Vagabonding – Castlemaine to Eden and Narooma

Week 18

This weeks blog contains a thesis in ordering beer in Australia, there will be questions after

Castlemaine

We left Sea Lake to go to Castlemaine. We had a customer to see in Castlemaine, a former gold mining town in Victoria, in the Goldfields region It’s in the same vicinity as the towns of  Bendigo and Ballarat I’ve written about in previous blogs.

Castlemaine Botanical Gardens
Castlemaine Botanical Gardens

It’s much a smaller version of the previous gold mining places we’ve visited but still very interesting with a great Australian history.

In  July 1851 alluvial gold was discovered in Forest Creek. “Alluvial gold” refers to the type of gold dust found in soil. When the beds of rivers or streams are scooped and panned for gold dust, the product is referred to as alluvial gold. Panning for gold is one of the oldest ways to produce gold. Like the histories the other gold boom towns, Forest Creek grew in population exponentially. By December of 1851 the population on the gold fields was greater than that of Melbourne. The Castlemaine goldfield was reported to be the richest alluvial goldfield in the world. The gold boom lasted only 20 years and in the 1870’s the town people began to drift away. A few remnants of the old boom town remain. It’s not like Ballarat where they have passionately preserved the past and it’s booming again, but it has a stature nonetheless.

Beck's Imperial Hotel Built 1861
Beck’s Imperial Hotel Built 1861

Imagine being Mr or Mrs Beck, speculating on building a new hotel during the boom. It’s a spectacular place for it’s day but just 9 years later the place is dead.

Theatre Royal

The Theatre Royal is still standing. It’s now a movie theatre and was first constructed in 1854. You can read all about it’s history here.

Theatre Royal Castlemaine
Theatre Royal Castlemaine

The old woollen mill has been transformed into a source of good food, craft beer and antiques. Jenni was at a customers site and I was left to my own devices for the day so I went to visit the Old Mill. My first job was in a woollen mill so I was interested in seeing how they had renovated it.

The Old Mill Castlemaine
The Old Mill Castlemaine

It’s fair to say it’s a work in progress. The main building is full of nick nacks and stuff. I had a look around. One of the questions you consistently ask yourself when you are travelling with all your worldly possessions in a Mazda 3 is, “If I buy this where will I put it?”. I bought nothing, as usual. Maybe because I have nowhere to put it but genuinely because I do not need anything new at the moment.

Sculpture The Old Mill
Sculpture The Old Mill

Around the car park they have created a few interesting sculptures and a mural or two. This looks like it is a sunflower created from an motor winding. I like it. I’m an engineer, art eludes me mostly but this is good.

The Old Mill Mural
The Old Mill Mural

Craft Beer and Pints

It’s not a coincidence that I visited here after discovering there is a craft brewery on site. The Tap Room is the serving hatch for the Shedshaker Brewing Company conveniently located in the same complex. I could either turn left and go see the antiques or turn right and taste some local craft beer. There are no pictures of the antiques section. That is a all you need to know.

Tap Room Shedshaker Brewery Castlemaine
Tap Room Shedshaker Brewery Castlemaine

Pints are not pints as I know it

Now there’s something I have come to accept and embrace about Australia. They serve beer in servings very unfamiliar to me. Pots, schooners, pints and jugs, middys, ponys, bobbys and sixes to name a few. In normal circumstances I only order pints. It’s tradition. But even a pint is not a pint.

In Ireland, where I come from, it’s simple. Beer comes in pints and half pints. And you never order half pints. A pint is 20 fluid ounces. It’s the same size wherever you go. Even in Europe litres and half litres of beer is easy to translate, a pint is 568 millilitres, usually rounded up to 570 for reporting purposes but in my experience, never in serving. But in Oz, they make shit up. You’d never think they had a good Irish heritage from the weird beer measures they have invented.

A pot is one millilitre more than half the size of a pint. A jug is four millilitres more than two pints. Consequently, four pots equal exactly one jug. Schooners also fit nicely into the equation, they’re around 50% larger than a pot, or 25% smaller than a pint.

Around? I never how much I’m getting when I order a drink.

I also read this when I researched…..

