To the Lighthouse!

This isn’t the first time we’ve slept in lighthouse-based accommodation, nor is it the first time we’ve used this title.  It’s too perfect a title not to rehash, and I’m allowed to plagiarise myself, surely?

Since arriving back in Australia, we have neglected Our Blog.  It’s possible that, in the same way that we have photography exhaustion, we both have blog exhaustion post the mammoth effort that was the Bike Tour Blog.  I still have the blogging bug, but I’ve never been a good ‘reporter’.  I just write whenever I feel like it, about whatever I feel like.  And I feel like writing about our various trips; well, okay, this one in particular and maybe I’ll write up a few others.  My family think I am on a perpetual holiday, so I may as well start that mis-belief with my blog audience.

You know I do not lie when I say we are The Outdoors Type? Since moving to Melbourne, pretty much everyone who finds out we are The Outdoors Type tells us we have to go to Wilsons Prom.  In almost the very next breath, they then tell us how terribly crowded it gets.  Crowds is emphatically not why we go to The Outdoors.  

I had been to Wilsons Prom once, a long time ago.  I remember two things clearly from that trip (I was a teenager, so forgive me): (1) There was lots of rubbish on the short walking trail we did and it made me really mad, and (2) March flies ate me alive.  Literally.  Small chunks of flesh were missing from my lower calf and blood poured down my legs until I could bear it no more, I asked my brother for his car keys, ran back to the car and sat in there until everyone else came back from the walk.  No one else got devoured like I did.  Not. Fair.

So, we decided we should visit Wilson’s Promontory National Park (that’s it’s proper name but we all call it Wilson’s Prom, or even just The Prom, because, you know, too many syllables) and we decided winter would be a smashing time to do so, hoping that there would be no crowds.  As it would, after all, be winter, we decided we would not hike and camp but would stay in accommodation with fancy things like a roof and walls.  We picked a weekend from the calendar and then tried to book accommodation.  We failed.  I won’t go into the boring details, suffice to say, we considered giving up and going to somewhere warm instead.  Then we booked a trip to Tasmania (yeah, we get confused), then I remembered that Wilson’s Prom has a lighthouse That You Can Stay At.

We booked two nights accommodation at the lighthouse.  Unlike Portland, Dorset, UK, you don’t get to stay inside the actual lighthouse, but you do get to stay in the lighthouse keepers’ cottages (there are multiple).  It is up to you whether you pretend you are a lighthouse keeper for the weekend.  You might be able to guess what I did.

Here is some information from Parks Victoria about the lighthouse.

Here is some more information from someone who went there (quite detailed and very helpful).

Here is my summary of the information, in case you want to go there as well:

- Be aware you have to hike into the lighthouse.  It is at least a 19km walk if you take the shortest route – the Telegraph Track.  The shortest walk is a perfectly fine walk, but if you want a scenic walk, it will be more like 23++kms.  I will tell you about our walk shortly.  You have to carry all your food for your stay.  The walk is undulating, with some steep sections and one very steep section at the very end when you are so close to the lighthouse that it seems unfair.  

What you need to take with you

– Food 

– Clothes

– Towel

– Toiletries

– Sleeping bag (although you can choose to hire doonas if you do not wish to carry or do not own a sleeping bag but if you take the doona option, you still need sheets or a sleeping sack.  If you’ve ever stayed in a backpackers, you will know what it is you need sleeping wise)

– Things you would usually take on a long daywalk e.g. first aid kit, torch (just in case), wet weather gear, enough water for the walk.  Honestly, if I need to tell you what to take on a daywalk, perhaps this accommodation is not for you.  Or go with someone who knows.  

What the accommodation has

– pillows!

– cooking equipment: stove, microwave, oven, pots, pans, crockery & cutlery.  They have a plunger (french press), folks.  All good.

– a fridge

– drinking water 

– lovely sitting rooms with views

– wombats

Our original plan was to leave Melbourne on the Friday and find some accommodation like a motel or a caravan park cabin, so that we could start our hike out to the lighthouse early Saturday morning.  Google Maps told us that it was a 3.5 hour drive.  Friday was miserable, wet and cold, and we were lazy.  We decided instead to set off from Melbourne at a hideously uncivilised hour on Saturday morning.  It was a good plan except I failed to turn the alarm on, despite setting the uncivilised time.  Nic woke at 7am with sunlight edging in around our curtains and said, “Oanh! It’s 7am!”  We scoffed breakfast, packed the car and ske-daddled down to Wilsons Prom as quickly as the speed limit would allow us.

