The Hogans hit Halls Gap - 24-27 March, 2023

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. This was the 17th such gathering and it ended up being one of the strongest ever turnouts, with 77 family members passing through the festivities across the weekend.

Our first job on Friday morning was to drop Lola off at Top Dog Pet Resort near Queenscliff. We were reluctant to pop her into kennels but we had no other options with the rest of the family all heading to the same weekend away as us. She was welcomed into the resort and we began our journey, driving only as far as Geelong to enjoy a late breakfast at our city's sole remaining vegan cafe, Feast. Leaving there at about 11am, we chose to stay on secondary roads the whole way out to Halls Gap, taking us through Inverleigh, Skipton and Pomonal before arriving into Halls Gap just after 2pm. This was perfect timing for checking-in to the annual gathering's traditional home, the NRMA Halls Gap Holiday Park. Our cabin was clean and tidy with everything we needed for our three-night break. It was a lovely sunny and clear afternoon and there were already plenty of family members milling around - and many more turned up over the next few hours! It was nice to see some people we hadn't caught up with a few years at these reunions and it was great to have access to the main hall for the evening to enjoy food and drinks together.

Saturday dawned cool but clear and a few of us walked into the main street of Halls Gap. Meeting up with several other family members, we then enjoyed the bushwalk to Venus Baths and the late morning sunshine was lovely. Wandering back down into town, we relaxed over a coffee before walking back to the caravan park for a late lunch. We then spent the afternoon catching up and watching the various kids enjoying themselves in the pool and on the tennis courts. The time passed easily and then the clan took over the main hall again for the evening. There was a lot of eating and socializing - and probably a few too many coldies! Returning the hall to its former state just before 11pm, most of us called it a night after a fun day of family activities.

It was another fine morning on Sunday and we saw off a number of the clan who were heading home ready for returning to work on Monday. A few of the remaining folks joined us for a nice stroll up to the main street, with the reward of a decent coffee once we got there! We then walked back to the caravan park for lunch, a shared affair outside to make the most of the sunshine. After lunch, we walked along the Fyans Creek as far as the Brambuk Aboriginal Cultural Centre and encountered a large number of emus very close to the track, as well as distant views of kangaroos. The walk back towards the centre of town was easier and we stopped off at the recreation ground where a large mob of kangaroos was hanging out (as usual in the late afternoon). It's always a highlight of visiting Halls Gap to see so much wildlife in its natural habitat. Returning to the caravan park, we freshened up and then joined our large Sunday night crew for dinner at the nearby Halls Gap Hotel. This busy local pub served up an excellent vegan feed (with several options) and a couple of refreshing pints of draught Flying Brick cider went down a treat too! A couple of hours of socializing back at Joan and Al's cabin rounded out another fun day.

Our fine run of weather broke on Monday, but it was time for us to head home anyway. After packing up and saying our farewells, we hit the road at about 9.30 and followed the more major roads back through Ararat and Ballarat, again ending up at Feast in Geelong - but this time for lunch! We then headed back to the kennels to pick up Lola and were pleased to hear she'd gone well over the weekend. She was excited to see us and even more excited to get back to her usual surroundings when we got home at about 2.30pm.

We had a great weekend enjoying the beautiful surroundings of the Grampians and catching up with family. It's incredible to see this annual gathering still going strong after some 17 years and it was particularly pleasing to see the younger generation so keen to attend.