark it as an area to visit – an outermost point on the Globe. Take your hat, but tie it down firmly as it is very windy, particularly from the balcony at the top of the lighthouse.

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And if you venture up the spiral stairway, pause to look out the windows; you can choose between a couple of oceans or tranquil cemetery.

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Safe travels.

Millions of reasons not to ignore this Warning

 

As Australia drifted northward, 20-30 million years ago, it passed over one of the Earth’s hot spots, causing volcanic activity. Molten material formed the Mount Warning shield volcano and high rainfall created a myriad of streams and rivers which eroded the volcano into its present shape – one of the oldest calderas in the world. Fertile volcanic soil, high humidity and rainfall provided all the elements for the subtropical rainforest to thrive ( some of this reproduced, with permission, from the information board at Mt Warning). It is one of the Gondwana Rainforests and you are surrounded by ancient trees, dripping with moss. I think it is a good candidate for this week’s photo challenge: layered –  from the lava-rich soil, littered with decaying leaves making your ‘twisted’ way up to the tree tops, trickling over shades of green and brown.

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Tweed Heads has long conjured images of surf, sun and excitement. It’s nearness to the Queensland border and Coolangatta make it a popular holiday destination. But I had not known that the Tweed Valley, shared by both New South Wales and Queensland, was the site of an ancient volcano and that Numinbah Nature Reserve is at the base of this layered caldera?

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The Wollumbin National Park, formally Mt Warning National Park, was renamed in recent years to reflect the importance of the lava plug, that is Mt Warning, to the local Aboriginal People, including the Nganduwal, Galibal, Gidhabul, Bundjalung and Widjabal. Many of their Dreaming stories involve the monolith.

There are many walks to choose from and an information booth at the entrance to the park, giving detail, advice and options. We parked at the entrance to the park and walked to the Lyrebird track, which was quite short, but beautiful. The path was firm and bitumised in parts, and we crossed Breakfast Creek and made it to the lookout. If I visited again, I would do a longer walk, but the traditional owners prefer that people do not climb Warning.

I’m partial to walks through a rainforest  – it’s good for everyone, and everything, if we are careful where we tread and what we leave.

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There are excellent facilities – toilets and picnic areas. Take a hat, camera and water. Good walking shoes are not necessary on the Lyrebird trail but would be needed on others. Sunscreen and insecticide are useful, but remember the environment if you decide to dip in a limb.

 

 

The Grotto

We found this by accident, returning to Kununurra from Wyndham, at the edge of the Kimberley in Western Australia. Seeing the small sign and hoping for a minor miracle or transportation to another time, we arrived at an unremarkable park in the middle of the arid lansdcape. A gorge led off to the left and a series of narrow, steep steps descended to the right. We stood at the top of the stairway, seeing no railings, and considered our options under a very hot Australian sun.

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Suddenly, voices preceded the arrival of two adults and two small children. They encouraged us to go down, pointing out that it was isolated and had a wonderful waterhole, so we could skinny dip if we wanted. Well, I wasn’t so sure about the latter, but if two small children could manage the stairs, I could. I’m so glad I did.

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It was like something out of an Indiana Jones movie and wasn’t the first slimy pool we’d been tempted to slip into, given high temperatures and an idyllic location.  A couple of ‘Tarzan ropes’ (suspended ropes for swinging and dropping) are placed for ease of entry if you are faint-hearted. While we air-dried, we spied tiny honey eater birds, flowers and the signs of a hidden water source.

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Now, an event took place, here, that serves as a reminder when travelling. As we reached the top of the ravine once more, we were met by a man, standing at the top. He asked if we had had a good time. Harmless question. But there was something about his demeanor…

We answered that it was worth the descent and hurried to our car, taking off as quickly and naturally as we could. Had either of us been alone, or the man not have had innocent intentions…It can happen and any traveller would be wise to pause before heading into an isolated area, no matter how hot you are, or how glorious the view.

If you venture here, I have since learned that the height is 120 m and that after the wet season, a waterfall will drop behind the ropes in the pictures, above, gushing majestically over the rocks. It is a well-known swimming hole and picnic spot in the area.

Tell me if there’s something you want to know about this area or somewhere else in Australia.

Safe travels! Hat, water and a sensible sense of adventure.