Lewis' Exploring Oz

On and off the beaten track…………………….

Archive for May, 2011

Our Nations Capital

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on May 23, 2011

AIS Rockwall

Hi Everyone,

Rowing machine

Soccer - cool

Well we were only going to stay here in Canberra for a few days but as it is Easter and school holidays, accommodation is a bit scarce in caravan parks. We are staying at the Canberra Carotel Motel and Caravan Park which doesn’t take bookings and there is also a Folk Festival on this Easter Weekend as well so we thought we’d get in early to make sure we could get a spot. Lucky we did as the park was quite full already and it was only Tuesday.  The park is huge and they quite often have schools and other large groups there so we managed to get a powered spot, with water, next to one of the recreation rooms. Thankfully as it was school holidays they said there would be no school groups using the room next to us and other caravans soon followed. We want to be here for Anzac Day and attend the Dawn Service otherwise we would head off as it absolutely freezing cold here! It is a beautiful Autumn here too at the moment with the trees all in different colours too.  We haven’t seen a proper Autumn in so very long and Canberra is putting on

Shooshing on the slopes

Gold for Wade!

a great show.

First stop was the Australian Institute of Sport. You can pay to do a 90 minute tour of the facilities and they are conducted by some of the athletes who attend the Institute.  We went to a room that showcases a lot of the memorabilia of past and present athletes and also had some fun and interactive things to play with.  There was a lot of virtual games and testing of skills, like the AFL footy goal kicking, stumping the cricket wickets, kicking a soccer goal and basketball. There was also a medal dias set up with gold, sliver and bronze in front of a fake crowd so you could have a photo and pretend – Wade was the quickest so he jumped on the gold, Dan next for the silver and Joel got the bronze.  Lots of protests but told them to put it in writing! hee hee.  We took a tour of the grounds and they explained a bit about what a life in day of an athlete is like.  Quite different to a ‘normal’ Joe Blow’s life that’s for sure. We were lucky to watch some of the Australian Ladies

Weights room

Olympic Training Pool

Gymnastic Team in training and some younger ones here on a camp.  There were some amazingly talented girls in that group. Next stop was the basketball arena which also doubles as a small stadium for Music events as well.  We went through the volleyball area where new technology has enabled them to install a new flooring which helps to reduce the amount of jarring and injuries that befall volleyball players and is now of Olympic standard and used in all competitions.  It was interesting to learn that you won’t get a look in for a spot on the team if you are not at least 6ft 6in. Holy crap, we saw a mark on the wall indicating that height and it was bloody high up.  Apparently there is only one male on the team who is not that tall and he is the “Libero” and he needs to be very quick and agile and that’s a bit hard to be when you are 6’6″! (Also he doesn’t play at the net so no need for the height) Next stop was the training pool for the swimmers.  What an amazing integration of technology.  The pool has been built with sensors and underwater cameras as well as a glass viewing platform around the sides, underneath the pool. They also have massive monitors set up around the pool so that swimmers can try out different things and watch the re-runs to see how they went.  The pool is 50m but has a second set of starting blocks that can be moved to create 2 x 25m pools for specific training of say dives, or tumbleturns or stroke techniques.  It was quite amazing.  Next stop was the Gym and Weights area and it was huge! Daniel has requested a similar set-up when we stop travelling and we both replied, Love to….as soon as we win Lotto! It is also used for injury recovery and there is a massage room as well. We finished up the tour and headed out for some healthy lunch at Subway.

DNA Sculpture from Star Wars

Blimp driving skills

Robot = awesome

Hovercraft chair = fun

Our next day visit was to Questacon, the Australian National Science and Technology Centre. We spent almost the entire day here and loved it.  There is a huge plastic sculture of a DNA molecule, on the walkway up through the centre, which didn’t really interest the kids until they read that it had been in one of the Star Wars Movies.  Sure enough, they checked it out when we got back to the van and it was used in a scene in the movie “The Empire Strikes Back”. We loved this place as there was so much interactive and hands-on demonstrations of things chemical, biological, physical and technological.  Usually when we visit places we are out of school holidays and public holidays but this time we were in the middle of both! There were a few schools here as well and just so many people it was ridiculous but we worked out their schedules and went the opposite way so as not to clash. I think Dan and Wade’s favourite was controlling a blimp and driving it through a suspended hula hoop in the air, like a goal! There was fierce competiton for this exhibit!  If you have been to Scitech in Perth then this is very similar but much bigger.  There are

Mmmmm.........

different rooms and levels with all sorts of puzzles and explanations from Dinosaurs and earthquakes to Music and Light and everything in-between.  One of the last exhibits was a prototype robot which could animate, talk and sing and was very entertaining.  We listened to a talk about H2O and learned how very little fresh water we actually have on our planet! The kids loved the way he made “water” from igniting a balloon filled with hydrogen and vuola` water droplets. They enlist help from the audience (mainly the kids) to help demonstrate ideas and experiments and you come away with just a little more understanding of what we need to do to help presserve our water supply.  It tied in nicely with the H2O—Soak Up the Science exhibit which is Questacon’s new permanent exhibition about water, with 16 interactive exhibits about how water behaves, how it shapes our world and how we use this precious resource. All in all a very educational and entertaining day.

The next day we visited our friend Tibor and offered to cook a fish dinner and made him a birthday cake as it is Good Friday and Tibor’s birthday.  We had many drinks and way too much to eat but it was great to catch up with him and we all watched the old classic “Ford Fairlane”- The kids had quite a giggle at the movie. We were having such a great time that I forgot to take some photos:(. We had quite a late night so a sleep in was definitely on the cards for tomorrow. And it is freezing cold as well so a sleep in is well on the cards:)

HMAS Brisbane Gun Mount

Centurion Tank

Inside front of Memorial

ANZAC Memorial and Parade

The rain has put a damper on any outdoor exercise so we decided to go bowling instead. Nice change of pace and kept us dry for awhile too.

