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Published: December 25th 2017
Geo: -37.5587, 149.754
30th December Howlong - 9th January Mallacoota
Happy New Year to you all.
We have been in a communications black hole for some time (with the exception of a brief stop at McDonalds) both for wifi and then even mobile signal. When we reached Mallacoota the first site had wifi but was charging £13 for 2 hours. Apologies for the delay in posting the Christmas blog.
As you might have gathered the extensive Riverina area, although beautiful in its own way, and providing plenty of birdlife, was starting to make me feel claustrophobic. Strange really as it is a huge open flat space but I did start to feel that it was oppressive. However the scenery soon changed as we headed south east and after visiting the Wonga Wetlands (where we saw 2 turtles climb out the lake) the road climbed and the scenery changed dramatically as we entered the Alpine National Park.
Coming further south we started to run into the overcrowding because of the school holidays. The numbers of people in the resort areas are not that big, it is just that the infrastructure can't cope with the summer influx. When we arrived at the campsite in Mount Beauty, in
the Alpine Area, it was full so we were lucky that we manged to find a space in the only other campsite for probably 20 kilometres. It was our first encounter with the traditional Aussie summer camping holiday. Most campers were from Melbourne, all from within Victoria. The same families come to the same pitches year after year so it is like descending into a permanent community. Visually it was a cross between a medieval encampment (they are big on open fires in that area as I guess the fire risk is slightly less) and a well established, well resourced refugee camp because of the overcrowding and everyone knowing their neighbours. One night there would have been enough but we had already paid for 2 as it was New Year's Eve the following day and we didn't want to be homeless. There was a great free camping spot just down the road that we couldn't use unfortunately as we did not know about it before booking the 2 nights. Most free sites are in our Camps 6 book but for some reason that one wasn't. Because we have an auxiliary battery (basically to keep the fridge ticking) we have to
charge up on a powered site every other night.
The drive down through the Alpine National park was lovely, a great refresher after the Riverina, even though the tiny ski resorts we passed through were basically closed for the summer. It was the first time I had seen such a wonderful mix of plants, shrubs and trees at altitude. Apart from the tops of the ridges the vegetation looked like huge areas of landscaped wild gardens. It was a wonderful drive. All was well with the world until on the descent the dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree. All the warning lights came on. Being in the middle of nowhere we crawled on, holding our breathes, until we reached Omeo and rolled onto the campsite. The owners were very helpfully, letting us use their phone as I went through the now familiar procedure of calling the 24 hour help service.The man who took the call said, "Where?" when I said we were in Omeo. Then, "I have never heard of it, it must be the back of beyond" said in a very accusatory tone. I felt it necessary to point out we had not chosen to break down there.
It was New Years day and apart from the helpline all was closed but by pure chance the local RACV man had just called into his office as they were telephoning him and he was with us within 10 minutes. The repair was to take a little longer (3 days) as it was the alternator causing the problem. Before starting work on it Rick had to get authorisation from Travellers Autobarn, the rental company, who were closed for the holiday and he also had a backlog of urgent jobs.
This is all part of the travel experience and as we were not in any hurry it gave us a chance to view (very) small town rural life in Omeo a little more closely. Even better I managed to get my hair done. The local cafe seemed to double as creche during school holidays and the first time we went in a troop of 5 unsupervised children took and delivered our order very smoothly although I was relieved to hear the leader (perhaps 12 years old) remind the young boy delivering Jim's chocolate brownie to use the tongues, especially as I had seen his hands. I am sure Health & Safety
Inspectors would have been apoplectic but we didn't suffer any ill effects and an adult showed up eventually. People in Omeo were very friendly and we have found this to be the case in all the small towns we visit whereas the majority of campers from the cities are not friendly at all and rarely give a greeting.
Thank goodness we were near somewhere when the warning lights came on, it could have been much worse. Travellers Autobarn promise to refund the hire fee for any days that the vehicle is off the road. It will be interesting to see if they do.
Eventually the van was restored to good health (for the moment) and we moved south towards the coastal region of East Gippsland. Again the scenery changed, from high land to gentle rolling hills, farms, woodland and the sea, not unlike Sussex. Ahh, we thought, a peaceful idyll where we can recover from the rigours of the Riverina, then we saw the signs warning about the 'Paralysing Ticks'. Yes, there is presently a plague of 'Paralysing Ticks' and we know from experience then when they talk about plagues in Australia ( plagues personally encountered to date include mice, frogs and
locusts) they do not exaggerate so we avoided the Bemm River, centre of the outbreak.
We are now on the very bottom 'corner' of south east Australia in a holiday village called Mallacoota having hopped along the coast, stopping to visit inlets, lakes, beaches etc. The coast is formed of sandbanks and spits with saltwater lakes so it is difficult to know where the land ends and the real sea begins. The scenery is outstanding and we have taken lots of birdwatching walks. Paths are usually signed with an indication of how long they take to complete but we spend time just watching the birds so for instance yesterday we did a walk that said 45 minutes and it took us 2 1/2 hours. There is even talk of Superb Lyre Birds here in the woods so we are going hunting later.
The van is more comfortable this trip because our bags fold away in a cupboard which means it is easy to convert the bed to a table and 2 long cushioned bench seats. Last time we had to store our cases under the bed so it was difficult to change it over. After 5 weeks plus I am still enjoying
travelling in the van, especially having everything with us so we can stop and have a cup of tea or make a meal anywhere. Plus of course we can have a nap in the back. Signs on the road encourage people to stop frequently and 'powernap'. If you know me you will know that I have practised that for years. Jim said he thinks they mean just the drivers but I told him that I have to concentrate as hard watching the road for him.
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