Sunday, June 8, 2008

God bless the Queen

It is curretly a bank holiday weekend in Australia- the Queen's birthday weekend. Feel rather cheated that we never had he equivalent in the UK. The huge wine district of Rutherglen on the Murray has a large wine tasting festival over the weekend and the traffic cops pick victims up like lambs to the slaughter. Random breath tests are common and on all public holidays there is a 'double demerit' system for traffic offences so 2 offences and your licence is gone. I was stopped and tested for the first time yesterday, and typically it was after a rather long and heavy night sampling the local wine produce ( Nug Nug camp...see later ) but it was well into the afternoon and I passed fortunately.

Before leaving he Murray we stopped in Yackandandah ( mainly because of the marvellous name). It is yet another cute little gold mining outpost but the buildings in the main street were very well preserved.I think the guy who originally built the store pictured below had most bases covered.

Beechworth was a town we were particularly taken with, claiming to have the best bakery in Australia, although Ness the pie connoisseur felt the chunky steak pie was seriously over peppered. Despite the pie shortfall, it has achieved the status of being on the list of places we would like to live.

Over the bank holiday weekend we decided to find a decent camp and bed ourselves down- we grey nomads resent the roads being clogged up with selfish working people coming out to the countryside and enjoying themselves. We headed to Myrtleford, another town which started out as a stop on the cattle run then progressed to affluence when gold was discovered. Since the 1880's the rich alluvial flats of the Ovens River were used to grow hops and tobacco, and although the tobacco industry is no more the landscape is still covered with old tobacco kilns- in true Aussie style, you can knock down any building that you no longer want but God forbid that anyone should consider violating a shed!

We found a great campsite on the edge of Mount Buffalo National Park ( camp Nug Nug ) and set ourselves up. A lovely guy called Paul arrived with his camper trailer and set up next to us and we shared a fire, food and a few drinks. He had come up from Melbourne and some mates were joining him the next day.
By 10 am the next morning camp 'Thelma and Louise' ( Paul's name, and we rather liked it ) was surrounded.

The guys unloaded their trail bikes from trailers, set up their tents, chainsaws appeared from each vehicle, 4 wheel drives and trailers were dispatched for firewood. An hour later trees were unloaded, logs were sawed, axes were wielded and there was an enormous firewood mountain. I swear there was so much testosterone in the air you could have cut it with a knife.
Great bunch of people, mostly 1st generation Aussies from Croatia. These guys know how to drink and enjoy recreational pharmaceuticals. The shortage of cigarette papers was not a problem- a Guide to trout fishing appeared and 'smoked trout' will forever have a new meaning to Thelma and Louise.

We will be catching up with Paul when we hit Melbourne.

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