Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Yanakie to Melbourne - 25th July

Waking up in the Black Cockatoo cabins, over looking The Prom (as locals supposedly call it) was fantastic. The clouds were low over the horizon and the sun was just peeping through so we could pretend it was sunrise when it was in fact about 8 o'clock. After a leisurely breakfast and a slow car pack, we reluctantly left. There was still nobody around, both the cabins and main house still having no sign of life.
The plan was to head along the coast road into Melbourne, however I needed a BP service station (more on this in later posts) and I had also noticed and amusingly-named town which needed visiting - Poowong. Those who know me know that my humour leans towards the juvenile and dictates that even vaguely rude-sounding towns must be visited. Smoo Cave and Twatt (both in Scotland) being prime examples.
The TomTom again decided a gravel track would be more interesting and sent us through some gorgeous countryside en route to the scatologically-themed town. Poowong is tiny. There is a Post Office, a service station, a café, a hall (called Poowong Hall), a large building of indeterminate purpose with a giant "POOWONG" painted on it, and a general store. It was to this last shop I headed to hopefully purchase lots of postcards, write "Hahahahahahahaha!" on the back, and send to everyone I know. The shop seemed deserted and it was only after triggering an old-fashioned bell upon entering that a small, buggy-eyed woman appeared from somewhere out of the dark recesses of the building. I asked her about postcards and she said they didn't have any but they did have a bumper sticker for $5. Her tone implied that she knew exactly why I wanted postcards and that quite possibly I was not the only one who had ventured off the beaten path simply to visit a town that starts with "poo". I of course played dumb and pretended to be passing through on the way to Korumburra, but I think her eyes gave her magical powers and she saw straight through me. After the obligatory photo outside the mystery building, Yvette tried the local café for postcards. Apparently the Post Office had them, but being Saturday they were shut. She seemed oddly surprised that people wanted Poowong postcards. Was the hilly dairy country really that interesting? On the way out we passed the Poowong Milk Depot which gave us one last giggle.
Heading down to Inverloch took us through the beautiful mountainous dairy country from which we could eventually see the south coast again. As it was Saturday there were more cars on the road then we had been used to which was a little annoying, but somehow we coped. The town of Inverloch seems geared towards summer visitors from Melbourne. There is a lot of touristy shops and real estate agents with windows full of weekender properties for wealthy Melburnians. Enticed by the promise of 50 different kinds of pies advertised by the local bakery, we parked and headed in. Although there did seem to be 50 pies listed on a large board, not all were available, in particular the two vegetarian ones Yvette was interested in. Do vegetarians not visit the south coast in Winter? In the end she settled for a bacon and egg pie which apparently could have used some cheese.
After a not-very-successful attempt to make some brewed coffee in the car (the brewing worked, the coffee tasted awful) we took the winding, scenic route along the coast road via Cape Paterson. It was quite windy and therefore quite cold and we only stopped once at Eagle's Nest lookout to look out over Venus Bay and to take a few photographs. The road continued on until it turned into the Bass Highway which took us in towards Melbourne.
The freeways into Melbourne are wide and easy to navigate and it was surprising to see so much farmland so close to the city. Coming from cities such as Brisbane and Sydney whose urban sprawl-cancer spreads in all directions, it was heartening. This time the TomTom was good and took us directly where we needed to go, quickly and without any strange detours or road choices. We arrived at my friend David's place about 4pm and after unpacking and catching up decided the local pub would be a good place for dinner. A little overpriced for a suburban hotel, the food was still good and the servings massive. Coupled with a Guinness and a Carlton Draught it was just what we needed. David's spare bed futon is insanely comfortable and even though it wasn't a long day of driving, we slept very, very well. Again.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Marlo to Yanakie - 24th July