Sunday saw us visit the War Memorial in Canberra.  There is so much to see and do here and it costs absolutely nothing to go.  The first thing we saw was a full-sized Centurion Tank and Wade was up on it before we got there and then read the sign – Please keep your kids off!:) oops. We have a few family members who have served and fallen in the wars so I wanted to go to the research room and look up the information. Joel took the boys downstairs to the see and read about the planes and watch some movies and I chatted to the lady in the Research Room.  It’s quite busy around here which was wonderful to see and I think it’s also that it is ANZAC Day tomorrow.  There is a wealth of

Exquisite Mosaics

Roll of Honour Wall

Tomb of Unknown Soldier

information about WW I and II, Gallipoli, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.  We were here for the best part of a day and still didn’t get to see and read everything.  The exhibits were amazing and I can’t wait to come back here one day, without the kids, and spend a lot more time reading about our country’s history and remembering those who have bravely fought and died for this great country of ours.  The staff were absolutely first class and ever so helpful.  There is wonderful exhibiton on at the moment about the “Rats of Tobruk”, which is so very good. There is so much to see and outside, there are memorial plaques for just about every group that has been invovled with our defence in one way or another.

There is also a whole street, called ANZAC Parade which has various statues and sculptures representing each war on either side of the road.  It is a remarkable place. In the area of the “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” there are the most amazing walls done with mozaic tiles to make the magnificent pictures of different servicemen and women. The entire walls are all tiled and the pictures are  just intergrated into the tiles and there are the most beautiful stained-glass windows above as well.  I had to go right up and touch it. Absolutely gob-smakkingly brilliant and beautiful. As we left we asked about parking for tomorrow morning

Medals of Service

Amen

as they close a lot of the roads surrounding the Memorial for the ANZAC Day Dawn Service.  We found some areas where we might be able to park and set off for home for dinner and a very early night. It is so cold here that we have been putting the heater on in the van overnight because we just cannot warm up. The average temp has been about 3 – 4 degrees but as we arose at 3:45am it was a lovely 6 degrees:) The kids set their own alarms and we were off by 4am! Yep couldn’t believe it myself but there we were.  We rugged up in our jackets, beanies and scarves and managed to get a car park not too far away and also some seats for the Dawn Service.  It was amazing to see the crowd build and how cosmopolitan the crowd was as well.  They turned off all the main lights just before 5:30am and then the service started. It was so moving and I always shed a tear at the Last Post and Rouse. I always thought it was called Reveille but found out this whilst there:  On ANZAC Day, Reveille or Rouse breaks the silence that follows the playing of the Last Post, symbolising the

Ivo Brian Joy - Lest We Forget

OMG It's so cold

awakening of the dead in the next and better world. Rouse is the bugle call more commonly used in conjunction with the Last Post and to the layman is often incorrectly called Reveille. Although associated with the Last Post, Reveille is rarely used because of its length.  The main speaker for the service was Mark Willis, a Chaplain in the Canberra Royal Australian Air Force.  He spoke of remembering the spirit of ANZAC and to simply come to remember the ordinary person and to pay tribute to those who put freedom for others before their own interests.  “Ordinary men and women who are prepared to make personal sacrifices for the freedom and quality of life that we enjoy today. They believed strongly in a cause – freedom. And so they gave up their ordinary lives in the peace and quiet of the bush and cities of pre-war Australia because they felt it was their duty. The trouble though with ordinariness is that it can be easily forgotten.”  Lest we never forget. Amen to that! After the service we paid our respects at the Tomb of the Australian Unknown Soldier and left 4 poppies at the Roll of Honour for Joel’s great Uncle who died on the beach at Gallopoli, on this day in 1915.  We decided to treat ourselves to a yummy cooked breakfast at the War memorial as by now our tummies were growling.

Massive Flagpole 81m high

Harold Holt

Marble Everywhere

We visited the new Parliament House in the afternoon.  It is quite a striking building and when you are at the War Memorial and look straight down ANZAC Parade you can see Parliament House quite vividly and clearly as there is an 81m-high, stainless steel flagpole on the roof!  The Australian Flag that flies is approximately the same size as a double-decker bus and is replaced every 2 months as it gets ripped and torn. It is the largest stainless steel structure in the Southern Hemisphere and has no bolts, it’s all riveted. We sat in the House of Representatives and the Senate Chambers, although neither were sitting today.  It looks just like it does on the telly too, just without the Kindergarten antics that we usually see and hear! The lovely lady who was our guide was very funny and knowledgeable about the place and made it quite enjoyable.  There are pictures/paintings of each of our Prime Ministers and the kids got to see a picture of, and read about, Harold Holt. They remembered that we had been to Cheviot Beach where he had drowned. Cool, glad to see they are remembering some of this stuff:) The portraits are so life-like and very good. There is a lot of information about our Parliamentary System and former Governors and Prime Ministers, which is all very interesting but a little boring to the kids. There is also one of only four surviving 1297 issues of the “Magna Carta”. For the non-history buffs, the Magna Carta was written about 700 years ago and basically King John wrote that no-one is

House of Reps Chambers

Senate Chambers

Magna Carta

above the law, not King or his subjects, the Government or the governed and it became the foundation stone of constitutional and parliamentry government. Whew!  We rode the elevator to the roof to take in the views of the city and to see the huge flagpole and flag.  The interior of the building is full of italian marble and absolutely gorgeous.  Even the stairs are all tiled in marble, the side rails are all sculptured marble, it really is quite beautiful.  By this stage we were a bit bushed after our early start and headed back to camp for a bit of a nanna nap and

Autumn in Canberra

relax.

