28 January 2011

Waiting in Wodonga

22 Jan - Saturday
Yesterday we broke camp and headed towards Omeo. Mother Hubbard's cupboard was very bare. I think we had a much grander idea of what Omeo would be since a number of people have told us not to miss Omeo. It is very small and Tom said the little towns in Australia are like stepping back into the 50s and boy is that true here. There is one baker, one butcher, and one store that passes as a grocery store. I bought bare minimum to last us a few days as the prices here are exorbitant. But back to the 50s. The town has a little park with a swimming "pool". The pool is created by a small dam on the creek. It had lots of little (3, 4, 5 year old) kids playing on the spillway which was a great place to play as it was only ankle deep and not slippery. There was a dive platform where all the older kids were hanging out doing canon balls into the water. Both the units took a swim and the water was COLD but nice.

After leaving Omeo we continued on down the Great Alpine Highway to a campground on Victoria Falls Road. We found the campground right away but no sign of the falls so we drove and we drove - up and over hill and dale on a "dry weather road only" until we came to the end. We never found anywhere to get to the falls but we did finally find an overlook (almost) to the end of the road where you could see some falls "WAY over there!".

We returned to the campground and just as we were starting dinner it started to rain which cooled it down nicely. We were the only ones there and the birds were everywhere and lots of different kinds.
robins here are not the same as in the states
This morning we headed towards Mt. Hotham. We are currently parked in a little campground just outside Hotham Heights Alpine Village having breakfast.

24 Jan - Monday
The night of the 22nd we found a site in a very crowded Caravan Park close to Bright. Yish the town was PACKED - there's a century road ride going on to raise money for children's cancer. It's a pretty grueling course with lots of major uphill. We went into Bright yesterday morning so Trox could ride some local single tracks while I poked around town. By the time he got back - with a broken chain - it was pretty hot. After a dip in the local river swimming hole we headed towards Towanga and Mt. Beauty. We haven't made it yet. At the top of the pass is a neat overlook and we spent the night. We pull into an overlook and spend 16 hours - most people don't stay 16 minutes.
our view from the overlook
our breakfast table at the overlook
From here the home stretch of the bike race starts and when we got here there was still a check point waiting for the last stragglers. One of the guys had a pretty low sugar level and the EMTs were out of coke so they banged on our door. We had no coke but did have orange juice. After his slug of o.j. (with 3 teaspoons of added sugar) he and the other stragglers left for the last 15 kilometers or so (all downhill). Shortly after the checkpoint crew left and we mostly had the overlook to ourselves for the rest of the night. Not sure we'll make it all the way to Wodonga today but there really is no hurry.

25 January - Tuesday
Well we didn't even try. Ends up generator won't be ready until Thursday so last night we went back to Mountain Creek Campground where we stayed last week. Our plan was to get up this morning and have a leisurely breakfast and maybe a walk and a dip and then drive across the mountain to Mitta Mitta on the dirt road. Welllllll everything went as planned until we got about 4k up the road and found a downed tree blocking our way. Not having a chain saw with us and Bunyip couldn't push it out of the way (he tried his best but no go) our only alternative was to turn around. We are right now in Falls Creek and will stay somewhere over the mountain - maybe where we had breakfast last Friday. Then on to Wodonga tomorrow for two nights at the Big 4.
Falls Creek Falls
still finding wild flowers
In the Alpine Mountains there are huts all over the place. They are remnants of the gold era in the 1850s and so are historical relics but the park service maintains them as emergency shelters. They warn you not to stay in them as they are probably already occupied by rats etc but there is a fireplace in them and some have wooden bunks built into the walls. We've been a few and one had a pot bellied stove and one had a fireplace. I's amazing that they have survived as long as they have given the propensity for fires in this area.
one of the huts
a neat tree near a hut
these guys are everywhere
When we were here in Falls Creek last week we couldn't find the trail to the Falls Creek Falls so today we went searching and found it. Along the walk to the falls we spotted a group of Gang Gang Cockatoos!!!! We've been watching for them for a long time so were both thrilled to finally have spotted them.
Gang Gang - this is the male and pretty!
28 January - Friday
Humph! We are in Wodonga - been here since Wednesday - and NO generator yet so I guess we'll be here a few more days. Nice town so we'll go exploring here and have air conditioning at night so that is a plus. It has been HOT but because we are in a city not doing much there isn't much to post.

