Wagga Wagga Lifestyle & Leisure Show

We’d arranged to meet our eldest daughter in Wagga so we could all attend the Wagga Wagga Lifestyle & Leisure Show. Richard and I went to the show last year and enjoyed it. It is a great place to see the latest in caravans, motorhomes, campervans, camper trailers and camping equipment and accessories. Last year there was also Malibu Boats from Albury on display. Richard did like those!

We set off from The Rock where we’d overnighted at the Recreation Ground but first we needed to fill up with water. There was a water tap on one of the change room buildings and with full tanks we set off for the short 32km drive to Wagga Wagga.

It was quite overcast and looked like it would rain but we were hopeful it wouldn’t rain while we were at the show.

We’d only just pulled up at the carpark of the Range Expo in Copeland St when our daughter arrived in her 4WD and parked right next to us. Great timing!

We enjoyed a cuppa in the Moho before setting off to check out the show. We spent the next 4 hours checking out the caravans and especially the camping equipment and accessories. There were not many motorhomes there this year, only Suncamper, but we checked out caravans such as Retreat, Lotus, JB Caravans, New Age and more. The Albury Avida dealer was at the show last year however this year they chose to take the motorhome to Tumbafest instead (which just happens to be on at the same time).

The large expo building houses lots of vendors selling all sorts of equipment such as camping tables, chairs, kitchen equipment, bedding, batteries, electrical equipment, and much more.

I was able to pick up a 12V plug that has USB and a USB C sockets. We have two plugs in our motorhome that both have two USB sockets but my new iPad Pro needs a USB C socket. I will be able to swap out one of our plugs for the new one. It will make charging the iPad easier.

Richard was disappointed that he couldn’t check out the Malibu boats as they were not there this year.

We did stop to watch the Reptile show. Do snakes give you the creeps? They do me. The presenter pulled an Eastern Brown Snake out of a box and it gave me chills. They are such a venomous snake. At the end of his talk and after showing off a variety of snakes he demonstrated how to apply a pressure bandage to a limb that has a snake bite and to immobilise the limb. They were also selling snake bite kits that included 3 pressure bandages. We bought a couple of those, one to have in the motorhome and one to have at home. You hope that you never have to use them.

There was a wide variety of food vendors that all seemed to be doing a roaring trade.

Four hours was enough time for us to see all we wanted and our daughter came away with some purchases for her caravan.

We headed out of Wagga Wagga and to a free camp that we’ve used before just out of Collingullie on the banks of the Beavers Creek, a branch of the Murrumbidgee River. It’s a lovely flat spot down beside the bridge and we enjoyed a cuppa and a chat before our daughter had to set off for home.

The rain had held off all day and although it was still cloudy we could see some blue sky so maybe we wouldn’t get rain after all.

We will sleep the night in this peaceful spot and head off home in the morning. It should only take 2 hours and we’ll be home after 15 nights away.

Our stats for this trip are as follows:

15 nights
Caravan Parks x 5 nights = $170
Low-cost Campground x 1 night = $10
Free Camp x 9 = $0
Total Camping costs = $180.00

Gas – Swap & Go Gas bottles x 3 = $73

Fuel = $588.26

Total costs = $841.26

Beavers Creek Weir, Collingullie NSW

Benalla to The Rock

Oh dear…..we were both a little dusty after our very late night celebrating our anniversary. Our neighbours in the free camp on either side of us brought their chairs over and we all enjoyed a nibbles plate and lots of wine. I think we eventually got to bed after midnight.

The others called by when they were leaving to say farewell. We were still having breakfast!. At least we were out of bed, showered and dressed!

The Jaycee Island Campground in Benalla is a great spot however there is only room for a few vehicles. The sign even says only 3 self contained vehicles. It is right beside the walking track around Lake Benalla and would be a perfect spot if it wasn’t for the huge flock of Corellas that call the area home. They fly in at dusk and screech so loud you can’t talk to each other then first thing in the morning they start screeching again. Not a great noise to be woken by, especially feeling dusty!

We eventually set off from Benalla with the aim to make it to The Rock. On the way we went by a huge solar farm at Glenrowan West. It was spread over acres and acres. I just had to look it up to find out more about it. Glenrowan West Solar Farm is HUGE and covers 323 acres. At full capacity is provides 149 megawatts of electricity. It has 373,248 solar panels installed that can provide power for up to 41,000 homes.

We stayed off the freeway and our drive took us through Glenrowan, famous for being bush ranger Ned Kelly’s last stand.

The Big Thing at Glenrowan – Ned Kelly

We travelled on the back road on to busy town of Wangaratta. Then we headed northwards to Corowa on the mighty Murray River passing through historic Wahgunyah on the Victorian side of the river.

At Wahgunyah/Corowa is an amazing single lane bridge across the river and because it is single lane there are traffic lights on either side.

Originally the bridge was a toll bridge built by an enterprising John Foord and others who formed a private company in 1862 to construct and operate a wooden bridge across the Murray River. The wooden bridge cost 10,000 pounds. The colonial governments of Victoria and New South Wales agreed to the construction of the bridge only with the option that the government could purchase the bridge after 21 years. If the option was not exercised then the company could continue to have operating rights for 99 years.

The tolls charged were:
Pedestrians 3 pence
Vehicles 1 shilling per wheel
Sheep 1/2 pence
Pigs & Goats 2 pence
Cattle 4 pence
Horses 1 shilling

In 1877 the two governments resisted pressure from locals to purchase the bridge and make it toll-free.

In 1889 the wooden bridge had become dangerous and finally in 1893 it was replaced by a new narrow iron bridge and despite vocal objections the bridge was built only 18 feet wide. Locals wanted it to be 35 feet wide.

In 1894 the old wooden bridge was pulled down by a bullock team however when the water is very low remnants of the old bridge can still be seen.

