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  • Writer's pictureTracey Lee

Road Trip

I might have enjoyed being a rover, if that was in fact an occupation. The wandering constantly without a fixed destination makes the life of one who ‘roves’ oddly appealing. But I guess life’s responsibilities, such as work and mortgages, may have interfered with my wayfarer aspirations. These days I satisfy my innate desire for roving with some overseas travel and the occasional road trip.

I rather like the simplicity of a road trip. Sometimes it’s just nice to get in the car and drive without a sense of urgency or without having to meet the need of being somewhere at an exact time. It’s great to get out and see something new and to be constantly in awe of what is so extraordinary about living in this country.

The latest was a little trip for some research and writing. So armed with IPad and my ever present, and somewhat low-tech notebooks, we set off for destinations south of the border. That is to Victoria, not Mexico. Three and a half hours south down the Princes Highway to Eden and then about thirty kilometres across the border to Gipsy Point (not misspelled) and Mallacoota.

These tiny lake towns in Eastern Gippsland are magnificent destinations. Gipsy Point is located at the end of Gipsy Point Road, as is Mallacoota found at the end of Mallacotta Road. They are the one road in and one road out places that unless you are going there you are unlikely to see them. Of course in the summer holidays they are different, buzzing with city escapees who get a few weeks of freedom on the beaches and lakes of this area. But in May they are quiet places. And the atmosphere and environment is humbling.

Our arrival was heralded by the high-pitched call of the bell birds that are endemic in the area. Their calls were the only sound and enhanced the almost mystical appearance of the lakes. The glassy surface of the water reflected the trees and bush-scape that fringed the whole area.

We stayed at Karabeethong Lodge where the front lawns swept down to the shore of the bottom lake. Karabeethong means light shining on water and as the moon rose that evening it was clearly apparent why the indigenous people had named this area thus. The lodge built in the early 1900s was enigmatic and the perfect setting for writing. After a day’s ‘roving’ it was wonderful to sit in front of the fire and muse over the history of the guest house. Listening to the creaking timbers and the distant voices of other guests fuelled the imagination (which kept me awake most of the night).

The following day we retraced our journey to record the names of places along the highway. Frogs Hollow, Mumbulla Mountain, Dry River and a short visit to Candelo. Candelo, a little hamlet on the way to the Snowy Mountains Highway, is the burial place of a long dead relative of my husband. The grave of Marcellus Day remained a mystery but the hillside cemetery provided a great location to make more notes. Despite the warning at the front gate to be wary of deadly snakes we made our way to the top of the hill to search through the Catholic and Anglican plots which had grand headstones and monuments that stood testament to the lives once lived. Making our way down the hill through the Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, ‘others’ and finally at the bottom the Wesleyans I wrote down some fantastic names and wondered about the forgotten and untended graves of the Candelo residents.

Our tour continued through Bega, Brogo, Bermagui and Cobargo. Each place offering its own insight into life on the far South Coast. Small places with their own history, mystery, beauty and troubles. A story in every place and an atmosphere not readily captured by words or in photographs.

It is only in the discovery, intentioned or unintentional, that the traveller can really get a sense of these little worlds that meander on without our acknowledgement. For a few days this road trip was like stepping through the looking glass or sliding down the rabbit hole.

So much wonder, so much unknown.

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