Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Category: Little Adventures (Page 2 of 4)

Little Adventure #18: June 2023 – Royal Botanical Gardens.

The next excursion on my “use up the voucher I got for Christmas 3 years ago” was a half-hour drive around the Botanical Gardens. Now obviously I wasn’t expecting this to be the most wildly exciting 30 minutes of my life, but it was actually a nice way to spend a beautiful sunny day in the city.

If you squint, you might be able to make out “Merry Christmas” on the walking bridge.

Festive bollards.

Living so close to the station as I do, it’s so easy for me to get to the city. Jump on the train and glide right in. Take a book from my bag, get immersed in it – this time it was Stephen King’s ‘Holly’ – and before I know it, we’re coming into Flinders St station.

I decided I’d walk to where the tour begins. The Tourist Centre for the Gardens is tucked around behind the Shrine, right next to the Observatory, so it’s not a long walk. I set off, deciding that I was going to treat Melbourne like a tourist.

But a few metres down the road, something didn’t feel right. I had my big leather handbag with me, so I could fit my book, my lunch and all the other things that we carry with us, which is the very same bag I travelled with on my last trip for 5 weeks.

I was walking with it slung over my right shoulder. Casually, with no regard for pick-pockets and thieves. That’s not how a tourist wears their bag!!!! At the next traffic light, I slung my shoulder strap across my body, making sure the bag opening was against my hip. I fished out my phone, holding it so that if a photo op presented itself, I’d be ready. My Antarctica Pee Bottle was dangling from my other hand, filled with peppermint water to minimise my cough.

Ahhh. NOW I felt like a tourist! I set off with renewed vigour. Let’s see the sights!

As I walked past the Arts Centre and along St Kilda Road, I was reminded of the morning that I walked along the streets of Santiago in Chile, looking for the Sculpture Park. As I got to the Victorian College of the Arts, I stopped at a bench outside and ate lunch, reading a little more from my book as I did. Then I kept walking.

Looking at the open expanse of green and huge trees on the other side of the road, I thought, ‘If I was a tourist here, I’d think this city was beautiful.’

Trams rattled past and when I saw the Shrine, I crossed the road and walked up the steps to see it.

I remember Mum bringing us kids here. I’ve been back to the Gardens since then, of course, but never back here. I didn’t have time to go in and explore, but I walked around the outside. I still remember seeing the Tomn]b of the Unknown Soldier, but he’ll have to wait for another time for another visit.

Here is the Eternal Flame. The idea behind it is eternal life: if the flame never dies, then so will the memory of those who have fallen.

This statue has two parts. There’s another WWI soldier on the other side.

He’s staring resolutely ahead, standing on a German helmet. He means business.

This is representing the people left behind when a soldier is killed.

This was my favourite one. I remember learning about Simpson and his donkey when I was in primary school. Here’s his story from Wikipedia:

Simpson landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula on 25 April 1915 with the 3rd Field Ambulance as part of the 1st Australian Division. In the early hours of the following day, as he was bearing a wounded comrade on his shoulders, he spotted a donkey and quickly began making use of it to carry his fellow soldiers. Simpson would sing and whistle, seeming to ignore the bullets flying through the air, while he tended to his comrades.

He used at least five different donkeys, known as “Duffy No. 1”, “Duffy No. 2”, “Murphy”, “Queen Elizabeth” and “Abdul” at Gallipoli; some of the donkeys were killed and/or wounded in action. He and the donkeys soon became a familiar sight to the Anzacs, many of whom knew Simpson by nicknames such as “Scotty” (in reference to his ancestry) and “Simmy”. Simpson himself was also sometimes referred to as “Murphy”. Other Anzac stretcher bearers began to emulate Simpson’s use of the donkeys.

Colonel (later General) John Monash wrote: “Private Simpson and his little beast earned the admiration of everyone at the upper end of the valley. They worked all day and night throughout the whole period since the landing, and the help rendered to the wounded was invaluable. Simpson knew no fear and moved unconcernedly amid shrapnel and rifle fire, steadily carrying out his self-imposed task day by day, and he frequently earned the applause of the personnel for his many fearless rescues of wounded men from areas subject to rifle and shrapnel fire.”

Other contemporary accounts of Simpson at Gallipoli speak of his bravery and invaluable service in bringing wounded down from the heights above Anzac Cove through Shrapnel and Monash gullies. However, his donkey service spared him the even more dangerous and arduous work of hauling seriously wounded men back from the front lines on a stretcher.

On 19 May 1915, during the Third attack on Anzac Cove, Simpson was killed by machine gun fire.

Private Victor Laidlaw, with the 2nd Field Ambulance, wrote in his diary of Simpson’s death:

Another fatality I found out today – was a private in the 1st Field Ambulance, he had been working between the base and the firing line bringing down wounded on a donkey, he had done invaluable service to our cause. One day he was bringing down a man from the trenches and coming down an incline he was shot right through the heart, it is regretted on all sides as this chap was noticed by all, and everybody got to know him, one couldn’t miss him as he used to always work with his donkey, cheerful and willing, this man goes to his death as a soldier.[18][19]

After I crossed the road to the Botanical Gardens and found the minibus, we all tootled around the gardens for half an hour. I had a fat German tourist sitting next to me on the left, which turned out to be the side with all the best photo ops… just for anyone who might do the same tour one day, so here are some shots that I was able to snap.

This is in the Oak Grove. A massive tree fell, so they left the stump and put lengths of the rest of the tree around as a gathering place.

FINALLY! Something on my side of the bus. I liked the texture of this one.

Part of the Fern Gully. I remember when Scott came out to Australia in 2019??? we walked here, then sat in a gazebo overlooking the gully and had a fine old natter.

Another nice tree trunk.

This arid garden is called ‘The Volcano.’ Can’t say I really see it, myself.


Look at that tree!

First view of the lake. The driver said that it used to be part of the Yarra, but 100 years ago it was separated.

And then back into the hustle and bustle. I thought I’d post of shot of one of Melbourne’s iconic trams.

I jumped on one and was back to Flinders st in a trice. Had a dream run… only had to wait 5 minutes for a train and was back home by 4:30.

All in all, this was a nice little afternoon, making memories. I have a much clearer idea of where things are in the Gardens now, which I’ll be taking advantage of in the future.

Dad joke of the day:

Little Adventures #17: Werribee Open Range Zoo – and a surprise.

(When I retired at the end of 2020, I decided that each month I’d go and do something or see something that I never had before, just to keep life fun. And so the “Little Adventures” were born.)

Three Christmases ago, David30, Izzy and Evan27 gave me a voucher for $136 to take a walking tour for myself and a friend. It had a loooong expiry date, so I naturally put it in a safe place and pretty much forgot about it. Every now and then I’d pick it up, look at the expiry date, nod and think, ‘I really should do something about this…’

A couple of weeks ago I found it and saw that the fatal date was DEC 23, 2023.

Ok. The time to procrastinate was done. So I sat down on Saturday, pulled up the website and had a good look. I booked a ghost walking tour for my sister-in-law Eliza and myself in December.

But I still had money left on the voucher.

