The day dawned bright over the city.
We did did our final packing and George arrived. Thank goodness for George! We were able to stow our bags and, surprisingly, the still nearly full box of wine in his car and be delivered to the door of the car hire company and then to the tail gate of our hire car. Fantastic! With big hugs of thanks and fond goodbyes (George is one of my favourites) he was gone and we were ready to start the next phase of our journey.
In actual fact we decided not to leave the city straight away but instead to take advantage of our close proximity to the Victoria Market prior to setting off. It is vast and sells everything from crabs to racks of lamb, from bags of bones for the dog to spices and from clothes to souvenirs – all were available if you cared to buy them We wandered the stalls sniffed the spices, marvelled at the immaculately displayed meat and bought tahini paste in case humous is required in Sydney. All nationalities seemed to be represented. I think in the end we agreed with Paul about the South Melbourne market having the edge but The Victoria market certainly had its own charm.
Having had our market sighting, it was time to take on the Melbourne traffic again. In actual fact it was fine. A few twists and turns and traffic lights and we were out on the freeway and four lanes of traffic. Initially, as we passed the suburbs of Melbourne, business was brisk on the road, but as this was left behind the number of lanes diminished and the number of vehicles with it and we were soon bombing along the M1 merrily.
I have to say there is a lot of attention to driver fatigue here and even catnap areas to pull off the road, which as a great cat napper I find very sensible. Eventually the M1 turned to the A1 and it was just a single lane in each direction but still the enquiries about sleepiness continued. I was very impressed.
We must have pulled away from the car park in Melbourne at circa 11.30. Around 1.30 we stopped for our ‘snack’, the left over cheese and an apple from the apartment. Keith said we should have a ‘light lunch’ as ‘tea’ would be served where we were going. Now I am not sure why this was or proved to be so irritating, but it did. It might have been that ‘tea’ to me is cups of tea and cake. I do not like either. Although I was not happy and was irritated, I went along with it. Irritation, hunger and martyrdom are not a good combination. By 3.00 I was spoiling for a fight. By 3.30 I had stopped talking altogether feeling it was best for all concerned. By four I was ready to do a murder. Keith was unhappy with the silence but did not realise it was his best option….
Just after 4.00 we turned off the road onto a sandy track. ‘Harrison’s Trak’ as it was labelled. Soon after a kangaroo hopped across our path we made yet another turn and arrived at the Goldsmith’s In The Forest. It was lovely. All irritation dissipated. Les and Darolyn (!) were lovely and met us as we drove in. In no time bags were removed from the car and we were ushered into their garden room that was their guest accommodation. We were to be the only ones there for the night. We passed the entrance hall with its internal log cabin sauna and the free standing bath tub and then were into the dining/sitting room, hexagonal with its four bedrooms coming off it. The view in front of us through floor to ceiling glass, was the tall natural trees of the forest with a grassy clearing in front of it accessed, through glass doors, to a deck where beautiful red plumed parrots waddled and picked up seeds.
A true room within the forest. Aboriginal paintings and Les’s photographs of some of the birds and animals with whom they share the property adorned the walls. Chatting all the time Darolyn disappeared behind a screen to what proved to be a minute kitchen area and produced the ‘tea’. This proved to be biscotti and macaroons and buns, yes, but with tastes never experienced before. They were all from the forest or from her garden. Lemon myrtle, macadamia, orange and lemon. Nothing sweet or creamy. They were delicious and I felt totally ashamed of myself. Keith had researched and found this little bit of paradise, not wanting to tell me about it, but keeping it as a surprise and I had behaved like a spoilt child. Hmmmmmm.
Anyway, no time for dawdling and recriminations (anyway Keith was looking a bit smug!) we were whisked off for a walk around the forest with Les as our guide after Darolyn had shown us around the special trees she had planted and used in her cooking from her garden area. Nearly all had had their lower limbs decimated by deer, kangaroo, wombat and any number of creatures who had seen her efforts as an invitation to dine. Poor woman. She just laughed, but it was the frustration of years battling with the wildlife. However, a solution was at hand. A huge area of the garden was in the process of being fenced and netted off and new trees were being planted. We have seen these areas before (Ross and Jenny had one in Adelaide). We were later to learn that a hard won inheritance had allowed this and other developments to take place on the property. Previously they had just fought a daily battle.
It was a great perambulation as we wandered along paths paved with a soft but bright green moss and Les told us of the early settlers to the land who had found it so difficult to make it habitable. At every few yards he stopped to tell us about a tree or crunch a leaf for us to smell or taste. There were all sorts of wattle trees, laurels of different types and, I thought surprisingly, bracken that looked very British, but is apparently native. Les told us of how the aborigines had used the trees and plants, the issue of fire and trees that lose their bark, we had sightings of birds – there were a lot of owls and parrots – and we saw evidence of wombat burrowing – it was a lovely walk and very interesting.
Les and Darolyn have lived on the 60 acre property for 35 years and brought up two children there. They were both primary school teachers but gave this up to run Goldsmith’s in the Forest. Darolyn having taken herself off to Melbourne to train as a chef as part of the venture.
When we got back it was dusk and the logs that Les had thrown on the huge log burner in the sitting room had roared into life. Les withdrew and left us to a lovely sofa in front of the fire to read about wombats and look at the other interesting reading about the place. It was lovely.
At 7.00 they returned with a basket of supplies and while Les chatted as he lay the table Darolyn in an incredibly short space of time cooked us an amazing meal. John Dory with a potato stack of dauphinois potatoes, thin whole carrots, celeriac cream, asparagus and sweet potato crisp garnish accompanied by home made ‘music’ bread and soft rolls. This was followed by individual date and walnut pudding home made lemon mousse and macadamia ice cream with a sauce to die for. It was unbelievably scrummy.
Having eaten and chatted our way through this and Darolyn and Jenny finding themselves kindred spirits on the food stakes, our hosts adjourned as discretely as they had arrived and we were left to the cracklings fire and the sound of frogs…….. It was very special.