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We are often asked how things are recovering after the December bushfire. I’m happy to say, really well! Already all fire affected properties have been cleared up. The Sep Ck bridge now has a footbridge and … Paddys Path, the vital link between Wye and Separation Ck, has reopened. Yess!!

Over 40 landowners and their families joined a community working bee, and now hundreds of seedlings welcome you at each end of Paddys Path.


Bird nesting boxes are starting to appear in local trees.

There is a back story about how this happened. Told here for the first time.

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It all sounds so simple, but as permanent residents Sibylle and I decided after the fire that we had two choices – we could be victims or we could be part of the solution. We decided to work behind the scenes to make things happen, and Paddy’s Path and the planting are some that we had a part in.

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Roderick explaining how truffles grow under ground under the oaks on his farm.

Roderick explaining how truffles grow under ground under the oaks on his farm.

Roderick Poole’s Truffle hunt and Truffle degustation meal was a highlight of our year so far and a life ambition realised for both of us.  It seemed an impossible dream to actually see how truffles are grown and harvested, and Roderick delivered it beautifully (without us having to get onto a plane and fly to France).

About 25 locals and visitors gathered in the kitchen of Roderick’s homely Wongarrra farm, half way between Wye River and Apollo Bay for a welcoming truffle on soft boiled egg, a cup of coffee and a talk by the amazing Michelin star French chef, Romu.

Romu has worked in Paris but is now sharing his skills and passion for French food in Australia. He has published a truffle book so is the right man for today. His explanation of how truffles are best used in a variety of dishes was wonderful and inspiring. Later we had his full seven course degustation meal, wow,  to die for.

Romu explaining how to cook with truffles. We had 7 small courses including ice cream with truffles.

Romu explaining how to cook with truffles. We had 7 small courses including ice cream with truffles.

But first we joined Roderick in the Oak grove seeing how truffles are harvested.  Riley, the clever rescue Border collie who has been trained for truffle hunting did a magnificent job. He  sniffed around and and then suddenly would drop with his paws showing the exact truffle location and sure enough, there it was, the black lump (often called Black Diamonds because they are expensive) with the enticing aroma.  Within a few hours Roderick had unearthed several kilos ranging from as small as a pea to a whopper the size of a potato, weighing almost 200gm!

Riley the truffle hunting dog

Riley the truffle hunting dog

After the hunt we had a tour of the farm, a model of healthy food production and a panoramic view of the coastline.

Back at the long festive table, we indulged in course after delicate course based on Truffle created by Romu.  Our favourite was the 6 hour slow cooked beef cheek.  The Pinot Noir from the local Gosling Ck winery was a perfect complement.  We followed our noses through the 7 course guide complete with recipes and and at a whim we could visit Romu in the kitchen at the other end of the big space and watch him in action, focused, and with a sense of humor for the observers.

Wongarra Farm oak trees with truffles underneath

Wongarra Farm oak trees with truffles underneath

Roderick is planning to make these regular winter events but we lucked in to be at the inaugural Truffle hunt and meal.  5 stars Roderick and Romu!

Roderick is offering weekly Truffle hunts on the farm each Sunday at the moment, check here for info – http://wongarrafarm.com.au/truffes-a-la-ferme/


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Sea Zen guests have a different view

Some weeks ago, some German guests who stayed at our Sea Zen accommodation Yella and Samuel shared gadget ideas with us.  We showed them hidden stuff about screens and water supply.  They showed us their drone and the magic gadget that heals insect bites instantly.

Here are their pics taken by drone on their day out to the Cape Otway Lightstation.  Apparently it can fly 5km out to sea and return to the same place by pressing a button.  It can also be pointed at your car as you drive along. A good reminder of how spectacular the view is along our Otways coast.

drone 2 600

I’d be getting nervous here in case it didn’t come back!

drone1 lighthouse


The drone is on my Xmas list!




It’s symbolic that the trees are sprouting all over the burned area high in Separation Creek.

Here is the worst burned area, just in the last days of clean up by Grocon, who have done a great job of removing the burned houses, and peace returns to our village.

cleanup done 450

Down at Sea Zen, we are unaffected by the fire and gaze out to the moody sea and feed the birds, as always.

Have you ever wondered what happens in the bush 3 months after a hot fire?

My daughter and I decided to find out.  We walked deep in the bush on a foggy day.

Bizarre fantasy land

It was a bizarre fantasy land, bare soil and silent trees, no birds.

Foggy and MJ 400

The trees initially looked black and lifeless, but on closer inspection they were swelling and renewing.   Bursts of green triangles, soon to be leaves.  Bark splitting from the swelling, with strips peeling off, red inside, black outside.  The black trunks streaked with vertical white stripes.

Purple bubbles!

I suddenly stopped.  Right at eye height was a cluster of blue-purple bubbles.  They shimmered in the wind. The eucalypt sap pushing out must have done this.


Here is a clip of the shimmer and micro world.

And in this micro world, more signs of life with a lone bull ant explorer prowling the tree trunk.  Sure enough, nearby the ground had fresh pockmark holes of an active bull ant colony.  It must have been deep enough to have survived the fire.

Nearby green shoots of native grasses pushed up through the baked soil.  In other places fungi under logs somehow survived the heat too.

Ghost camp

Then I remembered the ghost camp.  A place on a hill deep in the bush where years ago, campers had abandoned their tents. My daughter wasn’t sure if it was just a tall story.

