We drove down to Melbourne on the 27th of December for a brief holiday. The Hume Highway is a very familiar road to us, especially the stretch between Yass and Albury along which we travelled at least fornightly while I was in Canberra and B studying in Albury. However, our new car hadn’t yet travelled the route so we thought that we had better “train” it.
It was great to be back out in the country, full of rolling yellow grassed hills and granite boulders. Had a classic Aussie experience when we stopped for lunch at a rest area south of Gundagai eating Christmas leftovers from the Esky while a windmill turned nearby. Later on, as we rested again on the Melbourne side of the border, I lay back in the 35 degree plus heat and listened to the cricket on the radio while B slept in the rear seat. It was good.
Melbourne was as wonderful as ever. It is a city that really appreciates art and design, especially in contrast to Sydney. An example: on our way out of Sydney along the Hume Hwy we drove past the new interchange with the M7 ring road. There was a pyramidal mound of earth and grass topped with a red bit of concrete. It looked just like a mound of dying grass. I read in the paper that some NSW politician considered it an attractive design.
On our way into Melbourne there was a new section near to where the Hume Hwy meets Melbourne’s orbital road. A pedestrian bridge crossed over it, only it looked nothing like a pedestrian bridge. Like Melbourne’s Federation Square development the walkway was encased in copper and silver metal at strange angles. B didn’t like it, but I thought that at least it looked different. The road then passes a long row of diagonal blue poles that create an interesting effect as you drive past.
We stayed the night at the Ibis hotel in Therry Street. The next day we quickly checked out the recently refurbished National Gallery of Victoria’s international collection before heading out to Port Fairy via the inland route.
Port Fairy is a beautiful little town, quiet and well preserved. There was live music in a square and fairground rides as the Moyneana Festival was being held. We had a delicious meal at the Stag Restaurant – crab bisque, crayfish in pistachio oil, fish and a white chocolate pudding bursting with flavour.
Our cabin was in a caravan park a couple of kilometres out of town. Cold showers and a soft foam matress made for an uncomfortable night. However, the next day made the stay worth it. Drove East to Tower Hill, an extinct volcanic cone, in the morning and went for a bush walk, seeing kangaroos, emus and lots of flies. Nearby is historic Koroit where we at an incredibly moist and tasty chocolate mudcake (decent potato wedges too) at the chocolate themed cafe.
Back in Port Fairy we walked along the beaches and river. That evening we took a walk along Griffith Island, watching the surf crash into the offshore rock reef while wallabies hopped in the sand dunes. The evening skys provided a beautiful backdrop and hopefully I can post some photos of the island and its lighthouse. On our way back to the town we stopped off at an observation point to watch the shearwaters – mutton birds – return to their chicks. The whole island is dotted with hundreds, if not thousands, of burrows in the sand. The shearwaters return only after darkness has fallen, which meant that we had to wait until about 10pm at this southern latitude.
Our return journey began on the next day. We drove inland through Ballarat and Bendigo in order to avoid passing through Melbourne. On the way we stopped at Daylesford, where I tried a mint julep and ploughman’s lunch at another chocolate cafe, and Hepburn Spa, where we tasted the natural mineral waters. They came out of the well pumps cool and carbonated, which surprised me. I found the water refreshing on this very hot day, but it wasn’t to B’s taste.
Near Shepparton we stopped to buy some local fruits. I had forgotten how good apricots tasted after suffering supermarket fruits for so long. It was extremely hot outside, but it was the kind of dry heat that I love, not the humid northern version.
After many hours of driving we ended up stopping in Gundagai at 8:30pm for dinner of schnitzel sandwich and hamburger at a roadhouse. B wanted to push on, but I could see that she was too tired and we paid for a motel room. A spring mattress and water wasting shower. Heaven after the cabin.
Reached Sydney about 1pm the next day. Miss Melbourne though. It’s a European city with the classic Australian necessities of a decent summer and cricket.
Sunday saw us perspiring and totally lethargic in 45+ degrees C heat. Eventually took the brother-in-law’s dogs swimming at Kurnell beach. Good chance to cool off.
The last day of our holidays saw B and I flying to Adelaide and back for my Nanna’s funeral. The whole family was there, even my cousin flew in from Canada. It was wonderful to catch up with them all. I have so many happy memories of my grandmother. She was always enthusiastic, interested and kind. It was sad to see her pass on, but at 91 years she had lived a long and good life.
One of my relatives is a bit of a train nut. We visited his house next to the main Adelaide – Melbourne railway line. In his large shed is a fantastic model railway layout, virtually all of it, even the track, made from scratch. It’s an incredible achievement and I look forward to seeing it in full operation oneday.
A “shortcut” via the Adelaide passenger terminal almost saw us miss our flight back to Sydney – our names were being called. Luckily we had already obtained our boarding passes from the self check-in machine in Sydney. The flight back was almost perfect. Clear skies almost the entire route, almost no turbulence. As we descended towards the clouds above Sydney the evening light gave the scene a magical cast.
Tired out after our holiday. I think we need another one.