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Australia Part 4: The farm and the beach

The stay at my parent’s farm was only a few days. But we got the proper Coleambally experience, with a 38oC day.

The boy was well impressed with fresh peas. He’d even just eat the entire pod, not bothering to shell them first.

Evening walks, when it had cooled down to 30oC, and I could wear the unicorn mask without immediately dying of heatstroke.

We even went into town, where I got to meet up with an old school friend, and our kids were introduced to the joy of running through sprinklers on a hot day.

On the drive back to the farm from town, we came across a burnt out truck – trailers detached and safely unburnt though. I went to take a photo to show Dad, but he was out fighting the fire.

The stay at the farm over to soon, we were headed back towards Melbourne, although first with a detour to the Puckapunyal tank museum – the menfolk were thrilled, I happily napped in the van.

Dinner with old mountaineering club friends! All have offspring, and so they all went off and played together (they didn’t seem to be setting anything on fire at least) while we caught up.

Then it was down to Sorrento for our final night. Taking the boy to a proper beach was good, although it was a typical Australian experience, with the beach covered in bluebottles (aka Portugese man o’war) – a jellyfish-like thing with tentacles that can deliver a painful (and sometimes fatal) sting. Good old Australia.

And the cousins (and brothers) got to spend more time hanging out together, so that was good.

Wonderful, beautiful Australian coastline.

And then the next day was packing, returning the van, and back to the airport and on to the cold, dark Canadian winter.

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Australia Part 3: Arapiles days continued…

Wednesday was a chance to revisit my childhood of stomping about in the Grampians. Well, not exactly all of my childhood, but rather some highly valued and infrequent childhood trips to the Grampians. Trips that instilled a love of rock hopping, scrambling about on rocks, and getting to the top of mountains –  which my parents may have come to regret as I took to rock climbing and then disappeared to live in the Canadian Rockies.

We went to hike up the Pinnacle, overlooking Halls Gap – I had distant memories of it being fun, and involving plenty of rock hopping. I was right!

It was a warm day (by Canadian standards anyway) (actually, by Australian standards too judging by the state of some of the other people out hiking). Al and Lincoln joined us hiking, while Brendan was off on a gravel grinding loop through the Grampians.

The rocks were numerous, and highly hoppable – Finn took to it all with great pleasure. We explored in two caves, and stuck our head in a waterfall – all helpful to cool down. The details of Alex’s heritage as a cave dweller were explored more thoroughly (apparently this all started while they were climbing at Bushranger’s Bluff), as we explained to Finn that one of these caves was where Papa had grown up.

At the summit we found a pet cicada, then it was eaten by a crow, and a harsh life lesson was learned by all.

We even went and tried the nerve test, and discovered that we have no nerves, and were totally fine with that.

Then back down to the carpark, and it was time for icecream for all in Halls Gap!

Thursday brought a pleasantly relaxing morning, followed by some relaxing climbing in the shade with Cath and Adam. I even got to frolic through a field of daisies on one of the climbs! All of the rain has done wonders for some of the cliff vegetation.

Smudge wasn’t a fan of the unicorn, but was a fan of trying to devour things that anyone is holding, even if they are a unicorn.

Lured out to ride a bike one more time (it’s notoriously difficult to get me to go for a ride, it tends to be as difficult as just suggesting one), I rode up to the summit of Arapiles with Brendan once again. When there’s nothing but plains all around, it’s far and away the most obvious spot to go – and has the added benefit that you can actually see the sunset!

Sundowner beer successfully drunk (dranken? drinked?), it was back to Andy’s to catch the tail end of roast dinner and more catching up with Brett and Sair who had arrived that afternoon.

Friday morning we all hit the Organ Pipes, now climbing with Sair for the first time in absolutely years.

Fun climbing times done, we headed into town to hang out at the cafe (blanket couches!), then it was time for goodbyes. Again. This was the downside of the Australia trip.

The afternoon plan was to go and visit the Little Desert National Park. I was dubious. We arrived in the desert. It was full of trees and plants. I proclaimed that my parent’s farm looks like more of a desert than this. #worstdesertever!

All the recent rain did at least mean there were pretty flowers to look at. However, our attempts at doing the guided desert walk were a bit of a failure – there were lots of numbered posts, and an accompanying informational brochure, but the majority of the flora of note seemed to have died in the meantime.

The hand lizard enjoyed making its way around the desert though.

And there’s nothing quite like deserted desert roads for jump shots. And photo bombing apparently.

Saturday brought yet more goodbyes, as the NZ crew disappeared. Cath and I got one more climb in at the Organ Pipes though, so that was lovely.

The afternoon was gainfully spent lazing in trees, hiking to the summit of the mount with Al and Lincoln, and sitting about in the Horsham pool. And catching a Snorlax – there was a lot of Pokemon catching on this trip.

