|A ship on the sea in Portarlington.|
Singapore in a flash was our last blog, and in a flash seems to aptly describe the velocity at which this year seems to be flying by. See the theme here? Flash, velocity, flying? In lay person’s English …where has this year gone … well, going? It’s July!
A lot has happened since our trip to Thailand and Singapore over Christmas, but we’re hoping that August will also arrive in a flash, so to speak, as Alex and I are off to Ecuador and Argentina for almost five weeks. Whilst the bulk will be spent with family in Ecuador, we will also make some time, on the way home, to see some very dear friends, all of whom Alex has met, but whom I have met on my travels over the years. Not surprisingly, none of them in Ecuador.
|Ombi and Alex with ‘Doobie’ at Portarlington.|
Rewind … after such a relaxing and wonderful trip to Thailand, it was back to the grindstone in Melbourne. Yes, we work to live and not live to work, so we always try and do different things on the weekend, which often includes planning our next trip. Our activities often seem to involve being around foreigners or multicultural events.
The weekend after we returned from Thailand we went to Portalington for the day to enjoy the Port Arlington Mussel Festival with Dad. The festival is a community event showcasing the prosperity of the Bellarine Peninsula, local food and wine and of course, the wonderful Aussie Blue Mussel. It was a great way to spend some time relaxing with Dad and taking in some more sun and sea … like Thailand hadn’t been enough!
|Having a bite to eat at our place with (L to R): Ina, Clara and Jochen.|
In January we also had the great pleasure of meeting our wonderful friend Jochen’s new wife Ina. They were on a road trip and spending some time in Melbourne. I met Jochen, who is originally from Germany, in Ecuador (as you do!) many years ago, and we just hit it off. He and Ina decided to do a bit of an Aussie road trip, which took them through Melbourne. With their huge caravan, they ended up in the caravan park (literally) just down the road from us, so apart from spending a bit of time at our place we also went to ‘theirs’ … Jochen even organised a great Aussie outdoor BBQ! I must note that Jochen and his daughter Clara started the trip in Western Australia and upon arriving in Melbourne picked Ina up, who had flown in from Germany, from Melbourne airport! The last time I saw Clara was more than ten years ago before she, her Dad and Mum moved to Western Australia.
|The salsa experts, Aida and Octavio Garcia.|
The Australia Day long weekend now seems like ages ago, but along with Jochen and Ina and a whole group of other friends, we went to ‘Mambo at the Bowl’, where we were entertained by New York’s Tito Puente Jr. The free concert at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl was packed with exciting Latin rhythms and scintillating salsa dance performances by local and international artists. We all had a great time, which of course included some boogying.
|Camping at Inverloch. L to R: Alex, Sandra, Santi and Jeh.|
Sometime in July we also went camping … yes, in tents … at Inverloch with a small group of friends, and as usual it was a multicultural affair. This was organised by Jeh. I met Jehvangir (Jeh) a few years back when I was working at Vision Australia, and over time I also got to meet his beautiful wife Faiza, and gorgeous kids Mohammed and Amina. They also invited some friends and we invited Sandra and her little boy Santi. We ate, went to the beach, and Jeh showed us his kite-boarding prowess, just to name a few of the things that kept us occupied. A good, fun and relaxing time was had by all.
|The road map for the road trip.|
Lots of events came and went in the months that followed, but over the Easter break in April, it was our turn to go on a road trip. I had been thinking about it for a while … a ‘let’s get up and go’ style trip (yeh, for something different!), but as usual we made no firm plans. I had also been telling Dad about my idea, but I don’t think he was too keen on my leave it till the last minute attitude. Alex and I finally coaxed him, and early on the morning of Good Friday, we took off. We had promised Dad that we’d be ready for pick-up at 7.30am, and …. yes, I was ready!
|A living bust … bras on tree near Colac!|
It was just before 8.00am that we took off in Dad’s car, which was packed to the rafters, mainly with food! The idea was to come back the following Tuesday, enabling us to all have a decent break. Very loosely, we had decided to go via Colac and Hamilton, on to Mt Gambier, Adelaide and possibly Kangaroo Island. So there was a loose plan, we’d just have to see how it all turned out. The only plans we’d made for accommodation was our first night in Hamilton.
|Extinct volcanic craters, Red Rock, Colac.|
In no rush, we made our way towards Colac, a beautiful and tranquil place only two hours from Melbourne renowned for its magnificent southern coastline, the Otway rainforests and the northern lakes and craters district. There is so much to see and do, but we ended up at Red Rock. The Red Rock Volcanic Complex was the site of many violent volcanic eruptions which resulted in the craters and lakes found in the area. Although it was cold (thanks for your jacket dad!) the views were arresting. We all felt, literally, like we were on top of the world! After some snack and lunch stops we made it to Hamilton by around 5.30pm. Ah yes, there was an ulterior motive and reason why we ended up in Hamilton!
