OZ and Tassie travel blog

The House-sit 2

1 January

Slow start to the day, but it was a beautiful morning so we decided to revisit the Dandenong Ranges. An easy drive, about 5 minutes to the start of the Mount Dandenong Tourist Road which slowly climbs and winds through very tall eucalypts (eucalyptus regnans, called mountain ash by the first settlers!) past small villages and houses to the William Ricketts Sanctuary.

The Sanctuary was created by William as a place for quiet reflection and replenishing the spirit. He believed that all Australians should adopt Aboriginal philosophies, respecting the spirituality of the mother earth and all things in the natural world. There are over 90 sculptures set into the hillside among the trees and ferns. We had a lovely walk through the Sanctuary, trying to avoid the very loud families also visiting. We could still hear the whip birds.

On now to try and find ice cream! Not impressed with what we found, we drove on to the Botanic Gardens. Not very well signposted, the signpost read ‘Rhododendron Gardens’ with a small banner beneath for the Botanic Gardens. We missed it first time round! Lovely gardens though the rhodies were well and truly finished. Walked the Lyrebird track but no sightings, but by now we were decidedly hungry, breakfast was along time ago. Several cafes had just closed - at 4 in the afternoon!!, but we found a cafe for ‘Devonshire afternoon tea’ in Sassafras.

We continued along the Tourist Road and turned off towards Kallista, a quieter road, still through the Mountain Ash forests, a beautiful place to live. Slowly down now to Belgrave to join the Burwood Highway, on to Fern Tree Gully and home. A really nice day despite the number of Australians out on the public holiday.

2 January

Another relaxing morning and after lunch drove into Melbourne to visit the Melbourne Museum. A short drive around East Melbourne and the victorian era houses. Found parking right outside the museum, what luck. We spent all afternoon here, enjoying Bunjilaka, the Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander exhibits and stories, very well presented. We walked through the Milarri indigenous garden and into the Forest Gallery. Saw a satin bowerbird, a beautiful almost iridescent blue, and his mate a duller green and brown, a buff-banded rail family and a yellow-tufted honeyeater in the bushes and trees of the Gallery.

A good day out.

3 January

A dull start to the day but the forecast was for 36 degrees later. A good day to visit Bendigo, in the middle of the Victorian goldfields.

So back through Melbourne and climbing up the M79/Calder Highway into the Great Dividing Ranges, through the Macedon Ranges, the highest point along the Highway at 638m, past the turnoff to Hanging Rock (of the ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ fame, decided not to visit today) and on past Kyneton and Malmsbury turning off to visit Castlemaine, one of the old goldmining towns. Along the road were a number of 19th century houses, made of local stone, pretty little cottages. Castlemaine is an interesting town, the main street of which dates from the mid 1800s, but no longer the wealthy town it once was. Not quite sure why, but the RSL building had several WW1 field guns captured from the Germans in the surrounding park.

We drove on to Maldon which has the best preserved High and Main Streets in Victoria. It was now 36 degrees, it was dry heat and didn’t trouble us toooo much. Ruth went shopping while I wandered around the little town enjoying the old buildings and taking photographs. Ruth found some lovely clothes.

We drove up the hill to find a shady spot for lunch. We stopped in the deep shade of a huge tree right by the remains of the Beehive Gold Mine, active from 1854 to 1918. The only remaining structure is the 30 metre high chimney, built in 1861 and looking in remarkable good condition. This gold mine had one of the richest deposits in Victoria. Nearby is the Victorian Goldfields Railway, Maldon Station, no trains today. Back down the hill for ice cream.

Out along the Bendigo road we came upon a huge dredge and crane, rusting away by a billabong, we later discovered this to be know as the Porcupine Flat Gold Dredge and Dragline, installed in about 1958 and used with moderate success until the mid 1980s. We could see old spoil heaps strung along the road. Fascinating! On now to Bendigo.

Through browned, dry grazing lands with scattered woodlands, the occasional herd of sheep. Rolling countryside. Into Bendigo, which was a little disappointing. We did visit the old Post Office, a huge edifice, now given over to the local tourist information office and a couple of small art galleries and wandered around the city centre, but the heat, it was 36degrees after all, got the better of us and after a cold drink in we headed out of town to join Carolyn for dinner.