We stopped to check out the bridge. Corowa obviously has a large Rowing Club as their shed was huge with concrete wharves to launch the boats from. On the other side of the river was a group of houseboats. What a pretty park and so well maintained. Well done Corowa.

Our journey continued via Howlong, then on back roads through Burrumbuttock, Walla Walla and Culcairn before we stopped for a lunch break in Henty. We also stopped for fuel and Richard asked the attendant where was the best place for lunch in Henty. “The pub”, was the reply.

So off to the Doodle Cooma Arms Hotel for lunch where we enjoyed really good pub grub.

With very full bellies we continued on to The Rock. WikiCamps showed a free camp at the Recreation Ground and we found that, used the dump point and set up camp. The Rock community make their Recreation Ground available for self contained vehicles. There are toilets and hot showers, a dump point and potable water is available. There is lots of room for many RV’s. There were already 3 others when we arrived. There is a donation box in the amenities block for use of the showers however we thought it was worth a $10 donation just to be able to camp in that lovely spot. We had a flat spot and access to the other facilities and, if you felt like it, you could walk to the Bowlo for a meal. It was just up the road. However after our huge pub grub lunch we didn’t need a lot for dinner and gave the Bowlo a miss.

The local AFL club had a training session and we watched them as we sat and read our books. They looked young and very fit.

It was an early night for us after our late one. I think we were in bed by 9pm.

Recreation Ground, The Rock NSW

Lake Eildon to Benalla & our 43rd Wedding Anniversary

43 years ago we got married at St Albans Cathedral in Griffith NSW. We held our Reception at the Hanwood Club. What a wedding it was! One of the best weddings I’ve ever been to. Back in those days people wouldn’t leave the reception until after the bride & groom had left and I remember my mum coming to find us around 11pm to say that some of the older people were tired and ready to go however we were still there and they felt it would be rude to leave. What to do?

Richard and I quickly came up with a solution. We left. All the guests formed a large circle and we moved round the circle in different directions saying goodbye to each and every guest until we’d gone all the way around. Then we left. One of Richard’s cousins drove us into town where we did a couple of laps of the main street until we felt we’d given those that wanted to leave enough time to go home then we went back. The party continued into the wee hours. What a wedding!

We didn’t plan to go very far from our bush camp at Lake Eildon. Our destination was Benalla where we thought we might go out for dinner to celebrate our anniversary. It was a quick pack up from camp as we’d packed most things the night before. The only things that still needed packing was the chocks which we’d had to use as the site was sloping. We set off around 9am and headed back on the corrugated gravel road towards Goughs Bay. We drove in and around the little town situated in a bay of the lake. It looked like it might be a town full of retirees. Quite a few people were out walking.

Heading northwards we passed the Mansfield Zoo and then drove on through Mansfield. Mansfield is the gateway to the snowfields at Mt Buller and it seems a little odd to see a couple of huge ski hire shops in the summer. I’m sure they get very busy during winter.

The famous Australian movies ‘The Man from Snowy River’ 1982 and ‘The Man from Snowy river II’ were filmed in the Mansfield area. The movies starred a young Tom Burlinson as Jim Craig and Sigrid Thornton as Jessica Harrison. Jack Thompson played the famous Clancy. Craig’s Hut was built atop Clear Hills for the movie and has become a permanent fixture that most people instantly recognise. When the hut was burnt down in bushfires in 2006 there was such a reaction that it was rebuilt and continues to attract walkers and 4WD enthusiasts to visit.

Craig’s Hut, Clear Hills

Our route took us west out of Mansfield and then turned northwards to Benalla. Our first stop on arrival in Benalla was to the Showgrounds to check out the camping area and find a water tap to fill our tanks. The camp area looked OK as it was grassy and flat. The fee is $12 per night and there is a donation box on the wall of the Men’s Shed. All campers must be in fully self-contained RV’s and can stay for up to 48 hours. There is room for about 15 RV’s. However we decided to just fill our tanks then drive out to the Airport to use the dump point before deciding where we were going to camp.

Filling up with water at the Benalla Showgrounds

Water tanks full we drove through the lovely town across the bridge over Lake Benalla. Benalla is a mural town. Murals are everywhere. The Annual Benalla Street Art Wall to Wall Festival takes place in March/April each year and attracts thousands of visitors from Australia and around the world. Some of the artists with work in Benalla include Guido van Helten, Rone, DVATE, Adnate and Kaff-eine. The festival began in 2015 and people came the watch the artists at work painting the murals. 14 murals were created that year. The festival has become an annual event and you are constantly surprised as you drive around the town to see another mural on a wall.

Benalla is a town of some 14,000 people and has a lovely feel about it. It is situated about 2 hours from Melbourne along the Hume Highway, the main highway from Melbourne to Sydney.

A public dump point is located out near the airport so that was our next stop. While there another motorhome pulled up and we got chatting, as you do, to the couple who owned it. They’d just packed up from camping at the Jaycee Island Campground, a free camp provided by the town for self-contained vehicles for up to 48 hours, and they said it was a great spot but to get there early as there is only room for 3 RV’s.

OK sounded like a plan, from there we could walk into the Main Street to go out for dinner. Anniversary sorted!

Next stop was the supermarket and we had no trouble finding a park near the Coles carpark. Groceries done, next stop was Liquorland. It was here that Richard suggested we get a cold bottle of sparkling and instead of going out we could have nibbles and bubbles at camp. Excellent idea. Cold bottle of Moet purchased we set off to find the free camp.

