Monday, 31 May 2010

South of the Border

No, the border in question is not the Rio Grande. Rather it is the River Murray, and this post is being created in Eltham, a lovely suburb on the North-Eastern outskirts of Melbourne. The post will also feature links to a couple of sub-pages I have created to hold photos and thus preventing this page getting too big.

Our reason for travelling to Victoria was to attend a contest of skill and science (to use the phrase Damon Runyan applied to pugilism) in the form of an Australian Rules football match between St Kilda Saints and the Adelaide Crows. It came about through my friend Rob winning a private box when he attended a breakfast before the 2009 Grand Final (which the Saints didn't win – boo-hoo).

He invited us to take up a couple of the seats in the box. This was accepted very quickly (thanks again Rob). As we had long standing invitations to stay with friends at Eltham, and to take the small dog with us, the entire trip was a done deal!

We set off in a fairly restrained way, leaving at 8am since it is only a short drive to Eltham (about 700km). My blood pressure got tested by the revolting road works around Queanbeyan and the general lousy traffic in Canberra, At one point Frances said to go up Sutton Road: as my cabbage (once known as a brain) was fixated on Canberra I thought she meant come back down the Federal Highway to Gungahlin. In fact she meant go cross country to Murrumbateman which would have been an excellent idea. We must remember to do so on the way home (hint- this is foreshadowing).

Looking at the NSWRTA website there were no road works on the Hume Highway so we expected a very swift drive. Unfortunately there were a bunch of works which leads me to the view that the road works on the Hume are permanent so they have stopped mentioning them!

(A parenthetical comment

On the subject of websites, I had also used the Metlink one to see what time the trains ran from Eltham to the Docklands. This gave me some rubbish about swapping on to trams etc. Eventually it emerged that the default thing to search for on the Metlink site is a station, and the nearest thing to a 'station' called 'Etihad Stadium' is a tram stop. Searching for a landmark called Etihad gave a far more useful result. There is some further commentary on Metlink below.)

Back to the business

The small dog enjoyed her trip down the Hume Highway We had put some extra cushions on the back seat so that she could see out without standing on the arm rest. This merely meant that she could stand and put her feet on the window sill and get an even better view. She also puts her hoof on the button which opens the windows which can be a tad disconcerting (especially if she keeps it there so the window can't be shut).

We took a brief stop in Albury. Frances went to the Regional Art Gallery (quite interesting but very small) and the Botanic Gardens (ibid). The small dog and I went for a walk in Nordeuil Park on the banks of the Murray.. It was named after a small town in France where the local diggers fought in the first unpleasantness. It also featured a tree in which Hovell (an early Australian explorer) carved his initials in the 19th century.

We were well South of Seymour, but still quite a few kms from Melbourne, before seeing signs of the 2009 bushfires. It did seem that most of the trees were reshooting from epicormic growth.

We navigated Melbourne well and arrived at our friends place a tad early, in daylight – it would have been a bit tough in the dark! It is a stunning house in a lovely setting (albeit not as quiet as Carwoola). The husband-friend is away working in Zambia so we only saw Sue (the wife-friend). She had to rush to choir practise but we'll have plenty of time to catch up over the weekend.

The start of the morning was a walk for small dog around a wetland on Diamond Creek. Many excellent Manna Gums (Eucalyptus viminalis we think) and at one point a couple of posters/boards about Walter Withers of the Heidelberg School. This gets more of a mention on Sunday.

Then to the Victoria Markets to acquire a St Kilda scarf for me to wear the following night. Frances and Sue acquired food for our lunch. I waited in the car with the small dog and was a tad intrigued when someone tapped on the window. (Yet again, it was not Raquel Welch – see previous post, not that I am fixating or anything.) It turned out I was parked close to the line in my bay and he wanted to make sure that if I opened my door I didn't ding his brand new car.

After acquiring the scarf we took off to the Mornington Peninsula. There were quite a few interesting roadside sculptures and some of the noise mitigation structures were quite cleverly designed.  Some images of these are in a separate post. Our first port of call was the Red Hill Brewery where I tried their seasonal ale. This was excellent (very fruity, hoppy and tasty) and was included in the 6 packs I acquired (1 for me and 2 for gifts).

Then to Dromana where we had lunch on the foreshore and the small dog got an early sit in the car due to bad behaviour vis a vis seagulls. Frances and Sue went in to the Diggers Club place at Heronswood while the small dog and I visited the beach down a very steep track. There were a bunch of colourful beach side shacks which are apparently referred to as beachboxes. They look more like the bathing huts of 19th Century Britain than the shacks of NSW or the Bachs of NZ.

