It’s amazing how much difference a day makes. Yesterday was grey, cool and wet. Today was warm, clear and sunny. It’s good for the soul and for photography to see some sun!
The first part of our drive to Bega was straightforward. When it comes to good old Aussie cheese, few names come up as strongly as Bega and the nearby cheese-making towns of Kameruka and Bodalla. Today Bega Cheese employs more than 600 people, has absorbed the old dairy cooperatives at Kameruka, Bodalla and Tilba and produces more than 40,000 tonnes of cheese and processed dairy products each year.
Just out of interest, we stopped at the Bega Cheese Factory, even though we knew it would be closed. It is, indeed, a large plant and obviously the major employer in town. A nearby look out gave us some views over the Bega Valley. Once again, we are amazed at just how green is the landscape. It’s emerald d green, just like Ireland. The river there had flooded some of the city’s roads and we spent a few minutes driving through the local streets trying to find our way back on the highway.
Up the road, we came to the little town of Cobargo. It has a thriving arts community and a wonderful range of historic timber buildings although these were hard to see because of roadworks along the entire length of the main street through the town. It is hard to reconcile the dampness of the last few weeks with the raging fires that affected this area three years ago.
On December 31 2019, the catastrophic fires burning across southeastern Australia reached Cobargo. Within just a few hours, roads and bridges near the town were impassable, all critical infrastructure was destroyed, and 300 homes in the district along with 30% of businesses in Cobargo’s main street were lost. We could see a number of vacant lots where buildings had previously been.
We noticed this very sad sight. This was once a family home but all that remains now are the steps that would have led up to the front veranda and the kitchen chimney, complete with the old fuel stove.
Bermagui was our next stop and we found the harbour where all the game fishing boats were moored. Historically this town is a magnet for deep sea game fishermen. The warm spring currents bring marlin and yellow fin tuna close to the coast and charter boats from Bermagui take deep-sea and big-game fishers out to sea. The American author Zane Grey (he was a famous writer of westerns) was largely responsible for establishing Bermagui as a world famous marlin fishing destination.
We looked for Bob and Dolly Dyer (older Australians will know them from the Pick A Box Quiz show on black and white TV, but they were doing something else today and were no where not at the wharf. Web gave up looking and had lunch on he headland above the blue pool. There was no point in swimming there today. The seas were far too rough and dangerous.
One of the most interesting places on our travels today were the National Trust towns of Tilba Tilba and Central Tilba. These are two tiny timber towns located in the shadow of the once-active volcano which the local Yuin people called Gulaga and Captain James Cook named Mount Dromedary.
For the past thirty years Central Tilba, the larger of the two towns, has slowly evolved from a small dairy town with a cheese factory into a fashionable destination with boutique accommodation and a wide variety of gift shops and cafes. Once owned by the Bate family (Jeff Bate was a local politician who achieved fame by marrying Prime Minister Harold Holt’s widow, Zara) the villages are widely recognised as two of the most attractive hinterland towns in the area. They were so popular that it was difficult to find a parking space in the main street, so I resorted to stopping in a parking area at the bottom of town and then walked back along the Main Street to try and capture some of the atmosphere of this charming town.I hate to think how many people will visit them if they ever become popular!
We detoured off the highway to a number of points of interest along the coast. These places were mostly seven or eight kilometres off the highway. All, like this beach at Bermagui, had pounding surf dumping big waves on the beaches. It was at Narooma, near the where Wagonga Inlet empties into the sea across a shallow sand bar that we saw a sign that tickled my sense of humour. It said “Dangerous Bar, Large Swells”. I thought it sounded just like a warning in a New Zilland pub after an All Blecks Football Metch.
At Tuross Head, lots of people seemed to be standing on the headland looking along the beach and the entrance to Coilla Lake as if it were a great attraction. One of the locals told me that the council had spent a couple of days opening up the entrance to the lake with an excavator so that the lake didn’t flood and cut off the highway after all the rains of the last week. I guess that seeing the entrance open was an unusual sight of great fascination.
Once again, we managed to fill in the entire day with no problem at all. We now have a free day tomorrow in Batemans Bay to do some local sightseeing and exploring.