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Published: December 2nd 2015
After leaving Canberra the Snowy Mountains were to be our next adventure. We headed straight for the town of Cooma where we found a great campsite. Here we were allowed to check out whenever we wanted to and there was free internet near reception. We took full advantage of these two things and left very late the next day.
In our tourist information we came across the Yarrangobilly Caves which looked interesting. These were about two hours away from Cooma so we headed there. We passed through the town of Adaminaby where we wanted to withdraw some cash. This proved impossible as, despite choosing to purchase a giant trout sculpture, the residents of the town hadn't found it necessary to invest in an ATM. We drove on, hoping that everywhere would accept cards as we had little cash.
The road got steeper and the trees more stunted and bare as we entered the Snowy Mountains National Park. Soon there was a whole forest of white trees with no leaves on either side of the road. The roadside was red and rocky and the only other colour besides the bright blue of the sky was the almost glowing bright yellow
of the road markings. Every few kilometres were signs indicating the wintry nature of the area: "slippery when frosty" and "chain fitting bay" were the most notable. We came to a sign-post for the Yarrangobilly Caves but decided to leave it until morning. Instead we continued down the highway until we reached Yarrangobilly Village - once a small mining community that even had a post office, now a single, isolated, deserted house at the bend of a river. The road bridged the river on the bend. The only other sign that the area had an inhabited past was a rusting steam engine by the banks of the river.
We pulled up next to the rushing river and parked the van. Our only facilities were a picnic table, a fire pit and a long drop. I tried to use the pit to light a fire but the charcoal was wet and it had started raining. In the end I had to cook our steaks and mealies on the gas stove. After a delicious dinner, only marginally diminished by the plague of flies around us, we took a walk down the river as the sun was going down. We walked as
far as we could taking in the beautiful scenery. Eventually it was too dark, and the swam of flies too thick, to continue, so we turned around. As we turned we saw a small group of kangaroos behind us. A pair of them were boxing... probably fighting over the female behind them. I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of those fists.
When we returned to the van we started poring over a map of New Zealand as we needed to start planning the next leg of our trip. After a few minutes we looked out and saw that the sky had turned an amazing shade of red and the distant hills looked like they were on fire. We grabbed our cameras and leapt out to take some pictures before the light faded. Afterwards, we came back in the dark and had hot chocolate with marshmallows under a starry sky.
We woke after a fitful night's sleep due to the chilly temperatures. Our cold was soon forgotten though as a hot sun rose over our camp. We headed back to the caves which were six kilometres off the main road, down another bone jolting unsealed road.
The views from this track down steep gullies were impressive.
We arrived at the visitor's centre and found that a special tour was about to start. We rushed inside to pay and then drove down to the cave to join the group who had been waiting a while for us. Our guide was a cheerful stocky woman. She led us down a path, warning us about snakes and telling us about native plants including a rosemary bush with leaves that smelt of curry and a raspberry bush. We reached the dark entrance to the caves and were led down into a completely different world.
Before us were limestone formations jutting down from the roof of the cave. The space was relatively small but included impressive formations such as thin straws and a ribbon of stone. At the back, through a narrow aperture we saw a small pool of still water amidst the rocks. The guide leisurely told us about the formation of the cave's features. We were with quite a rowdy group of "cotton-tops" as my cotton-topped mum would call them. The atmosphere was fun though.
After the tour we had to drive all the way back
around the one way system to get back to the visitor's centre. From there we could then drive to the thermal pool car park. We walked down an extremely steep hill, dreading the climb back up. Out of breath, we reached the pool of beautiful turquoise water from the hot spring and quickly went to get changed. We had a good swim in the warm waters, watched by the cotton-tops. Part way up the tough climb back up the hill we came across a black snake. We froze and it soon slithered off. We breathed a sigh of relief and said, as all Aussies do... "At least it wasn't a brown one!" We got to the top of the hill, completely breathless and collapsed into the van.
We drove back over the Snowy Mountains Highway again. We had had the vain hope of getting to the South Coast that evening but it was too late and we were tired so we stopped for another night in Cooma. I really loved the Snowy Mountains. The scenery was gorgeous and it felt so relaxed. Sadly, we didn't get to see Australia's tallest mountain, Mount Kosciusko which is in the area. I
would love to go back to experience some more.
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