I have said before that I use WikiCamps to find campsites and the app really came into its own finding this one. I’d read some of the reviews and saw that quite a few people couldn’t find the entrance to the campground and had ended up going to the Showgrounds. It is a bit confusing. You have to drive through the Library carpark and onto a narrow gravel road at the back. Just as the road turns left there is a huge sign with No Camping very clearly written at the top. In tiny writing at the bottom is an arrow and the words Self-contained Camping. It would be very easy to miss it and just see the No Camping. However we continued on and followed the road around to arrive at a small gravel carpark where up to 3 RV’s can camp. You have to camp on the gravel but we were able to park right on the edge so that under our awning was lovely green grass.

There was already a big Jayco Silverline van set up so we pulled in behind it, not too close, but with enough room that another vehicle could park behind us.

The Jaycee Island Campground is right beside the man-made Lake Benalla and there is a fabulous walking track that goes all the way around. Lake Benalla was formed in 1972 by damming the flood-prone Broken River. The track is a combination of gravel paths, boardwalks and bridges that meanders around the lake for 4.25 km. After setting up camp and leaving Richard to work on his MacBook, I set off to walk along the track to go to the Botanic Gardens. It was raining most of the morning but had stopped, however I carried my big umbrella just in case. Last time we were in Benalla it had also been raining and I didn’t get to see the Botanic Gardens then either.

I set off from the campground heading north west towards the Library and the Skate Park. Some excellent murals are to be found there. I love these little picnic tables that are scattered around the lake.

Wandering further along I came to a strange looking sundial. It’s an Analemmatic Sundial and these types of sundials have been in use since the second century AD. You stand on the central Analemma (stone in the middle with a figure 8 on it) at today’s date and your shadow will indicate the time. I’d seen one of these before in Kingston SE in South Australia and find it fascinating that these have been used for centuries to tell the time. It didn’t work this day though as there was no sun and therefore no shadow.

Further along you pass under the Monash Bridge and on the other side is the quirky Ceramic Mural with the Historical Museum behind. The Ceramic Mural began life as a community art project in 1983. It reminds me of the work of the famous Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. His most famous work is the still unfinished La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

There is a boardwalk along this section with lovely views across the lake to the striking Art Gallery. The Art Gallery was built in 1972.

Further along you come to the fabulous Benalla Splash Park that includes picnic tables, rock climbing and another mural. Out in the middle of the lake is an island and a group of teenage boys were out there yahooing and swinging from a rope in a tree into the lake. They’d had to swim out there and sounded like they were having an awesome time.

I continued on and came to a lovely Aboriginal Community Garden, a place for quiet reflection and gathering and on past that to the Benalla Fishway. The man-made fishway enables fish to swim upstream and downstream past the dam barrier.

I continued on and still hadn’t had to use my umbrella! By this time I had walked round the northern end of the lake and was now on the other side. Along this side is the tennis courts from the 1880s, the oval with its Historic Grandstand built in 1896 , the Historic Rotunda from 1911, the Art Gallery and the Botanic Gardens. Benalla Adventure Playground is one of the best adventure playgrounds I’ve ever seen and on this day there was about 50 children playing in it and, judging by their squeals of laughter, they were loving the play space.

The Benalla Botanic Gardens began when the land was set aside in 1873 and is well known for its Rose Garden. Benalla holds a Rose Festival each year and the town has earnt the nickname ‘Rose City’. The Rose Garden was first developed in 1959. The botanic gardens have ornamental garden beds, winding gravel pathways, sweeping lawns and some huge trees including a giant Bunyah Pine. They are a beautiful place to wander.

It was starting to sprinkle as I made my way back across the Monash Bridge and back to camp past some more incredible murals. I was chased by the mother duck when she thought I’d come too close. I had to use my brolly as a shield when she flew at me! With my heart racing I continued on.

We’d just made up a plate of nibbles and popped our bottle of Moet when our neighbours in the Silverline came by. We asked them to join us. A Jayco motorhome had pulled up earlier and we invited them to join us too. What a fabulous night we had. There was lots of laughs, great conversation and it was a fabulous way to spend our 43rd wedding anniversary. Thank you to Jo & Graham and Di & Alex for making it such a fun night.

A down day at Taylors Campsite, Lake Eildon

Gotta love a down day!

A non-travel day where you can just chill, read a book, have a snooze, go for a walk and generally relax. That was this day.

As my kayak was all set up from the day before I went for a long paddle in the morning. I love it out on the water, it is very calming. I was surprised by the lack of birds, maybe they were all roosting during the day. I did expect to see more waterbirds though.

Whilst out on the water I saw a couple of fishing boats going by and also a couple of ski boats towing water skiers. The water was perfect for skiing.

Back at camp Richard was settled in with a book. While I was eating lunch this beautiful bird flew into the tree near our camp. I love the bright colours. He didn’t seem to be afraid of us sitting close by.

After a rest and a read I went back out again around 5 to have a last paddle on Lake Eildon and captured this photo of some fish including a gold one. I assume it’s a carp. The wind had come up a bit and it was a challenge to paddle into the wind but then I could just drift back to camp.

My inflatable kayak only weighs 12kg and carrying it down to the water is no problem. Carrying it back after an hours long paddle is another thing and I was really grateful that Richard saw me come back and offered to help carry it back up the hill. My arms felt like they were going to drop off!

As we were leaving in the morning I packed up the kayak. This involves deflating it and making sure most of the air is out before giving the inside a wipe out with a towel to remove all the water. Quite a lot of water can get inside dripping off the paddle and from getting in and out. While the deflated kayak is drying the detachable skeg, the paddle (which pulls apart into 5 pieces), the waterproof pouch for my phone, and the deflated seat all get packed into a large bag. My water shoes and gloves get hung up to dry and once dry will go back in a drawstring bag.

The kayak gets folded, rolled up and inserted into a zip bag. The kayak bag, the accessories bag, the water shoe bag, my life jacket and the air pump all get put into one of the outside bins of our motorhome. They all manage to squeeze in with not a lot of room to spare. We used to carry a Weber BabyQ in that bin but found we didn’t use it very much and I get more use from my kayak. If we want to BBQ we have our Biji-Barbie that sits over our fire pit.

