Living the Dream, Chasing the Weather and Wandering About … A diary

unnamed16652604_10154518107172779_648030254_nMost of spring was spent wandering Queensland, hunting storms, varied landscapes and exploring the world to our north…our 1st trip (left) was 5 weeks and 15,862km – from the bottom to near the top of the continent, and the 2nd trip (on right) in comparison was 19 days and 7,939km. In between trips we had a Christmas barbeque with a bunch of weather people in Melbourne, dinner with family and sadly, the funeral of a close friend. The trip is described in diary format and may wander about as much as we did…

14695394_10154174989597779_5768134642970493950_n18th October We left Trentham dead on 12pm with the odometer sitting at just under 200,000km. The day is sunny with cloudy patches, cumulus and stratocumulus to our north as we head out of Bendigo. Hay in southern New South Wales is our first night’s target – right on the river. There’s not much traffic on a Tuesday – it’s much better than travelling on a weekend…one of the benefits of being retired. The sun is hot on my knees and ABC radio is talking about Trump, Australian gun laws and the upcoming bushfire season. Drivers are polite on these country roads, they will let you know when it is safe to overtake.

We stopped for the first cup of tea on the trip west of Deniliquin and 14632879_10154181353812779_336031328472624599_nwatched a line of showers on the cold front. Nothing came of it but because we had seen a couple of lowerings and vaporous ‘funnelly’ things we decided to sit and watch a few minutes.

The Edwards River at Deniliquin hasn’t quite flooded the town but the caravan park is suffering and there are lakes where once were carparks!!

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We pushed on to Hay to the Big 4 caravan park down near the river in South Hay. A tidy drive-through site for $32 and lots of hot water in the showers. We walked into town to check if there was anything on offer for tea….the IGA supermarket seemed the best bet, so we bought some supplies and some tropical strength Aeroguard to combat the mosquitoes 14657539_10154181694707779_5323604767527615262_n(which I applied liberally as soon as I was out in the street) and ventured back across the flooded river with a bunch of sweetpeas that a couple of ladies in the Main Street had encouraged me to pick from their garden.

Tomorrow we plan to head north to Bourke and another of our favorite van parks.

19th October14590521_10154183765802779_6555981007299709596_n Last night they closed the highway we were going to go north on today due to flooding – so we are playing snakes and ladders today having to go north, then east, then northwest then northish then northwest.We left Hay about 9.30am after an unseasonably cold night had us most thankful that we had forgotten to take the doonas out of the motorhome. Heading north we came across water flowing quite quickly over the road – with a 3,500kg Ford Transit we did fine – but I don’t think I would have liked trying to negotiate that in a Toyota Corolla!!!

Th14729254_10154183786362779_998046732992661416_ne day was mainly sunny with occasionally boring cumulus (of no discernible vertical ascent) drifting about. I discovered that it’s not flat country that I dislike – it’s treeless flat country that gets to me – and why I occasionally need a hill and tree fix.
The roads so far between Hay and West Wyalong are ok other than the river we drove through. We spotted cotton bolls lying along the road – didn’t realize that the cotton bales weren’t sealed. Patterson’s Curse is everywhere and is about 2′ higher than usual after a wet spring.
We turned right at the Marsden rest area (courtesy of a 4 hour detour of the Newell 14692144_10154184110032779_2758831441793744013_oHighway as there are flooded areas north of Marsden)……and drove east for a bit and turned up the Henry Lawson Way that takes us into Forbes – the road here after the rain is even worse than the Olympic Way used to be in the 80’s. There’s still a lot of water lying around. Whenever you see a reduce speed sign now you don’t ignore it. A lot of the time it’s easier to drive around the damaged road on the wrong side. We had wanted to get to Bourke but with the flooding and detours we only got as far as Trangie.

