Park Play, a Pub and Plodding through the Past

A very lazy day planned for today started with Immy climbing out of bed, walking straight out the door insisting that she has to go and visit her new friend that she and Fletch played with yesterday. Thankfully, we convinced her and Fletch to wait until they had eaten and got dressed before heading to the other side of the caravan park to find their little mate. Little did we know at that same early time that this mate (also named Fletcher) woke and said to his mum “ok I need to go find my new friends Fletcher and Immy now.”

The rest of the morning was spent hanging around and enjoying the caravan park. The kids were off with the other Fletcher and his siblings, whilst Amanda and I kicked back and relaxed. There was a bit of rain overnight, so I was not surprised to see them come back with clothes soaked through from splashing in muddy puddles. They demanded we dry them up quickly as they had to get to the indoor play area to meet their friends, and it is here I met their parents and discovered we could have let them all meet at 6:30 this morning and have a sleep in ourselves.

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Already a better putter than me!

We played a spot of mini golf next door to the Big4, which usually costs to play, but the owner let the kids have a casual hit thinking they would get over it quickly. This was the case with Immy, but Fletch was determined to get a hole in one on as many of the holes as he could. After the golf was the jumping pillow again. Immy has impressed us with how brave she has become with being in and around the bigger kids. Previously Amanda or I would have to hold her, as she demanded that we bounced for her, but now she flies up, being bumped and bounced by the bigger kids without even flinching. Just as it got to full capacity with kids, the heavens opened and it began to pour with rain. All the kids scattered off, back to their respective campsites, with the exception of our two who seemed reinvigorated by the rain and having the pillow to themselves. Eventually the rain got so heavy they could not get back up to the top with the water flowing down making it to slippery to do so.

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More like a Slip’n’Slide than a Jumping Pillow!

Thankfully, the weather turned for the best and we went into town and enjoyed a warm and pleasant afternoon. We walked around town admiring the historic buildings all with a plaque stating the year of construction and what it was originally built for. We went back to the record and bookshop and I decided not to buy the record player as I think it had since been glorified in my dreams. From there we walked along the boardwalk at the wharf looking at the sailboats and fishing trawlers. It is quite a nice spot and would benefit from more cafes or bars along the river for people to stop and enjoy the scenery.

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Port Fairy Wharf Boardwalk

The next stop was one I had locked in before we even left home and that was to have a beer at the oldest licensed pub in Victoria, The Calendonian Hotel. It has been kept mostly in its original state from the outside, still a simple single story building with white wash walls with a couple of tables outside, so it was not hard to imagine folks rocking up on horseback for a couple of drinks back in the mid 1800s. It helped that Immy was fast asleep and that Fletch had a new puzzle to complete, so that Amanda and I could relax and ponder not if, but how many times her Poppa Tommy would have drank there as a young bloke growing up in Port Fairy.

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A brew or two at ye olde Caledonian

After that, the adventuring was done, but the holidaying continued. As we drove back into the caravan park we passed the kid’s new friends as they left making me feel a little guilty about having that second beer, so that they were not able to say a proper goodbye. Fletch being a trooper says “don’t worry I’ll just go off again and find a new friend.” Sure enough for the rest of the afternoon we found him talking with other kids and playing with them. In the evening, we kicked the footy around and had another play on the jumping pillow before bed.

So not a lot of adventuring today, but a great day none-the-less as we relaxed and enjoyed seeing the kids mingle and play with other caravan park kids. Obviously, this too enabled Amanda and I to chill out and even have a cuppa and read our books in peace. The Big4 here in Port Fairy is a ripper for kids, small enough to let them loose with confidence and plenty of things to do for all ages. As someone who loves history Port Fairy is a mecca of historic buildings and rich in aboriginal history throughout the surrounding area. However, the history that struck us most was finding Amanda’s Poppa’s home, where he was born and grew up, still standing and one of the heritage listing buildings.

This was the final post covering our adventure to Port Fairy, so be sure to head back and check out Part One: Foul Weather, Family Heritage and Footing it Through a Volcano and Part Two: Lady Island Lookout, Lighthouse and a Lava Flow Beach to get the full story of our getaway.

 

The best place to follow Josh’s adventures with his family is on his Instagram site @josh.duthie. You can see this post and more Adventures of Duth by clicking the link below.

www.instagram.com/josh.duthie

Foul Weather, Family Heritage and Footing it through a Volcano

Our first trip for months in the camper and we were champing at the bit to get on the road, even with the weather forecast being raining and windy. Port Fairy was the destination a place neither of us has been before, yet very high on our list of places to stay. The trip was broken up into a few segments with our first stop at Hoppers Crossing to meet our friend’s new baby, to Immy’s maternal delight. We stopped only at Mortlake thereafter before arriving at Big4 Port Fairy Holiday Park late in the afternoon.