Today was going to be a big drive. We had planned on staying at Port Albert but on advice from my friend David in Melbourne, we decided to look further afield. After looking at various B&Bs around the national parks, I consulted the Lonely Planet which recommended some cabins outside a tiny place called Yanakie on the way to Wilsons Promontory. At $130 a night, they were slightly over our budget, but they sounded fantastic. When I called however, the woman who answered told me they were having a winter special and that it would be only $110. Sold and sold - we were booked in.
Leaving Marlo reasonably early (9.30) we avoided Lakes Entrance (again on a friend's recommendation) and again headed back up into the hills to a town called Bruthen where we filled up, checked out the local op shop and tested the quality of the local bakery's baked goods. From here you can head up into the Snowys however, as was explained to me by the service station owner, you need to stop and fit chains to the car tyres. Hmm...
Port Albert was going to be our lunch stop as the fish and chips there were not only recommended by Alf and Jane but had won awards. Where and what awards they had won wasn't clear, but we had to try them. The drive from Bruthen through Bairnsdale and on was again, lovely forest country with very few people on the roads. It was only spoiled by entering the town of Sale where we stopped briefly and departed as quickly as we could. The Lonely Planet puts it diplomatically - "has little to excite the traveler".
Next stop was Port Albert which seemed practically deserted. Perhaps it was the cold wind coming off Bass Strait, or perhaps it was because hardly anyone seemed to live there. We found the aforementioned fish and chips and they did live up to their reputation. Toughing out the cold, we found a table and ate our food under the watchful glare of a gang of rather forward seagulls. After lunch, we drove past the accommodation I had been looking at online and were both glad we'd decided to look further afield. I'm sure Port Albert is lovely in Summer but in Winter, it's pretty much a ghost town. A windy, cold ghost town.
After a small detour to check out Port Welshpool, another possible stay and another deserted coastal town we were happy we weren't staying in, we hugged the coast road around to Yanakie. In Toora we took a quick detour up a rather steep hill to check out a rather impressive wind farm. Obviously they knew what they were doing when they chose the location - the wind was blowing hard and the noise from the windmill blades was incredible.
I had programmed the location of The Black Cockatoo cabins into the TomTom and we had been using it to guide us around. When I asked for directions it asked me if I wanted to avoid unpaved roads and I said 'no', assuming that the cabins might be on a dirt road. What it then decided was that the quickest way to get to where we were going was to get off the Princes Highway and follow a gravel track called Black Swamp road. As we drove along, surrounded only by farmland, cows and hedges, meeting no other traffic and with no mobile phone reception we wondered what the TomTom was thinking. Still, we didn't break down and it was a very pretty drive. Eventually we met the main road we probably should have come in on and in no time we were at Black Cockatoo Cabins.
After 7 hours on the road we were looking forward to a lie down and possibly a hot bath however there was nobody in the reception area which seemed to be the back door of the owner's house. Two bemused dogs watched us through the window. After leaving a note, I found a receipt for our night's accommodation which had the cabin number so we headed down, found the key in the door and unpacked.
The view was stunning. The front of the cabin was all glass and looked out onto Corner Inlet on the eastside of Wilsons Promontory. Neither of the two other cabins were occupied and with nobody in the main house, we were completely alone looking out over farmland and water. It was a little bit odd, but liberating and absolutely wonderful. We were even more glad that Port Albert and Port Welshpool had been avoided. I really was quite tired after the drive and had a bit of a lie down while Yvette filled up the bath for a long overdue soak. We collaborated on an easy dinner of pasta and finished the night with watching So You Think You Can Dance before crashing out.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Cobargo to Marlo - July 23rd

Well, we knew the day would come when we would have to leave Alf and Jane's but we didn't expect it to come around so quickly. The two weeks of rest and relaxation flew by and suddenly it was time to pack and start the trip. We will be eternally grateful to the Solti's for a) suggesting we should take a long break between leaving Sydney and traveling and b) giving us the time, place and space to do so. As such, it was was again with mixed emotions that we once again got on the move.
Our last night was Wednesday night and Alf made an absolutely amazing pumpkin gnocchi with a bacon butter sauce. We dragged out the absinthe and had a couple of those as well as a few wines and beers. I had to play the boring grown-up and call a halt at midnight as the drive the next day was about 4 hours. It was a shame, it was one of those nights that we could have drunk and talked until the early hours.
Thursday morning was not too bad considering. We showered, ate, drank lots of coffee and packed. Somehow, even though we now had less than when we arrived, packing the car was still like some insane jigsaw (which Yvette managed with aplomb) and the car seemed just as full. Saying goodbye to Alf and Jane was a wrench and for the first hour we were both feeling a bit sad.
We had been told by a Cobargo local that the Princes Highway was not the best option and that it would be better to take the Snowy Mountains highway and then the Monaro highway down south. It meant heading up into the mountains on a fairly windy road, but the views and the landscape were beautiful. I had never seen alpine gum forest and like a Sunday driver on valium, we pootled along taking it all in.
We had been told to stop in Cann River as it had a great op shop and bakery and so we did. The op shop was closed and looked like it had been abandoned the previous winter. Luckily the bakery was open and we grabbed some bread and then some other groceries at what passed for the local supermarket. From there it was a shortish drive down to Marlo and the TomTom took us the back way which was still a great road and we saw no other car for at least half an hour. We arrived in Marlo and found out way to the caravan park where we had booked in. It was very basic, but large and clean and warm and well within our budget. After unloading the basics from the car, we headed down to the water which turned out to be quite close to the park. We took some lovely shots just as the sun was going down over the lakes and then walked back up the hill and popped into the pub for a bit of a break. The Marlo pub is a lovely large old wooden building with a large front lawn that overlooks the lakes and the south coast sea. After a couple of small beers (it seem Victorians don't have schooners) and a quick look at the menu, we decided that the pub was the best option for dinner and popped back to our room to chill out a bit and wait for the bistro to open at 6.
The fisherman's basket seemed like the best option so we ordered one to share. It was a combination of battered fish, fresh steamed fish, salt and pepper squid, calamari, chips and salad plus one lonely oyster which remained uneaten. Neither of us like the slimy little buggers. The locals, and I assume regulars, at the pub were incredibly friendly and as our first real experience with a group of Victorians, they were perfect ambassadors. Still a little tired from the night before and with me feeling the drive, we left early and went back to our room and were both asleep before 8.30.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009


