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Archive for the ‘Robe’ Category

An earlier start than the last couple of mornings. We finished off our cereals and did the last of our packing. We’re catching the train to Alice Springs tomorrow, so we need to get the packing down to our original bags again and dispose of anything we won’t need or want. Quite a task after nearly six weeks of dumping things in the car boot.

Just as we were ready to leave we met our neighbours in cabin no 5. They were a lovely retired couple from Sherston (also in Wiltshire)! They were touring New Zealand and Australia (or parts of it) and return on an almost yearly basis – lucky things.

Shortly before 9.30am we managed to peel ourselves away from this peaceful campsite and headed further north to our next destination Blanchetown.

Another long drive – yippee!
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Almost as soon as we left Robe we felt like we had finally reached the Australia like we know it from postcards and documentaries; i.e. long stretches of empty road, dry and barren landscapes on either side, dotted with green bushes. The soil looked very dry and almost cracked and at times I could spot the odd little house in the middle of nowhere. I couldn’t help thinking whether these houses were habitable. Did they have electricity/gas or running water?
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We drove around Kingston SE hoping we would find an Op-Shop to dump some of our pre-loved items but no such luck.

Back onto the main road where the numerous mirages made it difficult to judge whether or not it was safe to overtake the odd slow car or truck.

We pressed on through Meningie and Tailem Bend to Murray Bridge where we chose to stop for lunch and drop off some of our surplus items. We consulted the Tourist Info oracle first, though one lady thought everything would be closed by now on a Saturday (much to our surprise) while the other then contradicted her and gave us leaflets listing all the eateries and all the second-hand/charity shops that would be open for a couple more hours.

We drove to the big purple shop called “Treasure Trove” and passed on our thick fleeces, walking trousers, t-shirt, woolly hats and gloves and, much to the girls dismay and disappointment, their purple woggle (noodle). There were tears from Ellen and a promise of getting her a new woggle once back in the UK only brought a watery smile to her face.

We then carried on down the road in search of a bakery but spotted a Subway and we knew this would cheer the girls up immensely. Suddenly we were back in Ellen’s good books, phew… We went for two one-foot-long meal deals to share between the four of us.

Once back in the car Tim suggested a small detour via the Barossa Valley. It only added 20 minutes to our 5.5 hour drive, so off we went to Tanunda for the Jacob’s Creek vineyard and information centre.

As we approached the centre we could see several vineyards marked Jacob’s Creek Shiraz, Jacob’s Creek Merlot, etc. I knew every grape variety would have its own vineyard, but what I didn’t know was that they were so spread out.

The information centre itself I found a little disappointing. There were information boards, a restaurant (that was closing as we arrived) and a couple of bars where you could purchase some bottles. They also sold some other merchandise like bottle openers, aprons, caps, polo shirts and rugby shirts (at almost $90 I thought they were a little on the expensive side). We looked into buying some wine but didn’t want a big bottle as we might not have time to finish it. In the end we settled for a selection box of 6 of 187.5ml bottles (3 whites, 2 reds and 1 rose), which are much easier to transport on the train tomorrow.
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As we drove out again we stopped very briefly at their animal park, which only housed a couple of emus and a handful of very lazy kangaroos. I suppose once one has seen them in the wild, one gets pretty fussy about them!

Finally we were on the home stretch to our campsite. Blanchetown is a very small town in the middle of nowhere. Our campsite is called Riverside and is (obviously) based on the bank of the longest river in Australia, the Murray. It is a very small, but clean and tidy campsite with two handfuls of cabins.

Murray River.
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The first lock.
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We booked a family cabin for the night and paid quite a lot of money for it. Needless to say we were disappointed when we had no hot water tonight for showers. Tim and I ended up in the amenities block where they did have plenty of hot water.

We popped into the town to buy some chips and fish/burgers/chicken for supper, which we had at one of the picnic tables back at the campsite.
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Spotted near the takeaway.
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Time to get the girls into bed and for us to finalise our packing. We have an early start tomorrow, so I had better get some sleep soon.

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Drive-thru beach

Our final day in Robe delivered sunshine and warmth, so we made the most of it and got out and about (once the latest batch of washing was up on the line and I had confessed to melting the toaster on the cover-plate of the grill – they let me off with a caution and supplied us with a new toaster). First to Beacon Hill Lookout for a 360′ view of the surrounding area – and hundreds more millipedes, this time accumulating at the highest point rather than the lowest.
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Thence to the red and white striped obelisk on Cape Dombey which served as a landmark for ships until the construction of a modern tripod lighthouse. It (the obelisk) stands on crumbling limestone and one day will collapse into the sea; visitors are already forbidden to walk up to it.
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View towards modern lighthouse.
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We then meandered back to camp for another sandwich lunch and a rest before deciding to have our final visit to an Australian beach. We chose Long Beach, which lives up to its name with beautifully fine sand curving into the distance as far as the eye can see. One special feature of this beach is the access road allowing cars to drive directly onto the sand; the grains were sufficiently compacted that we were in no danger of getting stuck with our non-4WD vehicle. We parked facing the water in alignment with the handful of cars already there, and maintaining the equidistant spacing that seemed to have arisen quite spontaneously.
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The girls paddled briefly (it’s a sheltered spot with gently-lapping waves) and then found it more interesting to draw a mermaid in the sand in a sort of bas-relief which they then decorated with shells and seaweed.
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Kirsten and I agree that we could have spent longer in this area; no tourist mega-draws, but a peaceful spot to recharge batteries surrounded by lakes, vineyards and an unspoiled shoreline.

