North from Melbourne ~ March 2015

Life carries on whether you are ready or not.

Sunday 1st March 2015

A rest day after yesterday.

Monday 2nd March 2015

It was 'get ready day' today. We had a stroll along the beach front and I took some photos.


Tuesday 3rd March 2015

We had a good trip through to Daylesford arriving in plenty of time for lunch. The welcome was friendly and helpful and Pete Mate was helped with getting the caravan on to the site and leveling it. We set up camp then, as the weather was freezing, we stayed in the warmth of the ‘van.

Wednesday 4th March 2015

The weather is not much better. The coats have now officially been removed from under the bed. We went into town for a look around and to visit the Information Centre. I left there with an armful of information. I called in at the Post Office for our mail but was told it hadn’t arrived. I was not convinced as I had followed the mail via a tracking number and it stated it was there. We had a drive around and did a couple of other things before heading home back to the warmth and out of the rain.

Thursday 5th March 2015

The weather overnight was awful with wind and rain but the day dawned fine so we decided to go ahead with the planned day out. It was still cold so our jackets got a work out. The first place we stopped at was Trentham Falls. It was an easy walk to the lookout but sadly the falls were more of a trickle. The cliff face was both interesting and beautiful. We had a quick look at the town of Trentham, their claim to fame are sculptures in the street. We saw two; one was a wombat and the other a pig in wellies pushing a wheelbarrow.

We drove on to Hanging Rock; it is a tourist attraction because of the book and film, Picnic at Hanging Rock. The rock loomed up over us in a very intimidating pose. You could imagine all sorts of strange things happening there. We didn’t climb the rock this time; always leave something for the next time. We ate our picnic lunch. How could we visit Hanging Rock and not have a picnic? We found a very interesting tree that had carvings on it. The tree was hit by lightening and instead of just removing it an artist was commissioned to carve items of interest.

We then drove on to Mt Macedon to see the Memorial Cross. It was a nice drive up the mountain and the cross was magnificent. ANZAC Day services are held there and you could imagine how special that would be, seeing dawn break over the Cross. We then made our way home; it had been a very good day out.

Friday 6th March 2015

The weather is awful, cold and wet. We went into town to do some shopping and visit the Post Office once more. Yes the mail was there, it had been all the time but it was my fault for not saying it was 'care of the Post Office'. Excuse me, but I did several times. I was not happy at all. We hurried back to the ‘van as fast as we could to get out of the cold and wet.

Saturday 7th March 2015

The day started wet and cold again but by afternoon the sun was shining. The sun came too late for my washing as I had already dried it in the dryer. Not much happened here today apart from a ropey Skype call.

Sunday 8th March 2015

The day dawned and the sun shone. I haven’t mentioned it before but this weekend is the Chill Festival in Daylesford. This is a gay festival so same sex couples from all over descended upon the town on Friday. The caravan park is full. Up until today they have been very quiet coming and going to different venues. Today however it was different as there was a huge concert in the park next to us. It was very busy and noisy.

We left the park to visit the station markets. The town was heaving with traffic and pedestrians and the markets were huge and very busy. I had a lovely time browsing and purchasing some items I had been seeking for a while. Pete Mate went off to check out the station and the trains. He caught up with me in the markets and even he found something to buy. When we had finished we enjoyed some drinks before heading home. By now it was quite hot so we had to have the air conditioner on which drowned out the noise of the concert.

Monday 9th March 2015

We enjoyed a lovely day with friends Karen and Dave. They are on holiday in Melbourne from Perth. They hired a car and drove up to see us. Once more we feel privileged to know such lovely people. On their arrival we had a cuppa and then we took them out for lunch. Daylesford cafés and restaurants are a little up themselves. I was finding it difficult to source one that serves good food that isn't wrapped in vine leaves or, as Karen said, parsnip froth and such like. I found one at Hepburn Springs and all the Trip Advisor reports were good. We took the plunge and booked a table at The Red Star. We were not disappointed and found it a charming little café with friendly staff and yummy food. We had a really lovely, relaxed time and the excellent company was the icing on the cake.