Before we retired we packed up our outdoor chairs, table, awning mat, privacy screen and folded up our awning. Doing this the night before makes getting away the next morning a lot quicker.

I did enjoy our couple of relaxing days camped at Taylors campsite on the Delatite Arm of Lake Eildon.

Yea to Lake Eildon

It was a very cold night and we had a couple of possums playing on our roof. Every now and then we’d hear a loud thump. We’d wake with a start then nod back off before another thump occurred. Bloody possums!

Our neighbours in the park were a couple of older men camped in a tent. One of them was walking the Great Victorian Rail Trail. He’d started the walk in Tallarook after catching the train from Melbourne and walked 38km yesterday to Yea where he met up with his mate who had the tent all set up. Today he planned to walk to Alexandra on the Rail Trail, another 34km and this section includes the amazing Cheviot Tunnel. The Cheviot Tunnel is Victoria’s longest rail tunnel. His mate would drive to Alexandra to meet him there.

The Great Victorian Rail Trail is 134km in length from the start at Tallarook to the end at Mansfield and includes a side route to Alexandra. On occasion during our drive we’d come across the rail trail and lots of cyclists and walkers using it.

We left Yea and set off the visit Eildon. Our route took us via Alexandra, Thornton and into the village of Eildon. The Taungurung clans are the First Nations people of the area and their country covers much of Central Victoria including Eildon.

European settlers established Eildon in the late 1850’s prior to the gold rush coming to the area in the 1860’s. The name Eildon comes from the Scottish Eildon Hills.

The original storage dam known as Sugarloaf Reservoir was built between 1915 and 1929 and only held 10% of today’s capacity. The dam as we know it was built in the 1950’s and became Lake Eildon. The original Sugarloaf dam wall is still there under Lake Eildon. When full Lake Eildon can store six times the amount of water in Sydney Harbour. The dam was at 85% during our visit. That’s a lot of water.

During the construction of the second dam Eildon became a fully functioning township to house the 1,275 workers on the dam. Lake Eildon now operates as an irrigation supply and flood control storage for the downstream Goulburn River and Goulburn Murray Irrigation District and provides around 60% of the water.

Lake Eildon has become a major tourist attraction for recreational water activities such as fishing, boating, and water sports. Over 750 houseboats call Lake Eildon home.

We stopped in the little town centre and I went to the Tourist Centre only find it is closed on Tuesdays. Oh well. Whilst I was finding that out Richard walked across to the bakery. You know he can’t resist a bakery! I found him sitting on a bench in the village green eating a donut. A friendly cocky came by and wasn’t the least afraid of us humans.

Sadly the little town looks like it hasn’t weathered the Covid pandemic well. Just near the bakery I counted seven closed and empty shops. It all looked a bit sad.

We drove out to check out the dam wall and it’s impressive. On the far shore we could see houseboats moored up. We also drove across the spillway and could look down onto the Goulburn River below. We drove to the Boat Harbour but I do not recommend any caravan or big motorhome drive down there as it was a really narrow road and not a lot of room to turn around at the bottom. All the moored houseboats did look lovely though. We’ve never done a houseboat holiday. We think we’d like to try that.

After checking out Eildon we headed back to Thornton on the Back Eildon Road on the other side of the river to the way we came in. Then through Alexandra again and on through Bonnie Doon. The countryside all around this part of Victoria was very dry. There was long grass so they’ve had good rain however the grass was all browned off and the hills and valleys were very dry. It is at Bonnie Doon that the Great Victorian Rail Trail crosses over the Brankeet Arm of Lake Eildon.

We arrived in Mansfield at lunchtime and pulled into the carpark near the Tourist Centre to have lunch. I visited the Tourist Centre and picked up some brochures and checked with the lady whether the road to the spot we were thinking of camping is suitable for motorhomes. She explained that it is a tar road to Goughs Bay and for a while after but then it becomes a gravel road which eventually becomes a dirt track. She explained that the campsites are all clearly marked along the way and she and her family had only been out there camping a couple of weeks ago. That was all good to know.

Richard likes to be parked up before 4pm so instead of exploring Mansfield we headed out of town towards Goughs Bay. Just before Goughs Bay you turn onto Walsh’s Road and follow this to the Delatite Arm Reserve. There are numerous campsites along the western side of the Delatite Arm and camping is free but on a first-come, first-served basis. You cannot book a site. It is a popular spot during holiday periods and you’d be wise to get to a spot early to secure one. We didn’t have any trouble though and found ourselves a spot at Taylors, some 7km along the dusty gravel road.

Each campsite has pit toilets and and some have fire pits. Sites are clearly marked and you cannot camp below the high water line indictated by signs or timber fences. As it was a Total Fire Ban we wouldn’t be using the fire pit. You can have pets but they must be under control at all times.

It was difficult to find a flat spot and had to resort to using our chocks. This is when automatic levellers would be really handy. All the campsites are on a gentle slope down to the water but we managed to get level so we could use our slide out. We love our slide out. It makes our motorhome so spacious.

There were three other groups of campers at Taylors but we were a long way apart.

The water looked so inviting it was time to get my inflatable kayak out and get on the water. I quickly put dinner on to cook and, while Richard worked on his laptop, I headed off for a paddle. It was beautiful out on the water.

A fabulous garden and superb lunch

Well, we didn’t travel far this day. When we woke it was drizzling down rain so all the washing I had on the line was wet. I took it all up to the Laundry and put in the dryer. The Laundry at the park was one of the largest and cheapest I’ve seen for a long time. The washers were only $2 per wash and the dryers were also only $2. Bargain.

So we had a leisurely breakfast while we waited for the washing to dry. We didn’t drive out of the Doon Reserve Caravan Park at Yarra Junction until 10.30am.

