Backpacking Pensioners travel blog

The Dog on the Tucker Box Five Miles from Gundagai

From the lookout at Gundagai

The old historical bridges at Gundagai

Blowering Reservoir in the Snowey Mountains

Lunch time entertainment

The path down to the Yarrongbilly Cave

The Glory Hole Cave entrance

The Thermal Pool

Looking for a platypus

Real Australian snow


Coffee time

The platypus reserve at Bombala

Spot the platypus

There he is

Leaving the platypus reserve


Last night I was let out on my own and walked the short distance into town for a few provisions and found I could still pull the birds. As I walked by the river on my way back the moorhens, ducks and a couple of black swans swam towards me. When they realised I was not going to share my loaf of bread they left; story of my life.

This morning the first task is to visit the Jayco Dealer and have a new 'wind up' cover fitted over the shower/toilet area. Tonight it will be warmer at my side of the bed. At first I hadn't known where the wind was coming from but I knew where it was going.

At Jayco we caused amusement when they discovered our home address was at the big factory of Jayco at Dandenong. This is the address for the road tax as we don't have an address in Australia. Once this was sorted we walked into town and headed for the shopping centre where I knew there was a 'Gloria Jeans' coffee shop; definitely one of the up market chain shops. On our way we past a 'barber's'; it is Monday morning and he was free. Queanbeyan is famous as the home of one of our favourite rugby union players, David Campesie. It is now famous as only one of three places I have had a hair cut in Australia. Barbara, my hair dresser in Coupar Angus told me to ask for a 5 on top and a 3 on the back. I now need to change my name from Jeff to Shaun.

After coffee we called in at the local tourist office to check on the weather forecast and road conditions for the Snowy Mountains. The interested sprightly local volunteer told us he was taking his wife to New Zealand to celebrate their wedding anniversary of 60 years. You would not have guessed this man as 80 year old. The much younger full time worker phoned the Cooma office and learned the roads were clear and snow is expected on Thursday and Friday. This news allows us to visit and view the Snowy's.

A phone call alerted us our van was ready and waiting, and we were soon on our way to see some more of Australia before they kick us out. We travelled back to Canberra and had no trouble in going through the centre and north along the Barton Highway for 31 miles before turning left, (west) along the Hume Highway towards Gundagai, our stop for the night which is another 59 miles away.

There is a very catchy song written about Gundagai which we enjoy singing along to. In the 1850's the bullock driver, Bill the Bullocky, (original eh!), had a very bad morning and on giving up, and going for his dinner he found his dog was 'sitting on top of his tucker box'. This caused a lot of merriment for the other people; well they didn't have the telly in those days. The phrase in the song goes, "Where the dog sits on the tucker box, 9 miles from Gundagai". And the dog does, although there is some dispute whether the event happened 5 or 9 miles away.

We visited Bill the Bullocky café and took photographs of the statue of the dog before driving on to Gundagai, where we first went up the steep road to a lookout before going to our camp site for the night. Although this camp was a member of the Family Parks chain it was not up to standard, and the manager was surly. We wished we had chosen the River Side caravan park; still it is only for one night and we have all the facilities we want along with us in our van.

Tuesday; Sylvia used the internet in the local library whilst I visited the GP and paid another £24 just to get a doctor to write my repeat prescription for indigestion tablets; then I paid another £16 for one months supply. At least the doctor gave me a prescription which will last for 5 months. I collected Sylvia and we went for a coffee. We could have saved a lot of money over the months, making our own coffee in the motorhome, but we would not have been sat at a pavement table outside a bakery.

Our journey took us to Tumut and then along the Snowy Mountain Highway towards Cooma. Lunch was eaten by one of the 10 reservoirs which provide hydro power and drinking water for Sydney. The water level was well down and much rain is needed in the catchments. Lunch time entertainment was provided by a large group of kangaroos.

