All in the planning

 

Celebrity Silhouette

Celebrity Silhouette

Our winter has just started – everyone tells me it will end on the 1st September, but I still believe it is the 21st Sept (Equinox), but regardless it is still cold at the moment.
During the last couple of months my thoughts have been considering how best to avoid at least a month of winter.
Obviously, where ever we go must be in the northern hemisphere, preferably for the month of June & July, but as two months will be too expensive it must be one or the other. At least August is shaking off winter so one starts to look forward to the warmer weather.

september-equinox-factsAutumn Equinox northern Hemisphere

080706 wattle 02Spring equinox in Sydney – same date 21st September.

We know when spring has arrived in Sydney because of the abundance of flowering wattle. The 1st September is National Wattle Day, to celebrate the national flower of Australia, perhaps this is why Australia considers the 1st September to be Spring.

There are other things to consider when booking a holiday – the monsoon seasons in Asia. The southwest monsoon is July through to September, so India is not a consideration.
Having experienced the heat of the Persian Gulf during my time when I was at sea, a visit to Dubai or Abu Dhabi in June, July or August is also out. An outside temperature of 44 c (111 f) does not make for a pleasant stroll outside, even if the bus stops are air conditioned, as they are in Dubai.

High humidity and heavy evening rain in certain Asian countries caused me to turn to Europe, and perhaps the UK.
Getting to Europe requires further consideration, because if we use a Middle Eastern airline, will they still serve wine during Ramadan, so when is / was Ramadan?
This year it was from the 15th May to the 14th June so if we travel in July, Ramadan will not be a consideration.
A couple of years ago we did travel during Ramadan, with a Middle Eastern airline, and Ramadan was during our homeward leg. During the outward journey the cabin crew would walk up and down the aisle with a bottle of red wine in one hand and a bottle of white in the other and top up passenger’s wine glasses.
On the homeward trip, which was during Ramadan, your empty glass was removed and refilled in the galley. A slightly odd compromise I thought, considering that the faithful don’t drink alcohol.
I mention religion, because I have been caught out a few times, and not just with Ramadan, but also holy days, when all bars are closed and the serving of alcohol even in top hotels is forbidden. This has happened also on Buddhist holy days, and the phases of the moon in one country that forbids alcohol one day a month, due to the full moon.

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If you are passing through, or just overnighting, various restrictions can be inconvenient for those of us who like a glass of wine with our meals. If a religious period carries on over several days then these restrictions might compromise or even spoil your holiday. So being aware of holy days / holy weekends etc when booking your holidays is a ‘must’.

Taking all in to account it was decided that we will cruise from Southampton to the Baltic in Celebrity Silhouette. Maureen hasn’t been to this part of the world and it will be over fifty years since I sailed in the Baltic during my time as a British India Steam Navigation Company cadet in Dunera, when she was a school ship.

Dunera03Dunera’ school ship in the mid 1960’s.

As a school ship she carried hundreds of school children to various ports around Europe. The children had daily lessons about the port / country that they would visit, and afterwards they had to write essays about their experience.
The school ship concept was started by BISNC in the 1930’s, and reinitiated in the early 1960’s using converted troop ships, after the British government started flying troops to British possessions rather than sending the troops by sea. The project was a huge success with school children, and young adults when the ship was charted by organisations in various other countries. I can remember one cruise when some of the ‘school children’ where older than me. It was a Swiss charter for seventeen to twenty-year-old students.

The cruise in the Celebrity Silhouette will be a ‘I remember when for me’ and hopefully enjoyable for Maureen.

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Nynashamn is about 45 minutes drive outside Stockholm, and the last time I was in the Baltic, St Petersburg was called Leningrad, and Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev was First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and later became General Secretary.

Now that we have decided to take the trip, which airline should we use?
Qantas, the Australian airline, is too expensive, and when returning they have night flights which we hate.
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Up until recently Qantas’ partner on the Kangaroo route to the UK was Emirates,

emirates-airline-united-arab-emirateswhich would require a transit stop in Dubai. We flew with Emirates last year and it worked out well, but this year the ticket cost is much more expensive, plus the night flight syndrome.
I did see a special offer of flying with Finnair, who don’t currently fly in to Australia.

FinnaitThe last time we flew with Finnair was out of Bangkok to Venice via Helsinki. The flight and cabin service were very good, so if the price was right we wouldn’t have any complaints.
Finnair flies out of Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok. Getting to any of the transit stops using Finnair’s relationship with either Qantas (via Bangkok), Cathay Pacific (via Hong Kong), or Qantas (via Singapore) can involve a night flight on the way / from London.
I did find a cheaper rate via Cathay Pacific over Hong Kong, but the return flight from Hong Kong to Sydney was a night flight.
After a considerable amount of research to find the best combination of daylight flights, seating, price, acceptable airline, and arriving a few days before the cruise, which I like to do just in case the airline mishandles our bags, I ended up choosing Garuda.

