13 May 2014
In Woollamia, NSW, I stopped to get petrol at a Matilda Fuel petrol station. After paying, I heard a man walk in and suddenly realise he had forgotten his wallet. He wanted to buy three ice creams for his kids, but had no way to pay for them. He asked the cashier if he could just take the ice creams and bring some money in the following morning, when he would need to return to fill up his truck. To my complete surprise, the cashier laughed and said, “Sure! No problem, see you in the morning!” Welcome to Eurobodalla, on the South Coast of NSW.
From Sydney, the gateway into southern NSW begins with the Grand Pacific Drive. The road welcomed me with an unbelievable landscape. Arriving at Calalla Beach, hundreds of people had gathered for the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship; the triathlon includes a 1.5 km ocean swim, a 29 km mountain bike trail, and a 12 km run. Although the race is tough, the landscape is beautiful. The unspoiled coast of Callala Bay and the surrounding Jervis Bay bushland is wild and full of nature. As racers sped through the terrain, it was easy to see the pure adrenaline surging through their bodies.
The friendly team at Dolphin Watch Cruises took me through the beautiful waters of Huskisson, in Jervis Bay, which are full of dolphins, fish, and whales (during migration season). I realised just what a gem Jervis Bay is when I found myself sitting on Hyams Beach; the beach holds a Guinness World Record for the whitest sand on earth.
Paperbark Camp in Woollamia is an amazing lodge that captures the peaceful essence of Jervis Bay. Recreating what felt like a luxury African safari camp experience, I was able to watch the sun rise and fall in the midst of nature, from the comfort of my lodge. I was advised to fasten the lodge’s screen zippers together so that possums didn’t get in my tent; they love to rummage! The thought of that possibility during the night was thrilling, but also comforting as a reminder that I was there connecting with nature.
A short 1.5 hour drive away from Jervis Bay, Pebbly Beach is renowned for its residents: kangaroos. These roos love to lay around on the beach, eat grass, and watch humans incessantly try to coo over them. Initially, I was worried about scaring them off as I approached. Nearly a hundred photos later, I realised my worrying was needless.
Arriving in Batemans Bay, I met Ben, from Ralston Bros. Oysters, and Andy, from Australia’s Oyster Coast. We hopped on Ben’s flatbed boat and went out to the oysters. There were millions of them in Clyde River, all from different farmers in the region. Ben showcased his Waterfall and Heritage Oysters; he took them straight from the water, and they went straight into my mouth. Before this outing, I knew nothing of the process behind farming oysters, but I now understand their market value so much more. Oysters are typically collected and treated every 3 months. A Sydney Rock Oyster is usually at least three years old. I did the maths and discovered Ben, and all other oyster farmers, have treated and checked each one of their thousands of oysters upwards of 12 times before it is packaged. It’s impossible to explain how incredible they taste, so you’re better off eating some for yourself!
My last stop on this road trip was to Narooma, a humble town with a spectacular landscape. Just on the horizon lies Montague Island, which harbours an incredible wealth of wildlife, including Australian Fur Seals. I took off with Wazza of Lighthouse Charters across the sea to the island. He gave me a few snorkeling tips, and then I was off swimming towards the island’s rocks. Hundreds of seals were lying around, enjoying the morning sun, but as soon as I started clapping, their curiosity perked. They rolled into the water and swam over to see what I was doing all the way out there. Repeatedly, the seals came close to get a look, before quickly darting away. They really seemed like the playful dogs of the ocean they’re often described as. What an amazing experience. Once was not enough, I’d love to get out there with them again!