Wednesday, 2 January 2013

The View from the Other Side

Mallacoota in quieter times (July 2012, in fact)
Today - hordes of pleasure craft (the others are parked in the caravan park, by the side of the road etc etc
For the first time, I’m seeing Mallacoota from the inside. I’m watching hordes of Melbourne folk turning the town into a Melbourne traffic jam, and wondering why people think that’s relaxing! This little ghost town has donned its summer persona and is really jumping, in that slightly daggy 1960’s caravanning-holiday-with-mum-and-dad way that attracted me to Mallacoota in the first place.
I've never been here at the height of holiday season before - wow, what a revelation it is!
Tent-city, Mallacoota-style.
The supermarket aisles seem to have narrowed as the larger-than-life holidaymakers bustle about in their thousands. The bakery has shrunk. The main street is a car-park. The car-park is impossible. People behave on the main street the way they behave in the Westfields  Mall car-park in any major city, sitting with blinker on for ages and holding up the traffic as they wait for someone to put their shopping in the car, buckle the kids in, adjust the mirrors so they can fix their hair and make-up, send a quick text to say they’re just leaving the Mall, start their car, make three attempts to get it out of the too-small parking spot – you know how it goes. While that’s pretty annoying in the Westfields Mall car-park, it’s absolute insanity in the main street of Mallacoota. Gridlock, here of all places! And I've never seen quite so many shiny 4WDs, SUVs or whatever they're called, in my entire life!
4WD convention? NO, the street in front of the bakery

Mallacoota has turned into Melbourne, but people are convinced that they’re ‘getting away from it all’. *evil grin*  They’re not getting away from anything except their house and their job – they’re bringing Melbourne to Mallacoota for a few crazy weeks each year, descending en masse, towing caravans and boats, loaded down with bicycle racks so they can continue their daily habits here, cheek by jowl with thousands of other Melbourne people. So the only road into town (my street, as it happens) is heavily trafficked and suddenly reduced to a standstill by a lycra-clad peloton on a training ride, because that’s what they do in Craigieburn or Footscray. Seems a funny way to have a holiday! I guess the only thing that’s different is the fact that the traffic jams aren't commuter traffic jams.


 And then there are the teens. OMG, it’s hormone city out there, and it takes me back to a holiday at Hawks Nest with my friend Lindy and her family in 1972. Think Grease, and blossoming holiday romances, shy flirty looks from behind long fringes of salted, sun-bleached hair. Think giggles and gaggles of youngsters, huddled together for solidarity as they hunt or are hunted in packs. Think dances in daggy halls, with too-loud local bands and the smell of the sea clinging to everybody. The kids are leaving their laptops and Xboxes behind. They're getting out in the fresh air, riding bicycles, walking on the beach, sashaying down the main street – although they haven’t managed to unglue their mobile phones from their hands, so they can still Facebook their friends back home and make them envious, with selfies by the sea and surreptitious shots of the beach babes or boys that abound at this time of year.
Tourists are the lifeblood of Mallacoota. They’re colourful and noisy and they spend lots when they come here, and we love them. It’s a bustling, bemusing bedlam out there - a people-watcher's paradise - and in a few weeks’ time they will all go home and the sleepy rhythms of life here will resume. So I’m not grumbling. As I walk past cafes that I can’t get into for a few weeks I smile at everyone I pass and whip out my PO Box key, which silently marks me as a permanent resident, and says how lucky am I to live here all the time! Heh heh.


Geoff James said...

Hi Sue and happy New Year!

Must say that I laughed my head off when I saw this post because you could have removed the word Malacoota and substituted it with Coromandel where I live - it's EXACTLY the same!

In fact, today is our annual Celtic Fair and the population grows from 1600 to 40,000! No way will I be going out on the bike until at least Sunday!

Hope you're really settling in well. I have no doubt you've made the right decision and good for you!

Tara said...

This is the reason why when we are down the coast I'll be avoiding Merimbula in December and January!

I do love that you used the word "selfie" you hipster ;)

Nev said...

I was watching some subtitled documentary the other day about a European seaside town where you're not offically considered a local until your family has lived there for 7 generations or more.

Kevin Gleeson said...

Reminds me of Blackpool. I was there mainly during the winter, but my mates warned me not to be around in summer because 3 million people descend on the place in the space of a month. The locals were great. But I really wouldn't want to be there during the invasion.

Sue said...

@Geoff p holy dooley, where do you FIT 40,000 people? It must be pretty cosy at Celtic Festival time. The population here generally goes from 900 to 5000, and that's quite full enough!

@Tara - yeah, I suspect Merimbula is probably even worse! I took the bike to Eden the other day, and it was mental there. I guess that's the story up and down the coast at this time every year...

@Nev - yeah, Goulburn was a bit like that - and I imagine Mallacoota, with its 'First Families' could be a bit like that too. However, there's a shift in the population here - people coming and staying (like me and hundreds of others), or growing up here then going - that seems quite fluid. A lady in the gift shop, though, told me today she'd been here 40 years and is only just considered 'a local', so YMMV!

@Kev - can't imagine 3 MILLION ppl coming through a place like Blackpool. England's SO cforwded!!! My aunt/uncle and their family go to Southwold every summer, and it's a similar thing - all of a sudden there's no parking, and the sleepy seaside town fills up with overcooked out-of-towners!

Trobairitz said...

I've lived in a tourist town before where the population climbs from 26,000 to 40,000 in the summer. .It is a revelation isn't it?

Doesn't sound as bad as Coromandel though...

I like the college town we are in now as it empties during the summer months.

All you can do is muddle through and chuckle because you get to live there year round.

Sue said...

@Trobairitz - Coromandel sounds scarily crowded, doesn't it? I'm glad Mallacoota isn't as bad as that.

Canberra was actually pretty good over the holiday break, I must admit - lots of people down the coast, ha ha (some in Mallacoota, no doubt!) leaving Canberra with great traffic!

Someone told me the other day that the locals shop up big in town before the holidaymakers arrive, so they can hand the town over to tourists for a few weeks, and not have to brave the traffic. Very sensible. I'll know better next year!