Day 1 - Finley
Monday 18 February 2013 saw 9 van arrive at the Finley Caravan Park. With the temperature around 34 degrees we settled down to happy hour and meet and greet.
With new members Dorothy and Bob, Audrey and Gregor and Kathy and John joining the group for only the second time there was much interaction among the group.
Judy covered the finer points of the trip and where we would all stop and meet up during each day. Tomorrow would see the group at the SPC Factory outlet at Shepparton for morning tea and then onto Bendigo.
The group was placed into two groups which we hope will made our job of entering the various parks just that little bit easier, time will tell.
Day 2 Finley to Bendigo
With the groups sorted, Bluey 1 left Finley to the tunes of "on the road again" thanks to the efforts of Glen Thompson. Heading south towards Tocumwal it was a very easy drive with many of the irrigation canals full and the fields looking good. UHF 18 was the channel of choice with the members having a good chat along the way.
In reaching the Murray we were all surprised at the number of vans enjoying the river. One count was 50 vans free camping in glorious sunshine.
Shepparton was the destination for morning tea as well as the SPC Factory outlet. Each of the members had a great time snapping up the specials. Judy reminded everyone to present their NRMA card and receive an additional 10% discount.
Judy received a phone call from David B stating that Kyle had missed the turn and he was now with Kyle having morning tea. They would catch up with us later in the morning.
Bluey 2 began arriving at the SPC Factory as Bluey 1 was leaving.
Graham H had the misfortune to have the battery go flat and with the help of David O a jump start was in order.
It was not long before Bluey 1 was on the road and Bendigo was in sight. The Golden Nugget Tourist park was the destination with all nine vans arriving by mid afternoon. Many enjoyed a dip in the pool as the plus 30 degrees was a little uncomfortable.
A great happy hour was held in the camp kitchen, with the next days activities planned.
Day 3 - Bendigo
The Central Deborah Gold Mine was the first attraction with most of the group enjoying the underground experience. The above ground museum was extremely informative and a real joy to see a "working" mine in the center of the city.
The famous Talking Tram Tour kept the group entertained for the next hour as they saw many of the Bendigo attractions.
Lunch was at the Foundry Hotel, situated on High Street. We will certainly use this hotel again as the meals were first class and very reasonably priced for a 2 course serving.
A tour of the Bendigo Town Hall was arranged for the afternoon. Very interesting tour into the past of this great building.
Happy hour and a swim in the pool was the order of the day before retiring.
Day 4 - Bendigo
The GW's enjoyed a late start to the day with a visit to the Bendigo Pottery. We have arranged to have a tour of the pottery and were greeted upon arrival.
First up was the potters wheel demonstration. Graham, the potter, gave a good insight into the art of the potter with us all enjoying his banter. After producing a stunning pot, Graham tripped and the pot was no longer the work of art.
Since last visiting Bendigo Pottery there has been a great deal of work with a museum being established show casing the history of the pottery. Bendigo Pottery certainly has a long and checkered history.
Morning tea was enjoyed by all with scones and jam being the order of the day. Morning tea must have given the ladies some extra strength as the purchases have assisted the local economy.
Bendigo Pottery should be one the list of all that stay in Bendigo.
Next on our list was the Golden Dragon Museum. what a highlight this museum is, with one of the longest "dragons" housed in the museum, furniture from the early Chinese days. I am sure that those that visited will have lasting memories of the displays. Outside the museum were the Chinese gardens which were just as impressive. We ended up spending 2 hours at the museum, much to our amazement.
Just a short distance from the museum is the largest timber church in the southern hemisphere. A quick visit was well worth while.
Back to the Golden Nugget for another refreshing dip in the pool. Most of us had commented that we had never used the park pools as we have so far. The high 30's are beginning to take there toll.
Kyle's fridge has not been working that well and will need to have someone look at it once we reach Ballarat.
Day 5 - Bendigo to Ballarat
Today we split the group into three, which gave us three van in each group. We found this set up much easier as it allowed us the opportunity to stop in the various towns along the way. Greg had suggested he would like to stop at Maldon, as he had read that it has one of the nicest streetscape in the region. Maldon seemed like a good spot for morning tea. Each group arrived in Maldon and enjoyed a lovely time exploring the shops and imagining how the town would have been like in the 1800's.
