Wilsons Prom to Mallacoota (Wonboyn)
Once off the Prom we joined the Gippsland Highway, part of the Melbourne to Sydney Coastal Drive, and headed east. Mostly open farmland with several large tracts of commercial forest. We swung off to look at Port Albert, but being Sunday, everything, and there want much, was closed. Turned off again to Woodside Beach the self proclaimed start of Ninety Mile Beach which continues all the way to Lakes Entrance , becoming a spit rather like, but much longer, Chesil Beach in the UK. The waves were crashing in, the ocean was brown and muddy, shame as it looked a fantastic beach and it was totally deserted.
Back to the Highway and on to Sale where we joined the A1, The Princes Highway. Sale was essentially a long strip along the Highway though now bypassed and did have some interesting older buildings. On now to, and through Bairnsdale thence to Swan Reach and our campsite for the night. It was only late afternoon so we decided to drive to Metung on the shores of Lake King, one of the lakes created by the Ninety Mile Beach barrier. It seemed quite a precious little place, manicured, lots of money, many stylish weekend dwellings and holiday homes. About twenty or so black swans in the lee of the peninsula, sheltering from the strong winds and waves. We now wanted our fish and chips, for which Lakes Entrance is famed. Only about 14km from our campsite along the Princes Highway. We arrived in good time but a little early to eat. Checked out Eastern Beach, a long, long stretch of beach, a continuation of Ninety Mile Beach, or it would have been but for some enterprising souls back in the late 1800s who cut a channel through the Beach to open up the lakes and give easy access to the ocean for fishing boats. The wind was still very strong and sand was being blown about, not a nice place to dwell today.
We sat looking over the lakes to sort out our next day or so, updated blogs, phoned the kids as we had discovered our phone plan included international calls, before heading back into town for fish and chips. Several places were closed or just finished serving but we did find one. I had snapper, Ruth, scallops. Fish good, scallops disappointing. Back to camp and as it was now turning cold went to bed.
Nice peaceful night, leisurely start to the day, called the other kids. The weather improved as we struck camp and set off. Beautiful morning, we drove back along the Princes Highway, through Lakes Entrance and on to Nowa Nowa to join a branch of the Great Alpine Drive heading for Buchan. A lovely drive through the foothills of the Snowy Mountains, open pastureland; sheep and cattle country. Rolling countryside, we stopped above Buchan to enjoy the views. Buchan was a nice little town on the River Buchan, it was called Bookin by the very first European settlers, but then the Scots arrived! We drove on to the Bluff, a Reserve on the edge of town, a meadow down by the river overlooked by ‘The Bluff’, a river cliff, for a wander in the sunshine; it was peaceful watching the river flow past. Beautiful spot. A TimTam break. Drove back into town into the Caves; several caves with guided tours and a lovely campsite. Would have stopped here for the night but it was only midday. On to the pub; we fancied a beer. It was a brand new replacement for the old pub which burnt down. Amazingly, the pub had been rebuilt by the local community via a crowd-funding effort and names of the donors were either on a list, plaques or bar stools, depending how much was given.
So now to get back to the coast, we headed south to Orbost along a very twisty, windy road, up and down through the hills, out of the farmland and into eucalypt forest. We were going along well, when just round a corner the road was completely blocked by a fallen tree. Looking at the tree, a stringybark, it seemed much of it had shattered into pieces as it hit the ground, so we set too and dragged and pulled it, breaking branches where we (I) could and soon had one side of the road clear enough to drive on. “All part of the adventure?”. We tried to phone the local authority but no signal; we drove on until we were able to report it. We saw a large snake by the roadside but when we got back to it we found, sadly, it had been run over and was dead. It was over a meter and a half long and jet black, will have to look it up. (Discovered it was a Red-Bellied Black Snake, venomous but shy) Gradually the road dropped down to the Snowy River and we followed that until we reached Orbost.
