First Stop – Stanthorpe

Kevtoberfest Road Trip #2

With a brewery and a distillery, wineries and gourmet food shops, Stanthorpe was always going to be the first stop on our journey to Victoria. We didn’t have to go far; the small town at the centre of Queensland’s Granite Belt region is just 144 kilometres south on the New England Highway. We’ve been to Stanthorpe before, so there was no sightseeing on our itinerary. This time we were on a mission.

Our first destination was Vincenzo’s at the Big Apple, filled to the rafters with gourmet delights both local and international in origin. We stocked up on our favourite fresh cheeses and sourdough baguettes still warm from the oven.

At Castle Glen Australia, the shelves are lined with delicious liqueurs in specially crafted bottles. Musk Stick, Dark Choc Mint and Dark Choc Musk liqueurs found their way to the caravan.

The Granite Belt Brewery serves more than just beer. Using locally sourced ingredients, the restaurant chef creates delectable dishes to complement the craft beers on tap. We shared an entrée of duck and pork spring rolls before our main meals of twice-cooked pork belly slow braised in Stanthorpe apple ale, roasted Brussel sprouts, apple compote and ale jus. I enjoyed a refreshing apple ale while Glen sampled four beers on a tasting paddle. To begin the Kevtoberfest collection, Glen bought a bottle each of Granite Pils, Irish Red Ale and Pozieres Porter. They were carefully packed away to be shared later with Kevin.

We even did some practice for Kevtoberfest!

With the pantry stocked and the beer collection started, we continued south into New South Wales.

Road Trip Tally: Breweries 1/Craft shops 0

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Setting the Scene

Kevtoberfest Road Trip #1

When Mr ET aka Glen began his Prep Year at school in 1963, he met Kevin. Glen and Kevin had a lot in common: they both had seven sisters and one younger brother, they lived not far from each other and they were fervent supporters of Essendon Football Club. It wasn’t long before they were best friends. When they grew older, the boys spent their weekends and holidays exploring far and wide on their bikes, only returning home at the end of the day for dinner.

Glen and Kevin at a family wedding, 1975

As adults, Glen and Kevin developed a mutual passion for beer. For many years, they’ve made their own home brews and they enjoy visiting craft breweries in Australia and overseas. In 2011, we holidayed with Kevin and his wife Mary Lou in Munich for a week, where we spent much of our time at the Hofbrauhaus and other beer-related establishments. Even though they live in different states, Glen and Kevin are often in touch and regularly discuss their latest home brewing experiments.

Hofbrauhaus, 2011

P&O Cruise, 2016

It’s not always about the beer – strudel and coffee in Munich, 2011

When Kevin announced his plans for a beer-themed party to celebrate his 60th birthday in October this year, it was a given we would be there. This wasn’t to be a one night event; it would start on Friday night and continue all weekend, before finishing up on Sunday afternoon. It would incorporate the telecast of the Australian Rules Football League (AFL) Grand Final on Saturday afternoon and a fancy dress party on Saturday night – Kevtoberfest was born!

Instead of a quick fly/drive journey, we decided to do a three week caravan trek to Kevin’s home near Bairnsdale in Victoria. The return journey of 3,500 kilometres would cover inland and coastal regions of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. It wasn’t by coincidence that the route Glen planned included several towns with craft breweries and, knowing my love of quilting and crochet, he made sure to include some craft shops as well. The itinerary was a winner for both of us!

To be continued…

Roaming in Roma

Close to home #14 Roma

It’s always lovely to go on a long holiday to a far flung destination. There are times, however, when it’s not convenient or cost effective and a staycation closer to home is the way to go. The destinations in this series of posts are all just a few hours’ drive from our home. They’re easy to get to, there’s plenty to see and do and at the end of the holiday we’re home again in no time.

The western Queensland town of Roma is located more than 500 kilometres from the ocean and the landscape is often parched from lack of rain. But at Bungil Creek and the Railway Dams there are gentle walkways with water views and, after good spring rainfall, the area is beautifully green. In both locations, it’s all about the trees.

A huge bottle tree marks the start of the Adungadoo Pathway, which follows the course of Bungil Creek. Said to be the largest in the district, the tree measures more than nine metres around the trunk and is thought to be at least 100 years old.

Even older are the river red gums on the creek bank. Some have been dated to 400 years and, along with tall coolabah trees, provide shade for walkers and cyclists. In spring, birds are attracted to the golden flowers of the silky oaks.

There are places to rest along the pathway, but there’s also the chance to be more active.  The frisbee course, similar to a golf course, has baskets instead of holes and a par for each round. A gym circuit has exercise equipment suitable for all abilities.

In the past, there was also a lot of activity at the Railway Dams. Originally built in the 19th century to supply water for passing steam trains, the dams are now surrounded by the Roma Bush Gardens. Eleven distinct areas are planted with native trees and flowering plants found in the surrounding Maranoa region.

A circular walkway passes through all the gardens, past more river red gums and coolabah, brigalow and belah trees. Bottlebrush shrubs laden with red blossoms grow at the water’s edge.

Walkers aren’t the only ones attracted to Bungil Creek and the Bush Garden. Rainbow lorikeets and kookaburras perch high in the river red gums and blue-faced honeyeaters dart around the flowering bushes. Pacific black ducks and swamp hens forage at water level.

