Not quite white not quite Christmas

sn02Because this is Australia the ingeniously named Snowy Mountains are not perennially snowy. However, at the end of November I was not expecting to see so many chunks of frozen icy slush dotting the mountaintops. The snow gave distinction to the ranges, visible just after a picnic in Cooma with Caroline and a potato masher. And moving closer and climbing in altitude, it was possible to walk on a splodge of icy snow at Charlotte Pass, from where more white stuff was visible along the Main Range.

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I have walked from here to the top of Kosciuszko and back. But this was in past times when there was not so much to contend with along the trail. A short boardwalk through the snow gums with a view at the end was more fitting today, before turning round and heading back down to Jindabyne, by way of the famous Surge Tank.

sn03Jindabyne has always proven to be a bit of a pass-through town on the way to the higher mountains. But staying here for two nights offered the chance to explore many of the highlights of the town, including its TWO shopping precincts! While these provide sufficient eating and coffee opportunities, the highlight of Jindabyne is undoubtedly the expansive lake on which it sits. Part Canada, part Lake District, part Australia, it’s a haven for boat owner people and fishy types. But don’t let that put you off…there are also charming parklands and meandering pathways fringing the shore. Benches and picnic tables offer frequent recovery. From here you can watch morning mists hovering over a dead calm mirror, or bask later on in the afternoon warmth. Or live out the end of the day with never-ending hummus and laser red light.

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From Jindabyne the main road west narrows into the Thredbo Valley before topping out at Dead Horse Gap and plunging down towards Victoria. Thredbo itself is the closest thing Australia has to an alpine resort, nestled within the lower slopes of the steepening valley and generously adorned with A-Frame chalets and the promise of open fireplaces. In summer it seems to tick on over with a peppering of mountain bikers and day trippers. Many take the chairlift to Eagle’s Nest, either to plunge back down on two wheels or head to the top of Australia on two feet. We do neither, retreating from a strong and chilly wind for a ‘yummo’ hot chocolate.

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We did however have a nice amble back down alongside the Thredbo River, walking to the soundtrack of rushing water and buzzing flies. The water here is lovely and clear and pristine and in some ways reminds me very much of Dartmoor. I think it was the sound of the water more than anything that evoked such a scene, rather than the flies and gum trees and baking hot sun at the end of November.

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sn09Leaving the high mountains we drove a somewhat convoluted route back to Canberra to provide maximum adventure. First up was a brief pause at Dalgety, a tiny place perched alongside the Snowy River that could have been the capital of Australia. And they say Canberra is quiet! There must be like ten houses, a few cows, and a million flies. But it’s kinda cute nonetheless.

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sn10With the unforeseen temporary closure of the Snowy Hydro Visitor Centre in Cooma, a decision was made to proceed to Adaminaby for lunch instead. And what better way to lunch than next to a great big trout! This was indeed turning into a marvellous, sponteanous adventure and the best (or worst) was yet to come.

From Adaminaby the way back to Canberra is lonely, travelling a fair distance on dirt roads that are largely in decent shape, especially once crossing over the border into the affluent ACT. There are tiny signs pointing the way to the national capital and occasional homesteads in the midst of the bush. Bitumen returns somewhere in Namadgi National Park and there is a touch of relief, and the cherishing of smoothness. That is until a faint rattling develops into a shudder and a rumble and the front left tyre decides to give up on life. Wheel nuts are unmovable and phone reception is absent. What we need – in this scenario so typical of Neighbours when they go into the bush – are a couple of heroes with fluoro vests and a ute, with tools and an air of certainty that this, here today, is their fate. Not only to dislodge the wheel nuts but to do the whole service, to send us on our way back to civilisation with the minimum of fuss and no form of payment. This is what happens in Australia, and it makes me proud!

