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A Soft Finish

New Norfolk > Strahan > Stanley > Yolla

The natural magnetic properties of Hobart held us rooted to the New Norfolk area for five nights.  Like a satellite held in orbit around the city we tripped around the countryside surrounding Hobart for a few days before diving in to the middle of the city one last time and riding the sling shot effect away to Strahan.

The Salmon Ponds outside Hobart were great.  Strangely, they don’t breed salmon here.  Only trout.  They are all big buggers though.  It’s enough to bring an avid but unsuccessful angler to tears.  Just a quiet weep in the corner while the monster, captive brown, rainbow, tiger and albino trout writhe and slide through the ponds smashing the fish pellets the kids were throwing in.

For the first time in 9 months of travelling we found ourselves bunkered down inside the interior of the camper trailer tent one night at New Norfolk.  Having ridden out the recent freak heat snap in Hobart, we were now in the midst of a freak cold snap.  Biting icy winds whipped into the New Norfolk area and forced us inside with heaters and extra sleeping bags on.  For two days it was freezing and wet.  Snow freshened up the bulk of Mt Wellington and we became excited by reports of good dumps of snow on the road to Strahan.

As we wound our way up the hills away from New Norfolk and over the central highlands of Tasmania, we found the reports of snow were with substance.  It’s strange how the kid in all of us comes out when the snow comes down.  While we didn’t see any dropping, we crossed the high plains of Tasmania past Lake St Clair with a blanket of white quieting the surrounding landscape.  What else could we do but leap out and roll a couple of snowballs and press a few fresh footprints of our own into the virgin white powder.

Strahan is on the west coast of Tasmania where the roaring forties belt into the coastline unimpeded.  The result is that not only is the area generally a pretty windy spot, but the moisture held in the air which has crossed the waters from over Antarctica way, is dumped on the coast line.  The effect is such that Strahan averages about 60 days of the year with no rain.  I guess if you go there, you have about a 1 in 6 chance on any one day of staying dry.  We were there for 2 nights and three days and must have improved the chances of the next visitors to the area because we saw rain on every day.  On the way down the hills from Lake St Clair it rained.  While we set up, it rained.  While we toured Macquarie Harbour, Gordon River and Sarah Island, it rained.  Well, I could go on…..  Anyway, it’s a sleepy place with tons of history featuring convicts, logging and mining.  All up, folks here have lived harder than we will ever have to consider.

By way of juxtaposition, picture this; a large comfortable steel hulled, air conditioned catamaran slicing through the tea stained waters of Macquarie Harbour.  On board, tourists are sipping chardonnay and dining on a smorgasbord of smoked salmon and brie.  And my hard as nails kids?  They are busying themselves with their knitting of course.  The three of them are now immersed in knitting.  Courtney is knitting a scarf, Lachlan is knitting “squares” (which I am told can be sown into lots of stuff) and Hamish is knitting, just knitting.  Deb can now cast on and cast off (thanks to You Tube) and conversation is often punctuated with cries of “Oh no, I’ve dropped a stitch!”.  I have my order in for a beanie.  I hope either the fad lasts long enough for something to come along for me or Lachie works out a way to make one of his squares kinda head shaped.

Stanley is on the North Coast of Tassie, and features a landform known as “the Nut”.  It used to be known as Circular Head but “the Nut” seems to have caught on.  I agree, it is more catchy.  We really enjoyed Stanley.  It is sleepy enough that you can park in at the Caravan Park and walk your way around town, up the Nut, across to the beach and into the local pub for an awesome dinner before walking home.  There is plenty of character to the town and a few characters amongst the people.

From Stanley, we tested out the Tarkine Forest Wilderness experience.  We had talked this up as it has a massive tube slippery slide from the Visitors centre down to the base of a place called Dismal Swamp.  While the kids were not too into checking out the swamp, we were all very excited to take on the slide.  What a horror story though.  We walked in the door and the first sign spotted on the wall said “Only visitors over 8 may ride the slide”.  Not even a free blue lollipop could stop the tears of disappointment from flowing.  Deb refused to ride in a show of solidarity with our little man but Lachie, Courts and I were not quite the team players and rode anyway.  In the end, I think a blue lollipop might have been more rewarding.

“How many sleeps until the cottage?” has been a common question from the back seat over the last couple of weeks.  With days of cold and wet fresh in our minds and the end of our trip looming ever closer, we have booked ourselves into a farm cottage at Yolla just south of Burnie.  It has everything we need; fireplace, walls, windows, proper beds for the kids, a trout stocked dam (finally I have had some trout angling joy!!) and to Hamish’s delight, it even has an electric toaster.  Hamish is so excited by this contraption that he is insisting on cooking toast for anyone who wants some.

Only a few more nights here now and we are on the boat.  How can we describe the feelings of dread, anticipation, excitement, sadness and satisfaction we currently hold at the thought of reversing the trailer into our front driveway?

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A Turning Point

Yesterday, our nine months on tour ticked by.  It sort of happened without too much fanfare.  Originally, when we set out from home, we expected to have returned at the nine month mark.  It seems there is just never enough time.  However, with the finish line in sight, we are all getting a bit of the “time to go home” bug.  Despite having some great territory to explore over the next couple of weeks, on completion of the Overland Track, it feels like the next big adventure for all of us will be the return home.  How will we adjust?  Have we changed at all?  Will we slip straight into old routines?  Will there be any different perspectives on the daily and weekly shuffles to from and around various appointments?  What will we do for work?   How is the garden looking?  Will we remember all our toys as they come out of the boxes?  These are the questions which are starting to become more important and exciting as compared with; Where to today?  Will we have to pay for showers?  Can you have a campfire at the campground? Etc.

While Deb blogged away about our Overland Track experiences, Courtney and I went back up to the start of the walk to pick up the car and spend the next couple of days on a father/daughter bonding trip fishing our way through the central highlands.  How was it?  Cold.  Our first night at Arthurs Lake was the coldest I have experienced yet with the wind ripping across the lake and straight into our little campsite.  Even worse, an old fella at the campsite told me no one was catching much there and he even produced a magazine with recent fishing reports noting how poor the fishing was there this season.  So the next morning after I rescued the old bloke and his Mrs (they had locked themselves in their van) and he rescued me (we had flattened our crank battery) Courts and I headed off toward other fishing fields.

What the magazine failed to tell us was that the various fishing lakes we targeted that day and the associated camping areas were all closed or very allowing very limited access for shore based anglers.  Spending lots of time in the car lead to a detour through the Nant single malt distillery (to get a beanie).  I came away with neither beanie nor single malt but a few tips on local hot spots.  Still no joy but we at least got some line wet at the local river before finding ourselves camped up for the night.  My fishing partner never lost faith and kept spirits up throughout.  While I was disappointed for us both not to strike the fish we both so wanted to catch, it was magic to spend a couple of days with Courts doing something we both love.

Strange as it may seem, the Cadbury factory at Hobart has been one of the highlights for the kids in Tassie.  Deb and I went in with low expectations having been advised previously that there was no access to the actual factory but plenty of access to buy choccy and souvenirs.  Tops.  Anyway, cheap choccy can’t be resisted, the kids learned a few chocolate related facts and we all came away with a large number of empty calories to consume over the coming weeks (maybe days).

