8 May 2012
To say that the road trip was hectic and fast paced is a bit of an understatement. I had more fun than I’ve probably ever had, but I found myself craving some down time and a relaxed atmosphere. The Hunter Valley provided just that, and I felt it the moment that we drove into town.
We toured through the production areas, perused the shops, and ventured among the vines. We sipped on reds and whites, and then sipped on some more. When we discovered a wine that we really liked, we would take a bottle or two home with us, and enjoy it later that night.
I can officially say that I am now a big fan of Australian wines, and will be hunting them down at my local wine shop. I now understand why people dedicate entire trips to visiting Australian wine country, and wouldn’t be surprised if I return just for that aspect alone.
Aside from the wineries themselves, the Hunter Valley provided the most relaxing environment of the entire trip, and in all likelihood, any trip I’ve ever been on.
The house that we were staying in probably had a lot to do with that. The lodge at the Bluebush Estate was absolutely perfect; it was enormous, comfortable and quite secluded. There were tennis courts, a pool and a pool table. There was a huge yard, and large patio area with a long table. I couldn’t have been happier.
The moment I seem to remember the most, is when I was left alone at the house for a few hours. Everyone else had specific activities going on that day, and I was left with a little free time to get some things done and catch up on my work. I spent some time editing photos, but then decided to take a break outside on the patio. I ended up wandering around the property, and enjoying the peace and quiet. I sat with my feet in the warm pool for some time, just staring at the vineyards on the hills in the distance. It was perfect.
One of the best things we did in the Hunter Valley was riding in a hot air balloon. It was an early wake-up call, but it ended up be well worth the extra yawns.
The balloon floated silently over the valley, as the sun rose, and nature woke up around us. Birds flew beneath the basket, and small groups of kangaroos jumped around on the ground below. We soared over lakes and fields, until we finally landed in a dewy field. I had never been on a hot air balloon ride before, and it couldn’t have been a better location for a first ride.
Another great experience was visiting the Hunter Valley Zoo, where we got up close and personal with some infamous little Australian critters. It had been a longstanding theme on the #unmapped bus that we all wanted to see a wombat… especially me.
When I found out that I was going to be able to hold a baby, I almost lost it! I became so excited, and pretty much ran through the zoo to get to the wombat habitat. I will never forget looking into those little eyes, as she munched on some grass and waddled around in front of me.
At the zoo, we were also able to interact with some other animals. We fed kangaroos, held snakes and lizards, pet a koala, and got to see dingoes, crocodiles and kookaburras. I always love visiting zoos, but it was even better that we were able to see so many local animals in one place.
The Hunter Valley was the perfect spot to unwind and relax before we continued on our way to see the rest of New South Wales. We all left with a little more energy, and a greater appreciation for New South Wales wine country.