I saw a trip to Werribee Open Range Zoo. Funny. I’ve been to Africa and done three safari days, but I’ve never been to Werribee Zoo. So I booked a ticket.

I still had $14 left over, so in the interests of ‘waste not, want not’ I found another activity in the city that was $15. I think that 3 activities for $1 is pretty damned frugal!

I arrived at the zoo just after 10 AM and was surprised to see that it was right beside Werribee Mansion. I remember going there YEARS ago… I was still married so that means that it was in the last century! As I walked into the zoo, I saw a tourist info office and thought I’d pop into this on the way out. Maybe the mansion is a National Trust place and I could get in for free. (I still have to make back my money on my membership. England helped a bit, but I’m not there yet.)

As soon as I entered the zoo grounds, a helpful lady escorted me to where the zoo safari tours leave from. They’re free, included with the price of admission. I joined the 10:30 one, which in hindsight was a mistake. There weren’t all that many people at the zoo on a Monday, but the people that were there were mainly mothers with toddlers.

The bus was full of them. Loud toddlers. So loud that I couldn’t hear most of the commentary that the bus driver was saying. When we pulled back to the loading area after an hour spent driving around, the next bus-load had far fewer toddlers on it.

Just an observation that may help someone else in future. Go after the mums have taken their kids before nap time.

So we spent just under an hour driving around massive paddocks, looking at African animals. Of course it was interesting. Who doesn’t love a giraffe or a hippo? But having been on three African safari days in South Africa, this just wasn’t in the ballpark. It was ok, but…

When I saw the ostriches, I had a flashback from South Africa of turning a curve in the road when we were driving in a minibus and seeing an ostrich loping majestically along the side of the road, just going about its business. It was amazing. Say what you will, it’s a little less magical when the animals are penned up in an enclosure, no matter how big that enclosure is.

Plus the kids screaming in my ear didn’t help, either.

The giraffes were good, though. You can see that there are smaller ones in a cage in the background. All of the giraffes here are male and they just had some adolescent males brought down from Dubbo zoo. The three giraffes who live here were incredibly interested in the new arrivals, who will be in the separate enclosure while they all get more familiar with each other.

The zoo is divided into three main parts: the Australian trail, the African trail and the safari tour. Once I got back, I headed off along the African trail. I wanted to see where the gorillas were because there was a keeper’s talk at 1:45 so I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t miss it by getting lost.

After that, I ducked back to the café area for an early lunch. I thought I’d get in and out before the toddlers descended on it.

There’s an extraordinary number of birds who hang around this place, but I’ve never in my life seen so many Blue Wrens. They were everywhere. Tiny little chonks with such vivid colouring.

There were 3 encounters with animals that were fantastic. The first was the lions.

I rounded the corner on my way around the African trail and there they were. The whole family was up near the glass.

There was Mum, Dad and 3 cubs. So close!

We all got excited when one of the cubs sat up, but then it thought better of the whole idea and lay down again.

I mean, look at this.

It’s like he’s posing.

The camera doesn’t do justice to the range of colours in this guy’s coat and mane. Just beautiful.

I walked further along. The place is very kid-friendly, with cutesy little signs like this all around.

The sign didn’t lie. Three of them, having a nap after breakfast.

Fair enough. I like a good nap, too.

In the wild, hippos prefer to eat at night, but obviously this doesn’t happen here. The keepers feed them just before they leave for the day and then again at 7 AM when their shifts start.

I managed to hear this information on the bus before the kids started yelling.

The ‘giant’ tortoises are in the indoor play area. They’re funny creatures who were surprisingly lively.

I had 45 minutes to kill before the gorilla talk, so I ducked into the Australia trail exhibits.

These are Tamar wallabies. They were listed as extinct in the 1920’s, but then a small population of them that people had taken over to an island in New Zealand were found and brought back to Australia. This zoo is part of the breeding program to bring their numbers back.

I liked how the mob of kangaroos was casually hanging out with the emus, while the cassowaries were close by on the other side of the fence.

Just chillin’.

And then I had close encounter #2.

I accidentally walked a little off the beaten track and noticed a few emus at the back of a fence. I quietly walked over, not wanting to spook them, and one came right up to stand beside me.

Checking me out.

My phone just couldn’t properly capture the iridescence of his face and neck and the texture of his feathers.

I don’t mind admitting that I was glad the fence was there. He was HUGE. That beak could do some damage if he wanted. No wonder they won the Emu War.

However, it was something special to be standing so close to this bird, able to look into its eyes and really observe him. He was standing there of his own free will for several minutes before I slowly started to move away.

I had gorillas to go and hear about!

I got to the gorilla enclosure just in time to see them barrelling out of their house and across the ground to get to the food the keepers had put there. For an hour beforehand, the keepers had been inside with them, doing enrichment activities and health checks.

There are 3 gorillas here – a father and his two sons. One of the sons is now the dominant one, and this is the one who came and sat right before the window, claiming all of the goodies.

Close encounter #3.

For a while, he turned his back on us as the keeper spoke.

The thing I found most interesting is that the gorillas communicate not only by vocalising and body language, but by smell. She said that it smells like fried onions, so a Bunnings sausage sizzle is like having a group of gorillas walk through a patch of rainforest.

Having these 3 close encounters made this whole trip worthwhile. The beauty of these animals is incredible.

As I was leaving, I remembered the Tourist Information Office.

I went in and the guy was very helpful. I got the impression that he’d had a slow day. I asked about Werribee Mansion, (NOT a National Trust property, to my chagrin) and then he mentioned that the State Rose Garden was right beside it.

I didn’t even know we had one! I said this and the guy said, “So many people who live here don’t even know it. It makes me angry, because I’m the president. It’s at its absolute best right now. You really should go and see it.”

When he went on to say that it was free – my favourite price – and was only 500 metres up the road, I told him that I was sold. So off I went.

It was stunning.

I thought I’d only be there for 5 or 10 minutes, but I was there for ages, just wandering around and looking at the blooms.

And blooms there were.

I wandered around the outside of the garden, then entered through this arch.


I loved the look of this – like a bridal veil on the ground.

My Gran loved red roses. Every time I see one, I think of her.

I was thinking about her a lot in this place!

The garden beds are laid out in a Tudor-style formal garden, with heritage roses in a border around the perimeter and a section that David Austin himself came out from England to install.

It was mid-afternoon on a cloudy day, as you can see. There were a few family groups finishing off picnics, and a few other people like me, wandering around and just soaking in the atmosphere.

Speaking of the atmosphere, the air was perfumed. It was almost intoxicating.

As I walked around, I came across the David Austin section.

This bee was really enjoying herself here. She was embedding herself within the billowy petals.

Most of the roses in this part of the garden were named.

The guy in the Tourist Information shop said that a year after David Austin came and planted all of the roses, he had to come back and revise the whole garden plan because they didn’t realise how well roses grow here in Australia.

They had to rip around a third of the plants out.

I really liked this one, even though it doesn’t look like a rose. Though I suppose the leaves give it away.

Here’s a similar one in pink.

The pavilion sits in the middle of the garden, with four paths leading straight to it.