Deb’s Did You Know Oompa Loompa doompadee doo, I’ve got some interesting Cadbury facts for you…

  • Cadbury was the official supplier to the Australian Army during the WWI and WWII..  The troops were given ration packs made from a special formula so the choccy didn’t melt in the heat
  • Cadbury’s most successful chocolate line? The dairymilk.  It was launched in 1905 and has sales in excess of $85m per year;
  • Our beloved Freddo Frog. It was sooo close to being a mouse but an employee suggested that a frog was a more likeable character.  The 1st Freddo went into production in the 1930s and is now one of Cadbury Australia’s best selling bars.  Us Aussies consume in excess of 90 million Freddos per year.
  • One cacao pod which contains between 20-50 beans is used to produce 1 Freddo.  Now I’m not a maths genius but that means 90 million pods are required per year, just for Freddos.  These pods are harvested by hand, in Indonesia, New Guinea and Ghana. Staggering and some would say exploitation!
  • The Picnic came into the chocolate world in 1958 and is Cadbury’s second biggest selling chocolate bar.  I wouldn’t have guessed that one. Lachie reckons the Boost Bar surely has to take over. After all it is a relatively young addition since 2006.  .
  • The Cherry Ripe, an oldie but a goodie.  It has been around since 1924 and I must say it is my favourite. It is unique to Australia. I always wondered why I couldn’t buy one when living in the UK.  The reason?  Simply put, the Pommies don’t have tastebuds.  Apparently the coconut gets caught in their teeth. I would’ve thought that there were enough Aussies living in the UK to make it a worthwhile production line.
  • Have you ever wondered why the taste of chocolate varies between countries?  This was a common debate when we lived in the UK amongst our Pommie friends.  They claimed that their Cadbury chocolate was better than ours. How dare they!  Well it’s all down to the ingredients, in particular the sugar and the milk. The pommies use sugar beet instead of sugar cane and the milk? Well whose cows are better?

I do not want to see another chocolate (until Easter of course)..  I have overdosed on this tasty, calorific, treat over the past week.  The taste buds are saturated.  Time to move on to the next best thing…cheese!  Oompa Loompa doompadee doo.


The day we finally left Hobart we were pretty pumped as we were on the way to Bruny Island.  Deb and I had visions of Bruny being a food lovers paradise and the kids were keen on seeing some of Bruny’s penguins in action.  Deb and I clearly need to do more research on our destinations than watching the odd episode of “The Gourmet Farmer” as we found that Bruny had only about 5 foodie attractions and of those, the smoke house was closed on the day we arrived and the “Get Shucked” oyster place held no interest for either of us thanks to a memorable experience at the Guinness and Oyster festival in Galway many years ago.  What we did find was an absolutely beautiful Island with great people.  The place felt great shortly after falling off the ferry as a lugubrious cheese loving lady dished us up some awesome stinky cheese and chewy wood fired sourdough at the Bruny Cheese company.

Our nocturnal foray to sight the Fairy Penguins coming up the beaches also suffered from a clear lack of research as we arrived several hours too early.  Not a great plan when you have the kids in tow and even worse with me in tow on a cold wet and windy night when I have been too stubborn to change out of my shorts.  Finally, we gave up at circa 9.10pm with not a single happy foot in sight coming up the beaches.  However, as we wandered back to the car cold and defeated, we did spot a couple of the young ‘uns waiting patiently in their burrows for the parents to return.  That was enough to tick off penguin watching in our books.

Thankfully the Bruny smokehouse was open on our way out to the ferry off the island and we spent a wonderful still and sunny morning on their balcony sipping coffee, watching yachts drift around a bay and doing school work and eating smoked fish and wallaby stuffed in and on burgers and pizza respectively.  Ohhh sooo goood.

From Bruny we had our eyes on the south.  Cockle Creek is the most southerly point of Australia reachable by car.  Thanks to the slow getaway from Bruny Island Smoke House and some organisational (not navigational) errors by myself, we ended up a bit short of Cockle Creek but not at the campground which we expected we might be in.  Southport Hotel makes claims to be the southern most hotel in Australia so we had to stop there for a beer and a night.  Note – the other hotel making these claims is on Bruny Island where we also had to stop for a brew.  According to my map it is time for the Bruny Island Tavern to rescind it claims and beat an honourable retreat to find some other “most” to put over its bar.

I am pretty sure there is a rogue American Indian hiding in the bushes somewhere around the Southport Hotel.  We were packing up the tent the next morning ready to make a push for Cockle Creek when, as I lifted the floor of the trailer to fold it up on to the top, I was felled with what felt like a tomahawk to the centre of back.  Down I went, like a sack of spuds.  I would have looked around for the thrower of said tomahawk if I could have lifted myself from the ground but instead I stayed hunched down on all fours and resigned myself to the ignomy of some form of back muscle strain/pull/etc.  At last the training of my tent set up protégé came into its own as Lachie guided Deb through the unhitch and set up process again at Southport Hotel and I jammed down codeine and anti-inflammatories before assuming various positions of prostration.  Days later, I’m back on top.  I’m still banned from heavy lifting by my fellow travellers but am no longer having panadol sandwiches for lunch.

One night at Southport turned into four and a day trip to Cockle Creek.  Despite being the sourthern most point reachable by vehicle, it doesn’t have any of the “pilgrimage” feel of the tip of Cape York.  It is however, a beautiful spot.

Right now we are holed up in New Norfolk wending our way slowly north.  Every kilometre we travel now takes us closer to home.

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The Overland Track

Definition of knackered:  Debbie McGrath

I have walked 93 klms over the past 7 days with my son, my hubby and my father-in-law.  My legs are tired, my knees are sore and I am in desperate need of a shower, a refreshing ale and a tasty meal (one that does not require hot water to be poured over it).

Did I enjoy it??  Absolutely.  Would I do it again?? Definitely.

The Overland Track is one of Australia’s iconic walks. The track undulates through the heart of Tassie’s world heritage wilderness area and attracts visitors from all over the world.  It is categorised as a ‘medium’ walk in terms of difficulty.  Walkers must be self-sufficient, prepared for all seasons and physically fit. Apparently there is no such thing as bad weather here, just bad preparation for it.  I am sure most people train for months before embarking on such a journey.  Our training consisted of a 21klm  overnight walk in The Walls of Jerusalem and I think I did one run.  Were we prepared? Clothing and gear wise – yes, fitness wise – no; mentally – debateable.

I am a bushwalking novice. I can count the number of walks I have completed on one hand.  I fit into the category of a person with ‘all the gear and no idea’. I now own a pair walking poles (a pressie from Stew), the type that I used to think were only for oldies.  I am a big fan.  They saved me from many falls and helped the knees. I was sponsored by Icebreaker, North Face and Macpac.  I definitely looked the part.

My bushwalking companions….Stew, he’s a bushwalking pro. He has grown up with bushwalking.  He recalls memories of bushwalking when he was 8. He was in cadets at school and missed the opportunity to walk the Overland Track whilst at school due to glandular fever.  He walked part of the track with his brother 16 years ago so he was super keen to give it another go. Lachlan, the only 11 year old I know that has all the gear.  He bought himself a $50 titanium knife fork and spoon set out of his bday money (so young and innocent with no concept of the value of money).  He has done more bushwalking than me.  He is growing up in his dad’s footsteps and loves a challenge.  He is a gear sport man and is already talking about walks with his mates. Brian, the father-in-law, he is at home in the bush.  I have lost count of the number of walks he has completed and he can’t remember. This was his third time on the Overland Track and he was an absolute pleasure to be with. I looked forward to each afternoon being welcomed by a flying flag of Brian’s icebreaker  undies gently blowing in the wind outside the huts.

