Canberra to Bega, No Make That Merimbula

3 Apr

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March 21, 2012

After a breakfast of raisin bread toast and orange juice (luxury!), and after I’d called my dad to wish him a happy 59th birthday (though it wasn’t a very happy one as he’d gotten his wisdom teeth out that day – not sure if this birthday or next – his 60th – will be more painful), J.J. and I hit the road in cousin Jamie’s Mitsubishi and headed for our first pit stop on our way to Melbourne: Bega.

The road was winding with beautiful rolling hills of farmland as far as the eye could see on either side and big silver windmills sprinkled along the way added to the country scenery. As we were driving we ran into a detour due to the flooding that has been taking place recently in Australia. We stopped at the nearest gas station, which wasn’t near at all, to fill up and ask for alternate directions to Bega because according to our map it would be a long detour that included us doubling back on the following day’s drive.

The woman working at Shell was full of recommendations, the main one being not to stop in Bega because aside from a cheese factory there wasn’t much to see there. Being a hater of the cheese I was all ears for other suggestions and they were either Eden or Pambula. She told us there would be a fork in the road and that we could either go 20 minutes to the left to Pambula or 20 minutes to the right to Eden. We figured we’d decide once we got to the fork.

As we began driving again the light had started to change as the sun had begun to set. For the first time J.J. and I noticed several small chips in the windshield of Jamie’s car. Neither J.J. or I had heard anything hit the windshield and yet we’d been looking out of it for the past couple of hours without noticing a single chip. I went in to full-on panic mode to the point that I felt sick to my stomach because this was only day 1 of a 10 – 12 day road trip in a car that had been so generously loaned to us. J.J. and I decided that we would find a garage that did windshield repairs and get a quote before letting Jamie know about the chips and find out what our options were in terms of repairs.

The first garage we stopped at directed us to a windshield (or windscreen in Oz) repair specialist just up the road and around the corner, so off we went. There was an older gentleman there and he took a look at the chips, recommending that 4 or 5 of the 6 or 7 be repaired and that it would cost $140 AUD, or the better option he said would be to replace the windscreen altogether for $270 AUD. He also let us know that car insurance often covers a new windscreen and said that we should look into whether Jamie’s did or not.

We nervously got in touch with Jamie and let him know about the windshield, offering to of course pay for the repairs if his insurance didn’t cover it and also to ask if he wanted us to have the work done there or if he had a preferred mechanic he’d like us to use. Jamie brushed it off with something along the lines of “no worries” and told us that he’d incurred the chips a week or so before we’d arrived in Canberra when he’d done a coastal drive himself. Whew! What a relief!

The mechanic also recommended a different town to stay in, Merimbula, than the 2 the woman at Shell had suggested and it was just 10 minutes further down the road. We took his advice, called the local YHA hostel, booked a room on the phone and checked in 10 minutes later.

After all of the day’s excitement and the extended time in the car because of the detour, we took an hour or so to relax – J.J. reading his book and me making a small dent in catching up on 8 outstanding blog posts. Once we were breathing easy again (okay, once I was breathing easy again) we headed out to have a cheap and cheerful dinner in town.

We decided on Chinese food and shared an appetizer and an entrée that was fine, but nothing to write home about (I don’t even remember the name of the restaurant but it was the only Chinese place in town). After which we made our way to Wooly’s, or Woolworth’s, an Australian grocery chain, to pick up some necessities for our backpackers breakfast and some snacks for the next day’s car ride: bananas, apples and apricots. (Are you proud, Mum? No Tim Tams!)

It had begun to rain and the wind had picked up so we headed back to our hostel around 10:30pm to watch an episode of The Wire on the tiny screen of our net book and drift off to sleep.

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