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Saturday, 18 July 2009

Moruya Markets - July 11th and 18th - Saturday

Alf and Jane make and sell homemade icecream for a living, mostly through local weekend markets. After lazing around for a few days, I offered to help Alf do the Saturday markets in Moruya. What I hadn't realised was that this meant getting up at 4.30 in the morning, getting ready and heading off in the dark and freezing cold. Having never been an early riser this actually wasn't as bad as I had imagined. And the sunrise as we reached the market site was quite spectacular. I realised I hadn't seen a sunset since the early 90s when I had got up and gone in early to see a dawn service in Brisbane. The sombre mood was completely ruined by roving gangs of arsehole TV crews with their halogen lights waving like lightsabers destroying the aforementioned sombre mood they were there to report on.

The first Saturday was pretty good, partly because of the novelty but partly because once you've set up the canopy, the tables and the WAECO, the rest of the day involves sitting around, serving customers and doing the cryptic crosswords in the Herald and The Australian. The second Saturday, however was much, much colder and a fog covered the market site keeping the temperature quite low and covering the ground in a thick dew. In helping t

o set up, I got the toes of my blundstones wet which soaked through to my socks and toes. Given that the air temperature was just over one degrees, I hate to think what it was on the ground. As a result, my toes became so cold I literally could not feel them. I tried walking around but that just seemed to hurt. In desperation I bought three pairs of woolen sock from the sock stall, whipped off my supposedly merino wool socks and put two dry pairs over my frozen toesies. Now dry, my feet were still no better off temperature-wise. When the fog eventually cleared and the sun came through, I pulled off my boots and newly acquired socks and stuck them in the sunlight, massaging what life I could back into them. It was about 3 hours after our arrival that I finally regained feeling in the last little toe. I had been imagining frostbite and black toenails dropping off but I think the unfamiliar pain had made me hysterical.

The now-non-cold toes cheered me up immensely and the rest of the market was again spent sitting around and doing the cryptics. Well, attempting to do the cryptics. While Alf and I are pretty good at the weekly ones, the Saturday puzzles are a lot more obscure and frustrating. We packed up about 1.30 and headed back to Cobargo. I crashed out and slept right through to dinnertime - beetroot and strawberry risotto cooked by Yvette.

Thursday The Ninth - Day One

Even though we'd left Sydney on the Wednesday, today was really day one of the trip. We woke up late (9.30) and pottered about before finally leaving at 11. We didn't have to be anywhere at any particular time, so took it slowly down the Pacific Highway, stopping in to have a look at Jervis Bay and to have some lunch at Milton. Almost all of the uncertainty of the previous day had vanished and I felt relaxed, if still a little physically achy from the lifting and cleaning earlier in the week. One tiny grocery stop in Bateman's Bay later, we were on the final stretch to Cobargo and our friends, Alf and Jane. After a slow and comfortable drive, we arrived about 4 o'clock. Quite a few beers later and our bellies full of Alf's homemade minestrone soup, we crashed out in what was to be our bed for the next two weeks. Time to take a break and like a course of detox, get the Sydney out of our system.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Leaving Sin City

Wednesday morning I woke up early quite stressed. The real estate were coming at 11.30 to inspect the house and we still had to pack the car and clean one of the rooms. Somehow we managed to get it all done by 10.30 which was just as well, as the prick from the real estate turned up early for no reason and with no apology. Like a disapproving mother-in-law, he looked over the house, pointing out the most miniscule and petty areas we had somehow missed. Suppressing my urge to beat his body to a bloody pulp and leave it in the back alley for the crows and minor birds, we diligently cleaned the areas he found. We passed the inspection although have still yet to get our bond back.

Yvette's parents drove down to have lunch and say goodbye and Mick had turned up to take away the mattress we had been using. With Mr Real Estate Knobski Man gone, we headed down to Stanmore for the last time to have some lunch. Yvette's brother Warwick also managed to come along and the six of us had coffee and pies at La Chocereve.

After a tearful goodbye to Yvette's family, we got into the car and left Sydney for good.