Tuesday 10th March 2015

I had a busy morning getting a few things done that I had been putting off. In the afternoon we went for a drive to Bacchus Marsh. We had heard it was a quaint little town. It was much bigger than I imagined and didn’t really have any striking features but it was a very pleasant drive through pretty countryside.

Wednesday 11th March 2015

I had planned another day out and first on the list was Maldon to see the trains. Not any old train but a steam train. We had to wait a little while for it to come into the station and when it did it was spewing black smoke. The reason for this was it was burning oil and Pete Mate found this to be cheating.

Steam Train
The steam train from Castlemaine entering Maldon Station ... 30 minutes late.
After taking some photos we moved on to the old dredge and dragline. Pete Mate found them very interesting but couldn’t find any information displayed so was left in the dark as to how old they were and where they were used.

If it looks like a boat it's because, strictly speaking, it was. Note the waterline along the hull.
We enjoyed our picnic lunch before driving to Malmsbury. The drive was very pleasant but the land was very dry, it would have been nice to see the rolling green hills. The reason for our visit to Malmsbury was to see an historic viaduct. Information taken from a web site: It was built in 1859 using thousands of labourers to carry the Bendigo line over the Coliban River. One of Victoria's largest nineteenth-century engineering structures, the bridge section consists of five arched spans reaching 152 metres from end to end.

All this history and Pete Mate was not impressed because in Stockport, where he was born, is a viaduct vastly longer, higher and wider than the Malmsbury Viaduct. And it's older, too. (Google 'Stockport Viaduct').

The only thing left to do was to trundle home in time for happy hour.

Thursday 12th March 2015

Lay day. We did the usual day to day things. Pete Mate is trying to catch up with the website.

Friday 13th March 2015

We went into town with a list of things we needed to do. First on the list was the Post Office. I sent some mail off and checked to see if we had any incoming. We left there and went in search of the library as I had some printing to do. I was map reading and as we all know, I am a tour director not a map reader. We drove up and down where I thought it should be then I spied a group of school kids so we pulled over to ask where the library was. I felt a complete idiot when they said the building was right behind me. I did the printing and then went to pay. This is when I found my purse was missing. We back-tracked to the Post Office and some very kind person had handed it in. Phew!

For once we both wanted things from the hardware store and we were successful in our purchases. I then dropped off two large bags of ‘stuff’ at the charity shop before we finished our day out at the supermarket. From the car park I heard some beautiful music which had a calming effect on me so I went in search and found a busker. It was a lovely way to finish our town jaunt.

Saturday 14th March 2015

I had planned a day out for today but on reflection we decided not to go. Instead we did the normal things - reading, knitting and computers. We were watching television in the evening when we heard a helicopter. It sounded very near and very low so I had a peek outside. It landed on the oval next to the caravan park. Pete Mate went to investigate and I stayed indoors where it was warm. It turned out to be an airlift ambulance. Once the drama was over peace returned.

Sunday 15th March 2015

It was to be just another lay day of doing our usual things. I started to read a book I had picked up in caravan park book exchange and found a very nice bookmark. It was in memory of a lady who died in 2011. We decided someone would be unhappy that they had left it in the book. Detective Pete Mate set out to track down a member of the family. Google is wonderful, isn’t it? By the afternoon he had found the daughter who was thrilled he had gone to so much trouble and gave us an address to send it to. Her Aunt and Uncle live in the caravan park where we stayed in Werribee so I guess that could well be the place I got the book. Incidentally I didn’t like the book, it wasn’t my type.

Monday 16th March 2015

It is get ready day. We will be glad to move on from Daylesford as we have been here too long. We enjoyed our days out but the town itself never really inspired us.

Tuesday 17th March 2015

We left Daylesford around 10.30am, not too bad for us. We had a good run through to Halls Gap but had to stop along the way for road works. Since we have been Grey Nomads we haven’t seen such a huge project in progress. It looked like a new motorway was being constructed and it went for miles and miles. We saw heaps of people and machinery working and the dust, oh the dust. The crosswinds were pretty strong and Pete Mate had to concentrate real hard. Then the wind caught the dust and we were blasted. We arrived at Halls Gap to a warmish welcome but the thing we liked the best were the deer grazing at the front entrance. A lovely sight to greet us. We think we will like it here.

