NO ENSUITE, shared bathroom. The only wilderness is between the ears of the greenies. There was plenty of time for a silent response to that sticker as the pub owner flicked through the bookings. Another sticker next to the reservation counter asked Where the #@*k is Walwa Pub?
The short answer: at the end of a six-hour trek from Krowera. Drive to Albury, turn right and follow the Murray.
Eventually the owner found our booking, over there on the wrong page. She ticked us off and mumbled that her husband must have warned us that there was no heating in the rooms.
“There is an electric blanket, eh?” Of course.
The owner grabbed the keys and ushered us through the private entrance into a sparse hallway lit by a single, unshaded light globe.
We had the run of the accommodation section, apparently, as we were the only strangers in town. Just as well we booked!
Our room. Turn the deadlock key one way and the door handle the other way. Not easily done, even without baggage, thick jackets and two G&Ts. What else is there to do before dinner in Walwa, pop 174, down from 392 five years ago.
Finally, into our room.
The entire town had burned down in 1939. They must have rebuilt it around this bed. There was just enough room to walk around the bed with no fear of trip hazards as there was no radio, no TV, no bar fridge nor a writing desk. The wardrobe had no door.
There was a chair. And a small hand basin beside the bench where a power board was glued to the wall.
Once the front bar shut down so did the lights in the bathroom, though the dull yellow glow of the hall light kept us safe through the cold night.
In the morning the exhaust fan roared above us as we showered. The water was hot, the pressure was low and two continental breakfasts later we were scuffling our bags through the spring loaded back door, the spring loaded veranda gate and the spring loaded side gate.
We loaded the car as a four wheel drive, with a boat on a trailer in tow, reversed across the footpath. The driver aimed for a freshly painted old garage.
The sign on the garage proclaimed Walwa Community Garage, a CNC social enterprise.
The boat on the trailer was a modern rendition of the speed boats that Cary Grant might have owned during the golden years of Hollywood.
Once the boat was parked I wandered in to find out what a CNC was and how a community garage operates.
CNC is the Corryong Neighbourhood Centre. A few years ago it bought a bakery to turn it into the Upper Murray’s first social enterprise. The plan was to increase the opportunities for employment training and fund the operational costs of the CNC
In its first year the bakery had an 11 per cent increase in sales and a 28 per cent increase in the second. This added over $83,000 to CNC income in those first two years.
Capitalising on that success, CNC purchased a garage in Walwa and obtained funding for trainee mechanics as well as a much-needed renovation.
As there aren’t enough cars in the area to keep the trainees busy, the garage builds wooden framed boats to keep the trainees in work while acquiring another set of skills.
An accusatory litany of incidents alleges council corruption and collusion with the gallery’s neighbour. The sign says it all. Over coffee at the café next to the garage, a local explained that the vendetta had been going on for over a decade.
Before we got back in our car, we did a final lap of the town and found interpretive signs that summarise the history of Walwa.
One panel explained that there had been no permanent Aboriginal presence in the area before the first squatter arrived, as the area was too cold. A convenient untruth.
We contemplated how easy it is to rewrite history as we followed the once mighty Murray.
Now, about that climate emergency?