Vagabonding – Albury, Bendigo, Heathcote and Ocean Grove

Week 4

Albury

Last week I left you with a taste of what Albury was like, I thought it may be a benefit to provide a little more detail about what we got up to.

We were staying with friends Ordette and  Paulie and we were meeting up with Nick, another member of the clan.

Ordette & Jenni
Ordette and Jenni, just hanging around, increasing property values

We were only in Albury 2 nights but saw enough to want to come back. It’s a great little town on it’s own and but is also only an hour and a half from the snow fields of Falls Creek. We’ve arranged to come back in June for a visit and maybe a trip to the snow as well.

While we were there Ordette and Paul took us a walk along the Murray River, it’s a quiet, calm place. Very picturesque and peaceful.

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The Hand

While we were walking Jenni and I were clicking away with the camera. At one rare moment I gave Jenni the camera and I was using the phone, this is the result.

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Paulie at the Murray River

Ordette and Paulie took us through the Botanic Gardens to see the biggest tree in New South Wales. Turns out the biggest tree in New South Wales is a tree from Queensland. It’s a Bunya Pine and is 5.63m in circumference and 31 metres tall.

Bunya Pine, biggest tree in NSW
Bunya Pine, biggest tree in NSW

It was at this point Ordette decided it was time for some pole dancing demonstrations. She was extremely good!

Pole dancing
Pole dancing

Everyone was impressed with her expertise.

One of the most fascinating things I have discovered about Australia is the trees. They break all the rule of trees I was ever told. I was taught in school that the moisture and sap runs up the tree inside the bark and if you remove the bark around the trunk the tree dies. Here they have trees that shed their barks, other trees with trunks that look like Groot and have no bark, just gnarly strands running up them and then this one with flaky camouflaged bark.

Stealth tree bark
Camouflage tree bark

I keep walking into these trees.

Ordette and Paulie left us outside the cafe where we were meeting Nick. Nick is part of Jenni’s clan and it was by sheer coincidence he was in Albury at the same time as us so it was perfect for a meeting.

They grow them big down here
They grow them big down here

Nick is looking at buying some land in the mountains near Albury and building a place to live on it with full off grid capability. This is the same long term plan Jenni and I have so we spent the next hour sharing research into the products and solutions we have found. It was a great conversation but over all too soon. We said goodbye to Nick, went back to pick up the car and did the same with Ordette and Paulie and headed up the road for Bendigo.

Bendigo and Heathcote

We were to be in Bendigo for 2 nights, then Heathcote for 2 more, visiting customers each day. I was so busy and just a little uninspired by both places I didn’t take any pictures. Well except for these two in Bendigo.

Bendigo Beer
Bendigo Beer

Jenni and I stopped for lunch one of the days and they had this on the menu and of course, I had to have one. It was really very good.

The other picture was the view from out hotel room at the Quest Schaller Hotel in Bendigo.

New Bendigo Hospital
New Bendigo Hospital

In a previous life I used to project manage IT installations into hospitals and new hospital builds. Can’t get away from it it seems.

So we stayed in Bendigo and Heathcote. I’ll be back and probably have more to say about them then.

In Heathcote we stayed at the Emeu Inn and we were the only guests. It’s an old building by Australian standards and has some history as an old coaching inn. Leslye, one of the owners, told Jenni and I about Lake Eppalock, a place she recommended we visit before leaving. So we did.

Lake Eppalock

Having been used to seeing holes in the ground that had been lakes before due to severe drought conditions it was great to see a lake with some water.

Lake Eppalock
Lake Eppalock

Leslye told us it was only about 80% full. It was a man made lake created in the early 60’s to provide water to Bendigo and the trees that were flooded that were rising above the water made an interesting sight.

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Lake Eppalock
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Lake Eppalock
Trees growing from the lake bed
Trees growing from the lake bed

The “80% Full” also meant 20% empty so I went for a walk along the lake bed that was exposed. It was covered in new tree growths and shoots. The trees obviously love these conditions.

Lake Eppalock
Lake Eppalock

It was quite a long drive to our next destination Ocean Grove, so we left the lake and set forth.

Wallan

We stopped a a lovely little cafe beside a pub/hotel in a place called Wallan.

