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Leaving Sydney

Updated: Nov 14, 2018

19 Mar 2009

OK, enough of the background - back to the adventure. We start off with a longish drive south to our first night’s stay; a place near Beechworth, Victoria which is about an hour south of the NSW border. We start relatively early and neglect to fully load up on caffeine before we go, so the first few hours are distracted by regular stops to buy, and unload, coffee.

Holbrook Submarine

During the past few weeks, I’ve fully taken to heart the mantra “a light traveller is a happy traveller” (or something to that effect). This important guidelines has been used to justify several gadget acquisitions in the quest for technology consolidation and weight reduction. So, while Lynn takes a turn at the wheel, I’m playing with the new Apple MacBook Air (sleek, light and oh so sexy), broadband wireless access courtesy of Telstra and an Apple G3 iPhone. With this technology troika, I can do amazing things such pull up driving directions on the iPhone, place myself on the map with the built in GPS), take a pic of Lynn (automagically tagged with lat/long coordinates), upload the pic to iPhoto , which then tells me that this is indeed a picture of Lynn (using the ‘Faces’ facial recognition feature) and the picture was taken just north of Albery (with a map to prove the point). Needless to say, my relentless exhortations to “check this out!” and sticking various toys under Lynn’s nose while she’s driving keeps her amused, entertained and content that this was all money well spent. (I think).

Ably guided along the way by said technology, we sail through Holbrook on our way to the boarder. This turns out to be a cunning play on words, since Holbrook has to be the only inland town in Australia that can boast a fully grown submarine parked on the high street. That had to be a night to remember for the crew if they managed to dock it here.

At Albery we must make a complicated exit onto the road to Beechworth. I decide this is an excellent opportunity to the iPhone do the navigating. Unfortunately, fairly consistent internet access is pretty much a prerequisite. As a result, we loose guidance at the vital moment and need to have a couple of go’s at some of the junctions to get it right. Could have been an ugly moment, but hey – half the adventure is getting there (and getting lost), right?

Beechworth The town of Beechworth is slated to be ‘historic’, ‘picturesque’ and so more. As usual, the local tourist guide has gone a little overboard in selling the delights and attractions:

“North East Victoria has a well-kept secret and for thousands of years we’ve been keeping it safe for you”
“Nestling in the foothills of the Australian Alps and surrounded by lush valleys and spectacular scenery – Beechworth sparkles like a rare and precious jewel, rich in beauty, history and culture”
“…you’ll be reminded of a Jane Austin novel…”

And that’s just a sampling from the first two pages of the guide. Needless to say, upselling-the-township seems to be a highly competitive sport in these parts, so much so that it’s hard to heave a brick without hitting at least a couple of historic and visually stunning towns.

Sadly, the reality is usually somewhat more sobering and the best source of entertainment is often to be had by reading the brochure out loud while driving down the main street, amusing oneself with the ironic comparisons.

So, imagine our surprise when Beechworth turns out to be something quite special. It’s hard to put your finger on it, but if you sat down and drew up the specifications from scratch for your ideal, quaint-but-liveable town (population under 2,500), you’d probably come up with something pretty close to this. Broad streets lined with visually appealing Victorian stone building. Shops and cafés that were candy for the eye, but which actually sold stuff you wanted to buy. Some great places to eat and good coffee. A couple of nice looking hotels (pubs) that you wouldn’t be intimidated to drink in (indeed, would actually want to spend an afternoon in). And to top it off, surrounded by some very picturesque scenery and rolling hills. In summary…Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm.

Chestnut Farm

After some time ogling Beechworth, we drive on for a few more km to our humble abode for the night – Chestnut Farm Cottage in the tiny town of Stanley. They weren’t kidding about the chestnuts – the place it thick with them, but the cottage is just perfect. After dinner, we wander down the street to the Stanley Pub & Bistro.

Stanley Pub It’s had some rave reviews, so we have visions of curling up on a couple of comfy chairs, favourite tipple in hand, and comparing notes on the journey so far. Unfortunately, a couple of bus loads of occupational therapy students from the local uni are out on some form of fancy dress / drink-and-be-merry outing. We seem to have joined them at approximately stop four or five of their tour, and given that the male/female ratio is approx 2½/100, both the volume and octaves are very high. The locals have retreated outside and are standing around puffing out their cheeks and rolling their eyes. We return a sympathy puff and roll as we beat a hasty retreat.

We walk back in the pitch dark and take in a very starry sky. I’d wax-lyrical about the sight, but frankly, words fail me. Let’s just say it was pretty awesome.

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