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Archive for the ‘Narooma’ Category

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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Riding to nothing

What can we do this morning before the predicted rain reaches us?

Ellen answered that question by shoving a horse riding brochure under our noses. We had hardly woken up! She, on the other hand, had already chosen to go for the 15 minute pony ride which would only cost $15. “I won’t do the 2 hour Bush & Beach Ride, because that is quite expensive”, she said. She had already worked out that we were on the right side of town and it would only take us 15 minutes to drive there.

After breakfast we headed out in search of a mobile phone signal. We drove down to town and parked along the main road. I tried in vain to get through to Billabong Park to book the pony rides. Tim tried in vain to book our next accommodation in Victoria. Was there something wrong with our mobile phone? Had we run out of credit?

We decided to pop into the visitor’s centre where the girl at the counter kindly offered to phone the horse place for us. She managed to get through on both the landline and the mobile number, but there was no answer. We reckoned they would either be closed or busy mucking out the stables.

The girl couldn’t really help us with our accommodation, but directed us towards a public phonebox. Tim managed to get through but then was cut off, which meant that we lost most of our change.

To keep the girls happy we offered to drive down to Billabong Park at Bodalla and see for ourselves what was going on. We parked in front of the locked gate, saw the horses in the fields, but no sign of people. I did have a good signal on the mobile phone so I tried phoning them one last time. The phone rang and then it cut into an answerphone message telling me there would be no trial rides until Sunday. Needless to say we had two disappointed girls on the back seat! Hopefully there will be other options on the road to Adelaide …

Feeling a little deflated we stopped at a picnic spot in the forest and stretched our legs by walking down to the lake. Once we heard the rumble of thunder we thought it would be safer to head back to the car and head home for lunch.

Ellen and termite mound.
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Improvised horses.
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We had some quiet time after lunch with Tim catching up on yesterday’s blog, the girls were drawing and reading and I read up on Tasmania.

To cheer the girls up we took them to the local library for a good hour where they read book after book. They are so easily pleased … I got my gossip magazine fix and Tim managed to upload more photos onto the blog.

Back home for tea and television hour when we watched “Scorpion Island” and “Sleepover Club”. Tim offered to cook supper of burgers, pasta and the cheese we bought yesterday.

As I am typing this we still haven’t booked any accommodation for the next couple of nights. We’re feeling pretty confident though that we will find something on the way … (keep fingers crossed!)

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Wine and cheese

This morning we thought we’d get out and see a bit of the local area. Narooma itself isn’t a particularly thriving community – most eateries were closed (some permanently) when we were looking for supper last night, and it doesn’t even have a Subway…

So we drove a few miles further south to Central Tilba, a very touristy village full of New Age shops frequented by New Age pensioners. Videos of crop circle formations (many from Wiltshire, of course), crystals, the omnipresent Om… We resisted the urge to buy anything, apart from two rather tasty blueberry and apple muffins from the bakery and some equally tasty produce from the entirely down-to-earth Tilba Cheese Factory. The free tasting morsels helped us reach our decision; we especially like their Summer Herb wedge while the girls prefer the Vintage one.

Central Tilba.
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The countryside is easy on the eye, full of green, rolling hills, streams and lakes – not the stereotypical image one has of a barren, dusty Australia at all.
Tilba Panorama

On the way back to Narooma we took a detour to a winery (Tilba Valley Wines) by Lake Corunna and Kirsten nobly endured yet more free samples, this time of their award-winning Semillons and Rieslings. After about five (small) glasses she opted for the first one she had tried, a dry Semillon ‘with lingering flavours of lemon sorbet’. I somehow got her back into the car and we returned home for an al fresco lunch.

Tilba Valley vineyard.
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Local wine and cheese in the shade of a hot Australian day – sounds idyllic. We even hoped to lounge by the motel pool as we ate, but a sign declared it to be closed until further notice. Grrr! It was one of the (few) attractions of this location, it was open yesterday, and we could really do with some cooling off. We’d have to pay to use the Narooma indoor pool instead, and we’d have to drive there and back, so that meant no wine for me. Double grrr!