(to be continued)

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Eating our way across the North Atlantic

Day 1 – wind trails on the water

Rocking and rolling last night as we rounded the Isle of Wight and headed out into the English Channel. We are in Stateroom 12012, next door to the one we were in on the last cruise…on the night before we left we were upgraded from Stateroom 6164, as were our neighbors who started off on lower decks too…
Breakfast…coffee, tea, toast, and then bacon, eggs, baked beans, tomato for Clyve. Black currant jam (oh, how I have missed you)!!!! marmalade and strawberry jam. I’m being “good” and only having 2-3 small slices of toast for breakfast.
Morning tea…cup of tea and coffee, Clyve had a small Danish and I had a bread roll, butter and…wait for it…black currant jam!! Back to the room…Clyve is wearing a patch behind his ear and isn’t seasick this time but has a headache and is having his second11012016J32426a copy shower of the day at 11.30am..I’m wearing the pressure bands and not having a problem at all. It’s nice to be sitting around without having to be anywhere 🙂
…and as I did on the last cruise….today I sacrificed my sunglasses to the Gods of the Atlantic…
Watching the webcam on the ship with Force 7 winds and a moderate swell.
We’re rocking a rolling a bit more tonight…up to 20′ waves tonight with confused swells

Day 2 – passing showers

Sometime in the middle of the night the rocking and rolling stopped and we both got a good nights sleep…This morning we are heading due west and rolling somewhat on a northerly swell..the snow line in our vicinity has dropped from 1,500′ to 1,200′.
We had breakfast down in Kings Court…I had toast and Clyve had scrambled eggs, which looked very nice, bacon (English, although they do have American as well), baked beans and sausages…I wish I had his metabolism).
At breakfast, a bit of eavesdropping …a youngish couple who had been living in Barcelona with their dogs had been ‘forced’ into driving across Europe and through England to Southampton, then across the Atlantic on the Queen mAry 2 with their dogs kenneled on the 12th deck kennels, then hire a car in New York and drive to Boulder, Colorado as that was the only way they could bring their dogs across without quarantining them……and people think we are crazy!!!

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We undertook a circuit around the deck and then across the top deck in an air temperature of 8°C with a windchill of between 0- -2°C with winds across the deck of 40 knots!! Passing showers with a splattering of (maybe) graupel. We scuttled inside to warm up with a cup of tea…and a bowl of icecream and lemon curd pastry..and another bread roll with blackcurrant jam and a tiny escargot pastry for me. We met a nice couple from Brisbane who started what is now the 3rd largest private school in Queensland 19 years ago and do some serious travelling every year…last year was South America, and this year is sailing from Southampton to Brisbane on the QM2.

I had Asian for lunch and Clyve had salami and cheese rolls….we ‘pfaffed’ about during the afternoon and did a couple of almost circuits of the ship and retired to afternoon tea at 4pm…Clyve had icecream (no, he’s not sick of it yet) and I had a Devonshire tea…..I’m fully prepared to put enough weight on in the next 5 days that I have to lose before stormchasing season begins 😉

We dressed a little more formally for dinner tonight…I had brisket of peppered beef, cauliflower au gratin and steamed vegetables with a Yorkshire pudding that was nowhere near as good as Dayle’s at Christmas and Clyve had cod and chips, ……and icecream for dessert…

No seasickness for either of us today and I wasn’t wearing my pressure bands. Clyves patch is working well.

Day 3 – warm front approaching.

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Well if there is a calm on the North Atlantic in January, this would have to be it!! Still an obvious NE swell but a small one that is doing no more than make things vibrate as they go through. Colder but virtually no wind.

Breakfast this morning was a disappointment…although it was delivered by a Russian who must have been 7′ tall and had to duck under the doorway to get into the room and walk stooped through the stateroom. On Monday morning we asked for 4 serves of toast and got 8 slices, today we asked for 2 serves of toast and got 2 slices…..which were cold, as was the hot water…we got oodles of milk at least and more cereal for tonight. Clyve asked for one egg and got 2….

Even though warm fronts move slowly, when you are doing 20knots in one direction and the warm front is approaching from the same direction, things actually happen rather quickly…in the time that I have been writing this entry today, we are starting to go up and down the swells a bit harder…..and the cloud deck has lowered.

We went down to Deck 2 to watch the waves and a couple of them washed the window…bigger than last time!! I didn’t have dinner tonight, have eaten too much too early in the day again…so my total for the day was orange juice, 2 pieces of toast and tea, then tea and a couple of small cakes for morning tea and had lunch which was trout, French fries, green beans, steamed veggies……and after that sat and watched Clyve have afternoon tea ….

