Skippy, Skippy, Skippy the Butch Kangaroo
Trip Start Nov 08, 2003
74Trip End Oct 22, 2004
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After a short taxi ride we arrived at Hertz Campervan rentals fully expecting to shoot straight off down the highway in a little Toyota Hiace built for two, but a rather strange, grumpy girl wearing a couple of magnifying glasses for spectacles told us the van wouldn't be ready for an hour as it was having a tyre change and was still being cleaned. It was a pain that we'd have to spend an hour over the road in a café waiting but it made a refreshing change to meet a sullen Aussie.
After twenty questions from a holiday-bound mechanic on how to survive in Asia we finally hit the road for an 11 day journey south-west to Melbourne, beginning with a 100km drive south along the coast on the Princes Highway. We passed the funny sounding town of Wollongong, turned towards the coast and reached the slightly less funny suburb of Windang where we'd spend our first night
The site was snugly positioned, wedged between the sea and Lake Illawarra and was nice and quiet with not too many caravans, unlike the cabins which were full of holidaying hillbillies down for the weekend from their shanty towns in the mountains, well it looked the case anyway, and as we bedded down for the night with bellies full of burnt bangers and burgers a pair of duelling banjos rang out from a corner of the site and a pig squealed in the distance, er, I think it was a pig.
At 8am there we were, skipping along the beach like a real-life Special K commercial for our first morning run for six months and, surprisingly, after two months of curries and three months of fried noodles we didn't feel too bad at all, and after a quick sloosh down and a bowl of muesli we set off down the road feeling pretty pleased with ourselves. Whether we'd keep up this new regime would be a challenge and my quest to develop a 6-pack would be severely tested as I'd already developed a 6-pack habit of a different kind in the shape of bottles of Victoria Bitter.
We travelled south along Australia's figure-hugging Princes Highway stopping off along the way at the odd town for a gander, and as we approached the town of Bateman's Bay some 250km on we pulled off of the highway to look at a campsite on our shortlist for the night. As we neared Pretty Beach we saw the sight that confirmed our existence in Australia, a field with a gaggle/pride/herd/pack of kangaroos. We screeched to a halt and readied our zoom lens for a digital assault of the marsupial kind. A mummy roo was stooped over eating grass and protruding out of her pouch was a baby Joey chomping away as well. I can almost hear you all 'aaaah-ing'.
We dragged ourselves away from the scene complete with soppy looks on our faces and drove into the nearby campsite for a nose around where once again we were greeted by a kangaroo. This one was tattooed, seven foot tall, built like a brick out-house and was obviously a part-time boxer and it wasn't how we had remembered 'Skippy', so we gave it a wide berth and skedaddled out of there. On our way back we passed the field of the first 'Roo-Sighting' and although it had only been 10 minutes, the field and the road was awash with them, all enjoying a good old roo rave-up.
A few kilometres along the road was Bateman's Bay, a fairly large town on the coast with its very own little harbour bridge that spans the Clyde River
For the second morning on the trot we set off for a half hour run around Bateman's Bay and just about made it back to the van without jumping into a taxi.
It was a nice warm day, so leaving the van plugged in to rest its little wheels we walked over the bridge and into town to stock up on barbeque niceties and liquid lovelies. The town didn't have a lot to offer in the shop department, I mean no Prada or Gucci, what's a boy to do? So we headed straight for Woolworths and left laden down with peppered steaks, chicken, corn-cobs, wine and a 24 stubbie pack of Toohey's Red Bitter, which at 5 per cent proof and £10 a pack was ultra-cheap and worth a go. Does anyone have the phone number for Alcoholics Anonymous for when I get home?
We dragged our bounty back over the bridge to the caravan park and spent the rest of the evening sampling, sorry guzzling the Nectar of the Gods (that's a bad sign when I start calling it that) and dining on barbequed cuisine under the light of a candle and a million stars
As we drunkenly gazed into each other's eyes an elderly couple strolled by hand in hand.
"Nowhere else you'd rather be is there?" piped up the gent.
