Monday, January 07, 2008

What Have I Been Up To ?

Hello Everyone, and Happy New Year !!

So ... How are you All ?? I'm doing great, and hope you are too.

Before I tell you what I have been up to, I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who has sent me wonderful Christmas Cards, emails and messages, and New Year emails and messages. And a thank you, too, to everyone who has been commenting on my blog ... I am sorry I haven't replied to you all.

Well, we are home again, after being away since Christmas Day.

We had a lovely Christmas Eve with my family, exchanged gifts, ate ourselves fat, and had a great evening. Christmas Morning was for Chicky, who was very happy with her gifts, both on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. She got some great presents, as did her dad and I.

On Christmas Day we headed up to our Caravan at Bonnie Doon. The traffic was light ... I guess everyone was at someone's house from Christmas Lunch. We arrived at Bonnie Doon around lunch time, unpacked, set ourselves up for the holidays, and relaxed ... aaaahhhhh, the serenity. The park was quiet, as most people hadn't arrived yet. During the afternoon and evening, people started to arrive at their 'vans, and even more came on Boxing Day.

Christmas Day evening, we headed over to my cousin's place, who have bought a house in Bonnie Doon, and had a meal there, with various family members. It was a nice evening ... lots of food and drink, and interesting conversation. We headed back to the caravan park around 10ish that evening.

Boxing Day we were meant to head to Benalla to catch up with Hubby's sister and her family, however that didn't happen, as one of the kids had fallen off a horse, and needed medical attention (she is OK now, nothing life threatening, thank goodness). Poor thing, being laid up with a fractured rib and bruised kidney during the Summer holidays.

The day after Boxing Day, my parents came up for a visit ... more eating, drinking, chatting, and a bit of 4WDing (somewhat carefully, though, as my Dad had cracked a rib falling down some stairs a few weeks earlier). He, too, is doing ok now ... thank goodness. We had a great day, as we always do ... my parents are great people, a lot of fun ... we thoroughly enjoy their company.

From then on, it was relax time. Unfortunately, the weather was way too hot. I don't think we had a day under 35C (95F), with many being around 38C (100.4F) and more !! Bl**dy hot, I say !! Fortunately, we had air-conditioning in our caravan/annexe, so we were able to hibernate in there (which we did, frequently). We spent some time down by the water, although the heat was unbearable even there, most of the time (unless you were in the water). At least it cooled down in the evenings, most days ... which made it easy to sleep. There is nothing worse than a stinking hot day, with a hot night also ... no sleep on top of a draining day is not good !!

One day, as we were by the lake, it was getting late in the evening and the sun was beginning to set. Time for some photos, I thought ...

As you probably know by now, I have a thing for strange cloud formations, and trees ... here's another one ...

New Years Eve was a fun night. There was a band playing in the park, and parties going on everywhere. We visited the band, caught up with friends, and attended a party or two. Overall, a fun night ... think I went to bed around 2am ... not bad going, I thought !! I didn't drink too much, as I am not good with hangovers ... don't like that feeling, don't want to do it anymore, I'm getting too old !!

On the 2nd of January we decided to go for a drive into the High Country. We had 3 cars, 3 families. The weather was nice ... fortunately a somewhat cooler day (only around 30C / 86F) ... and a few degrees cooler up in the hills, too !!

As you may remember (or maybe not !!), we suffered terrible bushfires last Summer, in our High Country and many other regions of Victoria. Most of the tracks and roads have re-opened, so we were able to explore. It is really interesting to see how much the bush has regenerated ... although there are many areas where the fire must have been so intense, that the trees haven't come back at all ... they are just dead. The undergrowth has sprung up, though ... I guess it is hard to kill bracken and ferns !!

The track we took, took us through a few river crossings ... lots of fun. Fortunately, the rivers were low, so the crossings were no trouble at all ... very beautiful to look at, though. (And the underneath of the cars got a bit of a wash, too ... bonus !!)

During our drive, we came across a number of huts. A quote from the VHCHA website says ...

"Over the years many huts have been built through out Victoria, serving a variety of purposes. Each has stood as a monument of our history, from the humble dwellings of our pioneers, to the evening retreat after a mans hard days work. Others have been safe havens for those in need or a resting place after trekking some of Australia's most majestical terrain -each one has been a welcomed site, no matter how small, how primitive or for what reason."

I have always found the huts truly interesting, and have developed a real fascinationg and love for them ... unfortunately, we lost a few during last summer's bushfires. Some of those have been rebuilt.

The hut in the following picture is at Pineapple Flat, where we stopped for morning tea.

After leaving Pineapple Flat, we headed up what is known as "The Staircase" ... a very steep, rocky part of the track, which takes after it's name. It is a very challenging track, for most 4WD's, particularly those with not a lot of ground clearance. Fortunately, our 4WD is set up for this sort of stuff, and seemingly walked up the hill ... not a crash or bang was heard. The same can't be said for the other 2 cars in our group ... luckily nothing was damaged ... the noise just sounded awful !!

