Following my stint of responsibly dedicating time toward my blog, my momentum once again ground to a bit of a halt. I can assure you however that I’ve not been completely slacking, as since my last post I’ve managed to secure another part time job (apparently due to my ‘adorable British accent) which will fund my next 6 months here. I’ve also simultaneously be fulfilling a Student Ambassador role- at Deakin rather than MMU- and getting up to date with both Sherlock and Game of Thrones. Now all that’s left is to finish transcribing the occurrences from my road trip, finally watch Kubo and conclude my book on American Freedom before the term starts back up on Monday. Sounds like achievable enough targets but I fear it will be challenging with extreme shortcomings as far as attention span is concerned. I’m certainly known for setting myself near impossible challenges so here goes…
Day 57. Slept in a proper bed at Bega Valley Backpackers Motel. Woke up at around 7am and began to pack up my things. Realised that I had no salad for sandwiches later in the day so walked up the road to Woolies to buy some. Stopped of at Cole Express on the return journey to indulge in a dirty servo caffeine fix. Got sucked into a conversation about history with a strange guy in the servo. Found Adrienne awake when I returned to the hostel.Wrote in my diary while waiting for the other girls to surface. Charlene woke up in a panic as her alarm hadn’t gone off. Told her not to worry. Cooked eggs on toast with grilled banana for breakfast. Sounds odd but really works. After packing up the car, we drove to Tilba Tilba where we strolled around for a little while window shopping and taking pictures. Such a quaint little historic town with beautiful little stores. Sat down in an old fashioned sweetshop for a bit while the girls had a milkshake. I used the time to use the free wifi. Visited the major tourist attraction of Tilba Tilba- the cheese factory. Made the most of the free samples trying cheeses, honey and chutney. Yummy. Couldn’t leave without some of the fabulous blue cheese. Called into a wee store next to the cheese factory and spotted a passport wallet with a girl resembling Jade (my brothers better half) on it and just knew that I had to but it. Particularly as it was reduced from $19 to $10. When I came to pay, the adorable store owner knocked the price down to just $5. Bargain of the century. Concluded our trip to Tilba Tilba with a walk to the lookout. Not phenomenal but a pretty view all the same. Ate a lunch of apples, pears and cheese while back on the road. My idea of the perfect meal. Our next stop was Camel Rock where we saw dolphins frolicking in the waves. We were blown away by the amount of them. I’ve seen the odd one or two before but here there were so many. What a lovely surprise. Strolled along the beach where I got caught up in some guys fishing rope. Drove to the next rest stop so that the girls could bbq their lunch. I found that I too was lacking in energy so had some bread & hummus. Continued our drive down to Eden. I recalled it being pretty uninspiring but the girls were similarly unimpressed. We did however find some entertainment here in the form of a guy sitting on a bench at a lookout point shelling oysters who had painted finger and toe nails. Left Eden in search of a free camp area which was recommended to us by a couple in Tilba Tilba. We located the campsite with ease but was lacking in supplies for dinner so went in search of a store. This proved much more elusive. Everywhere within the vicinity was closed. After a lot of searching we gave up and headed back to set up camp. Along the way we spotted a sign for Gypsy Point and knowing we wouldn’t pass by in the morning, we opted to check it out then and there. Turned out to be a gorgeous bay of tranquillity. Once back at the campsite we set up our tents and threw together what food we had for dinner. Ended up with potato and onion parcels cooked on the fire, with cheese, beans, apple and pear. Also had a Tim Tam and milk for dessert. Staying off the booze and just having green tea. Charlene wasn’t very well so went to bed without eating. Other girls retired straight after dinner leaving me alone to read a bit by the fire before heading off to the land of nod.
Day 58. Camped at Genoa Rest Area, Victoria. Woke up at around 7:30am and strolled around the campsite. Put a pot of water onto the BBQ to make coffee. Made myself look semi respectable.(I can’t say that I’ve looked respectable in some time) Once the girls were also up we ate breakfast and discussed plans for the day. Addressing time constraints, we amended the plans to walk around the national park that were made the previous day. After packing up all of our things we drove to Lakes Entrance stopping briefly at Nowa Nowa along the way, which turned our to be a really bizarre town. There was hardly anything at all there had a vibe of being a commune. When we arrived at Lakes Entrance we parked at the bottom end of the Esplanade and ate lunch at a picnic bench.