We paused in Fish Creek – a little township near the Prom – for coffee at the excellent and very friendly 9 Acres coffee shop.  And we bought some ground coffee because I forgot to pack it.  (Sense a theme?)  Fish Creek is pretty much your last stop for provisions should you have forgotten anything, and its stores (we visited the cafe and I visited the petrol station/roadhouse) seem sufficiently well stocked.  The 9 Acres coffee shop had delicious looking freshly baked sourdough, and we (mildly) regretted packing our own two loaves from Melbourne.

Finally at the visitor centre at Tidal River at 11am, our hike was only briefly delayed by technology: we had booked under the old system (phoning someone) and they had since changed to an online system, and our booking could not be found.  The person checking us in was a little bit worried about the time we were setting off; we blithely reassured her that we were fit walkers, though I admit to being worried myself.  

Despite not actually starting the walk until 11.30am, we decided against the most direct route because it was along a vehicle track, which makes for hideously boring walking (not that we’d done it; just surmising).  Instead, we chose to walk along Oberon Bay, and reassess our options when we reached the vehicle track.

The walk along Oberon Bay was gorgeous.  It undulates.  It mostly hugs the coast and you get magnificent views.  You also get a patch walking along two beaches, and there is a short creek crossing, where your feet will get wet.  I personally really dislike water crossings but I’m getting much better at them.  Basically, you just have to accept that you will get wet; don’t mince about and just go (i.e HTFU).  If the weather’s alright and not too cold*, and the water might go above your ankles, you may as well take your shoes and socks off, because walking with wet socks is no fun.

(*which, let’s be honest here, it’s Australia.  It is highly unlikely to ever be too cold.)

Oberon Bay

Time to take off those shoes and socks.

After we left Oberon Bay, we headed inland towards the vehicle track (known as Telegraph Track).  At Oberon Bay campsite, we had our first close encounter with a wombat.  I love wombats.  They just seem the most ridiculous creature.  They’re large and quite round, they have massive claws and they’re vegetarian.  Also, their poo is square.  I’ve only ever seen wombats at dusk, disappearing into the undergrowth, so seeing one in broad daylight that was more interested in chewing grass than bounding away from me felt pretty special.  We watched for a while, and then we continued walking.  (Weekend wombat count: 3. As we saw two by the side of the road when driving in.)

As we reached the Telegraph Track around 2pm and we still had another 13kms to go, we decided to just follow the vehicle track all the way to the lighthouse.  There are options to take a walking track at various parts, and to detour out to the sourthernmost point of Australia’s mainland, imaginatively called South Point.  We figured we’d do them on the way back.

No bones about it, it was a hard slog.  Harder than any walking I can recall doing but predominantly because we were not stopping to rest as often or for as long as I probably needed, and I was worried about getting to the lighthouse in the dark, and I was worried about the reported steep last patch.  It is a beautiful walk, through varying Australian coastal scrub and eucalypt forests, with patches of wetter forest and ferns.

There are plenty of track markers giving distances and times.  This was the first time on a walk that I did mental mathematical exercises, which were a regular part of our rides during our bike tour.  I worked out what pace we had been doing, and what pace we needed to still be doing in order to make it to the lighthouse before dark.  I am notorious for freaking out about it getting dark, to which my partner usually says, “Oanh, take your sunglasses off,” and then all is well and the light is much brighter than I had realised.  Also, I tend to conservatively estimate my abilities, and occasionally remind myself, If Nic thinks I can do it, I can do it.  However, on this walk, I learned that Nic views me as the voice of reason of what our capabilities are.  I’m sure this means we strike a balance, because nothing has ever gone as disastrously wrong as I’m capable of imagining… (I’m a fan of survivor stories, so I’m very good at imagining disasters.)

Near dusk, we approached the lighthouse.  The notoriously steep bit?  It deserves its notoriety. Even if you were not tackling it after 20kms in a mere 5 hours, it would be considered steep.  I’m not good at gradients, but there are two patches of very ridiculously stupidly steep shortly before the lighthouse; each patch is about 200 – 300m long.  