Logo Garuda Indonesia

The last time I flew with Garuda was in the 1980’s so using them today would be new experience.

A few years ago, I would never have considered this airline because ten years ago they were banned from flying in European air space. Since 2007 their reputation has slowly recovered, and now they are one of only ten airlines in the world classed as a five-star airline – the list (in alphabetical order) are

All Nippon Airlines (aka ANA) – Japanese

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Asiana Airlines – S. Korea

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Cathay Pacific Airlines – Hong Kong

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Etihad Airlines – Abu Dhabi

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EVA Air – Taiwan
Eva
Garuda Airlines – Indonesia

Logo Garuda Indonesia

Hainan Airlines – China

Hainan
Lufthansa – Germany

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Qatar Airlines – Qatar

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Singapore Airlines – Singapore

You’ll notice that the African, American, South American, Australian, and New Zealand airlines are missing off the five-star list, and only one European airline has been included. The star rating is voted by passengers.

Our plan was to fly Sydney to Jakarta – daylight of course, sleep overnight near Jakarta airport and fly daylight to London or Amsterdam. The best flight as far as I could see was the London bound flight even though it was more expensive than flying in to Amsterdam. Flying from Amsterdam to London would increase the overall cost above flying direct in to London.
Just before I was about to buy the tickets I read that the authorities had arrested twenty-five baggage handlers at Jakarta airport for theft of the contents of passenger’s bags at the airport. As our bags would be staying overnight at the airport this was a concern.
Later I logged on to Trip Advisor and used the forum area to find out about attractions in and around Jakarta if we were to stay for three days during our return journey.
The one thing that stood out on the forum was that Jakarta seemed to be grid-locked with traffic, plus we should be aware of possible bombings.

Unfortunately, five-star Garuda lost my interest, through no fault of the airline. I decided to find an alternative airline.

A few days later I came across a special offer with Singapore Airlines – a little more expensive than Garuda, but daylight flights all the way to / from London.
Daylight Sydney to Singapore – overnight at a local hotel – daylight to London. For the return journey 9.35 am departing London for maximum daylight time to Singapore, fly all day (13.25 hours) and put our clocks forward seven hours to arrive Singapore at 5.30 am local time. We would have a ninety minute transit and depart Singapore for Sydney at 07.10 am. Another daylight flight, which is just what we wanted.

I booked Singapore Airlines.  sq

In five days time, on Thursday, it will be the northern summer solstice, which means it is our winter solstice and on Friday the sun starts its journey back to where it belongs, shining over Australia.

 

 

HMT Dunera

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HMT Dunera (B.1937)

She is shown as a troop ship when visiting Malta, I think the photo was taken in the 1950’s.

A couple of years ago Maureen and I completed a road trip around NSW, South Australia and Victoria.
During the trip I planned to drive from Beechworth to Mildura; both towns are in Victoria. The drive to Mildura would take over six hours, because the distance was over 600 kms.
As I’ve aged I don’t like long drives, so I looked for a half way stop for the night, and a small town called Hay (which is in NSW), looked about right.
On checking for motels, I found out that there was a museum called the ‘Dunera’ Museum,
I had sailed in the Dunera as a cadet in 1965 when she was operating as a school ship, so a visit to Hay was now a ‘definite’.
I was puzzled as to why Hay would have a museum for a deep-sea ship, when the town was 800 km (500 miles from Sydney harbour) and 400 km (250 miles) from Port Phillip Bay in Victoria? Very odd.

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Dunera as she looked when I sailed in her in 1965. (She was 28 years old at the time)

When I booked the motel, I mentioned that I was particularly interested in the Dunera Museum, and the motel owner, Leanne, asked if I wanted her to contact someone to show us around the museum. I jumped at the offer.
On the day of our arrival Leanne asked me to phone David Houston, who was the Museum’s Chairman, because he was keen for us to meet.
David was kind enough to offer his services and to show us around the museum the following day. We planned to meet at the museum 9.00 am.
We were very fortunate to have David as our guide, because his knowledge of all things about Hay is unlimited.

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We met at the Dunera Museum, which is located inside two railway carriages at the railway station.
The above station was built in 1882, to help with the export of wool. The last passenger train left this station in 1983, after 101 years of service, and in the following year the last goods train left. The station is now a museum piece, which is also used by the Dunera Museum.