Wednesday 18th March 2015

When I woke up this morning I had a peek out of the window to see what the weather looked liked. Neighbours had moved in very close to us in the early hours of the morning ... two very large kangaroos! They're no trouble at all except they leave their poo everywhere.

We had a drive into town to the Information Centre which was not the best we have been to. Since we arrived here we have been curious about a group of women who have been occupying the hall next to our site. Pete Mate had a peek and said they were all sewing. Our trip to town revealed all; I struck up a conversation with a lady outside the Information Centre and she explained that Halls Gap hosted a Textile Workshop every year. There were classes all over town including the caravan parks. I had a quick look inside the building where it was all happening. I met some lovely people who have amazing talents. Afterwards we enjoyed a lovely drive through the Grampians, the scenery was breathtaking.

Thursday 19th March 2015

We had a drive out to Stawell today. (We were informed it's pronounced as 'Stall'.) We incorporated some sight seeing before the grocery shopping. Stawell has a huge hardware store and Pete Mate enjoyed his time there. I enjoyed doing a crossword while I waited for him; that counts as blue points. After the hardware we went to two lookouts, from one you could see the town of Stawell and the other was a working gold mine. Next on the list was St Patrick’s Church. The building didn’t look much from the outside but it was made from Black Range granite and the walls were 30 inches thick. What I really wanted to see were the exquisite marble statues inside. I walked all the way around and couldn’t find a door open.

St Patricks Church
St Patricks, Stawell. All locked up tight which is unusual for a Catholic church.
I was very disappointed but cheered myself up with a cup of tea in a café on the main street. The café is the first I have been in that had a 'suspended coffee' sign. I have looked for one for years. If you do not know what a suspended coffee is, you pay for an extra coffee and then when someone down on their luck wants a coffee, the café will provide it from the suspended fund. Then we did the dreaded shopping and returned home. The deer were again at the caravan park entrance so once the shopping was inside Pete Mate took his camera and went off to find them.

Deer in caravan park
A Red Deer, I think, with some remaining winter coat.

Friday 20th March 2015

We awoke to a lovely sunny day; gone is the rain of the last two days. I did some washing and cleaning in the morning. After lunch we went for a drive to two lookouts recommended by the chap in the information centre. The first one was really good and well maintained; we had marvellous views of the Grampians and surrounding areas.

A view of the Grampians from the Boroka Lookout.
At the next lookout we had to walk a kilometre from the car park to reach it. The path looked easy enough so we sallied forth. Everything was going well until I paid more attention to the many little cairns left by people than where I was stepping. I tripped over a protruding rock and down I went, camera and all. Apart from feeling foolish I grazed my elbow and hurt my knees. The kindness of complete strangers was overwhelming. I was helped up by Pete Mate and one or two others. One chap wanted to ‘run’ back to his car for water for me and his wife said she had Band-Aids. Once I was on my feet I was fine, however we abandoned the idea of walking to the lookout and made our way back to the car. We then continued our drive through the Grampians; it is an absolutely wonderful place to be. Once home I had a cup of tea and was revived enough to cook dinner in the camp kitchen. I went to bed counting my blessings - no broken bones, an unharmed ankle and a camera that is still intact. Oh yes, and the blessed phone survived as well.

Saturday 21st March 2015

A lay day today to let the body recover from its aches and pains. Pete Mate fitted a device on the light switch so I can switch it on from a remote control. Previously I had to reach up and turn it on with a wooden spoon. It is a wonderful improvement.

Sunday 22nd March 2015

We enjoyed a lovely drive out to Ararat today. I haven’t been able to find out much about the place except they have a wonderful Chinese Museum. We first went to the Information Centre where we were inundated with things to do in the area. The young lady was extremely good at her job.

We decided, as there was a lot to do, we would split it over two days. Pete Mate took photos of the town hall which was one of the best buildings I have seen; I am hoping when we go back on a weekday I might get to see inside. We decided to tour Ararat's most visited historical site known as J Ward, but first we ate our lunch in a lovely park by a lake.