A lovely quiet old town, now bypassed by the Princes Highway, set up on a hill above the Snowy River delta, to avoid the then annual flooding. The river no longer floods as it is controlled by a number of dams of the Snowy Mountains Scheme (Hydro-electric power and a diversion to the Murray River to alleviate drought in the Murray basin.) We had lunch in the town park, a beautiful setting; these small towns often have amazing public parks, beautifully kept with children’s playgrounds, barbecues and toilets that are spotless. On now to Marlo and Cape Conran, the road ran through more banksia forest, gently up and down until we found West Cape. The wind was blowing hard and the waves were crashing in to the very rocky shore. High tide, so very little beach, but somehow it was a beautiful scene in the bright sunshine. Just a few km on was East Cape where we hoped to camp for the night. We looked into the car park at the Cape to find the beach covered with huge piles of seaweed, and the smell.........
We checked out the campsite which stretched around the Cape but no real facilities, just toilets and outdoor/beach showers. Ruth was immediately attacked by sand flies, so that was that! Back to Cabbage Tree Road and north to the Highway. We turned off the highway to join the Sydenham Inlet Road to Bemm River, a lovely drive through eucalypt forest, gradually dropping down to the coast at the very small town of Bemm River. Along the way we spotted a large lizard, but once again, sadly, we found it had been hit by a car. Took a photo so we could check what it was. (Later discovered it was a Lace Monitor) It was over a metre long. A real shame as we hadn’t seen one of these before.
Bemm River is a very small settlement, it has a caravan/campsite, a general store, a small hotel and a few houses, some of which appeared to be holiday lets. The campsite owner was put off a bit by our English accents, but soon warmed to us as we told him about our travels. He did put us on a site that was quite well sheltered, a nice touch as the wind was getting up and we could see other tents being buffeted by the wind. Set up camp, I walked down to the jetty, a few disconsolate pelicans but little else. Dinner, bed.
What a night, yet another stormy one, no rain this time but very strong gusts of wind and our poor little tent was banging and flapping. Very noisy.
So, an early start, but the sun came out and it did get warmer with the wind easing. Laundry duties completed, we drove back up the road to the Princes Highway, all through beautiful eucalypt forest. We stopped at Mackenzie River Rainforest Walk, and followed the self-guided tour through the eucalypt forest and into the rainforest. An interesting walk but we couldn’t hear any birds as the cicadas were so loud; almost deafening. Back on the Highway we headed for Mallacoota, our destination for the night. Stopped off in Genoa along the way; it only has a few houses and a hotel and a cafe with a petrol pump, both closed and up for sale (any reasonable offer considered!). It was in the middle of nowhere.
On to Mallacoota, a lovely town right by the water, at Mallacoota Inlet, unfortunately, all the lovely green spaces overlooking the water were given over to a huge campsite, over 550 sites, completely ruining, in our opinion, what must have been a beautiful setting. We grabbed a somewhat disappointing lunch at a highly recommended cafe and then left. So, change of plan; we were not staying here overnight. We drove on. Stopped briefly at Gypsy Point, a lovely little settlement further up river, saw some Lovely Fairy Wrens, before driving on into New South Wales. We made for Wonboyn Lake, a tiny settlement with a campsite and a general store, right on the estuary of the Wonboyn River. Apparently very good fishing here. A nice campsite, set on a terraced hillside with a lot of birdlife. We saw bellbirds, galahs, rainbow parakeets, king parrots and a small family of ducks. We were given a bag of birdseed to throw down once we had set up camp, but the birds expected to be fed as soon as we arrived! So much for not feeding the wildlife! Needless to say, we did not encourage the birds to crap all over our tent, they went hungry today.
We walked down to the lakeside to see another camper having been the out in his boat all afternoon fishing, was cleaning his catch and a small flock of pelicans were awaiting the spoils. And there was a real ‘pecking order’, the older pelicans chasing off the younger so they could get the scraps - innards and bones, the fisherman threw their way. The fisherman was a bit of a grump; ‘don’t like birds’. Back to camp for a cold beer, dinner, bed.