Nar Nar Goon
February 16, 2018
Years ago, Gert created a contest, the prize for which was a round trip to Nar Nar Goon. I don’t remember the contest. Gert tells me that it had something to do with “worst dad in literature.”* The thought of visiting a town with this name motivated me to win the contest, and after a few life detours, to travel from Alaska to Australia with the goal of getting to Nar Nar Goon.
Gert came through on the promise, and on Friday, February 16, arranged for the five members of the Carns family (myself, husband, two daughters, and one daughter’s partner) to visit acquaintances with a Nar Nar Goon address. They live outside the town itself in a lovely, mostly hand-made home set in the Dandenong Hills southeast of Melbourne. We roamed around their gardens a bit, and down to the adobe house where they hand-built some of the mud bricks that shaped their home.
Nar Nar Goon means either “water rat” or “native bear” in the local Aboriginal language. Many Irish fleeing the Potato Famine settled there in the 1850s, naming it Mount Ararat. The railway station was built in 1877, and named Nar Nar Goon. These days, around 1,000 people call Nar Nar Goon home. Some engage in farming; more engage in technical and trades work.
What we saw instead of the town itself were the grazing areas and stands of eucalyptus trees that clothe the shapes of the Dandenong hills. To my American eyes, the landscape reminds me of parts of California, with its autumn brown grasses, and the muted greens of the eucalyptus trees. Like those hills, the vistas bring rest and satisfaction – I feel like falling into Victorian turns of phrases to describe their strength and calm.
Our new friends’ home encompasses several acres, including a shallow, shaded billabong with a statue of Ganesh (the Indian elephant god who removes obstacles), and a large terrace shaded by a huge tree – fig, perhaps? I was so distracted by the many charming sights and conversations, and the delicious food that I only pinned down a few of the details. We drank wine and ate cheeses, crackers, and Green Gage plums from the farm’s trees. We polished off salads and a tomato tart, and a quiche, and finished it off with one of the most magnificent cakes I’ve met, topped with fresh plums and double cream.
double cream plum cake
Ganesh in a billabong
Nar Nar Goon dreamtime
Meeting Gert, and the friends in Nar Nar Goon have been a high point of our first two weeks in Australia, and well worth traveling 8,000 or so miles. Our thanks to Gert for making it all happen! We still can’t tell you about the town itself, but we can assure you that we are plotting ways to return to Melbourne and to see more of Gert, her friends, and the country.