On the Trail of the Lonesome Deli
Trip Start Nov 08, 2003
74Trip End Oct 22, 2004
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A nice warm sunny morning greeted us as we donned our day-glo lycra for a jog around Lakes Entrance, with a half hour skip through the undergrowth that separates the river from the sea, and back at the van after a hosing down we relaxed in the early morning heat for a breakfast of melon and crumpets (sounds a bit rude?)
Off we set once more on the Princes Highway, travelling west towards Melbourne, playing our new travel game: "The Singing Creek Game". Victoria is full of little babbling brooks, most dried up we have to say, and each and every one is named eg
42 songs and 100km later we had arrived in Sale and stopped off in their modern looking Tourist Information centre for a shedload of glossy pamphlets on Victoria, including a guide for the Deli Trail.
Apparently there was more than one Deli Trail so when the guy asked us which one we replied:
"The biggest one with the most food and the most wine." That covered all angles.
Another 100km further was the town of Warragul and the official beginning of the Trail where we exited the highway and headed north on a C-road towards Noojee. This 40km stretch of road was supposed to be awash with independent wineries, delis, cheese-makers and bakeries, well, either they'd closed down or we were 'out-of-season', and those that were open didn't look too inviting as cobwebs hung around doorways and tumbleweeds blew across driveways
As we entered Noojee we headed for an interesting looking café that we had read about in some bumpf for a spot of lunch. The Red Parrot Café sounded very welcoming, with articles raving about its fresh home-made produce.
It was shut, not just for lunch but up for sale.
We settled for a microwaved pie in a little newsagents across the road and headed off towards the town of Warburton feeling a bit deflated, compounding the situation by taking a wrong turn up an unsealed road for 5km.
We finally found the correct exit out of town and drove along a scenic 40km twisting road to Yarra Junction where we stopped off at, yep you guessed it, Woolies to restock the fridge.
10km along the Warburton Highway we found the town of Warburton funny enough and booked into a very dark caravan park and somehow found our way to a patch of grass with a power supply. The warm day had turned into a freezing night but that wasn't going to stop us having a barbie
Dinner that night was served in the van, cooked on our little stove under the starriest sky we'd ever seen as the Milky Way cut the darkness with a nice white sash above us.
A perfect blue sky this morning belied the fact that it was absolutely freezing, and a shrill wind blew through the shower block as we each paid a Dollar for a dribbling shower. Back at the van we toasted some muffins and crumpets to warm the cockles of our hearts before setting off for a morning at the zoo. But no ordinary zoo, this was Healesville Animal Sanctuary, a haven for injured and orphaned wildlife to the north-east of Melbourne.
A pathway led us to the first enclosure, an open area with just a low wooden fence separating the animals from the paying public. There would be no bars in the sanctuary, just large wired cages for the birds so they could still spread their wings and take flight.
It soon became clear you could actually step into the enclosures of the friendlier animals and that's just what we did to stroke a little wallaby. The kangaroo enclosure was another open-plan affair and about 40 roos of all sizes lay lounging on their sides with legs crossed
In between playing 'Dodge the schoolchildren' we walked through mini-outbacks of emus, parrots and platypuses before arriving at a cosy little area where a park ranger was answering questions and looking after an orphaned baby wombat. After 40 winks the wombat waddled over to where we were for a stroke and felt surprisingly soft apart from his rock-hard rear which had a solid plate of cartilage under the skin that he uses for self-defence. Not a lot of people now that.
With a lot to get through today we headed on into the dangerous animals section where dingos were kept from shredding us by a deep wide moat, than came the night creatures section where large glass boxes were home to possums and finally the reptile department held a Taipan with a sheet of glass saving us from an agonising 30-second death at the hands of the world's most poisonous snake.
After a stroll past a gang of Echidnas, giant experiment-gone-wrong sized hedgehogs, we came to the cuddly section, Koalas. Four of them sat high up in the trees doing what they do best, sleeping. A well-weathered park ranger then made an appearance for his daily 1pm lecture and told us about a certain lucky young male koala called Hamish who was bought in especially for a bit of hows-yer-father with the two young females, in between his 20 hour naps that is
Next on our busy agenda today was a drive into the Yarra Valley and a visit to a couple of vineyards, and first up was the TarraWarra Estate which doubled as an art gallery. As Australian vineyards go this must have been the most modern as the owners had held a competition between six well known architects for a winning design. Once again minimalism won the day with a large curvy ochre number the winner.