This was a totally unexpected thing to see but I’m glad I did it. Anyone in Melbourne who has a few hours to spare should hop on over and take a picnic. What a lovely place to take someone to sit under a tree, drink some wine and just enjoy.

Dad joke of the day:

Little Adventures #16 June 2023 – The Guinness Book of Records attempt.

(When I retired at the end of 2020, I decided that I’d go and do something or see something that I never had before, just to keep life fun. And so the “Little Adventures” were born.)

Here I am, squinting into the sun while poor Scout is thinking, “What the hell am I doing here?”

It was too good an opportunity to pass up for a Little Adventure. It was a Guinness Book of Records attempt to beat the record of the most dogs of a single breed going for a walk together. Apparently, the beagles held it at 1,026, but Dachshund-loving Melbourne was going to give it a fair shot.

When we arrived at the Elwood Beach foreshore, the place was seething with snags. Just after I left the car and we were walking towards the meeting point, I bumped into 3 women who are teachers at my school. Honestly, you can’t go anywhere without bumping into people from that school!

The rules stated that there was to be one walker per dog. Dogs in prams were fine, mixed breeds were not. It was free to join, but a donation to ‘Devoted to Dachshunds’, a charity that looks after abandoned and neglected dachsies, was asked for. I’ll bet they raked in a lot of money!

Once people were registered, there was a 1KM circuit to be walked.

Scout is an utterly confident little girl at home when she’s with her pack, but this was a bewildering place for a small dog who is utterly convinced that she’s a Cavalier like her brother and sister. What were all of these weird, elongated dogs doing?

I spent most of the walk carrying her. She walked for a little bit, but mostly, every time I tried to put her down, she’d dig her heels in and I’d end up dragging her. So she rode in style for most of the day.

She wasn’t the only one. There were a lot of people around for such a small breed.

There was an awful lot of standing around, waiting to be registered, but once the walk began Scout cheered up. There are intersecting paths and bridges, so the organisers had people with ‘stop’ signs to stem the flow of people and dogs whenever there was a bike rider or some walkers coming from a different direction.

After a while, I tried my luck and Scout consented to walk. You wouldn’t think a 6kg dog would be heavy, but after a while, she’s uncomfortable to hold. My arms were glad of the break.

She actually looks happy in this shot!

But all too soon, she plumped down on the path and refused to move. Ah well… we were nearly at the end anyway.

Look at Melbourne’s skyline in the distance. Such a perfect day for it.

My registration band was 950 and there were PLENTY of people waiting behind me, so I was pretty sure we must have succeeded.

Turns out that well over 1300 snags turned out for the walk, so we smashed it.

But, like Dorothy Gale says as she clicks her ruby slippers, “There’s no place like home.”

Poppy and Jeff forgave us for going on a walk without them, Tom31 came over for a visit and at the end of the day, the dogs snuggled up with Ryan28.

Scout snuggled under a quilt after dinner and let the worries of the day slide away.

On the news, the organiser said that she’d like to give it another go next year. If she does, we won’t be going. Once is definitely enough, especially for Miss Jean Louise Finch. She was a brave girl, but she doesn’t need to do it again.

Dad joke of the day:

Little Adventures #15 – May 2023: Phillip Island.

It’s funny with work friends. You can know them for two decades, see them every workday, and know heaps of details about their lives, yet once you retire, you see very few of them again. Or maybe that’s just me?

I travelled to China and North Korea with Blogless Helen and her husband Rick back in 2018. She retired at the end of last year and has been playing around with CRT work, recognising that it’s the best of both worlds. Last weekend Blogless Megan and I were invited to go and stay with them at their holiday house at Phillip Island.

Helen and Rick bought this place just before the pandemic. It’s right on the beach, where you just have to cross a bit of foreshore where wallabies and rabbits live before you hit the sand. They’ve done a lot of work on it already, with a new kitchen, new double-glazed windows and lots of painting and it still has the welcoming vibe of a family holiday house.

We drove up after work in the rain and arrived after dark. We found the key and let ourselves in, knowing that Helen and Rick were at the supermarket in Cowes and would be there soon after us. After we’d unpacked, I cracked open the bottla wine I’d brought. It was a gift from a year 12 kid a few years ago – I thought by now it would’ve aged beautifully. (I wasn’t wrong.)

It was a low-key evening. Bangers and mash, washed down with lots of wine and good conversation. I’ve hardly seen Rick since the North Korea trip, so it was really good to catch up.

I may have left my dogs at home, but I still had my dog fix. Helen and Rick brought their dogs. One great thing about small dogs – they’re very portable.

When we woke up, it was POURING! There was no way any of us were stepping outside the house. We settled into a morning of sitting around and chatting, fortified by the excellent omelettes that Rick cooked for breakfast.

By the time the afternoon rolled around the weather had cleared into a sparkling day, though as you can see in the top photo, the sky remained moody.

“Who wants to go to the beach?” Helen asked. Rick decided that he’d rather go surfing, so he headed off while the rest of us grabbed the dogs and went out for a stroll.

Their house is in the perfect position – literally 2 minutes walk from the sand. A short walk through the foreshore, where wallabies and rabbits live, then there it is.

The sand was a different colour to my Backyard Beach – more golden. this beach is a little curve, bordered on one side by a dog beach and on the other by the ugliest lighthouse I’ve ever seen. Utilitarian, isn’t it?

We walked along with the dogs, enjoying the breeze and the fresh salty air, especially after being cooped inside all morning. The contrast was beautiful.

We’re so lucky with our beaches here in Australia. I’ll never forget the awful shock I had at seeing the pebbled beach at Nice. How could this possibly be a holiday destination when you can’t even walk into the water comfortably? (It was uncomfortable on the feet – I tried.)

But here, not 2 minutes away from the house was a small beach so empty that it might as well have been private.

Once we were back, Helen started cooking up a storm. It was clear that dinner was going to be a THING! I knew we were in for a treat when she brought out the Ottolenghi book.

Then after dinner, the hideous truth became clear.

Helen is into playing card games in a major way. I, alas, am not.

The other three settled into a ferociously fought game of 500 that lasted for hours. I contentedly read a book. After I found out who the murderer was, I sat and watched them play until the wee hours. We had different types of gin to sample as the hours wore on, and coincidentally, we all slept very well that night.

The next morning I woke before anyone else. Fortunately, I was downstairs on my own away from the other bedrooms, so I read for a while, then decided to have a shower and sneak out of the house down to the beach.

When I hit the foreshore, I saw a couple of wallabies. I took a photo, but they were too far away to look like anything other than splodges. A woman came up behind me, walking her dog. I mentioned the wallabies and she smiled and said, “Oh yes. there’s hundreds of them here.”

As she walked towards the tunnel in the growth that led to the beach, a magpie swooped down and landed at her feet. She pulled out a ball of mince and threw it down for him. This must be a regular thing.

(And yes – I know people aren’t meant to give mince to magpies because if that’s all they eat, it causes deformities in their babies. I wasn’t the one feeding it to him. But it was still nice to see their friendship; it’s obviously a regular morning ritual.)

After I looked my fill at the wallabies, I followed her.

