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Dinner Plain, Shepparton, Bendigo, Hanging Rock

World Trip Two

Tuesday, April 28, 2009: Pearcedale-Dinner Plain, Australia

Our chauffeur.

We drove west from Pearcedale through the grassy plains and eucalypt forests of South Eastern Gippsland. The broken sky was scattered with ominous dark clouds but they never rained on us. We stopped in Bairnsdale for lunch and were pleasantly surprised with the quality and flavor of our food. The food at the Main Hotel is worth stopping for. I asked our server about the chef and he said: "Its two blokes, one is from England and the other is a local boy. But really one is the brains and the other the brawn." I asked him which one is the brains and he replied: "I hate to say it mate, but It's the pommie."

For my American friends pommie stands for Prisoner of Mother England. It is a derogatory term Australians use to describe English people. I know, you would think, it should be the other way around given Australia's history; but I think it is a spot of reverse psychology. The term can then be use as such: "Where does a pommie hide his money? Under the soap." Or skipping your morning shower and just using deodorant is having a pommie shower. And so it goes on. It seems that while America forcibly ejected England long ago they still have a soft spot for the people; at least as bad guys in Hollywood movies. Yet Australia remained a colony and continues to harbor a grudge.

A happy traveler.

We soon joined the Great Alpine Road which meanders through the Snowy Mountains and high plains. I am told that Australia is going through an awful period of drought, but you would never know it from the green fields we drove past. After Omeo, which is a lovely small country town on our way, we came across a mob of 10 Kangaroos at the side of the road. This encounter was followed quickly by spotting two Emus. Julia has now seen both animals used on the Australian coat of arms. Australia is the only country that eats both of the animals on its coat of arms. Julia sampled Kangaroo at lunch.

We arrived at Dinner Plain around 5:00pm and it was covered in two foot of new snow. I did not expect to encounter snow, so Julia and I were ill prepared for the cold. But the draw of this beautiful countryside is very hard to resist; we did the best we could to stay warm.

Wednesday, April 29 2009: Dinner Plain, Australia

Mt. Feathertop.

We drove up to the Hotham Ski Resort to have a look at the snow conditions at the top of the mountain. It was magnificent and surprising to see. The view stretched all the way over to Mt. Feathertop and the Bogon high plains (pronounced bow-gone) and they were both covered in fresh snow. The locals were just as surprised about this early snow fall as we were. The shops and the resort were not open, so we could not find anyone who would rent us cross-country skis.

The Star Burger.

The only option was to drive back to Omeo and rent them from the petrol (gas) station. So off we went back down the mountain to Omeo where we were able to rent skis and to eat the now world famous Star Burger, at Twinkles Cafe. The burger's claim to fame is its unadulterated beef patty, pickled beets, bacon, and star shaped fried egg.

A reluctant looking, but always willing Julia.

This recipe was very common when I grew up in Australia, minus the star shaped egg, but has been lost to the formulaic hamburgers produced by the multinational oligopolies. It is hard to come by these days and so I was very happy to find it again at Twinkles when I came skiing here in 2007. I described it constantly to Julia since then and so she awaited its consumption with great anticipation. Julia was not disappointed; she really enjoyed it, as did Lawrie and I.

When we returned to Dinner Plain we hit the trails with our cross-country skis.

Lawrie gave us lessons on the thin, unstable, and toe-connected boards. It did not take too long before we were feeling reasonably comfortable on them. It sure was a great way to get around in the snow covered bush. Finally we went down a small hill where all three of us ended up head over heels in the snow. But we really had fun.

On the Road Video

Thursday, April 30 2009: Dinner Plain, Australia

The two head skiing hydra.

After a short walk we donned our cross country skis and slid our way into the inspiring wilderness. The bright blue cloudless sky contrasted against the multicolored, winding, and tortured eucalypt trees. Our world was one of white snowy fields, trees, sliding, and shuffling for three hours. We came upon a cattle-man's hut and stopped to take a look and have a break.

Multi colored eucalypt trees.

Before us lay a vast snow covered plain which we took to with our skis and much gusto. Lawrence led the way cutting tracks through the virgin snow making it that much easier for Julia and me to follow. Both Julia and I were now really suffering from our rented boots. As Julia later said: "Let's not do anything ever again that requires wearing rented boots", and I could not agree more. Both of us had blisters from the ill fitting footwear. But we pushed on until my rented ski pole broke in two. At this point I struggled along with the others for little while longer with the use of only one pole. We stopped for lunch in a lovely dale. Eating our sandwiches we contemplated the next move. It was too hard for me to continue or even return with only one pole at my meager level of cross-country skill. So Julia and I decided to head for the road and walk back to the village while Lawrence returned via the snowy tracks.

It was quite difficult even walking on the road in our horrid boots but eventually we returned, a little sore, but appreciative of our excursion into the snowy wilderness.

Julia and I decided to return our rented equipment to its home in Omeo. While returning we saw four wallabies and unfortunately, a dead wombat at the side of the road. While we did this Lawrence began another of his magnificent dinners. Tonight's fair was roasted beef, potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, and brussel sprouts; another lovely meal and day.

