Saturday, January 24, 2015

New Year road trip day 4: Eden and Cooma

Luke was up earlier than I the next morning and took his camera for a stroll around Mallacoota. He returned with a seal story - this one about a big, grumpy seal sunning itself on a jetty which barked at him when he got too close.

We went past again after breakfast and it was still there, snoozing in the sun. The jetty was fairly narrow and the seal was completely blocking the entrance to it. 

A guy berthed his boat at the jetty while Luke was there in the early morning and as he started running up the jetty Luke alerted him to the presence of the seal. He responded with something like, "Oh, not that bloody seal again", so obviously it's a regular hang out for the seal. It's near a fish cleaning station, so perhaps it was waiting for fish snacks.

Speaking of fish, every time I think of this seal or see photos of it, I will remember the bloody awful stench that filled the air near the jetty. I don't have a particularly delicate stomach when it comes to bad smells, but this nearly made me lose my breakfast. It was putrid. Upon investigation, I discovered a fisherman had thrown a small shark's head down onto the water's edge and I don't think it was recently. Not sure why the seal or some other scavenger hadn't eaten it while it was fresh.  


My original itinerary had us travelling from Mallacoota inland to Jindabyne, but we ended up continuing up the coast to Eden in New South Wales. 

 Boats in the delightfully named Snug Cove 

  The garden of Eden is really a 'mongrel landscape' 

After a quick information-gathering stop at the local tourist info centre, we backtracked to visit an old whaling station and the Green Cape Lighthouse, which meant more driving on bumpy, rutted gravel roads. (Finally getting back onto smooth bitumen after bumping along for kilometres on gravel roads is one of life's less common simple pleasures.)  

 The old house at the Davidson Whaling Station, 
which dates back to 1896

The house and other buildings are run as a small museum. On the day we visited a descendant of the Davidsons was there to hand over an old gun to go on display. Our guide pointed out his mother sitting on her mother's knee in a photo on the wall of the house.

Kiah Inlet: calm and serene today, but once where the Davidson
 family brought ashore the whales they hunted for oil

There was an old photo in the house of a man embedded in the blubber of a dead whale. Whale blubber was thought to be good for rheumatism, but anyone undergoing the treatment had to have someone keep an eye on them so they didn't pass out from the heat and stench, and suffocate in the blubber. Thank god for modern medicine.  

Another surprising thing we learned: the whalers took advantage of killer whales' status as the only predator of southern right whale to help them catch their quarry. Packs of killer whales drove the southern rights into shore where they attacked them, making it easier for the whaleboats to capture them. The whalers let the orcas feast on the whales' lips and tongues, and they took the rest of the carcass. Bizarre.  

The Davidson whaling station was set up in 1866 and closed its operations in 1929. It was the longest continuously operating whaling station in Australia.   

Yacht parking to the right please
 Next we headed to the Green Cape lighthouse. 

 Disaster Bay on the way 

 Luke's car after another, mercifully short, stretch of dirt road

 Said lighthouse

We had lunch back in Eden, then continued up the coast almost to Merimbula, but then we turned off the highway and took a road less travelled on the way to Cooma (which sadly meant we bypassed the amusingly named town of Numbugga). We were back in gorgeous lush, hilly farmland which had us 'oohing' and 'aahing'.  

 Impending storm

Curious calves

When we stopped in the driveway of a farm to take photos the calves in the paddock on the opposite side of the road mooed at us until I paid them some attention. Once I took their photo, they lost interest. 

A guy came out of the farm on a quadbike and stopped to ask if we were OK. I guess being off the highway they don't see a lot of tourists. When we told him our destination and confessed we weren't certain when were on the right road, he said we were and told us about a lookout up in the nearby mountains, which was on our way.  Unfortunately by the time we reached it (the Bemboka Escarpment), it had started to rain and we couldn't see much. As we got further along the high, winding mountain pass the clouds in the photo above let loose a proper downpour. 

On the other side of the mountains, we arrived at Cooma, which is only just over 100km south of Canberra and notable for its history as headquarters during construction of the Snowy Hydro Scheme (a hydroelectricity and irrigation complex) between 1949 and 1974. 

After finding a room (and breaking an arm off my glasses which I had to mend with a Band-aid), we set off on a walk around town. 

A highland goaty-oaty-oat?

We saw quite a few goats on our travels, but our favourite was a black goat with huge horns we saw near Agnes Falls and dubbed Devil Goat.

Dinner was at the art deco era Alpine Hotel (scotch fillet again), then it was bedtime.