Across the water is the Peninsula, where my sister Kate and Blogless Sandy live, though they’re on the other side. I gave them a wave, anyway.

I was there on the beach for nearly an hour, with the place all to myself. I turned left, with the sun behind me, and walked as far as I could one way, then turned and walked all the way to the dog beach. You can see a man and his dog in the photo.

The birds were calling and I could hear the rhythmic sound of the sea. It was very peaceful. I saw some different seabirds from the ones we have in Melbourne.

After a while I found a spot and simply sat and watched the waves. it’s a novelty for me to be alone on a beach. Usually I have the dogs with me and I’m scanning the place, trying to avoid the bigger dogs that freak Scout out.

After watching the waves come in and out and enjoying the sun, I decided that surely they’d be up by now… it was nearly 9 AM! So back I walked.

Turns out that no one had surfaced. Luckily, it’s possible to reach the deck from outside the house, so I grabbed my water and a book and crept up to the deck to read my book in the sun. Normally I avoid the sun like the plague, but I chose a chair at the table where my back would be nicely warmed.

Megan came out to meet me about half an hour later, bringing her crochet, so we sat and talked while we waited for our gracious hosts. By the time 10:30 came around, I said to Megan, “I’m really hanging out for a coffee. If they don’t get up soon, I might get some pots and pans and bang them outside their door!”

Fortunately, these drastic measures weren’t necessary. As soon as Rick’s feet hit the floor, he was grinding coffee beans and putting together another sumptuous breakfast. The deck on their house is perfect for just lounging around and chilling.

We spent the rest of the day on the deck. Helen and Megan played another card game, Rick was on his phone and I took a short nap and then stared at the bay. The water was reflecting millions of little glints from the sun. It was stunning.

At some stage, Helen brought out some dips and crackers and we washed them down with some wine. It was late afternoon when I stretched and said, “Well, we’d better make a move. I’ve got heaps of paperwork to fill in for the new school tomorrow.”

As we backed out of the driveway, narrowly avoiding an old tree trunk at the edge of their driveway, (could’ve been embarrassing!), Helen and Rick stood, waving goodbye.

Up until now, I’ve never really understood the appeal of a holiday house. I remember Mum and Dad keeping my grandparents’ house in Inverloch after they died. It was double the garden work, double the housework, and they were locked into going up there to maintain the place every couple of weeks.

Not for me. I’d rather go and see different places when I have time off.

But staying the weekend up here was lovely. Helen and Rick are slowly doing the place up, making it a chilled place where lots of people can come and stay. I can see them spending many leisurely days there with friends and family, building lots of lovely memories as their family grows larger and school holidays at the beach will become a thing.

Yes, I guess I can see the attraction. 🙂

Dad joke of the day:

Little Adventures #17 – Feb 2023: Eastland.

I’ve lived in Melbourne my whole life and I’ve never been to Eastland. I’d heard of it, of course… a mythical shopping centre nestled somewhere far, far away. Then David29 fell in love with a girl who lives near it and it became his default shopping centre. So yesterday, all of his groomsmen and his Mum made the trek over there to buy the suits for the wedding.

I’ve had a break from the Little Adventures***, so this is a way of dipping my toe back in the water. First I was working, and then I was travelling. Now I’m working again – but only for 23 more workdays. Then the Little Adventures will be back, baby!!!

This post is not so much about going to a new place. This is a post about celebrating an event that’s new to me. It’s not every day that a Mum gets invited to their son’s wedding-suit-shopping day.

And here’s the son. This was a big job that has finally been ticked off his list. He discovered pretty quickly that trying to get people together for one simple shopping trip is pretty much like trying to herd cats. His best mate Dan was travelling in South-East Asia and only arrived back 2 days ago, while Evan26 is leaving tomorrow for Adelaide, where he’ll be performing his new show for the Fringe Festival there.

Sunday HAD to be the day.

This is Dan and his girlfriend. He and David29 have been mates since year 8 at school. These two are staying with me for a few days until their Air B&B is ready in Melbourne. It’s been so lovely catching up with Dan. He went to live in the US for a few years so now that he’s studying in Melbourne, it’s lovely to see him again.

Evan26 and Ryan28. It’s not often that I get to have the whole ‘set’ of sons with me in the one place, but Sunday was one of those times.

Tom31 and Evan26 (again.) These were all taken in the food court after the shopping was done. The boys looked dapper in their black suits and I think they’re all going to scrub up well on the day.

The night before, David29 and Izzy came over for dinner to meet Alena, Dan’s girlfriend.

We all ate together, then I retreated to the couch to play games on my laptop while they sat around the table playing a silly board game. It made me so happy to hear the laughter and talking that was going on between the four of them.

The words on David29’s hoodie say it all, I think. This is a friendship that has (and will) pass the test of time.

***I began Little Adventures when I retired. The idea is that I go somewhere new or do something new to me every month. After all, when I’m not working I definitely have the time!

Dad joke of the day:

My friend’s bike keeps running me over.

It’s a vicious cycle.

Little Adventures #16 – Norf Melbourne. August 2022.

Yesterday I had yard duty at the traffic lights on East Boundary road before school, so I thought I’d wear my Oodie to give the kids a bit of a giggle. It turned out to be a big hit with the parents dropping their kids off. I got plenty of laughs and thumbs up.

Not being one to let a good thing go to waste, I also wore it later in the day.

You see, Jenna, Evan25’s girlfriend, is in a play that is being performed in a dance studio in North Melbourne. Both the pre-show email and Evan25 warned me that the room gets very cold, so I decided to rug up in comfort. It turned out to be a wise decision. I was the frumpiest person there, but I was also one of the few not shivering by the end.

That room must have been cold. Even in an Oodie, my hands got slightly cool by the end. I mean seriously – I’m a menopausal woman in an Oodie! But the kids have to find performance spaces where they can.

The day before, I was talking to Blogless Helen and she reminded me that I had to move fast to fit in a Little Adventure before August ran out. Oof. This is why I didn’t start these things until after I retired. When you’re working all week, there’s not a lot of time to set aside to do things like this.

As I drove to North Melbourne to park the car near the dance studio before taking a walk to meet Jenna’s parents for dinner, I realised that despite living in Melbourne for (almost) 59 years, I’ve never been here before.

This is really unusual. When I was a Thermomix consultant I drove all over the place to deliver machines and do demos. So, as I was walking to the pub for dinner, I decided that a walk through North Melbourne will have to be my Little Adventure for this month. Sorry.

I know it’s lame, but at least it isn’t as pathetic as the Little Adventure I had when we were in lockdown and I couldn’t go more than 5KMs from my house! At least this time I’m on the other side of the city! You know, after that Little Adventure last year, I’ve never been back to the other side of the bridge…

A creek near a railway station. I took this on a little bridge while I was still enthused about my 20-minute walk. I hadn’t yet seen the hill that awaited me.

I liked the name of this business.

This reminded me of when we were in Beijing. We saw bikes like this all the time when we were there.

Lots of views like this.

To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of inner-city suburbs. They just look grimy and concrete-y to me. There’s not enough green. I know lots of people swear by living here, but for me? Nah, not a fan. I find them depressing.