We floated around in the shallow end of the Olympic-sized pool with our new ‘noodle’ (as they call those long floaty foam tuby things over here) and Kirsten did a few lengths (in a fairly straight line, amazingly) but after 40 minutes or so we were displaced by a large group of learner swimmers. Back for tea, then a deliciously unhealthy fry-up of sausages, bacon, beans and toast for supper (we have two hot plates and two pans; no oven or grill).

In the evening we booked the final link in our reverse Nike swoosh from Sydney round through Melbourne and Adelaide up to Alice Springs, buying our tickets for the Ghan, the 24-hour historic train journey from the south to the heart of the continent. We can only afford the aircraft-style reclining seats, but at least we got an internet-only discount off the published fares.

We also decided to ‘just do it’ and spend a fortnight in Tasmania; there’s 35% off the ferry fares right now. It means trimming time off the rest of our journey, but we still have a week to get from here to Melbourne and a week afterwards from Melbourne to Adelaide. We’re not feeling rushed so far, so we think it’s worth doing while we’ve come all this way.

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Ecotel

The Green Movement is such a godsend for the hospitality industry. Take a dilapidated motel with no air-conditioning and dim lighting where they don’t empty the bin or change the bedding or towels during your stay, with a broken shower curtain which they have repeatedly attempted to repair rather than replace it.

No-one wants to stay there any more? Then why not rebrand it as an ‘Ecotel’ where ‘we keep use of resources to a minimum’ and thus justify charging extra for servicing your room. You can sort and recycle your own rubbish, and we minimise landfill by never refurbishing the units.

Then you’ll get praise from the Rough Guide for your green credentials and those save-the-planeteers will roll in, happily paying for the privilege of deluded self-righteousness.

I’m not just having a good snark; this place simply doesn’t compare with the Wellington YHA (for example) which was designed with energy efficiency in mind (e.g. recovering the heat from waste shower water) and it’s unfair for others to cash in under false pretences.

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Mollymook

Moving on again today. We packed a lot of things last night, so after breakfast we finished off with packing our sheets, wash bag, electronics and food stuff. Before leaving I gave it a final sweep downstairs, Tim checked around the house for any stray things and then we were off at around 9.00am.

I had read about the triangle Milton, Mollymook and Ulladulla. Milton is a little old village set in the beautiful green countryside and my plan was to have a little wander around. As it turned out, we drove down the main street and that satisfied me enough. We felt it was a bit like Berry, loads of cafes and craft shops, but on a much smaller scale. Maybe if it was just Tim and me, we might have stopped and looked around, but I don’t think the girls were too keen to go from shop to shop.

We carried on to Mollymook Beach. A beautiful long stretch of white sand, crashing waves, sunshine and blue sky, a group of surfers in the water and … some bluebottles on the beach! Ellen had a point when she asked why there weren’t any signs up warning people about the little jellyfish. We spent a short time on the beach, watching the waves and the surfers, and thinking about Ellen’s friend Molly Snook! (One of the reasons why we *had* to see this beach.)

Mollymook beach.
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We returned to Princes Highway and stopped at the Rainbow Pie shop. We weren’t interested in pies as it was too hot, but instead entered the shop around the back, where it had been turned into a lolly shop. (“Lollies” seems to be the word for “sweeties” down under.) Behind the counter there was shelf after shelf stacked with big jars filled with different sweets. Behind us were shelves stacked with prepacked sweets bags. Hannah chose a 100gr bag of “conversation hearts”, Ellen and the grown ups found it a lot harder to decide. Hannah’s sweets would have cost $3.50/100gr, but then the girl behind the counter said we could choose 3 lots of 100gr from any jar for only $3! We ended up doing just that, Hannah got her “conversation hearts”, Ellen chose fruity flavoured sweets and the grown ups settled for “sour lizards” (which weren’t sour at all!).

