Jindabyne, Australia (9th Jan 2008)
After another early start we left Lakes Entrance at sunrise to make our way along the Snowy River to get to Jindabyne, crossing the border from Victoria over to New South Wales along the way. We had an interesting drive along a very narrow dirt road up a steep hill. We spent a lot of the journey looking at how close the wheels of the bus were to the edge of the hill, but we also saw some lovely views, lots of wildlife & native plants all of which the guide knew about in great detail and really impressed us, since usually he was just been stupid. It was around 11am when we rolled into town and by then everyone was ready for getting off the bus as the two guys who were running the tour had continued their trend for the day before of playing banjo music and various 80's anthems. Jindabyne is a quaint little place that you could imagine in a story book; it is sat just from the base of the mountains and has its own beautiful lake. The town itself comprised of a few little shops, café's a huge Safeway and very little else.
As the bus came to a stop in the heart of the town we were told we had about half an hour to get ourselves some dinner and then we had to be back to the bus so we could get on with the day's activities. First on the list, for those who were interested was Hot Dogging; now despite what you might think this particular kind of dogging doesn't involve shady car parks and random sexual encounters. In actual fact it is similar to a banana boat; a huge inflatable tided to the back of a 350 horse power boat that fly's across the lake zig-zagging until you fall off into the lake. This sounded like a good crack to us both but due to the horrendous sunburn that Mark still had, he sat out on this occasion. Kara on the other hand with two of the others, Jonny and Sam went straight into the water and onto the "Hot Dog" and had a brilliant time, zipping along screaming and shouting and inevitably flying off more than once.
Next for our day of Adventure was a 10 kilometre hike up Mount Kosciuszko, the highest point in Australia, in the heart of Kosciuszko National Park and the Snowy Mountains. It was a strange drive to the base of the trek, as we went through several of the ski resorts on the way, but without any snow there was an eerie atmosphere to the area, with only a few people out beginning the preparation for the snowfall. It was very odd seeing the runs without any snow on the as well, as it really brings home the fact that people are often skiing over bloody big rocks, small trees and all sorts of plants, even the road we were driving along normally become part of a run when the snow does come.
When we got to the car park, and the start of the trek we stopped at the sign reading "Charlotte Pass - Elevation 1835M", close by to where we were starting was the early stages of what becomes The Snowy River at the base of the ascent. The trodden down make shift path passed some huge rock formations and climbed steadily into the distance and toward the top of the mountain. After a couple of Kilometres in the baking heat and being surrounded by literally hundreds of flies we gave in; the guide had said you can go as little or as far as you like so we took him up on the offer and retired early, although not first, so we didn't feel too bad. The heat and flies we just too much for us and with Marks bad sunburn getting irritated by the sun beating down we think it was the wise choice and little did we know until the group returned, probably not a bad idea, as they were all complaining saying it was rubbish at the top anyway and is much smaller than many of the New Zealand Alps which hopefully we might get round to seeing? They had also hoped for a bit of snow on the top but to no avail!
Realizing that now we were turning back, we still had to make our way back down to the valley bottom and back up the other side to where the mini bus was parked! The first part of the journey towards the bottom passed by quickly enough as reached the snowy river and on to the level ground again. It was here that the walk began to take on a whole new level of drudgery as the road flattened out and continued down the featureless path with what seemed like more flies than ever before. After what seemed like an eternity we rounded a corner and could see the end of the path that would soon lead us straight back to our mini bus and the comfort of being able to get some air con and away from the damn flies.
Once back on the main road we took another entrance back into the national park and drove along the Alpine Way for a short while until we came to Thredbo. The whole town sits at the base of the mountains and during the winter the place is rammed as it is one of the most popular and well known 'ski in, ski out' resorts in Australia where the chair lifts start just at the back of town. At this time of year though there were very few people about apart from the few that were manning the local shops in the town and cleaning up the tumbleweed that would otherwise blow across the street.
By tea time we managed to finally get back to the hotel we were staying in for the night and we were so happy with the place and we even managed to bag a double bed, while Jonny and Sam got the bunk bed in our four person room. The rooms where all pretty basic but at least they had an en suite and a patio out the back which was only a few feet away from the gorgeous lake. We had about an hour and a half before we were due to eat our tea so we made use of the sauna and swimming pool as it may be a while till we get another chance. We had the option of either a chicken schnitzel or a steak that you cooked yourself on the grill/BBQ and although the steak cost a lot more after ordering a schnitzel Mark was gutted when he saw everyone else making some real nice looking steaks and regretted it instantly. The rest of our night involved some terrible pool playing and a few more cheap drinks before finally getting back to hotel for one of the best sleeps for a long time.