Merimbula to Lakes Entrance: Nails Don’t Belong on the Road

3 Apr

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March 22, 2012

Noise travels quickly and loudly through the YHA in Merimbula and we were up as soon as others in our hostel were. We packed up our things and put them in the car, leaving out our breakfast food and toothbrushes. Breakfast consisted of dry raisin bread toast, bananas and – you guessed it – tap water.

We had originally planned to go to the beach but the weather was cool and overcast. Unsure of what to do with our day in Merimbula, we decided to head to Bar Beach Kiosk for a coffee (or 2) to make a plan as we’d received a 2 for 1 coffee voucher from our hostel. The café was a small outdoor stand located overlooking the beach and offered a multi-level deck with picnic tables for its customers to sit at, while eating breakfast and making use of the free Wi-Fi.

As we were enjoying our lattes, we met the owner of Bar Beach Kiosk, 30-something Mick from Australia who came over to make sure we weren’t having any problems with the Wi-Fi. Because tipping is not customary in Australia (the hourly wage for servers can be between $20 and $30 an hour!) the service is often sub-par, so this was really uncharacteristic. We got to talking and Mick immediately picked up that we were Canadian (another rarity) and we learned that he’d lived for several years in different parts of Canada (not ever in Whistler, surprisingly).

We asked about surfing nearby, though there were barely any waves breaking in the bay where we were, and Mick recommended instead that we try paddle-boarding. He had a buddy, Peter, that owned a rental “shop” (ie trailer of boards on the side of the road) and gave us his card before heading back up to the café. Once J.J. had made the call we were set to meet over by the paddle-board “shop” in an hour.

Just then an older woman came over to our table accompanied by her husband to ask me where I had gotten my hoodie (I told you, the day was cold!) and that she really loved the thumbholes it had and wanted to buy one for her daughter. Since our trip may as well have been sponsored by Lululemon (only in our case, we paid Lulu a lot of money to wear their clothing all over the world), it was obviously a Lululemon hoodie and thanks to seeing many ladies walking the Coastal Track rocking the Lulu in Noosa I had done my research, finding out that there was in fact a Lululemon store in Melbourne. Because I had Wi-Fi access and my net book in front of me I was able to pull up the exact address of the store as coincidentally the woman would be in Melbourne in a couple of weeks. I wrote the website and address on a piece of paper (thank you Patti Ann, Hayley and Sam for the Moleskin going-away gift!) and I expect she’ll be making a purchase or 2 there in the near future. See Lululemon? You should be paying me (or at least sending a few freebies my way).

We spent about 15 minutes chatting with this older couple as they told us all about how she was Australian and he was Canadian and how they’d met on a trip to Europe and just last summer their son had married an Australian girl he’d met while travelling Europe. I guess history really does repeat itself.

I’m only now realizing how long of a ramble the above has been, and we’re only still at Bar Beach Café – well I’ve obviously had too much coffee. On to paddle-boarding, which was just over the bridge and an immediate left to the end of the road (if you visit Merimbula, that is all the direction you need to find the South Coast Kiteboarding trailer).

Expecting to be absolute rubbish on a paddle board our first time out, J.J. and I were both pleasantly surprised to find that it was relatively easy to stand and paddle at the same time (it may have been Peter’s excellent step by step instructions before we actually got on the boards), though we definitely can see why every paddle-boarder we’ve seen is ripped. It’s a great core workout because holding everything in and keeping your back straight while bending at the knees makes it easiest to stay balanced and on the board as opposed to in the water.

We paddled around the whole bay, around all of the sailboats and houseboats anchored and over to a sandbar, that sharply sloped down into deeper water. Parts of the ocean below us were sandy and clear while others were shallow and covered in seaweed and others still were deep and dark. On 2 occasions in the clear sandy parts of the bay I saw stingrays swim underneath me, 1 big and 1 small. It was just like in Thailand when we were scuba diving and they hid themselves under the sand and emerged, swimming just centimeters above the ocean floor. We also saw a number of pelicans hanging out in the water and on the sandbar which was really amazing because they let you come up pretty close before flying away.

When our paddle-boarding experience came to an end and the boards were put back up on the trailer Peter left us on the beach to get back to the landscaping business he also runs. I found a tree full of wild parakeets (I think – colourful birds anyway) and set off to take some photos leaving J.J. to do what he does best: make friends with a local. I must have been off for about 15 minutes and when I came back to the car where I had left J.J. he had a new buddy that had given him all sorts of recommendations for our drive to Melbourne and along the Great Ocean Road.

From the beach we got on the road on our way to Lakes Entrance, a very small town a bit less than half way between Merimbula and Melbourne. The scenery was mainly winding roads under a canopy of trees with a few short breaks of lush and green rolling hills (there is an upside to the a rainy summer in a country like Australia I suppose), grazing cows and farmhouse spread sparsely along the way in the few small towns between kilometres of forest.

About an hour and a half into our drive, singing along to The Tragically Hip and enjoying the scenery in the late afternoon sunlight we heard what sounded like we were dragging a piece of metal behind us. We pulled over immediately, only to discover we had gotten a flat tire (rear passenger side, Jamie). Luckily before the trip my dad had schooled J.J. in changing a tire at the cottage this past summer.

We got out the manual and read through the steps just to be sure we were doing everything according to the book. We put a block in front of the diagonally opposite tire, slowly jacked up the car, took off the flat tire, replaced it with the spare tire being sure not to over-tighten the nuts (or is it bolts?), and got back in the car. Just before J.J. put the car into first gear we remembered at the exact same time that we hadn’t removed the block from in front of the front driver’s side wheel. Dodged that bullet, but Mitsubishi, don’t you think you should include that amongst your eleventeen other steps to changing a flat? Fail.

I didn’t panic like I had with the windshield as there was a step by step solution at our fingertips and immediate gratification of being able to get on the road again relatively quickly. That said, we were back on the road and laughing about our mishap within 20 minutes with a plan to visit a garage the next day in Lakes Entrance to have the tire patched and replace the spare tire with the patched one.

We arrived at our Lakes Entrance hostel, another YHA, just as the sun was about to go down and J.J. walked across town to the grocery store (a 15-minute walk so you can imagine how populated it is in Lakes Entrance). He picked up a backpacker’s dinner of Cup-A-Soup and ingredients for a salad while I showered.

We ate late in the common area of the YHA and chatted with an older gentleman about his younger days of back to back winters. While we’re experiencing what Jonny calls ‘the year of summer’, this guy lived through ‘years of winter’ alternating between New Zealand and B.C./Europe. Eventually, he told us, he missed the sun and traded winter for Byron Bay. Nice life.

Because there’s absolutely no sign of life past dark in Lakes Entrance, aside from the local grocery store, we decided to head to our room – me to write this blog and J.J. to read. (I’m never going to finish Shantaram…)


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