Sunday, 24 April 2016

C'mon to Carman's Tunnel

I'd picked up a brochure for Carman's Tunnel mine tours ages ago - and then collected another on our previous visit to Maldon.  We were having so much fun exploring that day that we decided against doing a mine tour.

We left home earlier today and were a lot better prepared, so headed to the site after lunch.  We arrived only a few minutes after the 1:30pm tour had walked into the mine, so were able to join them.  (Erin wasn't keen to go underground and stayed outside to keep Bandit company in the car).

Although we entered an abandoned gold mine for our 500th geocache, it was very interesting to view this much larger tunnel system.  We donned hard hats at the entrance and the guide was impressed with Vaughan's confidence underground (and later his understanding of the term light-fingered).  Of course, it wasn't our boy's first time in a mine and we've been in caves also at Kwiambal and Jenolan.

The tour cost $7.50 for adults and $2.50 for children.  It was money well spent!  We bought ourselves a "spider" candle-holder with candle (as used in the mine) and hand-made wire toasting fork for the campfire.  Nick seems to think the fork handle is too long but given the enthusiasm of my fire-bug family, I reckon it's probably a good length.  (Vaughan has already decided it might work well for marshmallows)!

Dragging along to the dragline ...

We enjoyed Maldon so much three weeks ago that we returned today, to continue exploring.  First stop was to refuel Elmer at the neat footpath bowsers!

From there we headed to the Union Hill open cut mine.

"Between 1988 and 1992, the open cut mine yielded 55,000ozs of gold after 1 million tonnes of rock were processed at the treatment works."

Impressive, eh?!

Although we'd stretched our legs and snacked en route to Maldon, Vaughan was obviously in need of more sustenance and we continued to Porcupine Flat, to picnic beside the dredge and dragline.

We carry all kinds of stuff in Elmer, cos you never know what may come in handy.  Along with binoculars, we also have two mini microscopes.

They are good for viewing small bugs and today were used to examine some rock specimens.

We relaxed in the sunshine, while watching white browed babblers hopping in the undergrowth and welcome swallows flit about near the front of the dredge.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Sisters Rocks

The Sisters Rocks are huge granite tors named after the Levi sisters who camped there in the early gold days. They are now smothered in graffiti which ruins or enhances them, depending on your politics.

Yep. I would have preferred to see these beautiful rocks in their natural state but there was an amazing amount of graffiti - and from my further reading since coming home, the graffiti dates back over most of the 20th century.  (The earliest date we spotted was 1957 but we weren't looking too hard).  Interestingly, the site is listed on the Victorian Heritage Database as being aesthetically significant at a local level for heritage overlay.

I definitely preferred the much earlier rock art and natural beauty of Bunjil Shelter but it was interesting to contrast the two sites, visiting both within a few hours of each other.  (When we arrived at the Sisters Rocks, Vaughan asked if Bandit was allowed off-lead.  Nick responded the site was obviously not sacred, so Bandit could walk freely - though we should all watch for broken glass).

Bunjil Shelter

We departed our cabin on Friday morning, after posing for some group pics.

Although we could see the Grampians in the distance from Old Dadswell Town we were not able to enter the National Park (as dogs aren't allowed).

In reading various tourist information though, I'd spotted a reference to Bunjil Shelter near Stawell, and the park notes stated dogs on leads could visit.

"... this is the only rockart painting of Bunjil known. It is widely regarded as one of the most significant cultural sites in south eastern Australia".

The actual shelter was caged to prevent damage to the rock art.  (We had seen similar protection at the Sandstone Caves while visiting the Warrumbungles).

There was much discussion of the Bunjil rock art.  Nick and Erin debated whether he was sitting cross-legged with hands on hips.

They both agreed he had a man's face, though I thought he may have had a side-facing beak.

Regardless of how Bunjil was depicted, everyone thought the site was beautiful and we are very glad we visited.  There was a picnic table and fireplace across from the gravel carpark (with more gorgeous boulders, which is where Vaughan is climbing) but no-one needed sustenance at that stage, so we drove back to Stawell en-route to Ararat.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Playing hooky ...

The day after our Brim silo excursion, we mooched about at our home away from home.  I sat on the verandah of our cabin and enjoyed my morning cup of tea, looking out to the Grampians in the distance.

Vaughan was keen to spend a lot of time in the Town Hall - practising his hooky game skills.

The hook target was screwed into one of the hall's support posts.  A ring on a string was mounted to a rafter.  The aim was to stand in a set, marked position and swing the ring onto the hook.  Once he acquired the knack, Vaughan hooked the ring over 100 times!

You can view a setup diagram and a short clip of a commercial version of the game being played, here.

Max had small game kits for sale.  We got one as a souvenir, to mount when we finally have a house or shed of our own.

It was very pleasant playing hooky from the van for a few nights - whether we played the hooky game or not!

Bandit enjoyed many walks in the back paddock during our stay. There were several trails through pretty bush and wonderful grass trees, plus lots of roos, too!

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Thong way home ...

Vaughan had said there was a thong tree, when we were nearing the Brim silos - so we stopped on the way home.

We had seen a similarly decorated bush, during a Wollongong visit but this tree was much larger with pseudo botanical name and oversize themed name-plate!

