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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Nowhere, man!

Every now and then it’s nice to be nowhere.  So far during our stay in Australia, we’ve seen many amazing sights, including several well-documented sightings of koalas, kangaroos and kookaburras.  We spent several days in Melbourne, took a drive down the Great Ocean Road to see the 12 Apostles rock formations and spent some time on the Mornington Peninsula and Phillip Island.  Those last two spots are very popular getaway destinations for people living in the Melbourne area.  So we didn’t necessarily feel like we were off the beaten path very much, something that had been a goal of ours during the course of our trip.  That changed when we got to the village of Seaspray.

Our post-Melbourne area plans were to drive along the Victoria coast toward Sydney, which is in the state of New South Wales.  About 150 miles east of Melbourne is a stretch of sand called the 90-Mile Beach.  I haven’t figured out why it’s not called the 145 kilometre beach, since nothing else here has been measured in miles.  Our limited amount of research made it seem like an attractive destination, despite the fact, or maybe because of the fact that there are no significant towns on the sliver of sand that goes on uninterrupted for mile after kilometer after mile.   

We were desperate for some internet access, and we found a cottage online offering free wi-fi in the town of Seaspray which had a rate in our price range.  Nothing fancy from the outside, but the interior has been nicely renovated.  There are no restaurants in Seaspray, and just a general store where you could buy a six-pack of Crown Lager for $25.  I discovered that fact when I put the six-pack on the counter along with a bag of potato chips and the woman told me the total was $29.  I was only half-way paying attention to her as I gave her a $50 bill and when she handed me back my change, I asked just how much the beer was.  It wasn’t a look that could kill that was in her eye when I gently pushed the six-pack back in her direction and asked for my money back, but it was a glare that could have put me in ICU for a few days. 

With little to choose from in Seaspray, we took the twenty-minute drive inland to the town of Sale leading to the discovery of several restaurants and a grocery store that didn’t have Manhattanesque prices for beer and other necessities.  The vibe was definitely more laid-back and off the beaten path than what we’ve seen so far, and that’s been a welcome change.  One disappointment was the fact that the beach at Seaspray featured waves that were a little too rough for us to feel comfortable with Ben and Marley launching their boogie boards into the water.  It was Friday and the beach was only patrolled by the life saving squads on the weekend, so we waited until Saturday to head to the surf, and we had our few meters of the 90 Mile Beach to ourselves.  We enjoyed the quiet setting there for the two nights we were in Seaspray, glad to be someplace that didn’t have a number of attractions featured in brochures at information centers all over the coast.  On our way to Seaspray, we stopped for lunch in a town called Foster.  When we went into the information site and started talking with a man working there, he asked where we were headed and we replied, “Seaspray.”  His reply:  “How in the hell did you find Seaspray?”  We told him we found it online and were attracted by the free wi-fi.  He seemed to find that an acceptable response and we were on our way to our little slice of nowhere.  

We had gotten a glimpse of Nowhere at our stop in the town of Cowes on Phillip Island.  Not far from the hotel room we rented was a waterfront park.  At the entrance of the park is a sign bearing it’s name:

It took me a couple of glances to realize that Erehwon Park was nowhere backwards.  That got me to thinking of a segment from Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live when Chevy Chase was the anchor.  He did a story on the death of Professor Backwards, a comedian who had been shot to death during a robbery in Georgia.  In doing the story, Chase said "Professor Backwards, the entertainer who had the bizarre ability to speak backwards, was killed today in College Park, Georgia. Passersby apparently ignored the Professor's cries of 'Pleh! Pleh!'"  The kids got a big kick out of that, so now “pleh” has become part of the family vocabulary.

As we continued to move forward in our stay in Australia, we were closing in on our departure date of February 27th from Brisbane.  With about 2000 kilometers or about 1200 miles between Melbourne and Brisbane, we knew we had some pavement to cover.  That led us to buckle up and drive about 400 kilometers or about 250 miles to the town of Merimbula, a small fishing village along the Sapphire Coast of New South Wales.  The plan was to make it our mid-point stop before heading to Sydney, with the idea being to spend two nights there. 

After our first night in Merimbula, we decided to add an additional night to our stay there.  Turns out the extremely affordable apartment we were renting was a five-minute walk to a very nice beach.  The waves were big enough for Marley and Ben to get on their boogie boards, but not big enough for us to be concerned about their safety in the water.  They both caught some nice waves that gave them solid rides ashore.  That made me feel better about the fact that we had been dragging around the boogie boards and beach chairs we bought in Lorne a couple of weeks earlier in the trip and hadn’t been able to use them. 

Another factor in the decision to stay in Merimbula another day was the fact that we had purchased internet time that was good for 6 days.  The plan we bought was one that allowed more than one person to be on a computer on the account at a time.  That would let Ben and Marley to both be doing online schoolwork through the Kahn Academy.

Our next major move is toward Sydney.  Heading into the trip, several people said Sydney was one of their favorite cities ever.  Since we've gotten to Australia, we have talked to many locals who say it's just another big city and not to spend too much time there.  Some of that could be due to the fact that it came from people in the Melbourne area and the two cities have something of a rivalry.  Melbourne and the surrounding area was fantastic and something we all enjoyed.  We're giving Sydney the same amount of time that we gave Melbourne:  4 days and 3 nights.  We'll see if she can measure up to the best that Victoria had to offer.

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