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December 20th 2010
Published: December 22nd 2010
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It was still cool when we awoke on Friday morning – there was a pleasant breeze but not a cloud in the sky. It was easy to pack up and we were on the road just after 9am. In this mainly arable area we were constantly seeing huge, slow moving harvesting machines on the road, sometimes two or three at a time and they often held us up. We also passed plenty of vineyards as we travelled south towards Jerilderie. Every road to Narranderah was closed so we wondered what the ongoing problem could be. Was it still flooding or had the roads been so badly damaged that they were in need of urgent repair? – we’ll have to try to find out.

We stopped for a tea break at Jerilderie which is famous for the raid that Ned Kelly and his gang made on the town in February 1879. They robbed the bank and disabled the Post and Telegraph Office to prevent news of the robbery spreading. They then held 30 people hostage overnight in the Royal Mail Hotel. We stopped by Billabong Creek for our cup of tea and had a wander through the park. We drove on down through Finlay and then realized that there was a direct road to Benalla that bypassed Shepparton which we knew had been badly hit by flooding. As it was a good road and fairly quiet we got to Benalla at about 1:00pm, had lunch in the town and then made our way to the only Caravan Park in Benalla. We accepted a drive-through site which was handy to all the facilities and were soon set up. We nipped into town for some shopping and Graham went to the local Bowls Club. In the evening, as explained by Graham in a separate Blog, we went out again for a special meeting.

It got very cold during the night and come the morning (Saturday) it was raining as well. What a shame as a Christmas Market was being held in Benalla. Anyway, we had other plans and we drove to Mansfield hoping to catch up with the Reeves family. Originally we planned to leave Sweetie at their place over the Christmas period while we were in Melbourne but we had recently changed our minds and decided to take her with us into the city. We knew Simone, Mark and the family were going to Melbourne for Christmas and then camping and might already have gone but we wanted to leave a few little gifts there for them anyway. We were delighted to see Simone was there with Beth and Zoe. Mark, Ken and Spotty the dog had gone to Sheepyard Flat to make sure the remote camping area they had booked was tidy before the whole family went after Christmas. As usual we were made very welcome and had a good catch up. It was a bit soggy there so perhaps it was a good thing we weren’t leaving Sweetie. We hope to see them all again sometime next year. We went on to Bernie and Doose’s place – a house with the most fantastic views - which was about three kms further on along the gravel road. It was raining heavily now and when we got there we could see that the dogs were chained up so thought no one was in but fortunately Bernie was. Doose was out at work sadly but we had a nice chat with Bernie. Our last port of call was to Julie who lived in a slightly different direction off the same gravel road – a remote but beautiful house called Middle Earth, but sadly she wasn’t at home. We left a card and a small gift and hope we will see her also in the New Year.

After that we went into Mansfield for a bit of lunch before returning to Benalla. While Graham watched a bit of local cricket I had a wander round the Botanical Gardens where there was a stunning sculpture of ‘Weary’ Dunlop who was a soldier, surgeon and war hero. Sir Edward Dunlop was a prisoner of war in Thailand and helped many of his fellow POWs in camps along the Burma Railway. Just on the edge of the gardens is Benalla Art Gallery and as entry was free I popped in to have a look. It’s home to a wonderful collection of Aboriginal Art that was collected by Donald Thompson in the 1930s and other well known paintings.

It soon started raining again and was very cold for this time of year and because I had been freezing the night before I got out the quilt and put it on the bed so hopefully we’d be warmer tonight.

