Sunday, 22 April 2012

Purtell Rain magnets

Aaahhh...Purtell Rain magnets worked again at Echuca campsite next to the Murray River.

As I sit in the tent surrounded by water with thunder rolling overhead I wonder at the magnificent power of the Purtell Rain Magnets.  It seems that we attract rain( powerful, strong and persistent rain) to where-ever we choose to explore.

We headed to the coast after Canberra and explored Pebbly beach prior to heading North to Jervis Bay.  We checked out the weather forecast but over the next 24 hours that changed and we had approx 40mm one day and plenty the others.

This would normally be tolerable but unfortunately our lovely almost new camper trailer canvas we feel had not been "seasoned" prior to us purchasing it.  This means it leaks!  We have had it in the rain a lot now and it is still leaking!

So we donned coats and explored what I feel would possibly be one of the most beautiful regions we have been to.  Then we mopped up water, dug drainage ditches and wrung out bedding or clothes we had not covered well enough.

Between rain showers at Jervis Bay

One of our exciting rock pool finds.  A sea snail?

So then we determinedly packed up in another day of torrential rain (I'm not exaggerating and wish I'd taken photos!) and drove over two days to go to Echuca which was on our list and had a good weather forecast.  On our stop over at Gundagai we sung "Along the Road To Gundagai" as you do, and read poetry by Banjo Paterson.  We all decided we were ready for home and booked tickets for the 27th so we are home in time for Angus's Birthday on the 28th.

We're now at Echuca and had one glorious day experiencing a trip on a steam powered paddle steamer and wandering about.  We swam in the muddy Murray River and Oscar and Angus dug channels in the mud and sand.

Tonight they are helping Jon dig channels to divert water from the tent.  Digging with purpose and as its one of Angus's favourite activities it's being done with relish!

All of the other campers have packed up and disappeared.....

The sun has now decided to display its brilliance as it is setting so I'll go and start tea.  Angus is digging, Oscar listening to Horrible Histories and Jon trying to start a fire with wet wet wood........

 We had planned to go to Sovereign Hill, Luna Park and Melbourne Zoo over the next few days but those activities won't be much fun in the rain so we'll just have to see what happens.  Cross your fingers and wish us fine weather.

We're looking forward to seeing our friends and family soon and having a dry night at home. 
Jenn Jon Oscar and Angus
Purtell holiday weather

Sunday, 15 April 2012

The Australian Alps with snow.

Jon loves the mountains....

We enjoyed a day trip to Mt. Buffalo before we left the Bright region and enjoyed walking in the forest and the boys even had a dip in the clear icy mountain streams.

Then as soon as we started climbing from Mt.Beauty into the Alps Jo became  animated, excited, pointing out plants to Oscar and Angus and smiling contentedly.

Angus's favourite river stone

We walked into a very old cattleman's hut near Falls Creek named Wallace's Hut and admired the snow gums as the icy wind whistled around our ears.  We spent time trying to imagine the life of the cattlemen in the area and Oscar and Angus just had to climb the beautiful snow gums.  We drove a little bit further and then found an isolated camping area, Raspberry Hills, which looked idyllic after the business of Bright.

The afternoon was spent simply collecting firewood, setting the fire, cooking a roast and the boys made a swing from a length of rock climbing rope that had been left behind by previous campers.  Our damper making has improved and we experimented with baking it in foil and on a stick.  We were the only campers that night and slept soundly.

Further along the road heading toward Thredbo we decided to spend Easter at a bush camping area alongside Swampy Plains River that was called Geehi Flats.  Our campsite was beside the river and there were numerous old cattleman huts to explore.  The huts were made from river stones and were so bright inside and gorgeous compared to the many of the old Tassie huts I've been into.

The weather was kinder to us than previously and so we were able to spend time enjoying the river and surrounds.  Oscar and Angus floated on the body boards down the river for about 1.5kms bumping down the rapids and swimming the pools.  Jon and I tried to float down beside them in wetsuits but after bumping every part of our bodies on rocks we decided walking the last bit was preferable!

Oscar and I rode a 10km circuit along some of the old cattleman tracks and 4WD roads to explore huts further down the river.  We had to cross the river twice and as the level was up for this time of year it proved quite a challenge - nothing like a bit of adventure.  Angus and Jon rode from the opposite direction and met us near a bend of the river that had a piece of rope and stick tied to a tree above a deeper swimming hole.  Jon and Angus were very keen, and as Angus couldn't reach the stick Jon lifted him up while balancing on a log.  I think we would have won Funniest Home Videos if we had filmed the next few moments as they both fell off the log into the river making a huge splash.  We spent a long while trying to perfect the swing and cooling off in the process.

