Road Trip 2014: Great Ocean Road I

We hit the road looking for our first stop, Lorne for lunch, before we would make our evening stop in Apollo Bay to spend the night. I’ll leave the overview of the trip for the last post of this series so that I can concentrate on the actual places we went here. We had lunch by the beach in Lorne which was nice, the weather was warm and sunny, and we got pies from Grandma Shields Bakery of which I am a fan (although having to pay for sauce is not something that I do like). We were a bit tired already (haha and some of us a bit cranky too!) and decided not to push our luck too much and so did not stop at the pier this time.

From there we carried on along the Great Ocean Road which is a treat even if you’re driving (although as usual, it would probably be nice to be there around sunset or sunrise), for a bit more than an hour to Apollo Bay. I’m going to be perfectly honest when I say that Apollo Bay is quite underwhelming and not somewhere that I’d be spending too much time in the future. Both the accommodation and the restaurant we had dinner (take away) were disappointing. The Seaview Motel, the name of the motel is not a lie, but you have to look pretty hard to see the sea, the rooms are perpendicular to the road (and the sea) which means you have to look out to the side and you might see the ocean, and on top of that, there is a newer, nicer looking accommodation right in front which would have better views.

We got a take away pizza (can’t remember what) and pasta (puttanesca) from La Casalingo (rated fairly well on urbanspoon) and I could definitely do better myself, just like some cheap take away here in Melbourne, but it wasn’t cheap at all. So, overall I would pass on Apollo Bay. From there we basically got up really early (thanks Oscar) and moved on as quickly as possible, heading down to Princetown and Port Campbell National Park via the Great Otway National Park.

  • London Arch
    London Arch
  • The ARch
    The Arch
  • Gibson Steps
    Gibson Steps
  • Gibson Steps
    Gibson Steps
  • Gibson Steps
    Gibson Steps
  • Island Arch
    Island Arch
  • Geology Walk
    Geology Walk
  • The Razorback
    The Razorback
  • Geology Walk
    Geology Walk
  • Loch Ard Gorge
    Loch Ard Gorge
  • Great Otway National Park
    Great Otway National Park

This is when the weather turned to shit and hopes of a photographic dream with fluffy clouds, blue skies, and amazing scenery were blown away by the Antarctic winds and washed down the drain by the “Summer” rains. Whatever, we had to make do, and at least we still had the scenery, if not the weather. The Great Otway National Park is pretty cool, the trees that line the road going toward the Cape Otway Lighthouse are very interesting and have great textures. The Lighthouse itself is not particularly interesting, and it is extremely windy up the top. After that we went down the road to Port Campbell National Park and visited Loch Ard Gorge.

I’ve seen the Twelve Apostles before, and Gibson Steps as well, so I wanted to see something else and maybe scout some sunset/sunrise locations. Loch Ard Gorge was well worth it, and finding the Geology Walk which took us past Island Arch and the Razorback which I decided looked like a great spot for sunset. With the weather the way it was, I didn’t expect many people to show up later, as I was having a look at Loch Ard Gorge just before sunset, a tour bus showed up so I hurried over toward the Razorback to capture what I could. I got to try some multi-exposure shots as well as long exposures which I think turned out quite well. There even ended up being a tiny hint of a sunset and some interesting clouds, it definitely was not a waste of time (and I finally got some good use out of my tripod!!).

The next morning, the body clock got me up about 45 minutes before sunrise, I decided to head to Gibson Steps rather than the Twelve Apostles because I thought it would be more secluded, it was empty, but I don’t think there would have been many people (if any) at the Twelve Apostles either. Again, I experimented with the same techniques from the night before, and also added in some auto-bracketing for good measure. Almost lost the stupid lens cap off my DA 21mm lens, but got some nice shots I think (again, a hint of a sunlight and clouds and the flowing water gave me some interesting elements to work with).

After that, we left for Portland via Port Fairy, but not before stopping along the way at The Arch and London Arch, both very worthwhile although I do prefer The Arch myself (but I may have missed something at London Arch). We did skip Bay of Islands, but seeing it as we drove past I must say, it definitely looks like somewhere worth visiting next time, it was raining quite persistently the whole day which made it hard to spend the required time at these great sites.

