We tried checking out early in the morning but I guess we were too early, there was nobody at front desk. And while we waited we took some pictures in the car.
Also, most of the restaurants weren’t open for breakfast, so we walked around the town still humming and whistling the song from previous evening, trying hard to think of another song to replace it.
We passed cute little shops, typical of small tourist towns, stopped at a general store to pick up sunscreen and lip balm. Tina had been going on about this brand called Moogoo and wouldn’t shut up till I tried some of its products.
After walking a couple of blocks, we finally settled in at Mad Cowes cafe for breakfast. She ordered Salmon Delight and I a MadCowes Hash. She had to work, mainly check her emails and make a few phone calls.
Food happy after breakfast, we strolled down to the pier and then to the beach.
After taking more than a handful of pictures, we decided to embark on our road trip. We had miles to go before we could sleep, literally. We were going to follow the scenic drive via Lakes Entrance to Jindabyne. I found the name Jindabyne very amusing, and kept saying it. It just felt so good to say it repeatedly 😉
We pulled up Arijit Singh’s playlist on YouTube before we started. Our conversation switched to Rosemol, Tina’s sister, when we saw a Jayco’s camper van in front of us because she works for Jayco.
After we finished catching up on immediate and extended families, we tried calling some friends from college but the fact that everybody lives in different time zone kind of made it difficult to get hold of them.
When we first started, there were open fields for almost as far as our eyes could see, with cows grazing and a few trees in the distant horizon.
Then the landscape changed and we were surrounded in lush green. I am so obsessed with roads, this drive was heavenly – narrow, winding roads lined with trees on both sides, and the different shades of green was a feast to the eyes.
It was a perfect day for a long drive. Reminded me so much of Patrick Rothfuss’s – “Outside the Waystone Inn the air lay still and heavy on the empty dirt road that ran through the center of the town. The sky was a featureless grey sheet of cloud that looked as if it wanted to rain but couldn’t quite work up the energy.” I just love the way he describes things, feels like reading your own thoughts out loud, not that I could ever express something that beautifully. But I digress.
We stopped at the information center at Lakes Entrance and asked the rangers – “we have around 2 hours here. What do you think we should do?”
They were taken aback at first and we had to explain to them that we were on our way to Jindabyne and had only a few hours to spare. They gave us some pointers and we left. We drove around the scenic drive – this is where the Gippsland Lakes meet the southern ocean. The sight was breathtaking. And with it being an overcast day, with mist around, it made the place so surreal.
It was sunny and warm when we had left that morning and suddenly we were cold and also realized we were hungry.
We went looking for food but most of the restaurants were closed for lunch. We saw a floating restaurant and were attracted by the view it had to offer but unfortunately it was closed that day.
Finally, we found a cute little coffee shop called Albert and Co. and ate whatever was available. I also tried my first Lamington here and I loved it. That combination of chocolate and coconut never disappoints and cream filling made it even better!
We called Maanasa, and spoke to her briefly. After lunch, we drove over to the beach and spent a while looking at the sea gulls fight over someone’s discarded shrimp on the beach.
It started drizzling and we left. We picked up some ice cream when we stopped for gas. Ice cream is always a delight but it is even more so when it is cold and drizzling outside and you sit in the car weaving your way across such picturesque landscape with your best friend listening to your kind of music, almost hypnotic.
There was hardly any traffic and it had stopped raining. I rolled the windows down and put my hand out and set my chin on the window sill trying to imprint that moment in my memory – the way the wind felt on my face and hair, the occasional raindrop that strayed and found it’s way to my arm as it fell from the leaves when we drove past the trees, the smell of the wet earth, sound of the leaves rustle, the cows mooing and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s voice. My entire existence felt perfect. 🙂
We discussed the word petrichor for a while. Though I have known the word for a few years, it’s only recently that I discovered it’s pronounced “petrikor” – reader’s vocabulary! I now know it is not pronounced “chor” but “chor” in Hindi is a thief and we considered it’s etymology for a while.
I was a happy soul – at peace and excited as well at the same time. When Tina saw me taking so many pictures and videos of the road as we drove past, she decided to pull over for a while. And this picture, right here, is one of the best I have ever taken!
Our playlist complimented the drive so beautifully that every time I hear those songs now, it reminds me of this day. We pondered over some urdu words like fittoor, suroor, fanaa etc and were mesmerized by how sweet and beautiful the lyrics was.
