Road Trip. Done.

I’m back home after completing my 2,200km circuit of eastern Victoria and the southern New South Wales coast. I’m glad that I decided to take the winding coastal route, even though it added at least four hours to the journey.

I left the office in Sydney on Friday afternoon, hoping to get at least as far as Bateman’s Bay before dusk. Luckily traffic was pretty light after Wollongong and I managed to reach my planned stopover point, Narooma, by around 7pm. I had already booked some lovely beach front accommodation online, a real bargain at $99 per night. It was too dark to appreciate the location when I arrived, although I could hear the ocean from the bedroom as I drifted off to sleep.

Next morning I hit the road early, knowing that I still had at least 8 hours drive ahead of me. I had a quick look at the beach and town centre before continuing the journey down the Sapphire Coast, heading inland briefly through Bega, famous in Australia for its cheese. The highway rejoined the coast at Pambula and then, after the town of Eden, veered west across the Victorian border. I was hoping to grab some breakfast in one of these places, but decided I could wait for the next one — however I didn’t realise the next town, Orbost, was around 200kms away!

I was running low on fuel when I hit Orbost so had no choice but to pay an extortionate $1.69 per litre. Orbost felt like a real country town, where everyone comes from the surrounding farms at weekend to stock up on provisions at the local shops. I grabbed a coffee and a sandwich and planned the last part of the journey, already realising that I wouldn’t have much time to explore anywhere if I wanted to get home before dark, but I definitely wanted to see Lakes Entrance so decided to make a slight detour at Nowa Nowa. I’m glad I did, it looks like a really nice place to spend a few days. I couldn’t spare the time to explore Ninety Mile Beach, unfortunately.

It started to rain as I entered Bairnsdale which made progress through Sale, Rosedale, Traralgon, Moe and Warragul a bit slower than necessary, even though these were the best quality roads in the whole journey. I was soon passing through Pakenham, familiar territory at last, and reached Berwick by 4pm. At this point I ran out of MP3s, having listened to four audio books, a dozen podcasts and a couple of recorded radio series along the way, so I tuned into UK TalkSport radio and listened to the build-up to the England vs Norway game for the final half hour of the journey.

I’m pleased to have done this road trip, but it’s not something I’ll ever do again. Undoubtedly there are lots of lovely little places to see along the way but, at the end of the day, there’s just far too much monotonous driving in between with not enough varied or spectacular scenery to make it worthwhile. Being limited to 100km/h or 110km/h doesn’t help, either. I’m sure other parts of Australia offer a better driving experience, but I’m not keen to find out anytime soon!

Road Trip

It’s the CeBIT Business Technology Exhibition at the Sydney Convention Centre this week, so I’ve travelled up to New South Wales to pay a visit and will be working out of the company’s Silverwater office for the rest of the week.

Usually I fly up to Sydney but, with Sara and Charlotte being overseas, I thought I’d take the opportunity to put some miles on the new car and see a little bit more of Australia along the way.

As you can see from the picture above, Australia is bloody enormous, so this little trip is going to be around 2000 kilometers — about the same distance driving from Manchester to Rome. Here’s my planned route:

I set off yesterday lunchtime, heading North along the Maroondah Highway through the Yarra Valley wine region and winding through the Kinglake National Park.

This route took me through a little place called Yarck (population 223) which I was curious to see, mainly because half of the utes in Melbourne seem to have a “Where the fark is Yarck?” bumper sticker. Pub? Check. Post office? Check. Grocery shop? Check. Anything else? Nope.

I then joined the Hume Highway, the 880km direct freeway route between Melbourne & Sydney, at a town called Euroa and set the cruise control at 110km/h (68m/h) for a while. Ready to stretch my legs after three hours at the wheel, I took a short break at Glenrowan which is the town where Ned Kelly, the infamous Australian outlaw, was finally gunned down in 1880. I also took a short detour off the freeway to visit Beechworth, a former gold rush town, which added 20 minutes or so to the journey.

After rejoining the Hume, I floored it — as much as you can with so many speed cameras around — and crossed into New South Wales. After nearly five hours on the road passing through tiny one horse towns, Albury, the first major town in NSW, seemed really industrial and featureless.

About 45 minutes later I stopped to refuel at Holbrook — $1.67 (£1.03) per litre for 98RON unleaded, the most expensive I have bought in Australia! Strangely, Holbrook is famous for having a full-sized submarine on display in the middle of the town, despite being more than 400kms away from the ocean. I didn’t bother with a visit to the maritime museum.

As daylight started to fade I was still more than 400kms away from Sydney. Driving on the interstate freeway really isn’t pleasant at night; you see plenty roadkill — foxes, possums, wallabies, kangaroo — all along the hard shoulder and, unless you’re driving one of the many road trains, stray wildlife could cause some serious damage to your vehicle. There’s no street lighting whatsoever, so when there’s no traffic ahead you have to rely cat’s eyes in the road (or Sat Nav in my case) to warn you of upcoming bends; it requires a lot of concentration.

It was pitch black by the time I reached the town of Gundagai — the traditional half way point in the journey — but it’s really not a place I wanted to stay, so I persevered in total darkness for another two hours and eventually reached Goulburn (population 20,127), allegedly Australia’s first inland “city”. It’s also home to the Big Merino, a giant concrete statue of a sheep.

I’d had enough for one day. I checked into a flea pit motel, found the nearest pub for a bite to eat and planned the last 200km push into Sydney the next morning.

I’ve learned that driving interstate in Australia is incredibly boring. Fortunately I had numerous podcasts and audio books to keep me entertained along the way — I even gave the “Teach Yourself German” CDs another try. The inland route is extremely tedious with virtually nothing interesting to see along the way (including the submarine and giant concrete sheep), so I’m looking forward to taking the more scenic coastal route on my way home on Friday.

Sara and Charlotte are on their way

By the time you read this, Sara and Charlotte should be almost half way back to England. :-h

They’re travelling with Virgin Australia this time, mainly to avoid having to transit through London Heathrow. They fly Melbourne->Sydney->Abu Dhabi->Manchester.

It’s been a long day, they’ve already been on the road for 17 hours. According to the Flight Radar website they are currently flying over Malaysia, about midway through the 14 hour flight to Abu Dhabi. Hopefully they’ve both managed to get a few hours sleep. (:|

So I’ve got four weeks here on my own before I fly out to join them briefly in June on my way to Germany for work. I’m missing them already. :((

Tonight I thought I’d put together a short movie clip (50Mb, right-click and choose “Save As…”) to make up for the lack of posts in the past six months. I’ve got a few household DIY jobs and some interstate travel lined up while they’re away, but I should definitely be able to find time to update the blog a bit more frequently for a while. Honest. :-@