Jelly slice

With a roar of their engines and the hiss of brakes the trucks turn at the big Hungry Jacks sign and behind the yellow and gold Shell service station. There in the fast food restaurant is an arcade games room and a shower, a chance to freshen up and relax after a long drive.

Gundagai is a major rest stop on the busy Sydney to Melbourne route. We could have made it from Bendigo to Sydney in one go, but I’m glad we decided to break our journey here.

Two years ago Gundagai was bone dry, the land around our motel parched and cracked, even the weeds dead and crumbling. The night air was filled with dust and smoke and even a brief shower was more mud than water. This was the time of the great fires. 

I took a walk back to that motel this afternoon. The exterior was freshly painted and there was green on the ground. There were no big dust clouds kicked up by the trucks making their way past. 

The motel we are staying in is much nicer, the room large and clean, the swimming pool warm. It makes a difference.

Gundagai can sometimes feel a little unfriendly to non-local. There weren’t many shops open when we drove into town. We had a late lunch at Hungry Jack’s, the indoor tables closed due to Covid. For our dinner we purchased some frozen meals from the supermarket to heat up in our rooms. 

On the way back we took a drive up to the lookout over the town. It is worth it, the view is magnificent, showing the new and old bridges over the Murrumbidgee, that same river that featured in our drive down to South Australia.

Before we left Bendigo this morning, we first crossed the road to the Beechworth Bakery where the jelly slices were not yet cut from, the block. A biscuit base, cheesecake layer topped with raspberry jelly. Only seems to be available in Victoria. A favourite of our southern journeys, left until the last moment.

We drive from Bendigo to Gundagai via Shepparton, where we buy boxes of fresh nectarines and peaches direct from the local farms.

Then it’s straight to Gundagai, arriving at 3pm, late lunch enabled by the bakery overindulgence and snacks of fruit.

Despite the negative image engendered from our previous visit, it is nice to break our journey here today. With its hills and views, the big sky, Gundagai feels like the kind of place that exists to serve people going elsewhere and that is attractive in its own right.

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