Day 1: 29 November
The morning of Friday, 29 November, saw Canberra shrouded in a smoke haze from the Tallaganda bushfire as we prepared to drive to Merimbula to rendezvous with members from the NSW BMW Drivers Club and the BMW Drivers Club of Melbourne. The smoke haze persisted all the way to the town of Bemboka, at the foot of the Brown Mountain. Coffee and a mini custard tart from the Bemboka Pie shop replenished us before we turned-off the Snowy Mountains Highway and drove via the Mogilla (gorilla) Road to Candelo, thence to the Princess Highway and down to our Merimbula accommodation at the Sapphire Valley Caravan Park.
Driving the Mogilla Road was a new experience for us. It is a well surfaced road which offers the opportunity to not only enjoy the drive but to also take in the local undulating scenery. Unfortunately, the landscape was mainly brown from the drought rather than the usual lush green of the Bega Valley. Our thoughts were with the farmers and we hoped they’d soon receive the much needed rain. The road from Candelo to the Princess Highway wasn’t as enjoyable as there were many potholes and road works being undertaken. Once we reached the Princess Highway it was an uneventful run to Merimbula and to our accommodation.
Later in the afternoon other drive participants started to arrive and we were able to reconnect with friends we hadn’t seen since last year’s run. Our motel-style accommodation was very comfortable and the room was clean with good facilities. The staff were friendly and a little taken aback from the sight of 12 BMWs at their Park. The grounds of the Park were very peaceful with the local kangaroos lounging around nearby.
Dinner was at the Merimbula RSL Club who put on a fine repast. The dinner afforded us the opportunity to regale each other with our adventures driving to Merimbula and to meet the other participants. It was an early night as the long Day 2 beckoned.
Day 2: 30 November
We were rolling from the Park by 9am as we had a 500km round trip ahead of us. The day was clear and cool, which made a change from the smoky, warmth and humidity of the previous day. Perfect weather conditions for a long drive and excellent turbo weather for those of us with air-to-air intercoolers.
From Merimbula the convoy of 12 BMWs drove to Bombala where we stopped at the Cosmo Café for coffee. The road to Bombala provided a bit of everything – undulations, hairpin bends, open sections and sweeping bends. Even my navigator thought it was a great section of road.
From Bombala, we split into two groups for the drive to the Marlo Hotel for lunch. One group of eight cars went via the Bonang Highway and the remaining four, including us, cruised down the Monaro Highway to Cann River, then the Princess Highway through Orbost to the Marlo Hotel. I particularly liked the section of road from Orbost to Marlo.
As we headed towards Cann River, the brownish, open landscape around Bombala gave way to wooded and green. It also started to rain, heavily in some parts. While I would have preferred it dry for better driving, it was pleasing to see rain. The road was well surfaced and perfectly suited to cruising. There were few cars or caravans to impede our progress.
The rain continued all the way to Marlo, with a light drizzle upon our arrival at the Hotel. As the temperature was about 15 degrees, the Hotel was warm and inviting, while we awaited the arrival of the other group. We could have easily settled in for the afternoon, but the return journey awaited us. The Hotel overlooks the mouth of the Snowy River and the Pacific Ocean beyond. Unfortunately, the rain prevented us sitting on the outside deck, which would have been perfect for lunch. However, the sizable dining room was comfortable and well patronised. The quality and variety of food was impressive and I think everyone was well satisfied with their lunch.
We departed the Hotel in the continuing drizzle of rain. With the 12 cars now reunited, we followed the coast to Cape Coran, then via the Princess Highway to Cann River where we stopped briefly while some of us took fuel. From Cann River we cruised up the Monaro Highway, eventually turning off the Highway on to Imlay Road, which took us to Eden and then to Merimbula. Imlay Road provided something of interest for everybody and is well worth exploring. We also left the wet weather behind.
Once back at the Caravan Park, it was a quick change for dinner, which was at Doci’s Italian Restuarant. Another superb meal, washed down by a few bottles of wine, accompanied by excellent conversation. The walk back to our accommodation, in the cool Merimbula air, was pleasant and reminded me how tired I think most of us were. At least we could have a little sleep-in as Sunday’s departure wasn’t until 10am.
Day 3: 1 December
The first day of summer dawned clear and a little warmer. The plan was to drive to Bemboka via Candelo and then to Cooma for lunch at the Cooma Hotel. Some of our party were very excited at the prospect of stopping at Candelo to check out the local markets. Unfortunately, Candelo was packed by people attending the markets and parking spaces were at a premium. As we were on the clock in terms of needing to be at Cooma for lunch, it was decided to push on to Bemboka for a coffee break. The chatter over our radios from the disappointed marketeers subsided after several kilometres! Fortunately they were able to indulge their shopping addiction at Bemboka. Someone even found a top hat for next year’s Melbourne Cup!
Again, the Mogilla Road proved an entertaining drive and we invaded the Bemboka Pie shop for coffee, and in my case, another mini custard tart.
The drive up the Brown Mountain was slow due to the amount of traffic, although we were able to pick-up pace once we cleared Nimmitabel when the road opened up.
Cooma was cool, but the Hotel was warm and inviting. The Hotel offered a comprehensive menu with sizable portions. Needless to say, I don’t think anyone left hungry.
It was time to say our goodbyes. Our Victorian friends headed to Corryong for the night, while the Sydney group headed home via Canberra. After two excellent, but tiring days, I was pleased I only had the relatively short drive to Canberra.
I would like to thank all the organisers for another excellent outing. Everything went off without a hitch. I would especially like to thank Peter for mapping out the wonderful driving roads. But as he modestly says, he had nothing to do with building them.
We look forward to next year’s adventure.
Ian & Jenny Cartwright
BMW Car Club Canberra