It had been blowing a gale the whole four hours from Lilydale and Port Fairy was consistent to say the least. Gusts of up to 50km/h made for a fun time setting up the camper and the annex. With difficulty and I’m sure great hilarity to those nearby watching, we finally beat the weather gods and thankfully had the annex setup. With the two young kids of 5 and 3 the annex gives us a nice space in the evenings to relax, so it was important for us to get it setup. The evening we spent in the caravan park with the kids playing on the jumping pillow, catching up with other travelers and settling in for an early night.

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The early night intentions of then waking fully rested for the first day of adventuring did not eventuate. The wind through the night was even worse and although Amanda and I obviously slept we both felt we were up all night with the banging and flapping of canvas and random paraphernalia being flown around outside. Thankfully for us though we had the annex setup so all of our belongings were sheltered and even better the kids were none the wiser to the weather’s foul temper during the night!

With the exception of Fletch spilling a whole bowl of cereal onto the camper couch and floor, the morning was uneventful and relaxing. We eventually made our way into town to the local market, which didn’t have any hot sauce, so we left quickly and walked around the centre of town to check out the place. Our eyes are always drawn to opp shops (thrift shops) and antique stores, but what I did not expect to find was a record/book store. I spent far too long in there sifting through boxes of records and chatting with the owner about all manner of music and literature and was amazed that I did not spend any money…at first. There was a record player that called to me as well as a series of Tin Tin comics that I serious need to have!

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Amanda at her Poppa’s childhood heritage listed home

About town there is a number of historic buildings, which I absolutely love, but none better than the home Amanda’s Poppa Tommy grew up in. Number 1 William Street is now a lovely heritage listed Air BnB, but to her it was the house he was born and grew up in. A number of times as we walked past a street of old bluestone houses we commented how little Tommy would have been running past these houses as a young fella and now our kids are doing the same.

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Blustery South Beach

With the wind still blowing, albeit a little less than the day before, we settled for a quick drive around the waterfront and coast stopping for a couple of pics looking out to the raging south sea. Lunch, then a play back at the caravan park and I left to visit a garage sale across the road. I managed to pick out some kids books and a wicker basket I knew Amanda would love because I am a great husband and had nothing to do with a record player and comics flooding my every waking thought.

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Tower Hill Crater Lake

In the afternoon we decided to visit the Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve as the kids have been obsessed lately with volcanoes in there imaginative play. In their mind, I know they would have imagined a conical mountain with a lava flow spilling over the top, so it was hard to convince them that the lakes and surrounding hill rim was the volcano. Even I was amazed at how big the crater was as we drove our way around it to the visitor centre.

Plenty of animals to see on the many walks at Tower Hill

It is extremely picturesque, which is a testament to the work that’s been done there since restoration started in the 1960’s. We went on a couple of the walks, first the Lava Tongue Walk through the wetlands. I was not expecting to see much wildlife as it was overcast and cool, so when we found not one but two copperhead snakes just off the boardwalks we were all pretty excited. As we returned back to the visitor centre we saw the first of many emus, which was exciting enough until we then saw two koalas nestled up in some nearby gumtrees.

cofThe view from the top of Peak Climb Walk

The other walk we did was the Peak Climb Walk up to the top of the centre hill of the crater. Fletch ran ahead with Amanda in toe and they disappeared to have some bonding time together, leaving Immy and I trudging along at 3-year-old pace. This gave me some quality time with my little lady and also slowed me down enabling me to take in the surroundings in a lot more detail. A great example was spotting a kangaroo off in the scrub that I would have otherwise missed. She surprisingly walked the whole way up the steep inclines telling herself how strong and good she was and that Santa would be so happy with her! Naturally, I emphatically agreed, as I did not want to have to carry her up to the top. The view was worth the climb, with the lakes, volcano rim and coastline in full view.

cofBambino’s awesome woodfire pizza.

Back at the caravan park the kids loved playing in the indoor play area for the 5 and unders’ before enjoying some woodfire pizzas by Bambino [Side note: if you see these guys, stop and get the Damo’s Special! You’re welcome].

 

This is Part One covering our adventure to Port Fairy, so be sure to stay tuned for Parts Two and Three to see what else we got too.

The best place to follow Josh’s adventures with his family is on his Instagram site @josh.duthie. You can see this post and more Adventures of Duth by clicking the link below.

www.instagram.com/josh.duthie

 

 

Our First Parents ONLY Weekend

Easter 2013, Amanda is about 30 weeks pregnant and we have a lovely couple of nights away staying in Bendigo, the town where we met and fell in love. Fast forward to last weekend and another night away this time down on the Mornington Peninsula. What’s the significance you ask…it’s been over five years since Amanda and I had a night away together alone since the kids came along.

Our parenting style has always been to not force our kids into anything, just to let them mature through the childhood milestones. Such things like sleeping in their own room, potty training, stopping breastfeeding, etc we left until the kids only needed a slight nudge rather than a push to adapt. In addition, we decided to wait before we went for a night away without the kids. Controversial maybe, I know a lot of parents will be screaming at their screen reading this saying “Your kids shouldn’t rule your life,” “You shouldn’t sacrifice who you are and what you want because of your kids.” With all due respect to those people I disagree, to an extent. We had wanted to be parents for a long time, so when we were a Mum and Dad we were happy to make a lot of sacrifices for the sake of our little ones.

