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!

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!

Light to Light Walk.

The Light to Light walk is a 30 km (one way) route that hugs the coast in Ben Boyd National Park. The Park is on the very far south coast of NSW and near the town of Eden. Being less than 100km to the Victorian border, Eden is a “bubble town”, that is in these times of COVID, special rules apply because people in the area do business with both states. I was back in Eden unexpectedly as my Great Southern Road Trip plans were disrupted because of a COVID lockdown in Victoria. This meant I needed to scurry very quickly back to NSW or risk not being able to get into Tasmania.

Remnants of burnt trees at the Tower end

Start either end.

The walk can be tackled from either end. The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service recommend it as a multi-day walk and there are several campsites along the route. They also offer a shuttle service so you can park at one end and start from the other. You can see their website for information about this.

A few days ago I did a 16 km there and back walk from the Green Cape Lighthouse to Bittangabee (Bit-tan-ga-bee) Camp Ground and today because of the change in circumstances, namely Victoria being in a 5 day snap lock down,  I did the a 20 km there and back walk from Boyds Tower. I have therefore done the two ends but not the middle sections in a pincer movement of sorts!

The walk is rated as a Grade 4 because of its length. The track is well made, mostly loose sandy soil but also some harder rocky sections. 

Green Cape Lighthouse

From Green Cape to Bitangabee

It was a cloudy, cool start to the day which was perfect for a longish walk. The goal was to get to Bitangabee and back before lunch time. With frequent photo stops, the return walk took me around 3½ hours.

Open Heathland near the Green Cape lighthouse

There are frequent waymarkers and the track map is also available on AllTrails,  although I could not find it on ViewRanger. 

From this end the track runs through coastal heath land with lots of twittering birds. I saw flashes of a greenish parrots which disappeared into the ground cover and I presume these were the vulnerable eastern ground parrot. Aside from this I also saw a small marsupial perhaps a potteroo, a wallaby, some lyrebirds, black cockatoos, bugs of various sorts and plenty of wildflowers. 

The track was a fair distance from the ocean and although there were a few ups and downs it was more or less level.

Boyds Tower to (just past) Mowarry Beach. 

On this leg, which came as an unexpected treat due to enforced changes to my holiday plans, I decided to do ten kilometres (or 3 hours whichever came first) out and then return. I was not really sure where this would get me but I thought 20 km was enough for one day. It was a much hotter day and the sky was mostly clear. 

Boyd’s Tower

Boyds Tower, built in 1847,  is a rather elegant sandstone structure that was never actually a lighthouse. Although built with the intention of being a lighthouse,  permission was never granted  and it ended up being a whale spotting tower instead. I guess Light to Light sounds much more poetic than Light to Whale Spotter! 

The track  is still relatively flat and sandy  but this area was devasted by the January 2020 fires and the ecology of the bush land, greatly changed. Catherdrals of tea-tree are burnt out remnants, weeds have taken over and there is very little shade for the first five kilometres. However on the bright side, if there could ever be a bright side to these climate change induced fires, is that the reduced vegetation has opened up expansive views of the ocean and the rocky foreshore. 

Haven for Geology Lovers

And oh what a foreshore! Geology nerds get down there! There are massive, varied colored layers of sedimentary rocks with easy-to-see folding,faulting and tilting. The base layer (or rather the lowest layer you can see) is a rich rust red with a lighter grey-green layer over it. The red is more friable than the greenish layer and there are deep cut outs where the waves have eroded the material. 

As part of the walk you cross several rocky beaches and a striking beach aptly called Red Sands Beach has small smooth red pebbles rather than sand. Mowarry Beach on the other hand has soft, squeaky white sand. The water by contrast is clear and either deep sapphire blue or ultramarine in areas where it has a white sandy bottom.

Mowarry Beach

I saw and heard fewer birds in this section of the walk but did see three large goannas and lots of locusts and dragonflies. 

There was a small asymmetrical daisy-like flower which was a haven for bees and butterflies and it seemed to be benefitting from the lack of tree cover. 

As this section had been so fire affected many of the waymarkers were missing or badly burnt and I needed to refer to the AllTrails map a few times to confirm the direction as there were some other criss crossing paths. 

Fees, toilets and that sort of stuff

Unless you already have an Annual NSW National Parks and Wildlife Park Pass, you will need to pay the park use fee of about $9 per day. If you intend on camping there are also fees for this and bookings are essential.

On the northern walk there were toilets at the Tower but no others along the route. From the south end there were toilets at the Lighthouse and then again at the campground at Bittangabee. You might want to think about carrying waste bags with you. 

You can stay at the Lighthouse (like I did) which is lovely for prices ranging from $125 – $400 per night.

There is no fresh water available for day use or campers so make sure you carry plenty. The National Park website is a good source of information.

If I had known I was going to have some extra time in this area I would have planned to do the whole walk. 

The views are certainly worth the effort!

Cruising to nowhere

I can see the twinkling lights on the land. A cluster of  brightness surrounded by black. The wake being cast aside is fluorescent; although on closer inspection it could just be the lights from the ship reflecting off the white water.  A delicate, cold breeze ruffles my hair as I lean over the balcony and breath in the salted air.

