4 days... varied weather.
For the past few days we've been in the marina in Robe either doing nothing or doing the full on touristy thing so here is the down-low on our goings on in Robe - N.B. This post will be quite long and filled with photos so make a cuppa and settle in........
THURSDAY FEB 13th - SUNDAY FEB 16th - Robe - first day exploring.
On Thursday we decided to wander out to see what the fair citizens of this small seaside hamlet were like and what the town had to offer.
Now here comes the first highly interesting and informative part of my ramblings.... the history and travelogue which shall henceforth be signalled by the following **! to indicate the beginning and ** to indicate end of lesson.
Robe is one of the oldest towns in South Australia and lies on the southern shore of Guichen Bay which, in 1802, was named by the French explorer Nicolas Baudin (after Admiral De Guichen) as he was charting the south coast of Australia. The town of Robe was named after the fourth Governor of SA, Major Frederick Robe, who chose the site as a port in 1845. The town was officially proclaimed as a port in 1847. By the 1850's it was the second busiest international port in SA, only surpassed by Port Adelaide.
In 1852 a stone obelisk was built on Cape Dombey to help ships safely navigate into the port but unfortunately shipping accidents still occurred so in 1973 an automatic (and fairly boring if the truth be told) lighthouse was built on higher ground.
Around 1857, during the time of the Victorian gold rushes, more than 16,000 Chinese people landed at Robe in order to travel overland to the goldfields. Though odd, this was done because Victoria had introduced a landing tax of £10 per person, (more than the total cost of the voyage to Australia) in order to reduce the number of Chinese immigrants. Once landed however, the immigrants departed Robe and walked the 200+ miles (320+km) inland to Ballarat and Bendigo.
With the introduction of railways, the port of Robe became less important and so turned to farming and fishing to sustain the local population. It is still home to a fleet of fishing boats. Especially important are the local lobsters.**
... The marina is lovely (facilities are a little lacking but I guess we couldn't have everything) with wide berths, loads of wiggle room to swing a large boat in and lots of friendly people (despite the fact that many of those friendly people are my nemeses, the dreaded fisher folk!) ...
The marina is situated in what was Lake Butler, a natural landlocked lake that was separated from the sea by a narrow dune. In summer, fishermen moored their boats in Giuchen Bay but in winter would pull their boats over the dunes and into the lake for protection from the elements. In 1964, a channel to the sea was cut through the dunes, making Lake Butler available for safe mooring all year round.**
... The day was fair and warmish so we decided to walk it (after we'd first taken the dinghy across the marina. We didn't feel the need to walk further than was absolutely necessary at least until we'd sussed out the lay of the land. :) ) and, as well as having a look around, we'd have lunch at one of the many eateries.
The first thing that struck me about the town was how well presented it is. Clean, mown, tidy, clipped and trimmed, it was a pleasure to walk down the wide walking/cycling path on the foreshore towards the main street. We hadn't gone far up the main street (this part of which was named Victoria Street) when the smell of food suddenly hooked its fingers in my nose. We didn't get more than 10 metres when the urge to turn back got too strong. We turned and found ourselves perusing the menu outside the Caledonian Inn or 'The Cally' as it's affectionately known. It was in here we got our first taste of the friendly people in the town. But first .....
Dave on the balcony before lunch.
The Caledonian Hotel at Robe was built in 1859 by Scotsman, Peter McQueen. Ships' doors and some of the timbers used in its construction came from the Dutch ship "Koning Willem De Tweede" and the "Phaeton", both of which were wrecked in Guichen Bay in 1857. Three of the ship's doors were fitted to attics overlooking the Bay, and the other two were also used on upstairs rooms where they still are in use. The Caledonian was the subject of a grant of a "Public House" licence to Peter McQueen on 27 July 1858, and was the second such licence granted in Robe, the first being granted to the Bonnie Owl, on 28 March 1849 **
... We chatted to the young man behind the bar for a while and then sat on the rear balcony and looked out over the beer garden, gorgeous little accommodations and the sea, enjoying a sumptuous feed of crispy wedges with sour cream and chilli sauce, followed by home-made sticky date pudding for me and a chocolate brownie for Dave. After a couple of drinks, we fatly wandered back down to the street and recommenced the exploration. I was happily surprised at how many galleries and craft shops there were and most of the artwork by local artists was really beautiful. It ranged from drawing and painting through to stone and metal sculptures and fabric work. Well worth a look!