Our route took us via Healesville and Yarra Glen. It was a very pretty drive through the hills and forests that eventually gave way to farm land. We passed apple orchards, strawberry farms and vineyards.

Our first stop was to Alowyn Gardens just north of Yarra Glen. Alowyn Gardens are set on 7 acres of beautifully landscaped garden rooms. The owners purchased the property in 1997 when it was a grazing property. They set about designing and constructing their amazing garden from scratch. The garden has been 25 years of hard work to turn what was once bare paddocks into the lush and shady garden it is today. I can appreciate all the work it took them. Our garden is 3 acres, this one is 7!

You enter the Gardens from the large gravel visitors carpark via a walkway lined with old redgum sleeper offcuts. A huge eagle sculpture looks down on you as you pass by.

The entry leads to the ticket sales counter and the cafe opposite. You can enjoy your morning tea/lunch/afternoon tea seated at one of the tables scattered in a courtyard under some gorgeous maple trees. It’s a lovely spot with dappled shade. We enjoyed a coffee and cake and soaked up the calming atmosphere.

Through the courtyard is the plant nursery filled with such a fabulous variety of plants, pots, garden ornaments and general gardening paraphernalia. They have a wonderful collection of succulents for sale that I know our daughter-in-law would have loved to see.

Behind the courtyard is a large building called the Farm Shed and this is used for functions such as weddings and parties. It really is just a big shed however the internal walls were lined with a honey coloured ply wood and the floors were polished concrete. It would be a lovely venue for a wedding.

You can visit all of these without paying an entry fee however to visit the gardens you pay an entry fee at the ticket sales counter and are given a map of the gardens which has a recommended route to follow.

Before entering the gardens you pass through a shed that has many photos and info on the history of the garden from when John and Pru first bought the property in 1997. It is interesting to see photos of the development of the various garden rooms and read about the planning of each section. Such a lot of work.

Then you enter the gardens. Wow! It takes your breath away. The first thing you see is a 100m long Wisteria Walk. It is truly impressive. I would love to see it when the wisteria is flowering in October. That would be incredible. It was impressive enough just with the long tunnel of greenery.

In the middle of the long walk is a circular garden bed with a spectacular fountain in the middle. The circular bed is a rose garden.

An extensive network of gravel pathways lead you from one garden room to another. There is a Parterre Garden inspired by the great European gardens such as the ones at Versailles.

A Japanese Zen garden is a place for quiet reflection. A very peaceful spot to sit in the garden. The Display Garden is a series of small courtyards and gardens to showcase what can be achieved ina small space.

The French Provincial Garden has a Crab Apple walk, a Chinese Elm walk and a Canadian maple walk. Some of the tall hedges remind me of the gardens at Versailles. This garden is centred around a long rectangular pool full of irises. The two long pools are separated by a central garden with a huge sculpture made of horseshoes.

Here was also the huge display of Sunflowers. This was a stunning mass display of these gorgeous flowers.

Another section is home to the lavender field.

Leading off the French Provincial Garden via a lovely gate is the Labyrinth. The labyrinth is an ancient symbol that relates to wholeness and represents a journey to your own centre and back out again into the world. A labyrinth usually has one entry and one exit. The labyrinth at Alowyn Gardens is made up of 980 plants of Phontinia Robusta and it is pruned 3 times a year to maintain it’s shape.

There is an extensive Vegetable & Kitchen garden with avenues of fruit trees. There is even a whole section devoted to berries that is under its own netting to keep the birds out.

The Dry Garden is based on an Australian forest and includes all our Aussie favourites including bottle trees. There is a large pond and wetlands area in this garden. The wetlands recycle all the run-off water from the plant nursery and it gets used over again. The mulch is made from all the recycled pruning from the garden.

The Birch Forest is full of three different types of Birch tree underplanted with bulbs and hellebores.

The Casuarina Forest includes an historic Miners Hut with its outdoor fire pit with a billy hanging over it. The Miners Hut houses early Australian memorabilia.

The Perennial Border garden has a collection of plants chosen for their toughness and ability to survive hot summers and cold winters with minimum care. I like this one!

Finally you exit the garden into the Plant Nursery and the lovely Maple Courtyard.

We’d spent a couple of hours exploring the gardens and they truly are magnificent. What a credit they are to owners John and Prue. As we were leaving we got chatting to the lady behind the ticket sales counter and it turned out to be Prue herself. What a treat to chat with her. We could have chatted for longer however new visitors were arriving. It was a busy place. We thanked Prue, got back in the motorhome and continued on our meander.

We didn’t get very far up the road when we came to De Bortoli’s Wines. We’d never been to their Yarra Valley winery and thought we’d better have a look. De Bortoli’s Wines began their story in Bilbul just out of our home town of Griffith. It is still a family owned business with vineyards and wineries in multiple locations.

The entry, driveway and gardens are impressive and beautifully maintained. We were impressed. The carpark is large and we had no problem finding a spot for the motorhome. As we entered the cellar door we were asked if we were here for lunch. We were surprised as we’d thought the restaurant wasn’t open on Mondays. However it is Tuesday they are closed so we grabbed the opportunity to have lunch in the restaurant we’d heard so much about.

We were not disappointed. For $70 each you can have two courses and we both elected to have primi and secondi (starter and main). Superb is all I can say about the food. Absolutely superb.

Around the walls of the restaurant are photos of the De Bortoli family and their farms and wineries through the years and I was delighted to find one of Piero Bisa driving a two-horsepower spray unit. Vittorio De Bortoli married Giuseppina Bisa and Piero was her brother. Piero’s daughter Luciana (Lucy) married my uncle Peter.

