Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Herbs n' Shells

The Great Ocean Road is not just about the spectacular coast. If you take a turning off inland you soon enter another world, which is what we did. We turned into Mad Dog Road and went high into the Otway Mountains. We had spotted a sign to Otway Herb Garden and were eager to see an Australian garden, other than the fantastic civic Botanic Gardens that abound. The single track road wound onwards and upwards its tarred surface turning to gravel. If I looked down it was a long, long way down, so I kept my eyes on the scenery around and up. Eventually there was no more 'up' to look at - except the sky, which this morning was mostly blue. We had reached what surely must be the heart of the Otway Mountains and there we found the Herb Garden.

A small plot on the mountainside, it was stuffed full of flowers and herbs in higgledy piggeldy English Cottage Garden style. Lots we recognised, some grow in our own garden back home. There were roses in abundance, salvias, red hot pokers, alliums and herbs everywhere. Judi Forrester, hat clamped on her head, was snipping away, attempting to impose some control on natures abundance. They have been in this spot for 30 years and have made the garden. It must have been hard work to terrace the hillside and make the little paths that wind around the garden.

The recent rain has meant that they can relax a little about their major hazard - bushfires. All their watering has to be done from rainwater collection and the rain has filled their numerous tanks again. They don't get frosts as such but they do get snow, it might last for three days, no more. It can be seen sparkling on nearby Misery Farm on the neighbouring mountain ridge. They had snow this November, which was unusual. We came away with packets of their own herb teas which are delicious and details of other gardens in the Victoria Open Garden Scheme. If only we had more time!

While still in the mountains we had a picnic lunch high up in the sunshine. By the time we got back down to the coast it had clouded over so no lolling around on the beach for us. Instead we visited a quaint Shell Museum in Apollo Bay which was the lifelong collection of a dear old gentleman of few words. He unlocked and let us into a room crammed with display cases full of shells all neatly labelled and arranged. They were quite beautiful. $3.50 seemed a very reasonable amount to view someones lifelong passion.

Then we kicked our shoes off and walked along the beach before dinner back at the restaurant attached to our room with a view. I have to say it was the most disgusting meal we have had in Australia, but I guess you are paying for the view and not the food there! The sunset was magnificent, orange and crimson streaks across the sky turned to liquid gold and we decided it would be hot tomorrow, because we will be in the car making our way to Canberra.

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