"Best Ice Cream Place in Town"
We also came across the most amazing ice cream/coffee place. The open style shop (which I assume was originally a garage) fronted a gorgeously tangled rear garden which hosted an assortment of seating areas (some of which had chess boards and pieces on them for anyone who so desired a quiet game) and the whole place, including the man I assumed was the owner/operator and creator of ice cream, fairly dripped with hippie art culture. Speakers oozed out suitably ambient music and the whole atmosphere was relaxed. I loved it so much! Even the toilet was amazing. It consisted of a small tin shed that also housed a shower made from a cut out water tank. To get to it, one had to wander down a very narrow gravel path through overgrown ferns and plants and scattered treasures such as hanging coloured bottles and wind-chimes and beach shell mobiles and sculptures and actual live lizards that darted away when you approached. Awesome! On this visit we only had coffee but even that was nice. Incorporated with the ice cream place, in the adjoining cottage, is the Sweet Gallery which sells hand-crafted jewellery and lollies. I absolutely love it!
"Hand crafter table - limestone bases"
After the galleries and the ice cream shop, and all the really nice clothing shops that I managed to will myself away from, it all seemed a bit mainstream (even though it's still a gorgeous place and I haven't mentioned all of the wonderful eateries) and after we'd visited the supermarket (meh... same ol' everywhere) we slowly trundled back to the boat and decided that, since rain was forecast for tomorrow, on Saturday we'd take the bikes to the more historic sites.
FRIDAY FEB 14th - Valentine's Day
It did indeed rain all day, so we surfed the net, we dozed, we did some stuff that's private ;) . That's all anybody needs to know, although we did get some photos of a very nice Musk Duck in the afternoon (yes... it's a duck).
"Funny little Musk Duck"
SATURDAY FEB 15th - Exploring the fun bits.
This morning we stuffed the backpack with food, water, jumpers, cameras and phones, donned the helmets, mounted the bikes and pedal/walked (there's lots of hills here!) our way along more of the fabulous bike/walking paths they have here towards some of the historic sites Robe has to offer.
"One of the better bike tracks"
Apart from an nasty near-faceplant-tumble due to the seat being too high and my feet not quite reaching the ground, and a barrier that suddenly jumped out of nowhere at me, we did fairly well. I'll have bruises on my legs later on though. At least Dave thought it was comical and it was suggested that we attach the faux Go-Pro to the helmet next time so that we don't miss any of the funnies. Nyuck, nyuck.
The first place we headed was to the Obelisk...
The Obelisk was erected on Cape Dombey in 1852 and was used to navigate the entrance to Guichen Bay, as well as to store rocket lifesaving equipment. The firing of rockets, carrying baskets to distressed ships to bring passengers ashore, saved many lives. It later assisted passing ships with navigation because its height of 12m (40 ft) makes it visible 20km (12miles) out to sea.
Unfortunately, due to the erosion of the land surrounding the obelisk, this local icon will eventually fall into the ocean below, so visit it while you can.**
... and the rugged shoreline along which Fairy and Little Terns nest. To see the way the limestone has been sculpted by hundreds of thousands of years of manipulation by the never ending caress of the waves is impressive.
"Rugged cliffs and waves"
Also along here we walked the rock studded dirt path (bouncing the bikes along as best we could) and visited the Blow Hole or as I came to call it, The Little Blow Hole That Didn't. I got the feeling that since the discovery of the hole it has been further eroded so that the water isn't able to build the pressure to blow any more. It's a shame because now it's just 'the hole covered in safety mesh'.
