Home sweat home

“I wish we could live here!” said Alex of the Schaller hotel in Bendigo. Unfortunately all good holidays come to an end and it was time for us to return to Sydney. It’s a pity because I was certainly enjoying our stay in Bendigo and there remained plenty for us to see and do. The Schaller was also a very nice hotel to stay in, especially the artistically decorated foyer with its collection of novels and National Geographic magazines. A pleasant place to relax.

But once we were in the car Alex wanted to return to Sydney as quickly as possible, lacking an idea of the distances involved. This time we followed the A300 all the way to Shepparton and the M31.

Shepparton is home to the well known SPC Ardmona canning and food processing factory. One of the reasons to travel to this region is the fresh fruit on offer. We were on the lookout for roadside stalls as we passed the rows of apple, orange and other fruit trees. Spotting a sign for one we pulled up a side road and parked outside a garage of fruit. There we purchased the crunchiest pears, shaped like normal pairs but with a texture and flavour akin to nashis, only less powdery. Peaches plucked from the tree that morning, tasting just as they should, as did the apricots. The fruit available in our local supermarkets and greengrocers is usually so poor in comparison to this.

At Shepparton proper we stopped to get money via supermarket eftpos, buying some school supplies for Alex in the process, then trying our first jelly slice in a nearby bakery. A biscuit base, cream or lemon custard centre and raspberry jelly on top, they seem to be a Victorian thing. I like them.

Around the corner was another fruit and vegetable shop, so we bought some more now we had more cash.

Further on, out of town, we saw a sign to the Chocolate Apple Factory. Sounded interesting, so we checked it out. They coat pink lady apples in chocolate, as well as making their own rocky roads and other foodstuffs. Very nice and it is fortunate that we had the foresight to pack an Esky with freezer blocks in the car!

A pit stop was required at Benalla, though the facilities were not working properly and we ended up using a loo outside of the Coles Supermarket. Lunch was at a bakery that proudly promoted the first prize success of its vanilla slices (also known colloquially as “snot blocks”) at the Victorian Food Fair. Had to agree that they were nice.

Real dim sims!

Alex, pestering us with “Arewethereyets?” was delighted when we crossed over the Murray and back into New South Wales. But no stop at Albury this time. Instead we continued on to Gundagai, where the petrol station layout confused (trucks go one side, cars the other). Then back on the way.

“I don’t want to arrive home after sunset!” Alex complained.

Neither did we and though we could have reached home that night, the driving was getting tiring. I suggested Yass, as the next major stop. We checked out a few motels that, according to the Internet, still had reasonably priced vacancies, but they wanted something more.

So we continued down the Barton Highway to Canberra. It’s been many years since we last drove the Barton, though it was once a common thoroughfare when I lived in Canberra and B in Albury. It’s quite a pretty route.

As we entered the Gungahlin area we encountered one of Canberra’s traffic jams, fortunately going in the opposite direction. Nothing to a Sydneysider, of course.

I directed us to the Pavilion on Northbourne. What a difference between our previous accommodation. This was a place where people stayed for business, cold, impersonal, though the firm bed met my approval. I found myself wishing we stayed in some little motel in Yass so I could still feel the country rather than a city I now associated with my work.

Dinner was Malaysian food at Papparich, where we had last dined in Canberra as a family. The next morning it was breakfast at McDonalds before we drove back to Sydney along the all to familiar Federal and Hume Highways.

I hate this last stretch. It’s all too familiar, a reminder of a return to normal life. When we arrived back in Sydney, we drove straight to Officeworks to complete Alex’s list of school items for next week, then petrol, then picking up Kita from the kennels, all in the same area. Finally some grocery shopping so we could eat lunch, then down our driveway into home.

After hotel rooms and cars with airconditioning the house was very hot and sticky and, for fear of sunburn, the pool couldn’t be used until evening. As we swam grey storm clouds threatened and I reflected on our trip.

I really enjoyed travelling through the Victorian countryside. It still feels like a real home for me. It was nice to listen to a different kind of conversation around us as well instead of Sydney’s obsession with wealth and property. I swear that there were academics in many of the cafes we ate at.

It’s quite amazing the number of experiences we packed in, especially for Alex. A science centre, down a real mine, old gold town, a pantomine, horse ride and a ride on a horse drawn cart, tram and train rides and a waterslide. Not bad for such a short trip!

Victoria is so dense with sights that I could spend a long time exploring the state. I look forward to our next trip down south.