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Ice cream treat thanks to chief babysitters Nonna and Grandpa

Our kids have brought us so much pleasure that the sacrifices became easier and easier and in the end the sacrifices were not nearly as significant as we first thought. Always in the back of our minds though we knew that as the kids got older and more independent we would be able to start doing a lot more for ourselves.

Which brings me back to a kids free night away. We were confident that the kids were ready for us to leave them for a night and we as parents knew that this was the right time for them and us. Only weeks ago we knew that the kids would be too upset if we left them for a night and in turn we would not have fully enjoyed ourselves knowing this would be the case. We had to bide our time through the early years and we were happy to.

Peninsula Hot Springs – Sooooo Good!

We had booked the Peninsula Hot Springs for the Saturday afternoon, so we hit up some lunch first at Red Gum BBQ in Red Hill, such delicious meats! The hot springs were huge with two sections, one that looked like a community pool area and another for us kid-less VIPs! As we had booked the bathe and massage package we had access to the Spa Dreaming Centre where we could choose from a selection of baths with varying temperatures and saunas. Much better than splashing in the pools with the common rabble. We enjoyed a massage after soaking for over an hour and returned after to soak some more, because why not.

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The moment we left realising how quiet a long drive can be!

We booked the night’s accommodation only the day before, so limited choice, but we settled on a place that was close to Rosebud with a good selection of restaurants. We are lucky that my parents have such a great relationship with our kids because they would surely need to be comforted in our absence…which from all accounts was not at all the case and we were not missed in the least. Testament to us waiting for the right time.

Also one important point, we breakfasted in Rosebud at a place called The Pier Cafe, I had the baked eggs; go there; eat them; you’re welcome!

I have to admit that I was a little nervous and sad about leaving the kids. I have been away from them before, but always with Amanda keeping the home base secure. Amanda on the other hand was so excited she barely slept the night before having never been away for a night. We had an absolute ball together, knowing the kids were fine at home with their grandparents. We were so refreshed, thanks to the hot springs, massage and sleep, but the best part was that we laughed a hell of a lot.

After more than 15 years, two kids and many bumps in the road, Amanda, the renowned super mum, will always be that hot chick I met at university that could make me laugh like no other.

The Best Zoo for the Kids and You

Since kids came into our life we quickly recognised how valuable it is to have a zoo membership, giving us unlimited access to the big three, Werribee Open Plains Zoo, Melbourne Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary. All three are great in their own way; with Melbourne Zoo being the main attraction with its diverse range of animals and occasional concerts; Werribee for the African experience and open safari tour; but the best by far, for my mind, is Healesville Sanctuary.

The price to get into the zoos isn’t cheap for a family, so you always feel like you need to make the most out of it by cramming in all the exhibits and animals. But this usually means rushing through them, ticking them off as if on a orienteering course, and thus not actually stopping to see them for the amazing creatures they are. After all they are primarily being held in captivity for our amusement, so we should be taking the time to fully admire them! Having a membership enables you to capitalise on the time you have there, it doesn’t matter if you only visit a quarter of the zoo because you can come back another time and see the rest at no extra cost. In addition the memberships help the zoos invest more into conservation programs for various species, so you are giving back to the animals we all ogle during our visits.

As I mentioned, Healesville Sanctuary (HS) is my favourite to visit based on a number of factors. Firstly for us it is only 20 minutes from home, so it is an easy and accessible spot for a morning or afternoon outing with the kids. Sometimes as parents it’s too hard to think of  new activities to do with the kids, so in times like that we always default back to a trip to HS. Geographical reasons aside, as not everyone if blessed with living near HS, there is much more to this place that makes it great.

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The sleepy koala from our close encounter

We always try and get there as early as possible, just after opening time if we can help it. This way you practically get the place to yourself and you can enjoy the animals and the playgrounds in relative peace, before the main hoards arrive from around 11am. Some of our best experiences have been as a result of getting there early. Once the kids had a unique one-on-one experience at the dingo exhibit where a keeper was visiting the dingos and talked with us about how she used to look after them. The dingos were very active and it was great that she took the time to talk to Fletch and Immy about them.

Similarly we visited the parrots enclosure early one morning to find we were the only ones there with one of the keepers. She had the old Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo on her shoulder giving him some snacks, so we went over and she also kindly talked to the kids about the old cockatoo whilst it fed from my hand. Another one off experience was us able to watch a Bower Bird build its nest, decorating it with up-cycled blue artefacts. This experience was especially memorable as it was not part of an enclosure, but a wild Bower Bird just off one of the quieter paths. A keeper saw us showing the kids and came over and talk to us about this bird and how they had been keeping track of his progress.

