Monday, January 26, 2015

New Year road trip: our last day

We were met with gloom and drizzle when we emerged from our motel the next morning, although it wasn't cold. Despite the expected limited visibility, we headed back to Powers Lookout, which I had managed to locate on a map in a tourist brochure on the Prosecco Road I picked up in nearby Milawa. (Side-note: this part of Victoria is called King Valley and it's notable for its food and wine offerings. And I like prosecco.) (Further side-note: I just spotted Powers Lookout on the map I had with me the whole trip. Map-reading fail.)

We couldn't see a thing when we got to the lookout. It was more a case of no visibility rather than limited visibility.

 Nice um...tree

 Anyone for a picnic?

Oh well. The King Valley isn't that far from Melbourne and there's plenty of other things to see/eat/drink up there, so we can come back again in better weather.  Not that the weather bothered me much. Yes, it would have been nice to see the reportedly amazing views from the lookout (a friend had recommended we take a small detour to see the view), but the low hanging cloud/fog was quite picturesque in itself and added a dramatic atmosphere to our photos that's often missing when it's a sunny day with blue sky. And besides that, the rain made the bush smell AH-MAY-ZING. All fresh and eucalyptusy. I love it. 

The rain was widespread in Victoria that Saturday, so the clouds stuck with us most of the day. Our next stop on the way home was Mansfield, which was conveniently located at the end of the road we travelled on to get to Powers Lookout. Road trip serendipity. Serentripity. 

We stopped for a quick look around Mansfield - the bakery, the lolly shop, the gun shop, the horse shop (no, it doesn't sell horses, just horsey stuff, including horse shoes that are like human shoes that you actually slip your horse's hoof into). Although I grew up on a farm, the gun shop and horse shop felt like being in a different country. My dad had a gun, but I don't remember seeing gun shops in town. And I was scared of horses from when I was a small child. (I'm still not a fan.) 

But Mansfield is in the high country, a long way from where I grew up, and guns and horses are clearly an integral part of the culture there. We even saw people - young people! - walking down the main street wearing cowboy hats. Nobody wore cowboy hats in the Western District where I grew up. Yes, we giggled at them. 

Next up, we hit the road to Alexandra, which felt like a verrrrry long drive on more winding roads through the mountains, skirting Eildon National Park and past Lake Eildon.  

More photos of rural serenity...and cows. 

These cows retreated to a safe distance before stopping and turning around to watch us intently as we took photos. We saw a lot of cows on our trip and few sheep. Clearly east of Melbourne is Cow Country and west is Sheep Country. Maybe that explains the lack of cowboy hats where I grew up...

 Lake Eildon (an artificial lake, hence the drowned trees)

Lake Eildon again

 This might be the Goulburn River? 

Or maybe is isn't big enough? I dunno

We stopped at Snobs Creek to visit the falls, another spontaneous decision as we'd never heard of this waterfall before, despite its relative proximity to Melbourne. The actual creek that Snobs Creek takes its name from is a pretty insignificant watercourse, so we were surprised when we got to the falls and water was fairly thundering over the rocks. 

 The top of the main drop (hard to get more than this in shot)

 Above the falls

The cascades

I've said after previous holidays that it's not a proper holiday without me falling into something (e.g. a creek in Tassie) or stepping in something gross (stagnant mad that looked like beach sand on the Coorong). This time I slipped and fell on the rocks, hurting both wrists and my left shoulder, and getting a wet patch on my bum. Kind of serves me right because we had slipped through a gap in the viewing platform and walked out onto the rocks to take photos. Miraculously, the family that was at the viewing platform mere minutes before wasn't there when I looked up, and Luke had his back turned. That's called winning at falling. 

Our next and final stop was Alexandra, where we stopped for a late lunch before thee final stretch of highway that took us home. It was sort of nice to be home - I really enjoyed sleeping on my own pillow, which I had forgotten to take with me - but honestly, I wish we could have just kept on driving. One day, I'd like to take several months off work, and just drive keep on driving.    

A note about my photos: I've realised I need to recalibrate the colours on my laptop, which is why my photos probably look over-saturated on your device. They look fine on mine!  I'll fix that when I work out how to do it...

New Year road trip day 6: Omeo and Glenrowan

Our morning mountain view  

We woke to a cool morning with low cloud hanging over the surrounding mountains. More rain was forecast, but we weren't deterred from our plan to drive south to Omeo through the mountains on a road which included a 46 kilometre stretch of unsealed surface. Uh-uh. Not us. We summitted Mt Kosciuszko, y'know. 

Before heading out of town we had breakfast at the bakery and paid a visit to The Man from Snowy River statue. 

Corryong claims to be the resting place of the man who inspired Banjo Paterson's poem The Man from Snowy River (which inspired the 1982 movie). It seems pretty dubious, especially since Paterson himself said the character was based on several men, rather than one person. But every town needs a 'hook', doesn't it?

We headed out onto the highway, then turned off onto the back road to Omeo. We were initially surrounded by more bucolic beauty before getting into the mountains. 

