I’d had Cactus Country bookmarked for years, but because it’s 3 hours away from Melbourne and not really close to anything, we still hadn’t made it out there. But it fit into our Bright and Echuca trip perfectly.
It’s $17.50/adult to get in to see 1000s of cacti and succulents set up in little themed trails. There are number markers that match up to a guidebook that gives you tons of fun facts and information. They also have a cafe where you can try cactus cake and cactus ice cream, and a shop where you can choose a cactus to bring home.
So colourful! I kinda want a cactus Christmas tree.
They use these ones to make the cactus cake.
Cactus ice cream and cactus cake. A friend asked me what it tasted like and I wasn’t sure how to describe it. Maybe like apple? The ice cream was mild with a pleasant crunchy texture, and the cake was moist and spiced.
I bought a little Monkey Tail cactus to try to grow at home. We’ll see how it goes.
Overall we both loved Cactus Country! My favourite was the “underwater” themed area with all sorts of genetically unstable mutant cacti. The place was huge, there was so much to look at, so many cool pictures to take. And the information guide was very informative. I recommend a visit for sure.
Scott and I booked off the first week of March a while ago, without booking anything else, but planning to go somewhere. Maybe Queensland! Maybe Byron Bay! Maybe Western Australia! (I really wanted to go somewhere with warm swimming.) But after Jill’s ruined trip to Melbourne we decided that it’s still too risky to cross borders. So instead I tried to find the warmest places in Victoria (lol).
The weather was actually great in Bright, which is up in the Australian Alps. Nice and sunny and warm, but the water was freezing. We still got in the river in town for a little float, which was nice.
I hadn’t done much research on the campground I picked. I knew it was on a lake, and thought we’d do some swimming there. But after driving continuously UP for 40 minutes on switchbacks, we realised the campground was right on the TOP of Mt Buffalo, where the temperature was about 10°C colder than in town. Whoops. It was scenic AF but so cold. We felt like death getting out of the car in our wet bathing suits. One morning when we got up it was 0°C!!
See, it’s a legit mountain!! And pretty ideal for lazy people like me because you could drive nearly all the way up to the top. We only had to do a quick little climb up to The Horn at the very tippy top (30 minutes return).
We did a whole bunch of short hikes around Mount Buffalo National Park. Gorge Heritage Walk (1.5 hours), Lakeside Walk (45 minutes), Chawell Galleries Track (45 minutes), Eurobin Falls Track (45 minutes). They were all nice. Lots of big rocks. A bit of climbing.
Trying the ice bath technique on my sore calves.
Rosemarie suggested that we try mountain biking at Mystic Mountain while we were in the area. We tried to arrange a lesson but it was too hard so instead we just rented bikes for a half day and attempted to figure it out on our own. I was real worried. (Scott’s done it before but I never had.)
Anyway we started on the easiest run, which was basically just dirt tracks going around in squiggly circles, with a few bridges and jumps to try out. That was fun, we did that three times. Then we tried the second easiest run, which was similar but longer and had loose rocks ERRYWHERE, so it was really slippery. Sorta fun. At that point my butt was already very sore. Then we tried one tiny part of a blue run, which had MUCH BIGGER lumps!! And then I couldn’t find any comfortable position at all to be in, and we were both sweaty and tired, so we decided to head back. Scott did one more lap on the easy one one more time while I lay down.
After 3 nights in the mountains we needed to warm up, so we moved on to the Echuca area, which is a town on the Northern border of VIC, separated from NSW by the Murray River. It can get pretty hot up there, but not while we’re there, of course.
We stopped at Cactus Country on the way, but I have so many pictures to show you I’ll make it into its own post.
We stayed in a campground a bit of out town. It had… A LOT… of birdlife. Like THOUSANDS of cockatoos and galahs flying over starting from about 6:00AM. If you’ve ever heard one cockatoo squawking, you would know what I am talking about. It also had a lot of flies and mosquitos. Also the pool was freezing. But other than that it was fine!
Because 1000 birds is not enough for me, we took a boat tour through Barmah National Park with Kingfisher Cruises to see even more birds. It was great! We saw cormorants, spoonbills, azure kingfishers, egrets, tawny frogmouth, eagles, darters, treecreepers, yellow rosellas, pelicans, ducks, and more that she pointed out but I forgot. The azure kingfishers were so pretty and we got to see them fishing and eating shrimp out of the water. BTW I posted a whole bunch of Scott and my bird photos on my Facebook if you’re interested.
Echuca has a lot of paddle steamers. The most in the world apparently. We did the Wharf to Winery tour, where you ride a paddle steamer to Morrison’s Winery for lunch and wine tasting, and then get the boat back. Lunch on the deck with kookaburras, rainbow lorikeets, and yellow rosellas flying around was simply lovely.
Traditional New Years Day dip in the ocean. Beautiful day this year. And not too busy, probably because a nearby restaurant was deemed a covid hot spot a couple days before.
Ben Folds with Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. This concert was supposed to happen March 2020! Luckily Ben just stayed in Australia the whole year so we still got to see him, eventually! We got REALLY good seats. The website wasn’t working during pre-sale so Scott tried calling the box office and he got second/third row! (They only used every second row of the theatre and also put two empty seats between each group, so everyone was suuuuper spread out.)
The orchestra was very cool. So much to look at and listen to. Ben was chatty like usual. The singalong songs didn’t work very well though with so few people.
January SMAJ was an intro to pottery class. Jemma came too. It was very fun! And challenging! Scott was the best at it, he made a bowl and a cup. I made two soy sauce dishes and Jemma made a bowl type dish.
