From Blue Mountains to blue rinses. The Shoalhaven Coast, Australia
When it comes down to it I reckon it was our trip to The Blue Mountains that had left us shivering on the side of a highway in the middle of nowhere at 10pm. A few days of tramping about the forest humming the Indiana Jones theme tune had reminded us that our favourite thing ever to do in the whole wide world was to go adventuring and so far, as lovely as it had been, Australia had not been an adventure. And what spells adventure more than going somewhere backpackers normally bypass where public transport is a nightmare? Going there without a plan of course!
So there we were standing on the highway wearing all our clothes at once, trying to figure out what the Aussie sign for “Please pick me up!” was (Lonely Planet reckons it’s “a downward pointing finger” but which finger?!) when a low-riding red car zipped past, music blaring from its tinted windows. “As**ole!” we muttered, stamping our feet and shaking our fists for warmth as much as out of frustration. Suddenly there was a screech of tyres and the car spun around and zipped back towards us, the passenger door flying open and the head of a young man poking out. “Hop in, where are you going?” he said as we elbowed each other in the face in our rush to get into the car.
Ten minutes later we were at the right turn-off and were once again bundled onto the street with all our bags, fear creeping over us as time ticked on and the road got quieter and quieter. What were the laws in Australia regarding camping on a roundabout? Did people really die of pneumonia in their sleep? What would that feel like? Thankfully for us, there was no need to claim on our insurance because only minutes after we arrived a stationwagon with a bumper sticker saying Peace and Love pulled in and the loveliest massage therapist in the world drove us right down to Huskisson town and loaded us up with fresh bread just in case the restaurants were closed. Turns out people on the Shoalhaven Coast are generally agreed to be “good people”.
Huskisson (Huskie to her friends) turned out to be a lovely little seaside town inhabited mostly by the zimmerframe crowd who kept businesses for something to do. There wasn’t a lot to do other than potter on down to the bakery for pie and cake for breakfast, catch a matinee at the barnhouse-turned-cinema and then watch the sun set over Jervis Bay. You could go whale watching but the season hadn’t really kicked in yet (although it should be in full swing now), or you could wander down to Vincentia and do a bit of shopping. Not a bad life in all but not exactly the epic, kangaroo-filled adventure we had planned. The only thing that made Huskie different was the friendliness of its locals – people who stopped by for a chat, offered us free lifts when they saw our backpacks and on my birthday took one look at our measly tent being blown about by yet another storm and offered us free use of a warm cabin for the night.
A little more lively were the two stops we had made before Huskie – Berry and Kiama. Berry was a pinprick of a town with more pubs and restaurants than seemed necessary, a van boasting the best donuts for miles and a little wooden shop selling real vintage clothes (think platform shoes with live fish in the toe).
Kiama on the other hand, was a relative metropolis. Jam-packed with great dining options, bars, tourist information offices and campsites, the town was crawling with people who had come down to visit their parents for the weekend. The real star attractions though were the two blowholes, predictably named the Big Blowhole and the Little Blowhole. Not that the coast needed any more drama. With sweeping white sandy beaches and rugged cliffs cut out by relentless waves which beat violently against the rock day and night, Kiama’s shoreline was already a thing to be admired by spectators and feared by surfers and boaters.
Having never seen a blowhole before, Gary was about as excited by the Big Blowhole as the dozens of kids that gathered around and screamed “oooooooh!” every time the blowhole, well blew. All well and good until he started pushing them out of his way to get a better shot and stamping on their lollipops to mark his territory.
Eventually I had to drag Gary away and we went to the Little Blowhole, expecting to be underwhelmed. With less crowds, less barriers and less screaming children however, the Little Blowhole was a hell of a lot more fun, not to mention a lot louder and more powerful. The walk down was beautiful too passing some nice beaches and cliff views, although the best views are of the spectacular houses set along the coast with their balcony hot-tubs and flashy cars. One thing’s for sure, you could do a lot worse than to end up in Kiama or anywhere else on the Retirement Coast. Oops, I mean the Shoalhaven Coast.
There are more pictures from the Shoalhaven Coast available in the gallery