Thank you to Scott for being a great photography assistant for all of these shots!

Six shots stacked.

I forgot about taking multiple pictures of the same thing for stacking until the very end, whoops.

Tried a bit of light painting. Plus a plane in the background.

(BUTT)

I would like to try again. I’ve booked some time off for the new moon in September, hopefully we’re not in any kind of lockdown then. We kinda need to go even further away, Melbourne was still so bright we couldn’t really take any pictures in the south direction.

Scott and I took a few days off the other week to head out to the country. I booked us a cute little Airbnb cabin in Pyalong, about 90 minutes north of Melbourne.

We stopped at Lune on the way out. They were selling the banh mi croissant that the dude on Masterchef invented. It cost $15 ahahahaaa we are suckers. It was good, but small and sort of weird that it was sweet.. we decided we’d prefer to get two full regular banh mis from Bun Bun for the same money.

They were sold out of a lot of other options so we just got a pain au chocolat, ham & gruyere, and a cheese & vegemite escargot. All nice.

Scott should use that picture for his LinkedIn, y/y?

We also went a bit out of the way to go for a walk at Lerderderg Gorge. It was a nice gorge, but there were a lot of people around. Scott did spot a nice yellow robin though.

There’s a part that you have to step across a series of rocks to cross the water, which was fun, but scary when you’re carrying a lot of camera equipment!

We arrived in Pyalong just before sunset. The property was stunning. Apparently the granite boulders were dropped by glaciers. We wandered around taking a million pictures because everything was so photogenic!

Happy 11th anniversary.

The first night was clear enough that we could take some night sky photos, which I’ll save for another post. It was my first time trying astrophotography, and we got some cool shots, but also made a lot of mistakes. Unfortunately the other two nights were extremely cloudy, rainy, windy, so we weren’t able to try again.

Foggy rainy days. It was ok though, we didn’t really have anything we needed to do, and the cabin had a very cozy fireplace (once you got it lit). We played many games of Orleans, read, photo edited, ate snacks, and just relaxed.

We did venture out to the Pyalong Railway Bridge on the way home. Pretty rickety.

A wedge-tailed eagle flew across the road very close to our car. It was neat seeing it so close. They are huge!

I went on an airplane!!!! I honestly didn’t believe the trip was actually going to go ahead even while I was in the air on the way there (THEY COULD TURN THE PLANE AROUND!!). But the plane did land and there I was in Adelaide.

Cristoforo picked me up from the airport and we spent the afternoon eating, walking, catching up. It had been ages. I got to see the work he’s done on his house. We went to the beach. Ate ice cream. So nice.

Emily and I stayed with Jill, since Cassia’s house is now filled with cute, obedient children. She has a lovely view from her place.

The point of the trip was to go to Joseph’s Celebration of Life. They had it in the botanic gardens and it was lovely. People told stories and made speeches, and we had a toast in Joe’s honour. I cried.

Afterwards the family and close friends came back to Jill’s house and we ate pizza and drank old wine and caught up in a more casual setting. Even though I’ve known Cassia’s family for more than 25(!!!!!!!!) years, I’ve never actually had a conversation with Mischa, her brother. He generally avoided us when we were making giant green cookies in her kitchen when we were 12, lol. It was nice to get to know him. I also hadn’t seen Em in AGES as well so it was great seeing her again too. How funny is it that we all ended up living in Australia, and how amazing that Covid didn’t ruin the plans for once.

Rest easy Joe, I think of you every time I try to identify a new type of bird.

Purple sky twilight game at the MCG. Great to be back. Dees are looking good this year, hopefully the season can continue on normally.

Another #smaj activity. An outdoor food truck market type thingy in Spotswood (Westgate Bridge in the background). It had a lot of unique options! We had a scotch egg, an African sandwich, fried chicken bao, roti chicken tikka wrap, mango lassi, cheesecake on a stick, a big soft cookie. Probably more that I’m forgetting. I had to lie down for several hours afterwards.

I bought my friends old camera and am trying to learn how to use it. It’s a Canon mirrorless full-frame camera, aka a pretty huge upgrade from my 10 year old point and shoot I was using before. Unfortunately shortly after buying it I got super sick (was tested, not covid), and Victoria went into lockdown so I was pretty limited to taking pictures in the backyard only. Hence the plant pictures and the creep shots of the new gigantic house being built two houses away.

Lunar eclipse/blood moon! I only noticed this was happening a few hours before so I frantically Googled what camera settings I should use and we headed to the park near our house. It was pretty neat! I don’t have a long enough lens to be able to take great photos but it was still a fun exercise. For my future reference the first picture was f11 1/100s ISO100 105mm and the second was f6.3 1/2s ISO800 105mm.

I went down to the car after finishing work and saw that I had the flattest tire of life. :( I went back up and got my colleague to give me a hand changing the tire, but then unfortunately the spare was very flat as well (yes I have learned that lesson now). So I had to take that tire off again, carry it through the hospital (of course I got a full elevator) while she brought her car around, drive to the petrol station, come back and put it back on again. What a pain. Thank you Fran.

I got my bike back from the warranty repair. They sort of fixed the wheel, and they gave me a brand new battery. Unfortunately they bent the rack frame so much that I couldn’t slide the battery out any more, which is how I charge it. AKSJHSDHJSHDSJJJ so annoying. I don’t even know how they bent it, because it was impossible to budge. Did they run over it with a car?? Did they break it off and then weld it back on straight?? Idgi. So then they had to send me a new rack. I swear they’ve replaced every part of this bike now, yet they don’t want to just give me my money back.

Unpictured things:

  • Jemma organised a surprise baby sprinkle for Jess at another friends house. Jess was pretty surprised to see me there when she had just seen us at our house that morning!
  • Mothers Day breakfast at Vicky’s
  • My coworkers engagement party in the city. Got to see the lower half of all my coworkers’ face for the first time in ages.
  • Scott played his first real hockey game! It looks like giant sized Timbit hockey, heeheehee. He had a lot of fun. Except for when he fell on his chest and quite possibly cracked a rib. He didn’t want to stop playing but then lockdown 4.0 started so he was forced to take a few weeks off.

We were supposed to go on an epic roadtrip through the outback at the end of May. The plan was to fly to Alice Springs, go to the Melbourne v Brisbane footy game, then spend two weeks campervan-ing to Adelaide via Uluru. I was suuuuuper excited, especially after getting my fancy camera, and learning about astrophotography. The lunar conditions were going to be perfect!!!! It would have meant another chance to see Cassia before they move back to Spain too. However, we started having covid cases pop up again that week (I’m talking ~5 cases/day) and the other states slammed their borders shut and we got put in 5km radius lockdown again so we had to cancel everything. We are bummed.

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.

We were lucky to see a few flowering cacti.

So colourful! I kinda want a cactus Christmas tree.

Huuuuge!!
Spiky boy.

They use these ones to make the cactus cake.

Scott made me do this.

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.

Lizards!

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.