Australia Green Bogey Photography Walking

Sydney, reheated

In what seems a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away I had the pleasure of navigating the sprawling Greater Sydney system in the name of work. It was a long old week back in October, clocking up kilometres and road tolls, hanging out in suburban “Supa Centres”, seeking coffee and occasional cake. But stretching out far and wide, there were highlights, almost inevitably positioned next to water.

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mic03Almost inevitably (and positioned next to water), the first stop straight off the M5 was Coogee. A late afternoon to tread in the sand, sup coffee under a shady tree, and amble to Clovelly and back. Once all this arduousness had passed it was practically dinner time and so a fish and chip takeaway consumed in fading light alongside the beach made perfect sense.

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Moving across the city a little, my home for the week was a serviced apartment in Chippendale. Positioned near universities and fringing the south western side of the CBD, it was interesting to discover a little part of Sydney I have rarely frequented. A mixture of terraced, latticework houses on quiet streets and major thoroughfares bedecked with shops and cafes. Major thoroughfares to propel me north, south and west.

A Sunday initially spent working in the commercial blandness of Liverpool and Granville is hardly everyone’s cup of tea. Or indeed coffee, perhaps with two Krispy Kreme donuts from an outlet handily located next to Harvey Norman. More popular on a sunny, warm weekend is the ferry journey to Manly which – thanks to a cancelled appointment – filled the latter part of my day. The bustling ferry foretold a congested shoreline and Corso leading to the main beach. Even the frozen yogurt place had a lengthy queue, but I pluckily persevered.

mic05Moving away from the bronzed bodies beyond Shelly Beach, nature reclaimed the surrounds and people became a rarity. A walk up into North Head rewarded with solace and a refreshing breeze, before leading to a dose of beautiful harbourside discovery. Collins Beach provides the perfect exemplar of the bushland coves littering the shoreline of Sydney’s waters. Gems that make this part of the world exceedingly expensive. But walking here is free.

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Back in Manly, the harbourside shoreline was crammed with mostly beautiful people barbecuing, drinking, playing games and dressed to the nines in order to gain entry into supposedly exclusive bars. Tomorrow was a public holiday, and there was no need for them to stop. I, however, had places to go and random people to see.

Out in the north west of Sydney is The Hills District. Pennant Hills, Seven Hills, Baulkham Hills, Castle Hill, Quakers Hill, Adam Hills. Anyone would think it is hilly. Which it is a little, but not to the extent you’d expect given the generous use of hill nomenclature. Perhaps it’s a result of real estate marketing speak; add “Hills” to any suburb and it instantly becomes more desirable.

mic07Well it worked because plenty of people are being lured to the Hills via the Lane Cove Tunnel and M2 toll motorway. It’s heady mix of shopping malls, slightly more affordable housing, faith-based singing and pockets of bushland reserve offer something for everyone. The bushland is my favourite part – discovered one fresh morning in Cumberland State Forest. A tonic before heading to yet another Shopping Mega Centre for top secret work purposes.

The Hills may well be the new Shire. Probably because the Shire is so damn expensive these days, what with its many waterside inlets and easy-going, beautiful coastline. The undisputed jewel in the Shire, and apparently home to some team that won something in some code of ‘football’ recently, is Cronulla. What a fabulous beach, what an Australian dream, what a great way to start the day before heading off to nearby Caringbah for more shopping experiences.

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mic09Towards the end of my week criss-crossing the city I ended up in the North Shore and Northern Beaches of Sydney. Indeed my schedule fortuitously terminated in Warringah Mall. While Warringah unfortunately conjures up images of Tony Abbott in Speedos, it’s not all bad. A final interview is finished and I can clock off and drive to nearby Curl Curl beach on a Friday afternoon. I can lie on a towel and try to doze, but become restless and go for a stroll up onto a headland. I can feel relief that the intense week is over and I can start to add up my road toll expenses. I can make plans for dinner at one of my favourite places in Bondi. And I can head home tomorrow, replenished by these opportunities to occasionally exist beside the water.

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Australia Green Bogey Photography Walking