International Cricket Hall of Fame

Sporting legend

We bit farewell to Canberra and headed up towards Bowral.  We stopped at another free camp for the night (Camps5 #541 Kingsbury VC Rest Area). There are a succession of Rest Areas from Canberra to Moss Vale that are dedicated to Victoria Cross Medal recipients.  Each Rest Area has signage which describes the individual and their heroic feats that led to the Medal.  It was very interesting but sad at the same time. We left the van and headed into Bowral, to go to the Sir Donald Bradman Museum, which is now called “The International Cricket Hall of

Bradman Gallery

The Ashes story

Fame“.  It was fantastic.  There were 6 huge rear projection screens showing old matches, sitting on top of boards that chronicled the history of cricket throughout the years.  There are exhibits pre war, post war and up to and including modern-day cricket. Lots of interactive areas to find out information and play games (yeah we lost the kids for awhile:)) and loads of memorabilia. It was interesting to learn the origins of “The Ashes”. In 1882 England lost it’s first home test and the London Sporting Times published an obituary citing the death of english cricket. The following test was in Australia and two Australian women presented the English captain Bligh with a perfume bottle, supposedly containing the ashes of a bail.  Bligh’s widow presented the “urn” to the Marylebone Cricket Club in 1927 where it remains forever more.  It does not leave England no matter who wins it. Amazing. There is also a whole area upstairs dedicated to “The Boy from Bowral” himself,

Camp at Binalong Oval

Sir Donald Bradman. He led a very interesting life indeed and what an amazing gentleman. It’s a shame some of our current sportsmen don’t take a leaf out of his book. A class act all the way! We headed back to camp and decided to keep pushing on a little further to another free camp, (Camps 5 #652) at Binalong.  We pulled up just before dusk and met the gentleman who mows the footy field behind the Rest Area. He suggested we pull up closer to the oval and park up away from the road.  It was very nice of him and there was even some power there as well.  A bonus in the morning too as we also found a tap to fill our water tanks.  The kids managed to have a great time running around the oval and climbing the rugby goal posts-yeah get rid of some of that energy before getting in the car:)

Till Next Time

Ciao`

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Caves, Sea Creatures and Skateparks.

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on May 18, 2011

Hi Everyone,

Limestone formations

Limestone pillar

Royal cave

Boys being boys

Well  we left Phillip Island intending on a few free or bush camps but the weather forecast is for more torrential rain and floods so we decided to get as far away as possible in one day!  Wilson’s Promontory was high on our list to explore with some great walks and magnificent scenery but they had a massive storm in late March, getting 325mm of rain in just 24hrs which basically decimated the roads and the camp grounds at Tidal River.  It made the news, even when we were in Perth so we pushed on to Bairnsdale.

We stayed at the Bairnsdale Holiday Park, another Big 4 Park and the staff were so very helpful and lovely.  There are a few things to do here but the weather is just horrible with no end in sight to the rain so we’ll stay 2 nights so we can do the Buchan

Free camp at Genoa

Lollipop anyone

Caves and have a look at Lakes Entrance but keep heading north.  The Buchan Caves are underground limestone caves, thought to have been carved out by rivers millions of years ago and the limestone formations have occurred from the dripping water that seeps through the ground above, causing the formations of stalactites and stalagmites.  We toured the Royal Cave and thought it was okay but not as good as the caves in NT.  The caves have concreted floor walkways and when you get into the guts of the cave it gets very humid.  I had to keep wiping the lens of my camera just before each shot so it didn’t look cloudy all the time.  There were some amazing formations in the cave and there is a huge calcite-rimmed pool with a glistening thick calcite waterfall. We lunched at a local cafe then headed back via Lakes Entrance.  We drove through the main street and we could see that if the weather was better it would have been worthwhile to stop here for a couple of nights also.  We stopped at the lookout on the western-side of town and

Mad scientist No1

the kids had fun with the fixed binoculars, pretending they were artillery guns.  Yep the rain is getting to us all!

Mad scientist No 2

We packed up in the rain and headed further along the Victorian coast through Orbost and Cann River.  We stopped for lunch at a gorgeous little rest area called Thurra River Rest Area (Camps5 # 7)  There is a rainforest walk here and drop toilets but nothing else and would have been a good overnight stop if it were a bit later. We pushed on to Genoa and thought we’d head out to Mallacoota, which is right down on the coastline.  There were a couple of caravan parks, right on the beach that were quite busy considering the weather but we just took a walk around and to have a look then went back to Genoa where there was a free camp along the riverbanks, (Camps 5 # 3).  It was a lovely spot, nice and quiet and a few other campers as well.

Eden Jetty

We got to Eden and went to the tourist bureau to see what there was to do in town.  We went down to the wharf and had a walk around while we waited for the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre to open.  It only cost $15 for the family and inside there was a  video playing

Tathra wharf

about the area, showcasing the whales, a room with an electron microscope and a couple of normal microscopes and lots of different marine creatures and plants to look at under them.  The electron microscope was hooked up to a screen on the wall so you could see the results on a huge scale. There was also a few wall aquariums and a ‘touch and feel’ table and a touch tank with some new anemones – they were pretty cool and so soft! The staff were very friendly and informative and they try to promote awareness and sustainability of our coastal regions through the centre and their research. We grabbed some delicious fresh fish and chips for lunch from the shop next door and headed down to the jetty to eat, watching some very friendly pelicans annoying the fishing

View from the hill

View from other side

Reflections

trawlers who had just come in with their catches.

Bega Cheese Museum

Next stop was Tathra. We stayed at the Seabreeze Holiday Park, another Big 4 Park.  It was a very family orientated park and as we are in school holidays the kids are looking forward to seeing some other kids. We don’t normally book ahead as we sometimes change our minds and take the ‘path less travelled’ which has taken us to some glorious places. We got the bikes off and went for a bit of a ride but the bike path doesn’t go into town as it is up a mountain but it did go for about 2.5km in the other direction.  Then Wade saw it, a skate park, only 200m from the front of the park. So armed with their rip-sticks off we went to mix it with the locals  There were a lot

Joel's wanna be yacht

Bateman's Bay Bridge

Beach near Caravan Park

of younger kids there on scooters and older ones on bikes but they all behaved themselves (not sure if was because of the parental presence or not).  I took a walk along the beach, up across the rocks and past the old, now restored Wharf and around the headland.  It was so beautiful and even with the clouds the sunset was still gorgeous. There is some fabulous maritime history associated with most of the coastal towns around here. We went to Bega to the cheese factory only you can no longer do a tour of the manufacturing, so we looked through the museum upstairs and did a mini cheese tasting and bought some very yummy cheese to take home.  After racing back to the car in the rain we were happy to see the sun when we got back to the caravan for some relaxing and the kids went back to the skate park. Wade had made a few friends at the park and was most disappointed when we said we were moving on to Bateman’s Bay tomorrow.

