January Getaways

new growth on 2020 burns

I’m still backtracking, catching me and you up on the past year. I know I’m a little late, but since I haven’t done much traveling on this working holiday, I figured I’d write about what I can. At the start of the year, I was out of lockdown, ready for new adventures, and with plenty to explore in my own backyard. I took advantage of public holidays and long weekends, and made the most of January, doing more traveling than I had done in the previous six months. On three separate weekends, I traveled throughout the eastern part of Victoria, to Mallacoota, Melbourne, and Wilson’s Promontory.

8-9 January: Mallacoota

Nearly at the New South Wales border, the small, coastal holiday town of Mallacoota is known for its fishing and boating, neither of which I have any interest in. It was on my radar as being a cute little place to visit, which it is, but I would say you don’t need more than a weekend there to see all it has to offer. I drove from Bairnsdale along the coast, stopping for breakfast in Orbost, then on through Croajingolong National Park. Don’t worry, I didn’t know how to pronounce that the first time I saw it either. I wanted to visit a lighthouse, but after driving over an hour on unsealed roads, discovered that it was closed from fire damage the previous year. Bushfires often plague the eastern side of Australia during the summers, as they do along the west coast of the US, but those at the end of 2020 were worse than recent years. Driving along, there was plenty of evidence of areas devastated by fire damage, through the open bush, all the way until Mallacoota. The drive took about five hours in total, so I arrived at my campsite by early afternoon. This was my first adventure in camping on my own, and hardly camping at that. I had folded over a foam mattress topper, which fit nicely in the back of my car, making a barely comfortable bed. For one night it would do, and since then I’ve added an additional foam mattress, lights, curtains, and window covers. It’s still a funny sight for me to pull up in just my car, when I’m surrounded by multi room tents and caravans, but I make it work.

I walked around the one block of town, and then for about two hours on the trail along the foreshore and all throughout the massive caravan park. I walked until I was tired of walking, bought some beers, and settled in to read my book. By the time I was ready for dinner, a kebab food truck was my best and only option. And since it was the only option, it somehow took an hour and a half until I had my food. After a restless sleep with the streetlight flooding into my eyes, I was up early for breakfast and the beach. This was the middle of summer after all, so even by 10am the sun was beating down on me. I got in a couple hours of tanning, and watching surfers, and then was on my way back down the coast. I stopped at one of my favorite places in Victoria, Cape Conran, which has beautiful beaches and scenic walks. After another couple of hours there, I was on my way back to Bairnsdale. I survived my first weekend camping on my own, and was ready for more adventure.


22-24 January: Melbourne

The first city I called home in Australia, but this was my first time back in nine months. Of the core group of friends I had there, only one remained, so I took the weekend to visit her and explore my old Brunswick neighborhood. And return my lacrosse stick. Because I had been holding on to it since I left the city and it had been collecting dust nicely in the corner of my room. It’s greatest use was when playing fetch with a dog. I would love the chance to return to the Brunswick Lacrosse Club, who I played with for a few weeks, but I don’t know if that’s in the cards.

We had an all day eating and drinking plan, that started with bottomless mimosas and espresso martinis with brunch, and then moved on to bar hopping down towards St. Kilda. I’m not quite sure how we made it through the day, but it was an insane amount of fun, and some lifelong memories were made that day. I left her place Sunday, and headed first to an American supermarket south of the city. I stocked up on LaCroix, Goldfish, and Cheeze-It’s, all at an outrageous price, and then drove east toward the Yarra Valley. I’d had a few different places marked on my map as things to do and see, so I ticked some of them off the list. I visited the Alfred Nicholas Memorial Garden, which was just a nice walk through some pretty trees, and then to a spot with California Redwoods. I didn’t expect it to be as busy with tourists as it was, and it was just a square block of relatively small trees, with a river to swim in behind it. Compared to the real California redwoods, it wasn’t all that spectacular, but was still fun to see. I stayed Sunday night near Walhalla, and old gold mining town, and then drove south to Tarra-Bulga National Park and stopped for a hike, and then headed back up the coast to Bairnsdale.

I stayed again in Melbourne for one night when I moved from Bairnsdale to Myrtleford, and visited the same friend again during a weekend in July, which included a comedy show and delicious dinner. As much as I appreciate the time I had living in Melbourne and love it as a city, living in regional Victoria has made me realize how much I like the country lifestyle, and how I probably won’t live long-term in a big city again. I guess never say never, because I do like many of the comforts and easiness of living that comes in a city, but I don’t think it’s for me.

30-31 January: Wilson’s Promontory

One of the more famous National Parks in Victoria, Wilson’s Prom lived up to the hype. I only stayed for one night, but managed to squeeze a lot in. On the drive to and from Bairnsdale, I explored more of Victoria’s southeast coast, completing my tour of eastern Victoria. On the Saturday afternoon when I arrived, I did one of the main walks, from the Tidal River Campground to Squeaky Beach, Picnic Bay, and Whisky Bay. On the way back to the campsite, I did the Lilly Pilly circuit and climbed Mt Bishop, making for about six hours of hiking. This was before I had any of my camping gear, so for two lunches and one dinner I enjoyed PB&J sandwiches, fruit, and chips. I saw my first wombat, and despite the campground being crowded, got a peaceful sleep. In the morning, I took a walk to Norman Beach, and then climbed Mt Oberon, which isn’t a very exciting walk up, but leads to some of the most spectacular views of the Prom. This was my favorite camping adventure so far, and I knew I’d be back.

With the lockdown lifted, at the time, I had more time for socializing. I moved back into the local hostel I had first lived in when I arrived in Bairnsdale, and had between three and eight housemates, with more time to explore the local area and go to the pub. I met another American girl, who welcomed me into her circle, and was just starting to enjoy my life in Bairnsdale. But I was ready to move on, and I knew I needed a change of scenery, which is how I ended up back in North East Victoria, and ended up having one of the best years of my life.

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