A natural high
The electric east coast odyssey climbs into the high country.
From the coast on up into the mountains, our electric journey down Australia’s striking east continues as journeyman and photographer reconnects with ‘his own backyard’.
Woody Gooch and Sean McKeever
23 April, 2021
The journey leaves the coastal regions behind for a time and heads up into the rugged and starkly beautiful high country
For photographer Woody Gooch, a 3500 kilometre road trip down the Australian east coast was the perfect way to reconnect with his native Australia after years spent in other parts of the world. Rediscovering the riches of the country from the surf breaks and river inlets to the mountains, catching up with old friends and making new ones along the way. The trip continues from Part 1 on the journey that spawned the film Electric Eye.
The countryside continues to change with each passing kilometre as we continue our relentless journey south, weaving through dairy paddocks and one quiet country town after another until we reach Crescent Head on the edge of Kempsey. This is the perfect place for a night of rest and respite, and given the ever present allure of the sea, it’s fitting we choose to rest up at camp Surfaris – an establishment devoted to the surf that has made the area such a drawcard for board riders.
Midway between the border town of Byron and the New South Wales capital, this Macleay Valley Coast resident makes for an ideal place to lay your head (and stretch your legs) en route to the big smoke. Not to mention its appeal for surf chasers who have long flocked to the area to sample the ever reliable swell and delightfully traditional bakery which has become something of an institution, boasting one of the best vanilla slices on the east coast.
The next day marks half way along the east coast odyssey. A recharge (car and body both) at Audi HQ in Sydney’s inner CBD is a prerequisite to the troupe making its way out west, on an eight hour journey to Gundagai. It’s here that another Chargefox port awaits us, as well as historic watering hole The Criterion Hotel. But we’re not here for the beer – this is our base for the night before the e-tron inches its way up through Kosciuszko National Park. The landscape shifts dramatically en route – it’s not hard to see why this region acted as muse for a great many of Banjo Paterson’s poems. Herds of wild brumbies gallop through sweeping fields of golden tussock that line the road, shimmering acres that transform to white powder when the temperatures dip low enough. Remnants of last year’s bushfires also remain, with blackened trees scattered across the landscape like cracked pepper.
Cruising along the Alpine Way, the 121 kilometre rural stretch that sits at the heart of the Snowy Mountains, we greet the property of high country gentleman Nick Kirshner. The former olympic skier is a long-term local of the Snowy Plains, who continues to run cattle and sheep, but in a way that prioritises respect for the surrounding landscape.
Remnants of last year’s bushfires also remain, with blackened trees scattered across the landscape like cracked pepper
Leaving no trace is a part of this – we are very mindful of what we do. Look after things because if you don’t they won’t be here tomorrow
“This place may be striking but she’s not friendly. That’s part of her beauty – she’s still wild,” he says of the rolling hills surrounding us. “We’re the custodians of this land,” he continues. “A lease, ownership means nothing, it doesn’t belong to us. I want to leave my property in a better state for my daughter than it is now. Leaving no trace is a part of this – we are very mindful of what we do. Look after things because if you don’t they won’t be here tomorrow.”
It’s Nick who leads the following day’s muster. The e-tron’s all-wheel drive status means our four wheels join a gathering of hooves, the convoy driving along the rocky path behind an army of cattle surging through brush, encouraged by the sound of a cracking whip.
But the Snowy Mountains isn’t just famous for its agricultural pursuits, but its peaks. A wander up to the top of Mount Stilwell is a non-negotiable while you’re in town – this two kilometre mountain hike near Charlotte Pass will reward you with views of the gaggle of rocky peaks that form Kosciuszko National Park's Main Range, including Mount Kosciuszko itself. Our party finds itself pushing through layers of mist and cloud cover, navigating rocks, and moss that forms a textured blanket over the peaks, with the outline of Mount Kosciuszko in the distance.
Thick foliage litters the rocky path, but it’s worth the climb for the view at the top. Post-exertion you can reward your efforts in neighbouring Crackenback, a community tucked between Jindabyne and Thredbo which boasts a thriving crop of food-focused businesses, including Wild Brumby distillery and Crackenback Farm Restaurant.
We’re on the home stretch now. The South Coast offering a tempting chance to defrost from the crisp mountain air sees the e-tron snake its way through the vibrant green fields of Bega and its surrounds, making strides for Batemans Bay. A cluster of refreshingly quiet fishing and surfing communities are gathered here, with visitors largely the surf-inclined, seduced by the promise of a large swell. Bawley Point is the small coastal hamlet that makes a large impression – and the final destination on an ambitious adventure that has seen us take in more than 3500 kilometres in just 10 days. A marathon effort down the east coast showcasing the unique diversity of Australia’s landscape, and demonstrating that an electric vehicle like the e-tron is right at home fulfilling the traditional role of ‘road trip vehicle of choice’.
“Returning to Australia and exploring this place has opened up my imagination,” says Woody of the journey. “There are so many things I had forgotten about this place – it’s sights, sounds, smells. This trip has literally reactivated my senses.”
“There are so many things I had forgotten about this place – it’s sights, sounds, smells. This trip has literally reactivated my senses”
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