This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2004 Travels October

SUNDAY 17 – FRIDAY 22 OCTOBER   NARRAWONG

Truck and van had one more outing in 2004.

We travelled from home to Narrawong, near Portland, in western Victoria, where we stayed for five nights. This was at the suggestion of son, who had booked a cabin at the very pleasant Narrawong Caravan Park, for a week. We could have opted to stay in a cabin also – it would have been much easier! But son felt that if we had the van on a site there, grand daughter would gain a greater understanding of what we did when we were away for months on end travelling. That worked well – she was quite fascinated by how we lived in it. Different to just seeing it parked at home and not in use.

Our stay was constrained by John’s bowls – it was Saturday Pennant season.

We took the Western Ring Road to skirt the central part of Melbourne, on our way to Geelong. From there, it was via Colac and Camperdown to Warrnambool, then along the coast, west to Portland. Being a Sunday, the trip through the urban areas was not too congested. However our return on the Friday, the same way in reverse, meant we were travelling with much more traffic, especially trucks and commercial vehicles. We’d left Narrawong early enough to be home before the afternoon peak hour in Melbourne, but even so, John did not enjoy the driving! His choice – we could have waited and returned on Sunday, but at the cost of bowls!

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Our powered site cost $12 a night.

We had, back in 1998, had a quick look at this park one day, when we cycled here from Portland. Then, we thought it looked a very attractive place to stay – better than where we were at the time – and our experiences this time showed this to be so.

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The park was spacious, bounded by the little Surrey River to one side, and with access to the sea of Portland Bay. There were plenty of trees about – some containing koalas!

The family’s cabin was the standard sort of transportable park cabin, but clean and roomy enough for the two adults and one two-and-a-half year old.

Activities with the family over the time included a visit to Portland, its town centre and to the port facility. Son was born in nearby Hamilton, and lived there until he was seven, so he’d visited Portland a number of times, but decades later had little memory of it.

One day we all took a packed lunch and drove to Bridgewater Bay, beyond Portland. This was a favourite area of mine when I lived at Hamilton. I used to rent a little cottage on the hillside above the broad, sweeping bay, and bring the children down for weekends and some school holidays. Son did have some memories of that place.

We all walked from the beach around to the old boat shed further around the bay. Grand daughter enjoyed poking about in the rock pools there. It was a long way for little legs and she had to be carried most of the way back.

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We spent quite a bit of time just hanging out in the caravan park. Its playground was a great attraction for grand daughter. She was very taken by the Finding Nemo characters painted on the big water tank at the amenities block, and she and I spent time there every day, with her identifying them for me.

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The weather was not quite warm enough for usual beach activities, but we did spend some time walking and paddling there.

Another day we all squeezed into Truck and drove via Nelson to Mt Gambier. With the child seat on the back seat, it was a bit tight in there for the other two back seat passengers! We looked at some of the key sights in Mt Gambier – the Blue Lake, Valley Lake, the Umpherston Sinkhole and gardens. Bought lunch there. Returned via Dartmoor and Heywood.

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Valley Lake at Mt Gambier

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The five days was up too quickly. It was a really enjoyable time away with that part of the family.

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1998 Travels February 9

MONDAY 9 FEBRUARY     PORTLAND

Bit more blue sky today, but not all that hot.

In the morning, we drove to the town centre, where we banked John’s cheque. Then to the Post Office, where we paid shire rates and the Truck rego. It is very pleasant not to have to worry about funds!

I put in a roll of film for processing and got it back after we’d done some grocery shopping, and filled in an hour. It was the Reala film used in my little automatic camera (as opposed to my “good” Pentax SLR one), and I was very pleased with the results.

After lunch drove back to Bridgewater, parked at the end of the road again, and did the walk to the Springs. This walk track goes north from the carpark for some 2.5kms and is now part of the Great South West walking track. When I used to come here in the late 70’s, the Springs were really only known to some of the locals, one of whom showed us. The then politician, Andrew Peacock, had just bought a property at Bridgewater and it was through this that we used to access the Springs – in fact, we showed him the feature.

The Cape area had long been used for cattle grazing, but that was not without its challenges. Farmers noticed that, if cattle were left on these pastures for any length of time, they went “coasty”, as it was called, and their growth, development and overall health were affected. So the Bridgewater pastures were used for short periods by farmers with properties further inland and the cattle moved around. Eventually more modern science established that the pastures were low in some essential trace elements, so the problem could be corrected.

On these limestone and sandy soils, fresh water supply could be a problem, too. The Springs are formed in an area of the coastal cliffs, where erosion has cut back the top limestone layers and exposed the underlying basalt, as rock shelves. Groundwater flows along the junction between the two types of rock and runs out as fresh water springs onto the basalt ledges. In places, where there were gas bubbles in the basalt, the water now pools in the resultant holes. The old time farmers built a ramp of rock and earth, down the eroded limestone cliff face, to allow cattle to get to the fresh water spring fed pools.

