Snowy Mountains - a walk in the high country - November 2015
Linda and I on top of Mt Kosciuszko
Whilst the group was planning, it all seemed such a long way away. But then it was here. We all had our separate plans to get there. Linda and I drove down via my sisters place in Stanthorpe as well as a few wineries. Then down the New England Hwy to Tamworth and then west across to Coonabarabran and from there to Dubbo Jo and Jason flew down to Canberra where we picked them up. Nick flew down to Melbourne and hitched a ride up with Michael. Chris and Robert drove from their place in middle Victoria. We got to Jindabyne around 5pm only to find that the others were still at Wangaratta, some 3 and 1/2 hours away. Not to worry, by the time we got to Thredbo and found the chalet - Bundaleer, unpacked and then started to prepare the BBQ, the others showed up. After a few drinks and hale and well met, we ate, planned the next days walk and went to bed. It was pretty amazing to think we were here and ready to climb the highest mountain in Australia.
Sunday - Day 2 - After breakfast we had decided to warm up on the river walk. This was supposed to go all the way to the point where Dead Horse Gap crossed the alpine Way but we turned around shy of that after we had sampled the varying types of walking trails, from dirt to pavers to raised grid like paths. We also crossed the Thredbo river at times but did not get our feet wet. Along the way and throughout the days to come, saw the ever present diggings of wombats. For the Milford walkers it was a welcome return to the sight and sound of the crystal clear rocky snow melt rivers. For the others it was just amazing. The walk was rated as easy and we only climbed around 220m and there and back around 10kms. Dinner was paella and rice and prepared for by Michael. And we washed them down with the wine that was recommended for the dish, plus a few carton bottles of red. We all slept well that night.
Day 3 - Monday - Kosciuszko Walk We decided the previous night to go for the peak today due to the relatively changing weather predicted for later in the week and given that this was the one walk we all wanted to do. So straight up we split into two groups. Group A would catch the chair lift to Snow Gums while Group 2 would walk from the chalet up to the top of the Snow Gums lifts. ( The main chair lift- Crackenback was closed for repairs) This meant that when we were all gathered, we had a steep 1km walk up to the start of the walk which was from the restaurant at the top of Crackenback. It was also clearly apparent that snow was still on the ground above 1500m which made for a majestic vista. After a quick break and donning some warmer gear, we set off on the footpath that had been provided. This went virtually all the way to the top with the exception where the snow was still across the track. The wind was pretty strong and cold but it was mostly a cloudless sky. There were a few other walkers out and about, but we mainly had the walk to ourselves. Along the way we passed Lake Cootapatamba on our left and the start of the the through walk track to Charlotte Pass at Rawson Pass on our right. From there it was a steady walk up to the peak with just a bit of snow across the path to make things interesting. Once at the top we took photos at the marker, had a cup of tea and lunch and then headed back. With the wind at our backs the walk down was pretty easy and quite comfortable. For those chairlifting the walk was soon over but for those walking right down to the chalet, it was still another 45 minutes to an hour to go.
Day 4 - Tuesday - Free Day This included a walk around the village, a visit to Tom Groggins camp grounds and bobsledding. Walk along the lower slopes. This was a pretty walk from our cabin and onto the Merrits Spur. Some nice waterfalls and scenery Bobsledding - a few of us had a couple of rides down the mountain. it was heart in mouth stuff Tom Groggins - We set off driving to see if we could locate Tom Groggins Cabin. After what seemed like to far, we came across the camp ground. Driving in and along the dirt road, we eventually came to the headwaters of the Murrray River (but the road was still blocked from the snow melt. Coming back we stopped for two lads whose Golf had overheated. We told them we would let Thredbo know and headed off. Later we caught up with them and all was well. We found that we should have gone a little further on the road if we were to see the cabin.
After dinner we watched the Man from Snowy River.
Day 5 - Wednesday - Dead Horse Gap This was probably the pick of the days walks. It included snow traversing, disappearing tracks (under snow), fog and weather coming over the mountains and the traverse across the Rams Head mountains (just 100m lower than Kosciuszko) then a walk across the ridge in cloud and to see the embattled snow gums. Then the walk down and back to Thredbo.
Day 6 - Thursday - Bobs Ridge and Cascade Hut As we prepared, it was quickly agreed that Chris and I would go half way to Bobs Ridge while the others went on to Cascade Hut. It was an overcast day but not really cold.