A jug, which is generally 1140ml or 40 fluid ounces and is designed for sharing with your mates. (JW Edit..at least 40 fluid ounces is 2 pints, 2 pints is not a sharing volume. Just banking a spare for when your mates are drinking slow)
A pint is generally a 570ml (20 oz) glass but in South Australia, it is called an Imperial Pint because they call the 450ml glass a Pint
A schooner is a 450ml (15 oz) glass, except in South Australia where it is called a Pint.  Schooners are usually served in New South Wales but also exist in Victorian or Western Australian pubs too.
A pot is served in a 285ml (10 oz) glass, but it has a variety of other names such as Half Pint, Middy, Handle or Ten.  This is a popular option if you are after a quick drink. So if you are travelling and want to order a pint, I suggest you ask for a pint and take what you are given

But there’re also middys, butchers. schooners, ponys, bobbys, sixes, sevens, handles, schmiddys, sevens, fifteens and imperial pints.

I may get a hat with a sign that says, “To Avoid Confusion When I Ask For a beer I am requesting an Imperial Pint of at least 20 fluid ounces or 568 ml” but my  head isn’t big enough and the beer is usually too good to worry about it.

Tap Room Shedshaker Brewery

These guys brewed great beer. I had a pot (see above for volume references) of their Red Ale, Knucklehead Rye IPA and Celtic Red. That’s a pot each, not all in one glass. My favourite was the Knucklehead Red IPA.

Across the road from the Mill was the Botanic Gardens. I went to work there for a few hours. Its a very picturesque part of Castlemaine and well worth a visit and a lovely, relaxing place to work.

Botanical Gardens Castlemaine
Botanical Gardens Castlemaine

Melbourne South

State School Airbnb
State School Airbnb

We had some work to do in Melbourne and our overnight accommodation was in an old Melbourne State Primary School converted into apartments. State School 1253.  The
school was constructed in 1880 and was originally intended to accommodate over 1000 pupils. The school closed at the end of the school year in 1996.

In one of those weird quirks of coincidence we were having drinks with the clients we met that day. The conversation came around to “Where are you staying?” When we explained one of the clients said, “I went to that Primary School.”

I’m an avid fan of Colin Dexter and his Inspector Morse books. Morse always says, in contradiction to all American popular crime fiction who say, “I don’t believe in coincidence”, Morse says, “coincidences happen all the time”. It was indeed an interesting coincidence.

Eden

Eden NSW
Eden NSW

Eden is 7 hours drive from Castlemaine. Jenni and I left Castlemaine for the 7 hour drive about 11:00am after some early client and office meetings. As it was a Friday and a working day we will be working on the journey. We have WiFi hotspot and Solar Generators to keep our laptops charged and keep us online.

The trip was long and we swapped driving during the trip. It was dark for the last 2 hours drive.

In all of our driving trips we have seen dead kangaroos and other creatures at the side of the road, killed by motorists, driving at night. I’m not too concerned about killing an animal while driving but I am concerned that hitting a 90kg kangaroo at over 60 kph would not be good for either the roo or the vehicle that hit it. Best to avoid the risk altogether. We couldn’t avoid the risk on this leg and when driving through the dense forest part of the trip we saw a big kangaroo right on the side of the road it was a bit scary as they normally leap instinctively at the car but this one stayed still. Phew!

To avoid the worry, it must be said we made it in without incident to the motel and checked in for our 2 night stay in Eden.

Eden Port
Eden Port

We chose Eden, much the same way we chose all our interim stopping points. It’s in a larger point text than other places on Google maps on the route and it’s within the driving distance. It may be one of those Colin Dexter non coincidences but Eden, as well as others we have chosen the same way, is just beautiful and interesting.

History is fickle!

Eden has the 3rd deepest natural harbour in the southern hemisphere. It was seriously considered at the nations main harbour  but then Sydney got that honour and Eden stayed as it was.

Whales and whaling

Eden, like many places we’ve been so far in our travels, is beautiful, so it could be surmised to have been named after the biblical Garden of Eden. It’s naming is much less prosaic. Eden was named after George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland, the British Secretary for the Colonies. I never knew Australia was a whaling nation until visiting Eden but it was. Whaling ships had been operating in the area in 1791.

Whaling in Eden
Whaling in Eden

There are plaques all over the town telling of the strangely symbiotic relationship between the killer whales (orcas) and the Eden whalers. Each year the whales would come down the coast, just off Eden. The killer whales would act like sheep dogs and round the whales up and drive them into the bay in Eden where the whalers would catch them. The whalers would throw the parts of the whales they didn’t want into the sea as reward to the orcas.