Day 4 – rocking and rolling ahead of clearing skies

Last night there were a couple of waves that didn’t quite launch us off the bed but came close…..roughest so far this trip, rough enough to wake me up – and I sleep through thunderstorms!! The morning is overcast and raining lightly but the swells have dropped a bit. We decided to go down to breakfast this morning at 8am and that was very pleasant…not particularly crowded but it was getting busy when we left.

A wander about for a bit down at Deck 2 watching waves again….today the swells and waves were larger and we went down for morning tea….I had a small cinnamon scroll and Clyve had a Kit Kat from the stash…interesting to watch people still having breakfast at 10.30 am..and a bit more eavesdropping….a Scottish woman behind us was talking about ‘going home’ to her house out of Fort Lauderdale….she had married an American but was no longer married. Fashions are another point of interest…..There is no such thing as fashion on this ship…people wear all sorts of things, many of which I wouldn’t be seen dead in!! The big difference is that the running shoes make their appearance in the morning and start disappearing as the day goes on…

So I put my boots on and we went to lunch…it took me two circuits of the food court to find a table with a view just after 1pm and I found an ideal spot in the sun. Clyve had Cornish pastie and chips and I had Cornish pastie, chips and salad….dessert for Clyve was….ice cream……., and we took more desserts back to our stateroom with a cup of tea…I had pear bread and butter pudding with custard (10/10) and Clyve had a couple of small classy morsels…and that is before they have started putting out afternoon tea!! Seas have subsided a lot and all we have to deal with is a steady southerly swell.

By the 4th day you have something resembling a routine…you definitely do eat more on the ship than usual, and you have to be prepared to put weight on it you enjoy food (unless all you eat is fruit) as the presentation and quality is very good!! There is breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner…so you can start at 8am and eat every 2 hours of the day – the toughest thing to do is to find a table with a view!!

What is interesting is that you are travelling westward, beginning at something like 49 degrees north and actually heading southwest…and the water gets colder and so does the air….by Thursday its getting decidedly chilly. Ship life can be a bit of a shock if you are someone who likes to be on the go most of the time, doing things that you want to do…here there are no lawns to be mowed, no housework to do (although we like to have the stateroom neat and tidy when our steward Joy gets there)…a big thing on the ship is reading, there are board games to play, presentations, lectures, a casino, interest groups….and eating. I think more people partake of this on a regular basis than all the other activities on the ship put together. We qualify for a classy restaurant but have chose to slum it in the Kings Buffet….

Dinner tonight….I had crisp duck, caramelised mashed potato, steamed veggies, Clyve had spring rolls and wedges….and icecream!!! I had a tiny little cake which was stunning!!!! Choux pastry, custard, brûlée,..mmmmm

Day 5 – cloudy with snow flurries

Breakfast downstairs this morning….snow flurries passing, Clyve is dedicated enough to be out on our balcony taking photos…I’m being a wimp, I’m sitting watching from inside…now if it was really snowing that would be different!

After breakfast, where we met a couple who ‘had’ to cruise because she was unable to fly, we wandered up to Deck 3 to watch the waves photo(45)and browse the ‘sales’ and then down to Deck 2 to watch the waves a little closer…there was actually ice on the outside of the windows both in the shop on Deck 3 and the games area on Deck 2 and we watched blowing snow over the water!! We went down for morning tea and they are putting together a magical display of ice sculptures and cakes for afternoon tea today. Lunch looks good too…the lunch menus have been more interesting than the dinner menus this trip…one of the amazing things about this cruise is the turnover of food for all different meals…as one area of the buffet closes down at the end of a meal, another is being set up for the next and this goes on constantly…..all the staff and food areas are immaculatelypresented.

Overhead down at Deck 2 this morning… “look at all the towels lying around to soak up the water..is that a good thing?” We giggled and kept going…

Clyve went for half a circuit in the decks…I declined…he came back white and shivering from a temperature of 1C with a windchill of -5°C or less…so we stayed indoors for the rest of the day watching snow flurries and moderate seas….

