Maz in Tas – Sydney to Melbourne

Sydney to Melbourne and everything in between, also known as Part 1 of our holiday or Thank God its the end of the year!

Monday 18th December 2017
In true “our” style we set off on this adventure late in the afternoon of day 1. In fact it’s day 4 of holidays but the last 3 have been consumed with an early family Christmas, a birthday party and a trip half way up the mid north coast of NSW (to drop The Piper with his dad). We flew here to NSW a few days ago but the ute and camper came over a couple of weeks ago on a truck. We thought this would save us time and mileage. Since we arrived The Newby has been working tirelessly on the MazStar and the camper to get us sorted for the trip but there were still a number of last minute things to do today. We needed to shop, go to Bunnings (because you can never go to Bunnings enough) and do some washing. So we didn’t get away from Grandmas until about 3pm and even then not everything was done. But if we waited for it all to be good we would likely still be there. The shower will have to be repaired on the road. 

Fortunately we hit the road before the peak hour traffic and made good time to the Bulli Pass. The view from the top wasn’t clear but nonetheless impressive. Unfortunately we missed the turnoff for the Grand Pacific Drive so we kept on going to see if the blow hole was blowing. On this occasion it was all quiet but Kiama was a beautiful as ever. Given the late hour we needed to get something to soothe the thirst and a place to lay our heads. The Newby used CamperMate and I booted up Wiki Camps and we agree to head for Bendeela, a free camp in the Kangaroo Valley. 

This site is owned by NSW Water and provides extensive, free camping along the Kangaroo river, an arm of the Shoalhaven. The drive there from the coast is picturesque, steep and windy but certainly worth the effort. The carrot for us was the promise of wombats. We eventually got there as the evening was starting, checked in with security, choose our spot and got ready for our first night on the road. On our way back from our short walk to the loo we saw our first wombat in the distance. The Newby was thrilled and we quickly saw another and then more. In fact, as we came back to our camper there was one using the undercarriage to scratch its back! For the next hour we were captivated by these robust and hugely cute critters as they trundled around with no regard for people or belongings. 

The evening was perfect and warm but fortunately we had our new 12v fans to cool us down and had our dinner sorted in no time. As we set the table and settled down to dinner by the river a wombat emerged, barged through the fence and proceeded to meander between us enrolled for a feed of grass from under our camper. And so our evening continued, with wombats everywhere, including a mother and baby. On what turned out to be a perfect star lit night we toasted each other on our great fortune to finally be on the road again. 

Tuesday 19th December 2017
All the wombats were asleep by the time we got up so we had breakfast on our own, before packing up and heading off to the places of my childhood. Our first stop was into Greenwell Point which really wasn’t familiar to me at all. We stayed there when we were all still in primary school and had the run of the town on our bikes, watching the fishos bring in their catches of tuna and shark. It’s still a sleepy town but it’s very pretty. Our next stop was right around Sussex Inlet to Green Patch where the water is crystal clear and sparkling clean.

We had the first swim of our holidays here in Australian Capital Territory. This part of Australia was surrendered to the ACT over a hundred years ago so Canberra would have access to the sea! The birds were lovely here as we ate our lunch before we headed for a look at Scottish Rocks (for obvious reasons) and then Caves Beach, before moving on to Ulladulla to restock supplies. On route we thought we had secured a site at North Durras. Turns out I booked and paid a non refundable payment for a tent site (24.60). I hope NSW NPWS appreciate the donation. Turns out it was cheaper to stay at the Big4 in South Durras ($36) because we would have been up for an $8 entry fee and coin operated showers. After a beer on the beach we had avery late dinner (again).

Wednesday 20th December
I don’t mind saying hi to the neighbours but some are too inquisitive or intrusive. We were pleased to move on and leave the screaming child behind us. We called in at Moruya for A1 coffee and to continue the search (which started back in Sydney) for the blue and white travacalm tabs for the looming Bass Strait crossing. While I am good in the car, I hate boat travel which makes me feel sea sick. No joy still. Our next stop was the gorgeous Tuross Heads which looks the same as it did 22 years ago. The Newby attempted to fly the drone, landing it on a cabin deck and then losing it in a tree. Lucky no one was home. 

Our next stopping point was Australia. That’s obvious in so far as we are already in Aus, but we were off to see the rock window in Narooma that is the shape of Aus. It was right where I left it last time but with the rain falling we had lunch first then a wander to look at some sleepy seals and the end of the break wall. If you get down this way be sure to head for Tilba and be prepared to stay a while. We had a wander through all the shops and The Newby secured some cheese, chutney and fudge. Meantime I finally found a pair of purple boots for walking and the garden! Happy days! Our plan had been to cross the border and stay in Cann River but it wasn’t to be, so we decided to pull in at Cobargo behind the pub for $5 each (showers and toilet), some pub grub, a game of pool and some Jenga. Thanks wiki camps for the advice. 

Thursday 21st December  
I was hopeful that a small country town would have the elusive and nationally out of stock travacalm tabs! Sure enough, not only did Cobargo chemist have them, they had heaps. Yahoo! The town is very cute with an opp shop, book shop and arts and crafts including some fun looking iron art. The Newby wouldn’t let me buy the 8 foot high seahorse. I don’t know why? 

