As we leave the bustle of Sydney behind, we search for the turnoff to Mittagong the first of the Southern Highland towns we want to visit. It feels as if the Hume is going on forever, the signs announcing Mitty not appearing, yet every time we’ve driven this route it’s always popping up, teasing us. Suddenly Big M takes an off ramp to a place called Picton. It’s the first time I’ve ever noticed this sign before...the only other Picton I know is a gorgeous port town on the South Island of New Zealand. This Picton is a small village of quaintness with the greeting of three older teenager boys riding bikes dressed in a way Mrs Clause might dress when she greets good ol Santa after a hard night of globe drifting....cute red minis trimmed in white faux fur and fishnets – interesting choice of attire guys!
We glimpse Picton’s trim of historical buildings; a favourite of the film & television industry, wind our way into country Tahmoor and before we know it we’ve arrived at Mittagong. And quickly fall in love with what we see. Sandstone buildings dripping in ivy, double story colonial hotels with ornate stain glass entry’s and lace balconies, and beautiful old brick shops filled with antiques.
Unfortunately it’s well after five in the evening when we arrive and everything is closed. All we can do is window shop and drool. Deciding to spend the night in neighbouring Bowral, fantasying about staying in a beautiful old pub soaking up some colonial charm, our cooing oohs and ahrs become horrified shrieks when we’re shown a room so hideous I wouldn’t let my dog...should I have one... sleep there. Instead a basic, clean, motel room becomes our abode for the night. Our deflated Highland vision is soon uplifted when we stumble upon The Colosseum and its amazing gourmet folded pizza – the Calzone Euro. Mouth watering in every way.
Morning on the Highlands dawns crisply cool and we quickly head back to explore Mittagong’s treasures. The Aladdin’s cave of Hunters and Collectors has us enthralled, not so much for the macabre displays of stuffed exotic animals that holds us both spellbound and disgusted at the same time but for the garage memorabilia we like to collect. Big M doesn’t know it yet but his chrissy pressie is discovered here.
Antique hunting gives way to scaling ‘The Gib’ - Gibraltar Mountain.... more like a rock really... and we hunt out the view captured by Sir Arthur Streeton way back in 1891 or thereabouts. The vistas over Mittagong, Bowral and towards the Blue Mountains are spectacular. A salute to the Don is next on our tick off list. The pitch shimmers brilliant green against the white picket fence and the member stand and clubhouse are a picture of gentle bygone elegance - a stark contrast from the modern glass and steel facade of the Bradman International Cricket Hall of Fame that sits on the other side of the building.
Lunch beckons and we head to a once possible contender for the Federal Capital of Australia - Moss Vale - for a picnic in the beautiful Leighton Gardens located in the towns centre. I fall in love with Moss Vale, its main street, lined with trees that frame gorgeous heritage brick buildings is filled with hidden gems – quaint cafes, antique shops, designer wear and art galleries. We wander across to the bygone era railway station and delight in its radiant orange and gold surrounds, old-fashioned timber announcement boards and graceful wrought iron awning curves. We are to discover orange is the popular choice of colour for these older stations as we meander through other historical country towns.
A storm threatens, lightning streaks across the sky in a spectacular fireworks display and the almost black clouds give the surrounding flora a luminescent glow. As we head towards the tiny communities of Sutton Forest and Exeter we notice the many “No POSCO” signs dotting driveways and farm fence lines. As is happening back in our area on the North Coast, this area too is facing the threat of the mining companies wanting to establish Coal Seam Gas fields and facilities. Down here it is Hume Coal trying to bully its way into the community.
We arrive in the absolute gorgeous village of Bundanoon in the late afternoon and vow to re-visit on our return trip. This village is divine! Sculptured stone carvings of echidnas, possums and birds dot the main road leading into the centre of town, scenic frescos and old advertising signs dating back to the 1930’s adorn the sides and tops of shops and picturesque guesthouses nestle amongst native and rose filled gardens. Once upon a time, back when, Bundanoon had over 68 guesthouses and was once called the Honeymoon Capital of Australia. The adorable timber railway station that sits in the centre of town is picture perfect and amongst it’s signage announces the restriction of bringing horses onto the platform.
Bundanoon is to be our last village stop for this Highland fling and we quickly make our way back towards the highway to spend the night at Goulburn. Following the winding road, we pass paddocks filled with grazing kangaroos, thousands of kangaroos, this is supposed to be sheep country, but I swear looking at these fields, the farms here are breeding roos!
Upon reaching the highway, we decided we preferred to stay on the country roads and try to make our way to Goulburn via Carrick. This meant crossing over the highway and driving thru the town of Marulan, a village bypassed by time. We wander along the ‘main’ street taking in the sights of historical buildings and signage and make our way to where we think the road will take us to Carrick – there are no signs pointing to Carrick but other than the turn off back onto the highway, this intersection seems to be the only way out of town.
We end up at an enormous refuge tip. Turning the car around we drive back into town, down a side street, around a corner and we're back on the road to the tip. Turn the car back around, drive to the other end of town to the big service station that entices travellers for a pit stop off the highway and go in to ask for directions. No-one can help us as they know nothing about the western side of the town. So we drive behind the station and follow a dirt road for a kilometre or two and find ourselves back on a road leading to the tip. Marulan is the only town in the world that sits on the 150° meridian, which is used as the basis for Australian Eastern Standard Time, this means that during the equinox (twice a year) the sun rises precisely at 6 and sets at 6. Its a time warp....literally... and we were stuck in it! So, after another attempt of driving to the other end of the town in search of a road out of it, and after asking for more directions upon which the chap we question gives us a funny look and says, “why in world do you want to go to Carrick?” we decide we’ve spent enough time in pretty Marulan and it’s time to put Carrick on the “one day we must..... “ list.