Promising to speak soon, Trisha and I hugged goodbye on Tuesday morning after breakfast, and I left Bobundara for Braidwood on my next adventure.
Before he arrived on Monaro, our hero was for some time at a property on the Shoalhaven River near Braidwood. I was aware that Sydney Water now owns the property, I had the co-ordinates, Trisha had marked a map for me, I knew there were remains of an old homestead. I hoped to find it and get a feeling for the countryside.
I went directly to the road I supposed it to be on, using Siri and google maps. Although I drove along its short length of several kilometres, I found no sign of the homestead. When I asked a worker at the sand and gravel quarry, he shrugged and suggested I ask the woman who lived across the road.
They've been here for a century or so, he said.
The woman across the road shook her head. Not this road, she said. You should have taken the one before this, before the Shoalhaven River.
It was almost too late for lunch, so I drove straight to Braidwood, fearing that everything would be shut. What a lovely town! The main street is lined with historic buildings and the entire town is part of the NSW State Heritage Register. I could have spent a day here at least!
But Tuesday is not a good day in Braidwood. The Museum was closed, and also the Long Barn, a French antique and garden shop Trisha had said was truly swoon worthy. I didn't have time to look further...
I went into a homewares shop in the main street, and after a quick browse, I asked the owner if she could recommend a café for lunch.
A customer answered for her. There's not much open, she said, and named two possibilities. But you'd better hurry or they'll close, she said.
Can you tell me where you'd stay the night? I asked. The owner suggested the local motel and there was also a B & B up the street.
I went over to the Albion Café, chose a table on the verandah and ordered their canneloni.
While I was waiting, I searched the Airbnb app on my phone and found a delightful rose-covered cottage at a place called Mount Fairy. I wasn't sure exactly where it was, but it seemed to be roughly in the direction of Canberra for my flight home the next day. It was vacant, and I pressed the BOOK button hoping the owner Tim would check his messages in the next couple of hours.
I heard a noise. I looked up. The customer at the homewares shop was standing at my table.
I couldn't help overhearing, she said, that you're looking for a motel for the night.
Why don't you stay with me instead? I have a spare bed.
I wonder if my jaw dropped. How unusual in this day and age. How wonderfully gorgeously generous.
I can't thank you enough for being so kind, I said. But I've already begun to make a booking on Airbnb. My phone made a noise. I looked down to see that my Airbnb booking had been accepted.
May I take your photo? I asked.
No I don't think so, she said. Once someone took a photo of me and put it on the internet.
Yes that's what I want to do, I said. I write an online diary and I'd love to tell my readers about your generosity.
Oh well that's ok, she said. We both smiled. I'm Shell, I said. I'm Trish, she returned.
What are you doing in town? she asked.
I'm writing a book, I said, and I'm looking for a particular old homestead. I'm driving out there after lunch to look for it.
May I come with you?
I did a double take. Whether I found the house or not, I'd be going on to Mount Fairy, not returning to Braidwood. I looked at her dear expectant face. What was wrong with me? Of COURSE I could take her with me and then bring her back.
A brief headline crossed my mind. BRAIDWOOD SERIAL KILLER, TOURIST MISSING.
But the women in the homewares shop had known her. Then again serial killers are often liked by their neighbours.
My lunch arrived. It was huge. Will you share my lunch with me? I asked. The waitress heard and came back with another plate and cutlery.
The only thing is, she continued, my car is at the mechanic on the other side of town and I have to pick it up first. I hesitated. I'd come so far, and I didn't want to run out of time on my search. I looked at her face again. I relented. I drove Trish to her mechanic and arranged to meet her back in the main street, across from the park.
I spent the extra time taking a few shots of the town.
We finally set off, Trish telling me about her life, being widowed, moving to be near her daughter, buying in an over-50's development in Braidwood, her love of her new country town.
We turned off on the right road this time, drove for kilometres, and found this gate on a river flat. This was the place. But it wasn't the right gate. Obviously not a thoroughfare, and no one to ask. These were the co-ordinates on the NSW Department of the Environment website.
Trish took over the map app on my phone, trying to figure it out. We drove on and found another gate. Same thing. She asked me if I'd like her to make a phone call to someone who lived on the road I'd been on this morning. I said I'd love it.
That woman answered, and said we were on the right road. She suggested we ring the local real estate agent who may be able to help. No answer. Trish rang several other people, leaving a message for each.
You didn't tell me you were going to be my PA, I laughed. I didn't know either, Trish chortled. I think you'll have to come home with me, I said.
We turned around to go back to a very old house with a ruin alongside where we'd seen a man drive in earlier. He was nowhere to be seen.
What to do now? We were beaten. There seemed nothing to do but take Trish back to Braidwood. Suddenly her phone rang. An off-duty museum staff member on the other end of the phone said, 'You want Brenda at the lolly shop. Her husband Ian leases that place.'
Trish and I high-fived each other and drove straight back to town, to the lolly shop. An ice cream and some lollies later, Anne who worked there told me to phone Ian that night at 7pm. It sounded very promising.
I had to skedaddle. Tim at the Airbnb was going to the coast and would only be there until a little after 5pm to greet me. It was over three quarter of an hour’s trip. Trish and I exchanged phone numbers. I promised I'd let her know what happened with Ian that night.
Without Trish, I never would have found the lessee, nor would I have had a chance of finding the homestead. She was pure serendipitous gold. An angel!
But would the lessee allow me to visit? I had a tiny window in the morning before my flight left Canberra at lunch time. I had my fingers crossed.
When I was at Bobundara, Trisha D. quoted a neighbour who always said, Leave room for miracles. I hoped I had.
A blushing perennial pea for you from the Bobundara garden. Tomorrow I'll tell you the end of the story.
Until then, I wait you,