The walk was pleasant enough though with plenty of promise as we followed the creek and crossed it several times (no wet feet though) Chris and I took our time but still managed to wait, walk back to the car, have lunch, then drive back into Thredbo for a coffee then drive back out to wait for the others. A slight rain added to the majesty of this country.
Half the group went further to Cascade Hut and were rewarded with a close encounter with the wild horses and of course a visit to one of the high country rescue and refuge huts.
Day 7 - Friday - Bullocks Hut This was the easiest of the walks and was almost a walk in the park. However a rare encounter with two fighting roos (once again, I have not been able to upload the video in portrait form), plenty of wombats and kangaroos all kept the entertainment right up there. We also crossed the articulated train tracks that go up to Perisher. And as always a glass of red to welcome home the weary traveler.
Day 8 - Saturday - Pack up and farewells As we started to pack up came the task of sharing left over food and alcohol.. Last night we had done an inventory and amongst other things we had 7 bottles of red left. The next morning they had vanished. It was clear that the 4 guilty poker players had further indulged while others went off to bed. I might add also that a larger group was playing earlier and we did manage to finish off a bottle of port and plenty of wine. Still everyone was up for one last breakfast of bacon and eggs and juice and toast and coffee. Around 9.30am we all said our good byes and headed off. In my car was now Nick with Jason and Jo. The ride back was uneventful and we dropped Jo , Jason and Nick off at the Canberra airport and we headed back to stay the night with our friends Brian and Ginny. the next morning we bid our further farewells and headed back up the Newell. The country was looking a picture but we were not prepared for Cunnamulla. This dusty flat town in my memory was green and the Jacarandas were all out in bloom. I also had a pretty good seafood laxsa to add to the "is it better than 168?" ongoing story. It was pretty good but would have needed to be a bit hotter to get into the best 5.
PS Nick would fly back to Brisbane just in time to fly down to Sydney for the anxiously awaited arrival of another grandchild.
The meals - we were all set the task of preparing a meal with a local wine. Breakfast also consisted of bacon and eggs and sausages on even days and cereal on odd days. Chris also indulged us with a dozen duck eggs that were enormous. A fried sunny side up duck egg strangely looks very different to the smaller chicken egg.
The other thing that was quickly apparent was that Robert ate as much as two of us. Michael and Chris were also good on the tooth. So the main concern for the chef on the night was "Did I have enough food?"
Nick's Meal I decided on a typical English meal - roast pork. I needed a recipe, so what better than one from another bloke from Essex - Jamie Oliver. The recipe called for a few herbs and spices that were to be roasted and then used to make an exotic gravy. The pork was to be placed on a bed of halved onions and roasted in hot oven for half an hour. The oven in Bundaleer was large, modern and electric. It probably was better described as a furnace. I cranked it right up and popped the pork in. After around 15 minutes it began to smoke. We opened all the windows to avoid the smoke detectors going off. I rejected calls to reduce the heat; my confidence in Jamie inexhaustible. At the 30 minute mark out it came for inspection and the heat was turned down. The onions were reduced to blackened cinders. The herbs and spices to a grey powder. Fortunately, the pork and crackling had survived the cremation. The exotic gravy was replaced by Gravox, the meal saved.
I had originally chosen South Australia as my representative wine state. In the Wangaratta bottle shop I spied a special edition of Taylors Shiraz. It brought back memories of Port Moresby when John scored a water damaged case of Taylor’s Cab Sav. SA was dumped and Chris and I helped him drink them. The two bottles of Taylors went down a treat.
Chris's meal Hi everyone, My evening meal was corned beef and vegetables. This was no without some interesting issues.
I had discussions with Nick and he persuaded me to do the corned beef. This is easy to do in a slow cooker, and would fit in well with our agenda. We agreed that this would also give the group sandwiches for lunch the following day. However, when the original schedule came out, I was scheduled to prepare it on the last evening. After some discussions and emails, this was changed to a more fitting day.
The early preparation required both Michael and myself bringing slow cookers from home, to enable 2 pieces of corned beef to be cooked. Then there was the issue of how to transport the other additives to the corned beef. Sandra and I were enjoying a cold fruit juice, and we both commented that the bottle would be just the right size. The bottle was washed out, and hidden from Robert so it would not end in the recycle bin. When the day to pack came to pack, I filled the bottle with a generous amount of sweet sherry. I put in a bit extra as I did not know the shape or capacity of Michael’s slow cooker. I also prepared the dry additives in an envelope – mixed herbs, mustard powder, ginger, and a tiny pinch of chilli powder.
