Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Glamping in Wonderland

I've been so busy the past week that I haven't had time to blog, which is saying something!  I'm happy to say that my Bold Thinking Series event 'Has Facebook killed the news?' was a sellout in terms of registrations although numbers were lower on the night in terms of those who actually showed up.  It was a shame as MC Francis Leach, Jane Caro and the La Trobe academics on the panel put on a great show!  It was lovely to meet Jane, she's actually even shorter than me in real life but has always seemed more imposing I guess because she's on TV and in the newspapers.  What you see is also what you get, she's just as funny and as warm and natural in person as she appears on screen.  What I liked about her even more is that she was happy to stay at our post-event networking drinks and meet the audience, even though she wasn't being paid for that.  You can still watch it all on livestream here if you're interested.
L-R: MC Francis Leach, Jane Caro, Hugh Martin, Mark Civitella, Professor Tanya Fizgerald
I was also really happy to see some familiar faces in the crowd including Blaise van Hecke from Busybird Publishing and another local creative person who may be featured on my blog very soon.  I'll be spending time with Blaise in a few weeks' time so more on that at the end of the month.
Me and Jane!
Mr Rosanna and I are gluttons for punishment as we had been invited by a few school families to camp the very next day at Hall's Gap in the Grampians - somewhere I haven't visited since I was in primary school.  While Mr R is a camper, my idea of camping is probably glamping at St Jerome's - The Hotel in a heated tent although we have stayed in cabins at a number of caravan parks around Victoria as well as done a bit of backyard camping since having the kids.
The boys in front of our family tent
This was our first experience of camping as a family and there were a number of trips to Ray's Outdoors and Anaconda (which is cheaper for things like thermals) in Preston.  If we'd had the time, we probably would have tried to visit the Kathmandu discount outlet at Uni Hill in Bundoora or go to Collingwood where there's also a Kathmandu outlet right next to Macpac.  My primary concern was staying warm, dry and comfortable so the money spent on a good quality family tent, self-inflating mattresses, sleeping bags, thermals, socks and gloves, LED lanterns and head torches was well worth it especially since it poured rain one night and temperatures were below 10 degrees at night.
It's three hours to the Grampians and we only managed to get there in the dying light of day and then had to set up a new tent (as we'd run out of time to do a practice run at home) at a powered site in front of experienced campers, who all had camper vans!  I think we passed the test but it was an interesting experiment too in that we only just managed to fit all the things we needed into our station wagon.  I understand now why people get camper vans if they are serious campers as the packing is an absolute killer.  If we go again, we'll need a trailer or roof storage pod.
I have to say that we had an amazing time away enjoying the sheer beauty of the Grampians staying at Hall's Gap Lakeside Tourist Park, which is not your average caravan park.  It has a retail shop, which sells these colourful Danish melamine coffee cups from Rice, with coffee machine at front desk where you can order newspapers and fresh bread for the next day as well as book in for a massage!  There is also a wood-fired heated pool and wood fire drums supplied for each site if you so wish so it was a bit more stylish than your average camping ground.  There were also some great kids activities on during the school holidays including a scavenger hunt and zoo visit along with the park having its own basketball ring and playground with trampolines.
National Park & Cultural Centre Brambuk (above & below)
This was also a different sort of holiday given we were camping with some seriously fit people, a group of friends who'd all studied P.E. at university, professional firemen and other people who'd brought their road bikes and regularly compete in ultra marathons and trail running.  So while the arts and culture vulture in me would have loved to have had time to visit Lake Bellfield or the National Park & Cultural Centre Brambuk, see the James Mc Murtrie Glass Blowing studio in Pomonal or have dinner at The Kookaburra Bar and Bistro (or driven further to The Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld), this was a much more active mini-break where everyone exercised every day.  I'm sure Mr R would have also liked to have visited some of the local wineries and I am hoping the proposed wildlife museum WAMA goes ahead one day in the future.
WAMA sign
On our first full day, we did The Pinnacle and Grand Canyon walk from the magically named Wonderland car park (5.5km return) which is a medium-hard grade walking track.  You do need to take water and wear appropriate shoes as it's not an easy walk and not one for little kids or elderly people.  I'm glad to say the view from the top was definitely worth it.
Me at The Pinnacle
On the following day, I walked into Hall's Gap and back from Lakeside (while those that had brought bikes, rode) and then did the Venus Baths (2-3km) shady stroll along the creek to the rock pools, which is also very picturesque.  All the children on the trip spent a lot of time outdoors exercising and the thing Mr R and I really loved is that they get to be more independent in a relatively safe and controlled environment.  I think I am now a camping convert.
Kids on the way to The Pinnacle
The birds, which you can feed, woke us up every morning (along with the frogs) before 7 am while the kangaroos came right up to the tent at night looking for food.  I also spotted a couple of emus while I was there and the Halls Gap Zoo is about 10 km away so there's plenty of fauna around.
Given the early starts and amount of exercise we did, we also went to bed a lot earlier but it was great to spend time sitting in the sun in the mornings talking to members of our group as well as laugh and chat around the fire drums at night after making dinner.  Camping is a great circuit breaker and I understand why so many people love it.  I did have a little giggle to myself at the couple who had decided to hire a special tent and 'glamp' while we were there.  We all took the opportunity to have a look inside at their set up when they left before the business owners came and packed it up.  Check it out!
Glamping (above & below)
On the way to the Grampians and back, you pass through Ballarat, Beaufort and Ararat.  Mr R and I quite liked highway town Beaufort which has antique shops and interesting looking cafes such as Sparrows Cafe housed in the old Beaufort Motors building and The Pyrenees Pantry, while Ballarat has The Mill Markets and Ararat a lovely looking Art Deco hotel and heritage-listed Midland Theatre which is now the Astor Cinema.
 I'm now back at work and hoping to post about some local events and people once I get back on track. Stay tuned...

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