Note:  Oscar is standing on a rock!

We drove to Thredbo and caught the quad chairlift part way up Mt.Kosciousko and then walked the 13km return trip to the summit of the mountain.  This was something we had all really wanted to do and were more than a bit surprised to find a well worn metal pathway with quite a crowd making the pilgrimage to Mt.Kosciousko summit.  With the mountain mist surrounding us and icy winds crawling their way into any gap in your clothing, we achieved our goal and stood on the summit gazing into whiteness!  The views were dim but we have now stood on top of Australia (2228m)!

Another highlight was making lots of campfires using driftwood from the floods and our first attempt at fishing.....we went for a walk along the river and took the rod to try and "Snag" a fish as I put it to some camping neighbours.  Oscar was casting at a broad bend in the river and unfortunately snagged the line.  Jon stripped down to his bathers and waded out to unsnag the line - how is that for dedication!  When he was out there I saw a fish jump so he cast the line in that direction twice and bang.....the fish bit and Jon reeled him in.  We all think Jon should always fish in his swimmers as they must have brought in good luck.  We cooked the trout in the Webber an hour or so later and it was just simply delicious.

Our next camp was about 20km out from Jindabyne toward Charlotte's Pass.  Charlotte's pass records the coldest temperatures in Australia.  It is around the other side of Kosciousko from where we had been.  The camp was gorgeous but it was sleeting as we were setting up and before long snowing!  We were so impressed by Oscar and Angus's efforts as they managed to set and light a fire as it was sleeting.  Firewood was easy to collect as it stood in plaited driftwood walls over 1 metre tall running parallel to the river.  That night wasn't pleasant as it got down to about -5 degrees and we had packs of wild dogs or dingos howling all night and seemingly moving from one side of us to the other.  I've not often been scared by animals but as we didn't really know what they were or how close or dangerous it was unsettling to say the least.

We had planned to stay longer in this area but we were cold!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Consequently we rang my brother in Canberra and arranged to go down there and warm up, catch up, and spend time with Nigel, Row and Olivia.

We've had a lovely time.  The boys had  a great day at Questacon, we rode up some fantastic MTB trails on Mt.Stromlo and had lunch in the Observatory cafe, went to a Australian children's book illustrators exhibition featuring Jeannie Baker's work, explored the National Portrait Gallery's photographic competition and rode to the Australian Mint.  All this was great fun but I think the highlight for the boys was going along with Olivia to her Taekwondo class and actually breaking a board with a Taewondo hit.

Thanks to Nigel and Row for having us as guests with such short notice (2 hours)!  Thanks to Row's sister, Fiona for such a great tour of the galleries too. Its been lovely catching up and spending time with you all.

Last piece of new is that the car is possibly closer to blowing up despite the lighter van.  We had it serviced yesterday and they said it needs $4500 worth of work doing to it.  It has several oil leaks and a list half a page long of problems. a new car (Have had a bit of a look but very time consuming and not nothing we like nearby) somewhere and stay at accommodation.........come home slowly..............put some oil in the back and just keep on going this point we've chosen the latter and plan to drive to Bateman's Bay tomorrow and camp at Pretty Beach.  Then we'll see what happens next.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

A long catch up finishing at Bright with a change of camper!

After Blanket Bay we joined the grey nomads and surfies and camped at Johanna Beach for a few days.  It was a free campsite next to a long, wild and rugged beach.  Campers of every size were set up in grassy paddocks. Apparently it is a favourite surf beach but on the days we were there, we came to the conclusion that you would have to be an extreme surfer to stay alive on the waves.  I became extremely anxious just letting the boys play in the shallows – a definite no swimming beach.  It was perfect though for long walks and for meeting interesting people!

Take Nick and Peta from Ballarat for example….Nick was an Opal miner in his younger days and as we sheltered from yet more rain, under our little retro awning, he told us stories about Coober Pedy.  Over 40 years ago Nick and 4 friends found an opal worth $360 000. That’s a lot of money now, but back then it was even more of a fortune.  On another occasion he found a couple of good sized Opals and put them in a McDonalds bag for safekeeping.  Later on in the week he cleaned out his car and guess what? He threw the opals in the rubbish and they were never to be found again!   He was a character and gave us a DVD with some episodes of “Opal Fever”(All about Coober Pedy and opal mining) to watch while it steadily rained outside.   He and Peta also showed us a small jar full of small opals that they had collected “noodling” - which apparently means going through the tailings from old mine sites.  We’ve decided that we’d like to visit Coober Pedy on another trip.

