Recapping Anne Blackwood’s 2019 Ghost Mushrooms Tour

Ghost Mushrooms Tour

Images thanks to Anne Blackwood, Alastair Browne and Melinda Sextant

Organiser of tremendous tours Anne Blackwood recently steered her latest spectacular, the Ghost Mushrooms Tour, which saw members head out over late May and early June, 2019, to see the Ghost Mushrooms near Mt. Gambier. Alastair Browne has kindly shared some of his experiences from the tour, and you can enjoy them in his story below!

Ghost Mushrooms Tour

Highlight of the trip – the Ghost Mushrooms

“Omphalotus nidiformis” – Lotus Winter Ghost Mushroom Tour 2019

By Alastair Browne

Images thanks to Anne Blackwood, Alastair Browne and Melinda Sextant

“OK everyone; please turn off your torches… Now, those with the red lights on their torches, turn them off”, said the tour guide.  There was a deathly silence, darkness and then… the Ghost Mushrooms, the raison d’etre of the tour, bioluminescent natives to the region not found anywhere else in the world in this sort of concentration, began to glow.

Then began the “oooos” and “aaaahs” at this magnificent sight deep in the forest near Mt Gambier, where it was pommie drizzling and cold.  However, we were rugged up and prepared.  The young tour guide was excellent and helpful in her presentation.  Melinda insisted on lying down amongst the mushrooms hoping for the money shot of the glowing mushrooms, which were poisonous.  When it was completely dark, someone said, “I can feel two hands on my shoulders”, to which some wag replied, “That’s a large wombat”.

After the excitement, it was back to the Barn on the eastern side of Mt Gambier.  The Barn was the best accommodation on tour.  My room was almost as big as a tennis court and I had the luxury of a spa bath so, on return, I started it up with my washing going round and round.  Then I made the mistake of getting in – a mistake ‘cos I couldn’t get out.  Who ya gonna call?  Ghost Mushroom Busters.  Not being a pretty sight, I struggled for 15 mins and finally made it out, exhausted!

Anne Blackwood’s tours are not to be missed, and for this one we agreed to meet at Pheasant’s Nest on Monday 27 May.  It was a shocker of a day, a portent of what was to come.  A few met up and on leaving, my 1988 Supra, the oldest and least expensive car on tour, started to cough and splutter so I went into Mittagong where the NRMA directed me to Laurie Stewart Automotive in Lyell Street.

No sooner had I completed the paperwork when a mechanic started on the job and had it all fixed in an hour.  Now Laurie Stewart is no longer on the tools but he was famous for racing minis years ago and sold the most expensive, fastest, fast back Mini to a fellow on the Northern Beaches – or that’s where it has supposedly ended up where the current owner was alleged to have paid $150,000 for it..  Now, if I’d gone into a garage in Sydney, I would probably have been told to come back at 4pm – or even the next day but I was on my way within an hour.

Ghost Mushrooms Tour

Breakfast at Wangaratta

The miserable drive included two long slowdowns for road works, one of which enabled me to eat a filthy drive-through burger and I finally made it to Wangaratta just after the others arrived having had time for a fancy lunch on the way.  In my rush to greet others in the underground carpark, I smashed a bottle of very expensive Port ($5 at Aldi).

Dinner was quite a formal affair, with the intellectual content of the conversation rising as more grape juice was consumed. This seemed to happen each night.  Tonight it was about AE2, the Australian submarine which broke through the defenses of the Dardanelles.

On Tuesday we had a great drive in the drizzle through Yarck (great sandwiches and pies), Bonnie Doon (no water in the river) to Yea for coffee.  Then through Yarra Glen (where I was awarded the prestigious President’s Choice Trophy for the Marcos 2 years ago in the Fly the Flag Tour for 200 cars) and thence to the boring motorway drive to Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsular.  It was freezing cold, but the ice cream shop was a beauty!

We lined up for the ferry, which was very smooth in spite of the weather, and disembarked at Queenscliff for the short drive to our ancient hotel called the Vue Grand.  No lifts.  Cold rooms, but very comfortable beds.  The pub across the road for dinner was excellent.

Ghost Mushrooms Tour

The 12 (Well, now 7.5) Apostles

The day dawned bleakly on Wednesday with lots of rain. Cold comfort for those who ventured from their cars to see 7.5 Apostles.  The rain stopped briefly at Loch Ard Gorge, where I took a quick walk to see the sea boiling around what was left of the structure.

After Apollo Bay, the road became exciting, with possibly a little black ice around.  I stopped for a Werris at Port Campbell and the wind almost tore my clothes off before I made the latrines.  More spirited driving to Port Fairy, a welcome relief and Happy Hour, courtesy of Bill and Jynell.  Bill’s olives marinated in his own recipe were beaut.  Anne and Melinda presented me with some fluffy white dice which they’d found in SuperCheap.  I had promised to bring my yellow fluffy dice but completely forgot so now I had a pair to match the car!  We all chanced the local Chew and Spew that night.

Thursday was still damn cold but Portland was worth a visit with the wood chip loader going full tilt, literally, as the trucks drive up the ramp which then grips it before emptying the contents into a massive mound of chips.  Another spirited drive along the coast road led to Mt Gambier and our best accommodation at The Barn.  The first night we went mushroom-hunting.

The next day was a free day and Cliff and Janice kindly took me in their four wheel drive to Port Macdonnell.  It was here that we saw Feast’s Motor Museumm, which specialises in Chryslers and memorabilia.  A huge collection and we had a personalized guided tour.  Then it was Happy Hour at my joint.

During the day Mike and Mandy had searched the op shops high and low and found an almost mint copy of Barry Crocker’s “Please don’t go” LP, presenting it to me as it has the aforesaid Barry standing in a Marcos GT coupe like mine.  Thanks very much for your thoughts.  In Australian rhyming slang, to have a “Barry” means to have a shocker!

Dinner was a rather grand affair. Thanks to all those who bought prestigious bottles of falling down liquid!

On Saturday 1 June, we headed to Bendigo and the olde worlde Shamrock Hotel.  What a shambles with the parking a long walk away, cold small rooms and the owner’s wife looking like Patsie in Ab Fab!  And trying to charge us for two nights!!  And then I had to call the concierge to unlock my room when I got back after dinner. They did a great breakfast though.

Ghost Mushrooms Tour

The Cayman

We got off to a flying start once we had lugged our ports up and down stairs and ramps to the car park on Sunday with my TomTom taking me down many C roads, which were great for driving, to Echuca.  I met up with Michael driving the fab Posh Cayman 718S in brilliant orange, for lunch before we went to sea on a paddle steamer.  The river has 16 locks and the water levels are always controlled, which was news to me as I thought it depended on rainfall.  We also learned that they now leave dead trees to rot in the river as they make very good breeding grounds for fish.  That night we were all chauffeured to dinner at the Bowlo where, believe it or not, one of our number joined up for $5 so we could all get discount on what we ordered!

After fond farewells the next morning, we all went different ways.  I found the back way from Wagga to Gundagai, which is a fabulous road.  I met up with Cliff, Janice (Florence) Don and Elaine for our last dinner together at the RSL.

Then it was homeward bound on the Tuesday, up the boring freeway passing snow-covered hills around Goulburn.  Oh no!  What’s the engine light come on for?  I stopped at Bookham only to find the dipstick had jumped up half an inch, probably after going over some bump, so no problem at all.  After 3000 kilometers I was home having had a fabulous time with friends from Club Lotus.  Well done Anne for organizing such a great tour and thanks to all the participants.  We had such a fun time.

Alastair Browne

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