Omeo to Bright
Just to set things straight, this is not the start of a washing powder commercial – how did it go ? “OM(E)O washes your clothes brighter than BRIGHT” or whatever the wording was..
In this second instalment of our road trip along the Great Alpine Road in Victoria, Australia we travel from the small town of Omeo where we spent our first night, to the town of Bright.
Now Bright is just 110 km from Omeo – piece of cake I hear you say – but 110 km has never felt so long – or so epic!
We left our rust-ic cottage in Omeo at 11am and ventured into the town for a brunch of toastie and coffee at the only restaurant that seemed to be open. Suitably fortified, we headed onto the main road, which the Aussies saw fit to call the Great Alpine Road, passing the first of many electronic warning signs about possible frosty conditions and ice on the road.
Here I must mention that, before our departure from Sale, we had asked around about the expectations of snow at this time of year along our route and the universal answer had been “no problems, mate” or words to that effect. I’ve learnt to take that expression with a pinch of salt so wasn’t really expecting “no problems”. Nevertheless, the regular warning signs caused a heart flutter or two as we proceeded along the road, but being halfway through May, snow did not seem a possibility…..
The road had again become seriously twisty for long stretches as we climbed into the mountains, with patches of wet road causing me to drive even slower, with those warning signs now firmly embedded in my mind.
On our route was the curiously named Dinner Plain, a small town which turns into a busy ski resort in the winter months. Apparently in the late 1800’s a horse drawn coach service operated in the summer months along the newly opened road between Omeo and Bright. The coach would stop for a midday meal at this spot, which became known as the Dinner Plain.
As we approached Dinner Plain, the first signs of recent snowfall appeared, with a layer on the road verge and lightly covering qthe bare branches of the roadside trees.
Climbing higher still, the snow got more obvious, and we could now see the snow actually falling.
We were starting to get a little panicky by the time we headed into another ski-resort town called Mount Hotham, with heavy snow falling and a thick layer of snow everywhere except for the road itself.
The electronic warning signs along the road were now stating “2WD vehicles to fit snow chains” which of course we didn’t have and even if we did, we wouldn’t have known how to fit them. Unsure about what to do, I stopped at what looked like a tourist information office, put on a waterproof jacket and got out of the car into snow which seemed to be blowing sideways into my face, then trudged through a thick layer of snow to a side door and eventually found a pleasant young lady to tell her our plight, ending with what probably came across as a mildly hysterical “I’ve never driven in snow before!!”
She was a lot calmer than I was and phoned ‘someone who will know’ – soon coming back with the response that ‘no chains are required at the moment’ adding that we should just proceed very slowly, especially around bends as ice could easily be present on the road.
So, we continued on our way, very cautiously and very slowly on the wet roads, with low cloud both sides all but blotting out any view there may have been and reducing visibility to a short stretch of the road itself.
After what seemed like a long time, and with some relief, we realised that the road was now descending, and the snow was diminishing, until it was all clear again and we soon found ourselves approaching the next small town, a beautiful place called Harrietville with trees in autumnal colours and a coffee shop that turned out to be the perfect spot for a soothing cup of tea accompanied by a jam donut.
As we drove out of Harrietville a group of Maned Ducks crossed the road and pottered off into the surrounding grass.
With more than enough excitement and tension for one day, we were thankful that the last 20 kms or so to Bright went smoothly and quickly and we headed to the Bright Colonial Motel, which I’m pleased to say was more in keeping with what we were expecting – a modern place with spacious rooms and a private courtyard all to ourselves.
As is my habit when arriving in a new place, I went for an exploratory walk along the main road then down to the nearby river where I found a pathway called the Canyon Walk and proceeded along it, coming across lovely views and a small suspension bridge which I crossed to explore the other side. A number of ducks on the river added to the beauty of the spot.
What had struck us as we entered Bright, and something we had been told about, was the array of trees along the roads, all in a multitude of shades of autumn colours – our day had suddenly BRIGHTened up no end!
And on that rather corny note, I’ll be telling more about Bright and the surrounding towns in the third and final post on our road trip….