PAT THE WOMBAT AND OTHER STORIES
Standing knee-deep in snow, in Australia, is a bit like being in a fever dream. Where’s the red soil? Where are the kookaburras and the spiders? Where are the prawns, and who stole the damn barbie? Why are there skiers zipping past me, peering at me through a soup-thick snowfall and insisting that I am indeed Down Under?
Luckily, there aren’t any kangaroos bounding across the snow, or I’d have given up, decided someone had fed me acid, and not believed a thing.
Amazingly enough, it’s perfectly real. They have heard of winter in Australia, especially around Melbourne – a real, childhood story-style winter, with snow and hot chocolate and crackling fires (and to make it more surreal, a stuffed moose), and they do wonderful things with it. The Aussie winter – June to August – is not the time you’d normally think of visiting, but if you’re willing to try something new, like a couple of easy road trips outside Melbourne, by God, it’s worth it. For one, it means you’re less likely to cook to death in the Outback. For another, you can spot whales. You can go skiing – and who’d have ever imagined that? – and you can stroll the streets in far nicer temperatures than in the fearsome summer.
And it’s pretty. Really, really, really pretty, in that wholesome, traffic-free way that only Australia seems to manage – roads stretching out, begging to be driven, wide views of sunsets behind lonely homesteads and (yes, finally) kangaroos, with the promise of great food and bee-yuh at every stop. You have relatives or friends in Melbourne – yes, you do – so pay them a visit. Get them to put you up, feed you, watch their eyes glaze over as you show them countless photos of your children, and then, to make up for it, take them out of the city and get them to really enjoy the winter. You can make them buy you cocoa at Mount Buller, a ski resort, or hunt for gold in Sovereign Hill after hanging with the animals at the Ballarat Wildlife Park, or listen to you complain while you watch for whales after a few days spent driving along the fantastic Great Ocean Road. You can even take over their car, because it’s perfectly simple to drive here…
Trust me, it’s worth a shot.
READ MORE IN LONELY PLANET MAGAZINE INDIA‘S APRIL 2013 ISSUE