Pambula

P1080521Disaster Bay Lookout on the way out of Ben Boyd NP.

Day 342. I think I can, I think I can. As a last hoorah to great beach holidays, Kris suggested we stay at the Big 4 at Pambula. This was ‘only’ $60 a night (this doubles after Boxing Day)! So we ambled up the coast calling into Eden on the way. Kris took the boys to the  Killer Whale Museum while I stayed in the  van and made lunch and did some consulting work. This four letter word has cropped up just a few times this year, and whilst it has never really been convenient, I remind myself that it is both an income stream and an attempt to retain some semblance of once precious work skills.

P1080532 - fixedEden Killer Whale Museum.

Whilst I toiled away, Kris and the boys spent an informative few hours learning how the Orcas had teamed up with the yesteryear whalers in a kind of weird grizzly symbiosis whereby the Orcas would help heard the whales to their deaths with their delicious tongues returned to them by the whalers as their only reward.

P1080537Monster truck cities taking shape at Pambula.

Pambula, just up the road from Eden, is a pretty coastal town that swells during school holidays to accommodate the thousands of flocking holiday makers. We spent our two days here playing on the beach, visiting nearby Merimbula for fish and chips, as well as ‘The Pinnacles’, an unusual feature of red and white cliffs at the North End of Ben Boyd National Park.  We also caught the movie ‘Paper Planes’ at a camp site movie night. A great Aussie feel good tear jerker.

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I suggested the boys get to the movie early to get a good seat. Lucky eh?

Pambula Beach.

DSC_7236Another resident at the BIG 4.

DSC_7242The Pinnacles (NSW style).

DSC_7262Pinnacles Beach. Our last feel of sand between our toes…

Then, with just four days to go until Christmas, and with plans to meet friends in Canberra, disaster struck! Whilst towing up the first main hill out of Pambula, the engine warning light came on and the car was very obviously losing power. I pulled over but could not get away without stalling. Stuck in the relatively hilly 8 kilometre strip between Pambula and Merimbula, we got the van off the road in low range and called NRMA. Long story short, our friendly local NRMA service technician had a look at the car, drove it, scratched his chin, said ‘too hard for me’ and got me to follow him into a mechanic in Pambula.IMG_3536

After being offered a long wait as part of their service, they finally interrogated the engine computer, said it was possibly one of three very expensive things and stated ‘too hard for us, you need to take it to Canberra Diesel’. These diesel specialists said ‘we can’t possibly look at it for you until the 4th of January next year’. This was not an option. After a flurry of calls, Kris to NRMA (our premium membership has paid for itself)  and me to Ben Tinnock, an excellent mechanic and the son of Kris’s aunty Margaret in Wagga, we decided instead to organise our tow to Wagga where the local diesel specialist said he could look at it before Christmas.  Not knowing when all this would actually occur, we were coaxed into a nearby caravan park (where our NRMA ‘tour guide’ just happened to be a resident), to await our fate.   Luckily, despite initially being told we wouldn’t be towed till Christmas Eve, NRMA “found” another local Tow driver who was happy to take on the job the very next morning – Hooray!

DSC_7280Rosellas at our “emergency” accommodation.

Bittangabee Bay

As always we stopped at the border crossing for a family photo (why break with tradition?). This one, back into NSW, was number 13. James and I didn’t really want to get out of the car and spent awhile discussing our concerns about coming home, back into NSW. We all decided that sadness was our prevailing emotion – can you tell?

DSC_7190It wasn’t far to Ben Boyd NP and we were soon at Bittangabee Campground. Annoyingly there was someone camped in our spot (online bookings only for this popular NP campsite), so we had no option but to wait a few hours twiddling our thumbs till they came back from a hike. Luckily they moved without fuss simply stating they couldn’t be bothered with the online booking system. Once we finally got set up it was off to the beach and it was easy to see why this spot is so popular.

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Bittangabee Bay is beautiful. I think it was the combination of the tranquil crystal clear waters and the deep green of the surrounding bush with the open ocean only a few hundred metres away. It held a real magic for me. Finally the weather seemed to be turning as well. Was it that we were finally back in NSW? The afternoon unfolded into blue skies with only light winds which continued for our whole 3 night stay. Yippee!!

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We headed down to the beach mid morning and magically had the place to ourselves for awhile before we were joined by a trio of boys, much to Sam and James delight. Luckily Sam had brought five monster trucks down to the beach with him and with enough to share around it wasn’t long before there was an enormous sand city being constructed.  As these things go we were soon chatting to the parents of the children and so it turned into a very social two days for everyone.

Julian also managed to squeeze in a walk to Cape Green lighthouse while I took one for the team and “supervised” the boys at the beach.  It was a tough two days 😉 .

DSC02698Cape Green Lighthouse.

DSC_7221Me flat out at work supervising the boys.

Although it was idyllic during our stay the campground was really only running at about 1/3 capacity.  I was advised by a fellow beachgoer, a regular of 15 years, that once boxing day came the beach would be packed with families and the whole feeling of the place would change.  All too soon it seemed it was time to pack up and head off up the coast to Pambula for our last beach campsite before heading inland again.