We travelled up towards Bateman’s Bay, stopping in at Bermagui to have a break and a look around.  It is a nice place and the wharf area has been done up very nicely.  We kept on up the coast picking out homes along the way that would be really nice to live in:) – just dreaming, you know, like if you won lotto……………..! We stayed at a caravan park in Bateman’s Bay but when we went to the tourist bureau we didn’t find much that we wanted to do.  We decided to get up-to-date with the washing, cleaning, odd jobs and the kids schoolwork. We managed to play a few games of tennis, always with the music playing and always a lot of laughs.  We also took a bike ride into the town centre and while we were there, we got to watch the main bridge lift up in the middle to allow some tall boats to pass through.  We let the kids ride on ahead and Joel and I wandered through the local harbour, with him selecting which yacht he liked best. Back to the van to pack up ‘cos we are heading to the cold, cold capital next.

Till next time,

Ciao`

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Trams, Forts, Sand castles and Penguins.

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on May 17, 2011

Hi Everyone,

Flinders St Station

On the tram

I don’t seem to be able to keep my New Year’s promise to myself regarding updating this blog regularly but we are going to do longer stays at places so I should be able to get more done and get up-to-date.  We flew back to Perth for 5 days and managed to get Wade’s tongue guard removed (yeah) although we now start saving for the braces he knows he has to have eventually:).  The accountant managed to get me a refund but Joel is paying tax this year – like he said if you’re paying tax then we’ve made some money, apparently. It was so good to see all the family again and spend some quality time with them.  The boys have grown so much and I’m sure by Christmas Daniel will be giving Joel a good run for his money as he is almost as tall as me and only 12! I’m starting to carry his birth certificate with us to prove that he is only 12 and not 14-15 like he looks!

We spent the first night back in Melb at a Motel, Quality Hotel Melbourne Airport, as we arrived

Fountain at Exhibition Bld

Melb Museum

Coat of Arms

in the evening and didn’t feel like setting up the van in the dark.  The kids thought it was great to have single beds – not bunks and they got to have Maccas and KFC and watch a movie while Joel and I dinned ALONE:) downstairs in the restaurant.  We haven’t had many moments alone so we savoured it and our meals were very delicious too!

Okay, we spent a few days in Melbourne and this time stayed at the Big 4 in Coburg.  It is the most expensive park we have stayed in but the ammenties were spotless, the park was beautiful and it was relaxing too, oh except for the day the boys got gastro and spewed (both ends) non-stop for 24 hours and then just as they recovered, poor Joel copped it as well.  It was days like this that I wished to not be in a caravan! We were wiped for a few days and ended up staying two days longer than we had planned but didn’t do any sight-seeing just slept!

We did manage to take a tram and a train into the city and explore it a bit on foot.  The Flinders Street Station is just as beautiful as I remember it but a lot

Drinks b4 dinner

Va Bene family dinner

bigger now. We took the free tram to tour around the city and jumped on and off at different places.  The weather is mostly overcast, rainy and cold so we visited the Melbourne Museum.  It was quite fascinating and has changed a lot but good old Phar Lap was still there! He is still quite an imposing and beautiful creature.  There was also a taxidermied coat of arms there too! No visit to Melbourne is complete without going to the Queen Victoria Markets and the kids wanted to go and have a look.

We traipsed around the city for a while and then met my sister and my mum for dinner.  We went to Va Bene, a fantastic restaurant owned and run by my cousin Marisa Travain, in the Docklands, near Etihad Stadium.  I haven’t seen Marisa for a couple of years and it was so good to catch up, have a few drinks and some absolutely delicious meals (the BEST gnocchi I have ever had too! Yummo).  We took lots of photos and us ‘girls’ sat around catching up for a few hours.  There’s some weird steel structures that I suppose are supposed to be art but we all laughed when Wade said they looked like a cyclone had twisted

Cow in a tree

Shane's b'day dinner

Mornington Peninsula

them out of shape. Such an apt description! There was also a huge cow-in-a-tree! No other way to explain it people! We bid farewell to Dianna and Mum and then managed to catch the second-last tram of the night back to the van in Coburg.  You do see some amazing sites on a saturday night on a tram from the city but thankfully it was fairly uneventful.

The next afternoon, we met up with Joel’s cousin Shane and his partner Ania and they invited us to dinner with some of their friends to celebrate Shane’s birthday. It was a big, friendly group of people and we had a great time catching up as Danny and Gaye were there too (Joel’s cousin from Geelong and Shane’s brother).

Kids on Rye Jetty

We left Melbourne and headed down towards the Mornington Peninsula.  We stayed at Dromana, at the Kangerong Holiday Park, another Big4 park.  It was right across the road from the beach and we were lucky to

Penguin pal

Dromana Jetty

have some lovely, sunny weather for a few days here. We even managed to get the bikes off and ride along the beach tracks.  This park is more of a cabin park and the sites are a little bit squishy but we managed to fit on okay and our neighbours are another older couple from WA too.

We find if we stay for at least 3 days we manage to get schoolwork done in the mornings and then touristy stuff in the arvo and not feel like we are rushing to see everything.  The weather is so glorious and sunny which is making our beach stay quite glorious. We took a drive down the coast towards Rye and stopped off at the jetty where the kids spotted a huge sting ray and also followed a Little Penguin up and down the jetty. He was quite amazing and even though the water looked

Cheviot Beach Lookout

Gunnery outpost

very inviting we didn’t swim as it was still very cold.

