Millebournes to Melbourne

Saturday, April 21, 2007

This was it. The great three day trek from one shining Australian city to another. So it was fitting that, in my attempt to take the tunnel and faster route out of Sydney rather than the bridge into city centre, that I took a wrong turn. There would be no fast way on this trek, it was all about seeing as much as I could en route and I was starting right in Sydney whether I meant to or not. It took a couple more turns and getting stuck going the wrong way looking for somewhere to turn around before I found myself on the expressway out of Sydney, and it was worth it. The trip out was pretty smooth and the traffic kept flowing quite freely, contrary to previous drives through Sydney. My first stop was a place called Loftus, where I was to take a left and head into the Royal National Park south of Sydney. So I was quite fortunate to see the turn off considering that it was actually still in the sprawl of Sydney and not some small town outside of it. Thus began my trip down the Grand Pacific Drive.

The Royal National Park itself was a pretty nice drive. It never quite reached the coast, so I took the liberty (in spite of not having a pass) of driving down towards Wattamolla to look at the beach there. It was actually pretty nice, a little peninsula of sand at the mouth of some forest river. I also jogged to the curve in the Sea Clif Bridge, a bridge floating over the ocean along a cliff face. Unfortunately, as I was running behind because I tried (and failed) to switch my phone to Telstra and then decided to top it up before my trip and, long story short, I left Sydney at noon with some Krispy Kremes and using Vodaphone. So, although the itinerary Dave gave me called for me to arrive in Thredbo Village and spend the night in a YHA there, it was already dusk by the time I reached Shellharbour. I used the last rays of light to gets some photos of the Crooked River vineyard and then decided I wasn’t going to drive through all the scenery in the dark, so I went along to Bateman’s Bay and spent the night there. My roommates were Dutch and German and both computer programmers and project leaders. I chatted with both of them for a while and read my new novel, Michael Connelly’s The Closers, before going to bed. Since I was now behind schedule, I resolved to wake at sunrise and hit the road shortly after, which meant an early sleep.

I woke at 6AM, showered, and hit the road. Unfortunately, today was mostly overcast, but it really didn’t ruin anything. I took the turn from Bega towards Cooma along the Snowy Mountain Highway and … yes … into the Snowy Mountains. Which, given the season, the weather, and the fact that they were burning a lot of brush to prevent wildfires, should’ve instead called Smoky Mountains instead. Still, it was a beautiful drive through green hills and purple wild flowers and small rustic cottages with windmills spinning. Plus, it being fall, or autumn as they most certainly call it here, there was a lot of colour in the drive. I got to Jindabyne, which is actually on an alpine lake, and took a little walk before grabbing lunch at Banana’s Café. The best burger I’ve had since Fergburger, oh so long ago. I also stopped at the information desk, luckily for me. Dave had told me to drive from Tom Groggin through towards Mt. Beauty, but the people there informed me it was a 4WD track with a decent river crossing right at the beginning. Plus I’d need maps and so on. So, new plan. Up to Khancoban, across to Corryong, and then see where the wind takes me.

It was a beautiful drive along the Alpine Way. Some parts had trees completely devoid of any leaves, others were covered in vines and still others were full of fall colours. I wasn’t supposed to stop anywhere in the park either, but I did several times for photos. I passed through Thredbo Village, which was pretty quiet for the time being but looked like a great little ski village, and also at the Murray 1 Power Station, which had free tours. I figured I’d take a look and see if they had any Startco equipment. Unfortunately, the tour wasn’t with an engineer and I couldn’t see much for security reasons, but it was a worthwhile stop. The Snowy Mountains Scheme is an intricate system of dams and pipes stretching kilometers and kilometers to feed them, and all told, the dams in the Snowy Mountains produce something like 45% of all of Australia’s power. Consider that in terms of Canada, and imagine all of the power coming from one place as a result of this plan. Environmentalists might bemoan its success, but I think it’s terrific and the long term effect will definitely be more positive than all of that energy coming from coal.

Anyway, at last I crossed the border into Victoria, arrived in Corryong, and got some idea of what lay ahead from the tourist information. A very lovely woman helped a lot and showed me where I could camp and things to see, and as I sat in my car with maps splayed out she ran out one more map of a drive I could do called the Snowy Valleys Way, and I was set. Not far in the road was following a little stream lined with trees overhanging it. Eventually, I’d had enough of this gorgeous little stream following me along and took a small dirt road to walk along it. It was hard to capture, but a really lovely stream passing through who knows how many peoples’ land and I strolled a path on the side of it for a while looking for the picture I had in my head. I didn’t quite find it, but it was a nice walk anyway.

