It was a bit damp in the Valley
10 February 2021 / Words by Rod Nicholas, Photos by Maryanne and Rod Nicholas
It was a bit damp in the Valley - Lunch at the Araluen Pub - 29 January 2021
I had woken during the night to heavy rain, and the thought floated through my sleep-heavy mind that the twisting downhill run into Araluen would not be much fun in the wet. The morning was grey and cloudy but a quick look at the rain radar on my weather app showed the worst of it had passed and moved on towards the coast.
Our Run Leader Col McNally was starting the day at Bungendore after a leisurely coffee at R&R’s Diner. The ‘South Siders’ would take the easy way to the Diner via Queanbeyan, and ‘North Siders’ such as myself, would usually set off down the Federal Highway and the Macs Reef Road shortcut to Bungendore. For something different, I had said I’d lead anyone who wanted to join me the long way (better known as ‘the MX-5 way’) down Mulligans Flat Road and Shingle Hill Way, joining up the Bungendore Road where it meets the Federal Highway. It was about 30 km longer, but that wasn’t the point. (Actually, I’m not sure what the point was, other than to do ‘something different’.)
Anyway, I arrived at my start point at the allotted time and patiently sat there with my navigator, waiting for all my friends to turn up. Ten minutes later, and still on our own, my navigator quietly told me ‘no one’s coming’. We set off, with me wondering whether we would be having a lonely lunch at the pub by ourselves. Meanwhile, the rain had decided to linger a little longer than I thought was desirable.
Our little side excursion was a bit of a hoot. We had the quiet country roads almost to ourselves, if you don’t count the odd wallaby grazing by the shoulder or the mob of roos just the other side of the fence. The extra km went swiftly by and precisely at the right time we pulled into Bungendore, watched as some local in a 4x4 pinched the carpark I was waiting for, and headed a bit up the main drag to find a spot big enough for our small car. We splashed our way to the Diner, where we were warmly greeted by our friends, who had all decided that a little weather was no reason to put off a run.
Col briefed the group, now 15-strong (ten cars), during our recaffeination and we eventually headed off in a loose convoy to Braidwood. The destination there was the Car Model Shop where we would pick up another two couples, one each from the South Coast and Illawarra Chapters. It’s always great to have members from our other Chapters join in on a run – the more the merrier but also an opportunity to catch up and mingle. As we were to find later, our Illawarra friends made the unfortunate decision to travel from Nowra through Nerriga and on to Braidwood via the Nerriga Road. It looks the real deal on Google Maps, but no one had told them that the road (rather, the bush track) from Nerriga to Braidwood was still largely unsealed (notwithstanding many government promises). And, it seems, it is rough and nasty. (The road from Nowra to Nerriga is pretty good, but the best choice is to turn off shortly after towards Tarago (along Oallen Road), and then head to Braidwood.)
But they made it, which just shows that nothing much stops a MX-5.
A few cars kept on going through Braidwood and made the trip into Araluen – a short 25 km – in the intermittent rain. As you can tell from the photos, it was a touch … damp. That made the last 10 km of twisting and winding road a little interesting. Fortunately, there was no flowing water across the track and no loose dirt or gravel swept onto the road, and while it was sensible to take extra care, no one was likely to come unstuck. A few of our cars, which had started early from Bungendore, were parked on the street with their drivers already settling in at the tables reserved for us in the Araluen Valley Hotel. We were twenty strong, in 13 cars (if you count the couple of non-MX-5s as 'cars') - a great turnout for a wet day.
The tucker was good and plentiful (my T-Bone only just fitted on the plate!) and the conversation was much the same. You’d think that after all this time together we’d be talked out, but clearly that wasn’t the case. It bucketed for a bit while we were eating but by the time everyone was ready to leave the rain had cleared and the roads were steaming. It was ‘make your own way home’, which in reality means most leave more or less together in an informal convoy. And so it was.
The run down to Araluen is plenty of fun, especially if conducted during the week to avoid the coast traffic.
The valley was beautiful after the recent rain, with broad swathes of verdant grass. Website Aussie Towns (https://www.aussietowns.com.au/town/araluen-nsw) describes it as ‘a near-perfect example of a valley in the heart of the Great Dividing Range - a road that tumbles down to a winding stream which is edged by rich and fertile pastures in a valley which is distinctive because the early settlers could not resist the temptation to plant deciduous trees. Araluen was once one of the most famous gold towns in New South Wales. Today it is little more than a few buildings, some historic ruins and a beautiful valley famed for its orchards’.
The goldfields drew settlers (even if only temporary) and bushrangers. By 1851 there were 15,000 prospectors in the Araluen Valley, and by 1860 over 4,000 people were living there. The valley at this time had over 26 hotels, 20 butchers shops, churches, general stores, blacksmiths and bakers. There is little evidence of that now, but it is well worth a visit.
We will program another run down to the valley before the year is out. Stay tuned.
Run Leader: Col McNally