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The reason that the museum is located at this station is because this is the station where the trains from Sydney arrived to disembark Austrian and German internees from the UK, during WW2.
They’d sailed from Liverpool in the UK on the 10th July 1940 in the troop ship ‘Dunera’.
The photo above shows two of the original railway carriages that brought the internees to Hay. The two carriages now hold the artefacts of the museum.

DSC03488rA third carriage is waiting to be renovated and added to the museum, but like most things, it takes money.

1,984 Austrian and German, mainly Jewish, refugees from Nazi Europe arrived in four steam trains, with a total of forty-eight carriages, that travelled for nineteen hours non-stop, from Sydney.
The Australian army marched the internees to camp 7 & 8 on the Dunera Way. This road can still be seen today – it is still called Dunera Way, but today it will take you to the Hay racetrack. The camps no longer in exists.

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I found this photograph on the internet of the internees marching to the camp.

The original camps were paid for by the British Government who had interred all ‘enemy aliens’ by 1940, after the fall of Belgium, Holland and France.

The ‘Dunera Boys’, as the first intake of internees were called on arriving in Hay, were moved to another camp in Victoria in 1941 to make way for 2000 Italian POWs.
By 1943/44 the Dunera Boys had been classified as friendly ‘aliens’ and many joined the Australian & British armies.
At the end of the war 800 remained in Australia and the remaining 1200 either returned to Europe, the UK, or emigrated to the US or Canada.

Between 1940 and 1946, 6,200 German, Italian, Japanese and Australian internees, as well as Italian and Japanese POWs were housed at the Hay camps.

Life for the Dunera internees in the camp was hard, and difficult at times. The camps were built at the showgrounds and the racetrack and consisted of three compounds each holding about one thousand men. The compounds had huts, roads, water supply, and electric lights.
The land on which the camp was built was semi arid, but the internees managed to build a farm and they created market gardens. This gave them fresh vegetables, poultry, milk, and fresh eggs for their own consumption. They ran their own schools, and even had their own money.

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                 The coloured marking is due to reflection when I took the photograph.

The local newspaper printed the money, which the internees designed. The scroll around the outside is barbed wire, but hidden in the barbed wire is the comment ‘we are here because we are here, because we are here . . . . ‘
The names of a number of senior internees are incorporated in the wool of the sheep, and at the camp fence are the words ‘H.M.T. Dunera Liverpool to Hay’ all hidden unless you know where to look. The designer was an Austrian, George Telcher who had designed Austrian currency for the Austrian government.
At an auction in 1999 the printers proof of a two-shilling Hay camp note was estimated at $18,000. A well used ‘sixpence’ note recently sold for $2900.

Within three months of the ‘new’ money being released  the authorities put a stop to the printing as it was (still is) illegal to print ‘currency’ in Australia, other than the printing of money being authorised by the Federal Government.

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As you enter the museum the sign above is attached to the railway carriage.

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Unfortunately Menasche Bodner died in the camp in November 1940. He was the only Dunera Jewish boy to die in the Hay camp.

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The plaque at the camp site marking the 50th anniversary of the internee’s arrival. There is nothing left of the camp today.

If you plan to visit the Hay area, try and plan your visit for when David is around, because he will make your visit memorable. Although he is in his eighties, he is as sharp as a tack and old enough to remember the first train arriving when he was five years old. David brought to life the misery of some of the internees, as well as the happy side for others.
The picture below is of the main information sign in the grounds of the railway station, at the end of the platform.

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This painting below is of some of the internees who returned for the 70th anniversary ceremony.

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If you wish to read some of the personal stories of the men who are now known as the Dunera Boys, may I suggest you open this link Dunera Association and sample the monthly news sheet – very impressive.

At the end of the war the Japanese internees were ‘returned’ to their ‘home land’, Japan. The problem was that many who were sent to Japan were born in Australia, and didn’t have any concept of living in Japan. Their first concern was that they couldn’t speak Japanese! Don’t you just love officialdom?

To end on a lighter note –  Lieutenant Edgardo Simoni (seen below in 1974),

the fox

aka The Fox (no connection with me) was an Italian POW who was captured in North Africa and sent to Muchinson POW camp near Shepparton in Victoria, Australia. It was a high security camp.
He escaped, but was captured a day later and placed in solitary confinement.

He managed to secure a small hacksaw and during a number of nights, while singing Waltzing Matilda over and over, cut through the bars of his cell. Later he apologised to the other prisoners for keeping them awake!

His cell had bars on all four sides and the whole area was painted white. As he cut the window bar he hid the cut by using white soap to fill the gap.

