The annual gathering of the Hogan clan (Ky's mum's side of the family) in celebration of Molly Hogan's birthday again took place up in Halls Gap in the Grampians region of Victoria. Another strong turnout of 54 ensured a great weekend, helped along by some lovely warm & sunny Autumn weather.
Heading off on Friday morning, we sneaked into our local vegan cafe, Faceplant in Geelong West for a big breakfast before hitting the road aproper. We also stocked up on a few of their yummy takeaway rolls while we had the chance! Heading West, we opted to stay on secondary roads the whole way out to Halls Gap, taking us through Inverleigh, Skipton and Pomonal before arriving into Halls Gap shortly before 3pm, about two and half hours after leaving Geelong. While the main gathering was taking place at the usual caravan park, we left our booking too late and couldn't secure accommodation there so we booked into the Gariwerd Motel instead and this was easy to find just a few hundred metres from the caravan park. After unloading the car, we headed to the caravan park to catch up with the various family members who'd already arrived and many more turned up over the next few hours. The weather was gorgeous - clear, sunny and warm - so it was very pleasant sitting outside as a group, catching up, eating (thanks Faceplant!) and enjoying a few cold ones! It was bizarre to think that one year earlier (when this same reunion was happening in the same place) we were stuck in the UK desperately trying to find a way home, such different times!
After breakfast in our motel room on Saturday morning, we returned to the caravan park to mingle with the masses. It was another stunning clear and warm day, so it was lovely just hanging out and catching up with family. After lunch, a plan started to form that saw about ten of us heading to MacKenzie Falls. The steep and winding road out of Halls Gap made the drive seem much longer than the fifteen kilometres it actually was, but we all arrived safely and enjoyed the half-hour walk down to the bottom of the falls. The paths were very busy and the majestic falls are always worth the effort. After relaxing at the bottom of the falls for a while, we scaled the steps and tracks back to the top, a pretty hefty job in the close to thirty degree afternoon sunshine! Driving back to the caravan park, it was soon time for the barbies to be fired up as the clan took over the main hall for the evening. Returning the hall to its former state by 9pm, many of us wandered down to one of the family's larger, more modern cabins and enjoyed a few drinks together to round out our socializing for the day.
Sunday saw a distinct change in the weather, starting drizzly and staying that way pretty much all day. We headed down to the caravan park late morning to see a few people off and then hung around there with the remaining dozen or so of the clan who were staying until Monday. The drizzle and showers eased off mid-afternoon so we managed to enjoy a decent long walk into and around Halls Gap, coming across kangaroos everywhere we went on what was a very quiet time in the town due to the inclement conditions. Returning to the caravan park, we cleaned up some leftovers for dinner along with a few slices of a tasty vegan sweet potato and pesto pizza from Raccolto.
It was a wet start on Monday, so we packed up fairly early to head home. Returning via Ararat and Beaufort, we hit the pleasant country town of Inverleigh at just on midday so decided to break the journey there. First stop was Sonny Wholefood Cafe & Store for an excellent oat milk latte and also a few supplies from their small but well stocked grocery section. Although the day wasn't great, it was at least dry and pretty warm so we wandered down to Lawson's Park for a picnic lunch and enjoyed a nice walk along the Barwon River, before hitting the road for the last hour or so's drive back home.
We had a great weekend enjoying the beautiful surroundings of the Grampians and catching up with family - and it was nice to make a long weekend of it now that Lee doesn't have to rush back for work on a Monday!