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  • Writer's pictureClaire

24/01/24. North Croydon To Benalla

Si had to come and wake me, thats how well I slept last night in the comfy bed! It was something of a struggle dragging myself out of there and into wide awake mode, but had to be done. We discussed the best route to take before heading off, with me defacing the map to mark our route, I like nothing more than highligting where I need to go and where I've been! We had a choice of two routes, each taking us to our location of Benalla, but the one would have taken us through the Yarra Glen on the Melba Highway, the other on the Maroondah Highway. Distance wise there wasn't much in it, but we decided to go via Yarra Glen, because the river was pretty and for no other reason thant that really. BIdding our lovely hosts farewell, and telling them they, or the kids would always have a bed to sleep in when they come over we set off on the next leg of the adventure.

We'd already decided our direction of travel, and were once again caught out by the sign posts, and the fact that there are no advisory signs to let you know your turn off is approaching. The stupid signs are actually right on the junction. You need eyes like a shit house rat to be able to see them in time to indicate and turn. off. Eyes like a shit house rat are something I do not possess, I am specky six eyes. I have my own eyes, my distance glasses eyes and my close up glasses eyes, and , yes i wear two pairs of specs at a time. Three if I wear seperate sunnies which makes for yet another pair of eyes. Placing the blame for the missed turn off squarely on the road sign we carried on along the Maroondah highway into the Yarra Valley Wine region. The Yarra Creek we visited yesterday, starts up in the Yara Ranges National Park and winds its way down, through a place called Warburton and clos to Healsville before meandering on it's way to Greater Melbourne and empties into Port Phillip Bay, not far from Williamstown.

The Yarra Valley has over 300 Wineries and it is recognised as Victorias Oldest wine region. The first vines planted were at Yering Station in 1838, it is now reinvented itself as a wine and events estate with a gallery set up in the historic 1859 winery building. They also offer free tastings of up to five wines. Unfortunately the drink drive limit is 0.05 , so I suspect everyone would need a DES. (designated driver) Every where you look there are vines scattered over the rolling hills The region being a cool climate, produces chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot gris and full bodied reds. It's just gutting that Si is off the wine!!! Alongside the large scale producers there are family run wineries, whose products are equal to the bigger boys, but are way less pretentious over their goods. Although wine is the main thing that attracts people to the valley, there are also lots of micro breweries, brew pubs and cideries to visit if you wanted to take a tour. My favourite by far was the Many Hands winery. Just the coolest name

Healsville, a town full of happening cafes, craft breweries wine bars and restaurants, is also home to a wildlife park that houses , kangaroos, wallabies,dingoes, Tasmainian Devils, echidnas wombats and Koalas. There is also a Platypus house where you can see the platypus, more or less in its natural enviroment, without scaring the poor things half to death. As per usual we passed the sign, and couldn't turn around because firstly there was nowhere to turn and secondly there was a pile of traffic behind us, so on we drove. The van ate up the miles, through the vineyards, old Gold towns and forests. The area is agricultural, with a lot of beef and some funny looking sheep. Very long legs!! The overnight thunder storm had cooled the dust a little, but it was still warm enough for teeshirt and shorts. Thank the lord! I did not come all this way for long trousers and wellies. The skies started off being what can only be described as moody, although by midday they had dispersed quite a lot and there were brilliant blue skies with fluffy white clouds. All of mother natures colours just popped when the sun showed its happy face, and when she showed her happy face I showed mine. Our drive today had an estimated drive time of bloody ages. Driving through towering ferns and sun dappled forest roads is almost hypnotic, my mind just drifted as we trundled along. Poor Si wasn't getting much relaxation, having to concentrate on the road. Thankfully the roads are pretty good, the majority of them in good condition, which makes for reasonably comfortable driving. As we drove through the forests that were getting denser and it was very Jurasic park like. Just without the dinosaurs chasing us wanting to eat us for lunch.

Lunch for us was in Alexandra. another pretty place, a little bigger than some we'd passed through, and with lots of choices of eating establishements. We opted for the pub, purely because we knew it would have a public toilet. The food was pretty good too and everyone very friendly. Bob was a hit there, the guys loved him. I mean who wouldnt? He's cute and not so fluffy. Walking around, there's evidence of the towns history everywhere you look, it was developed due to Gold MIning and there were many mines dotted around the town, especially along Ultima Thule Creek that runs through the town. Along with gold mining, farming and timber mills, Alexandra played a massive role in the development of the High Country and The Snow Fields. over the years the farmers have diversifed and now include fruit growing, and, wait for it, commercial lawn growing. Europeans first settled in the town in the late 1860's. More recently, The Town played a huge role in The 2009 Bush fires, it opened it's doors to provide shelter and support to hundreds of people who had lost everything in the fires. The fire was managed from Alexandra's major incident centre. Becasue of the extent of the bushfire, firefighters spent weeks trying to get it under control and firefighters from all over were brought in to back them up in the ongoing battle. The volunteers were housed in the Alexandra show ground temporarily and behind the Emergencies Services Facility. Despite being under constant threat, the town escaped the fires clutches, although it raged about 10km away in the distance. Escaping unscathed in the Black Saturday Bushfires, Alexandra wasn't so lucky back in 1939 and 1969 when the blazes proved to be catastrophic to the area.

Moving on from Alexandra, we went the wrong way, instead of heading for Yarck we were going way off piste towards the lake Eildon. It wouldn't have been a massive issue, but the road we were on appeared to be a one in one out road. We were able to turn round this time, and went back where we'd just come from, said hello again to Alexandra, waving at the pub as we drove past it for the third time today. On the right road again, and the sat nav not going into meltdown we soon arrived at Yarck, there wasn't much to see there but it was reasurring we were on the right road once more. We passed through so many little villages/hamlets that were nestled in gentle hills with cattle standing under the trees for shade against the heat of the day. Some of them had the best names, my favourite was Bonnie Doon .

We finally hit our destination of Benalla. This town has a history of battles betwen the Settlers and the Indigenous people, one became known as the Faithfull Massacre. The Indigenous people Attacked a camp of shepherds who worked for the Faithful brothers, in which 8 settlers were killed. After the massacre, a police station was established to protect the settlers.

The City is situated mostly on floodplain of the Broken river catchement, and it has an artifical lake that was created in 1973 from the Broken river as an ornamental feature for the city centre.

Our campsite is an ensuite hard standing with a lush grassy area either side of our spot. The ensuite is better than some of the hotel bathrooms we've been in. They supplied fluffy white towels, really nice toiletries, and the toilet seat was actually sealed with a paper thing to confirm that it had been cleaned. Outside, there was a brush which we utilised to sweep out the van. We arrived later than antcipated and didn't manage to fit in a swim in the inviting pool. The lady next door to our spot works at the reception desk, really helpful and very friendly. WHile Si was showering, I got bitten by an ant, another scar to add to my current collection much to my imense disgust. Things didn't improve any when I came out of the ensuite and got stuck by a stick insect. It was absolutely enormous, and went into stick mode when I took it's photograph, ready to pin up on the Australian most wanted board. Ugh, nasty sticky ugly thing. I'm done with bugs, they are trying to devour me, and frankly they can desist, I'm not edible.

Much Love


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