Thursday, September 9, 2010

Melbourne Epic Part Two

The next part of the trip was the time for the relaxation to really commence. The idyllic (and very wet!) Phillip Island was going to be our destination for the next three nights.

Phillip Island is famous for its racetrack and its colony of fairy penguins (the Melbourne equivalent of Hobart’s Bruny Island). People travel down from Melbourne for weekends away, family Christmas or just to go to the beach and relax. This time of year boasts the sights of the V8 Supercars.

Our day started by planning and purchasing the food we would need for three nights including a trip to downtown Footscray to get some Asian ingredients.

Upon entering the Universal Grocer I asked for directions to find a few items. The lady stood behind her counter and continued to serve other customers while shouting directions in broken English for us to follow.

We had to collect each item in order as we made our way past the overwhelming range of ingredients, mostly with red labels - none in English!

At one stage Iain picked up the wrong brand of dried shrimp and was shouted at until he returned to the shelf and picked up the brand that our increasingly frustrated host preferred. Finally we had what we needed and handed over what seemed like the wrong amount of money (much too cheap!) and headed back to the car.

We stayed in the car for two hours on the highway as it snaked its way to the suspension bridge that links Phillip Island with mainland Victoria. Then just a short drive to the house we were staying in - only 5 minutes walk to the beach.

We settled in and unpacked the vast amount of food we had bought for the trip before checking out the beach just as the tide started to run back in.

The beach itself lies at the bottom of rocky and heavily-vegetated cliffs and bears due south on to Bass Strait and towards the north coast of Tasmania.  Wide sandy sections are broken by black basalt spits that jut out into the surf. A savage storm had blown in from the south just days before so there were vast mountains of seaweed and other marine flotsam.

Desending to Surf Beach

The sun low over the points at Surf Beach


Tepid basalt bottomed pools gleamed with various seaweeds but seemed void of any kind of animal life. No fish, shrimps or even crabs, possibly a legacy of the storm emptying the pools of water.

Warm and weedy rockpools

 Basalt tessellations

Strolling back through the Surf Beach community it seemed a strange mix of sleek million dollar holiday houses and 1950s slumping brick shacks, most of which seemed to be uninhabited. Presumably it’s a busy place through the summer when Melbourne’s well-to-do come to occupy their beachside real estate.

The storm over the weekend had also dumped so much rain on the island that it was pretty much flooded, meaning that a large amount of water was still lying inches-deep on people's lawns, footpaths, ditches and gutters making some of the muddy cliff top tracks a challenge to navigate. Our house had an impromptu frog pond in the back yard and a spongy swamp out the front.

Now the food.

Dinner was master stock-poached chicken and salad of beans with a lime-y fish-saucy dressing before a DVD and flopping into a comfy bed. The quiet (occasionally broken by the chirp of an amorous frog) was deafening since we are so used to living in the middle of the city, but we quickly got used to it.

The following day, unfortunately, saw us out of bed early to make a tradesman welcome who had come to look at some water damage in our bedroom. We put a lamb shoulder into the oven at 150 degrees (with 80 and a half cloves of garlic) for dinner and headed back down to see the beach with the tide right in. Where Iain had been sitting just a few hours before now a meter or so under water. Surfers were taking advantage of large swells rolling in.

Lamb shoulder with 80 and a half cloves of garlic 

Tide is in

A couple of hours beach time and it was time to head in to Cowes, the biggest town on Phillip Island. Its main street is long and straight and lined with large pine trees. We bought more supplies and checked out a few of the local second-hand shops.

We tried on clothes, hats and shoes and checked out vintage glass and knick knacks. Then back home to eat lunch and light a fire, partly for entertainment and partly to burn off as much of we could of a pine tree that had recently been cut down on the property.

Our friend Chris making kindling

Some hours later the fire was still roaring but it was time to open the oven and see how our lamb shoulder with 80 and a half cloves of garlic was after a lot of hours. The thermostat in the oven was a little bit wonky so the garlic was somewhat burnt but the lamb was tender and juicy.  We added duck fat potatoes, roast pumpkin, sweet corn, beans, cheesy cauliflower and tzaziki!

The result of an afternoon's work

Lamb shoulder with 80 and a half cloves of garlic after many hours in the oven

Not pretty presentation but very tasty!

While we were eating it started to rain, ending the fire and giving us a reason to have an early night.

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