This is the last part of a series of posts about our mini-vacation in the Victorian countryside. After a whole day of driving through a scenic route that takes us from Ballarat through the small town of Ararat and up the Grampians, we finally arrive in Horsham.
As you probably know by now (if you’ve been reading my blog long enough), I am computer dependent. Make that Internet dependent. My main source of income is made through the Internet, and much of my free time is spent on the Internet. The same can be said for my sister and her brother-in-law, though they have more productive things to do in their spare time (if they have any). Doing research online is second nature to me. I hardly ever go anywhere without Googling it first, and reading all I can about it. One of my biggest frustrations was finding a place for us to stay in Horsham.
Unlike Ballarat, where I quickly found a site with a listing and links to various caravan parks in the area, there was none in Horsham. When I did find a handful though, none were as close to the venue where brother-in-law will be teaching, as Horsham Caravan Park. And they don’t have a website. Not knowing the facilities they have or amenities they offer or even how the park look like, we made the call and booked ahead.
We were lucky we did because when we got there, the place was full. Not surprising, because for AU$75 per night, we got a cabin that can fit 3 adults and 2 small kids, a refrigerator, a grill and stove, airconditioning, heater, and an ensuite toilet and bath. What they don’t have are sheets for the beds, blankets for the cold nights, not even pillows! We were adviced to bring the beddings when we called, but weren’t told about the pillows. For a small fee, we were able to “rent” 5 VERY thin pillows.
The Horsham Caravan Park is run by the local YMCA. Apart from the cabins, there are also numerous powered and unpowered sites for caravans, as well as camping sites. The caravan park was very rustic, a complete opposite of Lake Wendouree Tourist Park, which looked and feel like the gated villages back in Manila. The upside though, is that apart from the great price, it is sandwiched between the Wimmera River and the Horsham Botanical Garden. Since the park personnel knew we had kids with us, they gave is the cabin nearest the Botanical Garden’s barbeque area and playground.
Another great thing about Horsham Caravan Park’s location is that it is in Firebrace street — Horsham’s main street. Though we are at the other end of the city centre, being at Firebrace made it easy for us to navigate through the small town (thanks in part to the map the tourist centre gave us). After dropping of brother-in-law at work, we drove around to see what Horsham had to offer. With the shopping centre properly scrutinized, we delved into the inner streets and made our way to Apex Island.
A map of Horsham shows this small island in the Wimmera River. Marked as Apex Adventure Island, it piqued our interest. With the map in my hands, I felt a frisson of excitement; I love maps. I love reading them, and I love navigating with them. Even if we ended up in streets we weren’t supposed to be in. But I still managed to get us to where we wanted to go. We spot a footbridge, parked and scrambled out of the car. Apex Island, here we come!
We crossed the wooden footbrige and came down on a small scrap of land. Is this it? The so-called adventure island? There was another bridge crossing over to the other side, and we went over that as well. It turned out that it wasn’t Apex island; it was just a small lagoon that wasn’t properly marked in the map. Our efforts wasn’t in vain though, as there were ducks in the water. As soon as we crossed the bridge, the ducks started paddling towards us. This must have been a favorite spot for tourists and locals alike, as the ducks seem to be expecting us to shower them with bread.
A few minutes passed, with us humans just cooing at how cute the ducks were, the ducks gave up and started paddling away. We took that as our cue to go as well, and made our way back to the bridge. As we were about to go up the first bridge, I noticed this one bird (a purple swamphen, I was told) who was following us. We got back to the little island, and he was still following us! Up over the second bridge, and he was still there.
“Mommy, it’s still following us,” said my niece. “Tell it to stop following us!”
“The bird doesn’t understand our language,” my sister replied. “It understands duck language. Maybe if we quack he’ll go away.” So my sister did this funny imitation of a duck, and with some wing flapping and some wild quacking, the bird finally went back to the lagoon. Probably thought we were loony.
Stalking birds aside, Horsham was a pleasant and very quiet town. After a day spent in the playgounds and the small shopping centre, we ended it with dinner at one of the local Chinese restaurants. We stumbled upon two Chinese restaurants, standing side by side in one of the smaller streets. Which one do we enter? The one where there are more people, of course.
Not a lot of people were dining inside, but there where plenty of people coming in an ordering food for take away. The dishes we ordered tasted good enough. Not quite like Chinatown, but passable for a place housing the only other Asian we saw in Horsham. This small sleepy town may not be near the top of your list of places to see in Victoria, but its has its charms (stalker birds included). Besides, how can you pass up a place that has a Chinese garden restaurant called “Toy’s” that has its own mini-golf course and a great wall of China within its complex?
The four-part series has ended with this post, and the contest for the Lonely Planet travel journal ends soon! Quick, you still have a couple of hours to whip up your winning entry!