The Alpine Region and the South Coast

The beginning of autumn for us in Sydney. I showered at 4:30am – a holy crap moment, why did I agree to this? I had to be at the pick up site at 6am. Coffee? Check. Suitcase? Check. Laptop bag? Check. It’s a 6-hr drive to our destination. Three of us travelling, one to be picked up last. And let’s hope there’s coffee somewhere. I’m not this early morning person.

Thankfully, my colleagues know exactly where to pick up coffee before our long drive. Seriously we need it. We estimated that we should be at our first stop by 2pm, that includes a quick lunch somewhere.

If you’ve ever done long trips around Australia, you can go for stretches with nothingness. Lunch means any pit stop along the way, so we do have to look out for those. And the choices are pretty much the same: Hungry Jack’s, McDonalds, Oliver’s, KFC. Unless of course if not in a hurry, explore one of those small towns for something decent.

I was hoping that we could go to one of those small restaurants. Who best to ask? Our colleagues from the town. They referred us to Cafe 1-2-3. We were on the clock so our meal had to be fast.

First stop: Cooma

The gateway into the Alpine Region of New South Wales. The highest elevation is said to be 1,800m. Cooma has an elevation of 800m. The landscape is so different to the lower regions. More grassy, less bushland.

The town centre caught my attention. You see, all those panels are meticulously crafted mosaic each representing its community, history, its people. And yes, there is a lot of history in this place including the backbreaking work to create the Snowy Mountain Scheme — the hydro-electric facility built in 1949 mostly by migrant workers.

The Alpine region is definitely now in my bucket list to take my sons to one day. Even in summer. I think they’ll enjoy the place as much as I have. Though short it was.

Next stop: Bega

To get to Bega from Cooma, you have to cut through the Great Dividing Range. Beautiful long twisty drive. Tempting to sing “The Long and Winding Road” if not for the fact that I cannot hold a tune. But the song played in my head nonetheless. I took a short video clip but as I’m trying not to pay too much in subscription, I can’t upload it. Perhaps somewhere. Well one day. But it truly was breathtaking.

Bega. For the uninitiated, it’s cheese country. Apparently, you cannot be in Bega without going to the cheese factory — the only place you can get the multi-awarded year-on-year vintage cheese not available anywhere. With 15 minutes to go before the factory’s closing time, we finished our work and hopped back in the car, crossed our fingers that the GPS will take us there pronto whilst still open. And it did!

It is CHEESE paradise! It was mind-boggling! Seriously. I like cheese but my waistline doesn’t. Looking for THE cheese we were supposed to get in less than 10 mins (because the shop assistants were already preparing to close) in a shopful of cheese was also hilarious! It also doesn’t help that an array of cheeses were available for tasting.

To find THE cheese or to eat the cheese?

Just as well that I tried all the cheeses there. Finding somewhere to dine on a Monday night in country NSW is quite a task in itself.

Well, we found the cheese and bought some to take home. Including an insulated bag.

Next stop: Narooma

If there is a place I would like to have a small cottage, it would be this place. Waking up to this magnifiscent breathtaking view was something. It reminds me so much of the little town I come from — coastal, breathtaking, friendly people, intimate, quiet, serene.

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It’s not for the posh, definitely. Arriving there at 6pm on a Monday night from Bega, hungry and tired, our next challenge was finding a place to dine. Most restaurants were close. There were only three places to choose from: the pub, Chinese restaurant or an Italian place. Well, if you exclude KFC of course.

Between three people, the choice was easy. We went Italian. Ravenous is an understatement. We were truly hungry. Entree disappeared very quickly. We polished our plates over a bottle of Shiraz.

I tried so hard to get the Nespresso machine in my room to work. Either I am so dumb (I don’t own one) or it was broken, who knows? I’m just a simple person with a stove top espresso maker. I settled for peppermint tea before I hit the sack.

Before driving to our next destination we swung to another part of Narooma. The greater the resolve to return to this place.

Next stop: Bomaderry

It wasn’t in our plan, glad that we swung by this little town. Each town has its own story. Each town built by migrants. And sadly, for each town built, were traditional owners displaced.

Last stops: Port Kembla and Russel Vale

Now at the last leg of our 2-day trip. Exhausted and dying for coffee. You see, on the road, coffee is a luxury that we don’t get. We were driving from one town to the next. We have people to meet. Going through the gallery of my iPhone, I sadly realised I didn’t take any scenic photo of Russel Vale.

But this is the Port Authority site at Port Kembla. Atop the cliff overlooking the water. It was gorgeous. But on this afternoon, the weather was turning — overcast, drizzling and windy.

And while my trips are nowhere as exciting as The Kindness Diaries, it is the kindness of the people we have visited that make each trip always etched in my memory.

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