Our next stop on the Great Ocean Road was to explore the famous 12 Apostles, which are tall limestone stacks in the ocean.  They truly are beautiful and we viewed them from many lookouts and beaches. Our favourite spot was Wreck Beach as it was much quieter than the main lookouts and we walked until we found an anchor from one of the many shipwrecks along this piece of coastline.

At each stop Oscar measured the wind speed, atmospheric pressure, temperature and wind chill using an anemometer, which he borrowed from the Parks Centre.  This was another fun subject for Camper School!

On one beach there was a very friendly black dog that looked a lot like our friend Tia (Anna, Michael and Sam’s dog) She was wandering the beach at the base of some very steep steps.  She did not seem to be attached to anyone and was extremely thin.  She followed us for a long time and would walk next to us and play with the boys.  We lingered for a lot longer than we planned as we tried to find her owner but no one turned up.  The black dog just joined another group as we all silently and slowly made our way up the stairs.  Had she fallen from a boat?  Had she fallen off the back of a ute and made her way to the beach?  Was she abandoned?  Was a family searching for her? We decided as a family to try and help.  We rang the local Shire Ranger who said he would send some one out to pick her up.  We just hope she finds a home, as she was friendly, intelligent and gorgeous.

Our van unfortunately has been a bit of a lemon and our next stop was Warnambool for a few repairs.  Luckily Warnambool turned out to be beautiful with a safe swimming beach, adventurous flying fox in the park and a perfect pathway for lots of Ripstiking for the boys!

From here we went to a most beautiful old whaling town named Port Fairy.  The streets are lined with many original cottages and other buildings such as churches and an old school using the local Basalt rock.

We were very fortunate as Anna and Sam flew over from Tasmania to show us Port Fairy and Anna’s mum and dad, Ursula and Charles travelled from Melbourne.  They have a lovely little weatherboard cottage almost in the centre of town with a backyard full of 16 different varieties of fruit trees and a perfect place for our camper.

We had a very enjoyable time walking around Griffith Island, admiring the light-house, a variety of beaches, interesting architecture, eating fine food and drinking wine!  We ran into two Tassie friends, Simon and Caroline, who are travelling around Australia as we were investigating a replica of an early 15th. Century Spanish boat named the Notorious.  We drove to an extinct volcano, met some emus and spied a few more koalas.  The boys loved catching up with Sam and Anna and we enjoyed the lively conversations with Anna, Ursula and Charles.  

Jon and I were a bit distracted though because it had become evident that our camper was just too heavy for our Subaru to tow easily.  Jon was finding it difficult driving also and was concerned our car may blow up!  An amount of time was spent researching new car options and the trying to sell our camper so we could buy a lighter set up. 

To give ourselves a couple more days to work all our options out we headed up to the Grampians, which surprisingly is not a very hilly drive from Port Fairy!  Oh …I am so glad we did, as it is beautiful!  We made straight for a walk on our first day named “Hollow Mountain” and it was perfect for two young boys who fly up rocky steep terrain.  There were the most amazing views and caves to explore.  The mountain is literally hollow in places and you can crawl about and explore.  We had lunch inside the mountain – a bit cold but interesting!

After a lot of Emails, phone calls and driving we have sold our Jayco and bought a second hand aluminium camper trailer.  We have left our kayaks and about 150kg of gear tucked away at Ursula and Charles’.

We then drove to Bright, which is one of the areas we really wanted to visit, and Jon found the towing much much easier!  The Subaru seems fine and we even set up the new rig in the dark without too much trouble.

First day in Bright was hot; the many deciduous trees are delightful.  I would have said it was just almost perfect until we woke up this morning and discovered that our brand new Waeco fridge and all its contents had been stolen.  Another family had their esky and a lot of alcohol stolen too but retrieved the esky from the river early in the day.  The policeman came around quickly, Jon drove the 2 hour return trip to Wangaratta and bought us a new fridge.  Insurance will cover most of the cost but it is not a nice feeling at all to have had people steal such a heavy item from literally next to where we were sleeping.  Ours was found broken in the river about 1.5km from our camp and returned to us later in the day ....the policeman is questioning a couple of suspects!  I guess all of this is life experiences which as a family we can analyse, discuss and learn from.  

