Getting ready for our next trip away. Destination: north and central Victoria.
Kelly makes a cup of tea whilst I pull up Google Maps on the laptop.
We are about to set off on a 2 week road trip and we just want to agree on a rough sandbox idea of where we are going. We are not going to make definite plans, just a high level general idea.
From my current location I zoom out way too fast into the stratosphere (boy the pacific ocean is BIG) before bouncing back down to the bottom right hand side of the Australian continent.
This is the state of Victoria. Its southern coastline is a large zigzag that is snagged upwards mid zag to form Port Philip Bay. And here sits the state capital Melbourne.
The 660 odd kilometres of Hume highway travel between where we are now in Canberra, and Melbourne is deflected upwards in order to skirt two large and topographically dense green splotches on the map. The rugged terrain of the Kościuszko and Alpine national parks.
Our plan is to take the Hume down as far as the small town of Benalla on the Broken River and then swing up in a high arch over Melbourne to explore areas around Shepparton, Echuca (on the banks of the famous Murray River), Bendigo and Ballarat.
Zooming in and around the map, a bucket load of hidden locations appear. Some are small towns, some less than that. And this is where we are interested in exploring.
Next to my lap top, my iPad is open on the popular WikiCamps app, a crowdsourced depository of information on holiday parks, campsites and things to see & do. We flip flop back and forth between Google and WikiCamps checking interesting looking locations against the road suitability for Ripley (generally excluded by super wriggly lines) and against potential free or by-donation campsites.
Don’t get us wrong, we love docking Ripley up in a nice Holiday park for a few days in some of the larger places. Have a shower. Get our washing done. Hook into the grid. Get online.
But there is often some really cool experiences to be had staying at an off grid camping spot (here is one of our faves) in some out of the way location.
You see, after our last trip away, we really grew this enjoyment for checking out some of the less frequented towns in a sort of aimless wandering (for example). Without expectation we would pull up and make a point of getting out and actually taking a look around. Some of these places were really struggling, some were in terminal decline, and some were hidden gems where local communities were really making an effort to re-define, re-invent, or simply re-find themselves.
Some of the towns made us feel really welcome, and some really didn’t seem to care for us at all. Sometimes the feeling was mutual, sometimes we felt like we had stumbled into a real find.
But all of these places had stories to show if you just slowed down for a moment to take the time to read them.
So on this trip away I hope to share a few new chapters with you.