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!

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

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.  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. 

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. 

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. 

Deer vs Wombats?

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. 

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! 😕

The Great Southern Road Trip

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!  

Too hot for this trip!

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 Two Iains are looking forward to another adventure!

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:

  1. Southernmost point of the Australian mainland and perhaps even most southern point of Tasmania.
  2. A hot air balloon ride.
  3. A cheese-making course in Melbourne (if it’s on!)
  4. A writing retreat. In a way, the whole trip will be a writing retreat!
  5. 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 haven’t nutted it all out yet, but this is part of the plan.

I’m counting down already!

* The South Australian border has been closed again since I began drafting this post! 🙁

PPS: All the borders have closed again since a few days before Christmas. As of 16/1/21 I am investigating alternatives and will make up my mind on 23/1/21…sigh!