I discovered that Victoria’s Gippsland region, while small by the standards of bigger states, is vastly varied. I had stayed at Mirboo North, with the extremely generous and helpful Kate Jackson and Phil Piper, who had welcomed me, sight unseen.
As I left on a frosty morning, with a chilled mist in the air, the rolling hills around their place typified what I had always thought of as Gippsland country.
I knew by now that the Latrobe Valley is part of the region too, but as to what lay north of that coal hub, I had no idea. I hadn’t planned my route home, but on the map, one place had caught my eye : ‘Munro’. I took the turn-off.
Munro proved to be a tiny village in a potato-growing and grazing area. It had no shop, but a Munro Hall and a quaint little wooden church– St Mary’s Anglican Church. What struck me was that its stained glass window could have been made for me and my place, as it featured gum leaves, a possum and a Crimson Rosella!
From there I headed to Bairnsdale, where I would have to decide whether to cross the border via Omeo and the Great Alpine Road, or the coast. Informed that, it being snow season and school holidays, there’d be unlikely to be any accommodation at Omeo and I’d have to carry snow chains — I chose the coast.
Orbost on the Snowy River was my destination for the night, and I reached it around 4pm, tired, unwilling– and probably unable – to drive another inch. This pretty town had two motels – both with ‘No vacancy’ signs. Desperate, I drove in to the Orbost Country Roads Motor Inn, where owner Helen Dounan explained that contractors had filled the town’s rooms at this usually quiet time. No room at the inn, even in winter.
Displaying the sort of country kindness I thought had long disappeared, she took pity on me and rang around to find me a cancellation, a room, a caravan, a cabin– anything, within driving distance. After several calls, she said Greg at the Orbost Caravan Park would ring up any unclaimed bookings. He did, and rang Helen back to say I could have a cabin. As Helen said ‘The lady will be ecstatic!’
The cabin was clean and cosy, Greg was as kind as Helen had been, the Park was leafy and green, and just across the road from the Snowy Rver, the Forest Park and the Waterwatch Walk.
I took the Waterwatch Walk next morning, never having seen the Snowy so broad and calm and un-alpine-like. The Walk documents the rehabilitation project for the banks of the Snowy down here in the lowlands.
I followed the river by road to Marlo, ‘where the Snowy meets the sea’. It was odd to think of the Snowy as this amiable sand and seaside expanse.
This pelican kept a close eye on me and the river as I wandered about; I love the weird individuality of pelicans!
I thought how nice it was to be in such an obviously desirable and thus crowded summer spot – in winter. But this was just the beginning of my experience of Gippsland’s Wilderness Coast.