Friday, January 14, 2011

Our Xmas holiday...

Terry and I have just returned from a step back in time – we went to the golden beaches, idyllic lakes and extensive wild forests of our youth. We spent our holiday in a place named Wallaga Lake. A lagoon on the southern New South Wales coast.
Trying to see the most of this large country, we chose to travel inland on the way there, and to return along the coast.
The first leg of our journey was on the inland freeway connecting Melbourne to Sydney. One freeway is pretty similar to another – long, straitish and grey. Kylara started to get a little bored, and used her phone to send a message to her Facebook friends.
Kylara Paulo: I swear we already drove past here..
The striking part of this leg was journeying through the remnants of the Black Saturday fires. Like a charcoal scar, they slashed a broad black path across the freeway. There are splashes of green in the blackness as new plants take root and grow, but to still be this damaged two years on from the event shows just what an inferno the fires must have been.
As we drove we wondered why so many cars seemed to have gauze stretched tight over their front bonnets. Could it be an Australian fashion for cars? A legal requirement? Was there something that we were missing? The answer was revealed as we started to travel through locust clouds wheeling across the freeway. As we started to travel through more and more such clouds we started to wish for our own piece of gauze across our radiator.
Kylara Paulo: There are quite a lot of locusts.
We stopped at Wangaratta to experience one such cloud close up. The locusts were a lot smaller than the ones that Terry and I remember from our childhood in South Africa. Perhaps they are still in their juvenile state?
We turned off at Wodonga, drove along the edge of Lake Tallangatta, admiring its potential for water play, and then through to our overnight destination, Corryong.
I must point out at this juncture that I have a problem with Australian names. Where I grew up places had sensible names – for example, Grahamstown, Port Alfred and East London. We occasionally wondered where West London might be, or if there should be an apostrophe in Graham'stown, but the names were easy to remember. If anyone asks me where we went on our great Australian holiday, the first place I have to head to is a map book to try and find the names of the places we travelled through and to.
We found that Corryong had dealt with the great post Christmas sale problem by simply closing down. We walked up and down the main street looking for somewhere to eat, but found that only the pub was open. We retired to our motel unit and attacked our camping food. Unable to sleep I crept out of the unit and was absolutely struck by the beauty of the star filled sky above. The stars swept in dizzying arcs, showing me what must have surely inspired Van Gough in some of his paintings. We ordinarily totally lose this view in the light polluted city nights.
Our chosen inland route led through the Australian "Alps", the highest mountains in Australia. At their highest point, Mt. Kosciuszko, they reach just over 2200 m. Yep, just over twice the height of Table Mountain, or just a few hundred metres higher than Johannesburg.
In the New Zealand terms that we are used to, we have mentally classified the Australian Alps as somewhat larger than average set of hills. Mt. Kosciuszko was named by a Polish explorer, who thought that its resemblance to the Kosciuszko Mound in Krakow was quite striking.
Corryong was in the foothills of the alps, and Terry, fearing car sickness, elected to drive when we set out. We meandered up past the great Snowy river power generating scheme, past the winter skiing wonderland of Thredbo, now exposed in its summer greenery. We detoured in to see what skiing Australian style might be like when it was covered with snow.
Kylara Paulo: Lost in thredbo...
After making our way through the alps we had lunch at Jindabyne, and then travelled through the rolling foothills towards the coast.
Kylara Paulo: We're so far into the middle of nowhere that even the sheep look surprised to see us. And mum is hitting all the potholes. On purpose.
And finally we arrived at Wallaga Lake. We were staying in a good old fashioned caravan camp on the shores of the lake. It was absolutely packed, so densely so that from some vantages it looked a little like a refugee camp. As it was getting dark we rushed to pitch our tent amongst our fellow refugees.
We had chosen to go to Wallaga Lake because friend from Melbourne, Anne and Andy, had invited us to join them and some of their other friends. Andy helped us pitch the tent and then introduced to the rest of the crew around a late night camp fire on the shores of the lake.
From then on it was simple fun in the sun. Andy owns a motor boat, and so took everyone out for regular tube rides, skiing and other aquatic games.