The views around the Yarra Valley must be some of the best in the country and the outlook from their restaurant must be up there with the best, the wine-making weather of brilliant sunshine with a good dousing of rain every now and again kept the area's lush rolling fields a deep green.
Further along the road was the town of Yarra Glen with Yering Station Vineyard a few miles further along the Melba Highway. This place mixed old with new, with a large glass building containing brand new house-high white containers full of maturing wine and a swish restaurant with jaw-dropping views, and along the driveway was a 150 year old brick building where wine used to be made and a nice big room out the back for wine-tasting
Further south, on the edge of Melbourne's eastern suburbs are the Dandenong Ranges, a cluster of hillocks and home to some quaint villages with dear old ladies and even dearer old houses. We stopped in Olinda for a wander and a quick coffee before heading on once more as there was still a good deal of driving to be done before our overnight stop.
We drove south through the sparkly town of Emerald, over the Princes Highway and onto a long straight road to Koo-wee-rup, and I'm not showing you how it's pronounced, that's just how it's spelt, and onwards to the Bass Highway arriving at our destination just after sunset. Phillip Island was a short bridge from the mainland and our home for the next two nights as tomorrow evening a very special nightly show was taking place on Summerland Beach, arguably Victoria's number one tourist attraction.
Being back on the south coast, the weather was again warm and sunny so off we went for a jog and on arriving back we bumped into a couple we saw at Lakes Entrance a couple of days and 600km ago
Phillip Island is an Australian Isle of Wight, with its main towns being Cowes, Newhaven, Rhyll and Ventnor, and driving along its five or so perfectly straight roads there's a real sense of being on an island, albeit an island just a couple of kilometres off of the mainland.
We headed to the south-western tip today where the main attractions were to be found. The Nobbies are a smattering of rocks a good distance off the coast and home to one of Australia's largest seal colonies. With the naked eye you can't see much but on putting a $2 coin in a set of binoculars you can see hundreds of them lounging around, splashing in the ocean and generally having the time of their lives.
A ten minute drive along the coast is Summerland Beach, and home to surely one of the animal world's best natural sights, where each evening at sunset about 500 little penguins swim ashore to spend the night in little burrows in the sand dunes. We spent half an hour wandering through an interesting little exhibition that also had manmade burrows built onto the side of the building with little windows to peer into at the penguins.
We booked a couple of tickets for the 'show' that evening and headed towards the island's main town of Cowes for a fish n chip lunch and a bit of a shop which included a gold and green Aussie baseball hat for Soph's jogging exploits and a couple of flags for the van.
Along the coast at Newhaven we stopped for a while to feed the birds with loaves of stale bread and then proceeded to desecrate the Australian flags by cutting off the stars leaving the Union Jacks to grace the van's back window. No doubt I'm now in line for an Oz Fatwa to go with my Sri Lankan, German, French and Swedish ones.
Later on we set off for the Penguin Parade, arriving at just before six and heading straight along the boardwalk to the beach where two permanent stands had been erected and took our seats with a couple of hundred other tourists with the beams of about five floodlights lighting up the beach.
Twenty minutes later as it was just turning dark we could just make out a few little white chests surfing in on a wave, and very warily a group of ten or so waddled onto the beach before stopping to look at each other to make sure all their little gang had made it
When most of the groups had made their way in it was time to wander around the boardwalks where groups of cute little penguins sat in the dunes for a while resting and along another viewing platform was the main route the penguins used to get to the burrows and waylaid groups were still making their waddling way to their rooms for the night. All of this was played out to a cacophony of squawks and high-pitched calls as they bedded down for the night. After an hour of watching them under strategically placed lights we headed back to the site for a barbie. For a natural phenomena it had been a pretty amazing evening and is now firmly embedded in our top ten list of experiences on our travels.
The last nine days of near perfect weather came to a grinding halt as heavy rain fell most of the night and was continuing this morning
The Mornington Pen was supposed to be a beautiful region and was going to be our overnight stop, but with the downpour it seemed like any other dreary place on Earth, so as we headed south on the Nepean Highway towards the tip of the peninsula we made an executive decision to carry on driving planning on catching the vehicular ferry from Sorrento over to Queenscliff.