We stayed at a self-contained cottage in Princetown which was pretty nice, although the fridge froze everything we put in there (the fridge, not even the freezer). There is a selection of DVDs to watch and a couple of separate rooms which meant that we didn’t need to tiptoe around while Oscar slept in the evening. There is a stock standard pub in Princetown which is where we had dinner. I’m not sure where we had lunch, it was in Port Campbell, but the name of the restaurant escapes me, it was modern Australian cuisine I guess (it may have been The. Karoa, it’s next door to Frying Nemo any way), it was not bad, but nothing special.

I’ll leave it at that for now, next time we’ll be heading into South Australia and to the brink of Kangaroo Island.

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Southeast Australia, Melbourne to Kangaroo Island

Road Trip Route

Road Trip Route

Total kilometres covered, 3, 411.2, from home here in the suburbs of Melbourne to the southwestern end of Kangaroo Island (via the Great Ocean Road), Adelaide, and back again (via the Grampians), it was a heck of a lot of driving (for me anyway). The weather was pretty horrible for the first week or so (until the last day on Kangraoo Island), and then a bit too hot (considering we had a six-month old, was bloody good otherwise), I think if I learnt one thing from this trip, it is not to go anywhere where the main attraction is hiking, during Summer. I snapped a lot of photos (for the first time in ages) and tried some new techniques, which worked some times and not so much others, but live and learn.

Just a short post here, I will be adding much more content for this trip including about twenty photos hopefully over the next week or so and over the xmas break. Hopefully I will get the photos up here in a timely manner and over a couple of posts to spread the pictures out, I’ll be taking my time as usual with the flickr shots as I don’t know when I will be going anywhere next. Good to get away from home and work for a bit, but it’s pretty good to get a break from all that driving too, and settle back into some form of routine.

I’ll also be adding some reviews of the accommodations, some good, some not so good, which I will probably also add on to tripadvisor at a later time.

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TKO’d

We were supposed to be on holiday this week, somewhere in South Australia by now I think, but having played basketball the night before we were to head off, I experienced something that has never happened to me before. I was on the wrong end of a concussion and forgot pretty much everything that happened from Sunday afternoon until the middle of Sunday night, and Monday morning while I remember it is also a bit vague.

Approximate state of myself on Sunday night

Approximate state of myself on Sunday night

Apparently, as far as I can recall, I was fighting for a loose ball, fell, and hit my head on the floor. I don’t think that I ever lost consciousness, but I was probably quite confused and running in circles. I remember lying in bed on Sunday night having random conversations but don’t remember what they were about (my short-term memory was resetting every two minutes I am told), and it was probably only when I woke up on Monday morning that I realised that I had suffered a concussion., but my memory had not recovered and everything that I could remember was a bit vague and seemed like ages ago. In the afternoon I was making phone calls to the hotels to see if we could re-schedule our holiday to a week later (which we could fortunately), but I did call a couple of them twice, not remembering that I’d already called them. That’s all for now, we’re leaving on Monday again, no basketball this Sunday (we lost), I’m done for the year, so hopefully nothing gets in the way of us departing then. There should be video of the game, so when it comes up I will update this post if they captured what happened, I need to watch the game to see how it went anyway because I can’t remember playing at all.

Okay, so here is the video (I’ve moved it straight to when it happened, but it’s within the first 40 seconds of the game, I think I started showing signs of confusion a couple minutes before half time, and they took me off with just under 14 minutes to play in the game (we were up two at the time, but eventually lost):

Should have been a charge, am I right?

Picture taken from simpsons wikia.

 

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It’s a Moth!

