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Australia 2010 - Week 3   (Wednesday 1/27 - Tuesday 2/2/2010)

After that great Australia Day celebration with Megan & Kirk in Torquay, we're now back in Melbourne and about to reconnect with a number of Mates in Victoria!    Tonight we're slated to have dinner in the Docklands, overlooking the Yarra River from the north side, at a fine Italian Restaurant, Medici's.   This is Patty and my first trip to the Docklands area, and we're meeting up with Tania & Kent Barton, and their daughters, Alexandra (10) and Stephanie (8).   We're also hooking up with Elaine & Lew Fisher, and their daughter Rachael (age not determined, but she's young and sharp, and has managed to avoid me on my previous visits!)    Medici's turns out to be a great restaurant, and the company is superb!



Patty and I haven't seen Alexandra and Stephanie since they were 5 and 3, and what a couple of great young gals they are.    Both into swimming, and piano (not at the same time!), and fortunately have their Mum's looks!!!    Just a great evening with some of our favorite people.   If you think I say that about all our Aussie pals --- it's true!

Thursday night finds us on the other side of the Yarra River, in another great Melbourne scene, SouthBank.   This time we're meeting Sally & Bill Bachman, and finally getting a chance to introduce them to Megan and Kirk.   (Some time ago, Megan had done a number on her knee trying to compete again with MEN, and I gave her Sally's number, and she was good enough to get her fixed up with a top notch Orthopedic Surgeon, --- but Megan and Sally had never met)    Bill makes arrangements for us to eat at The Deck, another great Melbourne eatery, now overlooking the river from, you guessed it, the south bank of the Yarra.    Another great evening!    If you note a slight improvement in photo quality with the next picture, it may be because it was taken with Bill B's camera, by our waiter, a nephew of Sally's, a top notch amateur (for now) golfer, and probably a protégé of Bill's in photography! *  


* For those of you new to the Ulmer Chronicles, and more specifically, my Australia exploits, you should know that Bill Bachman is really the guy who launched me on my romance with Australia.    It was back in 1999, when Patty and I met Bill at a fishing lodge in the highlands of Tasmania.    Bill, who is a professional photographer, was there to do a shoot of the husband and wife team, who own and publish Fly Life, arguably the finest publication in fly fishing circles.   We joined them for dinner each night, and when Bill learned that I planned to drive Patty thru some of the bush country when we returned to the mainland, he said "It's great to meet a backroads Yank! You might enjoy looking at a book of mine".   He went back to his room, returned with a copy of his coffee table book "Local Colour", and the rest is history.   After spending the next few hours devouring Bill's photographs of the sunsets in The Kimberleys, and the character studies of the faces of the Bushmen and Stockmen Bill had crossed paths with --- I was hooked.   I said to Patty that night, I HAVE to see more of this spectacular country, and there's only one way to do it.    A 4 wheel drive rig, a GPS, and a Satellite phone!    My planning for the trip I then made in 2001 began that night, in that lodge, in Tasmania!

More shots from the SouthBank area:


and a few more from cruising Melbourne:


It's Friday, and we're heading north to visit the Miles family in Undera.   Peter & Trish, and their 3 youngsters live on a dairy farm that's situated about 20 Km northwest of Shepparton, where we'll be staying.    We take the western route up that takes us through the Dividing Range, and then through the Strathbogie Ranges.    We take in the Waranga Basin, just to see one of the few places in this part of Victoria fortunate enough to have water.    We've been blessed to know the Miles family since 2001, and during that entire period Peter has , along with other farmers in the area, been faced with almost continual drought conditions.   It has taken its toll on many, and Peter has been forced to use every bit of creativity and financial savvy to keep his operation going.    While his herd now numbers only about 600 head today (I say only with a grin, because that's still a big dairy operation by US standards), with the cost of water, and grains, it takes a real businessman, and reasonable milk prices, to make a go of it.    Peter will make it work!

The drive up, and a few shots around Shepparton:


It's been 6 years since we've spent time with this handsome family, and they all are doing great!    Let's start with Lawton, now 17, and a handsome, strapping young man.    He's a huge help to Peter around the farm, as are both girls, but he also enjoys Footie, and works with weights to stay in shape.    The last time we saw Lawton, he asked his Dad why they didn't have an accent (like we obviously did), but he asked it with an 11 year old Aussie brogue that we still kid him about.   He is also an accomplished cook, has won numerous competitions, and is seriously considering a career as a Chef!

