“We Won Tumut”: A COVID-Inspired Roadtrip
Every good road trip starts with a morning after pill. The morning after pill is basically the same as time travel and is particularly good bought from a pharmacy in a one-street town just off the highway three hours inland from Sydney.
The road started to wind as we ate pies and ascended into Kosciuszko National Park. It was Saturday morning and we were on a trip we’d planned for weeks: to swim in Yarrangobilly thermal pool.
Since the reality of the length of time we might be trapped in NSW had set in, we’d made the commitment to get out of the city as often as possible to see what’s out there in this glorious state. We’ve also applied themes to each month – Trying Not to Cry July was over and we were onto Victory August which is set to be supplanted by Savings September (Victory August has been expensive). So, we were four women in an Astra driving into fire country, google-reviewing truck stops and asking pointed questions to keep each other awake.
“If you could only talk about one topic for the rest of your life what would it be?”
“The politics of Star Trek.”
“Myself,” Rikki and Lily said at the same time.
“What would you do if money was no barrier?”
“Buy our house and renovate it,” Rikki said.
“That means we’re only one renno away from living our dream life,” Lily pondered.
The road got misty and the trees turned the spikey shape the Australian bush takes on when it has been decimated by fire. It felt apocalyptic as the brown and black hills across the lake around Talbingo stretched infinitely into the horizon, and it occurred to me that the name Talbingo was vaguely familiar in the way certain tiny towns were made famous in January. Talbingo, Mogo, Mollymook – places that were previously fly dots on the map are now associated with images of the inferno that ripped through them in summer.
We pulled up at the hot spring and walked down the hill to the green valley below in which the pool was situated. It was an oasis among the burnt-out bush and the temperature gauge on my dash read four degrees Celsius as we left the car.
The pool was tepid at best. The ice-cold rain drops on the surface didn’t help. Freshwater reeds grew up from the floor and after a sweet 15 minutes, it took on the quality that the bath takes on when you’re ready to get out. We delivered it a stinging three-star Google review and drove 45 minutes to our cheap motel in Tumut.
Tinder in Tumut is worth the drive. We went to a local brewery which actually had great beers and was a cool venue and swiped on the local area.
“Sup,” we messaged someone with cattle in their profile picture.
“What have you been up to?” was the reply.
“Oh yeah? Which farm?”
“Oh, just whipping and cracking.”
“Cattle, I assume?”
We then hit the local pub, The Oriental Hotel, at which the COVID regulations meant we had to sit down. We met the queen of Tumut — Tahls — and Rikki and Lily tested their vocals on Amy Winehouse for karaoke. We drank Cruisers and stormed the beer garden, Maddy threw up in a bush out back, and we were recruited to the next venue, The Star.
“Youse aren’t from around here are ya?” we were asked repeatedly as we did handstands on the plush carpet in the back room.
“No, we’re from prison,” we responded at different times.
Finally, as The Star closed and we’d coerced someone called Andrew into having a kick on at his place, we trundled down the road to his shed where Lily played guitar and Rikki played drums with a drumstick and a pair of scissors until we finally realised we should maybe go home.
The sky was starting to turn the colour of dawn as we stumbled into a yard, climbed a barbed wire fence (threw Maddy over) and eventually made it back to our motel with a dog we’d met on the way.
In the morning (midday), we fuelled up and drove out of there. We picked wattle on the road home and had nothing more to talk about beyond the fact that Maddy needed to throw up a few more times and how we’d won Tumut.
Beaut photos by the author, Rikki Clarke and Lily Keenan