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Fletch getting as close as possible in the Reptile Building

It’s fair to say the staff at the HS are fantastic, those were just a few of the many interactions we’ve had with the keepers. I don’t really have a comparison to Melbourne or Werribee as I can’t recall ever having a chat with any keepers at either, probably due to how busy they are and the times of day we visit. At HS there is always a staff member or two walking around to help with directions or information and if you’re lucky you can cross ones that will be walking dingos or wombats, or carrying lizards or snakes around. I’ve even stopped and talked with some keepers moving baby possums and sugar gliders who needed a check up and they were glad to stop and show the kids and explain all about them

Reflecting on our best memories at HS usually involves the animals getting up close and friendly. One wombat out for his morning walk tried to climb into our pram in search for food (the kids’ snacks were in the bottom).  Fletcher’s favourite though is the snakes and he loves it when he finds a keeper carrying one around. He was a bit braver when he was younger going up and patting them, but I think after watching a couple of documentaries he has become more weary and hangs back not wanting to get too close. Unless of course we are in the reptile enclosure when he practically kisses the glass to be as close as possible.

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Strolling through the Wallaby Enclosure

HS have just updated and opened the new Kangaroo enclosure, which I am excited to see, and what I love about this area is that you get walk amongst them. It’s probably more accurate to say the kangaroos are free to walk amongst us in the exhibit as we are restricted to a path. This is the same with the wallabies and it makes it easy with young kids who are in a pram as they still get to see everything, thanks to no fences of course. Sometimes they’ll even come up to you, as happened to us when the kangaroos were extremely curious about our pram and as they closed in a little joey popped out of its pouch to see what all the commotion was about.

Secondary to the exhibits is the random wildlife living within the sanctuary in it’s amazingly curated gardens makes you feel like you are actually walking through the bush. It’s great to just walk around and soak up the gardens and bushland areas, with creeks running through them, where you might spot the odd fish or eel (as my keen eyed friend spotted on a recent visit). It is a brilliant display of native Australian plants and I have taken many ideas back home and implemented them into my own garden.

For Fletch, and now Immy who copies his every action, the next best thing to the snakes and reptiles is the main playground with the large sandpit. There have been times when we have visited with family or friends with their kids and we have spent half our visit at this playground. Thankfully the main café is located there along with the parents change rooms, so it makes for a good stopping point to let the kids burn off some energy and have our morning snack/lunch. Just beware of the Bin Chickens (Ibis) as they will steal your lunch if you’re not paying attention.

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Dr. Immy and her Dr. friend in the Animal Hospital

The other key activity for the kids is the animal hospital area, where they can dress up and role play as vets and care for the injured animals (stuffed toys) that are in the hospital. This is another area we spend a lot of time, just letting the kids run off with their imaginations, whilst we get a chance to kick back and relax or dive into their world and role play as a nurse to their doctor. Fletch likes to take it seriously with bandaging the animals and checking their heartbeat with his stethoscope, whilst Immy will just cuddle them or run around with her goggles and waving her bandage everywhere.

There are many great experiences you can do at HS, such as the free shows that they put on everyday. We’ve recently started taking the kids to the bird show, where I love watching the birds of prey and the kids love the talking parrots.  We also headed to the platypus talk in our last visit, which was really interesting. It’s tailored for the kids, but has a few take home lessons for parents as well with regards to recycling and littering. Not surprisingly the kids also picked up on this message, which hopefully they take into adult life and help make our area, if not the planet a better place.

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Fletch feeding the kangaroos

Also there are experiences you can purchase as extra. Two of these we have done, one pre-kids and the other for Fletcher’s 2nd birthday. Amanda and I did the close up encounter with the Koalas, where you get to go into the enclosure and see them. Our koala was sound asleep, and you can’t hold the koalas, so it made for a slightly underwhelming experience. I think it was just the day we were there though as I have seen other encounters where the Koala is up and about, which would have made it more interesting. The other encounter was feeding the kangaroos, which Fletch did for his birthday. He surprised us by pushing through his shy/cautious persona to feed them himself, which he loved and continued tell us over and over about how their tongues and teeth felt on his little hands.

I just feel that we get so much more out of visiting HS compared with its two sister zoos, more so for the kids. Having the membership means we can use it as a meeting place with family or friends and their kids even if we only just see a couple of exhibits and mostly play in the playground or hospital. My advice is to get there as early as possible (I know obvious right) and bring a picnic as there are many tables and chairs around or shaded open grass areas. If you think you will visit at least three times to any or all the zoos then the membership pays for itself. Mostly I like it as it gives you peace of mind during the visit so you don’t feel you need to rush. If one exhibit is crazy busy, just leave it for another time.

Let’s be honest, we have some of the craziest and most incredible animals in the world and HS is home to them all. So get out and see Healesville Sanctuary and enjoy a piece of Australiana with or without the kids, either way it’ll make for a great adventure.

