Tuesday morning (20th
December) was beautiful and, with the weather forecast suggesting it would warm up dramatically between now and Christmas, Mark was out early adding chemicals to the pool to keep it clean ready for Christmas Day when the temperature may get near the 40 degree mark. All the kids were soon up and about with Zoe mercilessly teasing the other two because she had finished school already but Ken and Beth still had three more days to go. Simone was ready for her meeting in Shepperton and Mark would go with her and they would have a chance for some Christmas shopping together before they had to be home to meet the kids from school. Zoe, a very tall and, apart from the teasing, a very mature13 year old, felt she was grown up enough to be left at home on her own. We gradually got ourselves ready to take the caravan towards Melbourne but we had Yea in mind as a stop off point – it’s about half way to Melbourne and seemed a pleasant little place. We were ready to leave at 10:00am and said our farewells to Zoe and Spotty the dog. We stopped off in
Mansfield to do a little bit of shopping before heading out of town towards Yea. We arrived there at about 11:45, found the delightful Yea Family Caravan Park and decided to stay for the one night. It’s a very pleasant park and because we are members of Family Parks group it cost us just $22:50 for the night. We chose a drive-through site so we would be able to get away promptly in the morning on our way to Wantirna, a suburb of Melbourne. This park in Yea is quiet at the moment with excellent facilities and much, much cheaper than the busy Melbourne park so staying in Yea was a good choice all round.
We had the rest of the day to get back fully into caravan mode and I actually found the time to wrap a couple of Christmas presents. We also strolled into the nearby town centre – another very pleasant rural Victorian town – although Mansfield has now become the firm favourite of places in Victoria where we feel we could realistically and comfortably live. Mind you, we haven’t experienced it in their winter time and it’s not called Australia’s Alpine Region for nothing. Yea
is smaller than Mansfield and seems to be dominated by cafes with a few craft and gift shops here and there. After having a delicious Boysenberry ice-cream, we ventured to the nearby Wetlands area, just to investigate whether it would be worth a walk around later – and it was. Unfortunately, on the way back, while we were waiting to cross the road, Graham inadvertently stood on some melting tar (the sun was very strong) and when a gap in the traffic appeared he couldn’t move – he was stuck!! It was quite funny but, even though he was able to extract himself fairly easily, the soles of his shoes were black and sticky so he won’t be wearing those again for a while. We had a cuppa back at the caravan and I managed to wrap a couple more presents. Then we went for a stroll to the Wetlands with the intention of following the full circuit of about 2 kilometers. Poor Graham got bitten six times by mozzies in the first ten minutes and then we discovered why the area was called Wetlands. There were several small bridges and boardwalks but not all of the wet areas had
been catered for so our full circuit became a half circuit when Graham stepped into a boggy area up to his ankle. So with six mozzy bites and one wet foot we retreated and took the obvious route which took us along a creek which looked to be ideal platypus territory. Signs suggested that platypus were there but our recent record of platypus spotting proved consistent – we didn’t see one. There were plenty of disturbances in the water which we suspect were turtles or yabbies but no platypus. A huge “fifth wheeler” was now next to us at the caravan park - it was so big that it’s “extensions” were bigger than our caravan!!! Not only that but the occupants were quite noisy so we were expecting a disturbed evening.
As it happened, our night proved to be very quiet and relaxing and Yea proved to be an ideal stop-over – the lull before we take on the storm that is Melbourne where the lifestyles seem to be very hectic. So, quite early on Wednesday 21st
December we set off on the 100 kilometer or so journey to Wantirna – one of the outer suburbs of Melbourne. If
that was all we had to do it would have been an easy day, but we had promised to act as “child minders” for Grant and Anna as they were both involved in Christmas events during the day and the two girls, Charlotte and Amy, would be home from school at about 3:45. Grant trusted us with the key and security code to the alarm and we had set up the caravan at Wantirna and were at the house well before the girls were due home. Graham walked along the road to meet them and they were soon home along with a friend who also needed looking after. The three girls then became four as another girl, a neighbour, joined us and they eventually became five when her brother also came round. The girls produced a Wii dancing DVD and their antics became very entertaining although neither of us felt confident enough to join in! Daphne, David and Mele were due to call in and to prepare dinner for the girls at about 6:00pm. Alas, they hadn’t arrived by 7:30 and were not answering their mobiles. Anna, meanwhile, arrived home at about 6:30. Come 7:30 she felt the girls shouldn’t
have to wait any longer to be fed so set about making huge quantities of pasta bolognaise which we were about to consume when the official dinner makers finally arrived. Fortunately there was more than enough pasta for everyone and plenty of fresh fruit and ice cream for afters.
