Christmas 2011

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January 12th 2012
Published: January 22nd 2012
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An unwelcome visitor on our bush walkAn unwelcome visitor on our bush walkAn unwelcome visitor on our bush walk

This red-belly black snake was off to the side of the walking track.
Blog 24 - Christmas 2011 We left Ballarat on Monday 19thDecember, heading towards Horsham and our friends, Lockie and Tracey’s property 30 km out of town. We could afford to travel at a slow pace as they did not expect us to arrive until Wednesday. We stopped at a rest area just west of Stawell, by a small lake with a perfect sunset (except for the constant noise from passing B-doubles – all night!). On Tuesday we left the van at a park and went off to explore the area. The township of Stawell is where “the Stawell Gift” foot racing event is held at Easter time each year. 60 events over 3 days, the prize for the major race is $40,000. Get your running shoes on! There is history of gold mining in the area and an operating mine is just out of town with a public observation area (complete with story boards, maps, photos etc,) so that gave us a background of that particular mine. Next stop was Seppelts Winery at Great Western. Yes, of “bubbles” fame. We spent a very pleasant hour there talking with the young lady behind the counter, learning the history of the business. Halls
The Brambuk National Park and Cultural CentreThe Brambuk National Park and Cultural CentreThe Brambuk National Park and Cultural Centre

An impressive facility in an amazing environment. That's just a small fraction of the magnificent Grampians National Park.
Gap in the Grampians was our next destination. Ah yes, fresh mountain air, beautiful sunshine and all those mountains to climb! Lunch was followed by a visit to Brambuk National Park and Cultural Centre where you can learn about and experience indigenous culture of the area. We headed off for the walk through the grounds, to “experience” kangaroos grazing under the trees, the amazing Grampians rock formations dominating most vistas, and right alongside the path to the boomerang throwing area, a red-belly black snake! 1 year ago, we all heard about the devastating floods in Queensland. At the same time Victoria was also hit by some of the biggest floods in living memory. The Grampians National Park was affected badly with a reported 200 landslides, closing many roads. Returning to Stawell to collect the van, we headed for Lake Lonsdale, recommended by a fellow traveller earlier in the day. With an unreliable map (according to Wendy, anyway), we followed a few sandy tracks and finally came to the lake where there were a few camps set up. The wind here was quite strong. We sat on the leeward side of the van for a while but then after our “happy
The Big KoalaThe Big KoalaThe Big Koala

On the Western Highway at Dadswell's Bridge
hour” beverages we began to take on sand, we both retreated to the comfort of the van. Later in the evening, we had to close the van up completely as the sand that the wind was blowing around was covering everything inside. This would be quite a nice spot without the wind. The fish and yabbies were meant to be an easy catch here, but they could stay there for someone else.

Wednesday had arrived and our excitement was building as we would be at our friends’ house later today. Lockie and Tracey bought their over 100 year old farmhouse “Rosebank” about 11 years ago. Lockie collects old cars, chops firewood for income, loves to turn wood, buys things at clearance sales, and basically turns his hand at anything, so you can imagine what a few acres in the country can look like when there aren’t enough hours in the day to get all one’s chores done.

This was our first year of Christmas without immediate family, and so we were delighted when Lockie and Tracey offered for us to spend Christmas with their family. We enjoyed dinner on Christmas Eve in Ballarat at their son’s house, stayed
Dream machineDream machineDream machine

We took the MX5 for a "Blat" in the country
with their daughter (in Ballarat) for the night, Christmas Day we drove through to Melbourne and out the other side to Warragul for lunch with Tracey’s family, suburban Melbourne to visit their friends at Brighton, stayed overnight at Lockie’s Mum’s, at Bentleigh. Boxing Day picnic was cancelled due to rain, so back to Lockie’s Mum’s for lunch, back to Ballarat to collect our car and other belongings, then back to the sanctuary of “Rosebank”. Exhausting to say the least! For most of that travelling we were sitting comfortably, and sleeping some of the way, in the rear seat of a very nice and rare prototype Jaguar car! As it turned out we had travelled half way across the state of Victoria for lunch! Well we could cross off a few more roads on our map.

Our first experience with yabbying was in a dam on a neighbour’s property. We used 2 types of traps that had ox liver tied in them to attract the yabbies. We threw the nets in the dam and returned later to drag them out to discover our bounty. We had caught a few, so the next lesson was to how to cook them. Simple
Christmas traditionsChristmas traditionsChristmas traditions

Peter helps Lockie to distribute 100's of home-made sweets for friends and family.
really! Just boil some water, add a little salt and then drop the yabbies in. When they float to the top, they’re done. It only takes a few minutes. Drain them and rinse in cold water. Remove the shells (much like prawns) and ENJOY! Next day we set the traps in Lockie’s dam and replaced the bait (liver) with canned dog food. We only managed to catch a few but man, they were a good size …. And made for good eating. We’re hooked! and now every body of water glistens with the promise of a free feed.

What should we do now? Drive one of the two Mazda MX5’s to Wartook Valley, watch DVD movie’s each evening over dinner, (got to see some great films), Peter helped Lockie clean out his huge woodturning workshop, and garage. There was also the erection of new (if not mislaid in the shed for a while) Rosebank sign, which was erected one morning after being covered in sawdust in the shed for quite a while.