The girls are both gorgeous, and fun!    Ellie, at 15, is a highly regarded Netball talent, and has received numerous honors as outstanding in her league, but also with women in an older league.   Sophie, now 13, is also a Netball player, and Patty and I were not surprised to hear that when she was in the 5th grade, she was voted by 5th and 6th graders to be "The Most Caring" in their school.   You only have to be around Sophie for a few minutes to realize why!   

Trish is still the spectacularly beautiful Mum, and real farming partner for Peter.   It's hard for we "city folks" to understand just how someone like Trish can be the full time Mum, bottle feed a couple of hundred calves, keep a beautiful garden during a period of drought, and through it all just seem to take it all in stride.   She gets my vote for Mum of the year!

Whether inside or outside, this is one handsome and special family!!!

Here are a few shots from around the farm, including a 60 stand rotary, something we don't see much of in our neck of the woods, and some real indicators of the drought effect, including the cows looking to get in under the sprinklers --



It's hard to leave a family like this, and especially after the mid day feed (just a little Aussie BBQ) that they put on for us, but we're off on a more easterly return track to Melbourne early Sunday AM.    (We're catching "The Spirit of Tasmania" ferry Sunday evening.)   The return drive is another interesting one, and takes us down the Midland and Maroondah Highways, and through the Eildon Reservoir area, and the Yarra Ranges National Park.    A few shots follow:

                             Note to Herb --- the last picture.   Only one of the many McKenzie enterprises seen in Australia!

We arrive in plenty of time to Board "The Spirit" (www.spiritoftasmania.com.au) which leaves from Port of Melbourne.   These folks really run a class operation, and now have two ships, Spirit of Tasmania I, and Spirit of Tasmania II.   At one time they had a third ship which operated between Sydney and Tasmania.   Apparently that route didn't have enough traffic to support it, and they sold that vessel.   We've sailed on The Spirit I & II, and they always seem to be near full occupancy.   Their staterooms for those of us who prefer to sail overnight are relatively small, but modern, clean and comfortable.    We are on Spirit I going to Tassie, and will be on Spirit II returning on Wednesday to the mainland.


We arrive Tassie at 6:30 AM, and after taking time to grab a few Egg McMuffins at a McDonalds in Devonport, we head for Binalong Bay, one of the spectacular small coastal villages along the northeast coast of Tasmania.    We're really looking forward to our visit with Vi and Des Charles who have gone into semi-retirement in this gorgeous area, although both have been keeping their fingers in a couple of the commercial enterprises there.   Des and Vi have really become special pals of ours, after I first discovered the bloke when I was trying to find a guy who could lead me to some fish around the Hinze Dam/Brisbane area, back in 1999.    He did.   However, we had so much fun that day, that we decided that it would be a helluva lot more enjoyable to just fish as Mates!    Think of the money I've saved!!    Over the years, we've just enjoyed their company, and just being around them is a hoot!    I see Des (who used to have a syndicated TV show called "Hooked on Water") as the ultimate Outdoor Aussie, and his Irish lass, Vi, is just a sweetheart, who is the perfect match for this "Footie Fisherman"!

Here are a few shots I took of his "fishing room", which, as you'll see includes a picture from the TV show:


--- and now for the 2010 version of Des and Vi, at their great digs in Binalong Bay.    Des has gone out early this morning and both worked his Cray Pot, and dove for Abalone, to provide us with a true Binalong Bay seafood BBQ!    Ian Greene, a neighbor joined us on Tuesday night and REALLY did a number on his Abalone preparation.   Ian is a guy who was from Burney (north coast of Tassie), and during a "holiday" in Binalong discovered he enjoyed diving for Abalone, was "pretty good" at it, and. over the years,  it led him to become one of Tasmania's top Abalone producers -- and for those of you who are still paying attention, that's become a VERY big and profitable business in Tasmania!


Patty and I wrap up Week 3, and head out in the morning, taking a scenic route back suggested by Des, but before we did that, we got the cook's tour of the Binalong Bay area yesterday with Vi && Des.   Some of the gorgeous scenes we attempted to capture with pictures, but they don't do it justice:

                     - - - and finally, to cap off Week 3, 2 shots that may be my favorites of this visit to Binalong, or possibly of the whole trip!    One is a great shot that captures the personalities of our host and hostess, and last, the four of us agreed that you couldn't pose the picture we captured of an Aussie family, on their own little stretch of beach, complete with fishing, surf boarding, cricket, and a dog!   Are you kidding me?



Reluctantly -- we move into our last week of this trip.    See Week 4.

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