Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Fitzroy Falls and Badgery's Lookout

"Hooroo!" we called out to the coast, it's time to head inland!
We set off north west from Nowra only to be welcomed by the great dividing range. One thing Rocky doesn't do fast is ascending up steep inclines! Lucky for us the rain forest scenery is spectacular!
After most the mountains had been scaled we decided to go for a wonder around Fitzroy Falls which is part of the massive and spectacular Moreton National Park.
One thing quite interesting about this place is that in the 1860's a town was actually planned to be here. Good thing that never came to fruition as this really is a beautiful spot to admire nature, the sheer cliffs and big views can feel quite surreal. There are an east and west rim walk available, we took the east, which is a nice casual, about 3.5 km return walk out to Renown Lookout. Along the walk several lookouts will be presented to you giving you different angles to view the waterfalls, valley and mountains in the distance. Another really cool fact about this place is there is a type of flower which splurts out a pheromone like that of a specific female wasp, the male wasps of the breed are attracted, give it a poke, fly off with the pollen and go poke another. Aint that just lovely!
After having a great walk, we continued west and found ourselves driving out to a place called Badgery's Lookout. While driving out to this place we didn't expect too much, however the views were spectacular! There is a walk here, but it was getting a little late in the arvo and we were wanting to make it to Goulbourn. If you were looking for somewhere quite to camp in the area, Badgery's Lookout would be a top spot, there are little enclosed fire barbeques available and the view is tops too!
We arrived in Goulburn just as a blues festival had finished up in the park. We decided to have dinner here and listened to some groovy tunes coming from one of the local pubs. Despite plenty to do being available in Goulburn, we personally didn't stay too long. There's a lot of road between the New South Wales coast and the Western Australian coast and we had to make tracks!

Thursday, 18 February 2016

On The Road Again: Jervis Bay, beginning our journey to WA.

If you've been reading our blog lately, you'd see that Jen has cracked into the world of House Sitting. We decided a long term house sit, wherever it may be, would be a good way to decide on how we'd start our 2016 adventure! With so many people heading out on long caravan trips every year we figured it would not be that hard of a thing to find. Jeni sent messages to a few people from all around the place and we ended up agreeing to house sit for a couple over in WA. This was quite exciting for us as I had never been to WA and Jeni was keen to see more of it. Seeing the quokkas on Rottnest and the whale sharks of Ningaloo are both high up on my to do list and there'll definitely be a blog on those characters later in the year!
We finished up catching up with our friends and family from home, but decided to head a little south to catch up with some of my other relos in Nowra before setting off west. Once we arrived we were told we have to check out Jervis Bay. We went out for a tour with my cousin, Victoria, to see the beautiful beaches and views of the magnificent bay. She took us out to Husskisson Beach and we went for a short walk over the rocks. The view of the bay from here was amazing and we got a good look of Perpendicular Point on the northern peninsula, and a big naval carrier ship. It didn't take long for us to decide we would have to spend the next day snorkelling around this beautiful part of the world.
Hyams Beach was our first snorkelling location. We set in at the boatramp, parking isn't available at the ramp, but just up the hill on the main road there's plenty of parking. We leapt in then headed north along the coast line, the visibility was good and the surf was pretty tame. We saw a variety of small pretty fish, along with some good eating fish like marwhong, bream, whiting and ludrich. After a while we came to a long beach and decided to take a break, warm ourselves back up and begin the trip back.

Back at the boat ramp we sat in the park and had some lunch while enjoying the beautiful view of Jervis Bay. We then set off to the Beecroft Peninsula, this is the northern headland of Jervis Bay and is used as a military firing range through the week. From 1pm Friday arvo, through to Sunday night, the public has access to a good portion of the peninsula. You'll meet a bloke at a security checkpoint who will take a scan of your ID and give you some info on where you want to go. We set off for  Bindijine Beach, a beautiful little spot on the south west of the peninsula. We jumped out at the carpark, grabbed our snorkelling gear and set off down a path to the coast.
We leapt in and set out into the bay. The water here was warm, rather shallow and incredibly calm. Most the beach floor was carpeted with a sea grass, but we swam to the southern end of the beach and along the rocks we found all sorts of sea life. The visibility here was far better than that of Hyams Beach and we ended up looking around the Bindijine for a couple of hours.