Saturday morning we did another brief walk along the Diamond Creek track with Tammy followed after breakfast - for us: for the first time ever we forgot to feed the small dog until mid-afternoon - by a longer walk to Montsalvat Art Centre. This was designed along the lines of a Manor House but is now a function centre and art gallery. The art on display seemed to be a sales event for locals and most of it was reasonable (although I suspect the prices – not shown when we were there - would not have been).   The place also had some decorative peacocks.   We wended our way back through huge houses and huge blocks of land (and huge dogs which exchanged opinions with Tammy across the street). We then explored Eltham Lower Park which seemed to be well supplied with Lacrosse and Pony Club activities. There is also a miniature railway, but that wasn't operational when we were there.

Off to the city (or at least the Docklands) to see the football game. Our friend Sue kindly drove us to Montmorency station where there was conflicting advice and chaos occurring. Some things said there was track work going on and we'd do a lot of bus travel and other things did not mention the bus. I guess one should always go for the worst when dealing with MetLink. It was in fact train for 3 stations, then bus, then train again for about 4 stations. The end result was that this took about 20 minutes longer than expected.

Getting in to the Stadium was frustrating due to security dweets. The guy at the door we were supposed to go in wouldn't let us in because I had a back pack – and he wasn't authorised to inspect it. So we went back to a gate where there were people to inspect it, but they were allowed to open it so they just looked at it. What a waste of time and energy.

Up to the box and start on the beverages. The food was not that great, being pies and wings etc, but it was OK for a free night at the footy!  Some images are at a separate post.

The game itself started very well with the Saints kicking 5.0 to the Crows 1.0. Then life got sticky for a while with the Crows getting on top and leading just after half time. Fortunately the Saints got their act back into gear and ended up comfortable winners. There wasn't not much biff in the game and some of the free kicks looked to be given for very tame offences. But I suppose it keeps the mthers of delicate children happy

We then followed a horde back to Southern Cross station. This was quite impressive, especially as the stadium was only half full. After about 10 minutes the train arrived and it was off back to the bus business. This seemed to be quicker than the trip in, but took about 10 minutes longer. (At various stops people came along asking if the bus was going to the City as the bus in that direction hadn't been along for a long time. Seems like a stuff-up.) Then the train we caught after the bus just sat for 10 minutes . Not good, especially for Sue who was waiting for us. Home at 11:45 (instead of 11pm as it should have been.)

(Another parenthesis. Frances spotted a sign on the bus which was to the sense of : Attention Fare Evaders: the person next to you has paid their fare which covers the cost of your travel. Perhaps you should consider mowing their lawn?)

The next day we decided to check out the Heide Museum, on the site of John and Sunday Reed's house, and some of the Heidelberg Art Trail.

At Heide we found they had sculptures around the gardens so wandered around looking at them with the small dog. We were able to persuade her not to piddle on the art! She was the only dog there but nearly everyone seemed to smile at her and a kid asked if he could pat her – a common practise with Victorian children. One grumpy person scowled at her but didn't pursue the matter (possibly a good outcome for his health).

We then moved on a tad to the Yarra Flats Park where we wandered along a trail – once we had worked out which way it went – looking at the boards erected at spots near where artists from the Heidelberg School had done their stuff. There were a lot of folk using the trail for good purposes: cycling, running and dog exercising. However I didn't see anyone else pay any attention to the boards, which I felt a bit of a shame.

Tammy met a few other dogs most of which were 'sniff and pass". One couple of doormat dogs started to get excited so I hauled Tammy out of there: the owner scolded her dogs for scaring the puppy. I merely said that she wasn't scared, not pointing out that I had spotted the signs of her about to declare war. A bit later two miniature Pinschers came bounding up and they had great fun until the pinschers hurtled off. We met them on the way back and after a cursory sniff everyone got on with their lives: I guess the first episode had sorted the formalities.

On the way back we called in at a garden centre where Frances bought some stuff. This did not include some 4m high Manchurian Pear trees which could have been ours for a mere $895.00 each!

After a pleasant Sunday evening chatting to Sue we headed for home on the Monday. A surprisingly easy and stress free trip out of Melbourne and off up the Hume. I noticed that the speed check cameras gave a maximum reading of 117kph. This is presumably to stop people using them to check that their Ferrari or WRX can still get to 250kph. However if your speedo is reading low you might think 117 is OK and not realise it is actually 120 which would be expensive.

Getting towards the end of the trip we took the cross country route from Murrumbateman to avoid the traffic in Canberra. This was really good until we got to the crossing of the Molonglo about 5km from home. It was flooded so we had to backtrack and come in via Queanbeyan. Damn, damn damn.

I now retract at least one 'damn'.  Apparently the Barton Highway - the route through Canberra - is also closed due to road works to keep the voters of Gungahstly (also known as Gungahlin) happy!  So we would have been stuffed either way.

1 comment:

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Martin
That's an epic journey and an epic posting effort, with your extra bits as well.
Almost funny that you got flood-bound so close to home.
It was a big weather weekend on the far south coast.
Some of it obviously washed over the Coastal Escarpment to your place.
Narooma and Bermagui seem to have had the worst of it.