Ah, rural Australia. What a treat! My week long trip sure reinforced that I’m a city girl at heart. That’s not to say that being out in the sticks didn’t teach me a thing or two though. During my first trimester of holidays from college I spent some time in Victoria with family. My grandma, mum, brother and I went to see my cousin Aaron and his fiancee Rachel. They recently bought a place in Princetown, a coastal village located on the Great Ocean Road and east of the Twelve Apostles. It’s about fifteen minutes from Port Campbell where the pair used to rent a house together. They were roommates at the time and worked at a local restaurant, Waves.
They’re both fabulous cooks and we were fortunate to enjoy an array of spectacular meals. A veggie pasta bake and traditional Pakistani Biryani, to name a few. Dessert on our last night was this superbly rich and full bodied sticky date pudding. We were never left hungry, that’s for sure. While we didn’t spend a lot of time in Port Campbell, the morning of our last day sufficed. We stopped in at Waves for hot chocolate and coffee to go and then set out on the road. I made sure to get a few snaps of my favourite cafe, grassroots deli. Their gourmet pizzas are to die for and a staple meal when we’re in the area!
However, I digress. Here’s me getting ahead of myself when I haven’t even walked you through the week yet. The trip from Sydney to Melbourne is an undoubtedly hefty one. Fifteen hours and over a thousand kilometres. That’s six hundred and twenty one miles for my American friends. While the four of us drove home on the return trip, my mum, brother and I flew to Victoria and we were there in just over an hour. My grandma had already left with my cousin early last Wednesday, taking with them a trailer full of antiques.
In this way we experienced the best of both worlds. The surreal feeling of jumping on a plane and imagining the possibilities of going anywhere after being stuck for so long. I held my airline ticket as if it was a bar of gold and oh boy, did it feel that valuable. As for the road trip, don’t underestimate the power of being locked in a car with your loved ones for the better part of a day. Yes, at times you’ll want to bite their heads off but this is where you’ll find camaraderie, eat all the snacks, laugh more than you thought possible, come close to peeing in bottles, ask the age old question of “are we there yet?” and so much more. Sounds fun, right?
We arrived at tiny Avalon airport around eleven in the evening and were surprised at just how boxy it is. All travellers were required to present a permit as per restriction guidelines. This fact was lost on a lot of people who rushed to complete the form and hand over their paperwork before being allowed to leave. Having this in order allowed us to skip the lines and leave promptly. We were met by Rachel who kindly volunteered to trek two hours to get us. She’d woken up for an early shift at the aged care home she’s a cook for.
A long arduous day even without further responsibility. Her gesture was much appreciated. At this point we were nowhere near the city and there were little food options on the road. We passed by a centre with a KFC, McDonald’s and service station. I decided to treat myself and fuel up on chicken salt shaker fries and a double chicken burger. Junk food really hits the spot sometimes. We arrived home to a quick tour of the place. My cousin Aaron had started the fireplace and the living room was perfectly toasty. A far cry from the wintery depths of outside, particularly in those wee morning hours.
The next day was spent exploring. The Princetown property is new to all of us and a real fixer upper with so much potential. Aaron and Rachel plan to have their wedding at home in a few years with an Indian Marquee so are fixing up the landscape, planting trees, pruning and more. It’s quite a diverse property as it combines green open farming pastures, a barn, woodshed, orchard and a guest property. This little cottage has all the amenities and a superior view of the sprawling fields and the animals that call them home. We fed and pat the very fluffy sheep and picked up eggs from the chickens for breakfast a couple of times. They were very erratic and ran away when you got too close though.
As for the cows, their numbers stretch further than the eye can see. Walking up and down the roads, they were our company. Aaron and Rachel’s neighbours are all farmers, as are her parents and siblings. They have a dairy farm which we visited midweek when everybody had time off. Rachel baked scones and we took them over to have with tea. We also got to see show ponies and some of the horses. Such gentle giants with truly beautiful temperaments. It’s a simple lifestyle but these people are used to the hustle and bustle, being up at the crack of dawn to tend to the day’s tasks and set events in motion. We watched the calves being fed their milk and Haider took a tractor ride and learnt how to drive.
I even managed to forgo a few extra hours sleep to see the famous Princetown sunset. Oh my, was it worth getting out of bed for. God himself paints these skies in all shades of pink, orange, blue, purple, yellow and more. The tonal gradient and the subtlety of the blending is so visually mesmerising. It helped that sunrise was so late too. At seven thirty in the morning we began to see the first peaks of light and warmth flood the sky. The pools of water in the fields took on an extra reflective depth and quality. The wind moved ever so slightly through the trees, picking up the branches and encouraging a gentle sway, a dance of the leaves. I stayed up afterwards and got ready for some sightseeing. In the afternoon we went on to see a variety of lookouts, one in a rainforest and waterfall setting and the other overlooking the ocean.
Beech Forest and Glenaire, respectively. Being surrounded by the deep blue is so satisfying and really soothing to the soul. The rhythmic crush of the waves as they overlap and dissolve, frothing and foaming only to roar with such intensity again. The way sunlight reflects off of this giant body, giving an aquamarine hue. I felt so connected and at peace. Beech Forest was our last stop of the day and proved to be quite the trek. We were led down a steep set of stairs and arrived huffing and puffing to the bottom. We were shielded by lots of dense tree cover and that helped to cool us. In true Maryam fashion, I worried extensively about the spiders that might be lurking around but put such thoughts out of my mind. I skipped stones and enjoyed the rippling of the water. Aaron played around with Haider and joked that he’d chuck him in the water. At times he came close, haha.
Towards the end of our trip, my mum, brother and Aaron and Rachel went to a glow worm cave. While I was disappointed to miss out, the day’s adventures had worn me out and I desperately needed a nap. My proper functioning had to come first. Balance is key. It was late in the evening as you couldn’t see the worms without a pitch black environment. From what I’ve heard, they remind me of fireflies. Just lighting up your path and serving as a reminder that there’s more to a situation or place than initially meets the eye. My grandma and I waited in the car and she eventually got quite distressed over the thought of our family being lost in the wilderness. Fortunately all turned out.
Earlier that day we’d gone to Apollo Bay for lunch at this quaint bakery and to see the beach. This town had a real by the sea atmosphere. I spotted the most darling cottage in a pastel yellow. It even had a chimney. Swoon. Major heart eyes if you ask me. We had chunky meat pies and picked up some treats for dessert in the evening. A thick and fluffy lamington and a decadent double choc brownie. There were some cute boutique stores that stocked some of my favourite labels in clothing, jewellery and decor so I checked those out too. Our last real stop on holiday was to Gorge’s Belgian chocolate cafe. They had alpacas in their yard and sold fluffy miniatures in their gift shop, probably to make up for how unapproachable the former were. I got a rocky road with tons of marshmallows and a milk hot chocolate. It was incredibly frothy and the perfect winter warmer.