The GW's commented that we would like a lot more time to explore this area with the town of Creswick, Dayleford being on the"must visit" list.
On arrival at the Big 4,Welcome Stranger Van Park, we all sat down for lunch and then went off to explore Ballarat.
Happy hour was again stretched to several hours with great friendship shared.
Day 6 - Ballarat.
Sovereign Hill was the first port of call and with several of the group visiting for the first time, this precinct, certainly impresses.
With a demonstration on how to pan for gold we all thought we would leave with our fortune, ha,ha. The closest we all got to the real thing was watching the gold pouring presentation. The value of the small bar ($140,700). We could just about purchase the ideal van with the bar.
Seeing the wheelwrights at work and the Cobb & Co coach bought back memories for Judy as her early decedents were part owners of Cobb & Co in NSW (Forbes) and later in Queensland. One of the wheelwrights family have been in the trade since 1860.
We all left Sovereign Hill by 3.00pm and made our way back to the park as we were going to see the light and sound show later that evening.
Kathy and John had found us all a place for dinner before the show, which was much appreciated.
Blood on the Southern Cross. What a night. In my view this should not be missed as it is the best light and sound show I have experienced.
Day 7 - Ballarat
Day 7 was a "free" day for all with many places to visit in and around Ballarat. Greg and I took the opportunity to visit the Bendigo Swap Meet. We had been told that this is one of the largest swap meets around, nearly 2400 sites, with all manner of goods. Items for sale ranged from old tools to complete cars, old caravans, motorbikes etc. We both thought we would spend around an hour but 2 hours later we had only touched the surface of what is an impressive meeting. I was able to assist a group be identifying a differential as being from an Austin A30, my first car.
Back to the van park to pick up Judy and Audrey we set off to see the Avenue of Honor and later to the Botanical Gardens and the 1956 Olympic rowing site.
The botanical gardens should not be missed with many stunning trees as well as the bust of every Prime Minister.
Unfortunately Kyle was not feeling OK and decided to head home.
Day 8 - Ballarat to Apollo Bay.
with only eight van we decided to from into two (2) groups for the run to Apollo Bay. An easy run was enjoyed down the Midland Hwy. We had aimed to be in Torquay around 10.30am for morning tea. I now understand why I put on a couple of kilo's each muster. We found a comfortable spot on the beach front that fitted all the vans and enjoyed a very relaxing stop. the second group arrived just when we, Bluey 1 had finished morning tea.
The run down to Apollo Bay must be one of the best road trips around. Judy and I have now completed the Great Ocean Road in all but one of our RV's and we will continue to visit the region.
Apollo Bay Recreation Van Park had been booked for our stay and while this may not be the greatest park around happy hour was enjoyed by all with members of the Sunshine Nomads joining us. Tomorrow sees the group head off to the Otway ranges.
Day 9 - Otway Fly, Lorne
With the tanks filled, morning tea packed it was of to the Otway Fly. we traveled along the Great Ocean Road to Lavers Hill turning right to towards Ferguson. On arrival at the "Fly" a cuppa or cold drink was consumed, along with home made biscuits.
The "fly" is a 600 metre long walkway, 25 metres above the forest floor. The "fly' was opened in September 2003 and was frabricated in Launceston, Tasmania.
The walk contains an impressive tower standing 47 metres above the forest floor providing a magic view across the forest canopy with tree ferns covering the forest floor. To view the towering Mountain Ash is something to behold.
We all agreed that the experience was well worth the trip.
Next stop was to be at Lorne for lunch with a wrong turn taken by Graham the trip was just that little bit longer and the bistro was closed by the time we arrived. Thank heavens Lorne has several bakeries so pies became the flavour of the day.
After a casual walk around Lorne, with the ladies having a close inspection of the shops it was of to Apollo Bay for a relaxing afternoon.
Day 10 - Cape Otway
With only a visit to Cape Otway lighthouse on the agenda several couples shared vehicles ans left Apollo Bay around 10.30am.
On the way to the Lighthouse, the group encountered many koalas. The overseas tourists certainly enjoy the sight just stop anywhere to photograph the koalas. It has been 3 years since Judy and I have been to Cape Otway and we were shocked to see the damage to the maana gums.