The lighthouse. 

Lighthouse complex, from the top of the lighthouse. 

Compost bins with a view.  

I admit to being pretty excited that the lighthouse collected organic waste for composting.

We were warmly greeted by the park rangers and settled into our cottage quickly.  The complex has 3 cottages for accommodation.  One is the couples cottage, which (strangely enough) sleeps two.  The other two sleep groups.  We were staying in the smaller of the two cottages, which could sleep a total of 8.  The large cottage can sleep 12, I think (I kinda was not listening at that point of the tour…)  That evening, there were another pair and a group of 3 women.  The large cottage was apparently full as was the couples cottage, but we heard not a peep from them, nor did we even see anyone except for the others in our cottage and a mysterious pair who walked past our window in the morning.  

Nic defeated me in a game of Scrabble (curse him!) that evening as we waited for our dinner of lamb stew to cook.  Hot tip: don’t cook stew when you’re ravenous.  It takes forever.  It was rather delicious when we were finally able to consume it, and we had a strange instant ‘self-saucing chocolate cake’ for dessert (which may have tasted much better if, ooh, I’d remembered to pack butter …)

We had two nights accommodation booked at the lighthouse, which I highly recommend.  I mean, why trek out 20++kms, sleep, only to turn around and do it all again the following day when you can instead, laze about the lighthouse complex, take a leisurely tour of the lighthouse complex, mooch about the lighthouse complex and go WOMBAT STALKING at the lighthouse complex.  

During the excellent and informative lighthouse tour (although I ended up being the girly swot who answered all the questions because I happen to be reading a novel – Between the Oceans – that involves lighthouse-living.  I’m often the girly swot on a tour.  Sorry.) we went to the top of the lighthouse and emerged to check out the view.  As soon as I stepped out I said, Wombat! because the sneaky creature had decided that it would meander along the main path while we were all on top of the lighthouse!  (Weekend Wombat Count: 4)

Later that afternoon (around dusk), we spotted more wombats, and I even had the chance to sit down and have a meal with one.  Well, s/he was munching on some grass, and I got real close (less than a metre away), and then just sat down to watch.  I video-d her/him and Instagrammed it, so get thee an Instagram account and check it out. (or, just follow this link.)  After a few more minutes, I kinda felt like I was intruding, so I left.  (Weekend Wombat Count: 7) But that would have been the highlight of my weekend except …

Later again that evening when we were out wandering around the lighthouse complex looking at the stars, we startled two wombats who gallumphed off in different directions: one away from us (tick) and another directly towards us (uh oh).  It charged us, and I’m still not sure if that was a very interesting form of self-preservation (attack being the best form of defence and all that) or if its senses just weren’t quite right.  We, being slow-witted creatures, did not get out of the way fast enough.  Good thing too because when it got quite near, it veered around us.  For an enormous thing, it has excellent maneuverability.  Also, we were kinda incapacitated by the giggles.  It really is hilarious to be charged by a wombat.  And that, my friends, is the highlight of my life. (Weekend Wombat Count: 9)

Wombat stalking at dusk.

We walked out via Little Waterloo Bay, crossing the peninsula’s isthmus and Telegraph Track to finish the hike by retracing our steps along Oberon Bay.  This was another gorgeous walk through a variety of landscapes, dropping in and out of coastal scrub and rainforest.

Looking back to the lighthouse, on our way to Waterloo Bay.

(Weekend Wombat Count: 16. 16 Wombats!  Also, 3 emus, 4 rabbits and a lot of wallabies)

Frocktails in Melbourne = Mocktails

So, many of you will recall the wonderful Frocktails evening organised by lovely Kat last year.  Well, this year, Kat has organised the Frocktails extravaganza in Sydney.  As some of us cannot make it, I and Helen and others we mooted the idea with at Social Sewing thought it would be fun to have a companion event on the same evening.

The real event is in Sydney.  Details are over on Kat’s blog, and linked above.  This is the companion event in Melbourne, hence Mocktails has so many meanings my head is in a spin.  It’s the Melbourne Frocktails, and it’s not the main event, geddit? Boom tish!

Date: Saturday 13 September

Venue: Probably Brunswick Mess Hall, (400 Sydney Road, Brunswick) but I haven’t booked yet.

