The Wandering Tops

The Wandering Tops

29 January, 2014

Robe - 4WD club weekend

Thursday, Helen and I travelled from Adelaide to a sheep farm between Penola and Robe.  This is where the 4WD club camped for the Australia Day weekend and made day trips to explore and drive along the beaches between Carpenter Rocks to the south and north as far as Rode.  When we arrived several others had already arrived and gone to Geltwood Beach just out of Millicent to have a look at what is known as the hardest beach to transverse due to the soft sand and steep slope towards the sea.  We set up and when the group had returned enjoyed a late happy hour catching up with 4WD friends.

Sunset over our camp

Camping on the sheep farm

Friday was into Millicent to the information centre then to Carpenter Rocks which is approx 40km South West of Mt Gambier.  Helen and I decided to travel with Dianna, as our vehicle was overloaded with Briony and Todd's possessions which we are going to drop off as we head north!.  After spending time in Millicent to gather local information and walk the main street we had a coffee before headed to Carpenter Rocks.  It was here that we deflated our tyres to head north along the beach and into Canunda National Park. After stopping at the light house where we could view the Admella wreck it was down onto the beach.  Following our illustrious leader it wasn't too long before the first Pajero was bogged.  It wasn't long before we had another 2 bogged on the soft sand.  With some tyre pressure adjustments (deflated even further) a bit of digging and the MaxTrax out we were all on our way again.  From here we found our way behind the dunes and meandered along the winding tracks to the northern end of Lake Bonney SE before heading back to camp. 

Admella wreck

The group gathered around the lighthouse to view the Admella wreck before going onto the beach

Two motorcycle riders stopped to offer assistance with 2 stuck in the sand.

Some of the track off the beach in the dunes

On top of a large dune overlooking Lake Bonney SE with the wind farm in the distance.
Lance had gone back to Adelaide for a wedding on Saturday so this was going to be a "free" day.  At our visit to the Information Centre yesterday it was noted that Saturday morning was the Millicent market, so a couple of the group set off a little before the rest to have a quick stroll around the Millicent market.  This was a great country town market with various jams and needle work for sale, and off course the sausage sizzle, how could I not support the local community!   We had also decided to stay off the beach and find a winery for lunch.  This option proved most favourable for most of the group, so we set off to Penola to meet up with the others.  After having a look at the 'John Riddoch Centre' in the visitors centre we headed across the road and had a pub lunch before walking to Petticoat Lane, visiting the historic cottages. 

Penola museum in the information centre

Lunch at the Prince of Wales Hotel, Penola

Petticoat Lane Heritage Area, with Woods-MacKillop Schoolhouse on the corner.

Inside Mary MacKillop's first purpose built school, built in 1867

Gammon Cottage built in the1860's, the pressed metal tiles were used briefly prior to the introduction of corrugated iron

Sharam Cottage, built in 1850, the first house in Penola, this building contained 2 rooms, the kitchen and living area
Next door is the second section built in 1860 comprised of 3 bedrooms and a parlour.  The two cottages was home to three generations of the Sharman family.  Ellen and Christopher Sharam raised their 15 children in these cottages.
Sunday was Australia Day, Robe had Australian Day celebrations which included a farmers market.  So it was hear we met Lance before heading to Little Dip NP for some more beach driving.  We travelled south along beaches and over rocky out crops, having lunch on the beach , it seemed we were all travelling with relative ease, without any major delays.  Being a long weekend the 4WD traffic was extremely busy and we had several delays waiting to transverse along some sections. After leaving Little Dip NP we travelled the gravel road further south before crossing through the sand dunes back to the beach via an access track adjacent to the Millicent Buggy Club.  Now back onto the beach  we were approx 22km north of Beachport and the sand was quite soft with a reasonable gradient down to the sea.  At one point we got bogged and the vehicles who passed had to go into the softer sand on the slop.  This caused Bob in our group to get bogged then three vehicles from another group also got bogged, basically blocking access along the beach.  After much digging and snatching along with a winching operation all the vehicles made it off the beach.  Unfortunately no piccies as too busy digging and pushing. Thanks to the V8 power and assistance from the other group we were all back on firm ground again.  From here it was a slow trip back to Beachport with the anticipation of fish and chips for tea.  Unfortunately there was a long wait so we headed back to camp for a late happy hour and tea combination.

Robe Australia Day Farmers Market, I had the best Chilli Kranski from the Penola butcher!!
Heading to Little Dip NP, stopped to deflate the tyres

The motley group

On the beach, some was easy going

Some spots had a lot of traffic

Lunch stop, out came the sun protection

Lined up on the sand for lunch
On Monday those that did not have to head back to Adelaide stayed do some more exploring.  There was a reluctance to go beach driving after yesterday's event so headed to Southend  to check out the town and the northern end of Canunda NP.  We explored the dunes which lead us to the coast.  The coastal views were quite spectacular and we were able to travel along the cliff tops without venturing onto the beach.  After making our way back to Southend a pleasant drive along the firm beach between Southend and Beachport made for a pleasant way to end the weekend  ..... oh the ice cream in Beachport was great as well!!

Southend, across the bay

Some of the magnificent scenery just south of Southend

Stopped on one of the large dunes to admire the scenery

More of the rugged coast

Can see the beach but not going onto the beach @ our lunch stop.
 On our way back to camp Dianna and I went to have a look at Woakwine Cutting.  The cutting was constructed by Murray McCourt in 1957, taking 3 years to complete.  The cutting drained a 420 hectare of peat swamp on his property.  McCourt used a D7 Caterpillar, 7 Ton Draw Ripper, 11 Yard Le Tourneau scraper and a single furrow swamp plough to excavate the cutting. The length of the cut is 1km, depth 28.34m and removed 276,000 cubic metres of soil. 
Woakwine cutting looking west towards Lake St Clair

The D7 Caterpillar and 11 Yard Le Tourneau Scraper
Tuesday the group left at various times some as early as 5.45am to travel back to Adelaide while we stayed to enjoy the SE a little longer.