Then it was Sunday, and time to leave. But not before a final bike ride to the summit!  Andy and I rode together until we hit the Arapiles road, then he sent me off to sprint to the summit, which I had great fun doing, thoroughly exhausting myself (and getting a couple of QOMs, woo).

Final Arapiles farewells were said to Al and Lincoln, and then to Andy, Ying and Smudge, who we’d been staying with for the past week (and had loaned bikes, and entertained the Moosling with an endlessly fascinating collection of Lego Technic creations).

And so, onwards, with just one week left in Australia, the van hit the road once again.

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Australia Part 2: Arriving in Arapiles

And so we drove south, driving in the driving rain. The only thing I can remember of the drive was the very excellent painted silos at Brim. Painted by Brisbane artist Guido van Helten, and depicting anonymous farming characters – I’d swear one could be my grandfather.

We know a few people living in Natimuk these days; quite sensibly, it’s a lovely place. We lured even more people from further away to come and visit us, Brett and Sair from Melbourne, Al and Lincoln from Canberra, and Brendan and Adele from New Zealand! It could well be that the fact we were hanging out at Arapiles was quite a drawcard as well. It really is world class climbing, and I was rather spoiled by learning to climb there – it’s hard for anywhere else to compare.

I’ve only been back to Araps once since living in Canada, but it’s amazing how familiar everything still is. So many spare holidays and weekends were spent hanging out at the Pines, climbing and climbing and climbing. And eating chocolate. And lazing around in the dirt. Then thinking about climbing, and talking about climbing, and looking at the guidebook, and maybe climbing some more.

After finding everyone and catching up, our first day mostly consisted of a brief bumble about at Mitre Rock. Finn gallivanted about with a harness on, did some short-roping, some body-belay lowers, was schooled in tying figure 8s by Al, and in gear placement by Alex.

Adele, Claire and Brendan climbed something – well, Brendan climbed until he went and sublexed his shoulder and swore off climbing forever. After he lowered to the relative safety of the ground, the girls continued upwards.

Meanwhile I followed Al and Lincoln up Exodus, which was much harder than I remember it being. Ah, I was going to have to relearn how to climb on rock all over again. I was perfectly happy not to be leading … this terribly hard grade 6 climb..

Day Two brought a chance to actually ride bikes with Brendan – despite knowing each other thanks to the connection of grandparents being in the same cycling club, and both being obsessed with riding the damn things, we’ve had the chance to actually ride together far too infrequently.

I’d been generously loaned a road bike by friends in Natimuk, and it was rather nice to actually get out for a spin. And even ride up a mountain! A very small mountain, but still.

We spent some time hanging out at the summit and marvelling at the vast array of lakes. There never used to be lakes here! What do you mean there were lakes here all along? What, someone just filled them with water you say, and they’ve actually been here all this time? Inconceivable!

Meanwhile, in other parts of Arapiles, mountains were being climbed. The mighty summit team helped the six year old climb up to the pirate’s cave (the bushranger’s cave is on the other side, so I assume this one was probably for pirates), and the ascent was accomplished without the aid of either oxygen or champagne.

And so  we rode back down to visit the rest of the climbing crew at Bushranger’s Bluff – where Alex was demonstrating his stumpy-whispering skills, destined to be honed throughout the coming week.

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Australia Part 1: Melbourne to Mildura

And so, after three years, we were finally off to visit Australia again. This time flying via Hong Kong, in an epic series of flights that took us over 34 hours door to door. Still, it could be worse. A billiard table could fall on you.

On the way we discovered that there’s nothing quite like an airport full of pokestops and pokemon catching to make a seven hour layover absolutely fly past. Thanks Hong Kong. Also, it’s possible for a six-year old to watch the Lego Movie four times in a row, even when there are other movies and TV shows available (actually, that last one really isn’t much of a surprise when I think about it).

On arrival, I got really excited about all of the roundabouts and give-way signs that feature in Australian traffic design, and started taking lots of photos of random roadside features. And then we had the whirlwind visit of friends and family in Melbourne.

Trampolines, playgrounds, cousins, beer, goats, family, backyard bonfires, riding fixies on suburban streets, making random cakes, bike talk, lots of hugs.

All in all, it was a pretty good taste of Melbourne: excellent, except for the traffic and all the other people!

Then it was on to Mildura, for my cousin’s wedding. Ostensibly the reason for the trip, as we’d missed out on many weddings and funerals in the past three years, it made sense to try and make our visit coincide with one. Wonderful to catch up with family I hadn’t seen since moving to Canada.

There was a wonderfully epic thunderstorm the night before the wedding, the best I’ve ever seen. But the day itself was beautiful, and thankfully not too hot.

And to top things off, the Moosling was introduced to the wonders of snapchat filters by my brother. What more could you want in a family wedding?