Lead photo: the Snowy River
It’s like a medium-density Docklands, but further from the CBD, and with enough of interest that it actually gets people from other areas visiting. Also a little reminiscent of a smaller-scale Surfers Paradise, but with more warnings about ice on the marina!
On Saturday (7th January) we hit the cafe near the hotel again for breakfast and had a random meeting with the sister of a friend. It’s a small world.
We also had a quick look at the Reading Room, which looked like a very nice space to study. (The blue screens? That’s the terms and conditions for using the computers!)
The Museum is very good though, some great displays. We actually got lost at one point, but found the cafe and had a relaxing lunch by the lake.
From there we headed to relatively the new suburb of Greenleigh (east of Canberra City, across the border in NSW) to see my old school buddy Merlin for a catch-up and afternoon tea. Then back to the hotel for dinner, then out to Florey for dessert with one of M’s friends.
On Sunday (8th January) it was time to head home.
Having driven north to Canberra along the Hume Freeway (with detours to visit relatives in Yackandandah and Albury) it seemed logical to head back a different, more interesting way.
We got that in spades.
I was aiming for Lakes Entrance, where we’d booked accommodation. I originally thought via Cooma and Cann River (the default route suggested by Google Maps) would make sense… but doing it in one day, there wasn’t a great logical stopping off point for lunch.
Cooma has plenty of options, but it’s only about 90 minutes out of Canberra. After that there aren’t any big towns where you could be confident of good lunch options on a Sunday.
What about via the coast? That would add about 2 hours to the trip. Too far.
So what about via Jindabyne? You still go via Cooma, but reach Jindabyne a bit later, you drive across the top of the dam, there’s great views of the water when stopping to eat in the town. And Google Maps reckoned it was only about 15 minutes longer, via Barry Way.
Google Maps was unequivocally wrong.
I should have known something was amiss when I noticed the road south of Jindabyne had no number – at least not on the NSW side.
But we forged ahead anyway. We stopped at Jindabyne for lunch, bought petrol, then headed south.
First the lines on the road disappeared.
Then the road got narrower.
Then the road was no longer sealed.
Then there were warning signs:
And then we entered the Kosciuszko National Park, and suddenly the road was not just dirt and gravel and narrow, it was heading up and down mountains.
The road went up and up, then down and down, but just when I thought it was all over, it went up again.
The views were fabulous, or so I’m told… I didn’t dare take my eyes off the road.
Actually there were a couple of rest stops, one with a look out, and another alongside the glorious Snowy River (see this post’s header photo).
But the rest stops were just a brief respite from the road.
I was happy to be against the wall, only to find it would periodically change, and I’d be next to the edge.
The only silver lining in the cloud was the weather was perfect – no recent rain, no snow making the road even worse than normal.
The last section, after crossing the border into Victoria, was… well, a bit terrifying. The road was narrower than ever before, we were against the edge, and we passed multiple vehicles coming the other way.
Here’s a clip off the dash cam. Please excuse any mild swearing you may hear.
Every blind corner I got to, I was hoping nobody was coming the other way.
And I was very glad we didn’t encounter any other vehicles in sections where it’s too narrow to pass. Backing up would have been no fun for either of us.
By the end, my palms were sweating.
Suddenly the mountains vanished behind us and we were through.
It was such a relief.
A friend said later he’d helped rescue some Dutch tourists whose vehicle had gone partly over the edge. I guess that’s how it happens – two wheels on one side go over, and you’re stuck. Without the rescue, they would have had to wait 48 hours for a tow truck.
Down the road a bit I stopped to check the phone for directions… and to take a breath.
A 4WD pulled up beside me. A working country 4WD, not one of those pointless ones in the city. The window came down.
“Jindabyne?” asked the bloke of our point of origin. He was a man of few words.
Yes, we said.
“Shit road”, he offered. One could only agree.
He nodded at my vehicle. “Not in that car”, he mused.
Yeah, I was thinking he was right.
He reckoned a few more motorists had been going that way recently.
I wonder if it’s Google Maps, totally failing to warn people of the driving conditions?
You can tell it to avoid toll roads, freeways, ferries. What about unsealed roads? What about death-defying cliff faces?
Looking again, Google Maps reckons you could drive the road at average speed of about 70 km/h. I’d say that’s wildly optimistic, unless you have a death wish.
“Cann River!” the bloke said, recommending a different route. Duly noted, sir.
He confirmed the direction of Lakes Entrance, and went on his way.
The rest of the way home was far less eventful. We stayed overnight in Lakes Entrance, then on Monday (9th January) we drove back to Melbourne with lunch in Traralgon, and a short detour via Cape Paterson to visit relatives.
By the time we got home, it was a round trip of about 1600 kilometres.
But remind me never to drive that way from Canberra again.
And to research the route more fully next time.