Snowy Mountains, and the demise of planning

Kosciuszko View

With 2 weeks festive rest behind me I was back on the road, this time heading south with a much clearer idea of where I was going. In just over a week the next paragliding licence course would be starting in Bright and there was nowhere I’d rather be then, but for now I had a few days to enjoy the trip down and explore what promised to be some awesome landscape.

My first target was Australia’s highest mountain – Mt Kusciosko – and I was so intent on getting to it that I drove pretty much straight from Sydney, completely bypassing Canberra (I know some people wouldn’t blame me, but surely the capital must be worth a visit), although I almost ended up in the Capital anyway after taking a wrong turn out of Queanbeyan. Before Queanbeyan, I’d had the interesting drive along the edge of Lake George, spending 15 miles of driving looking out across a 5 mile wide plain filled with farmland, looking down at the map at where there clearly was marked a fairly big lake. Turns out it’s pretty rare for it to ever hold any water. Through Cooma, I was soon in Jindabyne, the eastern gateway to the Snowy Mountains, turning onto the Charlotte Pass road for Mt Kusciosko. The drive to Charlotte Pass was a pretty unrelenting ascent towards the clouds, so much so that for a while I seriously hoped the road might ascend in and maybe even through the clouds that shrouded the lofty peaks. That didn’t quite happen though, and when I reached the end of the road at Charlotte Pass at the slightly late-in-the-day-for-a-long-walk-time of 4pm, I embarked on a slightly optimistic 18km return hike to the summit anyway. 5Km and many more photos later, I reached Seaman’s Hut – a bothy built in memory of an American guy who lost his life on the hill – and took a welcome breather from the cool weather. With its slightly buttressed walls and double entrance doors, the bothy felt as though it could withstand a nuclear winter – I chose to use it to shelter from much more mundane conditions for half an hour while I read some of the guest book entries then, resigned to the fact that if I walked any further I’d be doing the return trip in the dark, headed back to the car-park.

Charlotte's Pass

Charlotte’s Pass lays claim to having recorded the lowest temperature in mainland Australia, at something around -20C, and true to that title my night in the car did push the limits of warmth of my duvet. Next morning I headed back through the densest fog I’ve ever tried to drive through to Jindabyne and headed west on the Snowy Mountains Road, stopping in the picturesque mountain village of Thredbo for some photos of the mist burning off the higher slopes. After Thredbo, I had an awesome drive along 40 miles of unrelentingly winding road through the heart of the Alpine National Park to ????, stopping on the way at some viewpoints looking back across the ranges that I tried to conquer yesterday as well as part of the Snowy Mountains hydro scheme – supplying apparently 11% of Australia’s electricity.

Lake Hume

Out of the mountains and into Victoria for the first time, I headed to Tallangatta, a town that literally moved to avoid drowning under the rising waters of Lake Hume, and checked my car in for a road-worthy test the next day. I wasn’t far from Albury-Wodonga so headed round the lake towards the border-town and found a rest area near the lake that seemed like it would be good for the sleeping in that night. The rest area is beside a spit of land that extends for a mile or so out into the lake – a popular spot with fishers and folks who want to go for a swim. Driving along the shore of the spit I learned a few important lessons: the soil is a tad damp and slippy, demonstrated expertly by my car slowly crabbing towards the water; and my car is rear-wheel-drive, demonstrated by my accelerating only making the back of the car edge even closer to the water. For a moment, I thought I was going to have to get someone to drag my car out of the water but I lucked out and decided to keep the car back up in rest area after that.

The next morning I was back in Tallangatta, via a quick run up to the lookout, to get my car through the road-worthy test. And in one cursory glance, the mechanic threw all my plans for January out the window and told me to save the money on the road-worthy test and get rid of the car: it was that bad. 5 minutes of pondering the fact that all my worries about the condition of the car I bought were true gave way to agreeing that the mechanic was right and that the only thing left to do was get rid of it. Figuring that the market for second-hand-not-so-road-worthy cars in Bright wouldn’t be overly buoyant, I put the town – and my dream of flying – on hold for at least a month by heading back to the Hume Highway and dropping Kevin a line to say that later that day, I’d be parking up beside his house in Melbourne.