Glenmaggie – Heyfield – Tinamba: Memories of Family Passed
This blog is more personal than usual and has taken me a long time to deliver it. But, that’s what happens when grief becomes a part of your life.
On August 4, 2022, my shingles-riddled father passed away. Precisely two days later, my Alzheimer’s-addled step-father also passed away. On the day Dad died, we had to look at a house we were hoping to rent, having just been told we had a month to get out of the place we’d lived in for the past seven years. On the day of my step-father’s funeral, we picked up the keys to that same house. So, in between helping organise the funerals, I packed up our home through tears and dust. I remember saying to my husband, Rick, “This is more than a koala can bear”. How do you navigate the big stuff all at once? On one hand I was entirely grateful for having been able to share the lives of both men, and grateful there was no more suffering in their bodies and minds, but selfishly, I was mortified and missing their cheeky grins, laughter and glints of mischievousness in their eyes. I was also beginning to grieve our home. Grief visits in all forms. It never knocks. Just shows up announced making no excuses for its bullish nature. The uncomfortableness was palpable, and in a way, still is.
Previous to the proverbial “shit hitting the fan”, my hubby, Rick, had (seemingly coincidentally) booked out two weeks annual leave, where we'd organised to visit a friend who lived in Tinamba - close to the Glenmaggie Weir where Dad had once worked in the 1950s. Instead of planned holidays, those two weeks became about death, funerals, and shifting house instead, but, in the midst of it all, we decided to still take a scaled-back few days off and go anyway. We downed tools, packed the car, and found refuge with good friends and memories whispering in the wind.
Little to my knowledge, Tinamba Hotel is a foodie destination. On a crossroads in the middle of farmland with not much more than a general store, some accommodation, and a few homes for neighbours, the pub has a reputation for exquisite food. The meal was one of the best I’d ever had in my entire life, I kid you not! Some of the more experienced foodies accompanying us had varying degrees of opinions. Generally though, a thumbs up from us all, including its heritage ambience. Pricey, yes. Glad I had the experience? For sure. Time out from the past few weeks? Absolutely.
The tiny hamlet of Tinamba is not particularly spectacular, however, in my emotional state it was exactly what I needed, a haven to watch cows, collect eggs, take photos of the mist, and watch the bees dance around apple blossoms.
A five-minute drive from Tinamba is another teeny village, Newry, which offers a pub (The Farmer’s Arms), an abandoned butcher’s shop, and a handful of houses. On its outskirts we caught a glimpse of newly fallen snow on nearby ranges - a delight. Taking photos of all the sights and wonders was keeping me partially sane and at the very least present.
The larger township of Maffra is a stone’s throw away and is everything you’d expect a rural hub to be – practical, clean, neat, wide streets, and a touch serious. You do, however, get a true sense of how the state of Victoria revolves around our farms (vegetables/dairy/meat/poultry). Its hive of busy bees makes you understand and appreciate the importance of our rural industry in feeding a nation.
We enjoyed great coffee and cake in a fun quirky café and wholefoods trader called The Pickle Pot – a real unexpected treasure and good for calming the mind.
The day before Dad died I asked him if he could “visit” me when he passed away. A kookaburra (rarely-heard where we'd been living) heralded his passing just ten minutes after medical staff declared him officially gone. I knew it was Dad saying hello. He’d kept his promise to say hi or goodbye, just as I’d kept a kookaburra feather for this very event. As we walked around the spot where Dad had worked in the 50s at Glenmaggie Weir, we heard another kookaburra. I knew Dad was with was still with me, as if he was showing us around. It felt like a beautiful tribute to be in a space where he’d once been. Surreal, but special. It also made me realise how important it is to retrace the steps of our loved ones, to get a sense of their adventures.
Dad had explained to me how he’d been a dogman on the cranes as they'd worked to raise the weir wall. To our amazement we found photographs in an information building of the time he worked there. I wondered if it was him in the image. Apparently the weir workers had stayed, dorm style, at a type of hangar in nearby Heyfield. So that was our next stop.
Heyfield is a quaint mixture of heritage buildings, new estates, arty cafes, historical museums, and country folk. Like Maffra, it has its practical elements but the new is outweighed by the vintage.
The first coffee visit there, I missed the hangar. The second visit it hit me between the eyes. Disguised as a business, it was the only domed building in the town which remotely looked like the place Dad had described. It was brilliant to finally put visuals to his stories. It was as if a part of him was still alive. I'm immensely glad and grateful we made the effort to go.
On the way home to Geelong, we stopped for a cuppa in yet another tiny country village called Cowwarr, and what was the town decorated with? You guessed it. Cows.
This was a beautiful, "hu-moo-rous" (get it?) full stop to end a short chapter of green hills, chooks, foggy mornings, glamourous food, and especially, memories of Dad. I felt it appropriate that cows were the last thing I took photos of, because I will love both my dads 'til the cows come home.
CYCLING TANAMBA DISTRICT
In case you're wondering, Rick took his bike as there is a fairly flat and easy-to-ride rail trail - one of the longest and most popular in Gippsland. There's also a mountain-bike park just outside of Tinamba near Glenmaggie Weir, Blores Hill. Lots of places to feel the wind in your hair and dust off some cobwebs.