Once free, he stole a boat and rowed down the Murrumbidgee River towards Melbourne. (This event reminded me of the Great Escape movie).

He eventually made it to Melbourne (but not all the way by boat), and managed to get a job selling cosmetics (his English was very good).
He was very good at his job and became the top sales person for the company, and was awarded a prize and appeared in a local newspaper. He wasn’t recognised, even though he was top of the most wanted list across Australia.

He was free for ten months and doing well for himself until a guard from the camp spotted him in the street and greeted him with ‘Hello Eddie, how are you?’ and that was the end of his freedom.

I have heard a slightly different story that Lieutenant Edgardo Simoni was working in a tailor’s shop, rather than cosmetics.

At the end of the war the Lieutenant was repatriated to Italy where he remained in the army ending his career as a Colonel.

In 1974 Colonel Simoni returned to Australia on a ‘remember when’ trip to retrace his escape route, but the weather was against him and he was older.
The prison from where he escaped is now a museum and they have a plaque in his cell commemorating his escape.

The BBC made a film of his exploits.

As an aside – H.M.T Dunera, stands for ‘His (or Her) Majesty’s Troopship’ Dunera, not as I have seen on the internet ‘Hired Military Transport’ – I have also seen photographs of the Dunera showing her sailing in the 1920’s, which would have been awkward as she wasn’t launched until 1937.
The original Dunera was built in 1891, for the  British India Associated Steamers for the Queensland to Calcutta route, but was transferred to the Calcutta / London route in 1892. She was scrapped in 1922 so there is little chance of seeing any Dunera in the 1920’s.

 

 

 

They named them twice.

March, 2015 Road Trip
Sydney, Wagga Wagga, Beechworth, Hay, Mildura,
Broken Hill,  Tanunda, Adelaide, Robe, Ballarat, Albury, Sydney.
4305 km door to door.

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My wife and I have seen quite a lot of Asia so we thought it was about time that we saw some more of Australia.
We decided to visit Adelaide, which would also give us a chance to visit my wife’s cousin.
I planned the ‘Road Trip’, as it was now being called, to be basically anticlockwise – Sydney, Wagga Wagga, Mildura, Broken Hill, Adelaide, Robe, Ballarat, Beechworth, Yass and home – nine stops.
I checked each stop for local fairs, markets or festivals, partly for us to see and expereince, and depending on the size of the festival, could we obtain accommodation at the ‘right’ price. The one that caused me some concern was the Adelaide Festival, which is extremely popular, but not with me, because I was only interested in the nightly rate, and large festivals had a tendency to increase the nightly rates.
I worked out that if we left Sydney late February by the time we reached Adelaide the festival would be reaching the end, and perhaps the accommodation costs would not be too big of a consideration.
I contacted a B & B that looked attractive and asked for a booking. I was told that they were full until the 12th March, and they knew that other B & B were also full, if I wanted a similar standard as the one I’d picked. I knew we would be able to book hotels, but the price per night was more expensive than we were used to paying in Asia at five star resorts, so I balked at paying over the odds due to a festival. I had to re-think the basic plans to be in Adelaide no earlier than the 12th March.
Back to the drawing board and I came up with a cockeyed plan for ten stops and we would zig zag our way to Adelaide, and still arrive on the 12th as planned.
Our first stop would be Wagga Wagga, (NSW) and then Beechworth in northern Victoria. This zig would take us away from the main route to S. Australia, but we did wish to see the place, which is why it was at the end of our original plan. Now that it was near the beginning I had to find the best route from Beechworth to somewhere on the way to Mildura. I could have driven right through, but it was supposed to be a holiday and driving flat out for seven or eight hours was not attractive, plus I could be over tired and make a mistake. I was happy with a four hour drive so I researched the towns on the way to Mildura, which were between three and five hours drive from Beechworth. Eventually I found Hay a small town in southern NSW, and checked this place out for a night stop.
On checking various motels and B & Bs I came across ‘Interesting things to do in Hay’ on the Hay web site, so I clicked on this link and found the Dunera Museum!

In the mid 60’s I’d sailed in the Dunera as a cadet when she was a school ship. During the war she had been a troop ship, and in 1940 she was used to ship nearly 2000 German and Austrian Jewish internees to Australia.

Dunera03

Many of the internees had fled Nazi Germany to the UK in the late 1930’s. Unfortunately many German & Austrian people living in Britain at that time were considered a security risk, so they were rounded up and placed in camps. The plan was to send them to Canada, but this didn’t work out and they were sent in HMT Dunera to Australia. The guards on the ship, and some of the crew, were not all that sympathetic to the internees, and the voyage became infamous, and the internees became known as the Dunera Boys.