Dinner was taken early this evening before the crowds arrived…filet mignon which although cooked rarer than we both prefer was of amazing quality, Clyve had potato wedges and a bread roll, I had potatoes dauphinois, steamed vegetables and a bread roll….followed up with a couple of small delicacies for dessert….

Still cold and the wind is howling tonight……lovely weather for a cruise !!!

Day 6 – misty, warm and rainy becoming Force 10 gale

A completely different morning!!! From freezing and blowing furiously yesterday to mild and almost calm this morning after a night of ship vibration courtesy of a small cross swell. Today is our last full day on board…tomorrow at some horror hour we have to be up to greet New York, have breakfast and be ready to leave the ship by 6.45am…do we know what the weather will be like yet? Nope…can’t even find a forecast on the TV!!!!

Having done our housekeeping and packed our bags for tomorrow morning, we proceeded to check the path of least resistance to get down to the Queens Club from our stateroom…this requires going halfway along our deck, down to Deck 11 and all the way along that then down in the lift to deck 3!!! Glad we worked that one out today!!! I did a tour of the galley and Clyve took one look at the queue of a couple of hundred people and retired to the sanity of our stateroom.. The galley tour was amazing!!!

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You could eat your meal from the floor, the walls, countertops or ceilings!!!! It’s huge and has escalators in and out of it!!!!!

We fought the masses to get lunch and retired to our stateroom…a good move considering the fact that we were in the process of running into a deepening low pressure system and a Force 10 gale!!!! The next couple of hours was entertaining…Clyve got soaked with salt spray that was getting up to the 12th deck while he was videoing from our balcony and had to go and have a shower, but the ship was listing to port so much that the water wasn’t running out of the shower, so we had our own mini tsunami in the shower for a few hours till the listing subsided somewhat….

We went down for the last Devonshire tea of the trip and “pigged out”…too many scones, far too much jam and definitely too much cream!!!! Never know when your next opportunity might be so we celebrated…..on the way back I decided to see if I could get a massage at a discounted price….when the cruise started it was $99 for 50minutes…..yesterday and today it was $89 for 50 minutes….I offered $75 for 45 minutes and it was accepted!!! Fabulous…and worth every cent…my neck, shoulders and back are mobile once again!!

Tonight just something light…a Creme caramel that I saw being made this morning…..and that’s the end of our week on the high seas…

We’ve seen some amazing weather this trip…30-40′ swells with 40-50′ waves at times…70 knot winds sustained for 2 hours today!! We listed 15 degrees to port for about an hour and a half..and had great fun rolling drink cans back and forth across the stateroom…..We had snow yesterday, a calm day somewhere in the week..but most days have rocked and rolled….and we’ve loved it!!!!

A few words about Joy, our room steward. Joy comes from the Phillippines and will be leaving the Queen Mary in Hong Kong on the world cruise to go home for a while and then rejoining in June….she has 2 teenagers and Skypes with them as often as time differences, jobs and school permit…..she was wonderful to us and presented our room to us as if it were 5 star hotel. Anyone who aspires to work in an international hotel should (if they ever have the chance) spend a couple of days on a ship like the Queen Mary to see how things are done “as they should be”!!

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Stormchasing on the North Atlantic – Chapter 1

The night before we boarded the Queen Mary 2 (the largest ocean liner in the world!), we arrived in Southampton, England after dark by train (about 5.30pm) and caught a taxi to the hotel – driven by a Portuguese driver who had spent time in Australia. We had a great room (right above the railway line which suited us perfectly…sounded like thunder every time a train went past), where the trains ran every 15-20 minutes with last service is at 2.20am.

We walked up the road with the initial idea of heading into the shopping area to go to a supermarket and buy something to eat when we got back to the hotel…but with hordes of incredibly well behaved football fans leaving a ground near us after a Sunday match (Southampton vs Portsmouth), we decided against going with the flow of the crowd and had hamburgers just up the road!

