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Melbourne to Sydney via the Alpine Way – Day 1

March 18, 2015

Charmaine and I together with little Levi decided to take a week off work and do a round trip from Sydney to Melbourne taking a different route each way. Main reason for the trip was due to a friend getting married, but we extended our stay to explore the touristy gems in Melbourne and then to take our time and discover the less known Australian towns off the highways and byways.

The trip to Melbourne was down the Hume highway, with an overnight stay in Albury, due to two year olds not handling 8-9 hour trips well. That drive was mostly uneventful. Apart from regular stop overs to assist in the toilet training routine, and to stretch everyone’s feet, Hume highway is built for one purpose only, that is to get people from Sydney to Melbourne and vice versa, as quickly as possible. It is a well built two lane highway that would have cut a big chunk of time from the old road that traversed through little towns slowing everyone down due to speed restrictions. But the price you pay is the monotonous views.

I originally flirted with the idea of driving back via the Princes highway along the coast but then took the plan of exploring the Victorian/NSW countryside and began to brainstorm with Google maps, to see just what other roads might interest me. I wanted something that was a road less travelled, but still headed in the general direction of Sydney. After dismissing several options, including one that had unpaved roads used by logging trucks, I narrowed my selection to the following route. This would consist of two overnight stop overs. This post is about Day 1 of my travels back.

Here is a map of the full trip as well as points of interest.

LINK

Day 1 – Melbourne to Khancoban (NSW)

As we put away the last remains of our belongings into suitcases that were packed and prepared the night before, the sun rays still did not penetrate through the horizon to light-up the dim suburban streets. Our Melbourne stay was mostly at an Airbnb granny flat type of accommodation about 20 minutes’ drive from the city centre. It meant that we were quick to get on the Hume highway and head back North towards our destination. The final conceived route back involved taking the same road for around three hours until we reached Wodonga. Located just below Albury which was our halfway point coming down; the town was big enough for a small shopping centre, but small enough to not have a food court. After eating what barely constituted as a fit-down meal we were ready to proceed. Wodonga the first major marker indicated to us that we were leaving the Hume Hwy and starting to head East through the picturesque Victorian country side and eventually led into the renown Kosciusko National Park.

Before leaving town we circled the neighbourhood looking for a playground for Levi to stretch his legs once more before the next leg of the journey. Eventually we discovered that Wodonga has a beautiful park with its very own lake that was home to a rowdy gaggle of geese and ducks. We had some spare bread and used the opportunity to entertain Levi by letting him feed the birds. It was only later that we spotted a sign asking NOT to feed them, as some may become aggressive, too late for that.

Levi Feeding ducks & geese in park - Wodonga

Levi Feeding ducks & geese in park – Wodonga

Levi Feeding ducks & geese in park - Wodonga

Levi Feeding ducks & geese in park – Wodonga

Lake in the park - Wodonga

Lake in the park – Wodonga

Accompanying the lake was a brand new playground that we let Levi make good use of. I know it was new because a billboard proudly read that the playground was built with government stimulus money, that was recently pumped into the economy when the GFC was in full swing.

As we left Wodonga, our final destination was a B&B place that I happen to find when doing a bit of research two nights ago. It was located two hour drive East, next to a small town of Khancoban.

The drive there was via single lane, Monaro highway that stretched and turned through the local country side. We kept our pace at a comfortable 80km/h which allowed us to take in the local scenery. We soon passed what appears to be a lake that had dwindled in size probably due to the Summer heat. You could tell that the lake was larger at other times of the year as the vegetation was a much healthier green around the outline of the lake. There stood what would have been the middle section of the lake a small army of darkened and barren trees. The leafless look of them gave the appearance of huge arms emerging out of the ground much like old zombie movies.

The road bent around the lake and continued on passing lots of farm land. Eventually Levi gave us the sign that he needs to go to the toilet. Unlike the Hume highway that is littered with rest stops, this road assumed that you have a strong bladder, or don’t drive with two year olds. But finally I spot a restroom at a turn off to a small town, Cudgewa. Our plan B if we didn’t see the sign was just to use the grass on the side of the road. In a passing conversation between Charmaine and I of Plan B, Levi managed to take a whiff of it and decided that is exactly where he wants to do his business. Just then we pull up to the toilet block that is standing on the side of the street. But it proved to be useless as Levi was fixed on his newly discovered freedom of using nature as his peeing grounds. While Levi enjoyed the emancipation from his car-seat and nappy, I did a quick glance of the street. There was not a single human sole visible. From this location it appeared that the whole town was made of two streets. What was most striking was how quiet everything was. You are just not use to this lack of human sounds spending your day in the bustling city. As the character Darryl Kerrigan from the Aussie cult classic The Castle would say “So much serenity.”