The best place to follow Josh’s adventures with his family is on his Instagram site @josh.duthie. You can see this post and more Adventures of Duth by clicking the link below.

www.instagram.com/josh.duthie

A Birthday Getaway

Amanda has not had much luck when it comes to birthdays over the past 5-6 years with plenty of interruptions to halt the celebrations. This year we weren’t going to let Lady Luck play her hand! Bright had been on our radar for over a year and with her birthday falling on a Saturday we decided to head up to the highlands.

I had a general idea of the sights I wanted to take Amanda and the kids whilst on the drive and also within Bright, but we really left the day open to anything, as you need to when you are travelling with the kids (if you want to stay sane). On the freeway to Wangaratta, my GPS chimed in and gave us a route update saving us time. Right from the start it seemed luck would be on our side! The re-route was taking us up the Snow Road through Milawa, the town where we got married.

LindenUnder the marriage tree

It has been a couple of years since we’d been back there, not since Fletcher was a waddling toddler, so of course we stopped off at Lindenwarrah to show the kids the front gardens where we said our vows under the large tree. We tried to explain the significance of the spot “…and this is where Mummy and Dadd–” before WOOSH the kids, free from the car, sprinted off along the grass where we first walked as husband and wife, a significance not lost on us as we reflected on how much has changed since that day back in 2009. Lindenwarrah is such a beautiful spot and the staff there are amazing! We love coming back there for a drink/lunch to reminisce, especially with Brown Brothers across the road too, but today we were only passing through, so we rounded up the kids and got back on the road to Bright.

Bright was a smaller town than I remembered, but no less impactful with a Ye Olde Heritage feel about the place. You get the feeling of being out in the wild frontier with the surrounding mountains, whilst also having the creature comforts of the cafes, restaurants and a large variety of stores to cover most interests. We skipped past all of these for now though as we made our way to the Bright Brewery for a drink and some lunch. As we headed out the back to settle on one of their outdoor tables the kids eyes lit up as the huge playground area down the slope next to the river came into view.

With lunch now delayed (there was no stopping them after the long drive) we let the kids run a muck in the playground, which thankfully both kids could enjoy with a variety of equipment for kids of all ages! Wanting to check the river out and the opposite side we pried the kids away and took them for a stroll over the walk bridge next to the designated swimming area (for Summer not the end of Winter with the river freezing and raging from all the melting snow). Crossing the bridge gave us a chance to explain to the kids about the current, how the water flows and where it all comes from, which was great for Fletch as he seems to be a bottomless pit for new information lately. We headed up to check out some of the caravan parks on the opposite side giving the kids a chance to test out their gumboots on the many puddles. Definitely a great spot to camp being so close to the town, playground and Brewery.

ovens rivOvens River from the walk bridge

Back at the Bright Brewery we enjoyed a surprisingly civilised lunch, not normally the case with a four and two year old. Turns out the most challenging thing was not keeping them still but trying to  decide on which of the hundreds* of beers and ciders to choose from (*numbers are an estimate and possibly exaggerated). Needless to say I settled on one of the porters, Amanda a cider and we enjoyed the calm of the kids and the outdoor area with the river’s flow performing some relaxing background music in tune with the birds. It wasn’t to last long, kids fed means one of two things. They get tired or get a second wind. Their second wind kicked in and rather than head back to the playground as they desired we went back into town and whilst Amanda spent some time going through some of the clothes shops and antique stores, I kept the kids entertained. But in reality it was all leading up to one shop in particular a rad little shop full of every type of lolly and confectionary you can imagine! The kids (and I) were frothing at the bit to get into Bright’s Old Fashioned Lolly Shop. Fletch wanted one of everything, but settled on a huge lollypop (which for the most part ended up in the bin a couple of days later) and Immy and I shared some coconut rough, yummmm!

Now treated up I wanted to take the family up to a couple of lookouts, the first being Huggins Lookout. On a wet day the drive would be a little precarious if not in a 4WD, but luckily for us the day was perfect so we easily made our way up. The view was spectacular of the town encased by the surrounding mountain ranges. We then tried to head up to the Apex Lookout, but this definitely required a 4WD to get up there, so we left that for another time and decided to head back to Benalla.

IMG_0157.jpgHuggins Lookout

It was great to cap off the day back at the in-law’s with the fire roaring and our homemade pizzas. Chef Fletch is the master roller for the bases and relishes the opportunity to get elbow deep in the pizza making process. With these cooking in the woodfire oven we were then joined by some close friends who dropped some happy news of them expecting another bub!

In all it made for a great road trip through the King Valley and the snow capped mountains surrounding Bright. One quote came to mind as we cruised along taking in all the scenery, so from Disney’s Pixar movie Cars, “Cars didn’t drive on it [the road] to make great time. They drove on it to have a great time.” 

For more information about what to do in and around Bright head to the links below.