I had booked our taxi for 2.45pm (embarkation was timed for 3.30pm), but I went to print out the E-tickets, the boarding time had mysteriously been brought forward to 1pm…I didnt bother to read why but went back down to hotel reception in between making up luggage tags and asked the hotel receptionist to change the taxi booking time forward to 12.15pm – a good move in hindsight as complete chaos reigned the next day with people who had been to the football trying to check out of the hotel, people coming off 3 cruise ships trying to check into the hotel, and then people checking out of the hotel trying to get on the next cruise…..and a steady stream of taxis circling the carpark!!!!

We arrived in the cruise hall and sat around watching the other passengers waiting for our boarding group to be called…it’s quickly clear who has been on this trip before by their demeanour and their behaviour…seasoned travellers don’t fidget..new traveller’s have very big eyes with their heads on a swivel!!

After discovering that we had been mysteriously upgraded from Deck 6 midships to Deck 12 forward (again)…we ambled off to security and boarding…I didn’t want to take my ‘Storm’ bracelet off and had to subject to a patdown, and upon suggesting that she (the Customs agent) might give me a shoulder massage at the same time as my shoulders were sore after carrying baggage all over Europe, I ended up with a 5 minute shoulder massage (in a previous life, the Customs agent had been a massage therapist)…now that just wouldnt happen in an airport…

Once on board, and still waiting for our luggage which was labelled with the cabin tags for Deck 6 but had not yet arrived on Deck 12, we ambled down to Deck 7 for afternoon tea, and joined the other seasoned travellers who had beaten us to it!!  Clyve hunted down his much loved vanilla icecream and I had 2 small cakes and a cup of tea.

As we left Southampton docks at 6.30pm at the beginning of the Queen Mary’s world cruise, they were playing Rod Stewart’s “Sailing” at full blast…seagulls flocked around the water disturbed by the ship and the fireworks display to herald the beginning of the cruise ended to cries of “Bravo” from people watching from the decks.

For dinner tonight I had rack of pork with gravy, mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables, bread roll and a Cardinal dessert. Clyve had Chicken Cordon Bleu, French fries, bread roll and coke ($4.30 a glass), and……icecream!!!!

 

 

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Our Big Day Out……

Part 2 of the saga of Trentham, Victoria to Swansea, Wales by public transport….

imageWe left a hazy, smoggy Hong Kong with the promise of being into Heathrow about an hour early courtesy of a half loaded plane and favorable winds…a 777 300ER can carry around 280 passengers…we’d be lucky to have half of that number on this flight…everyone spread out soon after take off and by ‘breakfast time’ about an hour into the flight there weren’t many vacant seats left…most people had claimed 3 seats each, as did I <g>

Breakfast once again….you certainly couldnt starve flying Cathay Pacific around the world…..was excellent, but our appetites had been slightly sated by the last breakfast we had just before landing about 3 hours before. One hint if travelling with Cathay…if you like salt and pepper with your meal, ask for a couple of sachets as soon as you can…they aren’t commonly supplied.

Nap time for an hour or so and I’m feeling ‘bright as a button’ again…at this stage, we have now been awake for 31 hours….only about 16 more hours to go before proper sleep…and a 47-48 hour day is a loooong one. We have yet to get from Heathrow to Paddington in London and then catch a train out to Swansea in Wales……

As we fly over snow covered Mongolia, where the lakes are almost completely frozen and the entire landscape is white….. imagethe outside temperature at 34,000′ is -74F!!!!!..we did get to -81F at 36,000′ northeast of Moscow.

Landing at Heathrow was a breeze…..it was the sitting around once we got into Paddington Station that finally got to us and we donned jumpers and winter coats, while the Brits around us dressed in all sorts of different styles…from the short sleeves of the bloke across from us on the train to Swansea tonight to a couple of girls who were dressed more appropriately for climbing a 10,000′ mountain.

Prices have been an eye opener and we won’t talk about the exchange rate for the Aussie dollar against the rest of the world… £2.40 (nearly $5) for a medium hot chocolate!!!!!! A 15 minute train ride from Heathrow airport to Paddington…..£32 for the 2 of us…but if you buy your tickets on the day it’s £44!!!! and yet, we get to travel from London to Swansea in Wales which is a 3 hour 20 minute journey it cost £54 for both of us!!!

We’re on the last leg of a 2 day journey which started about 43 hours ago…..Yep…we’re just a little bit tired…. 🙂

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Cattle Class at 38,000’…..

