Bad Signs

Today we bad farewell to Francine’s brother and sister-in-law, with the requisite weepy eyes, of course, and headed for Metung on the south coast, where we have a self-catering chalet booked for the night.Regrettably our old weather jinx was in action and a darkling sky was throwing occasional rain at us. We left Stanley at 09:00 and 9°C.

Our route took us along the Great Alpine Way over Mount Hotham. Francine’s brother had been keen to warn us that the road could be quite tricky and that it would be cool/cold at the summit. Once we hit the ascent, for anyone used to driving on European alpine roads and/or mountain roads in Spain, it was clear that this road was actually a doddle, being smooth tarmac all the way and relatively wide (i.e. two generous lanes). If you can’t drive on this, you shouldn’t be driving at all.

Another friend had described the drive as being bleak. On the lower slopes, we were looking at the grey clouds beneath us in the valley through the leafy canopy of trees. As we climbed higher, however, the leafy trees were replaced largely by bare skeletal frames of trees. We began to see what he meant.

_17C7730Between Stanley and the beginning of our ascent, the temperature had risen to 11°C. As we climbed towards the col on the road over Mount Hotham, the temperature quite naturally fell inexorably. Once we’d gained enough altitude, the white lines gave way to yellow lines, supposedly more visible in snow. The precipitous left hand side of the road also became edged with substantial snow poles. Every so often, a pole bore the words, “Keep right of poles”. Excellent advice, I’d say, given the hundreds of metres drop beyond.

_17C7727We paused for a more scenic view. If you look in this picture you’ll see the road winding its way up the mountain. If you squint just to the right of centre, you may be able to see a small white shape. That white shape is a vehicle wedged in the vegetation on the precipitous hillside beneath the stretch of road. Clearly this had not heeded the warning to “keep right of poles”. :O

_17C7740A little distance before the summit, we paused again by a wall of snow, the snow being about all our restricted visibility permitted us to see at this point, with the temperature on our car’s satnav display reading 1°C. Over the top at 1845m/6050ft, the car briefly recorded 0°C.

_17C7733“Come to sunny Australia”, they said. Well, there had been a bit but precious little.

Our descent down the southern side of the  mountain towards Metung was gentler and took us through Omeo [“Omeo, Omeo, wherefore art thou Omeo?”] where, now being about 13:00, we availed ourselves of a cafe. Judging by the other clientele, it looked like a centre for WI meetings. Muscling in on the nattering ladies, a mug-sized cappuccino revived us after the hairpin-rich climb up.

The view from our coffee table revealed that we’d inadvertently parked our rental car outside a shop whose sign just had to be a mistake: “Cuckoo Clock’s”, read the sign across the top. Hmmm?

[Aside: Incidentally, we had left behind in Beechworth a cafe whose shop sign reads “PEDDDLAR”. The sign is comprised of two engraved stones butted together, one reading “PEDD” and the second reading “DLAR”; and yes, it IS a mistake. Being engraved stone, they decided it would be too expensive to fix, though.]

During a short wander around Omeo, shortened further by the rain beginning again, we passed a handful of properties empty or businesses closing – a town having a hard time, methinks. Sad.

Finally we arrived in Metung and checked in to our accommodation where we were, indeed, expected. Wonderful! Our apartment is spacious and has a reasonably equipped kitchen. For some evening entertainment, we decided to self-cater. There was a village store in Metung which had almost countless ways to get rat-arsed but very little in the way of real food, save for a bag or two of Brussel sprouts which should have been discarded last week. There was a Fish and Chip shop (shut) and a bakery (also shut). A man wandered past us muttering “everything is shut”. We muttered “food to cook”, he further muttered, “Lake’s Entrance”.

We drove the 15 miles to the descriptively name town of Lake’s Entrance where we found a very good Woolworths supermarket [not the same Woolworths as the now defunct British High Street tat shop]. Here, we found a much more exciting selection of ingredients and bought everything for an adventurous Aussie evening meal based on Kangaroo Fillet Steak together with some Kangaroo and Bush Tomato Sausages. The sausages were entirely superfluous but I couldn’t resist them. Wonderful, some dinkum Aussie fare.

In our cottage, a sign on our refrigerator includes the request, “Please keep noise levels on Verandah’s to a minimum after 11:30 PM”. Again!?

You’ve met the Oxford Comma, now meet the Aussie Apostrophe.

Posted in 2017 Australia, 2017 The Antipodes

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