After a lovely lunch we continued our meander and headed northwards arriving in the town of Yea around 3. We couldn’t find a free/low cost camp on WikiCamps so headed to the Riverside Caravan Park where we were able to get a powered site on the bank of the little Yea river. It was a lovely grassy site with a nice view of the water below.

Don’t you love unexpected places?

We found a delightful place on our travels from our overnight camp at Willows Park RV Park near Rosedale. First though, we got onto Highway 1 heading towards Melbourne. At Morwell, Highway 1 becomes a freeway and it became a double-lane dual carriageway. Richard did enjoy letting the Iveco have its head and I had to remind him that now we are a heavy vehicle since doing the GVM upgrade our maximum speed is 100km/h not 110km/h . He had to back off a bit!

As we passed Morwell we saw a huge open cut coal mine and thought that might be worth a look. We followed signs to a mine lookout but, alas, when we arrived the gates were closed and locked. So, no view of the big hole in the ground at Morwell. We did drive around to check out the Loy Yang power station. The power station generates electricity for Melbourne using coal mined in the open cut mine. Loy Yang provides 30% of Melbourne’s electricity needs. The power Station and the mine operate 24 hours a day 7 days a week and employ 600 people and over 200 contractors.

Disappointed we couldn’t get a closer view of the open cut mine we continued our journey until we came to signs for Yallourn Power Station and Mine. Worth a look. Alas, the gate to the lookout at this mine was also locked. Oh well. No looking at big holes in the ground for us.

The La Trobe Valley is the heart of brown coal mining in Victoria and the three huge open cut mines have a volume of 3 times Sydney Harbour. There is talk of filling the mines with water when they close to mining and using them as water storage. It is estimated it will take 25-30 years for the big holes to fill. Hazelwood Mine closed in 2017, Yallourn is due to close in 2032 and Loy Yang in 2048.

We got back onto the highway at Moe until we took the Nilma exit and headed northwards. What a beautiful scenic drive it was to Yarra Junction. We drove through forest with very tall trees and tree ferns. We passed a timber mill and an interesting apple orchard where the trees were all espaliered to make them easier to pick the fruit.

So what was our unexpected place? As we go along I’m usually the navigator. Who navigates in your RV?

I usually use WikiCamps as I like to click on all the points of interest along the way to see if any of them appeal to us to stop at. This day I discovered a gem, the Blue Lotus Water Garden in Yarra Junction.

The garden is situated on 14 acres and consists of lakes, ponds and waterways with some 3km of walking paths. There are bridges, fountains, waterfalls, lots of little pavilions, a fairy garden, a plant nursery, a cafe and a gift shop.

We drove in and found the car park very full and nowhere for us to park however an attendant waved us forward and we found an overflow carpark at the rear of the property with plenty of room to park our 26’ motorhome. It’s always a bit of a concern when we drive into a carpark as to how we will be able to turn around and back out again!

Allow at least a couple of hours to check out the garden. We had lunch in their cafe and then strolled around the amazing gardens for a couple of hours. You can bring a picnic and eat it under one of the pavilions and we saw a lot of families doing just that. Some of the pavilions even have free BBQ’s for visitors to use.

The garden has been owned by the Cochrane family for over 50 years and started life as a market garden where the family grew vegetables. In mid 1990 Geoff Cochrane decided to diversify and further develop the property into a fly-fishing resort which resulted in the construction of a new dam, ‘Lotus Lake’, and a number of smaller dams and ponds.

A range of water lilies and lotus flowers were planted to beautify the dams and give shelter for the fish. The conditions were perfect for the plants and Geoff decided to commence farming water lilies and lotus as a commercial crop to supplement the cabbages usually grown. The fly-fishing idea was scrapped.

In the early 2000’s Geoff continued landscaping the property and in 2004 developed a retail nursery specialising in water plants. The garden was opened to the public in 2005 and has grown to the 14 acres it is today. Thousands of visitors come to see the amazing water plants each year.

I took so many photos and I’ll let them do the rest of the talking. Suffice to say we loved our visit to this incredible garden and recommend it to all garden lovers.

After walking around for a couple of hours we decided once we got back to the motorhome that it was time to find a camp for the night. We found the Doon Reserve Caravan Park in Yarra Junction and for $45 per night we had a riverside site with power and water.

I took advantage of the power and water to get four loads of washing done while Richard had a nap and a read. The river is very close by and occasionally I saw kids coming back all wet and heading back upstream where they get in then float downstream. I’m sure the water was very cold but they looked like they were having fun.

The Doon Reserve Caravan Park is quite large and has a large percentage of permanent sites as well as unpowered and powered sites. When I went for a wander around the park I discovered it is situated on a couple of bends in the beautiful Yarra River. The river was quite shallow but running very quickly over the stony bottom. Doon Reserve is accessed by driving through the park however it is a Day Use Area only. It had a large grassy area with picnic tables and would make a perfect free camp if the gate was open.

It was just on dusk as I walked around and I was astonished to see a huge population of rabbits. There’d be a group of them and as I approached they’d quickly run underneath a permanent site. Looks like they make their home under there.

Many of the permanents were quite neglected and in serious need of some TLC whilst others were immaculate with beautiful gardens and looked like they were permanent homes. There are two amenities blocks in the park but as we don’t need them I didn’t check them out.

Oh dear….a flat tyre on the ebike

After one of the best sleeps I’ve had for a long time (must have been the soothing sound of the crashing waves) we set off from our fantastic camp at Shoreline Drive Camp 10 and headed into the village of Golden Beach. I will have to add Shoreline Drive Camp 10 to my Favourite Campsites list. We loved it there.

Golden Beach is an RV Friendly town with an RV Park ($10 per night donation) where self-contained RV’s can stay for up to 7 nights . There is also a dump point. As we were going past we stopped to use it. Beware! This dump point had no handle on the tap so make sure you’ve got your universal tap handle handy. Luckily we carry one, you never know when you might need one. We got ours from Bunnings and it lives permanently in the motorhome. Once we could turn on the water we were able to thoroughly clean the dump point of previous user’s mess and our own. Not a pleasant job but it needed doing.