We purchased the corned beef in Wangaratta – no problems there although there were not a lot of large pieces.
When the day came, the cookers were prepared with a bit of water, the corned beef unwrapped and rinsed off, then one piece put in each pot. The dry mix and the sherry were added. As Mike’s slow cooker was an oval shape, there was some sherry left over. Carrots and onions were then peeled and added to each pot, and the pots left to cook while we went on our walk.
Later that day, I offered Nick the left-over sherry. The poor guy was absolutely terrified. I assured him it was sherry, but he still remained in absolute terror. I have seen Nick drink many things, and I never thought I would see the day when Nick would turn down such a simple drink. When I was starting to prepare this write-up, I wondered if the fear of sherry was a common or recognised problem. I tried to google what the fear of sherry was called, but had no luck. I enquired of a friend, who is one of the best word-smiths I know, but he was unable to give me a name for the fear of sherry. Later work on Google, and I found a couple of vague references to “sherry-phobia” but there really isn’t any information available. I am not sure how serious this is for Nick, but I do ask that one of the Queenslanders lets Sue know. If anyone sees a Sherry-phobia support group, or sherry-phobia aversion therapy, you may like to let Nick know.
Back to the corned beef – it cooked very well, and I was pleased with the results. One of the pieces had more fat on it when purchased, and it was the better of the 2 when cooked, but both pieces were good.
It also made good sandwiches the following day.
The only thing I would do differently next time is to bring an electric knife from home, as the knives in the house were not sharp enough.
John and Lindas' meal. Now apart from the BBQ on the first day, we had elected to do a slow cook red wine beef cheeks with wild mushrooms dish. This dish was served over a bed of sweet potato mash . If there was one detraction it was to embellish the dish we added root vegetables and as we all know, carrot gives the dish a slight beef stew flavor. But it was thoroughly enjoyed and eaten.
This was accompanied with two bottles of a Ballendeen wine - Nero D'Avola from the Golden Grove estate.
Originating from Sicily, This variety reflects the hard working heritage of our family. The 600 vines were hand chip budded by owner Sam Costanzo and lovingly crafted into this elegant fruit driven wine by son Ray.
The 2014 Nero D'Avola has an abundant nose of ripe cherries, raspberries and red forest fruits with an underlying hint of sweet oak. The palate is soft and succulent with bursts of perfumed ripe sweet fruit all in perfect harmony with the fine grain French oak, and plush tannins. A modern rendition of a Sicilian classic that is good to go now or tuck away for the next five years.
Michael's meal When I first was told that we each needed to prepare an evening meal, I thought that I would prepare one of my specialties - Paella.
I had recently moved from Baxter to Warragul, so I also took the opportunity to try out a few of the local wineries, until I found a couple of bottles of Red that would compliment the dish. The first was from Cannibal Creek winery, the second from Brandy Creek winery.
Before leaving home, I printed out the recipe that I follow, pre-made the spice mix (including my slight variations) for the dish, and packed a wok to make sure that I had a dish large enough to cook it in and brought it all up.
Just before I started to cook, I found out that John and Linda had recently done a trip through Spain, and tried proper Paella while they were there, so I hoped my version would not disappoint.
When it came time to cook, the prep work took a little longer that expected (because of doing a double sized batch), I had the wok as well as another big pan going on the the stove at the same time as the rice cooked through, infusing the flavors of spices and the chirozo's through the meal.
All in all, I was happy with how it came out, and everyone else seemed to like it as well (Linda even kept the recipe).
