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Published: December 13th 2017
Geo: -36.4151, 148.619
Road trip around the Snowy Mountains....27thDec08-3rd Jan09
Sydney - Bowral
First things first in order to go on a road trip you need wheels so I booked a car rental two and half months ago, I am so organized at times I make myself sick....
Sydney is all e-tolls these days so we registered the car online and planned to head south by the Sydney tunnel, but it turns doing this requires prior knowledge. We see the signs for the tunnel and the bridge one on top of the other, ok so far so good, the one on top is for the tunnel which implies left lane hand lane, ok so far not so good because it's the right hand lane and by the time you realize it's too late to switch!
So over the bridge we go, ok lets head for the airport, we follow the airport signs and they cease just at the point where you can go around in a circle, ok circle complete, head off the correct direction but seem to have missed any highways that would bypass the (awfully dull) Parramatta Road and drive through many suburbs, of course I can't see any of these places on the map, I go blind if there's any unexpected directions to be done especially if there's a possibility of raised voices in the car. After a swift pull in and map check by the driver it turns out we were on the correct road and so we continue towards Liverpool and Campbelltown until we get to Bowral in the Southern Highlands (Google maps says it take l hour 37mins presumably via the badly signed tunnel) where we had arranged to call into some friends. Of course I didn't have a Bowral map and finding the house took another 30 minutes, ahem.
Bowral - Bredbo - Cooma
Sometime later we continued our journey on the Hume highway, Cooma here we come and no more getting lost from here on out. Highway a bit dull but once we got to the junction to-not-to-go-Canberra the terrain was fairly interesting. Had dinner in tiny little place called Bredbo, literally a one horse town or in this case one bar town where we were served, wait for it, veggie burgers and chips, hurray for progressive Bredbo. Many cowboy types in the bar - seemed very authentic.
Got to Cooma an hour later to check into the even more authentic 'Royal Hotel' which has basically fairly cheaply priced rooms above a quite nice rustic bar, just rooms mind no B&B. The room had a short double bed, a brown plywood wardrobe and matching dressing table, stool, plug in heater, curtains and a bare bulb central light, and that's it, unusual not to have lightshade or even a bedside light, no? We even had our very own pet stick insect, very strange bug. But it was clean and comfortable even if the shared bathrooms were like school ones, complete with boys and girls only signs.
The banter down in the bar was much more interesting than the décor upstairs, which was half the reason we booked there - for the craic as we'd say in Ireland - and the building itself was a gorgeous old heritage one, especially nice on the outside, complete with balcony the width of a two lane road. It was originally built by a James Hain in 1858, who seemed to have had a hand in building the entire street we were on -'Lambie St'. The other clientele in the bar were: a guy from King Island, which is between Tasmania and Victoria; A very patronizing couple from Paddington in Sydney - you should have heard them talk to the King Island guy, thought they were real city slickers and expected him to know the whole 1600 population of King Island, "cause it's like an island, man", but not before they ignorantly proclaimed "where the hell is that" and were all disappointed he wasn't a local which they assumed just because he was wearing a wide brimmed leather hat. - Then they announced to the barman they were vegetarians who ate fish and where could they eat, this is the point we stayed very very quiet, imagine being stuck with them all night, eek; The other patron's were three bikers from Melbourne with whom we ended up drinking 'stubbies' with on the road-size balcony till the small hours. The barman called Ian was very accommodating and ordered pizza for the men and paid the delivery guy and just put it on their tab at the end of the night.
Next morning saw us in the very nice 'The Lott' café for breakfast, good food, nice venue, décor, deli, menu, emmmm the lot in fact. It was a lovely balmy 24 degrees; saw in the paper it was 30 degrees in Sydney, hurray. After calling into the lovely helpful people at the tourist office, we checked out the memorial to those who perished in a plane named 'the southern cloud' that crashed in the mountains 1931 and was not discovered until 1958, this is a big country. Imagine the closure, as they say on T.V., those peoples families got all that time later.
3km outside Cooma town is the Mount Gladstone lookout where one can get a great view of the mountains and nice sun-burnt arms if one wasn't careful, ahem.
The new NSW Lonely Planet recommended a village 35 odd km away Nimmitabel for coffee, but as usual with the declining standard of the LP it was no longer true as the place had gone out of business and the bakery coffee shop had awful watery coffee, but it did have a gaudy Asian garden complete with a giant elephant. In fairness it is a nice village and we saw the house of one of the two original Greek settlers in Oz, Jigger Bulgary who had numerous children and was naturally married to a woman from Cork (Ireland). They seemed very proud of this and had loads on ancient brightly painted farm equipment on display, all these gems may not be noticeable if you didn't stop off there as a highway runs though it - one of those side of the road villages. So that's (In)Nimmitabel - elevation 1070m.