We had more ice cream for tea; Ellen’s choice of ‘triple swirl’ looked unnervingly like a mix of printer’s inks, the bright yellow, cyan and magenta uncannily echoing the colours on Hannah’s UV-protection top. Apparently it tasted better than it looked…
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We reprised our microwave-poached pears for supper to use up the last of our Tassie fruit; even more delicious now it’s riper. The girls settled down to their diaries and wrote without distraction (doesn’t always happen), Hannah finishing her 64-page close-ruled exercise book just in time to send home before we leave for Singapore. Baths for both, and final packing to get all our belongings into our regular luggage – the train to Alice Springs won’t accept plastic bags, cardboard boxes, etc.

So tomorrow we drive for five hours to Blanchetown, stay the night and then make an early start to return the car in central Adelaide on the final day of the V8 racing (which has featured regularly on the national news over the last few days). We’re looking forward to seeing a different facet of Australia, and especially Uluru. Like Machu Picchu, everyone says that it doesn’t disappoint despite all the hype. We just hope it won’t rain the whole time.

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When in Robe

We allowed ourselves a good lie-in this morning and followed up with a quiet day in our cabin. The normally-reliable Wunderground website let us down, promising clear skies and a warm, sunny day; what we got was 100% cloud cover and a chilly breeze, the coldest day we’ve had in Australia.

So the girls played at being airport security staff, scanning each other with a TV remote control and finding a dog in a bag – ‘it’s only a cuddly toy’.

Also a chance to watch the morning’s selection of educational children’s television programmes, including ‘Being French’ (footage of Marseillais schoolchildren being incredibly well behaved on a nature walk), ‘Our Animals’ (about the life of the wombat), ‘Weird Science’ (a man wearing upside-down goggles for a day) and something about life on Mars. Prior to these, the pre-school programmes; Play School (all-new episodes from next Monday) and Waybuloo (four computer-generated animal characters who gently float about in the air and practise ‘yogo’).

One unexpected bonus of doing our coastal crawl round from Sydney to Adelaide – you get to know a lot of the smaller towns which never impinge on one’s consciousness back in the UK. So if a news report mentions Parramatta, we remember that we rented our car there. Or when we are told that Gabriella Cilmi (Sweet About Me) hails from Dandenong, we drove just south of there when we stayed in Frankston. And today’s news item about the sickly newborn elephant at Taronga Zoo – well, we probably saw the mother last month.

Cheese on toast for lunch, then to the library for the middle part of the afternoon. South Australia offers free internet access in its libraries, the only catch being a daily usage limit of 30MB. Meanwhile Ellen read four books (Rainbow Fairy series) and Hannah read ‘Karen’s Haircut’ (Babysitter Club). Our campground connection is unreliable; if I sit in a certain spot on the veranda I can pick up someone’s unsecured broadband connection, and the barbecue area is the best we can do for the Vodafone signal. But both are ‘very poor’ and can suddenly disconnect without warning.

After a quick play in the park by the shore we came back for tea to finish the chocolate cake. The girls had ice creams from the supermarket; just as costly as those from tourist site vendors. I reckon that half of our food budget goes on non-essential snacks and treats, which is a depressing statistic. Then the British Pound is now doing even more dismally against the US, NZ and Australian Dollars, adding a good 20% to our pre-trip estimates. Ouch.

Robe is a quiet, small-scale resort so we don’t feel we have to be out seeing all the sights; a chance to rest and recover before several long travelling days to and around the Red Centre.

One recollection from yesterday; as I was barbecuing the sausages outside, a neighbour came up and advised me that I’d need to keep pressing the ignition button because the gas doesn’t stay alight for very long – warning me with classic assonance “it’ll bugger your tucker up”.

Another recollection; there was a teaser news item yesterday morning about feeding your family on $21 a week, so naturally we stayed tuned until the very end of the programme to catch this. What a con – it was about relying on the tins in your larder and basic store-cupboard ingredients to eke out the occasional week’s-worth of meals with minimal supplements. Not something you could do week after week, but maybe once a month. And of course those in-stock ingredients aren’t free; they come out of the budget for other weeks. Unsurprisingly, the housewife whose idea it was had a book to promote. I’m sure that the forums of moneysavingexpert.com contain far more convincing ways of genuinely cutting food costs.

P.S. The ‘when in Robe’ line comes from the board outside the Tourist Info office – don’t blame me…

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A cracker of a lunch

Ellen managed to sleep off last night’s headache and was up and about a little before 7.30 this morning, being her usual self again. Everybody else had a great sleep as well.