……sitting here at 3.30am (Melbourne time) over eastern Northern Territory listening to Avenged Sevenfold, Nine Inch Nails, Def Leppard and Hush in the dark with just the flickering of TV monitors around me…the turbulence in the vicinity of the tropical low in northern Australia is just now making itself felt as we cruise at 36,000′ with an outside temperature of -40C (or -40F) and a headwind of 24mph…… that should start waking a few people up!! Needless to say Clyve and I are sitting here grinning like a pair of kids!!

Cathay Pacific has acquitted itself well on this flight..my first with them since 1982 and Clyve’s first since 1988, although the hot towels have been replaced with moist towelettes in packets with an allergy warning on them…the menu for dinner (served at 1.30am Melbourne time) was interesting, very tasty and rated a solid 8 out of 10. The mineral water was Perrier no less!! Clyve had the black pepper beef and I had the Mediterranean chicken, both followed with a mango Weis bar.

The cabin staff have been doing this for a while judging by the expert and rapid service which included a couple of maneuvers which would have rated a score of 9 in the “Server Olympics” (if there was such a thing) where a glass of wine was poured and handed to a customer who was behind the steward while she took the order of the passenger in front of her…not a drop was spilled and the wine was presented intact to the correct passenger!!!!

6 hours to go…….

Blackness in the moonlight….

We flew over Darwin as it was disappearing under a veil of cirrus…bet none of you TopEnders waved as we went over did you…..lol…

I’ve walked around as much of the plane as I could…as this is a small plane, an Airbus 330, Cathay limits your wanderings by installing curtains down the back to give some temporary privacy to the crew who sit there to eat their sandwiches as the passengers sleep or watch movies…I interrupted them to do some stretching exercises. Virgin Australia are far more generous..you can lap half the plane in one go and the stewards on duty are happy to have your company while the rest of their crew members are upstairs doing whatever they do up there…..can’t do that in a 300…there’s no upstairs to hide in!!

The bloke behind us is snoring loudly so I’ve escaped into my headphones and a song list on my iPhone of 94 songs which will more than see me out to Hong Kong….just need to be interrupted for breakfast in the meantime.

…….and then I notice that we are in the northern hemisphere and that there is only 3.5 hours of an 8.5 hour flight to go..we are currently weaving our way through the Moluccan Sea and around islands barely visible in the moonlight…we are flying at 38,000′ and the outside temperature is -56F…..

the next flight is in daylight all the way…up over China and Russia and following the great circle through Scandinavia and down to Heathrow.

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How is a vowel different to a consonant and what the heck is a partitive article???????

A million years ago (when I was at high school) I had a love-hate relationship with the technicalities of the English language. I could spell virtually any word, having won spelling bees all through primary (elementary) school, but in high school I hit the first of many brick walls…..which led to me going from the A class to the C class and actually failing the “Trial School Certificate” although I did scrape through the real thing….

diphthongsNewZealandVowels and consonants and dipthongs I enjoyed because phonetics was fun (and had contributed somewhat to my success in spelling comps) – a friend and I taught ourselves to write phonetically using the Greek alphabet in one of the earlier years of high school because we were bored, so I was ok with those and syllables. I struggled through and managed to be able to deal with adjectives, nouns and verbs….but throw a conjunction or a preposition at me and I floundered……and promptly drowned.

I was reminded of these struggles today when I dusted off my “once every 2 years French language” books as we will be staying in Paris for a couple of nights in January and it was time to refresh my very bad (but spoken with a good accent) French…….and ran headfirst into the masculine and feminine of the English words “small”, “next” and “white”…and it all came flooding back…… aaaaaarrrrghhhhhhh!!!!!

I’m now staring at this ….

“An article (un article) is a small but essential little word that introduces a noun and takes its gender and number. Articles come in three types:
The definite articles: le, la, l’, and les (the). For example: les enfants (the children).
The indefinite articles: un and une (a/an), des (some), and de and d’ (no/not any). For example: un chat (a cat).
The partitive articles: du, de la, de l’, and des (some). For example, de l’eau (some water).”

I think it’s time for a cup of tea……..