Hogans in Wallan
Hogans in Wallan

Hogans Hotel used to serve Guinness to Ned Kelly, or so the sign says. The food in the cafe was delicious. Well worth the stop. About 4pm we arrived in our Airbnb apartment in Ocean Grove and settled in. We were here as a holding place to stop and complete a monthly task for a customer and also a place close enough to Melbourne to wait for the ferry to Tasmania on Sunday. We picked the place as it was near Barwon Heads and that’s where our friends Jocelyn and Simon live. I worked with Jos in the UK and couldn’t pass up an opportunity to catch up.

Ocean Grove & Barwon Heads

Now, those that know me also know I like a drink. Well trust me to pick an Airbnb in one of the only “dry” towns in Australia.

In 1887 a bunch of American Methodist and Temperance followers bought the land and formed a religious colony stating that, “no part of the above Land shall be used for the Manufacture or Sale of Malted Spirituous, or Vinous Liquors”.

And so to this day there are no pubs in Ocean Grove. Fortunately Barwon Heads has plenty and it’s only a short drive away over a (what I now know to be famous) short bridge. (See Seachange below) Jocelyn had suggested meet in a great spot called “At the Heads” which is a beautiful pub overlooking the sea and at the mouth of the river that serves great food and has a fantastic ambience. Jenni and I got an Uber there about 6pm and discovered it was booked out for a wedding, Cloe (The bride, who’s name was on the blackboard) I hope you had a fabulous time.

Unperturbed we used the force and walked around the town until we found the Barwon Heads Hotel and it was there we stopped and sent Jocelyn and her husband Simon a message that the meet up venue had changed.

After a couple of drinks we walked around the corner to the Beach House restaurant where we had dinner. This was the scene outside, a lovely dog left for ages waiting for the owner to have their dinner. I supposed it was better than leaving it at home alone. I remember thinking there must be a few dog lovers here, especially for one of them to be unable to leave their pet even for an hour while they go for dinner. Turned out I was correct.

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It was great to catch up with Jocelyn and Simon.

We planned to meet again before we leave and go for a walk around the Heads on Sunday.

Apart from the “no bars” rule Ocean Grove is a cracking spot. Neil’s apartment was spotless, the cleanest place we’ve stayed in to date. It is a 10 minute walk from the apartment to the beach and the beach must be 15-20kms long.

Ocean Grove Dog Beach

Jenni and I went for a walk along the beach each morning before work.

The first morning was overcast and windy. The entry point to the beach brought us right in the middle of the long strip of sand. The first morning we turned right towards Barwon Heads. Apart from taking their dogs with them when they go for dinner this must be the next most popular pastime of dog owners here. This part of Ocean Grove Beach was dog beach central. Dozens of dog walkers thronged the beach with dogs of every shape and size. Everyone we met said hello and was very friendly and thankfully there was no dog poo at all on the sand. The folks of Ocean Grove were very clean and diligent. There was probably an anti-dog poo clause in the Methodists mandate also. We walked about 3kms along the beach towards Barwon Heads. As we walked another thing I noticed was the waves, of course they were there right beside us, hard to miss as we were on the sea shore. But the thing I started to notice was that every 3 minutes or so one wave would rage up the beach much farther than the others. As I was walking with my walking boots on and trying to avoid getting wet this caught me out more than once causing me to sprint and bound majestically, like a giraffe in roller skates, up the beach to avoid getting soaked. I heard it was every 7th wave but when counting them it wasn’t that predictable. At about the 3km mark we got hungry and turned around and went back to the apartment for breakfast and a days work.

Ocean Grove Dog Beach
Ocean Grove Dog Beach

Ocean Grove “Not Dog” Beach

The next morning was beautiful and sunny, we turned left to explore the other half of the long beach. Once we got past the “No Dog Off Leash” sign we had the beach to ourselves.

Ocean Grove Beach
Ocean Grove Beach

When walking along the sand I was looking for “beach art” which I have come to call the interesting stuff we find washed up on the sand. I wasn’t disappointed. The first thing I noticed was the variety of seaweed. Australia has 10,000 beaches and it seems every one is different. We’ve seen such a variety of life in all forms on each beach as we travel. In Minnie Water we saw little shelled creatures that wrote intricate designs on the sand and we’ve not seen them anywhere else yet. In Victoria on the south coast it was the seaweed that was interesting in its variety. The pics below are just samples.