Friday, May 1 2009: Dinner Plain, Australia

Brothers in snow.

It was a very lazy day for us; Lawrence on the other hand went out skiing again. While he slid about the mountain side Julia and I spent the afternoon at the local spa resort having a massage and soaking in the heated tubs.

The wind had picked up a little, and even though the sun was out it was a little cooler. We have planned our trip for tomorrow which will include visiting wineries, Ned Kelly's old stomping grounds, and the old gold town of Bendigo.

Saturday, May 2 2009: Dinner Plain-Shepparton, Australia

Mt. Buffalo from the winery.

The countryside changed from dense eucalypt forests to level fields and pastures, as we descended from the Snowy Mountains into the Ovens Valley. The valley is very fertile and has a Mediterranean climate; great for growing grapes. Our first stop then was at the town of Porepunkah to visit the Boyntons Winery.

Feathertop wines are really good. It was one of those tastings where all of the wines presented were delicious. Luckily for Lawrence and me Julia seems to have developed an allergy to wine so she made the perfect designated driver allowing us to partake of the fruit of the vine. The next stop was the very little town of Milawa to have lunch at the Brown Brothers Winery. This is a very big and very commercial winery, the very opposite to Boyntons. But the bistro serves stupendous food and dishes were paired with lovely wines. All three of us feasted on the cuisine and Lawrence and I sampled many more wines. We were both quite well lubricated after lunch. This did not stop us from visiting the cheese and chocolate factory just down the road; a perfect end to a perfect lunch.

Julia and Ned.

Julia and I recently saw a film with Heath Ledger in it about Ned Kelly the notorious Australian Bush Ranger. A Bush Ranger is the Australian term for an Outlaw. Because the town of Glenrowan was on our way and because of our renewed interest in Ned Kelly we had to stop and take a look at the place where Ned was captured.

A very home made reenactment.

There was a big gun fight at Glenrowan where Ned and his gang, wearing steel armor, held off the police for many hours. They were eventually all killed except for Ned who was wounded and taken to Melbourne for trail. He was found guilty, hung, and then beheaded; it was tough being a criminal in those days. There really is not much in Glenrowan today, a few tourist shops and fast food restaurants. But there is the Ned Kelly museum run and owned by a very eccentric chap called Bob. Bob claims to be related to the chap that made Ned's armor way back when. But as with everything else about Bob you must take it with a grain of salt. His museum is like a poor man's Disney version of an unrelated story of Ned Kelly. But the show is so bad that it almost makes you want to see it again to make sure you really had seen it. Not since Julia and I visited Tombstone in Arizona had we seen such a performance.

You have to see it to believe it; and meeting Bob was worth the price of admittance. We left Glenrowan for Bendigo where we want to see an example of an Australian gold town. But because everything is so far away in Australia we only made it to Shepparton before the golden sun slipped beneath the vast horizon. We found a place to stay, had a lovely dinner, went to bed and dreamt of headless Bush Rangers and Bob.

Sunday, May 3 2009: Shepparton-Bendigo-Hanging Rock, Australia

Beautiful Bendigo.

The drive from Shepparton to Bendigo took us through countryside that is obviously ravaged by drought. The red soil seemed to permeate every plant and every tree. Australia is in need of a lot of rain. Bendigo is an odd town full of grand buildings from a time when it was rich with gold.

It turns out that one third of the total world's gold came from Australia and this gold region; amazing when you think about it. It is a lovely town to walk in as it is full of tress and parks. We took the tour 200 feet down into one of the many thousands of mines near the town. Our guide explained to us the hardships and daily life of gold miners. The cold, dust, gas, toxic chemicals, dark, and hard labor made it a very difficult job. I learnt a lot about gold mining and enough to know it is not for me.

A pesky kangaroo trying to get into a BBQ.

We drove on from Bendigo to Hanging Rock at the base of Mount Macedon. We passed through more parched countryside but as we drew closer to Hanging Rock the grass got greener and the tress looked healthy. Mount Macedon seems to be tall enough to create a micro climate that keeps the area around it less dry.

Hanging Rock.

Hanging Rock had a moment of fame from a novel by Joan Lindsay (and then a movie) called: Picnic at Hanging Rock. But even without this notoriety it is a wonderful place to visit. Like so many places in Australia time has worked its power via erosion to reveal wonders. The hard granite left standing today is the remains of a larger, less hard rock, mountain worn away by slow forces. The granite has been cast into towers and all manner of shapes. Further erosion has created passages and tunnels that make the area a labyrinth.

But if you spend the energy to climb it you will be rewarded with fantastic views of the surrounding area and be exposed to the maze-like passages of Hanging Rock. From here we continued our drive to the top of Mount Macedon to see more splendid views of the countryside and Melbourne City. Then we returned to Pearcedale and dinner with John and Di; a pleasant end to a wonderful trip through Victoria.

Victoria Video

Trip stats

Miles Flown: 8,919

Miles Hiked: 85

Miles Skied: 2

Miles Driven: 2,958

Miles Sailed: 89


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