Road Trip with Grandma and Grandpa

Road maps – check.  Time-out vehicle – check.  Electronic games – check.  More snacks than a well-stocked Beckers – check.  Sense of adventure – naturally.

We were setting off on a 10 day, 3000 kilometre excursion south of the Blue Mountains through Australia’s varied and breathtaking countryside.  We would be traveling to the capital Canberra, and the famous Snowy Mountains, out to the beautiful coastal town of Merimbula, onto Cape Liptrap, to the cosmopolitan city of Melbourne, the sleepy southern town of Euroa and the hospitable town of Cootamundra before making our way back to the Blue Mountains.

And apart from getting a horrible case of pink eye and discovering Leina had head lice on our last day, the road trip proved to be incredible!

Once we had established that you cannot rent a van from Sydney, Nova Scotia airport and expect to drive it in Australia, we were well on our way in convoy!

The first two days of the excursion were short, manageable road trip days.  We were easing gracefully into the trip with a nice leisurely 4 hour drive down the Hume highway to Canberra.  Canberra was a teaching exchange possibility for us, and after having spent one day on this road trip touring around the city, complete with a drive down ANZAC Parade, and a visit to the impressive War Memorial, both Matt and I felt reassured that we had made the right decision choosing Blackheath and the Blue Mountains over the conservative capital.  It was a nice place to visit but we wouldn’t want to live there.

We left the capital city and made our way through the charming town of Cooma, in the Snowy Mountains.  A note here about Australian coffee, if I may.  Each cup is brewed individually, and if you have the patience to wait while these quaint little coffee shops brew yours, you will never be disappointed!  Cooma was a great spot to stop for our morning coffee and play in the town centre playground (another awesome feature of small town Australia is the attention they pay to having a community park in the centre of town with public toilets and large play structures for the kids).  It was here that the kids were treated to new footwear courtesy of Grandma and Grandpa!  Leina’s new boots had Grandpa commenting that “now you just need a horse”!

From Cooma we drove through the clouds in the Snowy Mountains, past spectacular scenery – rolling hills and roving belted Galloway and Hereford cattle and large flocks of sheep.  We stopped for our picnic lunch in the town of Bega, the cheese capital of Australia, after driving through one of Australia’s famous mid-day breathalyser tests!  Thankfully we were sober that morning!

A stunning part of the south coast of Australia was a mere 100 kilometres beyond Bega.  The town of Merimbula, on the Sapphire Coast, greeted us with warmth and radiance!  It is not hard to imagine the reason behind it’s designation as a “holiday resort” town, with a total of 5 beaches within its grasp and many other activities and options for young and old alike.  We found one of the beaches and spent time running in and out of the waves and building sandcastles, while Grandma and Grandpa strolled downtown to find us a suitable dinner venue.  Restaurant of choice was a quaint Mexican establishment that had a play structure right outside in the courtyard for the kids to play on while we waited for our meals to arrive!

Leaving the pace and sights of Merimbula in the morning, although difficult, meant we were only one more drive away from Cape Liptrap, the most southern tip of privately owned land in Australia, and holiday home of Blair and Jean’s good friends, Evan and Judy Walker.  Our longest drive of the road trip, took us through Lakes Entrance and Sale, lovely seaside towns, and we arrived at the Cape in time for pre-dinner drinks and very warm greetings!

Cape Liptrap is one of those places that can only be experienced to be believed.  Describing the home as an architectural marvel, and the surroundings as bush land with impressive views across to Wilsons Promontory and if you’re lucky, Tasmania on a clear day, doesn’t even begin to do it an ounce of justice.  The home and the hosts are truly warm and hospitable.  Evan and Blair (Matt’s dad), attended university together in Toronto, and have remained dear friends ever since.  It was an emotional and special reunion between families, as Evan is now stricken with Parkinson’s and Judy has become the brave primary caregiver.  We spent the weekend enjoying each other’s company, as well as good food, lively conversation, and some of the best beach shell searching yet!