We headed out the next day to Port Nepean National Park and did a loop walk out to Fort Nepean,  Fort Pearse and Cheviot Hill, which is where Prime Minister Harold Holt disappeared. There is a memorial dedicated to him at the lookout and some magnificent views of the Bay.  There is no public access to Cheviot Beachand when you watch the waters churning from atop the lookout you sort of wonder what would possess a person th swim there anyway. There is an area between Point Nepean and Point Lonsdale called “The Rip” which is known as one of the most dangerous water passages in Australia. There is an underwater reef system there and on tidal changes there can be up to a metre’s difference in the water between the bay and Bass Strait.  You can see the huge rips in the water from the top of the Point as well – pretty explosive waters and I’m glad I’m not in a boat trying to navigate it. There is so much history at each of the

Pearse Barracks

The Rip

Enchanted Maze

forts, lots of guns and cannons still in-situ so the boys had a ball.  The walk was very pretty with views of the sea for most of the walk.  There are some interactive rooms in Fort Nepean with a wealth of information about WW2 and it’s role in our country’s defence.

We had a glorious, but late, picnic lunch and then headed off to the “Enchanted MazeGardens”.  The hedge at the entrance is a beautifully sculptured conifer hedge and looked amazing.  There is a traditional maze, a children’s maze, a 3D indoor

Enough said

Tyre Maze

Rope Maze

maze (with some fantastic artwork), some outdoor mazes and puzzles, a tube slide, a lot of brilliant wood carvings of people and animals strewn about through the grounds and all set in a bush setting.  The mazes were great fun and the outdoor mazes and puzzles had us all going and there was even a snakes and ladders game in the middle of the kids maze. The rope maze required the kids to attached a rope and clip belt onto a particular coloured rope and to follow that rope through all the criss-cross ropes. They had to

Tube Slide

Snakes and Ladders

Sunset at Dromana

unclip at each post and re-clip back on. It was fun to watch them trying to beat each other out. We headed back to camp and decided on fish and chips down on the beach (as you do) and watched a beautiful sunset.

We headed up towards Frankston to see some Sand Sculpting.  These were absolutely bloody amazing.  Even while you are walking around them you can’t believe that it is sand.  They were incredible. They were built by australian and overseas artists and this year’s theme was Creepy

Frogs sand sculpture

Flea Circus Sculpture

Alice in Wonderland

Boys hard at work

Crawlies.  The kids even got to have a go at some sculpting as well.

We headed off to Phillip Island and stayed at the Beach Park Tourist Caravan Park. It’s a small park but we managed to be there when there was an ‘A-van’ convention on in the actual park. I didn’t know the little A-van series came in so many different configurations! First stop was to get tickets for the penguin parade, that happens down at Nobbies Point at night.  You are not allowed to take photos of the penguins as they try to keep it as natural as possible for them.  We have checked the weather and today looks like it will be the end of our good-weather run.  The penguins were so gorgeous and by the end of the evening there had been about 700 walk up the beach to their

Sundown prior to Penguin Parade

More clowning around

Clowning around

burrows in the sand dunes.  We all sat on the steps, cordoned off from the beach so you cannot touch or interfere with them but you can see them quite clearly.  When I was here as a kid they were called Fairy Penguins but with political correctness gone absolutely crazy and to not offend the gay community, their name was changed to Little Penguins. Give me a break!  It was freezing cold and once again we donned the beanies, scarves and jackets! For something we weren’t sure of to pack we have certainly used them a lot.

After a day of torrential rain the weather has cleared to overcast! The kids wanted to go to “Amaze ‘N Things“.  We thought, OMG not another maze but this one was like a fortress and made totally from wood.  It had four towers

Fort Maze

Pelican Feeding

with different flags that you had to find.  It was a lot harder than it looked.  You could go up some stairs to see where you were

Wade's friend

and perhaps how to get to where you wanted to go but it wasn’t an easy challenge, which made it a bit more fun.  We all split up to do the first 3 then found the last one altogether.  The place has an inside area, not unlike a smaller version of the puzzles area at Scitech and Questacon. We made it back to the van and went for a swim in the “heated” outdoor pool.  It wasn’t exactly heated but it was certainly warmer than the ocean and Wade spotted a couple of brush-tailed possums up in the rafters, near the toilets. They seemed a bit tame, not tame enough to feed but

Pyramid Rock

Coast at Nobbies

Sea Lion Rock

not too skittish when we sat down to watch them for awhile.

Next day we headed down to San Remo and watched them feed the pelicans.  It is a daily event, down by the bridge and pier.  There

Wade at Nobbies

were a few sting rays around as well, two of them were pretty huge too.  We took a scenic drive around the island to visit Surf Beach, Pyramid Rock and The Nobbies.  At The Nobbies there is a walk along the coastline and you can see a few penguins under the boardwalk and there is a sea-lion colony on the rocks, just off the coast.  They do sea-lion tours but it had been cancelled today, mmmmm can’t imagine why! By the time we got here though the weather was very windy and overcast and it started to rain while we were at the farthest end of the walk – of course! Wade had forgotten his jumper so he was like a popsicle when we got back to the car. Even though the weather was crap, it was still very pretty.  We stopped at Rhyll on the way back and the weather had cleared a little.  Wade managed to get the most monstrous splinter in his hand (Daniel assures me he had nothing to do with it – Yeah right!). After a bit of improvised surgery to extract the pylon from his hand, it was a beauty too, we headed back to camp to bandage him up.

Till next time,

Ciao`

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Vintage Tram, Paddlesteamer and Camping.

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on May 5, 2011

Hi Everyone,

Gadgets galore

Jellybeans of every flavour

Well we left the arctic temperatures of Ballarat for a much more pleasant and sunny Bendigo.  Not Karratha hot and sunny but more of a not so freezing cold sunny! We are staying at the Big 4 Bendigo Ascot Holiday Park.  The staff were very friendly and on arrival the manager even showed us to our site and made sure we were happy with it – great service! We made sure to make the most of the sun and get some washing done too!

We visited a place called Confectionery Capers.  Now I thought it would be all about Daniel’s favourite subject, lollies but it wasn’t. It is a quirky but fabulous place that 1: challenges people to think laterally and creatively, 2: celebrates the wheel as man’s greatest invention, 3: explores the quirky but fascinating nature of the English language and 4: indulges the taste buds with a range of tasty confectionery.  The confectionery was mainly the most amazingly abundant and different flavours of jelly beans we’ve ever seen!  We spent over an hour here and it would take a few visits

Gearing Up

Weeeeeeeee

I expect to truly see all there is to see in this shed.  We had a chat to the owner, Campbell Smith who is a very charming old fella. The photos do not do this place justice as there is so much to see!

