At breaky today we were discussing the day's plan with Paul when the mystery of the no-toll toll road was solved. Paul informed us there is a sophisticated camera and database system that photographs the license plate (registry) of EVERY car that goes on the toll road (mind you, these are sometimes 3-4 lanes each direction). A driver can go online or call a phone number before or after the trip to arrange payment, but will incur a fine if the toll is not paid within 72 hours of travel. Frequent travellers can buy a pass, of course, but are not allowed to let anyone else use it. How a visitor is supposed to know all this we have no idea. The car rental and road maps made no mention of it. Even Paul spent over 1/2 hour online and on the phone trying to get us "right" with the law and paid up for our trip out of the city on Sunday and the one we would make today to the vineyards of Yarra Valley. We don't even know if we owe money from travel in Sydney or Adelaide, but Paul says the rental car company will know and add
Yering Station Winery
Entrance to Cellar Door
it to our bill, adding a surcharge fee of course. We will also be on a toll road when we go to the airport, but we are told there is a automated machine there where we can settle up. It seems like there is a charge for everything here in Australia!
We found Yarra Valley with the help of a gregarious gas station owner who fancied himself a comedian ("How long have you been an alcoholic?" Stunned silence from me. "So, most of your life then, eh?"), and then were able to select and locate some small wineries with the help of a map we had to request at one of the larger wineries (Yering Station). We have been surprised at the lack of marketing by the wine industry here. But maybe that's what keeps the winery visit experience here more enjoyable and less commercial (i.e., free). It was a slow weekday, however, and we found only the larger wineries open. Our favorite of the day was Punt Road Winery. (Kathye, the Viognier here brought you to mind.)
We didn't spend much time in Yarra and headed back to the city to get ready for the conference dinner
A path runs through it
The grounds at YeringStation
we had been invited to by Peter. This conference is the group Mike will be addressing tomorrow afternoon--an international collection of educational, political and industrial people involved in earth science issues. I'm glad I brought one nice dress along on the trip as it was a pretty extravagant affair at a fancy hotel. It cost us $48 just to park the car there for a few hours (should have taken the trolley!). The meal was quite nice, of course, and the drinks flowed freely. Can't even imagine what a dinner like this costs per person at a place like this (and fortunately, we were non-paying guests)! We haven't seen any indication of economic decline here and, in fact, every Australian we have spoken to says they're doing just fine, thank you very much.
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