When life gives you lemons, go ride Lemonade!

Melbourne and area

The city of Melbourne is Australia’s second largest. And it is growing even more, both up and out. And the new skyscrapers are very colorful. It is hard  to tell in this picture but the sides are brightly colored in various primary colors.






Our first stop was at the Queen Victoria Market. Today it is a large collection of souvenir, clothing, boot and Chinese imported junk shops. Another area was filled with food stalls selling, not prepared foods, but groceries. It very much reminded us of the market in Barcelona, Spain with all the fresh meats, vegetables and fruits displayed with loving care. The market started as a wholesale meat market in 1869 which moved out of the city to make way for the “Queen Victoria Market” in 1878, named for the Queen of England at that time.

From the market we wandered towards the Melbourne Gaol seeing these mobile billboards along he way. I had seen identical (the same ones?) in Sydney with the same advertiser on them. But they were moving in traffic and there was no opportunity to get a picture. Having towed trailers with a large motorcycle I know how easy it is but I wonder if these large trailers had any effect on the small scooters, especially on a windy day.




We wandered over a few blocks the the Melbourne Gaol. That is the old prison that was built between 1841 and 1870. It was built in stages as the need arose. In 1851 gold was discovered in the area and the population boomed from 77,000 to 540,000 ten years later.

Offences could be a simple as vagrancy, today we call them the “homeless”. Then it was a prison sentence to be without means of support. Debt was an offense, if you couldn’t pay. How would you be better able to pay if you were in prison?

A very famous highwayman and bank robber was hanged here after capture. He is a figure famous all through Australia in popular folklore even though he was no “Robin Hood”. His most famous crime was when he and his gang made body armor and helmets from plowshares to do their last robbery. It didn’t help a lot, Ned was shot in the arm and leg and captured, tried and executed. His mother was also in the prison and they were allowed a visit shortly before the hanging.

During our visit the prison put on a play of the life and times of Ned Kelly in the larger space directly below the opening in the foreground of the picture. It was interesting and informative for us without any history lessons learned in school about him. No pictures were allowed so there are none to show.








After a couple of hours touring the gaol we walked downtown and came across a “Santa Picture” place for your kids. Here the trees were wearing crochet covers. Someone spent a lot of time at it but then they were probably taken down and saved for each year so it would be worth it.

Several of the old alleyways were converted into food courts with upscale restaurants and cafes.

We had lunch in “Touché Hombre” , a Mexican themed place with really good food styled on, but not authentic, Mexican cuisine.


In our wanderings as we headed back to the market where we had left the van we found this. A series of downtown storefronts had been taken over by a motorcycle dealer. Each storefront held a different brand of motorcycle and the models were displayed in a row on the sidewalk. It is an interesting concept for business but made it difficult to walk along past them. We stopped in and asked the price for a new GoldWing and found that it cost about the same as at home when the exchange rate is taken into account. Unlike the one we found in Finland where it was over double the price at home.


On day two we went out to the Organ Pipes National Park and walked down into the valley to see the columnar basalt. We have seen many cases of it before but this was different in that the columns had many horizontal cracks too. They would probably have made good stepping stones in a pathway.





Also down in the valley bottom was the “Tessellated Walkway”. This is the tops of the columnar basalt. We saw a bigger example of this in Ireland at the “Giant’s Causeway”. This one is tilted at about 30 degrees making it much more difficult to walk on.

Then it was a steep hike up to the top and the parking lot!









In the afternoon we went to “Hanging Rock Park”. If you have seen the 1975 movie “Picnic at Hanging Rock” this is the spot. The movie is about a girl’s school outing on Valentine’s Day in 1900. During the picnic four girls and a teacher disappeared, never to be seen again. The story was written in 1967 and written as to be a true story but it is not.

The places in the story are real and having been to the site it is easy to see how people could be injured and lost in the jumble of rocks.

The rock(s) are an old volcanic core that sticks up into the surrounding plain. It is about 50 meters (150’) high and twice that wide. The top is comprised of hundreds of fingers with cracks and holes to crawl along and through. Today it is a very popular picnic and party spot. We were there on a weekday and it was crawling with hundreds of people. In 1900 it was probably much more lonesome.











When we returned to the bottom and headed to the toilets we saw these guys in the tree. These are our first “wild” koalas. All the others we have seen were in wildlife parks or sanctuaries.






Day 3 we rode the “Puffin Billy”. A narrow-gauge (2.5’) railroad dating from 1900 that carried general freight and passengers until 1950. Today over 900 volunteers keep the several engines and 24 km (15 mi) of track going.

We rode in one of the regular cars to start the journey. We talked with the conductor in our car and he mentioned that another volunteer was from the US and on this train. He said he would introduce us.



Linc was that guy and he was the “Guard” of the train. In other words he was the guy in the caboose that signaled to the engineer that everything was OK to go.

Linc invited us to ride in the guard car (think caboose) and we found out that he was from a town (Camas) about 20 minutes from our house. He also was a big part of our local tourist train “The Chelatchie Prairie Railroad”. He knows, builds and repairs boilers for the trains. He moved to Australia just to work on this railroad. He is on the left and our conductor is on the right.





Linc also got me a ride in the engine for a couple of stops. There was the engineer, the coalman (a girl in her 20’s) and me in the cab. It was crowded, hot and dirty. She has to shovel 1500 kilos (3300 lbs) of coal  for a run.


And then I finished the run back in the guard car. All in all it was a fun filled day with a new friend. A big thanks to Linc for making it so special.


During the run to Hanging Rock we had a mechanical problem with the van. The alternator mounting bolt came loose. We managed a temporary fix and continued. The Toyota dealer couldn’t do the fix for two days and so we had a day free.


Kathy found, on line, the “Sequoia Forest”. It is a 1950’s experimental planting of native American trees.

The Sequoias are on the left and up to 2 meters (6’) in diameter. Nearly every one survived. They were planted about 12’ apart and are very tall. Sequoias are from California.

On the right are Douglas Firs from the Pacific Northwest. They have self thinned with the weaker ones dying and brush coming into the openings.

Each planting area was about 2 hectares, 5 acres.




In the Sequoia area were these “nests” made by laying the natural curve of the dead limbs into a circle. Obviously human made and the largest ones had rocks that had to be hauled in from somewhere else. There were no rocks in the planted stands. In the background on the right hand picture is a younger stand made up of Western Red Cedar form the Pacific Northwest of the USA.

I wondered about what would happen on Wednesday night when we are having a full moon, or are they only used at the solstices. Do they have Druids in Australia?

Today we are at the mall waiting for our van to be serviced. We are headed to gold country next.