Friday saw us embark upon some Vic Roads as we headed for Healesville. Having barely gotten to grips with the motoring in Melbourne yet, with only about five streets between us we can turn into with any sense of familiarity, a rural jaunt with barely a glance at google maps directions was perhaps always going to be a bit on the optimistic side of things. So it was an hour or so into a supposed 90 minute journey that we ended up in a cul de sac in somewhere outer suburban looking at the trusty UBD figuring out where it all went wrong. Usually it’s a lack of signs, Melbourne loves keeping things a secret you see, the harder to find the better! That’s why all its good bars are in pokey lanes and its roads, and general direction giving notices seemingly restrained by some Taboo esque limitations on useful words and information. It was also pretty exhilarating not having a clue where you were even five minutes down the road from leaving home. Leafy streets gave way to leafy hills, plenty became lower plenty and winery finery filled the windscreen and windows. Healesville soon became a distance digited destination on the bottom of the sign, then an arrowed sign or two of its own and finally the name painted on the information centre. We tried not look at too much of the town driving in, saving the sights for an afternoon of promenading. After parking on a grassy verge found by only staring intently at the car in front, we stepped out to be greeted by hazy blue mountains, the smell of open-fire chimney smoke and wonderful historic hotels at each fork in the crossroads.
Healesville itself is a small place, big on charm. Its got a main street with the usual city daytrippin targeting homeware, antiques, new age shop, and overly fancy women’s frock shop, amid those serving the more local needs, and there’s the top pub, bottom pub, rissole, greengrocer, baker, chippy and four op shops to boot. The first stop a country classic, where almost every item ever donated remains for sale at a price that steadfastly ignores the ever growing obsolescence of the object. It has obviously been well served by a volunteer with wistful, waylaid bookshop ambitions as shelf after impeccably labelled shelf bulges with strictly characterized, alphabetized and authoris-ed tomes, all seemingly of the theme bad books by otherwise excellent writers. Or sports memoirs by people neither famous or funny enough to sustain a pamphlet, let alone a thick dust riddled hardback. We ventured off the main drag, past the town’s only nite spot, past the bowlo and out through an oak- lined street into the proper country. A single lane bridge crossed a narrow, raging river, which we precariously clung to the rails of as hay filled holden utes hooned past. We then stood on the kerbside and looked out across a lush green paddock with a solitary horse, who was looking back at us, slightly awkwardly from the furthest boundary, wondering if we were worth the effort of walking over too. Crossing back we continued past a disused rail yard, relics of engines, carriages and locomotives ceding into the grass and run off the rails. We sat a while on a grassy roadside verge, reading the local paper, a magic cat is coming third in the footy tipping. Locals in various ute sizes toot us as they go past, others just stare. We’ve interrupted the monotony of the view of one desperately bored youth, who was pacing up and down between the train tracks, smoking fiercely and probably wanting to throw rocks at stuff, if it wasn’t for those bloody people sitting on the hill. We go for a swing in the train themed playground, then pop into the visitors centre where the lovely lady is helping a European lass who has had a real good go at the wineries and wants to sleep in her car so she can go visit some more. We grab some maps, have a chat and decide its pub time. The hotel of the town’s name is a treat. Local craft beer, open fire, high falutin food, and even better, its happy hour, a quarter off the price and free bar snacks for all! A wander through a riverside park, then bypassing the two main big ticket drinking amusements in town, the innocent bystander winery and white rabbit brewery we climbed up the highway as the sun set free a barrage of purples, then seeped through into a star-filled inky blue. We ducked in for a quick cheery beery with the dearies at the rissole, then after pondering the pin up salon, decided we’d been healed enough and motored back for dumplings amid the markets and malaise of Box Hill.