Toad of Toad Hall: Come along! Hop up here! We’ll go for a jolly ride! The open road! The dusty highway! Come! I’ll show you the world! Travel! Scene! Excitement! Ha ha ha!
– from Wind in the Willows
So off we set on the open road heading for Victoria … Our first stop is Bombala. Ah the zany buzz of a NSW country town on a Saturday afternoon. Three women gossip lazily in front of a shabby café. There is no one else around. Time shifts here from the purposeful pace of city life to a slow syrupy drip. The words of Kenneth Slessor’s evocative poem Country Towns comes into my head:
Country towns with your schooner bees,
And locusts burnt in the pepper-trees,
Drown me with syrups, arch your boughs,
Find me a bench, and let me snore,
Till, charged with ale and unconcern,
I’ll think it’s noon at half-past four!
And yet as we wander down the forlorn street we notice some odd moments of beauty. The benches are carved with platypuses, the bank building is beautifully restored and there is a glimpse of river and trees near the park.
We stop in Lakes Entrance for a night and on Sunday we head off to South Gippsland in search of Alison Lester’s Magic Beach. We stay at an off beat little place called Waratah Lodge. The view from our bedroom is stunning. Sun dappled velvet green farmland appliqued with white sheep and gingerbread cows rolling down to snowy ruffled waves, blue sea and golden sand.
Entering Alison Lester’s gallery in the delightful hamlet of Fish Creek is like stepping into the most marvellous picture book. I wander in a daze around an enchanting world of children, pigs, ponies, dogs, mothers, babies, sunhats, gardens, flower pots, frothy waves, moonlit skies and sandy coves.
Finally we manage to drag ourselves away from this haven of framed prints and cards and head off to find the real thing. Magic Beach is South Walkerville Beach. It is a sandy, craggy wonderland of rocky castles, deep caves, glimmering rock pools, seagulls, pebbles, fishermen, dogs and an old brick wall warmed by the sun exactly as it is depicted on the third page of Alison Lester’s book. We step back into childhood and let the sea wash over our toes.
We travel from Fish Creek and Wilson’s Promontory to Sorrento and Portsea. I love these elegant Riviera style beach towns. We spend the night in Sorrento and catch the ferry to Queenscliffe the next morning. Then we head along the Great Ocean Road to Lorne.
On our way we stop in Barwon Heads. This quaint seaside town is where the iconic Australian TV show SeaChange was filmed. This delightful show captured our imaginations and lifted our hearts week after week. It is peopled with an eccentric, joyous, very real cast of characters whose stories are poignant, profound and quintessentially Australian. I wander around remembering moments and places. I expect to see Diver Dan chilling out on the beach, Bob Jelly swaggering up the street, Kev and Trev having a confab or Prahni Gupta in a yoga pose in the park.
We walk along a glorious stretch of beach in Lorne and eat some good fish and chips at The Beach Pavilion. I watch an elegant old lady sit comfortably, by herself, at a wooden table near us and consume an ice cream cone with grace and style. Lorne is that kind of town.
From Lorne we make our way to the whimsically named and very pretty town of Port Fairy. I can’t stop snapping photos of the beautiful old bluestone buildings and flower filled cottage gardens in this town. We walk across to windswept, scrubby Griffiith Island which has colonies of sheerwaters, muttonbirds, seals and wallabies and a dinky red and white lighthouse.
It has been a jolly ride through the nursery rhyme landscape of Victoria’s Gippsland and down the breathtaking Great Ocean Road. We are lulled by soft pale green hills splodged with pom pom sheep and patterned with fat contented cows. We walk on golden beaches with the sting of salt in our eyes and we doze on the soft sand while the sun warms our faces, we stroll through charming streets of affluent country towns, eat some delicious food and chat to a few quirky characters.
We came in search of Magic Beach and we dipped into Sea Change…
~ Many thanks to my wonderful friend Marie Ann Holdich. Her invaluable advice led us to Magic Beach and helped us find Sea Change…
© Anita Patel, 2015