Andy: When we started planning our trip we know we’d both have our birthdays on the road so to speak, we just didn’t realise how literal that statement would be for mine!
As I mentioned in our last post, we had hired a campervan in order to relocate it from Sydney to Melbourne, so when I woke up on the morning of my 44th birthday in an Australian field somewhere near the town of Jugiong, NSW it was safe to say it was one of the more unusual starts to a birthday.
I was served breakfast in bed by the lovely Mrs C before getting back in the driving seat and heading on towards Melbourne. It was a relatively short driving stint today to a rather quirky pub near the town of Aldbury called the Ettamogah. It really is a strange place, but very cool.
Seda: It can be very challenging to make a birthday special on the road. The only way to spoil a campervan driver is to find the songs he likes to listen to or pass him cold water when he looks a little wilted. We were not aware of the significance of this place in Aussie culture, but I was really hoping that this pub would be a fun place to enjoy a few drinks and sleeping in the field.
Andy: Just before arriving at The Ettamogah Pub we stopped off for lunch in the town of Holbrook, NSW. Seda had found a rather lovely sounding restaurant converted from an old workshop, so we headed there. Holbrook has a rather strange thing parked up on its High Street – A submarine!
Seda: As the journey is a part of the whole experience, I tried to find some unusual stuff to see on the way. Can you get more “unusual” than a submarine on a town’s main road? In fact, it has a whole submarine museum which we went to have a look at just after our lovely lunch. No birthday is good without a cake, here we sorted that by ginormous wagon wheels as an bite-on-the-go type of birthday cake! Yum Yum!
How strange to have a museum dedicated to submarines in a town hundreds of miles from the nearest coastline. We had a look around some of the outside exhibits of the submarine museum.
Andy: As we left Holbrook it was starting to get very hot, but thankfully it was only a short hop to The Ettamogah Pub. Seda chose it because you can stay on the grounds of the pub for free if you have a caravan or camper, as long as you buy a meal. The added bonus is they also have showers too, which was fantastic. So, we arrived and were amazed at what we saw!
Seda: I was doing well on the unusual front as this pub had a truck on it’s roof to start with and a crashed plane on the grounds. All this funky stuff and this museum is the brainchild of Ken Maynard. He was the cartoonist of the Aussie Post which was well known throughout Australia. As a bonus, lots of his work was displayed all over the walls of the bar.
Andy: We had a quick drink at the bar and then moved the van onto the back field and found a shady spot next to a lovely couple and their daughter. We later found out they were doing a similar thing to us with the only difference being they were only travelling around Australia for a year in their caravan, not internationally.
It was still early afternoon and a very hot day, so we opened up the van doors, and grabbed a couple of chairs from the pub and sat under the shade of a big eucalyptus tree. After we couldn’t take the heat anymore we went for a lovely cool shower to freshen up. It felt soooooo good! By this time we were ready for a few birthday drinks, and so headed to the pub arranging to meet Dan and Janice – our neighbours – later on.
As our eyes constantly wandered around the crazy decorations of the bar our neighbour Dan arrived and joined us for a drink. He was really excited to be there as he’d grown up with the Aussie Post, and in particular the cartoons of Ken Maynard. He said it was an ambition of his to come to that pub one day! As we chatted, Seda disappeared to write our names on the wall, in amongst all the other thousands of messages which give this pub a unique feel.
After dinner we reconvened with Dan, who had now been joined by his partner Janice and daughter Ruby. We had a fantastic evening chatting with them all with much laughter. So much so that at one point we thought we may be keeping up all the other campers and be put in jail!
Seda: As I mentioned that it was Andy’s birthday, Dan and Janice kindly bought him a drink. Then the barman joined in and bought him another one, so he was slowly lining them up on the table and getting more and more tipsy!
Andy: Around 10.30pm we called it a night and waddled back to the van by torchlight to get some sleep before heading off the Melbourne in the morning. We tried to get some sleep in a very warm van which proved rather difficult. We were both tossing and turning in the heat, and with the added bonus of a stray fly or two buzzing around our heads which was rather annoying. After a couple of hours of this and still no sleep, I decided enough was enough, and that fly was going to die!
Seda: Andy put the light on with a determination to kill that annoying thing but only to be greeted by a mosquito instead of a fly. The mosquito had also brought along hundreds of his mates with him! We simply could not believe the situation we were in, what could we do? Have a massive clearance operation and wake our lovely neighbours up? I simply wrapped myself in sheet leaving only my nose open to breathe, covering even my head. Andy was huffing and puffing but i didn’t think he would like to have even a handkerchief on his skin as it was boiling in the van!
Andy: So, we couldn’t sleep in the van as it was too hot and full of mosquitoes, but we couldn’t leave either because I’d been drinking. So, we just sat out the back of the pub on some picnic benches watching a possum and cockatoos for about 3 hours, then we had some breakfast around 4am before heading off. We drove off down the road with all the windows down on the van freezing our bits and pieces off!
Seda: I was no longer as excited about the “unusualness” of this birthday as before. Still trying to be positive, I pointed out to birthday boy that we were having breakfast under a sky full of stars on the night of his extended birthday! It really was odd but I’m sure we’ll never forget this one.
Andy: We found another rest stop about 10 kms down the road where we finally got some sleep to officially end my Australian road birthday where I’d gained a year, some new friends and about 100 mosquito bites!