October 29 - November 4, 2001
It's Monday morning and I'm off and out of Bega early, continuing my southerly drive along the coast, heading for Morwell in Victoria. I hope to join Brett's Uncle Lew Fisher there this evening for dinner. Before I get to Victoria, though, I have a little more of the beautiful NSW coastline to see, and the first town that gets my attention is one called Merimbula. It's a beautiful little town just about 100 km north of the NSW-Victoria border. Getting there takes us through some heavily wooded coastal areas.
Timbering is big in this area, and while most of it is Radiata Pine, you occasionally see some pretty impressive sized Eucalypts!
I think the diversity and variety of topography in some parts of Australia is the thing that amazes me as much as anything. Shortly after coming out of these heavily wooded areas, and entering the State of Victoria, we descend into areas such as this grazing land ---
--- and it's not too many kilometers before we arrive at a spectacular coastal town, Lakes Entrance, that gives you just an incredible view of their harbor, and is, as it is named, the start of The Lakes District.
Gippsland's Lakes District is the largest inland waterway system in Australia. There are three main lakes, which interconnect -- Lake King, Lake Victoria, and I forgot the third. No, I'm just kidding. Wanted to see if you were paying attention. The 3rd is Lake Wellington. These lakes are actually shallow lagoons, separated from the ocean by a narrow strip of sand dunes known as the Ninety Mile Beach -- and the district has some great grazing lands for sheep and cattle, as well. Gorgeous country!
It gets very windy as I'm working my way over to Morwell, and for the first time this trip, a couple of times I'm really challenged to keep Tony on track. He has enough sail area that in gusts over 30-40 mph, he can really get pushed around. At the same time, the temperature is getting noticeably cooler. I break out long pants for the first time (with the exception of my evening with the Johnstons!) since leaving Perth, for dinner with Lew. Before getting in to attire, however, let me introduce you to Lew Fisher, Brett's uncle, who Brett claims taught him most of what he needed to know to get him through his outdoor experiences!
The first thing I want to tell you about Lew is that in addition to being a great guy, he and his company typify what I've found so much in this country -- we have no better friend and supporter than Australia!
Lew really has 3 companies, all related in one way or another to the timber business. It starts with a really impressive quality pallet business, and I'm thinking this could spur Bud Heussler to figure out how to write off a trip to Australia ---
Then Lew identified a real need in Australia, termite proofing building materials through a "Lew Fisher" designed pressure treating system (remember those critters from Week 1??), which is really impressive. The newest business really captured my attention, and Lew is understandably excited about it's potential. Wooden bridge materials -- laminated timber structures that are being used to replace existing bridges, as well as for new ones in a number of countries. While the concept started in Canada, it is just starting to catch on in the US, and my bet is that Lew will see to it that it becomes a popular material for bridges Down Under! This was really a great visit with a great guy!
The next day I head out for Leongatha, to visit good mates of Brett, -- the Allen family. I'm going to introduce you to these special people in a minute, but before I do, I want to give you a feel for the area. It's spring here, and driving from Morwell along the Strzelecki Highway, it's clear from seeing the soil turned over that this is probably the most fertile ground I've seen since starting this trek some 6 weeks ago.
It's great looking country, and Leongatha itself is a very attractive town of about 5000 people --
Not far outside of this nifty farming community is the Allen spread --
-- and a beauty it is! Now speaking of beauties, I had been given specific instructions from Brett to give hugs to two of his all-time favorite gals in Australia -- Jenny, who is the wife of Geoff Allen, and Tina, who is the wife of Geoff's son, Mike. Now this was tough duty, but I followed instructions, -- to the letter!
Meet the Allens! We'll start with Jenny, what a great gal she is --
-- and here's Tina, with their daughter Nicola, a really gorgeous and perky little 2 year old.
Brett has not seen their newest addition, Sophie, who just arrived on the scene 7 weeks ago, so I wanted to give him that opportunity, even though Sophie snubbed me by sleeping through my entire visit!
They don't make 'em any better than Mike, and his Dad, and you really get the impression that they are a great team, and have a healthy respect for the other. Based on the heavy equipment they have, there isn't much they can't do -- and I'd guess they could do that, too!!
While their contracting business is where the vast majority of their time is spent, the deer herd is growing and continually being upgraded. Velvet is a very profitable piece of this business, and I had the opportunity to see one of Mike's pals make a contribution to the bottom line!
Once again, Brett's mates sure gave me a wonderful experience. I'd really loved to have spent more time with Geoff and Mike, and of course, with those great gals! (I understand why they are favorites of Brett's!) For Brett, two parting shots ---
Nicola is learning to bake pineapple cake!
"You'd better get that moose hunting trip lined up!"
-- and just so Brett knows that I did get to his home town, I offer the following!
What a week -- and I'm just getting started!
I head for Melbourne, one of my favorite cities ---
--- and have the pleasure, thanks to Chuck Lehr, of having lunch with Alison and Jim Leslie. What a treat! Jim is a long time business associate of Chuck's, and another guy who is "fiercely Australian" (his words, not mine, in the preface to his book which I'm now privileged to have). Hopefully, one day they'll pay us a visit at The Landings!
Now if you'll refer to the introduction of this adventure, you'll find that I mention that the guy responsible for getting my juices flowing was a young professional photographer by the name of Bill Bachman. Bill and his wife, Sally (who is also his business partner) live in Melbourne, and were kind enough to lead me to an outstanding little Italian restaurant, where I did my best to maintain my weight. Sally was an Olympic skier who represented Australia, and Bill was doing photography for the Winter Olympics. She didn't medal, but I think Bill did!
That's Gemma in the middle, and those eyes tell you that she was really paying attention! It was great to hook up with Bill again, and to meet Sally. Thanks again, Bill, for spurring my interest in this trip, and for giving me such a great way to wrap up my brief visit to Melbourne!
On to The Great Ocean Road, and Mt. Gambier!