It was still raining as we stopped for a coffee in the 'Sunny Side Up' café opposite the ferry terminal, waiting for the 1pm ferry and at 12.45 we boarded a half empty ferry for the 50 minute trip across the narrow opening of Port Phillip Bay on which Melbourne stands.
The ferry skirted around the dreaded rip at the narrowest part of the bay and dropped us off at the beginning of the Bellarine Highway for the 30km drive up to Geelong (pronounced Jelong) where we somehow found the Riverside (pronounced Riverside) caravan park through the continuing gloom.
As the rain eased off in the evening we decided to head into town for a change in our barbequed dietary habits, settling for a modern little eatery called Noodle Box where you'd pick the noodle variety, ingredients and spiciness of your box of noodles on a touch screen monitor before printing out the order and giving it to the chef, and the finished article was delicioso.
Back in the campervan we slapped on a DVD and wrapped ourselves in our sleeping bags as the wind howled outside. The feature for tonight was 'City of God' which we picked up on the cheap in KL. The top quality film took our minds off the weather.
This morning we drove into the town of Geelong after another night of listening to heavy rain bouncing on a van roof, heading straight for an internet café for an hour. The town didn't offer much in the shops department and the whole place had the feel of an English suburban town in the 80s so we headed down to the seafront where we'd heard that $300m had been spent on regeneration and although it was tidy enough we couldn't quite work out where the money had been spent. Some of the money seemed to have been given to a local sculpture who had carved and painted a cross-section of local people on around 100 smooth tree trunks that had been dotted along the esplanade, including lifeguards, mayors and Hells Angels. The other $299.9m had probably been spent on a bit of landscaping.
At one end of the seafront was a swimming area jutting out into the bay which was handily surrounded with seabed deep bars to keep out unwanted maneaters and at the other end was the Cunningham Pier where we sat in our van having lunch, watching gigantic Victorians (people who live in Victoria, not 100 year olds) drag themselves along the pier after stuffing their faces in the motley looking 'All you can eat for twenty bucks' canteen on the end of the pier.
The only other touristy thing to do in Geelong seemed to be a visit to the riveting-sounding National Wool Museum for a complete history of everything woolly.
Safe to say we passed on this opportunity of a lifetime and decided to get a sneak preview of next weeks drive, with a trip to the town which signifies two things, surfing and the beginning of the Great Ocean Road, Torquay.
Being a mere 25km south we arrived in 20 minutes and headed straight for the famous surf beach, and although it was horribly cold and windy for us, it was perfect weather for the twelve wetsuited dudes bobbing in the distance waiting for 'the big one'. We left them to it as our hands and feet lost all feeling and began to head into Torquay town for a browse around the famous strip of surfwear shops. Being a Saturday afternoon we passed an oval playing field with the sound of whistles and car horns ringing out, so we drove in to see Torquay Tigers playing another local team at Aussie Rules Football, or just plain 'footy' as we've since learnt, and being the cold day it was, most fans were sat inside their cars watching the game on elevated grass banks overlooking the pitch, and each time Torquay scored a chorus of bibs rang out around the ground like an orchestra warming up. To the untrained eye 'footy' is like watching a medieval game of soccer with scrums of players all throwing themselves at the ball and wrestling each other to the ground before trying to hand-pass or hack it upfield, having said that, I've since kind of got the hang of it from the ten hours coverage they show of it on TV each day.
Let me explain:
It's 6 points for a kicked goal between the two taller inner posts and 1 point for a kicked goal outside the two taller inner posts but inside the two smaller outer posts and . . . well I'll leave it there, but anyway it's a cross between 'Rollerball', netball and soccer. A game for Neanderthals played by gentleman.
We finally found ourselves browsing the sacred clothes rails of Quiksilver, RipCurl and Billabong trying to find warm clothes to suit thirty-somethings but could only find teenage-surfer-chic couture. Where's a Marks and Spencer when you need one?
The rain had held off today so we braved the freezing temperatures for a barbie as we were delivering back the van tomorrow and we still had a fridge full of raw congealing meat to get through.
Tomorrow was the start of five days in the cultured city of Melbourne. Would it compare favourably with Sydney? It would be a tall order. Logon soon and we might just reveal all . . .
Bloke & Sheila