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.
We love Wilsons Prom but don’t really love the campground there (so expensive and noisy!!), so when I found out there is a state campground on the coast right before the Prom (in Cape Liptrap National Park) I was super excited and booked it right away. $15/night and fire pits, hell yeah!
The campground was so lovely. Spacious and quiet, and nice and natural. It smelled like eucalyptus and you could hear birds everywhere. We even saw a couple wombats too.
The beach at Bear Gully isn’t great for swimming (it was too cold anyway) but it was excellent for walks and shell collecting. I found a lot of cool stuff to look at. Scott found a tiny golf club.
We saw a lot of excellent birds. Scott spent a lot of time wandering around with the camera trying to get the perfect shot. I think he got some great ones!! Once he’s gotten a picture I try to identify them with my bird app.
The wattlebirds were hard to take a picture/identify because they don’t really stay still. A friend had to help with that ID. The hooded plovers are a vulnerable species. Check out that hooked beak on the butcherbird! Excellent for snatching butterflies out of mid-air.
It was pretty cold at night time. I wish I brought more clothes and a touque. We bought wood to make a fire but the wood was so wet we couldn’t get it to burn. I can’t believe they sold it like that. Sad.
We drove into the Prom one day. We did two hikes (Millers Landing and The Drift), and had showers before going back Bear Gully.
Millers Landing is the southernmost stand of mangroves in the world and was supposed to be a bird watcher’s paradise, but all we saw were black swans.
The Drift was pretty cool. The last climb up to the dunes is pretty soft sand and steep! Scott, the King of walking, didn’t even want to finish going up! But once you’re up it becomes a lot easier to walk. Worth it for the epic pictures.
We were driving up the road from the Cape Liptrap Lighthouse and were like “What is that? A grey wombat?” and then got closer and saw it was a koala! Once he noticed us he went off the side of the road and climbed a tree, so we were able to slowly creep up and see him up close. We saw him jump from one trunk to another! I did not think he was going to stick the landing. He probably had to rest for 5 days after all that activity.
We also did a very nice hike around Sandy Point/Shallow Inlet but I guess I didn’t take any pictures other than the Hooded Plovers. We also went to Venus Bay to look around and replenish our supplies but I don’t remember anything else we did there.
Overall, a really lovely trip other than being a bit cold. I would definitely return to Bear Gully.
Way back in November 2020, after having zero covid cases for 28 days, or something like that, they finally lifted our 5km/25km radius limit and we could finally, finally get out of the city. We decided to book a little cabin in Heathcote and have a weekend away.
We tried to spend as much time outdoors as possible and ended up doing a whole bunch of very short hikes.
(Still had to wear masks everywhere.)
Bendigo Conservatory Gardens
Bendigo was quiet AF. We climbed up this tower thing where you could see out over the city. Really not much happening.
It was super hot so we stopped at a random bar for a drink. I think Scott was the only male there. Everyone looked the same.
Pink Cliffs Reserve
This place was pretty cool! I love a random geological feature!
The hike up was pretty hard with a mask on!! I was gasping for air at the top. (No picnic unfortunately.)
We had a pretty epic meal at Masons of Bendigo. We had the 6 course set menu, plus I splashed out and got the matching wines. They use lots of local ingredients. Everything was quite lovely and the service was great.
I was SO FULL and also DRUNK lol. Took me forever to fall asleep that night.
OK well I didn’t blog much this year… let’s just do a quick recap of this year and move on…..
The year started off great, we moved into our own house, went camping with friends, and training was going well leading up to the first competition of the year. We had a really nice visit with Kyla and then… everything got cancelled.
Scott had to go down to reduced work hours, and I started training alone in the cold cold garage. At first lockdown was ok, we played all the board games! Cooked all the foods! Did online trivia! Watched Ben Folds live on Youtube every weekend! Life was cozy and novel. An introverts dream.
A couple of months of lockdown worked enough that they started to relax the restrictions. We had a few weeks of freedom. Scott’s work went back to normal. We saw our friends. We had family dinner. We went out for brunch. We planned some things!
Then cases started rising exponentially and they put us in a very tough lockdown, with a 5km radius restriction and only 1 hour of outside time per day. Cases went down but they kept us locked in. For literally months. It was really hard. I definitely got depressed, especially while seeing the rest of the world frolicking around restriction-free.