On our last day of road travel on our way into Wodonga we came across a cemetery. It had about 100 crosses but no labels. Not sure how old it was or anything else but it was kinda neat.
a rainbow at our last wild campsite
Glen Wills Cemetery
This guy was sunning himself along the highway

27 January 2011

Turn him off - we're HOME!

12 Jan 2011
Today was spent doing errands and finishing the laundry we started last night. We were hoping to meet up with Greg with or without Chrissy and JAM this weekend but they can't make it so we decided to head further away from Melbourne. We are on our way now north towards Benalla and then will eventually head east along the Great Alpine Highway to Mt. Beauty.
Duck family next to some flood debris
It has been raining on and off the past few days and supposed to continue for 2 or 3 more when it is supposed to turn hot. We figure we'll drive in the cool and work our way up into the mountains where it won't be as hot.

13 Jan
We spent last night in Benalla. What a friendly little city. We stopped at the visitor center shortly before it closed looking for info on a place to park for the night. The nice LoL (lil ole lady) directed us to a city park along the lake and said we could stay anywhere left of the civic center. It was a pretty area with lots of grass and scenics. We walked the trail around the lake and then Trox rode around town a little. The weather was okay but humid. The mosquitos were little but ferocious and arrived in swarms (okay, I'm exaggerating - a little). About midnight and then again at 8 this morning a siren went off - we never figured out what it was for but the one at midnight made us pay attention in case it was a warning of flood.

14 January
Guess what? It's raining! Yesterday we left Benalla heading for Wangarrata which is about 3/4 of the way to Beechworth our next goal. This is a good sized city and we have begun the process of re provisioning. We hit the grocery store yesterday and plan on finding a butcher and a bakery today. We woke to grey windy skies but not much rain - it is now about noon and POURING. One of the town's - Hall's Gap near the Grampians - that we visited in December has been evacuated because of the rain and flooding. I just hope the dam above the town doesn't break. Queensland has started the process of cleanup from the horrid floods there as the rain moves our way. Victoria is not expected to be as bad as Queensland and this rain is supposed to be gone from here tonight. In the meantime we are staying in a nice Big 4 with a solar heated salt water swim pool and other nice facilities. Trox took advantage of the bush kitchen to make beans this morning and we will have tacos tonight.

16 January
The sun is shining!!! OMG IS IT HOT! AND MUGGY! Our tacos were wonderful! We spent another night at the Big 4 and when we got up the morning of the 14th we discovered the air conditioner had developed a leak and in order to work on it Trox was going to have to get up on the roof and it was RAINING sooooooo we headed into town looking for some where to park under cover. In town we found a park with a huge roofed area where a man riding a Harley had already taken refuge. We joined him and Trox fixed the air conditioner.
working on air conditioner
Bunyip and Harley
He also changed the oil in Bunyip. By the time we got back to our park it had stopped raining and the skies were clearing. Yesterday morning promised to be sunny and hot so we headed for Beechworth where the elevation is higher so the temperature should be lower (we hope).

There are mountain bike trails here in Beechworth so when we got to town Trox found shade for Bunyip and he took off on his bike while I explored the antique shops and found the local Brewery and ice cream store. There is a festival going on - Opera in the Australian Alps - so the town is chocked. We were lucky and I found a spot (the last one) in a local caravan park so air conditioning would be available for sleeping. This morning we broke camp after Trox' early morning ride and headed into the local national park. Right now we are parked in a shady spot and Trox is making breakfast. We are just a stone's throw from the overlook for the Woolshed Falls and this is a popular spot with lots of people coming and going. We get some strange looks what with our canopy and table and stove. It also smells heavenly as Trox is making pancakes. I told him to put out a sign and start selling homemade pancakes.
Woolshed Falls
taking a dip
used to be a bridge up stream from falls
water runs through this little cut in the rock before falls
In the meantime on the other side of the world ... I heard from Donna & Tom yesterday and they are trapped in Chile (on their way to Antarctica). Seems there is some civil unrest and all the harbors and borders and roads are shutdown and closed. They will have some stories to tell when they get home. Not sure they'll make their boat so who knows maybe we will house sit for them next winter when they try again.

