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Friday 21 Feb 2014
Hepburn Springs, Australia

Australian art and heritage trails

I made certain James did not lock me in the house again, before waving him goodbye as he went to work, then packed up the last of my things.  I dropped several parcels and letters at the post office, making my bag several kilos lighter, then caught the bus out to the airport. 

Air New Zealand use rows of automatic check in machines rather than desks, but as in LA, my new passport wouldn’t scan.  I joined a queue for the only ANZ personnel I could see – a queue already six people long – and waited for over 10 minutes while she failed miserably to sort out the issues with the first four people, travelling together.  I ate my sushi in the queue and rolled my eyes at the girl in front of me, who was getting equally fed up.  Eventually we grabbed another ANZ guy walking past and persuaded him to open another kiosk, which he did.  He checked us in together and put us in neighbouring seats, so we dropped our bags and headed through to departures.  Security did the latest trick of weighing hand luggage, making you take out a few things until it gets to the right weight, then allowing you to put the same things back into the same bag and carry on as before.  I have seen this several times now and still don’t understand the point of the exercise.  But I’m not complaining too much! 

Lisa, a London-based Kiwi back over here for a wedding, and I headed for the bar for a quick beer before boarding rather than looking around the shops – it was about all we had time for after the long wait at check-in.  We got on well and had a few laughs while boarding and getting sorted on the plane.  Once again, the airline charged for in-flight movies but TV shows were free, so I had a quick look through those first.  I was rewarded with the 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who – hurrah!  I missed this when it was shown in the UK last year, so I was very happy to find it here.  They also had a couple of other episodes I hadn’t seen, so I geeked out on my friendly neighbourhood time-traveller for the flight.

Lisa leant me her phone to contact Erin when we got through baggage claim.  We swapped details and went our separate ways.  I suspect she’d be good fun to watch the rugby with in London later in the year.  Erin picked me up and drove me back out to Hepburn Springs, about 90 minutes from Melbourne.  It was lovely to see her again and she was just as friendly as I remember her from Myanmar last January.  Two very bouncy dogs, Bindy the terrier and Charlie the Poodle, greeted us at the door.  They were very excitable and yappy until they were put firmly in their place on their chair, but thankfully quieted down after that. 

Erin cracked a bottle of bubbly and introduced me to the dubious pleasures of ‘My Kitchen Rules’, a reality show involving couples creating pop-up restaurants for other couples and two chef judges – a more elaborate version of ‘Come Dine With Me’.  It really was car crash telly, but utterly addictive.  They’d found some truly awful arrogant contestants who took every opportunity to slate their opponents, while failing spectacularly on their own turn.  I was hooked! 

The next day, Erin took me for a drive around the area to see some of the local artists’ showcases.  We stopped at a converted chapel with a garden full of sculptures and metal furniture.  The artist was from Côte d’Ivoire and came out to greet us.  He had some really impressive pieces – sheet metal benches, sculpted to imitate rolling breaking waves – but I don’t have a garden to put them in!  We had a nose around the auction rooms too and heard about somewhere else having an open house day at the weekend.  

The next stop was a seemingly deserted farm with a junkyard of treasures outside.  There were sculptures in the trees, along the fence and filling the meadow on the other side of the drive.  They were made out of scraps of rusty metal, springs, car parts, old machinery, stones and anything else the artist had got his hands on.  It had a very post-apocalyptic, Mad Max feel about it, especially with no sign of life in the house.  I loved the imagination of the pieces, but it felt a little creepy at the same time.  

For lunch, Erin took me to one of her favourite little cafes where I had delicious courgette and corn fritters with sweet chili and avocado.  Must remember this recipe and try it myself when I’m home.  In the evening we had planned to join one of Erin’s friends at a newly refurbished local restaurant, but she was unable to come at the last minute.  We went anyway and set off for the Hepburn Chalet.  It had been done up like a 1970’s lodge, all orange and brown colours and an assortment of leather and corduroy chairs.  They had a DJ in the corner playing 12” records and a menu of vegetarian platters, salads and nibbles.  We had a couple of really good local beers and persuaded them to include potato wedges instead of bread with the platter.  It had a great atmosphere and the food was delicious.  I can easily imagine some good nights out in a place like this.

The next day, we headed over to explore Ballarat, one of south Victoria’s bigger towns – home to Craig Revel Horwood, fans of Strictly will be fascinated to learn!  We followed the Heritage Trail after picking up a brochure from the Tourism Office.  The town centre is full of well-restored Victorian architecture, from clapperboard-fronted stores, to solid stone banks and a beautiful old cinema.  We ducked inside to have a look at the foyer, which had a wonderful old-fashioned feel to it, despite the modern film posters.  It had a large double staircase running up either side of the lobby, circling around to the mezzanine floor and the balcony overhead.  The Ballarat Opera House was once a regular haunt of Dame Nelly Melba. 

I got an Aussie SIM card for my spare phone – still no sign of my UK SIM, now somewhere in transit after Mum had successfully activated it in the UK and put it in the post to me – so I have a means of communication while I am here at least.  Erin and I spent the rest of the evening giggling at the next episode of my Kitchen Rules.

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Zoe's Big World Adventure Part II - #4 New Zealand and Australia

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