Two weeks ago MOTH (man of the house) and I set off for a week’s drive from Sydney to the Great Ocean Road along Victoria’s south coast. My underlying reason for this trip was to visit Portland Victoria, the supposed birth place of my birthmother and only a hundred or so kilometers from the end of the Great Ocean Road. I’ve known about Portland since obtaining my original birth certificate in 1990. Even though all indications lead to the likelihood that she wasn’t born there, in fact there is zero evidence of her ever living there – at least not under the name she gave to the adoption agency at the time of my birth. But I needed to understand what was significant about this place and why she gave it as her place of birth.
Anyway, I had to give MOTH an incentive to go with me on this journey so I talked up big the idea of a nice country and coastal drive visiting the 8 piglets (aka 12 Apostles of which 3 never existed and one just recently fell apart in the southern ocean) and generally seeing a small percentage of this great country we live in.
We’d had a big weekend with babysitting and a Sunday on the drink so we didn’t get off to an early start on the Monday, leaving around 10.30am. We made several trips back and forwards from our apartment to the garage, which is 10 stories below, packing the car with luggage and several trips to get forgotten items so when we were about to set off we realised we’d forgotten to grab the TomTom. Rather than make yet another trip upstairs to grab it, MOTH noted that we both have maps on our smart phones so we’d be OK and therefore didn’t need to make the trip back to the apartment to get the TomTom(or Tommy as I call mine). I was dubious about this as I really hate the maps on the phone and also the lack of an Irish women (who is my Tommy’s voice) to tell me where to go but decided he was probably right as we’d only be going to small towns anyway.
Side note: As you can probably guess, this was a mistake. Given my bad eye sight, especially in the brightness of day looking at a tiny screen with a tiny map, I had Buckley’s chance of being a capable navigator. Every time a map reading was required we had to stop so MOTH could read the map– which funnily enough we were required to do often.
After about 15 minutes and less than 10 kilometres from home, I realised I’d also forgotten my contact lenses. Or at least I didn’t have enough to get me through the next 6 days or more. Rather than go back home to get some– more to the point – after MOTH said he wouldn’t turn around and told me that I’d just have to wear my glasses. But the idea of being a four eyed git during my holiday didn’t appeal to me so I decided to call ahead to the OPSM store in Albury, our destination for the first night to see if I could purchase a box of lenses with a power of 4+. Unfortunately the Albury store and the other OPSM stores along our way (Liverpool and Goulburn) only stocked lenses with a minus power (4-), bloody typical. Anyway, I’d finally tracked down some trial lenses, enough to get me through several days at least, from the OPSM at Campbelltown and thankfully it was only a small deviation off track. I hadn’t been to Campbelltown shopping centre since 1989 so it and the surrounding territory were completely different and this deviation led to our first indication that not retrieving Tommy was a mistake – we were an hour into our 6 day driving holiday.
After our stop at Campbelltown Shopping Centre (aka Macarthur Square) where we had a bite to eat and a coffee and I’d managed to get enough contacts to last 4 days, we were on our way – it was 12.30 pm – Albury here we come.
A few hours later, needing some petrol and another bite to eat, we choose Gundagai as our next stop. As we approached Gundagai the signs for food and petrol indicated that we needed to pull off the Hume Hwy and that we did – several kilometers too soon – damn not having Tommy! This slight deviation took us directly through the little township of Gundagai– nice to drive through, wouldn’t want to live kinda place. Finally after doing a big loop through the town we headed towards the highway and the petrol station and the only place to get a bite to eat besides the pub and a local greasy spoon is McDonalds.
This deviation got me thinking that once upon a time all traffic went through this and other little towns but now the highways bypassed them. I couldn’t help but wonder if they’re missing the travellers’ dollars? I’m sure they have. It also occurred to me that with a population of around 2,000 the biggest employer within the township itself must be McDonalds. Kind of sad to think that this American icon, and I use the word loosely, which has been singled out by many nutritionists as one of the major cause of western society’s obesity problems now dominates the Australian landscape and provides the only food and drink to weary travellers.
We also made the call that we couldn’t be bothered going off course again to see the famous Gundagai’s Dog on a tuckerbox. We’re hard to please people and knew we’d be bitterly disappointed by this silly statue – besides we were a couple on a mission and that was to get to Albury by 6pm.