The kids wanted to see the Discovery Science Centre as it is similar to Scitech in Perth.  Unfortunately the planetarium was being upgraded so we had a look around and the exhibits and interactive areas and the kids made sure to have a few goes on the vertical slide.  Basically the kids step into overalls, leaving their sox on but no shoes, the climb up the stairs to the top, where they hang from a bar – sort of like the old monkey bars at school – then they drop onto the slide and get quite a rush.  I think this was the most fun part of this place.

Bendigo has a lot of beautiful parks and lakes and we visited Lake Wooreena in the middle of town a few times.  It has the best kids playground and the kids could also rip-stick around the park

Vintage Tram Tour

All Aboard

while Joel and I did our runs.  There is nothing better than some beautiful scenery to get your mind off the actual run!

We took a ride on the Bendigo Vintage Talking Tram Tour, where the hop on – hop off again tour has an audio recording  that describes the golden past of the city founded on one of the world’s richest goldfields.  The tickets are valid for two days so you can get on and off from any of the stops and look at the attractions, then hop back on to go to the end or off at another of the stops.  We got off to look through the Joss House Temple which is a reminder of the Chinese Communities from the Gold Rush days of early Bendigo.  There is a small tour through the temple with a guide and they explain the customs and history of the Chinese Community from that time.  It was quite interesting too.

Joss House Temple

Magnificent Fountain

We also went in to visit the Sacred Heart Catholic Cathedral.  It was gob-stoppingly beautiful!  It has a lot of gothic design features on the exterior but internally it was unbelievable.  The walls were all made of sandstone, from a quarry in Geelong, and the marble floors tiles were imported from Italy (of course), the lead light windows were just amazing and the pipe organ was superb.  A lovely old gentleman volunteer saw us, came over and told us so much about the history of the church and all the gossipy bits too.  The church was enlarged from the original design and the quarry that supplied the original stone no longer made it, but the Church being who they are, managed to get the quarry to re-mine the same stone.  It looks a lot lighter than the original stone but it is just as breathtakingly beautiful; even Joel was quite taken aback by the sheer beauty of the place.  The kids were quite amazed also and Wade was very interested in the stations of the cross – I had to explain to him that they were pictures that told of the death and rise of Jesus Christ.

Cathedral outside

Cathedral inside

Cathedral inside 2

The organ was in full swing while we were there as well, with one of the songs being a Billy Joel number (maybe that’s what swung Joel – not sure about that!). Anyway there was a queue for the organ as one guy was practising for an upcoming wedding and some of the other kids were just there to practice as the acoustics were amazing!  If you are ever in town be sure to pop your head in and have a look – I didn’t get struck down so it should be safe:)

We also popped in to say hello to our caravan’s old owners Mandy and Steve who live in Bendigo.  It was lovely to catch up with them and their kids and swap yarns of our travels around this great, big country.  Bendigo is a gorgeous town and amazingly there’s not really any industry associated with the town which is probably why it looks so nice and why a lot of people want to live here. There’s a big difference between having to live somewhere because of work and living somewhere just because you love the place.  It is indeed a lovely place.

We left sunny Bendigo for the river town of Echuca.  We stayed out-of-town at a free camp called Christie’s campground,

Our camp on the Murray

Look out, crazies at the wheel

Joel and the Cocky

(Camps 5 # 315) right along the banks of the Murray River.  We got a lovely spot with our own view of the river and a bush backdrop as well.  There were some good tracks we used for running and walking along and as the nearest drop loo was about 1.5 – 2 kms away, Daniel and Wade got to practice their driving lessons.  It was a bit of a fun and I’ve never seen Dan so quick to get in the car, especially in the mornings!:) I even think he spun the wheels a bit in a few mud puddles and thought that was great.  Now the free camps are way more

Atten-hutt!

The Pevensey

appealing to the boys as they believe they will get driving lessons from Dad at each of the spots – and to be honest it seems to be working.  We only ever do it if there aren’t many people around and if there is a lot of space as the car is quite big and in the end it can only do them well to have as much practice as possible – although both have informed me that they want a motorbike when old enough – god help us!

No trip to Echuca would be complete without a trip on a paddle steamer down the river.  We visited the Echuca-Moama Visitors Information Centre and the ladies were so incredibly helpful.  We managed to get down to the Port of Echuca and book in for a paddle steamer cruise on the Pevensey the next day, which was used in filming the Australian TV Miniseries “All the Rivers Run”.  The Pevensey was called the “Philadelphia” in the movie.  It is also 100 years old this year too! We took an early cruise on the Pevensey and our Captain for the day was also the resident Shipwright, Kevin Hutchinson.  He is a lovely man who let the boys have a steer of the steamer and also told us some great yarns about his life on the river. The river was still up after all the flooding in the area which made for a great ride.

We also did the Wharf Tour for a few extra dollars and it was made all the more enjoyable with our very own tour guide who was quite a character.  He had a white cockatoo on his shoulder for the duration of the tour and he too was quite a card and missing his left foot and he is also partially blind.  We stopped a few times along the Wharf Tour and the cocky would sit on someone’s shoulder and then the guy would give them some sunflower seeds to put on their tongue and the cocky would eat it off their tongue.  Daniel, Wade and Joel all had a turn and we all laughed. Joel said the cocky didn’t even touch his tongue:)

Torrumbarry Weir

Fish Ladder

The Old Weir Gates

We headed out to see the Torrumbarry Weir.  The original Torrumbarry Weir used 14 removable steel trestles that could be winched out of the river to allow the passage of floods. The structure operated successfully until 1992, when major damage to its foundations occurred. The new Torrumbarry Weir was constructed between 1993 and 1996. The existing lock structure was retained. It is quite a magnificent demonstration of engineering skill.  The old lock structure and a lot of the old weir equipment is just stored out in

Wade ready for school

Fog at Danny's Lookout

Victoria Falls in there somewhere

the open on the other side of the new weir but unfortunately the gates are locked.  We were very lucky as a gentleman was working on the gates and allowed us access to the old site to have a look around.  The place is closed due to the amount of vandalism done to the old site, which is such a pity.  The weir also has a fish ladder built onto the side of it.  We didn’t know what it was so we went to have a look.  Basically it is a sequence of boxed off areas that gradually slopes upwards allowing the fish to swim upstream to get to the other side of the weir to enable spawning.  We stayed out here for a picnic lunch in the beautiful grounds and overlooking the weir.