New Year’s Eve was spent with a few of their friends escaping the heat under the cooling branches of a claret ash tree. On New Year’s
The first Gingerbread house we saw over ChristmasThe first Gingerbread house we saw over ChristmasThe first Gingerbread house we saw over Christmas

This was Shelly's first attempt, reinforced with Matt's help. So Strong that Lockie had to give it 4 or 5 quite hard punches to break it. It was delicious!
Day we took a drive to Halls Gap via one of the roads that have been repaired after the landslides. Water can do a lot of damage. We enjoyed brunch, browsed the shops and then had an ice-cream. Peter drove Lockie’s favourite red MX5 “Molly” back down the mountain. That was the realisation of one of Peter’s dreams, although the dream was in the Pyrenees, in Europe (there are the Pyrenees mountains in Victoria too, but we were in the Grampians.) He couldn’t wipe the smile off his face. What a way to start the New Year. The Grampians are truly spectacular and we want to come again in cooler weather to experience some of the wonderful walking trails. Springtime brings an abundance of wildflowers so that might be the time to come back one year.

With time on our hands one day we headed off to explore some surrounding landmarks. Dimboola, Little Desert National Park, and Natimuk Lake were on Wendy’s “Must see while we’re in the area” list. The name “Dimboola” may ring a bell for some of our readers. Dimboola is a 1979 stage play which follows the interaction of various characters at a country wedding.
My first attempt at YabbyingMy first attempt at YabbyingMy first attempt at Yabbying

Peter and Lockie were hoping I'd fall in of course! Of course I didn't!!!
Dimboola is one of those country towns that leave us scratching our heads wondering how/why do people live in such a desolate place. Then we realise that it’s not too far from Horsham, it’s on a river (sometimes!) and a train line, there is wheat farming, and several National Parks. After many dry years, water came back to the Wimmera River and reached Dimboola at the end of 2009. On 27 September 2009, photographer Lynton Brown commented “At long last the return of water to the Wimmera River at Dimboola. Arrived at the Ski Club approx 6:00pm today. First time since March 2006. Everyone celebrates including children who have never seen water in the river before.” Then, as nature would have it, in January 2011, the town was in flood!

We turned south to cross the flowing Wimmera River and entered Little Desert National Park. “A desert in name only, The Little Desert National Park is a wonderland of plants and animals.” states the Tourist News. The first part of the journey was along well-formed tracks, following the river. We checked out the camp and picnic areas and have marked them in our book for a future visit. Suddenly the track became very sandy, so
Day 2's resultsDay 2's resultsDay 2's results

Not bad eating. We're hooked.
Wendy put the pedal to the metal and we got through. Pulse rates were up a tad, so discussion began about the journey ahead. If we turned back now we would have to go through the same patch of sand (we got through once ….). If we keep going, we don’t know what’s ahead of us. We did have a map (not a detailed one), a bottle of water each, a tarp for shelter if needed, a small tube of sunscreen and 2 small packets of lollies. What we didn’t have was the compressor to pump the tyres back up if we had to let them down to get through the sand, a shovel, good phone reception, someone who knew our intentions for the day, a travelling buddy, a detailed map of the park. (Oh yes, we forgot to say that we were in the Suxzuki Vitara 4x4 and not the Winnebago.) Wendy chickened out on driving any further but didn’t want to turn back either. Peter drove through a few more sandy sections, coming to a few dubious intersections and plenty of opportunities to get bogged. The sign-posted tracks were not displayed on our map! A few more discussions
Big onesBig onesBig ones

How's this for beginners' luck?
about orientation, quality of the map at hand, and our “sanity” prevailed before we decided to continue further south. That only left time for ONE photo of our adventure. Finally a fence-line, a newly harvested grain farm, and a firmer base to drive on – although the track didn’t look that well used! At the same time we saw some wildlife ahead of us – mighty big kangaroos, and very soon after, some monster emus! We know their actions can be quite erratic so Wendy was white knuckled as we got closer and closer to them. Some made a dash over the fence and across the track, but not too close in front of us. It wasn’t long before we were back on the blacktop and feeling quite pleased with ourselves. We promise you all that next time we’ll be better prepared for such an adventure. Note to selves … Desert = SAND.

Lake Natimuk was a welcome surprise on our return journey to the highway, and civilization. IT WASN’T MARKED ON THE MAP we had with us!!!! Once again here was a body of water that up until recently was as dry as it can get. If you
New YearNew YearNew Year

Lockie and Tracey (right) and friends at Lake Wartook in The Grampians
look on Google maps you’ll see a vast dry space. Now there are people camping, holidaying and ski-ing. Awesome! Another great place for a future sojourn.

We did a market at The Haven, just out of Horsham. It turned out to be a great day for us despite our misapprehension early as we arrived. There were only a handful of stall-holders setting up and the organiser was apologising that it might be a very slow day. Well, a few more stalls were set up and the customers just kept coming all morning. We had quite a few good chats with the locals, all lovely country people. And we made some money!

A must-do before we left Lockie and Tracey’s was for Wendy to have a wood turning lesson and make a pen for herself. What fun that turned out to be, but oh, the concentration! It was a very rewarding and creative experience.

On our last night with Lockie and Tracey we went to town to the movies and saw the latest Sherlock Holmes movie. It was really good too.

It was a lovely time at Rosebank and we are really happy to have reconnected after
Not boggedNot boggedNot bogged

Could have turned out quite interesting, but we made our way out the other side of Little Desert National Park in one piece and un-assisted.
some 7 or so years. It was even a little sad to move on but when Peter gets the feeling in his mind that the “big wheels” need to turn …….so, we headed off for South Australia ….

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Additional photos below
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The Teacher and the StudentThe Teacher and the Student
The Teacher and the Student

Wendy's first lesson in woodturning.
Wendy's first attempt at wood-turning. Wendy's first attempt at wood-turning.
Wendy's first attempt at wood-turning.

The one on the right is made with small gumnuts set in resin. The left one is

22nd January 2012

We had a wonderful time with Wendy & Peter. The perfect guests!.. We are hoping they come back and stay a while longer. Our house is our house..........any time!!! Love L & T

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