Buckle up. We’re off! Yes, I know it wasn’t planned. Yes, I know we have other things to do. They’ll still be there when we get back. But we need to make some space between last week (with its tiring, unexpected blow to the solar plexus) and next week. Let’s go.
Look, while you’ve been swithering about whether it’s a good idea, we’ve already passed Bungendore. Now we’re driving into lovely Braidwood. The agricultural show is in full swing. The farmers market is on. It’s a bit busy. People are queuing for coffee. We’ll come back another day to mooch around and enjoy its 19th century charm.
We’re on the Kings Highway. With a name like that you’d expect it to be a grand, expansive thoroughfare. Instead, it’s a pretty ordinary two-lane road that winds down a mountain for 40 kilometres. People get angry on this road. They take crazy risks to get past each other, not realising that at some point we’re all going to get stuck behind the same three caravans. It never fails to amuse me that the spot that always causes a traffic snarl-up is called Government Bend. Pretty soon after that is when I start thinking, “Get me off this mountain.”
But, see, we did get off the mountain eventually. We’ve just passed Batemans Bay, where fat-bottomed pelicans sit on top of lamp posts. We’re starting to lose the angry drivers. They’re all turning off down roads to the beach. And…deep breath as the countryside gets greener and the roads get quieter. Everything slows down as we cross the melodiously named Trunketabella Creek, past the shiny black cattle grazing on the floodplain. Their rectangular outline, with a fat belly and a leg at each corner, always reminds me of my old labrador. She liked to eat all day too.
We’ve reached Bodalla. Have you noticed that all the towns start with B? (Actually, there were two that started with M, but I chose to ignore them. Poetic licence, dontcha know.) What a spot! Isn’t it beautiful? At one end of this tiny 1860s settlement is an imposing stone church surrounded by majestic bunya pines. At the other end is a church made of gingerbread. In the middle there’s a pub bigger than both of them. That about sums up early European settlement in Australia.
And in the paddocks—surprisingly—there are emus. “Yes,” says my friend D, who’s joining us for lunch. “You see them on the beach too.” If you’re wondering how they ended up in this part of the world, read this. It’s all very well to transport flightless birds to an island, but you can’t keep them there if they can swim.
Let’s have lunch. We could go to the Bodalla Dairy and eat nice cheese, but today I’d rather sit in the shaded courtyard of the Blue Earth Cafe and wolf down a bowl of herby, home-grown salad with dips and pickles and crunchy bits and every other delicious thing you can think of. The cafe’s for sale. “You could buy it,” says D, who has a much better business brain than I do. “Where would I live?” She suggests a caravan in the veggie garden. Ten years ago, maybe, or in another life. Right now it’s enough that we’re here, eating this good food in this beautiful place, appreciating someone else’s vision and hard work.
But food isn’t the focus of this trip. There’s something a few kilometres down the road that will really reinvigorate us after such a big week. On this last day of summer, we need to get in the water. Not the water at the long, golden beach where surfers catch the curling waves and ride them in. I’m talking about the flat, clear water at the edge of the turquoise inlet. I’m talking about lying on our backs and floating in the sunshine while kids snorkel by the rocks and shout, “Look! There’s an octopus!” I’m talking about swimming out to the shark net and feeling, even there, in the calm bay, the push of the tide coming in. I’m talking about total relaxation and surrender.
There was a sign that I kept seeing at the side of the highway, on the way down to the coast. “Stop. Revive. Survive.” That’s what it said. And, yes, that’s what was needed.
Stop. Revive. Survive. In life, as on the road.
(With love and thanks to D, S and little P.)