In those deepest darkest bleakest dreary days of a northern November it was difficult not to yearn for the Pacific. Soft tidal sands under an off white sky at Bigbury could only do so much. A bracing breeze may have kept rain at bay at least for a few hours, but there was little warmth in that air; little solace in a faded, washed out scene in which even the sheep seemed sullen. Beautiful melancholy yes – but melancholy all the same – and I could have done with just a day on a different south coast to lift this permeating shroud.
Apart from a touchdown over Botany Bay the ocean had eluded me in my inexplicable hunger to return to landlocked Canberra. But with the weather settling into perfection and opportunity to keep work tasks ticking over remotely, I finally saw and seized an opportunity for a few away days, back beside the saturated sapphire hues of the Pacific. I don’t think I could have dreamt of such perfect days, even when being buffeted by a south-westerly on Burgh Island a few months back.
With time to spare I was happy to head that little bit farther, down to the far south coast of New South Wales. Perks of this journey include – to a limited degree – the striking, golden plains of the Monaro, baked hard and golden by summer sun; the midway bakery opportunity in inimitable Nimmitabel; the rainforest rim of Brown Mountain; and the panoramic view over the rolling cow-dotted Bega Valley, into which the road drastically plunges.
Generous January rain in the valley could, just occasionally, trick the senses into believing they were cruising through South Devon hills to Bigbury. But any doubt is eliminated when the Pacific finally comes into view at Tathra. This could only be Australia, and from parking my car underneath a clutch of ti trees to being almost blinded by the golden white sand, to dipping my toes in that ambient ocean, I had a euphoric sense of finally being back.
My base for three nights was Merimbula, handy in terms of size and facilities (i.e. food, coffee, picnic tables on which to work) and generous in its setting upon the shallow inlet and oceanfront. There is even an airport here with connections to Sydney, which does genuinely make you wonder about its feasibility as a site for sea change. A plane buzzed overhead the next morning, as I ventured out for an early walk through bushland along the inlet to Bar Beach. I could get used to these early morning walks, especially when a small but perfectly formed kiosk awaits besides the modest cove to offer up waterfront coffee.
The water here is quite ludicrously beautifully opaque, which probably helps for spotting sharks and giant stingrays. The only hazard this morning was mostly on the eyes, with a generous gaggle of cashed up baby boomers making the most of retirement by lumbering about in various states of undress. Understandably glowing and jovial – why wouldn’t you be facing yet another day in paradise – it may yet be too early for me to contemplate semi-retirement at the coast.
What followed over the next couple of days was a pleasing routine of waterside walking, working and wallowing in sand and sea. I explored every possible boardwalk in Merimbula and visited the ice cream parlour at least twice. Late afternoons in the mid to high twenties were perfect for attempts at beachside siestas, but the call of the outdoors and nagging feeling that I probably should be doing something more productive with this opportunity made me restless. I would wander some more or open my laptop for five minutes and stare at the screen as Windows decided to install countless updates yet again, before concluding that it was better to just stand in the sea and spy distant dolphins doing all the work.
Beyond Merimbula I made my ‘usual’ excursion to the Pambula River. Continuing a good grasp of tidal knowledge which I rediscovered in Devon, I arrived to a low tide, which opened up a far longer stretch of white sand and crystal water in which to wade. The backdrop of bushland and bellbirds in such a paradise might have encouraged a siesta, but here I failed too. Perhaps that semi-retirement by the coast really is looking still quite a long way off.
In Eden, I love the shabby end-of-the-world outpost feeling. It’s a long way from Sydney and a long way from Melbourne, which means it generally only picks up on road trippers passing through and lost Canberrans seeking fish and chips. I have heard – along with countless other places – that it could have been the national capital instead of Canberra. And perched upon an outcrop overlooking beautiful Twofold Bay and the rising hinterland of the coastal ranges, one can only wonder what might have been.
Alas, the sheep paddock that eventually became the capital awaited the next morning. The good news was that I had – or will have – a home to go back there to, and some paperwork to sort out. I wasn’t going to rush – too much – and so took a final walk out to Bar Beach and a coffee to get me over the hills and far away. The boomers were of course there, semi-naked and just slightly self-satisfied, and I could see that I really wasn’t ready to join them for a while yet. But I would definitely be open to further remote working out-of-high-season breaks, just to soak up their paradise, their fantasy for a few more days close to the Pacific.