A hill looked familiar and we followed old wheel marks to the top.   No tents could have survived the fire.  It took a while and there sure enough, there it was.  A roll of aluminium foil.  A grainy pile that would once have been muesli.  On the ground three lines in a triangle.  Remnants of fiberglass poles that once held a tent, and another three marking the second tent.  ‘So there really was a camp!’, my daughter surprised that the ghost camp really existed.

Ghost camp traces. tent poles make a triangle

Ghost camp traces. tent poles make a triangle


Here was the abandoned camp before the fire, from a different angle!

Ghost camp

Back on the road, it was possible to see the outline of old logging tracks, invisible in the normal bush, now revealed in a once in a generation event.   We could also start to piece together how the fire had burned.  In some places the trees had brown leaves, scorched by the fire but unburned.  In others near the road, not a trace of a leaf at the tops as the fire had burned hot and high, taking everything.

In the silence we could hear just our footsteps, but no, there were small signals of more life.  Tiny forest wrens were exploring the logs, little bell chirps around us.

Slowly the forest is coming back to life.  It will be fascinating to watch in the months ahead.

Dramatic scenes in early April as Japanese drummers came to Wye River beach to celebrate the sculptures by expert sculptor Shoso Shimbo. The sound overwhelmed the sound of the sea.

The sculptor put finishing touches to his work by adding new flowers to the work which was made from remnants of the fires.  A kind of symbolism of renewal.

Here is how the drummers looked through the archway of the sculpture.

We from Sea Zen enjoyed the closing ceremony.  It was also nice to revisit the other work, a spiral labyrinth made from items from the ashes, and the 10 smaller works in the shop and the pub.  Some cultural enrichment for us personally, and our thanks to the Lorne community and the Lorne Sculpture Biannale folks.

Drummers stay at Sea Zen too!

It’s a small world, and I’ve discovered Mia and Nik from the Wadaiko Rindo drummers are past Sea Zen guests!  Here they are second left, front and back, with the other drummers.


Anyone who wants an impressive performance, I can recommend them – contact Mia at mia@wadaikorindo.com

We are being treated to a nightly sound and light show, courtesy of some new lights at Separation Creek bridge which is being replaced.

During the day a crane make easy work of concrete beams, and a single lane slows passing cars.

At night bright lights illuminate everything.  The bridge, the silent crane, the beach.

Separation Creek bridge near Sea Zen

Night light shows waves near Sep Ck bridge

Best of all the breaking waves come to life at night as the foam lights up in a black backdrop.  The sounds changes as the waves break.

The sound and life show goes all night. Cool!

Sea Zen may be in wilderness, but we are surrounded by outstanding restaurants where you can celebrate a special occasion with a fantastic meal!
The Age Good Food Guide 2016 edition agrees. Hot off the press a week ago, it lists four places with prestigious hat ratings within an hour’s drive of Sea Zen.
The list includes the amazing Brae at Birregurra that has burst into the world’s top 100 restaurants after just a few years. Brae was also named the Regional Restaurant of the Year while owner Dan Hunter was named Chef of the Year.

Bon Appetit!

A la Greque (1 hat) http://www.alagrecque.com.au/ Tel. (03) 5289 6922 Corner of Great Ocean Road and Beach Road, Aireys Inlet, Victoria

A la Greque (1 hat)
Tel. (03) 5289 6922
Corner of Great Ocean Road and Beach Road, Aireys Inlet, Victoria

Chris’s at Beacon point (1 hat) http://chriss.com.au/home.html tel. 03 5237 6411 280 Skenes Creek Rd.,Apollo Bay, 3233

Chris’s at Beacon point (1 hat)
Tel. 03 5237 6411
280 Skenes Creek Rd.,Apollo Bay, 3233

Gladioli 2 hats http://gladiolirestaurant.com.au/ tel. (03) 5265 1111 14 High St, Inverleigh VIC 3321

Gladioli (2 hats)
Tel. (03) 5265 1111
14 High St, Inverleigh VIC 3321

Brae 3 hats (also in Michelin Top 100 restaurants in the world) http://braerestaurant.com/ Tel. 03 5236 2226 4285 Cape Otway Rd. Birregurra, Vic.

Brae (3 hats -also in  Top 100 restaurants in the world)
Tel. 03 5236 2226
4285 Cape Otway Rd. Birregurra, Vic.

Looks like our local roads department has brought in a new lawn mower. The best places to see kangaroos when you stay at Sea Zen are – on the walk up the Dollar track behind Sea Zen in the village of Separation Creek, it’s about a one and half km walk. Or you can do a 10 minutes drive to St Georges River (back towards Lorne) and they are always on the paddock hill with the horses at dusk. Good luck!
kangaroo vic roads lawn mower sml

20-beach-sea-photography SMLA walk in the forest or along the beach may soothe the mind and, in the process, change the workings of our brains in ways that improve mental health, according to a recent study of the physical effects on the brain of visiting nature.
Previous studies found many city folks with little access to green spaces have a higher incidence of psychological problems than people who visit natural landscapes.

In the study reported in the New York times, researchers studied blood flow to brains for subjects in peaceful settings versus busy city settings.  “Our study strongly suggest that getting out into natural environments could be an easy and almost immediate way to improve moods for city dwellers” one of the authors said.
More here