I actually got to go pick them up this weekend. I was super surprised at how much they shrank, everything is so tiny. Scott and I have signed up for a 6 week term so there will be more, hopefully larger, pottery coming in the future!
I went to a crafternoon with my new internet friends (some overlap with old internet friends) and got Ash to re-teach me how to join granny squares together. After literally years of procrastinating, I finally attached all the squares that Scott and I made into an actual blanket shape. I plan on putting a black border around it, but that will be a winter project as it’s not pleasant to crochet in summer.
I went to another meetup with those internet friends at a bowls club and tried lawn bowling for the first time. I wasn’t great at it, but it was a fun activity. It was nice to meet some new people, and see my old trivia friends again after over a year.
Speaking of bowls, Scott has gotten very involved with our local bowls club. He’s played in a few games now and they’ve won every one!
He is also back playing basketball, and doing hockey lessons, and subbing for futsal every once and a while. I’m glad he’s having fun outside the house and also I’m enjoying my Katrina-time.
I did a weightlifting competition around Australia Day. I was worried that I used up all my PBs at the Christmas comp only a few weeks before, but still managed to get a solid snatch PB and maintain the same total.
A bunch of the weightlifting ladies went out for drinks that evening and I had more drinks in one night than I’ve had in the last six months combined lol. (Four.) Interesting how easy it is to slip right back into old habits, especially with things like HAPPY HOUR! It was a fun night even if it took 2 nights to get my overnight recovery levels back to normal.
We went to the pool on a hot day and I got a bathing suit tan after 5pm. Insane.
We did one of MEPs online Rotary trivia events with Rose and dad, and Scott and I won!! We won movie vouchers… which we sent on to dad.
I went down to 4 days a week at work and it is GREAT. I truly love it.
Couple family meals/visits with Scott’s parents and nana.
Oh yeah Melbourne had a Snap Lockdown for 5 days because of some covid cases that got out of hotel quarantine. They put us right back on to the strictest lockdown level where you only got 2 hours of outdoor time, 5km radius, can only leave the house for 4 reasons, everything non-essential shut, etc. I didn’t have much planned that weekend anyway, and still went to work, so it didn’t affect me that much other than having to do a few training sessions back in the garage, but Scott had a few things cancelled. And it sure ruined poor Jill’s trip to Melbourne.
It worked though, we never had more than ~6 new cases/day and it all cleared up within a few more days. We’ve been back down to 0 cases/day for a while now, and the active cases are pretty much gone again, so we can go about life without having to worry too much.
Whoops I’ve jumbled up my posts a bit. Oh well. Here’s the rest of 2020: a mixture of lockdown and freedom.
Spent a lot of time in the garage. Sometimes it was freezing, sometimes it was sweltering. Always lots of spiders. Even though it sucked training alone in the garage I am sooooo grateful that I had this set up. Not only did it keep me sane during lockdowns, I even managed to improve a bit. I think about it like my catch up time compared to the other much stronger girls.
SMAJs were more difficult during lockdown. September SMAJ was a hot chocolate tasting pack from Yarra Valley Chocolaterie, which had 16 different epic ho chos. This is just one example: Zingy Chilli (chilli and lime dark hot chocolate with lime marshmallow, choc lime slice, and chilli leaf truffles).
Mega fried Ubereats meal from Hibiki. Was a nice treat.
I worked on bird paintings a bit. I really should get back to them.
Of course we bought the Wingspan Oceania expansion. It’s so nice seeing birds we can find here. The new expansion adds a couple elements but nothing too overwhelming. We like it.
We went to the beach one day for a walk and found the beach covered in these crazy jelly blobs. I was scared to touch them until I saw the kids playing with them, throwing them back in the water or making huge piles of them. I later found out they’re moon snail egg sacs.
I don’t think I’ve ever actually had an ice cream from an ice cream truck before. It cost a lot but I have to say it was pretty great.
November SMAJ was a pottery painting session with BYO food and drink. I found it very stressful to paint something on a time deadline with no pre-planning. I know I need to relax, lol. I painted a mediocre mug, and Scott made a craptastic (his word) leaf shaped dish.
I made Tres Leches cake for Scott’s birthday/a Christmas brunch. Such a tasty cake. I still need to get a more similar sized cake tin and rimmed platter though so the liquid absorbs better.
Our December SMAJ activity was boating along the Yarra in a Go Boat. You don’t need a boat license because they go verrrrry slowly. It was neat to see the city from a different perspective. I think these would be fun with a big group of friends.
Docked the boat for a quick riverside coffee to go.
Many many picnics. Man we got so good at picnics in 2020, lol. I still think they’re a pretty good activity, eating food and lying around… that’s great.
We bought a new couch. It still has not arrived. I think we are on week 12 of 14-16 weeks now. Getting there!
AFL Grand Final at home with no guests. Zzzz. Can’t believe I managed to lose the sweep.
There’s this really cute Japanese-Korean restaurant near our house. We first noticed it because it was always still really busy on our way home from family dinner (RIP family dinner) at like 9pm on Sunday nights.
They’ve got laminated menus and a dude cooking everything on a tiny stove, it’s cozy inside, and the waitress was very… honest. We’ll definitely go back.
Salmon sashimi daily special. I love salmon so much.
Seafood korean pancake. Very generous with the seafood, every piece had a big chunk of prawn, oyster, or squid.
Scott had spicy bbq lamb chops. They weren’t super flavourful but he still enjoyed his meal.
Alcoholic Calpico from their convenience store next door. I didn’t know what it was going to be. The guy assured me it wasn’t beer. Tasted great!