I've been traumatized! We sent for a ride along a dirt road looking for a campsite when Trox turned down a track towards the river and drove over a big rock. After a gawdawful noise he stopped and checked. Luckily it had scraped the axle only and no damage was done and we weren't high centered. But because I've now been traumatized we're heading back into town so I can have an Avogatto, a short black (shot of espresso) with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. We did find a place to camp and will go back out after it cools down a little. Bunyip also made a major river crossing today which was fun.
people playing in area around river crossing

Later still
Yummmmmmmmmmmmmmm not only did I get my Avogatto but I got scones with cream and jam AND 1/2 of Mr. Unit's ice cream! WOW!

17 January
We went back to the spot we found earlier. It is within in walking distance of the river crossing so Trox took a bath after dinner while I settled for a shower in Bunyip. We had a great dinner and slept "downstairs" for the first time. It was hot when we went to bed and we thought it would be more comfortable. It was and we both slept okay. Now we are trying to decide where to head next and thinking to go toward Mt. Beauty which is south and east and then maybe on to Omeo and Hotham. We are waiting to hear from Allan and if we don't hear soon we will maybe start working our way towards Adelaide and Carol's.

There is a nice park by a small lake in Beechworth and it is lined with Sierra Redwoods! Boy do they look out of place! We spent a few hours there yesterday enjoying the cool shade and a breeze and of course Trox went swimming. I'm beginning to think this continent is nothing but a big sand dune - every where there is man made lake the shores are nice and sandy whereas in the states they would be muddy.

So, no sooner do plans get made than they change! The generator's governor (or some other part) was misbehaving last night and so Trox just called about it and they said "bring it in". The nearest service center is Wodonga which is kind of on the way to Mt. Beauty so that's where we're headed now.

18 January
We made it to Wodonga; dropped off the generator; found a wonderful fruit and vegetable stand; went to the visitor center; AND CROSSED INTO New South Wales! We have now left Victoria for the first time. While in NSW we went to a great library and like most libraries had free WiFi but it was sooooo slow that all I was able to do was check my email and find out that DnT are out of Chile!

We stayed in a Big 4 (back in Victoria) last night and I decided to splurge on an ensuite site. An ensuite site is a campsite with power, water, sullage and a little building that looks like a small storage unit (maybe 3m x 1m - 10' x 3') but is actually a private bathroom. It made a great bike garage and because it was just ours we decided to give each other hair cuts - not that either of us needed one.

Now we're back on the road heading for Mt. Beauty and will come back in a few days to get the generator.

The woman at the visitor center in Wodonga told us about a campground near Towanga before we start up the mountain to Falls Creek. She said it is real nice and right along a creek. She is right - it is nice and the creek is pretty and clear and OMG is it cold! We found a nice shady site and had "brunch" and set up amp. Trox is getting ready for a ride and I'm enjoying the shade and listening to the creek just 20 meters (yardsish) away in our back yard.
it is really cold - I didn't stay in long
our backyard
along a path upstream from camp

19 Jan
Trox went for a ride this morning and spotted a snake.
they both left each other alone
red; 1st trip
green; 2nd trip
grey; current trip

We continued our way up towards Falls Creek and stopped just south of Bogong to hike to Fainter Falls. The first 700 meters (yardsish) is described as an easy 20 minute walk and the last 200 meters as an "adventurous" section. WHATEVER! The falls where pretty of course and have a cool story. Supposedly they had been long forgotten when a major fire in 2003 exposed the falls to view from the main road. Local volunteers built the trail up to the falls area.
First View of Fainter Falls
Tree Fern in front of Fainter Falls
part of the adventurous section
On the way down from the falls we spotted a cool bird. He was about the size of a large raven and actually let me get pretty close. It took us awhile but we finally were able to idntify him as a Grey Currawong. We also saw two lizards sunning themselves on a rock.
A Grey Currawong
Falls Creek is the ski area on Mt. Beauty and we have arrived. It is early evening and everything is closed so we're looking for a place to park overnight. There is a YMCA Camp here - Howman's Gap Alpine Camp. We stopped there but they won't let us stay overnight.