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John going down the old ramp to the basalt ledge

We used to walk to the Springs, when the children were young, and allow them to play in the pools. It was very spectacular, with the big waves of Discovery Bay breaking against the basalt cliff close by, but knowing we were quite safe up on the ledges. Back then, you had to know where to go, through the farm, navigating by fence lines and clumps of shrubs, as there were no markers to show where the top of the ramp was, and it was not visible until you were right on it. These days, one can walk there from the other direction.

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One of the fresh water pools, seen from the cliff top

Not far from the start of the walk, we came to the “petrified forest” formations. These formed, it is thought, when a lot of Moonah trees were buried by a moving dune. Rainwater seeping down formed sandstone crusts around the outside of the trunks, making them bigger than they were originally. At the same time, the interior wood was eaten away, making hollow sandstone tubes. So it is not petrified wood, as was once thought, just sandstone. But they are quite unique, and we spent a little time looking at these before resuming the walk. It is obvious to me that people have, over the years, removed or broken down many of the tube formations – they are nowhere near as impressive as they once were.

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One of the tubes in the “Petrified Forest”

There is no problem now in finding the old ramp to the Springs – it is signposted! We went down it onto the basalt platform.

The ramp is like it used to be, with a couple of tricky places, except the cliffs look a bit more fragile and there have been some small rock falls.

It could be a bit dangerous now and I suspect it may not be open much longer, unless some restoration work is done.

We followed the shelf around to the rock pools I knew. Just beyond these, to the south, was a place we called the Slippery Fall – where the shelf is narrow and the water flowing from a spring has formed a slippery deposit. John took a bit of a risk crossing that – one needs to be very careful there.

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John by the Slippery Fall – fresh water pool in background

We spent some time exploring the Springs and sitting watching the waves breaking along the cliffs. They were a moderate size today – I have seen it much rougher, from there. It really is a very special and unique place and I was so pleased to have been able to come back. The time to leave and walk back to Truck came too quickly!

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Discovery Bay and waves breaking below the basalt shelf

Returned the way we had come, and then back to camp.

Tea was late – home made hamburgers.

We drove 73 kms today.


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1998 Travels February 8

SUNDAY 8 FEBRUARY     PORTLAND

Today was a little clearer, but it was really late – 11am – before we felt like getting up. It was still really windy.

After lunch, we drove to Bridgewater Bay, west of Portland. I wanted to show John what the place is like, as it was a favourite haunt of mine back in my Hamilton days. Many travellers do not visit the place, because it is not on the main road.

The road out from Portland is through a mix of farm land and scrubby country, and tends to go up and down small hills – maybe old coastal dunes. Then you come up over a crest and see this superb big bay, spreading out in front, to a far headland – the Cape. It has always been breathtakingly beautiful, with its long, curving, sandy beach, giving onto the high and rocky Cape. The bay was once part of a volcanic crater; the Cape is made of volcanic material. The cliffs that front the western end of the bay are actually part of the inside crater wall of the old volcano.

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The beautiful Bridgewater Bay. Cape Bridgewater is actually at the left side of the bay; the Bridgewater Lakes are at the top left.

Today, the Bay was brilliantly blue.

The road comes down and runs alongside the bay, eventually with the beach on one side and a few small houses on the other. I used to rent one of these – almost a shack – for weekend breaks. It is still there and not much changed. Its windows look over the beach and the bay, and at night one saw the flash of the Cape Nelson Lighthouse, near Portland. Magic!

I had John drive straight through and out to the Blowholes carpark, on the Discovery Bay side of the Cape, which is the end of the road. We did not linger there as I just wanted to give John an overview of the place.

Came back to a car parking area in front of the old church camp, from where there is a wonderful view over the bay.

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John getting a vantage point to look east across Bridgewater Bay

The old church camp has been substantially developed with new chalets and cabins; it looks quite good.

There has, inevitably, been some development since I was last here, with some streets put in behind the front row of houses to allow access deep behind the main road, but there are still relatively few houses. From memory, the environment was considered somewhat fragile, and there were limits on development. There are tracks and signs all over the place, now, that did not used to exist – a sign that there are more visitors. There are a few houses for rental.

From the Bay, followed the Bridgewater Lakes road, around to the fresh water lakes. We parked there and took the walking track to the ocean  – and  Discovery Bay.

Portland airport is not far from the Bridgewater Lakes – that has gone in since I was last in the area. Guess it became needed because of the establishment of the Alcoa aluminium smelter in the mid 1980’s.

After that little bit of exercise, and the general overview, back to camp.

Tea was cold corned beef and a salad.

John managed to get in a radio phone call to daughter R – she was pleased, but is still getting the hang of having to say “over” to signify the other person can talk!

We drove 83kms today.