I have learnt a lot about bushwalking and the preparation involved.  It took us a couple of days to get organised with the most discussed topic being the choice of drinks.  Not the type to stay hydrated on as that is easy, WATER.  It’s the pre-dinner drinks that caused the most discussion. Will it be scotch, Black Russian, port or schnapps?? What is the right mix for a Black Russian? Only one way to test is to try. Stew and Brian spent one afternoon making sure the mix was right. Needless to say we required a couple of trips to the grog shop.  I was a little concerned about the weight.  How do we carry a few extra kilos?  “Not a prob, Deb” I was told.  It’s easy.  You pack light on the clothes.  No need for the extra undies and socks.  I even had to cut my book in half. And by the way…we need salami and cheese for the pre-dinner snacks.  Now we were talking.  Bushwalking with luxuries.  Count me in!!!!

We set off on day 1 full of energy and into the unknown. I must say I was a little anxious. I didn’t quite know what to expect.  10 mins into the walk we came across a lively bunch of 8 females ranging from 42-65 yrs old and 70-130kgs in weight (not including backpacks). I was looking forward to hearing their story and thought if they can do this surely I will be okay. I was carrying 1/3 of my weight on my back.  Not that I should complain as Stew’s pack was close to 30kgs.  The weather was in our favour, sunny and only 17-20 degrees.  Perfect walking conditions. Thoughts of how good is life passed through my mind.  If only Courtney and Hamish were old enough to be doing this walk with us.

We walked on average 13klms per day.  Doesn’t sound like much now but we had 2 consecutive days of 20+klms .It was a relief to see the hut at the end of each day and to take off the boots. Each day brought new challenges, new aches and pains and changing scenery and landscapes.  It is difficult to capture the moments on camera.  We walked through alpine herb fields and rainforests, mossy valleys, button grass moorlands, pencil pines, clambered over rocky boulders, weaved our way through spaghetti like tree roots, slushed our way through muddy pools (knee deep in parts) and dodged a number of leeches, tiger snakes and white lipped whip snakes. Stew and I climbed 2 summits: Mt Ossa (the tallest mountain in Tassie at 1617m above sea level) and the Acropolis (1471m). The first is known as the rooftop of Tasmania and offers stunning views back to the beginning of the walk and Cradle Mountain.  The latter was attempted in testing conditions, rain, gale forced winds and full cloud cover.  It tested our rock climbing skills we learnt 12+ years ago in London. What did they say again Stew?  Was it make sure you have 3 solid footings before moving your 4th?  Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine myself vertical rock climbing up the face of a cliff. Now this was hairy and definitely had the adrenalin pumping.  Surely I didn’t sign up for this. I was also on my hands and knees climbing over rocks with Stew having to give me a hoist up in parts. The reward at the top….not the view as we couldn’t see diddly squat but a swig of home brewed schnapps from our fellow Austrian hiker. Thank you Manuel.

Our sleeping quarters…various huts have been built along the track which sleep anywhere from 8-24 people.  Tent platforms are also provided at most of the huts. The huts typically consisted of sleeping bunks (usually in one room) a table, bench seats, coal heaters, a composting toilet (holding of nose required at most) and a rainwater tank.  Staying in the huts is like one big slumber party although with strangers.  We were serenaded by an orchestra of snorers!  Must remember to pack the noise cancelling aircraft grade earplugs next time. Lachlan was a huge fan of the huts.  As soon as the hut was within 5 klms he was off.  This ‘hut rush’ was a daily occurrence. The fast finisher we called him.  He liked having 1st dibs on sleeping spots.  By the time we arrived at the hut, Lachie’s sleeping mat and sleeping bag were neatly laid out and he was dressed in clean clothes.

Food.  I am known to have very stringent food rules, much to the delight of Stew. I am particular in the creation and layering of a sambo (who puts tomato or beetroot straight onto bread?).  Bushwalking tucker.  A whole new world to me. The thought of dehydrated meals was not so appealing. This was one of those moments in life that I was just going to have to suck it up. Our daily food rituals included: MORNING: coffee and porridge,    LUNCH: Wraps or crackers with PB, Vegie or cheese; SNACKS (usually had a rest stops) muesli bars, dried fruit, nuts; LATE AFTERNOON: cuppa soup. I looked forward to this meal each day.  Stew was extremely strict with this meal as it was only allowed to be had on completion of the days walk and no earlier.  DINNER: a delicious serving of dehydrated meals (beef & pasta hotpot; thai chicken curry; roast lamb and vegies, honey soy chicken and beef teriyaki). The favourite…Mmmmm. It’s a tough one but I have to say the thai chicken curry. I was even spoilt with apple pie for dessert one evening. Stew didn’t have to sweat over the camp oven this time.  All he needed was boiling water and 5 spare minutes.  It was a real treat. Not everyday do you get to celebrate your wedding anniversary with 20 strangers.

Hygiene and cleanliness is an interesting topic of conversation along the track.  You begin the walk with complete strangers and by the end of day 7 you are sharing the smells of sweaty clothes, socks and boots.  Luckily there were lakes along the way.  Those brave enough were rewarded with a refreshing swim and a sense of feeling clean for a brief moment.  No soap allowed of course so it was a very quick wash indeed.  The water was icy cold, icecream headache material.  It was a running joke before we left that I would be hanging my knickers on the back of my pack to dry.  I even went and bought some bright coloured icebreaker knickers just to impress my father-in-law.  Lucky for Brian I saved him this embarrassment.  The same cannot be said about Brian as per notes above with respect to the hut “welcoming flag”.  I’m sure a selling point of icebreaker was that it can be worn for days without smell. Isn’t that right Brian?

The Overland Track is a social walk.  Everyone has a story.  You meet many people along the way and share beds with complete strangers.  Not the keys in a bowl type of party. I looked forward to chatting to our fellow walkers each afternoon.  We shared huts with other Aussies, Germans, Austrians, South Africans, and the French   Each were completing the track for different reasons.  The most admirable or some would say insane were a bunch of 8 vivacious ladies from Canberra.  As mentioned earlier they varied in age and weight.  The latter being the major concern.  They spent many gruelling hours on the track setting off at dawn and arriving at dusk and carrying packs in excess of 20 kgs.  One lady even fainted 3 times and stopped breathing. They never gave up and despite the aches and pains they were always chirpy and full of stories.  Whilst they were not the most organised bunch, they gave it a go and made it.  They learnt a lot about themselves and each other.  What a huge achievement and I am sure they will look back with fond memories…one day

I am now back in the comforts of our camper trailer.  Reflecting on the past 8 days I feel a great sense of achievement.  I feel lucky to have completed this walk with Stew, Lachlan and Brian.  A big thank you to Elizabeth, my mother-in-law, who entertained Courtney and Hamish whilst we were away.  It has been a highlight of our trip thus far.  Stew is already beginning to plant seeds of attacking Kilimanjaro, Base camp Mt Everest or the coast to coast walk in the UK. I better invest in some earplugs!