Our day needed improving so we have finished it with a beautiful 10km ride on the Rail Trail, icecreams and homemade gourmet pizzas.  A couple of chapters of "Eragon" and a game of crib!

We’ve locked absolutely everything up tonight and I have at last finished a blog to catch you all up on our news.

Hope all are well.  Thinking of you all.  Angus is missing home and friends heaps!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Blanket Bay

 Arriving at Blanket Bay after exploring Apollo bay a little was initially disappointing; the beach did not appear to be any good for swimming, it was bleak and foreshore rocky.  We had each visions of a smaller version of the white sandy beaches of Apollo Bay in our heads I guess...

Its interesting how first impressions are often misleading as our stay at Blanket Bay turned out to be one of our favourites so far.  The rocky shore was perfect for exploring and the rocks were intriguing in appearance - we all wish we knew a lot more about geology.  Some rocks were square like a chess board, others standing up in small round stacks, others with perfectly round holes to bathe in!

When the tide went out the bay was also well protected and became a wonderful place to snorkel and discover small striped fish and toad fish swimming along beside us.  One fellow staying here caught two crayfish to cook up for tea!

We saw our first koalas and had one in a tree very close to our camp which we could check on regularly to see which branch he was sleeping or eating on.  We all love the way they perch themselves in a fork of the tree to eat and then fall asleep with limbs dangling over like a soft toy on a shelf. 

A highlight was our evening campfire and how sharing a few marshmallows  allowed us to meet people from Serbia, Germany and Japan.  While we chatted Angus and Oscar had a lovely time contributing now and then and quietly and efficiently toasting and eating almost an entire packet of marshmallows!


Monday, 12 March 2012

More about Forrest from Jenn

We’ve spent the last 3 days in a small town named Forrest, which is about 40km north from Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean Road.  It is a small town which has a long history of logging the forests. 

It had a railway line go through the town mainly for the purpose of transporting logs back to Melbourne.  For many years the logs were pulled out of the forests and along the rail-line to the station by draught horses which were bred in the area.

Some years ago the railway was closed and the forestry industry ceased in this area.  To try and “Re-invent” the township and draw tourists into the area they have built about 17 mountain biking trails which suit all levels of riders.  There is a multi-purpose rail trail and interpretative signage where the railway once was.

We’d heard about the area from many friends but were still surprised by the sheer delight of riding such purpose built trails.  The ones we have ridden so far have been fantastic.  You can ride the easier option on a trail or if your are an awesome MTB rider you could enjoy the optional log rides, large drop offs and super berms.

I’m really proud of the boys as they’ve ridden well on some tricky tracks and had a go at many obstacles I may of balked at had my 7 year old not just ridden it! 

The forest is beautiful too.  There is a real mixture of vegetation.  We found riding through swathes of kangaroo trees (Xantheria Australis) just magical but also enjoyed the dry eucalypt pathways fast and fun.  We haven’t seen a koala yet but hopefully we will in the next few days.  They say they are about but we haven’t been lucky enough to see them.

There was an Irish band playing at the local brewery yesterday and we wandered along and thoroughly enjoyed listening to the songs and watching the musicians as they played an electric guitar, electric banjo and electric fiddle(?).

Today we drove just 7km to Lake Elizabeth and tried to spot a platypus along the foreshore.  Instead we found plenty of people to chat to and the boys had a quick dip to cool down as we actually felt hot for the first time this trip!  Lake Elizabeth was an easy stroll and once again the forest was beautiful…lots of manferns and eucalypts so tall and straight they looked as if they were stretching out to touch the sky.  Jon rode back from the Lake on a track named “ The Red Carpet ” and said it was so “sweet” he wanted to ride it again!
Oscar cooling down in Lake Elizabeth 

Actually we would love to ride most of the tracks we’ve done again as they were just so much fun!  Our favourites have names such as: J2, Follow the Dog, Roller coaster, Forest Loop, Third Time Lucky, Vista and Barre Warre.

We’d recommend Forrest to any family who enjoys mountain biking, the outdoors and a relaxed camping style.  Thanks to the many families back in Launceston who recommended the town to us!    

Please don't forget to try and comment as Oscar has helped us to change settings and hopefully made it easier.  We'd love to hear from you!

Also, please don't forget Oscar's blog.  His blog is very easy to comment on. He is learning heaps about blogging by participating in a blogging challenge with school which has just started.  Thank goodness for our young IT consultant travelling with us! 


Sunday, 11 March 2012

Trying to comment?