Our drive took us back to the lovely Gippsland town of Sale where we’d booked to do an Historic Port Tour at 2pm. We thought we’d drive to the Port of Sale and park in the large carpark, take our ebikes off and ride down to explore the Botanic Gardens. Good plan!

We found a great flat spot to park up in semi-shade but with the solar panels in the sun, turned the gas on so I could put the fridge on gas while we were out, got the ebikes off the rack and got ready to set off. My bike tyres needed a little air and Richard’s front tyre needed a lot. Tyres all pumped up we set off.

Oh no! We’d only got half way around the beautiful lake before Richard’s front tyre went flat. He was using the pump to pump more air into it and the whole valve fell right off. Oh dear! Catastrophe! What to do?

I quickly googled bike stores in Sale and found one only a couple of blocks away so we set off for there. What a great shop. The lovely couple at Push & Pedal could not have been more helpful. The guy had a look and said come back in 20 minutes so we went to do some retail therapy.

Purchases made at Rivers we headed back to Push & Pedal. Richard’s bike was still up on the fancy hoist but it only took another five minutes for the tyre to be all fixed and back on. He also fixed a loose brake bit and tightened the chain. All for $30. What great service.

While that was happening his wife was giving me a lot of info on their town and what to do. She was so helpful.

So we set off again on our ebikes. First stop was Victoria Park on the recommendation of the lady from Push & Pedal. Here we found a lovely park with an Historic Water Tower in one corner.

We continued our ride back to the Botanic Gardens. It is a large beautiful park and we really enjoyed the lovely ride through it. Sale Botanic Gardens began way back in 1860 and was around 34 acres in size. A cottage for the curator of the gardens was built in 1870. Early plantings celebrated Queen Victoria’s birthday in 1872.

Lake Gutheridge is an important feature of the Gardens today but once it was a smelly swamp. Sale’s first mayor Nehemiah Gutheridge urged the council to convert the swamp into a lake. In 1884 it became a Reserve for Water Conservation and Extension of the Botanic Gardens.

The Botanic Gardens went into decline around the time of WW1 when the council elected to focus efforts on Victoria Park as its main garden. Much of the Botanic Gardens land was taken over by various sporting clubs.

In the 21st century the remnants of the original Botanic Gardens have been regenerated and reclaimed. A replanting program and a new lake have been created. Lake Guyatt continues the gardens and many pathways link the two areas. There are lots of areas to enjoy the gardens and on our way around we came across lots of walkers, some walking their dogs, jogger and picnickers. One lady had a double stroller and another infant in a baby carrier and a dog!

There is a fabulous children’s playground and we stopped to watch children having fun on all the equipment. Rich thought our grandchildren would love a flying fox like that one!

We found another historic building in the park called the Powder Magazine. It was here the gunpowder used by the gold miners in the region was stored. The little brick building was built in1861. It is now a museum.

We thoroughly enjoyed our cycle through the very lovely gardens. Well done Sale.

Back at the motorhome it was time for a bit of lunch before walking down to the Port of Sale to board our cruise. Port of Sale Heritage Cruises operate daily at 10am and 2pm. I’d booked the previous day. The lovely cruise boat is the Rubeena built in 1912. She is owned by the Lewis family and our skipper for the day was 80 year old Alan Lewis.

Our cruise set off on time from the dock with Alan talking all the time telling us about the important role that the Port of Sale had in opening up Gippsland to the world. He is a wealth of knowledge. The Sale Canal built in 1880 connected Sale and the Gippsland region to the rest of the world. You could sail on a schooner from Sale to Melbourne in 2 days. That meant you’d leave from Port of Sale, travel along the canal, through the Gippsland lakes to The Entrance and then out into Bass Straight.

For many years it was the only way to reach Gippsland and boats carried supplies such as livestock, equipment for the many goldfields and household goods. Black powder was only allowed to be carried by vessels under sail. Not hard to imagine why!

We passed one section of the canal where there is a large cutting. This was constructed by boat builder McCardle and is still called McCardle’s Cut. When the new bridge was proposed for downstream it was going to be so low that the boats McCardle built would not be able to go under. After much arguing with the government McCardle eventually took the government to court. He won the fight and was awarded 1600 pounds in compensation. This was a huge sum at the time. The Swing Bridge was built instead. It didn’t go all McCardle’s way though. He was also fined one shilling for making the cut in the canal without permission.

We cruised from the Port to the historic Swing Bridge completed in 1880 to allow taller craft to pass along the canal. Today the Swing Bridge is the oldest intact, operating bridge of its kind in Australia. It usually opens at 3pm every Saturday and Sunday however we didn’t get to see that as it is under repairs.

The little Rubeena has an electric motor and is perfect for quietly cruising so as not to disturb the wildlife along the way. The waterway has a myriad of creatures that call it home including Azure Kingfishers, a pair of Platypus, Moorhens and even Koalas. You may be lucky to spot a Whistling Kite, a Pelican or a Sea Eagle.

We were sitting next to a Gran & Pa who had their 4 year old granddaughter with them. They were obviously taking care of her for the day and thought she’d like the boat cruise. She got bored! Typical pre-schooler. I tried to interest her in spotting birds etc but she wanted to see fairies. Couldn’t really help her there! She did make us both smile though and it is chance meetings like that that make us really miss our 7 grandchildren and wonder what they are up to. We can’t wait to see them all when we get home in another week.

After a 2 hour cruise that went by so quickly it was back to the MH and off to the supermarket for supplies before heading off west on Highway 1. Our target was the Willows Park RV Park just outside of Rosedale.

