Miners, over thirty thousand of them, rushed here in 1854. Within a decade, companies were mining rich, deep gold leads around the town, the last of these still producing gold in 1918.
A couple of months ago, after the passing of my dear Dad at the grand old age of 100, I headed out for some R & R, choosing the Grampians.
Three hours north-west of Melbourne, the Grampians is a series of rugged sandstone mountain ranges and forests. It’s one of Victoria’s most popular holiday destinations for camping, climbing, scenic drives and bushwalking.
After the long drive from Melbourne and the checking out of the wheat silos, I decided to leave the exploration of Benalla to the morning. I came out of my motel on the edge of town early to discover an almost solid wall of fog. Still, intrepid traveller that I am, I headed in and I’m glad I did. I don’t know why I’ve never been here before but I have to say, it’s a lovely town, built around Lake Benalla.
There are advantages I discovered, as a writer, to having a new virus flitting around, one being that, what with not being allowed to visit my father in his care home, no movies, no shows or Melbourne’s Comedy Festival, I had more time for projects I’ve been putting off for far too long.
One of these was a re-editing of my book, Hangi, Haka and Hobbits, relating my experiences while road-tripping around both islands of New Zealand. Now 10,000 words less (can you believe it?) it’s trim, taut and well, hopefully terrific.
On the final leg of my two-day trip around the Bellarine Peninsula, I wound around from Point Lonsdale to Queenscliff. There are plenty of touristy things to do here normally: historic museums, art galleries, eating places but the town had started closing down and was very quiet.
A short time ago, I had a couple of days free and I made use of them to get away from the city and into some fresher air and less noise. The Bellarine Peninsula was the best place to head to make full use of just two days.
I hadn’t been through Geelong for many years, always turning off beforehand towards the Great Ocean Road. I was very pleasantly surprised. The waterfront area in particular is just lovely.
I hadn’t realised there’s a ferry service from Geelong into Melbourne. How convenient to avoid the drive along the busy Princes Highway and the parking when you get there.
Geelong is Victoria’s second largest city, with a population of over 250,000. It’s situated on Corio Bay, just 75 kilometres south-west of Melbourne. It’s had its ups and downs over the years but looks pretty comfortable at the moment.
I wandered for ages around the streets, searching out the colonial buildings from its earlier days.
I’m sure you could make a perfectly good life in Geelong. It has everything: shopping, entertainment, sport (it’s the home of one of Australia’s premier AFL football teams, the Geelong Cats, along with many other sports) and Deakin University.
I stayed the night at Rippleside Park Motor Inn on the edge of town (a mere $88 last minute), opposite a park and a very short drive from the beach. It wasn’t new by any means but it had everything I needed. I find older motel rooms are generally bigger, even to the point of having case racks. Why don’t newer motels have case racks, even when they’ve got space?
I left first thing in the morning, heading for Portarlington on my way to Queenscliff and the car ferry across to Sorrento and home. I’ll keep that for next time.
Sliding down a muddy incline at a football ground on the worst day of winter and wrecking the ligaments in your foot, is not conducive to travel. A moon boot and crutches make exploring the world difficult, hence my lack of blogging for a while.