Due to the fact our last few trips have been into crocodile country and inland/desert locations we hadn't snorkelled for quite a while. After we got back ashore, I grabbed myself a beer and inhaled a few gulps. At this point we were buggered and decided we'd check out more of the region on our next visit. Before leaving Beecroft Peninsula we finished the drive out to the Lighthouse and enjoyed the beautiful view of the entire bay on one side and the ocean on the other.
Always exciting to begin a new trip and this was an amazing way to start! Now it's time for us to start heading west!

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Wine tasting: Hunter Valley

I grew up around the Hunter Valley vineyards. My grandfather worked as an assistant wine maker for a time and made sure in my teen years I did my fair stint between the trellises working on a vineyard. I did work experience in a winery and even did viticulture as an elective subject in school. However I never got around to doing a trip around the vineyards on a tasting mission. That was something in my life I direly needed to change! Kumi, a colleague we worked with had completed her stint up at Paronella Park and was enroute to Melbourne. She had stopped in at Newcastle and we thought this was the perfect excuse to go on a "sampling" adventure! Jeni tried a few wines, but she was being a good sport and was deso, while Kumi and I did our best to make educated opinions on the fine wines we were to taste.
Our first destination was Tyrrell's, for the simple reason they were one of the few doing tours at this time of the year. The tours kick off at 10:30 and only cost 5 bucks. If your punctual like our good selves you will be rewarded with some pre-tour wine to "taste" while you wait. We had Scott as our tour guide and the bloke was tops. He had worked here, there and everywhere and had a vast knowledge of wine, from the grafting of the vines all the way to drinking the wine. He threw a lot of interesting facts about grapes and wines at us and kept the tour staying fresh and interesting. Scott also quizzed us on a few things, including if we knew when Japan first had wine, with the offer of a free bottle of wine to anyone who knew the answer! No one guessed
it, but if you are planning on going, it was the 8th century, what the Japanese call their Nara period. Afterwards we tasted a bunch of their wines from grapes grown on site and also from their other vineyards. This is quite a common practice to use grapes from several locations as different varieties of grape grow better in different climates. Lost Block, one of the Tyrrell's wine collections had some hilarious labelling, the Shiraz was my favourite. Kumi discovered a newfound love for dessert wines, in particular Tyrrell's Aged Liqueur Verdelho. My favourite drop here was their Old Block Cabernet Merlot. After an hour of sampling and sharing yarns we had half a sanga each and hit the road.
First Creek was our second destination. They had a nice cellar door and Geoff was our wine guy! He threw a few different varieties to us to taste. The Tempranillo was quite an interesting drop but again, Jeni and my favourite was their 2010 Cabernet Merlot. Kumi was quite keen on the Betritus Semillon. The Betritus Semillon flooded me with memories. See the winery I did work experience at, Tamburlane, had a bad batch of the stuff and they asked me to get rid of it. Me being the well respected teenager I was, made sure not to clog up there bins with all this rubish. I took a couple of boxes home and disposed of the stuff myself!
After these memories of youth, we decided to set a course for the Tamburlane Winery itself. I took a sneek peek around the back to reminisce on cleaning vats and doing the great fun activities wine makers offer to those who request work experience and then headed into the cellar door. They had a bunch of nice jams, chocolates and other great gift type items in their cellar door. The bloke working there came out and gave us some samples whilst I excitedly told stories of my grandfather working with Doc Allan (The guy who started the winery) and also the Betritus Semillon story I previously covered. The wines here are "organic" which in this day and age is all the rage and alledgedly prevents hangovers. The wines, as tasty as they were, cost around $45 a bottle here, so I didn't have the intention to drink enough to test the theory! Their Cabernet Sauvignon was pretty good though, so I grabbed a bottle of it to share with my Grandfather. Kumi was quite the fan of their Aged Liqueur Muscat, that girl likes her sweet wines!
We had hit a point in the day where we decided we needed to eat some cheese. We pulled into McGuigan's and ventured into The Hunter Valley Cheese Factory. They don't offer wine tasting while you eat your cheese which is a bit of a bugger, but if you bring in a bottle of wine they are happy for you to crack it in store. We ordered a plate of cheeses and decided to drink water while we ate it. We all agreed the Brokenback Vintage 5 year cheddar was their best all round cheese. As for personal favourites, for myself it was Marinated Fromage Blanc, Jeni - Sicilian Marinated Feta and Kumi - Hunter Gold Wash Rind.
After our cheese we headed to the building next door, McGuigans cellar door. This is a massive commercialised building, guessing this is where every single tour bus pops into. It wasn't too busy when we rocked up so we had a quick browse of the novelty stuff for sale, then tasted the wines. Being the largest winery in the Hunter it's understandable that these wines were the way they were. Very basic tasting, nothing amazing, nothing terrible. Again this is my personal opinion, I'm a bigger red drinker than white and was told this place is known well for it's whites.
Next we crossed the road over for a stomp through Tempus Two and to The Smelly Cheese Shop first! A young fella behind the counter was really enthusiastic and passing out some delicious cheese samples. Then for a few bucks we grabbed a gelato platter to share with Mars Bar, Horny Caramel, Apple Pie, Pomegranate, Passionfruit and Mango. the Mars Bar was undisputably everyones favourite!
Next we went into the Tempus Two cellar door to try some of their wines. Joel was our server, a passionate fella who was up for a yarn. We had a good ol' chat and tried a few wines, but I found them very similar to McGuigans. Turns out they both share the same winemakers!
The afternoon was getting late but we were still pumped for more sampling! We wanted to try some of the chocolate samples, however they had finished offering samples for the day and we missed out! We ended up at the next Cellar Door, a place called Blaxland Inn. Sarah, the bar girl, had a bubbly personality and was happy to have us come in and break the quiet of the late afternoon. She gave us samples of various wines from Blaxland Estate and Reserve, Snake Creek Cattle Company and Racecourse Lane. Maybe I had just sampled a bit too much by this point to make educated decisions about their wines, but I didn't really remember anything truly standing out. I think the results were similar to the rest of the day, I enjoyed the reds while Kumi got excited over the dessert wines!
Our last stop of the day was Peterson House. As we arrived a tour group was just finishing up, it was just after 5 and the staff were getting ready to close. They were good sports though and gave us a quick sample, Kumi with her desserts and a Shiraz for myself. I said the Shiraz was pretty good, he then offered me a taste of their Sparkling Shiraz. I'm not usually that fussed on sparkling wine, however their Sparkling Shiraz was fantastic. Needless to say I purchased a bottle to have with dinner later that night!
Our day out in the Hunter Valley was fantastic! Could definitely spend a few more days doing wine tasting out in the Hunter Valley. There is also the Hunter Valley Gardens where you can spend a whole other day at too. We are both looking forward to doing wine tasting vineyard adventures again in the future and in different regions.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Newcastle on a budget!