"The (ahem) Blow Hole"
We think we may have also discovered where all the pigeons go to breed around Robe. They go to the cliffs. I thought it was odd to see just one perched on the side of the sheer cliff but when we turned a corner, Dave noticed hundreds, and a loud "BOO" soon had them scattering. If nothing else, it made for a nice photo. :)
"Pigeons by the bajillion"
We followed the path further around and found ourselves looking over a small ledge at a tiny little sandy beach with low rock outcrops in a tiny little bay surrounded by low cliffs. It looked gorgeous but, looking over the edge, I figured it may be a little too far to try and get down to the beach so I almost gave up on the idea. Of course Dave, being as nimble as a friggin' gazelle, simply jumped down and offered his hand. It was a little more difficult for me to scramble down the vertical drops to the sand but once I did, I tried to forget how I was supposed to get back up again. Meh... worry about it when it comes to it.
"lovely little beach"
"Looking up at the bikes"
"The way up. Nice rock formations anyway"
We partook of spicy dried broad beans (which taste nicer than they sound) and just relaxed for a while. The bay was completely protected from the wind and the swell and small waves lapped the steep beach with gentle regularity. I searched for a nice shell with which to start my shell hanging, the idea of which is to collect one shell from each place we visit, write on the name of the place, and then hang them all together once we have finished the journey. Like a big, bumpy, calcified postcard full of memories.
After relaxing for a while, it was time to move on, and time to try and negotiate the way up. I looked up and saw the bikes parked a little way above us and realised the moment had come. Now, as some may have gleaned from previous posts, I have bad knees so climbing elegantly up anything just isn't going to happen. I scrambled up the flatter part of the shelved rocks and up to the ledge which, for me, was about chest height. I found one small foothold and another a little further up and had just positioned myself to carefully negotiate my way slowly up the ridge when a great big pair of hands planted themselves square on my backside and pushed. Before I realised what was happening, I was propelled up and over the top of the ledge like a mountain goat on steroids. I sat on the dirt, brushing myself down and, struggling to my feet, watched as Dashing Dave the Butt Shover bounced up next to me. My hero. I was so glad there was no one else around.
After all the fun and games, it was decided to try and find an actual road that would take us to the lighthouse. Luckily we had brought the map of the town with us so that we wouldn't end up wandering in ever decreasing circles until we disappeared up our own derrières. We couldn't yet ride the bikes as the rocks in the dirt road were too big and were beginning to feel like boulders, By the time we got to the end of the track, there actually WERE boulders over which we had to lift the bikes. That was it. No more dirt. From now on we ride easy on bitumen. On the way we took a picture of a lovely juvenile Nankeen Kestrel, which was just lovely. We eventually found the road that took us directly to what is possibly the most boring lighthouse on the planet so we changed plans. It was lunch time. Into town we go.
"Nankeen Kestrel (Juvenile)"
Now, I do seem to recall saying that there were many hills in Robe, and that isn't an exaggeration, particularly on that side of town (the peninsula side). The downward speeds were great and I often found myself flying faster than I could pedal, but because the wheels on the bikes are only the size of a small pizza and we don't have thighs like Thor, the uphill propulsions rapidly slowed (yes I too spotted the oxymoron) to snail's pace and we ended up walking until we broached the next hill. Then the whole charade was played through again and again until we eventually reached the slightly less hilly ground towards the main drag.
At the bakery we had lunch and decided that our next stop should be at one of the lakes. There are several lakes in and around the town itself, the largest being Lake Fellmongery, so this is where we headed first. After more up hill, down dale, pedal and push, we arrived at the lake just as a couple of boats with water-skiers (one experienced, one like me, with the balance of a drunk giraffe) were heading out. The lake is not huge, but is certainly large enough for a big variety of water-sports and by the looks of it, is well used for that purpose. There's also barbecue and picnic spots and all in all, it's totally gorgeous. We sat on a small, grassy embankment and just enjoyed the afternoon and ate apricot coconut balls. Crap.... I'm never going to lose weight... sigh.
"Skier at Lake Fellmongery"
After half an hour or so we set off again, this time to find Fox's Lake and to begin heading back to the boat. We see-sawed our way back to the main road and followed it out of the town limits and past one of the most disgusting stink holes I have ever had the misfortune to go past. It was basically a putrid, stagnant hole that actually had the name of Lake Charra and smelled like raw sewerage that had been fermenting in the sun for a month. I took no time pedalling past it even though my legs were burning like fire. It really was that bad. :(
Finally finding the road that led to Fox's Lake, we followed it but didn't really find the lake as it seemed to be hidden behind dense bushland. The only evidence that there may be water nearby was a bird hide so the decision was made to forego the lake and head home. We followed a track that was fairly okay to ride the bikes on, and which took us almost all the way back into town. On the way we did cross the ocean inlet to Fox's Lake so at least we saw something of it.