Cost will be approx $50 per person, plus drinks but I will confirm that once I have numbers and venue etc.

If you would like to come, please let me know.  You can use whatever Internet means suit you best (this here blog post, Twitter, or Instagram).  It’s important that whatever means you notify me, that you leave me an email address, so please direct message me if via Twitter or Instagram including your email, or just make sure you complete the relevant bit of the comment form if commenting.   

Deadline for letting me know that you would like to attend is end of Friday 22 August 2014.

PDF Patterns

Do you?

I started out in great antipathy to PDF patterns, grumbling as I pieced together what felt like 3 million bits of A4 pages.  I grumbled when I bought a PDF and it had not told me how many pages it was, and then I discovered it was 50+ pages when I printed it out and it made me really grumpy and I never ever pieced it together and I swore off PDF patterns For Ever.  Take that, pattern I spent my money on!

But I live in Australia.  We are terribly far away from the rest of the world and the post takes forever, because while the rest of the world is in the 21st century, Australians reside in an idyllic pre-historic age where communication is by carrier pigeon.  And you know that it’s cruel to ask a carrier pigeon to fly 12,000 miles with a large (or even a small) parcel tied to its wee feet.  

Did you know, sea birds fly a really, really long distance and many of them don’t eat for a lot of the journey and they sleep *on the wing*, and they’re only wee things.  They’re amazing.  I love them.  Especially puffins.  But, er. tangent.  Back to topic:

Waiting for patterns to be released as paper patterns and make it to Australia is agonising, especially for the poor carrier pigeons.  I’d probably wait except that I inevitably forget about that particular pattern because some new shiny one comes along to distract me.  And some patterns are only released as PDFs.  And even if I’m not going to make the pattern right now, dammit I want it right now because everyone else on the internet has it right now and why can’t I? It’s not fair! *stamps feet* (here’s where my mother comes in, shakes her head and directs me to bed, reading me a bedtime story about a poor put-upon carrier pigeon zooming from northern hemisphere to southern, delivering shiny new patterns to petulant seamstresses.)  

One day, I grumbled on Twitter, and Maria Denmark heard me and asked me why I did not like PDF patterns and I began to enumerate my reasons, and then she said, plaintively, sweetly, cajolingly (yes, all these things I read into 140 characters, what of it?), (and I paraphrase), “Have you tried mine?” 

Suddenly, it seemed I was being terribly unfair.  Personal interaction with a pattern maker will do that to you.  I mean, I had not tried every form of PDF pattern out there.  Only … well, currently I can no longer remember which ones I had tried and which I had not, way back when I had my little tantrum and then the twitter conversation with Maria Denmark.  

Actually, I can remember one: Victory Patterns.  And I got well grumpy with them when they came out with paper patterns, having never said anywhere that that was the direction they intended to go.  I had bought Nicola as a PDF, but it was ridiculous amounts of pages and I never pieced it together.  Then they released everything in paper and I got grumpy.  You will know that I eventually bought Lola, and have even made it up, so obviously I got over my grump, but yes, grumpy at you Victory Patterns.

So, I tried a Maria Denmark pattern.  I think I may have tried the Birgitte Basic Tee first.  Maria Denmark designs excellent PDF patterns.  She is not paying me to say this. Nor has she given me anything that she wouldn’t give you (i.e. the free Kirsten Kimono tee).  Maria designs with the PDF-ness in mind, and it changed the way I viewed PDF patterns.  She also included instructions on how to piece together PDF patterns.  The PDF patterns I tried prior to trying Maria’s did not have instructions.  I had treated them as if they were paper patterns, which I had to put together first and *then* use as paper patterns.  This is exactly the wrong way of going about it, and is exactly the wrong way that some PDF pattern designers go about it.  Don’t go about it like that.  Think about the medium.  

Here’s where I was wrong:

I thought I had to piece together the individual A4 pages to form a large pattern sheet, which I then traced my size from, preserving the pieced together pattern.  No one told me to do it like this.  I just did it like this because I started working with paper patterns.  And you know what?  I actually hate tissue a lot more than I hate PDF.  Why do I hate tissue?  I find it really hard to handle.  I have sweaty palms (just a talent, you know?) and sweaty palms make tissue paper really difficult to handle and sometimes destroys it.