Back in Cooma we hit centennial park - a green that was once a swamp - to see the 28 flags of all the nationalities who worked on the Snowy Hydro scheme (will explain later) and mosaics of life in the Snowies, and of course we saw statue of the infamous man from Snowy river himself Banjo Paterson, Australian Bush poet. Dinner was Chinese as everywhere else seemed to be shut for summer holidays, good old Chinese no holidays for them and they even had tofu for the vegetarians.
Back up at the Royal we whiled away the evening with an honest to goodness 'swag man' from all over who told us all kinds of tall tales and loved 'Slim Dusty' - has all 28 (or something) albums.
The last morning after a return trip to 'The Lott' we went to Snowy Hydro information centre to find out all about the 7th wonder of the engineering world, and what a wonder. I think as Cooma is "the gateway to the Snowies" it should be mandatory to call in here and get the big picture, a lot of the rest of the trip involves looking at dams which as it turns out was oddly fascinating. To cut a long story short the electricity generated in the Snowies not only transmits all over NSW and Victoria but as far west Adelaide and as far north as Brisbane, now that is impressive.
Lunch was 80km away in Serge's in Jindabyne, who is a real French man and who charges 20c extra for skim milk and red sauce (see, told you he was French). We were going to be based in 'Jindy' for the next three nights and would see the New Year in here too. In typical Aussie fashion there was no check in until 3pm, even off peak, so we took ourselves off to the manmade lake - under which the original Jindabyne is submerged - and then to one of the afore mentioned dams, where the scenery was lovely and the sun was splitting the rocks and there was a giant rock shaped like a park bench, coincidence? I don't think so, could have lounged there all day.
Back at the hotel 'Banjo Paterson's Inn' our room was in fact lovely with a spa bath and had an extra 2 beds in the loft for some reason, I guess skiing groups need that kind of accommodation (yes in another season one can ski in Australia - they can seed the clouds to make snow), although the daily cleaning service in Banjo's left a lot to be desired. Dinner amazingly was Persian in an award winning (no less) restaurant called 'Darya's'. Didn't meet anyone very interesting as we were back in tourist land, so loads more bores like ourselves.
Thredbo - Alpine Way - Khancoban - Cabramurra - Adaminaby
Next day 30th Dec. we hooked up with our friend who is travelling around Oz and who we had arranged to meet in Jindy. It was our only dull/rainy day so after lunch in Banjo's (more veggie burgers) we headed off towards Thredbo to start the Alpine Way drive, which is Oz's answer to the 'Ring of Kerry' only less scenic and a bit eerie as you are half way up a burnt out mountain (due to forest fires from 2003) and near the clouds. But there were many funnily named places to stop at like Dead Horse Gap, Scamell's spur lookout, Smiggin holes and Tom Groggin where kangaroos come up to the car to look at you. Sadly the Alpine Way 105km doesn't go in a loop so rather that drive back through high land and therefore clouds we kept going in what ended up being a ring of most of the snowy mountains past Khancoban and up to Australia's highest town Cabramurra and via ghost town Kiandra and down through Adaminaby with its giant trout (giant things are big here, pardon the pun) and down the opposite side of the start of the journey back into Jindabyne, which only about took about 7 hours but sure we saw a bit of countryside, don't know if our mate was as into driving around in a giant circle as us though! It was much sunnier than up above and we even killed a low flying cockatoo, by accident I hasten to add.
Cabramurra at 5pm is a spookily quiet weird place with all the dead grey trees and not a soul in sight, could easily be the site of a horror movie, am thinking 'Wickerman'.
After a freshen up back at the Banjo ranch in Jindabyne we had nice Italian food in a restaurant called 'Angie's' and got ourselves invited to an Italian New Years Eve party the next night.
Charlottes' Pass - Thredbo - Mount Kosciusko
New years eve 2009 dawned a bright sparkly 24 degree day so we figured this was the day to climb Australia's highest mountain Mount Kosciusko 2228m - pronounced Kozzyosco but coincidently we read in an unrelated book it is really pronounced in Kosh-chew-sko as it's a Polish name, the guy who first climbed it named it after a Polish general he admired - but not before we drive over to the very rocky looking Charlottes Pass named after the first woman to traverse the pass. We could have climbed up to the summit from Charlottes pass for 18km but decided to do it from Thredbo side for 12km where you get the ski lift first (presumably covering the initial/end 6km) and then do the 12km round trip tromp to the top on a metal walkway which was a bit strange but at least it protected the not that impressive alpine flowers. The temperature dropped to 4 degrees up there and the wind was pretty wild as we got to the top, there was even a tiny bit of snow there, so the last leg of the inward journey and the first leg of the outward journey were pretty bloody blustery. It's so well organized though by the National Parks people there are self cleaning toilets at the 4km point which judging by the queues were very astutely placed. So we spent New Years' Eve day on 'Australia's rooftop' and met people on the way up to camp for the night there, apparently it's not very pleasant but I guess if you are not from a cold country there is some novelty value in it, personally I'd prefer to poke my eye out with a rusty nail.
