There's nothing quite like the feeling of freedom once you turn off the suburban main roads with their traffic lights, fast food joints and car washes, and begin clocking up those country miles. Long, straight roads lined with gum trees, town names you've never heard of (pop. 457) and quaint, simple farm houses advertising sheep poo at the bargain price of $4 a bag.
The cares of everyday life seem to drop away in anticipation of a couple of days in the outdoors just living. That's how we felt after packing the car last Friday for a few days touring The Grampians, a breathtaking region and national park three hours north-west of Melbourne. The reason for the weekend away was to celebrate our second wedding anniversary (our first anniversary was spent at the beautiful Werribee Mansion).
After a quick stop by the Halls Gap tourist information centre on Saturday morning to confirm our driving route, we left the smooth comfort of asphalt for an adventurous forty-minute off-road journey to see historic Aboriginal sights and visit Mount Zero Olives, a biodynamic olive farm and cafe. With no one else on the road, it was like playing native-animal 'eye spy' - kangaroos and blue tongue lizards everywhere!
The hundreds of olive trees surrounding the cafe gave it a real mediterranean feel, while the succulents, cacti and use of mixed materials such as iron, stone and wood reminded me a lot of our travels through the north-west of Argentina.
Next we visited Mackenzie's Falls, the base of which are accessed by some pretty steep and treacherous steps and rocks, so I hauled myself there with a little more caution than normal because of the bump.
On Sunday we took our time travelling home, stopping to collect tree branches to make a christmas tree, and we also managed to pick up a chest of drawers for the baby's room for $65 from an American Pickers-style warehouse. I could have spent hours marvelling at all the amazing stuff.