Stories from the Great Southern Road Trip Part 3: A minor inconvenience.

The Great Southern Road Trip had the guts pulled out of it after the Victorian Government’s snap 5 day lock down on 12 February. While the lazy amble down the NSW Coastline happened, the sharp right turn  into Victoria and the mosey on over to Melbourne, didn’t. The lock down necessitated a quick and blunt reconfiguarion of the itinerary. 

I decided to go back to Eden, a NSW border town, and spend a few days there. Staying out of Victoria altogether until the day I was due to sail to Tasmania seemed like a sensible idea. COVID being what it is, I was not sure if I would be able to get into Tasmania without the need to quarantine if I re-entered Victoria. This meant staying in NSW,  essentially going around in circles. 

The anticipated spike in Victorian COVID numbers did not happen and the Tasmania Government reclassified most of Victoria as low risk. With the benefit of hindsight, I could have gone to Victoria after all. I could have stayed in Victoria. The question that plays out in my mind is when do you draw the line? (On changing and rearranging) How many times do you pivot?

Plan B was a solid plan. Accomodation in Southern NSW was getting very tight as people spilled out of Victoria. In the end, I visited friends in Berridale, then Batemans Bay, finally retracing my steps back to Culburra Beach to catch up with family. Culburra beach was the first stop I made on Day 1 of the road trip. I was nearly back to where I started. Sigh.

Right now I am sitting on Deck 7 of the Spirit of Tasmania to start the southernmost part of my Great Southern Road Trip. Tomorrow morning I’ll be in Devonport and then I’ll join the walking tour I’ve booked from Launceston. Things are back on schedule! My spreadsheets are reconciled!

The view out the salt encrusted windows shows the sea is turning black as the sun sets. The waves are small and calm, the fabled swell of Bass Strait is still a few hours away. 

In contrast, my gratitude swells. How lucky am I? I might be sitting here with a mask on  and I may have been inconvenienced by a government taking a strong response to a serious problem, but I am on a ship and I am healthy. The people around me are healthy. I am travelling. (Technically overseas!!)

In comparison, my friends in the Northern Hemisphere are stuck at home, both by the weather and the virus. Living on a big island 12,000 km from anywhere is a burden when you have to fly 22 hours to get “somewhere”. But right now, my island home, with it’s slightly nanny-state stance, is a god send. There’s plenty to do and see right here!

I’ll stop whinging now. 

Stories from the Great Southern Road Trip Part 2: A Sudden Change of Plans.

Ten days into my Great Southern Road Trip many a cliche is leaping into my head

  • The best laid schemes of mice and men
  • If anything can go wrong it will
  • If life gives you lemons make lemonade
  • Every cloud has a silver lining

There are no doubt many others that would fit my current (first world) predicament! After much procrastination and side stepping in the last months of 2020, I went ahead with my road trip to Coastal Victoria and Tasmania. All was going well. My tent-erecting  skills were improving and my detailed planning was reaping benefits.

Going to the races was not on the original plan but it was fun!

Everything was going smoothly.

And then….

And then the Premier of the State of Victoria declared an immediate snap five day lockdown due to increasing COVID numbers. EEEEEK what should I do?

I was very much enjoying the small town of Mallacoota which is just on the other side of the border, but I didn’t want to be stuck there for another 5 days! So I did what nearly everyone else in the caravan park did, I packed up in a hurry and hightailed it over the border before the midnight curfew.

Aslings Beach Eden, not on the original itinerary.

I cancelled all my upcoming accomodation in Victoria even those bookings beyond the proposed lifting of the lock down, because if there is nothing else we have learnt from the COVID pandemic, it’s that you need a Plan B, C and D! I didn’t want to risk getting into Tasmania.

I checked the Tasmanian border entry conditions and it seems that the best plan is to stay out of Victoria altogether. I am in a holding pattern, waiting to make a quick nonstop dash from the NSW border to the Port of Melbourne to catch the ferry to Tasmania. 

Jincumbilly: A unintended treat!

Lemonade aplenty. 

I have been able to make plenty of “lemonade” by staying in Eden and doing another long walk in Ben Boyd National Park, catching  up with friends in Berridale, doing the Main Range Loop Track walk in Kosciuszko National Park, and revisiting Braidwood. I have another couple of days to fill in and will drift back to the coast before making my way westward to Wagga. From here I will be able to drive directly to Melbourne on a single tank of petrol without needing to stop. 