Newcastle is a beautiful part of Australia, particularly during summer and is a place many people who visit Australia end up in at one point or another, especially if they are travelling the east coast. For Jeni and I however, we grew up here and have spent many days enjoying it's beauty, so today I shall give you would be visitors a few amazing things you can do around Newcastle for free, or almost free!
Check out Nobbys beach. You'll find Nobbys right down the end of Hunter st, and not too far from the main bus terminal/old train station. The parking here is also completely free, so a good place to park as you check out this end of Newcastle. You can walk right out to Nobbys Head where the lighthouse is situated. This is pretty awesome as originally the head was an island! In 1846 a pier was put up to join the lighthouse to the mainland, then replaced with the breakwall we have now. This makes for a beaut little spot to view the point the Hunter River meets with the ocean. If you look back from here along the river walk you will also see a small tower, I refer to as the "Big Penis" which you will understand as soon as you see it! That's where you want to walk around to next. Once there you can climb the 180 steps for a nice panorama view of the Riverwalk. Once you make your way back down, if you are feeling a little thirsty, you'll find yourself at The Queens Wharf Hotel, also known as the Brewery.
If you follow the coastline south you will come across the Ocean Baths and Newcastle Beach. Further south and you will come across King Edward Park. A great place for a picnic or bbq, the large pines make it nice and cool on a hot day. If you have a piece of cardboard on you, the hills are ace for sliding down too! I remember coming here as a young fella with the family, the parents would watch car races while we had our own! Up the top of the park you may also see paragliders taking advantage of the updrafts from the ocean meeting the cliffs. There's a beautiful little swimming spot called "The Bogey Hole" which is close by and also an old artillery post which has seen better days.
If you continue south you will consistently find yourself gazing over beautiful beaches. Eventually you may find our favourite beach in the area, can you recognise it?

Another gem of the region is Blackbutt Reserve, this is a little mini zoo that is completely free, minus a small parking meter charge. Here they have a massive picnic area, suitable for get togethers, partys, or the odd backpacker/grey nomad. There's a big billabong full of turtles, large kangaroo and emu enclosures and an amazing collection of birdlife. The big walk in cage is quite nice and if it is really hot they may turn the water system on, this makes it feel like a rainforest and makes the birds excited! You may also see lizards, frogs, snakes, koalas and wombats. There is also reptile shows at 11am on weekends