After passing signs stating you must carry snow chains, (it is not going to snow until Thursday), and we carried on over this hill and came to the turn off for the Yarrangobilly Caves. The road down to the caves was 5 miles long, unsealed, with steep drops along side for a good part of the route; and no chance to turn back. How unusual!

We arrived at 3.15pm and the last guided tour had left at 3pm, so we paid for the do it your self tour in the Glory Hole Cave. First we walked about 550 yards along a cliff hugging path which had guard rails and entered the cave. The first big cavern held just about everything you wanted to see in cave decoration. This was quite a wet cave. Our path took us back the way we had come but on the inside of the mountain. We walked along decking, up and down rough hewn rock steps and also some metal ones, dodged the roof drips and eventually emerged not far from the car park. It had been a good experience and we were sorry we would not be about to explore more of these caves.

The Glory Hole cave was discovered in 1834 and is the largest cave at Yarrangobilly open to the public. The information plaque informed the cave is probably less than 100,000 years old and was formed by a stream which is burrowing away below. The large caverns all have rock falls which have left the traditional A Frame roof, and the large fall in the entrance left a hole open to the sky; hence the name, 'Glory Hole Cave'.

After a walk down a long steep path to view a thermal pool which is at 27 degrees all year round, and a river that is home to a non appearing platypus, we climbed the long steep path back; (this walk was not my idea) It was time to go.

Although not an easy road out from the caves, it was a one way system so no worries about meeting on coming vehicles. It was a little embarrassing to be overtaken by a kangaroo that popped up over the side of the steep incline and crossed the road infront of us before stopping 20 feet further up the hill. I told him we were from Scotland but he was not impressed and turned his back on us before hopping it.

We met the main road and journeyed on past pull in spots where you can attach your snow chains if needed; it is possible to hire snow chains and hand them in further along the route. At the top of the hill which is 1,490 feet above sea level, we took photographs of patches of snow. Until we got to Australia, I did not know it snowed over here; I hadn't thought it got cold either. We travelled past the old gold fields which were now grassed over undulations and had no time to stop to view them more closely. We also drove past the road to Cabramurra which is Australia's highest town. Cabramurra is another mining town; it must have been a cold job digging for gold at this altitude.

As night fell we came across a camp site but for once there was no room for us on a power site, and tonight we will want to use our heater. It was now dark and we drove steadily onwards towards the next town, Adaminaby. Sylvia would never forgive me if I dented the van on a kangaroo.

Wednesday; we had a quick look round Adaminaby which is another of the Snowy towns whose original location lies underneath a man-made lake - in this case Lake Eucumbene. Before the surrounding valleys were flooded, over 100 buildings were dismantled and re-erected on this new site.

The journey up into the Snowy Mountains had been through woodlands. Once we were above the tree line we past many sheep, and some lambs feeding on grass which had a yellow colour. They are in need of snow which will eventually melt into the hillside rather than bounce off like heavy rain. We drove on and enjoyed the scenery, passing through Cooma and continuing on until we reached Bombala.

The caravan park was by the river. It was basic but had good amenities. Bombala is an old town which does not seem to have changed much. It is a timber town and despite not seeming to have much going for it, I thought it was a nice unspoiled place and the people we met were all friendly.

Our 100 miles of steady driving had been accomplished in time for a late lunch. This was followed by an hour of lazy reading before setting off to a 'platypus reserve' three miles away. We had not long been their when we spotted a platypus on the surface and was ready for him when he came back up from his dive. After a good look at the platypus, he dived again but forgot to come back up. I bet the platypus was warmer in its home than we were on the river bank.

On two occasions Sylvia spotted arrows of water which were too far away for her to see the platypus which would be swimming on the surface. Eventually we viewed a second platypus. This one did not swim around for very long and when it became obvious to us it was not going to surface again, we decided we wasn't going to hang around either. So back to the site, connect to the electricity supply, heat up the inside of the van, and watch the telly.

Tomorrow we head back to the coast; it might be warmer at sea level than it is up here.

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