Visit Bright

Bright Victoria

The best place to follow Josh’s adventures with his family is on his Instagram site @josh.duthie. You can see this post and more Adventures of Duth by clicking the link below.

www.instagram.com/josh.duthie

Beware the Dinosaurs

Inspired by our family adventures, my sister told me of a list she’d created of places to visit around Victoria whilst she was off work for the school holidays. So when she visited us one weekend we decided to tick off something from her list in the Yarra Ranges. We went with the Redwood Forest of East Warburton, which we have been wanting to see for some time now too.

Unfortunately Amanda and Immy missed out, but on Sunday Fletch, Elli and I decided to get out and visit these sentinel sequoias. The trip from Lilydale was about 40 minutes, but the views along the drive are pretty damn good as you get into the mountain ranges from Yarra Junction onwards past Warburton. As we pulled up in the car park there were a lot of cars and I anticipated a packed forest rather than the peaceful bush walk we were hoping for. This turned out not to be the case, although there were people around, we only crossed paths with a few groups over the 3 hours we stayed enabling us to soak up the forest’s tranquility.

However, kids don’t really care for tranquility, so thankfully some legendary person many years ago decided it would be cool to stack the fallen branches into circular piles scattered around the forest floor. Others have since added to these over the years with many stacks now piled high. To Fletch these were amazing, immediately recognising them as “Dinosaur Nests”. So whilst we took in the trees he went from nest to nest checking for dinosaurs and/or their eggs.

Redwood Trip

 Just a couple of dinosaur trackers sitting in a nest, probably a T-Rex one!

 Alas no eggs remained in the nests, which I can vouch for as we had to check them all, it did not dampen his spirits though as he went off in search of these elusive dinos. Our lead tracker Fletch was on point finding many dinosaur footprints and big poos left through the surrounding scrub [note: imaginary footprints and poos]. Now knowing there was definitely dinosaurs here he felt he should pick up every green leafed branch he could find to leave in the nearest nest for the dinosaurs to eat for dinner when they got back.

From the tall redwoods to the surrounding gums and ferns

The dinosaur tracks lead us away from the redwood plantation area into the more common Yarra Ranges bush land of gum trees and tree ferns, where we could either make our way via the beaten path or rough it through the ferns and undergrowth. As we worked our way through the bush we could hear the unmistakable sound of a flowing river getting closer. The dinosaurs must be having a drink in the river, so we got back on the main track and headed towards the water. After a previous outing to the slightly underwhelming Sherbrooke Falls it was refreshing to come across a waterway that looked and sounded like something out of a Tolkien novel. It helped that the path that lead along the river allowed you to get down to the water line and even at places to get into the ankle deep water and show Fletch the smooth rocks and ice cool water. This seemed like a good idea at first until every little ford in the river was a chance for Fletch to splash around and throw the rocks. However, still no dinosaurs only their tracks.

The dinosaur waterhole.

To cap off the Redwood Forest there is a significant open area just in front of the car park, which at the time was home to many picnic blankets. Not having brought a picnic blanket, we made our way to a fallen tree branch that would make for a perfect seat, but before we got there we crossed under a large tree that had dropped all its leaves. I couldn’t help myself and grabbed an arm full throwing them over Fletch. A battle ensued, which I was losing under a shower of leaves, but it ended abruptly as good ol’Dad went a bit too hard with a throw that was also a bit wetter and heavier than the rest that smashed Fletch in the face. Queue some tears and play time over. Luckily food and a little bird friend that kept visiting for Fletch to feed helped distract him back to his happy self.

I know some think of kids as restrictive to take along on outings, but honestly I find they are the opposite. Kids can see what you can’t, always picking up the little things you would otherwise overlook. They are also able to add to the world you are in, opening up a whole new adventure you hadn’t planned on. We could seriously have spent the whole afternoon there, but we needed to get back home to our ladies. At least now we know of a great place to take the kids for a picnic lunch and a back to nature adventure.

The best place to follow Josh’s adventures with his family is on his Instagram site @josh.duthie. You can see this post and more Adventures of Duth by clicking the link below.

www.instagram.com/josh.duthie

Bring the kids, there’s more than just plants!

At the midway point through my weekly one day off with the kids and with the first stroke of spring on display my wife Amanda suggested we should go to this garden centre in Warrandyte that the kids love. Hmmm, there are two places I don’t particularly love taking kids, book shops and garden centres. I’m obsessed with reading and gardening alike and I prefer to meander around and look at all the options before buying a number of books/plants. Kids tend to impact on the meandering part. But, it was a really nice day, there is a café there and I didn’t really need to buy any more plants, as much as I always want to. Plus for some reason we have never really thought to explore much of Warrandyte until recently, so it was off to a garden centre with kids.

I had driven past the Warren Glen Garden Centre dozens of times and passed it off as your average nursery, but as it turns out it isn’t. Entering the car park Fletch sparks up with excitement, “This is the one Daddy, there is crocodiles here!” So the first thing to do on Fletchy’s tour was for him to show me the amazing crocodiles, which for the record were fake plastic water feature things, bitterly disappointing for me but they captivated him to no end.