Genoa

With mill-pond conditions and perfect blue skies, we packed up and left Lakes Entrance (because Murphy goes on holidays too). Another short hop, just 182 km, saw us at another Kristen sleuthed WikiCamps gem, a free camp at Genoa. Genoa is the sad reminder of what happens when towns are bypassed and industry closes down. This once bustling logging town feels like a scene from a Stephen King horror novel. Boarded up windows, peeling paint, some doors shuttered closed, a very derelict hotel motel and a pub. All closed. Apparently some footprints of 350 million year old amphibian mammals were found here in the 1970’s. They were obviously the first to leave.

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The only good news was the ‘entry by donation’ free camp, set on lovely grassed banks of the Genoa river. This relatively well patronized camp has plenty of space, nice loos, cold showers and BBQ’s. The decaying town is joined to the camp by a wooden multi-truss bridge, opened in 1927. This was built to carry road traffic over the then newly opened Princess Highway and is quite an imposing structure. Now it acts as a pedestrian bridge, from which the odd platypus can be spotted in the evening twilight.

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A benefit of the high bridge was a tyre swing erected by some industrious locals. This gave the kids plenty of entertainment, and just a few accidents! In one true Buster Keaton moment, Sam swung, fell off into the shallow water, stood up a little dazed and was promptly boinked on the head by the returning tyre, knocking him back into the water. Sam eventually saw the funny side, but it took awhile!

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Whilst wandering up to the old bridge for a sticky beak, we met a rather flustered looking cyclist desperate for some water. Katie, a sculptor, had decided to ride from Melbourne to Sydney to meet her family for Christmas. I think she vastly underestimated the task involved, and admitted she might just make Berri before succumbing to train travel for the remaining miles. We filled her relatively small stock of water bottles and her tummy with some dinner. We didn’t see her again on the way out towards Eden the next day. Another example of the interesting lives we intersect with.

With just 34 days of our epic (to us) journey remaining, I feel that we are obliged to savor every moment. None of us are quite sure what to think or feel about returning to the folds of ‘normal’ society.

Lakes Entrance

At Wilsons Promontory we were forewarned of a great slide and flying fox by fellow travelers somewhere on route to Lakes Entrance. I used one of my favourite traveling apps “Playground Finder” to locate this particular gem at Bairnsdale. Not only did it have a large pull in space for caravans, but awesome play equipment and a BMX track as well. The boys whizzed around while Julian and I enjoyed a coffee.

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The boys were trilled to get airborne several times during their slide and an old towel made it “scary fast”.DSC_7137

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Another short drive along the coast and we arrived at Lakes Entrance, which proved to be a lovely little seaside town, with water, marinas and boats seeming to surround you on all sides. We stayed at a community run recreation reserve come caravan park. Our site was right on the lakes edge which the boys loved and it was beautiful when the weather was kind. Over our four night stay there we had rain, 50km/hour winds, along with sunshine and millpond conditions. Victoria really has very variable weather. I was lamenting the two months we had from Broome to FNQ where I didn’t need to check the weather forecast once – it was always 32 degrees and sunny!

DSC_7154The boys holed up in Sam’s bunk during the inclement weather.

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One ever present threat of our water side location were rather enormous black swans. In particular, one family comprising mum and dad and two cygnets who hovered around the camp sites honking for food. Whenever we’d come back, their honks could be heard right outside the door. Luckily they were not too aggressive and their only defence mechanism was a baleful hiss! We noticed they (and the resident pelican) would waddle out of the water to poo if the mood took them. Keeping the river clean I suppose.

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Apart from walks around the marina in gale force winds, we visited growers markets at nearby Metung, and took the opportunity to visit the largest silt jetties in the world. These are near Bairnsdale and separate lake King from the Mitchell river. Most definitely more impressive from the air.

Metung markets at the Village Green and another cool Playground.P1080473

P1080479The Mitchell River on one side and Lake King on the other.

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We had been waiting for the wind to die down, and on our last full day our wishes were granted. Just a few hundred meters up the road are little diesel putt putt boats for hire. No license required (and very little instruction). The only fairly obvious advice was ‘don’t go into the open ocean’. Hmm, we were tempted there for a moment!

We cast lines and had a few nibbles, but I think the towns bustling fishing industry extends to the amateur hacks on the lakes as well. Our little boat had to be hand cranked to start. J –  Now I know what starting a Model T Ford must have felt like! Flat chat it was only a tad faster than the incoming tide, meaning our return was right to the minute. All in all a lovely day.

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The boys filled in time playing happily on the beach. To get ready for soccer season back home, James and Julian also managed to kick a ball around the adjacent oval.

DSC_7160View from the van on our last night.

Marlay Point, Lake Wellington

Lake Wellington is the western most lake in Gippsland’s famous Lakes District. This connects to Lake Victoria and finally, to lakes Entrance and Bass Straight some 60 km further east. Marlay Point, on the northern shores of Lake Wellington, is another free camp that Kris found on Wikicamps. After getting our warranty replacement car battery at the Repco dealer in nearby Sale, we visited an interesting swing bridge near Sale.

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1883 Swing bridge near Sale. The oldest still functional in Australia and the first built in Victoria.

One new battery! Writing the date helps me remember when warranty expires.

A few kilometres later it was time to set up on a lovely patch of grass and watch the pelicans battle the wind as they fished in packs on the choppy surface. James’ fresh flathead was delicious as first course for dinner!

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A pod of pelicans fishing on windy Lake Wellington.

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Once the wind died down just after dinner it was a lovely spot to spend the night and next morning – very tranquil.