Haven’t posted anything recently at all have I, been too invested in Clash of Clans I suppose (and I’m not too ashamed to admit it, I am kind of ashamed though). Well, any way, this moth came out of nowhere (well, it was under my car) and landed in front of me while I was putting the washing out, it didn’t move for ages so I guess it wanted me to take a picture, either that or it was too tired/injured to do so. Either way, it worked out well, because I managed to snap up a couple of nice macro shots. So we’ve got it in all it’s glory, and then a very nice close-up macro shot to show it’s many eyes. OK, well, I’m going on holiday next week, so don’t expect anything in the following weeks, although I think I will post another Japanese restaurant review once we get back :D.

Moth

Moth

Moth

Moth

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Synology DS1511+ disk expansion

  • The bare drive
    The bare drive
  • The DS1511+ with empty slot
    The DS1511+ with empty slot
  • New drive in the disk case
    New drive in the disk case
  • New drive in and detected
    New drive in and detected
  • Volume expanding
    Volume expanding
  • Disk expansion complete
    Disk expansion complete

After three years, the original 3.6TB (3 x 2TB HDD) SHR raid (Synology Hybrid RAID) has finally been reduced to less than 50GB of free space. So with the price of a 4TB drive about the same bang for buck as even a 2TB drive I decided to go and grab one and see how this hot swappable disk expansion works. This was the exact reason I decided to get this NAS solution, expandable storage with different size hard drives providing RAID and disk fail protection. I could wait until I needed to add storage space (and when it became cheaper) before adding more, rather than filling the NAS with equal size hard drives (with less total space down the line) and having to do a lot more fiddling with it, although I do wonder what would happen if the biggest drive (in this case the 4TB) had an issue and needed to be replaced. Having thought about that, I suppose with 10TB of hard disk, the free space on the volume is equivalent to 10TB minus the largest disk, so in my case 6TB, therefore the 4TB could be removed without problem, I guess they thought of everything (except what do I do in this scenario if two disks die?).

Well, now that the deed is done, I can go over what happened, if you didn’t work it out from the picture gallery I will explain it step-by-step:

  1. First, I bought a Western Digital 4TB NAS drive because that’s what the marketing wants you to do.
  2. Then I removed a a drive holder from the diskstation (it’s a bit dusty in there), all while still on.
  3. Screwed the new drive into the drive holder with the provided screws (by Synology).
  4. Pushed the drive back into the diskstation and clicked it in, about ten seconds later the light came on.
  5. I didn’t actually know what to do at this point, but decided to just load up the synology application page, and went to the storage manager, lo and behold there is a volume expansion function there.
  6. I also had no idea how long it was going to take so googled it, and was quite surprised to see that people had complained of this taking 4-5 days or more. Fortunately for me this took less than two days, and luckily there were no power interruptions or anything of that nature because I don’t have a UPS.
  7. In conclusion, that went splendidly well, and now I have an additional 2TB (decimal) of disk space which should last me a couple more years, I may even be able to get a UPS in that time.

 

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Holy Guacamole!

Yeah, it’s been a while since I posted anything, busy I guess, and even this is a re-post from my old site, but it’s too good not to appear here. So I learnt this recipe while I was in Peru (not when I went to Mexico ha!), and from our tour guide on the Inca Jungle Trek of all people. We were pretty much at the last stop before hitting Machu Picchu, and had stopped for lunch before making our way to Aguas Calientes for the night (and Machu Picchu in the dark early morning). We only had crackers, but this was avocado (aguacate) country, so for our entree to lunch, our guide made a quick guacamole dip. I’m sure everyone has their own twist on guacamole, it’s a very simple dip/sauce to make, but I thought I’d throw mine in the mix.

Guacamole

Guacamole

The ingredients are as follows:

  • avocado (1 for two people)
  • 1 (small and juicy) lemon per avocado
  • 1-2 garlic cloves (or more, depends how garlicky you like it) per avocado
  • black pepper (crushed is good)
  • salt (I don’t measure it, I taste the guacamole until the amount is right)

The following are optional extras:

