To Eden And Beyond – Road Trip Part #2

The country south of Bermagui is pretty spectacular, rolling lush hills and large empty sandy beaches that seem to stretch on forever. We took the quieter coastal road to Cuttagee, across a low-slung rickety wooden bridge and wound our way through the gorgeous Biamanga National Park with hardly a hamlet or human to be seen. And once past the old whaling port of Eden, the half way point between Sydney and Melbourne, the dense Boyd State Forest closed in and the seemingly endless road emptied across to the Victorian border. The only thing to watch out for here are the fully loaded logging trucks, fellow Grey Nomads, and the enormous trip-wrecking pot holes that loom up out of nowhere! 

Mallacoota, our overnight stop over the state border, is a remote coastal hamlet on the Wallagaraugh River mouth that sits precariously on the edge of wild dense forest, facing spectacular empty beaches and the Gabo Island lighthouse, standing sentinel on the near horizon. This 47-metre edifice is just about visible through the rolling surf as a tiny thin vertical line, which, if you look carefully at the accompanying photo, you’ll just be able to make out. 

Disaster hit Mallacoota on New Years Eve 2019 as fierce out-of-control bushfires surrounded the town, forcing around 4000 people (mostly holiday-makers) to flee to the water’s edge as a wall of flames hit the beach. According to locals the flames were 20 metres high, turning the sky a roiling dark black red at midday with falling embers, high wind, fire-storm thunder and loud cracking explosions. Eye witnesses describe the scene as Armageddon – and from this Twitter report I can understand why.

Almost three years on and things are a hell of lot calmer in Mallacoota, though the place will be scarred for many more years to come. Blackened trees loom eerily over the empty beaches and the dense state forest surrounding the town is still quite devastated, though visibly rejuvenating with a vibrant green fuzz. Standing here on the beach in cool spring morning sunshine it’s hard to imagine just how terrifying that day must have been. We’ve had three consecutive La Niña (wet) years in South Eastern Australia so when the wet finally ends (bring it on!) and the dry El Niño years return, as inevitably it will, the amount of ‘bush fuel’ around will be incredibly concerning for the hardy battle-worn residents of Mallacoota. 

From Mallacoota we headed towards Lakes Entrance via the wild and remote Cape Conran and the Snowy River outlet at Marlo, its waters having tumbled 352 kilometres down from Mount Kosciuszko in the Snowy Mountains, emptying into the roaring surf of Bass Straight and the Southern Ocean. 

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