Eventually we got back on our main road and drove a bit more to a much more decently sized town, Corryong. First noticeable thing in the town was a statue of the man from the Snowy River placed next to the local Information centre. All I know about this Snowy man who enjoys rivers was that he is as much part of the Australian psyche as Ned Kellie, whose legacy by the way we also got to see through the various towns we drove through coming to Melbourne. After gathering valuable maps and advice from the Info centre we proceeded to our first nights resting place.

A small crude home-made sign on the side of the road instructed us to turn left for Cossettini B&B. We were greeted by an elderly lady and her husband who both live in the house that the B&B was attached to. I eventually learnt that their five children use to live with them but as they moved out leaving an empty nest, the place was converted into a bed and breakfast lodge. The lady showed us the separated part of the house that contained its own bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. She then said we have a choice of this place or another place they have that was located about 100 meters from the main property. Not seeing anything wrong with the attached bedroom and being drained from driving for hours we didn’t bother to inspect our other options and just settled there.

The place is situated on a decent plot of land enough for some livestock. The main house itself was surrounded by a number of fruit trees, vegetables and grapevines. The lady said we could help ourselves to the grapes that stretched on the side and the back of the house.

Cossettini B&B property

Cossettini B&B property panorama

Cossettini B&B grapes and pumpkins

Cossettini B&B grapes and pumpkins

Cossettini B&B - Levi pushing a wheelbarrow as Charmaine collects plums.

Cossettini B&B – Levi pushing a wheelbarrow as Charmaine collects plums.

Cossettini B&B - grapes on the side of the house

Cossettini B&B – grapes on the side of the house

Eventually after resting for a bit we decided to have dinner at one of the two eateries located in the next door town, Khancoban, and then crashed for the night back in the lodge.

Next morning I was out early walking around the garden inspecting the variety of produce that was growing, when Joe, the husband came out to say hello. We had a great chat, as he showed me the selection fruit and vegetables that he had growing. I learn that there were a total of 11 types of grapes growing on the property. He was kind enough to provide cutting from my favourite flavours, so that I may grow my own. Before we put the bags back in the car and continued on, Joe asked us to pack some of the garden goodies to take with us. We ended up with three bags of plums, grapes and tomatoes in total. Overall it ended up being the most interesting and comfortable place we stayed at from our holiday. That is from a total of five different locations in the seven days of travel.

Stay tuned for DAY 2 of our trip.

Levi Conquering 45 Piece Puzzle – Time Lapse Video

March 2, 2015

I finally managed to get a video of Levi doing one of his larger puzzles . This particular one is 45 pieces, and is a giant floor puzzle. At the time of shooting Levi is 25 month old. He can do another puzzle that is 60 piece with some assistance, but granted it is a difficult picture to do.

I only help when the pieces come undone

Interstellar – Review

March 1, 2015

Interstellar Poster

What makes a true cinematic masterpiece? In my interpretation of what makes a film soar high above the others is when a movie you are viewing envelops you whole, a piece of cinema that erodes all externalities around you , and taps into the core of your emotional centre. A part of you submerges into the alternate universe and you bond with the characters as if the relationships have been cultivated for many years past.

I had such an experience last week when I saw Christopher Nolan’s 2014 Science fiction film Interstellar. It was one of the most unique films I have seen in years and left me in a state of cinematic euphoria for days afterwards. Perhaps the Matrix came close to the feeling when it was first released into this world back in 1999.

If I had to distil Interstellar into the elements that made this film such a remarkable piece of human craftsmanship, it would firstly have to be the composer Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack that accompanied the movie. If you are not aware of Hans Zimmers contributions to the music or movie industry I urge you to search his name in Youtube, and see just how many movies his compositions defined over the years.