Now, another caveat.  I like tracing.  I know many of you don’t, but I do.  It makes me feel very artistic. But I don’t want to piece together a PDF pattern and then trace it.  Too many steps.  And you don’t have to! (but you can if you want to.)

Here’s how I learned to do PDF patterns right (for me.  This works *for me*.  It might not work for you, but if you’ve been hating on PDF patterns, feel free to try this way and see if you hate them less. Or, like me, have a complete turnaround and become a PDF-evangelist):

1. Print out PDF patterns on scrap paper.  This makes you feel much less guilty about the paper wastage, especially if you work in the kind of job that wastes a lot of paper.  I definitely do.

2. When you’re ready to piece them together, which could be the very same day you printed them or some months later depending on, oh, I don’t know the moons and the tides and other vicissitudes of life.

3. Find a large space and lay out all the paper pieces to see how they fit together.  If the pattern designer had thought about how the PDF pattern fit together, there would be discreet pieces finished after a few pages.  So, for example, the Birgitte tee front pattern piece is only 3 A4 pages, if you are one of the smaller sizes.  This means you do not have to tape all the pages all together. Sometimes when only a small part of the pattern piece is on a page, I don’t tape it in, I just draw in the blank of the overlap.  

4. Tape together pages to form one pattern piece, rather than the entire sheet.  I tape by cutting the bottom and right off connecting pages, and overlapping.  *I do not cut my pages until after I have done the laying out exercise above, un case I need to draw a small part of the pattern onto an overlap.* I use sticky-tape from a sticky tape dispenser, rather than glue.  This makes it much, much easier.  I’ve not tried glue.  But if one could pass/fail kindergarten, I probably would have on the basis of never developing glue handling skills.  Basically, when I use glue – even glue sticks – it ends up all over my hands and elbows and sometimes cheeks.  I don’t know how.  Just talented I guess.  Ink from pens also ends up in unlikely places, like my elbow.  Sometimes, my right elbow (and I’m right handed).  I prefer ballpoint pens, though even then sometimes I get ink all over me.  If you’ve a talent, use it, right?

5. Once you have one pattern piece, cut it out; work on your next pattern piece.  This is the pattern piece you use to cut your fabric.  Don’t trace onto another medium, unless you’re tracing around the pattern piece directly onto your fabric to cut.  Does anyone do that?  Pros? Cons? Should I?  

6. You will hopefully find that you don’t need to tape together all the pieces.  If you do have to tape every single piece of paper to every single other piece of paper in order to find a pattern piece, make a note of that pattern company and consider never buying their PDF patterns ever again.  Or, if you don’t want to be that extreme, get in contact with them and grumble about it.  Maybe they will change their ways.  

7. Because I am often the smallest, or close to the smallest size, I cut my pattern pieces out from the rest of the pattern and preserve the extra bits.  When/if I want to make a larger size, or grade across sizes after making my first item (should I wish to make another), I tape the extra bits to my cut bits and trace.  I have done this only twice, but I liked it so much, I now preserve the extra bits that I cut from my PDF pattern pieces.  I add sticky tape to the bits of paper where I think it is needed, e.g. corners, small bits and where I fold.

NB – another way of getting around piecing together PDF patterns is to print it at a copy shop.  Note, however, not all PDF pattern designers offer a copy shop option (I think they should) and not all copy shops are equal.  I had been enthused about this way of doing it, only to discover that even if I chose an option to print at the copy shop where there was no scaling or at 100% or whatever, the copy shop just decided to do it how they wanted to do it and scaled it to fit any ol’ how.  I got right mad at the copy shop and have never printed there since.  Also, paper sizes are not universal.  I’d love an A0 option, because the copy shops here understand that and when there has been an A0 option, everything’s worked wonderfully.  But some of you reading this will be wondering, “what on earth is A0?” And that’s fair enough because you don’t live in Australia, yet you’re reading my blog (aw, thanks, or why are you still reading this far down if you did a google  search for puffin noises*?  Did you not realise that by now I might not even get to discussing that because I already discussed it back in 2009?) 

Here’s another thing.  If you are an Australian company producing PDF patterns (cough, cough, Tessuti, cough), why don’t you offer an A0 version?  

(* this and variations upon it is still the number one search query that brings randoms to my page.  Hello, Randoms!  I love puffins and the internet knows it.)