This is the diary of my holiday to the south coast of NSW and the Snowy Mountains at the end of March 2004. I hope you have as much enjoyment reading it as I did on the holiday.
Friday March 26 Day 1 Melbourne to Mallacoota
After packing everything into the car (so much stuff, so many stairs) I set off just before 9 am. Battling the Friday morning peak hour traffic I eventually reached the open road.
My destination was Mallacoota in the heart of the Croajingolong National Park. This park is described as being the ‘Wildness Park’ and it certainly lived up to this. Even the towns along the way were wild. Once past Sale there is not much in this part of Victoria.
After driving all day I reached Mallacoota just before sunset. The main camping ground was on the shore of the inlet and it would be hard to imagine a more picturesque spot. The sky was so dark and clear that I had no trouble finding the Magellanic Clouds and I even saw three meteorites shoot down and a satellite pass over head.
Saturday March 27 Day Two Mallacoota to Eden
I started my journey with a couple of small walks in the Croajingolong National Park. This park is described as the ‘Wildness Park’ due to its unspoilt and undeveloped nature. While this is great for conservation, it does mean that there are few access roads and those few do require a 4WD vehicle. So I had to make do with some of the smaller trails off of the main road.
Unfortunately the main walk that I had planned to do was closed due to fuel reduction burning (deja vu to my experiences while trying to walk in the High Country last year after the bush fires).
On the way to Eden I stopped at the Ben Boyd National Park and did some of the walks. This was a very interesting place both for the nature and the history of Boyd’s folly’s, and also for the huge wood chip mill. The small mountain of wood chips waiting to be exported was unbelievable.
The camping ground at Eden was on the foreshore of the main surf beach and was a lovely place.
Sunday March 28 Day 3 Eden
This morning I awoke to a truly spectacular sunrise. It looked as if the whole sky was on fire.
After breakfast I set off for the northern end of the Ben Boyd National Park. After driving along a gravel road for what seemed ages I reached the Red Cliffs. This place had been billed as “a photographers paradise”. Well maybe you had to be there at the right time but I just could not see what the fuss was about.
I then walked along the coast track. At one point I thought that I must have wandered on to a golf course by mistake. The ‘greens’ along the ‘fair way’ were immaculate The reason for this was obvious – there were wallaby droppings everywhere! I only saw a couple of animals but there must have been a small army hiding in the bush.
Monday March 29 Day 4 Eden to Ulladulla
The sunrise this morning was even more spectacular than yesterday! I even saw a pod of dolphins swim by and a couple of them surfed some of the waves.
Leaving Eden I set off northwards. My destination was Batemans Bay.
I remembered Batemans Bay as being a small fishing village with ocean surf beaches. When I arrived I found a mini metropolis with shopping malls, traffic lights and suburbs. Not at all like what I was expecting. I could not get out of there fast enough and headed north to Ulladulla.
When I arrived at Ulladulla the wind was howling and I had to use every rope and tent peg I could find to avoid being blown back to Melbourne.
Tuesday March 30 Day 5 Ulladulla
I was up just in time to see the sunrise which was quite impressive though it was a cloudless sky so there was nothing to catch all of the colors.
Since I had to change plans about where I was staying I decided to explore to the north and see the Blowhole at Kiama, do some bush walking and come back via Jervis Bay.
Driving up to Kiama along the Princess Highway it was amazing to see all of the development. Nowra was not the small country town that I had expected but in fact a fully grown city with suburbs, proper shopping complexes and factories. I can see that it will not be long before it is considered the outskirts of Sydney. I am glad that I didn’t go with my original plan of camping there.
Kiama was basically a copy and an extension of Nowra. It was nice enough (as cities go) but not what I was looking for. I had to see the Blowhole to fulfill my obligations as a tourist and wouldn’t you know it after days of rough seas and huge waves it was calm so there was no ‘blow’ at the hole. Anyway I can still say I that I have seen it.
Having seen the Blowhole (or not as the case may be) I then headed for the Minnamurra Rainforest where there was supposed to be several good walking tracks.
I had spent so much time at the rain forest that it was getting quite late by the time I set out for Jervis Bay. After taking several wrong turns and getting lost (must get better maps) I had to head for camp before it got too dark so I didn’t really get to see Jervis Bay at all.
Wednesday March 31 Day 6 Ulladulla
I was up early for the sunrise today but there was a lot of clouds so it wasn’t that exciting, just an ordinary sunrise (I think that I might be getting spoilt with all these spectacular sunrises). I finished off the roll of film anyway. This is the first roll for the trip as I have mainly been using the digital camera. Normally I would be using one or two rolls of film a day but the Pentax is rather heavy for walking with so I have been taking the Canon instead.