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Eff: Furry, Fierce, Fuzzy, Fancy, Fitness and Freycinet

Bay of Fires > Freycinet Peninsula > Lime Bay > Hobart

After struggling just a bit at Bay of Fires to find a good camping spot, it was a pleasure to arrive at River and Rocks campground on the Freycinet peninsula and discover lots of space.  Enough to set up early, crank the fire and get some lamb shanks on the go in the camp oven.

The big drawcard of this area is of course the Wineglass Bay walk.  We sorted ourselves out to take on the loop day walk.  Various publications have this loop at between 11 and 13klm.  Either way, we figured it would be a long session for anyone with short legs.  Up we climbed to the lookout over Wineglass Bay.  It’s a good view which we shared with about 20 – 30 other viewing walkers.  Down to the beach we went.  It’s a magic beach of white sand and crystal water which we shared with about 30 -40 other beachgoers and one very pesty wallaby.  It was great to have a swim there but the only way you can get in that cold water is quickly.  That way, it’s like ripping off a band aid real quick.  Post lunch, the rest of the walk continued and I discovered my sons have a horse like sense for home.  Some two kilometres from the finish, the pace increased, then increased some more and I found myself running after Hamish and Lachlan all the way to the finish.  Deb, on the other hand, spent the last couple of klms intermittently dragging Courtney along and chatting to various grey nomads along the way.

Just a short couple of hours south of the Freycinet peninsula is the Tasman peninsula; the site of the infamous Port Arthur.  The trip to Port Arthur might have been a bit speedier had we not stopped along the way to get into some blackberry harvesting along the side of the road.  It seems after having some success at the first couple of bushes and finding that the berries do mix quite well with vanilla custard and maple syrup (good on porridge too) that we now can’t drive past a good bush without the kids crying out for a quick harvest stop.

We camped around the corner from Port Arthur at Lime Bay and settled in with a big pile of firewood in quite a cosy spot overlooking the water.  Perfect.  Then, the sun started to drop, the light slowly faded and, like vampires drawn to the smell of fresh blood, the varmint possums arrived.  These aren’t just any possums either.  These are the biggest furriest possums you could imagine.  Grrrrrrrr.

The day we dropped in to Port Arthur was perfect for imagining how miserable the human existence would have been in this fateful place.  It was cold, wet and windy.  As I wandered about in boots, jumper, gore-tex jacket and brolly, I felt more than a bit sorry for those folks who had been shipped here and issued with the following for wear both day and night;

  • One pair woollen trousers
  • One woollen shirt
  • One woollen hat
  • One pair leather boots
  • All of which only to be replaced when worn out.

The kids had a limited in-take of the significance of the site but managed to grumble fairly well about walking around in the rain; nothing a pie at the kiosk couldn’t fix.  Deb and I however, needed a visit to ye old English style pub on the way back from Port Arthur to replenish our bonhomie.

The next day was much more to the kids liking as we checked out some of the meanest, ugliest, noisiest and possibly stupidest critters I have seen in some time.  The Tassie Devil Park near Port Arthur is small but seeing those ugly devils up close, especially at feeding time is something indeed.

After warming up the legs with the Walls of Jerusalem and Wineglass Bay, Deb, Lachie, Dad and I booked into tackle the Overland Track, a 5-8 day bushwalk through some of Tassie’s best mountain country.  So we moved onto Hobart to get ahead with schoolwork and ready ourselves for the adventure.  More trips to the camping shops of course and a whole lot of packing and reshuffling.  Right now, it is 6.30am on the morning of our departure to head up to Cradle Mountain for the start of the walk.  All bags are packed and we are ready mentally if not physically.

Over the last few days in Hobart we have managed various trips into town to sample the Salamanca Markets, Battery Point, Sandy Bay and, of course, a trip up Mt Wellington.  No snow on Mt Wellington at present.  In fact, the day we went up there, it was 38 degrees in Hobart.  There must be something wrong with the weather.  We also managed to squeeze in a trip to the Blundstone Arena (nee Bellerive Oval) to see the Australian Cricket team put to the sword by the Sri Lankans.  The highlight of the day for the kids (apart from leaving and having a killer python) was seeing Malinga’s “fuzzy hair” bouncing up and down on his run up to bowl.

Deb and I took in some kultcha while here.  Mum and Dad kindly “offered” to mind the kids while we had some “us” time.  We figured a modern art place which brews its own beer and wine and has a restaurant attached must be good.  So we headed out to MONA.  It seems we are slightly out of practice on the fine dining front.  Within minutes of us sitting down at the white linen table, I had ploughed a deep furrow in the table butter with my menu and Deb had sprayed us both with the flour from the top of her bread roll; and all while the waitress was trying to explain the fish of the day.  A couple of hours later, after dusting down and finishing our fine meals, we entered the art exhibition.  I like art.  I like the sense of creation, the beauty, the interest.  I like to wonder at the craft and skills of the artists and I can appreciate the controversy which art can create.  I do not like the exhibition at MONA.  I just can’t appreciate the “artistic” aspect to a machine which takes up an entire room and produces a human poo on a tray.  I’m happy to hear from anyone with alternate views.

Although we will be 7 nights away on the Overland track in comparison to the 2 of the Walls of Jerusalem, I am much less worried about heading out on this trek.  I have two less kids to worry about freezing to death (thanks to Mum’s long term child placement service) and I am pretty sure we have all the right gear.  It will be strange having our family apart for 8 nights and living away from the camper trailer.  I am already looking forward to coming back and we haven’t even left.

Deb’s Did You Know

I didn’t think we would be seeing any summer like weather in Tasmania.  We have restocked on all our winter woollies but instead I have had to pull out all my summer gear again.  The average daily min and max temps here in Hobart are 12 and 22 respectively.  Over the last three days we have seen max temps of 35, 38 and 37. This is hot especially when coming from 16-20 degrees (and 0 degrees in The Walls of Jerusalem).  We continue with our weather extremes!  But, Did You Know that Hobart is the second driest capital city in Australia? Hard to believe, I know. It is only pipped by Adelaide. And the wettest you ask, well its Darwin whilst Canberra wins the title of the foggiest.

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One to the good guys

Check out my new Possum Socks.

Alright, so it may be a pyrrhic victory over my nemesis, but tis a victory all the same. Soooo comfy and satisfying to wear!

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Hello Possums


Launceston > Walls of Jerusalem > Launceston > Bay of Fires

Deb’s Did You Know

Are two heads better than one??  Yes: In 2 beer glasses; in a game of two up; when you are between them coming into a harbour; or when receiving flowers on Valentines Day.   

The two-headed Tasmanian is a common myth and often brought up in conversation when one is travelling to Tasmania. Some say this urban legend derived from the fact that Tasmanian soliders during the war asked for 2 pillows, others say that it is because Tasmania is a small island and isolated from the mainlaind. Either way it is a touchy subject and I am sure it’s not one to discuss with a local. Who knows maybe us McGraths will return looking somewhat different.

 

For me, Tasmania evokes images of frosty rolling farmlands and tall powerful forests.  First morning off the ferry and we were not disappointed.  Winding our way through the back roads from Devonport to Launceston, still wispy mists hung over the golden fields while fat black Angus cattle mooched around languidly.  Over the hills and passes, solid stands of eucalypts and pines guarded the roadsides and guided us into the corners before giving way to the organisation of lime green vineyards strung all the way down the Tamar Valley and into Launceston’s outskirts.