The quilt had made a big difference but it was still cold in the morning. I washed some towels, hung them out, crossed my fingers that they would dry and then phoned Wilma. We had tried a few times before but Wilma had been away visiting her poorly sister who sadly had since passed away. Wilma was back home now so we drove the 40 or so kms to Wangaratta and had a lovely few hours with her. We went out to lunch at a local hotel and used one of Wilma’s discount coupons so lunch was both delicious and cheap. It’s always very special to catch up with Wilma and we never cease to be amazed at the various camping adventures she had with Jack over the years. Sadly Jack died on Christmas Day last year so this is a difficult time for Wilma. While we were busy chatting the heavens opened again and we had another thunder storm – will this rain ever stop? The rain finally eased after half an hour or so we said our goodbyes for now and drove back to Benalla. We had thought it might be nice to go to ‘Carols in the Park’ that was taking place that evening in the Botanical Gardens but again we had another downpour and it was cold so we decided not to go. I think there was a back up plan so it probably took place indoors somewhere so it wouldn’t have been a complete disaster.

When we woke up on Monday we listened… and there was no pitter patter of rain on the roof but it was still cold. We had decided to stay here another night so I popped to the office and booked us in. As it was dry I got some washing done and then it was time to walk the few yards to the camp kitchen where we had a delicious complementary pancake breakfast. I took my own sugar free jam but I did indulge in a bit of cream and Graham spread maple syrup over his pancakes. With the free cup of tea it was all very nice.

After breakie we drove off to Glenrowan which is the nearby town where Australia’s most famous bushranger/outlaw Ned Kelly was finally captured after causing havoc in the area for two years. Quite a few people had suggested we see the Ned Kelly show so we went into the Glenrowan Tourist Centre and were immediately greeted by owner Bob Hempel. He was a very exuberant character and proudly told us how much he had invested in building up the interactive theatre show over the last 25 years since he started the project. It’s now one of those ‘must see’ tourist attractions so no doubt he has made a tidy profit! Compared to a lot of other attractions in Aus it was expensive even with a pensioner’s discount but we paid up and waited to be called in. We thought we had 15 minutes to wait but only after a few minutes the big timer started whizzing round and it was suddenly time to go - all part of the fun I guess. People dribbled in during the first few minutes so in the end we were a nice little crowd. The first ten minutes was taken up with what we thought was a strange narration but after that the story was told quite well of how Ned Kelly was captured in Glenrowan and subsequently hanged in Melbourne Jail on the 11th November 1880 - it certainly was an experience!

After that excitement we went into the café next door where we were greeted by another exuberant person (maybe Mrs Hempel?) Because it was a chilly day I had some pumpkin soup with damper and Graham had a floater which is a pie covered with thick soup (it looked delicious and he said it was). Once we were back in Benalla we stopped near the Information Centre, Graham sat and read a newspaper and I went into the museum. I paid my $3 and then spent a wonderful 45 minutes or so, firstly watching a DVD about Ned Kelly, which was very informative, and then looking at the numerous photos. Because, of course, all this happened only about 140 years ago there are accurate newspaper reports and even photographs to back up the story. In a glass box in the museum is the green sash that Ned was given as a young boy when he saved another lad from drowning and which was very special to him. He was wearing it when he was injured and captured and it was kept for many years by the family of the doctor who treated him. There were also lots of Benalla related displays including a very large miniature house that had painstakingly been made by a local lady. I spent much longer in there than I had intended and Graham thought I had been captured by the ghost of Ned Kelly! I felt quite sympathetic to Ned after I’d read about the harsh treatment he received as a youth.

We cooked supper in the huge camp kitchen that evening. Graham had been chatting to our latest neighbours who travelled around testing GPS systems for HEMA Maps and they kindly gave us what could be a very useful book of maps to use in WA. It had been dry all day but during the night it rained heavily again but the great thing about that was that no rain came in so perhaps Graham has sealed the leak – let’s hope so!

Additional photos below
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23rd December 2010

Merry Christmas
Hi Jan & Graham, we would just like to wish you both a Very Merry Christmas, we enjoy reading you blog and daydream about the places we are yet to visit in our own country. We met Sarah & Daryl last year in the Centre and spent a couple of great days together. Safe travels and a great Christmas. Take Care Carole & Ray
23rd December 2010

Merry Christmas
Hi Carole and Ray, many thanks for your good wishes. We try to keep the blogs interesting but it's difficult following on from the Wallaby Wanderers!! best wishes Jan and Graham

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