Living with intent, social engagement, learning, growing, giving
After one restorative week of camping in Ben Boyd National Park, we set off for a week in Melbourne. By 8am we had broken camp and were on our way down the Princes Highway. We stopped in Cann River for a (lamentable) coffee and use of flush toilets with water and soap. Our children played in the playground and then looked to the adjacent skate park as a source of fun. Inspired by some parkour YouTube videos, we ran, jumped, slid and flung ourselves up and down the skate ramp. Other families were surprised to see what we were doing (some mothers openly stood and stared particularly at me) but it didn’t take long before other children started emulating us. It was exhilerating and the best fun that I’ve had in a long time. Our 5 year old son and I now look at built up environments in terms of parkour opportunities and as we wandered around Melbourne we made elaborate routes in our minds. For me the fun of the skate ramp was somewhat dampened when I copied our son by sliding down the ramp face first. My hips, knees and shins did not enjoy that and only now am I regrowing skin on my shins. To the extent that when I was in Houston last week for work I only wore trousers with my suit so that I could hide my bruised and scabbed shins.
We drove on to Lakes Entrance and stopped for a quick lunch of fish and chips. We were thrilled to watch a pod of dolphins swim, dive and frolic under us as we stood on the pedestrian bridge. It was cool and very windy so we only looked at the beach before moving on again.
While in Lakes Entrance we had an idea of how much further we could comfortably drive that day so we used Wotif.com to book a family hotel room in Traralgon. Within 30 minutes the hotel had called to say they were booked out of family rooms but they would put an extra bed in a twin room for us. The room was fine and all 4 of us luxuriated (one at a time) under the hot shower, sloughing off a week of grime and salt. We walked into the town centre to find some dinner but were dismayed to find that most places were closed due to it being Boxing Day. We couldn’t face more fast food, so we went to the supermarket and improvised a delicious picnic dinner, found a nice park with an amazing playground and enjoyed an outdoor meal instead, despite the cool temperature and voracious mosquitoes. The next morning we drove to the lookout over Loy Yang power station and coal mine. It was amazing seeing the size of the open cut mine and I was reminded of a field trip I once took to the black triangle in Czech Republic, where the top of the entire valley had been scraped off.
On the way to Melbourne, my husband kept reading about amazing farmers markets and we were excited at the thought of fresh produce (all closed at that time of year unfortunately) so we stopped at Dandenong markets instead. It would be hyperbole to call the produce fresh but we wandered around buying veggies and fruit anyway. Soon we were overstimulated from the lights, noise and crowding after our blissful week of bush crowding. We were all a bit cranky after that and it took us a few days to readjust to society.
We stayed in a nice serviced apartment in East Melbourne and made the most not only of our proximity to the city (walking distance) but the leafy, lovely area itself enthralled us and just across Victoria Street were the delightful onsen and the captivating street art.
One of the warmer days (it wasn’t very warm considering it was peak summer) we made our first trip to St Kilda beach. It was jam packed with people and unlike Bondi and Manly beaches there were less fit looking people enjoying the beach, rather than it being a parade ground for the fit and beautiful. The beach itself does not offer any shade, lacks facilities (change rooms and showers) and waves but the calm water was perfect for our children (if cold).
We researched the top cafés and restaurants of Melbourne but they were all closed (deservedly) for the Christmas/New Year period so we instead sought out cafés that were open!
We greatly enjoyed our camping trip, so much so that we have already booked a site for the same time next year.
In Melbourne we spent two relaxing days enveloped in the warmth of my husband’s uncle’s family. They welcomed us unconditionally, gave us great primal meals and provided lots of cousins for our children to play with. We will definitely be back!