If kangaroos on the beach, wombats by the car, or a snake under the table didn’t excite you in Part 1 of my roadtrip from Sydney to Melbourne, maybe something in this installment will.
All conservation of wildness is self-defeating, for to cherish we must see and fondle, and when enough have seen and fondled, there is no wilderness left to cherish.” – Aldo Leopold
After too brief a sleep in the Mimosa Rocks National Park, Dyana and I went for an early walk by Aboriginal “midden” mounds – ancient dumping grounds for shells and discarded fishbones. We made the most of the open boardwalk by doing a little P90X Yoga before hopping back in the X-Trail and heading to the Bega Cheesery. Budget Travel Hint: if you’re low on cash and love cheese, they don’t monitor you!
A few coastal towns supplied us with stunning shots of turquoise water and jutting rocks along the way to my favorite memory of this roadtrip: Corajingalong National Park. When you read that you access it via an unsealed road, you imagine a short drive on some gravel. Being from Texas, that’s a normal trip out to an aunt and uncle’s house in the country. But this was close to 40kms (25 miles) of heavily wooded, rugged, “Chevy – Like a Rock” kind of road, with all of two signs! There were times we doubted our decision, but it all became worth it when arrived at the camping grounds.
Like some ancient guardian, a massive reptile (close kin to a Komodo Dragon) perched on the trunk of a tree by the camp sign. It was close to 4.5 feet long! I realize you’ve probably seen something similar in a zoo or a snake farm, but when you’re away from everything and there’s no glass enclosure or staff member telling you you’re safe, things get real.
Relying on nothing but my afore mentioned intimidating size or dangerous, steely gaze, I nabbed this photo before sending the thunder lizard crawling/slithering away.
Dr. Matt Draisma, one of the nicest and most interesting men in Australia introduced himself shortly after the reptile encounter. Originally from Holland, Matt and his twin were brought to Oz by their parents when they were only 7 on account of the Berlin Blockade. His interest in animals led him to become a veterinarian and a master hunter. This guy literally wrote the book on hunting in Victoria (okay, slight exaggeration: he co-wrote the test hunters must take to apply for a license) and was hired by the government to track migrating caribou across Mongolia. While there, he worked on reducing the massacre of wildlife with AK-47s by teaching the roaming tribesmen how to efficiently kill and clean fewer animals for more yield.
It turns out Matt is a bit of writer as well with quite a few articles in Australian Shooter magazine. We sat around his campfire while he told us about collecting oysters on the beach. He shared his wine and billy tea with us and in the morning, he gave us cereal and boiled us some eggs! As if that wasn’t enough, he gave us his wife’s number in case we wanted to sleep in a real bed one night instead of the car. Dr. Matt Draisma, you have my eternal thanks for your kindness and your stories.
Further West along the coast, we hit the town of Lakes Entrance with a nice walk around a section of the 90-Mile Beach (so many beaches here have ‘Mile’ as part of their name but they use metric kilometers… You figure it out). We stopped for lunch and kept driving, searching for a free campsite by the name of “Whitewoman’s Water Hole”. That’s all I’ll say about that.
A quick breakfast in the quiet town of Fosters (no affiliation to the beer) fueled us for a day of hiking in Wilsons Promontory (or just “Prom” if you want to sound cool and local).
The Southern-most tip of Australia’s mainland is a sight to behold. Sweeping coastlines, fortress mountains, and an incredible amount of wildlife were ours for the taking. And we hit it at just the right time: right before tourist/holiday season when you’re required to have a ballot entry for a chance to enter the park.
We saw echidnas, emus, a stubby-tailed lizard, possums, and more wombats!
I highly recommend the trail down to Fairy Cove and The Tongue, and recommend a new name for these even more.
As the drive wound down and closed in on Melbourne, we spent our last night on the side of the road in Gembrook. It’s not a recommended practice, but it worked for us this once.
Following the tracks of the Puffing Billy train, the rolling hills of farmland are not to be missed. Once we arrived in the sprawling metropolis, it was nice to think back to the serenity which could be found only an hour away should anyone care to look for it.
One successful roadtrip down, another one currently underway. Check back soon to hear all about my brief stint in Melbourne’s café culture and my next roadtrip, the Tour de Tasmania!