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Merry Christmas – enjoy the holidays!

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Hi all,

 

We’d like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year… and what a year it’s been!

 

We started 2015 in Cairns, where we stayed until May, working and biding our time until we had to fly home for two weddings.

 

Australia Day 2015 Cairns

 

Once we were on the road again, our task was fairly simple – explore the east coast of Australia.  After a magical visit at Paronella Park, we passed through Townsville and Mackay before heading inland to the beautiful Lake Elphinstone.

 

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We cruised through the Central Highlands before returning to the coast. We ate beef in Rockhampton, drank rum in Bundaberg, then caught a ferry to Fraser Island. We gave the Troopy a 4WD workout at Landcruiser Mountain Park and watched the rain clouds come in on the Sunshine Coast.

 

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We spent about three weeks in Brisbane because Dave needed some medical attention, but it was great to spend time with friends in that beautiful city.  As we approached the Gold Coast, the dark clouds returned and by the time we got to the Best Of All Lookouts, we couldn’t see a thing!

 

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We crossed the border into New South Wales and bee-lined straight to Byron Bay for a few days in the easternmost town of Australia. We were lucky to get a few days of sun but the drizzle returned as we made our way to Coffs Harbour.  Finally, with some sun, we got to enjoy the beautiful coastline from Port Macquarie to Newcastle.

 

 

We enjoyed a tipple in the Hunter Valley before spending a week on the Central Coast, helping out a family with their household duties while Juz scored some work with a school holiday program in Gosford.

 

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Arriving in Sydney was a little surreal. It’s the biggest city in Australia and we spent a lot of time walking around the city getting exhausted. We also have a few friends in Sydney so it was great to catch up and spend time with them.

 

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We headed inland to the Blue Mountains and Central West just in time for a freakish cold front to sweep through the area. We had the pleasure of experiencing subzero temperatures and snow, as well as seeing the Dish in Parkes and exotic animals at the Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo.

 

 

With a few more friendly visits in Kiama and Milton, and a stop at the Big Merino in Goulburn, we finally visited our country’s capital. We called in at the War Memorial and National Mint and even saw our old travel buddies Tom and Bella.

 

 

Once we returned to the coast, the wet weather reappeared and we reached the Victorian border within a day or two. From then on, there was no point stuffing around – we were 4 hours from home.  On Sunday the 2nd of August, we rolled in unannounced and enjoyed a hot shower and warm bed.

 

Since our return to Melbourne, we’ve been busy.  We got jobs, reconnected with friends, and started making plans for the future.

 

We’re going to take a few weeks off to enjoy the silly season and spend time with our family and friends. We’ll see you all in the new year with more posts about the last leg of our lap around Australia, as well as our run down of Tassie later in the year.

 

Thanks for all your support,

 

Dave & Juz

 

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City Profile : Bundaberg

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Our first thought when we entered Bundaberg was, “for the love of pizza and ice cream, where can we get a shower around here?”  After a quick visit to the Information Centre, we had two options – hot showers down the road at $5 a pop or free cold showers by the beach at Bargara.  With the sun shining and the anticipation of a free hot shower in the days to come, we made our way to Bargara…

 

Once we were refreshed, we did a quick drive around town.  We ducked into a Lifeline Superstore and were delighted to find a book Dave had been looking for since Christmas – the sixth instalment of Jean M Auel’s Earth’s Children series for only $1.  His day was made even more with all the Aussie and American muscle cars cruising around town – there were lots of vintage cars and hot rods to drool over.

 

The traditional owners of the region are the Kalki people, and the first white man they ever saw was actually a convict who had escaped from the Moreton Bay penal settlement in 1830.  It wasn’t established as a settlement until 1867, and the first industries were timber and sugar.  The settlement steadily grew and eventually became a town in 1902, and a city by 1913.  As you drive around town, it’s hard to miss all the beautiful buildings, many with arches and columns and colourful art deco façades.

 

Things to See and Do

Bundaberg Distillery Company

Ever since Juz tried spiced rum in Darwin, she’s been hooked so a visit to the Bundaberg Distillery was compulsory.  It was great to see where the Aussie icon is made, and the tour was a really insightful way to learn about how rum is made.

 

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The Bundaberg Barrel

Both a ‘Big Thing’ and an educational experience about the origins of ginger beer, the Bundaberg Barrel is the home of Bundaberg brewed soft drinks, which are a brazilian times better than regular crappy soft drinks.

 

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Schmeider’s Cooperage

Named after Dave Schmieder, who had just left school when he was offered a coopering apprenticeship at the Bundaberg Distillery in the 1970s.  He started the business in 1982 just as the demand for coopers was declining, but he is still on call with the Distillery to maintain their massive timber vats.

 

You can visit the Cooperage for free, browse the gift shop, watch barrels being made and even try your skill at putting a barrel together yourself in the interactive video room.

