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High Country Tag Along - Discovering unspoilt Australia


Soukous
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Although a lot of people visit Australia to spend time in cities like Sydney and Melbourne that's not why I go. In fact apart from arriving and leaving from the airport I try not spend any time there at all.

For me the attraction is all those unspoilt wide open spaces and when you enjoy wide open spaces as much as I do then there are few places that can compare with Australia.

 

I've visited Australia almost every year since 1988 and although the in the early years my trips were work related and a little too centred on the main cities; now each visit is an opportunity to explore the vast expanses of Australia's interior.

 

The High Country.

The High Country encompasses the magnificent cattle country of north eastern Victoria and crosses over into south western New South Wales. Throughout our journey, although we were travelling in one of the world's most advanced nations, I was constantly amazed at how few people and vehicles we saw and just how remote the locations were.

 

Tag Along

The Tag Along is quite a popular concept in Australia. In simple terms it is a group of people using their own vehicles to travel together in a loose convoy. Each driver gets the thrill of driving their own vehicle along remote tracks they might not be adventurous enough to tackle alone whilst the organiser is responsible for the route and also for managing the accommodation and catering.

Whilst there are companies that arrange this sort of trip on a commercial basis, we were just a group of mates who enjoyed travelling together. The concept worked incredibly well for us in the Kimberley last year and so, the same group of people decided to do it again this year.

 

The Man from Snowy River Bush Festival

Although our goal is to explore some of Australia's lesser known regions, the first stop for us this year was something of an exception; we were going to begin our trip in the town of Corryong; the venue for the annual Man From Snowy River Bush Festival.

 

The Man from Snowy River" is a poem by Australian bush poet Banjo Paterson. It was first published in The Bulletin, an Australian news magazine, on 26 April 1890, and was published by Angus & Robertson in October 1895, with other poems by Paterson, in The Man from Snowy River, and Other Verses.
The poem tells the story of a horseback pursuit to recapture the colt of a prizewinning racehorse that escaped from its paddock and is living with the brumbies (wild horses) of the mountain ranges. Eventually the brumbies descend a seemingly impassably steep slope, at which point the assembled riders give up the pursuit, except the young hero, who spurs his "pony" (horse) down the "terrible descent" to catch the mob.
At the start of the 20th Century, legends like The Man From Snowy River were all key parts of the process of a new nation finding its identity.

I should confess here that if I was ever asked to be a guest on the BBC's Desert Island Discs and they asked what book I would take with me, it would be The Man from Snowy River and other poems by Banjo Paterson. (I'd want something I could read over and over again.)

 

For most of the year, the population of Corryong is in the region of 1400 people but at festival time this number grows significantly. All the nearby hotels and regular campsites are full and the town golf course and the racecourse of nearby Towong are co-opted as temporary campsites.

 

This is where we didn't camp

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There were over 1000 pitches sold on the golf course alone this year and the number of attendees was estimated to be between 7,000 – 12,000 depending on who I asked.

 

I didn't have any real idea of what to expect other than lots of horses and people cowboy hats. There were plenty of both.

 

Luckily for us, we didn't have to contend with the crowds as we were going to be camping on the farm of a friend or Pat's.

Once we had all assembled we met up with Max (the farmer) who led us to a delightful spot on the banks of the Murray river.

 

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Mal tries his hand at fishing

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feeling very smug that we have such a wonderful place all to ourselves

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For those of you who have seen the shallow muddy waters of the Murray as it meanders through towns like Swan Hill, Echuca and Mildura, I can assure you it looked nothing like that here. Here it was fast flowing and crystal clear; having flowed down from the Snowy Hydro scheme at nearby Khancoban. (more on that later).

 

We'd been advised by friends who attended the festival before that we should head into town for the parade that marked the start of the festival. It was clearly a high point in the year for Corryong's residents and they were out in all their finery to watch.

I guess it was not that much different to parades held in other towns around the world but for someone from outside Australia it was interesting to see how the region's history was reflected with tributes to both Australian troops (the Diggers) and also the towns agricultural heritage with many lovingly restored vehicles on show.

 

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It was not really my scene, nor really the subject for a TR, but such was the enthusiasm of everyone taking part that it was impossible not to be impressed and after this build up I was very keen to see what the festival itself would entail.

Edited by Soukous
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graceland

@ Soukous, every one needs ONE break from Safari and go hang out with the cowboys...and tractors. :)

 

Lucky you with the camp spot; one look at that crowded campground and I'd be flying home.

 

Wasn't there a movie about Snowy River?

 

Aren't you supposed to be leaving for some wildcat out of the way walk carrying Game Warden's supplies :rolleyes: somewhere deep in Africa?

 

I know, a lot of questions here...but I am a cat; and curious by nature.

 

Looking forward to more! Really.....

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@@graceland Yes, there is a movie 'The Man from Snowy River' and Kirk Douglas is one of the leading actors.

 

Interestingly there is a renowned African safari guide who not only is an exceptional raconteur but he is also nuts about Australian Bush Poetry and will recite some of those poems around the campfire.

 

Any guesses on who he is?

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I adore the high country, thank you for making a trip report about this @@Soukous. For a wild moment many years ago I looked into buying one of the high country stations in NSW but it was out of my league. Probably a good thing.

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I adore the high country, thank you for making a trip report about this @@Soukous. For a wild moment many years ago I looked into buying one of the high country stations in NSW but it was out of my league. Probably a good thing.

 

Lots of horses there and stunning scenery @@twaffle, so plenty to photograph. But sadly almost all of the farming towns are in decline as the younger generation turn their backs on the rural life and head for the cities.

 

On a vaguely related subject, I was in the supermarket at Talbingo - just about the only shop that is still operating there - and my eye was drawn to an article titled 'African Dreaming' or 'Dreaming of Africa' in one of the magazines on the rack. It stood out because all the other magazines were women's weekly type mags.

On closer inspection I saw your name. Lovely feature - well done.

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Haha, thanks @@Soukous, that's quite funny that you saw the magazine. I didn't think anyone from this community would see it so you are one of the few. I guess the elephant looked a little odd next to all the gossip magazines. ;)

 

A legend in my own lunchbox ........... :D

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During the night quite a heavy dew had fallen and the top of my swag was soaked. The sun was just poking through the trees and looked lovely as its rays caught the early morning mist rising from the river.



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We weren't really sure what to expect this morning so we headed in to the arena far too early; to find it almost deserted.



Near the entrance we found many of the vehicles that had been in yesterday's parade were on display as well as some historic pieces of farm equipment like this old baler.



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I felt a bit out of place wearing my Umlani Bushcamp cap when everyone else had fine looking wide brimmed hats – even the ladies.



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While we wandered around, getting a feel for the place an assortment of events that I wasn't very interested in were going on in the main arena.



The bullock teams were eye catching though and it was interesting to hear how they are still used to clear forests in areas where tractors and other machinery can't easily access.



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For some reason I'd assumed that – because it was a festival -there would be live music. There was some, but not much. Although there was a Bush Idol contest which featured some acts that have absolutely no chance of making the big time.



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One of the main attractions of the MFSR festival is the displays of horsemanship and riding skills.


If this isn't your scene then you can probably skip this section of the TR.


If you'd asked me at the outset whether it was something I would enjoy I'd probably have said not, but some of the skills on show were outstanding.



In one arena there was a whip cracking contest where riders had to perform a stationary routine and then ride around a course attempting to hit targets with accurate whip cracks.



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In the afternoon there was a rodeo where riders had to try and stay on bulls and then horses. They only had to stay on for 8 seconds to score, but 8 seconds is a very long time when the animal you're riding is trying to throw you off.



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some of the animals didn't seem that keen to take part and refused to enter the mounting gate



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Sunday was the last day and would feature some of the best events; so the arena was packed from early on. Quite a contrast from the previous day.



Saturday midday


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Sunday midday


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Thee was one event in particular I wanted to see, the brumbie capture. Brumbies are wild horses that have never been ridden and the cowboys had to catch them and bring them under control in the allotted time.


There were some seriously impressive horsemanship skills on display.



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I hadn't realised before but all the events were part of a competition to find the best all round horseman at the show and so after the brumbie capture came a bizarre event where the competitors had to ride a bucking horse and crack their whips at the same time. I couldn't really see any practical application for these two skills being used simultaneously, but it made for good viewing.



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I soon caught on that if a horse bolts straight out of the stalls towards the far side of the arena – where the spectators were – you were almost certain to get thrown off.


To succeed the rider needed his horse to veer left or right out of the stalls into open space. There were plenty of spills.



All in all The Man From Snowy River Bush Festival provided us with a couple of enjoyable days.



Where to next?



Our route through the High Country was anything but direct. Over the next 10 days we would be travelling in all directions, visiting cattle stations and lighthouses, vast eucalyptus forests and snowy mountain tops.



Rather than try to describe our erratic route as a day by day journey, I'll focus on some of the highlights.


But for those of you who want to know where we actually went – this map shows the first week of our travels.



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graceland

I don't think I'd fly all the way to Australia for this event, but I imagine there was some good people watching along with all the horses spilling their riders.

 

And plenty of great looking boots I bet.

 

So I'm hooked; bring it on :D

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Fascinating look at the festival. Love the river landscape, very atmospheric.

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I'm with you there @@graceland

I didn't ( & wouldn't) fly over just for this event. We'd already planned our trip way back and then thought we may as well make time to see the festival as we would be so close anyway.

I'm glad we did but I've seen it twice now (first time and last time) and that is enough to satisfy my curiosity.

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Kitsafari

is that a dog perched comfortably on the horse in the parade? Loved that pix with the sheep following so obediently! you had a gorgeous spot to camp by the Murray river, compared to those poor chaps lined up in the dry dusty area.

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Finding this most interesting and enjoyable @@Soukous.

 

You’re bringing Safaritalk quite close to home for me and it looks like it’s about to get closer.

 

I love the high country with its sparkling clear air, magnificent scenery and the Murray and other rivers running fast, clear and pure. Some 7 years back I spent a wonderful time staying in a cabin at Walwa beside the Murray visiting Burrowa Pine Mountain NP, Corryong, and other places of interest thereabouts.

 

Looking forward to hearing your take on Benambra, Omeo, Dinner Plain and Dargo. Occasionally when the mood takes and the weather is right I’ll head to Dargo for a day out.

 

Tomorrow I’m off to Canberra driving across Gippsland to Cann River then up the Monaro Highway through the Monaro high plains and Cooma. Then a few days in south western NSW.

 

Look forward to catching up on the rest of your report on my return.

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Finding this most interesting and enjoyable @@Soukous.

 

You’re bringing Safaritalk quite close to home for me and it looks like it’s about to get closer.

 

I love the high country with its sparkling clear air, magnificent scenery and the Murray and other rivers running fast, clear and pure. Some 7 years back I spent a wonderful time staying in a cabin at Walwa beside the Murray visiting Burrowa Pine Mountain NP, Corryong, and other places of interest thereabouts.

 

Looking forward to hearing your take on Benambra, Omeo, Dinner Plain and Dargo. Occasionally when the mood takes and the weather is right I’ll head to Dargo for a day out.

 

Tomorrow I’m off to Canberra driving across Gippsland to Cann River then up the Monaro Highway through the Monaro high plains and Cooma. Then a few days in south western NSW.

 

Look forward to catching up on the rest of your report on my return.

 

It might be a bit later than that @@Caracal as I'm off to South Africa for 10 days to go hiking with @@Game Warden, @@Bugs & @@Peter Connan. I've got extra dark glasses just in case GW whips out that terrifying mankini. :o

 

But when I do get around to it our route will cover some familiar territory for you,and perhaps some unfamiliar.

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Of course I should have realised the big safari was imminent.

 

Hoping I'm not too late to wish you @@Soukous, @@Game Warden, @@Bugs & @@Peter Connan a great adventure and great time.

 

Take good care of those dark glasses Soukous!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Our route from Corryong took us south into the Alpine National Park and vast expanses of eucalyptus forest that stretched all the way to Benambra.



Benambra was a bit of a surprise. We'd expected something more from this renowned cattle town but what we got was basically a main street with a general store, a hotel and a church.



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We discovered that the town had a population of approximately 180 people and was a classic example of the decline of rural communities.



As farms and ranches get bigger to remain viable the number of people needed to work them also declines, with modern machinery doing the work of many labourers. With a reduced need for labour people are forced to go else where to seek work and communities dwindle. Add to this the fact that in many cases the next generation have no interest in taking over the family farm; preferring to move to the cities in search of more 'modern' employment and greater social stimulation, and it is hard to see how this trend can be halted or reversed.


Having said all that, even at its peak, Benambra's population barely exceeded 300.


We needed to look no further than our hosts in Benambra, Clive & Di Anderson, to see this demonstrated. Their families have been in Benambra for generations, both farming and providing transportation services; but they will be the last as none of their children have any interest in taking over from them.


Listening to them talk with such passion about the lives they have led, and still lead, one could hear their sadness that they would be the last generation of farmers in their family.



The official campsite in the Australian Alps National Park was lovely, situated on the banks of the Mitta Mitta river



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but, tempting though it was, we opted instead to stay in a much more secluded spot – also by the Mitta Mitta – on Clive & Di's farm.



My last meeting with the Mitta Mitta had been in 1990 when I'd been in Australia on a promotional visit and we'd spent a weekend white water rafting. I'm pretty sure that the river had been a lot fuller then.



The High country is famous for the beauty of its landscapes and Clive & Di's farm was no exception.


Despite the fact that the weather had now turned against us, the scenery surrounding us as we drove in was spectacular and I suggested to Di that I would love to come back and spend a week just photographing the landscapes.



Luckily for me, the clouds cleared for just long enough on our second day to allow me to venture out and capture some pictures of the wonderful countryside.



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and again in B&W


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It was only a brief respite though and by the next morning it had become ominously dark and cloudy.



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When we stopped in for morning coffee with Clive & Di on our way out I was intrigued to see the ingenious kennels Clive had created.



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Some lovely landscapes here including, the misty ones. Ingenious kennels too. Those were once very big trees.

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@@Soukous I'm so enjoying your report, thanks for taking the time. I know nothing about this part of Australia and I am interested to read about the High Country and to see it bought to life in your photos. The local festival looks like a big community day - I particularly like the photo of the ladies in their Akubras.

 

The scenery is amazing, the poplars along the river and the herefords brightening up the pasture are memorable.

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Tom Kellie

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~ @@Soukous

 

That's an especially lovely landscape. Like a storybook illustration except real.

As @@Treepol wrote, the poplars are stunning, both as to color and the sinuous effect of their following the river course.

I agree with @@wilddog that the hollowed out tree trunk kennels are unique and special — adaptive reuse in action.

Many thanks for sharing the beautiful landscape above with us.

Tom K.

Edited by Tom Kellie
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One of the bonuses of our stay with Clive & Di was that our campfire chats had convinced them that they should join Pat & I on safari in Africa in 2016.

So keen were they that even before I'd got back to Geelong, they had sent in their deposits. This pleased me greatly as they were two people I'd definitely enjoy spending more time with.

 

From Benambra we drove to Omeo and the start of one of Australia's ski regions.

 

The resorts of Dinner Plains and Mt Hotham were pretty deserted in the limbo season between summer sun and winter snow so we passed through with only a brief stop and turned south onto the Dargo High Plains Trail.

All around us we could see the devastation caused by rampant bush fires in 2003 that had wiped out 1.3 million hectares of forest.

As we pulled into Dargo and set up camp by the river we were hoping that a sky laden with heavy grey clouds would not dump down upon us.

 

Like Benambra, Dargo was a town with a hotel and a general store, and not much else.

 

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Despite that the accommodation at the hotel was fully booked and we spent an entertaining evening in the Dargo pub. The company of other travellers was quite a novelty and we discovered that the area around Dargo is very popular for cyclists.

 

From Dargo we drove south east and joined the coast at lakes Entrance, a very popular resort area. We scooted through there, following the main road as far as Cann River before turning south to enter the wonderfully named Croajingolong National Park. Our destination was Point Hicks, the spot where Captain Cook had first spotted Australia on 19th April 1770.

 

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This is what Wikipedia says about the lighthouse.

The lighthouse was built on the point during 1887 and 1888 and commenced operation in 1890,[2] built from concrete and with timber keepers quarters. It was connected to mains electricity in 1965, and then to solar power recently.[3] The keepers' cottages are today let as holiday houses.[4] At 37 metres (121 ft), it is the tallest lighthouse on Australia's mainland.[5] Its light characteristic is a double white flash every ten seconds, emitted from a focal plane height of 56 metres (184 ft) above sea level.

On 4 February 1971, the lighthouse and the headkeepers' and assistant keepers' quarters were listed as a place of regional significance on the precursor to the Victorian Heritage Register.[6]

 

 

We had booked to stay in the lighthouse keeper's cottages, right beside the lighthouse.

It was a pretty dramatic setting, on a rocky outcrop facing out over the Tasman Sea towards Tasmania.

 

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There are 2 cottages and each can sleep up to 8 people. We'd booked them both.

 

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Each cottage had a fully equipped kitchen and a wood burning stove, which we wasted no time in lighting.

 

After our first night under a roof for 7 days we spent the next day exploring the area. Some tried their hand at fishing on the seashore, others just enjoyed the fresh air and tranquility.

 

Of course we found time to climb the 900 odd steps to the top of the lighthouse.