 Even on the hottest and driest of days in Roma, the walking paths beside Bungil Creek and the Railway Dams are cool and shaded.
Join Jo for more Monday Walks

BYO Birdseed

Close to home #13 Bunya Mountains National Park

It’s always lovely to go on a long holiday to a far flung destination. There are times, however, when it’s not convenient or cost effective and a staycation closer to home is the way to go. The destinations in this series of posts are all just a few hours’ drive from our home. They’re easy to get to, there’s plenty to see and do and at the end of the holiday we’re home again in no time.

The Scenic Circuit walk at Queensland’s Bunya Mountains National Park is aptly named; there’s a beautiful view of the North Burnett region from Pine Gorge Lookout. But it’s not just the scenery that attracts visitors to this isolated section of the Great Dividing Range.

Fondly known by all who visit regularly as “The Bunyas”, the park is Queensland’s second oldest and home to the world’s largest stand of bunya pines. These magnificent trees tower above the subtropical rainforest at the top of the range. Every three to four years, they produce huge cones up to 30 cm in length which contain large edible seeds called bunya nuts. Although the distinctive pines dominate the landscape there is a wide variety of flora and fauna, some only found in this area.

Our circuit walk begins from the picnic area at the tiny settlement of Dandabah, where small groups of red-necked wallabies gather to graze. In spring and summer, flowering black bean trees attract crimson rosellas.

Once on the walking track we need to be on the lookout, because many of the forest’s inhabitants are timid. We almost miss a motionless eastern water dragon, sunning itself on a log by the creek.

Not so worried about hiding is a male brush-turkey, more interested in attracting a female to his mound of leaf litter than avoiding us.

As we continue along the path, an eastern yellow robin darts along the forest floor ahead of us.

Higher up, bird’s nest ferns hang from tree trunks, and overhead the spreading fronds of tree ferns provide welcome shade.

Not so welcome are the giant stinging trees, their leaves covered with fine, silica-tipped hairs. Even the lightest touch causes pain which can last for days. We’ve heeded the advice on the warning signs and worn our closed-in shoes on this walk, because even dead leaves on the ground can be harmful. Luckily there are no stinging trees close to the path and we move on unscathed.

After a dry winter, only a trickle of water flows over the rocks at Festoon Falls but it’s enough to sustain the lush ferns and mosses clinging to the rock walls.

In the shallow waterholes below we spot large brown tadpoles, half hidden by the dappled sunlight on the water. They will take up to three years to mature into great barred frogs, which live in burrows in the creek banks.

It seems as if all life in the mountains grows slowly; strangler figs take hundreds of years to completely overwhelm their host plants. The walking track passes spectacularly between the aerial roots of one giant fig. The tree is more than 400 years old and the space is all that is left after the host plant died.

The circuit finishes with a gentle climb from the forest floor up the hill to the picnic area.

In the late afternoon, birds gather when seed is put out for feeding and photo opportunities. Regular visitors bring their own birdseed, because small bags from the general store are costly. Crimson rosellas and king parrots compete for attention, while sulphur-crested cockatoos wait more patiently till the rush dies down.

Kookaburras would prefer to snatch a sausage from the barbecues of unsuspecting picnickers.

When you come to the Bunyas bring your shoes, bring some bird seed and definitely bring your camera. You’ll want to photograph more than just the scenery!

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Paving the Way

Close to home #12 Flagstaff Hill

It’s always lovely to go on a long holiday to a far flung destination. There are times, however, when it’s not convenient or cost effective and a staycation closer to home is the way to go. The destinations in this series of posts are all just a few hours’ drive from our home. They’re easy to get to, there’s plenty to see and do and at the end of the holiday we’re home again in no time.

At the north western end of Isla Gorge National Park in central Queensland, there is a remarkable example of  mid 19th century engineering – an isolated time capsule preserved in the bush. To reach it, we turned off the highway and headed towards Flagstaff Road. Wide, flat and unsealed, the road goes through private cattle properties. Several times we had to slow down as we crossed cattle grids and passed by stock grazing at the side of the road.

Ahead in the distance, the Dawson Range rose abruptly out of the dusty plain.

Just inside the national park boundary at the top of the range, a narrow walking track led through the bush to the remnants of a hand-made road.

Constructed in the 1860s, the road was used to transport wool from the western town of Roma to the coastal port at Rockhampton. For this 150 metre section up the range, massive slabs of rock were cut by hand from boulders on the site. No cement was used to lay the pavers; they were shaped to fit neatly together, creating a firm surface on the steep slope. Hand-made culverts drained rain water away, preventing erosion and conserving the area. Six men took six months to build the paved road at a cost of £200.

In the early days, bullock teams pulled massive drays loaded with wool on the journey east and returned with supplies for those living in the remote west of the state. The bullockies who managed the teams were highly skilled in the tricky maneuvers needed to reach the top of the hill.

The road was used until the 1930s but, when other sealed roads made the westward journey easier, most traffic was diverted. Today the hand-paved road up Flagstaff Hill lies hidden in the bush, a silent tribute to the men who laboured to build it.