  • chilli, sliced, the amount depends how hot you want the guacamole really, if they’re really hot like mine, then one is probably good
  • onion, I am not a big fan of raw onion, so I tend to only have cooked onion with chicken tortillas and not in the actual guacamole
  • I really like the smell of oregano, dried or fresh
  1. So if you have a ripe avocado (apparently you can tell if the top is a bit soft, google it for a better method), just crack it open and scrape the contents into some kind of bowl/dish and mix it up (or blend it if you like it smooth) with a fork to start with, and then a whisk to clean up (or a blender if you’re rich like me).
  2. Cut the lemon(s) in half and squeeze the juice in till it’s all in more or less.
  3. Crush the garlic and throw it in and mix it up.
  4. If using chilli, slice up the chilli and mix that in as well.
  5. If using pepper, crush it in.
  6. Keep mixing it with the whisk and adding salt, all the while tasting it, once the flavour is right, you have your guacamole.

I’ve tried this guacamole with both corn chips and with chicken tortillas, and for my personal tastes, it was really good, I was very happy to say the least, because it was the first time I actually made it, for the chicken tortillas, and I was working from memory. Give it a go, but I think avocados are seasonable fruit, so don’t bother if the avocados aren’t in season I guess. That’s a fast, easy dip for chips and chicken based tortillas/tacos. One avocado is about right for a pack of corn chips (180g I think).

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Shira Nui – Round 2

I/We haven’t had sushi for a long time, sometime last year I’m guessing, and finally decided to just say stuff it, it can’t hurt, and went back to our local amazing (and amazingly expensive) sushi bar, Shira Nui for some delectable delights. Despite our best efforts I think that Shira Nui remains undefeated (I’m just going with it, I don’t know what it actually means), I think there were five dishes the same as last time, and some new ones, including the delectable tuna belly. I even ate the pink ginger like a pro, and also appreciated the sea urchin a bit more this time, the texture is very much like custard which I’m starting to come around to as well. We even ordered a creme brulee for dessert which was very nicely done, much better than the mango parfait we had last time (I think it was a special dessert, not regular). Since we’ve broken the ice on the sushi, there will almost certainly be more to come in this regard (I’ve definitely got a few places I want to try) :D. You might notice that we even sneaked a photo of the man himself (albeit blurry, we didn’t want to anger him after all), although I did see him crack a couple smiles during the evening.

  • Cod (no soy sauce)
    Cod (no soy sauce)
  • Seared Salmon (No soy sauce)
    Seared Salmon (No soy sauce)
  • Mackerel (Soy sauce)
    Mackerel (Soy sauce)
  • Masters at work
    Masters at work
  • DSCF0872
  • Clam (Soy sauce)
    Clam (Soy sauce)
  • Tuna Steak (No soy sauce)
    Tuna Steak (No soy sauce)
  • Miso Cod Belly (No soy sauce)
    Miso Cod Belly (No soy sauce)
  • Kingfish Belly (No soy sauce)
    Kingfish Belly (No soy sauce)
  • Cheesy Oyster (No soy sauce)
    Cheesy Oyster (No soy sauce)
  • Sea Urchin (Soy sauce)
    Sea Urchin (Soy sauce)
  • Tuna Belly (Soy sauce)
    Tuna Belly (Soy sauce)
  • Green Tea Creme Brulee
    Green Tea Creme Brulee

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Long Time No Post

Well, it has been a while hasn’t it, I guess I’ve been pretty busy lately, what with a crying (and now quite talkative) baby and all. I suppose we haven’t been going out much and I haven’t been doing a lot other than changing nappies and washing baby clothes which hasn’t left much time for any adventures (apart from the one we’re on). Thanks to Emmy for posting some nice recipes lately to keep the site afloat, I may end up re-posting some old stuff from the original Spider Lair just to get some more content on here.

Celebration Time

Celebration Time

A lot of things have happened that weren’t directly related to me, but that did affect me in some way, like, the Spurs winning the NBA championship again, yay!! This screenshot was only taken during the Portland second round series but I think it says everything, I mean Walter White is supporting the Spurs, how could they lose? And now they’ve re-signed everyone (except Baynes currently) and are ready for another crack at back to back titles for the first time, let’s hope everything goes well for 2015.