Hamilton is the home of the Beatons, with whom we would be spending Good Friday. Who are the Beatons? Big breath … Jarrod is my second cousin (son of my cousin Moz), and Kari is his gorgeous girlfriend (we ALL love you Kari!!!!!) … they both live in Melbourne … Rob and Stewart are Kari’s parents (they live in Hamilton), and Ebony her sister (who currently lives in Sydney) … everybody was congregating in Hamilton for Easter, so we thought we’d join them … breathe out!! Geez, sounds like my big fat Greek wedding, Aussie style!!
|With the Beatons. L to R: Rob, Ombi, Dino, Jarrod, Kari, Ebony, Stewart.|
We had a fantastic night, and for the first time ever, I thought how much more fun it was being ON the Beaton track rather than OFF it! Robyn and Stewart made us feel right at home, with both wonderful food and company. We were treated to local wine (well Dad and Alex), Robyn’s relish (amazing!) and Stewie’s pickled gherkins … nah, I don’t do pickled gherkins! But Kari assured me that even hard-core pickled gherkin-haters like Stewie’s gherkins. Not convinced! The relish was amazing, and Stewie, your gherkins rock! The Beatons gave us a couple of jars each to take home, which we gracefully accepted.
|The beautiful Limestone Coast.|
Over the next few days we explored Mt Gambier and surrounds as well as South Australia’s Limestone Coast. Dare I say as beautiful as the Great Ocean Road is, the Limestone Coast is as beautiful, if not more so, minus the throngs of tourists. We would do various things during the day, and by late afternoon start looking for a place to stay. It was only on the Saturday night that we ran into a spot of bother; there was absolutely nothing available in Mt Gambier, so we had to drive to Millicent about half an hour away. We did find a comfortable little motel in the end and I think Dad was relieved. Whilst Alex and I are accustomed to winging it, I don’t think it’s really Dad’s thing.
|Port Nelson Lighthouse, Portland Victoria.|
We had a wonderful time over the next few days exploring the nooks and crannies of the Limestone Coast, and like all destinations, we liked some places more than others. As we were on the coast, I also went for some wonderful runs on the beach, which always make me feel re-energised; it’s something about the water, sea and sunshine. We particularly liked Southend, which is a sleepy lobster fishing port. Much to Dad’s dismay, it wasn’t lobster season, so he never did get to eat that lobster he was craving! We also visited Robe, which really did nothing for us at all. Robe is like the Limestone Coast’s Portsea, very upmarket, yuppie and overpriced! Not our deal at all! Kingston, a little further up the coast was also lovely. Another fishing port, but much more tranquil and far less touristy than Robe.
|Victoria Fossil Cave, Naracoorte.|
We simply did not have enough time to go to Adelaide or Kangaroo Island and spent Easter Monday checking Naracoorte and then made our way back to Mt Gambier. Naracoorte, which is exactly half way between Adelaide and Melbourne, is famous for the Naracoorte Caves National Park, which covers approximately 600 hectares of limestone ranges. The area is World Heritage Listed and includes a number of caves, with vertebrae fossil material dating back perhaps 500 000 years. With so much to see and do we had to choose so we ended up doing a one hour tour of the Victoria Fossil Cave, which descends into a beautifully decorated chamber and then winds through 250 metres of passages and chambers to a large fossil deposit. Caves really are something else. It’s another world all that way beneath the surface of the earth. Makes you think about what else is there below us that we don’t know about?
|Ombi and Alex at the Blue Lake, Mt Gambier|
Back in Mt Gambier we went and had a look at the famous Blue Lake. It had been years since my last visit here, but I remembered it well. Situated in one of three extinct volcanic craters, the Blue Lake exposes the crystal clear water that has filtered underground through the limestone, passing slowly beneath the city. Each year in November the lake starts its colour change from winter steel blue to brilliant turquoise blue and then in March changes back to steel blue. Whilst not in its ‘prime’ it was still spectacular! We also drove around to see the other water-filled craters, which were also beautiful. Our ‘tour’ included the Centenary Tower, which at192 metres above sea level, is the town’s highest point. Again, spectacular views were afforded.
|Centenary Tower, Mt Gambier.|
Like most holidays, regardless of how long or short they are, for me they are never long enough! After four days of exploration, relaxation and fun, it was time to drive back to Melbourne. We had all had a fantastic time, made all the more relaxing for me as Dad drove for the entire trip, as he says he finds driving very relaxing. Whilst in no hurry to get back home, Alex and I both had to work on the Wednesday, so we had to get ourselves organised.
Dad dropped us off home late-afternoon, and Alex and I did what we had to do! We had had a truly wonderful time, and the break had done us all well!
|Dad and Alex enjoying mussels, Portarlington Mussel Festival.|
|Melinda, this one’s for you!|