We wander in and wonder at the beauty of our "Land Down Under".

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Getting off the highway

Monday, Monday

A painless exit from the ferry, set the GPS for Sale and we are away! There's not a lot to tell about getting out of Melbourne except that it's worth it having an Eastlink account, which allows you to use the motorways without incurring a fine afterwards!

One good thing about the ferry arriving early in the morning is that exiting the city is usually pretty painless if you've got your directions sorted. All the traffic is going into the city and you're on the way out. Works for me.

Having set ourselves the goal of visiting some lesser-known and out-of-the-way parks in our travels, we'd decided to head for the the northeast corner of Croajingolong National Park, near Mallacoota. It's a bit over 500 kilometres from Port Melbourne where the Spirit of Tasmania docks to Mallacoota. We thought that was pretty doable given our early start off the ferry, allowing for time to get out and stretch our legs every few hours. The drive was pretty uneventful except for one thing: shortly before arriving in Mallacoota we spotted our first ever Superb Lyrebird just beside the highway. It was to prove to be just the first of many beautiful birds we have seen over the past two days. Unfortunately it didn't hang around long enough to get a photo but you might like this video:

After numerous stops and an ice cream in Mallacoota, it was late afternoon before we finally reached Shipwreck Creek, our stop for the night. This little campground, which has only five campsites, was predictably deserted when we arrived so we had our choice of spots. Currawongs and kookaburras were squabbling amongst themselves in the neighbouring site, as whoever had been there previously had left a bit of rubbish in situ.

Up went the canvas and then we had a stroll down to the beach to work out the kinks. We probably should have had a swim but were put off by the warning signs about rips, shallow sand bars and hidden rocks - which we realised later seem to be in place along all the non-supervised beaches in national parks in this part of the world. It was nice just to be able to have a beach all to ourselves, in contrast to the main beach in Mallacoota which has a massive caravan park crowding it. 


The main reason for covering 500 plus kilometres out of Melbourne was so that we could spend the morning exploring the environs of Shipwreck Creek. It was so nice being back in the camper again though, we slept in quite late and read our books for a while before getting out of bed and having breakfast.

Eventually, we wandered along a track to the headland behind camp. We were rewarded with sightings of Scarlet Rosellas, Eastern Yellow Robins, Superb Fairy Wrens, and Red Wattlebirds. There were also little thornbills and other tiny birds delighting us by darting in and out of the coastal scrub which we weren't able to identify.

Down to the beach we went, where Di got this photo of me enjoying the solitude ...

It seems there is always something worth seeing if you take the time to look. Here's an example ...

There's an extensive coastal track that we decided to wander along to see what we else we could see. There must have been a bit of rain recently in this part of the world because we saw quite a few mushrooms sprouting amongst the grass and leaf litter alongside the track ...

We not very good on our insects. Can anyone identify this butterfly for us?

The environment is clearly well adapted to fire. The following photo doesn't really represent very well the strong impression of resilience these old, gnarly, banksias - trunks blackened but covered in healthy green foliage - projected on to us ...

What tough plants these must be! I think they are amazing, defiantly withstanding the worst that nature can throw at them. And they are just one of about 170 different species of this fantastic genus in the Australian landscape.

A little before noon we decided it was about time to continue our journey northward. Into Mallacoota we went to top up our supplies and have a stroll around the township. Di is always finding ways to corrupt me, and today was no exception. Despite having bought some groceries for lunch, when we wandered past Lucy's Noodle Bar and Di sniffed the great aromas wafting out of the kitchen, that was that. It turned out to be a pretty good deal though: a fantastic bowl of noodles with veggies and meat, nicely garnished with peanuts and herbs for eight dollars. Yum! Here's Di tucking in:

A couple of years ago when we were up here on the south coast of New South Wales we stayed on the beach at Potato Point along with a bunch of other folks. And, while out riding our mountain bikes we'd spotted a quiet little nook that we thought we could tuck into all on our own on a future visit.

The forest hereabouts is fantastic. Great, smooth-trunked trees shooting skyward. And on the forest floor there are lots of fantastic ferns. A few of them were fruiting ...

We are now ensconced in our little free campsite, tucked under the trees ...

...  where wallabies wander tamely ...

Di is playing me tunes on her tin whistle as I finish this off. It's been another great day on the road ...

Early morning update: Email feedback has come in from a number of you and, thanks to our friend Steve Bunton I can add some detail. The butterfly is commonly known as the "Swordgrass Brown". As we are pretty common, that will do for us. However, for those of you who like to go all Latin, it is a member of the family Nymphalidae and has the name Tisiphone aboena. The fruiting fern is actually a cycad (I should have known that) and is Macrozamia communis. Aborigines called them Burrawangs. The fruits can be eaten but need to be soaked in water first to remove the toxic alkaloids. Bunty also says that you shouldn't buy a house with a Burrawang in the yard because they have huge tuberous routes that play havoc with the foundations! Finally, according to Bunty who is a caver and spends a lot of time near Hastings Caves in southern Tasmania, lyrebirds are abundant in that area, where they were introduced as an insurance population due to all the land clearing for dairy farming on the south coast of NSW. Thanks Bunty!

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