Whilst he was occupied with the “massive crocs” I took in the place, which seemed to keep expanding at every angle I looked. The creek running through the middle separated the nursery from the gardens and café and it took me a couple of scans to realise it is all part of the centre. We eventually made our way through all the pots and birdbaths looking/splashing for fish in every single one, but none were found, they were sure there were fish here last time. I needed to find something to stop them from splashing in the freezing water, thankfully I found a cool looking insect to distract them.

As it is with kids bugs are a fascination and this was no exception. They were fixated on this Angle-Winged Katydid [yep, impressed? Don’t be I Googled it for far too long to find that out!]. Fletch, as is his nature, was timid at the beginning really wanting to hold it, but changing his mind at the last minute. Immy on the other hand I couldn’t hold back. I finally got her to hold out her hand and placed it there. She was really gentle and wide eyed with amazement as it moved around her hand. Seeing her so calm and happy was the catalyst Fletch needed, if Immy could do it so could he! I was impressed he kept his cool as it climbed its way up his sleeve. We put the Katydid into one of the bushes and spoke about camouflage for a while before heading over a bridge and across the creek.

Tale of two kids – Immy surprisingly gentle; Fletch surprisingly brave.

Over the other side of the creek is the landscaped gardens, where the kids ran ahead only for me to find them both start creeping together so they didn’t scare the bears and wake them up. Of course as old dad here joins in on the fun Fletch stops me to clarify that they are actually just pretend bears and we don’t have to be scared of them. We walked through the gardens a couple of times looping around the multiple bridges and paths, chasing ducks and looking for more bugs before heading to the café for morning tea.
duck watch.jpg

Duck Watch!

Just before we walked into the café we FOUND THE FISH! Not quite as exciting as the kids made them out to be, I guess there is something more to a fish pond when you’re a kid. The café’s brekky menu looked great judging by all the meals I ogled on the tables as we walked through, but we settled for our signature hot choccies and scones. Fletch was running the show at this point and our little tour guide took us to sit in the outdoor area with the mock Thomas train play area. The outdoor area looked prime made for parents with plenty of tables so you can kick back and enjoy your hot drink and scones whilst the kids play safely in the train and around the gardens…or do as I did and run around chasing your fearless daughter whilst she copies her brother balancing around the high garden edge beams and over the train.

Play time over and we wandered around the gardens a little longer, I mulled over buying more plants, but alas no impulsive purchases, so we finished up and headed back home for lunch and to tidy up the house. Just when I thought the best of the kids was done for the day, as they usually turn a bit feral late in the afternoons, they surprised me later in the evening giving me one of those moments you know you’ll cherish forever.

With the kids ready for bed, I left the bedroom as they played in Immy’s room, which was to Immy’s exhausted horror. She starts crying (screaming) wanting me to come back, so I start rushing what I was doing saying across rooms “Daddy’s coming back, it’s alright…” Then the sweetest thing happened, I hear Fletch speak up and say “It’s ok Immy, c’mon let’s read a book.” Immy immediately stops crying and I sneak peek around the corner to watch Fletch read book after book to Immy who is sitting next to him completely engrossed in her brothers story telling. From day one Fletch was extremely gentle and paternal towards Immy and this was just next level stuff from him taking it upon himself to care for his little sister. The love I saw between them both, with Fletch cheering her up and Immy being completely comforted by him was heart exploding stuff.

The night completely outshone what happened in the day, but I will say if you are looking for a place to get the kids out for a couple of hours then Warren Glen Garden Centre is a perfect escape. Enjoy the coming Spring weather and get outside!

The best place to follow Josh’s adventures with his family is on his Instagram site @josh.duthie. You can see this post and more Adventures of Duth by clicking the link below.

www.instagram.com/josh.duthie

A Snow First

With Fletcher’s 4th birthday looming my wife, Amanda, and I thought we would stretch out the celebrations over the whole weekend. With good snow reports over the past month we planted the seed that it would be great fun to go on a trip to the snow. Coincidently he decided the week of his birthday that a trip to the snow would be a good idea.

The original plan was to head to Mt Donna Buang, but it unfortunately didn’t have a good snow report for the weekend, so we changed our plans last minute and headed up to Lake Mountain. We were not disappointed. It took a little longer to get there from Lilydale, about 1.5 hours and it cost $56.00 just to pass through to the car park. As we closed in on the car park though we started to see the mounds of snow on the side of the road, which got the kids (and us) pretty excited. Not having ever seen snow Fletch commented that it looked a lot like sand and Immy just kept repeating “Snow. Snow!”.

The place was really well organized with parking assistants’ and shuttle buses to the summit, but we didn’t leave the car park for some time as the kids took off to play in the snow piled up around the perimeter. The kids faces when seeing and touching the snow for the first time was priceless and worth the trip, and price just to see the carpark snow. Fletch went about digging through the snow getting a good feel for it and Immy, who was dressed to the point of almost immovability just kept yelling “SNOW! YAY!”

