Red Dwarf takes my sister for a ride

map of berry
Today’s route:
Wollongong – near Dapto – Killalea State Forest (near Shellharbour) – Gerroa & Gerringong/Seven Mile Beach – Berry – Kangaroo Valley – Robertson – Jamberoo (southeast on the fringe of the Budderoo National Park – return north to Wollongong.

Day 3 of my sister’s visit, the Thursday before New Year’s Eve (is that New Year’s Eve, eve?) and on this day it was Bill behind the wheel, with our chariot of choice our regular car, the 2012 Hyundai i30 we call Red Dwarf. My husband planned a much more ambitious itinerary than I drove the day before, and, to avoid visiting any shops, we packed a picnic. There are some upsides to COVID after all, when it reminds us to revisit these simple pleasures. Out came the thermos flask for the first time in years. We made a list, and like Santa, checked it twice, but in the event – we forgot the coffee cups. Luckily the picnic basket had some plastic wine glasses, so they were pressed into service when needed.

The first stop was far from scenic. I mentioned in an earlier post that Australia’s 2021 word of the year was STROLLOUT in honour of our slow vaccine rollout, and, although they have been widely used around the world, Rapid Antigen Tests were only approved by the Australian Government on 1 November 2021. We felt it wise to get some for NYE but the first two pharmacies were out of stock. (Days later, we were ‘pinged’, meaning that for the few minutes we were inside we co-incided with a COVID positive case! But no harm done). On our third attempt, a half hour down the road, we were successful. Lucky for us, because now they are widely out of stock. Sheesh! This Brave New World. It would do Aldous Huxley proud.

Okay, now we were off and away. First of all, we headed for the Killalea State Park. Once upon a time this was farmland perched above a fabulous surf beach. Bill was one of the youths who would drive there, pay the farmer a small amount to access and park on his land, and then hoik his surfboard down the steep hill. Today, a part of it is still known as ‘The Farm’. To get there, one now drives through new housing development, including a marina, and for a while, it was quite the fight to stop the suburban spread. It is as recently as December 2021 that it has been protected. We drove up and down and around, and then settled on a little clearing to have our coffee and cake – which is when we discovered the critical item missing from the list – those pesky coffee mugs!

From one lookout point at Killalea State Park, photo by Bill

From our spot, a track through the bush led to the beach. So, not everything has been changed. Then we headed back to the main carpark to admire the view before piling back in the car. One downside of this area is sandflies. But still there were plenty of campers and daytrippers around.

At the coffee stop, a little BROWN bird whose species is unknown to me joined us. Kind of looked like a juvenile magpie that had been created by a rogue father 🙂

Next we drove south to the fishing and beachside villages of Gerroa and Gerringong. On a previous visit we’d taken my sister to share a seafood platter from the Fisherman’s Club on the hilltop, overlooking Seven Mile Beach – and I think you can guess why it is named that. This time we headed down to the lagoon and beach where holidaymakers were having a wonderful time. It’s lovely to see the little kiddies be able to cavort around in the safety of the shallow waters of the lagoon, while mere feet away the beach waves are crashing in.

See the source image
Aerial view of Seven Mile Beach,
Source: https://www.kiama.nsw.gov.au/Facilities/

Bill’s itinerary now took an unusual twist as we turned westwards, inland to Berry. Often on our road explorations Bill and I ask each other if we’ve ever been on this road before, and this was definitely new to both of us. Peeling ourselves away from the golden sands and coastal greenery, we drove through dense bushland and rolling green farmland before we recognised the outskirts of the township we usually approach from a completely different direction.

Berry is a charming country town surrounded by lush, rolling countryside peppered with dairyfarms. Berry is named after the explorer Alexander Berry who took up land grants, becoming the first white settler in the area known as Shoalhaven. Because it is one of the area’s oldest settlements, Berry retains its early architecture and treed avenues. Its regular population of around 2,000 is swelled with tourists who often come to shop in its main street of quaint and eclectic establishments or sample its award-winning restaurants.

See the source image
Source: Berry.org.au

We chose to set up our picnic in Apex Park, very close to the main street. All the covered picnic tables and benches were taken, other people were spread out on blankets on the grass. In the spirit of keeping our distance, we set up on the benches in the historic rotunda, and spread out our wares: Christmas ham leftover, boiled eggs, salad items – including the Aussie staple of pineapple and beetroot – condiments, sauces, etc, sandwiched between the fresh bread rolls purchased that morning by Bill while we were at the chemist shops (and he was also later ‘pinged’*). We finished off with fruit. We realised there was a bakery nearby by the number of people strolling into the park eating pies and sausage rolls out of white paper bags. We were thankful to have prepared our own food, as there must have been quite the queue! There was also a long queue at the Berry Donut Van, a simple caravan kiosk from which fresh cinnamon donuts have been sold for the last fifty-five years. Many people pause in Berry just for that!