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Perhaps the lights are Gosford? My smart phone, which still has a good signal, says we are somewhere north of Manly. We have been sailing for just on two hours and we are going nowhere. Well, nowhere in particular. This cruise; a 3-night comedy cruise; sails out the Sydney Heads on Friday afternoon around 3pm and turns left to head up the coast and then does a u-ey around Coffs Harbour and creeps home in time for work on a Monday morning.

They call it a Sea Break; I call it a rest. This is the sort of cruise I like. Some luxury. Some hedonism. Too much food. Too much drinking. Grand fun and it’s only three nights. Not long enough to get bored on board and no so long that all your New Year’s resolutions are thrown out the porthole. Long enough to let your hair down but not long enough to let yourself down.  You can even still go to the gym if you want!

The 3 or 4-day cruise to nowhere is a relatively new option in the cruise offerings. With port fees being too expensive for ships to stay in dock, they go out for short trips in between their longer voyages.

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Wine tasting

This is my fourth short cruise in three years. I have learnt not to bring my ‘big’ camera. There are no real photo opportunities that the phone can’t handle. Nothing beyond friends doing silly things, playing trivia; corny stage shows and maybe the occasional dolphin. I have learnt to pack a series of nice frocks, so you can get dressed-up for dinner and forget the diet for a little while.

Cruising has come back in vogue and it’s a huge business. According to Statistica[1] the global cruise industry was worth $US39.6 billion in 2015. This was a $US15 billion increase from the previous 5 years. Why is cruising so popular? I think it boils down to a few basic elements

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  1. 1. You don’t have to plan much. Book your cruise and away you go. No itinerary to work out. No deciding where you are going to eat other than choosing from the options on the ship. You don’t need to worry about connecting flights, hiring a car, booking hotels etc etc.

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  1. It’s good value for money. Cruising is an all-inclusive ticket. I am no millionaire so the cruises I have been on have been very reasonably priced. The ticket includes food, entertainment and accommodation. If you are canny, you can avoid paying for anything else, provided you drink water, coffee and tea and stick to the included food options. On P&O and Royal Caribbean the included food options are very acceptable. The alcoholic beverages are about the same as in a suburban pub. If you are planning on partying hard you can buy drinks packages at various levels. There is enough free entertainment to keep you amused but you’ll have to opt out of the spa treatments.

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  1. You can do as much or as little as you like. Go to the gym, attend all the trivia sessions, origami, dance lessons, play board games on deck, swim, sun bake, sleep, drink and eat. It’s up to you. You don’t even have to get off for the shore tours when you get to port if you don’t want to. You can spend your whole time in the spa, get botox, attend lectures on nutrition. On themed cruises you can try your hand at stand-up comedy, go to cooking lessons, or photography lessons among many other activities.

You can find a cruise to suit your budget. On the Cruiseaway website the cheapest cruise leaving Sydney is $190 but you needed to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice for the 4-day comedy cruise to New Zealand. On the other end of the spectrum, you can spend a cool $40,000 on a 62 night round the world cruise.

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  1. Cruises are great for families. You can book your little nippers in to the kids’ clubs and be free to spend the day as you wish. You’ll know they’ll be entertained and they can’t get up to too much mischief.

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Sydney Harbour puts on a show

Cruising is not for everyone. If you are a serious adventurer, I would say that you’d find them a TAD boring. Some liken cruises to a floating RSL’s[2] on a Friday night with the roast meat buffet and jelly cups. Lots of kitschy glitz, rusty tinsel, feather boas and bingo. Cruise companies have tried to appeal to the adventure market with on-board rock climbing walls, zip lines and water slides. At the end of the day though, you are stuck in the one place, for a few days at least.

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You can even do your laundry!

For those who suffer sea sickness the thought of getting on a big white ship is terrifying. With all those decks towering above the water you might also worry about the risk of tipping over in big waves. Modern technology has it covered – to some extent. Stabilizers, which act like big under water wings, reduce the side to side rocking of the ship. They can reduce movement by up to 90%[3]. The forward and back rocking can be reduced by sailing parallel to the waves. There is less movement in the core of the ship so you will do better in an inside cabin on a lower deck. Another benefit of inside cabins is that they are a cheaper. On the downside, they don’t get any natural light. This is great for sleeping in, but it will mess with your body clock. The view can get monotonous especially after several “at sea” days.

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P&O Pacific Eden

I would recommend cruising with a group of friends. Around 6 – 10 would be ideal. Decide from the start that you won’t get precious if you want to do different things and not spend every minute of the day with each other and only go for a few days. Be prepared to relax and party. Pack your dancing shoes and your slippers!

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The Pacific Eden moored off the town of Eden in NSW, Australia.

[1] https://www.statista.com/topics/1004/cruise-industry/

[2] RSL clubs or Returned Services League Clubs are usually large, brightly lit clubs with cheap drinks, cheap food and lots of poker machines. The entertainment is often provided by 1970’s has-beens or rip offs of has-beens. Some are very nice, but they can be bland.

[3] https://cruisedeals.expert/how-cruise-ship-stabilisers-work/