 

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Alexandra Park & Zoo

This is a great place to have a picnic or BBQ before checking out the free zoo – complete with playful monkeys, chilled out dingoes, kooky quolls and emus that omit a sound that sounds like a beating drum or a hollow PVC pipe being hit by a stick.

 

 

Bundaberg Waterworks Water Tower

Considered to be a structure of technical and aesthetic bricklaying excellence, construction of this water tower commenced in 1902 and was completed in 1905. It holds 40,000 gallons of water in a tank that is just over 32 metres high, and it is still in service today.

 

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Childers

This old-fashioned town is adorned with ornate buildings, heritage pubs and the Old Pharmacy, a brilliantly preserved display of what an olden day apothecary would have looked liked.  Well worth a drop in.

 

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Sharon Nature Park and Gorge

This is a free rest area about 15 km west of Bundaberg.  There’s a picnic area that precedes a short walk through Sharon Gorge to a lookout over Burnett River.  We ventured out shortly after sunrise and marvelled at the calls of the whip birds before being somewhat disappointed by the lack of view at the end of the path.

 

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Big Things : The Bundaberg Barrel

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The Bundaberg Barrel represents many things.  Apart from being considered as one of Australia’s Big Things, the Bundy Barrel is a family owned, Australian brewery that specialises in non-alcoholic soft drink.  We’re all familiar with Bundaberg Ginger Beer, but there are so many other flavours to try and fall in love with.

 

Our visit was complemented with the warm and cheery presence of Katerina and Elisha, our hosts for the morning.  These two lovely ladies set us up for our experience through the museum and led us through a tasting that made us look at soft drink in a new light… forever.  Why would you want a cheap substitute when you can have the real thing, brewed and full of real flavour?

 

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The Museum

Our experience started with a self-guided tour through an interactive, five room museum that outlined the story of ginger beer in Australia.  It all started when Marco Polo brought ginger to Europe from Asia in the 13th century.  By the mid 1700s, ale sprinkled with dried ginger became a popular drink and this was the origin on ginger beer.

 

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Many people tried to brew ginger beer in their own homes, with many brews exploding due to a prolonged brewing time.  There’s a great interactive game in the museum which allows you to create a concoction of water, sugar, vinegar and salt and let it ferment.  If your combination of choices is incorrect, then your brew will either taste bad or explode.  Dave’s main goal of the game was to make his brew explode, while it took Juz two turns to get a brew that was just right.

 

After walking through the museum and playing with all the interactive games, we sat down to watch a brilliant 3D hologram show about Doug the Bug, who was actually a yeast that endured hardship before finding his way to Bundaberg to work his magic to help create ginger beer.

 

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The Ginger Beer

Bundaberg Brewed Drinks was established in 1960 and has been a family owned brewery for over 50 years.  They make the brewing process seem simple and concise.  Just combine ginger, water and sugar to create wort before adding yeast.  After some time to ferment, the mix is sterilised, filtered and carbonated to become Bundaberg’s yummy ginger beer.  It’s then bottled at a rate of 1000 bottles per minute and distributed around Australia.

 

Naturally brewed to be better, Bundaberg does just make ginger beer – they have an awesome range of soft drinks available for tasting.  The great thing about tasting at the Barrel is that after a session at the Sampling Bar, you can then take home a six pack of your favourites for $7.95!

 

We tasted the entire range and our favourite was the diet Ginger Beer.  With a slightly different taste to the original Ginger Beer, the diet alternative is brewed with twice the ginger and much less sugar – a little bit is still required for the brewing process. It’s not as sweet, but it’s lighter and very refreshing.  We were also fans of the diet Lemon Lime Bitters – once again, less sugar but more spice.  It had a light citrus flavour hinted with cinnamon and cloves.

 

Of the sparkling selection, we loved the pink grapefruit and passionfruit drinks.  They taste just like the real thing – you won’t believe it until you try it.  The pineapple and coconut brew was particularly good and perfect for mixing with some spiced rum.  Even their traditional flavours are fantastic.  The creaming soda was actually Dave’s favourite, and is made with red grapes for a refreshing flavour.  They also do a delicious Royal Crown Draft Premium Cola with a sweet genuine caramel aftertaste that is only available at the Barrel.

 

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The Essentials

The Bundaberg Barrel is located at 147 Bargara Rd, Bundaberg and is open Monday to Saturday 9am – 4:30pm and on Sundays 10am to 3pm.  The True Brew Experience Tour is a great way to learn more about ginger beer and Australia’s history before visiting the Sampling Bar and strolling through the gift shop.

 

https://www.bundaberg.com

 

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Rum : The Bundaberg Distillery

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Huzzah!  We arrived in Bundaberg on an absolutely stunning May morning and it would have been absolute poppycock if we didn’t go and visit the home of a great Aussie legend, Bundaberg Rum.  After spending the day seeing the sights and exploring the Capricorn Coast, we stopped in at the Bundaberg Distillery for a tour with Tammy and Chauntelle, and some serious a’rum’atherapy.