20 January - Thursday
The parking lots here are not secluded like Buller and all have signs indicating no overnight parking so we drove a little beyond the village towards Rocky Valley Lake. One of the roads which runs along the shore is actually quite a way above the water and we found a really great pullout area so we made camp! Trox pulled us in and we were level with no fiddling! Turn him off - we ARE home! As we fixed dinner the fog rolled in and by the time we were ready for bed it was THICK! We woke early this morning to heavy overcast and on his ride Trox said he hit fog and low clouds. By 11 or so it had burned off and although it stayed cool with a breeze the fog and overcast were gone.
There is an overflow pipe in the lake near the damn that has "ears" - kind of looks like a giant wing nut. The ears are to prevent a vortex from developing when the lake overflows.
after the sun came out
We went exploring after breakfast and found Pretty Valley Hut which is near a horse camp and has camping away from the horses. We will probably go back there for the night. In the meantime we are parked in the village next to a small park which has electricity so we have Bunyip plugged in charging the batteries while Trox makes another ride.
horse camp in the high plains

11 January 2011

Another loop!

3 Jan 2011; Back on the road
We are back on the road! We left Greg and Chrissy's yesterday afternoon and went as far as a local caravan park. We have spent the past week or so with Trox' Uncle Simon and his wife Lee who are visiting Melbourne on their way to New Zealand. We did some fun stuff like visiting the Dandenongs and going to a pretty cool botanical garden which is also an outdoor art gallery - William Ricketts Garden. In addition Trox, Simon, and Lee made a few road rides. On one of them they came across a woman feeding the lorikeets and Lee was fascinated.
getting close to nature
rainbow lorikeets
resting along the way
Trox wanted to ride Lysterfield Park and so we scoped it out last night and today we spent the day there. Trox rode and I walked. There is a big lake with a nice sandy beach. It was crowded today - it is a national holiday - with families enjoying the nice weather. We will stay another night in the same caravan park and then decide what to do. We've found a few other places that are supposed to have great single track riding - one of which is in the high country and therefore should be cooler than the low lands so we may head that way. It is near Nug Nug where we spent the 23rd of December.

6 Jan 2011
We are now out of Melbourne. This time for probably 6 weekish. The 4th Simon and Greg met us at Lysterfield and the three of them rode some of the tracks Trox rode on the 3rd.
up that hill?
That evening we returned to Greg and Chrissy's for a small dinner party. Janet (JAM's nanny) was there as well as the neighbors Sula and Chris. The 5th was Chrissy's birthday and the five Manonians headed out for a family outing and the Units headed out of town. Our destination was Marysville. This little town was over run by THE fire in February of 2009 and they suffered many fatalities when the wind direction changed unexpectedly. From the looks of it the whole town with very few exceptions was lost. On a scale of fires my guess is the fire in Los Alamos would be closer to a bonfire than it would be to this one. The town has started the slow process of rebuilding and the forests here are amazing. The Eucalyptus are very well adapted to fire and so are the tree ferns. We are told within weeks of a fire that has rendered everything black many of the gums start to come back. Now two years later many of them look like burnt sticks with a heavy vine growing on them.
Campsite view
close up of "vine"
The "vine" is actually small branches of the tree as it regenerates itself. Many of the trees in this area are what are known as Mountain Ash (still a Eucalyptus) and unfortunately they are killed by the fire but will come back soon from seed which opened during the fire. The tree ferns are also green again. The dead ash is being logged in much of the burn area.

We spent the night above Marysville along the Taggerty River and today drove up the road following the river until it turned to 4-wheel. We got in four really nice walks and saw two large water falls and lots of cascades. One of the walks took us into The Beeches Rainforest where we saw evidence of the recent floods. Trox found a nice pool at the base of a small water fall for a swim - his second of the day! Further up that road we spotted a really cool yellow bird.
Phantom Falls
Phantom Falls
Crossing the Taggerty
Bunyip waiting at the end of the trail
Keppel Falls from Overlook
Keppel Falls from bridge across middle
Yellow bird - Golden Whistler
The recovering Eucalyptus - covered with the little branches from top to bottom remind me of Chia Pets. We found out at Steavenson Falls that if they don't successfully recreate their canopy they won't survive long term.
Chia Pet
Chia Forest
Steavenson Falls
The Units at Steavenson Falls
8 Jan 2011
Night before last we stayed in a pretty little park in Buxton. Trox found some nice single tracks to ride so got a nice ride in first thing yesterday morning. We headed back into Marysville where we picked up some maps and then headed for Lake Mountain Alpine Resort. It is a cross-country ski area that unfortunately was also in the path of the fire storm of February 2009. They have started the process of rebuilding and have built some single track bike trails. Trox got a couple of rides. The first one he came back with the bike covered with spider webs and a few spiders. He had broken through a bunch of webs in the tall grass along the trail. Fortunately the spiders are harmless but yucky.