In brief, Interstellar is a movie about a team of explorers who travel through a wormhole in an attempt to ensure humanity’s survival. The imagery of the hostile and vast void of space is perfectly captured in the selection of arrangements that Mr Zimmer created for the film.

Secondly the visual effects are equally stunning and rightfully deserve an Oscar for it. Everything was shot with such beauty, from Earthly scenes to the distant glowing gigantic black hole, the icy frontier of another planet, and the weightlessness of space travel, all added to the experience.

Finally the characters and the actors behind them really did a fantastic job in helping me feel part of the action. My impression of Matthew McConaughey has been elevated immensely after his performance as Cooper, the Pilot/Engineer/Farmer in this film. It has made me seek out his other notable performances.

There was another character that I really enjoyed, who happens to be not human. Nolan’s praise worthy depiction of an artificial Intelligence robot TARS, was a very novel and refreshing way of depicting non-organic intelligence. TARS did not have a human form, rather resembled a large silver fridge that was split and could rotate around four equal sections around the middle axis. TARS was still a robot in the sense that he was programed, was there to serve humans and obviously did not take on a human form, yet was capable of such higher human cognizance such as humour, interaction with others in a manner appropriate to the context; formal and serious when there was an emergency, while another time casually calling McConaughey’s character Cooper, “Coop” when saying goodbye to him.  We are reminded of TARS’ AI state at various portion of the movie when various settings are adjusted or discussed. There is a great scene between Cooper and TARS discussing the setting of Honesty

TARS - Interstellar

Cooper: Hey TARS, what’s your honesty parameter?
TARS: 90 percent.
Cooper: 90 percent?
TARS: Absolute honesty isn’t always the most diplomatic nor the safest form of communication with emotional beings.
Cooper: Okay, 90 percent it is.

Having said all that I watched the film in a tiny little screen while travelling on a crowded train. It has become my prerogative to re-watch this masterwork on the huge screen with surround sound.

Interstellar touches on a lot of themes and scientific concepts that may be confusing to viewers who are not versed in them. Time dilation & gravity  is one such topic that Nolan has woven into the story after consulting actual physicists, which play a big role in the movie but may leave viewers wondering what just happened. I did it myself, but I encourage others to read into the science behind the film after viewing.

If you have not seen Interstellar I really encourage you to go out and see this film, especially if you are science fiction fan, but also if you love fresh ideas that leave an impression on you long after the initial screening.

Levi’s 2nd Birthday

January 24, 2015

Hard to believe that just over two years ago, I was in the hospital with Charmaine who was recovering from the delivery of our first son. Yet here we are celebrating his birthday with family for the second time.

I remember when I was a kid, having a birthday was something special. The anticipation the night before of the presents to come was overwhelming. Then when the big day comes the spotlight of attention is directed at you and to top it all of a party was waiting for me and my friends. Over the years that magic feeling fades to a point that you are more concerned with avoiding the extra attention and not over eating the cake. On the Richter scale of excitement birthdays these days would barely register.

Yet when organising Levi’s birthday at our house, the experience provided me that old glimpse of the exhilaration that a kid’s birthday party should invoke. Levi’s excitement is contagious and made me happy. Apart from the abundance of food, Levi was treated to a mini-jumping castle, a small inflatable pool and of course a truck full of presents that once again we have to decide where to place.

Here are some of the shots

Levi n Zach Toy Room

Jumping Castle

Boys in the Swimming Pool

Levi 23 Months – Doing 30 Piece Puzzle

January 8, 2015

Since my last video of Levi doing a 16 piece wooden puzzle with a faded background, I have managed to capture Levi doing an even more challenging puzzle. This one is a traditional puzzle without a background. It is also 30 pieces, which is twice as much as the previous one and is rated as 3 years and above. Considering Levi is 1 and 11 months, this makes me very proud of him.

Sorry the video is 11 minutes long this time.

Top 5 Movies I Watched in 2014

December 10, 2014

When it comes to watching movies, this year started out on a dry spell. I have been busy with work, studies and Levi was still one which required a lot of attention. Charmaine and I use to watch a lot of movies at night, but after the baby that has become almost non-existent.

Two changes took place at about the mid-point of the year that have opened up a time opportunity for me to indulge in my hobby. First I started being stricter with my own sleeping habits. This change in behaviour meant I was not semi-comatose from a lack of sleep on the morning commute and was able to keep my eyes open for a movie. You see my train trip is one hour each way with plenty of idle time in between, perfect to use.