Nariel Creek (I think)

 I forget the name of this river. It might be the Gibbo

Rain + gravel roads = muddy car

 Old truck in a paddock

 Old shack in a paddock

Near Omeo - not green right now, but still stunning country

Omeo's Golden Age Motel

We stopped briefly in Omeo then turned onto the Great Alpine Road towards Mt Hotham, one of Victoria premier ski resorts, in the Alpine National Park (not that we'd be skiing, obvs).  

We were up in the clouds by the time we got to Mt Hotham (1,861 metres above sea level) and coming down again with such poor visibility had my nerves a little on edge at times. 

Keep left of the red poles

We stopped in the pretty town of Harrietville for lunch and continued on to Bright. Bright is famous for its Autumn Festival when it's ablaze with spectacular autumnal colour, but it's still a lovely town even on a cloudy day in summer. Visiting in autumn is on my to-do list though. 

  Bright from Huggins Lookout 

Bird likes chips (Not provided by us. As if I
 ever have any leftover fries!)

Back on the road again, we passed this adorable old church, although it's hard to tell if it's still a church or has been turned into a (tiny) home. Just look at it. 

We turned off the Great Alpine Road after Myrtleford heading for Milawa with the intention of taking in the view from Power's Lookout (the old lookout of bushranger Harry Power), but we somehow missed the turnoff and arrived in Glenrowan. We decided to stay the night and go back to the lookout in the morning. 

Any Aussies reading will know Glenrowan is where the bushranger Ned Kelly was wounded and captured by police after a shoot-out.  Or a seige, if you prefer. 

Where it all happened

Glenrowan is all about Ned Kelly.  There's a big Ned Kelly statue, a museum, and the tourist centre, which runs an interactive theatrical recreation of the seige using "animatronics and computerised robots" (No, we didn't go.)  We stayed at the Kelly Country Motel, where they offer guests an extensive selection of free DVD movies and documentaries about Ned Kelly. We watched Ned Kelly Uncovered, the doco hosted by Time Team's Tony Robinson where they dig up the site of the inn where the Kelly Gang holed up during the seige.
Luke and Ned

We had dinner at the local and I reverted to eating steak after the Disappointing Chicken Incident in Corryong. It was eye fillet wrapped in bacon -  tender and juicy and delicious, the best meal of the trip. Then we retired to our motel to watch the Ned Kelly documentary and sleep - the last sleep on our road trip. Sigh. I didn't want it to end. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

New Year road trip day 5: Mt Kosciuszko

Today was the day we were to summit the highest mountain in Australia. That sounds impressive, but there's no actual climbing involved - you can walk the whole way to the peak on a purpose-built metal pathway - and at 2,228 metres (7,300 feet) above sea level, it's a baby mountain by world standards. 

Nevertheless, we did it! There was rain and possible storms forecast for late afternoon or evening and Luke thought we should probably change our plans and go only as far as the Mt Kosciuszko lookout (a 5km round trip compared to the 13km to get to the top and back), but I was having none of that. Pffft. Rain. Possible storms. I hadn't come all this way to not get to the top. 

Mother Nature was on my side. We made it up and back just in time to beat the storm.  

You don't need to be super fit to do the walk, but I found it challenging, especially the first few kilometres which just went up...and up...and up in a straightish line (those times I stopped for a sip of water or to blow my nose? I was mostly just trying to catch my breath). Despite numerous but brief rests, we completed the walk in under five hours while the official tourist info says it takes four to six hours.  

It turned out to be my favourite part of our trip, not just because we made it to the top, but because it's just so damn pretty - the wildflowers, the trickling streams and little waterfalls, the amazing panoramic views, the craggy peaks of other mountains, the couple of patches of still-unmelted was all so picturesque. 

And here is the (abundant) proof:

Going up on the ski lift to the start of the walk 
(My first time on a ski lift and there's no snow!)


 Little waterfall

Yeah, another stream


Could it be...a stream?

 Luke (walking path at left)

See that bump mid-shot? That's Mt Kosciuszko. 
Yeah, I expected it to be more impressive too 

 A patch of snow


Nature finds a way

 Lake Cootapatamba

 More rocks

 We made it!! (Photos of me are in Luke's camera)

 Heading back down


 A murder. There were a lot of crows up there but not 
many other birds, oddly

The storm closes in. We got to the ski lift  just as it
 was closing because of the risk of lightning strike

 And back to our car before the heavy rain started

We continued on to Corryong (and back into Victoria), along winding roads through the forested mountains with, at times, pounding rain. It stopped by the time we reached our destination and checked into a motel. The Mountain View Motel, in fact, and they aren't lying. 

Over the back fence of our motel

It was pretty humid and my body was weary and (mildly) sunburnt, so I went for a swim in the motel pool (after dipping my toe in to make sure it wasn't freezing cold). I was only in for about 10 minutes, but miraculously I woke up the next morning without screamingly sore and weary muscles after walking up a mountain the day before. This must be why footballers go swimming in the sea the morning after a game. 

Even the pool has mountain views

We had dinner at one of the local pubs. I opted for the chicken for a change and it was very average. Lesson learnt.