I have spent the last few weeks settling on a destination for my next big adventure. I had been hatching a plan to do an extended road trip through Victoria. This plan has been on the drawing board for at least 3 years, when I set out my 60 for 60 plans (60 things to do before I turn 60).
Border closures make things tricky
I had to reconsider my plan when Victoria became Australia’s hot bed of COVID19 and strict lock down laws including a complete shut down of the border ensued and continued long after the other States had begun to loosen up. I thought I’d have to go north and began looking at a huge trip through Central Australia. Some of my sensible buddies talked me out of that given the time of year I was planning on going. Days and days of endless 40oC plus may not be a great idea!
In the meantime, things were getting better in Victoria and I decided to take a punt and start booking a few critical bits of the itinerary. I crossed all my body parts in the fervent hope that by the end of February things would be open.
And….they have! It seems that all Australian internal borders will be open from the end of November without the requirement to self-isolate. (Provided we don’t go backwards!!)*
The Great Southern Road Trip
With that good news I’m pleased to announce that the Great Southern Road Trip is going ahead! However, now that the borders ARE open there is the very real prospect of destinations being booked out because those Aussies who might normally be heading off for international destinations are “stuck” at home. On top of this many towns near the NSW-Victorian border have still not recovered after the horrific bushfires which preceded COVID.
The Great Southern Road trip itinerary is shaping up well. The overarching plan is to follow the NSW and Victoria coast down to Melbourne then take the Spirit of Tasmania across Bass Strait to join the 6-day walking tour and then a few days in Flinders Island. After that I’ll spend another week exploring other parts of Tasmania.
So far I have booked one night’s accommodation in Victoria at a lighthouse because there was only one night available in the time frame I was planning on passing through. This sought after accommodation was already close to being completely booked out for the next 6 months!
After three weeks in Tasmania, I’ll head back to the mainland and ‘do’ regional Victoria concentrating on the western side of the state, then back up through the Highlands to home.
The itinerary shapes up
All up I’ll be away for 6 weeks. While I’m tootling around in my trusty Subaru, I intend to knock off a few things from my 60 for 60 list including:
Southernmost point of the Australian mainland and perhaps even most southern point of Tasmania.
A hot air balloon ride.
A cheese-making course in Melbourne (if it’s on!)
A writing retreat. In a way, the whole trip will be a writing retreat!
Astrophotography. I think there will be dark sky on Flinders Island and I might even get lucky and see the aurora in Tasmania, although I could be a bit early. It is apparently at it’s best from March – September.
Apart from the 6-day guided walking tour there will be at least one other overnight hike. I’ll be alternating between luxurious accommodation and camping to make my money spread a little further. Once my spending ban is over, I’ll be on the look out for a good second hand tent and camping gear. I have already jumped the gun and bought some maps!
I’m counting down already!
* The South Australian border has been closed again since I began drafting this post! 🙁
I am planning another big adventure. Some of you may have followed my posts about planning a road trip around Scotland. It started with a very thorough (and fun) process of plotting out my activities, destinations and driving routes. I pre-booked my accommodation and ferry transfers. It finished with a BIG compendium of notes and information.
Well, it’s time to plan another big adventure for 2021. This time I’m staying in Australia. I had already planned to do that before Corona hit. It was my intention to do some travelling around Victoria in conjunction with my upcoming 60th birthday celebrations.
I have been lucky enough to work in a job that accrues Long Service Leave and have quite a bank of it stored up. I’ll be taking ten weeks off work and by adding on the long summer holiday and the autumn holidays, I don’t have to go to work for 18 weeks. Did you hear that folks, 18 weeks off work! Nearly 130 days!
O thank you Unions! Blessed be the fruit of your hard work back in the 1970s!
So now the dilemma is what to do? I want to ensure I don’t run myself ragged and do too much opposed to not wanting to get to the end of the 18 weeks and think I have wasted my time.
The big picture
To this end, I have started to plan, in less detail, my next big adventure. I have several things on my 60 before 60 list that will be included and some new ideas. There are lighthouses to see and a balloon ride to take. A real proper go at astrophotography if I can find a dark enough sky.
At this stage, the overarching plan is to
Stay at home for half the time and
Travel for half the time in two stints. A short getaway in January and a longer road trip in February and March.
In the stay-at-home period, I might paint the internal walls in my house and sort some of that domestic stuff. I would also like to make a more serious and sustained attempt to write some feature articles that will bring in some moula! The travelling-period, well that will be a road trip!
Where am I up to? So far I am collating my ideas. Throwing everything on the pile. Everything! Money, time and logistics are magical and unlimited. From here I’ll narrow it down and book what I have to and leave more up in the air than last time since if things go pear shaped, I’m not far from home.
Impact of COVID19
Of course, it’s all complicated by the fact that not all the Australian borders are open due to COVID related travel restrictions. Do I just presume they will be open by next year and plan away? Or do I plan a long extensive trip of my own state? Do I create two plans? I had thought about a walking tour on the Overland Track in Tasmania. I’ll have to book that. But Tassie’s borders are still closed….
Ahh…. such tantalising first world problems to solve
Unfortunately, all good things have to come to an end and the final stage of my road trip to Broken Hill was the drive from Cobar to Orange for an overnight stop, and then back home to Wollongong.
Cobar to Orange
Another full day of driving. I am not sure why I add that detail. Firstly, it’s a road trip! That’s what you do on road trips – drive! Secondly, this is Australia; it’s a long way between towns, so of course, it’s a full day’s driving!
