It’s July. That means it’s time once more for the IRB National Lifesaving Championships (that’s Inflatable Rescue Boats for the uninitiated), or Aussies as we call them, and being the good parents we are it is off to Kingscliff, NSW we go, to cheer on our daughter and the Williamstown team. But, being us, we have to turn this opportunity into a trip, so off we go on a 5 night road trip through this wide brown/green/mauve land of ours.
Packing proves to be the first challenge. Partly because the temptation when you are travelling by car is to throw yet another item in, just in case. And partly because we will be encountering temperatures from -1 to 23! In goes the puffer coat AND the bathers, and everything in between.
First stop is Fowles Winery at Avenel – a coffee and a bottle of wine for tonight. Onwards up the Hume. We deviate off at Chiltern for a quick bite. This little town is showing signs of decline, with many empty shopfronts. The story of many towns that have been bypassed by the highways. You take your tastebuds into dangerous territory when you head out into country Australia. Sure there are some regional gems, but you also encounter some shockers and unfortunately Chiltern turned out to be the latter rather than the former. Ah well, it was food.
We make a quick stop to say Hello to the Dog on the Tuckerbox at Gundagai. As a teenager living in Canberra we would always stop at The Dog on our many trips to Melbourne. So nice to see families still doing this ritual. As well as the obligatory photo, we stock up on a bag of freshly picked Batlow apples – crisp and juicy.
Time then to turn off the Hume Highway and head inland, with Cootamundra our first night’s stay. We have booked into the Southern Comfort Motor Inn, and it is the classic Aussie motel – large room, clean, decorated in the 70s. Great. Peter, mine host, when asked to recommend somewhere to eat responds with You won’t find anything gourmet in Cootamundra love. He’s right. But, we get a cheap, basic pub meal at the busiest spot in town, the Central Hotel. Even though it’s a Saturday night there isn’t much happening in ‘Coota’ – the enormously wide Main Street is virtually deserted on this cold winter night.
Next morning we decide to turn our back on Coota and head to Young for breakfast. Trip Advisor recommends The Kettle & Grain cafe so in we head. Nice little spot in an old schoolhouse, but my word those poor schoolchildren must have been too frozen to learn anything back in the day.
I love these country towns – wide streets and an eclectic mixture of architecture. Every town has its beautiful lace ironwork pub, its impressive town hall, and some wonderful Deco buildings.
Next stop is Cowra, to visit the remains of the POW camp and the Japanese Garden. The garden is beautiful, so tranquil. Learning more about the POW breakout is fascinating, and it is heartening in these times of so much divisiveness to see a town that has embraced it’s history and has turned it into something positive.
Our last port of call before arriving in Orange is accidental as we knew nothing about Canowindra but stopped upon a whim after seeing the sign pointing to Historic Village. But, it turns out to be a little gem of a town – lovely buildings, and an interesting array of shops. We visit the Artesan Chocolate shop, and stock up on treats for later and have a good chat to the two charming owners, refugees from Sydney who toiled to restore what was once a solicitor’s office into a homage to handmade chocolates from around the area and beyond.
It is then an easy drive through beautiful countryside to Orange, our ‘home’ for the next 2 nights.