Words and photos by Paul Hollingworth
Our trip started, as most of our trips do, with a flurry of e-communication to arrange carpools. In an unusual twist, I was in a car with Lyric and Chris – and I was driving! For those not aware, I am both very lazy and exceptionally cheap, so the allocation of me as driver and my Barina as the car of choice was a very novel affair! The poor old thing doesn’t even have cruise control, but my car’s computing device tells me I averaged 5.6 L/100km – not too bad.
A nice early start for me. I first headed to get Chris near what he likes to call Knifepoint (Highpoint Shopping Centre), and then a quick hop over the Westgate to get Lyric near the South Melbourne Market. What came next was a happy, chatty, pleasant drive east on the M1 to the BP Service Centre at Officer – actually the chatty happy time continued at Officer as my GPS didn’t allow for the reduced traffic of the public holiday and we were half an hour early. Soon enough, though, the rest of our troop arrived and we were off to our morning tea stop at Yarragon. Before we left, we were sure to advise our newest member, Gary, why we always put Gordon at the front of our convoy-
Paul: We put Gordon at the front because he drives slower and no one gets left behind.
Gary: Gordon, are you very slow?
Gordon: No, I always drive within the speed limit.
Gary: Okay, slow then.
At Yarragon we stopped for morning tea – well, I say morning tea, but it was 12:15pm. I had a delicious local pie, and shopped up a treat at the many junk shops. I got an old suitcase that I can use when I take the Morris 1100S away, and a parmesan cheese grater. I spent the rest of the time in Yarragon telling people that I was the President and that I would make Motafrenz ‘grate’ again! I was reminded, once again, that I am the only person who thinks I am amusing…
Next was a trip up to Thomson Dam – Melbourne’s main water source, and a picnic lunch in the adjacent park. The weather was cool, raining, and foggy, but it was beautifully enjoyable. Our accommodation wasn’t far off, so we headed there to unpack and unwind. We had a bit of time before dinner and Gary suggested we take a trip into town (Rawson) and see the local sights. Rawson was built to house the workers during construction of the dam. There isn’t a lot there now though, but, to my delight, we found a thrift shop! I bought a pretty little lady (her purpose unknown), and I was able to pick up some free books. Gordon bought a jacket, and Daniel bought a tool box – we are such a strange, eclectic, and diverse group.
Tonight’s dinner was at the local bogan bar, slightly overpriced, and largely over-boganned. Gary ate my meal, so I ate his – take that new-boy! We headed back to the accommodation for some drinks, chats and dessert. The hotel had a great common room and, as we had booked the whole hotel, the room was for our use exclusively. We each also had our own room with an en suite.
The next day was our “big day”. Breakfast was in the common room, then it was off to Walhalla. The sign for our preferred train time said “sold out”, but our event leader, Daniel, asked anyway and we were able to secure seats. The train is an historic, volunteer run affair which took us through some beautiful country – if you go to Walhalla, I would recommend you do this. Another recommendation – and the source of the title of this article, is the Walhalla Lodge Hotel, “The Wally”. As it was Grand Final Day, in the middle of the super-long weekend, they were quite severely understaffed. It seemed like a family affair. Our main waitress was a very hardworking ten-year-old, and the chef appeared to be her 15-year-old brother. Despite the unusually large crowd and the staffing issue, the service was surprisingly prompt, and my meal, the lamb shanks, was the best I have ever had. On the walk up to the goldmine tour, I was sure to tell my fellow travellers that it was the best I have ever had – their reply? “Yes, we got that from the previous three times you told us” – everyone’s a critic.
To round off our afternoon, we looked at some of the historical buildings in Walhalla and went on a tour of the old goldmine. I found the experience rewarding. I have been on thousands (not thousands, but many) mine tours at Sovereign Hill, but this was the real deal and not presented in the usual Disneyland-style. For the evening on this day, we had a barbecue planned in the common room, and an evening of rich camaraderie – and this it certainly was.
Last day had some sights planned to take us home. First was a delightful roadside lookout across the lovely eastern Victorian countryside to the three coal-fired power stations, and then the Holden Museum at Trafalgar. In my opinion, a superior museum to the one in Echuca. The group then decided that we enjoyed Yarragon so much on the first day that we wanted to return there for lunch. In more junk shopping we indulged before saying goodbye to Gary. We said goodbye to him first as his car was parked in a different direction to the rest of us. Next along was my car, and then Gordon’s. At my car we said our goodbyes to the rest of the group – except for Gordon and Daniel who, in their own little dream worlds, just kept walking… oh well, I guess Lyric, Chris and I are just not hip enough for the cool kids.