The desert is well behind us, the roads are good, and we’re up to Disc 8 of the Steven Fry Chronicles. The fields on either side of us are now filled with waving grain crops, there’s some yellow canola and the ubiquitous purple of Paterson’s Curse is still brightening things up. It’s a curse because it is toxic to livestock and in particular horses. Sheep can tolerate eating some, but the weed spreads easily and degrades pastures.
We started early after a good rest at Cobar Caravan Park. The low background hum I heard the night before is still present. Machinery? Something to do with the mine? Before we leave town we visit the Fort Bourke Lookout where you can peer right down into an open cut mine. Even with the steel cage between you and the sheer drop, it’s a bit scary.
Our first stop, 130 km east is the town of Nyngan. Some people may remember Nyngan being flooded in 1990 when it was isolated for many weeks and its people evacuated. Nyngan is on the Bogan River. Just mentioning that is enough to make many Aussie’s smile. BOGAN!! Seriously? I take my hat off to the people of Nyngan! What a terrific sense of humour they have. Nyngan has a Big Bogan! A bogan being Aussie slang for an uncouth or unsophisticated person. Nyngan’s Big Bogan certainly is a tourist attraction. We had to line up and wait to get a photo. He’s in a park across the road from the Beancounters’ House, presumably an accountant’s office.
Australia has a propensity for “Big Things” as tourist attractions. Like The Big Pineapple in Nambour, Queensland, The Big Banana in Coffs Harbour, NSW. There was a Big Potato in Robertson NSW that looked like a big poo! The Big Prawn, The Big Oyster, The Big Lobster! One of my personal favourites The Big Merino in Goulburn. Anyway, I digress,
Another scenic route (aka the long way round!)
Nyngan also has a couple of seriously good op shops. Michele, my travelling buddy and I had made a point of stopping at op shops on our road trip. We came away with some good buys and contributed to local charities. (Don’t worry folks it fits in with my year of zero pledge! I will get rid of as many items as I bought when I get home!) Next time I travel, I am going to take a close to empty bag and buy what I need from op shops as I go.
After Nyngan we head south and travel through some very small towns and right about now my phone which has been mucking up, decides to fail altogether. We don’t have a map. The roads are well signposted but I like to have an idea of where we are and how long before we get to our destination. We stopped in the small town of Tottenham, the geographical centre of NSW, to buy a map without any luck. Next Tullamore, still no map, but the phone has come back to life. Next Trundle and Parkes, our lunch stop.
Parkes – The Moon and Elvis
Parkes is a little bit famous for a couple of reasons. It has an Elvis Festival and secondly, it has a large radio-telescope which played a crucial part in the Apollo Moon Missions in the 60s and 70s. The movie, The Dish, was set in Parkes. Although we didn’t visit the dish this time, we had a great lunch at Wholesome Blend, a healthy, tasty salad bowl and a good coffee.
As you do when you visit places like Parkes, we checked out the real estate prices. Very reasonable indeed! I decided I could live in Parkes. Only four and half hours from Sydney and three and a half hours to Canberra, it’s close enough, but far enough away from city life with a good community around you. It’s even got the NBN (broadband internet).
The broad plains and rolling landscape between Parkes and Orange are delightful. Bands of yellow canola are interspersed with the green of wheat and other grains. We pass through Manildra and it’s flour processing mill and roll into Orange about 3 PM.
We have told our AirBnB host we’ll be arriving at five so we stop at Cook Park. Cook Park is a cold climate park and is set out in the shape of the Union Jack with bisecting diagonal pathways. It was certainly worth the visit with some colourful peonies and tulips on display.
Orange hosts a Food and Wine Festival and is renowned for its “foodie” status. There are a lot of wineries in the surrounding area. However, we found it hard to get something for dinner. Because of COVID restrictions, most places required a booking. We hadn’t booked and everywhere was packed because of reduced seating requirements. After two circuits around town, we managed to get into the Parkview Hotel and had some very fine bangers and mash. (Pork and fennel sausages, truffle-infused mashed potatoes and squeaky fresh green beans.) I must admit I was ruing my Year without Alcohol pledge in such a fine wine town but trust me my soda water was delicious! (Note: no non-alcoholic beer or kombucha in a cosmopolitan Orange pub even though it was available in Silverton!)
The AirBnB The Swales was marvellous and I’d highly recommend it. Our host Mal was helpful and the very canny way they were able to divide their substantial home into two separate sections by simply closing two connecting doors, was very clever. They provided the makings for a good DYI breakfast.
Last day on the road.
Orange is about 4 hours from Wollongong so we did not plan any further stops and left town around midday after scoping out op shops and having one last look around. We bought a bottle of wine to give as a gift to Louise who had lent us our desert dress-ups. (See this post) Heading east from Orange there are places to stop and if you’re not in a rush to get home, have a look at Bathurst and Katoomba. Katoomba is the heart of the Blue Mountains and is a popular day-trip spot for tourists and locals. After that, it’s just suburbia and traffic and life back in the saddle! Sigh!
From Jewel-sea to far horizons.
It was great to see the blue-blue ocean again and smell the salty air but as I looked at my still dusty, insect-splatted car with the red bull dust trickling out from behind the number plate, I remembered how beautiful the flat red heart of Australia is too.
The words of Dorethea’s Mackellar’s poem sprang to mind and I concur with her wholeheartedly.
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me!
I’m planning my next road trip already! Six weeks in Victoria in 2021, provided the border is open of course!