"Bird Hide at Fox's Lake"
We were doing well so far as getting back to the boat was concerned but as we approached town the ice cream shop suddenly beckoned and the urge for that creamy yumness took hold. Being a Saturday, the place was packed but the ice-cream was plentiful and there was a spare table. The double waffle cones were huge and because it was quite warm, they began to melt almost immediately but Licketty McTongue to the rescue. Not a single drip was lost that day. I felt deservedly sick afterwards but it was TOTALLY worth it. On the bikes again and one last stop before we got back to the boat. The monuments, busts and Customs House at the Royal Circus.
" MMMMM Ice Cream!!"
Near the marina is a place called the Royal Circus. This is a roundabout encircling a small sand hill (grassed over now) and was a focal point for the original planned government town of Robe. It was also used by bullock drays throughout Robe's days as a busy port.
The Robe Customs House is an attractive limestone building with brick quoins which was built in 1863 to cater for the large number of Chinese passing through the port en route to the Victorian gold-fields whilst trying to avoid an arrival tax and was also the office of Harbour Master and Receiver of Wrecks for the south east coast as far as the Victorian border. A very small building for its use, and possibly indicative of the size of the town, it was later used as the local council chambers and in 1969 was converted into a museum.
"Customs House - Robe"
On and near the Royal Circus are several memorials:
1. Soldiers Memorial - WW1 Memorial
2. Chinese Memorial - marks the more than 16,000 Chinese who came to Robe between 1857 and 1863. After their arrival they walked to the Victorian Goldfields.
3. Fisherman's Memorial - honours Robe fisherman lost at sea. Some of these men were as young as 22.
4. Norfolk Pine Trees - planted along the foreshore to honour local residents who served in World War 1.
"Various Monuments and Mementos"
There is also a pair of busts by sculptor Patricia Moseley signifying the meeting between Captain Matthew Flinders and Sub Lieutenant Nicolas Baudin at Encounter Bay in 1802.**
So, after all that history and stuff, we finally headed back to the boat following a track on the outer side of the marina that led to a wonderful board-walk through the trees and undergrowth and over the water. Back on board it was a good, stiff cup of tea and a sit down for a while, until Dave spotted a bird and wanted to go in the dinghy and get a photo of it, which we did (the Nankeen Night Heron). Egad I needed a lie down!
"Nankeen Night Heron at the marina"
When we got back from THAT, I did indeed have a Nana nap but only until I heard someone knocking on the side of the boat ... not from the dock but from the water.... what??? When it came again I yelled "Excuse me???" but it seemed I wasn't heard. Next minute I heard Dave chatting to a couple of people who started asking about the boat. The knocking was an effort to discover whether the hull was wood or fibreglass and they hadn't realised that anyone was on board. Oh precious slumber, driven away by yon nosy parkers.
Oh well, time was marching on anyway and dinner was getting closer. That was pretty much it for the day but it had been a busy one. Time for sautéed mushroom, spinach and chilli pasta and some Big Bang Theory. Nice.
SUNDAY FEB 16th - preparing to leave tomorrow. Final day in Robe.
I spent almost my entire day writing the Robe blog entry and sorting through pictures. Dave spent most of his day trying to change the oil filter which is underneath big things, behind sharp stuff and hard up against other engine bits. He came away bloody and black and I don't think he enjoyed it so it does confirm my suspicions that he is not a masochist. Though I do suspect he's a micro-sadist as he did chuckle when I fell off the bike yesterday and again when I got bashed in the face by my wind chimes today, but I have a long time in which to investigate the validity of my suspicions. He may just be a bit of a bastard in which case, you'll get yours sunshine!
Tomorrow we leave for a short (about 7 hours anyway) hop to Southend as we make our way towards Port MacDonnell and ever closer to the Victorian border.
Stay tuned for more riveting and informative stuff.
"Just some more nice photos of Robe" :)