B, myself, and now even baby Alex have been on holidays across Australia and the world. But what about our dog Kita? Okay, he’s had time away at relatives’ while we’ve been elsewhere, but, apart from day trips, he’s never been on holidays with us.
This Easter was the first opportunity we’ve had to go away together as a complete family. We found some last minute pet friendly accommodation in NSW online at wotif.com and booked a short trip in the south, leaving Good Friday.
Packing for a road trip is so much less disciplined than a flight as you can just toss your stuff in the car’s boot. We left late, as usual, constrained by Alex’s sleeping and feeding times. As we drove over the Alford’s Point Bridge we could see a column of thick brown smoke coming from near a retirement village.
The traffic seemed very light as we entered the M5 motorway, but that was deceptive. Before we had even reached Campbelltown it slowed to a crawl as we hit roadworks. The frustratingly glacial pace continued until well after we had left the outskirts of Sydney.
At one stage there was a Holden Commodore in front of us with distracting Australian and Boxing Kangaroos fluttering from above the doors and a big Australian flag drapped over the bonnet.
It was lunchtime and Alex needed a feed. We passed a fuel and food stop and, seeing huge queues to enter the Hungry Jacks, decided to seek food off the main highway. We turned off to Mittagong, eventually stopping to takeaway from the McDonalds there. The street into Mittagong was lined with deciduous trees turning an autumn yellow.
Like during the flights to Japan, Alex had decided to void his bowels. It is not a fun travel habit of his.
We drove out of the McDonalds carpark and stopped at a grassy area down the street, giving Kita a chance to do a pee and us to sit down out of the car. Then it was back to the highway and down to Canberra.
The route is extremely familiar to us. The closer you get to Canberra, the prettier it gets. As you turn off the Hume and into the Federal Highway the road is lined with poplars. Then into the valley of empty Lake George, the quiet landscape now with a background of giant wind turbines.
Now running very late, we largely bypassed Canberra, driving via the airport. On the way out of Canberra, as we drove along farmlands, Kita looked at me as if he needed to urgently do some business. So we pulled over and let him out. But rather than lift his leg, he was distracted by the plethora of scents.
The road south of Canberra towards Cooma features gorgeous scenery as you ride up into the foothills of the Australian Alps. The old railway line to Cooma runs alongside the road for most of the route. Disused railway lines always sadden me, especially when they run through such scenic countryside to interesting destinations. The historical society used to run trains as far as Michelago, but beyond that the line is physically cut by the road, old crossings smoothed over though the track itself mostly remains.
There are a number of tiny townships along the route, yellowing poplars and old inns somehow fitting into the eucalypt and golden grass of the landscape. We stopped opposite a petrol station in one town to again change Alex’s brown nappy and to let Kita out to do his business, though he was again more interested in sniffing the world outside.
I thought that we would be much later than the arrival time I noted on our booking, but we pulled into the motel not too long after 5pm. The motel was high on a hill overlooking Cooma, and though it was a bit run down the owners, an accountant from Hong Kong and his Singaporean wife, were very friendly. There were nice views from the rooms and some bush areas for Kita to explore.
We decided to try the buffet dinner at the hotel, saving us the effort of taking dog and baby out. A big party of gruff looking Australians were at a couple of tables besides us, one of the parents warning us to get food quickly before their teenagers devoured it. The oily, Australianised Chinese food did disappear quickly, though the owner/chefs did cook us some more. Wasn’t really worth the price.
The next day we actually made it out before 10am. First stop, however, was only a kilometer away, to purchase a box of nappies from Woolworths. We decided that the leftover Japanese nappies were not enough to contain Alex’s frequent brown messes.
I absolutely love the near treeless expanses of the Monaro, the rolling hills and yellowed grasslands. There is a sense of emptiness, of loneliness out there. We follow a conitnuation of the abandoned railway line towards Bombala. What a beautiful journey that would have been.
Poking out from the hills are granite boulders, belying the volcanic heritage of the region. In the morning, while taking Kita for a walk near the motel I had found various pieces of granite sparkling with quartz. One piece had especially large pieces of mica, the thinly layered plastic-like rock that provides the sparkle in cosmetics, embedded in it.
