Note: A video covering the material in this post can be found at the foot of this blog post.
We had chosen Trafalgar to stay because it was conveniently located to my Sister’s new place of residence, following the death of her husband, Colin. After breakfast we picked her up from Moe South and headed back towards Melbourne to reach our destination at the Drouin cemetery. Colin rests in a lawn grave but with an elevated headstone. My parents and younger brother Winston occupy similar graves in this cemetery. We quietly paid our respects before proceeding with our day, for which we had made no further fixed plans.
On our previous trips to the area, we had visited a bakery in Neerim South, a picturesque farming and now retirement town, in the southern foothills of the Great Dividing Range. Aileen’s doctor is located in the town, so she and Colin often visited here and took a coffee break at the excellent bakery. My Sister and Brother-in-law had got to know the very friendly Vietnamese female proprietor. Condolences were expressed during a very pleasant country chat. Good coffee and a delicious cake set the occasion off nicely.
With most of the day still untouched, a suggestion to drive up to Mount Baw Baw was readily agreed to. We proceeded to the old timber town of Noojee and then followed the narrow winding road through Tanjil Bren to reach the 1,567-metre summit and site of the Baw Baw ski fields. There was no snow, thankfully, the day being mild. We probably would have launched on the sunny deck of the bistro if it had not been for the rather keen breeze blowing across the mountain. When we last visited, Boxing Day about three years ago, the mountain top was covered by thick cloud.
Part way back down the mountain a direct road to Moe turns off, so we took it, returning Aileen to her new home, a granny flat at the home of her daughter. We dropped her off and returned to our motel for a shower, as we were due back for dinner in the main house, with Aileen, her daughter and most of her family.
In our caravanning days we periodically met caravan owning siblings and others who hired a cabin, at a mutually convenient caravan park. We had decided to continue the practice notwithstanding our depleted numbers. For convenience we had booked for three nights at a caravan park at Cowes on Phillip Island, less than an hour’s drive from the area where our Victorian relatives live. And none of us are now caravan owners.
The weather was not brilliant but we were able to fit activities in between showers, without too much inconvenience. It was not beach weather but we are not beach people and the youngest of us doesn’t get much change out of eighty.
Philip Island is an area familiar to us from our time of residence in this part of Victoria very early in our married life. There have been many changes over the years but the area has not changed that much either. There is much more accommodation on offer and increased opportunities to spend money, but Phillip Island still is essentially an area of farmland with a couple of towns. But it is scenic and relaxed and a suitable place to take a few days of relaxation, its charms increased because it is all on an island.
Tuesday was the day for travel to Cowes, but first we joined Aileen and a couple who are mutual friends, for coffee in Drouin. The road from Drouin to Cowes passes the front gate of youngest brother Bernard’s farm, so we headed off in convoy. At San Remo, where the bridge carries the road to Phillip Island, we stopped for lunch and probably overindulged a bit on local fish and chips.
San Remo to Cowes is a 16 km drive. We checked into our cabins and settled in. Rain had commenced so we had a cuppa, while watching it though the window. For dinner we found a bistro at a local pub and fed ourselves again, but a bit more sparingly this time.
Wednesday dawned, an improvement on the previous day, so we set out for The Nobbies, where a visitor information centre is located at the south west tip of the island. This is Seal and Penguin territory but there were no Seals visible on Seal Rocks and you really need to return at night for the Penguins. Many years ago, when we lived not too far away from here, you could walk near the Penguin burrows during the day and see a few birds. In this modern tourist era such are the demands of commercialism and environmentalism that the whole area is now behind security fencing, with tiered seating on the sand dunes and even dugout bunkers for those willing pay more to see the Penguins up close.
At The Nobbies, the visitor centre provides viewing areas in the rather elaborate National Parks souvenir shop which has an excellent café as well. The area overlooking Round Island and Seal Rocks is well supplied with boardwalks and wooden stairways, so viewing the scenery and the flora and fauna is easy. The wildlife available was the Cape Barren Geese that occupy the area in considerable numbers. An approaching rain squall encouraged us inside for coffee.
Coffee done and rain gone too, we made our way along the south coast until we reached the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, turning into each road that would take us to the coast. This part of the coast is a series of coast scapes that are a photographer’s delight. With the weather deteriorating, we returned to our cabins via the supermarket, to acquire toasting bread and soup to provide us with the ingredients for a suitable lunch on a cool and damp afternoon.
The clouds cleared later in the afternoon. A couple of our number went on separate walks. Aileen and I went looking for some birds for me to photograph, but we only found Kangaroos. We returned to the bistro of the previous night, for another excellent meal.
On Thursday morning we finished our tour of Phillip Island’s south coast. We drove to the Woolamai surf beach, parked in the provided area and walked along the beach to the east, as close as we could get to Cape Woolamai. There was a decent surf running so the wave action against the cliff face and exposed reefs was producing lots of spray and froth. Near the end of the beach a flight of stairs leads to the walking tracks that give access to the elevated areas of the Cape and the lookouts that are provided on these vantage points. A full day would be required to do the area properly. Flocks of Shearwater can be seen in that area but we didn’t see any. But there were Pacific Gulls that we don’t usually see around Brisbane.
After coffee at Newhaven, we crossed the one lane bridge to Churchill Island. This island faces into Westernport Bay and was a farm. The old farm house is open for inspection and there are animals and historic displays. The elevated centre of the island provides good views of parts of Cowes and the waters that surround the island. These waters are home to many birds, including Black Swans, a variety of ducks, Ibis and others. In wetlands back on the main island there were more water birds, including Spoonbills and lots of Australasian Swamphens. Swamphens are common on Phillip Island.
The afternoon was cool with a constant breeze. We repeated the previous day’s soup arrangements for lunch. It was both a soup day and a jacket day for us Queenslanders. The afternoon was spent quietly. I might even have had a nap. For dinner we feasted royally at a Chinese restaurant.
That brought an end to this limited family reunion. We packed our gear into bags and the car and after breakfast headed off. The Victorians departed to their separate places of abode. Ruth and I went via the quickest route through Melbourne to the Hume Highway. Our journey home is covered in the next part of this story.