I continued the trail through, past Tallangatta, a town whose sign exclaims “The town that moved in the 1950’s!”. I didn’t stop to find out why, but I did stop for petrol and discover that Betsy’s radiator must be leaking as I was out of coolant. I gave her a big drink of water and we carried on, stopping outside the town to see a valley full… FULL of charred black trees surrounded by green grass and snaky ponds and lakes; Very spectacular to behold. It was all the more so because most of the surrounding land had gone from green hills into more dry and arid ones. Already, I was racing the sun, and I debated carrying on to Yackanandah and camping versus heading down to Mt. Beauty (my original destination for the day) to spend the night. I decided Dave must’ve had a reason for recommending it and that they did have a hostel (according to him), so I turned off the path arriving there just after sunset. No hostel or much of anything, but they did have a campground. I decided to decide over dinner, which was some Chinese food, and when I stepped back outside, it had gotten quite chilly. Over dinner, I read in the Lonely Planet that Bright had a hostel, and it wasn’t too far, so I trucked over there and spent the night.

Friday, I was due into Melbourne by 3. I woke up plenty early and hit the road at about 8:30. The man running the hostel had recommended taking a shortcut through Milawa to get back to the main highway (the Hume), and I followed his advice, soon finding myself in the Milawa Gourmet Region. I remembered reading about the area in Lonely Planet the night before, and decided that since I was so ahead of schedule, I’d explore the area a bit. It was too early for wine, so my first stop was a cheese factory. I tried a bunch of cow’s milk and goat’s milk cheeses and picked up some peppery goat’s cheese for the road. The girl there told me I should check out EV Olives, nearby, and also recommended stopping at the mustard shop in Milawa. I drove off to check out the olives and was greeted by the owner of this large olive grove, who drove off on a tractor. I liked that it was so big and yet he was still there working with everyone else. I tried all sorts of oils and olives and wound up buying a bottle of oil and olives and getting a good price for them. Good for salads I’d be making.

Then, I stopped at the Brown Brothers vineyard and did indeed taste some wines. Nothing really stood out, but I tried a Merlot I enjoyed and decided to pick that up as thanks to Marietta for letting me stay with her. I also wanted to stop at a walnut grove and for some fresh honey, but the former was closed and I didn’t know what I would do with the latter without some of dad’s yogurt, so I drove into Milawa and stopped at the mustard store. Which, interestingly, was probably one of the better places I’ve stopped. Though I didn’t buy anything, again because I had no idea what I’d do with it, I did try all their 15 or so mustards, which were delicious. They didn’t grind the mustard seed and they were flavoured perfectly. Lemon-dill, hot honey, some with horseradish, and one mustard so hot that it made me cry. I probably could’ve bought some crackers, in retrospect, and just ate them with this mustard, but too late now. You also have to remember that I’m not really a mustard fan, so when I tell you these were good, they were good.

But time was dwindling, so I followed one last recommendation from the woman at EV Olives, and had lunch at the King River Café, further along towards Melbourne. It was aubergine parmagiana, a really neat idea, and pretty tasty, with a pear salad which was less interesting but still tasty. And by now it was 11:30, and Melbourne was still about three hours away, so I set off. I made good time for the most part, although their speed cameras here average speed between two cameras so I had to, at great difficulty, not speed, even though other traffic was. I wound up following traffic anyway, so hopefully I don’t have a pile of tickets waiting for me when I got to register my car again. I got into Melbourne at 2:15 and made my way through the city, following Marietta’s directions, and met her on Chapel Street. They have some really cool clothes here, had I money and an unlimited backpack, but I’ll definitely be picking up some stuff before leaving. In particular, I stopped at a store called CM’s that is a local designer and saw some stuff I’ve never seen back home that was actually pretty reasonably priced.

And so, I’m now here. I’ve met with Marietta, who, in case I hadn’t mentioned, is friends with a cousin of mine, and have a nice little bed in the living room. She took me out last night to a place that was huge and lined up further than you could imagine, and we walked right in which was pretty nice. New here and already strolling right in, though, let’s be honest, I can’t even do that at home. I met a bunch of her friends, many of whom are Macedonian, and we had a good albeit late night (considering I’d had a long day). My recompense for her hospitality was being the DD for the night, which was fine anyway and much cheaper besides. Plus, at Marietta’s suggestion, we got some HJ’s (BK’s for those back home now), which meant the tradition was being carried on. And now, after some exploring, it’s job hunting time. I just hope it doesn’t keep raining the whole time.

Millebournes to Melbourne Photos

No comments: