Delight and a sense of freedom as border opens

Amit Rishi and his new staff member Carol Walczak at the Kiah General Store.
Amit Rishi and his new staff member Carol Walczak at the Kiah General Store.

No ordinary morning

Even from around 9am it was clear this was no ordinary morning; the steady flow of those who made the early journey from Victoria was evident along the Princes Highway, the caravans, the trailers and cars with roof racks.

Shantelle Walker at the Seahorse Inn, Boydtown said the highway had been so quiet but on Monday morning it had definitely changed.

The opening of the Victoria/NSW border after 137 days has brought a sense of relief and delight and of course expectation, no more so than at the Kiah General Store which sits on the Princes Highway.

Manager at the store and service station Amit Rishi (known by everyone as Rishi) said he woke up at 4am to see how things were, "but it was pretty dead" at that time.

But he is expecting it to get busy and has taken on a full time staff member so that he can get a break from the relentless seven days a week, 6am to 6pm routine of running the store.

"The border opening is a sign of it getting better and I'm happy for everyone," Rishi said.

"Now I have Carol working here I'm a bit more relaxed. I'm hoping to see more people coming through," he said.

Tree changers hit the road

Happy to be on the road: Mike Cameron and Richie La Face from Melbourne

Happy to be on the road: Mike Cameron and Richie La Face from Melbourne

Among those pulling in to Kiah are Mike Cameron and Richie La Face from Melbourne.

"Do I need to wear a mask?" Richie asks.

It is clear they are excited to be in NSW and with good reason.

They are heading to the Northern Rivers for a tree change and to start a new life after they both lost their jobs due to COVID-19.

"We wanted to get as close to the border as possible and stayed in Mallacoota last night," Mike explained.

Mike was a manager at travel publisher Lonely Planet. When COVID hit the staff went from 124 to four in Melbourne. Richie is a horticulturalist.

When they were made redundant in July, they planned their move to the Northern Rivers but had to wait until the border was open.

Now, rather than burning up the highway they plan to take a couple of weeks and will be stopping at Bittangabee and Merimbula on their journey north.

Celebrity singer calls in to Cocora

Daryl Braithwaite at Cocora Beach, Eden.

Daryl Braithwaite at Cocora Beach, Eden.

At Cocora Beach well-known singer, Daryl Braithwaite had just pulled in to take in the view.

Daryl had also stopped overnight at Mallacoota and was heading further north to Narooma but with a stop on the way in Tathra.

"I have been booked into Narooma since March," Daryl said. He has been waiting since then to take up the opportunity to do some mountain biking and visit the area.

Deciding to aim for November 24, he said it was a case of "hoping the border would be open".

"Finally I get to go there," he said.

First (and only) wedding of the year

At the Seahorse Inn they are looking forward to their first wedding of the year in two weeks time.

Usually we do around 20 in a year but this will be the first and only one," Shantelle said.

However the boutique hotel did hold the graduation dinner for Eden Marine High School with about 150 guests. The hotel is fortunate to have a large open air space which Shantelle said they expect to be using during the summer to allow more diners.

Renovations have been taking place at the Seahorse Inn, Boydtown.

Renovations have been taking place at the Seahorse Inn, Boydtown.

The Seahorse Inn was closed for two months and reopened in May but then shut down in September for renovations. Rooms, reception and the cocktail lounge have all received a makeover.

"We reopened on Thursday (November 19) and have been pretty much fully booked since," Shantelle said.

"We've had heaps of phone calls every day. We're fully booked for Christmas and almost at full capacity for the entire four weeks around Christmas," she added.

A record for posterity

Border police at Timbillica with Jody White. Photo Eden Killer Whale Museum

Border police at Timbillica with Jody White. Photo Eden Killer Whale Museum

The border operations at Timbillica were finished and the police said their thanks to the Eden community in a video posted by Jody White of the Eden Killer Whale Museum.

"Two soft toy killer whales were presented to the officers with words of thanks for their service, which they did in all degrees of weather, and at all hours," Jody said.

"They decided to do the video themselves as a thanks, which I'm sure everyone appreciates, as much as we have appreciated them," she added.

Jody said the short video and photos would be going into the collection for posterity.

"Collecting contemporary material is just as important to us at the museum as collecting retrospectively," she said.

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