All enjoyed the Lighthouse and agreed that it was worth the drive.
Judy and I had wanted to visit a couple of "free camps" in the region. The first was the Johanna Beach Campground (Camps 5 - 679). What a great place to spend some time with good amenities.
The second was the Aire River East and West campgrounds. Again both these camp sites are worth putting on the list.
Tonight was our communal tea. Thanks to David and Irene for arranging the fish and chips which were enjoyed by all. At the end of our meal Irene was very suprised with the "birthday cake", again a great day was had by all.
Day 11 - Apollo Bay - Port Campbell
With only 95klm to travell the two groups left Apollo Bay after 9.00am. We planned to call into the 12 Apostles on the way as the morning sun was shining in the correct direction for the camera buffs.
The first problem was trying to find somewhere to park 8 vans as all the vans parking was already taken. After many photos and a cup of tea we made the last 12 klms to Port Campbell.
The big surprise for most was that there is only ABC TV. If one wants all the channels pull out the satellite dish.
All vans set up it was off to the 12 Rocks Cafe for lunch. Again we all needed much walking to take care on what we had consumed.
Happy hour was held on the camp kitchen, on of the best we have come across.
Day 12 - The Gourmet Trail
After calling into the local tourist information centre we found out that the Great Ocean Road in not just about great scenery and tall rocky towers, there is a loverly Gourmet Trail.
Heading out towards Peterborough we then turned right and headed towards Timboon.
First stop was the cheese factory. This had been a traditional Aussie cheese factory but recently new owners have taken over with a real French cheese being manufactured. There were several styles from Mountain Man to Extravagance. Pity it is sooo far away.
Next stop was the Berry Farm. Strawberries and Blackberries, pick you own and try not to eat too many in the process. While most filled their containers some eat their contains as well. Great value and great flavour.
Lunch was calling so it seemed a stop at the Timboon Brewery would be a nice fit. A sample of the lovely spirits and a great lunch was enjoyed by all.
Where to next?
G.O.R.G.E chocolate seemed the right fit. To much to choose from and the taste was just right. Samples taken supplies purchased and it was off the the Gibson Steps.
Judy, Graham, Gregor and Glen went to the bottom and felt the ocean while the others watched from above. At least we walked of the days eating and drinking.
Loch Ard Gorge was the next stop which was really great, but the crowds. Three coaches were following us and it did detract from the experience.
Others called into the London Bridge, The Arch and the Grotto on the way back to Port Campbell.
Day 13 - Port Fairy, Bay of Islands
With a lazy start to the day off we ventured to Port Fairy for lunch. Most had been to Port Fairy before and were looking forward to the fish and chip from the whaft. Off to the park and lunch was enjoyed by all.
It was time to head east again as the "rocks" were calling. first stop was Childers Bay. This was an area we had never visited before and it was a real joy with lovely bays and some different features. Highly recommended.
Next stop the Bay of Islands. This is a photograhers delight. Find the right place and let the "lens" do the talking. Judy and I took a diversion to one of the "boat ramps". The sign said 4WD only. Well I not sure I would have taken a boat down this ramp, it was just amazing how steep and narrow it was.
My favorite, on this section of the coast is Mystery Bay. The cliffs and formations are just so colourfull. The light either in the morning or afternoon allows for some amazing photos. I am so glad that I now have a great digital camera! Thanks Judy.
Day 14 - Port Campbell - Halls Gap
The group once again the group split into two (2) groups with the first heading off early while the second group had to call into Warrnambool.
The second group also were on a mission as one Glen Thompson had to visit Glenthompson. Glen had received many photos of the signpost but had never been able to reach the town.
The Thompson brothers had arrived in the 1800's and established a brickworks, which still operates to this day. Photos taken lunch taken it was off to Halls Gap.
Day 15 - Halls Gap
With the Tag-A-Long now at an end we all settled in for our last happy hour together. We all agreed that we would need more time to explore Halls Gap as it has soo much to offer.
The next morning we began to say our goodbyes, which kept going for the next two days.
The Tag-A-Long covered nearly 2000km, 328 litres of diesel, and great company for 16 days.