We asked inside the cafe if we could spend the night and got permission. So, we spent last night on top of the mountain by ourselves. The wind woke us up about 3 so we got up to gather things in and to see the stars. The moon is new and had set about 8 so the sky was dark except for stars.
Setting moon
The milky way was amazing and stretched from horizon to horizon. This morning a gaggle of people arrived disturbing our private parking lot so we packed up and left. We moved down to the day use area at the bottom of the mountain and are currently having a nice breakfast.

I guess we are back in good form, "where does this road go?". We turned up a paved road towards a historical area where we found a walk to some falls and a town site that used to be a sawmill town. From there we turned down (up?) a dirt road that leads to Eildon - a mere 60 kilometers away. That was maybe 4 hours ago and I think Eildon is now about 25 kilometers. We found a really nice bush campsite at the intersection of our road - Eildon-Warburton Road - and Snob Link Track. Trox is off on a ride and I'm luxuriating in relative cool.
Cora Lynn Falls
Cora Lynn Falls

9 January 2011
Trox saw some Lyre Birds!!!! He said one of them actually spread his lyre - and NO CAMERA! It had really cooled off by the time we went to bed and there was a light rain throughout the night. Not enough to turn the roads muddy but enough to knock down the dust. This morning just outside Bunyip we were visited by a beautiful Australian King Parrot - he was beautiful! He is bright scarlet and dark green and HUGE! He visited us for about 5 minutes and preened while we shot pictures.
Australian King Parrot
We headed further down the road and finally reached pavement. The forest where we stayed and all along most of this road is thick with lots of gums (Eucalyptus) and heavy undergrowth. It could trigger a case of claustrophobia. We have stopped for breakfast and will continue onto Jamieson

10 January 2011
Well typical of the Units - we never made it to Jamieson. Instead of turning right (towards Jamieson) at "that" rode we turned left. We ended up on top of another mountain at the Mt. Buller Mountain Resort. This is a downhill ski area and quite built up with many condos and what looks to be a thriving ski resort. Interestingly enough the condos and village are almost at the top and people ski down from the village then ride the lifts back up. We spent the night in one of the secondary parking lots with a wonderful view over the mountains. There are lots of trails here for primarily downhill bike riding but Trox is off riding up them!

On the ride here we came across a few signs that I just had to add to the blog.
this one reminded me of Texas
Gwen and Rick will appreciate this one!
So will the Sandbergs!
just short of the summit
getting ready to ride to the summit

At the top of the summit Trox found a sign at the top of a double diamond run. Would make me think twice about running it but I'm sure most people that ski it don't even bother reading it. He also had a wonderful view from the top.
double diamond run
view from summit
view from rear window
Bunyip tucked into corner of lot out of the wind
Hmmmm today is 1.11.11
We spent last night in the same parking lot - just a different spot. Yesterday Trox got two great rides. His first one was from our parking lot and was first thing in the morning. We then moved Bunyip to the village and he took off on another ride which was about 4 hours while I explored and walked the village. He came back pretty bused and just in time as it had started to rain. We returned to our parking lot and by then the rain was coming down in earnest. We watched the clouds building below us in between squals and as they built they swallowed us. It rained most of the night and was raining when we got up. We drove down the mountain to a city park in Mirimbah for breakfast and then on to Mansfield where we are now in the library.

For those who have asked we are NOT in the flood area that you are hearing about on the news. That area is north and east of us and yes, it is horrid. There are also major fires near Perth and that is way west and north of us - we aren't there either. We are seeing lots of raining and evidence of flooding but so far we have not been involved in any of the natural disasters.