My variations: Instead of just prawns - I use a marinara mix (500 g) I use a smoked paprika Chicken breast instead of thigh fillets
Jee Sik's meal My chosen signature dish on Thursday 22 October was Malaysian Chicken Curry. This recipe was sourced from an SBS website (this TV channel being noted for its many food programs) but the author is rightly a Malaysian dude. Now this recipe called for chicken thigh cutlets. The plan was for Chris and Michael to purchase the chicken (the ‘wet stuff’) on the way up from Victoria to add to their precious haul of alcohol. Other ingredients (the ‘dry’ stuff) including star anise, cinnamon quill, curry leaves, coconut milk, rice and red onions were assigned to John and Linda to purchase in Canberra as they travel down from Brisbane in their trusty Prado. I had the easiest job of carrying cloves and curry powder. All ingredients arrived safely in Thredbo, thanks to gallant efforts by the couriers and were put away in readiness for my ‘Master Chef’ moment on Thursday. I was getting a little anxious on Tuesday evening and decided to have a peek at the chicken stored in the freezer. To my horror what I saw were full sized chicken thighs with bones rather than chicken thigh cutlets – I soon realised the error I made with my instructions, missing out the ‘cutlets’ bit. Panic stations! The 16 thighs were as hard as rocks and they would never thaw out by Thursday afternoon if simply left in the fridge. With Linda’s wise counsel, the thighs were immediately removed from the fridge and despatched to the sink to thaw out. Thursday soon arrived. We had a rather easy walk that day and arrived back at our rented abode in early afternoon. I decided to start the cooking early so that if I ran into problems at least my guests still had time to flee to the local Chinese restaurant. Problem number one was that the largest cooking pot in the house was not big enough to fit in 16 unboned chicken thighs. After a quick discussion with my mentor Linda, it was decided to ditch 8 thighs and back they went into the fridge to fight another day. Still, trying to stir fry the 8 thighs that didn’t get away, in a confined space was like getting 20 people trapped inside a small lift to move around and play musical chairs! My right arm was given a good workout and felt pretty sore at the end of the frying. Problem number two was we ran out of limes to add to the curry – however this being noted as an optional item in the recipe, was not a life and death matter. Luckily the other parts of the cooking came together as anticipated and dinner was served around 7 pm to slightly inebriated but appreciative guests. The curry was served with boiled rice and accompanied by green beans. John, not being a fan of vegetables (except peas) politely declined the beans which was just as well as we didn’t have that many to go around. The matching wine was if my memory serves me correctly a Pinot Noir that Jo brought. When this was hastily consumed we moved into the reds. I noticed with satisfaction that Chris, Michael, Nick and Robert all had second helpings of the curry. There was not a drop left in the pot. I like to call the meal a success but I don’t think I am quite ready yet to replace Jamie Oliver!
Post Script What was the fate of the 8 chicken thighs that didn’t make it to the curry? Well, they were expertly barbecued by Michael for our lunch the next day.
Jo's meal My allocated evening to cook was Friday night and the Australian State I chose for my wine was Tasmania. I decided to whip up a simple stew with mash and veg and my search for a tasty Tassie wine to go with this stew lead me to what seemed to be every bottle shop in Redland Shire Council. Turns out Tasmania is better known for a light Pinot Noir’s more so than a full body red. I decided to put the search on the back burner for now. Linda and John picked up the steak pieces and vegies from the local Canberra Woolies prior to picking Jason and I up from the Canberra airport in their trusty Prado. On our way to the Bundaleer we stopped in at the local BWS at Jindabyne where I purchased a Tasmanian Pinot Noir, Devil’s Corner, the label stated “layers of dusty cherry with integrated spices and subtle oak” – sounded perfect to me! After a week of eating well the pressure was on to keep the level of presentation and flavour to the same standard, knowing that cooking is not my forte, I took the imaginary toque off and began preparing my meal in a more relaxed mind set. By mid-afternoon I had diced the steaks into medium sized pieces and placed them into a pot over the flame where they stewed for a couple of hours in a pool of Campbell’s Beef Stock, Worcestershire, gravy to thicken and a handful of herbs and spices thrown in. By early evening sliced carrot and onions found their way into the stewing pot. As we had an open packet of rice and it was the last supper, a decision was made to swap the mash with last of the rice, meaning one less item had to be carted home. After a couple of hours of stewing the mixture still had not thickened, to combat this Nick simply suggested that another coupla-heaps of gravy powder would do the trick, which it certainly did! The table was set and the hungry travelers found their way to a chair that they had not occupied during the week. And the bottle of Devil’s Corner had gone down well the night before with Jason’s Malaysian Chicken Curry, which left us with about 9 other bottles of wine to choose from as well as a large variety of beer. I believe the Dorrien Estate Bin 2 Merlot was chosen to go with my meal. The meal went down well; as did the bottle of plonk…. and as did the next several bottles thereafter.
Some final Happy Snaps
As a final note. Some people have asked me when we started serious bush walking. Apart from younger days, I can safely say it was in PNG back in 2001 with a few of us having a drink and planning to walk the Kokoda Track. The shot below - How it all began.