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We were aiming to leave Northcote fairly early in the morning to make our way up to Bendigo for Christmas. I was worried about holding everyone up, so I made sure I was packed and ready super quickly. I needn’t have worried, so spent the next couple of hours helping to prepare the new turf for our absence over the next few days by watering it and the front garden thoroughly before packing the car with the bags and food. It was very important not to forget the food or drinks that we had spent yesterday preparing.

Shortly after 11am we set out and filled up with petrol before travelling north on the Calder Highway. We made it to Malmsbury for lunch around 1pm. Malmsbury is a small Australian village about 100km from Melbourne. We had lunch from the Bakery and sat in their shady garden under Eucalyptus trees. Unfortunately they had run out of plain meat pies and so I had a steak and kidney pie with sauce (tomato ketchup) again this was delicious. It was at this point we realised that the bottles of wine had not made it into the car.

Following lunch we wandered down the village road passing a very Australian concept – the drive through off licence – before making our way to the local botanic gardens which we walked along side until being picked up by Susie and Luciano.

The drive from Melbourne to Bendigo took us through some amazing scenery, from managed plantations (the old pine plantations are now slowly being replaced by indigenous eucalyptus) to flat dry plains before finally turning into rolling hills with several large rocks scattered around; which – other than being absolutely tinder dry and golden – could easily have been mistaken for the Wainstones.

The drive up to the house was along a very dusty, dry, dirt track which wound for a kilometre up to a beautiful house. The mud-brick house was built using the mud from their land in the 80’s and is, at first glance, typically built in the style of the area (single storey, typical Victorian area bungalow) however it is a little larger and over two floors – the ground floor split into two levels with rooms flowing through each other. Their land is typical Australian bush land, dusty and filled with eucalyptus trees with some scattered grasses trying to grow in the fairly arid conditions. The garden even backs on to the Bendigo national park colloquially known as ‘One Tree Hill’

We were first greeted by Solo, a quite elderly, enthusiastic and very friendly sheepdog who came out barking very happy that there were more people to give him attention. Rob and Katie greeted us very warmly and introduced us to their son Jo and their daughters Ruth and Elly (all in their mid to late twenties.) They were very pleased to find out that I drank tea and immediately put the kettle on to make a pot of Madura tea.

Immediately after unpacking the car into the house we were shown around the land by Rob, who took us to see the nesting boxes he had put up. Because the boxes are not for birds we were able to take a look inside without disturbing the wildlife. In the first we found an old abandoned nest, the second contained a lone Phascogale (a small brush tailed grey creature somewhere between a possum, rat and squirrel.) The final box we opened contained a large number of baby sugar gliders, we estimated 7 were in the box. it was very difficult to tell because they were all balled up together and climbing on top of one another so there were lots of noses and tails and no way of telling which belonged to which animal. They were still very cute critters!

Their garden also contained a vegetable plot, similar in size to an allotment and was covered with netting to keep birds and fruit bats off. The garden had some beautiful fruits, some I’d never seen before including Logan berries, elderberries, peaches, plums and many many vegetables!

The evening meal was of my lasagne which had been cooked on the BBQ (really it was just heated up, but just want to make you lot reading this at home in the cold, grey rain jealous – it was also a very pleasant 28 degrees outside in the early evening!)

Supper was suspended briefly as some kangaroos had bounced past at a distance, around the corner of the house up a small track. After supper we went out to look for more, it didn’t take long before they appeared. On a small golden, dry pasture of land there was a group of two or three kangaroos.

I currently have some spectacular bites over my legs and arms. The worst of which is about 1cm wide and as itchy as anything I’ve ever had. The ants are also a good 15mm in length and have a bite that has quite a kick; as I was wearing open toed sandals I received a number of nibbles on my toes, not overly pleasant! On the way out to the tent I got a little stuck as there were a number climbing the outside of the entrance and I had my hands full and couldn’t get rid of them. It was very hard to avoid them getting through the fly netting as I climbed in to go to bed.

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