Snow 1

Car Park Snow!                           The Michelin Baby

It’s been about 10 years since Amanda and I were last at the snow and I had completely forgotten how cold it can get. I know, silly thing to say, but the few times I had been to the snow it was bright and sunny. This day was windy, overcast and sometimes raining, so like I said it was super cold! Thankfully we had invested in some decent snow gear and we had some friends who lent us some of their kid’s gear. Poor Immy though was a bit wet and cold by the end, as her borrowed snow suit was a bit short in the legs.

Our main dilemma was what to take up to the summit. We didn’t get a park at the top car park and didn’t want to lug around all our gear, so we had to choose wisely about what to take. In hindsight we could have taken a lot more than we did, more than the nappies and some spare clothes. It would have been nice to take more snack food for the kids as there was not a great deal of choice from the café, which was always packed and outrageously expensive. As we walked back to the bus we noticed a room where there were lockers and a place to have an indoor picnic. All Amanda and I could do was just look at each other and laugh. Now we know for next time. Idiots!

Upon arrival to the summit we headed straight for the first toboggan slope. It seemed really busy, but once you got moving to the top of the slope it was easy to pick a spot to fly down. We only got a couple of runs in before Fletch decided he wanted to make a snowman, which was to Immy’s disgust as she wanted to keep doing the toboggan. We moved to the side in between the two main slopes and played in the snow for a while before going to the second toboggan slope.

This slope was much better, fewer people and much smoother and faster run. In saying this we only got one run down as Fletch got distracted on the way back up and wanted to play in the snow again, this time in the bushland area off the path. This was great as it was covered in soft fresh snow, unlike anything I’ve even seen. We played and explored in there for quite a while, with Fletch wandering around looking at the small streams of snow runoff and hunting for treasure. Immy on the other hand was getting restless, not being able to use her hands in the mittens and starting to get a little wet and very cold. We decided to head back to the packed café to warm up and change her clothes.

The heaters in the café along the walls were prime property, but I found Amanda perfectly positioned with Immy sitting on top of the heaters warming up. I didn’t dare ask how she managed to get the best spot, all I know there is no coming between a mother and her children’s health. After warming and freshening up we figured we should give the toboggans another crack since we had hired them. Immy was pumped and couldn’t get up the slope quick enough, Fletch was the opposite. Being a true Dad I did not want to walk back down the slope after slipping and sliding all the way up, so I loaded him up and we went down the slope with him cracking it the whole way down.  I kept reassuring him that this was heaps of fun, even though we kept getting stuck in all the huge undulations, but when we got to the bottom he looked at me with disapproving eyes and said deadpan “that was not fun”. He was right the slope had degraded and people were all getting stuck like us.

snow stuck

Amanda and Immy stuck after following us down

So we left the slopes and headed back into the bushland where we trudged through the deep snow, exploring through the trees and over the logs looking for mammoths and dragons. Of course Fletch made a path through some of the tightest cluster of trees that had me crawling and squeezing through to follow him because I had to see everything he discovered. At one point, after contorting myself to get through some trees, I looked up and couldn’t see him. I tried to turn as best I could wrapping myself around the trees and logs like a weird game of Nature Twister. I hear Fletch who is standing five metres away in the clearing where we started and saying, “c’mon Daddy hurry up”. [SIGH] Should have stayed where I was!

snow 2

Fletch wanting to go back into the trees…I didn’t follow this time

We did get down the other slope one more time each, but we quickly realised it was getting time to leave. We stopped at the café and got some takeaway food (2 x Sausage Rolls and 1 x Pie = $20). We got back to the car changed the kids clothes and headed home.

So what did we learn from our first outing to the snow.

  1. Get Immy some of her own snow clothes so she is properly protected.
  2. Bring heaps of snack food and lunch to eat at the indoor picnic area or one of the outdoor tables. Food prices up there are crazy and not very healthy!
  3. Buy toboggans when they are on special at Aldi next. We hired at Marysville for $10 each, which was a really good price, but I believe Aldi sell them for a similar price so in one trip they could be paid for.
  4. Only stay for about 2-2.5 hours. All day we saw parents encouraging their kids “c’mon let’s toboggan one more time” the kids reply with tears freezing on their cheeks “I don’t want to I just want to go home”. I chuckled and thought we would never push our kids like that, the poor kids. So we ended up leaving after 3 hours with the kids crying with exhaustion and hunger. Hmmm oops.
  5. Go back again, make the most of the snow so close to home. We want to explore other places too like Mt Donna Buang and maybe Baw Baw.

The weekends are getting away from us in the next couple of months, but we might be able to squeeze one more trip to the snow before it all washes away.

 

The best place to follow Josh’s adventures with his family is on his Instagram site @josh.duthie. You can see this post and more Adventures of Duth by clicking the link below.

www.instagram.com/josh.duthie