We continued driving, until we arrived at Lake Cobbler ... a little oasis in the high country. This area was badly burnt last summer, too. Much of the forest is quite dead, as you can see from the following photo ...

Another hut ... Lake Cobbler Hut ... people must have fought hard to save this one, as much of the bush surrounding it was burnt.

We had our lunch whilst at Lake Cobbler ... we all took fresh bread rolls, and all the necessary fillings, along with chairs, and whatever else was needed. Some of the kids decided to go for a swim ... the lake looked so inviting !!

After packing up here, taking more photos, we climbed back into our cars and back-tracked up to Craigs Hut. Craigs Hut was originally built for The Man From Snowy River movies, and has been rebuilt twice now (I think). The last hut was burnt down last summer. They have now built a new one, as can be seen in my photo below, although it is not quite finished. It is still fenced off, and we cannot go near it yet. I think they need to add more finishing touches to make it look "old". Anyway, it already looks fabulous. I just love it up here ... it is the top of a mountain, and the views are just amazing. If you ever get a chance to visit here, please do ... I know you will love it.

The following photo is just of the bushland whilst driving from Craigs Hut, and over the top of Mount Stirling.

This is another hut, as we were heading down the mountain. I'm not sure of it's name, but it is well used.

Overall, we had a fantastic day ... good friends, good scenery, good times ... what more could we want.

Another day, Hubby and I decided to go for a drive and explore the countryside. Chicky decided to head into Benalla with another friend, so she ditched us for the day !!

We headed for Tolmie, another area badly hit by the bushfires last summer. I had never been there, and was eager to explore. It is a gorgeous little town, with a great little pub (which was fought for during the bushfires), but the bushland had been terribly destroyed. Fortunately, much of this has begun to regenerate. Time will be a good healer.

We left Tolmie, heading for Powers Lookout, where we got an amazing view of the countryside. I have a little video, which I will share with you another time, which shows the pretty view, as well as sharing with you the noise made by all the cicadas and other insects ... oh my goodness, it was SOOOOO loud !!!

Leaving the lookout, we arrived at Whitfield, where we stopped for lunch at a little Take-away/General Store, and had the yummiest hamburgers ... mouthwatering !! Bought some drinks, and headed for Lake William Hovell ... a small lake which is part of the Goulburn Murray Waters system. It was interesting to see that is was totally full ... in comparison to the 23% which is what Lake Eildon currently is. You cannot take power boats over 10HP on this lake, and the speed is no more than 5kph. No good for skiers, or wakeboarders and the like. Simply beautiful, though ... there are a few camping areas nearby ... might be a good place to come someday.

There was a track from the bottom end of this lake, which on the map, looked ok, and would take us to the Mt Buller Road eventually. The map didn't mention it was difficult 4WDing, so we thought we'd give it a go !! Little did we know what was in store. The following photo shows a relatively flat section of the track, where it was still fairly wide.

As we drove, the track got narrower, and steeper. We didn't know for how much longer we would be climbing, but it seemed to go on for ever. In hindsight, it was not the sort of hill we should have tackled alone ... it is generally safer to do this sort of stuff with at least one other 4WD, in case something goes wrong. But, we didn't have that, and we just kept going ... higher, and higher and higher !!! There was nowhere to stop and turn back, so we had to keep going. Eventually, we got to the top, and the rest of the track took us along the ridge. It was beautiful up there, a bit damp (looked like it had rained at some stage in the previous 24 hours), and easy driving ... finally.

At the end of this track, before joining another major track, we came across another hut ... Tomohawk Hut. It looked newly built, and was really, really cute.

All the surrounding bush had been burnt ... so I guess this hut had burnt down and needed rebuilding ... they sure did a good job of it.

Nearby, there was a patch of ferns, looking like no fire had even been anywhere nearby. Funny how fire is selective, leaving patches of unburnt forest, whislt devastating others.

Here we joined a major track, then back onto the tarmac, and our trip back to Bonnie Doon. Another fabulous day, and a trip we intend doing again ... this time with others, to share the fun.

The remainder of the holiday was more heat. I veged a lot, watched DVDs, did some scrapbooking, read a couple of books ... all in all, I had a nice, relaxing time, as did Hubby. Chicky was busy with her friends, swimming and the like, although she even had to take time out and hide in the airconditioning sometimes !!

We arrived home yesterday (Sunday 6th), unpacked, did some laundry, and relaxed. Aaahhhh, it's good to be home.

Today I had intended taking down Christmas ... my tree is still happily standing in the living room, and all the decorations are still throughout my house (I did, however, collect and pack up all my Christmas cards). Instead, I picked up the cat from the boarding cattery, did some shopping, and some more laundry, and played on the computer. Tomorrow is another day ... plenty of time. Then I go back to work Wednesday and Friday, with the rest of January being Monday, Wednesday and Friday for work. Chicky goes back to school on the 31st and Hubby goes back to work tomorrow (Tuesday). Sigh ... back to reality !!

Well, there goes, a brief (well, not really) rundown on what I have been up to since Christmas. Hope your Christmas break was as relaxing as mine.

I hope to get by and visit your blogs over the next few days.

Enjoy your week.

Take care,