Side note: This was pretty much the flavor of the trip – we didn’t go off the path to see what we would consider silly tourist attractions that didn’t include a scenic view of water.
After filling up on petrol and food we hit the road – next stop somewhere for coffee, then Albury. And for this leg of the trip, me at the wheel.
The next two hours passed uneventfully. Mostly a straight road, lots of farming land with either cows or sheep or nothing on them – bored! Then after about 1.5 hours we saw a sign for a place called Holbrook. Neither of us had heard of it and we were surprised to find that we drove directly through the middle of the town right passed the park with a section of a disused (obviously) submarine – what the hell?
As we didn’t pass over or through or around a very large river we wondered why part of a sub was the main attraction – a sad one at that given as I mentioned before we are hard to please. We found out via mobile Google, the “HMAS Otway was bought by the locals to honor Lt. Holbrook the town’s namesake. The sub was decommissioned by the Royal Australian Navy in 1995 but the locals couldn’t afford the whole sub but through negotiations with the scrap yard in Sydney, the town did succeed in purchasing all of the outside skin of the Otway above the waterline”. Personally, I wouldn’t have bothered.
On the way out of town, which was roughly 200 meters long, we noticed the building of a bypass, so confused travelers like ourselves won’t even get to see the sad and sorry sub. Kinda sad I guess.
Ok, next stop Albury and our first booked accommodation and as it happened the only night we pre-booked for the whole trip.
It was just on dark as we arrived into Albury. Neither of us had been there before. Thankfully MOTH was in the passenger’s seat because we didn’t have to stop to look at the tiny map to show us where the Motel was, however, we did make one wrong turn because MOTH wasn’t clear with his instructions – how I miss Tommy. As it happened the motel was situated just as we veered off the main highway and right across the road from a large Bunning’s store one could almost see from Sydney (well almost). I discovered the Bunning’s store’s proximity to the motel via Google map street view just before we left that morning.
The motel looked cute – it was Tudor style but the surrounding industrial area let it down somewhat but it was only an overnight stay so we didn’t mind and we were pleasantly surprised to see inside the front window of the motel a very nice restaurant and bar area. As I was booking in, the receptionist said that if we’re interested in dining in the Motel’s restaurant, complete with not one but two great chefs, we would need to let her know.
We decided to take up on the dinner offer as it was late and we had no idea where the main shopping area was at that stage.
Side note: As it turned out the only reason we needed to book a table is because the lovely restaurant we saw earlier was closed and all food was served in the breakfast dining area for that night – but more on that in a minute.
The room was nice with large dark furniture keeping with the dark Tutor colours. The bathroom, although aging was clean. However, MOTH noticed with his beady eyes the ceiling was peeling slightly. He went on about how they should tend to little imperfections like this as it detracts from the overall experience. Personally I couldn’t give a flying *bleep*.
We’d booked dinner for 7pm and after a quick shower and change headed down to the restaurant – or as previously mentioned the breakfast dining room.
On entry we couldn’t help but notice the very strong smell of chlorine and as we approached our nicely set table for two next to a railing, we realised that on a lower level was an indoor heated swimming pool. What a strange place to have a dining area. And who would want to swim while diners watched on? Very strange!
I ordered an entrée of Kangaroo with a berry jus and a side of steamed veges as I didn’t like the main meal menu. MOTH, predictably ordered the Duck which on this occasion came with a cherry sauce. Both dishes were ordered with the hope that a decent chef was on the case as both dishes can easily be botched. Low and behold – the chef (or chefs as the receptionist boasted) botched both dishes.
To add salt to injury (so to speak) it wasn’t a cheap meal so we decided to pass on the desert, even though I was saving room for some. I suggested we go for a walk to Dean Street which was the main shopping area, according to Wikipedia. So armed with our tiny little map on MOTH’s iphone we headed off. This is where the iPhone’s little map comes in handy – to those with good eyesight at least.
Once we reached Dean Street we were surprised to see how long it was and how many restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs lined the street. All this, in what I consider to be the outback – wow!
Is this what all country towns are like?
Side note: No, they’re not.
After we had our desert of coffee and hot chocolate – we decided we were full and the walk depleted our hunger for a sweet desert, we headed back to the Motel for a good night’s sleep and to continue our journey the next day.
Day two – Torquay Vic, here we come albeit after a minor deviation from a wrong turn in Albury.
Tommy I miss you!