By the time I was walking along, most building sites had shut up shop for the day.

The walk was longer than I thought it would be, so I was happy to finally get to Harriman’s hotel.

Jenna’s parents turned up a few minutes after I did and we had a lovely meal together. They’re based in Adelaide and they make it a point to come over for every show the kids do. They’d booked tickets for Saturday night, so we parted company after they (thankfully) dropped me back at the dance studio.

I’m very lucky with the families of the girls my sons have chosen to be with. I get along really well with both sets – which is something that parents have no control over. The heart wants what the heart wants, but sometimes it brings with it the family from hell. So far – touch wood – we’ve avoided this.

Evan25 and Jenna graduated from their theatre degrees nearly 2 years ago. If they want to work in their chosen fields, they’ve realised that along with going to auditions, they have to write and produce their own shows. This particular show was written by a friend of theirs and was produced by the theatre company that Jenna and 2 friends have started.

I applaud their initiative. I don’t think I ever had the degree of get-and-and-go that these young people have.

Dad joke of the day:

Little Adventures #15: Creswick and Ballarat. July 2022.

Finally – the girls’ weekend arrived! Working towards Financial Independence involves a lot more things than money. One of these things is having the means and the freedom to set up experiences for the people we love. The timeshare that I bought many years ago and then barely used is now really coming into its own.

This timeshare runs on points, so I’m not tied to just one place at the same time every year. Since I retired I’ve been on 6 holidays and have used it to give a week away in New Zealand for David28 and Izzy’s honeymoon next year. I’m determined to never waste a point again. Now it was time for the girls’ weekend at the Sebel in Creswick.

I went up to the townhouse in Creswick a couple of days early, as I had to book 4 nights to secure the weekend that we wanted. On Friday, I was sewing on the 5,000+ piece quilt, (hereafter named ‘The Sea Glass quilt’) when I glanced at the tv. A HUGE kangaroo was reflected in it.

Sure enough, on the other side of the driveway was a big old man roo. I didn’t go near him… those guys can tear a hole in your abdomen if you annoy them… but I took some photos.

You know you’re in the country when there’s a roo outside your house!

The girls arrived on Friday evening and we all settled in. Izzy – David28’s fiancee; Jenna – Evan25’s girlfriend; and Ashley and Kate – my nieces. They’re all really great girls, and are all pretty much the same age, ranging from 25 – 22, so they all have lots of things in common.

After a night spent talking and sipping a few bevvies, we awoke the next morning hungry for adventure. Jenna met Evan25 when they were both doing their acting/music theatre degree in Ballarat, so she was our official tour guide.

The first stop was a patch of bush in Blackwood. Apparently it’s Evan25’s favourite place in all the world, which is a bold claim. Then again, he hasn’t seen a whole heap of the world yet, to be fair.

It’s a pine forest with lots of walking tracks/BMX paths through it.

Ash and Jenna decided to race to the top of one of the bike jumps.

We were walking along and someone saw that a cubby house had been built in one of the trees. It had fake grass, a chair and a pole to slide down.


I took this photo of Izzy to send to David28, to show him that his beloved was an intrepid woman of adventure.

(In reality, we bonded over how unfit we were. The others were racing around like mountain goats while we were sucking in air and trying not to sound as if we were dying.)

A cave. Jenna warned us that we didn’t want to go in there. I didn’t ask for further information.

The next stop was Ballarat, to a trash and treasure place called ‘The Old Mill’. Next door was an ugg boot shop. Ash mentioned that she was looking for new uggies so we went in.

She found the perfect pair on the bargain table outside.

Kate found a pair of slip-on slippers inside.

Honestly, I’ve never seen anyone so delighted by a purchase. She was giggling and skipping around like a 3 year old! Definitely an awesome souvenir!

Then we ducked into The Old Mill.

As I was wandering around I saw this massive hexagon quilt. It was double sided, with no filling in between.

And hand-sewn. It must have taken some poor woman YEARS to complete.

Jenna found a most fetching hat to try on.

Everyone but Izzy and I bought something. Izzy has a wedding to pay for and I’ve just given all my money to Tom30, (plus there’s Antarctica coming up!) so we were very restrained.

Good on us.

After all of that, we needed some lunch, so we went to a dumpling bar near where Jenna and Evan25 went to uni.

The lunch special. Not bad for $15.

After that, we went back to the town of Creswick to see what was happening there. It used to be a typical country town, but in the years since I brought the boys here for a getaway it’s become a bit bougie and trendy.

We went to a beautiful clothes shop and what was supposed to be a hardware-type place but had the most bewildering range of utilitarian and gift-shop items that you could imagine. It was obviously trying to please both the locals and the tourists.

The sisters and Jenna bought some beautifully scented bath salts. Did I mention that the apartment we were staying at had a couple of massive baths in each room? So big that you could almost swim laps.

Ashley and Kate decided that they were going to have a bath. This is the shot I sent to my sister.

This weekend was NOTHING like the weekends I’ve spent away with my boys. Conversations about eyebrow threading, hairstyles, fashion, home decor… it was a whole new world.

Ashley decided that part of her contribution to the weekend was to make mulled wine in the thermomix. After dinner on Saturday, as we were settling down to a night of card games, drinking and laughter, she revved up the thermie… I made her use the old ‘antique’ version… and she served us a glass each.

It was so good!

Two girls brought soju.

People who’ve read my account of when I went to North Korea will know that we downed many a bottle of soju while on that tour! I used to say that my lifetime of drinking had prepared me well.

Soju in Australia has many different flavours, which tones the original flavour down. Drinking soju isn’t for the faint-hearted. It’s VERY strong. We decided to have a taste test, with Jenna pouring a smidgeon into our glasses and we rated them. Watermelon, pomegranate and peach were the best, though the peach made me think of peach schnapps.

However, I was the only one who could drink the original flavour, which honestly tastes like rocket fuel. The girls couldn’t stand it, but it made me nostalgic. This was the only soju we had back in North Korea. I ended up taking the bottle home with me. No way I was going to let that little taste of the happy times in the DPRK go to waste!

And to finish – here’s one of the games we played. So much laughter and fun!

I decided to try and get the girls together when it dawned on me that despite being part of the family for 4 years, Jenna and Izzy had NEVER had a conversation without some or all of the boys being around.

That’s just ridiculous.

I invited the nieces for a couple of reasons.

First – the apartment sleeps 5, so it made sense. Frogdancer Jones always likes to get more bang for her buck.

Secondly – and most importantly – women are the glue that holds families together. If you’ve been reading this for any length of time, you’ll know that I always have a view for the long game. These four young women are going to be moving the family through into the future. It makes sense for them to get to know each other on a deeper level than merely “meeting for Christmas.”

This weekend turned out even better than I hoped. I mean, I knew we’d have a good time. None of the girls are bitches (thank God!) and they already get along.

It was a weekend of conversations, laughter and bonding. We had so much fun. All 5 of us went home knowing everyone so much better, which made me very happy. Jenna and Kate live near each other and they were making plans to meet for dinner with their partners and to see each other’s houses. How lovely is that?