Finally, finally after WEEKS of zero new covid cases, they started to let us out. We could have picnics! We could travel further than 5 km! The gym reopened!!!!!!! Cases stayed down and we went back to nearly normal life! We went to Bendigo! We went camping! We don’t have to wear masks! It’s amazing!
This December has actually felt like a normal silly season. Even though I find it really overwhelming I’m trying to do as much as possible while we can because Covid is back in Australia (in Sydney) and we still don’t have vaccine here, and who knows what’s going to happen in January. I made a list of Freedom Goals and we just checked off the last thing last week: buy a new couch (as Rosemarie put it: “we spent so long sitting that our couch was permanently saggy so we bought a couch suitable for old age“). Can’t wait for it to arrive in 19 weeks. :/
Rosemarie’s Questions From Last Year:
PBs: snatch 46 kg -> 47 kg (in the garage, where everything feels 5 kg heavier soooo….), clean & jerk 54 kg -> 55 kg…. which is also not that big of an improvement… but I actually full-cleaned it which is a major major win. I only did one competition this year, last week, without peaking, where I did 42/44/46, and 49/52/55. That was a 3 kg snatch comp PB, a 1 kg clean & jerk comp PB, and a 4 kg total PB… my first time with a 3 digit total (101 kg). Even though my numbers barely went up, I am actually very proud of what I managed to do this year, training alone in the garage for 6 months, more than 110 sessions. I have a new coach since Lockdown 2.0 and it has been working very well. Weightlifting is really good at the moment.
Books: I read a lot this year, to try and relax before bed.
The Wonder – Emma Donohue – Intriguing, couldn’t wait to find out what happens, but I thought the ending was just a bit too quick and convenient imo.
Such A Fun Age – Kiley Reid – I really liked this book. The main character was just so chill. My favourite line was “May I please have an Uber and a snack?”
This Is Going To Hurt – Adam Kay – Silly stories about being a doctor. Amusing, sometimes gave me work flashbacks.
Where The Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens – Started off very heartwarming, then got more intense, I enjoyed it.
A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara – One of those long books that follows a group of people for a very long time. At times very hard to read, made me feel super uncomfortable, but very good too.
Conversations With Friends – Sally Rooney – An interesting book about affairs.
The Stand – Stephen King – Extremely long, took me 3 months to finish. The first part was pretty terrible to read during a real life pandemic. Was entertaining but didn’t change my life.
Normal People – Sally Rooney – Someone else called it a “profoundly lonely and depressing love story” and I guess I agree with that.
Hotels Of North America – Rick Moody – I don’t know who recommended this to me but I thought it was annoying.
Eggshell Skull – Bri Lee – A memoir about an Australian lady while she worked as a judge’s associate in all sorts of horrible sexual assault cases, and then her own experience in the Australian justice system
New Board Games:
Wingspan – A very pretty game about birds. We love it. We just got the Oceania expansion a couple weeks ago but I haven’t had the mental energy to try it out yet!
Orleans + Trade & Intrigue expansion – The base game is ok but it’s much better with the expansion. Unique game with little bags of tokens. I would really like to play this with 3 or 4 players
Castles of Burgundy – Fun point salad game with one billion little pieces. I forget how to play every time but once you remember it’s fun again.
Tiny Towns – Simple strategic game, the best type! We had a lot of fun playing this with Rosemarie over video chat during lockdown.
Adventures: ummmm… yeah not really. Everything got cancelled.
2019 Final Thoughts – 2019 was not the most exciting year of my life, but we put in a lot of good work to our future. We did the hard stuff of finding a house, working hard, saving, rehab… and very very soon we get to enjoy the benefits of that. I feel very good about 2020.
Last Years Goals:
More nice foods – yes, we cooked all sorts of crazy delicious things during lockdown 1.0, and also had some fantastic takeaway
More rehab – yes, had plenty of time for foam rolling
More thrift shops – nope, they were closed/I don’t go to the store ever
More art – yes, I did a lot of cross stitching, painting, cartooning
More friends – lol nope, didn’t even see my friend who lives around the corner for months because it wasn’t allowed
More pictures – nope, barely took any
Less worrying – NOPE. worried x 493879348
2020 Finals Thoughts – Super grateful that we had our own comfortable house to lockdown in. Grateful that neither of us lost our jobs. Grateful for my home gym and remote coach. Grateful that the hard work all Victorians did during the winter lockdowns paid off and we actually get to enjoy our summer Covid-free (so far). Come on vaccine. I would really like to see my family again.