Another member of the party had a Hobiecat Mirage tandem trimaran. This is a rather bizarre cross between a trimaran and a canoe, with peddles that paddle thrown in to the mix. It is probably not the world's greatest canoe, nor the worlds greatest sailing boat, but it is a huge amount of fun!
Kylara Paulo: I quite like it here.
Imagining that children growing up in the vicinity of the lake probably lead a very "Swallows and Amazon's" type of childhood, whilst on the water I kept an eye open for a house boat and Jolly Rogers flying, but sadly didn't see any. I blame the Internet.
When we weren't in the water we were out exploring the area. Bermagui was a small fishing town on the coast, famous (apparently) for having been used as the location for the film "The Man Who Sued God". It had a beautiful beach and a fantastic sea pool.
Kylara Paulo: hates sunburn.
Near the camp site was Camel Rock, and a rather beautiful stretch of sandy beach. We spent a morning here body surfing and exploring the rock pools. Whilst in the water with Tessa and Kylara a pod of dolphins swam within metres of us. Not having my glasses on meant I missed the excitement – distant grey blobs in the water just aren't that fun if you know that they aren't going to eat you!
Every night we all gathered around the a camp fire. On new years eve we were joined by Mike and Maria, friends from New Zealand. Their daughter Genevieve is still one of Tessa's closest friends.
In honour of new years eve, the camp owners threw a free sausage sizzle. Our group determined that we should have a themed 60's party. I threw an old yellow kikoy around myself and got Terry to dab a dot of red lipstick to my forehead and went as an Indian mystic. I am afraid that I probably broke a lot of taboos! Better prepared than I, Terry dressed in a old caftan made from flour bags.
The camp owners had invited some musicians, a mother and son, to perform live music at the sausage sizzle. I turned my back and when I looked again found that they had been joined by a backing duo: Tessa and Terry, singing delightful accompaniment.
Kylara Paulo: Harry new year! I'm a bit early.
At 10 pm we did the mandatory count down and greeted the new year with whoops and hollers. We are, after all, New Zealanders. And this was the time when our countrymen would be celebrating. The rest of the people in the camp looked at us oddly. At midnight we got to celebrate again!
Kylara Paulo: I haven't showered since last year! :)
It all came to an end far to quickly. We packed and returned to Melbourne. As we drove down the coastal route we found that we really were in a land that reminded us very much of the Sedgefield region of South Africa. Lots lakes, lagoons and waterways. State forests, and miles of golden beaches.
We decided detour down a side road to explore the irresistibly named Wonboyn. Only 11 km's off of the main road, it seemed like a good idea at the time. We found ourselves meandering along a road in a state park that only four wheel drive vehicles could love. I was extremely happy, as it meant that we finally had a good excuse to switch to four wheel drive mode on our car. Again, with Terry at the wheel (I really don't know why my driving makes her throw up), we drove through the Ben Boyd national park. It appeared really remote and lonely - I was starting to wonder what would happen if we were to break down - when suddenly we emerged at a beach front car park absolutely packed with four wheel drive vehicles!
Kylara Paulo: back in vic :-(
Terry and I had a wonderful time on our holiday, made better because we were able to share it with Tessa and Kylara. Now the stories that Terry and I sometimes tell of our childhood holidays will have more meaning to them.
The holiday has lead to some soul searching. Until now both Terry and I have been working reasonably full time. Terry is a professional, and I a near professional, earning above the average salaries. Why have we only been able to take them on such a holiday now?
Is it because New Zealand and Australia are that different to the South Africa that we grew up in? Did apartheid truly give a sector of society such a huge advantage? I would argue not. Our friends who have grown up in Australia and New Zealand manage to take regular breaks with their families.
Is it because we return to South Africa every few years to visit our families? Again, I would argue not. Our friends who have grown up in Australia and New Zealand also manage to fit occasional trips to exotic overseas locations.
Could it be because the our parents were better off than we are? I am told that the per capita income of the average person on the planet has trebled since I was born, so I don't think this would be the reason.
At the moment we have it pinned down to two causes: Terry and I got started slightly later in this family and savings business, and we have persisted in moving to new countries just as we are starting to get a foothold.
Perhaps it is time for us to stop moving - to put down roots. And to go on holiday a little more!