It was only 25km from Sale and we pulled into the park about 5pm to find there were already 6 caravans and 5 motorhomes camped. There is a BBQ shelter, rubbish bins, pit toilets and a very large, flat grassed area that could fit lots of RV’s. The park is right beside the La Trobe River and there is a footbridge across the river and a walking/bike path that leads into Rosedale. The park is also right beside and under the highway so there was quite a bit of traffic noise however that would probably stop once it gets dark.

More of Gippsland & the broken fuel cap

We packed up our camp at the Lakes Entrance Recreation & Camping Reserve. We had thoroughly enjoyed our three night stay in the park. We were camped right next door to the caretakers who live on site in their motorhome. Darren came out as we were leaving and we complimented him on the great job he does on keeping the park so neat and tidy.

We headed east to check out Lake Tyers before heading back through Lakes Entrance and across the Kalimna Bridge. At the top of the hill is a fabulous lookout across The Entrance and lakes. Check it out. What a view!

Continuing on we took a left turn at Swan Reach before the River Tambo bridge and followed the lovely river southwards to arrive at Metung.

What a gorgeous little village is Metung situated on a spit of land poking into the lakes. Metung has a lovely atmosphere with its well kept Village Green, many marinas full of lovely boats, the Yacht Club, the renowned Metung Hotel, lovely homes and holiday accomodation.

We stopped for a break and Richard just had to try a custard tart from the bakery while I went for a wander.

We left the lovely Metung, traveled back to Swan Reach then headed west through Bairnsdale and stopped in Sale to fill up with fuel. Our fuel cap was not working and we couldn’t lock it back onto the truck. Bummer. We called a local truck repair place who didn’t have one in stock but could get one overnight from Melbourne but suggested we try Repco or Bursons first, so off to Repco we went. While Richard was in Repco I called Bursons and the nice guy said to bring it around so he could have a look at it. Rich came out of Repco with the only one they had and it didn’t fit, so back in the MH to drive around to Bursons. Luckily they have a back entrance off a large carpark as there was no way we’d get a park in the busy street they front on to.

While I waited in the MH with fingers crossed Rich went in with our current fuel cap to see what they could do. No luck there either. What to do now?

We drove to the Brady’s Truck & Automotive who are an Iveco dealer. Fingers crossed they might have one on an old truck or otherwise we may have to order one. Looks like we’ll be staying in Sale tonight. Rich came out of Brady’s disappointed as they don’t have any and it would have to be ordered from Sydney and probably wouldn’t get here until Tuesday the following week. It was Friday. They did say to go to the Nissan dealer and try there so that was our next stop.

Tried Nissan and they couldn’t help but suggested we try the Ford dealer. We were getting to know Sale going from one place to the other!

The Ford dealer couldn’t help so with a rag stuffed in our filler cap to keep dust out we decided to find a camp.

We ended up at one of the best camp spots ever! We drove south to the village of Seaspray and onto Shoreline Drive. Shoreline Drive follows 90 Mile Beach along from Seaspray to Golden Beach. Along that stretch are 19 campsites. All the campsites are free and on a first come first served basis. There are some with pit toilets and some have rubbish bins but most are just little camps tucked into the coastal scrub between the road and the sand dunes. On the other side is 90 Mile Beach.

As we started at the Seaspray end of Shoreline Drive we came to no 19 first and we checked out each one until finally we came to no 10. It was the first one that we could drive into with the motorhome without scratching the sides or the roof on the low hanging branches. Many of the others were suitable for a car or even a car with a caravan or camper trailer. Our motorhome is just too tall and wide to fit.

However Camp 10 was perfect. We found a level spot with grass and we could hear the crashing waves across the dunes. There was a pathway through the dunes to get to the beach.

As soon as we had set up camp I headed off to the beach for a walk.

It wasn’t long before we were joined at Camp 10 by a caravan and a pop top camper. They were really nice people and joined us for a chat and a drink. I love this RV lifestyle where you get to m wet all sorts of people.

After our big day, we retired early and I think I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

90 Mile Beach, Victoria

90 Mile Beach is one of those natural wonders. It is one of the longest uninterrupted beaches in the world. 90 Mile Beach starts in Port Albert, Victoria and heads north-eastwards just over 151 kilometres (94 mi) in length, to the man-made channel at Lakes Entrance.

The golden sand dunes separate the Gippsland Lakes on one side from Bass Straight on the other. I walked along the beach and let the crashing waves cover my feet and that water is cold! Straight off Bass Straight. The Gippsland Lakes are the largest inland water system in the Southern Hemisphere and are 7 times the size of Sydney Harbour.

90 Mile Beach is famous for its gorgeous summer-patrolled beaches, walking, whale and dolphin spotting, and beach fishing.

We arrived at our lovely camp from the village of Seaspray after heading south from Sale in Gippsland. We followed Shoreline Drive until we came to Camp 10 that was suitable for our motorhome. There are 19 free camp sites along the road from Paradise Beach to Seaspray. Seaspray also has a lovely caravan park. We thought we might have to stay there if we couldn’t find a camp where we could fit.

Many of the camp sites are only suitable for small vehicles as they have overhanging trees and vegetation making the tracks in to the camps very narrow. Too small and narrow for our 3.2m high motorhome.

Eventually we found Camp 10 and it was perfect. No overhanging trees and a great flat spot for us to park. We quickly set up camp and went for a long walk along the gorgeous beach.

The remains of the wreck of the Trinculo were a little way along the beach. Such an amazing story. Check out the story on the info board below.

The walk along the beach was magic. So many shells, cuttlefish, sponges and other flotsam were washed up on the beach. People were beach fishing in the distance. The southerly was pushing the waves onshore and they crashed loudly as the broke over the sand bar. I was looking forward to sleeping with that beautiful sound. Who else loves the sound of the ocean?