Way down in Sheepyard Flats

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April 9th 2010
Published: May 1st 2010
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Days 345 - 348 Box Hill Resort to Sheepyard Flats (Tuesday 6th April to Friday 9th April)

It’s very weird being at Box Hill without the caravan. It means we have to sleep in the house, in a bedroom with a full size bed and everything! Not only is the bed in the house twice the size of the one in the caravan but it’s also twice the size of the one at home in the UK! It’s the Australian Way to like things big! Tonight however we won’t be in a house or the caravan, tonight we’ll be under ‘canvas’ in the heart of the High Country with a full array of stars above us..

Luckily we’re both feeling A OK this morning, any ill effects from the “12 hour bug” had completely disappeared. Grant, Anna, the girls and the dogs are off to the beach house for the rest of the week. It’s still school holidays and for the first time in a very long time, probably ever, they’ve decided to stay at the beach house on their own. Some real, good quality family time coming up! Perfect, hopefully the weather will be warm enough to get
Happy around the campfireHappy around the campfireHappy around the campfire

Zoe, Shag, Mark, Jake, Beth and Ken
out onto the beach but the girls will be just as excited to go for a Baby Chino at the Blairgowrie Café.

We weren’t the only ones to have spent the weekend in Melbourne, the Reeves had been here visiting family but by mid morning they were on their way to get ready to ‘go bush’. We left Box Hill a bit later than planned so concocted a plan to meet the Reeves somewhere in Mansfield once we’d raided our caravan for supplies and visited the bottle shop! With perfect timing there was a shout over the UHF on Channel 27 “Shag do you copy”, the ‘Shag’ nickname for Darryl is alive and well in Australia too! We met up outside Mark’s Mums place and filled the jerry cans up with water, something we’d been reluctant to do out at the Reeves place because they’re on tank water and it’s so very precious.

Simone, Mark, Beth, Ken, Zoe and nephew Jake were all crammed in the Landcruiser with the camp trailer on the back. Ken was keen to travel with us and learn more Simon & Garfunkel songs (!) so we rescued him from the boot and then set off in convoy.

Our destination? Sheepyard Flat, a place very special to the Reeves and also my cousin Bert’s favourite place in Victoria! It’s a free camp spot on the How qua River very close to Mt Buller. From highway to gravel track we went, along the winding roads kicking up dust with each turning wheel. There are several camp spots along the river but the Reeves have got their favourites so we motor on past those that are still busy from the Easter Weekend getaway and begin to find areas that are a lot less populated! How blissful that we can come to one of the most popular places in the state yet still find a spot far enough away from others that we can just be ourselves ie loud!.

We camped right next to the river in the Pickerings Flat section of Sheepyard. We’ve a gorgeous view all around and this is where we stayed for three whole days and three whole nights.

The boys foraged for wood so we could keep warm into the evenings around a campfire, plus of course cooking on the fire is a must do when you’re bush. Between Mark, Simone and Darryl we were treated to a breakfast, lunch and dinner of huge magnitude each day including a full on roast although it has to be said the proposed roast beef never actually made it to camp. There was a bit of a mix up in the bottle shop which was the last stop for all of us (albeit separately) before we left Mansfield. Mark was getting some more grog and re-adjusted the eski accordingly taking the huge, succulent roast beef joint out along with some dips and ‘stuff’ to make sure the tinnies were nice and cool underneath the ice. Trouble was he never actually repacked the food and didn’t realise until the middle of the next day what he’d done! Luckily Darryl had insisted on bringing the contents of our fridge to use the food up so we did have frying steak but it just wasn’t the same. So hands up all those employees of the Mansfield bottle shop that who enjoyed our roast beef dinner on the night of Tuesday 6th April?! We really hope somebody got the benefit of it!

The weather wasn’t at its best during our time here but only one morning was completely lost to the rain. Even then we made the most of things by playing games with the kids in the camp trailer and sending the boys off to forage for wood. On the first night they even crossed the river to get supplies but next day found people who were leaving and therefore happy to donate their surplus fire wood which saved a second round of sodden feet!

The days were full of walks or adventures, there are plenty of things to see no matter which way you roam and no end of ‘DIY’ entertainment for kids of all ages! We walked to the historic Fry’s Hut which Fred Fry built in the late 1930’s. Fred’s life in and around Howqua country was turned into a novel called ‘The Far Country’ - another one for the reading list when we get home! The Reeves have done this walk a million times but they just love it and the only thing the kids would change today is the outside temperature so it was more inviting to take a swim in the river. The water itself is always freezing but when the sun is beating down and the outside temperature is 40 degrees who cares, today it’s probably not even 30 so a bit too chilly!

Sheepyard Flat got its name from the original settlers who used to keep their sheep on the flat somehow managing to keep the dingoes at bay. There are no sheep or dingoes here these days infact there’s no major wildlife evidence at all. Instead we find fabulous bush camping complete with horse yards so the horses can come on their holidays too plus its an area where dogs are allowed. Bush camping with facilities where dogs and horses are welcomed …. and it’s free. Gosh it’s almost too good to be true!