One of the highlights for the kids was a special treat before bed one night – a ride in the paddock to search for nocturnal wombats!  Evan and Judy’s daughter Becca took us on an adventure that is carved forever into our memory banks – quite a sight watching these fat, cuddly creatures bound out of the way when the headlights spot them!  Elijah thought it was the best!  During our weekend together, Judy kept Cohen busy by giving him a basin with soapy water so that he could clean a kangaroo bone found on a bush walk, and she had both Leina and Cohen parenting caterpillars in homemade boxes with fresh eucalyptus leaves.

Another Cape Liptrap highlight was taking turns bottle-feeding the baby kitten that Evan and Judy’s son Chris and his wife Sam brought to Cape Liptrap from their home near Ballarat.  Leina was enamoured by this tiny, squealing, bundle of fur and enjoyed every opportunity to give it a cuddle!

We had such a wonderful time with the Walker family and found it difficult to say good-bye to them.  Our weekend together was so rich and rewarding in so many ways, and their hospitality will never be forgotten.

From Cape Liptrap, we traveled just over two hours to the city of Melbourne.  We checked into our spectacular 3 bedroom fully furnished apartment in Southbank and immediately immersed ourselves in this amazing, culturally eclectic metropolis!  We met up with Stuart and his girlfriend Jodi for dinner down on the river our first night in the city.  Stuart is the son of really good friends of Blair and Jeans, originally from Ottawa, and may be seeking permanent residency in Australia now that he’s fallen for an Aussie!  An awesome choice in restaurant on the Yarra River, given that we have children, and an awesome time was had catching up.

Our time in Melbourne was spent exploring by foot, the Botanical Gardens, Federation Square and Flinders Street Station, as well as a walk and tour of the Shrine of Remembrance, another of Australia’s impressive monuments to the men and women who have served during times of war.  Melbourne, although a very large city, is surprisingly easy to get around.  It is walkable, yet public transit is user-friendly, and the city is architecturally stunning and full of green space, parks, and gardens.  Melbourne is also home to 17 professional well-supported sporting teams!  Can you tell it is my new favourite city!?!

While staying in Melbourne for 4 nights, we experienced dinner on Little Bourke in Chinatown, visited the glass-laden beach at St. Kilda, dined on Acland Street in trendy St. Kilda, shopped and bought an Aussie designer label dress as well as great gifts at the Queen Victoria Market, admired the penguins at the Aquarium, and Matt and I even went on a date to the movies (housed in one of the biggest casinos we have ever seen)!  Melbourne far exceeded our expectations as one remarkable city!

A side trip on our way out of Melbourne, was to the town of Healesville to visit the highly recommended Healesville Animal Sanctuary which really impressed us.  It was here that Leina and Cohen said good-bye to their caterpillars, and we enjoyed a walking tour of this oasis full of native Australian animals, including every kind of snake and bird, as well as dingos, wombats, Tasmanian devils, kangaroos, platypus, echidna, bilby, wallaby, and even a koala bear named Hamish!  Elijah learned the hard way that if you don’t hang on tight to your sandwich, the Australian White Ibis will steal it right out of your little hand!

The drive away from Healesville and through the Yarra Valley was absolutely stunning.  Such beautiful countryside – rolling hills with vineyards perched on estates.  Wine country that would be worth stopping for a visit, as I’m sure I heard the grapes on the vines beckoning me to stop and sample, if only this was an “adult-only” road trip!

Our motel stops on the way home were in Euroa and Cootamundra and it was at the motel in Cootamundra, the morning we were set to drive home, that we discovered Leina had head lice!  She rode home with a strong-smelling leave-in lice treatment – we were thankful this was our last day!  We were able to enjoy a lunch and walk in downtown Bathurst before getting home at a reasonable hour.

It was an incredible road trip with beautiful scenery through Australia’s diverse countryside – lush rainforests, rolling hills, and rugged coastline.  We had 10 days of sunshine that allowed us to return with some great photos, and priceless memories.  It was a privilege that we don’t dare take for granted and a road trip that was extra special because the memories and moments were shared with Leina and Cohen and Elijah’s Grandma and Grandpa Williams.

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