Caves and cricket

As I stepped into the toy shop on the main street of Lakes Entrance a tremendous wave of nostalgia swept over me. You don’t find too many toy shops like this in Sydney anymore. Toys’R’Us may be giant but we almost never buy anything there. Or it’s BigW or Target with the same old selections amongst everything else. Then there are the high falutin’ educational toy stores with similarly high prices.

This was none of those. Just a smallish shop packed floor to ceiling with toys. In the back corner of the shop, in the hobby section, were things you can’t buy in your average toy store anymore. A model train set and some tracks, plastic model aircraft kits that you need to paint and glue yourself. I could just see myself putting one of those kits together like I used to do as a teenager.

Something that was disappointing were the army figures. When I was small we went on a farmstay at Taralgon along with some friends of the family. I remember my parents purchasing a bag of army figures, World War II Australians and Japanese if I recall correctly, containing flags, armoured cars and Jeeps (as did most).

The cheap bags of army figures I spotted in the toy store and in The Reject Shop the day before, were awful, distorted, almost 2D plastic cut-out figures with dreadful vehicles.

Maybe kids don’t play with army figures anymore. That could be a good thing.

We left the shop, returning later to purchase a beach cricket set, and walked across the footbridge and the sand dunes to the beach.

The waves of Bass Strait crashed into the sand, drenching Alex who had got too close. That lonely expanse of sea and sand suggested a wonderful freedom so remote from city life.

After a rest and a change at the hotel we drove back to the Esplanade for a lunch of fish and chips. Sadly they weren’t as awesome as those of the Bellarine Peninsula, despite the name of the shop. As we ate at a picnic table across the road we were visited by a pair of black swans and their seven downy grey cygnets.

Alex insisted on a game of mini-golf at one of the two adjacent courses opposite. It was a quick and reasonably cheap diversion, not quite as good or as expensive as the one from a few days previously.

It was a three-quarters on an hour drive inland to the Buchan Caves. Along the way we stopped by the Mingling Waters cafe at Nowa Nowa to buy sweets and admire the owner’s scifi toy collection. More toy memories!

We had plenty of time to wander around the very pleasant park surroundings of the Buchan Recreational Park prior to our tour, the grassy grounds dotted with English trees like poplars and plane trees. We spotted kangaroos grazing, including a mother and her joey.

We had arrived too late to see both caves and only the Royal cave was available. The passageway to the deep interior was narrow and I had to constantly duck my head. The tour and cave was absolutely fascinating, the cave being formed by an underground river, now below us, carving it’s way over millions of years.

There were pools of water, calcified waterfalls and plenty of stalactites and stalagmites as well as more delicate structures, each formed from the slow process of biology (calcium carbonate shells of sea creatures), geology (limestone formation and faulting), the water cycle and chemistry. It was very beautiful. It’s just a pity there wasn’t more time to enjoy each small sight along the way, though the guide was very good at explaining the formation of everything.

On the drive back we stopped at Tyers Beach, watched a lone surfer get dumped and a few people walk their dogs, listened to the sound of Lake Tyer rushing out to sea and the waves crash against the sandy expanse of the beach.

Alex built sandcastles and we played a little beach cricket with our new set as evening descended.

Dinner was at Nick’s, which is actually a Thai restaurant. The food was passable but not great. Lakes Entrance might be better for shopping, but we prefer the Bellarine for food. Still, we will be sad to leave as we head off on the second last leg of our journey tomorrow, up to Canberra.