This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2004 Travels October


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 January 29


Quiet caravan parks are not conducive to waking up early, it seems! It was 9.30 before I stirred.

The weather had changed during the night and it had rained and was quite cool, with gusty squalls still happening.

I abandoned the idea of riding to the store, after breakfast, for bread and a paper, due to the continuing rain.

Our drive to the store turned instead into a trip to Mt Gambier, across the border in SA, because John wanted to check out bowls there! I drove for most of the way because John wanted to fiddle about and see if he could get the HF radio working properly – he has to learn to use all its functions, yet.

First stop was at the Tourist Information Centre – the Lady Nelson Centre, where there was, at the front, a full-sized replica of the ship of that name. The Lady Nelson was the first ship to sail through Bass Strait, pioneering the route for subsequent shipping. On that first voyage, her captain sighted in the distance and named Mt Schank and Mt Gambier.

The Information Centre was excellent. Apart from some free tourist brochures, I bought a couple of postcards and three  books that describe roadside stops and camps around Australia. These cost $36 but should be worth having.

John found out that there are two bowls clubs in town. We drove to the nearest one – the RSL Club – where he booked us in for a Triples game on Sunday afternoon. I waited in the Truck – could hear a lot of sirens in the distance and wondered what was going on.

We drove to the town centre to get bread for lunch. The sirens I’d heard were due to a seven car pile-up in the middle of the main street. It was hard to work out how such an accident happened, but it was a real mess. Some bystanders seemed to think that the first driver had some sort of “turn”, jammed the accelerator down and hit some other cars, which hit others.

Bought bread rolls, to be eaten without fillings, at a small bakery that did not have much choice, then drove up to the Blue Lake to a lookout, where we ate, sitting in Truck. We did a small walk on tracks around the lookout area. The Blue Lake was very blue!

Mount Gambier itself is a volcanic feature, containing four maar formation lakes – created by explosions of hot steam during the most recent volcanic phase. The Blue Lake is the largest and deepest of the lakes, the next biggest is Valley Lake. The other two are more like shallow swampy areas.

The Blue Lake is known for changing colour between bright blue in the summer, to a more normal grey colour in winter. The colour change relates to changing water temperature – in summer, calcium carbonate crystals precipitate out of solution and refract light rays differently.

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The very blue Blue Lake – obviously not reflecting the sky colour! Mt Schank in distance

We drove down into the part of the crater that contains Valley Lake, past the Blue Lake Caravan Park, which looks a good one. We did not stop long there, or do any walking.

Port McDonnell was John’s  next destination – because it has a bowls club! The road passes close by Mt Schank. There was no activity or information at the bowls club, and the village looked rather desolate and windblown. We were not tempted to get out of the Truck and walk around.

Followed a road along the coast for some way, through farmland, and that eventually led us back to the main road to Nelson.

It was 7pm when we got back to the van. Not bad for a trip to the local shop for the paper!

So tea was late – salads, followed by mango.

There had obviously been quite a lot of rain at Nelson, through the day. Fortunately, the sandy coastal soils seem to drain quite well.

We saw a number of “new” birds today – some in the sense that it was the first time we recorded them in our bird book, although we had seen them in times past. But there were some we had not ever seen before – particularly the Cape Barren Goose.