The landscape changed yet again. The lush green trees were long gone and replaced by fields with yellow/brown grass. Few shrubs we saw stood out admist the fields and rolling hills.
I was so lost in thought and for some reason I was thinking of BFG. I was imagining snozzcumbers and trying to recall the names of all giants – Bonecruncher, Gizzardgulper, Childchewer…and I heard Tina say something. I assumed she was on the same page. We took a turn and there was this giant windmill right in front of us and few more around. That broke my reverie. And because I have always been so fascinated by windmills, I actually squealed with delight and clapped my hands and said – Wohoo!!! Tina, windmills!
And she goes – I have been telling you about them for almost five minutes now!
Me: What? You mean, there are more? Weren’t you talking about BFG?
We both were so confused. The whole episode was hilarious, we had to stop the car to laugh out loud and also to take pictures. We rolled down the windows, breathed in the fresh air and looked around. The sun was already below the horizon behind those clouds, tall grass swayed against the gentle breeze and the windmills were half hidden behind mist. It felt magical!
The road got narrower as daylight faded and we got closer to Jindabyne. We were grateful there was nobody else on the road. We finally reached our B&B at around 8:30. It was already dark and had started raining again somewhere along the way. We looked for instructions and finally found the key to our room and dragged our bags in. Once we were warm and cozy again, we started looking for food but it being a small town everything had closed already. We had some fruits and olives while Tina checked her work emails and I booked my tickets from Sydney to Brisbane and finally called it a night.
We got up early in the morning, got ready and went to have breakfast. We met the owners and spoke to them for a while. It was owned by a couple and the guy’s parents had come from Canada to help them run the place. Because we hadn’t eaten proper meal the previous day we both were excited about and looking forward to breakfast. But they only had continental breakfast – milk and cereal and toast. We had a toast each. Tina made me try vegemite and I almost threw up.
We packed and carried our bags back to the car, but made sure to keep jackets, gloves and hats outside. We were going to climb Mount Kosciuszko that day and thought we might need them up at the summit.
And because we didn’t know if there were any restrooms along the way and also because we didn’t have time to go shopping the previous day, we grabbed a roll of toilet paper from the bathroom on our way out, in case we needed it on the trail. We were waiting at the front desk to check out and I was admiring Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote on the window by a flower pot.
We said good byes and as we walked out, the owner pointed to my hand and said – I’ll need that back.
I thought he meant the toilet paper and was about to return the roll when he said – the keys. I didn’t realize I was walking out with the keys!
We walked along Lake Jindabyne. There were a lot of sea gulls and I asked Tina to take a video of me running towards them in slow motion and it turned out to be an epic fail.
We then headed to Mount Kosciuszko National Park. It took us a while to figure out and find parking and when we finally did, we went to information center to speak to the rangers and collect maps.
We knew we wanted to do the summit walk from Thredbo which included riding the chairlift, but we didn’t know where to get the tickets from. When the rangers asked if our day was going great, Tina said – Not really. We had continental breakfast!
They were confused and didn’t know how to react. It was kind of hard to explain we were expecting better breakfast, you know, with eggs and smoked salmon.
Anyway, they answered all our questions and gave us directions and we got going.
We went to the gift shop, bought the tickets and took the scenic Mount Kosciuszko express Chairlift up to the start of Kosciuszko Walk, which covered the first 1.25 miles with almost 1850 feet of elevation gain. That would have been a steep climb otherwise. And Tina did great in spite of her fear of heights.
At the other end of the chairlift, there was a restaurant perched at the edge, above Thredbo village, right at Kosciuszko Walk trialhead. How delighted we were at the thought of good food! It’s Australia’s highest restaurant and had a great view. We ordered our kind of breakfast and ate to our heart’s content.
After breakfast, we drowned down shots of schnapps. Feeling recharged and ready to take on the world, we finally began our mission to the summit.
It was a very pleasant walk with gradual elevation gain and plenty of wild flowers in bloom.
Mount Kosciuszko Lookout point, though, was a little disappointing. What we could see from there didn’t look like the tallest mountain in the country in any way. Few other hikers returned from the lookout point.
We continued. The map mentioned some point where we could see some tributaries meeting but all we could see were these tiny streams. And don’t ask me what I was trying to do in the picture below.