One of the Reeves favourite things to do here splashing through a tunnel built in the 1880’s that links the river and a water race. It’s about 100 meters long and the kids have walked it a lot on previous visits but it’s still pretty unnerving even for them as we start the wade through the narrow tunnel in shin deep water (for us) which meant it was almost waist height for the kids! Oh, and did we mention it was pitch black!! What a laugh as Darryl, myself, Jake, Beth, Ken and Zoe all made our way from one end to the other. Simone, Mark and Spot the dog walked via the track! We met them at the other end for a nice sit down beside the river but being complete suckers for punishment the tunnel group decided it would be just as much fun to return the way we’d come - back through the dark, cold, wet tunnel! There were lots of screams, giggles and one very large “OUCH” which came out of my mouth when I met ‘headache rock’ without warning!

There’s never a dull moment when we’re all together, come rain or shine we always manage to raise a smile. The evenings are easily filled with Mark & Jake grabbing the guitars to entertain us all, its ace and we love it. We’ve got firm favourites from their play list now and hopefully when we get home we’ll be able to upload some of them to give you a flavour of what you’re missing! Rummikub is a saving grace when it rains although the kids did seem more enthralled with the new knife throwing game! There are often cases where ‘one thing leads to another’ and this was no exception as once everyone had successfully managed to sink the knife into the trunk of the tree they moved on to axe throwing instead! Now most parents would freak out at the thought of their 6, 9 and 12 year olds throwing a knife into a tree … but not these parents. Instead these parents give the children the opportunity to develop their skills which they all do by landing the implements smack bang in the middle of the bark. Result! The thing is we’re not dealing with ‘normal’ kids here, we’re dealing with young people who have travelled, lived on the road, lived in the country and who aren’t scared of anything much. There are not many six year old girls who would be prepared to search for slugs so her brother would have bait for fishing, but Beth seeks them out and even picks them up with her hands! Go Beth!

With Beth being so diligent in finding slugs, Darryl and Ken had a couple of attempts at fishing but each time the bucket came back to camp empty. It’s such a shame and there’s a chance that we’ll never get to eat a fish that we’ve caught ourselves - something else for the ‘next trip list’!

It was a bit sad when the time came for us to leave. We’d managed well in our little tent and with the help of the Reeves our stay had been more than comfortable. Jake had started off with a tent but in keeping with tradition had ended up ‘on the sofa’ inside the Reeves camp trailer!

Our final breakfast on the morning campfire was bubble and squeak leftovers from the roast of the previous evening. It all went down really well until we were on our way back to Bridge Creek and tackling the windy roads back up to the highway, all at once the kids started to feel sick and blamed it on Darryl’s reheated pumpkin skins!! The cheek!

The journey back was eventually broken by a visit to the Mansfield supermarket for lice treatment. We’re doing the whole family which includes us. The kids are back to school on Monday and hopefully this means they, at least, will be lice free!

It’s great to be back in our spiritual country home at Bridge Creek although we’ve got a dinner engagement tonight so we won’t be here too long. Bernie and Derrick (Scott) are one of the Reeves closest friends. We’ve already met two out of their three children (although they’re not children anymore they are beautiful young people!), Jack and Claire but we’re excited to be meeting Bernie and Doos (Derrick’s nickname!) at long last. Ironically they were at Bawley Point on holiday whilst we were just around the bay at Depot Beach, if only we’d known!

What a great family they are and their house is divine with fabulous views all around. They’ve got two of the most gorgeous dogs, Ozzy and Squirt. Ozzy is a very lucky Staffie who not long along survived a snake bite. It cost them a fortune to have him fixed but he’s such a gorgeous dog it was well worth it. Squirt is a greyhound, beautiful and sleek but not nearly as boisterous as Ozzy!!

We had a great evening playing the Panic game - very funny and it ended in complete chaos. That was followed by numerous games of ‘pick up sticks’ and just spending a really nice time talking with Beth, Ken and Zoe. We’ve spent so much time together but it’s still fantastic just to sit and talk! Dinner was fabulous and it was followed by a very important football match between St Kilda and Collingwood. Ken, Simone and Doos are big Collingwood fans whilst Mark’s brother Jeff is a big St Kilda fan. Collingwood did well until the 3rd quarter and then it all fell apart. Ken cracked it and wanted to go home, he couldn’t stand to watch his team getting pasted and Simone’s phone calls to Jeff ceased! We laughed and laughed, good on them all.

After a week being bush in the tent getting to curl up in the caravan was complete luxury. It’s been such a great home to us during our year away, we’ll be sad to pack it up and leave it behind. That day is approaching too fast.

For now though we bid you a fond goodnight from the comforts of ‘Sweetie’. See you in the morning.

Dar and Sar

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