After restowing our picnic basket into the boot, we walked all that food off with a stroll up and down main street, and into side streets and by-ways admiring all the shop windows. It would be no hardship to spend a short break in this area, and it is close to many natural attractions as you can see from the map.

Next we took a minor cross-country heavily wooded road to Kangaroo Valley. This is a small township located on the river of the same name, and first spotted by Europeans in 1812, displacing the local Wodi-Wodi people a few years later. Wikipedia tells us that in an 1826 census there were 79 Aborigines living in the valley in five separate encampments.

Kangaroo Valley - Hampden Bridge
Kangaroo Valley’s most recognisable feature is the 1898 Hampden Bridge, the oldest suspension bridge in Australia. Source: https://www.australias.guide/nsw/accommodation/holiday-haven-kangaroo-valley/

Again, the streetscape of Kangaroo Valley is little changed from that early settlement, although on a much smaller scale than Berry. On occasions, Bill and I drive here for a day out and lunch in the local pub, The Friendly Inn. It has a pleasant rural view from its back deck, and something new since we were last here is a red telephone box outside! I vividly remember these. You put a coin in the slot, dialled, and if the call was answered, pressed Button A. Your money was gobbled up. No answer, then you pressed Button B. Your money was refunded into the canister at the bottom. Unless someone had stuffed foam up the return chute so they could come by later and “earn” some pocket money. Not that I ever did it (ahemm). I’m sure “someone” must have told me about it. Okay…moving right along. The caravan park on the banks of the river looked busy with summer school holidays in full swing. Just for the heck of it, not at all because of hunger, my sister and I indulged in an ice-cream each as we wandered around. She was good at balancing an ice-cream and mobile (cell) phone – in fact, many of the photos on today’s post are hers.

Leaving the township, we wound our way up through more dairy and beef farmland and bush, and, rather than head into the popular main towns of the Southern Highlands (see them on the map), we turned to Robertson, approaching it from the west. This is a green, fertile, cool climate village famous for being featured in the film Babe – which is actually set in rural England – about a pig raised by sheepdogs who goes on to be a herder. It’s one of those quirky feel-good movies that you think you are putting on for the kids and instead get hooked on yourself. Other things of note in Robertson, where potatoes are widely grown, is The Big Potato (I know, I know…from a certain angle it does look like a turd); the Pie Shop, which is popular with bikers who have just ridden up the steep and circuitous Macquarie Pass; the heritage Robertson Hotel/Ranelagh House, which in its 1920s heyday was one of the most luxurious hotels of its time; and occasional steam train excursions from Sydney. They also have a thriving annual arts and crafts fair.

The Big Potato in Robertson, Source: Wikimedia
See the source image
The “Famous” Robertson Pie Shop (click on the title to go to their website)

Rather than descend Macquarie Pass we turned south to Jamberoo. But just before I leave that thought here’s an insight into the pass. The link below is to a video taken by a motorcyclist on the ascent. If you wish to see what the route looks like from our home then begin at the beginning. Otherwise, jump in around the 4 minute mark. Around 8 minutes 20 seconds you’ll come to the first of the two extreme hairpin turns where larger vehicles usually have to do a three point turn, and others have to hang back to let them complete the manouevre. The pass section is complete around the 10 minute mark as the driver approaches Robertson. Please don’t watch THIS VIDEO if you get car sick or have vertigo. The cyclist goes at a dizzifying rate.

The Robertson to Jamberoo link road is not quite as dizzifying but it is steep and scenic as it winds down the Jamberoo Mountain through rainforest. If stopping off here, there are many activities such as bushwalks to waterfalls, a walk through the rainforest canopy (The Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventure), or a day out with the kids at the Jamberoo Action Water Park. We have taken the grandchildren several times, and one of the great things is you can bring your own food and stay all day, so although the entrance price looks expensive, it turns out great value. My personal favourite is the bobsled, even though it is not water related, and tame in comparison to some of those rides, such as The Funnel Web. Another good thing about the park is that once your children are a certain age, you can safely let them out of your sight for short periods of time.

We didn’t linger on this day, as for us it was the drive and the scenery, and time was getting on, so at the bottom of the mountain we turned north on a minor road you can see in grey on the above map and headed back to Wollongong.

True to form, Bill had planned ahead by cooking a casserole for dinner, so we could relax on our back balcony and watch the sunset over the escarpment as we sipped our wine and chatted about our day (after we dealt with the leftovers and melted ice in our cool box. Just today I discovered that the toothpicks we had put away in the pantry cupboard had gone mouldy. Hysterical. I’ve never seen that before, but then again, it’s been a long time between picnics 🙂 ).

