Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Going Down South - Day 11

160kms, lots of stops, a heap of great views and a few adventures marked our 11th day on the South Coast of NSW.

We started well, turning left at the end of the first street instead of turning right, taking us to Bega instead of up the hill into Tathra and north back along the beach to a point about twelve kms away. Instead, we got there after about 40kms, although the exact distance is hard to tell as our detour from Bega took us up and over Dr George Mountain on a forestry track and our curiosity took us off the beaten forestry track down several quiet, narrow tracks with big roll over drains, steep inclines and deepening ruts. Even the appearance of a back hoe and the conversation with its operator - "mate I have no idea where I am ... I'm from Eden" - didn't deter us and including our backtrack , we spent 45 minutes driving about the combined resources of Forestry and National Parks up there on Dr George.

Finally finding Tanja - 12 kms from where we started - it didn't take long to find the turn off to Aragunna, a beach now controlled by NSW NPWS as part of the Mimosa Rocks NP. I wouldn't like to be driving the road when it was wet, especially one very steep slope, but the camping areas are remote and basic and sit right behind the beach. The views of the rugged coastline, with rounded rocks beaten into shape by the constant attention of the surf and the vivid colours - blues and reds and greens - made this a visual feast. We walked the 1.6 kms return track to Mimosa Rocks, the site of a shipwreck of the steamer Mimosa in 1863, which had left Merimbula for Sydney. All its crew and passengers were saved except for one couple but the steamer soon broke up on the rocks. Today, only the steam boiler remains in a pounding surf, but not seen to the naked eye. At the start of the walk we startled a goanna who launched up the nearest tree for safety.

Unfortunately, the walk was very uneven until the end, where a board walk relieved some of the pain the damaged meniscus in my left knee was causing.

After a quick snack, we stopped briefly for photographs at Cuttagee Lake, the inspiring Michael Lerner Lookout just south of Bermagui and Camel Rock just north of Bermagui. The Lerner Lookout takes you to a platform high above a small, secluded beach and then, if you are game, out along a narrow point which drops off on both sides of the track. The sun was brilliant and reflecting off rugged red rocks (although I saw no ragged rascals running) and brings Whiteley's ultramarine out of the ocean. The track led down a steep and slippery slope to the beach - a path trodden rarely and then by the young and adventurous. Our hearts mismatched with our heads and we took to wistful rather than whimsy and stayed at the head of the descent instead.

Camel Rock was named by Bass and Flinders - well presumably one of them actually had the idea first but they shared the naming rights, the sort of Lennon and McCartney of their day. The thing is, I've seen Churchill Rock in the NT and yes, it sort of looks like Winston and I've seen Indian Rock and several others and they all take a bit of imagination but this rock looks for all the world like a sitting/kneeling camel. Anyway, took the picture and drove on.

Our late lunch - something of a habit - was at Central Tilba, a village registered with the National Trust and full of old wooden buildings. Those along the main street, are painted brightly in Federation colours and sell you anything which you might need from a small village immediately behind the coast - kites, cheese, knitted garments, cheese, beer, cheese, hippy clothes, cheese, coffee, Bryon Bay Coffee, organic coffee (although the lady who described it to me may have been confused by a phonically close adjective), cheese, old junk from the tip (called antiques), cheese, some very, very good photography, cheese, lollies, ice creams, postage stamps and of course, cheese. The ladies serving our lunch had an argument while we ate it, although we presumed, correctly I think, that the two events were mutually exclusive. I had a quiet word to them about my tricky digestive system, their argument and my status as a paying customer whilst Sue chose a cheese. Look, I'm sure you get the drift ... had a wonderful time and doesn't it show. Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse couldn't have used cheese better to design a more superior people trap.

We returned via Cobargo, another village in the style of Central Tilba only all the people I spoke to in CT - I was in an expansive mood - seemed to think Cobargo was the better flip side of this particular old two headed coin. We didn't stop, being old villaged out and that.

Caught a nice view of the Bega Valley as we drove, surprisingly, into Bega.

Back to our digs where I was relieved to still have a wallet and all its contents after leaving it for the day inside the tent. The relief was so great I took the bride up to the pub for a cold drink. The wind was blowing across the open deck and it was only about 12C, so it became a very cold drink whilst she disappeared to find out if Winky the Mechanical Whale still made an appearance to dinner guests each night. Having been reassured, she felt happy to go "down on the flat" for dinner at the Tathra Beach Bowling Club. Apart from the two families in the restaurant, we had twenty years on the members.

Lovely day but tomorrow we finally rest. Off to the beach with a book, the iPod and the promise of coffee as often as I want it. If Sue's a good girl, she can join me.

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