Now they’re all REALLY looking forward to David28 and Izzy’s wedding, because there’s a deeper connection than just being David28’s cousins.

Kate and Ash got to spend ‘sister time’ together, which is really special once long-term partners enter into the picture. My sister was so happy that they got to do this.

We know that Izzy is a smiling assassin in games of strategy and Kate and I are excellent partners in wordplay games.

We know that Jenna is never happier than when she’s got a task to organise and Ash is that rare breed of sports fan who can actually watch a game of footy with the sound turned down. Thank goodness. I hate the sound of sports commentary.

We also know how much they all love their partners. There was no whingeing about them at all, which is a fair feat seeing as they’ve all been with their partners from 2 – 5 years. They seem to have chosen well… even the ones who chose MY sons!

I knew that we’d all get along, but this was next level. I was so happy to spend time with them all and have time without partners and other family members diluting the mix. I think my family is so very lucky to have them all in it.

They were asking if we could do this again next year. I think that an annual girls’ weekend could be a truly excellent tradition to have…

Dad joke of the day:

What’s the difference between a literalist and a kleptomaniac?

A literalist takes things literally.

A kleptomaniac takes things, literally.

Little Adventures #15: Manly Beach. June 2022.

So this is the photo Tom30 sent me at 4 PM on the first day of my holiday. I was 800kms away in Bowral, checking in. They were there, thinking, “Any moment now, Mum’ll be home from work! She’s been gone ALL DAY.”

Poor babies.


… holidays like this one are so special. They’re like retirement on steroids.

Sure, I’m retired and can do what I feel like doing – even doing some CRT work if I want to. But I still have dogs and people relying on me to do things. Here, on holidays like this, I’m totally free to do whatever I want.

This time, I stretched that to the limits by refusing to plan anything before I left. All I had were the accommodation bookings of 2 nights in Bowral and 5 nights in Manly Beach.

Everything else was left blank. I was able to fill these days however I chose.

I did a bit of this over 2 days, just chipping away at it. When I was at Bowral I didn’t even leave the room! I read a couple of books and did some sewing and watched some ‘Better Call Saul.’

One morning in Manly Beach, for a couple of hours, I sat just inside the room with the balcony doors opened and sewed, listening to the sound of the ocean every time the machine paused. It was lovely.

When I’m on these Little Adventures where I stay overnight somewhere, unless I’m meeting people, I always race around during the days and when twilight hits, I make my way back to the room and spend the evening inside. Safety first! As a solo-travelling woman, I have to keep in mind that some people are crazy.

So when I reached Bowral I went to the supermarket before I checked in. I’d already brought vegemite, crackers, a couple of tins of tuna, chips and chocolate from home, so I bought butter, dips and a couple of frozen meals for dinner.

Not exciting, but then, I’m not much of a foodie.

So, once I checked in, I was free to hunker down and be totally self-indulgent. Besides, I’d been to Bowral last year for a Little Adventure so I knew what was around there. Well, it was a Little Adventure BEFORE I started doing them.

However, all bets were off when I got to Manly!

The last time I was in Sydney was 13 years ago when the boys and I stayed for a week at Darling Harbour. We did the bridge climb – which is when I found out that my youngest son is scared of heights, oops! – and raced around to aquariums, Taronga zoo etc.

Never made it to Manly Beach, so this time around I was going to poke around and have a look at the actual harbour and see what Manly itself has to offer.

It was winter (obviously) but it was a sunny day. While I was waiting for my room to be ready I walked along the foreshore, stopping every now and then to read a little from my book, then walking again.

This was a Nippers surfing class. My kids were never involved with the Nippers but my nieces grew up on the beach, so they were heavily involved. They loved it.

I took this shot when I was sitting reading. I looked up and loved the shades of blue.

When I checked in, went to Coles for more supplies and got back, it was twilight and I sat on the balcony and gave Mum a call. She was in rehab due to taking a tumble and fracturing her pelvis a few weeks ago. As I was talking, two lorikeets decided to visit. (I popped my foot there for reference.)

I thought that was as close as they’d come, but I was mistaken. We get lorikeets in Melbourne now – not ever when I was a child – but they’re not as fearless as this!

The next afternoon, after a lazy morning reading and sewing, I decided to see where the Manly wharf was. I was idly planning to jump on a ferry on Wednesday to see Sydney Harbour.

When I got there the water was choppy. I thought, “Bugger it! I’m going to be travelling across the Drake Passage in December. Let’s have a choppy ferry ride today!”

Turns out that it was good decision to make. Fortunate Frogdancer struck again, though I didn’t know it at the time.

I walked around the harbour with the bridge and Opera House for a while. Obviously, Melbourne is bY FAR the best city to live in, but even I have to admit that Sydney’s harbour is glorious. Our Port Phillip Bay can’t hold a candle to it.

Here’s a bin chicken I saw at The Rocks.

I don’t know if my overseas readers know, but Captain Bligh, of ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ fame, was a Governor od New South Wales in the later part of his career.

If memory serves, he was pretty bad at that job too, but I could be wrong.

I liked how you could be walking through The Rocks and the bridge would just pop up, seemingly out of nowhere. It reminded me of Paris and the Eiffel Tower.

This place has some of the oldest buildings in Australia. I chuckled when I remembered a man in the UK asking me what I was most excited about seeing while I was there. I said, “If you have anything over 200 years old, I’ll be happy.”

He smiled and said, “I think we’ve got you covered!”

Tuesday was a lovely day. I mentioned before that the last time I was in Sydney was 13 years before. On that visit, I left the boys Home Alone for an evening and went to a blog meet of all of the Sydney bloggers in our little blogging circle.

Fifi La Stupenda was one of those women. That was the only time I’ve ever met her IRL, but we’re friends on FB. For the past year or two, I’ve been posting a couple of Dad jokes a day there, and apparently Fifi’s been enjoying them. When I posted a photo of the view from my balcony at the Sebel, she contacted me and suggested we meet for brunch.

Although she lives a couple of bays away, Manly Beach is a reserve and so for someone who swims in the ocean every single day as she does, it’s worth the drive to swim among fish, sharks and other underwater creatures. Far more interesting than just bare sand!

She goes to Manly to swim nearly every day, so we arranged to meet for brunch at a café near the beach.

It was a gamble for both of us – it’d either be a raging success or it’d be a stilted conversation. But, as it turned out, we were there for 3 hours having a lovely time, so much so that we agreed to meet for lunch the following day. That’s where the ‘Fortunate Frogdancer’ thing from Monday applies. If I hadn’t taken the ferry on Monday I wouldn’t have been free to have lunch on Wednesday.

It’s funny how things have a way of working out.

After brunch I walked to the Manly Gallery to see what was there. There were a couple of exhibitions about refugees, which were ok, but I vastly preferred the sculpture of the tree outside:

On the way home I stopped at a shop/gallery featuring indigenous art. Now, THIS was fantastic! Who knows what I might have walked away with, but I knew I was going to be spending around 6K on flights, accommodation and insurance for Antarctica when I got back to the room.