We left at about 9:00pm to get back to the caravan with the hope of meeting our near (very near) neighbours but they seemed to be in bed already. Because of the busy Christmas period, caravans are often squashed in like sardines but we have arranged ours so as not to be directly opposite our neighbours. It means we could both put out full awnings if required and afford each other a degree of privacy, but it also means that neither of us could move our caravans without the other’s co-operation. We should be able to discuss final arrangements with them in the morning. We had settled in quite comfortably and were soon ready for what was a fairly early night given the events of the day.
Thursday 22 December started hot a got hotter as the day went on. We introduced ourselves to our neighbour who was from
Warrigal, not far away. He and his wife were staying in Melbourne to spend time over Christmas with their son who lives at Mooroolbark. Today we planned to visit a major shopping complex – but which one? Chadstone, Doncaster and Waverly Gardens are all a little drive away so Graham asked at the caravan park reception if there was another one nearer. Directions to Knox City were given and it couldn’t have been a better choice. Just a couple of kilometres away, rivalling Chadstone for number and variety of stores, it was a perfect place to attempt to finish off the Christmas shopping. The only problem was that it was packed – we spent ages just looking for a parking space but eventually we found one. We were planning to spend as long as it took to find those last few gifts, to have lunch and to do some grocery shopping so we were there from about 11:00am until 2:00pm but it was a very successful trip. Back at the caravan, the sun had moved around enough to give some nice shade under the awning where we both sat and relaxed for a while. Later in the afternoon Graham ventured
to the nearby swimming pool which he said was terrific - he was there for at least half an hour and had it entirely to himself. I was busy trying to get blogs ready to be published but of course I wished I had gone for a dip. I rang Daphne and David answered - he would be trying to repair Daphne’s pergola tomorrow so Graham offered to go and help. We decided to call round mid-morning but we’d also have another plan in mind in case they decided to do something completely different. The evening became nice and cool and Graham sat outside and read a bit more of his latest book while I went and had a shower. We both felt like an early night so we turned in before 10:00pm hoping it wouldn’t get so warm tomorrow, but the forecast was for another very hot one!!
Sure enough, Friday 23 December was another stinkingly hot day almost from the outset. As promised, after breakfast we made our way to Daphne’s, arriving at 10:00am, so that Graham and David could set about repairing Daphne’s pergola. Daphne had obviously been busy very early and was just getting a
huge Christmas pudding into its basin for cooking on the stove. Our arrival was just at the right time so I was there to help cover the basin and clear up the inevitable mess from the preparations. Despite suggesting a 9:00am start, David was far from ready and it was at least 11:00am before he felt prepared enough to have a go but at least he had a good understanding about how the job should be tackled. Both he and Graham worked hard in sweltering conditions and managed to secure about eight of the brackets David had purchased. Unfortunately there weren’t enough brackets so a trip to the local hardware store was necessary. David knew precisely what was needed but instead of going straight there and back, he invited the ladies along for a shopping trip. They went at about 2:30pm but I decided to stay at Daphne’s with Graham and we attempted to erect Daphne’s newly acquired Christmas tree. I also wanted to help Daphne out by doing some ‘house-keeping jobs’ relevant to Micky and to keep an eye on him because I had just given him an overdue dose of “worming” paste which seemed to go down OK
but I was concerned because after the last dose he had been a bit sick (you may not want to know quite so much detail!).
Later on we strolled to the local shops and bought a supply of the special tinned food that Micky has a little of each day and I couldn’t resist getting him a couple of what turned out to be slightly weird and not very exciting toys. We waited for some time for David, Daphne and Mele to return but eventually came to the conclusion that they had not just gone to the hardware store. At 4.30, at the allotted time, I turned the gas off under the Christmas Pudding and at 5:00 we gave up and left to go back to the caravan. It was just as well as a phone call to Daphne later at about 7:45pm revealed that they had only just arrived back home as they had gone on to a large Shopping Mall!!!!! The one good thing to come out of our visit was a beautiful bouquet of flowers that Sarah and Darryl had arranged to be delivered to Daphne’s for us. It was magnificent and of course made us
wish we were at home to give them a hug - thank you both so much! Back at the caravan we were able to have a dip in the pool which we had to ourselves. It had been packed earlier so we didn’t think we’d get a swim but it was so refreshing in the steamy weather. Our evening was cheered even more by a splendid conversation with Barb and Tony in Tewkesbury. We hadn’t spoken with them for a while so there was a lot of gossip to catch up on, although the computer couldn’t cope with the high temperature in the caravan, crashing twice, and we ended up taking it outside where it worked perfectly. It provided a brilliant end to a bit of a disruptive day. Tomorrow we hoped to get into the city for the Christmas markets.
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