We didn't do much on these last four days of the Easter break. Not that we didn't want to do much, it's just the weather was not all that inviting. I guess this is something we'll have to learn to live with given that it would only grow worse over the next few months, but never mind that for now.
So we decided to do something with ourselves on the last day off work, and we picked Emerald Lake. It's right near a place called Emerald, which according to the GPS is 46km east of where we live, somewhere in the Dandenong ranges (a rather shallow mountain to Melbourne's east).
Emerald is probably known best for being the last station on Puffing Billy, which is this steam train line that goes for about 15km between Belgrave and Emerald Lake, passing between some nice scenery. We've been there once, like three years ago or more when Australia was still brand new to us and Jo was still living in Sydney (an era now referred as "the Dark Ages"). That Poof-ing Billy is nice, but it's definitely a kids' thing, unless you're a train freak (and I don't know anyone in Israel who is, simply because there are none worth mentioning beyond Thomas the tank engine's age).
Anyway - off we drove to Emerald Lake. And I'll start with the conclusion: It felt like we were revisiting Scotland. What a rip off of a place!
Parking is $2 an hour ($6 for the whole day), but the parking ticket machines are those evil type that we first met in England but never met before in Australia: If you put, say, $3, they won't give you an hour and a half; you have to put either $2 or $4 or $6. Anything other than that just gets gobbled up without giving you any extras (or change).
For that price you expect decent facilities, but you don't get much. In an Australian first, the toilets were shit (pun intended): Jo had to be picky because in the first toilet contraption she visited the doors wouldn't look (and her report specified that booths are too big to keep the doors shut with your foot, yet I'm sure this is more information than most would expect).
They have some certain bridges crossing the lakes - which, granted, are nice although on the smaller side of things - more like ponds. These bridges are closed down.
And they have this model railway exhibit, claiming for that most Australian of titles - the longest in the "southern hemisphere" (personally I think "the biggest in the entire continent" sounds more pompous even if it's a lesser title, but that's material for another blogentry). Interesting, don't you agree? Yet, once you're inside, you face this nice sign telling you it's $5.50 per admission. Makes you want to go inside just to break it all down with a sledgehammer; you can call that charity work, because you'll be saving lots of families the trouble of fighting with the kids that don't really appreciate the value of money just to go inside and see a miniature train going about.
Anyway, not recommended. You get ripped off Scotland style, but you don't get the nice things back that we got when we were in Scotland (you just get fucked).
I even forgot to take my camera, which was a bit of a pity because it's now autumn and the trees are all different colors. So I took a photo with my PDA. It's shit, but it's the closest I recommend you get to Emerald Lake.