11 Days ago Chris and I were still in Blighty, NSW. Being our last weekend there, it was pretty busy and non-stop. We cleaned our wee farm house top to bottom, squeezed all our belongings into our campervan, and said our goodbyes to friends, work colleagues, the dogs, cats, and cows. And after 6 months of working and living in the same place, just like that, we were gone. To be honest I was too excited about the thought of travelling again to feel too sad about leaving! And it didn’t take long to used to campervan living again. Once I got used to the colder living conditions, it was like I’d never stopped!
We left Blighty and headed towards Tocumwal, a little town on the Murray River. From here we drove towards Albury, following the winding river that separates Victoria and New South Wales. When we got to a town called Muwala I was hit with the view of a lake. Littered all over the lake were the stumps of old, dead trees, coming out of the water. In a way it was very interesting and unusual looking. My picture doesn’t do it justice!
When we reached Albury we had the annoyance of having to get our van fixed. The joys of having a vehicle! For the past week the van had been ‘jerking’ as we accelerated up through the gears. We were pretty worried but it turned out to only be a small problem. Easily fixed, but still $150.
I have no idea if the mechanic ripped us off or not. But he seemed like a nice guy, chatted away to us, and advised we check out the Hume Dam before leaving Albury. The Hume Dam is a major dam across the Murray River, and since it’s where we got our water supply from while living on the farm, I thought it would be good to check out. It turned out to be a nice area with a large lake. So we spent the afternoon there, had a picnic, and took some photos and time lapses.
Leaving Albury behind we drove towards Khancoban, the last town before entering the Snowy Mountains. Without really planning to we made our way there driving along minor and sometimes unsealed roads, avoiding the highways and main roads. And we couldn’t have made a better decision.
As I’ve said before, sometimes I feel unsure about whether or not I should be spending time traveling in Australia, sometimes I would rather be somewhere else, somewhere I feel more passionate about. But from this point on in the road trip something changed and I started to see Australia differently. I’d never realised that there was such a variation of scenery in Australia and that the landscape could change so much and at times be so beautiful.
We drove slowly along little winding roads, first through bush land surrounded by trees, then through extremely picturesque farmland with lush, green, rolling hills and nice houses, and finally on to a flatter, more sparse landscape with the view of snow capped mountains ahead.
When we arrived in Khancoban we had a quick look around. It was a small place with not much more than a general store, an I site, and holiday parks. It was from here that we planned to start the Alpine Highway, a route that lead through the snowy mountains, past Thredbo Ski Village, Mount Kosciuszko (Australia’s highest mountain), and finishing at Jindabyne.
Approaching the highway we came across sign after sign warning that snow chains must be carried. This was really frustrating. We were pretty sure that the snow chains wouldn’t actually be needed and most likely we wouldn’t get pulled over by the police. But then again there was always that small chance that you might and if you don’t have any chains, there’d be a massive fine. So reluctantly we called into a petrol station and paid $30 to hire chains we wouldn’t need.
We set off on the drive climbing up steeply into the mountains. When we reached the highest point of the road, Dead Horse Gap, we were met with snow. It must have been a while since any fresh snow had fallen as the road was clear, but on each side, was glistening white snow piled up amongst the trees. It was beautiful, it reminded me of European or American ski areas only with Australian indigenous trees. We stopped at a rest area where some kids were sledging down a hill and an older couple was building a snowman. Chris was acting like an old man, not too eager to get out in the snow, worried his feet would get wet, so I threw snow balls at him.
We drove on to Thredbo, one of the bigger ski fields in Australia, maybe even the biggest. When we entered the little town I thought the place had an awesome vibe. We drove through little narrow winding streets with houses and apartments perched here, there and everywhere. People were milling around holding skis and snowboards, waiting for courtesy buses to take them to the chairlifts. And the face of the mountain was right in front of us; lots of runs divided up by trees, similar to a European resort, and some of them looked a decent steepness too!
A lot of people had told me not to bother snowboarding in Aus, especially when I was used to New Zealand. But to me this place looked just as good, if not better than a lot of places I’d been in NZ! But it was not to be. Chris and I had already decided the cost was too much; we wanted to save our cash for other things, and the snow was probably crap (I kept telling myself that). So we got a beer, enjoyed the view, and then reluctantly moved on.It was a bit of a flying visit through the snowy mountains. Unfortunately in winter there’s not much to do other than ski. During the summer you can go hiking, mountain biking, catch the chair lift up to the top of Mount Kosciuszko. It would be an awesome place to visit.
But we left, happy to have experienced a tiny bit of Australian’s mountains and ready to hit the East Coast.