Gippsland, Victoria

After Tasmania, we only stayed for two nights in Melbourne, just enough to visit the Victoria Markets to buy fancy cheese and beeswax. I want to make my own waxed cotton lunch wraps, the latest eco items, which are ridiculously expensive to buy for what they are. I am on a save-the-world-trip, hence want to avoid cling film and other plastics as much as possible. I know that our many flights and the diesel consumption of our motorhome are counter indicative! I do, however, buy local veg and fruit only and without wrappers, always cook from scratch, bake my own bread and recycle what I can. So if anyone wants a waxed cloth sandwich wrapper, let me know! In Ballarat I found old pillowcases in an op-shop which will be perfect to try out my new craze. New cotton print would of course be fancier and more hygienic but a good hot wash should do the trick and it’s oh so green!

The drive up to Ballarat opened our eyes to a curiosity of Victorian road management. We saw signs asking the driving if their eyes were open – well if they weren’t then these signs would be of little use. Drivers were reminded to take a Powernap and some rest places were signposted as Powernap areas. Drivers are also reminded that Microsleeps kill. I felt that the distinction between a Microsleep – bad and a Powernap – good might be lost on some, especially when tired.

Ballarat, to the north east of Melbourne is a really interesting old inland goldrush town. A huge nugget of gold, the welcome nugget, was found here in 1858. It weighed 69kg, which would be worth roughly $3M in today’s market according to Roddy who knows such things!

Ballarat is also famous for the Eureka Stockade and our campsite was next door to its museum.  Here the miners or “diggers” boldly stood against the troopers of the colonial government in 1854. Some impressions of Ballarat:

We liked Ballarat for its history, super wide streets, the wonderful pioneer architecture, its comically disaffected teenagers at the main bus stop and, personally, for my first ever visit to a chiropractor! I had had tense shoulders for ages and for the last few months my neck had been sore. After falling asleep on the Tassie ferry with my neck against the edge of the headrest I had a crick anyway, and then having had my neck frozen into place by the blast from the aircon in the campsite reception, I knew I had to do something about it at last. So I made an appointment with a Ballarat chiro endorsed by gushing online reviews – Justin Brown. He assessed my neck movements, tested my reflexes, told me that my neck movement was severely restricted, then gave me his diagnosis but also remarked that a 54 year old spine was never going to be perfect due to wear and tear – i.e you cannae make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear… He was, however, confident that he would be able to improve my situation with a spot of manipulation. Before continuing he made me sign a form that stated that it was unlikely, but that the treatment could potentially kill me, then he manipulated and cracked me about a bit. Eventually he recommended I should go to see another chiro the following week on my travels for a second and potentially even a third dose. The experience was the oddest thing ever and at first I didn’t think it really helped but half an hour later I did feel a vast improvement. Still, another one or two sessions will be useful. While the chiro got “cracking” we chatted about Gippsland, our next destination and he gave me a few tips. As he was a local I thought that he was worth listening to, and he was. So now we are spending a week travelling east before heading up to the capital, Canberra.

Our first stop was an isolated campsite that the world forgot, called Shallow Inlet, on the north end of the Wilson’s Promontory. The night skies are amazing on these remote campsites away from any lights and this was one of the best. Hardly anyone else was there, but in the middle of the night some people in a tent had this huge argument, shouting and swearing at each other, disturbing the silence of the wilderness.

Wilson’s Prom

Still, we were not perturbed and set off on a wee cycle the next morning. I say morning but it really was closer to midday and getting warmer – stupid! The Wilson’s Promontory runs south for ca 35km so we were quite sure that we wouldn’t be able to manage there and back as we are not THAT fit! We cycled the first 7km and stopped for a cup of tea. I had visions of stopping here and there for more of the same, but unfortunately this was to be the first and last cafe we came across. Nevertheless we got to the start of the National Park, went to the little cemetery there and I climbed up the Big Drift, a hug sand dune. By this time it was quite hot and I almost died crawling up that steep dune. At least I found a cluster of trees on top to have a rest under. My heart battered against my chest and my face must was tomato red. 

A plaque in the cemetery which describes the lives of some of the early settlers well.
The Big Drift sanddune
Me almost dead.

Roddy had opted to stay behind for a rest and confidently suggested we should be adventurous and cycle back via the path less travelled, i.e. the hardly marked boundary path and then along the beach. Well, that was scenic enough and possible shorter by mere kms but it was like cycling over a resistance-training field. We managed in the end but took many, many stops to recover and even knocked on the door of the only house we came across to beg for more water, Oliver-like. In future I will stick to roads or proper cycle routes. You’ll be pleased to know, though, that my muscles are pumping for action now!

Our adventurous cycle track!
Yes and along the beach too…
I felt like this kangaroo at the end. Apologies to the squeamish!

The next day we drove the length of the promontory to see the whole thing. It exceeded our expectations, as it was amazingly beautiful. See for yourself.