We crossed a couple of them along our way and reached Lake Cootapatamba – a tiny lake, almost hidden, snug in that landscape. It was a pretty sight.
Up the Rowan pass the views kept getting better. Every turn round the corner revealed something new and there were some information about folklore and the beliefs of indigenous people which was very informative and interesting at the same time. I love stories, they add so much to a place and make it easier to remember details.
We got to the top, found a spot away from the crowd and sat looking around us, trying to take in the 360 degrees view. Tina got a call from Zairah’s day care. I try not to use my phone even otherwise and I hadn’t taken a local number but I was still impressed they had cell service up at the summit.
We were amazed to see so many ravens up at the summit. There were definitely more ravens up there than humans.
We snacked on snickers, took a ton of pictures and began our descent. We met people from all over the world along the trail.
Almost all random conversations I had with total strangers, I had to explain where Portland/Oregon was. Everybody knew Seattle and San Francisco but not Portland. In a way I was happy that we still have Portland to ourselves. I was kind of surprised when one girl from Switzerland said she was planning to come to Portland in 2019. Apparently she had done Appalachain trail couple of years ago and she wanted to do Pacific Crest Trail next. She knew quite a lot about Oregon.
We took the chairlift back. I was trying to take my phone out of the bag to record a video of our descent and dropped my sunglasses which I had momentarily placed on my lap to wipe/clean. Talk about leaving something behind!
We were hungry again but most of the places had closed for lunch by then. We walked back to the car and started looking for food around us. We stopped at Wildbrumby to pick up some schnapps. I enjoyed schnapps and rum tasting there but it kind of hit me hard, always does on empty stomach. We tried these cute little ice creams and picked up apple strudel but everything was too sweet!
We were quite hangry as we drove down to Jindabyne, Tina more than me. I had at least some of the strudel. Unfortunately we couldn’t find anything to eat for almost an hour. When we finally found a deli and pulled over, a truck almost ran into us at the parking lot. Thankfully the other driver hit the brakes just in time and nothing untoward happened.
We picked up sandwiches and ate them in the car as we drove to Canberra to Pragati’s place, our other friend from college. She was worried we won’t have anything to do in Canberra. She felt we might enjoy the ongoing science exhibition, though she herself was bored. After pacifying her for being late and reassuring her that we would be fine we hung up. And Tina and I started talking about college. And we wondered why Pragati studied mathematics and physics when she was barely interested in either. Made a mental note to ask her when we met her later that evening.
It was pretty late when we finally got there. I hadn’t seen Pragati since she got married in 2010, I think. It was fun meeting her and her family. Arun, her husband, volunteered to look after the kids. So we got to dress up and go for a girls’ night out. She introduced me to dry shampoo because I didn’t have enough time to wash and dry my hair. It had been a while since I wore anything other than jeans (to work) and hiking attire. Getting dressed up with these two and all the conversation in between was a lot of fun! Brought back a lot of memories of girls hostel. The discussion about “kora” dress, our constant giggling and their disapproval on my lack of makeup skills and products felt so very normal.
We went to a pub but didn’t quite like the vibe. After a pitcher of cocktail we hopped on to another pub. After a couple of fancy cocktails we did shots and oh, the food was amazing! We were actually lucky we got some, by the time we got there they were getting ready to close the kitchen.
We rode uber and were talking non-stop on our way back home, mostly in Hindi. I recognized our rental car parked in front of Pragati’s house and randomly said in Hindi – Bhaiya, bas yahin rok do. Ghar aa gaya. (We are home, you can drop us right here). And the driver actually stopped. We all turned to him and said – you understand Hindi?!!!!
Him – Yes, kind of.
Us: You understood every word we said?!
Him : Yes
He was from Pakistan and fluent in Hindi. Not that we were talking bad about him or anybody, but we were having such a carefree conversation and suddenly realized that he was also privy to our conversation. We laughed about it for a long time about it. We called up Divya, another friend in India and had a long group conversation. We did remember to ask Pragati why she studied science in college or as it is called MPC (Maths, Physics and Chemistry) back home. She had no idea herself. We ended up creating a whatsapp group with the 4 of us and it is named – MPC kyun kiya? (Why MPC?). We finally went to sleep in the early hours of the morning.