Ararat Town Hall
The Roman Revival style town hall first opened in 1899. In 1979 it was renovated and reopened
as a regional gallery and performing arts centre. We know this because the sign outside says so.
What is known as J Ward was originally built as a goldfields prison in 1859 during the goldrush which saw Ararat's population explode and many 'undesirables' brought a crime wave with them. When the gold ran out in the 1880s the miners moved on and the prison became utilised as an extension of the Ararat Lunatic Asylum, on a temporary basis, to house the 'criminally insane'. The Lunatic Asylum already had wards A - H (and 'I' wasn't used) so the previous gaol became 'J Ward'. This temporary use lasted for over 100 years, closing in 1991!

Inside, J Ward bears no resemblance to a hospital but is every inch a gaol with cells on the ground floor and also on a landing above. Between the two levels, nets were suspended for the protection of any guard that might get thrown off the upper level.

J Ward Cell block
J Ward's two-level cell block with nets between the levels. The figure above the top level is a guard with a rifle.
Hangings took place on the upper level, roughly above the camera. The bodies were buried in the exercise yard.
The tour was supposed to last an hour and half but three hours later we emerged from the building. The tour guide, Doug, was very interesting and entertaining. The man had an incredible memory and was able to tell us all sorts of tales about the inmates. Towards the end of the tour we were taken down some old stone steps to a dark corridor and shown a filthy room which had been the Governor's bathroom.

Governors Bathroom
One of our tour group, hugging himself nervously, in the Governor's bathroom. He said later he felt he was suffocating.
The room is supposed to smell of blood. Perhaps the first to hang should have been the decorator?
Doug, our guide, would never go in the bathroom as he felt an evil presence. We all listened intently to tales of murdered prisoners being chopped up in the bath and the terrifying experiences that have overcome some visitors that had entered the room. No one moved until Pete Mate said “I will go and have a look”. Then everyone else one by one said, Well, if you are going in I might as well go too. Brave lot aren’t we? To finish the tour, Doug showed us photos of ghosts that were taken by various visitors and himself. I found these fascinating but Pete Mate dismissed it as baloney.

Monday 23rd March 2015

The weather was wet, cold and windy for most of the day. Later in the afternoon it did try and brighten up but it was still cold. Pete Mate spent most of the day doing the web site and I read. In the afternoon he went for a walk about and noticed one of the caravan tyres was flat. He had to jack the caravan up to change it so I retreated to the camp kitchen with my book and drink. In no time at all he had it all finished.

Tuesday 24th March 2015

It was recommend to us to do a drive down to Hamilton and then to return on a different road through the Grampians. Whilst in Hamilton we got the caravan tyre checked out and filled the car up with fuel. Hamilton was not overly exciting so we made our way back. That is when the fun began; maybe fun is not the correct word to use. The road was unsealed and in appalling condition we were shaken about a lot. A small kangaroo came out of the bush and head butted the side of the car and then an emu ran alongside our car keeping up with us. That was very funny. Once we had returned to the sealed road we decided to have a look at a lake also recommended to us. We found the lake but weren’t impressed, we ate our very late picnic lunch and then headed home.

Wednesday 25th March 2015

We returned to Ararat today to complete some more on the 'to do' list. We drove up a steep hill to One Tree Lookout. The road was sealed all the way which was good as we had agreed that we would stay on the bitumen today. Never believe the driver; as soon as we were up there Pete Mate spotted a goat track and then he was off. Poor ole Billy must be getting fed up as well.

We ate our lunch before heading down to the Chinese Museum called Gum San. What a little gem this was, it was amazing. The museum staff who greet you when you arrive are all wearing Chinese style tops. The history of the building is explained and the significance of the Chinese arriving in Australia. We watched a short video which explained how the original 700 Chinese landed at Robe, South Australia, in 1857 and then made their way to Ararat en route to the goldfields at Bendigo or Ballarat. They were resting by a stream and found gold so decided to go no further. None of the original Chinese men have descendants living in Ararat today as most went back to China after making their fortunes.

Some of the time in the museum was spent avoiding a large group of noisy school children. Thankfully they left and peace and tranquillity returned. There are plenty of Chinese artefacts on display and the statues are very lifelike. Pete Mate had a game of checkers with one.