Manta Rays

We went down to the fishing harbour just to see what was going on and it was also recommended as a place for breakfast. Before we had breakfast we decided to go see what was about in the harbour. Now this is the point where my usually descriptive and creative vocabulary deserts me when I observe something I think is interesting.

Eden Harbour and Jetty
Eden Harbour and Jetty

I have my camera over my shoulder and Jenni and I are walking towards the jetty. Suddenly I see a huge shape in the water and run towards it eloquently shouting,”Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” and pointing at the water and lifting and preparing my camera for a picture. This reaction was due to me seeing a the biggest fish I’d every seen floating in the clear waters. I didn’t know what it was at that time. The water in the harbour is remarkably clear. Something Sydney’s isn’t I’d bet. As a result of the clarity of the water I saw the huge shape drift under the jetty. I ran to the other side of the jetty. “Fuck, fuck fuck” was all could utter, or was uttering. Jenni asked a reasonable question at this stage. “What’s going on?”

“There’s a thing, a big thing, a massive thing.”

I held out my arms wide to signify the size of the thing.

“I think it’s a Ray, and it went under here and might come out this side”

Manta Ray with no tail
Manta Ray with no tail

It did come out this side. A huge ray, more than a metre across, just floating about. This ray had no tail, but we saw another one about the same size and it was intact.

Manta Ray with tail
Manta Ray with tail

I’d never seen a Ray in real life up close in it’s natural habitat. It’s massive, much bigger than I had thought. I continue to be excited by the exotic (exotic to me from Ireland) flora and fauna this wonderful island continent has to offer. The Ray’s floated around graciously allowing me to take a few pics of them before they disappeared. It was not the last time we would see Ray’s on this part of the trip. The next time would be a lot more exciting than this, Australia always upgrades our experiences eventually.

After a bite of lunch we went to explore Eagles Claw.

Eagles Claw, Eden
Eagles Claw, Eden

Eagles Claw is a patch of rock and trees and scrub jutting out into the Pacific Ocean.  It’s also a small nature reserve. It is thought to be the only breeding ground of Little Penguins on the mainland of Australia. On the way up to Eagle’s Claw we saw a common and, at the same time, an uncommon site in Australia. A man driving a Ute with a Ute Dog in the back.

Ute Dog
Ute Dog

Judging by the size of this dog I’m pretty certain this was probably the drivers emergency plan for getting home. Either he would ride the dog home or he would harness to the front of the Ute and it would drag him and the Ute home.

Eagles Claw provided some spectacular scenery. Looking out to sea we saw what looked to be some dangerous looking shapes. At first they looked like shark fins, but then we remembered the sleeping seal off the coast in Kangaroo Island and realised that  was what these guys were. Seals sleeping with one fin out of the water. We would see a few more on the rest of this part of the trip too.

Sharks! Maybe not.
Sharks! Maybe not.

We also happened upon another Trig Point. If you remember reading my blog post about Falmouth in Tasmaina where I first saw one. Well here we found another buried in the rocks.

Trig Point 353.53
Trig Point 353.53

We also found some dinosaur footprints in the rocks. These are made when dinosaurs step into mud and then the foorprint is filled with sand and then the mud is compressed into rocks and the sand is worn away leaving the indentation of the footprint.

This is a big, fat, juicy and slow herbivore dinosaur print.

Dinosaur Footprint
Dinosaur Footprint

And this is a fast moving, hungry carnivore dinosaur footprint. Probably from an Australovenator. It’s a real thing, look it up. Great name for a rock band, Australovenator.

Dinosaur Footprint
Dinosaur Footprint

I’m guessing one got off better than the other.

Water Circles

Water Circles
Water Circles

The shape of the headland and the waves hitting them created this interesting phenomenon. Every few waves there’d be 3, 5 or 7 circles appear in the water. There was a rocky reef just under the surface. I think they are formed as the water hit the reef and pushed jets up to the surface. Spent a lovely few minutes sitting on the headland just watching for the waves to make these circles. I haven’t seen them before but as this trip round Australia has taught me, I’ll probably find there’s a reef somewhere that creates hundreds of these. If I do you can be sure you’ll be the second to know.

Aslings Beach

Aslings Beach
Aslings Beach

Now whales have short memories. We were staying at the Coachmans Rest Motor Inn, when we checked in the guy who owned the motel (never found out his name) told us of a few local spots to visit. The previous bits in this post were from his recommendations, his last recommendations were to walk down the road at the back of the hotel and very soon we’d see Lake Curalo which has a walkway around it and is full of wildlife. Around the other side of this lake we’d find Aislings Beach. Not good for swimming, he said, as it drops off very quickly.

