Business & Pleasure

Trip Start Sep 09, 2004
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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

G'day kids and a Happy New Year from Cobba Palace down here in Melbourne. 2008. Where has the time gone?

This year was the oddest of New Years. For one thing the state of Victoria saw a record-breaker in climate for the big day, which kinda cocked things up a bit. We were all geared up for a few beers and a barbie by the pool, until we heard about the impending heatwave and the fire ban that was coming with it. This gave us no option but to keep our fun and frolics indoors under the the air conditioning unit as the grass slowly cracked up outside. On the day the temperature reached a good 44C and didn't drop below 33C through the night as we screamed the New Year in and bantered our way through the early hours. I've never known anything like it, certainly not the kind of weather I grew up with and got used to.

Amongst other things associated with growing up in England, like falling in the canal and treading in dog shit, life generally meant having your plans spoiled time and time again by the shitty weather, and generally Christmas and New Year involved shutting the cold outside and wrapping up in front of the fire with family and friends. This had its comforts and pleasures of course and it wouldn't be unusual to hear someone shout 'Shut that bloody door you're letting the heat out!' Generating warmth (and keeping it) on a chilly winter's night could be quite a task and every bit of it was valued, a sobering contrast to what I've experienced in Australia this year. To hear someone shout 'Shut the door Cobba, the cold'll get OUT' is as natural as waking up in the morning and the oddest situation to be in after all those years shivering at the very idea of stepping outside. Open a door here and you're hit by a sudden wall of hot air, no different than peering into the element of a hairdryer as it blasts a lively surge of colour into your cheeks. Step outside without shoes on, even for a moment, and your feet and toes start to sting like they would if they were put on a griddle. A few minutes more and you're draped in your own damp clothing with an overwhelming urge to get back inside. I'm told this is nothing, that it actually gets worse.

Well this weekend in Ararat has been no exception, especially as we got a lot more than we bargained for..



Business: Just a few days into the New Year I was approached by someone I met briefly last month, who decided it was time to get in touch and put forward a bit of a business proposition. This weekend in Ararat was about meeting up and getting the ball rolling, which is exactly what we did and is now just a case of taking some time to chip away at a bit of research before coming up with a proposition of my own. I'll mention more if something comes of it but fingers crossed things may pan out. If they do it'll mean a tidy little arrangement whereby I can continue drifting from place to place like a tramp and get a few travel vouchers shoved in my back pocket along the way.

Pleasure: While the small town of Ararat appears as an incidental dink on the Victoria map it's still quite a pleasant place to spend a weekend and probably more known for it's close proximity to the Grampians than anything else. Actually that's not all true: they do have 'J-Ward' - the local 'institution for the criminally insane' which was closed in the nineties and made in to a bit of a museum and local tourist trap.

So with the meeting out of the way we took to having ourselves a bit of a meander. When I say we, I refer to Cob and Mark who'd took the opportunity to come along for the ride and make a bit of a weekend of it all - the usual sort of thing: a leisurely saunter around an unfamiliar place, a few beers, a spot of exploring and above all else, a well-earned weekend away from screaming teenagers. And it worked. Everything was blissful. Until Saturday night when the time came for us to turn in. The heat I mentioned earlier had obviously followed us over and was hell bent on making us suffer. Having no air-conditioning in the run-down hotel we were staying in made for an appalling night of discomfort. Really intense discomfort. Even using bags of ice as water bottles made no difference. It was like trying to spend the night in a raging sauna. By 2am I'd resorted to staggering through the empty streets alone in my shorts, just to try and get the slightest breeze from the momentum. I cannot begin to describe the distress. It was hellish. And to find out the following morning that we'd been stuffed into a room above some sort of boiler (which conveniently ran flat out through the night) was enough to send each of us into a blazing rage. We had been, literally, slow-roasted. They should put this up as a challenge on one of those Japanese endurance shows. Really.



By morning a cool breeze had developed and the room was filled with a crisp fresh chill. The relief was .. how d'you say... better than any emergency toilet visit, and in less than an hour we were out of there and in the heart of the Grampians National Park, a spectacular sprawl of sandstone mountains and hardy native bush. We got ourselves a good sample of panoramic scenery, waterfalls and bush walks, much of which involved pushing through the disastrous aftermath of the big bushfire of 2006, one which destroyed just about half of the national park. Much like Wilson's Prom, it was surreal to walk amongst charcoal-wrapped tree carcasses but some of the scenery we were rewarded with was magnificent, in particular the view from 'The Pinnacle' overlooking the entire valley which cradled distant Lake Bellfield like cupped hands. Well worth a return visit.



I could say the same for J-Ward really ('the local 'institution for the criminally insane') but the dear old lady who showed us round was just.. I don't know, too 'into' it all really to actually mention anything useful. The more I think about it she did seem to be making a lot of it up as she went along, but then it was only ten bucks and climbing up in to the gallows did hold a bit of novelty.

Next stop: the magical land of Tasmania..
Slideshow Report as Spam
Where I stayed
In the boiler room at the 'Shire Hall Hotel', agonising

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