Playing chequers
I don't want to be rude, but did you just cheat then?
We were intrigued how the town got its name. When the first Europeans settled, prior to the 1940's the town was known as Cathcart. In 1841 Horatio Wills arrived in the town and renamed it Ararat. In his diary he wrote ‘like the ark, we rested’ and named a nearby hill Mount Ararat and the town became Ararat. When we left there we still had plenty on the list to do but realised we were running out of time. We decided that we would return to Ararat another time.

Cavell Monument

Before we left there was one photo I wanted to take which was the monument dedicated to Nurse Edith Cavell 1915 and to all nurses involved in war. Edith was a very brave woman not only did she nurse wounded soldiers but she helped many escape from the clutches of the Germans. She was born in the UK and mainly worked in Belgium. The Germans discovered what she was doing and executed her on 12th October 1915. In many countries, including Australia, there are memorials to Edith. There is one in Melbourne and this one at Ararat.

Ararat's Memorial to Nurse Edith Cavell
and to all nurses involved in war.
In 1930 the Ararat State School Mothers Club formed a committee and raised £152 to erect the memorial to register "their disgust at this atrocity". Every ANZAC day a wreath is laid by a nurse before the procession proceeds to the Ararat War Memorial. I always think Australia has nooks and crannies of history and you just have to dig around for it.

Thursday 26th March 2015

The weather was appalling the rain lashed down and the wind was howling. I did manage to get the washing dry before the rain descended upon us. When I pegged it out I said to Pete Mate the washing will either be dry in an hour or it will be in Melbourne, so windy was it. After lunch we went into town to do a couple of things. The general store in Halls Gap must be making a fortune because their prices are through the roof. The wind was so bad one woman took her EFTPOS card out of the machine at the bank and the wind whipped it out of her hand so she had to chase it down the street. Once home we quickly retreated inside the ‘van to stay warm and snug. The preparations for our travelling tomorrow were not done.
Friday 27th March 2015
We were up early and got ourselves organised to travel to Swan Hill. It was raining but at least the wind had dropped. We had a good trip through to Swan Hill; there was very little traffic on the road. The scenery was flat and boring compared to what we had just left. We arrived in Swan Hill and set up camp. The caravan park, on the bank of the Murray River, is really beautiful with paddle steamers passing and hooting. Our lovely friends Cath and Phil live in Swan Hill and invited us to go over to their house for a happy hour with some of their friends. It was a lovely evening with plenty of yummy food and drink.

Saturday 28th March 2015

Cath and Phil came over to the caravan park for morning coffee - the reception office incorporates a small café. It was very pleasant sitting there with good company overlooking a beautiful park with lots of trees and a magnificent fountain. We arranged with Cath and Phil to go to their house for dinner that night. Meanwhile we had a problem with the caravan hot water, the problem being we didn’t have any. Pete Mate sourced a part from a local business and the chap agreed to open up especially for us. PM bought the part and then fitted it before we went out. We enjoyed a lovely evening with some really yummy food and great company.

Sunday 29th March 2015

Cath and Phil collected us from the caravan park and we enjoyed a delightful day out. They showed us around the area including Kerang and Barham. We enjoyed a very nice lunch in the pub at Barham and had a wander along the Murray River. It was all very relaxed and very enjoyable.

Monday 30th March 2015

We had a couple of things to do in town and then I started packing away some things inside the caravan. We went over to Cath and Phil’s in the evening and once more we enjoyed a yummy meal. All too soon it was time to say goodbye to two lovely friends.

Tuesday 31st March 2015

We were up early and got ourselves ready for the road. We left Swan Hill around 10.15am with a vow we would return one day as we both enjoyed it very much. We had a good uneventful run through to Mildura. We received a very warm welcome from the staff and also our mail that they had been collecting for us. We set up camp in a dust bowl; there is not a lot of green grass or any other kind of grass. The weather was perfect and we sat outside for our happy hour drinks. We haven’t been able to do this in a long while.

And so to April and Easter ...

Page Top

Next Page

Previous Page

Index Page