I wasn’t feeling very spendy about anything else.

This is what the water looked like while Fifi was having her pre-lunch swim. I never use filters on my photos – this is what it looked like on the surface. Apparently, she was swimming with the ‘sweetest’ little grey nurse shark under those waves.

She took me to the café near the old Quarantine Station where we saw this magnificent view of the harbour. It was nearly dinner time when she dropped me back at the hotel. Say what you like about blogging, but it certainly draws like-minded people together!

The next day I drove home, accidentally leaving my reading glasses and sewing lamp in my room. What a doofus I am! The service at the Sebel for the timeshare is impeccable though – they’re posting them down to me.

As I said at the start, a holiday like this is retirement on steroids. I had total freedom to do as much or as little as I wanted, with the freedom to grab opportunities as they came up. It was a lovely little break from my regular life, with the added bonus of being able to hear the sea whenever I was in my room.

It was wonderful.

Dad joke of the day:

Little Adventures #14. Mt Buller etc. May 2022.

Many many years ago I bought into a time-share. I used to call it my second-biggest mistake, but now I’m not so sure that it was. (A mistake, I mean.)

I was attracted to this timeshare because of its relative flexibility. It uses points and has about 20 or so properties across Australia, New Zealand and Bali. You can use your points to reserve holidays across any of the properties – as long as they have the vacancies for when you want them, of course.

Mum and Dad have a couple of timeshares in Bali, but these are the old-style ones where you are only able to go to the same property at the same week/s each year. That doesn’t suit me. I want to be free to see new things.

I bought into it back in 2006, just after I took the boys to Bali. I wanted to take them on more trips away and I thought it would force me to do that. I also had the VERY long-term thought that one day… having the points and properties available would allow me to give the boys accommodation for honeymoons to help save them money.

I’ve now found an unexpected benefit. When I bought into the timeshare, I bought into a level that allowed me to use a 3BR apartment for a week each year. I needed the space with the 4 boys. Now that I’m travelling on my own, those 5,000 points a year can be broken up into many more trips. If I feel like being luxurious, a 1BR space is more than ample. A studio apartment is perfectly fine if I want to squeeze more value from the points.

Last week I was THRILLED to be able to book David27 and Izzy’s honeymoon accommodation in New Zealand. I play the long game in a lot of things and so it was incredibly satisfying to have a plan come together.

But when I was on the site, I saw that I had just under 5,000 points that needed using up before June 30 this year.

Yikes! With all of the lockdowns last year, it completely slipped my mind that this could happen. I grabbed a calculator and a calendar, logged onto the website and started reviewing my options.

So far I’ve booked a week in Manly Beach in Sydney at the end of June. Then I thought, ‘What am I doing this coming weekend?’ Nothing on the calendar… so I looked at what was available within driving distance. The Sebel Pinnacle Valley resort at the foot of Mt Buller had a 1 bedder free.

So off I went.

I arrived after dark on the first night, as I picked up a CRT day at school. I brought food (of course – the restaurant on-site is expensive), so I had a relaxed night in front of the tv and rolled into a bed I didn’t have to share with Poppy and Jeff.

The next morning I was woken by kookaburras. I was enchanted. I know I’m in the country when I hear this!

After a leisurely breakfast, I decided to go for a walk around the lake. The air, being up so high in the mountains, was cold and crisp, but it’s not snow season yet so it was pleasant. (Snow. Ugh. So uncivilised!)

As I was walking I heard the kookaburras again, along with lots of magpie song. We have maggies at home, but their song is beautiful. Here’s a clip for overseas people who might not have heard it:

I’m a bit cross with this photo because the kangaroos were far closer than it appears. Anyway, here are some kangaroos!

I finished the lake circuit and headed back, where I saw this:

Remember last year when I collected 9 garbage bags full of leaves for the veggie garden? I had a few garbage bags in the car so I helpfully unblocked the drain.

A short time later I was in the car and driving down the driveway. I decided I’d turn right once I hit the main road. I had a vague idea I’d explore a little country town or something.

I had no idea that the next stop was Mt Buller.

The road is pretty much a one-lane-each-way all the way up the mountain for about 20 kms. I imagine that it’d be pretty frustrating during snow season, but I was literally the only car on the road. I zipped up there, really enjoying the drive with no slow coach in front of me spoiling it.

Same on the way back.

Along the way there were some pretty spots:

When I reached the Mt Buller resort, I decided that I’d park the car somewhere and walk to the summit, then come back and grab some lunch. The place was pretty much a ghost town. There were a few people around, but mostly, I had the place to myself.

I found a track to the top and set off.

It was a cold morning and rain clouds were gathering. I didn’t bring a coat but I figured that I’d be fine with just a jumper. The track was clearly marked, but steep. At first I was walking fast but then it occurred to my mighty mind that I wasn’t racing anyone, so I took my time.

I don’t know if anyone else read the Silver Brumby books when they were a kid? I loved them. As I was walking, I was wondering if maybe there were brumbies hanging around on the mountains.

The chairlifts looked almost sculptural, hanging motionless.

I kept walking. This mountain track kept going up. And up. And up.

At one stage I was thinking about turning back. The clouds were coming closer and I was getting out of breath. But then I saw these signs… taunting me…

I knew I had to keep going. No building was going to taunt me and get away with it!

But as I kept walking higher, the clouds descended. I was so very close to the top, but when I looked around all I could see was this:

And this:

However, soon I had to call it a day. The clouds descended and I couldn’t see more than a few metres in any direction. I was so close to the summit, but I wouldn’t see anything if I got there.

I decided that close enough was good enough – no point busting a gut if I couldn’t see anything when I got there – and walked back down, starting to think about lunch.

To my chagrin, as I was walking down I was passed by a car.

You mean I could’ve driven all the way up??!?

Anyway, I made it back to the car and drove around, looking for a cafe.

My plan seemed like it was about to come undone. NOTHING seemed to be open! The one time I decided to treat myself to a meal and this happens!

Fortunately, I asked a workman and he pointed to two places. One was nearby, the other was up quite a steep hill.

LOL. As if I’d be walking up another steep hill anytime soon!

Imagine this place in a couple of weeks time in the snow season, once the snow has started to fall. A Saturday lunchtime. I’m sure the place would be full.

I ordered my meal and settled down with my book.

I really liked this quote. Just thought I’d share.

The pear and rocket salad was delicious!

After I had lunch, I wandered around the place on the way back to my car.

There was absolutely no one around.

There didn’t seem to be anything left to see here, so I jumped back in the car and headed down the mountain again.

My original plan was to see what was around in Merrijig, the closest little town to my resort, but there’s no actual town, just a couple of pubs. I kept going and hit the next town, Mansfield.

As I was driving through, I saw this cute little cellar door for Ros Ritchie wines. I’ve never heard of them, but the thought of a little wine tasting on a nippy autumn afternoon sounded Just The Thing, so I went in. Sip some wines, buy a bottle to be polite, read my book while I’m doing it.

The joint was jumping. They had a bus tour out the back, with 50 people tasting the wines. There were 2 parties going on and some couples enjoying wine and cheese platters.

