Each January The New York Times picks what in its opinion are the 52 best travel destinations for the coming year. I admit I was curious about what it would do in a year during which no one would travel due to an international pandemic. This newspaper had a travel section when 2020 began, and it dropped it last April. Now I know what The New York Times will do. It replaced its year end 52 bests with “52 Places We Love”. These short essays were written by readers who picked places that “delighted, inspired and comforted them in a dark year”.
The 52 places that these travelers chose to write about are all over the world. They begin with Beirut, Lebanon, where Ruth & I have never been, and end with an area in India called Ladakh followed by “The World”. Ruth and I have been very lucky in our lives to visit many countries and all 50 of the United States. We have been to 20 of the 52 destinations reported on by travelers.
We have not been to the 1st 5 but have been to #6, the Yarra Ranges in Australia. The author’s subject was “Old-Growth Forests of the Yarra Ranges”. It was written by a marine archaeologist named Eden Alley-Porter, who loves this part of Australia especially in a snowy winter. Alley-Porter lives in Melbourne.
This was our first visit to this area on our 4th trip Down Under. It was the first time we were able to go in January, which is mid-summer there. We were expecting to be in Lakes Entrance for Australia Day that we celebrated with our Aussie friends Lynette and Robert. On the way there we spent some time with them in Tarra-Bulga National Park, which is in the Gippsland region of Victoria, Australia, in the Strzelecki Mountains. Yarra Ranges National Park is 98 miles from Tarra-Bulga.
Australia has more national parks than any other country in the world. There are 685 of them. Both of these parks, Tarra-Bulga and Yarra, have rainforest scenery. Another national park we have been to in Victoria is in the Dandenong Mountains one hour east of Melbourne and is appropriately called Dandenong Ranges National Park. These mountains are home to a fun train called Puffing Billy, which Ruth & I have ridden. Lakes Entrance is 198 miles from Melbourne, our ultimate destination. To get to Gippsland we had traveled along the Australian coast from Lynette and Robert’s home in Canberra.
Tarra-Bulga was spectacular with giant tree ferns. We walked for a great distance in this rather high altitude national park without seeing any lyre birds, which are similar in look to the sculpture above. We had already seen 2 of them in other parks. On our way to Melbourne and a cricket match we spent time in 3 towns, Bairnsdale, Yarram, and Sale. We also spent a night on Phillip Island and saw the fairy penguins. In Yarram our Aussie friends rhapsodized about brandy snaps, which they had for dessert, and my wedding ring mysteriously disappeared. In Lakes Entrance on Australia Day, Ruth and Robert went to a pancake and sausage breakfast. One of the purposes of Australia Day is to honor some illustrious Australians. In 2020, the year of catastrophic fires, they were service people. In 2021 Australia Day, a public holiday similar to July 4 in the United States, will be celebrated on January 26.