Christmas In Victoria

December 2021

Mother-in-Law appeared to be going mad in Victoria.  They had been in lock down for an incredibly long time (I read that Melbourne had the longest lockdowns in the world), and even more so because she lived in a retirement village.  So, we booked a holiday for Christmas in Victoria with the expectation that our travel arrangements could get complicated.  We made sure Neon was booked into somewhere with flexibility to stay longer if we got stuck in Victoria.  For those unaware of Australia’s covid journey; we are a federation so every state has different rules for travelling to other states.  At the moment Queenslanders can travel to Victoria, but that could change depending on how pesky that virus gets.

We were lucky to find a house in Apollo Bay on the south coast of Victoria.  Peter and I flew down to Melbourne and then spent a few days in Bairnsdale doing some odd jobs for Jill.  I could do nothing for her hydrangea.  It just couldn’t cope with the 37o heat that waved through while we were there.  Then we drove down to Apollo Bay, picking up Mitchell in Geelong along the way.  Mitchell had decided to grow a most impressive beard during lock down and spent our week together shaving it to various designs each day – most entertaining.

Jill is a keen Mahjong player, so we thought we would show some support and learn to play.  Jill was annoyed with all of us as we weren’t playing the hands properly apparently and Unfortunately… 

Peter went on to win a game or two (and he was soo subtle about it).  We moved outside to play Finska instead.

Mitchell is a baker in his regular work and did some experimenting on us while we were there.  Fresh bread each day is ok with me.  The Pesto Scroll was a definite winner.

Happy Christmas

Mitchell and I recycled a newspaper into some Christmas decorations while listening to the carols on Christmas Eve. Now to bring on the ham.  It is rainy and cold in Apollo Bay; a perfect day for relaxing, playing some more Mahjong and listening to more carols on TV.

After Christmas we headed out for some tourist-ing.  First off to the Cape Otway Lightstation (not called lighthouse anymore – sad, but that’s progress for you).  The scones served at the café are the biggest and yummiest on earth – honest.  They are worth waiting for. 

Research Ravings – History:

The lighthouse opened in 1848. It is perched 90m above sea level on towering cliffs and it is incredibly windy most of the time – OMG.  It was the first land/light immigrants to Australia sighted after months at sea.  And some then went on to lose their lives there in shipwrecks, as it is a pesky piece of coast.  One of the most significant wrecks was that of the sailing ship ‘Eric the Red’ in 1880.  The Captain was looking for the lighthouse and found it just before hitting the reef three times.  The wreckage, mostly timber and tinned kerosene, spread up the coast and it seems was collected by the locals and used to build many houses in the area (even the sails were used to line ceilings). 

The light station is now an automated, solar powered light beacon.  Up until 1994 it was a manned station, with families and a school.  There is a monument and information board for a genuine UFO-reported-disappearing-pilot.  Frederick Valentich was flying to King Island in 1978 when he radioed that “a strange aircraft is hovering on top of me and it is not an aircraft”, then he disappeared. (cue appropriate music riff) 

Now this is something you don’t expect to come across in the Australian bush; a forest of Red Sequoia.  This is the Beech Forest and you could “feel the Serenity”.  Most people were instinctively quiet, but there was one group that were too exuberant for Nana Jill.  The floor was rather bare under the huge trees, but very spongy, it felt rather odd and just added to the ‘other worldliness’ of the place.

The forest was part of a softwood logging experiment planted by Victorian foresters in 1936 (some sources say 1939).  Some of the trees were harvested, but the plantation prize went to the faster growing pine trees elsewhere.  In 2009 the dominant tree was measured at 59.8m tall with a 106.6cm diameter trunk.  As there are no plans for logging these trees, and barring natural disasters they are expected to keep growing and reach 115m by 2080s (that is tall).  I think it is a lovely experiment.  Together with the incredibly tall native gums (Mountain Ash) and dinosaur sized tree ferns, this area is a truly breathtakingly beautiful place. 

California experimented with our fast-growing Blue Gums, called kerosene trees.  But we definitely got the better end of that bargain, as the Blue Gums are now a terrible fire hazard over there.

There are real tree ferns here too – huge.  I was waiting for a dinosaur to pop into the frame.

Mitchell playing in the Red Sequoia forest.

My Mum said we looked tiny in the photos –

the forest makes you feel tiny, it’s a real ego check.

We played Finska on the lawn every afternoon.  Jill and I got to wreck a bit of vengeance on the boys – hehehe. It is a delightfully simple game that involves throwing sticks to score points.  Every yard seems to have families outside playing ‘Finska’ (I think every AirBnB operator in Apollo Bay went to Ikea to stock up as soon as lockdowns were lifted).  Or they are rugged up and walking the beach.  Despite the bitter cold, the people of Melbourne are determined to enjoy their new found freedom. 

It didn’t take much sunshine to get the more determined souls out on the beach (I was still cold, but then I’m from Queensland, home of eternal warmth).

Our trip home was quite eventful. 

We needed a PCR test (a negative one) for getting back into Queensland – simple enough you would think, but the authorities had not considered the sheer number of people who had been unleashed to travel over the Chrissy/New Year period and there were limited numbers of tests available and processing times for those that were done were slow.  We had our test done on Boxing Day to give us the longest time possible to get results back before our flight – we didn’t.

The airline (Virgin) is being very flexible (good call on their part, as the airport is full of very tired, angry people).  After we missed our original flight (due to lack of a test result) we moved onto a long list that just kept rolling onto successive flights until you rocked up with a test result and were taken off the rolling list and onto an actual plane list.

We got up to putting Plan C into action and working on potential Plans D-F.  Plan C was bunking down in the international airport area (definitely no-one there so quite comfy for an airport) until hopefully getting a result that evening.  Plan D involved a ridiculously priced hotel room for the night.  While this would work for us, it was not possible for the many young families who were stuck here.  The other problem with having to wait until the next day was that even if we did get our results by then, they would be more than 72hours old and might not be accepted anyway.  My fave was Plan F, in which we caught the train back to Bairnsdale and stayed with Jill until after New Years as the Premier had just announced the PCR tests would then no longer be required for travel (a dangerous announcement to make at this moment to an airport full of frustrated people).

We had been at the airport for 6 hours and I was just settling into a Giant Crossword when I got my result back (and it was negative – bonus).  Peter came back with his negative result (I’d sent him outside to walk off some energy).  We were on the 5pm flight for real. I put it down to good karma (Cruisers call it ‘Paying Forward’ I call it just ‘being a nice person’ it’s not hard) – I’d just got to sit down after helping some confused ladies do the covid checking-in on their phones.  The VicApp is a monstrous nightmare to use and they were both from other states, didn’t have it already loaded on their phones and were running late, poor things.

We landed in Brisbane to find that there was no formal checking into the State, just some police doing random checks for the border pass! I asked the guy who checked my pass about the test result and he said I only had to show it if he asked for it, so I told him if I’d gone grey getting it, he was going to jolly well ask for it – so he did.  Peter wasn’t checked at all.  All I could think of was all those poor families stuck back at Melbourne airport trying to do the right thing.  Not impressed you grey faceless state; don’t make me jump through bureaucratic hoops, do paperwork and then not check it!

Back to reality; 24o and torrential rain.

Neon Notes:

Finally, home

Banner Photo: Shipwreck Coast Victoria

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Bought back some lovely memories especially re my good grandson who constantly held on to me going up and down stairs. The forest was incredible and almost sacred re my comment about noisy people

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