Would not have done this either!

Off the bucket list.

In the scheme of things my inconvenience has been trivial. It’s not like I had to cancel my wedding like many Victorians were forced to do. My payments have all been refunded. The most disappointing cancellation has been the walk to Wilson’s Promontory to stay at the lighthouse. This was on my 60 for 60 list and now I won’t have the opportunity to do it before my birthday. I might have to extend the deadline!

Stories from the Great Southern Road Trip: Part 1: It’s raining, I’m camping.

Steady rain is falling on the roof of the tent. It makes a peaceful sound as I sit here typing, surrounded by the plastic storage tubs filled with my camping gear.  The air is still and there is only an occasional puff of breeze to ruffle the polyester. I’m dry and I’m content. Big drops turn into even bigger drops on the green roofing fabric. They can only get to a certain size before gravity overcomes surface tension and they slide off. This leads to the need for a MacGyvered dam system to re-route the said water. It seems to be holding, and for the most part the vestibule area of the tent is staying dry too. Mental note to self:  next time you set up the floor tarp, make sure it does not extend beyond the perimeter of the tent. Let the ground soak up the drops. 

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I did have a walk planned for today but it can wait. I’ll call this an official rest day, a perfect day to do the washing. A perfect opportunity also to do some writing and get ahead on the bank of blog posts. 

A different sort of holiday

This extended holiday is a little different to the last few I have taken. In 2019 I went to Scotland, in 2018 New York and in 2016 – Canada. There were my trips to Israel (6 times), Thailand, the US (twice) Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Vietnam. Ten years ago I had my 50th birthday in France. And even further back, Burma and Italy.

I had always planned to stay in Australia for this trip, nominally a celebration for my 60th birthday. Continuing concerns about COVID and travel bans have meant that my decision back in 2018 was prescient. More recently border closures in Australia have meant even this “local” trip was uncertain. 

I’m also camping which is a very different mode for me and my car has become my turtle shell carrying everything I need. Knowing me, probably way more than I really need! 

Traveller’s eyes

It’s not only the distance travelled that is different, it’s my attitude. I don’t have to worry about language, or exchange rates or jetlag or keeping track of my passport. There is no chance of Bali Belly. Still it’s more than these logistical things. Unlike these international destinations which I will probably never get to again, there is a chance for me to come back and revisit places I miss on this trip. I don’t have to move like a whirlwind to “make the most” of the air fare. I can take my time, relax a little and not wear myself out. That’s a change.

On the other hand, I am finding it hard to get my “photographer’s eye in” and  to look at things like a traveller. Scenes and vignettes that would catch my eye elsewhere seem ordinary. I need to change that. I need to take on the persona of someone new to this continent. 

Are wombats less exciting than Scottish red deer? 

Here’s a case in point: I remember being wildly excited at Knocken Crag when, after rounding a corner on the hiking trail,  I came within a few metres of a red deer. Luckily I had my camera in hand and managed to get an in focus shot before it bounded away. 

Compare this to my recent encounter with large wildlife. At Green Cape Lighthouse there was a huge wombat grazing on the lawn near the cottage I was staying in. I’ve seen fat wombats before and walked on by. My interest was raised only by the excited chatter of some Chinese (?)  tourists who stopped and exclaimed in amazement. I told them it was a wombat. They asked if it would bite and could they pat it. That question made me rethink. I wasn’t sure if wombats did bite but I suggested they didn’t pat it. I felt a bit guilty that the wombat went unphotographed. Thankfully wombats are not as swift as deer and I managed to capture an in focus image. 

My challenge now is to cast aside the veil of familiarity and get excited about the little things and the fat wombats!

Wombat eating grass

That’s one big wombat!


More stories from my Great Southern Road Trip will follow. This is just a warm up. They’ll be prepared on my iPad so the formatting will be a bit dodgy. The SEO will be tackled later!

PS: about an hour after publication, the Premier of Victoria declared a snap 5 day lockdown. I had to quickly pack up my wet tent and get back into NSW. I Am not sure now what will become of my road trip! 😕