I don’t think there were any women in the group, because wives and children were considered a lower risk, and were kept in Britain.

Knowing the history of the Dunera Boys and having sailed in her twenty five years after the fateful voyage, I just had to stop in Hay to visit the museum.

Our next stop would be three nights in Mildura, on the Murray River, followed by Broken Hill for three nights, and then Tanunda in the Barossa Valley for two nights, which was about a ninety minute drive outside Adelaide. These two nights in the Barossa would be the last two nights of the Festival, which would allow us to move in to the B & B on Saturday 14th March.

We would be in Adelaide for four nights, the longest time at any of the stops, after which it would be Robe, two nights, Ballarat for one night, and finally Albury for a single night before the last six hours drive home.

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Using the freeway the drive from Sydney to Wagga Wagga went well. We left home at 8.40 am, on a Sunday; the traffic was light, so we were able to make good time. We stopped for a picnic lunch at Bookham. The place was picked at random, because we didn’t know when we would stop or where. We felt peckish, so we stopped.

Bookham was ‘advertised’ as a rest stop and I thought it would be just a lay-by, but it was a small hamlet; very quiet with a small car park, picnic tables, a toilet block and a petrol station fifty metres from the parking area. Across the road was an old church with ‘character’.

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The above is the main street of Bookham . . . the traffic on the freeway could just be heard.

We arrived at the motel in Wagga Wagga at 2.00 pm. The bush areas must have something in the water when towns are given the same name twice. Just on the outskirts of Wagga Wagga we passed through Gumly Gumly, and later in our road trip we stood on a lookout point called Mundi Mundi.

For all our accommodation I used Trip Advisor as a guide to the standard of service, and cleanliness. Our first stop being Wagga Wagga, was the test factor of previous visitors’ recommendations. I’d booked us in to the The Junction Motor Inn  in Wagga Wagga, and I found that the web site was easy to use, and responses to my e-mails were fast.
Jill & Peter, the owners, were very friendly and helpful on our arrival advising us where to eat and how best to get in to the town centre and where to park.

Our accommodation was spotless and a good size, with plenty of parking right outside the door.

DSC03449rBecause it was a Sunday the motel was very quiet – on arrival we were the only car in the car park area. Later, a number of others arrived or returned from days out sightseeing.

After we’d unpacked the necessities, we drove the short distance to the town centre. Like many country towns on a Sunday afternoon, it was QUIET! The only department store closed at 3.00 pm, ten minutes before our arrival. I hate shops, so how lucky can I get?

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Sunday afternoon in Wagga Wagga

We walked the length of the centre and the one thing I noticed was that they had a beautiful memorial park for those who served and died in all wars. The roses, the fountain and the eternal flame made a big impression on me, particular for such a small town.

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The Eternal Flame Garden

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Memorial gardens

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In memory of . . . .

Running alongside the garden area was the Murrumbidgee River, which snaked and turned across the country to beyond Hay and eventually in to the Murray River. The Murrumbidge River is 1488 km long, stretching from the head waters in the ACT (Australian Capital Territories) to the Murray River, which forms the border between NSW & Victoria. If I’d have realised this I might have considered ‘boating’ instead of ‘roading’ because our plans would take us from Wagga Wagga to Hay and on to Midura, all place connected by rivers.

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During the afternoon we visited the local Club to check it out for our evening meal. The Club was a sporting club, but as I am not particularly sports minded I have no idea which sport the club followed. The system in Australia is that you can visit any club for drinks and a meal (you don’t have to be a member), as long as you are more than five kilometers away from your own home.

The restaurant looked fine, so we asked if we had to book for that evening, and the young lady that we spoke to told us that all should be OK if we arrived early, and that they started serving at six.

The club offered a courtesy coach to and from the club, and as we were not all that far from the club we booked the bus for a 6.00 pm pick up, from our motel. Using the bus would allow us to have a glass of wine with the meal and not worry about driving.

A few minutes after six the bus arrived and we boarded, only to find that there were quite a few people already on board. The larger than expected number of people impressed us, and confirmed that we had made the right choice for our meal, because it was obviously a very popular club.

We headed away from the club and I thought we must be picking up more people for the evening session. How wrong was I, the bus did a large circuit of the housing area dropping off the lunchtime members. My wife and I were the only passengers going to the club that evening!

On entering the restaurant about 6.30 pm we found that there were six or seven other people already eating, so we had a seating choice of between twenty and thirty tables!

 

Next stop Beechworth in Victoria.