11 January, 2014

The Big 60 in Fiji

Well the year, 2013 has gone quickly and all of a sudden we are in 2014 with another Birthday to celebrate. Hels has been telling me that I'm getting old, "as if".  This birthday is another mile stone ..... yep the BIG 60.  As this birthday was special ...... well they are all special but this a special mile stone I thought it would be only fitting to have the family around, a normally simple request but as we are scattered across Oz where should we gather?  We all gathered in Brisbane, Briony flew in from Albury while Todd and Tenelle came up from the Gold Coast after Todd had finished his 2 weeks on the rig out from Chinchilla that morning.

Brisbane airport waiting for the flight, how exciting.

We selected Fiji, this seemed a nice place to celebrate and Briony found us a beach side villa with pool which would make it nice to "just hang out" and enjoy our time together.

The first beer, Fiji Bitter, went down well, the second was even better!!

One oldie and the young wife enjoying the serenity in the pool out the front of the villa.

So much for the serenity, the kiddies had to play ball games in the pool.

Oh well the best thing to do was to move back indoors and put the feet up!!

Our bed was made each day along with a clean up of the villa, living like a king!!
We stayed at Fiji Beach and Spa Resort at Denarau which was a $12 taxi ride from Nadi.  Technically it's Denarau Island but the bridge over to the man made island would be no more than 200m.  Denarau Island consists of several resorts a port and luxury homes.

Breakfast by the main pool
As breakfast was included the plan was to eat as much as we could and this would get us through the day and then we could have a light evening meal.  Good theory, all I did was over eat and put on at least 1kg a day, oh well holidays!!

The next plan was to go into Nadi and get some fresh fruit, have a quick look and back to the pool.  Some of this went to plan, we did get to the market and get our fruit, looovely pineapples, sweet bananas & watermellon. However, we did get cohuerst into a souvenir shop for a traditional welcome and opportunity to buy artefacts "from their village" store. This was our introduction to kava, seemed to also work as a sales technic and Hels managed to buy some souvenirs " to help the local village".

The market with tables of kava for sale.
The traditional greeting with plenty of kava

I was the chief and had the largest cup of kava.

Streets of Nadi
Each afternoon the resort had 2 for 1 cocktails, how could we miss out on this bargain. Even venturing out of the resort to Port Denarau for dinner, cocktails were 15% off - how could we refuse that!!

Cocktail girls

The girls were not the only Cocktail consumers!

It was decided that four of us would take the Jet ski safari, a half day tour which consisted of about an hour ride out to Beachcomber Island then some snorkelling before we returned to the mainland.  This was a great experience, especially as I hadn't driven a jet ski before.  The trip out was relatively flat and was able to reach a maximum speed of around 85kmh. Briony and I were the only ones of the 5 jet skis to come off though and Briony last a pair of sunnies, I never liked them anyway ... he he.  After our snorkelling the trip back was very different, the sea had a swell of 2m at times and we never got over about 50kmh.  For me on the front it was like spending the entire trip underwater, the nose was running and for the rest of the day my eyes were red from the sea spray.

Todd & Tenelle heading out on the Jet ski, didn't stay at that speed for long.

Snorkelling at Beachcomber Island

Todd and Tenelle had also planned to take the full day Seaspray Sailing Adventure.  Unfortunately, Tenelle caught a bug (nothing to do with cocktails) and wasn't able to go, so with a late call up I went with Todd on the tour (nothing to do with free beer while on the sailing boat).

From an 8.30am start at Port Danarau we travelled on the transfer boat which also takes passengers to other islands.  Once arriving at Mana Island we transferred to the classic schooner for the afternoon of exploring the crystal clear waters, beaches and lagoons of the Mamanuca Islands.  The crew were a very jovial lot, playing jokes on each other as we made our way to the island snorkelling spot. The 83ft schooner anchored off Modriki Island (also featured in the Tom Hanks movie Castaway) where we snorkelled and explored the island, couldn't find Wilson though!!

The transfer catamaran coming towards the Mana jetty with the schooner waiting.

Had to check out the bow for a piccie

Modriki Island, can you find Wilson?

While we were enjoing the snorkelling the crew prepared a BBQ lunch so once back on the boat we set sail (motor running) and enjoyed fish, chicken and salad lunch as we cruised between the islands.

We also stopped at Yanuya Island to visit a traditional Fijian inland village and traditional welcome, more kava, and the opportunity to purchase Fijian handcrafts.  The village is home for about 600 people and they live on the island fishing and farming the land. When visiting the village we were requested to observe the traditional custom of not wearing a hat or sunglasses (even placed on the head) as only the village chief had this privilege, and the women were requested to wear a sarong or long skirt whilst in the village.

The traditional welcome, the chief has the sunnies on!!

Some of the handicraft for sale.

Mum and the kids sitting in the shade of the veranda.

A local boy with the catch in the water.

The last day in Fiji was spent relaxing, the amount we consumed at breakfast had become less each day and the time spent sleeping around the pool had increased.  I couldn't have had a better birthday celebration. Fiji is a lovely island and the Fijian people are relaxed and very friendly - always greeted with a Bula (Hello) and huge smiles.  With this relaxed atmosphere I was quickly able to adapt to Fiji time - no hurry no worry!!

This was a great way to spend my birthday, can't wait for my 49th next year ....