The young guy running the tastings sat me by the fire and then gave me a menu.

“All the tastings are free,” he said, which surprised me a bit. Last year when I went to the wineries in South Australia with Jenna’s parents, there was a charge per head to do wine tasting. He asked if I wanted to start with a sparkling wine, but when I said that i still have 8 bottles left over from David28 and Izzy’s engagement party, we started with a white.

This guy was so good at his job. He was racing around looking after everyone inside, but whenever he came back with the next wine for me to try, he’s stay and have a chat about the flavours and aromas. I didn’t feel neglected at all. In fact, it was entertaining watching him keep all those plates spinning! When I got home I sent an email to the winery, commending his work.

I walked out with 5 bottles. It was very nice wine.

It was getting close to 5 PM, so I headed back to the resort. I had a voucher for a free drink at the restaurant, so I settled in beside the open fire with a cheeky shiraz and my book. The autumn colours were able to be seen from every window and it was too early for the dinner rush. I enjoyed the vibe until my iPad ran out of batter and my book died. Home to my room and a ‘Big Bang Theory’ marathon.

I had a plan for the next day to drop in at the Healesville Sanctuary on the way home, but I think I’m the sort of traveller that once the car is pointed towards home, I just want to get there. Is anyone else like that? I saw the turn-off to Healesville but took the turning for Melbourne.

This was a very peaceful, relaxing break. As much as I love my house, it was lovely to get out and see mountains, trees, cows and kangaroos instead of suburbia.

Plus there’s not too many driveways that look like this where I live – ESPECIALLY with the best footie team!

I’ve popped the wine I bought at the winery away. Later in the year, I think it’ll be cool to open a bottle and remember my little getaway.

Dad joke of the day:

To the person who stole my place in the queue – I’m after you now.

Little Adventures #13: Cranbourne Botanical Park. April 2022.

Remember last year, when people from our pasts reconnected on Facebook because we were all in lockdown and had lots of time on our hands? After things eased up, I went on quite a few reunion lunches and coffees.

On one of these, I heard how a school friend’s husband was working at the Cranbourne Botanical Gardens. I’d vaguely heard about this place before, but when Blogless Sandy mentioned that her walking group had been there and really enjoyed it, I decided to use it for my latest Little Adventure.

(Basically, when I retired I decided to take a Little Adventure once a month. I’ll go somewhere/do something that I never have before. What’s the point of freedom if you don’t explore a little?)

When I got there I made straight for the lookout, which was perched on the highest part of the whole area. Here I found a map of the place. I decided to save the top part for a further Little Adventure sometime in the future and to hang a right just after the Perched Swamp and walk along the bottom part of the property.

That’ll be enough for one morning!

So I set off. The track was on a gentle incline. One thing I really didn’t like about this place is that they didn’t allow dogs, so the little woofs had to stay at home. But further up the trail I spotted two labradors. Turns out they were Assistance dogs being trained.

I didn’t want to muck up their training so I held back while they went up the lookout tower first. While they were there I saw this sign underneath:

Phew! Thank goodness there wasn’t a cloud in the sky!

I climbed the steps to the top of the lookout and surveyed my surroundings. The assistance dogs were disappearing down the hill.

I don’t know what’s causing the sparkle on the horizon, but it looked pretty.

It was a bit of a shock to read that on a clear day I could see both Port Philip and Westernport bays from here. Despite having lived here for 6 years, I haven’t yet made the adjustment to realising that I’m far nearer the Peninsula than the city.

Anyway, after a long look around, I set off down the track.

Isn’t this lovely? It’s a little door under the fence so that echidnas can move through.

To be honest, most of the walk wasn’t that exciting, view-wise. This was the usual ‘vista’… fairly boring scrub. But the air was fresh and pure and all I could hear was birdsong and my feet crunching on the gravel.

That wasn’t so hard to take.

Then I got to the turnoff to the Perched Swamp and went down the path. I found this bit really interesting.

If you read the sign, it turns out that this patch of land is like a teacup suspended between the dunes. Water seeps in and it turns into a swamp. Hence the name – the swamp is perched, suspended (in a way) between the dunes.

This hasn’t been filled since 2001, which goes to show how dry this area is. The photo on the sign shows a vastly different view than the one I was seeing.

Two wallabies were having a snack to the right.

If the sign wasn’t there, you’d never dream that you were looking at swampland.

That’s the edge of the ‘teacup.’

A little further along the main track, I saw the sign that told me to diverge and take the road less travelled* to the wetlands.

*Just a little nod to the literature buffs.

Looks inviting, doesn’t it?

All this time I was walking along, totally alone (as I thought), just enjoying the day. I was walking in a shady part of the track, totally alone (as I thought) when I saw a tree with bright green moss on it.

Still walking, I suddenly stopped dead and lifted my phone to take the shot when something moved. For a split second I froze. A woman walking alone NEVER likes unexpected movements near her.

Then I saw…

And something else moved…

They were so close to me! I was so rapt. What an absolute gift.

If I hadn’t have stopped unexpectedly to take that photo and scared the living daylights out of them for a split second, I never would have known they were there.

Here’s the tree with the moss, by the way. Just in case you were wondering.

Considerably buoyed by my wallaby encounter, I set off again. The track turned sandy and then I found the lake.

I walked off the track to get closer, trying to avoid stepping on the wallaby poo that seemed to be everywhere.

Then I saw a duck!

It was even better when she turned out to have ducklings. I stayed there for a while, just enjoying the vibe, then I set off again. My next goal was to get back to the car park.

That quilt isn’t going to make itself.

This part of the walk seemed to go on FOREVER. I was glad I brought my hat as it got quite sunny. I saw a couple of Mums with prams in this section, and I caught a glimpse of the assistance dogs a long way behind me.

Look! Some more duck-like things!

They were a brilliant shade of blue, though it’s only on the left-hand one in this photo that you can get an idea.

I kept walking.

I had no choice…

It was a long track with not much to look at. Fortunately, I had my thoughts to keep me company. I find myself very interesting.

Before you label me as egotistical – just imagine if I didn’t find my thoughts interesting. How awful would that be? You can never escape yourself. You’re always with you, so you may as well enjoy it.

This was quite interesting. When I was walking up towards it I couldn’t make out what these strange little boxes were. Nesting boxes for endangered birds?? Turns out it was far more scientific.

Started wondering if dinosaurs lived in the bush as well as wallabies.

The track had curved and we were back in the trees again. Surely I was getting closer?

I’m a busy woman. I have things to do at home.

Plus, look at how close those trees grew together. Crazy.

There’s no real reason for this shot. I just liked the colours.


This was a long walk for me because I’m very unfit, but it was easy. The paths are well maintained and there’s no way you could stray off them and get lost.

When I was talking to Blogless Sandy about it, she mentioned that I’d apparently chosen the most untouched part of the garden to explore. This means that when I next choose to go back, I’ll be wandering around a more planned part, which showcases Australian plants.

Should be good.

All in all, I enjoyed this Little Adventure. It’s nice to think that in these modern times there’s some land so close to the city where for a split second wallabies and humans can scare the living daylights out of each other.

Good times.

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