We headed off along the Murray towards Yarrawonga and stopped at another free camp but the weather has turned very wet so we’ll only stay the one night.  Joel’s back has been giving him quite a bit of pain at the moment and I know it’s bad because he is letting me drive! 🙂

We arrived in Wangaratta to see my sister and as it was the long weekend we decided to go camping, with the tent and my sister.  Unfortunately the camping at Lake Catani on Mt Buffalo was booked out so we headed further up the Valley to another free camp area, near Victoria Falls at Mt Hotham.  It was a beautiful spot and we also had our own fireplace.  We even managed to brave the icy water for a swim/bathe on the second day – the quickest bath I’ve ever had! We had a variety of weather, showers then hot sun, fog and clouds but it was still very beautiful.  When we headed up the mountain we got caught in some thick fog and we stopped at a lookout, which happened to be called Danny’s lookout and couldn’t see a thing!  We were still dressed for Wangaratta weather so it was quite a shock when we jumped out of the car!

Victoria falls Campground

Lake William Hovell

We got to catch up with some more family and friends and I even got to catch up with my friend Tania, who I haven’t seen for years and who was one of my bridesmaids. Tan it was so good to catch up with you and Jarrod and Lila.  I wish we could have got together again before we left but maybe next time! Happy Pumping and studying:)  Also Wade got permission to go to school with his cousin Harry for a couple of days.  He was so excited but did ask me that if possible, when we stop our trip, can he not go to a Catholic school because they have all this praying and stuff! Ha ha ha I couldn’t stop laughing!  We spent our last day with Dianna and the kids and we headed out to Lake William Hovell where the kids put in some lines for a fish and tried out the inflatable dingy.  A nice relaxing afternoon in some gorgeous country.

We headed off for Melbourne for a day or two and then we are flying off to Perth for 5 days.  Wade has an appointment with his Orthodontist, we have appointments with our Accountant to do our tax, we have a great friend who is turning 50, some more appointments for schooling and some family to catch up with as we’ve missed you all terribly.

We are leaving the van with some friends of mine, the lovely Margo and Ray, who have very kindly allowed us to leave our van with them while we are away. Thanks Guys, you rock!

Till next time

Ciao`

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Fords and Gold Fever…………

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on May 4, 2011

Hi Everyone,

Me, Joel, Danny and Gaye

Cunningham Pier

We stayed our first night off the ferry at a free camp in Avalon, (camps 5 # 570) which sits behind a huge service station.  We’re not very hungry after feeling so sick all day and it’s an early night for us all!

Headed into Geelong and stayed at Geelong Riverview Tourist Park.  It is across the road from the Barwon River and it was surprisingly busy.  We had the car booked in not far from where we were staying to get the suspension changed to cope with the new weight.  As usual the rain is still following us so we took a few days to catch up on some schoolwork for the boys and lucky me got to get our tax papers in order:( Geelong is very geared up for cyclists and there are a few great cycling and running paths around the river which we have explored with the kids, when the rain stopped.  They have a few rowing clubs located just down the river from us and we watched some people training and racing-it’s all very competitive here!

Skate Park

2000 Ford Mustang Cobra

We caught up with Joel’s cousin Danny, Gaye and Penelope.  We went down to meet them for a sail but there were some mechanical problems so we headed back to their place for some yummy gourmet pizzas and good conversation.  We headed back the next night for a delicious meal with Danny and Gaye and a few friends.  Thanks guys for the wonderful hospitality it was great meeting you all.

As I am a huge ford fan we visited the Ford Museum, oops sorry the Ford Discovery Centre, in Geelong.  (I’d put a link to it but the site keeps coming up with a malware attack so not this time:)) I thought it was very cool and Joel and I enjoyed a trip down memory lane looking at how the cars have changed over the years.  They had some pretty cool cars in their too!  They also have a solar car model and interesting facts for the kids regarding hydrogen as a future energy source and the explanations about how the process works, through interactive models.  It’s quite

1934 Ford Coupe Hot Rods

1960 Ford Zephyr

amazing that when there is something the kids can play with to find answers that they will retain much more of the information!  Oh that and the car game “rush hour”.  It’s more like a puzzle about how to move the red car out of the traffic – think you can download it as a game for computer and phones now too.  It had all the boys transfixed for ages!

The Waterfront in Geelong is really beautiful.  The Cunningham Pieris an absolute beauty and there is a Baywalk Bollards along the foreshore, where a local artist has transformed the old timber shipping bollards into people, reflecting the history of the city of Geelong. They are quite striking and I particularly like the bollard-band playing in the park!  The day we were there the pier was partly closed as they were expecting a large cruise liner in the next day and were getting things prepared.  You can drive right out onto the pier and lost of people were there fishing as well.  There is also a fantastic skate park there at which we whiled away a few hours reading and

Boys with Rush Hour board game

Front of organ

Back of organ

basking in some of that yellow suff, um you know what it’s called, um oh yeah the sunshine! – while the boys did their ‘thing’.