There was the World Cup which ended the way that most people thought it would (I think, I’m not that much into soccer), I was going for Argentina but too bad they couldn’t pull it off. And now most of Australia goes back to not caring about soccer and moves back to AFL, although I haven’t been paying much attention and well, Melbourne is still pretty crap, so not much to care about really.

I haven’t been on a proper holiday since Europe last September and am really itching to get away somewhere, right now I’m just combing ozbargain checking out all of the discounted airfares that pop up and the destinations hoping that something will fit into our price range and time frame, I’m sure it would be quite a bit more difficult travelling with such a little one, but even he would like to get away I’m sure :D. Right now, I’m thinking New Zealand, Japan, or USA, but it’s going to take some very discounted fares to get the job done, especially considering the extra baggage and logistics of getting around with Oscar the Monster :D.

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Bún riêu

Bún Riêu

Bún Riêu

Every summer when I was young, my mum would send me to Hanoi to stay with my grandma for a month. I remember reading lots of manga borrowed from my cousin, and playing card games with my childhood friend. It was simply too hot and humid to play outside for  long. Every morning at 7, I would go and knock on my friend’s door hoping that she was up so that we could go down to the alley way to have breakfast. She was never up, opting to sleep in every single day. In my defence, the sun rises around at 5am in Summer so it was impossible for me to sleep in. After a lot of yelling and knocking she would finally wake and we would go down to get the last few bowls of bún on offer. The seller usually packed her stall around 8-8.30am. My friend would go for bún ốc (snail noodle soup) while I would always go with bún riêu cua (crab noodle soup) since I found (and still find) the former a tad sandy. 

Bún riêu of my childhood is a simple affair and much different to its southern counterpart. It was made out of freshwater crab paste with lots of tomatoes and the secret ingredient of giấm bổng (a kind of vinegar) which gives the broth a subtle sourness. It was eaten with chopped salad leaves, purple perrila and the usual spring onion and coriander. Admittedly the seller (she also lived in the apartment block) was heavy handed with the MSG but I found this version the most wholesome of all. I tried another seller in Hanoi but the taste didn’t match and I was too snobby to ever eat it in Saigon being put off by the red colouring, fried tofu, and even pork blood cubes.

Even with the abundance of Vietnamese restaurants in Melbourne, it was impossible to find a good bowl of bún riêu since we don’t have freshwater crabs here. I once bought a frozen bag from the grocery store but couldn’t make it coagulate to form the crab cake. The version listed here is what I make with the available ingredients to satisfy my craving but it’s nowhere near as good as what the real bowl of bun rieu was in my mind.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 can of crab paste
  • 200 gr of minced pork
  • 1 egg
  • 2L of chicken stock
  • 4 tomatoes
  • some fried tofu or fish tofu (optional)
  • 1 package of dry bún (rice vermicelli)
  • To garnish
  • spring onion
  • coriander
  • chilli
  • cos lettuce, perilla leaves

_K5_9756

Method

  1. Combine the crab paste, mince pork and egg in a bowl. Add half a teaspoon of salt.
  2. Slice tomatoes into wedges and lightly stir fry until they soften but not mushed.
  3. Bring the chicken stock to a light simmer, use a table spoon to scoop the crab mixture and drop it in the stock.
  4. When crab balls start to float, add the stir fry tomatoes and tofu. You could also add some anatto oil if you want more red colour.
  5. Cook the dry bún as per instruction on the packet.
  6. Wash and slice the lettuce, perilla leaves, spring onion, coriander, and chilli
  7. Assemble the bowl with noodles, top with the salad and ladle over the soup. Add fish sauce to taste and enjoy!

_K5_9761_K5_9765_K5_9770

Q&A:

Q: Can chicken stock be substituted with beef/pork stock? Can I use stock from a can or stock cube?

A: I wouldn’t think so since we want a milk flavoured stock here. You can make the stock by boiling chicken cases with a knob of ginger, 1 tbsp of salt for about an hour.

Q: Can I use live crab instead of the one from the can?

A: You can add boiled live crab meat to the mixture but using it alone wont result in crab cake.

Q: Can I use a different brand of crab paste?

A: You could try but this one is my favourite.