The drop off has one good attraction though. During their migration season the whales shelter in the bay, resting for long periods before they move onto the next part of the journey. They must have not been told by their ancestors that this precisely the sort of behaviour that made Eden the whaling capital of Australia at one time. Anyway, they still do it and as the sea water is deep very close to shore the whales come right up to the shoreline. During peak season you can spot whales 3-4 metres away without leaving the shore. We have already planned our return trip. That day, after exploring we had supper on the beach, fresh prawns and a glass of wine. It was blissful and as you can see not very busy but a bit too cold for sun bathing.

Lake Curalo

On the last morning of the trip I took the suggested walk down to Lake Curalo with my camera to get a few pics for the blog.

Lake Curalo
Lake Curalo

Jenni had gone for her morning run around the lake the previous morning and was full of stories of the amazing and abundant wildlife there was around the lake. I saw birds in their hundreds but was most delighted to see this little fella swimming around near the shore.

Jelly Fish
Jelly Fish

I’d never seen a Jelly Fish like this swimming around in real life up close in it’s natural habi….wait a minute! Haven’t I just used this line? Anyway it was not the last time we would see Jelly Fish like this on this part of the tri….I’m doing it again. But it is true for these guys also but not in this blog but the next one.

Bat Signal Birds

One animal that isn’t rare are these birds I call Bat Signal Birds. I keep seeing these birds doing the Bat Signal wherever I go. Jenni took this shot on he iPhone on her run. I tried to get a better pic but his one is the best.

Bat Signal Bird
Bat Signal Bird

Bird 1: “Is that him?”
Bird 2: “No. I don’t think he’s coming?”

Narooma

Lunch in Narooma
Lunch in Narooma

Google Maps told us it was a 6.5 hour drive to Sydney, our next destination, so we left Eden about 10am and sallied forth. Turns out Google is a liar, but more of that later. We met the owner on the way out and he suggested stopping for lunch in Narooma, so given that all his other suggestions were sound, we did just that. It was just less than 2 hours away, perfect timimg for lunch. We were (what’s another word for really, really, super duper delighted?) that we did. Narooma is stunningly beautiful. We parked in a tourist area near the beach and set up for lunch and to catch up on a bit of work.

After lunch we went for a bit of an explore and it was to be what we call a “Vagabonding Moment” from start to finish.

Narooma Beach
Narooma Beach

“Lets check out the beach first.” I said. We walked the 30 metres from our picnic site and the first thing we saw was a small cove with clear blue water and a seal swimming about in the water.

Narooma Beach
Narooma Beach Playful Seal
Narooma Beach
Narooma Beach

Then we saw another seal just lying there sleeping right in against the rocks.

Sleeping Seal
Sleeping Seal

I’ll never get tired of seeing these cute guys. But not so cute all the time, remember, we’re in Australia and everything is dangerous as this sign attests.

Seals bite
Seals bite

After the excitement of the seals we walked along the boardwalk. Soon we came to a remarkable sight.

Just one more!
Just one more!

A fishing charter boat had just returned and they were preparing the fish for the customers. The local wildlife obviously loved this part as they would collect tidbits. The sleepy seal soon woke up at feeding time.

Remember the pair of Rays that nearly caused me a heart attack in the harbour in Eden?

Family of Rays
Family of Rays

Well seems they also like feeding time and there was a family of 5 of them in the clear, shallow waters waiting to catch some scraps.

Some of the locals were feeding them by hand.

Hand feeding the Rays
Hand feeding the Rays
Hand feeding the Rays
Hand feeding the Rays
Feeding Frenzy
Feeding Frenzy

If I was that excited about seeing two Rays from far away, how excited do you think I was with a family of them being fed by hand and accompanied by a friendly neighbourhood seal.

We walked on. Saw a sign for Weedy Seadragons but couldn’t see any.

Weedy Seadragons
Weedy Seadragons

Shortly after this we left Narooma, the drive to Sydney was one of the most beautiful drives I’ve been on. No pics as I was driving but worth the trip for that drive.

But Sydney must have moved further that the GPS guys thought as it took another 7 hours to get there. We are in Sydney on business but are taking 3 days on the water in a 34 feet Clipper doing some of this.

On the boat
On the boat

But that’s for next weeks blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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