 

The History of Rum in Australia

The first inklings of rum began in the 17th century when English settlers in the West Indies started to produce a clear alcoholic drink from sugar cane.  They would still import sherry and port in oak barrels, but when returning them to the homeland, they would return them filled with rum, thus creating dark rum.

 

By the late 1700s, rum had become a popular drink, particularly amongst sailors on the First Fleet.  A monopoly over the rum trade was held by the NSW Corps (aka Rum Corps), and when Governor William Bligh cracked down on the rum trade, the head of the Rum Corps staged a revolt on the Government House in Sydney.  This event is known as the Rum Rebellion and it was Australia’s one and only military coup.

 

The Rum Corps ruled the colony until 1810 when Britain sent over another bloke, Lachlan Macquarie, to step in as Governor and disband the Rum Corps.

 

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The Distillery

Established in 1888, the Bundaberg Distillery uses molasses from a neighbouring sugar mill to make delicious rum.  These days, the raw molasses is stored in three massive wells that can hold a total of 10 million litres.  When we were in the molasses building, we were overwhelmed at the volume of thick, sticky goo that was held in the well, despite it being nowhere near half full.

 

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Source: http://www.bundabergrumshowcase.com.au/

 

Once the molasses is clarified and cleaned of impurities, it’s mixed with yeast to ferment.  The yeast that they use is the same strain that they used back in 1888, and they even make use of a ‘yeast bank’ in England (National Collection of Yeast Cultures) to ensure that their yeast is pure and true.

 

Once the yeast and molasses are combined in a fermenting vat, it turns into a frothy cappuccino as the yeast consumes the sugars in the molasses and poops out alcohol.  This mixture is only 50% alcohol so it’s double distilled to maximise the alcohol content before being put into enormous American white oak vats to mature.  Each vat costs $100,000 to build and is employed for 80-100 years.  The oldest vat at the distillery, which is affectionately referred to as a ‘she’, is around 70 years old.  There’s 300 vats on site and each one holds 75,000 litres, which means there is over 22 million litres of Bundy Rum maturing on site.

 

bundaberg-rum-huge-vats Photographer: Peter Lik

 

Since its birth, the distillery has seen a few catastrophes.  In 1907, a devastating fire blazed at the site, lighting up the entire town, and to this day, the cause of the fire is unknown.  Despite the nearby river, water was not readily available to fight the fire so it was left to burn, along with 150,000 gallons of rum and all of the company’s machinery.  They were back up and running within a year.  There was another fire around 30 years later, caused by a bolt of lightning, and just as it did in 1907, the fire lit up the town and could be seen from hundreds of kilometres away.

 

In 2013 when floods covered Bundaberg, the distillery not only donated a large sum of money to assist with the recovery efforts, but they also released limited edition Road to Recovery bottles of five year old rum, with local street names printed on the labels.  Every house that was affected by the floods received a bottle, and any leftover were sold to raise more money.

 

Bundaberg Distillery Co. is also very proud to be environmentally aware, recycling water and waste whenever possible, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, producing recyclable packaging using alternative materials, and encouraging staff to recycle and participate in environmental initiatives like Clean Up Australia Day.

 

The Rum

If you have ever wondered why there’s a polar bear on the Bundaberg label, it’s because Bundaberg Rum can warm even the chilliest of chills, and it was also an attempt to win over Aussies in the southern states.  These days, the bear remains the spirit of the company and the burn on the rum is nicknamed the bear bite.

 

After we had strolled the museum and explored the distillery, it was time to head into the bar to samples two rums of our choice.  We each chose two rums and promised the other that they could have a taste as well.  These are the rums we chose:

 

  • Blenders 2015 – released the Saturday before our arrival, this gorgeous rum has a sweet smell and bear bite entry, with a sweet port finish that is mellow and worth savouring. If you see it at the shops, buy two bottles – one to enjoy now and another to start your collection.
  • Blenders 2014 – this rum was light yellow in colour and tasted much like whiskey. Dave really enjoyed this one.
  • Two Eighty – named after the amount of barrels that were made of this limited edition, it had a smooth honey taste with a bear bite finish.
  • Mutiny – this spiced rum was made to mix with cola. It’s very smooth and sweet with the flavours of vanilla.

 

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The Essentials

It was awesome to visit the home and birthplace of an Aussie legend.  It was also great to witness the fitness of another Big Thing – the Big Bundy bottle that stands outside the Visitor Centre.

 

Tours run every day, every hour on the hour between 10am and 3pm (or 2pm on weekends and public holidays).  For more information and to plan your visit, check out their website: http://www.bundabergrum.com.au/