We went to a food festival one morning and got sunburnt and tried a lot of different food.  If I could’ve taken a photo I would have as there were thousands of people trying to move up and down the closed streets – unbelievable! There were bands, food from all nations and we also saw a guy working a Verbeek 73 key concert organ.  Now that doesn’t sound very exciting but this thing was huge and portable and the sound was incredible.  He gets a lot of gigs apparently but it was like nothing we had ever seen before.  With such a rapid change to the weather we thought we’d make the most it and head out to the peninsula to the beaches at Barwon Heads and Ocean Grove.  No sooner had we got there, when the sun disappeared to be replaced by more black clouds.  Wade and i figured we might as well go in but chicken Joel and Dan stayed out of the water on the beach. Back to the park for a ride, a run and early dinner.  We had a great time in Geelong and we’ll be sure to come back again.

$1 and $2 notes

Wade and Gold Bar

We set off for Ballarat today with the weather still looking very ordinary. Well we thought Tassie was cold. OMG! We stayed at the Eureka Stockade Holiday Park and mentally got ourselves ready for a freezing cold few days.  We organised tickets for Sovereign Hillby day and the night show of “Blood on the Southern Cross”.  We dressed very warmly – read jackets, beanies and scarves – for the night show as part of the show is held on the Sovereign Hill grounds outside and then the “sound and light show” is held in a small theatrette.  Well we sat in a building in seating, then an entire wall opened up before us, showing a “movie set” under the stars. I wasn’t sure how the kids or us were going to go with this as there are no actors in this show.  It is just done with a voice over dialogue, sounds and a lighting show.  However we were all pleasantly surprised by how entertaining and gripping the story was, even with no real people.  There are sound effects, explosions, lots of lights and smoke and the whole story is wonderfully told.  I don’t think the boys

Underground Mine Tour

Dan and Gold Bar

would have got as much out of the Eureka Museum as they did from this show! A truly amazing show! Unfortunately you are not allowed to take photos of the show.

Next day saw the weather overcast but not raining which was good as we were off to do Sovereign Hill by day. For those who nothing of it, Sovereign Hill is built on 30 acres and is like stepping back in time to the early 1800’s.  It is like a recreated, gold settlement where the staff dress as they did in the 1800’s, the shop fronts and buildings and the general layout of the place is all circa 1830’s.  It has been around for years as I remember going to it when I was a kid!  Unfortunately we did have to share this wonderful attraction with about 4 different school groups! Ah-ya-karumba! Most of the kids were reasonably well-behaved, there was just so many of them! Quite often the kids get some funny looks from other kids, like why-aren’t-you-in-school-type-thing but they explain what they are doing and the looks change:)

Wade patting Clydesdale

Where is it

We spent the day watching an old-fashioned gold pour, clamouring down an old mine in a rickety old mine trolley, eating yummy old-fashioned pies for lunch and some very productive gold panning.  They have an area where there is like a stream running (recycled water) and have set up the banks of the river with gold pans and sluice boxes for everyone and anyone to try their hand at gold panning.  There is a gentleman there who gives a demonstration every so often and it’s worth listening to as you really do find bits of gold.  The “river” is seeded with flaked gold every so often and we were very lucky to find quite a few bits of gold.  The kids wanted to get it weighed and paid out but we managed to talk them into keeping it for a memento as it wasn’t really worth that much even with the soaring price of gold at the moment:))  Our guide for the mine tour was a guy who was an ex-soldier (artillery I’m thinking) and ex driller as well.  He was great but VERY LOUD!!!!  He wasn’t even just yelling he voice just boomed! A bit scary when you

Family Photo

Working together

are so many metres underground!:)

While we were there i wanted to get an old fashioned photo done as a family. That was met with “No, don’t want”, “Do we have to”, to “No way, nah-uh-no way!”.  After much cajoling and then “You will do this for me” Daniel actually enjoyed the experience.   We sort of got to pick what sort of person we would like to dress up as; I didn’t really think the humble wifey-wife was for me, so I chose to be a bar wench, Joel a pastor (WTF), Daniel was a young soldier and Wade was so cute in his young boys outfit. The photos turned out quite well and it was a lot of fun to see each other dressed in the old clothes too!

When we were at the gold pour, the gentleman running the show was an ex-school teacher so we felt like we were part of the class.  He knew we had to leave a bit earlier as we had to do a tour of the underground mine so he selected Wade as one of the participants to be allowed to hold the gold bar!  We rushed out of the show but

That yellow stuff

went back later to thank him and have a chat.  He was most chuffed and then took Daniel out into the gold pour room so he could hold onto the bar as well and have some pictures taken. He was such a lovely bloke and we thanked him again as we headed off to shop. There was a display frame with some old and new coins and a $1 and a $2 note as well.  The kids couldn’t believe that there was such a thing as $1 and $2 notes and paper

Candle dipping

ones at that!- how soon we forget but it was actually 1984 for the $1 and 1988 for the $2, when the $1 and $2 coins were introduced.  And did you know that new polymer notes were invented in Australia (joint venture with the Reserve Bank and the CSIRO) and we also print currency for many other countries due to the newer technology and anti-counterfiting measures built in to the notes. Well I never………!

We got to see how they made (and still do) wagon/coach wheels.  There is some amazing woodwork that goes into creating these things and the kids were suitably impressed as were we, even if the machinery was sooo loud! We headed up to the old bowling alley for some bowling and fizzy drinks and the boys tried their hands at candle dipping.  The lovely gentleman there also told us about the history of candles in the settlement, costs and worth of candles at the time and that kids Wade’s age and older would be sent to work by their parents for extra money.  Mmmm now there’s a few possibilities………..

Old Fashioned Bowling

It was a very long but fantastic day and even though we were there all day we didn’t get to see every show or exhibit.  The kids and us had a great time and i would definitely recommend a day here for sure. Best of all there’s plenty of room for them to run amok as well!  I can’t believe how bloody cold it is here – 3 and 4 degrees and I’m sure it’s not far off snowing, brrrrrrr.

We headed to the Gold Museum which is just across the road from Sovereign Hill and it extends the story of Ballarat and the gold rushes.  Some of it was quite interesting but too much info for the kids and they did get a bit bored after awhile.  We headed back to camp for the boys to do some schoolwork, then off for a run and some warm soup for tea! Thank god for powered sites is all I can say ‘cos we’ve been running the heater pretty hard at nights!

Till next time

Ciao`

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