NYE in Jindabyne
Back down in Jinders, as we were now calling it, after spa baths and what have you, we had our Italian end of year supper in Angie's and went to the restaurant's after party as invited, where we were asked if we wanted to open a tab, errr.... invited....party...tab.... very odd, so we made our excuses after one drink and left to see in the new year in Banjo's. New Years countdown is always a letdown for me, even anti climatic, and I am here to tell you that from Jobstown (not that I really know) to Jindabyne it's the exact same, watching drunkards snogging. So the three us headed up to our balcony to lay into the 'veuve cliquot', send $6 texts and people watch.
Adaminaby - Kiandra - Cabramurra - Tumbrarumba
New Year's Day we went our separate ways after a last coffee in tight-arse Serge's as our friend had plans in Sydney and we were headed for a rodeo in Tumbarumba or Tumba-bloody-rumba as the LP says it's called in a song. It was a fairly long drive up there via Adaminaby, Kiandra & Cabramurra again. It turned out Kiandra was once a gold rush town population 10,000 complete with a school of the arts in the 1800's but now all that remains is the gable of one building as the whole place was razed to the ground by fire. Cabramurra at lunchtime is a far cry from Cabramurra at tea time, it was positively normal and served our now staple Snowies meal -veggie burgers- and the post office was open for business in Adaminaby, surely it's a public holiday today? After checking out some new dams and giant electricity pylons we stopped at the lovely 'Paddy's falls' before getting to Tumba where the whole town was at the rodeo including the B&B owners who had changed the name from what was printed in the LP and had a café out front stuffed to the gills with Teddy bears. Bizarre.
So there was nothing for it but go to the rodeo where they took pity on our foreignness and gave us a discount I think of $10 - $30 instead of $40 for two. The rodeo was great craic and my hero was Sheeree O'Donoghue a lasso toting cow girl and very good she was too. The contestants were mainly American, Canadian, Kiwi's and Aussies, with the locals actually being the worst bar Sheeree of course. So there was mainly lassoing and bull riding and it really was enthralling, not to mention all the ZZ top hopefuls in attendance. Unsurprisingly there was no 'vego' food in Rodeo land and we saw our first TV in a week in our cute log cabin b&b room and watched a show about lesbians in Alice Springs, why I do not know, when I say b&b there was no breakfast thrown in you had to buy that at the teddy bear café which was nice bar the dimmed witted young waitress (which is common enough here though).
Afternoon 2 spent doing 12km of the 400+km Hume & Hovell walking track from Harry Angel flats to Tumbarumba falls, a truly fantastic way to spend 4 or 5 hours. Then an hours' drive through lovely evening light to Adelong via appley Batlow which has giant bowl of carved fruit in the centre of town (told you giant is big here).
Stayed in the Beaufort boutique hotel in Adelong, which was Austrian themed and had named the bedrooms after European cities, the star one being unsurprisingly Vienna and ours was of course was Dublin complete with 18th century original lithographs of College Green and the Clondalkin tower and somewhere in Northern Ireland. I am presuming the rooms were named after where they could get some antiques from, as it wasn't all capitals and there were two Italian cities and yet no Hungarian ones which you'd kind of expect with Austrian. The others were Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Florence, Venice, Prague, London and Paris and we were the only guests so had the run of the place. There was also a restaurant which only did evening meals on Friday and Saturday and as it was a Friday night we partook in some nice vegetarian Austrian fare, none of which we encountered on our honeymoon in the real Vienna. I never did find out what was with the Austrian thing as Cynthia, the owner, told me she was from Sydney. Still would recommend it to anyone.
Outside the town were some very interesting waterfalls and gold mining ruins/paraphernalia.
Hume Highway - Bowral - Camden - Sydney
We broke the long journey 'home' up the Hume highway well after Goulburn in a lovely café owned by the 'Do duck inn' b&b and then we were back in our mates in Bowral by 3pm, looking at their chooks (very current here) and went up to their helicopter hangar in Camden where we had $500's worth of chopper spin for free. Immensely enjoyable trip all round and after 2135km we were back to base and ready for 2009, kinda.
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