After breakfast Tim and I took care of the washing whilst the girls looked after our cabin watching morning children’s television. Although the weather was sunny (after a slightly grey start), it was also quite windy and chilly – so, perfect washing weather!

What shall we do today? Not much, really, not after such a long drive yesterday.

We decided to spend the morning in and around our cabin. The girls were happily entertaining themselves making video films on Ellen’s camera. Hannah was being the main character and Ellen kept following her around whilst filming. Not quite sure what the film was about, but it kept them busy for ages and they had great fun doing it.

Tim spent most of the morning (and early afternoon) uploading photos. The internet connection doesn’t seem to work so well inside the cabin and there is a better connection outside near the bbq. It’s a painstakingly slow job, but we like to do it to keep the home crowd happy.

I kept an eye on the washing and sat on the wooden decking at the front of the cabin reading my new book. The campsite was quiet and up here we have a lovely view of the lake down below.
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Our lunch was ham sandwiches and cheese crackers for the girls and a couscous salad and sweet chilli & sour cream rice crackers for us, with last night’s left over prawn crackers thrown in as well.

Later on we ventured into town to buy a few hair things from the pharmacy and supper for tonight. We settled on bangers and mash, except we couldn’t find any decent sausages in the supermarket. Then we remembered the lady at the campsite’s reception telling us about a great butchers in the town. We bought beef bbq sausages for the girls and Tim & I chose stout, steak & onion sausages.

Before heading back home we popped into the Information Centre/Library. I stayed with Ellen so she could finish reading her book, when Tim and Hannah crossed the road to inspect the local playground.

Back at the cabin we warmed ourselves with a slice of chocolate cake and a hot cup of tea and coffee. The girls then settled down to write yesterday’s and today’s diary.

While I took care of the mash, Tim had a go at the gas bbq. It all worked out fine and the sausages were the best I have ever tasted. I’m sure I could taste the stout…
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A quick play at the campsite’s playground gave the girls the opportunity to let off some steam before retiring to their bedroom to have some reading time. Ellen is still tired so we need to make sure she gets enough sleep over the next few days as Sunday will be an extremely early start. (We’ll be driving into Adelaide in order to drop off the car and catch the train.)

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12 Apostles

We were up around 7am to get packed, have a quick breakfast, clear the fridge and load the car. Lady TT gave us a shock yesterday when she foretold a six-and-a-half-hour journey to get us to Robe, so we were keen to get an early start. ‘Early’ turned out to be 8.40, and we were sad to be leaving the Youth Hostel after such a brief stay.

West along the Great Ocean Road; slow progress because of the twists and turns along the way. We stopped to view the 12 Apostles – limestone stacks up to 60m high which are rapidly being eroded by the battering of the ocean. We were battered by the gale that met us head-on as we attempted to walk to the viewing platform; these winds must have presented a real hazard for all those sailing ships, many of which ended up wrecked along this stretch of coast. The force of the gusting air made it impossible even to hold the camera still to take the requisite postcard shots.
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Apart from being the windiest spot of our trip so far, the underpass also hosted the biggest population of millipedes that we have come across; many live ones, but a multitude of others squashed by innumerable tourist feet.

A little way further west along the coast we paused briefly at London Bridge, which used to comprise a set of two rock arches before the landmark lived up to its name and one span collapsed. This happened in 1990, moments after two people had crossed to the seaward end. They were rescued by helicopter and turned out to be having an affair; they promptly fled the throng of photographers awaiting them.
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We parked in Port Fairy to have our sandwich lunch in the car; it was still chilly outside. By this point we were into dairy countryside, and the rest of the long journey followed mind-numbingly straight roads across flat expanses of grassland dotted with the ubiquitous eucalyptus trees. A couple of emus by the side of the road provided a moment’s interest, but otherwise it was on with the cruise control and wait for the miles and hours to pass by. Mount Gambier, Millicent, then the turn-off to Robe. This was the home straight, but it still equated to the distance of a marathon.
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And so a mere seven hours after we left Apollo Bay we arrived at our holiday park. We checked in, picked up some doonas (duvets) for the girls – why are they called doonas? Kirsten asked the vital question – ‘What time is it?’ – for South Australia is in a different time zone. We had to put our watches back half an hour; the first time we’ve ever been somewhere with a non-integer difference from Greenwich Mean Time.

We found our cabin; a different layout from our previous stays, with the main bedroom in the living area and two double bunks down the other end. We are in an elevated spot with lovely views over the lake.

First job; to walk into town (we’ve done enough driving for now) to get things for tea; we treated ourselves to a chocolate cake. Later we returned (by car this time) to locate a takeaway. Everywhere was closed apart from one Chinese restaurant; we ordered a Malaysian chicken curry with rice, spring rolls and prawn crackers, while the girls played safe with chicken and chips.

Ellen complained of a headache and was sick later, the first time this has happened since our arrival in New Zealand. We expect it’s down to overtiredness and a long travelling day, and we hope she’ll sleep it off. We all flopped in front of the first semifinal of My Kitchen Rules; we reckon the final might take place on our last night in Australia!

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