It was definitely worth a quick stop to view the many thongs, particularly a few that were nailed in the higher branches!  Erin is pointing to them in the photo.  (And no, we didn't add any extras to the collection)!

Filled to the Brim?!

We did several geocaches after viewing the silos.

When we found ourselves by the Brim Weir Pool, it seemed time to stop for hot beverages and snacks.

Nick set up our dual-fuel stove to boil the kettle. There were several picnic tables positioned by the water as well as others nearby.

As we waited for our drinks we watched cockatoos, crested pigeons, ducks and galahs all sip at the lake in the early evening. Vaughan and Bandit romped happily on the sand, while the rest of us sat more quietly. It was a very pleasant place to be. Low-cost camping is available at the site and it may be we use it on another occasion.

Brim-ful of awesome!

I belong to various photography and caravan/camping groups on FaceBook. Those memberships inspired our visit to the hay sculptures early last year - a splendid outing.

During December and January there had been a number of photos posted, showing the Brim silos being painted. Back then, I had no real idea where Brim was but I was keen to see the silos in real life.

I checked distances recently and while it is possible to travel to Brim as a day-trip (after all we visited IronFest as a very full day's outing in 2012) Erin suffers motion sickness more acutely now, as a side effect of her current medication.

We decided to travel to Brim from our Dadswell cabin (a distance of 113km one way, vs 280km from home).  Our pace was laid-back.

We left later in the morning, stopped for groceries at Horsham and then had a sausage sizzle at Warracknabeal before heading to Brim.  We passed through some lovely countryside and enjoyed the drive.

The silos were awesome!  Just amazing.  I'm so glad we took the time to see them.

Guido van Helten has done other work in Australia and overseas.  I'm hoping we can visit some more of his wonderful portraits.  (Check his website for photos).  There is an excellent short clip of the Brim silo project, here and an ABC article, here.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Dadswell (but tired) ...

Nick had arrived home from night-shift early in the morning and we packed quietly while he slept.  It was around midday when we departed and we took our time getting to Old Dadswell Town.

Erin shouted us a late late, which we ate at Green Hills Lake.  We stopped in at Halls Gap for groceries - and to spend some time admiring the many roos on the oval!

We arrived at our accommodation in the early evening. Erin and I took Bandit for a run in the back paddock. When we returned, Nick had unpacked.

After the van, the cabin felt huge! Nick estimated that it was seven times larger than the caravan (not including the verandah).

There were two bedrooms (both adjoined by a shared bathroom), a large kitchenette and roomy dining/lounge area - with TV.  In spite of the generous available space, I looked around at different times during the night and we all still stayed quite close together - even Bandit!  Hah!

Dadswell diversion ...

When we moved into our van after leaving our previous home, it was to be a temporary measure - though none of us had defined the term "temporary".

Fortunately we were entrusted with the care of a beautiful house and wonderful dog for our first month but have been full-time caravan residents since October (except for a week during Christmas when we minded another lovely home and very nice cat).

Erin had just over three weeks back in NSW recently, so hasn't achieved the full six months but hasn't missed much.

While she was away, the rest of us had a few nights visiting family and very much enjoyed their company and home comforts!

Our van is a 1974 Millard. It was cheap, definitely the bottom end of the market and we hadn't bought it for permanent living. 

In fact just the other night Nick said: "this caravan has served us well, though I didn't expect to be living in it". He paused and chortled, "if I had expected to be living in it, I would have bought a better one"! Vaughan then responded: "it's not too late"!

I recently spoke broadly of limited space and facilities.  Although the van has a tiny sink, it's not currently in use.  Our previous caravan park had an outside sink, so we carried our dishes down to the amenities block.  These days we wash-up beside the van.  The white tub is used on one of our adjustable height tables.  I carry hot water from the laundry by bucket - and the dirty water is tipped down a nearby drain when the dishes are done.

All cooking is done outside, usually beside the van (changing the table from washing-up to cheffing mode), which is not a sheltered area.  There needs to be a gap between the van and the gazebo, so we can open the van door.  It's pretty windy here, so often the gazebo is let down to it's shortest height, in order to be more wind resistant.

If  it's rainy, I work under the gazebo - which should now be waterproof, thanks to our new canopy.  Sheltered or not, there's a bit of rigmarole involved. The vagaries of the power supply mean that the fridges are plugged in, inside the tent. I run an extension from that powerboard and can only use one appliance at a time.

So - if I want to make a stirfry with rice, I would need to proceed as follows. Boil the kettle, then unplug it to plug in the electric hotplates. (There are two hotplates in the unit but it trips the powerboard if I use both). I use the large thermal cooker pot on the large hotplate and start the rice off, before transferring the pot to the thermal cooker.  I'll then unplug the hotplates - and shift them off from four-foot table to plug in the frypan to do the stirfry.

As you can see from the bottom collage we are very close to our neighbours and the amenities block.  I guess it means we only have a short walk to the loo, showers and laundry but we are also very conscious of others using the bathroom. Since these pics were taken, we've put up both our gazebo walls to offer some privacy between us and the road, as well as the cabin next door.

In recognition of our six-month achievement - and to give ourselves a well-deserved break, we set off for three nights at Old Dadswell Town, staying in a two-bedroom dog-friendly cabin. Oh, it was luxury!