Eden to Wollongong (NSW) – Day 18, Final Day of Road Trip March 2020

Monday 23rd March 2020

Driving distance approximately  410klm /  260mi

(Total 18 Day Trip Length approximately 4,130 klm / 2570 mi)

map

We are now on the “Sapphire Coast” of New South Wales, which includes the towns of Eden, Pambula, Merimbula, Bega, Tathra, Cobargo and Bermagui. Tathra and Bermagui do not feature on my above map as you need to turn off the main highway and head out to the coast, on a “one way in, one way out” road. Instead, we headed straight north for the 400klm drive to home. It was pretty easy actually, each of us driving 100 on, 100 off, two times around, and next thing we were pulling in to our garage.

But not before we did some final exploring. Eden is set in Twofold Bay – such a deep harbour that cruise ships dock here. It was once at the forefront of whaling, now it is nick-named the Humpback Highway, as it is a popular spot to watch whales migrate. The best opportunities are our Spring: September – November when they head south; in the winter mating and calving season they tend to stay further out to sea.

Sapphire blue water of TwoFold Bay

Sapphire Blue waters of Twofold Bay, Eden, New South Wales. Woodchip mill and vessel in far distance on other side of the bay.

Eden is also is a working commercial fishing port, so we walked down reasonably early, to the part of the bay called Snug Cove, to see if we could catch the boats return. They were earlier than us, but we did see some movement of crates headed to market in Sydney.  As well as fishing and tourist craft, there was plenty more to see around the marina; the police boat, pilot boat, tugboats – can you spot the water cannon one one of them? – the mussel-selling barge, and others. And where there’s a port, there’s a pelican. I’m on a bit of a roll with them at the moment.

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A short drive leads up to Lookout Point which gives wide views of Twofold Bay and its sapphire-blue waters. That’s where the top photograph was taken from. This is a good place for whale-spotting from the shore. As mentioned in yesterday’s post, there is also a major woodchip mill on the other side of the bay. We could see haze rising in the distance, and wondered if it could still be residual smoke from the January bushfires that did so much damage to their operations. Surely not.

Looking across to Eden woodchip mill

Zoomed-in photograph taken from Lookout Point across Twofold Bay to woodchip mill

Given last night’s announcement about COVID-19 precautions, we weren’t sure the Eden Killer Whale Museum   would be open, but the volunteers there said they had not yet received any instruction to the contrary, so in we went for a couple of hours before leaving Eden. We started by viewing a short film before wandering the galleries.

The main focus of this museum is the amazing relationship between a pod of killer whales (Orcas) and whalers, in hunting baleen whales (eg. humpbacks and southern rights). In essence, the lead Orca would alert the whalers, often in the early hours of the morning,  by slapping its tail on the bay’s surface, leaping about, and generally creating a disturbance, and then lead them to the whales, which might be several bays away, herded there by the rest of the pod. When the whalers had done what whalers do, the Orcas would get to eat the lips and tongue of the beast before the whalers brought the rest to shore. This is better explained in the explanatory board, in case of interest.

Old Tom Explanatory Board, Eden, NSW

It all sounds rather gruesome and distasteful to our modern thinking, but there is a handy reminder on the display boards of all the products that were made from whale before plastics took over the world.

The Eden whalers knew every member of their Orca pod by name — identifiable by each unique dorsal fin.

Orca Pod Names

The skeleton of the most famous, Old Tom, as written of in the above placard, is preserved in this museum.

Old Tom Eden NSW

Whaleboat, Eden, New South Wales

I was rather taken with this shopping list reminder for a lifeboat. I’ve used this type of memory jogger in written exams, but would never have thought to apply it this way. “Pa Saw Some Bread Milk and Water Become Pork Balls“, reminds you to stow:

Lifeboat List

And you have to fit all that in here:

Lifeboat

After leaving Eden, with such a drive ahead of us, we didn’t linger at other stops along the coast, until we reached Cobargo. Bushfires raged up and down the coast, but this town is likely to have made it to international news, as its main street was ravaged, and sadly, a father and son lost their lives while trying to defend their home about 10klm (6 mi) away. Perhaps you can understand from this photo how random and fearful a fire can be. The properties opposite each other have been destroyed, while those adjoining either side remain intact.

Cobargo main street fire

Cobargo main street fire2

This pretty corner house, a short walk further down the street, looks unscathed, and yet the trees are burnt right down to their backyard.Cobargo house main street fire

The trees on the skyline are naked sticks.

Cobargo skyline

And the resident “little people” have erected a sign, “Thank you Firies. You saved our home.”

Little People Cobargo

It was the same situation further up the road at Mogo, the fire had come right through town. We drove the few minutes out to Mogo Wildlife Park. After the fire broke out on New Year’s Eve, the staff battled blazes on all sides for hours; and for the next five days struggled to keep on top of spot fires and keep the animals safe. This photo, taken somewhere near the entrance gate, shows that all these trees burnt, and now upliftingly, are doing their best to regenerate.Mogo regeneration

We had an unexpected surprise on this last day of our trip, so I will wrap-up with this final story.

