Odometer: 2309 km
I had decided to follow the visitNSW guide for the “Classic Australian” road trip, so booked our next destination in Narrandera.
To get from Gundagai to Narrandera we chose Ms Google’s slowest route, which led to two very surprising and pleasant encounters. The route took us initially through more cattle country, lush green rolling hills and little creeks bordered with weeping gum trees. The area was dotted with small cottages and farmsteads, feeling like true hobbit country.
This got us to a place called Junee. We saw a sign for a “Licorice and Chocolate Factory” and on a whim decided to follow this, channeling our friend Fleur’s advise, “be wise, follow the chocolate, always follow the chocolate”. After what seemed to be a lot of twists and turns, losing the sign at times and nearly giving up, we found ourself in front of a large historic flour mill; the Green Grove Organic Licorice and Chocolate factory. There were a surprising number of visitors, you can look at how their chocolate is created, shop for chocolate or lifestyle items, and there is a restaurant with lots of indoor and outdoor seating. We have a good look around, and I enjoyed their famous hot chocolate. Yummm!
In “the before time”, we would have been able to make our own chocolate freckles or rocky road bars here.
We came out with our usual purchases; Rocky Road and Pretzel chocolate bars for me, Inca Berries and Hazelnut chocolate bars for Mike.
Suitably sated with chocolate, we drove on. To our surprise, we found ourselves driving through fluorescent yellow canola fields. With a bit of googling we discovered that we were cruising along the Canola Way (old Gundagai road) up to Coolamon. The canola was in full bloom and created an amazing scene. The flowering stage lasts only 2-3 weeks and we were here at the perfect time. I have tried to capture some of the vibe.
We had lunch at the Bread and Cheese Cafe in Coolamon, where, again in “the before time”, you could witness the cheese making process up close.
Then we arrived in Narrandera, staying at the Historic Star Lodge. I should have been forewarned, with the main picture of the lodge on Tripadvisor taken a century ago. It turned out to be little more than a hostel, our room just fits the king sized bed with about a metre spare on either side. The common bathroom facilities are across the hall, yes, I didn’t pick that up either.
On the bright side, we are the only guests, so we have the two showers, toilet and two sinks to ourselves. Located along the main road into town, this has obviously been the place to stay overnight for travellers throughout the centuries. The new owners have big ideas and are very friendly and accomodating. And we and our car are definitely in safe hands thanks to Max, the friendly and very impressive Wolfhound / Rhodesian Ridgeback / Bull Mastiff cross.
So, we grabbed a few of bottles of wine from the local Bottlemart and made up a cheese and meat platter. We sat down and enjoyed the nice spring weather on the big wrap around balcony, overlooking the various big rigs driving into town. My favourite one was loaded with about a dozen fibreglass pools. It reminded me of those little mopeds you see in Asia loaded up with bath tubs!
We walked around Narrandera today, which didn’t take too long (…), and then headed off to the nearby Lillypilly winery in Leeton. Our first wine tasting under Covid-19 conditions.
We were seated, instead of standing, and got a laminated chart with the wines available for tasting. We were then handed a small take away container with cheese and crackers, and the wines were served in small plastic disposable cups. A different experience! However after tasting a dozen bottles (and finishing off Mike’s tasting glas each time), I couldn’t care too much. It was nice just getting out and the wine was excellent.
All in all, life could be much worse……
- Best Coffee: Red Door, at the back of Juadine Interiors shop on E street. It deserves its 8.7 rating on Beanhunter!
- Accomodation: if you want to spend 1 night in an old fashioned hotel and are happy with shared facilities, go for the Historic Star Lodge.
- Tip: don’t take direct routes, head off the highways and follow the chocolate!