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Just off for a bit of a walk……….17kms should do it!!!

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Today we set out to walk. Armed with a camera and 100-400mm lens, a couple of sandwiches, bottles of drink, a chocolate bar, sugar lollies and a pair of extra socks, we hit the tracks of the few thousand acres of the Wombat Forest south of Trentham in the Victorian Central Ranges. A pleasant day with no hint of a breeze when we left and a comfortable and sunny 19C.

Our path took us along the back of the cemetery which sported new signs warning of the need to be aware of the condition of the track during wet or windy weather in the first 175 metres of our walk…..had someone tried to take the Cemetery Trust to court for a slip in the mud or a clip to the head by an errant branch? We trod carefully. Past there we had the choice of paths…and choose the one to the right which took us along the edge of a local farm…this paddock inhabited by a dozen or so well covered and relaxed horned Hereford steers who took only a passing interest in us. A rising whine warned of a couple of dirt bikes coming down from the north on the other side of the paddock…and the steers, as one, took off along the fence line in pursuit of the noise makers. We walked east on Domino Road for perhaps 30 metres and turned into the bush on the south side…..the trees here were different to the ones nearer the cemetery….the ground is rockier and the trees are frequent but the trunks are thinner. imageWe discovered what seemed to be an old diggings where a small valley had been dug out by hand to a depth of about 5 feet and where the vegetation had re-established over its base, then passed behind a new house going up in the middle of a patch of forest bordering a small pine plantation, and found ourselves back on the road between Trentham and Newbury.

We walked north for a short distance and turned down the Old Blackwood Road, past the seller or local honey and old clocks and along the well formed dirt road till we found Tower Track….we followed it till we got to Pronk Track which was named after the local who maintained the road for his customers and visitors as proclaimed by a sign nailed to a tree on the corner – a long time ago as suggested by the height of the sign on the tree well above our head height…..we poked up and down the occasional driveway disguised as a track and noted the number of properties secreted away in the forest…..continued along the road (still marked as a public road at that stage) and through a patch of remnant moist forest in the side of Blue Mountain….moss covering all of the tree stumps from way back and the trees that lay along the ground, the ferns that had taken over from the bracken of the drier parts, past straight trunked Manna Gums growing up from the hillside below us to way above us with Scrub Wrens flitting imagealongside through the lower storey plants. I paused and stood for a few minutes listening to the different bird calls in that more dense and cool forest. The track wound past a house surrounded by rhododendrons in full flower and 3 horses…and on over the rise, looking less and less like a public road the further we went.

As we climbed upward again around the side of Blue Mountain the track seemed newer and there were marks made by the tracks of a Caterpillar and newer foliage lying along the sides…not a good sign for our continued exploration…….and then we came to a gate…and the end of the track. So we found a fallen tree and had lunch…..sandwiches of salami, cheese and green tomato pickle on good Trentham bread, a couple of mouthfuls of coke. I took my shoes and socks off and sat dangling my bare feet like a kid, watching the birds around us and listening to the sounds of the forest…and the occasional chainsaw off in the distance.

Some time later with a new pair of socks on my feet, we set off for home…pausing on the way to chat to the horses at the house on the bend……the greeter of the 3 of them was a tall bay who marched down the paddock, straight up to me and put his head over mine to talk to Clye and get a good cheek scratch at the same time….the pale buckskin and the old palomino joined in the conversation and accepted a bit of sugar lolly for their politeness. We retraced our steps, and halfway up the Old Blackwood Road we heard the first car of the day come up behind us and slow to a stop….after introductions…..walkers are a little unusual out that way, the driver, Ron Thorpe from Trentham had been out visiting a friend and was on his way back to town..he offered us a lift but we were happy walking. We spent the next 20 or so minutes chatting to him about local people and doings and such and promised to drop in on him next time we were down his road in town, and with a cheerful wave he continued on into town.

We did the last 3km along the main road back to Trentham, surprising drivers who are more accustomed to seeing kangaroos on the side of the road rather than a couple of walkers, wandered through the front door 17kms and 4 hours after we left, and plonked down on the couch…..I’m allowed to have my feet on the coffee table after that!!

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