I wanted to stop in Ulladulla, just because it’s such a funny name. But again driving through the main street was enough to get some idea of the town. Again not an awful lot to see apart from shops and cafes.

We pressed on to Batemans Bay, which we reached just before lunch time. Before reaching Clyde Street (one of the main streets), we had to cross a bridge. As we approached it, the lights went red, and the middle of the bridge was raised to let through a couple of boats. Then it was lowered again and we could cross over.

We parked near the water and popped into Woolworths where we bought a couscous salad and two small tins of tuna mayonnaise and crackers. We ate at the beautifully done up picnic area across the road which consisted of tables, benches and stools facing the water.
Batemans Bay Panorama

Before driving on to Narooma, our final destination for the day, we stopped at the Birdland Animal Park. All in all, we spent over two hours in this small but well laid out and wooded park. Here we saw the “Seven Little Turtles”, snakes, cuckatoos, wallaroos, kangaroos, deer, wombats, lizards, peackocks, koalas, ostriches and emus.

Slightly demented emu.
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Grub spotted by Ellen; is it a witchetty?
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We do get sunshine sometimes…
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I don’t think they noticed us.
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‘Python’ Price
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and daughters.
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Kirsten with baby wombat.
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For a while we were the only visitors and the girls loved photographing all the different animals and having a good run around at the playground.

About half way through our visit we made our way back to the half shaded circle for a talk about snakes and baby wombats. The ranger brought out two snakes for visitors to handle. Although Ellen really wanted to hold the snake, she changed her mind at the end and was happy just having the tail rest on her hand while Tim had the snake on his shoulders. Hannah also had a go at holding part of the snake. Both snakes had shed their old skin over the last couple of days and their new skin felt really smooth and nice.

After she had put the snakes away, out came Peanut, the baby wombat. She was about 8 months old and loved being held like a baby. She felt pretty heavy and not at all soft. The girls weren’t allowed to hold her, but were happy enough just patting her instead.

Although it was interesting to be able to handle some animals, the talk itself was pretty short and not particularly informative (i.e. no new bits of information).

One of the other visitors had kindly passed his bag of animal food to the girls, so around the park we went again, this time feeding deer and birds. Then it was time to wash our hands again, and feed ourselves. We enjoyed our ice creams at a picnic table in the shade.

At around 4.45pm we arrived at the Ecotel in Narooma, where we had booked a room for the next three nights. Tim checked us in and came out of reception carrying a cooking stove, saucepan and frying pan. Our accommodation is one big room with two single beds and one king size bed. It also has a small fridge, kitchenette and small bathroom with shower. What I like the most is the enormous window overlooking trees and with a small view of the lake and the rest of the town.

We decided to have a little rest before heading out in search of supper. And what a search it turned into! We are based at the top of the town, then you drive across the flat and up the hill at the other side. Up the hill there should be a shopping centre with a Woolworths and Italian eating place. Could we find it? Back down the hill again in search of the information place, which had shut by now but had a map or two up on the wall. It turned out that the shopping centre was even further up the hill. So back up the hill, this time we did find it and bought a loaf of bread for breakfast tomorrow and then couldn’t find the Italian place at all! After walking around the whole of the shopping centre we gave up and headed back into town. Along the flat we found a fish and chips shop and bought two very tasty pieces of Barramundi fish and a medium size box of chips. By now we were all flagging as we were getting pretty hungry, and I’m happy to say that hardly any food was left over!

Something else that made us all happy was the fact that Ellen’s foot wasn’t hurting anymore, the swelling went down and now she has three distinct red lines along the side of her right foot. She is able to wear her sandals and walk, run and skip properly. There was a short message to her from the Firth family (another RTW family from the UK) which cheered her up even more.

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