I agreed, holding back the urge to reply:
"In the Honeymoon Suite at the Sandy Lane Hotel in Barbados with Milla Jovovich would be nice".
After our marathon 3 mile run the previous day we skipped our morning workout due to tight hamstrings and the previous night's bath tub full of wine and beer and said farewell to Bateman's Bay.
Our drive took us south once more on the Princes Highway towards Bega, stopping off at Central Tilba en route, a cute little olde worlde town before hanging a sharp right west onto the Snowy Mountains Highway towards the town of Cooma and the edge of the Snowy Mountains themselves
We arrived in Cooma immediately heading for Woolies to replenish our newly dwindled supply of vino de plonk, our tans were now a distant memory as our skin began to change to a nice shade of George Best yellow.
After a quick lunch in a layby we hit the Alpine Way for the remaining drive to Jindabyne, the gateway town for the ski resorts of New South Wales and arrived at the Snowline Caravan Park. For $27 per night it was a little expensive but the amenities were good with TV room, spa, sauna, games room and large barbeque area.
It was a cold evening so we stayed indoors eating pot noodles and spent a cold night hibernating in our sleeping bags.
With frostbitten noses we woke to a clear, crisp sunny day and immediately set off on an undulating jog around Lake Jindabyne, with scenery to match any half hour run in the world
Once all feeling had returned to our extremities we drove towards the village of Thredbo, home of Mount Kosciuszko, the highest mountain in Australia and a ski resort in winter but at this time of year a downhill vertical slalom for mountain bikers with a death-wish.
On the way we paid $15 to enter the National Park and encountered our first emus hanging around by the side of the road looking menacingly psychotic with their patchy balding heads, unflinching stare and bodies covered with a duvet of feathers. Snaps were taken from a safe distance in case of any Rod Hull inspired lunges.
Thredbo was a little quiet being out of ski-season, with the only busy establishments being cafes and mountain-bike shops, but with hundreds of chalets, restaurants and ski-wear shops you could see it would have taken on a whole new guise with a few inches of snow.
We headed on along the Alpine Way as it became hair-pinned and we thanked our lucky stars it wasn't snowing as we negotiated ever narrowing roads with sheer drops
Perisher Blue was shut and Smiggin Holes was devoid of people so with about a tablespoon full of petrol left in the tank we rolled home, most of the way in neutral, and just wheezed into the Shell station in Jindabyne on the last ounce of vapour.
With a tank full of petrol we drove into town to stock up for the night's barbie, we were going to have one even if it snowed but the weather held as we tucked into peppered rissoles venturing back to the van for the evening for a look through two thousand photos on the laptop. Reminiscing already!
Once more it was a beautiful sunny day as we headed south on the Monaro Highway along endlessly straight roads through flat countryside towards the towns of Dalgety and Bombala, coming across a cowgirl and her son on horseback in the middle of the road herding cattle with the help of their dogs
After a dusty, bumpy 28km on a dirt track, or unsealed road as the Aussies like to call it, we hit tarmac again and 60km later we were crossing the state border and entering Victoria. Almost immediately the road began to twist off in all directions and the scenery became greener as we headed further south to our overnight stop, and at the little town of Cann River we rejoined our old mate of a road, the Princes Highway, to drive the remaining 140km to Lakes Entrance.
Lakes Entrance was a largish town with a river separating the main road from the beach. It was a typical Australian coastal town with non-descript little businesses, a war memorial and a branch of Woolies taking pride of place, and once more we visited its hallowed aisles for more goodies. At the moment it seems like we do a shop every day, that's probably because we do.
On the edge of town was the Koonwarra Tourist Park where we secured a site for $20 before heading off on foot along the esplanade
After a half hour walk back to the caravan park we were ready for a barbie of lamb burgers and big green banana prawns at one of the swankiest set-ups we'd come across on our travels. The barbeque areas in the parks had been strangely quiet and once again we cooked and ate alfresco in peaceful solitude as fellow tourists shunned barbequed meals once more.
We were now halfway to Melbourne, second part to follow . . .
George Best & Miss World