Launceston on a Saturday morning is just as I had hoped it would be.  The summer morning chill kept the city sleepy and it was only as the gentle warmth of a Tassie summer sun slowly gained ground that the population roused and the coffee shops had more than a few lycra clad cyclists entering their doors.  Rest assured we have slipped easily into this pace of life.

After catching up with Mum and Dad, over the next few days we spent time tackling schoolwork and prepping for an overnight hike to the Walls of Jerusalem.  This included a little sortie into Cataract Gorge where we rode the chairlift, spotted Echidnas and Lizards and earned our post walk ice creams.  However, I think the most walking we did in Launceston was between all the camping shops as we equipped ourselves with all the stuff we needed and lots of the stuff we did not.

Walls of Jerusalem is an overnight hike near Cradle Mountain usually taken on over two to three days.  We gave ourselves three days to allow for a slower pace of progress.  I was a bit worried about going up there with the family as we had heard “coldest place I have ever camped” and “I would not do that with the kids” as feedback on the hike from people we spoke with around the Launceston camping shops.  Never the less, we decided to take it on.  I was even more nervous as just as we were about to set out from the car park at the start of the walk, the rain came in.  Would it be wet and cold for three days?

Thankfully, the rain only made brief appearances and then it was brief and at the most opportune times; like overnight.  It was cold up there; cold enough to see ice on the ground on the morning of day 2.  Lucky we had made all those investments in the Launceston camping shops.  I imagine people bushwalk for lots of different reasons;  fitness, scenery, solitude etc.  I reckon one of the best reasons is to hear those moments of deafening silence which can only be experienced on the top of a mountain in the wilderness.  On day 2, Deb, Lachie Dad and I left the rest of the troops at base camp and made a dash out and back past the Walls of Jerusalem and to the top of the Temple.  Here, at the top, we gazed out over a patchwork spray of lakes and though the wind was fresh, that deafening silence descended upon us.

Everyone motored along nicely on the way out.  I am pretty sure I heard a non-stop monologue from Hamish the whole way out as to why he needs a new set of bushwalking sticks.  The pace even increased a notch when some leeches were spotted; then increased another notch with talk of pies and milkshakes for lunch on exit.  It doesn’t matter how far or how long you have been in the bush for, it is always good to get a cold beer and some junk food into the system when you emerge.

We spent a couple more nights in Launceston washing dirty bushwalking clothes and rubbing a few sore spots before we finally made our way toward the coast.  It was nice of Launceston to stage their Festivale to see us off.  Some sampling of the local produce and musos was a great way to have a lazy lunch on the way out.

The Bay of Fires on the North East coast of Tassie is so named because of the Orange/Red Lichen on the granite boulders which line the shore.  It is just as well it is lichen which gives the area its name because any other sort of fire would have been put out on our arrival such was the rain.  The man cave had to go up and the Map Gas was required to get a fire going but we eventually got ourselves sorted right on the coast.  All was good, until the possums arrived.  I can’t work out what is good about a possum.  They have all the attributes of a mouse or a rat and with that they are big enough to get into stuff the pesty rodents can’t attack.  We settled down for the night in the tent but it was not long before I was up chasing possums out of anything they could but shouldn’t get into.  It is no fun hearing the pitter patter of possum feet on canvas just above your head at night.  Deb probably had a pretty dud night sleep that night for all the possum cursing I was doing.

We had our 5th birthday party on tour at Bay of Fires.  Our birthday boy, Lachie, got his order in early for a “Big Breakfast”, crumbed cutlets for dinner with noodle salad and apple crumble for desert.  A day of culinary delights indeed.  It was a bushwalking birthday for our man who scored plenty of bushwalking kit and enough cash to buy his very own aircraft grade titanium knife fork and spoon set.  Just what every true bushwalker needs.

Departure from Bay of Fires was humming along nicely.  We were feeling pretty smug as our campground neighbours kept remarking how good the set up was and how quickly we had packed up and away.  What a shame it all fell in a heap when the car would not start.  Flat battery would you believe.  Our spare battery didn’t have enough juice to jump the main battery so it was our slightly less impressed neighbours to the rescue.  I still can’t work out what drained the battery.  Maybe Courtney has a secret 12V hair dryer on board.  I’ll keep my eye on her.

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With Friends and Then Without

Jindabyne > Blackfellows Beach > Melbourne > Devonport

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Two weeks at Blackies was a welcome change. Familiar spaces, faces and places. It was a different feeling launching into a two week stint there this year. In the years to date, as a change from our time in the office and away from the helter skelter of school runs and sport commitments we were desperate to put the feet up and enjoy the open air. This year, it was all about catching up with friends and putting the roots down for more than our longest stop of the trip thus far (5 nights).

Blackies produced its usual mix for us; buffeting winds, soaking rain and periods of magic sunshine. The former leading to some wonderful moments of midnight mega tarp management by Ben and Julie as reported in by Mick the following day. It also produced all the usual activities including surfing, fishing and feasting. Unfortunately the waves were not as good as they could have been and the fishing produced only moderate catches. On the other hand, with arrival of celebrity chef “Kiwi”, the feasting stepped up a whole new level. How good were those anchovies Deb?

As the two week period drew to a close, we watched our friends pack up and disappear over the hill on their ways back to Sydney. We were left with our set up standing alone and lonely on the beachfront.

We tossed up spending some more nights at Blackies with a view to sorting out some schoolwork but in the end, we needed to move on. So, after one more wet and windy night, we packed up and set off for Melbourne. The drive which was supposed to take us a few days ended up being done in just the one. I don’t know why, but we just couldn’t stop. Before we knew it we were in St Kilda sipping lattes and having pancakes for brunch.

The kids notched up a possible tour high point in St Kilda. For three days straight we ploughed through school work each morning. Only bribery could produce this sort of work ethic. And the prize? Luna Park. Yet again I proved to myself that I don’t have the stomach to be propelled and rotated at unnatural speeds. The kids however, had an absolute ball and Hamish managed to go on every ride he was big enough to qualify for; which was most. In the end, I was happy to ride the picnic seats while the rest of the family went on one more loop of the roller coaster.

More trailer repairs and servicing were just barely completed by the time our ferry to Tassie was ready to sail. Over the last few days we had topped up on camping goodies and good coffee, picked up a large box of Travelcalm and we were ready to cross the big creek. Thankfully, the trip proved to be fairly calm and to Courtney’s delight, she did not fall out of her bunk during the night. Indeed, not one Travelcalm was required. Thanks to Mum and Dad’s warning, we were out of bed and breakfasted with plenty of time to spare before they called us down to the cars. In fact we probably could have gone back to bed after breakfast as it turned out that our arrival time was about an hour later than Mum and Dad’s and I needn’t have set my alarm so early. Of course, Deb has hardly mentioned this at all.

Finally, with no real set agenda for the next 5 weeks, we rolled off the back end of the ferry to be greeted by a bright and crisp Tassie morning. Magic.