  • * Pinging: QR codes must be scanned on entry to most shops and venues, recording your visit on a NSW government app. If someone tests positive for COVID, and has been there at the same time as you, the app sends an alert for you to watch for symptoms and get tested if necessary. I’m sure we have copied the system from other countries so it would be familiar to many of my followers.

24 thoughts on “Red Dwarf takes my sister for a ride

  1. Well, what a treat to be chauffeured on a mini Grand Tour. I am guessing that neither you nor your sister are carsick with those twisty roads. Always great to see the mix of Aborigine and European, frequently British, names on maps of your locality. The beautiful coastline matches the fabulous names like Wollongong, Gerringong and Tomerong. And, those sons of Robert have got everywhere – Robertson is my daughter’s middle name. It’s that Scottish clan thing.

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    • Luckily no car sickness, but I have a friend who would have struggled. Yesterday I had cause to go to the Southern Highlands and drove up Macquarie Pass on my own – thinking of that biker’s video all the way.
      I checked on Robertson. So it originally had another name but in the 1860s was renamed after a politician and land reformer who was originally born in Middlesex, England and came here with his parents and siblings as a young boy in the early colonial times.
      His land reform meant that farmers had the opportunity to select land, rather than allowing the squatters to gobble it all up for grazing and sheep farming. Robertson’s soil is particularly good for potato crops. There’s a newspaper article where the farmers are bragging about having cleared the jungle to create farms.
      Sadly, Robertson’s land reform had nothing to do with keeping it in the hands of the traditional indigenous owners.

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  2. I love the descriptions of the two outings in the last two posts, Gwen. What a joy it must have been to have your sister over. I absolutely adore frangipani flowers, and can just imagine the lovely scent that must have filled your home. Picnics and daytripping is a wonderful way to spend a day, especially when the weather is great.

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    • Here the “proper” PCR test is provided free through Medicare (like the NHS) but we have to pay for the Rapid Antigen Tests and there has been price gouging and scant supply. It’s caused a huge controversy, but all our regular news has been knocked out by the Djokovic saga. It’s been a great diversion for the Government.

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      • I see, we test LFT so much in the UK school children, teachers, everyone that wants a daily test could get one, many don’t always register their negative tests but it is millions, it must be costing a fortune and over Christmas supplies got low because people were testing more because of Omicron in order to see family. Yes I’ve heard about Djokovic even in England it is being used to fill up news stories. Will they, won’t they let him play? It must be very important to him not to have the vaccines to cause all this fuss!

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          • Given the sacrifice that Melbournians have gone through to keep the cases down and reduce the load on hospitals, it was unfair to allow him in on account of being unvaccinated. Local people who are “vaccine free” are barred from many places.

            But the process has been inconsistent and ridiculous. If anything good comes from it, media will now pay attention to the asylum seekers who have been detained in the same hotel for several years.

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  3. Lovely trip to places I know & have visited many times. We camped at Bendeela in Kangaroo Valley for many years. Super photos Gwen – you do such a good job with your stories! Oh! We did love your sister❤❤

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    • I’d forgotten you were such regular campers in the day! And thanks for the feedback on the stories – wish my book would flow as naturally 😦
      And what’s not to like about my sister? She’s the nice version of meeeee!!!

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    • Before McDonalds beetroot was a staple on the Aussie hamburger, and if you wanted one with lot, you may have ended up with pineapple, and/or egg and bacon. But I agree, I prefer to separate the two tastes. Besides which, the tin turned out to contain chunks which wouldn’t stay on the roll 🙂
      This was a wonderful drive. And doing less, and bushwalking instead would have also been great!

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    • It certainly felt as if we were eating all day! And the bird – well, I suppose it had to be a magpie, but since it didn’t vocalise, was smaller than usual, and was the wrong colour, I’ll never be sure. There is a local bird called the koel, a kind of cuckoo, which abandons its eggs in other bird’s nests to be raised by them. Perhaps???

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  4. Thanks for taking me on this journey with you in your beautiful country (where I have never been, sadly). The pinging is something I have heard about, but they don’t have that here. They are not organized enough! It’s very hard to find rapid tests here, but as soon as we heard about it, the gardener and I searched until we found some. Then you could only buy 2 and we needed four. So I said, “Can he buy two and I buy two?” And the clerk said, sure. hahaha

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    • It was similar with us. I bought my packet, and then sent my sister in. If I’d had my wits about me, I would have sent my husband after that.
      I wouldn’t call anything about the Federal Government’s approach to COVID “organised”, and each of the States does their own thing. Sometimes our NSW government has changed the rules three times in a week. We are beyond trying to keep up.

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  5. I don’t care how many lists you make or how many times you check them out – there will Always be one item missing! lol But who cares when you are having a tour like this – right?

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