Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Australia Part V - Devenish


We headed south from Bourke, our ultimate goal being Melbourne. But that was still quite a distance so we were most grateful when Miss Bec from Bourke (for that is her full title!) invited us to stay with her mum for a while who lived midway at a place called Benalla, over 800km away.

After leaving the lovely yet crazy Batys, we drove 160km until reaching a campsite in Cobar, another sleepy if non-descript town. Next to us was a couple on a BMW motorbike and - with Tim sporting his Honda t-shirt - a conversation was quickly started. They were from Brisbane and were heading to a place called Kangaroo island but had also been all over Aus on their bike. Chatting with a cold beer in the late afternoon sun was nice as we settled into our first spot of camping in a couple of months.

And what a difference. By 3:00am we were wearing as many clothes as we could fit on but were still freezing cold. By 4:30am, Tim was up and having a hot shower trying to get warm... this was to be our last spot of camping for quite some time! Who knew Australia could be so cold?! With feeling back in our extremities we pressed-on south and eventually reached England. At least thats how it appeared. Just as New South Wales became Victoria, countryside became greener and reminiscent of somewhere between Oxford and Devon (no, not Bristol). Many fields, many horses.

Seven hundred kilometres later and With the excellent directions provided by Bec, we ended up on a dirt track, in darkness, convinced we were lost but luckily just half a mile from Bec's mum, Jane. We rolled in to the drive and were greeted by a very smiley Jane into her roasting hot home thanks to its big log fire. We were given Bec's room to stay in and were not allowed to do anything (i suspect Jane realised our incompetence early on and didn't want to take any chances). Jane lives with Dave, an ardant rugby league lover, so this largely dominated our TV viewing (which was just fine for Tim).

Jane's property was literally surrounded by fields. She owns a farm of sheep, cattle, pigs, horses and fowl... a really cosy place with a beautiful garden (with peacocks) and an orchard beyond with orange and olive trees. Autumn was approaching, bringing shorter days and colder weather; leaves turned to yellow, to orange, to red... and then fell.

We tried to help where we could by garden tidying (see above), helping collect logs and doing bits of farmwork (sheep fondling). All very enjoyable, with glorious sunny days, but really felt like winter was drawing in at night.

Jane continued to look after us well, feeding us generously and heartily. The garden was providing an abundance of fruit and veg - particularly tomatoes - many of which were being reduced down to a delicious tomato sauce. We tried to return the favour by cooking roast beef with yorkshire puddings (which they'd never had) and were a bit stunned when they didn't really like them... who doesn't like yorkshire puds?!?!

The nearest town was twenty minutes away past picturesque rolling hills and fields of horses and expesnive looking farms. The town, Benalla is very 'pleasant'. Functional and tidy (in fact some places very pleasant), but not terribly exciting.

They actually live in a place called Devonish but for the life of me i couldn't work out where it started or finished. It was a tiny, one shop, two pubs kind of place, centered around the huge grain silos by the side of the rail track (a feature in these parts). Dave took Tim to both said pubs (quite english style which was nice) for a lazy afternoon beer or two in the setting sun. A funny guy (both ha-ha and peculiar), but difficult to work out.

Unfortunately, the most exciting thing for Tim was being bitten by Dave's dog... a red-healer called Alan (can't fault the name). It was Tim's fault for walking past the kennel within biting-range. A mere flesh-wound. In return, Alan received a good soaking whilst Tim was cleaning the car and they both gave each other a wide berth after that! Thankfully, Jane's dog - Bert - was much nicer.

During this time, Jane was away so we thought we'd treat Dave with a lasagne. Most people would consider it a treat anyway... not Dave! I know that not everyone will like everything, but come on... who doesn't like lasange?! Anyway, we enjoyed it!

Upon her return, Jane took us on a tour of the local wineries, which were exquisite and really quite a surprise in the middle of (to us) nowhere; we would never have found them otherwise. By this stage rain and cold weather were drawing in which made the wine tasting all the more cosy and the wine was sublime. We got to one which should have been open but was locked up with the owner driving away. no problem, Jane chases after him in her car and five minutes later, the doors are re-opened and we're quoffing reds, whites and even stouts!

We had such a lovely stay with Jane and Dave (and even Alan) and stayed much longer than I think anyone expected (sorry about that!). But the clock's still ticking and we had to keep heading south.

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