After two weeks of non-stop stress with almost every hour of the waking day filled with something to do, the sudden stop was a little jarring. Both of us were very, very tired and emotionally exhausted. The mixed emotions of leaving and being free, of adventure and the uncertainty of what we'd just done had us both on the edge of tears for the three hour drive to Greenwell Point. We'd done it. It was all over. Had we done the right thing? God, we're tired.

Greenwell point is a lovely, mostly unspoiled fishing village east of Nowra. It is a real fishing village in that trawlers still leave from the jetty which hasn't been converted into a Marina for rich Sydneysiders to park their ridiculously enormous penis-substitute boats in. Apart from the Motel we were staying in and one Wanker McMansion, the town has had very little development. I hope it stays that way for a long time. The drive from the highway to the point is all dairy farms and old buildings including a barn-like structure which had a curious sign on it - "The Literary Institute".

We checked in and while Yvette had a lie down, I went for a long walk around the jetty and along the foreshore. I was physically and emotionally wrecked and trying to think to much about anything. It was good to finally be out.

After an early dinner at the local pub which we wolfed down - we went back to the motel room, turned up the heater and watched Spicks and Specks , The Chaser and The Movie Show before finally going to sleep to sleep the sleep of the just and the just plain tuckered out.

The Sheer and Utter Hell of Moving

It has been said that the three most stressful things in life are: the death of someone close, divorce and moving house. Having not experienced the first two in my adult life, I definitely concur with the third. Moving was hell. Although we'd known what we had to do for a while now, and had started packing and culling, the last two weeks in Sydney were crazy.

The night of Sunday the 21st, Yvette started feeling unwell. Monday we had to rush down to the emergency room at the RPA as she had been throwing up blood. After 5 hours we were sent home after being told that her stomach lining had come away a little and she needed to cut down on booze, cigarettes, coffee and spicy food. I swear the doctor looked about 16. We called him Bambi.

That week, Yvette was out of commission and spent most of the time sleeping and trying to recover surviving on a diet of Mylanta, licorice and slippery elm powder. I was still working and had to go in everyday and start the handover to my replacement and try and clean up 7 years of emails, files and other ephemera I had accumulated. Those who know how I accumulate will appreciate the enormity of this task.

We had also organised the 27th as Yvette's 40th birthday party and after looking 'round a few venues had decided to have it in our house. Saturday was therefore spent trying to make a house in the throes of packing presentable for 30+ people. Yvette was slightly better by this stage and we managed to get everything sorted. It turned out to be a fantastic party with the little house bursting at the seams with people all wanting to wish Yvette a happy birthday and possibly farewell to the two of us. Highlights were a very drunk TK who needed to use everyone he came close to as a leaning post, an amazing caterer/cook who supplied a seemingly endless amount of food and the cake from La Chocereve which was chocolate and gran marnier.

Sunday of course was a write-off and I spent most of it in bed. No packing and no cleaning was done that day although Mick and I did manage to do a dump run in his ute and get rid of a few things.

Monday and Tuesday we both had to work, the party seemingly curing Yvette's stomach problems. Tuesday was my last day of gainful employment and as of Wednesday I was a free man albeit a free man with no income. It was a liberating feeling. The rest of the week was spent preparing for, and thinking about packing and cleaning. Yvette had her last day on Friday. We celebrated with beers at the local with Jess and Jason.

Saturday the 4th was Packing Party day. We still had a lot of booze left over from the party, and invited some friends to come around and help us pack and drink. We had a wonderful group of people all turn up and without them we would have been well and truly screwed. Pete, Vera, Stefan, Dave and Mick - thank you so much. I think we would still be there if it wasn't for you. We stopped packing about 9pm and had some pizza and a few more drinks. I went to bed at 1.30am but Yvette and Mick continued on 'til 6 in the morning. Needless to say, Sunday was not very productive...

Monday Yvette's brother Gareth and his wife, Ros hired a 3-tonne truck and came to take away our furniture and all the other stuff we weren't taking with us. Another very busy day with much lifting, I managed to start cleaning and Yvette continued packing. She got to bed at 1.30 in the morning in order to get everything ready for...

Tuesday the removalists came and took away all the stuff we are taking with us. They were fantastic. I only wish we'd had the money to get one of those services where they come and pack everything for you AND take it away. After they left, it was down to the serious business of cleaning. The removal of our furniture and our boxes left nothing in the house except what was going in the car. We had one fold-up chair to sit on and a mattress on the floor to sleep on. Cleaning took all day. We went out that night for a final farewell with friends in Ashfield and after a few beers at the Crocodile, we had some of the best dumplings in Sydney at Shanghai Night. The day was still not over as we had to dump some rubbish in the skip at my old work and drop back my (now ex) boss's brazier and work keys. We ended up staying for a couple of ports and he said some very nice things about me.