Q: Can I not use mince pork?

A: Yes, in that case double the crab paste and make sure that the stock is not on high heat. Otherwise it will over boil and you won’t get any crab cake.

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Bún bò Huế

Bún bò Huế

The finished product

Bun bo hue is my favourite childhood dish. I and the neighbour kids used to religiously go to this bun bo hue stall at the market every day during the summer holidays. A bowl set us back a mere 3000 dong back then. Last time I went home, the stall was still there but the food was disappointing. The bowl was small and there was hardly any meat. I guess I’m used to the big bowl we get in Australia. We also had Bun Bo Hue in Hue but were not impressed. It could have been a tourist trap restaurant but the bun bo was so different from what we had been accustomed to. The bun was thin, there wasn’t any sliced meat, only big chunk of pork hogs which I’m not a big fan of.

Having said that, a good bowl of Bun Bo Hue is harder to come across in Melbourne than Pho. Our top choices would be Co Do and Ninh Kieu in Richmond, and Dong Ba in Footscray. While the bowl at Dong Ba is slightly too oily for my taste, Ninh Kieu offers the deepest, most flavourful version of all.

True that it uses mainly beef stock but what sets it apart from its more famous cousin Pho is the liberal use of lemongrass, the spiciness of sate and the deep flavour of Hue shrimp paste. Making Bun Bo Hue does require a fair amount of ingredients and some plan-aheads. I attempted to make this dish a few times before but was too lazy so some steps were skipped and the stock never came out as good as at the shop. 

Ingredients: (yields about 9 bowls)

  • For the stock:

1/2 kg of beef bones
1 kg of beef shin
1 large pork hock
4 stalks of lemongrass
1 onion
1 knob of ginger
Mam ruoc Hue (Hue shrimp paste)

  • Garnishing

Rice noodles (Bun Bo Hue type which is round and a bit bigger than the normal bun)
Spring onion
Coriander
Lettuce (could be cos lettuce, shredded water spinach, shredded banana blossom)
Vietnamese mint
Chilli
Lemon

  • Sate ( you could buy this in a jar from vietnamese grocery)

1 stalk of lemongrass
2 shallots
3 cloves of garlic
dried + fresh chilli
annatto seed or powder

Bún

Bún

Chilli Saté

Chilli Saté

Shrimp Paste

Shrimp Paste

Method

  • The stock

Mix 2 table spoons of mam ruoc with 1 cup of water. Use a glass or small container. Cover and let it sit overnight.
Parboil the bones, beef shin and pork hock for 5 mins. Discard the water and wash the meat and bones thoroughly.
Chargrill onion and ginger until brown. Peel the onion.
Bruise the lemongrass.
Add the meats, bones, onion, ginger, lemongrass, clear part of the mam ruoc to a large stock pot and add about 5 litres of cold water.
Add 2 tbpspn of salt
Bring to the boil and start skimming the scum.
Lower to simmer.
After an hour, remove the pork hock and submerge in a bowl of cold water.
After another half an hour remove the beef shin and submerge in water. Continue to simmer the stock for another hour or two.

  • Sate

Chop lemongrass, shallot, garlic and chilli.
In a small saucepan, add 2 tbsp of veg oil. When the oil is hot, add the lemongrass and stir for 2 mins.
Add shallot and garlic and stir for another 2 mins
Add chilli and quickly stir for another 30 sec and add it to the stock

  • Assemble

Slice the pork and beef thinly.
Cook the noodle and run it through cold water to prevent further cooking.
In a bowl, add the noodle, some meat, garnish and ladle the stock.

What could go wrong?

  • I was lazy so the first few times, I only prepared the mam a few hours prior to cooking and there wasn’t enough time which made it impossible to separate the clear part from the mam.
  • The meats do need to cool down completely before slicing. I made the mistake of slicing it right after taking out of the stock and they ended up falling apart instead.
  • If you follow the recipe, the stock is only slightly seasoned. You will need to add more fish sauce later to taste.
  • Southerners usually add a small piece of rock sugar to the stock but I didn’t think it’s needed.

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