It’s time to head home. Pack, clean and fight with Kita to get the harness fitted. I drive the motorways through Geelong and around Melbourne until we are finally on the Hume.
But it is not enough just to reverse our journey. Instead we take a detour towards Shepparton. By the time we reach the rural city we are hungry and need to use the facilities. Limited by the dog we pull over at Victoria Park and, while I walk Kita, the other two fetch a takeaway lunch from the KFC opposite.
However, the real reason to stop at Shepparton is not food from a multinational restaurant chain. Shepparton is the fruit capital of Australia, home of SPC. We stop at a farm outlet and buy a box of white peaches and a bag of apricots.
Apricots! You can’t get decent apricots in Sydney and I love apricots. I love these apricots.
There was another place, further along, where we once bought the most delicious pears. But they don’t seem to be open any more.
The route eventually meets the Hume again. We make a bathroom break at the Ironbark rest stop where a V/Line train for Albury roars past. Then a petrol stop at Logic, which strangely lacks gates.
A final late afternoon run takes us across the River Murray and into New South Wales all the way back to Gundagai.
Before we check in we drive into the town centre, across the remaining open section of the old bridge, the longest wooden bridge in Australia. We stop to look across the rest of the collapsing wooden trestles of the road and disused railway bridges, wracked by floods and time, feel the regret of the old train line.
Most eateries other than the pubs are closed, some permanently. B orders takeaway chow mein and fried rice from the Chinese restaurant and they taste like good old country Chinese.
Later, after we have checked in and I have struggled to get Kita to do his business, Alex and I cross through the fine dust to the McDonald’s. They don’t seem to have salads in stocks and he is given a burger box with roughly sliced lettuce, tomato slices and some cucumber. No dressing, so they substitute a tub of Caeser sauce. I guess there isn’t much demand.
We are all sick of hot chips.
Neither B nor Alex are particularly enamoured with Gundagai (which our GPS pronounces as “Gunda-gay”). I think Kita is overstimulated by the smells and the trucks driving past. Getting him to do his business is almost impossible. The hotel is pretty dire and the hot water tap fell apart. Lucky I had a multitool in the car.
Yet the town itself is kind of attractive in its way. South Gundagai is a truck stop and, as a night owl, the two fast food joints and petrol station stand out for being alive when the rest of the world sleeps, their bright signs shouting out into the dark.
I hope that tonight there are no more dramas of fire or dog and we can return home tomorrow without fuss.