 

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Crested Terns and Silver Gulls

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Crested tern

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Silver Gull

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Pacific Gull

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I'm moving. Clive and Di need a farmhand?

Or, i could hook warms on the coast. Bet Dargo Store would hire me.

 

@@Soukous what a terrific trip. Always wanted to go to Australia; had no idea of what anything REALLY looked like especially the high country. Does look unspoilt,

 

Love it. Thanks,glad you are back!

Edited by graceland
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@@Soukous thanks for the tip on Point Hicks lightkeepers cottages, these look wonderful.

 

The sea is very dramatic and the views certainly panoramic. Great photos of the crested terns.

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sorry for the delay on this TR - I've been a bit distracted by the iMfolozi Primitive Trail. It will get completed.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The morning of our departure from Point Hicks was marked by a significant change in the weather. The sky was dark and brooding, the wind was howling and the sea that had been so flat and calm the previous day was now being whipped up into a heavy swell topped by white breakers.

It was much more dramatic and much more what we had been expecting. There was a huge temptation to just put more wood on the stove and stay an extra day to embrace the storm.

 

Instead, we loaded up the cars and set off in search of blue skies and warmer weather.

We knew vaguely where we were headed but had no hard and fast plans. So much depended on the weather.

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We backtracked to Orbost and then turned north into the Snowy River National Park. Once again the scenery was marvellous.

 

Mal had worked in this area in 2003 when the fires raged through, causing so much devastation – 1.3 million hectares of forest destroyed and he was keen to see how well the region had recovered.

 

One of the famous landmarks we came to was McKillops Bridge.

McKillops Bridge is a road and live-stock bridge situated on the Bonang-Gelantipy Road across the Snowy River. The deck is 255 metres long.

The bridge was built by the Country Roads Board in two stages between 1931-36. The original bridge was washed away in record floods in 1934, before it had even been officially opened, and so it was reconstructed - significantly higher - using what could be salvaged of the original materials.

When you look at the bridge now, and see the level of the river it is almost impossible to imagine that the water level could rise enough to overwhelm this bridge. The amount of water must have been phenomenal.

 

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Snowy River NP

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We'd timed our trip so that we would miss the Easter school holidays. We were also mindful of the fact that from 01 April onwards fires were allowed in the camping areas.

As we drove through this breathtaking landscape we were on the lookout for a suitable camping site and hoped that the weather would give us a break. With the benefit go hindsight we would probably have been better off coming a couple of weeks earlier - even if it meant no fires.

 

We saw kangaroos, wombats, emus and even brumbies (wild horses), though they were all shy and elusive and stayed mostly hidden amongst the trees.

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In the huge fire of 2003 when 1.3 million hectares of forest were burned, this area lost 100,000 hectares to the fire in one day!!!!!!!!

 

Sadly for us, rather than improving, the weather took a turn for the worse and although there were some terrific camping spots by the Snowy River, none of us really fancied setting up camp and then sitting around our camp fire in the rain. So our day ended in Jindabine.

Located on Lake Jindabine, Jindabine is a summer resort for water sports and a gateway to Australia's ski region and the Snowy Mountains NP.

 

Judging by the temperature, we were much closer to winter than summer. Common sense prevailed and we checked into cabins by the lake.

Although they were dry and had real beds, it was disappointing to be thwarted in this way.

 

It probably sounds silly, but it is actually much easier to cook for a group of 9 people over a camp fire than on the crappy little gas stove in the cabin. We also had to contend with the fact that the cabins were not designed for entertaining and did not have sufficient space for 9 people to sit and dine comfortably.

 

With no improvement in the weather – quite the opposite in fact, we decided to stay an extra night and spend the day exploring the area.

Even the emus were looking miserable

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By the time we got into the Mt Kosciuzsko NP we found ourselves in a blizzard. Not only did this make it feel even colder but when we got to the top visibility was so poor we could see nothing.

 

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Back in Jindabine for the evening, we decided to try one of the local bars. We got lucky; not only was it Happy Hour but they also served free snacks as well. By the time we'd finished there we lacked the motivation to cook dinner in our cabin.

Edited by Soukous
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Thanks Soukous, you're descriptions and photos remind me why I need to head back into the mountains soon. Gorgeous country.

 

I don't think the Snowy river will ever get the flows back now since the construction of Lake Jindabyne.

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True. It really isn't my sort of thing but the Snowy Mountains Hydro project is a phenomenal achievement. It is hard to imagine current Australian governments being as far sighted or as committed to such a project.

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