We hit the road and made for Merimbula to arrive at a sparkling beach in a wide bay with clear water. After a little walk we cruised to Pambula and enjoyed a gorgeous lunch of cheese and chutney and crackers from our Tilba shopping spree, with a beach view. Apparently it was prime real estate. We certainly thought so too. Next stop, a quick shop in Eden and a quick lookout (!) over a pristine inlet before crossing the border (with the obligatory photo stop). The Newby will soon get used to me yelling LOOKOUT!!! every time I see a lookout sign. We then chewed up a good few kms to arrive in Cann River 24hrs later than intended! The photo at the top of this page is Maz parked in among the gorgeous tall trees of the abandoned but functional caravan park. Heres what I wrote about it on wikicamps: Absolute carcker of a spot! Off the highway but we didn’t notice the noise. Clean amenities, emtpy bins, mown sites, taps and sink. Unmanned PP – freebie. No hot water or power, Good tent sites behind well placed logs to avoid being run over. Picnic tables. You can get a lot for nothing sometimes.

Friday 22nd December
Today was a much needed late start day. I’ve ranted elsewhere about the 10am checkout at organised campsites so I won’t do it here again but thankfully that didn’t apply today! Not sure where we are headed other than in the direction of Melbourne. 

We chose to head along the tourist route to Cape Conroy then follow the coast to see the place where the mighty Snowy River meets the ocean at Marlo. On the way we researched the river and the hydro scheme on the internet, learning how the river has been effected and trying to understand how hydro 2.0 will influence it further. The mouth still gives away just how huge the river was, although now it is a vast sand spit and small mouth to the Bass Strait. This side trip to Marlo gave us our first echidna waddling across the road. 

We followed The Snowy up to Orbost for coffee and a puffy toot then hit the road again in search of the Stoney Creek Trestle Bridge. As we rolled into Nowa Nowa and crossed the road bridge over a tributary of Lake Tyers I noticed a big old bridge to the right. So we pulled in, followed a public walking trail and found the bridge tucked away behind a quiet and quirky looking caravan park. We were impressed and chatted away about the enormity of the structure and then jumped back in Maz to resume the journey. Only a couple of kms down the road we came across a sign to Stoney Creek Trestle Bridge. We quickly realised that we had been admiring the wrong bridge!! So in we went for a look at this impressive structure and we weren’t disappointed.

The bridge was apparently built in 1916 railway from Melbourne to Bairnsdale was extended to Orbost. This 97km Bairnsdale to Orbost extension through rugged terrain was reputed to have been the most difficult rail project undertaken in Victoria. The construction of the bridge utilised materials available, milled and put into place onsite! Apparently it was used for 60 years but was damaged by bushfire in 1980, with the last train crossing in 1987. It is an impressive 247m long and 20m high, and is the largest standing bridge of its kind in Victoria and rightly is listed on the Register of Historic Sites. The materials include red ironbark and grey box timber that have stood the test of time. I wouldn’t want to travel on it now but its easy to stand there and imagine what it was like when I train crossed over the chasm underneath. I daresay it was scary to be on board the train.  I should conclude by saying that we still have a soft spot for the other bridge back in Nowa Nowa.

We should have made the bridge site our lunch stop, instead we headed on through Lakes Entrance and stopped on the side of the road in a toilet carpak. Not one of our better choices but at least we could sit inside and enjoy our creature comforts. Onward through Traralgan and Strezlicki we zoomed past the incredibly ugly coal mine and power station. Whatever damage the hydro 2.0 scheme causes I can’t imagine it could be worse than this eyesore. Tonight we are camped up around the edges of the cricket pitch at Loch. Not a bad spot at all with showers, BBQs and power (if you want it). Just us and another camper. Should be a quiet night by the memorial for Australian soldiers and the swing bridge. Tomorrow is the BIG day! Look out Tassie, here we come.

Saturday 23rd December
Good Saturday morning! Today is the big day. We board the Spirit if Tasmania bound for Devonport and the Apple Isle. I’ve started the regime of travacalm as suggested by Facebook (and therefore a valid prescription). Perhaps that’s why I feel like a dope and wouldn’t trust myself to drive the MazStar. 

There were two plans for today, either The Dandenong Ranges or Phillip Island. In reality we can’t do either a great deal of justice but we settled on PI for a look, based on the little brother’s recommendation. After our breaky and the somewhat spooky shower in the deserted Loch cricket clubhouse, we gave the keys back to (unfriendly) Ray and made our way to PI and the Moto GP track for a little look. You can’t see a lot without doing a tour or hot lap so we opted instead to hit the mini, replica track on the go karts! Bear in mind I’m doped up on 2 doses of travacalm now so I could fall asleep at the wheel. As it turns out, that was never going to happen! What a blast to blitz the track in 2 ten minute rides (and come in before The Newby on both occasions). Cleared the cobwebs out for sure! 

Time for some lunch, another look at the lap times (did I mention I beat The Newby on both sets of laps?) and a bit of gloating about how good I am in the kart seat! We settled on a cafe at Cowes then headed off the island and up to Melbourne, arriving just before 5. The dilemmas of where to wait, where to stay, what roads to take into the city, where to get something to eat and so on didn’t affect us at all. We just cruised into the city, parked up around the corner from the dock, cooked up some bacon and egg wraps, before joining the queue to board the Spirit of Tasmania 2 with no problems at all. 

So here we are, on board, due to sail at 21.30. We’ve had a look around, bought some pringles and a drink, and now we’re watching the outstanding episodes of Rosehaven to complete our Tassie homework. The last 2 episodes of season 2 did not disappoint. Good night and see you in Tassie!Click here to follow us …

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