Deb’s Did You Know:
The oldest continuous operating roller coaster in the world is The Scenic Railway in Luna Park Melbourne. It was built in 1912 and was just shy of its 100th bday when us McGraths hit the theme park. I have to say it looks old and we had everything crossed in hope that it will be receiving a letter from the Queen. It was a rickety, bumpy and nerve racking ride for some. One ride wasn’t enough for most and one ride was too much for one particular person. Yes, Stew our much devoted outdoor adventure loving guy (well almost)…the kids and I have learnt something new about him…he has a fear of roller-coasters and basically any rides that go up and down, up and over and side to side. And yes even the Ferris Wheel is included. Much to the kids amusement they left dad happily doing many laps on the dodgem cars. Disneyland next??? Mmmmmm.


Bottom to Top and Hot to Cold

I’m not hot anymore. It is mid afternoon and I am wearing four layers and a beanie. There is steady rain falling into lake Jindabyne which is spread out before me. The pepper of rain on the canvas above me is filling in the background to the drone of the cricket on ABC radio. The action here is as slow as Dravid’s innings.

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Courtney’s birthday was carried off with all required excitement. The breakfast was delicious, pies for lunch went down well and Deb mastered lasagne in the Weber. Highlight of the day was definitely pulling into a van park in Swan Hill and backing the trailer up to a deluxe cabin. The kids were resigned to a set up of the tent and were super pumped when I handed over the key to the cabin to Courtney. “thank you thank you thank you” screamed Courtney as Hamish jumped on me. I have never seen anyone so excited to see a couch as was Lachlan coming in the door of the cabin. “oh Dad, Look! A lounge!”. Is it possible we are depriving our children?

(there goes Dravid for 47, might finish the game off today?)

Alpine 4wding has been the feature of the last few days. Following a car service at Swan Hill Toyota we set off for Omeo which is on the high plains of the Victorian High Country. Leaving the Murray River, we shovelled some Maccas into the kids and rolled through the beautiful Bright before starting to climb the mountains proper. The temp started to dive. 4 degrees going toward Mt Hotham. 2 degrees. And then, it started to snow. Not just a couple of wet flakes. Proper driving in hard big crisp talked kinda snowing. 1 degree. By this time the light was starting to fade and the road had become nice and winding. Only as we dropped further into the valley did the snow abate and the temp climb slightly to 8 degrees. Was it really 46 degrees a week or so ago?

I had picked out a 4wd track from Omeo through to Tom Groggin near Thredbo from a 4wd book gifted to me for Xmas by mum and dad. Karla pointed out that the fine print made mention of “not suitable for trailers” but I countered with “it’s never as bad as they say” and the ever faithful “she’ll be right”. So we set off in search adventure, and adventure we found.

About 50 klm into the drive we took a big right hand turn. The track started to climb. The track started to narrow. The track started to become rutted. The track started to get lumpy. The track started to become steep. We started to get edgy. Mid hill, we held a conference and decided that pulling off a three point turn with trailers on a steep hill with little space either side of a rutted track was probably less favourable than continuing up hill. (there goes Dhoni to Siddle caught Ponting. Should finish today for sure).

All we could do was make sure all the possible car aids were engaged and all fingers crossed. You just have to keep the pedal down and keep moving. I couldn’t look back to see how the trailer fared up the hill as my mirrors were tucked in to avoid hitting on stuff beside the track. Having said that I am not sure I would have wanted to. I held my breath all the way up as the Prado ground, slipped, bounced and climbed to the top. Shortly after, Mick arrived and similarly breathed again.

So we found ourselves in a small clearing on a narrow ridge at about 1300m elevation. At 4pm, the best bet was to set up camp and tackle the way forward or the way back down tomorrow. I don’t reckon there have been too many caravans or camper trailers which have spent a night up there and I reckon it will be a while before there is one again. Finally, we found an opportunity to turn on the trailer tent heating as the temp fell again. I’m not sure how cold it dipped to overnight but stuff was frozen the next morning.

A short reconnaissance mission the next day in the Prado sans trailer revealed that the way ahead was indeed “not suitable for trailers” and Karla was right again. Whoops! So the only option was to retrace steps down the hill and, with appropriate psyche up tunes selected (thanks for that tip Adrian) we descended with a couple of scares but without incident. At this point we decided that we should go the easy route through to Thredbo. However, when it came to the turn off to the easy route, we found the car just did not seem to want to go that way and we were off toward some more adventure. The track became narrower, the track became steeper…etc etc. This time we found ourselves pointing down hill rather than up but still taking on rutted steep track. However, with a touch of track modification and rut filling in we made it down without incident and camped on the banks of the Murray River again.

The Murray River in the high country is a cold clear rush of water over rounded river stones. About 20 meters wide, it winds it’s way through the valley marking the border of NSW and Vic. The stony ford crossing at Tom Groggin is deep enough and wide enough that I had to send Deb across first to check depth. She is still complaining about cold toes.

Pulling into Thredbo in summer was a bit of novelty for us given the last time we were here it was covered in snow. I was amazed how busy it was. People were running, cycling, walking and generally being active everywhere. Our target for the day from here was Mt Kosciusko. A 13klm walk from the top of the Thredbo chair lifts. Powered by smarties, kit kats and tic toc biscuits, the kids all smashed the walk as we were there and back in about 4 and a half hours. While it is really busy and duck boarded all the way to the top of the walk, it is still a spectacular experience to wander to the top of Australia. A big big tick for the tour. In the last few weeks we have been to the lowest point in Oz (Lake Eyre; 12m below sea level) and the highest Mt Kosciusko (2228m above sea level).

So now we are in windy Jindy and have said goodbye to Mick and Karla for a day as they make their way to Blackies. We also say goodbye to another segment of our adventure. We move on now to two weeks of sun? and surf at Blackies with friends before turning South to Tassie.

(Lunch in the cricket. No further wickets)

Deb’s Did You Know:

Meat pies, they’re an Aussie icon eaten by many. They can be freshly made or pre-packaged. Us Aussies eat circa 260 million pies a year, an average of 11 meat pies per person. Apparently the popular Four’N’Twenty produces 50,000 pies per hour. Don’t ask about the nutritional value…you don’t want to know. All is will say is that at least the meat pie must contain 25% meat.

Courtney has become a connoisseur of pies (both freshly baked or pre-packaged) and can tell whether it will be a good pie just by look. Her favourite is the Outback pie. “Can i have a pie” is normally the second question Courtney asks when we drive into a town, the first being “can we stay in a cabin”. The answer is usually no, not the best nutritional snack but a handy one in times of need, especially when you are staying at Jindabyne across from the Nuggets Crossing bakery.

Would you believe there are competitions for the best meat pie. The Great Aussie meat pie competition began in 1990 and has been held annually since. The winner of the 2011 comp was St Georges bakehouse, Kensington SA (sorry Courtney we missed this one) and runner up was our local Cheries Pies in Freshwater (will be sure to test on our return).

On a side note…did you know us Aussies are about the only nation on earth that eat their national emblem. We have done so on a pizza and in lasagne. At least we are covering 2 of the 5 major food groups (red meat & poultry) when we eat our national coat of arms.


