We’d considered visiting Raymond Island on the way to Bairnsdale but we’re so glad we didn’t. We spent the following morning there instead, far longer than anticipated.
From Paynesville, the ferry ride was so short, we probably could have waded across to the island. But then we wouldn’t have had a car for the slow drive to the far side of the island.
The sea was so calm, perfect for skimming stones. But there were no suitable stones lying around which can only mean one thing: they’ve already been thrown in. This island is in the Gippsland Lakes Reserve area, and the water here is sheltered from the main ocean currents by a series of islands further out from the mainland.
We walked along the beach, of course, trying not to step on any of the jellyfish left stranded on the sand.
The water was so clear, I thought I’d walk to the end of the jetty in the distance, to see if there were any exciting or exotic fish. What I didn’t realise from a distance was that a million cormorants or maybe darters were at home on the far end of the jetty and I was still over a hundred yards away when they decided to take flight.
The exodus began slowly, then the bulk took off. It was interesting to see how long the last, brave few would hang about. I was still nowhere near the jetty when the final one deserted his post.
It’s quite a long jetty and halfway along I began to notice the ammoniacal aroma. I’m surprised the structure hasn’t collapsed under the weight of guano, never mind the birds themselves. But I was rewarded for my stoicism in the face of rank odours. There were indeed a few fish in the water.
It was quite an adventure driving back towards the ferry port and, more importantly, to the Koala Trail. Most roads are unsealed, they all look the same, and as they became more and more narrow, we wondered whether we’d gone wrong. But we found our way back: it’s quite hard to get lost on a small island, really.
The Koala Trail is a well marked path around the developed, inhabited area, facing the mainland. And we were on a koala hunt, looking in the trees, listening out for pig-like growling sounds.
It was a nice, easy walk, with very few other visitors on the Trail. A group of young German girls helped our quest by staring up into the more interesting trees, the ones with koalas in residence.
Seeing this first one was wonderful, of course, at least we’d seen what we came for.
We saw a few more koalas and yes, many were in the Land of Nod.
In fact, there were almost too many to shake a stick at. So I picked up a stick and shook it, for which I received a severe reprimand from Liesel. It was in fact a fallen eucalyptus branch, brimming with juicy leaves and it did, briefly, attract the attention of an erstwhile dozy koala.
We walked the long way round back to the ferry terminal, including along a stretch of very narrow beach.
The soundtrack to this tramp was provided by the thousands, millions, of mussel shells that it was impossible to avoid crushing underfoot. The water on this side of the island was a little more active, but still nowhere near as violent as we’ve seen in other places recently.
We passed by another couple of koalas in a tree in someone’s front garden. And round the corner, in another garden, a flock of rainbow lorikeets and parrots provided a gorgeous, colourful photo opp.
A quick return ferry ride and we were soon back on the road. The obvious place to stop for a coffee, a pasty and an eclair was Stratford which by coincidence is on the Avon River.
We are getting better at knowing when to ignore Google Maps’ instructions: sometimes it shows a right turn, but vocalises ‘turn left’. Sometimes it wants to take us off the main road, the A1, go right, left, right, left, right left and then rejoin the A1. Why? For the sake of a few seconds maybe? And why does it sometimes suggest leaving the route and driving around in circles for the rest of eternity?
Passing by and admiring the countryside, we espied a power station in the distance. Smoke belching. And looking it up, I think it was a diesel powered power station. We never even knew such places existed. I know we need a power supply, but this really was a carbuncle on the face of a much loved friend, as Prince Charlkes might say.
We were leaving the coast behind and heading up into the mountains.
The Star Hotel in Walhalla was built during the gold rush period of the 19th century and rebuilt in 1999, retaining the original façade. We were staying in the Happy Go Lucky Room, nothing as mundane as room numbers here. The view from the verandah was magnificent.
Dense trees growing up the steep sides of the valley behind a bandstand. Perfect.
Walhalla’s population was about 5000 in its heyday. It dropped to 10 and is currently about 20. We met at least 20% of the population over the next day.
The Long Tunnel Extended Mine walk took us about an hour. I put my coat on. It was slightly chilly up here in the mountains, even without the wind. We didn’t go down into the mine, 950 metres deep, and I don’t envy any of the miners that did so. The mine was closed in 1915. From a total of 790,724 tonnes of ore, a mere 25.43 tonnes of gold were produced.
The path along what was once a tram track was littered with fallen rocks. A sign told us not to throw stones down from the tramway on pain of prosecution.
The mist and cloud mixed with smoke from wood fires in people’s houses giving a mystical, ethereal feel to the landscape.