After exploring Kiama and the north yesterday, today I headed back south to the Murramarang National Park. I had been told that the best walk in the area is Pigeon House Mountain but there is a 26 km gravel road to get to the start of the walk and I was advised not to go alone. So I settled for Durras Mountain instead.
After the obligatory gravel road into the park (must get a 4WD as sports car does not do gravel roads) to Pebbly Beach, I set off on the 5 km walk to the summit. The walk up was through a lovely native forest but the last couple of hundred meters and the actual summit were not very impressive. It looked like a run down disused cattle farm with lots of cleared areas that were now over grown with weeds and grass. There was no view worth mentioning as I couldn’t see through the over growth and the few remaining trees. I have seen some disappointing ‘scenic views’ but this would take some beating! Talking to one of the locals on the way down it turns out that the top of the mountain was once a farm. The walk through the forest was still worth the effort.
Once back at Ulladulla I spent a couple of hours reading on the beach while soaking up some UV rays as it will be several months before Melbourne will have beach weather again. The water was too cold for swimming so I finished off with a few laps of the pool.
It is quite a nice camping ground here but it seems that most of the caravans are ‘permanent’ and are only used on weekends and holidays. I am currently sitting here surrounded by a hundred caravans and not a soul to be seen. I have only seen a hand full of people the whole time I have been here and most of those were staff.
Tomorrow I move on to Cooma and the Snowy Mountains.
Thursday April 1 Day 7 Ulladulla to Cooma
Setting off from Ulladulla, I headed south to Batemans Bay to join the Kings Highway across the mountains towards Canberra and Cooma.
After stopping for lunch in Braidwood, I made my big mistake of the day. Noticing the various road signs, I saw that there were two ways to get to Cooma; the main highway via Canberra, and a direct route via a minor road. Now I should mention that while I have extensive maps of Victoria, I had been navigating through NSW using a very rudimentary road atlas and the few basic maps in the Lonely Planet guide (which weren’t really meant for touring). Not really wanting to go to Canberra, I decided to take the scenic route.
Everything was fine to begin with on a typical two-lane minor road. The signs said “Cooma 120 km” (if I had been smarter I would have recorded my speedo reading so I knew how far I had gone, but if I had been smarter I would not have been on a minor road without a proper map in the first place). Gradually the road got narrower and the passing properties fewer, until after driving for about an hour the road became gravel. Now I was not too happy about this as the sports car does not do unmade roads and there had not been any signs to suggest that the road was not sealed. Consulting the map I realized that the road I was on was not marked! I now had two choices: continue on or go back. Calculating that I was nearer to Cooma than where I had come from, I decided to continue.
Progressively the grazing land gave way to forest and the road continued to narrow. I was beginning to doubt my choice when suddenly there was asphalt! Hooray! Thinking that I had reached the other side of the gravel road I set off with renewed enthusiasm. After a couple of kilometers, I came across a road crew laying new asphalt, beyond them gravel again. The gravel went for another twenty kilometers. Why there was a couple of kilometers of sealed road in the middle of a state forest I have no idea. Eventually I reached the real sealed road and made it in to Cooma in the late afternoon.
The plan was to spend the next day touring Kosciuszko National Park. As I only had one day I had to choose between touring the Alpine Way or walking to the summit of Mt Kosciuszko. Now I had always wanted to see the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme, so I went to the Snowy Hydro visitors center in Cooma to research the options. The nice lady at the center was very helpful (though as it turned out, completely wrong).
“The Tumut 2 underground tour is not operating due to maintenance, but everything else is open.”
So Alpine Way and the power stations it was.
Friday April 2 Day 8 Snowy Mountains
Setting off from Cooma the first stop was at Jindabyne for some coffee at the visitors center.
Traveling along the Alpine Way, with a few stops for photos, by mid morning I reached the first power station. Most of the power stations are hidden deep underground, but Murray 1 is one of the few above ground stations. With great excitement I headed for the visitors center only to find a sign that the station was closed to visitors for the week. As it turned out all of the power stations were closed to visitors while I was there.
Continuing on round the Alpine Way I saw many signs of the serve drought conditions with many well below capacity dams and dry vegetation, and the destruction of the bush fires during the summer of 2003. Driving for kilometers though whole forests of trees burnt dead was a very strange experience.
Saturday April 3 Day 9 Cooma to Melbourne
Setting off for home, I made one detour to the last of the power stations, Tumut 3. I was not surprised to find that it to was closed to visitors for the week. It was actually operating at the time which was quite an amazing sight. Standing next to the huge inflow pipes I could hear the water rushing down the mountain towards the turbines. On the other side of the station the water was surging out into the outflow pond forming eddies and whirlpools which were taking whole trees floating in the pond and spinning them around before sucking them to the bottom. The ‘No Swimming’ sign was a bit superfluous.
I arrived home in the early evening looking forward to my next holiday.