Adventures in the Yarra Valley
As we looped back towards Melbourne after our first 2 weeks on the road in New South Wales and Victoria, we headed inland to Yarra Valley and the Dandenong Ranges. We had 5 days with trips into the city planned (see post on Melbourne Zoo and AO tennis tournament), but our caravan felt like a bit of countryside was worthwhile visiting, too.
The Yarra Valley is about an hour outside of Melbourne to the East. It follows the Yarra River through hills, forests and ranges, and it enjoys a fairly cool climate very much suited to winemaking. That was also part of the plan.
Hip hip hip…. Hipcamp
We were hoping to find a nice spot for the van, knowing that we would also sleep one night away and not use much power/water (we’ll get to these equations in the future). We turned to Hipcamp, a platform that connects land owners with travelers (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?). You get to park somewhere on their farmland, must be fully self-contained (what you bring in, you bring out, including all water) and no access to power (we have solar panels).
Our wish was easily fulfilled, when we arrived at Mountain Hope vineyards, welcomed by Sandra. What an amazing spot by the dam, at the bottom of the vines! We were also joined by Grandma Georgie for the first 2 days. She found an amazing little dependence on a little hill 2 km away from us: The Studio. Highly recommended for a weekend get away, with amazing views that had Miles cartwheeling away!
Exploring the local wineries
The region is a renowned wine producing area, in particular for Chardonnay and Pinot noir. Both varieties are usually not on the top of our list, so we were in for different tastings. Visiting wineries is something we try to do en passant, which means that we will not plan a whole day out of it (and would struggle to do so with the necessary driving required). No need to go far, though, as we had a wide collection of wineries around us, and little map from James Halliday to help us. As we were at the start of the week, some places were closed unfortunately (good reason to come back another time).
A small family winery owned by Vince and Lucy, both Italian-born (Calabria) lovers of their vineyards. No fancy signs or parking lots here, just a lovely driveway leaving you wondering whether you are not trespassing. But at the back is a shed, where you will experience wine tasting directly from the owners. Take your time, as they have stories to tell! Pretty broad selection of wines, and our preference went to a Pinot Grigio, a 100% Petite Verdot, and (unusual) a Rosé (60% Shiraz, 40% Chardonnay). Definitely not what we would have picked on the list, but I guess this is why one has to go to the cellar door and taste. You will not find their wines in shops anyways, so this is where you come. Grazie Vicenzo, torniamo sicuramente!
Change of scenery (philosophy?) a couple of km down the road, as we arrive at the lawns of Yarrawood Estate. The car park testifies to the good status of the private vehicle economy, and the tables spread out in the garden invite you for a very nice lunch. The tasting was less personal, but the Tall tales Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon made it with us for further tasting in the caravan.
Tarrawarra art gallery and a surprise
Melissa’s dear friend Cath jumped in on Whatsapp to recommend a trip to the Tarrawarra gallery in the town of Healesville. A 15 minute drive worth every meter. Perched up on a small hill, the gallery’s architecture dots very clearly the i-s. This place is serious. Should I stay or should I go resonates in our heads, but if you know us, you know what’s coming. In we go.
Presented are mostly works from Australian artist Sidney Nolan. The themes mix remembrance of the events of Gallipoli (read our Australian War Memorial piece) and the Greek mythology of Leda and Swan. A second part of the exhibition expands the latter them with work from Heather B. Swann. Yes, the name is correct, and certainly predestined.
Cath, a huge thank you for guiding us to this amazing place. Sidney Nolan’s work is fascinating (and we would later “meet him” again at MONA in Tasmania). We like to see art as an opportunity to discuss various themes with the kids, and contribute to their homeschooling experiment. Maybe we are just trying to convince ourselves that it was ok to skip the traditional desk and books work for the day…
As we came out, ready to hit the road, we notice the extension behind the art gallery… Tarrawarra is also making wines. And what wines! Slowly the storage space under our lounge in the caravan is becoming a travelling wine cellar. Will be looking at modification of the caravan soon!
Fishing at… the Buxton fish farm
The kids have been very patient with their fishing endeavors. Grandma Georgie bought them perfect fishing rods for Christmas, but, unfortunately, the bucket has remained mostly empty until now. So the next day, whilst Melissa was enjoying a day in the city with her Mum, Boris took the boys on a fishing adventure. After having earned their day at the Healesville library studying intensely, we went to the Buxton trout farm. Rules are simple: ponds are full of fish and whatever you catch, you keep and must pay for. After 10 minutes, it looked like this was going to be an expensive fun adventure! The challenge became to hook the fish on and “inadvertently” let it slip off the hook before it was too obvious that we had caught it. We left with almost 1.5 Kg of fresh rainbow trout, which we happily grilled a few days later. Happy boys.
We will go back to Yarra Valley. The region is beautiful, a superb mix of nature and palatable experiences. Probably the happiest of all of us was… our little protector, the Caravan (more about her in the next post...). She had the best spot ever. But shoosh…. Don’t tell anyone, that Hipcamp must remain a secret!