Hot to Trot

Deb’s Did You Know

The online dictionary definition of hot is:

  1. a) Having or giving off heat; capable of burning, b) Being at a high temperature
  2. Being at or exhibiting a temperature that is higher than normal or desirable
  3. Being sexually attractive:

The McGrath’s definition of hot is:

  • hot is when your bread turns to toast 2 seconds after taking it out of the bread bag
  • hot is when you pour the peanut butter on to your sandwich instead of spreading it on
  • hot is when your tent feels like a sauna when you step inside at 10pm
  • hot is when the cold water from your 90litre water tank is so hot you could make a cuppa
  • hot is when your sweat dries before it can bead and drip down your face
  • hot is when the ground is too hot to walk on even when wearing your rubber thongs
  • hot is when your tub of maltesers won’t roll down the aisle because it has become a tub of chocolate sundae sauce
  • hot is when you haven’t seen the temp drop below 30 degrees day or night for 5 consecutive days
  • hot is when you are that desperate a nights camping at Cooper Pedy is required to seek relief at the underground pub.
  • hot is when you are happy to jump into very brown cloudy water not knowing what lies beneath (many teaspoons of cement required)
  • hot is confirmed when your temp gauge in the car hits 46 degrees (& it’s no joke)
  • hot is the central Australian outback in January!!

I’m tired.  Kilometres and heat have made me weary.  I’ve no right to complain.  How can you when you are on a 9 month holiday!  Whose shoulder could I cry on?  It’s not the sort of need to go to bed she’ll be right in the morning tired.  Its more just a straight up I need to stop moving tired.  Nothing a night or two in one spot won’t fix right away.

Sixteen years ago I spent one night in Coober Pedy and left early the next morning confident that I had spent one night too many in that place.  Somehow we decided that another trip there would be a good idea.  On the way into and out of Coober Pedy, the super-heated sticky black bitumen road carves an ugly snake through the higgledy piggledy piles of dirt cast around the desert.  These are the remnant scrapings of the tough opal miners who have sunk countless holes into the ground in these parts and, I assume, walked away either with a story of good fortune or misery. Either way, they walked away from their holes without filling them in!

Around 5pm we pulled into town with the thermometer still on the Devils’ side of 40.  We were kept moving by the thought of a cool underground experience at the local hotel.  Even after a couple more hours spent sipping surrounded by the dirt walls of the hotel carved into a hill, temps were still too high to contemplate cooking so we settled in for emu and roo pizza (do any other nations delight in putting their coat of arms on a pizza?) over the road at the only other place in town open on New Years’ day.  Still didn’t need a booking!

Finally there was naught to do but suck it up and head back to the tent to take on a 9pm set up of the trailer and a night where the mercury did not drop below 30 degrees.  With pleasure, we put kilometres between us and Coober Pedy early the next morning with a fair bit of excitement about heading north and then east into the great emptiness of central South Australia.

The desert of central South Australia is the nastiest I have seen in my travels.  It is hot.  It is barren.  The plains are littered with rocks the size of your fist.  The larger trees on the plains are only a bush and in the ravines where there are a few shady boughs overhead, the boulders are larger and the ground uneven at best.  Two things I kept thinking as we travelled around out there.  First, how and why on earth did the early pioneers and explorers work their way through this place on horseback, camels or foot in leather boots and no GPS?  Second, could I fry an egg on my shovel?

Picture this; you are deep outback in 45 degree heat.  There is a hire campervan of sorts pulled over to the side of the road ahead of you.  One tyre is shredded (it was pretty bald to start with).  Right underneath the vehicle is a Swiss man currently hailing from Tamarama.  He has an exhaust jack out because he is having difficulty using his normal jack but the exhaust jack is sideways and only staying inflated to keep the vehicle off him because beside his vehicle is his partner standing proud in the middle of the road in a bikini top and miniskirt holding a kink in the end of the jack hose so the air does not escape and the jack deflate on him. Oh yeah, and he already has all the wheel nuts off the wheel with the shredded tyre.  Yikes.  What’s wrong with this picture?  Everything.  And so it was another Hoffs to the rescue moment.  With a bit of jacking and mucking around we managed to help these guys change their tyre. Unfortunately they could not buy a spare a little up the road at the Pink Roadhouse in Oodnadatta.  I reckon it would have been a slow and nervous drive for them down the rest of the track from there.

Still too warm to do much else but drive on, we ended up at Coward Springs late afternoon.  Thankfully it wasn’t busy there or else we would have all been in a queue the next morning to have a “swim” at the springs.  We managed to fit about a family and half in the springs at any one time.  It was however, great to get a refreshing dip in before moving on down the road.  At this point Deb and I were just about ready to go South, East or anywhere at any pace to get out of the heat and the car.  But, being so close to Lake Eyre and reinforced with the advice from the roadhouse that the swimming at the campground was great and Lake Eyre was a “gotta do” we took a deep breath and headed North.  I am really glad we did as the Lake Eyre proved to be better than I thought it could be.  And then, as we all splashed around in the slightly green Muloorina waterhole, a slightly cooler air flow swept through and temps plummeted to the high twenties almost as fast as our moods improved.

Reaching Arkaroola, the “Jewel of the Gammon Ranges”, required another long day’s drive but we were pretty relaxed about it as the day following that would consist of the 37klm 4wd track on the station.  Readying to take on the 4wd track we aired down and took gear off and out of the car.  Then to my disgust, we packed lunch as I figured we’d be back from the drive before lunch.  How long can it possibly take to do 37klm?  Rob de Castella would have it knocked over on foot in 3 hours flat!  Some 6 hours later we finally returned to camp after climbing, dipping and scraping our way around the track visiting various water holes, holes with water and taking in some top vistas of the Gammon ranges.  Me; wrong again.

The Flinders Ranges were high on my list of “to dos” for our trip.  In the end we knocked ‘em over on a flying visit over two days.  It is a strange landscape indeed with high jagged hills surrounded by rolling treeless hills and valleys thick with trees you’d expect to spot in Yosemite in the USA.  We chased elusive fossils around the rocks in a creek, marvelled at the age of the rocks and spent a few hours in soft rain walking up to view Wilpena Pound through the mist.  Two days was no where near enough to do the place justice.  Two weeks and a whole lot of walking would have been better.  I’ll put it on my list of “to do next times”.

Leaving the Flinders, plans changed and changed and changed again until we did not know if we were stopping or going.  Our car needs a service again (another 10,000klm down) and we need a general recharge.  In the end we ended up at Mildura for a couple of nights while Mick and Karla move on ahead to visit friends near Albury.  Cappuccinos and Cookies for brunch help the recovery process and the kids and I took in a movie this afternoon.  We saw Tin Tin.  We give it two and half stars.

Tomorrow is Courtney’s birthday so it should be an easy day again.  Courts has ordered French toast for breakky, meat pies for lunch and lasagne for dinner.  Sounds like a pretty good menu to me.

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KI Xmas

McLaren Vale > Kangaroo Island > Clare Valley

Sandwiched between two magnificent winery regions (also boasting a couple of top breweries) we squished in Kangaroo Island (KI) and some of the best of the festive season.

McLaren Vale was pretty much just a pre xmas stock up session but we did manage to find a bike path which went straight to the McLaren Vale Brewery.  Happy hour there is a fine thing indeed where both pizza and beer is heavily discounted as well as being simply delicious.

Expectations were pretty high amongst the crew as we wound our way south from McLaren Vale toward the KI ferry.  We adults were looking forward to scenery and beaches while the kids were pretty much just pumped about being one step closer to Xmas and the arrival of Santa.

Con and Helen, the self-proclaimed “super wogs” were not at the van park when we arrived having taken themselves off to the pub for lunch.  Not long after they were back we were safely set up on our sites nice and tight in toward the amenities block and the process of festooning the tent in tinsel and lights commenced.  Presents started to appear out of every nook and cranny in the trailer and were duly wrapped before placement under our Xmas stick.