(Is that an oxymoron? Isn’t a surprise supposed to be unexpected?)

The Eden Killer Whale museum includes a gallery of paintings, and slap bang in front of us was this one.

Tucantu

John Downton OAM (1939 – ) Refit for TUCANTU Wollongong Harbour n.d. oil on canvas (Downton Collection Eden Killer Whale Museum)

Whoaaaaa! Tucantu is the former home of my dear friend and neighbour who regularly comments on my blog. She has kindly supplied these details.

She and her husband left Falmouth UK in August 1980 in Tucantu for a ‘sail westwards’ and ended up in Wollongong (Australia) fourteen months later – because his twin sister lived here.

They stayed for six months and then set off back to the UK – just the two of them and a cat. The circumnavigation took three years. Then they lived aboard for another year, working in the Chandlery on Falmouth Marina, all the while making plans to get Permanent Residency in Oz (Australia) because they wanted to sail back and set up a new life in a place that they loved.

The return journey took fourteen months, and they arrived back in Australia in 1985 on one of the biggest days in our calendar –  Melbourne Cup!

After going on to establish a successful architectural practice, they retired around the end of last century ( 🙂   – that’s my words 🙂 – ) and did some more sailing before downsizing and moving into our complex over ten years ago.

Such wonderful times came to their close in July 2010 when they sold Tucantu to a local man, and it is now owned by a chap in Goulburn NSW. Tucantu has moved on to other owners, but my friends still have their wonderful memories of such a unique home!

Just a few photos from their archives.

Wollongong 1981

Oct 1981 Arriving Wollongong after fourteen months  sailing from Falmouth 

Tucantu Pittwater easter

In Pittwater, North Sydney, home for six weeks each year around Easter time.

Celebrating Twenty Years in Wollongong NSW

Celebrating Twenty Years in Wollongong NSW

28 thoughts on “Eden to Wollongong (NSW) – Day 18, Final Day of Road Trip March 2020

  1. Good Afternoon.
    I was doing some research online to find what i could about Tucantu. I have just purchased her and intend on restoring her to one day sail again. The photos and history are fantastic. I would love to find our more.
    Innis McCarthy

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rob has half a book written using the pussy cat as first person in the story, which was done on our arrival back here in 1985. It was some time before we got our Practice up and running. Debz, my daughter, who sailed with us from Tahiti did the typing during her year here on a working visa. We ought to revisit it!!!

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  3. It is truly shocking, as you point out, the randomness of the fires. The resilience of the townsfolk of Cobargo is amazing especially with the scorched tree-line on the horizon looming over them. Don’t suppose all the pelicans along that coast were too phased by the fires although I expect they did lose the odd roosting post. Did the harbour and surrounding area at Eden largely escape the fires?

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    • Something that struck me in Cobargo was how busy the garden nursery was. Under the brow of that destruction, people were seeking new life and colour. The worst of the fires started on New Year’s Eve, a few days later those in Eden who were sheltering in the harbour were ordered to evacuate. It was apocalyptic, dark red skies, or black in the middle of the day. The navy vessel HMAS Adelaide was sent to assist, and remained in the harbour for a long time. The fires came close, but the actual marina, and the trees up around the lookout, were not burnt as far as we could tell on our visit.

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  4. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading your travel adventures, Gwen. I was particularly interested in the story of Old Tom, the Orca Killer Whale Pack Leader. It reminded me of our local meatworks which had a bull they called ‘Judas’ whose job it was to lead the cattle from the holding paddock across the road to the slaughterhouse each day.

    I imagine you’d be finding your home isolation rather mundane after your travels.

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    • I think the bushfire victims are starting to feel as if they have been forgotten. We are going into winter and some of them are still in temporary housing or caravans. Motivation for this trip was partly to spend tourist dollars in the affected areas but in the end we had to rush through.

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  5. Great photos and commentary! It was fascinating (and shocking) to read about killer Orca whales. Such amazing intelligence. I also loved the old photos at the end of your post, plus seeing trees beginning to regenerate after the fires. Thanks, Gwen!

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  6. I really enjoyed this series of posts on your road trip Gwen and am pleased you returned safe and sound without problems. What an epic voyage for your friends – 14 months from Falmouth, they must have so many happy memories that they could write a book about their travels if they haven’t done so already. It’s turned cold here today so sadly no more sitting out in the garden and so I’ve turned my attention to defrosting our freezers – not my favourite task! Enjoy the rest of your weekend as best you can. Take care, Marion.

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    • My friends keep saying they are going to write a book, and I know they have made a start. But! It’s easier to start than finish 🙂
      We’ve got on top of all those kind of household chores. Now we are working through old photos albums – starting from the early eighties. A bit of a chore that we are breaking up by just doing a couple a day.

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  7. What a great trip. I love the story about the Orca pods. I am glad whaling has stopped but the intelligence of the Orca is amazing. Thanks for the very East of Victoria and all the coast up to Wollongong – that bit I haven’t seen.

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