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Return to an Age of Discovery

Home > Bowral > Escape the City | Long Weekend | Places of Interest | Travel | Weekend Escapes
Published July 5th 2020
Since lockdown was imposed mid-March, we have been at home dreaming of venturing out. First, it was baby steps going to the local supermarket to pick up supplies, then it was a walk around the block to absorb some vitamin D. This was followed by walks in the park and realising the air quality has miraculously become cleaner and the horizon is a defined line between the ground and sky.

For the moment, interstate and international travel are barred, which for some seems to be the end of the world. To others, this is a return to an age of discovery. The borders may be closed, however, with the correct precautions and restrictions easing, we can start to explore places on a map within our state (remember maps?). Some of these civilizations seem lost to myth or forgotten due to the advent of expressways, cheap airfares and the urgency to arrive at the destination without looking out the window. Believe it or not, these places really do exist, and you don't need an Indiana Jones jacket and hat to stumble across them.

It doesn't matter if you follow the Hume, Great Western, Pacific or Princess Highways, there is always something to discover.

Driving south from Sydney on the M5, the Go-Betweens "Cattle and Cane" plays through the speakers, as you veer right at Narellan Road and drive through historic Camden, stopping at any of the many cafes before re-joining the old Hume highway at South Camden and travel over the Razorback Range. A rest stop and monument lay here to remember the 1979 Truck Blockade. Part of a nationwide dispute over fuel taxes, 200 trucks stopped here blocking supplies of fuel, produce and other goods entering Sydney from Victoria for 9 days. A little further is a lookout where on a clear day has a great vista of the Sydney Basin. It's even more spectacular watching a thunderstorm rolling in.

Down the hill and around the bend is Picton. Ray Parker Jr sings "Ghostbusters" as the car rolls down Argyle Street. For those that love the unexplained, supernatural or superhero movies, Picton is regarded as the most haunted town in NSW. Sightings of ghostly children playing in the church grounds, orbs in the old mushroom tunnel, thought to be the ghost of Emily Bollard killed by a train in the 1800s, as well as ghostly voices at the abandoned swimming hole near the viaduct are just a few of the residents. I've only seen a couple of pasty looking people wandering the streets after being locked in isolation for a few months. For movie buffs, a brief shot of buildings along Menangle Street is seen in the movie Wolverine.

Heading further along the Hume Highway the Police sing "Message in a Bottle" and "Walking on the Moon" while we drive through Tahmoor and Bargo. A diversion takes us to Nepean and Avon Dams. Both built to supply Sydney and the Illawarra during the 1920s and '30s. They are heritage listed, have adequate picnic grounds and are interesting places to explore and understand where Sydney drew its water before Warragamba Dam was completed in 1960.

Rolling into Bowral, Paul Kelly sings about Donald Bradman. The main street is lined with cars and people strolling along Bong Bong Street browsing through shops. A white picket fence surrounds the cricket pitch and a statue of Bradman stands beside the museum. Late last century, the cricket pitch was made famous by a young pig that mustered sheep. In another section of the park, stands a statue of Mary Poppins holding her bag and umbrella. To find out why she is there, you'll have to go and see for yourself.

Talking Heads "Once in a Lifetime' plays on the rear speakers and we head toward historic Berrima. Once a major town in the district, it held a courthouse, two churches, post office and goal. The gaol held German POW's during WW1 and was later used as a correctional centre until 2011. It reopened in 2016 as a Women's prison. Losing importance to the district when it was bypassed by the railway, it was nevertheless a major stopping point on the Hume for travellers to and from Canberra or Melbourne. Berrima is still a popular tourist town offering gift shops, cafes, artworks and picnic areas.

Phil Collins smashes at the drums as the old Hume highway meets the new Hume Motorway heading south. Passing wineries near Sutton Forest the landscape looks like a watercolour of greens and browns. Remnants of the old highway are found to the side of the motorway, chopped in sections and now overgrown with weeds and scrub reclaiming the old track.

Marulan creeps up as John Mellencamp sings "Rain on the Scarecrow". Once a major truck- stop and weigh station, it is now bypassed. However, if you take the detour and follow the Old Hume through the town, you will find Georgian buildings resurrected as cafes, antique and gift shops. A welcoming pub marks the towns major intersection and as you survey the street, you find yourself standing in the only town in the world built on 150° meridian, where upon the equinox, the sun rises and sets at precisely 6am and 6pm. A sculpture at the southern end of town marks the sun's rays as it rises and sets.

Paul Kelly sings "From St Kilda to Kings Cross" as we follow the Hume through Goulburn. Home to numerous heritage-listed buildings, Goulburn is the first listed inland city. Still, the major commercial centre for the region, the wide streets and ornate architecture show it was once a prosperous city. Some people think Goulburn is only known for its gaol, police academy and giant ram, but they have not discovered the car racing at Wakefield, blues festival and adventure sports in Bungonia National Park.

Veering off the Hume Highway, toward Canberra, Bob Dylan sings "Knocking on Heavens Door" as we cruise into Collector. A monument to Constable Samuel Nelson is erected beside the hotel. On the plaque reads "Joined the Police force on 1857. He lived with his wife and 8 children as the lock-up keeper in Collector. In 1864 and 1865, bushrangers were active in the area and on 26/011965 Bushrangers ben hall. John Gilbert and John Dunn were robbing the Kimberley's Inn. Constable Nelson was alerted and armed with his carbine with attached bayonet, he remarked to his wife that would simply "have to do his best". Upon reaching the Inn, the constable was shot by Dunn who had hidden behind a fence post. The blast struck the constable in the chest. Dunn fired again, striking the constable in the head, killing him. The entire incident was witnessed by two of the constable's sons.

Bushranger John Dunn was later hanged in Darlinghurst Gaol for the murder of constable Samuel Nelson. The Nelson family continued to receive support from the Collector community. It is worth sitting down and having a beer for a man that was doing his job protecting the town.

Across the road is the Dreamers Gate Sculpture. Made of chicken wire and concrete in the late 1990's it has seen better days. At the southern end of town, you'll find the best sausage rolls this side of Bass Straight in the Some Café. Next door, Collector Wines have very good reds. A short stroll further along the old Hume is Helen Stephens Gallery. A resurrected farmhouse, it supports local and regional ceramics and prints as well as hosting exhibitions of prominent artists. It is well worth the drive for the sausage rolls, red wine and browse of the gallery.

As lockdowns begin to ease, for mere enjoyment of being released, hop in the car and not only rediscover our lost towns and forgotten history but also rediscover your own soundtrack to the art of the road trip.

With the beauty of the modern car stereo, not once did I need to pull over and look for a pen to rewind a chewed-up cassette tape.
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Another great article Bob.
by May Cross (score: 3|8260) 999 days ago
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