Kangaroo bones & animatronic bushrangers: Our Odyssey in the Odyssey, Part 1
I have decided to give Menu Plan Monday a miss today in favour of posting the first of three posts on our winter odyssey. Regularly scheduled menu planning will recommence next week!
(This post is not sponsored or commissioned by either Honda or Nuffnang, and I swear it is the merest coincidence that the current Nuffnang ad is for the Odyssey. Honestly! The views expressed are entirely my own and the post is occurring today because the weekend away has just occurred.)
Well, this weekend just gone, I finally cashed that cheque and the family & I took off in the Odyssey - luxury model to boot - for a long weekend in Wangaratta and surrounds. Wangaratta is a rural Victorian city about 230kms north-east of Melbourne. Its attraction as a destination for this road trip was basically its proximity to the 330-acre bush property owned by friends of ours, who are revegetating and restoring it under the auspices of the Trust for Nature. Our friends had been inviting us to come for a visit for a long time, but my pregnancy with C and her early infancy had just made it impractical up until now. This time, though, we decided the moment had come, all the stars had aligned, and we were going to do it. The bitterest of the winter weather had eased, we had this flash car to use, the kids were highly motivated about the notion of some outdoor exploring, G had a Friday off work for school holidays, and our friends were going to be at the property. So we collected the car on the Friday morning, G spent a happy hour configuring it to his liking, and we set off up the Hume Highway at lunchtime, headed for Wangaratta.
Thrilled with the novelty of having a 7-seater car "with seats in the BOOT!", both the big girls insisted on sitting in the two rear seats. I had reservations about this on several levels; what if they squabbled? what if the eldest was carsick? how could I pass them water and snacks? how would we fit all our gear in without the station wagon? Turns out my fears were all unfounded. They behaved beautifully to each other, they carried and managed their own snacks, no-one was carsick, and to our amazement, even with the 7 seats all in place and therefore no station wagon, our stuff fitted in easily. This car is seriously like the Tardis; well, have a look, it doesn't look like a big bus on the outside:
but on the inside, oh, the capaciousness! The ingenious little hidey-holes for stuff! The cleverness of the space management! My husband, setting it all up for the journey and fiddling with all the buttons, levers and devices, several times referred to it as The Transformer. From my severely technically inept point of view, the fact that almost all the controls are intuitive is a big, big plus. I only had to consult the manual once, and it was to find out where the control was for the seat heater so I could turn it off. Yes, you read that right - SEAT HEATER. To warm your luxury-loving bum. OTT, why yes indeedy, but as a novelty it was fantastic.
Another thing we noticed straight away is how very smoothly the car drives, and how surprisingly fuel economic it is. We have a 2003 Commodore station wagon at the moment and it doesn't do too badly on fuel, but this machine beat the pants of it. We drive around 700 kilometres or a little more altogether in it, and it only used a tank and a half of petrol. Granted, it was clear country runs mostly, but still, that is a very good result on fuel economy.
So, anyway. We spent the night on the Friday in a motel in Wangaratta and we all flaked out early, which was good as Saturday was a big day for us on the bush property. Heading out after breakfast and showers, we arrived around 10am, and we had one of the best family days we've ever had. It doesn't remotely do it justice, but perhaps these pictures might give you an inkling of why:
The property is very close to empty of signs of human habitation - our friends have a large modern barn tucked away among the trees, with a sleeping loft, cooking & showering facilities and a potbellied stove, but other than that, the 330 acres are devoid of structures, livestock, crops and any other markers of human presence. The land is being slowly revegetated with native species and our friends, one of whom is a scientist by training, were able to show us many species and plants on our walks, fascinating us and the kids in equal measure. The girls were just besotted with the high rocky walks and the lichen they found growing everywhere. G and I were blown away by the views, revived by the clear cold air, and entranced by the girls' enthusiasm for every part of this natural world. It was so great to see them engaging with our friends and asking the questions they wanted to ask, and being able to get knowledgeable, expert answers in response.
After a nice warm lunch back in the barn (bless that potbellied stove!) G and our friends took the older girls for another walk, this time lower down on the property, while I stayed with C so she could nap. Returning flushed, excited and starry-eyed over an hour later, the girls announced to me that they had found "animal bones, Mummy! Real ones! In fact, most of the skeleton of an actual kangaroo!"
(Part 2 of this saga continues on Wednesday, in which we explore animal bones, cut a rug at the Thoona Pub, and visit the Ned Kelly Animatronic Museum and Show in Glenrowan, and live to regret it).