Adventure Australia Travel/holiday

Surfin’ V.I.C

Last weekend Alex and I went surfing! Why we chose to go just as Melbourne’s weather was turning decidedly wintery, as opposed to during the 30-40 degree summer, will forever be a mystery, but we figured better late than never!

We went with Great Ocean Road Surf Tours thanks to a leaflet I’d picked up in the Official Neighbours Tour office last month. We were promised two days of surfing, plus some scenic lunches and a trip to Victoria’s famous Bells Beach. Due to the location of said leaflet I had a slight sense of trepidation that we’d be in a group with a gaggle of 18 year old backpackers (having been one myself once, I could think of nothing worse!), but in fact it was just us – wahey!

Before we knew it we were in lovely Torquay, changing into our wetsuits, rash vests and booties in a beach car park with our surf coach, Al. And then we were learning the techniques of how to stand up on a surf board – first of all under a pouring rain shower on the beach, and then in the actual ocean (still under a pouring rain shower)! Somehow it wasn’t actually that cold in the water, and soon I was managing to stand up the cheat knees-first way, while Alex was managing to stand up the real surfer way (for anyone in the know about these things!). Although we both managed to fall off a lot, we feeling pretty pleased with our progress.

This is how we do it
This is how we do it

After quite a few rounds of standing up/almost standing up/falling off/falling over, we then disembarked the sea, hopped in the van, and drove off to another beach. This time the waves were bigger so we had to paddle out quite a bit to get in the best position for the surf. Some of the waves were so big I was knocked right of the board and swirled around under the water for a bit before re-surfacing, but being no stranger to life underwater I remained mostly unperturbed. Around this time a search and rescue helicopter was busy practicing searching for and rescuing someone in the sea nearby. I’m pretty sure the team had one eye on me, just in case!

Soon the waves were getting bigger and bigger, and it was getting harder and harder to paddle back out in order to catch more waves. And then a particularly rough ‘n tumble moment caused my leash to be ripped from my leg so my surfboard and I were no longer attached! Luckily my board washed ashore (or perhaps that always happens?), but it seemed like a good time to end the lesson and have some lunch!

That evening we were exhausted, so we chilled out in our cabin, ate lots of pizza, watched Jerry Maguire and had an early night. Thanks to these simple steps we actually felt pretty energised the next day, and even the rain did nothing to dampen our spirits. We went to the only beach that was suitable for beginners given the conditions, and in fact most of Torquay’s surfers seemed to have the same idea. For some reason I kept doing lots of things wrong, so for every time I managed to stand up, there were a dozen times when I totally failed. It was soooo frustrating, especially as I had so much help from our expert coach, so there really wasn’t any excuse for being so rubbish. The only consolation was that two of the times I did stand up, I also managed to almost turn!

After changing out of our wetsuits in the beach car park (not an easy task for a woman I can tell you!) we paid a visit to Bells Beach, which features in the greatest surfing movie of all time, Point Break! Of course, a cursory glance at Wikipedia will tell you that the well-known final scene of Point Break was actually filmed in Oregon, America, not Victoria, Australia – but nevertheless it was top to see one of the world’s greatest surf beaches in the flesh!

We got back to Melbourne feeling salty, sandy and sleepy, but already starting to plan our next surfing adventure – maybe Lord Howe Island in July? Watch this space…!

Australia Travel/holiday

Mornington mud and gin

A couple of weeks ago we headed down the coast to the lovely Mornington Peninsula for a weekend of mud and gin!

We borrowed our friends’ car in Brighton, scooted along the Nepean Highway past Frankston, and arrived at our Airbnb apartment in McCrae in no time at all. After grabbing some lunch at the Blue Bay Cafe (the walls adorned with autographs of Neighbours cast members!) we jumped back in the car to Peninsula Hot Springs for the mud part of the trip.

First we sampled all the thermal mineral pools, with temperatures varying from 37 to 43 degrees celcius (apart from the cold plunge pool which was bloody freezing). The spa pool water contains a range of naturally occurring minerals including sulphur, calcium, magnesium, potassium and others – providing all sorts of therapeutic benefits! We managed to stay in the hottest one for longer than we intended as we got chatting to a friendly chap from Geelong! Then we discovered our favourite pool of all – the wouldn’t-be-out-of-place-in-Hobbiton wine barrel:

The wine barrel
The wine barrel

Next it was time for our private mud bath! Neither of us had any idea what to expect, although we both secretly imagined it was going to be a giant bubbling pool of thick, gloopy mud. In fact it was a normal bath, filled with the same water as the thermal spa pools, and we smeared mud onto our bodies before hopping in. Then we lay back and relaxed as the mineral-enriched Dead Sea mud did its work – “regenerating the skin, restoring a youthful radiance to body and soul”.

The next day was Gin Day! But first of all we popped to Foxeys Hangout (chosen purely because of the excellent name!) for some wine tasting and tapas. The tapas was a good move, because over the next couple of hours there was plenty of gin-tasting to do!

When we arrived co-founder Bob told us all about Bass & Flinders Distillery, including how they make the basic gin (using grapes and a triple distillation method) and how they add the botanicals to make the tasty flavours. We then got to sample a gin & tonic! from their range, and while we were drinking we heard where all the botanicals come from and what they add to the gin.

Then it was our turn to invent our very own bottle of gin! We all started with the basis for any good gin – juniper and coriander. Then we could add whatever we felt like from the range of vapour infused botanicals at our disposal, which included: lime, orange, cassia bark, chilli, cardamon, lemon grass, angelica and many more. We used syringes to measure small quantities of each flavour into our mixing cup, then kept tasting the neat booze and adding more botanicals until we were happy with the overall flavour.

By the end of the session I had created a traditional, fresh, limey gin, while Alex went for a more exotic and oriental-inspired blend (at least that’s what we were aiming for!)

In a couple of weeks the bottles of gin will be delivered to our door, and we’ll be able to see whether our concoctions worked, or if the end results are more ‘interesting’ than delicious. Either way, we’ll look forward to sipping a bespoke gin & tonic while we reminisce about our weekend of mud and gin!