Easing out of isolation!

The last time I published a post was early in March, when the world was about to be turned upside-down by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The pandemic hasn’t actually made a dramatic difference to my daily life, partly because Maggie had one of her knees replaced on March 5, which meant we faced a period of semi-isolation anyway. However, with most of the world’s citizens having little or no prospect of doing any meaningful international travel for the foreseeable future, I couldn’t summon enough desire and creativity to write anything interesting about our various pre-pandemic travels from 2019 and the beginning of 2020.

So, what’s changed to bring me back to the keyboard?

Well, by a combination of good fortune and good management, the spread of the virus has been arrested in Australia, enabling our federal and state governments to ease some restrictions on our movements and activities. In our state, Victoria, restrictions on holiday travel and using commercial accommodation were eased two weeks ago, just a few days before a long weekend.

Faced with a scheduled power outage in our street, we decided to get ahead of the long-weekend pack, booking two mid-week nights at Boondaburra BnB at Ruffy, a small community at the western end of the Strathbogie Ranges in north-central Victoria.

For most of the two-hour journey, we drove through drizzle and rain showers. By the time we arrived at Boondaburra, the sky was clearing but a fresh south-easterly chilled the air. No matter! Our hosts had two fires going, one in a pit close to a sheltered patio, the other warming our comfortable and spacious open-plan accommodation.

The pit fire at Boondaburra

Inside the BnB

We would describe the property as a part-time farm, stocked with some beef cattle but also home to a wide variety of native birds, wombats and a few healthy-looking koalas. Exploring Boondaburra – a First Nations word for platypus – on foot is encouraged but we were advised to keep a lookout for the numerous wombat holes!

One of the koalas, up a gum tree

After a good night’s sleep and a few slices of fresh homemade bread, we set off in what we thought was the direction of the town of Nagambie. Happily, we got lost – by at least 90 degrees actually – and spent an hour wending our way along unsealed roads through a series of valleys featuring swift-flowing creeks, woodland and bushland. The valleys alternated with expanses of lush granite-strewn green pastures, dotted with cattle, sheep and sulphur-crested cockatoos, all of them seeming to be very pleased that good rains had brought plenty of new food!

Our unplanned adventure ended at the large town of Seymour, where we went in search of a quality coffee. Our luck held, as we came upon Little Stones Cafe, which was on its fourth ever day of business. Their single-origin coffees were outstanding, as was a tangy orange & almond cake. Even the hipsters of Melbourne’s inner suburbs would have been happy.

Reinvigorated, we made our way to the Vietnam Veterans Commemorative Walk, a series of 106 digi-glass panels, listing the names of every member of an Australian defence unit that served in Vietnam, set against a backdrop of black & white photos taken during the years of Australia’s involvement in what is known to the Vietnamese as the ‘American War’. The panels are supplemented by some information boards describing key activities and battles in which Australian personnel were involved.

(If you click on the link, you will read that Australia’s participation in the Vietnam conflict was “a tumultuous part of Australia’s history”, as was the case in the United States. I was old and interested enough to attend some of the massive anti-war rallies held in Melbourne in 1970 and 1971.)

From Seymour, we drove northwards along the Goulburn Valley Highway, making for Tahbilk Estate, home to some of the oldest shiraz vines in the world, dating from before phylloxera devastated vineyards across the world.  We had booked to be two of the 20 customers permitted at any one time in the winery’s Wetlands View Restaurant. (Social distancing is still mandatory in restaurants and cafes.)

We enjoyed an unhurried lunch of a main course and glass of estate wine each, a shared dessert and coffees. The food and service were both excellent, as was the view from the venue’s large timber deck.

View of the wetlands at Tahbilk Estate

After lunch, another hour-long drive – on sealed roads this time! – took us through more of the district’s idyllic scenery, arriving at Boondaburra in time to light the fire for a second cosy evening.

A clear, early-winter’s sky produced a frosty morning, so we took our time over breakfast, before making our way to the main road back to Melbourne. (We interrupted our return journey for another dose of the coffee at Little Stones Cafe!)

As we reached the outskirts of Melbourne early in the afternoon, Friday’s holiday traffic heading north was building up quite noticeably. We were content that we’d had our ‘long weekend’, two wonderful days that gave us just what the doctor ordered to blow the pandemic’s cobwebs away.

Boondaburra BnB, with its wood-fuelled fires, green scenery and clear skies worked well as a winter destination. We hope to return early one November, when the spring weather should be at its best.

Cheers for now!
Rick Grounds

About rmgtravelsandfood

Maggie and I are both in our mid-60s and live in Melbourne, Australia. This blog is devoted to our shared passions for travel and fine dining at home. As cooks, we are skilful and adventurous within a framework of mainly traditional ingredients and techniques, and we aim to prepare nutritious food that looks good and tastes delicious. Our evolving repertoire is influenced by both our travels and Melbourne's vibrant food culture. While we are young enough, our priority travel destinations are overseas, although we do spend a few long weekends each year exploring parts of south-eastern Australia. As travellers, we are most comfortable with a combination of organised and independent touring. Our first overseas journey together was to Italy in the northern autumn of 2008. We later travelled in France (2009), Spain (2011), Singapore and Cambodia (2012/13). All trips from 2014 to 2016 are documented in this blog. When time allows, we will publish posts about our journeys - eight and counting - in 2017, 2018 and 2019
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