Travel Diaries: Road to Deni, Part 1: Sydney to Deniliquin

Just how right was and/or is Paterson 213 years later about the enchanting great open plains that conquer New South Wales? With the help of Destination NSW (visitnsw.com) and a Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander, Lachlan Mitchell and his mate Eashan Vijayakumaran, set out on a 5 day round trip across New South Wales with the goal of making it to the 2014 Deni Blues and Roots Festival.

Friday 18th April.

The 99th Kilometre.
Epic sunrises are one of those natural awakenings you expect David Attenborough’s voice to narrate you through. Calming and ethereal at first, one soon expects a tough mountain hike to get in prime position or any number of other obstacles that diminish the excitement and urge to see the black coarse night turn crimson and orange with the break of the new day, but as we discovered a little research goes a long way.

Using the Blue Mountains tourism page through visitnsw.com, Govetts Leap lookout was realized to face East and hey, the water fall just off to the right didn’t fair too bad either. 6 degrees Celsius at 5:30am, we sat there until just after 7am as the rising sun unearthed the valley below us. Over that two hour period, friendly jogger after friendly jogger came up to us; conversed, stretched and marveled in the sight for themselves before their feet took them away and back onto the roads.

Having been to Echo Point and Wentworth Falls lookouts many times before, my inaugural visit to Govetts Leap will be a memorable one. From now on it will be high on my list of recommendations to overseas friends who come to visit, or even when boredom strikes. Quietly located past the aforementioned, this lookout in Blackheath was breathtakingly stunning.

Once my camera card ran down from 980 to 0 making a time-lapse (for a short film on the trip to premiere in a week), we packed up and headed off to Cowra, via Bathurst.

The 184th Kilometre.
Upon approaching Mount Panorama, excited to drive the track that are actually open to the public, we realized our dreams of crossing the finish line (at the governed 60 km/h speed limit) were not to be this time. Bathurst Motor Festival was happening and a three-day attendance record of over 10,000 spectators was set. The drive to a spectators area at the top of the mountain encompassed being parallel to the race track at times. Once at the top we were met with an encompassing 360 degree view of Bathurst below; a striking sight.

Lachlan Mitchell for the AU Review

From here, towering blue skies highlighted by the Hyundai’s wide panorama glass sunroof would accompany us for the two and a half hour drive. With 110 km/h speed limits for the majority of the trip, it was here that the smoothness of the Santa Fe Highlander was noticed. The driving was so un-jolting and quiet in fact that cruise control became necessary as 110 km/h felt deceptively slow. The large side mirrors and immersive wide windshield did well to warn of overtaking traffic and oncoming vehicles ahead. Comfortable seats and headrests were a seductive treat for the long days of travelling. Not once did I experience a sore back, instead I felt an upright posture to be maintained at all times (my mum would be so proud).

Driving into Cowra we were met with Victorian style houses with well-kept front gardens that opened up onto the footpath on one side, with vineyards on the other. Road signs explained to turn right for the Japanese Peace Gardens – our appointment the next morning – but we kept along Kendall Street and straight into our accommodation for the night at the Breakout Motor Inn.

The 290th Kilometre.
Met by the charming owners, Room 16 was ready and waiting for us.

Breakout Motor Inn

Spacious and inviting, the room served for an afternoon shower and pit stop with local takeaway lunch before we headed out searching the town. Mainly quiet because of the public holiday, the main street served as a template of fashion shops, cafes and grocers.

An attractive drive to the top of Bellevue Hill Reserve, through the Cowra Peace Precinct and to the War Cemetery returned us to town in time for dinner at Lot31 Restaurant and Bar.

Boutique paintings of women in backless dresses holding wine glasses lined the black and crème painted walls. Laughter and conversation filled the occupied room of mainly families. The subversive elegance and appreciated simplicity was complemented by our welcoming and talkative waitress’ service. Entrees ranged in price from $7 to $15. Mains from $22 to $36. The locally produced and themed dishes were in our eye. Slow Cooked Cowra Lamb and Pork 2 Ways for Main after Soft Shell Crab for Entrée. Perfectly seasoned, the crab was a great opener to the evening. Arriving to the table fast, it went quickly.

The apple and balsamic jus blended punctually with the maple aoli for the pork that fell apart at the fork, just like the lamb in the other Main. With the lamb, a minimal inclusion of glazed peanuts and potatoes in the coconut and spiced sauce helped to make the large lamb pieces the hero of the dish.

Lot31 in Cowra

With full and satisfied stomachs, town signs that told us of the existence of an observatory intrigued us. Located 22km out of town, we arrived just after it had closed unfortunately. However it did not take us long to realize why it was located where it is – the sky was endless with stars. Here we sat for an hour before calling it a night and heading back to the Breakout Motor Inn.

Cowra Observatory by Lachlan Mitchell
Cowra Observatory.

Saturday the 19th of April.

The next morning took us to the Cowra Japanese Gardens and Cultural Centre. At the gates we were met with a gathering group of parents and kids for the annual Easter Egg Hunt. The gardens were established to recognize and develop the relationship between the people of Japan and Cowra in memoriam of the Prisoner of War camp that housed Japanese prisoners during World War II. With the hedges pruned to resemble the rolling hills of Japan, the garden appears to have no limits. Trails stalk the garden in every direction and by following the steepest trail to the top, you follow the soundtrack of the tranquil garden; a gentle stream trickling from atop the hill. Manicured green, pink and blues extend as far as one can see. Chairs, huts and shade are a plenty in the grounds.

Japanese Peace Garden by Lachlan Mitchell

As the children entered for the Easter Egg Hunt it was nice to see such a young demographic smiling and appreciating the deceivingly man built memorial and search trees, bushes, rocks and creeks for redeemable egg vouchers.

Easter Treasure Trove by Lachlan Mitchell
The Treasure Trove.

Line for Collection by Lachlan Mitchell
The line for collection.

The 767th Kilometre.
Had it been in any other car, the 6 hour leg to Deniliquin would have been a pretty torturous trek. Instead, cattle, sheep and countless properties ringed with golden dirt flew by. Fresh and green; most paddocks were refreshed from recent rain that made the Murrumbidgee and Lachlan Rivers flow as Blues and Roots were on our mind.

For a review of the 2014 Deni Blues and Roots Festival by Lachlan visit here:
http://www.theaureview.com/reviews/deni-blues-roots-festival-deniliquin-…

Stay tuned for the final part – The Journey Home!