Xmas eve was a nice balance of the traditional and the unusual.  On the less than usual side, we spent Xmas eve day with feet strapped to a beeswaxed plank sliding down the dunes of Little Sahara.  This was far too much fun with all taking on the slopes both standing and seated on a toboggan.  Liam and I spent more time bonding as I dragged him down the dunes standing on the board slowly so he would build up confidence.  Then we spent time unbonding as I careened down the slope with him in front of me on the toboggan before twisting a bit to go down backwards and launching him clear over my head with enough air such that he was able to demonstrate a perfect face plant.  Ooops!  Lachie is now quietly confident that he has shown enough form to move from the skis to a snowboard next time we hit the slopes.  It is going to be hard to say no.

Flogging honey stuff to tourists is big business in KI.  At the Kingscote “Beehive”, all things honey can be purchased including super creamy honey ice cream and there are a variety of honeys to be tasted.  Sandboarding must have really sapped the kids sugars as they hit the Beehive like a hoard of cranky bears.  They couldn’t squirt the honey tasting pots into the honey tasting spoons fast enough.  When they finally declared “Spring Flowers” as the best flavour honey to buy I was pretty confident they had made an informed choice.

Sometimes Mick ventures into the kitchen.  When he does, it is usually boots and all.  E.g. rotisserie of a whole animal, complete pizza production centre etc.  This Xmas Eve, he retired to the annexe with a brand new egg beater and emerged hours later after whipping, beating, mixing, pouring and straining.  The result; a lovely little drop of egg nog.  Clark Griswald would have been proud.

Xmas day disappeared just as it should do.  In a haze of breakfasting, present opening, present breaking, lunching and lunching some more.  Of course all with a background of Greensleves and Fur Elise on the casio tone by the German bloke next door.  The poor kids kept thinking the ice cream man was coming.

Through a bit of good fortune, Nikki and Warwick and kids were also on KI visiting friends for Xmas so we hooked up with them on Boxing day to explore a bit of the western side of the island.  The bushwalk down to snake lagoon burnt off a bit more of Xmas lunch than we expected with a scrambly rocky drop down to a quiet sung beach.  Not even more Xmas ham could restore enough energy in the troops to pull together some enthusiasm for Admirals Arch or the Remarkable Rocks but Deb and Mick refused to let anyone rest and pushed us on down the boardwalk.  At Admirals Arch, the arch was archy and the seals were smelly and at Remarkable Rocks the rocks were ………………. (guessing competition – fill in the blank).

The McGraths of the south opened the fishing account at Kingscote wharf.  Lachie persisted in fishing for herring with “Gents” while Mick landed a couple of squid and Ryan a flathead.  The northern McGraths are yet to put a score on the board.  The worrying aspect of this is that there is not likely to be any further fishing this side of Blackies.  Even though we all enjoyed some fresh battered calamari and flat head for lunch, I am not sure I can actually score squid as “fish” caught on tour so I am going to give them a 1 nil lead courtesy of Ryan’s flathead.  What?  They’re my rules!

Feeling a little rushed by Xmas festivities we decided a few extra days at KI would be good but had not booked accommodation.  Con and Helen came good and moved us over the road to the unpowered “site” behind some of their units.  Backyard camping at its best complete even with a bearded “Wilson” who stuck his head over the fence for a yarn at any and every opportunity.  On the upside, Wilson put us on to a Marron catching spot which was top fun for kids of all ages.  Even those of us who managed to fall over on their bum in the muddy water.  Wilson also put us onto fishing at Emu Bay which produced only Skate.  However, it also sported a virtually empty camping site for $5 a night!  Gold gold gold.  All we had to do was to break the news to Con, Helen and Wilson that we were moving out of the backyard.

The beaches on the northern side of the island are stunning.  Western Cove, tucked away down a steep dirt road was a good morning stop on our Northern beaches big day out.  The road from there to Snellings beach is top drive along the coast line.  It was made even more eventful as we stumbled across two young girls parked up by the side of the road with the hood of the car up and a leg poking out.  What could we do but stop and offer our mechanical assistance.  I suggested more accelerator, Mick twiddled a couple of wires, I suggested a dribble of fuel down the carby and Mick pointed out the car was fuel injected and does not have a carby.  At this point we had reached our mechanical limitations and pushed the car off to the side of the road before squeezing the girls into the cars to give them a lift down to the beach.  “Someone will pick us up later” they said.  Not a bother!

Further around from our lunch stop at Snellings beach we hit Stokes Bay which is supposed to be a magic spot.  And I suppose it would be if it weren’t for the crowds.  There must have been 50 people on the beach.  Deb and I went into agoraphobic shock while the kids had a quick swim.

We have had a small post Xmas problem as my “one in one out” policy has been blatantly flaunted.  Of course, dispensations are allowed for the like of spear guns but kids toys and various items of clothing crept into the trailer without a commensurate departure.  Thankfully Nikki and Warwick came to the rescue and while we spent time stuffing, poking and reorganising, we were also able to jettison a variety of non-essential gear to be trailered back by Nikki and Waz.

Leaving KI felt like another milestone ticked off the lap of Australia.  It was something we had booked long ago to secure a spot at Xmas.  We had all been looking forward to it for a long time and with the extra few days cruising around the island it feels as though we have given it enough of a going over but still left some more morsels for a future trip there.

Plans seem to be fairly fluid right now.  The decision to stop in Clare Valley was an inspired on the fly call.  We even made it to the Knappstein brewery with 5 mins to spare.  Is it the best beer in Oz?  It is at least a good one for a New Years eve brew.  Camping must be doing us some good.  We actually made it to midnight this year for the first time in years!

We are now fully stocked up with water, food, fuel and on the road to the brutal outback land of SA in the searing summer heat.  We will be in Coober Pedy tonight for a subterranean experience of some sort.  The plan is to then move on to Lake Eyre and the Flinders Ranges.  But plans can change; and frequently do.

Deb’s Did You Know

Kangaroo island is a Liguarian Bee Sanctuary and has been since 1885. It is illegal to take honey, honey bees or unprocessed honey products on to the island. You can be fined up to $10,000 if you breach this law.. Luckily we ditched our pet beehive and various tubs of honey and were allowed on to the island. We did smuggle in some chocolate honeycomb, later finding out that the only honey in this tasty treat is the word itself. All natural. Hmmmm. You are then charged excessive amounts to purchase the local and very tasty honey. Of course you can take this off the island.

Did you know that bees have 5 eyes and 4 wings which they stroke at 11,500 times per minute.  To produce 1/2 kg of honey, a hive of bees need to fly circa 90,000kms.  30 grams of honey would be sufficient fuel for a bee to circumnavigate the earth.  If only our prado used honey!! 

A hive of bees can have up to 80,000 bees in it, of which 1 will be queen, a few hundred will be drones and the rest are worker bees.  They are all the offspring of the queen bee.  However, not one big happy family.  Domestic violence is at its peak each Autumn when the worker bees usually kill the drones.  The drones do not have a sting but the worker bees do and they have been responsible for a few guerrilla attacks on our family.  They must be good flyers as one even managed to fly up a small gap in my sleeve and buzz around for a while before deciding to strike.  Ouch!

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