Slightly suggestive rock!
Endless!
Norman Beach
Squeaky Beach – because the sand squeaks when you walk on it.
Roddy sitting under an arse.

Onwards we drove east when the thing that I had been hoping for happened. A koala right in front of us on the road! It walked on my side of the road and started running when we approached, so I quickly stopped the van because I didn’t want to cause the wee koala to have a heart attack. It stopped too, had a look around and then strolled towards the nearest eucalypt tree and climbed up a couple of metres. From there it looked down for a while and then started eating leaves. Happiness! We were joined in this state of bliss by a bunch of 4 young French guys whose eyes were shining as happily as mine. Moments like that unite people.

OUR Koala!
Koala with attitude

After this stroke of luck we continued down towards the coast to stay at Seaspray. There is nothing much in this small township, apart from a surf club and a large campsite but it is on the fabulous 90-mile beach.

90 mile beach, Gippsland on a busy day.

The weather was supposed to change, with rain and wind forecast so I was determined to get some saltwater on me before that happened. The beach really looked endless, the water was quite warm but the current incredibly strong. I made sure I was near the few other souls around, mainly for safety in numbers and to see what the ocean did to them! Seeing that they stayed upright and in one spot, I decided it was safe enough, especially once I was in beyond the final crash of the waves as the water there tend to be a bit calmer. Nevertheless I managed to let myself be grabbed by a wave and involuntarily bodysurfed onto the sand. I scraped my knee but it was great! The power and roar of the ocean never ceases to amaze me though.

Bright and early – bed hair!

The rain soon came in as promised so we decamped off east to beautiful Lakes Entrance.

The North Arm of the lakes at Lakes Entrance just next to our van.

Here we had the pick of the campsites. Using the app Wikicamps, you can zoom into a town on the map and the app shows all the campsites and other attractions – whatever you filter. Lakes Entrance has a humungous number of sites and we picked the North Arm Campsite, the North Arm being a stretch of water. Lakes Entrance is the place where a huge lake and river system meet the ocean ca 250km to the west of the southeast corner of Australia, the border between Victoria and New South Wales. It’s the start of East Gippsland, which is renowned for its beauty. Lakes Entrance was a hot recommendation from my chiro! He swooned when he was talking about it, clearly jealous of our trip. 

Lakes Entrance

The actual lakes entrance is a channel running from the ocean to the lake system, which apparently is the largest in Australia. From the air, spectacular views can be gained but even from ground level the entrance is worth the walk. Just as we arrived at the entrance a pod of dolphins did their dolphin thing: jumping in arcs and twisting onto their backs on their way down. Seals also joined the action but unfortunately I couldn’t get any photos. There are warnings at the entrance channel to not swim, as the currents and wave action are unpredictable. And indeed, the water was churning and flooding into the channel from different directions, its energy and power obvious and humbling.

Where lake meets ocean. The Entrance.

Roddy opted to walk back to town via the bushwalk whereas I chose the 3km beach walk as I can’t get enough of the ocean; I could look at it forever. A man walked along with a border collie. The dog was loving the run and fully concentrated on its owner with enthusiasm. I can’t tell you how much I want a dog again. Once a dog owner, always a dog owner. One day it will happen again.

Beach walk back to camp

Lakes Entrance is beautiful though fairly touristy with several campsites and other overnight choices. It was a little bit coffin dodgery too if you get my drift. Plenty of grey hair, bend backs and spindly legs. The juvenile surf lifesavers on the beach might have their work cut out at times.

Beach at Lakes Entrace
Cool 50s look out for lifesavers.

As Canberra was next on the list, Roddy was going to cut up north from Orbost but, as I was doing the planning for Gippsland, I chose to head over east as far as possible. This is why we ended up in Mallacoota, one of the last towns in Victoria before the New South Wales border, where the Wallagaraugh River meets the Southern Ocean.

Mallacoota view from campsite
The campsite

The meeting of the wide and complex river system with the ocean creates the brackish water that is so valuable for many water creatures who flourish there.

Jellyfish
Culture!

Roddy cycled to the WWII bunker that was built here to monitor radio traffic and deal with any enemy keen on infiltrating the Bass Strait. I can only take that much history and dusty environments, so I chose to go to the beach instead. I was the first person on the beach and it was me this time who was used by others as a gauge to see how safe the water was. Being a tad chubby they probably thought that any self-respecting shark would eat me before them or their meatless toddlers, so I made them feel safe. My good deed of the day! Eventually I packed up with difficulty when winds gusted up, wrapping the tent around me.

The calm before the storm!

In the afternoon we were going to hire canoes to paddle across the lake to guess what? a pioneer cemetery! but as the forecast winds became stronger it became obvious that canoeing was not an option. In fact we were glad that the trees didn’t come down on us, it was that strong. There was nothing for it, we had to relax on the campsite. Ergo blog!

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