Monday, January 26, 2009

Hepburn Springs and hiking

Christine put together a whole surprise weekend getaway for Australia Day. We went up to Hepburn Springs, apparently the mineral springs/spa capitol of Australia. The drive up there reminded me quite a bit of Arizona, rolling hills and cattle and bone dry grasslands, with the occasional patch of trees. Melbourne has a bit more vegetation, like this picture below is from a park we walked around in near Kew... We're still learning all the names of the trees. 

The high point of Hepburn Springs is the Hepburn Bathhouse, a government facility that's been open for many decades but recently had a major overhaul. The website is here The architecture of it is breath taking and I recommend checking out some of the pictures. Christine signed up for the full boat maximum package with aromatherapy steam room, mineral hydro massage, salt water floating pool, monsoon showers, etc. When they were walking us around they explained that it was largely on an honor system, but two hours (our package) is really quite a long time to be at a spa, about the most one could handle. I figured they hadn't met Christine before. We probably stayed for about 2 1/2 hours. 

When we first rolled into town we ate at A Perfect Drop, a wine bar with tapas. There were a lot of places in town but I have to think that we just stumbled upon the best place off the bat. We had olives and the cheese and leek fritters with spicy sweet and sour saffron sauce. I notice Christine gives a hearty enthusiastic "Yum." when she tastes something she likes. Extremely good brings out the Opera Yum, a drawn out falsetto "Yuuuuumm!". The fritters got both the regular Yum and the Opera Yum, so we ended up going back for dinner to the same place.  

We did some hiking (or bush walking or tramping) around some of the springs, which was nice. We saw The Blowhole, a hole in a rock that a river passes through and when the river gets bigger than the hole the results are spectacular. When we were there it was a dry riverbed. However, when we were driving back into town there were some Wallabys/Kangaroos that were jumping ahead of our car down the road. Christine tried to run them down with the rental car (a Toyota Corolla Seca that she's named Gunther and says she'd marry if she hadn't already met me) but this is about as close as we got with the camera: 

To kill some time we also went to the Chocolate Mill (Christine: "Houston we have a problem- there's a tourist town without a chocolate factory"). Their story was actually quite inspiring. We got to talk with Jennifer, the owner, for a bit. Very friendly and obviously passionate about what she does. They lived on the property for 20 months together without electricity and meeting deadlines by putting in 14 hour days every day for six weeks. We'd be flattering ourselves to say that we could relate and it definitely puts our immigration saga in perspective. We asked what impact it had on their relationship and she said something to the effect that there was one day that was their darkest moment, but otherwise it was a bonding experience. She said that what helped the most was having her own thing to work on, that both people were not always working on the same thing. She said it all very eloquently so I regret not remembering her exact words... but I was caught in a sugar spiral after taking down one of their dark hot chocolate drinks, the remants of which are below. Note the spoon scrape marks. 

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