Oscar has changed the setting which hopefully will make commenting easier without having to log in to a google account. Give it a try, drop us an email if it is still difficult to do or you would prefer your comments to be private/top secret etc.

Forrest MTB

The last 2 days have been spent at Forrest in The Otway Ranges above the Great Ocean Road. Forrest has had some excellent development over the years for mountain biking as a destination. There are a variety of trails varying in technicality. As we rode over small logs and jumps there were many "whoops" of joy from the boys who really love the tracks. I have to keep reminding myself not to get too excited or over confident as I need to survive the holiday in one piece.

The camping is a pleasant change from Lorne which was getting very busy and is pretty much camping in a mown paddock with some shower blocks.

This afternoon we dropped in to the local micro brewery where an Irish Folk group was playing. It was great music and relaxation with a couple of boutique beers. There was no mountain biking to be had after that.

Tomorrow we will further explore the trails then maybe head down to Apollo Bay area Tuesday for a bit more time by the coast.


Thursday, 8 March 2012

Lorne discoveries

We have been at Lorne for the past two days which is a lovely place. The coast along the Great Ocean Road is spectacular. Lorne has a nice feel to it great beaches and delightful bushland fringing the coastline. At the moment it is fairly quiet which will change over the weekend. Today we started with a ride along the foreshore following an old logging tramway then a juice and coffee on the main strip. Then although a bit windy we headed to the surf and it was surprisingly not that cold, much warmer water in northern Bass Strait. This afternoon the boys had a kayak on their own down the river running through the campground, a great safe place to develop their skills.

 Cycling Near Lorne

Our plans are to explore some more of Lorne, I am currently scoping out some mountain bike tracks, I have found a map for the Anaconda Adventure Race so might try and find the track they use for that.
Angus at the Torquay Surf Museum

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Moving on from Wilson's Prom

Our last day at Wilsons Promontory included many adventures.  We started the day by exploring Picnic Bay which reminded us a lot of the East Coast of Tassie with its large granite boulders and beautiful white beach.

 We were able to explore the length of Tidal River in our kayaks.  Oscar and Angus sat on the back of the boats for some of the journey and Angus body-boarded behind Jon's boat for some of the trip also.  There were many birds which we admired along the way and eventually the river ended up very narrow with tea trees overhanging the river.  At this point we turned around and enjoyed the current assisting us back to our starting point.

One of the little beaches along Tidal River.

We then walked up to the peak of Mt. Bishop and saw the amazing regrowth after the 2009 bush fires.  The colours were vibrant against the start black of the burnt eucalyptus trunks.  At the summit we had a wonderful view of Wilsons Prom and many of the beaches below.  Oscar and Angus fairly raced back down hiding behind many tree trunks trying to scare Jon and I as many times as they could.

We had planned to travel North but due to the severe flooding in those regions and after much discussion and deliberation we have headed west toward the Great Ocean Road.  We have not studied up on this region at all so each day will be a discovery.  

We stopped at Sorrento for two nights and were surprised at how beautiful this area is.  We spent time cycling out to Point Nepean and exploring the Quarantine station which was used to Quarantine any early settlers who were arriving in ships and who were thought to have infectious diseases.  Prime Minister Harold Holt also disappeared in this area in 1967 and we visited his memorial.

The highlight of our day was surprisingly exploring Fort Pearce and Fort Nepean.  The forts were set up to protect Melbourne during the second World War.  We were able to walk through tunnels, explore old artillery storage areas and learn a huge amount about the history of the area.  We were caught in a shower of rain on the way back but this only made us hurry up bit and cycle faster!  We had spent a lot longer than planned wandering the ruins of the forts.  

Port Phillip Bay was calm and inviting on our return to camp and we had a bit of a paddle and swim to check out the beaches, piers and many boats moored just offshore. Oscar and Angus built elaborate forts and tunnels with the sand and fortunately they survived the night!  Good architecture I must say!

We are now heading off toward The Great Ocean Road - not exactly sure where we'll stay the night .....part of the fun of an adventure!

Oscar and Angus checking out the view at Fort Nepean

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Cheeky Birds

It's been very rainy but finally we had some time to play on the beach and kayak yesterday.

It was fun kayaking.  I can paddle my kayak standing up.  

We also walked to Squeaky Beach
and we left our packs while we walked to the far end of the beach.  When we got back we found that all our food was scattered on the sand and rocks.  There were missing muesli bars.  My favourite jellied lollies were everywhere.  It appeared that birds had unzipped our backpack and helped themselves to the food.