June 12 2020. Friday.
Departed inner Melbourne at 06:00. Temperature checked in at 4C. It took 10 minutes for the windows to defrost. Headed out towards the Mulgrave Freeway and hit a ton of traffic. Where are these people going at 06:00? All I can see every few kilometers are ominous overhead signs ordering IF YOU DO NOT NEED TO WORK STAY AT HOME. So I guess there are a lot of people still working. Traffic was much more congested heading the opposite direction. It thinned out after an hour or so, and then I hit random patches of dense fog as the sun rose. It was like driving through mushroom soup around Traralgon.
Saw a bakery sign and stopped in Rosedale for first coffee and some strange unremarkable pastry. Nice friendly staff. It's all a bit monotonous flat unremarkable countryside on this stretch of the Princess Highway. Just not that memorable.
Got to Bairnsdale and did a drive around but without a Trippt guide I had little orientation and no idea what to stop and see. I ended up getting stuck in a car park queue with locals trying to get to Coles. Kept driving. The road is straight. In some parts it goes into sections of single then dual carriageway and back. I am sure it has seen plenty of road carnage around here. Sale was another drive through though I was intrigued by the wide streets when you enter town. Or was that Bairnsdale?
I got thinking about how Australians drive through so many towns and say they have been there when they probably can't recall a single thing about them. Towns come and go within a few minutes. It's interesting which ones make you want to stop. The question is then for how long? 10 minutes or 10 years. Made me think of all the places around the planet i've visited – where i've had a fleeting romantic thought they would be great to live in – despite only seeing from a train window at 100 kmh.
Then got to Lakes Entrance where the landscape finally changes as the road curls down towards the lake and seaside town. Perfect day. No wind and clear sky. Stopped to figure out where I was and ended up at some asphalt carpark that was opposite the Lakes Entrance. It's not a particularly exciting name but I guess it explains the geography pretty neatly. Got out and had a wander. 2 pelicans. The water flowing in and out of the entrance creates fast swirling currents that kept me and the 2 pelicans zoned out for at least 10 minutes. Noted a Do Not Litter sign selectively translated to Vietnamese, Hindi?, and Mandarin. Couldn't find a toilet so had a pee behind the bushes. There was probably a sign in English for that but I missed it.
Drove a bit further without any idea where I going, and ended up on a main strip opposite a wharf and marina. Absolutely pleasant and chilled out scene. Then as i'm getting back in the car a council roadwork contractor goes ballistic at some driver for crossing into the wrong lane. Got out of there before it got ugly.
I actually hadn’t been around these parts since I was at school a thousand years ago. I remember kayaking to the nearby Ninety Mile Beach from our camp at Toonalook near Paynesville. We were camping on the beach when a massive storm hit in the middle of night and all our tents got blown away. Total disaster. Wind still makes me anxious to this day.
Detoured into sleepy Orbost and stopped for a cheese and tomato toastie. Orbost seems particularly Covid vigilant and I sign in at the local sandwich shop despite being the only customer. After Orbost the traffic started to thin out quite a bit. This is where you really begin to see where bushfires burned, and it more or less stays like this right though to Eden and eventually all the way to Nowra and beyond. Surprisingly it's actually looking a bit green and there is a lot of growth over burnt out trees. But it's a largely semi apocalyptic scene for a solid 4 or 5 hours.
Started to have range anxiety with the petrol with 50 km to go, but just made it to Cann River and refilled at the Shell. Noted that both Cadbury chocolate and petrol were both cheap in Cann River which was odd. The area around Genoa was probably the nicest countryside i've seen the entire trip and much of it on the road valley side had escaped the fires. Green rolling hills and lakes. Going good for time so decided to detour to Mallacootta. Driving into Mallacoota however you see a lot more bushfire carnage and it easy to see how this place was completely inaccessible for weeks. It's pretty remote. The road in is 23 km and 23 km back out so it's a bit of a detour. Drove down to the water. Not so many campers but there was plenty of action on the main strip. The town is largely intact though you can see how close the fires got.
On towards Eden and crossed the NSW border much faster than I expected. I always imaged Mallacoota to be much further west but on map it is close to border.
Got to Eden around 16:30 as sun starting to go down. Not really sure where I was but drove past wharf and up a hill to the point. Did a bit of a walk around a deserted and slightly creepy path. Lots of massive old Monterey Pines. Would have stayed longer. Something intriguing about Eden – and to think they once considered it as the original colony location for Australia.
On to Pambula and detoured off to the beach around dusk to get a one and only look. Had a booking at a totally random 70s motel on the outskirts of Pambula and checked in with the very affable Steve and Yen. After 11 hours I was a bit whacked but it was only 17:00 so decided to do a bit of a recon of town looking for action. I was back in motel at 17:30. Thinking wtf to do in a motel at 17:30 so headed out again for dinner at 6. I am not the pub type so decided on the local Thai which hit the spot. I actually had a Covid cancelled ticket to Bangkok due to fly on this day so eating Thai made total sense. Me eating Thai in Pambula however was a bit unusual.
Had an excellent sleep. Tomorrow heading back home to Sydney.
05 Pambula to Sydney coast road trippt