Wandered up the Esplanade fighting against the wind. Laura was craving Macca’s so we all sheltered briefly from the wind in there and used the free wifi. I took the opportunity to re-fill our water bottles while we had access to running water. As we resumed walking through the village I found it much prettier than I’d recalled from my first visit. Perhaps it appeared prettier this time due to the sunlight brightening it up. Crossed the bridge over the estuary to take a look at the main beach. Really pretty with golden sands, turquoise water and huge surf. I really missed out on this last time we came. As we returned to the car I popped into a little sewing shop to buy a ring to re-attach a bikini strap. The girls also picked up some thread to make bracelets. Couldn’t resist the lure of the ice cream parlour next door.Most of the girls didn’t want anything which had me questioning my greed luckily Adrienne also got a milkshake but I still left carrying the extreme weight of guilt at being the only one having ice cream. Did some shopping for dinner and said goodbye to Lakes Entrance for the second time. Would have loved to have played mini golf there at one of the numerous courses or have gone to the fun fair but time and money constraints held us back. Leaving town I pulled into a rest stop that I remembered from my first visit, which offered a phenomenal lookout. Soaked up the pretty views of the estuary and the double beach and went on our way. Drove to a cute wee town of Metung. (reputed to be the prettiest in Australia) Nice place but I can’t see why it has been awarded such a high accolade. Continued driving to Paynesville to catch the ferry over to Richmond Island. As we were driving through the countryside along the journey we spotted an Echidna crossing the road. I adore those little guys. They’re just so sweet, perhaps it has an element of nostalgia reminding me on hedgehogs hibernating in our garage during my childhood. Immediately upon arriving at Paynesville we located the ferry point. There was some disagreement amongst our travelling troop as to whether we take the ferry as foot passengers (no charge) or take the car ($12). In the end we decided to walk, which turned out to the better decision as the island is only really small. Disembarking from the ferry we saw the signs posting us to the Koala trail. At first I was extremely sceptical about spotting a wild koala but after only 4-5 minute we’d already located one…then two…then three…and it went on till we’d lost count at around 15. I can’t believe we came across so many on just a 1.5km walk. We arrived back at the ferry point just at the right time to make the return crossing. Before resuming our drive we refilled our water bottles and refuelled Noreen. I was tempted by caffeine while paying for fuel but the machine was having some difficulties. Waited for quite some time for the attendant to fix it and felt terrible for making the girls wait for me to feed my addiction. To make it up to them, I bought them each a Freddo, which they seemed to appreciate. Drove for a few hours through the stillness of the countryside. Shared lots of stories and had a good old giggle with the girls along the journey. Located our campsite and selected a great pitch by the river. It began to rain so we moved our tents under a bridge to ensure we kept dry. As the rain began to ease off we ate dinner and chatted. Another booze free night. Just lemon tea this evening. Extremely cold night and could hear the animals in the river which was a tad alarming.
Day 59. Channelled my inner troll by sleeping under a bridge at Franklin River Rest Area in Toola. No need to say this but I woke up early at 6am. Made myself look reasonable. Wrote in my diary. Charlene was the next up. We found that it was something of a chilly morning so we moved the car into the sunlight and sat in the front to warm up. Laura’s birthday so I made a little card from my notebook paper. Attempted to draw a koala but anyone familiar with my artistic talent-or lack of- can imagine how terribly it turned out. Oh well, the intention and effort was there. Adrienne and Laura eventually made an appearance at 8:30am and we swiftly set off for Wilson’s Prom. Having no map of the park we followed the directions to the Visitor Information Centre to gather some advice. Couldn’t find the visitor centre, only a local store at the entrance to the park. Enquired in the shop and was told that the visitor centre was none existent and that there was only an information plaque. When I consulted the plaque I noticed a marking indicating an info centre within the park. Despite the girls lack of faith, I was determined that their would be somewhere delivering information on such a huge and significant National Park, thus headed the car in the directions noted on the plaque. Luckily we were soon pulling into a carpark of a rather large tourist info centre. What the devil were the people at the shop on about? No info centre? tut tut. Once we’d gotten our hands upon an area map, we realised just how large Wilson’s Prom is. It’s massive. No way we could do it all in a day. With that in mind, we narrowed the days activities to a hike up to the highest point in the park, followed by some time down by just one of the picturesque beaches, concluding with a tour of the lookout points as we exited the park. As we formulated this plan, Laura began to have a huge strop as she didn’t want to hike and prefered to just have a day at the beach. To try and keep everyone happy we came up with the compromise of driving Laura to the beach while we did the hike and meeting up later. Laura however was also unhappy with this suggestion as she didn’t want to spend a portion of the day alone. The other girls were just as keen as me upon doing the hike and Laura reluctantly joined us and spent the entire coach journey and hike up the mountain in the biggest childish strop you could imagine. Although the walk up the mountain and the views from the top were fabulous, it was distinctly spoilt by the tension permeating the air. The three of us did our upmost to bring back the cheerful Laura to no avail. As we headed back down the mountain Laura disappeared. We made several attempts to find her as we were journeying back down but there was no sign of her so we assumed she had gone off ahead, however when we reached the bottom there was no sign of her. Resting on the ground in the warm sunshine, Laura casually strolled up to us about 15 minutes later. She advised us that she had purposely avoided us to have some ‘alone time’. It had obviously worked wonders as she was now in a much better mood. Thank God! By this point, we were all ravenously hungry and couldn’t wait to get to the cafe for some lunch. It was far from cheap but I managed to get a ham and cheese croissant for $6. Moved the car round to Squeaky Beach.(apparently named due to the sound that the sand makes as you walk over it) Completely awe inspiring; turquoise water, incredible rock formations, white sands and islands of shore. simply beautiful. I left the girls sitting, making bracelets of the beach and went off for an hours walk. When I returned, it was beginning to get late in the day and we’d promised Laura a McDonalds McFlurry party for her birthday so we left the park making just a couple of stops at lookout points. The girls were soon all in the land of nod but I woke them once I’d found a little town boasting a McDonalds. We first nipped into an Aldi for groceries and then headed round to Macca’s. I had an Oreo McFlurry which was soooo good. These have been missing from my life for far too long. I know that my father will be utterly dismayed to read this (he may even disown me) but they used to be a favourite of mine before the demons took over. Due to the occasion and the level of physical activity done that day, I manged to consume it with minimal guilt. I must ensure that I give in to their deliciousness on the odd occasion to avoid them becoming a huge terror again. Post McFlurry party we drove through the lovely Gippsland countryside towards our final campsite of the trip. The scenery reminded me of home with its rolling green hills. We found a free campsite in a little wooded area by a small stream. Made camp and had dinner. Over the course of the week, the girls had bonded really well and as they chatted I found myself feeling like an outsider. Rather than attempt to infiltrate their little clique, I simply retired into my tent to read. I can be such a loner at times. I wonder why I struggle to connect with some people yet get along really well with others.
