Narrawong / Murtoa Trip

12 – 19 September 2021

We took advantage of the lockdown being lifted to escape for a week. Confined to our town, limited to 5km travel from home, no visitors allowed, all entertainments and cafes closed, we were starting to get desperate to do a bit of travelling again. With Covid epidemic, this was the 6th lockdown the Premier had imposed in the last two years. The Western District of Victoria beckoned. We could only travel in regional Victoria and it was a long time since we had been over there. We overnighted in Mortlake on the way over. This dying town was once a gate way to the rich agricultural western plains but now closed shops, grand buildings sold, and a general air of decline had settled in. The most beautiful public building, the 1907 brick queen Anne style State School, had been bought by a couple who had restored its façade magnificently but how they used all its large former rooms is a mystery. The Stables motel had been recently well renovated as part of the Commercial hotel[?]. The owner had been unable to open the bistro for weeks and could only have a maximum of 10 people in the pub at any one time. Like a lot of Victorians he was hoping for better opportunities soon if more normal social and work activities were allowed. Our four days was spent at Narrawong, a well appointed caravan park with a few nearby houses about 10 km east of Portland on the coast. That Monday afternoon we went hunting the gannet colony that nested at Port Danger near Portland. It had been fenced off to keep out feral cats, foxes and humans, a wise choice, but this prevented visitors from getting any view of the crowded nesting site. Ironically a shooting range and the Portland Aluminum smelter were adjacent to it. It’s monitored and researched by Parks staff and a local university. We did see distant glimpses of 20 or so gannets flying over the sea and diving fo food. In a quick check around Portland we found a thriving large regional town of round 11,000 people, with lots of business activities, well kept streets, and a reputedly great botanic gardens that we didn’t visit. A frustrating search for the location of a hairdresser took up some time too. I had booked a spot with a local hairdresser for later that week to fix my eight weeks of untidy hair in need of a trim and color as hairdressers had been shut down, Tuesday we drove to Mt Eccles in Budj Bim national park. Part of an impressive extensive volcanic plain, Eccles was a crater with basalt sides and a green Lake Surprise in its depths. A geological site of note, three connected craters stretch in a row with volcanic blisters, unusual dome shaped piles of rock thet have burst up from lava tunnels. We did some short walks round the deserted site. Wednesday we drove to Cape Bridgewater by a circuitous route planned by Ms Google the GPS. Eventually we found our way to our destination after travelling through a rich grazing area set in rolling hills. The Cape Bridgewater Lakes are a series of lakes set picturesquely in gullies with native trees around them. We viewed them from the high road but could not see ant tracks that would lead down to them. Cape Bridgewater itself was worth the trip. A moonscape overlooking the sea consisting of a basalt flow that covered one of the limestone scarps that edged the coast. Black and white – a great contrast in the bleak windy spot. We walked to the look out to see the blowholes. Wild surf crashed on the rocks a hundred feet below and everynow a nd again a low boom would announce the build up of water in the blowhole followed by a shower of steam like water drops forced up through the hole. The ‘petrified forest’ was nearby on the limestone cliff top. Not a forest and not petrified, these formations did look like broken tree trunks but were regular concrete structures caused by water penetrating the limestone then forming the outer rims of these tall columns. Wednesday was a free morning with a walk on the beach and along the river. The caravan park is set on a narrow isthmus between the river and the sea. In the afternoon we took advice from neighbors and drove to Sawpit Creek Camp Ground at Mt. Clay nearby. Lovely spot to camp. We saw several cars but no people. Treed sites with only a drop toilet [ yukky] and some BBQs. We did the bush walk to the lookout where an unexpected large silver metal sculpture of leaf -like shapes reached into the sky. It looked over more rich greenpastures and to the sea beyond. Lots of wildflowers out on the walk. This spring has been wet and perfect for the bush. We drove to Heywood and had agreat afternoon tea at the bakery. Thursday I had the much anticipated session with the hairdresser in Portland, then we drove to Port Fairy to visit Betty Schaffer, megs cousin. As usual Port Fairy was freezing cold with a strong wind coming off the Southern Ocean. Betty was unable to book any seats in a café as they could only seat a maximum of 10 people. We ate hamburgers – very good- at Charlies on the beach and found an outdoor table that was nearly out of the wind where we ate them. No plates or cutlery available – I need to take these in future. On Friday we drove to Murtoa for 2 nights. We were surprised at how good this small town of 1000 people. A vigorous progress association keeps alive the historic relics which include the Stick Shed, a 1942 grain storage massive shed made of 580 internal timber tree trunks that hold up the metal roof. Eerie and rather beautiful it’s the only construction of its type left. An elegant Water Tower houses the Historical Society with its impressive bird and egg collection originally collected in the nineteenth century by a local grazier. Harmony House is the remaining cottage of 10 that were once a Lutheran teacher training college. Again beautifully painted and well restored. The collection inside is tatty and a repository for all sorts of old wares that usually finish up in such museums. Lots of large old weatherboard houses in styles from 1890s to 1930s are beautifully painted with neat attractive gardens. We did several walks around the town looking at them. Sadly most shops are empty, although two recent cafes have opened. We stayed in a new cabin on Lake Marma with views of the lake and tempting walks round parts of it. Sunday we drove home to Benalla. A simple but enjoyable trip away.
Covid Escape
Grey Gypsies of Australia
Copyright Grey Gypsies Australia 2009
View Photos View Photos Bridge over Surry River at Narrawong Volcanic Lake Crater at Mt Eccles Cape Bridgewater Blowholes Petrified Forest at Cape Bridgewater Sculpture at Sawpit Creek Campground Stick Shed at Murtoa View Photos View Photos