The second big change was an upgrade of my mobile to one with more memory, more high definition screen and larger storage. Also with a recommendation from a friend to use the app Airdroid, putting movies on my phone wirelessly was never easier.

So with the year wrapping-up, I consumed around 50 movies with a range of genres, year of productions and the  ratings.

Here are my favourite five movies I have watched this year

But first 5 Movies I did NOT enjoy the most in 2014

1)Apocalypse Now (1979)

2) Princess Mononoke (1997)

3) Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

4) The Deer Hunter (1978)

5) Seven Psychopaths (2012)

So now for the ,favourite 5 movies I watched in 2014:

1) Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Wow, what an unexpected gem of a movie. I resisted seeing the film for a while due to whole romance comedy classification and the cliché picture of the perfect girl and guy combo on the cover. The persistently nagging high rating on IMDB has finally persuaded me to take the plunge.

First let me state that this movie weighs heavily towards the drama category, before anything else. The romance and comedy are definitely there, but they are weaved into the plot to take a seat further from the centre stage. Both Bradley Cooper whose acting talent I now regard much more highly than when I saw in in the first Hang-over, and the ageing Robert De Niro, have done a superb job playing the roles of actors who suffer from various mental health issues.

This is precisely what  I really enjoyed about the film, the characters battling their personal demons and trying to improve on their situation. Highly recommend if you like a good drama with some comedy.

Silver Linings Playbook

2) 50/50(2011)

This is another film that was on my back burner for a long time waiting for me to be in the right mood. I somehow developed a prejudice in my mind against Seth Rogen, placing him in the crappy movie category, even though I have reviewed some of the films he has starred in and found that I enjoyed them for most part.

Anyway, the two characters Joseph Gordon-Levitt who contracts a rare cancer and his friend Seth Rogen who sticks by him through the ordeal were a great pick in my view. This movie is most definitely another drama but has a plethora of funny scenes to dilute the film to a semi-comedy.

What I enjoyed about this film is a view into a life of a healthy individual who is suddenly struck with something as shattering as cancer and the impact that has on their life, after all it could happen to any of us.  The movie didn’t feel pretentious or try to make this into some prolonged tear-jerker. As I said plenty of funny bits even as the main story climaxes for the main character. Very engrossing film.

50-50-Poster

3) Heat (1995)

Robert De Niro & Al Pacino in their prime, must I say more to convince you otherwise? Lots of action, drama, quotable lines and above all great story line.

This movie resurrects a time when the likes of De Niro & Pacino were considered the giants in their field and starring in action films at the zenith of their careers.

heat movie

4) The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

The most recent film on the list, and probably the most unique. The Grand Budapest Hotel is the latest film from the director Wes Anderson. I have watched a backlog of his films this year and this is probably one of my favourite due to the quirky style, props and camera angles used through the 90 minutes.

Ralph Fiennes’ character in the film M. Gustave did for me. Something about his eloquent and at time verbose speaking manner made the flick very memorable.

The-grand-budapest-hotel-poster

5) 21 Jump Street(2012)

The only pure comedy on the list, which the likes of I need to watch time to time after I have watched a number of more serious films back to back.

I put this film up high because it really made me look stupid cracking up constantly on the train. Lots of absurdly hilarious scenes and a great addition of Ice Cube as the police captain. This movie reminded me of other high school comedies, so I have to rate it high.

22 Jump street could note match it by the way. Personally the movie fell flat.

21 jump street

Levi Doing Puzzle – 22 Months

December 10, 2014

Shot this video of Levi last night putting together a puzzle board all by himself. Very impressed at how quickly he picked up, in my opinion a relatively challenging task for his age group. I have to remind myself that he is only 1 year and 10 months of age. Mind you this was not the first time he was doing it, first couple of times we helped him put the pieces in the correct places, rotated them to match the faded picture in the background.

What I love about this video is his commentary on the individual pieces, if its a piece of a truck, he will comment that its a “truck”. Applauding his own accomplishment was the funny cherry on top.

We picked-up a similar puzzle but with more pieces for him as part of his Christmas presents. Let’s see how he goes with that. If he conquers that, next time we give him one of those 5000 piece puzzles of the clear sky.

DSC_0521

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