Day 60. Camped at Bass Valley camping area. Had a lie in until 8:30am. Shock horror. As mother always used to say: “must have needed it”. For the last morning, I’d promised the girls a campfire -strange how camping brings out ones inner pyromaniac. It also provided a means for them to cook their brioche. Subsequently I went for a walk around the area to collect firewood. Fire successfully alight, put it to use to boil some water for a good ol’ cuppa while waiting for the girls to wake. Once we were all up and spritely, we had our final breakfast as a travelling quad. Although I’d spent 24 hours a day for over week with the girl, I was still amazed by how much junk food they could put away, and none of them was by any means overweight. They were actually positively skinny. It’s been great to be in their company for this very reason as it’s allowed me to re-evaluate my own eating habits and put my diet into perspective. I’ve no need to be so afraid of chocolate, crisps, chips etc. People clearly consume these things and are not all obese. Anyway, after that little detour into my neurotic disordered thought, I will resume the travel narrative. After breakfast we packed up the car and set off for Melbourne. Arriving into the city at 11:30am I was hit by a wave of happiness. So great to be home. I pulled up as close to the girls hostel as parking restrictions would allow and we emptied Nooreen of all but my own belongings. Although we’d made plans to re-convene later that evening, I had concerns that plans are subject to change therefore before heading back to Geelong, I made sure that we all settled our debts to one another. Formalities complete, I left the girls to get settled and headed back home to speedily change before heading back to ‘The City’. During the car ride from the campground to Melbourne we’d discussed plans for the evening and had agreed upon meeting for drinks. Laura however as dead set on visiting some techno clubs which are really not my scene so I made plans to also meet up with Dan. (my Melbourne based friend whom I’d met when travelling in Poland a couple of years ago) That way I figured that I could meet up with the girls later on and say our goodbyes, yet also have someone whom I could remain out with once they ventured off to dance their toes off into the early hours. Towards the end of the trip I was also feeling less and less connected to the girls and rather than spend the evening feeling like an outsider, I could enjoy the company of a friend who’s company I always value. I met up with Dan at a grotty pub in South Melbourne at around 5:30pm. The place reminded me of some of the city centre dives we have in Manchester. Oh the nostalgia. Looking forward to visiting those wonderful grot holes again. After a couple of drinks and rounds of pool (yes, Dan convinced me to get up of my bottom and play pool. Miracle) I texted the girls to obtain an ETA for meeting up. As anticipated, they advised me that their plans had changed. They no longer intended to venture out of the hostel until later in the evening as they’re purchased a box of wine and were engaged in pre-drinking at their abode. I have to say that I was a tad annoyed in spite of anticipation this. Glad I’d arranged to meet up with Dan as I was really craving some time immersed in a wider socialising environment. Dan and I ventured to another pub then hopped onto the tram to St Kilda. We set up camp in a bar close to the girls hostel as they’d advised that they would be joining us in a jiffy. Some time later they still hadn’t arrived so we made our way to their hostel to drag them out. As we were welcomed to the hostel by Laura, it soon became clear that they had no plans of coming to meet us anytime soon. None of them were ready for going out and were all rather tipsy already. Sensing Dan’s discomfort I said my goodbyes and Dan and I left them to it. Feeling like one final drink was in order, we scouted the local area for a bar. Although there were a few in the vicinity, all appeared to be shutting up shop for the night. Good sign that it’s time to go home. As it was now quite late, it was highly likely that I’d miss my last train to Geelong by the time I made it back to Southern Cross station. Thankfully Dan kindly offered to give me a place to stay for the night. We called it a night and hitched a cab to Dan’s home in Ivanhoe. All in all a good day and was great to catch up with a good friend in a city that I love. So happy to be home.