There were more quaint towns along the highway, if there wasn’t a sleeping baby in the back we would probably have stopped to explore. Instead, we continued on as the landscape became greeners. Eventually, we reached the edge of the plateau, where the Great Dividing Range drops down towards the sea. Twisting roads through temperate rainforest, tall eucalypts sheltering tree ferns below.
At the base of the hills the landscape became bright green dairy pastures, with black and white cows sheltering under sparse gumtrees. Our journey south ended when we turned left at the Princes Highway, begin our return to the north.
Our destination was the tiny historic town of Central Tilba. Each Easter they hold a festival where cars are blocked from the main street to be replaced by stalls and performers. Years ago we had chanced upon the town and its festival while driving out of Narooma.
We took the turnoff to Tilba and parked, as indicated in a field acting as a carpark. There we sat and fed Alex, let Kita do his business. Then I put Alex in the Baby Bjorn and we set out for Central Tilba, being unable to take the shuttle bus due to Kita.
We were actually at Tilba, not Central Tilba which was a few kilometers distant, and were directed to repark at another site. So I unstrapped everything and we set out again for the northern turnoff into Central Tilba. Our car park was, along with hundreds of others, in the middle of a cow pasture, complete with large cow pats. There were spectacular views across to the mountains and down to the farmland below.
We walked down the step hill, paid the entrance fee into the fenced off town, and joined the crowds.
Truth be told, I think I would rather visit the town when the festival isn’t running. There stalls and the shops were mostly selling the same old hippy crap as any other little town in Australia, along with foods like pizza, curry puffs, and gozleme. Still, the ABC cheese factory does some really nice cheeses (also available in our local Woolies).
Kita wasn’t enjoying the crowds either.
After wandering around for a while, eating some curry puffs, spring rolls and ice cream, we trudged up the steep, steep hill and took a short drive north to our next stop of Narooma.
It was a nicer hotel that we stayed in and they didn’t seem to mind us keeping our dog inside, rather than the so-called “pet friendly” yes-you-can-leave-your-dog-in-the-car (but shhh, don’t tell the health inspectors he’s inside the room). We kept him in our room in Cooma as well, but quietly.
The day was not yet over, so we drove back out around Narooma and had an early dinner of fish and chips as the sun set over the lake, watching dogs chase seagulls on the mudflats.
We thought that we would have a relaxing early night in the hotel, but Alex had other plans, refusing to settle for a good many hours.
It was a weary family that departed from Narooma on Easter Sunday. There are a few quaint towns along the way, like Moruya with its gothic fantasy snake sculptures along the main street, crafty Mogo and tiny fishing and camping towns. Bodalla looked like a Queensland town with its XXXX pub.
I found the countryside less and less interesting as we drove north. The colour of the rock was now reddish, the trees a darker shade of green and grey. It could have been anywhere up to northern Queensland.
We were planning to have a seafood lunch at Ulladulla, but we hit a snag. The town was in the grips of its Blessing of the Fleet festival. The main road was blocked off, cars were parked kilometres from the harbour and a navy helicopter circled overhead. We’d been to the festival before and frankly, I just couldn’t be bothered with the effort this time. So we continued north.
A dearth of eating places meant we were running out of time before Alex’s next feed. Eventually we turned off the highway to Huskisson on Jervis Bay. Now, this is one place that Kita has been before, last year in fact. We spotted a market and thought there might be something to eat there.
There were stalls selling various new and second hand items, but only hot dogs and sweetcorn for food and the former was sold out. Still, we did meet an Old English Sheepdog!
At Huskisson proper we had sandwiches and pancakes dining al fresco, then turned around and back to the highway. As we approached Berry the countryside improved again, rolling green hills in front of dark green mountains. It was very familiar countryside too, especially once we reached Wollongong, once a daily destination when we were university students there.
The last stretch was driven with a crying baby, hungry and having messed his nappy – again!
Kita was delighted to be home, so perhaps he’s one member of the household who has not caught the travel bug. However, he did behave himself on the trip and I’m sure we’ll take him on more in future.
As I carried our bags back into the house I realised that there was something that I had missed during this trip – the sound of jet aircraft flying overhead. Tragic.