Strangely, we didn’t find the smoke here as offensive as it had been in Malaysia. Folks are just trying to keep warm here, not burning any and all of their old rubbish.
The proprietor of the hotel was also wearing shorts so from that, I deduced it wasn’t that cold, really.
Our evening meal was very nice, very tasty, although I’m not a big fan of panna cotta, moreso since I found out it contains gelatin. The bottle of house Shiraz the spot though. Cheers!
After a good night’s sleep and a good breakfast, we checked out. We were invited back, but don’t leave it for thirty years like some people do, he advised. It’s a great place, and I felt bad that we’d only spent one night here. A couple of other walks would have been fun, and we’d certainly recommend this hotel.
The first surprise of the day was just how cold it was. Wipe the condensation from the car’s windows? Easier said than done. It was ice. Proper, frozen water. It’s now meteorological Winter here and it feels like it. For the second day in a row, I put on a coat.
Unfortunately, the first ride of the Walhalla Goldfields Railway was at 11.00, and that would mean leaving the area much later than we wanted to.
We drove alongside the railway track for a while, as we left Walhalla behind us.
Near Tyers, we saw the power stations again. Yes, there were at least two of them. Thick, belching smoke isn’t that appealing usually, but when it rises to collide with the low clouds, it’s quite a sight.
The first stop of the day was at North Mirboo where we visited the Strzelecki Bakery. That name is familiar because in 2002, I watched a Total Eclipse of the Sun from somewhere near the Strzelecki Track in South Australia. There wasn’t a lot of Sun today!
The clouds were threatening but it didn’t rain. The views were great but by now, I think we both just wanted to reach our final stop for the day.
We passed by Yanakie and a sign welcoming us to Wilson’s Promontory, hooray. I said to Liesel, there’s a couple of emus. She didn’t believe me at first, but we did a U-turn and went to have a longer, closer look. They were just eating grass, not bothered by us at all.
How exciting, to see some wildlife within five minutes of entering the National Park. Then, almost as exciting, we saw the sea in the distance. We’d only been away from it for 24 hours, but it felt a lot longer, somehow.
There was much less traffic now, allowing us more time to take in the views. All you can do really is enjoy the scenery, gape in wonder and take photographs that don’t do justice to the reality.
We’re staying in a self-contained Unit in Tidal River. I finally made it into Cambridge.
It looks terrible from this angle, but there are windows on the other side. Liesel had been driving all day so she was happy to have a sit while I went for a quick walk around Tidal River, the town. Various categories of accommodation are available here but, given how cold it has become, we’re glad we’re not camping. I bet this is a hive of activity at the height of Summer, not so much today.
One thing I’ve noticed all over Australia is the prominence of the War Memorials.
At home in the UK, they’re often out of the way, but in Australia, they’re usually in a prominent location on the main street or, as here in Tidal River, right in the centre of town, close to the Information Centre. This ℹ is a good place to visit, plenty of local artefacts and information.
The first birds I saw were ducks, plain, ordinary wood ducks, I think, no offence intended. There’s a river not far away, plus the sea, so why these two chose to try and paddle in a small puddle is beyond me.
I proceeded along the path in an orderly manner when I was surprised to see a small animal apparently munching on grass. Yes, it was a wombat, and I was really pleased to see it.
I approached slowly and was surprised how close I could get. I crouched down to film him/her walking towards me but at the last minute, he got just a bit too close!
I walked down to Norman Beach just for a quick look.
It felt quite pleasant here, but the clouds over the hill looked ominous. Not surprising, though, as rain had been forecast for the next day.
It was good to see a couple of birds on the way back to our place. I very nearly missed this chap, he’s so well camouflaged.
I think he was eating grass seeds or maybe collecting material for a nest.
These galahs were definitely having a good time pulling up the grass.
Memories of the Great Ocean Road King Parrots came flooding back when I returned to Cambridge and Liesel. A crimson rosella was sitting on the rail of our balcony, dancing, shifting from left to right, from one foot to the other, obviously begging for food. You’re not supposed to feed the wildlife here, but this pretty parrot knows that people means food.
What harm can a bit of muesli do? Nuts and seeds only, we took out most of the raisins and lumps of cinnamon!
What a good way to end the day and to commence a few peaceful days here on Wilson’s Prom. Which for some reason, I keep calling Arthur’s Seat or Arthur’s Pass but we really are at Wilson’s Prom. No idea why my brain is misfiring in that way. The only Arthur Wilson I know is a character in the old sitcom Dad’s Army.
A couple of rolls of thunder and the sound of rain didn’t detract from a good night’s sleep, thank you very much!