Sunday, 20 October 2019

Canberra and the NSW south coast

You might remember my little tale about getting X-rays sent from Albury to Canberra.

Well the imaging company in Albury realised that a DVD might be a bit of a problem, given that its 2019, so they gave us printouts from a film printer - even more retro but as always, lowest common denominator wins on accessibilty - the Canberra surgeon even had a nifty little led viewing panel in his office.

As for the rest, we did our family thing, took the opportunity to go to my optomerist, and did a whole 360 degrees on Canberra - when we left I was really over Canberra, its blandness and its expense.

Coming back, initially I felt it was a bit more urban and sophisticated - or at least the veneer of something like city life had got as far up Northbourne Avenue as Dickson, but after a day or I came to realise that the changes were only cosmetic, and it was the same bland cold beige place it always was.

While I'm no longer searching out the garlic and crucifixes when  a visit is suggested - it is after all quite useful for some things - Ikea, Muji, and big city department stores, it is still the beige heart of Australia.

So, after that we thought we'd treat ourselves to a couple of days on the coast at Tathra. Still too cold to swim, but we did some coastal walking in the national parks in the hope of spotting some migrating whales but the best we managed was a pod of dolphins feeding offshore.

As well as getting out in the open air we treated ourselves to dinner one night at Il Passagio in Bermagui - excellent modern Italian with fresh local ingredients - although the drive back with kangaroos and wallabies bounding across the road out of the forest was a little nerve wracking.

Another find was the Boneless Vegetarian Cafe, also in Bermagui. They don't have a website but are on Facebook and Instagram, but if you like a decent coffee and brunch they're well worth a visit.

On our way back we thought we'd go back over the mountains via Jindabyne and Thredbo.

Stupidly, when we got to Nimmatabel, we thought we'd cut off the corner and head to Jindabyne via Dalgety rather than Cooma. While part of the road is still dirt it had been recently graded, and with the drought the clay road was as hard and dry as concrete, meaning we could manage between 80 and 90 km/h without being jolted all over the place.

Unfortunately, other people thought so too, as part of the dirt section was closed for a car rally. Either we hadn't seen the warning sign at the intersection, or else it had been blown over in the wind, but basically we were marooned in the middle of the high plains. We asked one of the race officials if there was anyway we could continue without having to retrace our drive back to Nimmatabel and they directed us up a dirt road - no direction signs in the middle of nowhere - which gradually became narrower and rougher and more and more unlikely looking until we came over a crest and started seeing mailboxes and farmhouses. The road widened and became nicely graded, and then turned back to bitumen before bringing us past a rather ornate nineteenth century stone built house and into Cooma.

And from there it was onto Jindabyne, Thredbo and over Dead Horse Gap down to Khancoban.

But that wasn't the end of the fun. It had been blowing strongly all day, but after Jindabyne, the sky darkened and it began to sleet. We abandoned any idea of stopping for lunch at Dead Horse Gap and drove down the other side to Tom Groggin, by which time the sleet had turned to rain, and the day had turned cold, more like early September than mid October.

After a hurried picnic lunch it was back on the road, but by the time we crossed the Murray into Victoria the sun had come out and the countryside was looking like somewhere in rural France or Italy.

Another hundred and fifty kilometres or so got us home - basically apart from a stretch of the Snowy Mountains highway from Bega to Nimmatabel, and another stretch of highway between Cooma and Jindabyne we'd avoided major roads all the way and had an interesting and characterful drive ...

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