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Archive for the ‘Mallacoota’ Category

200 Days of Summer

We reach our double century today; that’s a long time travelling. We’re using ‘summer’ in the loosest sense, but we have certainly succeeded in avoiding the British/Belgian winter or anything remotely like it. (Technically, our first few weeks in Peru counted as winter, but that gorgeous Arequipa sunshine made it hard to take the idea seriously.)

Today was a travelling day, but we were not going to leave Mallacoota without seeing a little of what we’ve missed over the past three days of deluge. We drove out to the coast, first Bastion Point and then a sheltered family beach a little further along. (We also called in at a World War II bunker – didn’t even realise that they needed them down here – but it was closed for repair work.)
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By 10am we were on our way through scenic swathes of National Park and through sporadic showers, the last throes of this wet spell. We paused first in Cann River (full of motels and cafes to cater for the passing coachloads – Italian pensioners while we were there) and then in Orbost for lunch. Here we found a pleasant picnic area along the banks of the Snowy River and took our time just strolling around, enjoying the novelty of sunshine and exploring. [By the way, ‘The Man from Snowy River’ is a poem by Banjo Paterson, the Australian bush poet better known for penning ‘Waltzing Matilda’.]
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We made it to Bairnsdale before 3pm and checked in to our cabin. Much like the one in the Blue Mountains only a bit more upmarket: sliding doors instead of dividing curtains, wider bunk mattresses for the girls. Out to Coles supermarket to get some biscuits, juice and breakfast things, then tea chez nous.

After this we headed 10 miles south to Paynesville to catch the ferry to Raymond Island. The Rough Guide recommended the island for its wildlife and I was desperate to get out and see the countryside after days of being cooped up inside.

The chain ferry (once we located it) took us across in a couple of minutes and we then explored random roads on the island, looking out for wild koalas and kangaroos. There are around 100 koalas on Raymond Island and we think we saw three of them, which is pretty good considering how much of the eucalyptus forest is away from the gravel roads. Fortunately, koalas don’t scoot off the moment you approach them so we all got a good view (they don’t have the energy to do much at all, such is the paucity of their diet).
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The kangaroos needed more of a softly-softly approach, and to start with we saw only two or three alternating between nibbling grass and regarding us with suspicion from a safe distance. Then some local dog-walkers told us that there was a larger mob just around the next bend of the road, so we gently drove on and saw a group of 11 (according to the girls). As we watched, another mob came bounding across our field of view from right to left; they then set the original group off, who appeared to chase each other all around the field, accompanied by some grunting. Eventually they all exited stage left, executing a giant leap over a high fence. They were a joy to see – such effortless elastic efficiency! They don’t do this in zoos – they never have the space.
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Kirsten’s arty beach shot.
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We caught the 7pm ferry back to Paynesville, drove to Bairnsdale, found a fish and chip shop and still caught most of My Kitchen Rules…

View from the ferry.
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Meringue worm

I donned waterproofs and dodged falling and fallen branches (some of them quite hefty) to buy some breakfast goodies from the bakery at the end of the road; one apple and custard whirl and one coffee whirl – both large enough to share. Lovely and fresh, so we resolved to return later to get something for tea as well.

The road to the Mallacoota bakery.
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At least another chucking-it-down day gave us a chance to do lots of internet stuff without the guilt that we should be outside exploring, and we also used the time to do some more school work with the girls. Subtraction and keywords for Ellen, and addition involving Fibonacci, square and triangle numbers with Hannah. While the girls have been writing and reading pretty much on a daily basis, numeracy has been a more sporadic affair; we hope they’re making sufficient progress, but it’s hard to be sure. At least Ellen’s counting is good; she works out how many words she has written in her diary each day (while we adults lazily let WordPress carry out this task).

Otherwise, we have the Winter Olympics to keep us entertained during the day; we temporarily become semi-experts in the technical intricacies of the Biathlon and mogul skiing only to forget it all until it comes round again in four years’ time.

We all popped out to choose our tea-time treats during a rare lull in the pounding rain (apparently we had over 10cm of it yesterday): a peppermint slice, a lemon slice and a meringue worm for Ellen. Empty plates all round, of course.

Our house in Mallacoota.
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Yet another swimming pool we never got to use.
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For supper we had a take-away from a Chinese establishment on the main street; a mediocre chicken pizza, burger and toasted sandwich redeemed by a flavoursome spring roll. So not the healthiest of days – we’re comfort eating, I suppose.

It has proved tricky getting somewhere to stay for the end of the Labour Day weekend (when we return from Tasmania in March) as most holiday parks insist on a three-night minimum stay – and we only need the Sunday night. Then Kirsten cleverly suggested trying a Youth Hostel and sure enough they came up trumps; we’re now booked into another eco-establishment half way along the Great Ocean Road. Youth Hostels would also make a good back-up choice of accommodation in Tasmania itself as they are usefully distributed around our proposed east coast circuit.

The lengths we go to in order to get an internet connection.
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So tonight it’s packing time again (now that My Kitchen Rules has finished). One overnight stop en route for Melbourne, then three nights in an apartment, and the forecast looks sunny for tomorrow onwards – hooray! (I wonder how long it’ll be before we’re whinging about the heat?)

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We brought New Zealand their most miserable summer in the last decade or two; we are responsible for severe downpours in New South Wales (Never So Wet). So far we have attracted heavy rain everywhere we have stayed in Australia, and for our final trick we’ll create a thunderstorm over Uluru…

Yes, a few more million tonnes of Pacific water were dumped onto the east coast as we drove south today. We didn’t bother with the scenic detours or lookout points as we would have seen nothing; instead we followed the wet grey tarmac of the Princes Highway for a little over four hours, including a failed attempt to visit the aquarium in Merimbula (it’s tucked away obscurely with no direction signs, and when Lady TT got us there we discovered it was closed today for a private function). We stopped for sandwiches in the car in Eden, ‘by far the nicest coastal village in the south’ according to the Rough Guide. Not quite my impression as I took Hannah through the centre in the drizzle to find the toilets; it was a desolate, depressing Eden full of empty shop units for lease. Paradise Lost.
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Earlier, a wry smile at the motto of Narooma High School – ‘It’s not okay to stay away’. Not quite the aspirational ‘pursue your dreams’ sort of thing we’ve seen elsewhere. (Or perhaps here they’re pursuing their surfing dreams a bit too much in the first place.)

We reached Mallacoota at 1.30pm, a good half hour before our check-in time. Fortunately that wasn’t a problem and we got the keys to our apartment. It’s by far the nicest place we’ve stayed in so far in Australia; spacious, modern and well-maintained with everything we need. And at only $90 a night (by booking at the last minute through wotif.com) it’s no more expensive than average motel rooms or campground cabins. There’s a small swimming pool opposite our front door (and it’s open), a courtyard garden at the back and it’s only a short walk to the main shopping street or the waterfront.

We began by sussing out the centre of town, refreshing ourselves at Cafe 54 and putting a few meals together from the two small supermarkets; time for another Sunday roast tomorrow. This seems a pleasant spot even on a dull day such as this, a quiet backwater at this time of year with space to relax.

The rest of the day was devoted to catching up with washing, putting more photos on the blog (do have a look at January 12-20) and Skyping home. We’re now just over half way from Sydney to Melbourne so we’ll spend three nights here and then one more intermediate stop in Bairnsdale before finding a base near Melbourne – by which time the sun is due to reappear.

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