Our Winter’s Day Out in the Hills for Lunch

What better to do on a dismal wet winter’s day than to head to the hills for lunch. This weekend is the Queen’s birthday long holiday weekend. (I’m living in the past – it’s actually the King’s birthday long weekend, but since Queen Elizabeth was on the throne for virtually all my life, its hard to get used to a new monarch).

We drove to the little village of Gembrook, deep in the Dandenong Ranges. It was once a remote village in the mountains but is now just an hour’s drive from Melbourne. The town was named after the Gembrook Mining Company which extracted gemstones from the area during the mid-19th century. it is also the eastern terminus of the Puffing Billy scenic railway which originally arrived at the turn of the 20th century to transport timber and produce to Ferntree Gully where it was transfered to the main railway line. Today, Gembrook is largely a quiet home to people who commute into Melbourne.

In the Main Street is an Argentinian style restaurant called the Independent. It operates out of an old motor garage and serves a good variety of large and small plates along with decent wines. We enjoyed a lunch of three, or four shared plates and a glass of wine as well as some good coffee. We can recommend it highly.

As I was eating, I was reminded of a dinner that I once had in the litle Argentinian town of El Chaltern in the Andes Mountains. I was very hungry but held out for as long as I could until 7.00 pm. (Argentinians don’t reallly eat before 9.00 pm.) The restaurant in the town was just setting up but they served me a meal of a trio of meat that was so big it actually hung over the edges of the plate along with a bottle of red wine. The whole thing cost around $13. I left to walk  back to my hotel before even the first of any local people had arrived.

The temperature today was quite cool – down to below 9°C wth cloud on the mountains and whispers of cloud falling into the valleys. However, it was warm in the car and the scenery along the way was very interesting.

We took a circuitous route home through the forest, passing the well established scout adventure centre at Gillwell Park.

Gillwell was established in 1926 and at least one world-wide jamborees has been held there.. I can remember in the early days of black and white TV in the 1960s, they actually did live broadcasts from there of a scout Jamboree. I don’t think that watching kids tie knots or climb along an obstacle course would make for riveting TV these days but it seemed to be of great interest in the early 1960s.

The road from Gembrook ended in a little locality called Launching Place which is siutated on the Yarra River. I used to think that it was a place from which Aborigines may have launched their dug out canoes but that didn’t make sense and the river is too small for that anyway. Instead, it is believed that Launching Place is named after the spot where the freshly cut logs from the nearby valleys were floated down the river to be milled in Melbourne. That is, the logs were ‘launched’ at this place along the Yarra River, well before the construction of the Upper Yarra Reservoir reduced the river’s flow.

In Launching Place there is a long-established, but rather decrepit, general store that meets the local people’s basic needs. The classic and historic Home Hotel has also been operating there since 1907.

We finished our day by driving through the Yarra Valley vineyards near Healsville and Yarra Glen. The vines are quite bare now that we are in winter, but that doesn’t diminish the lovely scenery.

As usual, petrol prices have jumped significantly over the public holiday weekend. Funny about that! Two days ago, petrol was selling for 174 cents per litre but today almost every service station has prices at 224 cents per litre. That’s an increase of 50c per litre or around 30%.  I just don’t understand it. Fortunately, I was able to fill up my tank at a service station in nearby Eltham that hadn’t yet increased it prices yet.

7 thoughts on “Our Winter’s Day Out in the Hills for Lunch

  1. Interesting to hear of that restaurant in Gembrook Bruce. Seen it many times when I’ve driven through Gembrook on my way to weekly volunteering at Gilwell Park, but didn’t realise it was a restaurant.
    Incidentally, I think you may be wrong about a jamboree there. I think the largest gatherings are (or were) Easter camp competitions, and “Cuborees” – large camps of Cub Scouts. I think you may be mistaking it with Clifford Park, at Wonga Park, where 2 jamborees were held in the late 40s and mid 50s.

  2. Rod you are probably correct. Thanks for the correction. There was a jamboree at Frankston, I think. Go to the Independent with Kate one day for a nice lunch. Bruce

  3. You woke some memories of the Pan Pacific Jamboree at Gilwell in January 1948. It was a great experience for a young fella, still dripping behind the ears.

  4. I’ve been a ‘parent helper’ at 2 Cuborees at Gilwell Park – last September and in September 2021. They’re still going strong- over 3000 cubs at the last one. They’re quite an experience!

  5. Hi Bruce,
    I definitely attended a scouting jamboree at Gilwell in the 1950s. The amateur radio station there started my lifelong interest in electronics. I also remember eating whole blocks of Sennitts ice cream each day!

  6. Thought you would be amused to know that here in Wales it is mid summer but the temperature outside is 13 degrees, it is raining and really miserable, in fact much like your mid winter weather!!!
    We have had about three days of sunshine in the last few weeks. It is depressing but matches the mood around a coming general election and world news in general.

  7. I know that situation very well. This is only early winter and today has been the coldest June day for five years. The temperature at the moment is 8C and we reached a maximum today of only 11C. Overnight it will get down to as low as 4c. It’s grey, dull with continuous drizzle. We are freezing!

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