A lovely drive out through Heathcote to join the Northern Highway and on to Kilmore. Nice to meet up again, but we decided to leave early-ish so we could enjoy the drive back home, across-country, in daylight. It was a good drive through lovely countryside, dropping all the time. Some great views. Home, bed.

The journey today seemed to us to be what we like about Australia; the heat, the eucalypts, brown grasslands, pretty little 19c villages and towns and virtually empty roads.

4 January

Well, it was a warm night, only cooling in the small hours, but we were up early and off to the pool. A great swim under clear skies and warming sunshine. By the time we finished it was getting quite hot; the forecast was for 42 degrees! So we headed for home and the air conditioning.

Just relaxed in the cool. Watched the cricket (India in the ascendancy again) before driving to the Eastlands Shopping Centre, completely climate controlled, for a sushi lunch and some shopping for the weekend. Lots of people, especially families with young children in the Centre, all escaping the heat. Back into the air-conditioned car and home again for more cricket. It was very, very hot outside, but about six it cooled rapidly, as forecast, to 21 degrees, and then a thunderstorm rolled over, moving quite rapidly so we didn’t get too much rain. Carolyn joined us for dinner, we were up till nearly midnight when both cats arrived; hadn’t seen them for a couple of days.

Nice and cool at bedtime.

5 January

Still cool this morning and overcast. Rained later in the morning. Ruth embarked on more family tree research, I watched the cricket - it was hot and sunny in Sydney. What a change on the weather, 43 degrees yesterday and 15 today!

Cats appeared again and Ollie came in out of the rain, Lily was a lot more hesitant, but Carolyn managed to get close to her with the use of cat treats and even managed to pick her up. The cats hung around all evening, quite unusual.

Watched the movie/docudrama ‘Hotel Coolgardie’ a bleak portrayal of life in a mining town pub. Very depressing, but we stuck with it until the end. Bed.

6 January

A fine morning, sunny with a few fluffy clouds and a cool south-westerly breeze. After breakfast we headed off to Kinglake, past Kangaroo Ground, which we drove through on our way south from Carolyn’s, on through to St Andrews where we swung off onto the Heidelburg-Kinglake road. A twisting, winding road that ran up above a pretty valley, all forested, a nice drive though Ruth wasn’t too keen.

We had a quick look at Kinglake, nothing much, a pub and a few shops. We carried on towards the Healesville Road/Melba Highway, still lovely countryside. Crossed the Highway and headed for Toolangi. Gentle climb up through wooded hills to the little town. Found a recreational reserve, but the visitor/info centre was closed. Walked the Sculpture Trail, many of the woodland sculptures, created in 2016, had deteriorated to the point of total collapse, but a nice walk through the woods. Next we walked the River Walk, through the woods to the river. Heard lots of birds, saw some crimson corellas, beautiful birds and some little finches but they and the corellas were too flighty for a photo. Found more hyacinth orchids, a very pretty pink.

Drove on, higher and higher, through majestic mountain ash woodlands, on to Myers Creek Road and then to a gravel road up into the forests, Silvia Creek Road. It was a good quality surface for a gravel road and wound gently higher and higher through the Toolangi State Forest. We stopped at Mount Tanglefoot picnic ground to eat our sandwiches, only saw a tattered magpie though we did hear kookaburras and corellas. We drove as far as the map showed, though the road did go further, and stopped at the Kalatha Giant Tree Walk, a loop circuit around a giant mountain ash, some 73 metres high, said to be over 400 years old and bears the scars of bush fires (which normally kill mountain ash trees as their bark is so thin). Impressive, but surrounded by scrub so difficult to get a photo.

Back down the road, Ruth suddenly called ‘Stop’! She had seen, what we later discovered, a Rose Robin, a very pretty bird with striking red-coloured chest. Managed to get a couple of photos. On down the road and saw quite a few pairs of crimson corellas but only as they flew up quickly from the roadside verge, far too quick for photography. Out of the State Forest we continued to follow the Myers Creek Road all the way to Healesville, all through lovely countryside, very green here, didn’t look like Australia at all, almost English countryside, but for the fact that the trees were mostly eucalypts. Joined all the traffic heading back to Melbourne, and there was lots of it!

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