We decide that we will go for the further of the two routes out of Bairnsdale so we can go through Lakes Entrance, which has a fishing fleet of 80-100 boats. It does look somewhat ‘millionaires’ playground’ but is very attractive and Chris stops off to look at boats and chat to a fisherman. We then head off through a very green landscape, reminiscent of Switzerland, along the road through the Snowy River National Park. The mountains here are the southernmost part of the Great Dividing Range, which limited the westward spread in the early days of European settlement. We pass the Seldom Seen Service Station, which is miles from anywhere and we wonder who would bring a vehicle so far off the beaten track to be serviced.
Here, we are breaking all the rules by traveling on unsealed road but we do feel that we are making the effort to really experience this part of Australia. ‘Experience’ is one word for it. Most of this ‘road’ is about two foot wider than the van, very twisty and with an unfenced sheer drop of a couple of hundred feet on our right. It is also, like most of the soil, red mud. This, Chris points out, is very slippery, as there has been rain recently. Bizarrely, the speed limit sign reads 100km.p.h, yet Chris has spent about an hour not getting out of second gear. A little light on the dash board reads ABS; apparently that means our emergency breaks have come on because we have no traction – the camper van is two wheel drive. Oh well, we seem to have survived. We wonder how long it would take anyone to notice if we plunged to our doom over the cliff. We are very aware that, if something were to come in the opposite direction, one of us would have to reverse round these bends for several kilometers. Fortunately, we don’t have to find out how difficult this might be. Chris claims he is enjoying the driving and I am certainly enjoying the scenery, despite streaming eyes that won’t stay open. We pass through the prosaically named Suggan Buggan, not so as you’d notice though as signs of habitation are very few and far between. We then cross back into New South Wales.
The scenery is even more amazing and less touristy than yesterday’s. In the best part of 120 miles we only see four cars. Much of our route takes us alongside the picturesque Snowy River and we are surrounded by mountains with the bluish tinge that we’ve been told is something to do with the eucalyptus oil being given off. I shall miss the smell of the eucalyptus forests. Chris spends his time ensuring that ‘alongside’ the Snowy River does not become ‘in’ or, more likely, ‘submerged by’. We later read that 84 gigalitres (not a unit of measurement with which I, or the spell checker, are familiar) of water has been released into the Snowy River in the last 19 days. It did seem to be flowing quite fast but certainly wasn’t over full. We see quite a few kangaroos and manage to avoid hitting any of them. Kangaroos can suspend pregnancy if conditions are bad but the recent rains in Australia have been favourable for them, so they are breeding well. Many of the trees appear to have something akin to mistletoe hanging from them.
Just as we were wondering how we could have possibly got lost on a road with no side turnings, we arrive at Jindabyne. This is an affluent ski resort where diesel is 20 cents a litre dearer than anywhere else we’ve been – luckily we filled up in Bairnsdale. The shops here are all very up-market ski hire outlets. Chris is trying to replenish our supplies of medication. His first attempt failed as he had left his wallet in the van. It doesn’t pay to be ill in Australia as the over the counter items cost three times what they would in the UK.
We do have a little trouble finding the site. We are in the right road but the site is number 6532 so it must be a very long road, none of the well spread properties have visible numbers and we are not sure in which direction to start. The site found, Chris manages to upgrade to a powered site and avail himself of several discounts. If he takes much longer they will be paying us to stay here. Instead of a boom that lifts as you enter, this site has a thick wire that lowers so you can drive over it. We are right by Lake Jindabyne and there are very impressive facilities but we deduct points for the lack of a washing line. I expect everyone else who stays here can afford the tumble dryers. We do check out the lake, trying to avoid the onsite school party. There’s a bit of crashing about in the night and we wake to find that the school party have tripped over our electric wire and we’ve come unplugged. No school children were harmed in this process (as far as we know).