A plethora of colours and shapes surrounded us. From little red puff balls to bright green strings that glittered like diamonds to long dark green spaghetti like strands and every colour in between. They were very beautiful.

The beach was empty.

Ocean Grove "Not Dog" beach
Ocean Grove “Not Dog” beach

We saw a large rock formation break up the pure sandy lines in the far distance, we decided that would be our destination as we had no idea how far this beach went.

The rocks
The rocks

We came across this interesting feature carved by the sea. Just on the shoreline where the waves rolled over the smooth rocks, at this section of the beach, the sea had carved a water hole. Probably took over a few million years I suspect.

Water carved hole in the rocks
Water carved hole in the rocks

All along the sand we kept finding these  striped sea shells.

Striped sea shells
Striped sea shells

Some of them were faded brown stripes and some bright green. All the shells I saw were like this, broken and in pieces. I’d seen a picture in a magazine once of a pristine white shell on an endless beach of pure white sand, it was a great picture, sold million of copies I read. Turns out the photographer found this perfect complete white shell one time and brings it along with him on his travels. Eventually he found the perfect beach for the perfect shell and he had placed it on the sand in just the right spot for his fantastic picture. Since then I have had an idea to do the same if I could find the perfect shell. If I could only find a complete version of one of the bright green stripey shells I could get something like the picture I had in my head. Then Jenni found one. So now I had the perfect beach and a perfect shell. All I needed was to be good enough to take the picture and sell millions of copies of it. The picture I wanted was a shell on smooth sand with no footprints and the shell had to be glistening in the sunlight. I had the idea of placing it right at the waters edge and when the sea lapped ashore it would wash the shell and make it shiny and glistening and at the same time erase my footprints where I walked to place it on the sand. All was going well, the shell was placed on the sand, the sea obligingly lapped up and erased my footprints and made the shell all wet and shiny. I had already set up my camera and I ran into the retreating waves to snap my award winning picture. Neptune must have been in good humour that morning because just as I knelt down one of those freak massive waves raced towards me and the shell. Jenni yelled a warning and a saw the oncoming massive wave just at the last second. I ran and clicked the camera as I ran as fast as I could away from the wave. The sand was soft, I was carrying a camera bag and a camera, I had big heavy hiking boots on, I must have looked like a clown. Or a giraffe on roller skates, on ice, on a hill. I stumbled and almost fell 3 or 4 times but somehow managed to avoid getting wet. Its amazing what you can do in flight mode.

Anyway this is my award winning sea shell on the sea shore picture.

Sea shell on the sea shore
Sea shell on the sea shore

Not quite the majestic scene I was going for. Never saw the shell again.

We’d walked about 5kms and the walk back was much harder than the walk there as the tide had come in and it was soft sand all the way. By the time we got back to our exit my legs were feeling it.

Busy day on the water
Busy day on the water

I stopped halfway up the stairs off the beach pretending I was taking an interesting picture of the guy on the stand up paddle board, in reality I was taking a rest.

I also took this picture at the same time as the paddle boarder.

Spirit of Tasmania
Spirit of Tasmania

The Spirit of Tasmania leaving for Tassie. We’d be on this ferry the next night.

Barwon Heads and Seachange

Barwon Heads was the location for the 1998 Australian TV series Seachange. A recurring theme of which was the bridge which needed fixing after it was destroyed on a storm.

Barwon Heads Bridge
Barwon Heads Bridge

The closing scenes of the film “On the Beach” was also filmed here.

From Wikipedia “Since the SeaChange television series first aired in 1998 there has been a significant increase in tourism and real estate sales and development (both commercial and residential) in the area. This has resulted in a very substantial increase in property and land values, making the town an ideal location for property developers. Since then, the area has experienced a boom in tourist numbers during the summer months.”

It certainly was very busy for dog walkers while we were there.

Beachcombing
Beach combing

We did enjoy our time in Ocean Grove and Barwon Heads, especially the beach combing and exploring. Next stop Tasmania, we’ll be there for nearly a month. So there’ll be a lot to read about next blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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