Narrawong / Murtoa Trip

12 – 19 September 2021

We took advantage of the lockdown being lifted to escape for a week. Confined to our town, limited to 5km travel from home, no visitors allowed, all entertainments and cafes closed, we were starting to get desperate to do a bit of travelling again. With Covid epidemic, this was the 6th lockdown the Premier had imposed in the last two years. The Western District of Victoria beckoned. We could only travel in regional Victoria and it was a long time since we had been over there. We overnighted in Mortlake on the way over. This dying town was once a gate way to the rich agricultural western plains but now closed shops, grand buildings sold, and a general air of decline had settled in. The most beautiful public building, the 1907 brick queen Anne style State School, had been bought by a couple who had restored its façade magnificently but how they used all its large former rooms is a mystery. The Stables motel had been recently well renovated as part of the Commercial hotel[?]. The owner had been unable to open the bistro for weeks and could only have a maximum of 10 people in the pub at any one time. Like a lot of Victorians he was hoping for better opportunities soon if more normal social and work activities were allowed. Our four days was spent at Narrawong, a well appointed caravan park with a few nearby houses about 10 km east of Portland on the coast. That Monday afternoon we went hunting the gannet colony that nested at Port Danger near Portland. It had been fenced off to keep out feral cats, foxes and humans, a wise choice, but this prevented visitors from getting any view of the crowded nesting site. Ironically a shooting range and the Portland Aluminum smelter were adjacent to it. It’s monitored and researched by Parks staff and a local university. We did see distant glimpses of 20 or so gannets flying over the sea and diving fo food. In a quick check around Portland we found a thriving large regional town of round 11,000 people, with lots of business activities, well kept streets, and a reputedly great botanic gardens that we didn’t visit. A frustrating search for the location of a hairdresser took up some time too. I had booked a spot with a local hairdresser for later that week to fix my eight weeks of untidy hair in need of a trim and color as hairdressers had been shut down, Tuesday we drove to Mt Eccles in Budj Bim national park. Part of an impressive extensive volcanic plain, Eccles was a crater with basalt sides and a green Lake Surprise in its depths. A geological site of note, three connected craters stretch in a row with volcanic blisters, unusual dome shaped piles of rock thet have burst up from lava tunnels. We did some short walks round the deserted site. Wednesday we drove to Cape Bridgewater by a circuitous route planned by Ms Google the GPS. Eventually we found our way to our destination after travelling through a rich grazing area set in rolling hills. The Cape Bridgewater Lakes are a series of lakes set picturesquely in gullies with native trees around them. We viewed them from the high road but could not see ant tracks that would lead down to them. Cape Bridgewater itself was worth the trip. A moonscape overlooking the sea consisting of a basalt flow that covered one of the limestone scarps that edged the coast. Black and white – a great contrast in the bleak windy spot. We walked to the look out to see the blowholes. Wild surf crashed on the rocks a hundred feet below and everynow a nd again a low boom would announce the build up of water in the blowhole followed by a shower of steam like water drops forced up through the hole. The ‘petrified forest’ was nearby on the limestone cliff top. Not a forest and not petrified, these formations did look like broken tree trunks but were regular concrete structures caused by water penetrating the limestone then forming the outer rims of these tall columns. Wednesday was a free morning with a walk on the beach and along the river. The caravan park is set on a narrow isthmus between the river and the sea. In the afternoon we took advice from neighbors and drove to Sawpit Creek Camp Ground at Mt. Clay nearby. Lovely spot to camp. We saw several cars but no people. Treed sites with only a drop toilet [ yukky] and some BBQs. We did the bush walk to the lookout where an unexpected large silver metal sculpture of leaf -like shapes reached into the sky. It looked over more rich greenpastures and to the sea beyond. Lots of wildflowers out on the walk. This spring has been wet and perfect for the bush. We drove to Heywood and had agreat afternoon tea at the bakery. Thursday I had the much anticipated session with the hairdresser in Portland, then we drove to Port Fairy to visit Betty Schaffer, megs cousin. As usual Port Fairy was freezing cold with a strong wind coming off the Southern Ocean. Betty was unable to book any seats in a café as they could only seat a maximum of 10 people. We ate hamburgers – very good- at Charlies on the beach and found an outdoor table that was nearly out of the wind where we ate them. No plates or cutlery available – I need to take these in future. On Friday we drove to Murtoa for 2 nights. We were surprised at how good this small town of 1000 people. A vigorous progress association keeps alive the historic relics which include the Stick Shed, a 1942 grain storage massive shed made of 580 internal timber tree trunks that hold up the metal roof. Eerie and rather beautiful it’s the only construction of its type left. An elegant Water Tower houses the Historical Society with its impressive bird and egg collection originally collected in the nineteenth century by a local grazier. Harmony House is the remaining cottage of 10 that were once a Lutheran teacher training college. Again beautifully painted and well restored. The collection inside is tatty and a repository for all sorts of old wares that usually finish up in such museums. Lots of large old weatherboard houses in styles from 1890s to 1930s are beautifully painted with neat attractive gardens. We did several walks around the town looking at them. Sadly most shops are empty, although two recent cafes have opened. We stayed in a new cabin on Lake Marma with views of the lake and tempting walks round parts of it. Sunday we drove home to Benalla. A simple but enjoyable trip away.
Covid Escape
Grey Gypsies of Australia
Copyright Grey Gypsies Australia 2009
View Photos View Photos Bridge over Surry River at Narrawong Volcanic Lake Crater at Mt Eccles Cape Bridgewater Blowholes Petrified Forest at Cape Bridgewater Sculpture at Sawpit Creek Campground Stick Shed at Murtoa View Photos View Photos