After two ridiculously hot days –40C or 104F–and a busy first week of the school year, my fibromyalgia pain is going nuts.
It’s currently 11.35pm and still warm out, even though a cool change came through a few hours ago and dropped the temperature by ten degrees in as many minutes. It’s also pouring rain – and I’m not going to complain about that!
I am lying in bed listening to the rain, hoping my pain meds will work quickly, and trying to focus on positive things instead of feeling miserable.
So, in no particular order, here is my list of things I am thankful for tonight:
The area where I live is rich in food production. My home town of Cobden is a service centre for the dairy industry, and is home to the factory that gives you Western Star butter, Mainland cheese and Perfect Italiano cheeses among other excellent dairy brands.
Completely separate from the big companies like Fonterra, Warrnambool Cheese and Butter and Sungold Milk, there are a number of artisan food producers that offer excellent products in local settings.
On Saturday, we headed out to visit a number of places on the 12 Apostles Gourmet Food Trail. To be honest, I don’t think you could do them all in a day and still do each one justice, but it would make an absolutely fantastic weekend trip from Geelong, Melbourne or Adelaide.
We comfortably managed five of the stops in addition to lunch in beautiful Port Campbell.
Our first visit was to Apostle Whey Cheese at Cooriemungle, where they make a delicious range of cheeses. My favourite is the marinated feta, while my dad loves their smoked cheddar. The views are spectacular, and the garden is beautiful.
The next stop was Gorge Chocolates at Princetown, Victoria, just a few kilometres from where we spent fifteen years dairy farming. There are dozens of varieties of chocolates on offer, with a limited number available to taste.
Also available here are a number of llama and alpaca wool products and themed gift ideas.
Next was the12 Rocks Beach Bar in Port Cambpell for lunch. This place is a bit of a favourite – their steak sandwiches and burgers are excellent, and they do a delicious chicken parmigiana.
After lunch we had a walk on the foreshore and checked out a few of the local shops before heading off to the nearby town of Timboon.
The Timboon Cheesery is excellent, but because we had visited recently, we skipped that stop and went on to visit the Timboon Railway Shed Distillery. We hadn’t been there before, but it’s really nicely set up. You can have coffee and cake or a meal there, enjoy a whiskey or liqueur tasting, and shop for a range of locally produced products – jams, sauces, oils, meat and smallgoods, and the list goes on.
Almost next door is the Timboon Ice Creamery, where the ice cream is just divine. I usually have either honeycomb or their passionfruit meringue, but this time I was excited to find a new flavour – maple and cinnamon – which was so good it nearly blew my mind. It made my inner Canadian very happy indeed.
To complete the homeward loop, we headed to Dairylicious Farm Fudge. With at least a dozen different varieties of fudge on offer for tasting, there’s something to please every palate. They also offer cake and coffee or tea, and a range of cold drinks.
By the time we got home, we were all ready for an afternoon nap after a most enjoyable day.
We had heard about a camping ground near the Fitzroy River outlet at Tyrendarra, so while camping nearby in Narrawong, we went for a drive to check it out.
What a beautiful surprise awaited us.
The camping area is large and well organised. The camping itself is basic – there is no power, and there are drop toilets very discreetly hidden among trees but no showers. That doesn’t worry us – we’re set up with solar panels and have a solar heated camping shower that we can rig up.
That scenery, though. Who wouldn’t want to spend time here?
Today, we went for a drive and discovered two natural wonders of the volcanic plains of western Victoria.
The Tumuli Lava Blisters near Byaduk, Victoria, are enormous mounds of basalt lava that have pushed up out of the ground during periods of volcanic activity. Each one is bigger than a house, and while it may look like a pile of rocks, it’s actually all one thing.
The landscape here is dotted with them, but they are quite a rare phenomenon elsewhere in the world.
Less than 10 kilometres away are the Byaduk Caves, which are also formations of basalt lava. They may look like enormous holes in the ground, but they are more interesting than that: these caves were formed when lava from the nearby Mt Napier hardened on the surface while hotter lava continued to flow underneath, creating caves and lava tubes beneath the surface of the ground. The visible openings of the caves occurred when the roofs of the lava tubes collapsed, exposing the rest of the cave to the elements.
People better at walking than I am can venture down into the caves, which contain stalagmites and stalactites, rocks that look like ropes of lava, and bats! Because I have mobility issues thanks to my dodgy spine and fibromyalgia, we stayed on the surface and looked in from above. This was still quite amazing, and I was satisfied with being able to manage the walk and see some impressive geological sights.
In stark contrast to the dark basalt and the yawning cave mouths are the colours and textures above the surface. The blueness of the sky, the summer yellow of the grasses, the leaves of the natural bush and the grey elegance of dead trees reaching to the sky were all vivid.
Further evidence of volcanic activity is the multitude of basalt rocks of all sizes that litter the landscape.
While walking on uneven ground is generally difficult and often painful for me, I found the walking track to be fairly manageable most of the time, but there were a few spots where I struggled and needed a helping hand to walk safely. I certainly wouldn’t like to try it with a wheelchair, either!
On our way back down the hill from the Sawpit camping area yesterday, we stopped at the Narrawong Cemetery, where there are some beautiful historic graves.
The rural setting is beautiful and tranquil, and I can’t help thinking it is a lovely spot to be laid to rest.
It’s easy to see who were the founding and/or prominent families of the area, simply by observing the number of very old headstones bearing the same surname.
Separate from the other graves and marked by an obelisk rather than a headstone is the grave of William Dutton, who built the first house in Portland in 1828. Portland, now only about fifteen minutes’ drive away from Narrawong and the main city in the region, is the oldest European permanent settlement in Victoria.
Dutton died in Narrawong in 1878 at the age of 67, having made a name for himself as a master mariner, sealer, whaler and farmer.
One of the things I always try to do when I am out and about on a road trip or holiday is to see something new or visit a place I haven’t visited before.
Even though we are camping at the same place we’ve camped at every January since 2014, there are still new things to explore. Last year we visited the wonderful Bay of Whales Gallery nestled in the hills above Narrawong.
Today we ventured up to Mt Clay in the Narrawong State Forest to check out The Sawpit picnic and free camping area. It’s only a short distance from where we are camping by the Surrey River at Narrawong.
It’s really gorgeous up there. The natural bush forest is beautiful, a glorious natural canopy above the blackened tree trunks, reminders of bushfires In years past.
The camping area is well designed, providing numerous sites for campers to spread out from one another.
Walking tracks enable visitors to immerse themselves in the environment on walks of different lengths, and the historic lumber cart and log display are reminders of the history that gave the area its name.
Everything is clearly signposted, including a reminder for campers to take their rubbish home: given that everything was clean and tidy, it’s really encouraging to see that most of the visitors have been conscientious in that regard.
Still, it seems that things are not always easily understood, as demonstrated by my own friend’s response to the following sign:
Friend: “20 minutes one way. Why would you only go one way?” Me: ”It’s a loop…” Friend, after a few moments of thought: ”Oh. Yeah.”
What surprises me most is that many people don’t even know it’s there. It really is a hidden gem.